Unhinged Page 61

He tenses, and I feel the change. It’s not surrender; it’s a redirection. His hands drag up along my rib cage, stopping under my arms. I lose all concentration on the doorknob, and the fingers release me, transforming back into the knob. My feet lift as Jeb pins me to the door.

There’s nothing gentle about his expression. His raging hunger is focused on me now.

More drawers rattle in the bathroom.

“Chessie … hurry.” I can only mumble the plea. Being under the scrutiny of Jeb’s eyes—the brightest green I’ve ever seen them—makes my bones melt to liquid.

Chessie flits from the chest of drawers and sifts like smoke through cracks in the skylights. He must be going out to use my car mirrors. He’ll have to go through the rabbit hole to find some berries.

But I’m not sure I care if he finds any or not. At last, I’m the center of Jeb’s undivided attention, and I like it.

A low rumble escapes his throat as he initiates a kiss this time. Our tongues touch, then wrestle. Enough Tumtum residue remains in his mouth to ignite heat in my abdomen. He tastes of defiance and wildness, of things both wicked and sweet. He’s the flavor of Wonderland interwoven with all things Jeb. I urge him to deepen the kiss. He wraps my legs around his waist, moving on instinct—no romance, no caution, only lust motivated by a potent fairy drug.

I’m lost to sensation. This is the raw passion he only reserves for his paintings. He’s not suppressing his wants or needs to protect me; he’s not worried I’m fragile or breakable. He’s starving, daring me to match his fierceness.

He knots his fingers in my hair and his labret scrapes my chin hard enough to leave welts. His kisses burn heavy like a brand and I brand him right back.

He catches my wrists, smacks them to the wall, and holds them there. He abandons my lips, both of us panting as his mouth glides along my neck, teeth bared against my jugular vein. A painful twinge makes me break a hand free and shove at his face. There’s blood on his lower lip. I touch my stinging neck where he broke my skin, shocked.

Jeb runs his tongue across my blood on his mouth. His face changes. He’s never been rough enough to leave imprints on my skin; hurting me must’ve brought him back to himself. Still holding me against the wall with his body, his hands move to my neck.

I expect comfort or an apology. Instead, he clamps his fingers around my throat, shutting off my air supply. I grapple with his wrists, but he’s too strong. The breath locks in my lungs; I can’t force it out or drag any more in.

I dig my fingernails into his skin and squeeze my legs around his waist, trying to get his attention.

“Paint,” he mumbles, licking the blood on his lip again. The distant look has returned to his eyes, tinged with murderous intent. Cold dread slashes through me.

In his mind, I’m the rabbit.

This is what Mom’s flowers were predicting. My death at his hand. He’ll never forgive himself.

I have to stop him.

I try to force a sound from my throat to shake him out of his trance, but his grip is too tight. His thumbs clamp harder around my windpipe, fingers pressed to my vertebrae. The bones ache under the strain.

I panic … can’t concentrate … can’t evoke my powers… can’t even focus.

Black fuzz creeps across my vision.

“I have to finish what I started,” Jeb says, mechanically. Maniacally. “It’ll be so fast, you won’t feel a thing.”

Jeb’s viselike grip tightens on my neck.

My body goes limp just as a gust of wind rushes by.

“Playtime’s over.” Morpheus’s gruff command snaps my eyes open. My heart kicks my sternum, thumping at the chance to stay alive. I never thought I’d be so happy to hear that cockney accent.

He breaks Jeb’s grip and drags him away from me. I slump to the floor on my knees, holding my neck as I cough and wheeze. I whimper with each painful inhalation, relish the burn as it rushes through my bruised windpipe and into my aching lungs.

I want to plead with Morpheus not to hurt Jeb, but I’m too weak. Everything is throbbing, from my neck to my legs. I push myself to sit against the wall and bury my face where my arms cradle my knees, trying to stop trembling.

The sound of grunts and growls forces me to look up.

Morpheus kneels over Jeb’s supine form. He holds him down with a knee on his chest, stuffing Tumtum berries into his mouth. Surprise and relief surge through me. He’s helping Jeb instead of hurting him.

It’s like watching a James Bond movie. Morpheus—in a black trench-coat-style blazer that hangs to his thighs, gray tweed pants, a dark gray vest, skinny red tie, and black pin-striped dress shirt—could pass for a punk-fae secret agent who’s captured his villain. His thick blue waves touch his shoulders from under a gray tweed flat cap, and his wings drape down his back and across the floor, fluttering sporadically as he keeps his balance against Jeb’s resistance.

Of all the upheavals I’ve experienced over the past few days, this is by far the most mind-twisting: My dark tempter becoming my knight, and my knight becoming my persecutor. I know the reversal is temporary, but I’ll never be able to forget the way that hungry light fired Jeb’s eyes to such a vivid green … or the way it felt when he broke loose of his inhibitions and demanded I give as good as I got. I don’t want to forget, because we were rivals, yet at the same time partners.

Until he tried to kill me.

The berries take effect, and Jeb stops struggling, inch by inch, until he’s motionless.

“Once you’ve had a little nap,” Morpheus says to him, voice brutal and clipped, “we’ll discuss those marks you left on Alyssa’s skin.” He pats Jeb’s cheek with a black leather glove he drags from his pocket but can’t hide the rage bunched up in his jaw muscles.

Chessie appears next to my face—a flurry of wings, fur, and paws. He perches on my shoulder and tenderly nuzzles my neck where Jeb bit me.

“Thank you for getting Morpheus,” I tell him.

My voice is sandpaper and rust. My cough brings Morpheus over, his expensive black dress shoes coming to a halt beside me. They’re all I can see of him, until he kneels. He’s been smoking his hookah, and the scent enfolds me.

“Watch over the mortal, would you, Chessie-blud?” he says, appraising me as he tugs his leather gloves into place over berry-stained fingers.

The tiny netherling leaves my shoulder and perches atop Jeb’s resting form.

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