Chapter 7 - Tiberius (Part 1)
There was no time to explain.
Tiberius had fallen asleep after holding her sleeping form close, his heart, soul, and body aching for her.
In her dream, he saw her huddled in a dark expanse with just a bit of light illuminating her features. She curled up in a ball, her face buried in her knees as she held them tightly to her chest.
Words echoed in the empty void—hateful, derogatory words—in her own voice.
He fell to his knees before her, his heart aching that she would even think that about herself. Crouching down low, he pressed his nose against her white knuckles and whimpered.
When she looked up, the pain he felt reflected in those gorgeous blue-greens before him, drawing a whine from him as he licked her hand.
This is a dream, he reminded himself. He could do anything here. There was nothing to hold him back as his soul sought out hers.
Lowering his head as he squeezed his eyes shut, he imagined himself in his human form. When he opened them, he saw his fur recede into the skin of his arms and legs.
He forced himself to speak for the first time in a year, afraid he might not even recognize his own voice.
“Is that what you think, Mate?”
He sounded normal, no grizzly lisp or growl.
Encouraged, he looked up to see her staring at him, and he couldn’t look away.
“You’re not worthless. You are so much more than that.”
She vanished before he had a chance to say more. Before he could cup her face in his palms. Before he could hold her in human arms. Before he could comfort, care, and explain everything as he stroked her hair with gentle fingers.
Instead, she jolted awake, thus waking him and he had to rush her to the river before her body seized up once more. Her wolf pressed against her skin, he could feel the heat of it, and the increased rhythm of her heartbeat.
He should stop holding her in this hot, humid weather. He wasn’t helping her, but only adding more stress to her hypersensitive body.
But he couldn’t help it. He longed to hold her. To take care of her, to comfort her, to tell her that everything would be okay.
He couldn’t tell what she was thinking when she was cooling off in the river, and he didn’t know how to communicate with her in the dark.
Did she know that was him in her dream and not merely her mind conjuring up images in her sleep?
It was common for the souls of mates to visit each other in dreams before sealing the matebond. It enabled them to break down walls and barriers that hindered their union—especially if they attempted to deny the matebond.
The matebond was a force all its own and it would push mates together if they tried to resist it.
Would she accept him as her mate having met him in a dream?
His thoughts circulated around that brief encounter and what she might be thinking now as he relaxed into the soothing touch of the river.
After a few minutes, his fur prickled as her eyes brushed over him. He turned to catch her staring, his heart skipping when she thanked him for taking care of her.
He caressed her cheek with the back of his knuckles.
Of course. You are my mate, my heart, and my life.
If only I could tell you…
Faint voices whispered into his ears over the gentle babbling of the river, snapping him to attention.
This was unclaimed territory. This river separated one werewolf pack from another. He was not so close to their borders that they should sense him. Furthermore, the night was upon them. There should be no humans wandering the wilderness at this time.
Only one creature with the vocal ability of a human could be approaching and he had slaughtered one of them the previous night.
His mate had said that she had been kidnapped by vampires. He only found and killed one. Could the others be approaching them now?
Listening and sniffing the moisture-filled air, he couldn’t make out their scents, but he thought he heard two sets of low voices and two pairs of legs sloshing through the river.
Without hesitation, he pressed a claw to his lips, asking for silence, before scooping her up into his arms and dashing forward.
Surprised, she began to protest, but he silenced her with a growl. She whimpered, but wrapped her arms tightly around his neck.
He wanted to cherish this moment, to bask in the feel of her body against his, but the impending danger thrust away that simple primal pleasure for a greater primal need—the need to protect his mate. It was his fault that she was utterly defenseless, after all.
The water sloshed and splashed around him, catching the attention of the predators not too far back
“Did ya hear that?” a male voice whispered.
“Yeah, I also smell it. What is that?” a female voice responded.
“I don’t know, but it killed Jessica.”
Tiberius took to the shallows, knowing that no matter how much he tried to erase his stench, it would do no good. He needed to move silently now and find a safe place to put his mate so he could rid themselves of this threat that stood between them and finding her family.
