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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
I slid the phone back into my jeans pocket. “Nobody. It was one of those stupid spam texts, telling me I’d won some giveaway. You know how it is.”
I let out a laugh, but my voice sounded strained and hollow to my own ears. Hopefully, Logan wouldn’t notice. I hated lying to him, but this was the only way to save my grandma. Besides, if it had been his dad, Logan would have done the same thing. At least, that’s what I told myself. That’s what I had to tell myself to get through this.
He stared at me like he wanted to ask about the phone again, but instead, he jerked his head back at the stacks.
“Can we go somewhere a little more private and talk?” he asked.
I glanced over at the coffee cart where Alexei was still waiting in line. He saw me with Logan and waved, telling us to go ahead. So I slid off my stool, walked around the counter, and followed Logan back into the stacks.
He moved from one aisle to the next, like a Nemean prowler stalking through the library in search of some sort of prey. Every time I thought he was about to stop, he would keep walking, as if he wasn’t quite sure what he was going to say when we faced each other.
Finally, though, he stopped in a remote corner of the stacks, an area that I knew particularly well, since this was the spot where Vic’s case had once stood. I glanced up. Nike’s statue loomed above us on the second-floor balcony, but the goddess’s face was still completely neutral. She wouldn’t appear to me until she was good and ready. Of course not. Because that would make things way too easy for me.
“Can we sit?” Logan asked in a soft voice.
I nodded, and he plopped down on one side of the aisle, while I sat on the other, facing him. We stared at each other for several long seconds before Logan finally sighed.
“I’ve spent all afternoon trying to convince my dad to change his mind about the candle,” he said. “But he’s not going to.”
I nodded. It didn’t surprise me, although I was touched that he had tried to help.
“I’m sorry, Gwen,” Logan said. “So sorry. How is it that things are always such a mess around here? Even if we’re good, it always seems like there’s something else that gets in the way of us.”
“I know,” I replied. “And I hate it too.”
“I know you feel like my dad is against you, like he’s leaving your grandmother to the Reapers, but he’s doing everything in his power to find her,” Logan said. “Most of the day, he’s been out following down all the leads the other guards have gotten about where the Reapers might have taken her, about where they might be holding her.”
I thought about the address Vivian had texted me. I wondered what would happen if I gave the information to Logan. I could picture it all in my mind. No doubt he’d tell his dad, Linus would get a group of Protectorate guards together, and they’d storm into whatever buildings they found at the address. But Vivian was too smart to give me Grandma Frost’s location in advance. My grandma wouldn’t be there until I’d shown up alone with the candle, and it was too late for me to get any help from my friends or the Protectorate. No, if I gave the address to Logan or Linus, I’d probably get my grandma executed that much faster. I had to do what Vivian wanted me to, or my grandma was dead.
Logan looked at me, waiting for some sort of response.
I sighed. “Look, I appreciate what your dad is trying to do, that he and the other members of the Protectorate are out searching for my grandma. But we both know they’re not going to find her in time. If Linus doesn’t give the Reapers the candle, they’ll kill her. And that will only be the beginning of it.”
Logan frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Think about it,” I said. “Linus told me, told all of us, that he wouldn’t trade the candle for my grandma. But what’s to stop the Reapers from trying again? Maybe next time, they’ll go after someone closer to him. Someone like . . . you.”
Logan blinked. “You think the Reapers would kidnap me?”
I shrugged. “Maybe Linus would feel different if you were the one they were threatening to kill instead of my grandma. Maybe then, he wouldn’t be so stubborn about things and unwilling to part with the candle.” I couldn’t keep the anger and the bitterness out of my voice.
Logan didn’t say anything, but hurt shimmered in his icy eyes, and his shoulders slumped. He was right. Every time it seemed we were finally on track, something else came up to knock us off course again. And most of the time, it wasn’t even anything either one of us had done to the other. But as long as the Reapers were still out there, as long as Loki was free this was our life—for better or worse.
I just hoped we could survive the worse this time around—especially since I was going to be the one to inflict it on us.
“Look, I know you’re sorry about all of this,” I said in a low voice. “And I am too. I really don’t mean to take my anger out on you. I know it’s not your fault. None of it is your fault. Not the Reapers kidnapping my grandma, and not your dad refusing to hand the candle over to them either. It’s . . . just our life, and right now, it sucks.”
Logan looked at me. “So what can we do to make it better? What can we do to make it right?”
I shrugged. I didn’t know the answer to that any more than he did. Logan kept staring at me, his gaze dark and troubled. Yeah, I knew the feeling.
Still, I also knew this might be the last moment we ever had together, given what I was planning on doing tomorrow. So I crawled across the aisle to where Logan was sitting. He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and drew me close. I let out another sigh and rested my head on his shoulder, enjoying the strong warmth of his body seeping into mine.
“I love you,” I said. “No matter what happens, no matter what we do, no matter who or what comes between us, I love you, Spartan. I will always love you. I want you to know that.”
Logan put his other arm around me and hugged me tight. “I know, Gypsy girl. And I love you too. I always will.”
I turned my head, and we kissed. I felt all the love radiating off Logan and flowing into me, along with fear, sorrow, and frustration about everything that was going on. His feelings mirrored my own. After a few seconds, we broke apart, and I rested my head on his shoulder again. Maybe for the last time.
I just wondered how much he would hate me when he realized how I’d lied to him and everything I’d done.
Logan and I stayed back in the stacks until Nickamedes called out in a booming voice that it was time for the library to close. The two of us went back to the checkout counter. I slid Vic into the scabbard on my waist and gently shook Nyx awake. The wolf pup let out a sleepy yawn and licked my hand. I scratched her head, and she sighed in happiness.
