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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
everyone felt a collective sense of relief. I certainly did. “And what about the other kids? And how they were
treating you before because your parents were Reapers?” She shrugged again. “We’ll see if this changes any-
thing, but I doubt it.”
I doubted it too, since folks had long, long memories when it came to Reapers, but I hoped for the best for her. And I couldn’t help but think back to Sigyn and Nike’s conversation and wonder what plans, if any, they might have for Rory. But that was for her to discover, not me.
So I hugged her and Rachel good-bye, then turned to the gryphons. Most of them had already left, but the leader and his baby had stayed behind.
“Thank you for coming,” I said, laying my hand on his wing and using my psychometry to show him how grateful I was for that and all they’d done for me and my friends. “For fighting with us. For everything.”
The gryphon let out a much lower, softer, sadder screech, and I felt his pain about the gryphons he’d lost. He nudged me, and I reached up and scratched his head before doing the same thing to the baby.
Then, the adult gryphon pumped his wings once, and he and his baby rose up into the sky to start the long, wearying journey home, their wings, heads, and hearts drooping from everything that had happened.
I knew how they felt. It would take a while for all of us to fully recover—if we ever truly could.
“This is pointless,” I muttered. “Pointless. Point. Less. Valentine’s Day was weeks ago. So why are we having a stupid dance tonight?”
Daphne eyed me. “Because this is the first week the academy has been open since the battle, and everyone feels like celebrating. Or if they don’t, then they at least are willing to fake it for the rest of us. So suck it up, Gwen.”
Three weeks had passed since the final fight in the library. Despite everything that had happened, the Powers That Were had decided to reopen the academy, even though the mess from the last battle with the Reapers was still being cleaned up.
Part of the reopening meant going through with the big Valentine’s Day dance that had been planned, which meant I was in my dorm room, wearing the dress Daphne had made me buy weeks ago for the event.
I stared at myself in the mirror, smoothing down the long, silvery silk skirt. With its cap sleeves and beaded waist, the dress was similar to one that I’d worn to the homecoming dance back in the fall, although this one was much more elegant. In fact, it sort of reminded me of the gown that Nike always wore. Daphne had helped me take the whole goddess illusion a step further, by taming my frizzy hair and curling it into sleek ringlets, which brushed the tops of my shoulders. Silver shadow and liner rimmed my eyes, while pale purple lipstick completed the look.
“Besides,” Daphne said. “You look fabulous tonight, and so do I.”
She bumped me out of the way and peered and preened at her own reflection in the mirror. Naturally, Daphne’s dress was pink, with a full skirt studded with tiny white crystals that made her look like a fairy-tale princess come to life. Pink shadow brought out her beautiful black eyes, while darker pink gloss was slicked across her lips.
“Daphne’s right,” a soft voice chimed in. “You both look beautiful tonight.”
I looked over at Grandma Frost, who was sitting in my desk chair, cradling Nyx in her lap. The wolf pup barked her agreement.
“Yes, you do,” Vic chimed in from his spot propped up on my bed. “And even warriors need a break from battle every now and then.”
I rolled my eyes. “Thanks, Vic.”
Nyx bounded out of Grandma’s lap, hopped up onto the bed, and started licking Vic’s cheek. The sword grumbled, but there was a smile on his face.
Daphne finally quit staring at herself and turned to face me, planting her hands on her hips and causing pink sparks of magic to crackle in the air around her. “Now, are you going to come along quietly, or am I going to have to strongarm you like usual?”
I laughed and held my hands up in mock surrender.
“Don’t worry. You’re right. Tonight is a time to celebrate. I’ll come along peacefully.”
Grandma cleared her throat and got to her feet. Daphne stared at her, then me.
“I’ll wait for you downstairs,” Daphne said. I nodded, and she left my room.
Grandma Frost stepped forward. “Actually, pumpkin, there’s something I’d like to give you. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while now, but tonight seems like the perfect time.”
