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|Midnight Frost(Mythos Academy #5) by Jennifer Estep|
So I focused on Covington's hand wrapped around my waist. I was holding Vic in my right hand, but my left hand was hanging down by my side. Slowly, very, very slowly, I started moving my free hand up toward the librarian's.
"Stand still or I'll cut your throat!" he snarled.
I froze, my hand no higher than my hip. I couldn't move it the rest of the way or he'd make good on his threat. Frustration filled me because I needed my skin to touch his. That was how my magic worked. But I realized there was another way I could use my Gypsy gift on the librarian - by getting him to touch me instead.
Covington's fingers brushed up against the collar of my snowsuit as he held the dagger against my neck. I shifted on my feet, trying to get his fingers to slip up over the edge of the cloth and press against my skin, but the angle was wrong, and I couldn't get it to work. More frustration surged through me, and my gaze went to my friends. They'd moved together, forming a tight ring in the middle of the courtyard, even as the Reapers kept advancing on them, slashing their curved swords through the air in anticipation of cutting into my friends. And I realized I was almost out of time - and there was only one option left.
If I couldn't get Covington to touch me, then I'd have to touch him instead. All I had to do was turn my neck into the blade at my throat. It was a risky plan, and I didn't know how much damage the dagger might do to me, but it was the only way I could save myself and my friends.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Vivian was watching me, a frown on her face, and I felt a sharp, sudden pain in my head, as though a pair of fingers were digging into my brain. Vivian was using her telepathy magic to peer into my mind. After a moment, her eyes widened. Too late, she realized what I was planning.
"Covington! Don't let her move! Don't let her touch you - "
I gritted my teeth and turned my neck, trying not to scream as the dagger sliced into my skin. Covington jerked back in surprise, but I kept turning, turning, turning my neck, even as the blade cut deeper and deeper into my throat.
Finally, just when I thought I couldn't stand the pain a second longer, I felt the librarian's cold fingers scrape against my bare, bloody skin - and then I yanked.
Covington's thoughts and feelings flooded my mind the second his skin touched mine.
The dark jealousy that seeped through every part of his being almost took my breath away. One after another, I saw images of him over the years. Working in the library, looking down on all the students and professors, meeting with Agrona and other Reapers, gleefully doing whatever foul thing Agrona asked of him. Metis, Nickamedes, and Ajax were even in a few of his memories, when Covington had visited the North Carolina academy. I felt his deep, burning hatred of them, particularly of Nickamedes and the fact that he was in charge of our Library of Antiquities, a job Covington had always secretly coveted.
I blinked, and another memory roared to the surface of my mind - Covington arguing with two people dressed in black Reaper cloaks. They weren't wearing masks, so I could see their faces - the same faces, the same people, I'd seen in that photo with Rory. I knew I was watching her parents - Rebecca and Tyson.
"You'll have to find another way . . . we're not going to do it..." Rebecca's voice sounded in my mind. "We're tired of this . . . of the Reapers. All we want to do is live a nice, quiet, peaceful life with our daughter . . ."
Tyson nodded, agreeing with her.
The two of them walked away, and Covington picked up the sword he'd hidden underneath the library's checkout counter. Quiet as a whisper, he advanced on them and raised the weapon high, even though their backs were turned -
The rest of the memory rushed by before I could latch on to it, but I knew how it ended - with Covington murdering Rory's parents.
But a new image took its place - one of Covington alone in the library, poring over book after book, looking at pages covered with plants, herbs, and flowers. Searching for a poison - the poison the Reapers had meant for me . . .
I drew in a breath and pushed the images away. Instead, I let myself sink even deeper into the librarian until I saw the black spark flickering at the very center of his being - the ugly thing that made Covington who and what he was. I imagined closing my hand around that spark, and then I yanked again - even harder than before.
Covington screamed as I pulled his magic, his power, his life into my own body. The wounds on my neck healed, and I could feel myself growing stronger and stronger even as the spark inside his body started to dim. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to snuff that spark out completely - and kill the librarian where he stood.
