Kiss of Frost
The Spartan relentlessly pursued me, cutting me off every single time I tried to duck around him and run away.
Logan swung his sword at me over and over again, the shining silver blade inching a little closer to my throat every single time. His muscles rippled underneath his tight long-sleeved T-shirt as he smoothly moved from one attack position to the next. A smile tugged up his lips, and his ice blue eyes practically glowed with the thrill of battle.
I did not glow with the thrill of battle. Cringe, yes. Glow, no.
I brought up my own sword, trying to fend off Logan before he separated my head from my shoulders. Three times, I parried his blows, wincing whenever his sword hit mine, but the last time, I wasn’t quite quick enough. Logan stepped forward, the edge of his sword a whisper away from kissing my throat before I could do much more than blink and wonder how it had gotten there to start with.
And Logan didn’t stop there. He snapped his free wrist to one side and knocked my weapon out of my hand, sending it flying across the gym. My sword somersaulted several times in the air before landing point down in one of the thick mats that covered the gym floor.
“Dead again, Gypsy girl,” Logan said in a soft voice. “That makes twelve kills in a row now.”
I sighed. “I know. Believe me, I know. And I’m not any happier about it than you are.”
Logan nodded, dropped the sword from my throat, and stepped back. Then he turned and looked over his shoulder at two other Spartan guys who were sprawled across the bleachers, alternately texting on their phones and watching us with bored disinterest.
“Time?” Logan asked.
Kenzie Tanaka hit a button on his phone. “Forty-five seconds. Up from thirty-five seconds the time before.”
“Gwen’s lasting a little longer at least,” Oliver Hector chimed in. “Must be the Wonder Woman T-shirt finally adding to her awesome fighting skills.”
My face flushed at his snide tone. Okay, so maybe I had worn my favorite long-sleeved superhero shirt this morning in hopes that it might bring me a little luck, which I seriously needed when it came to any kind of fight. But he didn’t have to mock me about it, especially not in front of the others.
Oliver grinned and smirked at me. I crossed my arms over my chest and gave him a dirty look.
Kenzie looked at the other Spartan. “I think it’s cool that Gwen likes superheroes.”
Oliver frowned. He didn’t like Kenzie sticking up for me, but he didn’t say anything else. I didn’t know what Oliver’s deal was, but he always seemed to go out of his way to annoy me. Maybe he thought he was being charming or something. Some guys at Mythos Academy were like that—they thought being total jerks was supercool. Whatever. I had zero interest in the Spartan that way. Oh, Oliver was cute enough with his sandy blond hair, forest green eyes, bronze skin, and lazy grin. So was Kenzie, with that glossy black hair and those dark eyes. Not to mention the obvious muscles the two of them had and the lean strength that was so evident in their bodies. The only problem was that the two Spartans weren’t Logan Quinn.
Logan was the one that I was interested in—even if he had already broken my heart back in the fall.
Thinking about my stupid, hopeless, unreturned feelings for Logan soured my already grumpy mood, and I stalked across the mats toward my sword.
The gym at Mythos Academy was about five times the size of a regular one, with a ceiling that soared several hundred feet above my head. In some ways, it was completely normal. Bright banners marking all the various academy championships in fencing, archery, swimming, and other froufrou sports dangled from the rafters, while wooden bleachers jutted out from two of the walls. Mats covered the floor, hiding the basketball court from sight.
But then there were the weapons.
Racks and racks of them were stacked against another wall, going up so high, there was a ladder attached to one side to get to the weapons on the top rows. Swords, daggers, staffs, spears, bows, and quivers full of curved, wicked-looking arrows. All of them razor sharp and ready to be picked up and used by the students, most of whom took exceptional pride in showing off their prowess with the sharp, pointed edges.
The weapons were one of the ways in which Mythos Academy was anything but normal.
I reached my sword, which was still wobbling back and forth, reminding me of my old piano teacher’s metronome slowly ticking from side to side. I reached down, but before I could tug the sword out of the mat a round silver bulge on the hilt snapped open, revealing a narrowed, angry eye.
