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Authors: E. Latimer

Frost (7 page)

BOOK: Frost
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"Hullo, dear. How lovely to see you again." She beamed at Loki then transferred her bright smile to me. "Nice to meet you, love. I’m Debbie. Come in. Do come in!"

As we entered, she surveyed me with interest, no doubt taking in the disheveled clothing and bare feet. Whatever her conclusions might have been, she simply blinked and sang out, "This way!"

It was a beautiful house full of dark, curling chairs and couches, dusty bookshelves and standing antique lamps with red-tasseled lampshades. We followed Debbie up a long, wooden staircase and entered a hallway.

"Your room is just here on the left." She smiled warmly at us, reaching out to pat Loki on the hand. "You have a lovely stay, dear. Let me know if I can help you with anything. I'm downstairs within shouting distance."

"Thank you so much." Loki gave her a charming smile and then turned and placed a hand on the small of my back, ushering me inside the room. "We'll be sure to call if we need something."

Debbie's footsteps retreated down the staircase as we surveyed our room. It was similar to the living room downstairs—dark, antique furniture. There was even a huge, old canopy bed in the middle.

"Oh wow. It's beautiful." I sat down on the bed, tracing one finger over the pattern on the worn-out posts. It looked about a hundred years old, but the mattress was firm and comfortable. Obviously not an antique. As a little girl, I’d always imagined myself sleeping in one of these. It was what princesses slept in. "This room is amazing."

Loki sat down next to me, his eyes bright with amusement. "I'm glad you like it." His knee brushed mine as he adjusted his position, sitting cross-legged.

I couldn't help noticing how close he was.

"Cool." He pointed at the nightstand beside the bed. "There's even an old-fashioned washbasin." He brightened, turning toward me. "I have an idea." 

My heart gave a surprised lurch when he grabbed my hand. Again, his skin felt warm against mine. He stood and pulled me off the bed. "Come on. I'll show you something."

I let him lead me toward the nightstand. Gently, with his hands on my arms, he guided me in front of him so we were both facing the water basin. A white, porcelain jar sat inside it. Blue painted flowers wrapped around the base of the jar and up the spout.

Loki grasped the handle of the pitcher, reaching around me so his chest pressed to my back, his chin nearly touching my cheek. He smelled like soap.

Then he tipped the pitcher forward and the water flowed out in a clear stream, pooling in the basin. He stopped when it was half full and set the jug on the corner of the nightstand.

"Watch this," he murmured, his breath warm on the back of my neck.

I tried to repress a shiver as his fingers curled around my wrist. Funny how the cold didn’t affect me, but a simple touch was enough to give me goose bumps.

He guided my hand toward the water in the basin, and I watched, holding my breath, as he skimmed my fingers over the surface of the water. Nothing happened for a moment, and then a cool, tingling feeling swept down my arms, both alien and familiar all at once. The surface of the water stilled. A thin crackling noise came from the basin, and I watched in astonishment as the water turned solid in a rapid formation of layers right down to the very bottom.

I gasped and jerked my hand backward, but Loki held on.

"It's okay," he said. "It's not a bad thing. Touch it."

He let my hand go, and hesitantly, I reached out and ran one finger over the shimmering surface. It slid across my skin like silk, water droplets clinging to my fingers.

"See?" Loki stepped back, his eyes searching my face. "It doesn't have to be a bad thing."

"I can turn water into ice," I whispered, fearing that, if I said it too loudly, I might shatter this fragile new discovery.

"You can."

As the tingling feeling faded, the memories flooded in. Adam's face swam in front of me. Blue, petrified. The room grew fuzzy around the edges. Something squeezed my lungs, and I staggered to the canopy bed and sat down heavily.

Loki perched beside me on the edge of the mattress. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to shock you. I just thought you should know."

"I just—it will take me a bit." I rubbed my forehead, suddenly overwhelmingly tired.

He shook his head, smiling ruefully. “I’m an idiot. You've been kidnapped and driven all over the countryside. And then I make you use your ability for the first time since....well, y'know. You should lie down." He leaned over and drew the edge of the comforter back.

There was no way I was going to argue. The bed looked inviting. As I climbed between the sheets, my eyelids fluttered, and I struggled to stay awake just a little longer. I wanted to keep talking, but I hadn't slept at all last night. Now that there was no immediate danger, my adrenaline was no longer pumping. I could barely stay awake.

It was also comforting that I’d frozen something without hurting anyone. Loki was right. It was a good thing. The dread seeped away, leaving me almost weak with relief and a little giddy. Probably just lack of sleep.

"You need some rest. I'll get you some clothes in town. And shoes." Loki stood up and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Anything else you need?”

I smiled sleepily. "I don't need shoes. I'm like Frosty the Snowman. Just get me a corn-cob pipe and a button nose."

