Unhinged Page 67

I think of Queen Grenadine’s ribbon that spoke to me in my bedroom: Queen Red lives and seeks to destroy that which betrayed her. “It was Morpheus she was after, not me. He’s the one she thinks betrayed her.”

Stoic, Morpheus kicks the carafe that once held the Tumtum juice. It rolls along the floor and stops beside my stolen mosaics. “I escaped her Deathspeak without her getting the throne. In her mind, I recanted our deal and owe her my life.”

Glancing at Jeb’s prone, dreaming form downstairs, I curl my hands into fists. “You vowed to tell me the truth about my mosaics. You lied.”

Morpheus grunts. “You never specified what truth. So I told you the truth about their origins … their power. And I never once said Red had them. You were the one who supplied her name.”

My legs feel shaky. I slide to the floor, my spine raking along the railing. “So Red called you out—a bully on a playground—and you ran. You brought your fight to my world.”

“Your world,” Morpheus huffs. He faces me, his exquisite features hardened to a defiant scowl. “I showed you the truth in your dreams, the havoc she was wreaking. But because it didn’t cast a ripple in this stagnant little human pond you call home, you ignored me. You put it out of your mind. Talked yourself out of believing it. I knew you would care nothing about my well-being. But I hoped … I hoped you would fight for Wonderland.”

I want to say that I would’ve fought for him because I owe him. Because I remember what he did for me. Because a part of me cares about my childhood friend, even about the selfish, charismatic, and frustrating man he’s become. But I wouldn’t have been in Wonderland for him to rescue in the first place if he hadn’t lured me down on false pretenses last year. And I wonder, would I really have faced the one creature that terrifies me most, to save someone who was once so careless with my own life?

“Don’t you dare turn this on me,” I say, maybe as much to myself as Morpheus. “This is about you, what you did.”

“I did the only thing I could to bid a reaction from you. The stolen mosaics, the vials of blood, the spellbound nurse, and the haunted clown—”

“Aha!” I point at him. “You can’t deny that lie. You said you never sent a toy.”

“Herman Hattington isn’t a toy. He’s a thespian of the highest order, due to his ever-changing face. And I didn’t send him. He went to you of his own volition, as a favor to me.”

I bury my head in my hands. That explains the clown’s weird, heavy hat; it was the metal conformateur that’s a part of the hatmaker’s skull. “I suppose Rabid was helping you, too.” That possibility hurts worse than any other.

“No,” Morpheus answers. “His loyalty to you is sincere. His part in this was purely accidental.”

“What about the nightmare?” I ask, looking up.

Morpheus shakes his head. “Your own subconscious manifested that tidbit, with a little help from the hallucinogens we put in your sedatives.”

“Why?” I growl.

“I had to make you believe Red was putting your boyfriend in jeopardy so you’d return with me to save Wonderland. The only way I can ever get your attention is by placing your mortal toy in danger. It was working brilliantly, until once again the human muddled things up.”

“You jerk!” My muscles coil and I scramble up to lunge at him. I expect him to fold a wing between us to block me. Instead, he steps forward, wings high and open. He holds out his arms—daring me to tackle him—egging me on. Ivory catches me around the waist and hauls me down beside her once more.

I struggle to get out of her embrace. She holds me with a force that’s surprising for someone as delicate as an ice sculpture.

“You came swooping in here today, pretending to be the hero,” I seethe to Morpheus. “When all along it was your fault Jeb was in that state to begin with. And now he’s in real danger.”

“It was only to be a few paintings on glass,” Morpheus answers, his voice far too calm. “The juice was supposed to make him more focused until he finished. I never anticipated he’d become crazed, or that you would find your way here and he would put his hands on you …” There’s a slight shift in his features—something menacing. “I never imagined, if Ivory left him for a few hours, that he would go off on a tangent and paint your memories—the very ones he lost. He’s trapped in a hell crafted by his very own hands.” Morpheus’s gaze narrows. “But no. It’s more at your hands, is it not? You’ve had a year to tell him everything. Had he known, he wouldn’t have been such an easy target for me, and perhaps he wouldn’t be in danger from Sister Two now.”

I break free of Ivory’s hold but can’t move off the bed. Morpheus is right. Jeb’s vulnerability is my fault.

“How do you do that?” I ask. “How do you always turn everything around on everyone else? Manipulate even those who know better than to believe you?”

Morpheus shrugs. “That’s my power. My magic. Persuasion.”

“No. Your power is poison.” My pride raises its head again. “Just so you know, there’s something you’ll never persuade me to do.”

He studies me, smug. “What’s that?”

“Love you.”

Morpheus’s jewels turn pale blue, the color of anguish, and I revel in the knowledge that I cut him.

“Never say never,” he murmurs.

I match his stare, eyes stinging as if venom seeps through my irises.

He looks away first, steps over to the ladder, and dives, graceful black wings spread wide. He lands lightly in the middle of the floor. He waves to his moths, reuniting his hat, then kneels to hoist Jeb onto his shoulder around his left wing.

I leap to my feet and scramble back to the railing. “Put him down!” I screech.

“He’s not safe here,” Morpheus answers, gathering Jeb’s shirt and boots with his free hand. “We must find a mirror and get him to the train. You wish to try to haul him out to the car yourself?”

I swallow a rebuttal. As arrogant as he is, he’s right: I need his help to find the train.

“The keys,” he presses.

Frowning, I chuck them toward him. Chessie zooms up and catches them in midair.

Ivory stands—all lace and elegance. She moves behind me, her wings low like a feather cape.

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