“Another bloody defeat,” Vic muttered, his displeasure giving even more bite to his English accent. “Gwen Frost, you couldn’t kill a Reaper to save your bloody life.”
I narrowed my own eyes and glared at Vic, hoping he would get the message to shut up already before Logan and the others heard him. I didn’t want to advertise the fact that I had a talking sword. I didn’t want to advertise a lot of things about myself. Not at Mythos.
For his part, Vic glared right back at me, his eye a curious color that was somewhere between purple and gray. Vic wasn’t alive, not exactly, but I’d come to think of him as that way. Vic was a simple enough sword—a long blade made out of silver metal. But what made the sword seem, well, human to me was the fact that the hilt was shaped like half of a man’s face, complete with a nose, an ear, a mouth, and a round, bulging eye. All put together, it looked like a real person had somehow been encased there in the silver hilt. It all added up to Vic, whatever or whoever he really was.
Well, that and his bloodthirsty attitude. Vic wanted to kill things—Reapers, specifically. Until we’re both bathed in their blood and hungry for more! he’d crowed to me more than once when I was alone in my dorm room practicing with him.
Please. The only things I could kill with ease were bugs. And even then only the tiny ones. The big ones crunched too much and made me feel all guilty and icked out. Doing the same to Reapers of Chaos, some seriously bad guys, was totally out of the question.
“What are you going to do when a real Reaper attacks you?” Vic demanded. “Run away and hope he doesn’t chase after you?”
Actually, that sounded like an excellent plan to me, but I knew Vic wouldn’t see it that way. Neither would Logan, Kenzie, or Oliver, since the guys were all Spartans, descended from a long line of magical, mythological warriors. Killing things was as natural as breathing to them. It was what they’d been trained to do since birth, along with all the other kids at the academy.
For the most part, the guys at Mythos were either Vikings or Romans, while the girls were Valkyries or Amazons. But tons of other ancient warrior types attended the academy, everyone from Samurais and Ninjas, to Celts, to the Spartans in front of me.
Killing was definitely not natural to me, but I’d been thrust into this twisted world back at the start of the school year. That’s when I’d first started attending Mythos, after a serious freak-out with my Gypsy magic back at my old public high school. Now the academy—with all its warrior whiz kids, scary Reaper bad guys, mythological monsters, and an angry, vengeful god—was a place that I just couldn’t escape, no matter how much I would have liked to.
Especially since there was a goddess counting on me to do something about all the bad, bad things out there in the world—and the ones hidden here on campus too.
“Shut up, Vic,” I growled, tugging the sword free of the mat.
I felt Vic’s mouth move underneath my palm like he was going to give me some more backtalk, but then he let out a loud harrumph and his eye snapped shut. I sighed again. Now, he was in one of his moods, which meant I was going to have to cajole him to open his eye and speak to me again later in the day. Maybe I’d turn on the TV in my dorm room and see if there was some kind of action-adventure movie playing. Watching the bad guys get theirs always seemed to bring Vic out of one of his funks, and the bloodier the movie, the better he liked it.
“Who are you talking to, Gwen?”
Oliver Hector’s voice sounded right beside me, and I had to clamp my lips together to keep from shrieking in surprise. I hadn’t heard the Spartan come up behind me.
He gave me a look that said he thought I was a complete freak, then shook his head. “Come on. Logan wants you to practice shooting targets next.”
I looked around, but Logan had disappeared while I’d been talking to Vic. So had Kenzie Tanaka. They’d probably gone to get an energy drink out of one of the vending machines outside the gym, leaving me alone with Oliver. Great.
Even grumpier than before, I stalked behind Oliver over to the other side of the gym, where an archery target had been set up. The Spartan headed for one of the weapons racks while I kept going toward the bleachers.
