My Spartan classmate relentlessly pursued me, swinging his sword at me over and over again, the shining silver blade inching closer to my throat every time. A smile tugged up his lips, and his ice-blue eyes practially glowed with the thrill of battle...
I'm Gwen Frost, a second-year warrior-in-training at Mythos Academy, and I have no idea how I'm going to survive the rest of the semester. One day, I'm getting schooled in swordplay by the guy who broke my heart-the drop-dead gorgeous Logan who slays me every time. Then, an invisible archer in the Library of Antiquities decides to use me for target practice. And now, I find out that someone at the academy is really a Reaper bad guy who wants me dead. I'm afraid if I don't learn how to live by the sword-with Logan's help-I just might die by the sword...
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About the Author
Jennifer Estep is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. "Spider's Bite, Web of Lies, Venom, Tangled Threads," "Spider's Revenge, By a Thread, Widow's Web, Deadly Sting, Heart of Venom", "The Spider, Poison Promise, Black Widow, Spider s Trap, Bitter Bite,"and "Unraveled, "along with the e-shorts "Thread of Death, Parlor Tricks, "and "Kiss of Venom", are the other works in her red-hot Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. Jennifer is also the author of the Black Blade and Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series and the Bigtime paranormal romance series. For more on Jennifer and her books, visit her at www.JenniferEstep.com and @Jennifer_Estep.
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KISS OF FROSA Mythos Academy Novel
By Jennifer Estep
K TEEN BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Jennifer Estep
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLogan Quinn was trying to kill me.
The Spartan relentlessly pursued me, cutting me off every single time I tried to duck around him and run away.
Swipe-swipe-swipe. 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 for 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 British 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 on to 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.
Excerpted from KISS OF FROS by Jennifer Estep Copyright © 2011 by Jennifer Estep. Excerpted by permission of K TEEN BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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