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|Midnight Frost(Mythos Academy #5) by Jennifer Estep|
I slapped the pillow off the bed, sat up, and gulped down breath after breath. My eyes darted around my room, but everything was the same. Bed, desk, bookcases, fridge, TV. Vic hanging on the wall, Nyx curled up in her basket in the corner, Ran's seaweed net draped over the back of my chair.
Real - this was real. Everything else had been a dream. Just a dream.
Vic's eye snapped open, and he regarded me with a sympathetic expression. "Another nightmare?"
I slid to the floor and leaned back against the side of the bed. Nyx hopped out of her basket and raced over to me. I scooped up the pup and cradled her in my arms. Nyx licked my cheek, and I felt her warm concern wash over me.
"Gwen?" Vic asked again. "Another nightmare?"
"Something like that."
"Did he stab you again this time?"
My chest ached, as though Logan really had hurt me again, and I buried my face in Nyx's fur until the sensation faded away, and I was reasonably sure I wasn't going to cry.
"How did it start?" Vic asked. "The nightmare?"
Calmer now, I rewound the images in my mind. Thanks to my psychometry, I never forgot anything I heard, saw, or felt, not even my dreams. Sometimes it was a blessing, being able to recall a cherished memory, but with the nightmares I'd been having lately, it seemed more like a curse.
"I was in here, pacing back and forth, and I felt like I needed to escape . . ."
I told Vic the rest of it. When I finished, the sword frowned in thought, while Nyx licked my fingers, trying to let me know she was here for me too.
The weird thing was that I really had gone to the Crius Coliseum a few days earlier, and I really did have Ran's net draped over my desk chair. In fact, I'd talked about the net and how useless it seemed with Alexei and Daphne Cruz, my best friend, when we'd had dinner in the dining hall earlier. We'd come back to my dorm room to hang out for a while, and after they'd left, I'd decided to lie down on my bed to rest for a few minutes before taking a shower and getting ready for bed. Instead, I'd fallen asleep, and the image of the net had somehow led to my recurring nightmare of Logan stabbing me in the chest.
Just like he'd done for real a few weeks ago.
"Well, obviously, you still have some issues with the Spartan and what he did to you," Vic finally said. "And who wouldn't? Do you want to talk about it?"
He'd been asking me that ever since I'd had the first nightmare a couple of weeks ago, but once again, I shook my head. I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't even want to think about it, even though my refusal to deal was probably causing some of my nightmares. After a moment, I sighed, suddenly tired - of Reapers, of fighting, and most especially of all the horrible memories that I could never, ever forget, not even when I went to sleep.
"Gwen?" Vic asked again.
"I'm fine now," I said. "It was just a dream. It wasn't real."
Vic gave me a sympathetic look, which I ignored. The sword had been extra nice to me ever since Logan left. All of my friends had, which only reminded me all the more that he was gone.
Still, despite my words, the nightmare had shaken me, and once again, I felt that desperate need to escape, to go someplace where no one was watching me, to go someplace where no one would think to look for me or try to hurt me. I glanced at the clock on my nightstand. Just after eight. I still had some time before the dorms locked down for the night at ten.
I gave Nyx one more hug, carried her back over to her basket, and helped her settle down inside it. Then, I shrugged into my jacket and grabbed my gloves and scarf. I also plucked Vic off the wall and belted the sword and his scabbard around my waist. Unlike in my dream, I wasn't going to be so stupid as to not take a weapon with me, even if my destination wasn't that far away and campus was supposedly safer these days.
"Where are we going?" Vic asked.
I opened the door and left my dorm room.
For real, this time.
I'd told Alexei I was staying put in my room for the rest of the night, so he'd gone back to his own dorm instead of standing guard outside my door. Good. I didn't want him to know where I was going. I didn't want anyone to know. Seriously, it was that sad and pathetic.
I didn't bother crawling out a window like I had in my dream. Instead, I walked down the steps and right out the front door of Styx Hall.
One thing that was the same in real life as in my nightmare was the weather. Because of the cold, snow, and blustering winds, campus was as deserted as I'd imagined it had been - except for the members of the Protectorate.