The four of us had dumped our bags on the bleachers when we’d first come into the gym at seven this morning. I’d only been going to Mythos a few months, and I hadn’t had the lifelong warrior training that the other students had. Now, I was struggling to catch up, which meant schlepping over to the gym every morning for an hour’s worth of work with Logan and his friends before my regular classes started.
Out of all the kids at the academy, the Spartans were the best warriors, and Professor Metis had thought that they could whip me into shape in no time flat. It wasn’t working out that way, though. I just wasn’t warrior material, no matter what some people—goddess included—thought.
I slid Vic into his black leather scabbard and laid him flat on one of the bleachers, so he wouldn’t fall off. I’d already dropped the sword enough times today. Then, I reached into my gray messenger bag for a mirror and brush, so I could pull my hair back into a tighter, neater ponytail, since it had come undone while I’d been sparring with Logan.
I squinted at my reflection in the smooth glass. Wavy brown hair, winter white skin dotted here and there with a few freckles, and eyes that were a strange shade of purple. Violet eyes are smiling eyes, my mom had always said. I thought of how easily Logan had kicked my ass while we’d been training. Nope, I wasn’t smiling about anything this morning.
When I was done fixing my hair, I put the mirror and brush back into my bag and threw it onto the bleachers. In the process, my bag hit Oliver’s and knocked his to the floor because I was just that kind of total, uncoordinated klutz. And of course the top of his bag popped open, and all kinds of stuff spilled out, tumbling over the mats. Pens, pencils, books, his iPod, a laptop, some silver throwing daggers.
Sighing, I got down on my knees and started scooping everything back into the bag, careful to use the edge of my sleeve so as to not actually touch anything with my bare fingers. I had no desire to see into the inner workings of Oliver Hector’s mind, but that’s what would happen if I wasn’t careful.
I managed to get everything back into the bag except for a thick red notebook. A couple of the metal rings had been bent out of shape, and they snagged on the fabric every time I tried to slide the notebook back into the bag where it belonged. I just didn’t have a long enough sleeve to bend all the metal down, and I couldn’t get a good grip with the soft cotton anyway. Exasperated, I took hold of the metal with my sleeve, so I wouldn’t scrape my skin, then grabbed the bottom of the notebook with my bare hand.
The images hit me the second my fingers touched the red cover.
A picture of Oliver popped into my head, one of the Spartan leaning over the desk in his dorm room and writing in the notebook. One by one, the images flashed by, giving me a condensed, high-def version of Oliver alternately doodling, drawing, and scribbling furiously in the notebook. After a few seconds, the feelings kicked in, and I started experiencing Oliver’s emotions, too. All the things he’d felt when he’d been writing in his notebook. The dull boredom of doing class assignments, the annoyed frustration of trying to understand some of the complicated homework, and then, surprisingly, a soft, dreamy fizz that warmed my whole body—
“What are you doing? That’s mine,” Oliver snapped in a harsh voice.
I shook off the images and feelings, and looked up. The Spartan stood over me, his features tight and pinched.
“Sorry,” I snapped back. “I didn’t think a guy like you would be so protective of his notebook. What’s in here that’s so supersecret? A list of everyone you’ve slept with? Let me guess. You don’t want me to know who you’ve been hooking up with. You want to tell everyone yourself because that’s what all the guys at Mythos do—brag about their stupid conquests, right?”
Oliver’s face actually paled at my words. Seriously. He just went white with shock. For a second, I wondered why, but then I realized he must have heard about my psychometry—about my magic.
I wasn’t a warrior like the other kids at Mythos—not exactly—but I wasn’t completely without skills either. I was a Gypsy, a person gifted with magic by one of the gods. In my case, that magic was psychometry, or the ability to touch an object and immediately know, see, and feel its history.
My Gypsy gift, my psychometry, was actually cooler—and a little scarier—than it sounded. Not only could I see who had once worn a bracelet or read a book, no matter how long ago it had been, but I also could feel that person’s emotions. Everything she’d been thinking, feeling, and experiencing when she’d been wearing that bracelet or reading that book. Sometimes everything she’d ever felt, seen, or done over a whole lifetime, if her attachment to the object was strong enough. I could tell if a person had been happy or sad, good or bad, smart or dumb, or a thousand other things.
