Splintered Page 45



I wait in a cold, mirrored hall with a glass table and chairs for company. Jeb’s supposed to meet me here. I’m dying to see him again but at the same time nervous about how he’ll react to my decision to help Morpheus without talking things over with him first.

I close my eyes, disoriented by the movement all around me. Mirrors line every inch of the ceiling and walls, even the floors. Shadowy figures glide in the reflections.

In our world, mirrors are made by slapping a coat of silvery aluminum paint onto the back of a glass plane. A person can’t see anything but their reflection. Here, I can see shadows inside, like they’re sandwiched between the layers. Morpheus told me they’re the spirits of moths. It makes me wonder about the bugs I’ve killed back home.

Apparently, in Wonderland, everyone—or thing—has a soul. The cemetery is a hallowed place revered by all netherlings. No one will set foot inside, other than the keepers of the garden: the Twid Sisters.

At the hands of the twins, the dead are cultivated: sown, watered, and weeded out like a virtual flower garden of ghosts. One sister nurtures the souls—singing to the newcomers and keeping the spiritual flora content. The other sister weeds out withering spirits that have languished and turned bitter or angry—something to do with locking them inside other forms for eternity.

The Twid Sisters aren’t getting along with Morpheus right now because he refuses to send his dead moths their way. He’d rather let them fly free somewhere between life and death than tie them down in a prison of dirt. So he hides them inside his mirrors.

Some might call that morbid. I see a degree of tenderness there, in his effort to give them dignity. The same tenderness I’ve glimpsed in our past, and earlier, when he treated my injuries.

The birthmark on my ankle is universal to the creatures of Wonderland—keys to their world and a way to heal one another—and a part of the Liddell curse. I still don’t know why, in her old age, Alice lost the marking. Or why she forgot her time in the real world, swearing she lived in a birdcage here instead of having married and had a family. But at least one thing is clear: I’m a part of this realm until I can shatter the curse to pieces.

Heavy boots echo along the mirrored floor and I glance up. “Jeb!” I race toward him. The floor is slick, and the boots the sprites gave me have little traction. I slip. Jeb drops the backpack, leaps forward, and catches me.

He drags me up until our foreheads touch and my feet dangle above the ground. It never ceases to amaze me how easily he can lift me, as if I weigh nothing at all.

I stroke his clean-shaved face and garnet labret—breathing him in, assuring myself he’s all right.

“Did he touch you? Hurt you?” Jeb whispers in the silence.

“No. He was a gentleman.”

Jeb frowns. “You mean a gentleroach.”

I snort, which melts his severity and makes him smile. He spins me around. “I’ve missed you,” he says.

I tuck my chin against his broad shoulder and hug him tightly. My body’s thirsty, drinking up his warmth like a sponge. “Never let me go, okay?” Any other time, that might sound lame. But right now, it’s the most genuine request I’ve ever made.

“Never plan to,” he whispers, his mouth close enough that his breath grazes the top of my ear.

When I lean out of the hug, he’s watching the moving silhouettes race all around us.

“Gossamer told me about them,” he says. “I didn’t believe her. The guy’s moth-crazy.”

I prop my forearms on his shoulders, feet still swinging at his shins. “You should see his room. He has tiny glass houses filled with living ones. He keeps them there until they leave their cocoons. When they’re strong enough, he sets them free.”

“He had you in his room?” A dark cloud crosses Jeb’s face. “Do you swear he didn’t try anything?”

“Scout’s honor.”

He squeezes my waist, tickling me. “Too bad you were never a Scout.”

I squirm and smile. “Nothing happened.” That’s a lie. Morpheus got to me in a big way, showing me a side of myself I can hardly believe exists—one I’m not sure Jeb will be able to accept. But I’m thinking maybe he doesn’t have to know about the thrummings in my head or my weird powers. Maybe I can hide my cursed tendencies until we get out of here and I’m cured.

Fingers locked around Jeb’s neck, I tug his short ponytail. To help us fit in at the banquet, we’re both going in costume. He’s supposed to be an elfin knight, so the sprites drew his hair across his ears to cover their rounded tips. I like it this way. His strong jawline and expressive features take center stage.

“Figured they’d put you in a hat,” I tease.

“Nah. Those are reserved for worms with wings.”

I laugh and nudge his shoulders, unspoken permission to put me down.

He sets me onto the floor. “You look amazing.”

“Thanks.” I don’t tell him my outfit is Morpheus’s creation: a peach baby-doll sleeveless tunic with cascades of ruffles that start under my breasts and go all the way to midthigh. Red lace trims the ruffles and complements the red bondage-style belt encrusted with glistening rubies that cinches my waist. Five sturdy silver rings embellish the belt, matching the gray blouse layered under my tunic. The blouse’s puffy sleeves cover my arms to my wrists, where fingerless red lace gloves peek out. Gray and peach striped leggings coat my legs like candy canes and disappear into knee-high red velvet boots.

The entire ensemble is a calculated effort to make me look wild and untamed, so the eccentric dinner guests will be more receptive to me. To that end, the sprites wove red berries and flowers into the funky, dreadlock-style braids all over my head, then tucked the hairpin from Alison’s recliner treasures just above my left temple. For some reason, Morpheus was adamant that I wear it.

I point to Jeb’s elfin knight uniform. “I’ve seen this before. That cross represents the elite of the jeweled elves.” The black pants wrap his legs like a well-worn pair of jeans. There’s a silver chain linked in and out of two belt loops, forming the illusion of five separate strands, and a cross made of glistening white diamonds on his left upper leg. I slide my fingers along the jewels. “You’re not just a knight . . . you’re one of the royal escorts.”

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies