Cracked Open: book 3

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I remember stumbling away.

I remember promising to come back.

He promised to be there.

I remember leaving with nothing to cover me in the slightest, and purposely looking away from the hot stares I got as I left. I had felt no embarrassment when they did stare. I was proud of my body. When I walked further away, my body filling with heated energy.

I shook my head, sitting up in my own bed for once. Remembering all of this as I stared at the cave ceiling. I couldn’t believe I went back to him, of all people. I could have grabbed another creature. I could have persuaded them if it truly came down to it. A different partner.

I couldn’t persuade him.

Like a bullet, my spine stiffened, and I sat there like an unyielding tree trunk on my mattress. I couldn’t persuade him! Oh gods!

Throwing off my thin sheet, I quickly put nothing but a mini skirt and a bra on as I skidded down my mountain. Kenna and Calder wouldn't be disturbed because they had moved somewhere warmer for the winter. She was lucky. I momentarily scowled at the thought of her luck.

It snowed a thin layer last night. I noticed my feet were sliding. I ignored it, and my bare feet felt frozen half way down. I should have put sandals on or some sort of covering over the soles of my feet.

No, I needed to get to one of my sisters, most likely Kallan...she doesn’t have a mate yet, and I wouldn’t have a chance of disturbing her. Running through the trees, I asked them to quietly help me get to Kallan. I needed her wisdom. I needed her comfort that this man I knew nothing of, was not my mate.

Ten horrid minutes, and the sun hadn’t even reached the horizon. There wasn’t even a glow to the sky. I was almost there, and I was thanking the trees as they pointed in the right direction.

Then I froze. Something was wrong, incorrect. I knew I wasn’t going in the right direction, and I felt a shiver run up my spine. Nothing was right. I began to panic and curse inwardly.

I spun and began to run, completely ignoring the trees now. I glared as I moved forward. Paying no attention to what I was doing or where I was going, I heard the crack of a dried branch. It was an animal to the left.

I kept going.

Next I turned around a thick trunk and jolted into a solid, warm chest. No, this was not happening. It wasn’t him. I didn’t want it to be him. I needed Kallan, not the man I’ve been running to for sex for the past week and a half.

Grasping the cloth of a T-shirt and seeing the script like a boss I wanted to groan and push away. Instead my breath became cold, like the air around me, and I slowly looked up into green eyes and a surprised, knowing smile. He was holding my upper arms and my skin tingled where he touched me. His hands were warm.

Yeah, I stopped breathing. “Hello, Blossom,” a dimple popped out and my heart wanted to melt into him while my mind wanted to pull away and run. “What brings you here?” He gave me a once over, and I became all too aware of my bra and short skirt. But I wear this kind of attire all the time. I shook my head trying to dislodge whatever was blocking me from talking. “I-I. My sister. The trees. They were lying.” I seemed to be unable to make a complete sentence, and I wanted to smack my forehead. Maybe bang it against a tree a few times.

His eyes lit up. “The trees speak with you?”

I shook my head again slightly, unsure how to answer that. Why was I so stuck? I just couldn’t speak.

He smiled again, knowing this as he watched me. I wanted to run. Or hide.

“Would you like to walk?” He swept his arm out.

I nodded immediately, needing the air.

For a long while we walked, and I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I knew he was following me instead of the other way around. I could feel him. My skin tingled, and the trees silenced like their job was accomplished. I glared at the forest floor. I couldn’t believe I had paid no attention to where they had guided me. I sighed inwardly, trying not to give anything away.

My mind wandered as I listened to the tree branches brush against each other, and I almost forgot that he was there until he spoke. “So, Blossom, do you have a name? Or do you want me to keep calling you Blossom?”

There was a long pause, and I wasn’t sure what to say. Usually when I used someone for sex there was no need to give out my name. But studying the way he walked, with complete confidence, and the way his eyes lit up at seeing me, and the way he spoke to me while we were in bed ñ dark and demanding ñ I wondered if we could truly become more. Was this what he was hinting at by asking what my name was? Did I want to get to know him?

Before I could really think about it, and convince myself to retreat, his sparkling green eyes snatched mine. “Kaia.” And of course it just slid across my tongue with ease.

“Kaia,” as he tested my name on his tongue, he looked at me with new eyes. I think he liked it, the way his eyes traced along every line of my face. He studied the curve of my lips the longest, but he liked my neck too.

I could feel a blush coming on as my stomach burned with fiery butterflies, and I had to look away before I couldn’t. I have no idea what this man was doing to me. I haven’t reacted like this since...well, in a long time. He made me feel wanted, desired, and I liked it.

