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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
I felt each and every one of his emotions without even touching him, and, once again, I didn’t know how to make things right between us. But I figured I might as well start with an apology.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “That I didn’t tell you and everyone else what I was up to. I know it was wrong. I know what I did was wrong, but I couldn’t think of any other way to save my grandma.”
I drew in a breath. “And I couldn’t take the risk that you would tell your dad. That’s why I didn’t let you know what I was planning.”
Hurt flashed in Logan’s eyes, making them as cold as ice. “Did you really think I would do that, Gwen? That I would rat you out to my dad like that? Especially when I know how much you love your grandmother?”
“You and your dad are just starting to get back on track,” I said, not exactly answering his question. “I didn’t want to be the one to come in between you. Not like I did the last time he was here. You guys fought so hard for a fresh start. I didn’t want to ruin that for either one of you. I didn’t want to make you choose between me and your dad. That wouldn’t have been fair to you.”
Logan gave me a disgusted look. “So you just decided to go off by yourself? You’d think by now that you’d learn your lesson, but you never seem to, do you, Gwen?”
“And what lesson would that be?” My own voice sharpened in response to his cold tone.
He stared at me. “That people care about you, that people love you, that I love you, and that I would do anything to help you—anything.”
“Even go against your dad?” I asked in a softer voice. He couldn’t quite meet my eyes as he shifted in his chair. He didn’t answer me, but then again, perhaps that
was answer enough.
I sighed. “Look, what’s done is done. I did what I thought I had to in order to save my grandma. And it worked, and she’s safe now. I know that doesn’t make up for lying to you—for shutting you out. I know you’re angry and upset and disappointed with me right now, so all I can say is that I’m sorry I lied to you, and that I hope you can forgive me someday.”
He didn’t say anything. And cold dread began to build in my own heart that I had lost him for good. But the worst part was that it wasn’t because of anything the Reapers had done this time. No, if I lost Logan, it was because of my own decisions, my own actions, my own free will. For the first time, I began to understand why Nike and Metis were always talking about that and how powerful it could truly be.
Finally, Logan sighed, then reached over and took my hand in his. All of his emotions washed over me, even stronger than before—relief, hurt, disbelief, worry—along with more than a little anger.
But most of all, I felt his love for me.
This great, wonderful, amazing, powerful love. It was like a fire burning steadily in his heart. One that had already weathered so many storms. One that would never, ever die. One that I finally realized could survive anything—even this.
I twined my fingers through his and concentrated, sending my own emotions back to him, that warm, soft, fizzy, dizzying rush of feeling that tightened my chest every time he laughed or smiled or teased me. Every time I saw him. Every time I heard his voice. Every time I thought about him.
Every time I realized just how much I loved him.
I’m sorry. I didn’t say the words this time, but I thought them, over and over again, trying to tell him that I really meant what I’d said and that I hoped this wouldn’t come between us the way so many other things had.
Logan’s fingers slowly curled into mine.
I don’t know how long we sat at the table, holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes, my psychometry letting us say so much to each other without whispering a single word. Perhaps that was the real power of my touch magic.
But eventually, I heard the scrape and turn of the key in the lock again. Logan stared at me, then slowly pulled his hand away from mine. I touched my fingers to my palm, as if that would let me hold on to the warmth of his love.
“Whatever happens, we’re in this together from now on, okay, Gypsy girl?” Logan said. “Promise me that.”
I looked him square in the eye. “I promise. No more secrets, no more lies, no more crazy plans.” I grinned. “At least not without involving you in them.”
He grinned back at me, then nodded and got up from the table.
Linus came striding into the prison, his gray Protectorate robe swirling around him. If anything, he seemed even angrier than before. His gaze flicked to Logan standing by my side, and his mouth turned down that much more.
But Linus wasn’t the only one who entered the room. Sergei and Inari trailed along behind him, along with Metis and Ajax. Nickamedes appeared a moment later, trying to keep up with the others, even though using his cane slowed him down. To my surprise, Raven got up and gave him her chair, and Nickamedes sat down in it behind her desk.
Linus took the seat across from me at the interrogation table. His blue eyes met mine, giving me an upclose view of the anger still simmering in his gaze, along with something else. I thought it might have been a tiny bit of grudging respect, but whatever the emotion was, the anger quickly swallowed it up.
“Well,” he said, leaning back and crossing his arms over his chest. “What do you have to say for yourself, Miss Frost?”
I shrugged. “I don’t really think there is anything to say. Do you?”
Yeah, I was being a total smartass, but I couldn’t help it. It was better than letting him see how worried I was about what he and the rest of the Protectorate might do to me.
He sighed and rubbed his forehead, as though it was suddenly aching. I grinned a little. Yeah, I figured I had that effect on him.
“Tell me everything that happened,” he finally said. “And everything you did. I want to hear it all, from how you stole the candle out of the library to where the Reapers were hiding, to how you, your grandma, and Ms. Maddox and her niece escaped from them.”
“You’re just asking me?” I sniped. “Really? Aren’t you going to get a Maat asp to bite me so that I have to tell the truth?”
That’s what Linus had done before, when I’d been on trial for Vivian’s crimes. The asp’s venom was a sort of truth serum, one that forced you to be honest, or suffer the painful, deadly consequences.
He gave me a chilly look. “Unfortunately, a Maat asp is not readily available at this time or one would already be wrapped around your wrist. But rest assured that I can get one, Miss Frost, should I feel you are not being forthcoming with me.”
I didn’t feel like being bitten, so I did as he asked and told him everything that had happened over the past few days. Well, almost everything. I didn’t exactly tell him the truth about certain things, a fact that Linus quickly picked up on when he interrupted me halfway through my story.
