Unhinged Page 85

As for me, I’ve known ever since our first summer years ago how deep my feelings run. Yes, I want to spend a lifetime with him. But I have two possible futures. Two lives to live. Two parts of my heart. How can I commit to either of them until I’ve thought everything through?

Then another doubt surfaces unexpectedly, something I haven’t considered until now. “Wait. Is this how you and Dad worked things out? You caved and told him you’d marry me before we got to London. Is that what’s going on here?”

Jeb’s hopeful expression falls. “No. That’s not—well, yes, it played a part in the timing. But you gotta know, Al. This is what I want. It’s what I’ve always wanted. A future with you. A life with you, my fairy bride. Forever.”

“Always said … the boy … was a bloody wordsmith …”

My heart skips as the familiar cockney accent fills my head.

A moth dives into the canopy, surrounded by blue static. It struggles against the wind, and the static spreads, reaching up to the branches, as if to hold it in place. Jeb and I scramble backward as the insect transforms into a man, slumped to his side on the dirt. His breathing is labored and his wings drape across him, hiding his body.

“Son of a—”

“Morpheus.” I interrupt Jeb’s outburst, lifting one of the satiny wings so I can see his face. I’m thrilled he’s alive, but he doesn’t look like he will be for long.

“Hello, luv,” he says through a thick curtain of blue hair. “Hope I’m … interrupting.” He draws his knees to his chest, coughing.

The leaves rattle overhead as the rain begins.

I touch his forehead, shocked at how hot he is. “He’s burning up. We have to get him inside.”

Jeb hesitates, mistrust shadowing his face.

I put my hand on his arm. “We need all the help we can get tonight.” I can’t tell Jeb that I care beyond that. Not yet. We don’t have time to sort through that mess.

Gritting his teeth, Jeb takes the heart pendant from my neck and laces the ring through the chain. He holds it out for me. “Will you hang on to this? Until we can talk later?”

I nod and loop the chain around my neck.

Jeb drags Morpheus out from under the leaves and hoists him onto his shoulder. “Get those, Al.” He gestures to the wings dragging on the ground behind him.

I maneuver Morpheus’s wings, trying to curl them around his body so he won’t get wet. Mom meets us at the back door in her robe. She looks as confused and panicked as I feel but ushers us in.

“Take him to your room. Hurry. Your dad just pulled into the driveway. I’ll get the sedatives in him. Let’s hope they work fast. We only have an hour till we need to go.”

We trudge down the hall, leaving wet prints on the carpet. Morpheus’s wings scrape the walls, knocking a few of my mosaics crooked. Mom follows and shuts the door to my room from the other side. I hear her straightening my mosaics as she heads toward the living room.

I flip on the lamp and move my dress from the bed, laying it over the chair at my desk. Jeb plops Morpheus down. His beautiful wings drape both sides of the mattress, limp. It’s entirely unsettling to see someone as animated as him be so still and vulnerable.

I kneel next to the bed and push his hair back from his face. He’s shivering. His eyes are closed, and his jewels blink a sickly grayish green—dull instead of glistening—like stagnant, murky water. Black veinlike strands swell and move under his pale skin, as if snakes were writhing inside him. His blue magic pulses around the strands, trying to contain the poison, but the black keeps multiplying.

My stomach turns over. “Did Sister Two do this to you?”

Morpheus squints through one eye and coughs, nodding. He yelps as the black veins tangle and knot at his neck. My body aches, as if I’ve caught the poison. It hurts that much to see him suffering.

“Shh.” I squeeze his hand. His palm feels clammy. “We have to try to keep it down, okay? We don’t want my dad coming in.”

He grits his teeth against more shivers. “Always knew I’d end up in your bed … and hear you say those words one day.” He manages a smirk.

Jeb snarls. “Unbelievable. Even when he’s at death’s door he’s a tool.” He arranges a pillow beneath Morpheus’s neck. “Why don’t you keep your mouth shut while we help you.”

Morpheus laughs weakly, his skin flashing with blue light. “What say Alyssa”—his breath rattles—“gives my mouth something else to do?”

Jeb narrows his eyes. “What say I give you a fist to chew on?”

Morpheus snorts, which triggers several more coughs.

I glare at them both. “Are you guys kidding me right now?” Shaking my head, I roll up Morpheus’s sleeve to expose his birthmark. I cringe as the black snaky veins follow my touch. It’s like they’re drawn to my movements.

Sitting on my bed, I start to work off my boot.

Jeb stops me with a hand on the buckles. “What do you think you’re doing?” he asks.

“I have to heal him.”

“And what if this poison is contagious?” Rain pounds on the window and roof, as if punctuating Jeb’s concern.

I pause.

Jeb glares down at Morpheus, who’s faded out again.

“Hey.” Jeb pats his face, oddly reminiscent of when Morpheus did the same to him at the studio.

Morpheus’s eyes flutter open.

“She wants to heal you,” Jeb says. “Is it safe?”

Morpheus grunts. “The stinger … my stomach … take it out first.” Another cough. “Drown it.”

I start to work the buttons open on Morpheus’s black shirt, but Jeb brushes me aside and takes over.

Morpheus places his hand on Jeb’s busy fingers, eyes opened to slits. “Ah, my pretty pseudo elf.” He takes a labored breath. “Is it time at last to express our unrequited feelings?”

Jeb’s ears flush red. He’s about to retort when Morpheus groans, doubling over again. Biceps bulging, Jeb holds him flat to the bed so I can finish opening his shirt.

There’s a puncture wound the size of a quarter on Morpheus’s abdomen. The black, inky poison seems to stem from the site. His blue magic blinks once and grows dim, as if defeated.

I shudder.

“Careful with that thing,” Jeb mutters.

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