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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
That left me standing alone with Logan.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you and your dad,” I said. “That I threatened him with my psychometry magic. That was wrong of me. It’s just . . . she’s all the family I have left. Well, besides Rory.”
Logan nodded. “I get it, really, I do. And if I were you, I’d be just as angry at my dad. But he really does know what he’s doing. He’s managed to keep the Reapers at bay this long. He’ll find a way to save your grandma too. You just have to trust him. Okay, Gypsy girl?”
I made myself smile at him, even though I didn’t really feel like it. “Yeah, I’m sure you’re right.”
Logan nodded. He hesitated, then drew me into his arms. He started to kiss me, but I turned my head, and his lips brushed my cheek instead. Logan drew back, a hurt look on his face, but there was nothing I could do to fix it—or this chasm that suddenly separated us once again. Sometimes, I felt like the Spartan and I spent more time apart than we ever did together.
“I’ll call you later too, okay?” he said in a low voice. I nodded and bit my lip, trying to hide how much I was hurting—and how much I would hurt him and the rest of my friends before this was all said and done.
Logan left, and I went into my dorm. I trudged up the steps to my room, with Nyx still following along behind me. I propped Vic up in the bed, and Nyx scrambled up and lay down beside him, as was her custom. I went over and peered out of one of the lace curtains. Linus must have called Aiko, because the Ninja was once again standing guard outside my dorm, but I didn’t see any other Protectorate guards. Just kids walking by on the quad, going to their afterschool clubs, activities, and groups, or trudging up the hill to the main quad to get some supper in the dining hall.
“What are you doing?” Vic asked.
“Checking to make sure my friends actually left.” “They’re just worried about you,” he said. “We all are.” “I know, but I don’t want to see them right now. Not when I know what I have to do next.”
“What does that mean?” Vic asked.
But I didn’t answer him. Instead, I turned away from the window, went over, and sat down at my desk. I looked at the photos of my mom and Metis; then my gaze flicked over to the small replica statue of Nike. I waited, but the goddess didn’t open her eyes and acknowledge me. I didn’t know if what I was going to do was the right thing or not, but it was the only chance I had to save my grandma.
“Uh-oh,” Vic said. “I know that look. What are you thinking, Gwen?”
I swiveled my chair around to him. “I’m thinking that if Linus Quinn won’t give me the candle, then I’ll just have to steal it myself.”
Vic’s eye bulged so far out, I thought, it might actually pop right off the sword’s shocked face.
“What?! You can’t be serious!” he said, his voice rising to a near scream.
Nyx whined, as if the high pitch upset her. I winced too. Vic could shriek worse than, well, a teenage girl sometimes.
“You heard Linus,” I said. “He’s not going to give me the candle to give to the Reapers. They’ll kill my grandma if I don’t get them the candle. You know they will.” Vic sighed. “Of course I know that. But you need to think about what you’re doing. Like it or not, Linus has a point. You can’t risk making Loki stronger by giving the Reapers the candle. His injuries and broken body are probably the only reason that the Reapers haven’t
attacked the academy outright yet.”
“I know, and I don’t like it any more than you do. But I can’t leave Grandma Frost to the Reapers. I just can’t. If my mom were here, she’d try to find some way to save her. I know she would because that’s what Champions do—that’s what I’m going to do.”
“Okay,” Vic said. “Let’s say that you actually decide to go through with this insanity. Linus will probably put even more guards around the candle now. He’s sure to realize that you might try to steal it. So even if you do somehow manage to get your hands on it, how are you going to get out of the library with it?”
“Oh, that’s the easy part,” I said. “Because you’re forgetting one thing.”
I stared at the sword. “The candle isn’t the only thing in the library with magic. I’ve spent more time in that library over the past few months than Linus Quinn and all the other Protectorate guards put together. I know things they don’t. More important, I know about artifacts they don’t.”