She reached up, unwrapped a long scarf from around her neck, and held it out to me. “I thought you might like to have this. It belonged to your mom. She used to wear it whenever she would go out dancing.”
The silk scarf was a beautiful swirl of gray and violet, like petals mixed together, with a few bright silver coins hanging off the edges. I carefully took the cool fabric from Grandma, the motion causing the coins to jingle out a soft tune.
My psychometry kicked in, and my mom’s face appeared. I let the memories sweep me away.
Images of my mom laughing, talking, and dancing filled my mind. There was music and soft lights and glittering decorations. Metis was in some of the memories, whispering and giggling with my mom. Nickamedes too. But there was one image that was sharper, stronger, and more vibrant than all the others. I let myself fall deeper into that memory.
My mom stood on a balcony, the moonlight painting her brown hair a soft silver. She was dancing in the arms of a man with sandy blond hair and blue eyes. My dad, Tyr. They moved slowly to the music. Other people were on the balcony as well, but they were little more than shadows, and the two of them were completely focused on each other.
“You know what?” my mom asked.
“What?” my dad answered, a faint teasing note in his voice, as though this were a game they’d played many times before.
“Violet eyes are smiling eyes,” Mom whispered the familiar words before kissing him.
The memory faded away, but the soft echo of music remained in my ears, along with their happiness in my heart.
I sighed and opened my eyes, stroking my hand over the fabric. “This is one of the best presents anyone could ever give me. Thank you so much.”
Grandma gently squeezed my hand, her love surging into me and mixing with the memories of my mom and dad. “I’m glad you think so, pumpkin.”
I hugged her tight and wrapped the scarf around my shoulders, feeling the memories soak into my skin.
Grandma Frost stayed behind to talk with Vic and Nyx. I left my room and went downstairs, where Daphne was waiting with Logan and Carson. Both guys wore classic black tuxedoes and looked exceptionally handsome. They were both clutching corsages, silver for me and pink for Daphne, which they quickly slid onto our wrists.
“You know, we could skip the dance,” Logan murmured, stepping closer to me, his eyes that wonderful, wonderful blue. “And go straight to the after-party. The one where it’s just you and me. Alone.”
I stood on my tiptoes as though I were going to kiss him and tapped him on the nose instead. “And you should know that we at least have to put in an appearance at the dance. Besides, I didn’t put this dress and makeup on for nothing. So come on.”
Logan groaned, but he let me lead him outside.
The four of us walked up the hill and fell into the stream of students flowing into the dining hall, since that’s where the dance was going to be held. We stepped inside and stopped, all of us bowled over by the sight in front of us.
The dining hall had been utterly transformed. All of the chairs and tables had been removed, creating one enormous open space. White, pink, and red lights had been strung up in the indoor garden in the middle of the room, wrapping around all of the trees and even the statues there, and casting the entire area in warm, soft light. Silver, pink, and red hearts dangled down from the ceiling, the glitter on them throwing out small sprays of light in every direction. Giant hearts had even been taped up onto the walls, covering many of the mythological paintings there. It was even more impressive than the memories of the dances that my mom had attended here.
But more than the decorations, there was such a sense of peace, calm, and relief in the room. At first, I wondered why, but then I realized that everyone was smiling, from the students on the dance floor to the adult chaperones chatting by the punch bowl to the statues in the garden. I even spotted the three guys from the coffee shop, the ones who had been betting that the dance would be ruined. They were laughing and talking, like everyone else. I didn’t know what had happened to their bet, and I didn’t care. All that mattered was having a good time tonight.
“Come on,” Daphne said, grinning at us. “Time to party.”
She led Carson out onto the dance floor, and the two of them were soon rocking to the music.
Logan took my hand. “What do you say, Gypsy girl?”
he asked in a teasing voice. “Want to dance?”
I started to answer him when I noticed two people standing off to one side of the dining hall—Metis and Nickamedes. Metis looked lovely in a dark green gown, and she’d even worn her black hair down for a change, softening her features. Meanwhile, Nickamedes looked almost as handsome as Logan did in his tux. Nickamedes seemed to be trying to get Metis to go out onto the dance floor with him, but she kept shaking her head in refusal.
