Unhinged Page 86

I nod, using a Kleenex off my nightstand to protect my fingers as I work the stinger from the wound. It wriggles in my hand as if trying to escape. Shuddering again, I toss it into a glass of water next to the tissue box. The stinger fizzes and drifts to the bottom, disintegrating within seconds. The black veins under Morpheus’s skin writhe wilder, as if they’re fighting to survive without their source. Morpheus’s eyes slam shut, and he grinds his teeth in agony.

Unable to bear his pain any longer, I press my ankle to his fore-arm. Heat surges between us. The black veins slow their movements and fade until all that’s left is the puncture mark. His blue static reappears and pulses through the wound, leaving behind a silvery scar.

I ride a wave of euphoria as Morpheus’s natural coloring comes back. He opens his eyes—alert and stronger by the second. He holds my gaze as I feel his forehead. His fever’s gone. Jeb’s watchful eye burns into my back, and I withdraw my hand.

Morpheus snags my ankle before I can slide off the bed, thumb running across my wing tattoo. The touch sends a prickly sensation through my wing buds.

“Moth,” he whispers soundlessly. The Morpheus I know has returned, teasing and taunting, reminding me of my vow.

Jeb comes up behind me and pries Morpheus’s fingers free. “Hands off, owl bait.”

The guys exchange scowls as I climb off the mattress with Jeb’s arm securely around my waist. It’s nice to see some things never change.

Morpheus sits up, his wings unfurling around him. He stretches—languid and graceful—then drops his feet to the floor. Jewels sparkling green, he watches me as he rolls down his sleeve and buttons his shirt. “Thank you, Alyssa. And, Jebediah, I suppose we’re even now.”

“Not even close,” Jeb says. “You brought Red here. And you’re going to help send her back.”

I put my hand on Jeb’s chest. “Wait. First, tell us what happened with Sister Two.”

Morpheus sighs. “It was going so well. She fell for my ruse and captured the cardboard man in my place.”

Something clicks in my mind. “The Brandon Lee silhouette from the Crow shrine … of course.” I smirk. “Impressive.”

Morpheus shrugs, though he’s obviously pleased with himself. “While she was busy reeling ‘me’ in, I transformed into a moth and rematerialized behind her to get the upper hand. I wrapped her in her own web and dragged her through a mirror and into the rabbit hole. She broke loose inside, turned on me.” He looks down at the scar on his abdomen, then secures the last few buttons over it. “Left me for dead.”

“Yet you made it all the way back here,” I say.

“I had good incentive.” Morpheus stands and straightens his shirt. “I was missing my car.”

I bark a laugh, and Morpheus grins. Jeb watches the two of us.

My momentary lapse into giddiness is short-lived as I sort through the implications of this new development. “Does this mean Sister Two is back in Wonderland now? She’s at her post?”

That could solve everything. Maybe Red didn’t get to the restless souls in time.

“I would like to think so,” Morpheus answers. “But we should keep our guard up. Especially you, Jebediah.”

The door handle wiggles and we all freeze. Mom appears at the opening and we breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Tightening the belt on her robe, she looks Morpheus up and down and he returns her appraisal. It’s obvious there’s still no love lost between them.

“Allie deciphered her first mosaic,” Mom says to him. “Red is on her way to the human realm to attack prom. We have a plan to stop her. I’ll fill you in after I get dressed.”

Morpheus glances at me and Jeb. “How deliciously dangerous.”

“This isn’t a game, Morpheus.” Mom gives him an annoyed glare and turns her attention to Jeb. “Could you help me carry Thomas to our bedroom? He’s not asleep all the way, but he’s groggy enough.”

“Is he going to be okay?” I ask.

Mom’s expression softens. “The pills are harmless. He’ll be safest this way.”

I nod, though it’s hard to stomach treating him like a pawn.

Jeb starts after her as she heads down the hall. He pauses at the door and gives Morpheus a meaningful glare. “Mind your manners, bug-eyes.”

“Always.” Morpheus tips a nonexistent hat.

Clenching his jaw, Jeb steps out.

The minute he’s gone, I back up to the wall, limping unevenly with one boot on and one off.

Morpheus watches me like a predator, smiling. “Trying to put some distance between you and your feelings, little plum?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Mmm. You lie with such finesse. Becoming more of a netherling every day.” He strides toward me, as stealthy and menacing as a black panther. He props his forearm against the wall over my head and, wings curled around me, cuts off my surroundings. “I looked inside your heart after our melding. I saw how worried you were.”

I clamp my mouth shut, hoping that was all he saw.

His gaze dips down to my necklaces. His features harden as he loops his pinky through the ring. “This will never do. You obviously haven’t told our pseudo elf about the vow you made to me.”

Now more than ever, I can’t give Morpheus what he’s asking. My mind searches for a way to reach his sympathetic side. I know he has one. I’ve seen it. “I learned something about you today.”

That wins his full attention. He draws me into the fathomless depths of his eyes. “What would that be?”

“Every time you try to do the right thing, you get screwed.”

My observation is met with silence. He scoops up my other necklace, closing the key, heart, and ring within his fist.

I take a shallow breath, heartbeat stumbling as I try to read him. “So it’s a battle to make that choice, yeah?” I ask.

Morpheus offers a smug smile. “A battle would mean I have to care. I’ve ceased caring.”

“Your actions say otherwise. I know what you did at Butterfly Threads. Sister Two came into the storeroom while I was getting dressed in the bathroom. You lured her out to the main floor in moth form to keep Jeb safe.”

Morpheus fidgets. “I was just having a bit of fun with the wretch.”

“What about what you did for my mom? Even though she betrayed you, you never once told Sister Two that my dad was her stolen dream-boy.”

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