Chapter 9 - Crystal (Part 2)
Tearing her eyes away from his, she took a few slow, deep breaths before she rose and stepped toward him.
He lowered himself to four paws. Even then, he was almost as tall as her, but it was less intimidating, though he looked like an oddly shaped wolf now.
He picked up the blanket on the floor with his teeth and pulled it aside to reveal a pair of towels and some clean clothes that her mother must have set out for her before he ripped the blanket from the bed.
She bent down to pick up the clothes and towels before leaving the room with him following a few paces behind.
Brooke was leaving a bathroom at the end of the hallway, fully dressed and rubbing a towel through her dripping wet, dark brown hair.
“Ma and Dad are sharing that one.” She pointed to a closed door opposite the one she’d come from and added that Justin and Teresa had already showered. Everyone was waiting on her and Tiberius now.
“There’s a big brush in there for you to scrub him good. I’d use it if I were you,” Brooke added, eyeing Tiberius up with the corner of her lip curled up in disgust.
Tiberius growled, but it seemed half-hearted, while Crystal felt her face warm up. She only met Tiberius a day ago and already she was expected to give him a shower?
“Oh-Okay, thanks,” she mumbled.
They took turns emptying their bladders before Crystal started the shower for him.
The shower was a large stall next to the toilet and sink. Nothing spectacular, just a quick stop if someone was coming in from a muddy run. The edge of the stall was only a few inches up from the floor and extended an inch past the shower curtain. A large scrubbing brush hung next to the shower and toilet.
As Tiberius climbed into the shower, Crystal looked under the sink to find a bucket of shampoos and body washes. She popped the top of a few before settling on a zesty, fresh scented one.
He was already soaked from head to toe when she pulled the curtain aside and peered in.
Swallowing, she tried not to look directly at him. A wave of self-consciousness crashed over her, even though she’d seen him dripping wet before.
“Um, can I scrub your back with this?” she asked, pulling the brush from its hook on the wall.
Her eyes fell to the floor of the shower, watching the dirt from his body mix with the water and flow from his feet down the drain.
Turning toward her, he tipped her chin up with the side of his index finger so that his gray eyes held hers.
Her heart skipped. The sound of running water faded away as his eyes drew her in, his soul calling out to her. Warmth crept up and spread throughout as she dragged air into her lungs.
Transfixed, she didn’t notice when he eased the brush out of her hand until he pulled away.
Blinking, she came back to her senses when he held the bristled end of the brush up to her and pointed to the bottle of body wash in her other hand.
Flustered, she squirted some of the thick liquid onto the bristles before he pulled the curtain closed. She stared at it for a minute as the sounds of scrubbing, mixed with the zesty, fresh scent of the body wash, filled her senses.
Despite the lack of steam from his shower, she felt hot all over.
Going over to the sink, she gaped at her beet-red reflection in the mirror.
She shook her head and took a few deep breaths.
Pull yourself together.
She put the lid of the toilet down and sat on it until he was done.
He snaked his head out from the curtain and nudged her shoulder with his wet nose.
Avoiding his gaze, she got up and turned the water off.
He shook himself like an animal before leaving the shower.
She chewed on her bottom lip, looking away as she held a towel out for him.
What’s wrong with you? It’s like drying a wet dog, for Goddess’ sake!
She swallowed as he stepped in front of her, towering over her and dripping wet.
He tilted her chin up again, but she wouldn’t meet his gaze until he whined softly.
She knew her eyes gave away her secrets the same way his did and she was afraid of what he might find in there now because she didn’t know how to feel about it.
He was her mate and he terrified her.
But it was more than his appearance and the rumors that surrounded him. It was the shift in her feelings and the way he made her feel. She never felt special to anyone before. She didn’t know what it felt like to be accepted or included. She had always been shunned and excluded.
What if she couldn’t make him happy? What if he lost his patience with her and hurt her? How could they possibly make this work when he could barely even touch her?
She bit her lip and looked down, away from prying eyes as he huffed, released her chin, and walked out.
She hurried to lock the door and leaned against it as she inhaled and exhaled deeply several times.
Were all mates this crazy or just her?
After a few minutes, her heart rate slowed down and she hurried to take her shower.
Her family, along with Tiberius huddled in the corner, was waiting for her out in the hallway when she finished. Tiberius immediately rose and loomed over her while the Alpha and Luna talked with her parents. He was calmer now, but just as protective as before.
They headed to the cafeteria, where they were served breakfast before they headed out.
Due to Tiberius’ size, the Nickel Moon Pack arranged to have a driver with a van transport Tiberius to Chicago.
The windows were so dark, they were as black as the vehicle’s paint. Aside from the driver and front passenger seat, they had removed all of the other seats and set blankets and pillows down to cushion the ride for them.
Naturally, Crystal went with Tiberius in the van, Brooke in the front seat, while the rest of her family piled into the car that her father, brother, and sister-in-law came in when they heard about Crystal’s disappearance.
The driver of the van was set to stay with their pack until the part came in to fix Ma’s car. Then she would return with him and he’d drop her off in Madison before he carried on the rest of the way to his pack.
Once Tiberius was comfortable in the van, Crystal climbed in the back door and settled in with him. She leaned her head against his side as he curled his body up around her. Her lack of sleep began to catch up with her as they began their journey home and she drifted off to sleep despite the combination of scents clinging to Tiberius’ fur. He still didn’t have an appealing musk to her, but he did smell a little better.
Nevertheless, she felt comfortable with him and let her guard down enough to relax and fall asleep, snuggled up in his fur.