“Ciro!” I had not known it, but Camira was with Kaia while she visited Kallan once again.
I hadn’t been there because my mate left early that morning. I had woken next to a warm spot on the bed and panicked before I realized where she was.
“Thank all the Gods! Get in here! Ciro, the house is shaking. Can’t you feel that it’s about to come down?” Her voice was almost shrill. “She won’t move from Kallan’s side. I’ve tried!”
I rushed through the house without a single glance towards Camira. I could feel the overwhelming emotion radiating through the house and the ground beneath all of us. I stumbled further into the house as fast as I could. A few times I was knocked off balance from the after shocks of the mini earthquake.
“Kaia!” I panted, pulling myself into Kallan’s room with the help of the doorframe. “Kaia...Blossom, you have to calm down...please.”
Her hands had a vise grip around Kallan’s hand – her knuckles white. Kaia’s eyes looked down on her still sister. They were glassy and brimming with tears. Her mouth was turned down into a deep frown.
Unlike my pounding, frantic heart – matching hers – my body was calm as it gently knelt down next to my frozen mate. I reached out and wrapped my warm hands around both of theirs and whispered slowly, “Kaia, Kaia.”
While she faced her sister and continued to stare down, I knew touch was the only way to get to her. I leaned in, and my forehead rested on my blossom’s temple. I could hear her breath change from the touch, and the earth started to settle.
“Blossom, can you let go for me?” My breath made her neck flush with goose bumps as my fingers softly stroked hers.
His warm breath got my attention. I inhaled and leaned into the pressure of his forehead. The way he breathed softly down my neck helped my heart calm. My fingers were beginning to loosen.
“That’s it, there we go. Blossom, look at me.” His voice was sturdy, quiet. “Please, Blossom. It’s okay, you can look at me now.”
The earth began to steady, matching my heart, and I could feel the back of Ciro’s fingers caress down my jaw and grasp my chin ñ encouragement within his hold.
With his help I turned my neck, and gazed up into my mate’s eyes. My hands tried to find their way back to Kallan’s, but Ciro halted them.
“No. Just...you can hold mine. I’m here.”
“C-Ciro...something was wrong.” My lips trembled while he tried to keep my attention on him ñ once again placing my fingers on his heart.
“She...she was crying.” My voice hitched and I tried to breath through it.
“It’s okay. She’s okay now.” Ciro spoke like he was reassuring someone who was too scared to look. His eyes studied my silent sister’s damp cheeks before turning to me once again.
Then I remembered the earth soaking up my emotion and trembling with it. I gasped, “I’m so sorry. I-I’m sorry.”
Ciro traced my cheekbones with both of his thumbs and stared into my crumbling face. “It was bound to happen.” He spoke with an underlying truth and support that comforted me.
“But I didn’t mean to.” My hands wrapped around both wrists and felt his heartbeat there.
He nodded, “I know, blossom.”
Kissing my cheeks, one after the other, he wrapped me up in his arms and walked out of my sister’s house ñ Camira had left, finding a safer place. I kept my ear close to his heart; it calmed me, and I fell asleep minutes later. The earthquake had taken everything out of me, and I slept peacefully in his arms knowing Ciro was there to protect my vulnerable sleeping body.
I woke up later, whenever ‘later’ was, and could smell Ciro as he lay next to me. Through blurry eyes, I watched his bare chest rise and fall. His skin brushed warmly against mine, and it was one of the things I could never live without ever again.
My eyes closed again, feeling Ciro’s fingers twitch on my hip like his instincts had kicked in and – even in sleep – he tried to sooth my disturbed emotions.
When I woke again, it was to the rhythmic stroke of fingers through my brunette hair. Even before I was fully awake I could hear his voice pulling me out.
“There she is. My beautiful Blossom.”
I could feel his lips graze my forehead as my eyelashes untangled themselves and my pupils adjusted to the ashen light.
The groggy feeling of sleep still clung to the edge of my mind, and I moaned into
Ciro’s chest. The vibration of his chest was the result of his rolling chuckle.
“My blossom needed more beauty sleep then I expected.”
I sighed in response and enjoyed his natural sappy sent. It’s part of him being a tree spirit. The sappy smell was ingrained in his DNA. Just like when Kenna smelled like rich wood-smoke, or Camira smelled like the wind (sometimes snow, or flowers, or the warmth of the sun), or Kallan smelling like pure stream water. It’s all in our DNA and was what attracted our mates.
I mumbled brokenly into Ciro’s chest, “My bones are so sore.”
He hummed deeply in response. My breath on his chest felt good ñ I could feel his arousal.
I nuzzled his chest and moved my legs, trying to get rid of the pain, before I spoke again.
“The earthquake really took it out of me. My muscles feel tight and my bones feel like I have growing pains.”
“I’m sorry.” Ciro’s free hand, the one not wrapped underneath my body, moved to one of my legs to stroke it with firm fingers.
I moaned. “That feels so good.”
The rubbing pressure he gave my legs was like heaven. My arms shook with the same weakness.
All of the sudden, Ciro sat up and repositioned himself somewhere else. My eyes were still closed, trying to shut out the pain, and I made sounds of protest. Then his hands turned me, onto my back, and I lifted my eyelids to catch his green eyes fill with the pain that reflected mine like mirrors.
My eyes watered from the pain of him shifting my body in a bed that no longer felt comfortable.
“Shhh. I know. I’m going to fix it.” Ciro caressed my cheek as he moved down to my legs again, where the worst of the pain was.
“It feels like hell, blossom,” he finished with a groan, kneeling at the end of the bed.
Moments later his fingers felt like dull knives as they pushed and pulled downward into my tight muscles. I tried to suppress the moan behind my lips.
His strong fingers rubbed down my legs, and I felt the need to squirm out of his hold.
“No, Kaia. If we want the pain to leave I’ve gotta massage them.”
I nodded, and held my breath when he stroked my legs firmly again. I sighed, trying to ignore the pain. Then I heard his voice at the end of the bed.
“So what do you think about Kenna having her baby? Are you excited?”
I recognized the tactic. I shrugged through another pull of my muscles in my legs.
“I don’t know. I’ve missed having a child around. It was something I enjoyed. Taking care of my daughter. I guess I’m excited,” I winced when he pushed on a sore spot and then continued, “about being an aunt.”
I looked up and saw his smile, while he concentrated on my tight legs with his eyes closed.
I breathed, feeling my legs loosen up, and welcomed the message before asking, “Where did you learn how to do this? I don’t see you as a therapist.”
He smirked again and opened his eyes. They sparked with hidden secrets. “I’m just filled with hidden talents, that’s all.”
I rolled my eyes and his eyes crinkled at my reaction.
“No, really,” I winced again when he found another tight spot.
This time his fingers pushed down and it felt like a sharp knife was trying to cut through my skin. He mumbled his apologies, and I tried to breath evenly before continuing.
“How did I never know this about you?”
I sighed after the tight knot released.
“Well, I never had a reason to use it. Plus my mother, she was also a tree spirit, helped heal those around us. She dabbled in everything, but she loved to rub peoples muscles – like a therapist – and feel them release. She was often called the magic lady, because people were so satisfied after their sessions.” He laughed under his breath at the memory.
“I wish I could have met your family.”
There was a long pause as he found the last few knots in my muscles. His eyes had drifted closed again.
“Yeah, me too. They would have loved you.”
I sighed both from the relieved pain and from my disbelief of that statement.
Ciro’s eyes opened again to look at my relaxed features. “I’m serious, blossom. They would have liked how much you cared about others.” He moved up the bed and asked, “Feel better?”
I nodded. I said hesitantly, “My arms feel the same way.”
He nodded as well. “I know,” he said softly. “That earthquake really did a number on you.”
“Yeah, they don’t happen often. Sorry about the pain.”
When earthquakes happen and the earth begins to settle and repair itself, so does my body. It’s like my bones were the tectonic plates shifting too.
He shook his head. “It’s okay. I can only imagine what youíre feeling compared to me.”
After an hour of rubbing my body, and feeling embarrassed that he had to do so, Ciro finally spoke.
“Kaia, there is no shame in having someone else help your muscles relax and release. It’s okay, and I’m glad I could help.” He leaned down and sweetly kissed my lips.
“My mother forced me to learn when I had the strength, and now I’m glad I did. She must have known I’d have you as a mate.”
I nodded, muscles feeling deliciously numb, and accepted his understanding. The bed no longer felt like a slab of rock underneath me, and I was able to fall asleep and let the rest of my body heal. Ciro kept my skin warm like heated rocks that burn through to my muscles. And I dosed off to dreams of meeting Ciro’s family.