Turning back to look at his face, I realized that the whole time I was studying everything but him, he had been studying me. He was interested, amused, intrigued. I inwardly sighed, not wanting to show that I was beginning to crack again. Almost like the feeling I had when my heart wanted to melt.

Realizing I had decided on something, I opened my mouth to speak. What came out wasn’t what I expected; yet it was a simple question, it almost made me pull back.

“What’s yours?” he looked at me for a moment, and the uncomfortable silence pushed me to speak again. “Your name.”

He simply said, “Ciro,” and watched as I silently mulled over the sound of his name, his eyes smiling.

I decided it was quite fitting.

I nodded my head; comfortable with the knowledge he freely gave.

After a while of walking, we came upon the shadow of a mountain. I paid no attention, because I had no more room to think about anything else but him...Ciro. I was twitching and numb with both the need to run -- distance myself from him -- and to pull him close. But Ciro stood there with so much ease I could have licked it off of him. Yeah, that would have been yummy.

I shook my head sharply, trying to dislodge those unneeded, dangerous thoughts. I couldn’t believe I was thinking that way. But as I eyed him, while he was looking at our surroundings, my thought turned south. I was thinking about pushing him to the ground so I could do all the dirty things I wanted to do.

But sadly his deep voice pulled me out of my thoughts and I looked around after he asked, “So, where have you brought me?”

Then the sight of my mountain was brought into view, and I cursed under my breath. I should have known. But, no, it was always this way. I always just naturally gravitated back to the mountain. And at the moment the shadow of the landform was pulling at me like a needy child.

“Hmm, Kaia? Where are we?”

Oh crap, he was still waiting for an answer. My hands momentarily turned into fists. “Don’t you have a tree to get back to?” Oh no, it just came out! I realized what I had said and I turned to him, waiting for his reaction. I had no idea what it would be.

He was frowning, and then his expression changed, and he studied me for long, drawn out moments. As Ciro stepped forward, towards me, I took a step back, and that’s when the chase began. It only took so many steps until he caught me. But my eyes stayed locked with his, and I watched Ciro’s face turn dark. And in one of those rare, dark corners of my mind, I remembered promising never to love someone so dark and lovely ever again.

I bumped into a tree and realized I had been caught. It wasn’t much of a fight. I looked behind me as if I had a way to escape, but my back was firmly pressed against the tree. I turned back to Ciro’s sharp gaze, and noticed that it wasn’t threatening, his green eyes were just darker and I could swear I caught sight of some amusement. It was gone though, and I thought I must have hoped for it.

Then he spoke and his voice was husky, dark. “Why is this mountain off limits, Kaia?” He was leaning over me, barely touching, and the way he used my name made the way he inquired even darker. I could tell Ciro liked the sound of my name. The blood that hummed through my veins was set on fire ñ Ciro was inches away.

I started to pant before I could even respond. I opened my mouth to speak and Ciro rested his hand above my head. My lips dried and I made the mistake of licking them. Ciro followed the movement.

As his lips inched forward, about to take my mouth in a searing kiss, I knew, I answered his question. Maybe it was so I could dodge his kiss. “We hardly know each other,” I had just enough breath to answer.

Ciro was taking my breath out of me like a vacuum. I couldn’t breathe, and because I had answered his question, I put my hands on his chest to push him away. Instead the warmth seeping out of him drew me closer. I fisted his shirt. I was about to pull him closer but he pushed away, and the cloth of his shirt rubbed harshly against my fingers. I whimpered in response to his distance. In the back of my mind I knew I was being pathetic. How could this man pull me in and then push me away so easily?

“You’re right. We don’t know each other at all.” I couldn’t figure out what he was thinking. He didn’t even give me a smirk – showing his arrogance. Then he leaned in and I was holding my breath. Ready.

Ciro kissed me on the cheek, and I wanted to flinch. He started walking away.

I panicked, something so unlike me; I wanted to pause and analyze what I felt. I didn’t have time though, and blurted, “Wait!”

He paused, and looked over his shoulder with a raised eyebrow.

When I said nothing, not sure what to say, he spoke for me. “See you later?”

I nodded numbly, not realizing what I was promising.

The corner of his lips lifted, and Ciro began to whistle a song as he walked away. I stood there, not sure what the hell just happened, and let my mind soak up everything. Far in the back of my fogged mind I vaguely recognized the song he was whistling. It was the first song we slow danced to a few nights ago.

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