Splintered Page 91

“Wait a minute.” Jeb catches one of my strands of red hair, twisting it between his thumb and forefinger. “This isn’t a hairpiece. You actually dyed it. What’s gotten into you?”

“I guess I finally found my fiery side.”

“I like it.” He tilts his head, as if evaluating a painting. “So, this glittery stuff that looks like you’ve been swimming in pixie dust . . .” His knuckles graze my cheek. “Is it on every inch of your skin?” His intent appraisal of my pajamas heats me from my neck to my feet.

“Uhhh . . .” His touch is enough to make me stammer, but the pixie comment sends me over the edge. I almost groan when he pulls back.

“Thanks for saying that stuff out there, to Tae.”

“I meant every word.” Because I love you. I can’t bring myself to say it out loud yet, but it’s true. It’s not something that hit me from out of nowhere; it was a gradual awakening. Kind of like a metamorphosis . . .

“Well, looks like you can do okay on your own. After seeing the way you just took care of me.” He leans a shoulder against the wall, closing the space between us once more. “So weird. I had a dream about the same thing last night—you taking care of me.” The confession snaps me to attention. “Were we in Wonderland?”

He smirks. “Uh, no. We were in a house in the country, and you were sitting at a table playing chess while I painted pictures with a feather and some colored honey. A swarm of bees pounded on the window, yelling at me for stealing from their hive. I mean really yelling, like with people’s voices. Then you sprouted wings and flew outside to chase them all away. Strange, right?”

I stifle a cough. “Yeah, strange.”

“Yet somehow, it fits.” He picks up one of the cylinders Taelor threw at me earlier, removes the rubber band, then hands it over.

I unroll it and gasp to see myself in pencil lines and shading—an amazing rendition of a gothic fairy complete with gossamer wings and eye tattoos—exactly as I looked in Wonderland. Since technically he was never there, it can’t be a memory. So there’s only one explanation: This guy sees into the soul of me and always has.

I meet his gaze, speechless.

“There’s a hundred more like that. You’re my muse, Al. My inspiration. I was hoping . . . maybe . . . you might want to be—”

Before he can finish, I clench his T-shirt and drag him down for a kiss. His eyes widen at first, then close, arms wrapping around my hips to lift me to his height. He presses me into the wall with his body.

I smile against his lips, intoxicated.

How many girls get to have their first kiss twice? But this time, I’m not in shock. This time, I don’t forget to curl my arms around his neck and pull him closer. This time, I’m the one to nudge his lips open and find his tongue.

The sketch falls to the floor next to the scattered roses. 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.”

Little does he know we already have; we went to Wonderland and back, after all. I smile, then give him a kiss he’ll never forget, to replace all the ones he’ll never remember.

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