Vic stared back at me. “You know you’re going to have to do this alone, right? Because you can’t ask Logan to help you with this. Or any of your other friends. Because if it doesn’t work, and they’re involved, then it’s not only going to be your neck on the line. It’s going to be theirs too.”
He was right. I couldn’t involve any of my friends. Not with this. I’d seen their reactions in the infirmary and then again out on the quad. They felt sorry for me, they really did, and they wanted to help me find a way to save Grandma Frost, but the threat of Loki getting stronger was one they couldn’t ignore. Maybe it was wrong of me to ignore it too, but my grandma’s life was at stake, and I was going to do whatever it took to save her.
Even if I had to sacrifice my friends’ trust—and
“I didn’t have any friends when I first came to Mythos, and I did okay,” I said, answering Vic’s question. “I can make it through this without them.”
No matter how much it would hurt all of us.
“Okay,” he said again, still trying to discourage me. “Let’s say you actually manage to steal the candle from the library, get off campus with it, and take it to Vivian, Agrona, and the Reapers. They’re not going to let you and Geraldine go, Gwen. You know that. As soon as he gets his hands on the candle, Loki will order them to kill you both.”
I got up, walked over, and plopped down on the window seat, pushing the curtains aside and staring out the window again. “I know. And that’s what I have to figure out—how to get us away from the Reapers and steal the candle back at the same time before Loki ever gets the chance to use it.”
Vic eyed me. “Well, wake me up when you figure it all out, Gwen. Because there’s no getting around it. If you don’t have an escape plan, you can’t risk taking the candle to the Reapers in the first place. Linus is right about that. You’ll doom us all, including yourself.”
I wanted to point out that we were all pretty much doomed anyway, since I still had no idea how to actually kill Loki, but I didn’t say anything. Vic let out another sigh, then slowly closed his eye. A few minutes later, snores started rumbling out of his mouth. Nyx curled her tail around the sword’s blade and settled down for her own nap.
I sat in the window seat and brooded.
As much as I hated to admit it, Vic was right. I couldn’t trust the Reapers to keep their promise and let me and Grandma go after I handed over Sol’s candle. I might be reckless sometimes, but I wasn’t completely stupid. So how could I get Grandma Frost and myself to safety? How could I swipe the candle right out from under the Reapers’ noses? Or at least come up with some way to rig it so that Loki couldn’t use it, couldn’t heal himself with it? I didn’t know the answers to my questions, and if I didn’t figure them out, then my grandma would die.
So I pulled my knees up to my chest and continued my brooding, staring out into the growing darkness, as if the shadows would suddenly part and give me the answers I so desperately needed.
There wasn’t much to see out the window, except Aiko leaning against one of the trees below my windows, standing guard. So I looked past her, idly scanning the rest of the grounds, my brain churning and churning, trying to come up with solutions to all of my many problems.
Besides Aiko, the only other thing of interest was a white marble bird feeder that someone, Raven probably, had set up in the grass close to the dorm. Despite the cold, a few birds flitted around the feeder, grabbing bits of black birdseed out of the holes in the sides. My gaze locked on to one bird who kept returning to the feeder time and time again. Some sort of crow, I thought, although its dark, shiny feathers made it look more like a miniature Black roc than anything else. I sighed. It was so sad that I couldn’t even look at a simple bird now without automatically comparing it to its mythological equivalent. Oh yeah. I’d been at Mythos Academy for way too long.
Still, the crow circling around and then dive-bombing back to the bird feeder made me think of all the times Vivian had escaped from a battle by hopping onto her Black roc and soaring up into the sky. She’d done it at the Garm gate, the Crius Coliseum, and even at the Eir Ruins out in Colorado. And she’d pulled the same stunt yesterday after the fight had turned against her and Agrona.
