Chapter 6 - Crystal (Part 2)
She wasn’t comfortable with that level of intimacy—mate or not.
She couldn’t deny the butterflies that fluttered within her, though, as she turned away from him to hide the blush warming her face.
“Can you please… not do that?”
She raked her teeth over her bottom lip as she rubbed her arm that was closest to him.
He was only a few inches away and it made her nervous. He could grab her and hurt her, force himself on her and claim her—
If he wanted to use force on you, he would have by now, she told herself.
She gave her head a little shake and from the corner of her eye, saw him rubbing his own arm that was closest to her, his head lowered.
Pulling air into her lungs, she held it for a few seconds before slowly releasing it.
She was too tense. She had to loosen up and relax her muscles. Calm her mind and clear it of all stressful thoughts.
Sitting up straighter, she closed her eyes and took a few deep cleansing breaths.
Inhale. Exhale. Cool. Calm. Collected.
As her pounding heart eased up on its rapid tempo, her whirling thoughts calmed, and her tight muscles relaxed.
The smoldering campfire filled her senses as the heaviness in the air lifted.
When she opened her eyes, she brushed a loose strand of hair that kept falling in her face back behind her ear and looked down at her crude drawing and the word he’d written over it.
How could she find her way back home when they had no idea where they were?
She bent forward and rubbed her palm over the dirt, smoothing it out. “So, when should we go?”
Afraid to look at him still, she saw his claw point to the cleared earth. “Yeah, go ahead and write.”
He pressed his claw into the earth and she watched the words form.
‘Are you okay?’
She peeked at him from the corner of her eye to see him watching her, his posture casual, if not slightly hunched forward as he sat a few inches away from her. Her stomach knotted.
“Yeah, I’m okay. When should we get going?”
He quickly wiped the message away with a swipe of his paw before writing more, his printing scratchy and tight, not loopy like her own.
‘Soon, once darkness sets in.’
“Okay,” she replied.
He smoothed over the surface of the ground and started writing again.
‘Please give me a chance. I know I scare you and I don’t mean to’
He ran out of space and had to erase his message to continue.
‘but you are my mate. I’m just stuck right now in this form.’
She pulled her legs up to her chin and wrapped her arms around them in an effort to put more distance between them as he leaned in closer to write.
“Yeah, we established that before. You can’t shift, but you couldn’t tell me why.”
He huffed, clearing his previous message and writing, ‘I was cursed by a witch many years ago.’
Her eyes widened and she felt the blood drain from her face. She stared at the words he’d written, unable to respond until he wiped them away.
‘I don’t have much time to fix this, so it will mean a lot to me if’ he ran out of space again, cleared it, and continued, ‘you can give me a chance. Give us a chance.’
A coil wrapped around her heart and constricted at his words, asking for something she was terrified to give.
He wiped the earth clean and continued, carving his story bit by bit into the dirt.
'I’ve been searching for you for a year.
'Across states, the tundra, and the plains.
'I need you. You’re my mate.
'I can’t fix this without you.
'I know you don’t believe me.
'I know you don’t feel the bond.
'But I think that’s part of my curse as well.
'Forgive me of my mistakes because
‘I think my punishment has affected you too.’
He whined softly, his claw trembling before he continued.
‘You have a wolf, that I am certain.’
What? Her eyes widened as he erased his message to write the next one, her tightly bound heart jumping in her throat and making it harder to breathe.
'She’s just stuck like I am and can’t get out.
‘I sense her when you have your seizures.’
He paused and whined as her throat closed up, her muscles locked and heat flared before pain shot through her skull and down throughout her body.
Before she could utter a reply, strong arms encircled her and held her tight against a firm chest as a shockwave of pain ricocheted throughout her just as violently as always.
Through her wheezing rasps, she heard whimpers from the beast and the slightly uneven thumps of his heartbeat against her ear.
When the convulsions ceased, he continued to hold her against his heart as it began to beat steadily, burying his nose in the crook of her neck and whimpering as he rocked back on his heels before settling with her on his lap.
An exhausted haze pulled on her eyelids as the sounds of his crying filled her aching heart.
“I’m… sorry. I need… rest… now,” she whispered before giving in to darkness.
Whispers. That uneasy feeling of being watched.
Crystal raised her head and peered over her arms crossed on her desktop. The fuzzy classroom came into focus. The long whiteboard five desks ahead at the front of the room. Three more desks extending out to her left and right. All eyes on her. Junior High all over again.