My magic let me know people’s secrets—let me see and feel all the things they kept hidden from others and even themselves sometimes. All their conflicting emotions, all the sly things they’d done, all the things they only dreamed about doing in the deepest, blackest parts of their hearts.
Maybe it was dark and twisted of me, but I liked knowing other people’s secrets. I liked the power that the knowledge gave me, especially since I didn’t have any of the wicked cool fighting skills the other kids at Mythos did. Knowing other people’s secrets was sort of an obsession of mine—one that had almost led to me getting killed a few weeks ago.
It was also the reason I held onto Oliver’s notebook now. I’d totally expected the boredom and the frustration I’d sensed. Those were both emotions I’d felt many times before when I’d touched other kids’ notebooks, computers, pens, and all the other ordinary, everyday objects they used to do their schoolwork.
But that warm, soft, fizzy feeling? Not so much. I knew what it was though: love. Or at least like—serious like. Oliver had a major, major crush on someone, enough to write about that person in his notebook, and I wanted to know who it was. Since, you know, secrets were my own form of crack.
I concentrated on the notebook again, on that soft, fizzy, hopeful feeling, and a hazy image started to form in my mind, someone with dark hair, black hair—
“I said that was mine,” Oliver growled, yanking the notebook out of my hand and breaking my connection to it.
The half-formed image abruptly vanished, along with that warm, fizzy sensation. My fingers grabbed for the notebook, but I only came up with empty air. Another second, and I would have seen who Oliver’s mystery crush was. But the Spartan held the notebook up out of my reach, then grabbed his bag and shoved the notebook inside it. He was in such a hurry that he ripped the side of the bag’s fabric. Oliver glanced up at me to see if I’d noticed.
I smirked at him in the same cocky, knowing way he had smirked at me a few minutes ago, when he’d been making fun of my T-shirt. Oliver’s face darkened.
“What are you two doing?” Kenzie asked, coming out of one of the side doors and drinking from a bottle of water in his hand.
“Nothing,” Oliver muttered, shooting me another cold look.
I rolled my eyes and ignored him. Since coming to Mythos, I’d almost been run through with a sword and mauled to death by a killer kitty cat. Dirty looks didn’t faze me anymore.
“Where’s Logan?” I asked.
“He’ll be back in a minute. He said to get started without him,” Kenzie said, his black eyes flicking back and forth between me and Oliver, wondering what was going on.
Oliver turned and stalked down to the other end of the bleachers, taking his bag along with him. Kenzie gave me another curious look, then went over to Oliver. The two of them started talking in low voices, with Oliver still glaring in my direction.
The Spartan was clearly angry at me for touching his precious notebook and teasing him about who his mystery crush might be. Whatever. I didn’t care what Oliver thought about me. Besides, he’d started it by making fun of my T-shirt. I might not know how to sling a sword, but I could throw verbal daggers with the best of them.
After about a minute of talking, Kenzie and Oliver broke apart. They both headed toward the archery target, and Kenzie gestured for me to follow them. Apparently, I hadn’t pissed them off enough to make them forget about the rest of our training session. Too bad.
Sighing, I got to my feet, ready to show the Spartans that I sucked just as much at using a bow as I did at swinging a sword.
For the fifth time in as many tries, my arrow weakly thumped against the target, then bounced off and fell to the gym floor.
“No, no, no,” Kenzie said, shaking his head. “How many times do I have to tell you? Using a bow is just like using a sword. You can’t be timid about it, Gwen. You have to pull back the string and let the arrow go like you really mean it. Otherwise, you’re not going to get enough power to make your arrow go through your target. ”
“Yeah, Gwen,” Oliver sniped. “You want to kill Reapers, not make them die laughing at you.”
I ignored Oliver’s snide comment, focused on Kenzie’s advice, and blew a loose strand of hair off my face. “Power. Mean it. Right.”
