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twenty - four


God. I forgot how fucking beautiful her eyes were. As long as she continued to look at me with those hazel orbs, I’d never dream of anything else ever again.

Everyone remained silent as Cleo fully awoke, where she was rapidly blinking, trying to take everything in. Her eyes bounced from person to person as she slowly connected the dots.

As if she just remembered why she was in this predicament, she shot her hand to her throat, feeling the red and bruised skin. Cleo winced, and I wished that I could take away all of her pain. All of her trauma, I’d steal away if it meant sacrificing myself.

I should’ve been there. I should’ve been there to stop it. To save her.

I had one fucking job.

But I pushed that thought aside when Cleo parted her lips to speak.

I fucking needed to hear her voice, it would soothe the raging storm inside of me, make me feel whole again. I haven’t slept since the incident, and I fear I would never again if she didn’t forgive me. But why should she.

Cleo opened her mouth, but no sound came out. A ragged breath left her mouth, following a shallow grunt.

Her hazel eyes went frantic as she came to the same realization we all did.

She couldn’t speak.

“It seems that the nerve impulses to your voice box have been disrupted, usually a symptom of vocal cord paralysis. But, due to the recent trauma concerning your neck, it is certain that your vocal cords have been severely damaged, possibly paralyzed, rendering you unable to speak properly.” The doctor removed his finger from Cleo’s neck, and stepped away from the bed.

“H-h,” Cleo tried to push the words out, but it was clear she was having difficulty. I placed a hand onto her shoulder, silently telling her to stop. She needed to stop before she did something fucking stupid and hurt herself. And knowing her, she’d keep pushing herself until she did permanent damage.

If we had marked her, she could still communicate with us - mentally.

I feel like I’ve said that mantra a hundred damn times in the last few weeks.

“How long ’till she fully heals?” I asked, which I figured was Cleo’s question.

“It will be a gradual process. Each day will get a little bit easier to speak, but your voice will be hoarse for a while and it will be difficult to breathe. I predict that after three weeks, you should be talking and breathing as normal. We can keep you here on a ventilator, to help with breathing the first few days, if you wish. Otherwise, I would recommend bed rest and do not force yourself to speak if you find you cannot; you may damage your vocal cords further if you push too hard.” The doctor wrote a note or two on the clipboard he held, glancing back up to Cleo. “And, any other injuries that occured to you during the incident have healed in the week you were under, so we are only focusing on the recovery of your vocal cords.”

Cleo nodded at his words, placing a hand gently on her neck. She cast a soft look at Donna, who returned her gaze with an unsure expression. Had something happened between them?

“Are you interested in spending a few more days in the hospital with a ventilator? You had been hooked up to one for your first few days while you were out, so we will be able to keep you in the same room.”

She looked at me, then Ezra, and lightly bit her lip.

Cleo shook her head, writing an S in the air, then slashed through it.

“I think she’s saying she can’t afford it.” Mrs. Donna chimed in. She looked away from Cleo, casting her gaze down.

No sh*t. Just the whole week Cleo spent here and the ride in the ambulance was expensive enough that I knew my kids wouldn’t be going to college - at least not all of them.

Cleo suddenly let a ghost of a smirk fall onto our face, catching both my and Ezra’s stare for a brief moment.

She knew exactly what bedrest would mean with the two of us. Especially after being apart for over a week.

Cleo wanted to be with us, and fuck it if I didn’t go down on my hands and knees to do everything I can to make it up to her.

“Home sweet home,” Ezra crooned as he held the front door of our cabin open for Cleo. She smiled at him before stepping inside and plopping down on the nearby sofa. Ezra joined her in one of the two adjacent loveseats.

Hesitantly, I approached the living room, wondering exactly what the fuck I should do.

Join them?

Doesn’t she hate me?

She damn well should - I wasn’t there to protect her.

In her time of need, I was stuck in a fucking cell, with nothing but my thumb up my ass.

Her head of black hair suddenly whipped towards me, a mischievous glint in her hazel orbs. She was smiling, but it dropped into a frown when she realized I had a hesitant appearance. She furrowed her brows and audibly sighed before she stood to her feet.

She marched up to where I stood.

“Cleo,” I started, but she cut me off by latching her fingers into the top of my shirt and yanking me down to her, pressing her lips to mine. Shocked, I stood frozen as her warm lips moved against mine. She never failed to amaze me.

Feverishly, she pushed against me, urging me to push back. All of the hurt, lost, and events of the past few weeks she shoved into her lips, silencing every single bad thought that was consuming me.

It was like she was telling me with her body instead of speaking.

Finally realizing, I placed a hand on her lower back, shoving her body into mine. She hoarsely mewled, wrapping both of her arms around my neck, causing her back to arch forward where her hot center could rub against my newly erect one.

I sunk my other hand into the hair above her left ear, going until I could curve my fingers along the top of her skull and press her lips even harder against mine.

Suddenly she broke away from me, panting heavily. The air wheezed out of her throat, and only now did I remember the doctor’s orders.

“Guys, I don’t think now’s the best time to suck each other’s faces off.” Ezra grumbled, jealousy present in his tone.

“I think it’s the perfect time now that I know what I can’t do,” I leaned back towards Cleo, capturing her lips for only a second before skipping down to her shoulder. She grasped each of my shoulders in her palms, tickling the skin there with the prick of her nails. I sucked the skin between her neck and shoulder into my mouth, gently rolling the skin between my teeth. She jumped when I did it again, a bit harder, mimicking what I really wanted to do - mark her.

If I had before the whole incident, the entire thing would have been much easier to go through. We could’ve mentally talked through everything.

“I could do it,” I groaned quietly into her ear. “Mark you. Claim you - but it doesn’t have to stop there. After I sink my teeth into your neck, I want to bury my fingers deep inside of your pussy and flick that tiny clit of yours over and over until you’re shaking with pleasure. I want to feel you quiver under my palm, see your skin glisten with perspiration, watch your body come apart until you’re begging us to stop. But I wouldn’t stop, not until I’ve had my fill, and believe me, Cleo, when I say,” I paused, moving my head up to briefly capture her earlobe into my mouth and scrap it with my teeth. “I won’t have my fill until I’ve tasted that sweet honey. I want to feel your thighs trembling as I hold them open, flicking your clit with my tongue over and over, causing you to come until you pass out.”

I took a breath, skipping over to her mouth and capturing her lips once again. Just for a second, until I broke apart, but kept my lips against hers as she let out a ragged breath. Her arousal was evident, striking me deep in my nose and even deeper to another part of me.

“Would you let me, Cleo,” I spoke against her lips. “Would you let me worship you? Just say the word.”

I grinned when I felt her gently slap my arm.

She jokingly glared at me, us both knowing that she couldn’t just say the word.

“F-f-u . . .” She stopped, clutching her throat with one of her hands.

“Stop that. Now, Cleo.” I ordered, and she immediately complied. I kissed her one last time, letting it last just a beat longer than the previous. When I pulled away, I whispered against her lips, “Raincheck?”

Smirking humorlessly, Cleo nodded, revenge etched all along her face. She’d get me back for all this teasing. I was sure of it.

“So uh,” Ezra coughed nervously. “Where were we?”

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