I felt like puking. That’s how bad this was getting. I thought I knew what this all meant, but I’m afraid to find out. What if he can’t fall in love with me? What if this no touchy-touchy idea becomes a boundary between our relationship...if we ever have one?
No. That’s not going to happen. If he’s not attracted to me then he’s not my mate. Simple as that. I sighed inwardly. Right, like that’s at all true. I wanted to drop my head in my hands and get upset, maybe even cry a little. Well, not exactly cry but close to it. My
sister’s believe because I’m always so hot, my body can’t find the time to pay attention to that emotion and make tears. Whatever. But sometimes I just want to get upset and cry... act like a crabby girl for once, for Gods sake.
He was staring at me with a straight face and I couldn’t quiet read what he was thinking. Then as I ran my hand through my knotty hair, it probably looks like a birds nest, his muscles in his face loosened and he did a little half smile. He smiled! It was like a breath of fresh air. Calder was really scaring me there for a moment, because he wasn’t saying anything.
“Hmmm?” Calder mumbled, on a whisper of a voice. He still hasn’t figured out how to speak with his new gravelly tone.
“How do you feel?”
Calder sat there for a moment just staring at me. For a second it looked like he lost his train of thought. What was he thinking about? Was he trying to judge how messed up he felt?
Finally he looked at me warily. “Like crap.”
I nodded taking this in. He has to be my mate. There’s no other way to explain this same-reaction thing.
As I got up off the edge of the bed my head started to spin. I wondered who put me on the bed after I passed out? I touched my temple swaying and felt dried blood. Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten up so fast.
“Kenna.” I heard Calder say on a gasped groan. He could feel my light-headedness.
I turned my head to look at him and fumbled for the bedpost. I tripped and caught myself on it, my chest ramming hard into the wood. I let out a breathy humph as I made contact. I’ll probably find a bruise there later.
As I stood up and looked at Calder I winced. Yep, I could already feel a bruised rib. I sighed leaning against the mattress, now on his side of the bed. Calder was propped up on his elbows and he sat up, his whole torso showing. My eyes darted away quickly feeling evasive.
He watched my every move looking helpless. “Kenna.” He said, warning in his tone.
I shook my head to knock the dizziness out and responded, wanting to be strong. “I’m fine, really I just have to go find Kaia.”
Calder nodded; not shifting his eyes away from me even the slightest. As I turned my back and bravely made my way out the door, I could feel his stare on my shoulder blades. He was acting like a worried mate already, and he didn’t even know it.
I walked even deeper into the cave, and I planted a hand on the wide hallway wall so I didn’t fall over. I found myself wanting to just go back and lie down. That would help my hammering head, but I needed to talk to Kaia and figure out how soon I could fix this. I figure I left myself too long without any skin contact or sex and it weakened me greatly.
Leaning against the wall I looked down the corridor and thought positively that I only had ten feet left to go. I leaned my head back and closed my heavy eyes for just a moment.
“Kenna,” I heard a hard voice address me, “Kenna, wake up,” but I couldn’t open my eyes. Something was holding them closed.
“Her eyes are moving.” I heard another one of my sister’s voices, most likely Kallan with that much authority in it. “She’s just too weak. She’s waited too long.”
This time I could distinguish all the voices. This time it was Camira. “I’ve never seen her do this to herself.”
“This is what happens when you wait too long, Sister. She has found her mate and should be stronger than all three of us combined. But in Kenna’s case her mate will have to warm up to her, hating the touch of another. In the meantime she needs more energy.” Kallan, again.
“What if we find another man for her?” Camira asked this.
There was silence and then Kallan spoke again, always the knowledgeable one. “Once you have found your mate you are drawn to no other but him. How long has she been like this?”
Although I could not see Camira I could picture her worried face looking down on my pale form, slumped against the wall.
“I really don’t know...maybe an hour. I was walking towards the cave mouth and found her like this.” A pause filled the air then, “We need to build a fire.” Kaia spoke up with a strong voice. “Then she will find the strength to open her eyes.”
My sisters must have agreed, because I started to hear them shuffle quickly away. I heard Camira’s soft footsteps first and then sticks dropped loudly on the stone cold floor. I could hear them murmur to each other; Kallan the instructor, Kaia the one who would glare but do as was told, and Camira who seemed to shrink into herself, responding quietly as she did what was told.
Then I heard sticks rub against each other and the murmured curses of Kaia. “If Kenna was awake she could have just made the fire herself.” She grumbled.
There was no response to my sister’s frustration.
After minutes on end of no heat, I began to lose hope within my sister’s ability to build a simple fire.
Again Kaia spoke in frustration, but this time I could tell it was directed at Kallan. “If it didn’t rain last night,” A pause and maybe a glare, “then it wouldn’t be so damn hard to make a fire.” She finished with a huff, her hands still rubbing the damp sticks together.
Kallan decided to respond to this harsh statement. “If you want your precious forest to live then I had to make it rain. It’s spring for God's sake. The trees need something to drink after the long winter.”
“At the moment I don’t really care. If you want to look over there, Kallan, you’ll notice how freaking pale our sister has become. She looks like a damn corpse! So if you want Kenna to survive, then we need to find another way. Because this isn’t working worth a damn.” And with that the two sticks Kaia was holding snapped, and she cursed all over again.
There was a still, cold silence and I began to worry. They couldn’t have left me. Why was it so cold feeling?
Finally Kallan spoke up. “How is Calder holding up?”
She must have asked Camira, because her quiet voice pierced the cold air. “Not very well.”
I can almost feel Kallan’s steady gaze on me now. She was thinking hard. “If he’s well enough tell him we need him and that it’s urgent.” There was a pause. “He’s the only one who can fix this.”
As she finished I heard both sisters run off down the wide corridor towards the cave opening. The sound of their feet fading the further away they got.
