“Yeah,” I said. “Me too.”
I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t see him grimace again, and leaned my head on his shoulder. The motion made bits of metal press against my throat, part of the six silver strands that wrapped around my neck and formed the diamond-tipped snowflake necklace that I always wore, the one Logan had given me.
Thinking about the necklace reminded me of everything we’d been through, and I scooted even closer to him, feeling the warmth of his body soak into my own. He let out a soft sigh, although I couldn’t tell what sort of emotion went along with it. Maybe happiness, or perhaps wariness again. But this time, Logan wrapped both of his arms around me and held me tight.
Even though I didn’t think it was possible, I actually found myself relaxing and enjoying the time with Logan and my friends. We quickly scarfed down our desserts, coffee, and hot chocolate and spent the next two hours laughing and talking. Finally, though, we decided to head back to the academy. Everyone put their dirty mugs and plates on an oversize tray, which I grabbed and took over to one of the trash cans. I’d just tossed the last used napkin away when I realized that people were whispering about me again—three Romans that I
recognized from my afternoon gym class.
“. . . you think the Gypsy girl will really keep something from happening?”
“Nah . . . the Reapers will strike no matter what she does . . .”
“I hope so, considering how much money I put down . . .”
Money? Money for what? I frowned and looked over my shoulder at the three guys, but they were all absorbed in their laptops again. They didn’t even look up as I walked past them. I peered at their computer screens, but they were all surfing the Internet and playing games. It didn’t look like they were up to anything suspicious. Still, I knew from past experience that anyone could be a Reaper—no matter how nice and harmless he might seem.
“What’s wrong?” Logan asked when I sat down beside him again. “You look upset.”
I jerked my head in the direction of the three guys. “Them. For some reason, they were talking about me and Reapers and money. It was weird.”
Logan exchanged a knowing, guilty look with Daphne and Carson.
“What?” I asked, my stomach clenching with dread again. “What’s wrong? What are those guys up to?”
“There’s a pool that the Reapers will do something at the Valentine’s Day dance,” Logan said. “Kids are betting on what they’ll do and how bad the damage will be this time around.”
The Valentine’s Day dance was Friday night. According to Daphne, it was one of the biggest social events of the year at the academy, as big as prom at other schools.
So big, in fact, that she’d made me go shopping in Ashland last weekend too, so she could find the perfect dress to wear, and she’d made me buy something new as well. Logan had already asked me to the dance, but I hadn’t thought too much about it. The way things had been going lately, I was just trying to get through one day at a time without being attacked by another Reaper. “They’re betting about Reapers ruining the dance? You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said. “Why would they
want to bet on something like that?” Logan shrugged.
My good mood vanished. Because the three guys were right. The Reapers probably would crash and ruin the dance like they did everything else at the academy. Maybe the dance was exactly what they were waiting for, and that’s why we hadn’t heard anything about Vivian and Agrona since the battle at the Eir Ruins out in Colorado.
I stood up. “C’mon,” I snapped. “Let’s get out of here.”
Logan got to his feet and threaded his fingers through mine. I squeezed his hand back, trying to calm my sudden anger—and worry.
We left Kaldi Coffee, with Daphne and Carson trailing along behind us. The four of us didn’t talk much as we walked back toward campus. For once, it wasn’t snowing, and the sun was shining brightly overhead, although it was still bitterly cold, even for February. Or maybe that was the fear seeping through my body at the thought of what the Reapers might do at the Valentine’s Day dance—and how many people they might kill this time.
I was so busy brooding that I didn’t notice Logan’s steps slow and then stop. I looked up, thinking he was waiting at the crosswalk. Then I realized that three black SUVs were parked outside the main gate to Mythos Academy.
I tensed, pulling my hand out of Logan’s and dropping it down onto Vic’s hilt, ready to grab the sword in case Vivian, Agrona, or any other Reapers decided to storm out of the vehicles and attack us.