I’d been practicing for the last fifteen minutes with a long, curved bow, while the Spartans had looked on and called out advice. Surprisingly, my aim was decent enough to let me hit the outer rim of the target, but I had yet to actually have an arrow stick in it. They all kept bouncing off. Kenzie claimed it was because I wasn’t pulling the string back far enough and giving the arrow enough force to penetrate the target. I thought it was because I was just as bad at archery as I was at swordplay. I got good grades. Why did I have to be coordinated, too?
“Here,” Kenzie said, handing me another arrow. “Let’s try again.”
Kenzie shook his head at Oliver, who snickered. I sighed and nocked the arrow.
One of the gym doors squeaked open, and Logan stepped back inside. But he wasn’t alone—Savannah Warren was with him.
Savannah was a gorgeous Amazon, with intense green eyes and a mane of red hair that blazed down her back in a sunset of ringlets. She also happened to be Logan’s current squeeze—one in a long, long line if you believed the gossip around campus.
Logan had a reputation for being one of the resident man-whores at Mythos Academy—the kind of guy that girls just couldn’t resist and didn’t really want to anyway. He certainly looked the part with his piercing, ice blue eyes; thick, ink black hair; and muscled body. He practically oozed bad-boy charm, even when wearing a T-shirt and sweatpants like he was now. One of the rumors that had gone around campus back in the fall was that Logan signed the mattress of every girl that he slept with at Mythos, just so he could keep them all straight.
Logan stood in the gym doorway, smiling down at Savannah. The Amazon toyed with his shirt, sliding her hand back and forth across his sculpted chest. My fingers tightened around the bow, and ugly, jealous anger burned in the pit of my stomach.
Logan and I had almost had a—a—thing a few weeks back. A freaking moment. Okay, several moments. The Spartan had gotten into the habit of saving my life, first when a Nemean prowler had tried to turn me into catnip, and then later on when a Valkyrie had wanted to kill me for messing up her evil plans. Bad-boy charm I could deal with, but saving my life? Twice? That was a little tougher to forget. I’d fallen hard for Logan as a result, even going so far as to ask him out.
He’d turned me down flat.
Logan had claimed that I didn’t know what Spartans were really capable of, that I didn’t know what he was capable of, and that he wasn’t the hero I thought he was.
Whatever. If he didn’t like me, he could have just said so. Instead, he’d given me some lame excuse that he had a deep, dark secret that would scare me off. I’d once picked up a girl’s hairbrush and had seen her stepfather sexually abusing her. I was willing to bet Logan’s secret wasn’t nearly as horrible as that, but nothing I’d said had convinced him otherwise. Nothing I’d said had convinced him to take a chance on me—on us.
“Gwen? You want to shoot that arrow sometime today?” Kenzie said. “We’ve only got fifteen minutes of practice time left.”
“Sure,” I muttered, turning toward the target.
Savannah’s soft laughter drifted across the gym, making my anger burn a little hotter. If I’d been a Valkyrie, like my best friend, Daphne Cruz, princess pink sparks of magic would have been shooting out of my fingertips. That’s what happened whenever Daphne got pissed about something—and I was plenty pissed at myself right now for still caring about Logan when he’d made it perfectly clear he didn’t feel the same way about me.
I raised the arrow up to eye level and peered down the length of it at the target. Part of me was thinking about Logan, but the other part was thinking about Daphne and how she would have turned around and put an arrow in the Spartan’s ass from all the way across the gym. Daphne was great with a bow. In fact, she was one of the best shots at Mythos and the captain of the girls’ archery team. An image flickered in my mind then, one of Daphne using the bow, instead of me—
“Any time now, Gwen,” Kenzie said in an impatient voice.
“Yeah, come on, Gwen, while we’re all still young,” Oliver sneered.
My anger flared up to supernova level at Oliver’s snarky tone, so much so that I didn’t think—I just let go.