“What about the artifacts?” he asked, gesturing to the items on the table. “How did you get them out of the library without setting off any alarms?”
“Janus’s key was actually in one of the librarian’s offices since it was due for a cleaning,” I lied in a smooth voice. “So I snatched it when the offices were empty. Once I had the key, it was easy for me to open the case with Morpheus’s dreambox in it, and then, the one with Sol’s candle after that.”
I resisted the urge to glance over at Nickamedes to see what he thought about my story. But this had been my idea—not his—and I was the one who was going to be punished for it. Not him.
Linus gave me a suspicious look, but I kept my gaze steady and level on his. He gestured with his hand, telling me to continue. So I talked some more before he interrupted me again.
“And what about Rachel Maddox and Rory Forseti?”
he asked. “Why did you contact them?”
“Because they’re my family,” I said. “Both of them, blood or not. Besides, Rory hates the Reapers because of her parents. I knew that she’d help me, especially against Vivian and Agrona.”
“And the gryphons?” he asked. “Why did you ask Ms. Maddox and her niece to get them to come here? Why did you think that the creatures would cooperate?” “Because the gryphons had helped me before at the Eir Ruins, and using them was the only way I thought I could get my grandma away from the Reapers before they killed us both,” I said. “And it turns out that I was right.”
I didn’t mention that Daphne and Oliver had been in the woods as well, picking off Reapers with their bows and arrows, and I didn’t tell him what Daphne had told me about how all of my friends had been doing what they could to help me on the sly the past few days—including Logan.
Linus rubbed his forehead again, as if my words had only made his previous headache intensify. Yeah, I could totally see that happening. But he gestured at me with his hand again, and I finished my story.
“So you used another artifact, these silver laurel leaves, to counteract the effects of the candle?” Linus asked. “You’re absolutely sure that the leaves, combined with the power of the candle, injured Loki, instead of healing him?”
I thought of how the silver flames had washed over the god, making him scream with agony. “I’m sure.”
Linus stared at me, as if still debating whether or not I was telling the truth. Then, he reached into his cloak, drew out the candle, and placed it on the table.
Sol’s candle looked much smaller and thinner than before, and there was only about a quarter of it left now, just as I’d thought when I’d grabbed it at the Garm gate. I leaned down and peered at the candle, but the white wax was smooth once more, and I didn’t see any trace of the silver laurels glimmering in the surface. They must have all burned up when the candle had exploded into flames.
“I must say I’m rather stunned that you actually managed to bring back the artifact, along with your grandmother,” Linus said. “At least you did one thing right, Miss Frost.”
“I had to bring it back—because the Reapers still want it.”
He stilled. So did everyone else in the prison. “What do you mean?” he asked in a sharp voice.
I gestured at the artifact. “Look at it. There’s still some candle, some wax, some magic left. From what I saw at the Garm gate, it seems to take about a quarter of the candle to help someone. That’s how much is left now, so that means that there’s still enough power in it to heal one more person. And the Reapers will want that person to be Loki. They’ll try to get the candle again. Trust me on that. It wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to kidnap someone else in order to make you give it to them. They might even try to grab you so that the other members of the Protectorate will be forced to give it to them.”
Linus sat back in his chair, a thoughtful look on his face. “I would never do that, Miss Frost. I would never allow that. And neither would any other members of the Protectorate. We all know what’s at stake here, even if you don’t.”
“I think I know exactly what’s at stake,” I snapped. He looked at me, but he didn’t say anything else.
For the third time, a key sounded in the lock, and the door opened. Another man wearing a gray Protectorate robe came hurrying into the prison. He went straight over to Linus, bent down, and started whispering in his ear. I strained to listen, but I couldn’t hear exactly what he was saying. Still, I could tell from the low, urgent pitch of his voice that it wasn’t anything good. Had the Reapers struck again already? I would have thought that we’d have at least a few hours of peace, but I’d been wrong before.
“How reliable is the source?” Linus asked.
The man bent down next to him and started speaking again. I looked at Metis, but she shrugged at me. So did Ajax and Nickamedes. They didn’t know what was going on either.
“When?” Linus said in a sharp voice. “How long do we have?”
The man whispered a few more words into his ear before straightening back up. He waited, as though expecting Linus to give him some order.
For a moment, the head of the Protectorate looked utterly shocked, then defeated, and then finally resigned, as if something had happened that he had been both dreading and expecting for a long, long time now.
“Go,” Linus said. “Prepare the others. Protocol
The man nodded and scurried out of the prison, shutting the door behind him. Inari and Sergei’s faces both darkened at the mention of Protocol Three. Whatever that was, it sounded serious.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. “What’s going on?” Linus’s mouth flattened out into a thin line. “It seems
that you were right about the Reapers still wanting the candle, Miss Frost. According to our reports, Vivian, Agrona, and a large contingent of Reapers plan to attack the academy before sunset. And Loki will be leading them. Apparently, the Reapers want the candle badly enough to make this their last stand—or ours. Because Loki is still a god, and we are not. Unless you have any other bright ideas about how to kill him?”
His words filled me with dread, worry, and fear, but I had to shake my head. Unfortunately, that was the one thing I still hadn’t figured out how to do. And as long as Loki was alive, the Reapers would keep fighting and keep trying to topple the Pantheon, one warrior, one battle, one death at a time. Unless someone found a way to stop the evil god.
Unless I found a way to stop him—for good.
“So what happens now?” I asked, my voice sounding weak and small to my own ears. “Now you know that the Reapers are coming here? That this is . . . the end, one way or another?”