Heart of a Beast

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Chapter 8 - Crystal

When Tiberius ran, Crystal held as tightly as she could around his neck as he followed their werewolf escorts across the territory to the packhouse. When his pace slowed, she nearly fell asleep with the gentle rocking movements.

Curious glances tickled her nape as a hush followed them into the packhouse. She squeezed her eyes shut tighter and buried her face in his shoulder.

They were guided to the pack’s infirmary, where Tiberius set her down on a narrow bed and took a seat on the floor at her side. He lay his head on the mattress next to her stomach and nudged her elbow with his nose.

Even with the scars etched across his face, his wolf’s head was cute with the swirl of caramel around his eyes. Her stomach fluttered with the way he looked up at her—the eyes of an adoring mate.

He was her mate. No other male would ever look at her that way, she knew, and she twisted her fingers together before tentatively reaching out and scratching him behind the ear.

He closed his eyes and melted under her touch.

She didn’t know what to make of him or the way he made her feel when he gazed at her like that. She wanted to disappear, and yet… it was a good feeling. It made her almost giddy.

But someday, he’d want more from her and that thought terrified her.

Tiberius’ ears perked forward and his eyes shifted to the door at her feet. He rose and leaned over her body in a protective stance seconds before the door opened and the alpha of the pack strolled in.

He regarded Tiberius briefly before introducing himself, informing them that her parents would arrive shortly, and then excused himself.

Behind him, a female entered with a tray of food, a pair of grilled chicken legs, veggies, and a baked potato before leaving. She set the tray down at the foot of the bed before exiting.

Crystal wasn’t hungry but didn’t want to be rude either. The Nickel Moon Pack had let a dangerous rogue enter their midst and were reuniting her with her family. Providing a meal was a far kinder gesture than she anticipated.

Tiberius’ stomach growled loudly as he withdrew and set the tray on her lap, and watched her as he sat on the floor by her side.

“Hungry?” she teased.

His ears flattened back and he looked away.

She held up one of the two chicken legs. “Here. Catch.”

His ears perked forward and he sat upright, waiting. She tossed him the chicken leg and his jaws caught it easily.

He chomped it down in two bites. She tossed him the second one before helping herself to the grilled veggies.

He licked his chops before setting his head back on the mattress next to her, watching her eat.

Squirming under his gaze, she glanced at his shoulder and noticed the patches of crusty matted fur. Her stomach clenched. “Are you hurt? Should I call for someone to have a look at your shoulder?”

Pulling back, he shook his head and clamped a dirty paw over his shoulder before looking away.

Lycans healed quicker than werewolves, she knew, but if he sustained a vampire bite, did it need to be treated? Werewolves treated vampire bites to help speed up the healing process. The venom went into the bloodstream and left them bedridden with fevers for twenty-four hours while the body fought the poison.

But lycans… They were the superior race.

History said that the Moon Goddess created lycans as a breed of warriors—faster, stronger, and more deadly than any other creature alive—to protect the human race from the supernatural world that threatened their very existence thousands of years ago. Vampires sought world domination, to enslave and breed humans like cattle. How the vampires came into existence was a secret they kept to themselves, though most werewolves and lycans presumed the secret died with the first vampire and no one remembered now, lending the superstitions, myths, and legends to tell their origins.

Werewolves only came about due to one lycan losing his mate to humans, who feared them. He kidnapped human females and raped them to spite the Goddess. They died giving birth to werewolf offspring. Werewolves were born human and shifted into large wolves when they came of age around eleven to thirteen years old and were capable of finding their mates when they reached adulthood at eighteen.

The lycan was later killed for his atrocities and strict laws were then put in place to prevent it from happening again. The Lycan Code thus forbade their kind from having relations with humans and restricted their involvement with them altogether.

Due to their immense strength and power, the lycans lived a very rigid life. They were forced to live in the countryside, while werewolves could live more freely and inhabit wherever they pleased, including large cities, and going to school alongside humans.

With Tiberius being her mate and a lycan, would she be forced to leave her family and pack to join his?

But… He was a rogue. He didn’t have a pack. Lycans never joined werewolf packs. Where would they go?

His throat rumbled softly as fear coiled within her.

How could they live? A lycan trapped in his beast form and a werewolf without a wolf?

He nudged her leg with his nose and a hint of a whine slipped out. The sound of it had her petting his head to comfort the beast.

He could read her like a book, the scent of her emotions giving her away. Despite the care and sweetness he exuded, she knew that underneath that was an animal with immense power and all animals had the ability to snap and bite the hand that feeds them.

Mates didn’t intentionally hurt each other, but the bond would twist him with an instinctual drive to mark and mate and the very thought of that made her queasy.

She could never live a normal life with him.

What should she do?