"Let go of her!" I heard Vivian scream. "You're dead if she keeps touching you!"
Covington let out one more agonized scream. Then, he dropped the dagger from my neck and shoved me away. I stumbled forward and fell to my knees in the rocky rubble.
"You!" Covington snarled. "You think you can use your pitiful psychometry to kill me? I'll show you how wrong you are, Gypsy!"
He raised his dagger high. I brought up Vic, although I knew I wouldn't be quick enough to block his attack -
A figure darted between us. It took me a second to realize it was Rory - and the Spartan girl had her hand locked around the librarian's wrist. Rory's free fist snapped up, and she punched Covington in the face. He cursed and staggered back, and Rory smoothly plucked his dagger from his hand.
She twirled the weapon around a few times, getting a feel for it, her green eyes glinting with that Spartan combination of anger and anticipation of the fight to come. "I've got this, Gwen," she said in a cold voice. "You help the others. Covington is mine."
"Alive!" I heard Ajax yell. "We need him alive, Rory!"
Covington tried to back up, even going so far as to duck behind a pile of rocks, but Rory followed him, stalking him as coolly as a Fenrir wolf would its prey. A second later, the librarian screamed. Rory must have sliced him open with his own dagger. I just hoped she'd let him live, like Ajax had said. No doubt the coach wanted answers about the Reapers - answers Covington might be able to give us.
Those were the thoughts that raced through my mind as I scrambled to my feet. I raised Vic, ready to fight whoever came my way - and immediately had to duck down as a Reaper's sword whistled by my head.
The Reaper and I fought, exchanging blow after blow after blow, before I was finally able to cut through his defense and bury Vic's point in the man's chest.
"That's my girl!" Vic crowed. "On to the next one!"
I pulled the sword free, stepped over the dead Reaper, and started forward. Then, I stopped, unsure where to go.
Because the ruins were in complete chaos.
The Reapers had launched themselves at my friends, their black robes whipping around them like a wave of death spilling forward into the flower-filled courtyard. Ajax, Alexei, and Rachel were at the front of the fight, holding the first surge of Reapers at bay. Ajax and Rachel were using their swords to battle the evil warriors, along with their daggers, while Alexei swung his twin swords every which way, cutting into all the Reapers he could reach.
Behind the Reapers, the Black rocs screamed out their fierce battle cries. Some of the Reapers slapped the creatures on their sides, urging them to zoom through the air, join in the attack, and dive-bomb my friends from above.
But every time one of the Black rocs took flight, Daphne raised her bow and loosed a golden arrow. She was one of the best archers at Mythos, and her aim was true. Roc after roc plunged to the ground, already dead before their bodies hit the rocks. Carson and Oliver flanked Daphne on either side, protecting her from the Reapers who managed to slip past Ajax, Alexei, and Rachel.
"Gwen!" Alexei shouted.
He used his twin swords to cut down first one Reaper, then another. But before he'd taken more than a half dozen steps in my direction, two more Reapers had moved to block him.
I waved him off. "I'll be okay! Help the others protect Daphne! She's the only way we can keep the rocs from joining in the attack!"
Alexei didn't like it, but he nodded and started working his way back to the others.
"Oh good," a voice purred behind me. "She's sent away her bodyguard."
I turned to find Vivian and Agrona standing behind me, along with their two rocs. Both of the Reapers were holding swords. They slowly advanced on me, and I raised Vic once more. Vivian was still holding Lucretia, and the red glow of the female sword's eye was even brighter than before.
"Look," Lucretia purred. "Dull little Vic might finally get some use in the fight after all. If my first blow doesn't just snap his puny blade in two."
"Lucretia!" Vic shouted. "Come over here and say that!"
"With pleasure!" the other sword crowed back.
And those were all the insults they were able to exchange before Vivian and I charged at each other.
