Cracked Open: book 3

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I’m so tired. I’m tired.

I looked down at Kaia through blurry eyes, who was still asleep in bed. I could almost trace the line of worry that creased her forehead. I hated worrying her. But I had nothing to comfort her with when my fate was just over the horizon. My chest ached deeply thinking of what all of this meant. Me. Dying. I knew she was a strong woman who has handled everything with a strength that I adored. But I also knew her strength only lasted so long the last time when her newborn died. She had to shut herself off from everyone she loved. What would happen when I died? Could she handle it?

Kaia shifted in her sleep to get closer and the fatigue of my thoughts and the poison from my tree pulled me back into a dreamless, deep sleep.

“Ciro, can you hear me?” Kaia’s strong voice ripped through the haze of my pain seconds, minutes, maybe hours later.

I tried to inhale and then exhale to release the pain. I moaned instead. I could feel Kaia’s anguish. We both knew it was getting worse. It’s only been a week, and I’ve had to glue myself in bed, or rather the pain had glued me.

I could feel Kaia’s sweet breath along my cheek, and her cool hands were a firm pressure on my bare chest. It felt deliciously good to still have her close by.

“Ciro, baby, I’m not going anywhere.” Maybe she could read my mind now. I smiled at the silly thought. “Ciro,” It was a breathy whimper filled with a pain that matched my own. “Please.”

Cracking my eyelids open took strength I didn’t know I had, and it felt like thick needles punctured my retinas when the gray-black light of the room pierced through. My eyes watered with the strain, but before they could close I saw Kaia’s deep brown eyes...maybe for one last time.

“Blossom.” I heard Kaia whimper again at my use of her pet name. “It’s going to be okay.” My fingers found hers on my chest and I brought them up to my cheeks. Her cool hands were like ice against my blazing cheeks ñ they felt like heaven.

Breathing was something of a challenge at this point. My body couldn’t cool down, and it was like my tree was burning to death. There was no point in time when I couldn’t find Kaia. I always felt her weight next to me in bed, or her touch as she tried to comfort my pain.

Eventually even her touch couldn’t help and she began to have withdrawal. She shivered and on top of my pain I could feel her aches. I tried to encourage her to go find someone, but she strongly refused an idea such as that. Kaia tried to explain that once one found their mate, trying to have sex with another never eased the aching. Plus she wouldn’t leave me.

I was in too much agony to soak in what that meant...Her not leaving.

We lay there, still in bed, listening to the wretched music of our own breathing.

“Ciro, we have to do something. I can’t do this anymore. You can’t do this anymore.”

My voice came out raspy and my spit felt like paste as I tried to create words. “Kaia. There is nothing...we can do. I told you, I wouldn’t be mad if you had to leave me. It would be less painful for both of us.” Emotionally that is. Physically we would stay the same. This illness would forever torment us until it was over.

“No. I’m not leaving you.”

My lips seemed to tear, because they were cracked so badly, as they turned up into a weary smile. “Stubborn mate.”

“Humph...Well if I weren’t so stubborn, I wouldn’t be here. No one leaves their mate in pain.” I could almost picture her arms crossed and her mouth puckered into a pout.

“Some do,” I rasped out, gritting my teeth through the pain. It became very still then. “Some leave their mate.”

Minutes later: “I’m not leaving and that’s final.”

I sighed. “I love you.”

I could feel her relax next to me. “I love you, too.”

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