He snorted. "I think your sleep deprivation is making you delirious. Sleep tight, darlin’."

The door clicked shut, and my eyes drooped closed. The warm glow of the gas fireplace cast an orange light against my eyelids.

As I slid into dreams, I had time for one last thought.
Darlin’.
I think I like it.

 

The snow is firm and slick under my feet as I walk to the palace doors. My sword sheds a trail of red droplets behind me, the blood still warm enough to melt a scarlet trail in my wake. The doormen usher me in. The crystal walls of the hallway reflect my face back at me, thin and pale, weary from battle. My white-blond hair has gone black with blood and grime, and servants hurry to whisk my blade away. Someone drapes a gray wolf pelt over my shoulders, pushing a metal goblet of spiced wine into my hand.

I move into the throne room with little fanfare.

The members of court linger around our queen, casting curious glances at one another as I enter. Several of the noblewomen regard me with unconcealed hostility. Jealousy is never attractive, regardless of station or class.

The queen looks up, her cold features alight with pleasure. “My daughter, you have returned to me."

 

Chapter Nine
I sat up with a shout of surprise, my legs tangled in the heavy comforter. Loki stood just inside the door, eyes wide. "Are you all right?"

"It was a dream." I looked up at him, embarrassed at my dramatic reaction. Apparently all his talk of ice queens had triggered some pretty strange nightmares.

Loki’s features were shadowed in the room's dim light, his dark curls messy and decorated with melting snowflakes. The tips of his ears were bright red, and he had a grocery bag in each hand. He must have just walked in the door.

"You look cold." I smiled, banishing the ridiculous dream.

"It's freezing out there." He shook his head, spraying wet droplets across the room. He reminded me of a puppy—an adorable, brown-eyed puppy.

"Hey!" I scrubbed at my face. “Quit splashing me.”

"Oh, sorry. Am I making you cold?"

I wanted to wipe that smug expression off his face, and my touch couldn't hurt him, right? "Not at all, but I can make
you
cold." Impulsively, I reached out and touched my fingertip to the side of his neck.

He laughed, dropping the grocery bags to grab my hand. "That doesn't work, remember? I'm too hot for you."

"Oh." Now, it was my turn to look smug. "You're hot for me?"

"
Not
what I meant!" Loki wrapped his fingers around my wrist, and my eyes grew wide as the heat in his palm suddenly increased.

"You can make yourself even warmer?"

"Yup, and you should be able to make yourself colder."

"How do I do that?"

He stood up and made his way to the door, stooping to pick up the bags. "Don't know. For me it's as natural as breathing. I'm not sure how you work. You frost giants are a different breed."

"That sounds flattering." Even though I tried to keep my tone light, my heart sank.

If he didn't know much about my power, he probably couldn't teach me. And I needed to learn how to control it before I hurt anyone else.

Loki deposited one of the bags beside me on the mattress. "I got you some clothes. I hope they fit."

I rummaged through and found a fuzzy, white sweater on top of neatly folded jeans and a pair of leather boots. The sweater was ridiculously soft in my hands. "I'll go try them on."

I left him sprawled across the bed, playing games on his phone. Then I shut the bathroom door before dropping the bag near the sink. After pulling my nightgown off, I shrugged into the sweater. It was a bit itchy, but it fit okay. The jeans were actually the right length, which was surprising, and when I slid my feet into the boots, I wondered how he’d known my shoe size.

He’d guessed just by looking at them? I wasn’t sure I liked that.

My reflection in the mirror above the sink revealed that my hair had nearly slid all the way out of its ponytail, so I tugged it out and looped the elastic around my wrist. Had my hair gotten lighter? I took a strand between my thumb and index finger, nearly going cross-eyed trying to examine it.

"Okay in there?" Loki's voice made me jump.

"Uh, yeah. Be right out." I stuffed the empty bag into the garbage and then slipped out of the bathroom, nearly hitting Loki with the door, since he was leaning against the wall beside it.

He stood up straight, grinning. "It fits. Do you like the sweater? I knew it would look good on you."

"Thanks." My cheeks went hot. "It fits nicely. It's really warm."

"Not that you need warmth. It does look good on you though."

I did a little spin and tried on my best model pout. "Is it high fashion enough for Grande Prairie?"

"They'll never know what hit ’em."

"But I won't need it once you take me to California." I fidgeted with the hem of the sweater, still thinking about leaving without telling Uncle Dave. I hadn't gotten a text message back from Charlotte, either.

I went back into the bathroom to retrieve my phone, which was still in the pocket of my nightgown. The screen was disappointingly blank.

"No call from your friend?"             

"Not yet." I frowned. "Hopefully she's just busy. She'd be at school right now, and I did text her ridiculously early this morning. Maybe she just hasn't got it yet."

