Fire and Ice: book 1

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All night Calder was restless in his sleep. Do you know how hard it was to sleep with that? Impossible. It sounded like he was dreaming, too. It didn't sound so good either. He mumbled things in his sleep that I couldn’t decipher. Sometimes he would even cry out in pain, from the dream or his healing, I didn’t know.

For the first time in my life I felt something for a man in pain. A man that probably had a dark past and was sent to hell for what he lived through, and how he responded to his life’s stresses. I'm curious as to what that past was, and I intend to find out. Maybe if he shares, he'll heal and we can move on with our lives.

Opening my eyes to the gray light that seeped into the cave mouth and then fragmented to all the other rooms, I made up my mind. I was going to help Calder heal. I don't care the price... Knowing that he may crack open my heart as well. Could he? For years I've closed my heart and emotions off except for my sisters. Honestly I never met the right man... creature, that enticed me as much as Calder; with his mysterious past and gravelly voice and dark eyes. A warm shiver ran down my back remembering what he looked like with out even a glance.

My senses started to become clear, and I could feel his warmth creeping over my skin. Leaning over to look at him I realized we had shifted closer during the night. I jumped out of the bed immediately, more for his fear than mine. He could have woken up and felt me lying there next to him. What would his reaction have been? What will he do when he woke up? Will Calder remember where he was?

Looking him over in the grayish light, I saw the shadows that his brow made and the frown playing across his lips. Was he in pain even in sleep? Although his body was relaxed ñ more than I've ever seen from him ñ his mind might be at war with itself. Looking some more I realized he was still uncovered.... He needed clothes. I'll ask Camira to get him some clothes when she goes to the Paxton today.

Paxton is a small village that’s a day’s trip, for a nymph. It’s my sister’s favorite place to wander. Camira loved to watch the lowly humans gamble with each other for goods being sold on the side of the streets.

The village was simply beautiful in and of itself. The roads were cobble-stoned, and the deeper in you walked the richer in color and money it became. From homes built of earth with hay as the roof, to white stoned walls for your upper-classmen. Yes, there was a wall that separated the poor with the rich...or in other words the humans separate from the creatures ñ the creatures being the wealthy bunch.

I stood there awhile longer, at the end of the bed ñ forgetting about Paxton instantly ñ imagining what his muscled body would look like covered. Would the cloth stretch? In what color would he look sexy? Would clothes maximize his manliness?

Distantly feeling the warmth of the sun – the heat being drawn to me – on my back though; the chilly cave, I turned out of the room before I got any crazy ideas.

Walking on the cave floor, a dark, damp muddy color, I came to the edge of the cave opening. There was a spring chill to the air, but I could feel the heat of the day coming instantly. I sighed, watching the fiery ball in the sky peak over the trees. In minutes the sky was a blend of pinks and purples. The colors of soon-to-come heat; heat that would warm my soul and give me strength.

I sat down with one leg hanging over the edge, and one leg bent so that a knee pointed towards the changing sky. I had plenty to think about this morning, but my mind kept coming back to Calder. Was he truly my mate? I really don’t know, and I’m too stubborn and afraid to find out. No creature besides a demon could have slept that close to me last night...or any night. When I fall asleep who knows how hot I get in an instant. It tends to be frustratingly hard to regulate my body temperature while I’m asleep.

Pushing him away for the millionth time, I tried to think about the village, and how they've become suspicious of us four women that live with ‘Mother Nature’. We’re going to have to be careful soon. The inner city of creatures are starting to sniff out what the humans are suspicious of, and that’s dangerous. I’m afraid one of us will be taken in. Maybe even held in Nedra.

Nedra is an underground prison for only those who are suspected of revealing our immortality...of any race. For instance, last year a vampire became so deprived of food that he about killed someone right in the middle of the street. The Horned Soldiers grabbed him and drug him away before he was able to even sink one incisor in the poor man’s neck.

The sun was now high enough in the sky that it was a light blue with tints of violet streaks. I stood up feeling a warm breeze kiss my cheeks; Camira was close. I stood up, wanting to start the day, and locked my knees while arching my back, so I could relieve my inner thighs of the stiffness that knotted up while sitting. Taking a step in the direction that led down the mountain from the cave opening I hesitated. Should I leave Calder here alone? I thought about all the pros and cons and decided he could take care of himself for about an hour or two. Calder would probably be knocked out anyways.

I took the steps down the hill and felt a pinch in my stomach. Was I hungry? What in the hell was that? The further I walked the more intense it became. At one point I noticed the rocks getting smaller and the foliage getting bigger; I was nearing the forest.

Walking almost hunched over, I stopped at a tree and let it support my weight. Breathing heavy I gasped, “What is happening to me?”

Squinting my eyes and trying to stand, I saw the greens and browns of the forest come in and out of focus. Not now. Not here in the middle of the forest, which could catch on fire in an instant. I heard a distant ringing in my ears and I became light headed. Before I slumped against the tree and fell to the ground, I felt a warm breeze try to speak with me. I hope that was Camira.

“Kenna,” my name seemed to be carried on the wind. It almost sounded like a voice from a dream. Magical.

Then I could feel a warm touch rest on my cheek. I immediately recognized it as a hand. The fingers stretched gently under my left jaw, the palm cool to the touch, cooler than my burning skin. Oh no. Have I burned the forest...or part of it?

“Kenna, wake up.” The voice politely demanded again, no more than a hushed whisper. It was a voice I recognized. A voice so quiet you could only hear on the wind at times.