Men and women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities could be seen patrolling the academy grounds, standing guard under trees and peering into the shadows that had spread out over the landscape. After the Reaper attack at the band concert, security on campus had been seriously beefed up, and members of the Protectorate could be seen here twenty-four-seven now. I doubted it would help, though. Try as they might, the Protectorate couldn't be everywhere at once. Sooner or later, the Reapers would strike here again, and all I could do was to wait for it to happen - and try to survive.
Another thing that was the same was Aiko, who was standing below my windows, just as she had in my dream. I waved at the Ninja, and she lifted her hand and waved back. I liked Aiko. She read comic books and graphic novels, just like I did.
I stepped onto the path outside my dorm and hurried across campus. Aiko watched me go but didn't follow, since her orders were to keep an eye on my dorm - not necessarily on me. That was Alexei's job. I felt bad about not keeping my promise to him to stay inside, but I couldn't sit in my room for the rest of the night. Not after the nightmare. So I headed toward Hephaestus Hall, one of the boys' dorms.
All of the Mythos dorms required a student ID card in order to get inside, and your card only let you in to the dorm where you lived. But if you leaned on the front bell long enough, someone would eventually get fed up enough to buzz you inside without checking to make sure you really belonged there. We kids were totally lazy that way. I only had to hold down the bell for thirty seconds before the door clicked open.
"Enough already!" a male voice rumbled from deeper inside the dorm. "We're trying to watch the game!"
I grinned, opened the door, and stepped through before the guy came to investigate. Judging from the alternating cheers and groans I heard coming from the common room, everyone in the dorm was watching the game, which made it easy for me to climb the steps to the fifth floor. I paused at the top of the stairs, wondering if someone might actually be in his room, studying, but everything was still and quiet. Since the coast was clear, I crept down the hallway until I reached the last door.
I stopped and cocked my head to the side, listening, but no sounds came from the other side. Then again, I hadn't expected them to - I knew exactly how empty this particular room was. I reached into my messenger bag and drew out my wallet. It only took me a minute to slide my driver's license in between the lock and the frame and pop open the door. I slid through to the other side and shut the door behind me.
The room was dark, so I hit the switch on the wall. Lights blazed on, revealing the same furniture that all of the kids had. A bed, a desk, some bookcases, a flat-screen TV mounted on one of the walls. The only thing that was different about the room was all the trophies he'd won. Dozens of little gold men holding swords, spears, and other weapons peeped out at me from the desk, the bookcases, and a shelf above the bed. There was even a life-sized trophy stuffed in the corner, a staff clutched in his hands like the man was about to step forward and bash me over the head with it. I shivered and looked away. Somehow, the fact that none of the trophies actually had distinct faces made them even creepier.
A loud sigh sounded, and I realized that Vic was awake. The sword had gone to sleep, as was his habit when he was in his scabbard. I pulled the sword free of the leather and held him up so that we were face-to-face. The sword glanced around the room.
Vic sighed again. "Really? You're going to come in here and mope again?"
"I'm not moping," I said in a defensive voice.
"Really?" Vic asked again, his voice made even more sarcastic by his biting English accent. "Because I think that sitting on the Spartan's bed and staring at his things definitely qualifies as moping. Brooding, even. Especially when you've done it a dozen times since he left."
I looked out over Logan's room. Maybe Vic was right. Maybe I was moping over the Spartan and the fact that he'd left Mythos - that he'd left me.
I'd first come in here two weeks ago hoping to find some clue as to where Logan had gone. He had asked me not to look for him, and I'd wanted to respect his wishes. Really, I had. I wasn't planning to track him down and beg him to come back or anything crazy like that. But I figured that maybe my heart wouldn't hurt quite as much if I at least knew where he was - and that he was okay. So I'd snuck into his room, determined to use my magic to flash on his things until I figured out where he'd gone with his dad, Linus. The first thing I had found had been a note propped up on his desk:
Seriously, Gypsy girl.
Stop looking for me.