The arrow hit the target dead center—perfectly in the middle of the black bull’s-eye. And this time it stayed there instead of thumping off and falling to the floor.
Beside me, Kenzie blinked. “How did you do that?”
I frowned. “I don’t know.”
I really didn’t. Yeah, I might have been hitting the target all along, but only the outside edge, and none of my other arrows had even come close to sticking in it. But this one? It had practically skewered the target, with only the back half of the shaft now visible.
“Well, whatever you were doing, do it again,” Kenzie said, passing me another arrow.
“If you even can,” Oliver chimed in.
I nocked another arrow and tried to remember what I’d just done. I’d been thinking about Daphne, of course, but it felt like more than that. It had almost seemed like I was … channeling her somehow. Or at least my memories of her.
My psychometry let me remember every single person and every single object I’d ever touched. Once I flashed on someone or something, those vibes, feelings, and emotions became part of me. I could think about those memories and call them up at will, replaying the images over and over again in my head with perfect color, picture, and sound every single time. That was one of the cool things about my magic. But the flip side to it and one of the not-so-cool things was that sometimes the memories just came out of nowhere and flooded my mind whether I wanted them to or not. Either way, it was like having a photographic memory, only a lot freakier—especially given some of the bad, bad stuff I’d seen.
But they weren’t really my memories. When I’d let go of the arrow, I’d been thinking about Daphne’s memories, what she’d done and how she’d felt. I’d picked up her bow in her dorm room last week and had gotten a whole bunch of flashes of the Valkyrie competing at various archery tournaments.
I thought about Daphne again, this time really focusing on her, picturing her at one of the competitions—how she’d held her bow, how she’d lined up her arrow and pulled back the string, the electric thrill of victory she’d felt every time her arrow had hit the target dead center. Then I lifted the bow and concentrated on my own shot.
Once again, my own arrow zoomed straight into the center of the target.
“All right,” Kenzie said, clapping his hands. “It looks like we’re finally making progress with something.”
He grinned at me, and I returned his smile, even though I could see Oliver scowling behind him. I still didn’t understand exactly what I’d done, how I’d used Daphne’s memories to help myself, but at least I’d hit the target again. Yeah, it was kind of weird, but in a good way. It was certainly better than a lot of things I’d experienced since coming to the academy.
I turned around to see if Logan had noticed my success—and saw him French-kissing Savannah in the gym doorway. The Amazon had her arms around his neck, and Logan had his wrapped around her waist, pulling her even closer to him. They kissed for another few seconds before Savannah drew back. She grabbed the front of Logan’s shirt and yanked him out of the gym. I didn’t know where they were headed, but it was obvious what they were going to do—sneak in a make-out session before morning classes started.
Cold, bitter, aching hurt frosted my heart, piercing it the way my arrow had the target a few seconds ago.
“Gwen?” Kenzie asked, his voice soft and kind.
For once, even Oliver was quiet, instead of stinging me with some barbed remark.
Not everyone at the academy knew about my massive crush on Logan, but it had no doubt become painfully obvious to Kenzie and Oliver, since they’d watched me train with Logan for weeks now. Plus, they’d just seen my reaction to him leaving me behind to go tongue wrestle with another girl.
“I’m fine,” I snapped, hating the fact that they knew how much I cared about Logan, hating the fact that I still felt this way in the first place. “Let’s keep practicing.”
Kenzie handed me another arrow. He didn’t say a word. Neither did Oliver.
Still channeling Daphne’s memories and my own anger, I put five more arrows dead center into the target before training time was over.
“You have to come to Winter Carnival, Gwen. It’s a Mythos Academy tradition. Everybody will be there.”
I ignored Daphne and stabbed another miniscule piece of fruit in the delicate, white china bowl in front of me. The fruit was a suspicious orange color, with a strange, pointed shape. Definitely not kiwi. Maybe a starfruit? I brought it up to my nose and sniffed, but all I could smell was the sharp, sweet tang of the honey-vanilla-lime dressing. The weird fruit didn’t look like it would kill me if I ate it. Then again, a lot of things at the academy seemed far nicer than they really were.