I snorted. If only I had a Black roc, then I could do the exact same thing to help my grandma escape from the Reapers. Problem solved. Of course, the Reapers would never let me get close enough to a roc to actually climb on top of the creature. Even if I could miraculously do that, there was still the small matter of getting the roc to fly me and Grandma away of its own free will—
A bolt of an idea shot through me, and I sat upright in the window seat, jerking to attention so fast that I almost went careening down onto the floor. I didn’t have a Black roc, and I would never, ever have a Black roc. But I didn’t need one of the birds.
Because I had something better.
If I could figure out a way to make it work—and call in some serious favors.
I sat there, my eyes closed, my fingers drumming against my jeans, trying to figure out all the pieces in my mind, all the angles, all the ways my crazy plan might succeed—or fail miserably. And slowly, I puzzled out a way to make it actually work. At least, I thought I did. Even the best plan could bite the dust when the Reapers were involved, but it was the only chance I had to save Grandma Frost, and I had to take it.
But first, I had to reach out to someone to make it happen.
I pulled my phone out of my jeans pocket and hit a number in the speed-dial. “Yeah?” a voice answered on the third ring, as snarky and sarcastic as ever.
“Yeah?” came the response, a little more interested—
and much more wary.
“The Reapers have my grandma, and I need your help. How soon can you get here with our mutual friends?”
After I finished my call, and set the first part of my plan into motion, I took a shower and got ready for bed. Daphne and Logan called just like they’d said they would, and I talked to both of them. I didn’t say a word to either about my plan to steal the candle, though. Vic was right. I couldn’t involve them in what I was about to do, no matter how much I would have liked their support and understanding. Besides, I didn’t want to wreck things between Logan and his dad by asking the Spartan to help me. They’d just started talking again, and I wasn’t going to come between them. Not when I knew how much Logan had missed his dad and yearned for his love, support, and approval all these years.
Oh, I knew Logan, Daphne, and the rest of my friends would be angry when they found out what I’d done, but that was a consequence I was just going to have to live with.
So the next day, I went about my usual routine. Weapons training in the gym, where I apologized to everyone for pitching such a massive fit in the infirmary yesterday. Morning classes. Lunch. Afternoon classes. The day passed by in a perfectly normal fashion, right up until it was time for me to work my usual shift at the Library of Antiquities.
Alexei was waiting in the hallway outside my dorm room when I was ready to leave, and he walked me over to the library. He didn’t say anything to me, and I didn’t speak to him. Other than my apology, I hadn’t said a lot to any of my friends today, and they’d given me the space they thought I needed. I did need the space—just not for the reasons they assumed. I couldn’t exactly steal the candle if they were all watching me like, well, Black rocs.
Alexei and I entered the library, walked down the main aisle, and went around the checkout counter. Alexei put his black backpack down on the floor, then slid onto a stool that was sitting up against the glass wall of the office complex. I threw my messenger bag down as well, while Nyx hopped up into the basket behind the counter that she stayed in while I was working. I propped Vic up next to Nyx.
“You two be good,” I murmured. “I’ve got a lot to do tonight.”
Vic gave me a knowing look, but he didn’t say anything. Not in front of Alexei, anyway, although the sword had practically talked my ear off whenever we’d been alone today, trying to get me to change my mind. Still, in the end, Vic might not like it, but he was going along with my plan. Something I was so grateful for— more than the sword probably realized.
I’d barely settled myself at the counter and logged on to one of the computers when sharp footsteps sounded on the marble floor, heading in my direction. I looked past the monitor to find Linus striding down the main aisle, followed by Inari and Aiko.
“Miss Frost, there you are,” Linus said, striding up to the counter and stopping directly on the other side from me. “I’m glad I found you. I wanted to give you an update.”
“And what would that be?” I sniped.
He stared at me, his face hardening at my snarky tone. Well, too bad. He was going to be a lot more pissed at me before this was over.
“The Protectorate guards are still out searching for your grandmother,” he said.
For a moment, my heart lifted because it sounded like there was an and coming. Something like and we found her alive and well and she’s on her way back to the academy right now. Maybe I wouldn’t have to go through with my plan after all . . .