I only thought about one thing then: What about Calder’s clothes? Did Camira give him clothes to wear?
When the sound ceased to exist, Kallan sighed like she was about to rant with frustration. Instead it was a pained, sad anger. I knew she realized there was nothing to be done. “Dammit Kenna. Why must you always do things yourself?” I heard her drag her foot across the floor, the sticks breaking or skidding away. “We’re always here for you, but you constantly choose to do things your way...alone.” She took in a sharp breath, and I could tell the pent up anger was about to come raging out. “You-” She cut herself off.
It took me a moment to understand why, but then I heard the heavy, unsure steps of a man and the lighter steps of my sisters.
With in a minute all four were standing around me in a semi-circle ñ I could feel their heat ñ and I could feel Calder immediately. It was like our souls were reaching out for each other. The only problem was, I could feel him pulling away. He didn’t like being practically cornered. I didn’t like it either. I wanted to shove all my sisters away and growl at them or something.
“Look, she stiffened.” Camira observed.
“Most likely because she doesn’t like us this close to her mate.” Kallan responded matter-of-factly.
“What?” it was Calder this time, and his voice soothed my anger. It was the draw we had towards each other.
I could feel his distance though and I wanted him closer. It made me angry all over again. My face scrunched up and my body hurt from how rigid I was becoming.
I knew it when they all turned towards Calder...staring at him. I wanted to yell, scream to just let him go. We could wait till morning, when the sun came out. He didn’t have to do this for me, even though I longed for his warm touch. Warm? Is that what I thought? I guess never being this cold in my life; he became a heat source for me. Before I became this cold, I was so hot he was the ice to my fire. Calder cooled me down just by being near him.
“You are her mate, and she can not live without you Calder.” Hearing his name on my sister’s lips made my stomach twist. He was mine and no one was going to touch him. Ever.
Where is all this coming from?
That’s all I could think when a cold nightly breeze swept through the cave. My teeth clinched behind my closed lips so hard my jaw hurt. I hated being cold. Hated it.
Then another sister spoke, desperate. “You have to touch her, Calder. It’s the only way.”
I could feel him drawing closer, and I outwardly sighed. It felt so good. The heat that he put off felt amazing. I wanted to snuggle up in his strong arms and take him in.
Then I felt him pull away again, and the first tear ever rolled down my cheek. “I can’t do it.”
I could hear Camira gasp. “This isn’t good. Its worse than we thought.”
“Calder if you don’t do something, so help me Gods.” It was Kaia this time with her rough voice.
Was that a threat? If that was a threat I wanted to kill my sister for it.
“No. I really want to. But I physically can’t.” Calder sounded so broken. I hated this. I hated the way he felt. He didn’t have to do this and they were making him. I wanted to reassure him, but I had no voice.
Kallan finally spoke up. The authority in the group. “Calder, she’s going to die and so are you if you don’t help her.” I could picture her staring him down with crossed arms.
I was going to die? Is that how bad this was? Am I so numb that I can’t feel for myself? I still didn’t want Calder to do this. It was like being tortured all over again. I did not want him to go through that again.
Once again Calder drew near and I could feel him stronger every step he took. His heat felt so good; I wanted to just reach out, but my arms felt numb, limp. The closer he came the more heat I wanted. The more desperate I became for his touch. I wanted to scream at him to just touch me...anywhere. At this point I didn’t give a damn. Just touch me!
Then I felt his fingers grazing my cheek, and I experienced a sharp breath release. He was at arms length now, and I wanted to encourage him to come closer. On instinct Calder did. His hand was shaky as he laid it against my cheek. Not firmly, more like a caress. But soon I could feel him swallow his fear ñ again the connection we have ñ and he rested a clammy hand against my icy cheek. I didn’t care that his hand was clammy, he had this warm, healing touch, and I could feel my nerve endings spark alive.
“Look! Her color's returning.” I was too intent on Calder’s touch to recognize who declared that.
My eyelids loosened their hold on my eyes, and they began to blink. Seeing a reaction come from me Camira gasped, and Kallan encouraged me on. Kaia joined in, “C’mon, fight it.”
I could hear Calder come closer, getting braver. “Kenna, please. You can do this. For me.” Something very similar to what I’ve said to him.
My surroundings became silent; nobody spoke a word. I didn’t even think they were breathing. Calder has never talked to me like this. I think he was always afraid that I would try something. Why would I? I was always careful around him, keeping my distance.
Then my eyelids decided to loosen their hold completely and they fluttered open. I had to breathe for a moment. Calder was right there. He knelt down on both knees with a worried expression. With my eyes open, I could see the scared look behind the determination. I sighed heavily, my chest rising and falling, and I looked into his eyes.
Calder looked back at me, and it's like he was retreating into himself already. My arms started to tingle and I raised my hand to rest over his, firmly planted on my cheek. I looked him over and saw how sick he looked. His skin was pale and his lips were almost blue. I wanted to touch them. Before I even thought about reaching out in that direction I took his other hand and weakly kissed it. Calder flinched and his breathing became choppy.
“Calder.” I breathed out. His eyes darted everywhere but to mine, and I wanted him to look at me. I wanted to help him calm down. Most of all I wanted him to understand what I wouldn’t ever do to him.
At the sound of my voice he looked at me in surprise, and licked his lips. Oh Gods, why did he have to do that?
I started to breath smoothly, and I raised my eyebrows just the slightest. Calder viewed this indication encouragingly and tried to breath with me. After a couple fails, he began to breathe evenly again, and his facial expression was calmer. He swallowed but not in panic, more like relief.
“I would never do what they did to you. I would never force you.” I said with a serious, broken tone, and although I made Calder flinch at the mention of what happened about a week ago, I had to get that out there. I had to make him understand.