Heart of a Beast

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Chapter 10 - Tiberius (Part 1)

Tiberius had to remind himself to back off. To give her space.

As much as he wanted to hold Crystal and gaze into her eyes all morning, he knew her family wanted to return home quickly.

They were all calmer now. Her father and brother still gave him side-eye glances when they gathered in the hallway a minute before she left the bathroom and while they ate a generous breakfast, but the males didn’t give him a hard time. They didn’t say much to him and talked mostly with his mate. He didn’t mind since he couldn’t entertain anyone with conversation himself.

But when she snuggled in beside him in the van, he knew everything was going to be okay. She had accepted him as her mate in front of her family and strangers, now he needed to obtain her affections to free him from the curse—and most likely herself as well. He was certain that her inability to shift was connected to his curse.

As they drove, Crystal slept against him, and he contemplated where to go from there.

She would be more comfortable in her pack, but he would be the outsider and regarded as a threat since word about him had spread and he acquired the title of “rogue.”

Should he let his family know where he was and that he had found his mate?

Given what happened when his brother found his mate, his parents would probably demand his return home. The transition might be hard on Crystal and hinder his success of obtaining her affections. She’d be further regarded as an outsider as a werewolf unable to shift into her wolf and that would hinder her happiness and ability to fall in love with him as well.

But what if his parents didn’t demand his return? What if they denied it because he went rogue? Packs didn’t accept former members back in if they left. The very idea was absurd.

He closed his eyes and willed himself to not over-think the “what ifs” and instead remembered the way his mate looked into his eyes.

He smiled. She was starting to see him. He could feel it, hear it in the way her heart skipped, and the wonderful scent that lifted from her flesh.

But it was the skipping of her heart that worried him. He had to be careful not to overwhelm her. He didn’t want to trigger a seizure. He managed to relax her before one could start when her family was stressing her about him, but would he be able to stop all of them if he stayed close to her?

She was worried about you.

That thought played his heart like a drum, an erratic beat that flushed him with warmth.

Her family would come around to their bond in time. The males were just protective, a natural instinct. He’d be worried if they hadn’t been immediately protective. It wasn’t every day a lycan and a werewolf shared a matebond—especially when he was seen as a rogue and stank of vampire blood at their first meeting.

It was a miracle she was even asleep with him now and he sent a silent prayer up to the Goddess.

The moment they entered the edges of the big city, his hackles raised.

He had avoided the human world for so long, he wasn’t ready for the sounds and scents to wash over him like a tidal wave, overwhelming and drowning him in his strongest senses.

The edge of Chicago was already more intense than the tourist town close to his family’s pack house at the Grand Canyon. He didn’t know where his mate’s pack was located, but he didn’t know how he was going to be able to survive living in such a big city like Chicago either.

His muscles tensed and when he noticed, he relaxed them only to tense back up a few minutes later. The constant shifting of his muscles roused his mate from her nap.

She peered out the window for a few minutes before glancing back at him, blushing, and leaning against the opposite side of the van from him, putting a few inches between them.

Nervousness tainted her scent. Why was she nervous? She was returning to her pack, shouldn’t she feel more comfortable?

It’s still better that she will be home right now, he reminded himself.

She may have accepted him as her mate, but he still needed her to fall in love with him. That would still take some time, and he could handle the strain of the city on his senses better than she could fall in love with him in a strange and foreign place where his parents would be breathing down their necks and adding unnecessary pressure.

The deeper they got into the city, however, the more he wished he could tune out all the sounds of the traffic, construction, emergency vehicles, and humans, but there was no escaping it.

Goddess! There were humans everywhere!

Crystal wasn’t helping either. She grew tenser by the minute, glancing at him occasionally and twisting her hair, her fingers, and her position in her seat across from him.

Her sister must have picked up on Crystal’s nervous stench and cracked her window open.

While that helped Tiberius with Crystal’s smell, it invited a bombardment of other smells and sounds to pound against him.

He dug his claws into the blanket under him, praying to the Goddess that they would arrive soon.

Crystal’s older sister, Brooke, guided the driver off the highway and down the city streets with picturesque houses before turning into a gated community—the Lancaster pack lands.

It grew noticeably quieter due to the trees that lined the fence and blocked some of the city sounds. There were comfortable looking homes with lots of grass and trees around.

Brooke pointed out a raised ranch style house with gray paneling and white trim with a fence around it and dogs barking before the driver pulled up to it.

Rhonda and Alexander were already there unloading the car with Justin and Teresa. There was another male and female standing there, talking, and Tiberius didn’t need an introduction to know that they were the alpha and luna.

Instinctively, Tiberius leaned protectively over Crystal as the vehicle came to a stop.

The trunk popped and he growled in warning before anyone got any smart ideas.

“It’s okay, Tiberius,” Rhonda said as she lifted the door all the way up. “I’ve explained the situation to Alpha and Luna. We know how mates are.”

The dark-haired alpha and luna lifted their palms in greeting.

Tiberius could feel their power rising off their sun-kissed flesh, dripping in authority. Behind their guardedness was a calmness, unmarred by fear or hostility.

Dark brown eyes held his with understanding and he grumbled a little before pulling away from his mate and nudging her shoulder with his nose to exit first.

After climbing out, he raised his palms up in greeting, towering over them and holding himself high as he looked into the dark eyes of the alpha and luna.

“Welcome, Tiberius,” the Luna said and gestured to her mate before herself. “This is my mate, Jackson, and I’m Leanne. We thank you for rescuing Crystal from vampires and would like to invite you over for dinner tonight.”

Only dinner?

As rare as kidnappings were, usually when a packmate was reunited with their pack again, there would be a celebration and feast. When he glanced at his mate, he understood why they were inviting him to something smaller and more intimate.

She hung her head, twisting the hem of her shirt between her fingers and looking down at her feet.

She wouldn’t be comfortable surrounded by a large group of wolves. It might trigger another seizure and he was glad that they understood her sensitive nature.

Sensitive… He had to remind himself to maintain distance. Not to touch her in front of these wolves. He would only make her more uncomfortable.

She needed his protection.

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