WONDERLAND: BOOK 2
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***PRINT EDITION CONTAINS BOTH THE VANISHING AND THE UNRAVELING***
A year ago, Cadence claimed to have journeyed to Wonderland, but nobody believes her. Melody returns to her childhood home to assist her parents in trying to snap Cadence out of the fantasy she’s constructed with Cheshire cats and a heroic knight named Gareth. Only, when Melody follows a white rabbit into the woods, she finds herself in the same place she’d asked Cadence to admit didn’t exist.
Very little matters to Hatter aside from tea time and creating things with his hands. After he helps Devrel bring the wrong girl into Wonderland to save Gareth from an arranged marriage, Hatter has no choice but to open his home, and a seat at his tea table, to Melody. Thinking she will undoubtedly leave him as Alice did when he was younger, Hatter tries not to notice his attraction to her even though he cannot seem to look away.
Unbeknownst to them all, Cadence follows her sister down the rabbit hole, but is left to search for Gareth alone. She ventures through the vast Tulgey Wood and realizes danger lurks within the ruins of a kingdom forgotten after the Red Queen executed the Queen of Hearts long ago. Can she warn the people of Wonderland in time, or will she be expelled twice?
Melody peered around the side of the chair. “Are you going to stand there, or are you going to eat breakfast?” She disappeared around the side again, but Marchy continued to stare at him as though the world would crumble apart at any moment and prayed he wouldn’t take the blame for it.
Hatter started to laugh, and once he did he couldn’t stop. He placed his palms on his knees and guffawed until tears pricked his eyes and his side knotted. Melody and Marchy gawked at him as he regained his composure. Mayhap he’d finally gone as mad as they said he already was. As mad as a hatter.
Straightening, he ambled to Melody’s chair and draped his arm over the top of it. She tilted her head up to see him. She really was beautiful, with wide blue eyes as soft in hue as cornflower. “You’re in Devrel’s chair.”
“Is that why you were laughing?”
“What was so funny?” She leaned farther back to see his face better, and her delicate forehead furrowed as she tried to decipher what his answer could be.
He grinned. “I was laughing at myself.”
At this, Marchy dropped into his chair with a snort and took a long gulp of tea. Hatter returned his attentions to Melody and added, “Why, pray tell, did you decide it was at all proper to claim another’s seat?”
“Well,” she began, and folded her hands in her lap over her napkin. “Devrel was rude, and I don’t care if he’s offended I took his seat. And…if it is really to be my last day in Wonderland, I want to experience it at the fullest, not from halfway down the table, alone, while everyone else is at this end enjoying their tea. Is that a problem?”
“Yes, Hatter.” Marchy stirred a fresh cup of tea. “Is that a problem?” He arched an eyebrow.
His friend issued an unspoken challenge, wanting to see if Hatter would cave to a pretty face or stand his ground. ‘Twould seem Marchy never learned he didn’t give into pressure. He’d remained unwed all this time, living on the outskirts of the kingdom and running a business on his own terms and monetary system. At his table, things went the way he said they did. Therefore, he didn’t feel it was entirely his fault when he uttered the next sentence without thinking of the implications.
“If Wonderland doesn’t return you, you can have Marchy’s seat.”
The silence that followed his words spoke volumes. Finally, Marchy sputtered, mumbling about nerve and disrespect for tradition and values. Melody’s skin flushed a striking pink color and her lips parted. There was a speck of crystalized sugar on her bottom lip from the pastry she’d been enjoying. Hypnotized, Hatter couldn’t look away. Without thinking, he leaned down and pressed his mouth to hers, swiping the sugar away with the tip of his tongue.
© 2015 Rebekah Lewis.