Nickamedes’s mouth pinched with frustration. Metis said something to him and started to turn and walk away, but he grabbed her hand, pulled her toward him, and kissed her soundly. She stiffened in his arms at first, clearly shocked by his bold action, but then, she slowly melted into his embrace. By the time he drew back, they were both blushing and flustered. This time, when Nickamedes tugged on Metis’s hand, she let him lead her out onto the dance floor.
Logan frowned, seeing exactly what I was looking at. “Metis and Nickamedes? What’s that all about?”
I laughed and grabbed his hand. “Well, I thought it would be obvious, but come and dance with me, and I’ll tell you all about it.”
He stopped, pulling me back toward him. “I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t we sneak off and go have that makeout session we talked about back at the dining hall?”
I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled his head down toward mine. “Why not start now?” I whispered.
Logan grinned. A moment later, his lips met mine, and I forgot about everything else, including the dance.
I didn’t think it was possible, but things slowly went back to normal at Mythos Academy. Actually, they weren’t quite normal.
They were better than that.
With the threat of Loki gone, and the remaining Reapers in hiding, everyone was far more cheerful and relaxed than I’d ever seen them before. Professors, staff members, students. Everyone just seemed . . . happy. Laughing, talking, joking, out on the quad, in the dining hall, even in the classrooms. Of course, there was a lot of sorrow, sadness, and grief mixed in, especially for those who had lost friends and loved ones, but things were far more hopeful than they’d been in years. As for me, well, I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders, literally. For the first time in a long time, I felt . . . free.
And I loved it.
But that didn’t mean I didn’t have responsibilities. I was still a student, after all, which meant classes and more classes and tons of homework assignments from all the days we’d missed while the academy had been closed for repairs. I was busier with school than ever before, but I made time for the things I enjoyed most, the things that were truly important to me. Weapons training in the morning with my friends, lunch with Logan in the dining hall, afternoon visits to Grandma Frost’s house. I even worked my regular shifts in the Library of Antiquities, helping Nickamedes clean up, since the library had taken the brunt of the Reapers’ attacks.
Speaking of the library, I was late for my shift, as usual, but instead of hurrying inside the building, I stood at the bottom of the steps, staring at the two gryphons. They were the only statues left on any of the buildings on the quad, since Loki had destroyed all the others. I thought he had obliterated them too, but they’d been in their usual spots when we’d come outside after the battle, perched by the library steps as if they’d never even moved in the first place.
Whatever magic Carson had used to bring them to life had sustained them through the battle, and the gryphons loomed as large and fierce-looking as ever before. Sure, they were a little rough around the edges now, with scars embedded in their stone bodies from the wear and tear of the fight. But they were still here, still watching over me, and still protecting us all. Walking by the gryphons every single day was one of the things that had helped me cope with all the nightmares from the battle. I think that seeing them helped a lot of other folks deal with things too.
Metis said that all of the statues on all of the other buildings would be replaced, a project that Raven was overseeing, which didn’t surprise me in the least, given what I now knew about her real identity. I wondered if the new gargoyles, dragons, chimeras, and more would all have that same wary watchfulness as before.
I hoped so.
I patted first one gryphon’s head, then the other, whispering my thanks to them before entering the library.
* * *
An hour later, I was supposed to be looking something up on the computer for Nickamedes, but really, I was watching him whisper into Metis’s ear. Something perhaps a bit steamy, judging from the sly look she gave him in return. She leaned up and kissed his cheek before waving at me and leaving the library. The two of them were officially a couple now, and I couldn’t have been happier for them.
Nickamedes shuffled over to the checkout counter. He was still using his cane to get around, but he wasn’t leaning on it as heavily, and he said that some of the aches and pains in his legs had finally started to ease. I was hoping he’d make a full recovery after all.