But it wasn’t a Reaper who opened the driver’s door of the lead SUV—it was a tall, thin man with blond hair and blue eyes. His winter clothes were covered by a gray robe, embroidered with the logo of a hand holding a set of balanced scales. I recognized him at once.
Linus Quinn. Logan’s dad. And, more important, the head of the Protectorate, the police force for the mythological world.
That dread I’d been feeling all day intensified, my stomach clenching tight once more. Because I doubted that Linus was here simply to visit his son. No, something was up, and I had a feeling that the quiet of the last two weeks had come to an end.
Still, I couldn’t help looking at Daphne in morbid satisfaction. “What did I tell you? Our first double date? Officially ruined.”
Linus wasn’t the only one who got out of the first SUV. The doors opened, and two more men appeared, both wearing gray robes.
One of the men was short and stocky, with brown hair, hazel eyes, tan skin, and a face that always seemed to be smiling, while the other man was tall and slender, with black hair, dark eyes, and a far more serious expression. Sergei Sokolov and Inari Sato, Linus’s friends and two more important members of the Protectorate. My unease increased. If all three of them were here, that meant something major was going down.
Had there been another Reaper attack? Maybe at another academy? I thought about pulling out my phone and texting my cousin, Rory Forseti, who went to the Colorado branch of Mythos Academy, but I decided not to. Not yet, anyway.
Linus shut the driver’s side door and stood by the SUV, waiting, so the four of us crossed the street to meet him, Sergei, and Inari. Other Protectorate members, also wearing gray robes, waited in the other two vehicles, but they stayed inside their cars.
“Dad!” Logan called out, breaking into a jog and pulling away from me, Daphne, and Carson.
Linus smiled and held out his arms, and Logan stepped into his embrace and hugged his dad tight. After a moment, the two of them broke apart, dropped their eyes, and shifted on their feet, as if they were embarrassed by their PDA. Logan and his dad hadn’t had the best relationship over the years, since Logan’s mom and sister had been murdered by Reapers when he was five, but the two of them were slowly working things out. I was glad that they were growing closer, especially since Agrona, Linus’s former wife and Logan’s stepmom, had hurt them both so much by secretly heading up the Reapers the whole time she’d been in their lives.
Logan stepped aside, and Linus approached me. “Miss Frost,” Linus said, holding out his hand. “It’s
good to see you again.”
A month ago, he would have been lying through his teeth. For a while, Linus had thought that I was a Reaper, that I was Loki’s Champion, that I was responsible for all the horrible things Vivian Holler had done. Needless to say, he hadn’t wanted me to have anything to do with his son back then, and he’d even gone so far as to put me on trial for my life. But the truth about Vivian and Agrona had come out, and Linus had apologized for his behavior toward me. He’d never be my favorite person in the world, but I would be nice to him—for Logan’s sake.
“Mr. Quinn,” I said.
I hesitated, staring at his outstretched hand. Linus knew all about my touch magic, but he still held his hand out to me. I wondered if it was some sort of test, although I had no idea why he would do such a thing. But I stepped up and took his hand in mine.
His memories and emotions hit me a second later. I got quick flickers and flashes of Linus over the years, fighting Reapers, talking with Sergei and Inari, and leading the other members of the Protectorate into battle. But mostly, what I saw was him sitting in a large kitchen, hunched over a table that was covered with photos and fat files of information, pouring over every single document, and trying to figure out what the Reapers were up to and where they would strike next.
His memories of Logan growing up also crowded into my mind, along with all of Linus’s deep, quiet love for his son and his unending pride in the fierce Spartan Logan had become.
And over all of that was sharp, agonizing worry— worry that Linus wasn’t going to be able to stop the Reapers from murdering even more members of the Pantheon, including Logan. It was the same sort of constant, nagging worry that I experienced on a daily basis— that I wasn’t going to be able to find a way to kill Loki. That the evil god of chaos would win in the end. That he would hurt, torture, and enslave everyone that I loved just to inflict as much pain on me as he possibly could before he finally killed me . . .
Linus dropped his hand from mine, breaking our connection. I blinked a few times, trying to clear the last of his memories and feelings from my mind.
