Unhinged Page 65

I make the promise even though it means I’ll have to tell him about the deal I made with Morpheus, and what precipitated it. Jeb will end up knowing that he attacked me, so I made the deal for nothing. But I can’t lie to him anymore.

I stretch out my leg and catch Jeb’s discarded shirt with my heel. After dragging it over, I fluff it into a cushion. He mumbles my name subconsciously as I ease his head onto the makeshift pillow. I cover him up to his shoulders with a drop cloth to keep him warm.

“We’re going to fix you,” I say, stroking his hair.

I stand and retie my bootlaces, impatience building in my blood. Jeb needs his memories, and I still have to decipher the final mosaic so I can face Red. The first point of business is to find a mirror big enough to climb through.

But Morpheus is too stubborn to leave without his hat. While he’s busy sifting through drawers in the bathroom, I head to the ladder. I saw at least two or three moths fly up to the loft.

Two moths flitter in and out of the sunlight as I arrive on the upper level. They perch atop the box mattress. Scooping them up, I release them over the railing, sending them down to Chessie.

“There’s one still missing,” Morpheus says from the ground floor.

“It’s here,” I answer. “Caught in some web.”

The insect cries as it jerks against the sticky tangles, helpless and frightened. Whispering comforting words, I work it free, careful not to damage its wings. As soon as I turn the moth loose, I notice something in the far corner where the web is thickest. I edge closer, eyes adjusting to the shadows.

A sick feeling rolls through me as I recognize the outline of a body—a cocooned corpse.

“Uh, Morpheus …” I can barely murmur the words.

As if reacting to my voice, the corpse moves under the thick white fibers. The air in my lungs freezes. I lift my foot to step back just as a hand rips through the web and snatches my wrist with a grip as cold as ice.

A scream tears from my throat.

Adrenaline surges through me, and I pry the cold fingers from my wrist. Morpheus flies to my side. We exchange a glance, then examine the cocooned webbing along the wall. Together, we break through and release the form from its shell.

A woman slumps into Morpheus’s arms. She smells fruity and delicate—like pears. Her skin sparkles with the sheen of moonlight over a frosted lake, and giant feathery white wings drape behind her shoulders.

She’s an ice swan and a queen entwined. I’d know her anywhere.

“Ivory,” I whisper. I can’t imagine why she’s here, trapped like this.

Morpheus pales. He lifts her and carries her to the mattress, kicking aside the lamp on the way. He lays her down gently. Off-white lace peeks out from the web clinging to her dress. Waist-length silvery hair wraps around her long, elegant neck.

Seated on the edge of the bed, Morpheus peels a sticky gossamer coating from her nose and mouth. She gasps for breath. Her white lashes and eyebrows twitch, glistening like crystals.

I drop to my knees in front of Morpheus’s feet, holding her hand as she coughs herself awake.

“Don’t try to talk, Your Majesty,” Morpheus insists, though I sense tension along with the concern in his voice. “Alyssa, could you get her something to drink? Surely you have water or some such in your car.”

“No.” She furrows her brow at Morpheus, then focuses on me. The black markings on her temples glitter in the sunlight, veined like a dragonfly’s wings. “Queen Alyssa, forgive me.” Her faded blue irises are almost colorless.

I squeeze her fingers to comfort her. “For what?”

“For endangering your mortal knight. I never anticipated things getting so out of hand. We will find him … we’ll get him back.”

She’s obviously confused. There’s no telling how long she’s been encased in that web. I cast a glance through the rails. Jeb’s lying on the floor. Chessie buzzes around him, keeping watch. “He’s not lost. He’s downstairs, sleeping.”

“Sister Two didn’t take him?” she asks.

“Sister Two?” Morpheus appears as shocked as I feel. Then he groans. “The door knocker. The mystery woman in Alyssa’s mosaics. The one hiding in the shadows …”

“Of course,” I whisper, seeing the vision again in my mind. The eight living vines connected to her lower torso. They weren’t tentacles. They were spider legs. The door knocker wasn’t about the scars on my palms. It was a tribute to her mutated hand.

“But why would Sister Two be involved?” I reason aloud. “Why would she be at the same cottage where Red was holed up? She despises Red for escaping her keep in the cemetery last year.”

“Red was never here,” Ivory answers.

Morpheus clears his throat, and their gazes meet in some silent understanding.

“So Sister Two was holding Jeb prisoner?” I ask. “She gave him the Tumtum juice, forced him to paint all night? Why would she do that?”

Ivory tries to answer but coughs again.

Morpheus nudges my shoulder. “The water, Alyssa.”

Ivory swallows hard and tightens her fingers through mine as I start to get up. “That won’t be necessary. Her questions deserve answers.”

Morpheus frowns. “I don’t think this is the time.”

“When else, Morpheus?” Ivory scolds. “She is in deeper than any of us now. Sister Two left that door knocker as a warning to both of you. She knows of her twin’s betrayal from all those years ago.” Ivory’s eyes settle on me. “And Alison’s betrayal.”

I struggle to make sense of her cryptic words. “You mean how my mom tried to become queen? Why would Sister Two care about that?”

“Blast it!” Morpheus scoots off the bed and crouches next to me on the floor. He props his elbows on the mattress and cradles his temples in his hands, massaging with his fingertips. “So the twins are squabbling … that leaves the cemetery only partly guarded. If Red breaks into it, she’ll have her spirit army. Then she’ll come here. This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Ivory’s lips and cheeks deepen from white to pale pink. “You should’ve stayed in Wonderland … faced Red, like she wanted.”

“You know why I couldn’t.” A tremor shakes his chin almost imperceptibly. “So who told Sister Two the secret? There were only three of us who knew.”

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