"You care about her, " I say with unexpected twang of envy. In my long-lost memories of us as children, it was always just the two of us. We 'got' each other on every level. Morpheus made me feel adored, special, important. I never considered him doing the same for someone else as a man. "Morpheus, what is she to you?" He doesn't answer. Not aloud, anyway. His expression is hazy and troubled, and the jewels around his eyes twinkle from silver to black, like stars peering down on a storm-swept night. Alice's confession from the trial comes back to me: "Ivory was, in fact, very fond of Mr.Caterpillar." Judging by how Morpheus looked at the queen just now, by how she looked at him, he returned to her castle after his metamorphosis. I imagine his elegant fingers tracing her skin, his soft lips on hers. That stab of envy evolves to something much uglier-a covetous twist of emotion I can't even put a name to. What's wrong with me? Why should i care about Morpheus's love life, when I finally kissed Jeb after all these years?
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Rushing outside, she carries long, sharp scissors and snips at flower petals while screaming, "Off with your head!" When I realize what she's really after, a strange discomfort stirs inside. I've seen how the petals tatter beneath the blades. I don't want her to ruin my moth's pretty wings. I throw my hands over the scissors to stop her. The moth escapes unscathed. But I'm not so lucky... Coming out of the trance, I drop to the ground and clutch aching palms to my chest. The scars throb as if freshly cut. Morpheus bows over me, smoothing my hair. "I told you that you were special, Alyssa, " he murmurs, the weight of his palm strangely comforting on the top of my head. "No one else has ever bled for me. The loyalty of one child for another is immeasurable. You believed in me, shared new experiences with me, grew with me. That has earned you my sincerest devotion."
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I coax my palm into his lapel in search of my wish, returning his feverish kiss. "Checkmate, you son of a bug, " I say against his mouth two seconds before my fingers find an empty pocket. "Sleight of hand, blossom, " he says right back. "'Tis in fact in my pants pocket, if you'd like to search there." I shove him off and drop to the floor, wiping my mouth. "It's mine!" "And you'll receive it when the time is right." His lips, all I can look at, tilt into that smug smile that I've come to detest. He motions toward the chair. "Sit. You've just been soundly kissed. No doubt you're short of breath." "Don't flatter yourself." I huff in an effort to hide the gulp of air and hold the teddy bear against my chest. "That kiss meant nothing. It had underlying motivation." "Oh, to be sure. That kiss was nothing if not motivational."
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"It's me I'm losing control of. Hundreds of sketches, and still can't get enough of your face." He traces the dimple in my chin with his thumb. "Your beck." His palm moves along my throat. "Your... " both hands find my waist and drag me off the table so we're standing toe tote. "I'm not wasting another second drawing you, " he whispers against my lips, "when I can touch you instead." He presses his mouth to mine. A spark, hot and electric, jumps between us. Shock and sensation shimmer through me, aglow with his heat ad flavor. Six year of secret desire. Six years of denying that he's the orbit of my world. To think, he's been running from me, too.
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His kisses fade to nuzzle along my face and neck, soft and poignant. "Al, " he whispers. "You taste so sweet... like honeysuckle." "Don't, " I murmur, in a daze. He draws back, eyes heavy and dark. "You want me to stop?" "No." I've fallen asleep praying for you to look at me like this. To touch me like this. "Don't break my heart." Moth shadows glide above him in the mirrored ceiling, distracting me from the fierceness of his frown. "I'd cut mine out first." I believe he would. Stretching to tiptoe, I clasp his ponytail. This time, I kiss him. He responds with a spine-tingling growl, fingers digging into my hips.
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We're both so into it, neither of us hears the footsteps until a snarl breaks us apart. We turn to find Morpheus standing there with enough rage in his black eyes to send the Devil packing for heaven. Jeb tugs his fingers from the rings in my belt but keeps a hand at my lower back. I touch my lips; they're throbbing and gluttonous, hungry for more. "Wel, now, isn't that cozy?" Morpheus's voice isn't liquid this time. It grates like rusted nails along my eardrums. He peels off his gloves and slaps them against his palm, wings droopy and trailing the floor like a cape. "perhaps you might give Alyssa her lipstick back. We haven't time to find more before dinner."
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I curse him silently for moving my hands as he raises them to study the scars. He kisses them, his lips a fluid brush along sensitive flesh, then places them on his cheeks. Mouth inches from mine, he whispers, "Forgive me for bringing you into this. There was no other way." His skin is softer than clouds must feel, and the tears gathering around my fingertips are hot and tangible. But are they sincere? Our breaths swirl between us, and his black eyes swallow me whole. My heart knocks against the bottom of his rib cage. I know what's coming next. I fear it. But it's the surest way to distract him and get the wish. And if it has to happen, I'm going to be the instigator. Rising up on my toes, I press my mouth to his. He moans, frees my wrists, and sweep-s me into his arms-sealing the teddy bear between us
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Jeb moans, wraps my legs around his waist, and holds me tight. He breaks contact just long enough to whisper, "Where'd you learn to kiss like that?" "You taught me." I recover my senses and realize what I said. "In my dreams." "Oh, yeah?" He nudges the indentation on my chin with his nose. "Been dreaming of me, too, huh?" "Ever since the day we met." Finally, the truth. He flashes his dimples. "Guess it's time for us to make some dreams come true, skater girl."
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Shh." I squeeze his hand. His palm feels clammy. "We have 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-"give my mouth something else to do?
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Jeb's eyes look like they might pop... so do the veins in his neck. He makes a sound-somewhere between a cough and a moan-mesmerized by my rocking hips. He stands. "Would you get down? You're going to hurt yourself." "No. Come up here with me." I raised my arms over my head and roll my pelvis seductively. "It's a wake-up dance for Skittles. You know, like the Native Americans used to do to bring down rain." Jeb gawks. "I seriously doubt Native Americans moved like that."
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I place a palm at his chest. His heartbeat knocks rapidly against my skin. "I never would have guessed." "What's that?" he asks on a hoarse whisper. "That you're one of those netherlings who has a rare penchant for kindness and courage." "Tut." He presses his glove over my hand. "Only when there's fringe benefits." Smiling, I rise to my toes, grip his lapels, and kiss each one of his jewels until they change to a captivating dark purple-the color of passion fruit. I ease back to the balls of my feet. "So beautiful, " I whisper, tapping one of the sparkling gems. Morpheus catches my palm and kisses the scars there. "I couldn't agree more."
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The blaze from the trees spreads to tablecloths and crepe paper - a chain reaction so brilliantly spectacular and terrible, I ache to be a part of it... to devour and destroy, then relish in the plunder. I could do it.I could stand here amid the flames, let them lap at my skin, and laugh in a death-defying haze - because they belong to me. I could watch the world crumble and then dance, triumphant, in the snowfall of ash left behind. All I have to do is set the power free. Escape the chains of my humanity, let madness be my guide.
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