She rested her hand behind his head as her thoughts wandered. He slid up to her elbow, her arm now draping around his shoulders and he closed his eyes in contentment.

They stayed like that until he pulled away, removed her tray of half-eaten food, and positioned himself protectively over her bed again, seconds before the door opened.

Relief flooded over her at the sight of her mother, father, sister, brother, and Teresa—her brother’s mate.

Tiberius snarled as they piled into the small room. Instinctively, they snarled right back, but Crystal could see them all straining to hold themselves together. Thick veins bulged from her father’s and brother’s necks.

“Tiberius, chill,” she ordered, reaching out and gripping his arm.

His growls softened, but he wouldn’t budge. Crystal could tell her father and brother were to blame, but the males also wouldn’t yield with Tiberius’ possessive and aggressive stance.

She knew her family would fight to the death for her if coerced to, and a mate would shred everything in his path when it came to his soulmate.

Fear gripped her. She had to diffuse this and fast.

“Stop, all of you just chill!”

The shrillness of her voice drew Tiberius away, only to slip behind her and wrap an arm around her, pulling her against his chest. His throat rumbled as he nuzzled her hair. She could feel his heart beating against her head, a soothing percussion that drew attention to her own beating erratically within.

She should be terrified, but the rumbling of his throat mixed with the beating of his heart calmed her. She closed her eyes, the ache burning within dimming slowly before snuffing out.

“Stand down,” her mother commanded her males. “If that’s not the blessings of a mate, I don’t know what is.”

Crystal opened her eyes as her mother smoothly approached with her palms up in greetings in the Olde Way. The others hung back, her father and brother trying to compose themselves while her sister and sister-in-law stared on in shock.

“Beta Gregory said you had been blessed, Cris, and indeed you have been. There’s no denying it. I am happy to meet your mate,” her mother said.

Tiberius huffed, rubbing his cheek against the side of Crystal’s head.

Heat rushed up her neck to her cheeks. Did he have to do that in front of her family?

“Th-Thanks, Ma. Can you all stop staring now? You know as well as I do how protective mates are.”

“Your father and brother will calm down as soon as he shifts into his human form,” her mother replied. “You know how it is with males.”

Crystal looked from her mother to her father and brother, holding themselves back with Brooke at her father’s side and Teresa at her brother’s side.

Crystal swallowed. “He can’t, Ma.”

Tiberius growled when her father and brother growled in response to this revelation.

Ma turned and snarled at them, the younger females immediately turned and shoved the males out and closed the door. They stood in front of it and gave Ma a nod.

While Teresa was now the Beta Female of their pack, Ma was still the head female of the family, and Teresa couldn’t over-step family hierarchy this time.

Tiberius’ muscles relaxed a little, but he still held her close.

Crystal didn’t know how to get him to relax more, but with the males outside and her mother sure to pester her with questions, this was as good as it was going to get. Ma was in her firm Beta Female stance with this rogue male claiming a matebond over one of their own—and there was no way she was backing down.

Reaching up, Crystal brushed her fingers through the fur of the arm wrapped around her, making him relax a little more as a soft rumble vibrated within him.

“Ma, this is my mate, Tiberius,” Crystal said more calmly than she felt. “He was cursed a long time ago by a witch, so he can’t shift. He’s stuck.” She looked up to see him studying her mother. “Tiberius, this is my mother, Rhonda, Brooke is my sister on the left, and my sister-in-law and Beta Female of my pack, Teresa next to her. Outside is my dad, Alexander, and my brother and Beta of my pack, Justin.”

His throat rumbled as his nose brushed against the curve of her neck, causing a shiver to ripple in its wake.

“He saved my life, Ma,” Crystal added, turning her attention back to her mother standing at the foot of her bed. “The vampires would have taken me, but he found me and stopped them. We were going to try and find you guys, but ran into some other vampires before Beta Gregory found us.”

Her mother took another step forward and sat on the corner of her bed, despite the grumbles that surfaced from Tiberius’ throat. She touched Crystal’s foot.

“We know. Beta Gregory told us you had an episode too, but the way Tiberius handled you… He knew he was your mate. It would be wrong to try and separate you two. And I don’t know if you can tell or not, but Tiberius has been growling warnings at us to stay away and not to take you away from him. He’s very protective of you,” Ma said. She looked directly into Tiberius’ eyes. “We won’t do that, Tiberius. I promise you that.”

He growled before huffing, but still held Crystal to his chest.

Ma smiled at her, but there was a look about it that was sad.

Crystal’s brows furrowed. “What is it, Ma?”

Her mother rubbed her foot, respecting the distance Tiberius was demanding even though Crystal wanted nothing more than to hug her mother and father.

“Nothing’s wrong, Cris. It is as it should be. A mother must allow her pups to walk their own path when the time comes.”

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