Across from me, Daphne cut another dainty bite of an egg white omelet topped with chunks of fresh, buttery lobster; sautéed spinach; and thick crumbles of Feta cheese. The Valkyrie was actually eating lobster for breakfast—and enjoying every single bite of it. Yucko.
Lobster was actually one of the tamer things served in the dining hall. Caviar, escargot, and veal were among the daily offerings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with tons of other fancy, froufrou foods. Even the regular dishes—like lasagna, fried chicken, or the fruit salad I was eating—always featured weird ingredients, strange sauces, and bizarre toppings. But the other kids loved all the exotic foods, since they’d grown up eating the expensive entrées with their obscenely rich parents. The Mythos students scarfed down snails the way kids at my old public high school had inhaled greasy pizzas, crispy fries, and thick cheeseburgers.
The lack of simple, identifiable, normal food was one of the things I hated about the dining hall—and one of the many things I hated about Mythos Academy in general.
“Gwen? Are you even listening to me?” Daphne snapped her fingers in front of my face, causing pink sparks of magic to flutter around us like tiny fireflies.
“I don’t have to listen,” I said, putting my fork down in the bowl and pushing it, and the mystery fruit, away. “All you’ve been talking about for the last two weeks is this weekend getaway all the students are invited to.”
“Not just any getaway,” Daphne said. “Winter Carnival. Trust me. It’s one of the best events of the year.”
“Why?” I groused. “Because everyone gets to go to some fancy ski resort for the weekend, where they can drink, smoke, and have sex with limited interference from the professors?”
Daphne grinned, her black eyes bright with excitement. “Exactly.”
I didn’t see how the carnival would be any different from what went on at the academy on a daily basis, but I didn’t say anything. The kids might all be at Mythos to supposedly learn how to fight and use their magic to help protect the world, but they liked to party hard while they did it. Given the fact that everyone’s parents were filthy, filthy rich, they could easily afford to. Apparently, back in the day, all the various gods and goddesses had rewarded their warriors with gold, silver, and diamonds the size of my fist. The wealth had trickled down and multiplied through the generations, which is why the Mythos students had the very best of everything, from designer clothes to expensive cars to custom-made jewelry and weapons.
Back at my old high school, a party had been a six-pack of wine coolers that somebody’s college-age sister had bought on the sly. Here at Mythos, the kids whose parents owned Dionysian wineries sent them cases of the stuff.
“Come on,” Daphne wheedled. “I’ll need somebody to hold my hair back while I puke my guts out. Some of the parties can get pretty wild.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Too wild for a mighty Valkyrie such as yourself to handle?”
Daphne grinned again. I snorted.
Like the other kids at Mythos, Daphne Cruz was the great-great-whatever descendant of an ancient warrior. Oh, she looked like just another rich, spoiled princess, with her smooth, golden hair; perfect amber skin; expensive pink cashmere sweater; and even more expensive matching pink purse. Daphne was definitely a girly-girl, but she also happened to be a Valkyrie as well, which meant she was incredibly strong. Seriously. Like Hulk strong. Daphne could have torn apart the table we were sitting at with her bare hands and not even break a nail doing it.
Valkyries also had magic, hence all the sparks flickering around us and in other spots in the dining hall where the girls were sitting. Every time Daphne’s French-manicured nails scraped against something or she got particularly emotional, little princess pink sparks would shoot off her fingertips and fill the air. Daphne had once told me that her fingers were like sparklers on the Fourth of July. I didn’t mind the cracks and flashes of color, though. Sitting next to her was like being close to a rainbow. Well, if rainbows were solid pink. And volatile. Sometimes Daphne’s temper flared up almost as much as the sparks did.
Daphne’s magic hadn’t quickened, or manifested, yet, but once it did, she’d have even more power. Valkyries had all sorts of magical abilities, like being able to heal people, control the weather, and even create illusions.
