Untamed Page 36

Before I could capture the floating blue light, Morpheus shoved me out of my dreamscape.

My hands fist in the netting covering my thighs. When I woke in this room this morning, I considered telling Jeb about Morpheus’s cryptic words, but didn’t have my cell phone because Jenara’s been doing her bridesmaid’s best to keep her brother and me from seeing or contacting each other until the ceremony.

There’s no more time to waste. He needs to be warned that Morpheus has arranged another test for me to pass. Or, rather, one for him.

I stumble over to the table for a second look at Mom’s birthday card, maneuvering my wings around the furniture arranged at odd angles in the too-small room. I lift the card, studying it carefully. Beyond the cute owl’s face on the front—subtle—and the “Whoooo’s birthday is today?” sentiment inside, Mom’s signature is in print. She always signs cards in cursive. Why didn’t I catch that? Or the fact that Dad hadn’t signed it, too? Come to think of it, I should’ve caught it all because I should’ve had my guard up. Morpheus has trained me better than this.

But he knew I would be distracted with my brain in wedding mode. He was counting on it. And to make matters worse, there were no bugs to warn me. The beach house was fumigated a week ago due to an ant infestation, and the silence has been deafening since we got here. I suspect he had a hand in that, too. Yet he’s still keeping his vow not to come between me and Jeb, because he’s managed to make it my netherling traits that are causing all the issues.

I’m on the verge of impressed, but it pales to the anxiety tying me in knots. How could I have been so careless?

“Bloody mastermind moth,” I seethe, expecting to hear an echo of smug laughter stirring in my mind. When there’s no response, I clench my teeth and rip the card in half, angry there are no answers to be found there.

“Okay, you got me. But you have to know you’re underestimating him,” I say aloud, in the hope Morpheus is at least listening. I sound strong and confident, even though nervous tears sting my eyes. “Jeb will find a way to make this work . . .”

“You’re right, Al.” Jeb’s deep, determined voice pulses through me from behind—an electric current, setting all my nerve endings alight.

I turn to see a single white rose wiggling through the cracked door.

“Let me in.”

Almost tripping over my wings, I rush over and scoot the chair away so it’s in the middle of the floor, then I back up to give him room.

He steps inside—dripping wet in the remains of his prom tux—and shuts the door. He leans against it and stares at me. Sand and droplets of water sparkle on his forearms where he’s rolled the periwinkle dress shirt to his elbows. The placket, half-unbuttoned, bares his glistening chest. His navy pants are rolled up, too, stopping at midcalf. He must have left the blue velvet-flocked jacket outside, hanging somewhere to dry.

“Jen tried to tell me about your eyes,” he murmurs before I can ask what happened to his clothes. “But there’s no artist’s palate, no comparison in this world for that color. Al, you’re so beautiful.”

I was just thinking the same about him.

“And you’re so wet,” I say stupidly. It’s hard to think past the way the soft light reflects off the sheen of his olive complexion, sparkling silver labret, and dark, unruly waves dripping water across his forehead and along the bridge of his nose.

He doesn’t respond, too busy taking me in with his deep, mossy gaze. If Jenara were here, she’d insist I cover my corset and underskirt. No, she’d insist I kick him out. But being away from him since the reception dinner last night has been long enough. Even the chair standing between us feels like a mountain. I should move it, but he has me entranced. His gaze traces every turn of my body—a mental touch as intimate and thorough as a real caress would be.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have chosen a beach wedding,” I tease, trying to suppress my overactive imagination.

Jeb’s resulting sexy smile reveals that crooked incisor that I hope our future sons or daughters will inherit. “You mean, given our past experiences with large bodies of water?”

I laugh.

He laughs, too, but then his mood turns serious. “We found our way back to each other on a beach in AnyElsewhere. You made a vow to me there. It’s only fitting I make my vows to you on one. No matter what happens before or during our wedding. No matter what kinds of hoops Morpheus makes us jump through today, it’s worth it. We’re worth it. And we’re going to prove it to him.”

I’ve never seen him look more confident or . . . energized. “Wait, are you . . . ? You’re enjoying this.” I grin tentatively.

He shrugs and smells the white rose in his hand. “I like a challenge.”

“Morpheus is going to hate that he can’t push your buttons.”

“Psssh. We both know he’s thrilled I’m up for the game.”

I shake my head, smiling. It’s strangely comforting, how well they know and understand each other now. “So, he’s the one who made you fall into the water?”

Jeb forces his eyes from my half-dressed body to my face. “Well, technically, it wasn’t him. He’s keeping his word about staying away from our world. Corb was getting the ring bearer’s pillow ready when something pinched his big toe and made him drop the rings. A rock lobster plunged out of the sand, scooped them up, and scuttled into the waves.”

“An actual rock lobster? Like the ones in AnyElsewhere?”

Jeb tucks the rose’s stem into his pocket, then plucks his shirttail from the waist and starts unclasping the remaining buttons. “Yeah. I painted some for Wonderland before we left, when I reinvented the landscapes. Morpheus had requested them specifically. Proof without a doubt he sent that one here.”

It’s a struggle to follow the conversation because all I can do is watch how the wet clothes cling to Jeb’s toned form with every movement. “So . . . you dove into the ocean to get the rings back?”

“I tried, but couldn’t outswim our thief.” He peels the soggy fabric from his shoulders and arms, revealing water-slicked abs and droplets beaded along the dark hair dusting his pecs. “I asked your mom to contact Ivory through the mirror in her room. She had a magical flute at her castle. I saw it while we were there. Come to find out, the instrument works on the clams in our world, too. They flushed the lobster to the shore. The rings are now tied safely in place. Corb’s keeping the pillow with him until the ceremony.”

I think back on the clams we met in Wonderland on our first visit there . . . how I played a flute that called and commanded them. How in a sweep of dingy gray, they came rushing to our rescue when we were being chased by an army, and carried our pursuers away on a surge of rattling shells. I’m even more grateful now than I was then. I just hope no one saw anything.

“Don’t worry about the guests,” Jeb says as if reading my thoughts. “Your dad kept everyone preoccupied. He took them on a tour to the other side of the beach where the sailboats dock.”

Relief washes over me. But it’s only temporary, considering everyone is going to see me soon.

“Shouldn’t we address the flying elephant in the room?” I ask, flapping my wings.

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