"Hey, look." Loki had wandered over to the armoire in the corner of the room and opened it, revealing a television set. "Looks like we won't be completely bored out of our minds."

"Great." I flopped back on the mattress, staring at the tops of my new boots. I was too lazy to take them off again. "I'm starving. What's in the other bag?”

“You’re in luck.” He grinned. "I think of everything."

 

~ * ~

 

We watched some ridiculous talk show and ate grocery-store tuna sandwiches and chocolate cupcakes. For most of the day, we stayed indoors. Loki claimed that we needed to lie low.

When it started to grow dark outside, the inevitable finally had to be addressed. The single bed had been bothering me for a few hours. We’d been flirting all day, but when it came down to it, I was a coward.

But I couldn’t exactly ask my rescuer to sleep on the rock-hard couch, could I? We both looked at one another and then at the bed. It felt different now that I wasn't exhausted.

"I can sleep on the couch," Loki said.

"No," I said too hastily. "I mean, it looks really hard, and, um… We'll just take sides. I'll stay on mine and you stay on yours. That's all."

"Don't worry." His smile looked relieved. "I don't sleep naked."

"Thank God for that."

Thankfully, the room was pretty dim, so he couldn’t see the blush coloring my cheeks.

I changed back into my nightgown and reemerged from the bathroom. Loki, standing by the bed, facing away from me, was tugging his shirt up over his head, revealing a beautifully sculpted back. In the firelight, his skin was dark and smooth, the light playing over his muscular figure.

The guys at school had never looked like that. At least, not in the limited dating experience I had. For a few seconds I stood there awkwardly, then realized he might turn around and
catch
me standing there awkwardly. So I hopped into bed and pulled the sheets up to my chin.

When he turned around, he grinned, and I smiled back, trying to keep my eyes from straying down to his torso. He was lean and fit and...he was only wearing boxers.

Oh, crap. I was
staring
.

Loki crawled into bed without looking at me, but he must have known I’d been staring, because he had a crooked smile on his face. I stretched over and turned the lamp on the nightstand off, plunging the room into darkness. How humiliating.

The silence lay thick between us, and we both kept completely still. He stayed on his side, and I stayed on mine, a little afraid to even breathe.

What if I moved my hand and brushed his leg? Would he think I was trying something? How embarrassing would
that
be? The thing was that I
wanted
to try something. Not just something—I wanted kiss him. Maybe run my fingers through his hair. It was a ridiculous thought, but he looked like he’d be a good kisser.

Oh God. That would be bad. Really, really bad.

I'd only had one kiss, and it had
not
turned out well. What if Loki was wrong and it happened again?

Something brushed my pinkie finger, and I jumped.

"Sorry," Loki murmured.

I glanced over. In the dark, his face was a mystery. "Are you?" I asked.

"Not really." His warm fingers crept over mine and stayed there.

We lay that way for a while, his hand over mine. It seemed to calm my dizzy thoughts somehow. Of course, I couldn't freeze him. In fact, his hand felt warm.

Eventually he pulled away and turned over, mumbling a sleepy goodnight over his shoulder. I told myself that it was better this way. It was dangerous to lie in bed next to a guy I barely knew. It was making me a little too daring, even if it was just in my imagination.

It was actually a little disappointing, but one good thing had come of it—I hadn’t frozen him. Finally, I relaxed, and sleep gradually drifted down to blanket me like the quiet fall of snow.

~ * ~

             

The bed was empty when I woke up, and I had a moment of panic.

He left me. I drove him away somehow.

When I propped myself on my elbow, I spotted the slip of paper tucked under the washbasin on the nightstand. I stretched over and snatched it up, blinking to clear the sleep from my vision.

Megan,

Gone into town to get us breakfast. Be back soon.

PS – You're cute when you snore.

My mouth flew open in horror. I had been
snoring
last night? No, he had to be joking. No one had ever told me that I snored. My jeans were crumpled on the floor, and I struggled into them, dressing quickly in case Loki came back.

The bathroom mirror was a harrowing experience. I had huge, dark circles under my eyes, and my hair still seemed a tiny bit too light. Maybe I was turning into the girl in my dreams.

If I started chopping up people with swords, we were all in trouble.

I scrunched my hair into a messy bun, looping the elastic around it. There—it wasn't noticeably lighter pulled back, right?

It’s just my imagination. It has to be.

Determined to distract myself, I picked the remote up from the side table and was about to flick the TV on when I heard a metallic buzzing noise. I froze.

The buzzing sounded again. Loki's cell phone was vibrating like mad on the corner of the table by the door, about to pitch over the side. I rescued it from biting the dust just as the ringing stopped.

Guilty indecision washed over me. I
so
badly wanted to look at his messages, but that would be an invasion of privacy. My thumb hovered over the button, and an obnoxious little voice told me to put it down. It wasn't my business.

BOOK: Frost
3.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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