Cracked Open: book 3

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Fourteen

Kaia

We both lie there that night in my bed. Our breaths intertwined while our bodies did the same. Ciro had a leg wrapped around my hip while I faced his chest and breathed in his heat. I don’t know what I would do without him. His warmth, his wit, and even better, the way he loves me.

“Ciro,” I whispered through the dark. Maybe just to hear myself say his name, maybe to get a response. I wasn’t sure.

My mate’s breath changed like he had dozed off and woken back up, and I liked that Ciro’s so attuned to my whole being. “Hmm?”

I inhaled deeply, taking in his scent and then rubbing my nose up his neck. Ciro’s body shuddered before it relaxed, and I found my body closer to his warm, exposed skin. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to say anything, honestly. I just wanted to hear him speak. “Tell me a story.”

For a long while we lay in bed, silent except for the harsh winds that raced around the mountain, and the smooth brush of our breaths against each other’s warm skin.

Then Ciro’s voice cut roughly through the air and my heart shivered. I could feel his weakness.

“There was a time, when I was younger, when Laurel and I would play around our mother and father’s tree. We would chase each other and create these silly games.”

Ciro’s voice was deep, emotion cracking his voice. My fingers petted his chest and he pulled me closer, if that was even possible. I was already skin-to-skin with him.

“Once, we disobeyed Mother. We decided to go into the village.” I could hear the smile in his voice and for a moment I was happy too.

“Hmm?”

I inhaled deeply, taking in his scent and then rubbing my nose up his neck. Ciro’s body shuddered before it relaxed, and I found my body closer to his warm, exposed skin. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to say anything, honestly. I just wanted to hear him speak. “Tell me a story.”

For a long while we lay in bed, silent except for the harsh winds that raced around the mountain, and the smooth brush of our breaths against each other’s warm skin.

Then Ciro’s voice cut roughly through the air and my heart shivered. I could feel his weakness.

“There was a time, when I was younger, when Laurel and I would play around our mother and father’s tree. We would chase each other and create these silly games.”

Ciro’s voice was deep, emotion cracking his voice. My fingers petted his chest and he pulled me closer, if that was even possible. I was already skin-to-skin with him.

“Once, we disobeyed Mother. We decided to go into the village.” I could hear the smile in his voice again as he spoke, and for a moment I was happy too.

“When we walked in, it was dark and musty. It was a weird set up. She had small glass flasks of perfume and other mixtures all around. She also had the regular things, like cards and animal bones. All of it mixed together smelled used and old ñ like her. Laurel had a firm hold of my wrist, and for once I didn’t mind. I realized this was not a good idea, and that we should have turned around.

“‘Well hello, children, I see you decided to come alone.’ The witch came around the deep purple and red curtain that separated the almost claustrophobic room. ‘Very brave of you I might say.’

“‘Laurel, we should go.’ I was worried again and it was past time to go home.

“‘No, Ciro, I want to see what my future will be. Don’t you?’ I wasn’t interested, but I couldn’t stop my sister. She was practically enthralled by the old woman. It was like the wrinkly witch had put a spell on Laurel and not me. I tried to encourage my sister to leave a few more times, but Laurel was already gone to the excitement of knowing her future.

“She smoothly sat down across from the witch at a coffee table, and I stood guard behind my sister. There was this uncomfortable itching feeling down my neck, and I grasped Laurel’s shoulder. She shrugged it off with nothing but a frustrated sigh.

“The witch’s voice changed. It was no longer sweet. ‘Hands. Good. Now all you have to do is clear your mind. Think of one thing only; otherwise this won’t work. Memories are the easiest to capture and think of.’

“My sister closed her eyes and breathed in. Because I was so nervous, I breathed in with her. I could smell the vanilla of the burning candle. The witch closed her eyes too, and her brow line creased with her concentration. Seconds later, the witch’s grasp tightened and Laurel whimpered.

“I grabbed Laurel's shoulder, ready to pull her away. ‘Hey, hey! What are you doing?’ Neither of them seemed to hear me. I was scared, mostly because I didn’t understand. But that’s when I could see everything. It was like by touching my sister; I could see what the witch was trying to read from my sister.

“There were tree roots intertwined with the earth. And they were spasming and folding inwards, curling, like fingers. Fear filled me, but I wanted to know what this all meant. I couldn’t pull away.

“Then my sister shook, and I knew she was trying to hold back tears. Even from behind I understood her.

“‘That’s enough.’ I ripped her hands from the witch and pulled Laurel behind me. ‘What was that?’ I spat with anger at the witch who dared scare my sister.

“The witch looked over my shoulder at Laurel. ‘I’m so sorry child. There – there’s nothing I can do.’

“I was so angry. All I could do was pull my immobile sister along with me. ‘We’re leaving.’

“The witch had one last thing to say before we crossed the door’s threshold. ‘It’s an incurable disease, children. I see it in both of your futures.’”

Ciro sighed with fatigue. “You see, Kaia, I knew this was coming. I just refused that it was true. I know there is no cure, but I can’t leave you.”

I nodded and my lashes were damp. I kissed Ciro above his heart and we sighed with the tight emotions swirling between us. “Okay,” I said. There was nothing we could do right now. I tried to move in closer to his heat, but there was nowhere else to go. We were skin-to-skin, heartbeat-to-heartbeat. It was like we needed something more that we couldn’t find. We weren’t comfortable in our own skin unless we felt like we were in the others. We could not get close enough and it irritated us both.

“It’ll be okay, Blossom.” He was falling asleep again, and he was in pain. Shouldn’t those be my words?

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