The trees weren’t large and thick enough here to support her weight. The forest was thinning as farmland stretched closer to the edge of the river. He looked all over for shelter, safety—anything—all the while the vampires chased after him and gaining ground as he scanned their surroundings.
A forest appeared as the river narrowed and larger rocks made it harder to run without slipping as water rushed over them.
Leaving the river, he took to the line of trees on the bank and picked up speed as the vampires raced after him merely three dozen yards behind.
Darting into the coniferous forest of pine, spruce, and fir, their prickly branches reaching out to scratch his face, he could smell the edge of a werewolf border ahead of him—and the largest tree as the marker.
That tree was exactly the size and shape he’d been looking for with a couple branches low enough and strong enough for her to climb up and support her weight.
Running to the trunk, he lifted her up and was relieved when she had the strength to latch onto it and pull herself up.
She looked over her shoulder and caught his eye.
He held a claw to his lips again and pointed up as the vampires tore through the brush, closing in fast.
She started climbing and he whirled around, crouching into position, ready to attack, as the pair of vampires came to a halt several feet away.
He growled in warning as two pairs of red eyes glowered back at him. Snapping his jaws, the pair of bloodsuckers bared their fangs, hissing, as they bent forward, their hands in front of them with their sharp nails on display, ready to rip and tear through his thick fur.
Both of their eyes flicked up to the large tree behind him before locking back on him a split second later. Grins spread wide at the prize to be won.
“She stinks like him,” the male leech declared to the female. “How interesting it is?”
“You should come with us to Master Mandala’s,” the female sneered. “Perhaps he can help you poor beasts?”
Tiberius snarled. Help? What would they know about his curse?
It’s a distraction, he told himself while he wondered who Master Mandala was. Would his parents know?
Now was not the time to consider it. Vampires had been the enemies of lycans for millennia. They couldn’t be trusted and had to be killed on sight.
The male shifted his weight and Tiberius wasted no time in pouncing. The vampire was too quick, anticipating the move, and jumped away from the massive jaws that snapped while his female companion leaped over Tiberius and latched herself onto the tree.
As Tiberius pivoted, his mate screamed in fear, the sound raising his hackles and making his blood run cold.
He couldn’t risk her life by attacking first. He had to keep those filthy leeches away from her.
Fueled by adrenaline, he ignored the male and sprang toward the tree, reaching up with his massive paws in hopes of catching the female in his clutches before she was out of reach.
His claws clasped her ankle and he yanked her down with him as gravity drove him to the earth.
His ears rang as the vampire screeched. As soon as his back paws hit the ground, the male vampire jumped onto his back. Fangs and nails dug through the fur on his neck and shoulders, ripping and tearing the flesh in an effort to slice a vital vein that would end his life.
Throwing the female away, she struck a young tree, snapping it in half before colliding with a thicker one and cracking it. While she took a second to recover, Tiberius threw the male over his shoulder and pounded him into the ground. Bones cracked with the impact before he tore the head off and threw it at the female. She shrieked as he proceeded to rip the limbs off and throw them at her until only the bloodied torso remained.
The acidic stench of the vampire blood wafted up his nose and eyes—making his eyes water, blurring his vision, and making it harder to breathe.
Still shrieking, the female charged forward.
He swatted her with his paw but missed as she shifted gears and side-stepped him. He stumbled as she kicked him in the thigh, her strength catching him by surprise.
Taking this moment of weakness, she jumped on his back and dug her nails into his neck and twisted.
The bite of her nails stung, but the twisting sent shockwaves of pain down his spine.
Roaring, he ran left and threw his back against the trunk of a tree. The tree cracked, along with the bones in her body as she cried out in agony. Vibrations from the impact ricocheted throughout his body, but he had no time to lose.
He pulled her limp form from his back and threw her over his shoulder and onto the ground before slamming his fist into her skull.
Blood splattered over his face and he hurried to tear her apart before falling to his knees, panting, the acidic stench filling his senses again.
Wiping the blood from his eyes with the back of his arm, howls cut through the darkness.
His muscles locked as his breath caught in his throat.
The werewolves were quickly approaching.