Unhinged Page 70

My heart is pounding so hard I can’t speak around it.

Morpheus picks up my mosaics then steps to the edge of the loft. He tosses Gizmo’s keys at my feet. “Don’t take too long. Your mortal boy’s memory needs a jump start. And Wonderland is waiting.”

He falls backward off the ledge and leaves me standing there, my body humming with power: a full-fledged netherling queen—freed of my webby cage, yet spellbound by a devil’s almost-kiss.

As soon as Morpheus shuts the door behind him, I peel the web from my chest and wrap up in a drop cloth to cover my bra. A rope from the scaffolding serves as a belt around the waist and holds my wings plastered to my back under the sheet.

I feel like Quasimodo in a toga.

Morpheus left his trench-coat-style blazer on the floor. It would be ideal with the wing slits, but I refuse to give him the satisfaction of wearing his clothes. A peek out the door reveals him lounged against Gizmo, wings draped over the car’s hood in all their inky glory. It’s a good thing we’re on a deserted road.

He’s wearing my shades, and the ends of his hair blow in the breeze. He chats with Chessie—cool, calm, and self-assured. He doesn’t even look nervous about what’s ahead of us: facing Red and Sister Two. He’s too busy gloating.

I hiss in frustration. I want to be furious that he made a liar out of me about my feelings, and even angrier that he goaded my wings to appear, since I’m stuck trying to hide them until they fade back into my skin. But I have to admit, embracing the reality of my power is heady. I’m finding it difficult to hold a grudge when he was only trying to show me how strong I really am.

When it’s in fact what he always does.

Still, I can’t let him think he’s won. If he is my king in some unfathomable, immortal future, we will be partners. But queens have dominion over the kingdoms. I have to prove I have a penchant for manipulation that can rival his.

I gather my keys and Morpheus’s blazer, then tuck the glass decanter into the back of my makeshift belt between the bulge of my wings so it’s hidden.

When I step out of the cottage into the dusty air, Chessie flutters over and lands on my head. He digs his paws into my hair and kneads my scalp like a kitten.

Morpheus regards my outfit as I hand him his jacket. “So, we’re off to ancient Rome, then?” he teases.

“I’d lose that smile if I were you.” I jingle the car keys in his face. “Your life is in my hands, lest you forget.” My imitation of his cockney accent is actually spot-on, and I let myself bask in it.

“Sorry to disappoint, luv.” He tosses the jacket into the passenger seat. “I plan to fly this time around.”

He transforms into the moth, his hat exploding into a spectacle of smaller moths that take to the air. Morpheus perches on the hood of the car. My sunglasses rest on the metal beside him, catching a glint of sun. I pretend to reach for them, but before he can guess my intentions, I catch one of his wings instead. He flutters, trying to break loose, his one free wing batting my hand.

I draw out the decanter and stuff him into it, careful to fold his wings. I don’t want to hurt him. I just want to better him.

Once he’s settled inside, I shove a paper towel into the bottle’s neck. No need to worry that he’ll smother. After all, he spent that night in a bug trap last year and survived.

“Looks like you’re going to have some turbulence on your flight,” I tell him through the glass.

His voice fills my head, an angry, scolding growl. When I don’t respond, he yells Chessie’s name. Chessie flits over to the car and sits on the side mirror, licking his paw, amused and uninterested in taking sides.

I hold the decanter up to get a closer look at Morpheus. “Game, set, match, luv. You do realize that my human side defeated you, right? No magic required.”

Unlike a real moth that would beat itself against the glass walls until exhausted, he hangs under the curved neck, dignified, glaring with his bulbous eyes. If he had a mouth instead of a proboscis, I’d be able to tell if he’s snarling or beaming with pride. Knowing him, it could be either. Most likely, it’s both.

My chest swells with some small satisfaction.

I put on my sunglasses. The frames are warm from the sun, but the heat isn’t enough to keep me from shivering when I see Jeb curled up on his side in the backseat. Morpheus dressed him in his shirt and boots, and that small kindness earns my winged rival a secure seat for the drive.

Jeb mumbles something as I tuck the decanter into the curve of his knees. It’s the best place to keep the glass from rolling around. I kiss Jeb’s head, then slide into the driver’s seat.

It’s difficult to find a comfortable position while sitting on my wings. I finally shove them over to my right, which makes a lumpy, irregular form under the sheet. I’ll have to take the side roads to get into town because if anyone were to see me, they might think I’m hiding a dead body.

Chessie pauses on the dashboard, blinks twice in my direction, and disappears through the rearview mirror, getting a head start on London and the rabbit hole.

For the rest of us, Butterfly Threads will be our first stop. There are full-length mirrors across the walls, and plenty of clothes, although I’ll have to make some creative adjustments to fit anything over my wings.

It’s only ten after twelve. When Penelope’s understaffed, she closes the store from noon to one for her lunch break.

I tuck Morpheus’s blazer into my backpack, then check my cell. There are two texts from Jen and three voice mails from Dad. First I respond to Jen:

Found Jeb. Deets later. He’s safe. Be home in a while …

Next, I listen to my dad’s most recent voice message:

“Allie, I’m worried. Enough thinking, okay? Come home. We’ll talk. We can fix things.”

His voice is tight. He’s freaked, without a doubt, but apparently he’s home and, judging by the “I’m worried” line, hasn’t told Mom about what’s happened yet. Good, because if she found out about the events at school, she’d put two and two together and do something impulsive. I don’t need her in danger, too.

Dad said we could “fix things.” I know what that means: When I get back, I’ll be grounded. Shut off from my car, phone, computer, and friends until Monday when he can take me to Mom’s psychiatrist. I wonder if he even plans to let me graduate with my class on Saturday.

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