I shivered. I’d learned that last one the hard way a few weeks ago, when Jasmine Ashton, another one of the rich Valkyrie princesses at Mythos, had summoned up an illusion of a Nemean prowler to try to kill me. If you believed in an illusion, it could hurt you—even kill you—just like the real thing. The prowler—a big, black, pantherlike monster—would have ripped me to shreds if Logan hadn’t stabbed it to death, causing the illusion to vanish.
Maybe I had my own twisted kind of power today, because as soon as I thought about Logan, he stepped through the door of the dining hall—with Savannah right beside him. No doubt Logan had come here to grab some breakfast before classes started, just like I had. The Spartan had showered and changed since I’d last seen him in the gym, and his black hair was still damp. He’d traded in his T-shirt and sweatpants for acid-washed jeans, a blue sweater, and a black leather jacket that outlined his muscled shoulders. He looked totally sexy.
I watched Logan wind his way through the dining hall, past the oil paintings of various mythological feasts that covered the walls, and the polished suits of armor that stood guard beneath them. He led Savannah to a table not too far away from where Daphne and I were sitting. Like all the others, the table was covered with creamy white linens, dainty china, and a heavy crystal vase full of fresh poppies, hyacinths, and narcissus flowers.
The table also had the advantage of being right next to the open-air indoor garden that stood in the middle of the dining hall. Grape vines twisted through the area, winding their way over, around, and sometimes through the thick branches of the olive, orange, and almond trees planted in the black soil there. Marble statues of Demeter, Dionysus, and other gods and goddesses could be seen in various spots in the garden, their heads facing out and their eyes open, as though they were watching the students eat the bounty of the harvests they represented.
Logan and Savannah might as well have been eating in a romantic restaurant. The ambience was pretty much the same—especially given the dreamy way the two of them stared into each other’s eyes.
Daphne realized that I wasn’t paying attention to her anymore and turned around to see what I was looking at. Her pretty face softened with knowing sympathy, which made me feel even worse.
“Did I mention that it’s not just Mythos students who will be at the carnival?” Daphne asked. “Lots of kids from the New York academy will be there too.”
I blinked. “There are more academies out there? I thought this was the only school for warriors.”
“Oh, no. There’s a school up in New York and one out in Denver. Paris, London, Athens—there are lots of Mythos branches around the world, although the one here at Cypress Mountain is the biggest and the best.”
“Really? Why’s that?”
Daphne rolled her eyes. “Because it’s the one we go to, silly. Plus, we’ve got the Library of Antiquities. None of the other branches has a library like ours, especially not one with as many artifacts.”
At the academy, students learned about gods, goddesses, warriors, myths, magic, and monsters from every culture in the world—Greek, Norse, Roman, Japanese, Chinese, Native American, Egyptian, Indian, Russian, Irish, African, and all the others out there. I supposed it made sense there would be other branches, other schools, located throughout the world.
“Anyway,” Daphne said. “My point is that there will be some new blood there. Some of the guys from the New York academy are supercute. I flirted with a couple of them myself during last year’s carnival. Plus, most of their parents have mansions in the Hamptons, which is a great place to go for spring and summer breaks.”
“Cute guys, huh?” I asked, still staring at Logan.
“Tons of them,” Daphne promised. “I’m sure we can find you somebody to hook up with for the weekend. Somebody to take your mind off other … things.”
I sighed. It had been weeks since I’d asked out Logan and he’d rejected me, but my feelings for him hadn’t changed one bit. I didn’t know what would take my mind off the sexy Spartan, except for maybe a total lobotomy.
“So what do you say, Gwen?” Daphne asked. “Are you ready to have some fun?”
Savannah threw back her head and laughed at something Logan said. The soft, happy sound zipped across the room like a spear, burying itself in my skull.
“I’ll think about it,” I promised my best friend.
Then, I grabbed my stuff, got up, and left the dining hall, so I wouldn’t have to see the happy couple eat breakfast together.
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