The werewolves were whispering among themselves, their hands covering their mouths as they leaned close to each other.
Then, they leaned over and began whispering to the other eighth grade humans.
The room began to spin as fear gripped her. The whispers grew in volume, the words lost to a jumble of indistinguishable sounds.
Thrown to the ground, she stared up at her werewolf peers as they stood in a circle around her. Their noses wrinkled.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Why won’t you shift?”
“Do you think you’re better than us because your family is Beta?”
“Come on! Shift!”
“What a bitch.”
“Smell that? I don’t think she even has a wolf.”
“Beta blood and no wolf?”
Laughter erupted as they continued to torment her and hurl insults at her.
“What a loser!”
She tried to open her mouth, but no sound would come out.
They laughed harder, pointing at her.
She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to shut them out.
In the darkness, loneliness bore down on her as the laughter and mocking voices faded away. The ache remained as she pulled her legs up to her chest and buried her face in her knees.
Alone. Always alone. Her family always hovering, always worrying. Always a burden.
A nose pressed against her hand clasped around her legs followed by a whimper.
Bright moonlight broke through the darkness and she looked up into the gray eyes of the beast. They were sad, pleading, as he whined and licked her hand.
Crouching before her, he lowered his head, his ears tucked back, and the fur began to disappear, withdrawing into his skin.
A strong, lean male with a mop of dark brown hair crouched in place of the beast, his head still lowered.
“Is that what you think, Mate?”
Her breath caught in her throat as those gray eyes looked up and caught hers and she was unable to look away.
“You’re not worthless. You are so much more than that.”
Jolting awake, those gray eyes imprinted in her mind, she gasped for air as she looked around frantically.
Coated in sweat, a layer of mist hovered over the earth. The firepit was cold. Darkness blanketed the forest and panic gripped her when there was a grumble in her ear and the furry form pressed against her back rolled away.
“Water,” she rasped.
Thick arms scooped her up and she weakly wrapped her own around his thick neck, leaning into him.
His nose prodded the top of her head as he carried her to the river.
Water would cool her, solidify and strengthen her.
Tiberius wanted to travel at night, and here she was making things ten times harder. He was trying to help and she was only being more of a burden.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.
His throat rumbled as he jumped down the bank, making her squeak and tighten her hold around him.
A coughing-sounding chuckle met her ears as she loosened her hold around him.
“You did that on purpose,” she accused to his chest, to which he confirmed by nuzzling the top of her head with his nose.
He was about to set her feet down on a rock at the edge of the river, but she interjected.
“Wait, can you take me into the water? Submerging myself in cold water helps me recover the fastest.”
Her voice was small, hating to ask him for something she should be able to do on her own and couldn’t. Her legs felt like jello and her arms barely had a hold around his neck
He did as she asked without complaint.
The mist over the water was thicker, she could barely even see how deep the water was. “Can you set me down when the water is close to a foot deep?”
He brushed his nose in her hair in a nod.
A few more steps out and he paused and lowered himself down to his knees before gently setting her down in the water before him.
“Thank you,” she murmured as the cold water caressed her body.
She looked up into his dark face, unable to read his eyes as he brushed the back of his knuckles across her jaw. Remnants of her dream surfaced and she remembered those gray eyes clearly calling her mate.
Did she really dream of Tiberius?
She shivered and held herself as she closed her eyes and focused on the soothing ripples of the water over her body.
After a few minutes of relaxation and meditation, she opened her eyes and gazed up at the waning moon and the stars in the sky. If it weren’t for the mist surrounding them, the sky would have been clear and beautiful—unlike anything she would see back home in Chicago.
Turning her head, she saw the beast lying out on his stomach next to her. His ears perked toward her before he turned his head to look at her.
“Thank you for taking care of me,” she said.
His throat rumbled in a sort of purr before he pulled himself up. Water cascaded down his body as he reached out to brush his knuckles across her cheek. The moonlight flashed briefly in his eyes before he turned away, sitting up straight, alert. He held up an index finger, as if asking her to wait, or for silence. His nostrils flared as he listened to the gurgling of the stream.
His throat rumbled.
Quickly, he scooped her up in his arms and she wrapped hers around his neck as he lifted her from the river.
He silenced her with a growl as he began to run through the shallows—his heart hammering rapidly against her ear.
Confused, she wanted to ask what was going on but didn’t want to press him when it was obvious that he was distressed about something.
She held on tight as he bound through the mist that hovered in the darkness.