Unhinged Page 45

When Morpheus doesn’t budge, I animate the earbuds to strike at his boots.

He kicks them away. “Lacks imagination, little luv. You’ll have to do better than that to defeat me. And those antics won’t even put a dent in Red’s armor.”

He’s right. But I’m emotionally and physically spent. There’s an ache that starts in my heart and goes all the way through to my muscles, bones, and blood.

“I need time to think, to rest,” I whisper. No more revelations, no more arguing. “Leave. And don’t visit my dreams tonight.”

Morpheus huffs and starts for the door. “As if I could in this form.”

He’s almost in the hall when I grab his elbow. “What do you mean?”

Tensing against my fingers, he turns. “My powers are spent retaining this blasted glamour of Finley. I haven’t been in your mind, dreams or otherwise, since you were unconscious in the water.”

“You’re lying.”

He rounds on me, slaps a hand to the door frame overhead, and pins me between him and the wall. “What makes you think I’ve been in your dreams?” Underneath the sinister fathoms of his eyes, his jewels glimmer yellow-orange like goldenrods, the shade of apprehension.

“First off, because you sent the clown to the hospital.”

“I already told you I didn’t send any toys.”

“But it’s been everywhere you’ve been. It was in the mirror at school, shaking that snow globe from my memory of the Shop of Human Eccentricities. And then there’s the blood sword I dreamed about—that had your fingerprints all over it.”

He leans closer. “You had a dream about your blood? Why didn’t you tell me this?”

“Because you already knew.” I dig my nails into my palms, wanting to strangle him.

“No, Alyssa. I did not. That dream could be symbolic, implanted in your mind by your crown-magic. Perhaps your blood will be used as a weapon … possibly against you.”

“No. You said Red can’t use my blood because she’s not human.”

Jaw clenched, Morpheus squeezes the door frame. “You are the most vexing creature I’ve ever had the misfortune to know!”

I glance down at my boots. There’s a tickle at my ear as he catches my red strand of hair and tugs it to get my attention.

His expression softens. “I have never once claimed to be trustworthy,” he states matter-of-factly. “But there’s something I can say with all honesty. I have always pushed you toward your best.”

I huff. “Right. Even if it means I end up dead.”

He shakes his head. “Not so. Our fates are entwined. That is the one abiding truth from our time together. It makes sense I would want to see you succeed.”

Jerking my hair free, I shove his chest with a fist. “Nothing about you or Wonderland makes sense. And the ‘one abiding truth’ is that life was so much easier when I’d forgotten your massive ego and that other world ever existed.”

A tremor shifts through his features, first fragile, then severe. His muscles twitch under his T-shirt, sending a tingling sensation through my knuckles. “You want me nonexistent?”

Before I can respond, he steps back and flips the hat from his head. Then he drags off his vest and his T-shirt, dropping them all on the floor at my feet. Once he’s peeled off his necklace and bracelets, he stands there facing me in only jeans and boots.

Finley’s chest and abs are tanned, toned, and scarred. Another tattoo—an angry skull and crossbones—slashes his pecs, but I see through all of that to Morpheus’s smooth porcelain skin.

I watch him warily. “W-w-what are you doing?”

“I’m clearing the way for my massive ego.” His long legs close the space between us. He catches my waist. I wriggle to get free, but he lifts me until I’m flush with the wall, my chin almost touching his.

I swallow and level my gaze, pushing against his muscled shoulders.

He leans close as if to kiss me.

I stiffen. “Morpheus, don’t.”

He hesitates, curses, and then lowers me. My gown’s netting and satin catch between him and the wall. When my feet finally touch the floor, the dress is bunched around my thighs, revealing more of my bare legs than I like. I push the fabric down, blushing.

He smirks, and I lunge to slap the smugness off his face. Without missing a beat, he sidesteps me and ends up at the center of the room.

“I suggest you stay where you are, Your Majesty,” he says before I can move again. “Wouldn’t want you to get caught in the cross fire.”

His fingertips burst into orbs of light as he lifts his hands. Blue electric filaments reach to every corner of the room. The glass on the floor jingles and hops, as if an earthquake is shaking the house. My eels dive into their hiding cave, and Rabid whimpers from the closet.

The shadow of Morpheus’s wings looms high behind his shoulders, then enfolds him, like a moonflower closing when the sunlight torches its petals. He’s quickly surrounded by a cloud, thick as fog and scented of hookah smoke, with echoes of blue lightning within.

In a blink, his wings fully manifest and slice the smoky haze, peeling it back to reveal him in his true state: flawless, pale skin, masquerade-style patches curved like ivy beneath his eyes. The teardrop-shaped jewels flash bright and blinding through a rainbow of colors, so many moods they can’t be read.

Finley’s cropped hair has transformed to a mass of blue, shoulder-length tangles, messy from the static of the magic still emanating from Morpheus’s fingertips. His wings spread out behind him—at once intimidating and majestic.

All traces of the glamour are gone. It’s Morpheus in the flesh.

I lean against the wall, my wing buds itching to join him in his metamorphosis. The tattoos have vanished from his forearm, and his birthmark shimmers a soft blue, coils of magic writhing like a snake beneath it.

My fingertips twitch, remembering how they touched him there last summer … how he healed me.

With a grand flourish, he extinguishes the electric pulses from his hands.

“We shall see how you fare without me.” His voice is gritty and raw. “My guess is you won’t even make it through school tomorrow before you’re on your knees begging for my return.” He tosses his car keys on the floor atop the hat and other pieces of clothing.

He transforms into the large moth and hovers in midair. His voice ignites in my mind: “I won’t be seeking you in your dreams, tonight or any other. You will have to find me now. I’ll be hiding among lost memories. Sleep tight, luv.”

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