Unhinged Page 28

I take the catalog from Mr. Mason and lay it facedown on his desk. “You’ll never find gems to replace the ones I used.” In a daze, I walk to my table and grab my backpack. “But don’t worry. Making those mosaics wasn’t as hard as you think.”

I leave before he can respond.

There’s a buzz in my ears, as if all the bugs hidden inside every crevice of tile and under every locker are talking at once. The sensation fills my head and muffles sounds as I walk through the crowded halls.

Taelor and her crew glare at me when I pass, but it’s as if an invisible wall stands between us. Slammed lockers swish like paper fans; chatter and laughter are as small and insignificant as the squeaks of a mouse. I’m removed from everything.

All except my anger … Morpheus and my mom are both hiding things from me.

I don’t know who told her about the mosaics, but one thing I do know is that if Mom’s emotionally and mentally stable enough to see my gory artwork and then hide that knowledge without going into a full-scale meltdown, she’s not as fragile as I thought.

She and I are going to have a talk about her past today.

I step outside, grateful for the warm wind and sun on my face. The buzz in my head gets quieter and fades to white noise. It’s like the bugs are preoccupied with something else. Or maybe they’re finally giving me a reprieve.

I purposely take the long way around, which costs me a good eight minutes, so the lot’s almost deserted. Morpheus is waiting where he said he’d be, next to the Dumpsters, where the cool kids avoid parking.

It looks like he’s as much of a social pariah as I am after our rumored bathroom interlude, because he’s completely alone, too. Though he doesn’t seem to mind. When he sees me, he adjusts a pair of sunglasses, and a taunting grin spreads across his borrowed face.

I think of poor Finley and shudder to imagine the horrors he must be experiencing now, coming down off his high in Wonderland. At least he has Ivory to comfort him.

Morpheus gestures a tattooed forearm at the car behind him.

“A modified Mercedes-Benz Gullwing,” he says. “Never seen one of these, I’d venture.”

I come to a standstill about three feet away. There’s no reason to be impressed. I doubt he paid a penny for it. He probably got inside the owner’s head and just drove it off the lot.

The car’s body is sporty and black without any sheen, as if someone took carbon paper and rubbed it over the paint. Even the hubcaps and rims are matte black. A peek in the tinted windows reveals red leather seats and upholstery. I pretend not to notice that this ride fits Morpheus to a tee: beautifully gothic, eccentric, and intense.

If I’m going to get the truth about everything from him, I have to get the upper hand. Morpheus thrives on attention, whether it’s positive or negative. He revels in my hatred of him, just as he revels in my atypical bouts of adoration. What he can’t stomach is indifference. It makes him needy and, in turn, vulnerable.

So that’s exactly what he’s going to get from me. Complete and utter disinterest.

I make it a point not to meet his gaze and focus instead on the glare in the center of the hood where one vertical strip shimmers like polished onyx. My lips press tightly shut so I don’t scream about the mosaics he’s had all along.

With my less-than-stellar reaction, Morpheus’s smirk fades, and satisfaction unfurls inside my chest. Wearing a downtrodden grimace, he presses a button on the key chain.

The locks clack and pop open. Both doors glide upward as if on a current of air. Once they’re fully open, they spread into the sky like wings. The car looks uncannily alive, like a bat in flight … or a giant moth.

In that moment, my ruse is forgotten.


Morpheus flashes a magnificent smile. A pantomime of his own wings appears—a filmy black haze, almost like smoke—spreading behind him in an elegant arc that both mirrors and overshadows the doors.

“I’ll let you drive, luv.” His deep voice drizzles through me, liquid temptation. He holds out the key chain and raises his brows expectantly beneath his hat’s brim. The jewels under his eyes light up in faint gold shimmers at the edge of his sunglasses.

All I can think of is finding a country road and picking up speed until every tree rushes by and Newton’s law of acceleration presses against my chest like cinder blocks. Then I’ll open the windows so the wind can rip through me.

Just like flying.

A flicker of excitement ignites in my veins, spurred by the darkness inside me: the darkness that likes to ride Jeb’s bike for its power and freedom and sensuality, the darkness that makes the nodules on my shoulder blades itch in anticipation. It’s the side I rarely let out to play.

Forget Wonderland, my missing mosaics, Mom’s lies, and Morpheus’s games. The bad girl wants to play right now. I step up and snag the keys out of Morpheus’s hand. “Where to?” I ask.

He smirks. “You decide. Somewhere private, where we can read the mosaics.”

I clench my jaw, ready to play my ace. “Which mosaics? The ones my mom has or the ones you’re hiding?”

He drags off his sunglasses and answers with a blank stare. It’s pretty impressive. He actually appears bewildered.

“You must be certifiable to think I wouldn’t figure it out,” I say. Before I can step around him to the car, he catches my waist and spins me so my backpack presses his chest.

He pulls me close by my bag’s straps and leans down to whisper, “Poor idea of a joke, luv.” His hot breath makes the skin beneath my hair tingle. He slips the straps from my shoulders, and I turn around to face him.

“Remember my invisible box, Morpheus.” I cross my arms.

“Remember my human name, Alyssa.” He frowns and bounces the backpack as if to gauge what’s inside. His frown transforms into a worried scowl. “They aren’t here.”

“Stop with the fake surprise, M.” I sidestep him, climbing into the driver’s seat. The warm leather wraps me in luxury, as if it were made to fit the contours of my body. I click the seat belt into place, catching part of my too-long skirt in the latch. I attempt to open the seat belt to free it, but the bunched-up fabric causes the button to jam. I refuse to ask Morpheus for help. I’ll just take care of it later.

The car smells like hookah smoke, which only feeds my annoyance. I insert the key and twist it just enough for the dashboard to light up, and then I acclimate myself with the instrument panel and all its shiny silver gauges and techno-features.

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