We battled through the ruins. Over rocks, around rocks, ducking and darting, moving back and forth and up and down, trying to get every little advantage we could to hurt the other girl as much as possible. We trampled the flowers underfoot, our boots smashing the beautiful blossoms into runny smears of color. Petals whipped through the air at our frantic movements, and the crisp scent of the flowers took on a thick, coppery stench as blood spattered onto the blossoms from the nicks and cuts Vivian and I were able to inflict on each other.
Finally, I managed to drive her back against a large boulder and slashed out with my sword. Vivian ducked to one side just in time to keep me from taking off her head, but I still managed to open up a deep gash on her right cheek.
Vivian gasped in pain and surprise and brought her fingers up to her face. She pulled them down, staring in disbelief at the blood on her hand.
"You cut me," she said. "You cut my face."
I twirled Vic in my hand. "I'll do more than that, before this fight is through."
"Not so fast, Gypsy," Agrona said.
Up until now, she had just watched the two of us fight. At first, I'd wondered why Agrona hadn't joined forces with Vivian, but then I'd realized she was holding her sword at an awkward angle, as though she wasn't used to wielding it with her left hand. Her right hand - her sword hand - must have been too badly damaged by Vic to be of any use. All she could do was watch - until now.
Agrona snapped her fingers, and her Black roc charged forward.
I threw myself to one side, barely managing to avoid the vicious swipe of the roc's talons. If I'd held my ground, I would have been dead, my chest ripped wide open by the creature's claws. But the roc was faster than I was. I'd barely gotten back onto my feet when the roc whipped around and slammed one of its wings into my left shoulder. I grunted, and the force of the impact threw me five feet to the left. My legs went out from under me, and I stumbled to the ground, landing on my hands and knees. The roc launched itself into the air, hovering over me like an evil black helicopter. It pumped its wings once, then surged forward, its claws extended toward my throat -
A figure darted between me and the roc. At first, I thought it was Rory again, and it took me a moment to realize it was a guy my own age. He charged the roc, spun to one side, and managed to grab hold of the creature's harness. The guy yanked on the long leather reins as hard as he could, causing the creature to stop two feet short of me. But he wasn't finished. He moved forward again, tossing the leather straps over the roc in such a way that they bound the creature's wings to its sides. The roc hit the ground with an audible thud, even as it caw-caw-cawed and frantically tried to tear off the leather straps with its beak.
Then, the guy turned to me, and my breath caught in my throat.
Ink-black hair, intense ice-blue eyes, and a crooked smile that made a warm, fizzy feeling explode in my heart.
"Logan?" I whispered.
His smile widened. "Hey there, Gypsy girl."
My gaze locked with Logan's. No matter how happy I was to see him, I couldn't help thinking of my nightmares and how he had hurt me in them over and over again.
But instead of that awful Reaper red, his eyes were sharp and clear and as blue as they could be - the most beautiful blue I'd ever seen.
"Gypsy girl?" he asked. "Are you okay?"
"But how - when - why - " I sputtered like Vic had a few minutes ago.
Logan flashed me another smile and helped me to my feet. "Talk later. Fight now. Okay?"
I was so stunned that all I could do was just stand there. The roc got free and threw itself at Logan. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Vivian sneaking up on Logan's blind side, and I put myself between her and the Spartan.
"Protecting your boyfriend's back? Aw, how sweet," Vivian muttered. "Not that it's going to do either one of you any good."
She raised her sword and charged me. I tightened my grip on Vic and stepped up to meet her. Vivian attacked me over and over again, trying to use her Valkyrie strength to cut through my defenses. Red and purple sparks crackled in the air every time our blades met. Off to my left, Logan kept battling the roc, darting back and forth to keep out of range of the creature's sharp, snapping beak.
Finally, the roc zigged instead of zagged, taking Logan by surprise. His feet went out from under him, and the roc launched itself into the air once more.
"Logan!" I screamed, knowing he wouldn't be able to get out of the way before the creature dive-bombed and tore him open with its claws -
A golden arrow zipped through the air and buried itself in the roc's side. The creature collapsed, its body barely missing crashing into Logan's. He rolled to the side, trying to shake off his daze from hitting the ground.