Cracked Open: book 3

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Twenty

Ciro

I was in this in-between stage, where everything was numb and I was just there. I barely existed. I could still feel when Kaia shifted, but it was like I was at a distance and it took a few moments for my skin to read that someone was touching me. Voices were only sounds, and vision was too hard. I just existed.

Kaia talked to me a lot ñ like now. Her voice, her tone, was a comfort, and it calmed me. Even though I accepted my fate, it helped to leave this world knowing I had someone there with me. There was a heavy weight above my heart, and my brain told me it was her head – sometimes I catch her scent. Occasionally, softer skin would touch my chest or cheek, and I knew those well enough to be her lips. One arm was always draped over my stomach and her fingertips caressed my skin with soothing strokes.

Her fingertips were cold, little pressure points which kept me awake enough to still feel and find meaning in a world that was taking me away from my true love.

On and off I went through phases of remembering. The memories werenít painful, but it hurt to know these were the last memories I would make with my blossom; they played from most recent to the very first time I set my eyes on her.

“Blossom.”

Her eyes snapped up to mine and I saw what she wanted to ask. As Kaia pressed her fingertips against my tree, trying to glue herself there, she spoke soft but hard. “Why do you call me Blossom?”

It was an easy answer, but I still found myself looking through the branches above us. “I’ve called you Blossom ever since we first met. Ever since you blushed for the first time, and your cheeks turned a pretty pink.” I sucked in the crisp air. “Also, you’re cold, and closed off.” This time I looked her in the eyes – as strongly as she looked into mine. “I intend to open you up. Or get you to invite me in.”

“What if it never happens? What if something gets in the way? What will you do then, Ciro?”

"I don’t know why, but you’re willing to throw away this thing we have between us. I want you to see that I’m the best tree spirit for you and you are the best nymph for me.”

Kaia was looking up into the distance, no longer listening but feeling something else. She was closing the door on this conversation. I wasn’t done, though. I wanted her to understand.

“Kaia, look at me.” I reached for her chin and moved in closer. My skin glowed green from my veins, and Kaia shivered from my warmth. “I want you to understand what our relationship means.”


“I shouldn’t have wasted my time here with you tonight.”

“What does that mean?” I snapped quickly.

“It means just that Ciro. I’ve wasted my time when I only have time for my sister right now.” Kaia paused. Looking at me, she finished, “I’m sorry, I have to go.”

I wonder if that last apology was because she could see what she was doing to my heart. Did she feel anything? Or did she just say ‘I'm sorry’ because those were adequate words to apologize with?


I grabbed her hands firmly, but with gentleness, and rubbed my thumbs along the back of both hands. She breathed out, slowly relaxing just from my touch.


I watched as she sat two chairs away.

I heard the buzz of her voice below the hum of the music. There was also the beat in my chest, both from the music and my heart. Yeah, it wasn’t hard for my stomach to roll over or my heart to thump harder when I caught sight of her. It’s happened every night she’s come. I was here waiting for her – always.

“Hello, Blossom.”

She stiffened, trying not to flinch.

I smirked, knowing her all too well by now.

“What brings you back?”

As she turned her head slowly, her eyes pierced mine. I easily heard her above the music, as I watched her lips.

“None of your business.”

“Oh, but isn’t it?”

Her eyes widened and her nostrils flared. She locked eyes with mine. “Why are you here?”

“Because I’m allowed to be here.”

She hmphed.

I smirked, scooting into the next two chairs.

She leaned inches away. I studied her for a long time as she took a sip of her strong drink. She looked at me out of the corner of her eye.

She wanted to inch closer; I saw it in the way she breathed deeply and the way her shoulders straightened.


I wanted to uncover the mask that she wore, and pull away the layers of ice she held around her soul. I wanted access to her true beauty.


I was about to walk out of the nightclub, when a woman with a dark mane of hair walked in. As I stopped in my tracks, and she passed me, deeper into the club, I studied the way she carried herself.

As she turned with the music, I caught the sight of her face, her skin a smooth softness that I've never seen before. She had this hard, sharp look to her though. Like the spark of happiness had been absent for far too long.


Most times it was just the memory of her face and her touch that flew through my mind. The memories of Kaia’s smile, her laugh, her signature eye roll, and most often the look she gave me before I stole a kiss. Her eyes would sparkle with mischief and love. I fell for her every time we kissed, every time she shared her thoughts, every time she was there in my embrace. That feeling when I was connected with her. I could feel her...like the beat of my heart and the breath rushing through my lungs – always to breathe her in.

It was hard to let all of...her go, but it was going to happen sooner rather than later. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready.

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