Splintered Page 47

I brace my hands against his shoulders to maintain space between us, but it’s only for show. My bluff fades to weak-kneed enthusiasm the instant he snags my wrists and pulls them down, leaning in so our noses almost touch.

“Reality check right back at ya,” he says, his breath a hot rush in the chilly room. “I know you’re not a kid anymore. You think I’m blind?” His fingers lace through mine, pinning my arms against the cold, smooth mirrors so our heartbeats pound against each other. “You’re the one who’s oblivious. Because there’s nothing brotherly about the way you make me feel.”

My brain shuts down. I must’ve swallowed every moth spirit from here to kingdom come. I can swear they’re rippling through my stomach.

Jeb releases my fingers and cups my face in his hands, barely touching me, like I’m breakable. “It’s me I’m losing control of. Hundreds of sketches, and I still can’t get enough of your face.” He traces the dimple in my chin with his thumb. “Your neck.” His palm moves along my throat. “Your . . .” Both hands find my waist and drag me off the table so we’re standing toe to toe. “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 and flavor. Six years of secret desire. Six years of denying that he’s the orbit of my world. To think, he’s been running from me, too.

Adrift in disbelief and pleasure, I freeze. My arms hang limp at my sides, fists opening and closing. Jeb’s mouth vibrates against mine in a groan. He coaxes my hands around his neck, bending closer.

He tastes amazing—like chocolate and salt. Familiar yet new and exciting. I clutch my fingers around his neck. The feelings I’ve been suppressing uncoil and thrash inside me like electric eels, shocking me to life. Every sensory receptor hums, hyperaware. I taste him, breathe him, feel him.

Only him.

My lips follow his, pulsing slow and soft and warm. His labret scrapes my chin, a harsh and sexy counterbalance.

His hands guide my jaw, showing me how to tilt my face. He teases my lips open with his. I raze my tongue along his teeth, finding that crooked incisor before his tongue catches mine.

Maybe I’m breathing too hard. Maybe I’m slobbering too much. Maybe I’ll never measure up to the other girls he’s been with. But it doesn’t matter, because of all the things I’ve experienced on this journey—shrinking and growing, flying sprites, living chess pieces— not a one of them is more magical than this moment.

His kisses fade to nuzzles 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. I skim my gloved palms down to find his chest, seeking the scars. Stopping at the chains on his waist, I grip them until the metal bites into my fingers and back us against the wall. A chill seeps into my shoulder blades from the mirror, but the perfect fit of his body against mine lights my blood with a thousand tiny fires, consuming me.

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.

“Well, now, isn’t this 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.”

Jeb swipes my gloss from his mouth. I lick my lips, struck by an inexplicable stab of guilt.

Morpheus’s lullaby plays softly in my head, melancholy and pinched. The words to the song seem to have been altered to fit his mood:

“Little blossom in peach and red, trapping boys with your pretty head; tease and play, be coy and smart, for you will one day break his heart.”

The lullaby sours to shrieking notes in my ears, making me wince.

Grunting deep in his chest, Morpheus turns to a mirror and brushes his clothes with his gloves. He’s wearing a white flouncy shirt under a red brocade jacket that swings at his thighs. It’s doublebreasted with brassy buttons on both lapels. His pants resemble tights—crushed red velvet. Black lace-up boots stop just at his shins. He could be Romeo straight out of Shakespeare’s play if not for the blue hair and wings.

He whips his wingspan to its full magnificence. The jewels at the tips of his eye markings flash with his temper, from red to green. “Don’t you know, elfin knight”—he turns back to us—“that it is very untoward for a guard to proposition his innocent charge?”

I frown. What, do I have the word prude stamped across my forehead? “You don’t know anything about me.”

Morpheus twists his mouth into a wry grin. “Perhaps you were simply pretending, then? To blush like an unblemished peach?”

Jeb drags me behind him. “She’s not having this discussion with you.”

Morpheus huffs. “A little late for chivalry. Had anyone else seen that display, your masquerade as a knight would have ended before it ever began. Did you forget to tell him about a knight’s first order, pet? About keeping his hands and emotions in check?” Morpheus’s attention falls to his right shoulder. Gossamer peers out from beneath his hair. She and Jeb exchange a glance.

Morpheus’s eyes fall back on me, slicing like onyx blades. All I want to do is bask in the memory of my first kiss. Instead, I’m wrestling the notion that I’ve betrayed some nether-realm guy I haven’t seen in years, and for some reason, the thought of hurting him is unbearable.

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