“Camira,” I stated with tightly closed eyes. It was too bright and as I started to wake I could see the light behind my eyelids. Going into unconsciousness is like walking into the belly of a cave that has never seen the light of day. Coming out of it was like looking straight into the sun for a few seconds, and then seeing red and yellow splotches blink in your vision.

“I tried to get here as fast as I could. I could feel you coming down the mountain as the wind blew. You wanted me?” Camira spoke to me as my eyes adjusted so I could eventually open them again.

“Yes I -”

“What happened anyway?” Camira interrupted.

I sighed, cracking my eyes open and quickly shutting them. “I left Calder.” I couldn’t really come up with much of an explanation.

Camira did not respond and I wasn’t looking at her expressive face. When her voice doesn’t work her facial expressions do. It was one of her quiet, shy characteristics.

“How long was I out?” I asked, opening my eyes more slowly this time, I could see that I was facing the sky, lying on the ground.

“Not long. I tried speaking with you, but you were too far gone by the time I did.” The more Camira spoke the softer her voice became.

“Did I -”

“No,” Camira quickly replied.

I nodded thankful, and turned my head to the side, getting a light dusting of topsoil on my cheek. The coolness of the dirt helped chill my hot cheeks. Most likely they were colored a rosy red. Taking in the fresh, earthly smell of rich soil, a reminder of Kaia, I faced Camira again. She displayed a worried and guarded look across her face.

I sighed again. “Can you help me?”

Camira grabbed my hand as I sat up. My head spun from the quick change, and I could feel gravity pulling my back down. I shut my eyes and shook my head to get rid of the hammering headache. It worked, but the pinch in my gut sat heavy, like a rock.

I moaned in frustration.

Camira was standing over me like a worried mother. “What? What’s wrong?” She shifted her weight not sure what to do.

“My damn stomach won’t stop hurting ever since I left Calder.” I snarled through my gritted teeth.

“Maybe you need to go back.” Camira looked at me with a troubled gaze.

“No, I’ll be fine. I wanted...” I took in a sharp breath, and bent over. My nose almost touched the dirt, my knees buckling again. “I wanted to go with you to Paxton...Calder needs some clothes.”

“Oh.” She replied, in understanding.

“Yeah...were you going in today?” in each question or statement I had to take a shallow breath to ease the pain in my stomach. It was like someone was stabbing a dagger through your organs, and pulling it out fast enough to do it again. And I know that feeling.

“Yes, but you can’t come with me if that’s what you were thinking. With the state you’re in? I don’t think so.”

Well then. That was the most commanding I’ve ever heard come out of my sister, ever. I guess when something’s serious enough Camira speaks her mind.

“But -”

“No, Kenna.” Camira cut me off, bending at her waist to help me up. What happened to my sister, because this wasn’t her. Camira was the shy, quiet one, all of us knew that.

I could hear Camira take in a breath and then saw her shift her weight; she’s decided something. “C’mon, I’m gonna help you go back and then I’ll go into Paxton to get your man some clothes.”

I was still slumped, stomach parallel with the ground, when I heard what Camira had said. I snapped my head up and lifted my upper body up enough, so to glare at my sister. “Calder is not ‘my man’.” I responded sharply.

Camira’s eyes widened, probably seeing the fire in my eyes, and her weight fell into her heals like I had given her a playful shove. But it wasn’t a playful shove; it was a heated, death glare that could kill if I was willing to act.

“What? What’s wrong?”

“You know damn well what’s wrong.” I responded, repositioning myself so I could see Camira’s face easier. “You know I hate someone calling the creature I’m attracted to a disgusting nickname like that.” I practically spit with hate.

All of a sudden it looked like Camira shrank into her old self again. “Sorry.”

“Yeah, okay.” My tone suggested that we drop it. I was in too much pain to be angry for long. Maybe Camira was lucky because of it.

I heaved myself up, wanting no help from my sister, and leaned against the tree. Holy crap. Getting up made my stomach muscles stretch and it hurt...freaking bad. I stood there for a few minutes trying to get my bearings back before we made the trek up the mountain. My head wasn’t swimming anymore so I lifted my chin to focus on Camira. It took a few seconds to only see one head.

When Camira was still blurry around the edges, I decided we needed to head back. I really wanted to go into town...spend some time with Camira and understand what she saw in the humans. But I guess that isn’t going to happen until I figured out this sudden pain.

“Okay,” Camira answered, relieved I think. She shifted her weight, ready if I needed a hand.

I took a step away from the tree and unglued myself from it. With nothing to hold onto, my world started to spin and I stepped unsteadily towards the mountain. It was like spinning in circles really fast nonstop, and then gravity takes you in one direction so forcefully that you trip over yourself.

And that’s what I did. Almost.

Camira was there in an instant and I grabbed onto her like she was the last glass of water, and my lips were parched and I had a sand-paper-dry throat. I grabbed on and looked into my sister’s eyes. Eyes that were always an unnaturally smoky grey.

“Come on, I’ll help you get back to Kaia’s cavern.” Camira responded to my looking at her.

I stood there feeling my unsteadiness knowing I had no room to argue about being helped. We both knew I was a strong and capable underworld nymph, just like all my other sisters with their element of strength, but sometimes we needed each other. I nodded my head, determination sinking in, and getting ready for a tough journey up the mountain.

Walking up the steady incline we settled into a smooth rhythm; Camira’s arm wrapping itself around my back. When it became two steep for both of us, Camira took a deep breath and called upon the wind with an exhale of her breath, and I could feel the gentle shove of her power through the wind.

As we neared the cave, closer and closer we came, I started to feel stronger. My stomach no longer pinched and I only had a slight pounding in my temple.

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