Logan walked me back to my dorm. Alexei followed us, then split off to go back to his own room for the night. Logan and I stood outside in the pool of golden light cast by the streetlamp closest to the dorm steps.
“I’ll talk to my dad again,” he said. “We’ll find a way to save your grandma, I promise you that.”
I nodded, although I didn’t tell him that I seriously doubted Linus Quinn ever changed his mind about anything once it had been made up.
“Thanks. I appreciate that.”
“See you in the morning at weapons training, okay?” Logan said.
I nodded. “Yeah. Okay.”
We kissed, and the Spartan turned around, stuck his hands in the pockets of his black leather jacket, and walked away across the grass, which was already covered with that killer frost once again. I watched him go, then went up the steps, slid my ID card through the reader, and trudged up to my room, with Nyx following me.
I shut the door behind me and locked it. I put Vic on the bed, then sank down beside the sword, letting out a long, tired sigh.
“What’s wrong?” the sword sniped, his English accent a little more pronounced than usual. “You don’t like lying to your boyfriend?”
“Of course not,” I snapped back. “But you know I can’t tell him what I’m going to do. He’d try to stop me. Or worse, tell his dad.”
Vic didn’t respond.
We sat there in silence for a few seconds before my phone beeped. I pulled it out of my jeans pocket and stared at the message on the screen.
We’re here. U so owe me for this.
And I’m sure you’ll make me pay, I texted back. C U tomorrow.
I also sent the info about Vivian’s order to turn the candle over by noon, along with the address that the Reaper girl had given me.
“Is that who I think it is?” Vic asked.
“Yep,” I said. “Our friends are here and ready to rock
I put the phone away and looked at the sword. Vic stared back at me, his purple eye as serious as I’d ever seen it.
“I still think this is a crazy plan—at best,” he said.
“I know. Me too. But crazy is sort of what I do, right?” He didn’t return my halfhearted grin.
I sighed. “Look, if you don’t want to go with me tomorrow, I understand. I don’t want you falling into Reaper hands any more than you do. So it’s okay if you want to stay here.”
Vic rolled his eye. “I said it was a crazy plan. That’s all. I didn’t say anything about not going with you, Gwen. C’mon. At the very least, there will be dozens of Reapers there—Reapers that I can kill. You know I would never pass up a chance to do that.”
This time, I rolled my eyes at his bloodthirsty words. Sometimes, I thought the only reason Vic hung around me was so that he could kill Reapers, since I was like a magnet, always attracting them whether I wanted to or not.
“Besides,” he continued. “I was your grandmother’s sword long before I was yours, Gwen. I want to save Geraldine as much as you do.”
I nodded. Sometimes, I forgot that Vic had had all of these other lives before me—that he’d been the weapon for all the women, all the Champions, of the Frost family over the years. And that he’d seen a lot of them die too, in the same sort of battle I would be facing tomorrow.
Still, his devotion to my grandma and me too touched me more than anything he’d ever said or done before.
“Thank you,” I rasped out through the emotion that clogged my throat.
“For always being there for me when I need you. For being something and someone I can always depend on, no matter what. You’ve never let me down, and I know you never will. You don’t know how much that means to me. Especially right now.”
Vic sniffed, as if he was dismissing my words, but I could see the gleam of a tear in his eye before he managed to blink it away.
“Oh, come on now,” he said, his voice as gruff as mine was. “There’s no need to get all bloody maudlin about things. We’ll go, we’ll kick some Reaper ass, and we’ll be home in time for dinner.”
I had to smile at his snarky confidence. Vic could always make me feel better about things, no matter how hopeless they looked.
“So when are you going to get the candle?” he asked. “Tomorrow morning,” I said. “That’s when I’m going to steal it.”
The next morning, I went about my routines as if everything was normal. As if I wasn’t planning to steal perhaps the most important artifact known to the Pantheon. As if I wasn’t going to turn said artifact over to the Reapers. As if I wasn’t going to make Loki stronger.
As if I might not be dead by noon.
But there was nothing I could do but face things head-on and hope everything worked out like I wanted it to. Still, more than once, I found myself on the verge of hyperventilating, and I had to force myself to breathe in and out, in and out, like my mom had always taught me to do whenever I was nervous, scared, worried, or upset. Those words didn’t even begin to describe my emotions right now. But the breathing helped, so I kept doing it, over and over again, until I felt like I could actually go through with this.
“Are you okay?” Logan asked me more than once during weapons training. “Do you need to take a break?” “Nah,” I said. “I’m just a little tired today. I didn’t get
much sleep last night.”
It was true. I’d spent most of the night tossing and turning, going over and over everything that could go wrong with my plan, and all of the ways my grandma could die, even though I knew I would need all of my sleep and energy for what was to come today.
“Oh. I’m sorry,” he said.
I shrugged, just trying to get through the rest of the training time. I didn’t want Logan’s sympathy, and I certainly didn’t deserve it. Not given what I was planning.
We kept sparring, and, finally, weapons training came to an end. My friends and I left the gym and headed over to the dining hall to get some breakfast. After that, I went back to my dorm room to take a shower and get ready for the day. I dressed carefully, putting on a sturdy pair of boots, my favorite jeans, and the warmest T-shirt and sweater I had, along with my purple plaid jacket. If things went according to plan, then my trip back to the academy would be a short, cold one. I also grabbed a few more items I would need and stuffed them into my pockets as well.
Finally, it was time for my first class of the day. Alexei walked me over to the English-history building.
“I have a meeting with Linus and the other Protectorate guards,” he said. “I’ll come back when the bell rings to walk you to your next class.”
“Sure,” I said, my voice far happier than it should have been. “Sounds great.”