I didn't know whether to smile or grumble that he knew me so well.
After I found the note, I abandoned my plan to find out where Logan was. But I couldn't keep myself from sneaking into his room, especially after the nightmares started. If I closed my eyes and touched his myth-history book or one of the trophies he'd won, I could feel, see, and hear the real Logan and not the Reaper-crazed murderer he'd turned into in my nightmares - the one who seemed to take such evil delight in stabbing me to death over and over again. By using my psychometry on one of his leather jackets or the swords he had lined up in the back of his closet, I could almost pretend he was still here with me, getting ready to meet me at the dining hall for lunch or come to the gym for early morning weapons training. It almost made me feel better about things.
"Well, if you're determined to spend the rest of the night in here brooding, then I'm going back to sleep," Vic said. "Wake me when there's something to kill."
The sword snapped his eye shut. I sighed and slid him back into his scabbard. At least he wasn't going to mouth off to me anymore. Or worse, stare at me with such pity in his eye.
I walked over and sat down on the bed, right next to a photo. I picked up the glossy paper, which showed me sitting on the steps outside the Library of Antiquities, my arms around Logan. He had the same black hair and blue eyes as in my dream, but the teasing, mischievous grin that stretched across his face was something that never appeared in my nightmares. It was a welcome sight, one I never got tired of, especially given the horrific images my brain kept conjuring up of him.
He smiled up at me, and I ran my fingers over his face.
"Oh Spartan," I whispered. "I wish you really were sitting on the library steps right now. I wish I was there with you too."
Logan kept grinning at me. Of course, he never answered when I talked to him like this, and he hadn't responded to any of my voice mails or texts either. Sometimes he seemed like a wonderful dream I'd had - one that was gone forever. Maybe that's why the nightmares were so terrible, because he wasn't here to show me that he wasn't that monster, even though I knew the goodness in his heart. Maybe that's the reason I snuck into his room so often. So I could remind myself just how real Logan was - and hope that he'd come to his senses and come back to the academy soon.
That he'd come back to me soon.
I snorted. Yeah, Vic was right. Nightmares or not, I was being totally, utterly pathetic.
A pretty silver frame embossed with flowers and vines also lay on the bed. Logan had been going to frame the photo of us and give it to me for Valentine's Day. I'd used my psychometry to flash on the picture and the frame. He'd been smiling as he'd picked out the frame in one of the Cypress Mountain shops and thinking about how nice the photo of us would look on my desk next to the ones I had of my mom and Professor Metis.
I sighed, and my hand crept up to the necklace around my throat. Six silver strands wrapped around my neck, the diamond-tipped points joining together to form a snowflake in the middle of the delicate, beautiful design. A Christmas gift from Logan. One that I almost always wore, despite the bad memories associated with it - the ones of him attacking me.
For a moment, my chest ached, and I let go of the necklace and massaged a spot right over my heart. Two scars slashed across my skin there. One was from Logan's attack, while the other had been made by Preston Ashton, a Reaper boy who'd stabbed me. Daphne and Professor Metis had both used their healing magic to try to get rid of my scars, but it hadn't worked. Metis said that sometimes powerful artifacts left behind marks that would never, ever fade - just like my memories of the battles would never, ever disappear.
I also had two marks on my hands - one from the fight with Logan, while the other was where Vivian had cut me with the Helheim Dagger when she'd used the artifact and my blood to free Loki. The strange thing was that the marks on my hand exactly matched the ones over my heart - right down to their size, shape, and the odd, off-center X they made as they slashed over each other. I wondered how many more scars I would get before Loki was dead - or I was.
Thinking about Vivian, Preston, and the other Reapers made anger bubble up in my chest, burning away my melancholy. But the truth was that I wasn't just angry at the Reapers - I was pissed at Logan too.
I knew that he had felt he had to leave Mythos, that he thought he couldn't trust himself not to hurt me again, that he needed some time to sort out everything that had happened. In my head, I knew that. But in my heart, it felt like he'd abandoned me - like he'd left me to fight the Reapers and face the nightmares alone.