Cracked Open: book 3

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“We need to get out of bed.” I sighed under Ciro’s firm arm that was holding me to him. I made no move to untangle myself from him.

“But I like you like this,” his voice rumbled from behind, and he kissed my neck and grabbed me like he owned me. He did own me- I couldn’t really argue with that.

I moved his hand from my chest, sat up, and paused. I really didn’t want to get up. After the past few days, I realized this bonded thing really worked for me. Before I could touch the cold rock floor with my warm toes ñ thanks to Ciro ñ his hand grabbed my hips, and pulled be backwards.

Ciro complained, “Please, come back?”

“I can’t. We have to go see Kallan.” That awarded me a bite to the right hip.

I squeaked from the gentle but firm nip. It was close to arousing. I swatted his fingers away.

“Stop acting like a dog. We have to officially introduce you to the family.” Nerves laced my vocal cords.

He chuckled deeply. “Or I could give you another -”

“No, later.” Hearing the tone in my voice he immediately dropped it and let my hips go.

Halfway to the bathroom I turned. Seeing him lay there, watching my backside, I smirked. “Are you just going to lay there or join me for a shower?”

Ciro was up in seconds.

* * *

I knew Ciro felt my nerves, because he tried to take them away. The distraction had no effect on me, and I felt like a bat’s leathery wings were hitting my stomach walls. I’m pretty sure they wanted me to throw up.

After being soaped up by my mate’s tranquil and firm hands, a comfortable quietness settled between us. I felt clean. But the nerves were at an all-new high, and Ciro stood at a distance and watched me try to braid my hair. After multiple tries, I gave up and let go of my brunette hair roughly. Seconds later I felt Ciro untangle my hair and re-braid it slowly. I breathed in slowly, like I couldn’t take how close his presence was, and felt a warm blush wash over my cheeks.

I looked at my reflection and saw Ciro watching me intently while he finished my thick braid. His eyes were glowing green in the dim lighting and I felt like I was getting hot flashes. My cheeks were so warm. I tried to hide my cheeks with my hands, but Ciro’s eyes flashed with...something, and I moved my hands away slowly.

He smiled knowingly down between my shoulders, where my braid hung, and looked back at my cooling cheeks. “You look beautiful...Blossom.”

I resolutely nodded once and somehow the way he said it so firmly helped. He was telling me much more. Maybe even more than I understood.

We walked through the trees, and it was hard not to resist Ciro’s presence. I could feel his arousal as we instinctually linked hands. We could no longer not touch each other. I’m not sure about him, but my hand always itched to touch his skin now, even if it was just the intertwining of fingers.

It wasn’t hard to realize that he was very determined to make sure I was okay. I wasn’t sure, but with the pressure of his hold I knew it would be fine.

As we trudged through the forest I noticed that everything was melting, damp or thawing out. Spring was right around the corner. The ground beneath my toes gave under my weight and sometimes made sounds of protest. In the distance I would hear tiny icicles release their cold grip on tree branches, and I tried to hold back a smile.

Suddenly I was shoved into a tree trunk and staring up into Ciro’s eyes. He was smiling too, and about to kiss me. Before I could protest he stole a quick one.

“What was that for?” I was confused, but still smiling.

“Because,” he stole another kiss, “your smiles taste really good.”

I laughed outright. “My smiles taste good?”

“Mh-hmm.” Ciro’s eyes sparked with green energy, and he came in slower this time.

My lips connected with his readily, and I held on as we kissed deeply. Soon we were out of breath, but continued to rub against the tree like animals. His hands found their way to my breasts, and his lips made a warm trail to the pulse in my neck.

Suddenly I froze. I heard the tree moan and then its bark screeched as wind lashed through its branches. Ciro continued to kiss me as his hands roamed down my back. He panted, “What’s wrong?”

“Ciro, baby, I don’t think the tree likes this.”

Just then he used his tongue, and I tried to suppress a moan. “Ciro, I’m uncomfortable.”

He pulled away, and looked down, worried. “I don’t understand.”

I almost huffed, maybe because I was out of breath. “I can feel the tree’s emotions and -”

“Oh, crud. I’m sorry.” As Ciro apologized and I scooted away from the tree, he started to laugh.

I looked at him, bewildered. “What?”

My mate waved me off, and tried to walk on. “It’s nothing.”

“No, tell me.”

He gazed at me, finally calming down, and watched as my heated cheeks cooled. He spoke slowly, almost with hesitancy. “I’ve never had a girl say stop because of a tree.”

Something flared inside my chest, and my eyes watered with anger. I gritted out, “What other girl?”

Ciro realized his mistake quickly. “No, no. That’s not what I meant.” His hands tried to reach for my hips to pull me closer. I dodged them. “Kaia, there’s been no other girl for the last...four months.”

I looked at him sternly as I tried to make sense of it all. I knew he wasn’t lying because I could feel it, and I was there those four months of winter. It was stupid of me to feel this way, but my chest still burned.

“Then why were you laughing?” I hated feeling insecure. Absolutely hated it. It made me realize just how strong of a hold he had on my heart. How breakable I was.

“Kaia, come here,” Ciro demanded softly. He pulled me closer and we both sighed. But I was still mad. I stood stiffly against his chest. He smiled slightly, and my frown deepened.

“You’re jealous.” Ciro halted my reaction. “You are. I’m sorry, it just amused me.”

I looked down at his chest. “You’re mine.” I stated quietly, and then looked up. “Nobody can have you, because you’re mine, Ciro.”

He smiled down at me. “Good. I’m all yours.”

I gave a firm nod.

“But, you know, if you want to leave now, you should while I’ll let you.” Ciro tried to tease as we started walking towards Kallan’s.

For some reason Ciro’s statement tore at my heart, and I almost couldn’t take it.

“What?” Tears welled up and I looked at him. Then I got mad. I don’t think it was directed at him, but maybe the fear of him leaving. “Ciro, I’m never leaving you. Never.”

Nodding, finally understanding how serious this was to me, he finished, “Okay, good. I’m not leaving either.”

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