“Are you okay, Miss Frost?” Linus asked.
“Fine,” I said, forcing myself to smile at him. “Just fine.”
“Logan, my boy!” Sergei said in a loud, booming voice, finally jumping into the conversation. “So good to see you and your friends again!”
The boisterous Bogatyr warrior clapped Logan on the shoulder, making him stagger back a few steps.
“You too, Sergei.” Logan grinned at the older man, then nodded his head. “And you as well, Inari.”
The Ninja tipped his head, acknowledging the greeting, although he didn’t say anything in return.
Logan looked at me, then turned back to his dad. “So what’s going on? Why are you guys here?”
Linus smiled. “Can’t a father come see his son?” Logan kept staring at his dad, and the smile slowly
slipped from Linus’s face.
He cleared his throat. “Well, I do have something to talk about with Metis, Nickamedes, and Ajax. But I saw you and your friends walking toward the academy, and I thought I would stop and say hello.”
Logan nodded. “Okay. I get it. So what’s going on?” Linus hesitated. “Perhaps it would be better if you
and your friends met me in the library in a few minutes. Metis is already on her way over there. So is Alexei, Miss Frost.”
This time, I nodded. Alexei Sokolov, Sergei’s son, was the Bogatyr warrior who served as my guard. Normally, Alexei went almost everywhere with me. Today, he’d taken the afternoon off to spend some time with his boyfriend, Oliver Hector, since I was having my double date with Logan, Carson, and Daphne.
“Okay,” Logan said. “We’ll see you there.”
Linus put his arm around his son’s shoulder and hugged him close again. Then, he cleared his throat, nodded at Logan, and got back into the SUV. Sergei and Inari took their seats again, and Linus cranked the engine and steered the vehicle away from the curb, heading to the secondary entrance and the parking lot behind the gym. The other two SUVs followed the first vehicle.
“Well, that was totally cryptic,” Daphne sniped when the cars had disappeared from sight.
Carson nodded his agreement.
Logan shrugged. “That’s my dad for you.”
I looked past my friends and over at the stone wall that ringed the campus. The iron gate was open, so the students could leave the academy and spend some time over in the Cypress Mountain shops today, but I looked up at the top of the wall, where two stone sphinxes perched on either side of the gate. Normally, the sphinxes would be watching me with their open, lidless eyes, tracking my movements, just like the rest of the statues on campus always did. But today, the sphinxes didn’t seem to be staring at me at all. Instead, their expressions were blank and neutral. They didn’t look angry, upset, or worried. They both stared straight ahead at each other, as if they were resigned to whatever was about to happen. My own dread kicked up another notch.
“Come on,” I said. “Let’s get over to the library. I
want to know what’s going on.”
“Just because Mr. Quinn is here doesn’t mean that it’s something bad,” Carson said in a faint voice. “Right?”
I gave him a look. Carson winced, but he and the others fell in step behind me as I stepped through the open gate and onto campus.
My friends and I followed the ash-gray cobblestone walkway all the way up the hill to the main quad that was the heart of Mythos Academy. Five buildings stood on the quad, all made out of dark gray stone, and arranged like the points of a star—math-science, English-history, the gym, the dining hall, and the Library of Antiquities.
We headed for the library. At seven stories, it was the largest building on campus and featured a variety of towers, balconies, and statues—lots and lots of statues. Gargoyles, chimeras, dragons, a Minotaur. Mythological creatures covered the structure from the first-floor balcony all the way to the tops of the towers that jutted up into the sky. But my attention was focused on the two gryphons sitting on either side of the main library steps.
Eagle heads, lion bodies, wings tucked in next to their sides, tails curled close to their front paws. The statues looked the same as ever, but I still stopped to study them a bit more closely.
Like the sphinxes by the main gate, the gryphons’ expressions were carefully blank, as though they were playing a game with me and didn’t want to give me any indication of what they were really thinking. The gryphons had always seemed so fierce, so lifelike, but now, they just looked tired—tired and slightly sad.