Unhinged Page 63

With a wink, he takes the cap back and places it on his head. In a subtle gesture, he waves a hand over the hat’s crown. The tweed transforms from cloth to living moths. They burst off his head and flutter all around us, then, at a whistle from Morpheus, they reunite, scuttling into place like puzzle pieces to form the hat again.

I grin, and he beams with pride.

“So what kind of hat is that?” I ask, unable to resist. He’s adorable when he’s showing off his wardrobe—like a puppy doing tricks. Although I remain cautious, knowing in the blink of an eye he can become a wolf again.

“My Peregrination Cap,” he answers.


His smile widens—baring white teeth. “Peregrination. An excursion … a journey.”

“So, why don’t you just call it your traveling cap?”

“Then it wouldn’t be much of a conversation starter, would it?”

I raise an eyebrow. “Um, the fact that it’s made of living moths might give you something to talk about.”

Morpheus laughs. For once our relationship feels comfortable, friendly. So unlike his usual flirting and threats.

“About the train,” I say, breaking the genuinely nice moment.

He opens his mouth to answer, but a moan interrupts him. Jeb is rousing. Morpheus starts to get up to check on him.

“Wait.” I grab his tie. Even through his shirt, I feel the strong curve of his collarbone beneath my fingers. It takes me back to how he looked in my bedroom: shirtless and perfect—wings spread high like those of some sort of celestial being—elegant power and pulsing light. Unabashed, unashamed, and confident. All the things that I crave to be.

My pulse beats rapidly against the bite on my neck. “There’s something I want you to do, before Jeb wakes enough to know what’s going on.”

Morpheus kneels again. “What? You want I should kiss your ouchies?” The dark purr of his voice is more teasing than seductive.

I roll my eyes. “I want you to heal me.”

He scowls, all playfulness gone. “Oh, no. No. Jebediah will face what he did to you.”

“He would never have attacked me like that if he hadn’t been under the influence of the juice. Why would you want to rub his nose in it?” I make a frustrated noise. “You were the one forcing me to keep him oblivious about everything. What’s changed?”

“You need to acknowledge the dangers of him dabbling in a world beyond his ken. The Tumtum juice made you voracious, but it made him murderous. He’s a liability. If you involve him in this war, he will be your downfall. This I guarantee.”

My mouth gapes open. I can’t believe I was pouring out my heart to him just moments ago. “No. You want Jeb to doubt himself. You want him to believe he’s turning into his father. You’re going to manipulate him, because that’s what you do. You use people’s weaknesses against them.”

He studies me, long black lashes unblinking in silent affirmation.

“Well, I won’t let it happen,” I say. “Now heal me.”

Morpheus snarls and tries to pull away, but I refuse to let go of his tie.

He raises his wings, casting giant blue shadows over us. If he uses them, he can break free and refuse to do as I ask. Then again, I might do better in a battle of wills now that my powers are getting stronger. A tendril of excitement unfurls inside my chest, just considering it.

We stare each other down. To my surprise, he relaxes his wings.

“What is it worth to you?” he asks.

I release his tie and frown. It’s a trick question.

“Jebediah’s peace of mind,” he reiterates. “What’s it worth?”

“Everything,” I say, knowing it’s a mistake the second I admit it.

With a thoughtful frown, Morpheus sits back, legs crossed, and places his hat in his lap, coaxing the moths that form it to separate and flutter in place atop his thighs. After removing a glove, he raises his hand, and strands of blue light drizzle from his fingertips, connecting to the insects. He wiggles his fingers, and, guided by their magical harnesses, the moths fly in a circle like a miniature carousel.

His expression becomes dreamy, glowing blue from the light. “One day and one night,” he says without looking up, preoccupied with his toy.

I swallow. “What?”

“That’s the price.” He still doesn't look my way. The magic from his fingers accelerates, and the moths follow suit. “If I help you protect your trophy boy’s frail psyche, you give me one day and one night as soon as this battle with Red is behind us. Twenty-four hours with me in Wonderland.”

I study him. He can’t be serious.

As if spurred by my silence, he withdraws his magic, and the moths flock together, reuniting into the hat. He puts it on, and his gaze locks to mine. His jewels flicker between passion and defiance—an evocative and intimidating combination. “Fair warning, I intend to make good use of that time. I will be gentle, but I will not be a gentleman. You will be the center of my world. I’ll show you the wonders of Wonderland, and when you’re drunk on the beauty and chaos that your heart so yearns to know, I will take you under my wings and make you forget the human realm ever existed. You’ll never want to leave Wonderland or me again.”

The thrum starts at the back of my skull, a resurrection of my netherling side, almost as powerful as what I felt at the gym while standing in the flames. But my human side nudges me—a warning. Morpheus is the most magical and captivating creature I’ve ever known. And, other than in dreams, I’ve never spent more than a few hours alone with him at a time. How could I resist the darkness he summons inside me for an entire day and night?

I glance under his left wing to check on Jeb. His feet twitch, and he rolls to his stomach, mumbling. He’ll be fully conscious within minutes.

Morpheus’s gaze falls to the handprints on my neck. “Give me an answer or I wake your boyfriend and let him bask in his newest masterpiece.”

“Okay,” I murmur. I might never make it through a battle with Red in the first place, so the day with Morpheus might not ever happen. Who knows if I’m the final queen left standing in the mosaics? Maybe I’m the one whose torso is covered in web, or the one who’s swallowed by some unnamable monstrosity.

It’s something I have to consider. If I don’t survive, I don’t want Jeb to be tormented by the thought that he hurt me, that he inherited his father’s violence in any way. That’s one gift I can give him.

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