Chapter 11 - Tiberius (Part 2)
Tiberius knew Crystal was scared, but to have her commit to trying was the declaration he needed to hear.
They spent a few hours alone in her room, listening to classical music in silence before she offered to show him some of her favorite drawings.
Hesitant at first, she opened up her sketchbook to reveal a beautiful drawing of Brooke in wolf-form standing proudly on a rock next to a stream surrounded by trees with a waterfall in the background. The blending of grays made it come alive and he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him when he could’ve sworn the waterfall was moving.
She had talent, that he was sure of and a swell of pride for his mate filled him.
The next image was Justin in wolf-form—his pelt a blend of grays with a white belly—playing with his son when he was a year old. Training the pup to recognize his father’s wolf and not to fear him. With his rump in the air, tail high, and head low, the wolf licked his face despite his peels of laughter.
The value of family was strong and Tiberius was pleased to know that his mate grew up within a loving family despite the suffering he brought upon her.
She blushed three shades of red when she showed him the third drawing—her parents in wolf-form nuzzling each other. Their eyes were closed, captured in a tender moment. Her father in lighter shades of gray while her mother was darker as she pointed them out. Love radiate from the blended and smudged lines.
This was the love shared between mates that her heart longed for. Pure, peaceful, embracing, endearing, and enduring.
He kept his paws to himself despite the urge to touch her cheek.
He wanted nothing more than to nuzzle her like the image, but her hunched forward, closed posture told him to hold back.
Someday, he mused.
Wooden floorboards creaked as footsteps padded down the hallway and stopped outside her bedroom door before a rap of knuckles tapped against it.
“Time to go, Cricket,” her father said.
Not entering nor intruding, simply informing her that it was time to pay their Alpha and Luna their respects.
Stiffening, all the color drained from Crystal’s face and her heartbeat picked up in speed. Her delicate violet scent turned sour with nervousness.
Leaning in, he draped his arm around her shoulder and coaxed her head against his heart. She stiffened at first, but the soothing beat soon relaxed her.
She sighed. “Yeah, Dad. Just a minute.”
Footsteps turned down the hallway to another part of the room where soft voices murmured.
She inhaled and exhaled. Her heartbeat slowed to a calm, steady rhythm. Her muscles twitched once but that was it.
Tiberius closed his eyes and pressed his nose to her hair and inhaled her delicate scent. The stink of his curse was there, twisting his stomach into knots.
You have time.
“Thank you,” she whispered a few minutes later.
He nuzzled the top of her head with his nose and relaxed his arm around her. She didn’t immediately pull away and a rumble of pleasure reverberated within him.
That had her pulling away, her cheeks inflamed and her heart skipping.
He allowed himself a touch while she was still close and brushed the back of his knuckles across her cheek. His blood sizzled and spread up his arm to his heart and throughout his body from there.
The evening with the Alpha and Luna was very relaxed.
The largest house in the territory was theirs—a red brick, two-story house with a large yard and backyard patio, complete with a large in-ground pool, diving board and slide at the far end and a hot tub at the other by the house. There was a firepit on the left side of the pool and a playground for pups on the right.
The alpha’s firstborn stared at Tiberius with a mixture of wonder and fear until his mother scolded him, but he needed several reminders because the pup couldn’t help it.
Justin and his mate, Teresa, were present with their two pups, who likewise stared, despite the parents telling them not to.
The former Alpha and Luna were also present to greet Tiberius with open palms. Crystal bowed her head submissively to them all and kept it down the entire evening, speaking up only when she was spoken to, which was more than she seemed comfortable with as she fidgeted in her seat.
Tiberius sat on the ground behind her chair, content to listen and observe this pack.
She again was asked to relay the events that took place in Wisconsin and the bits of information she knew about Tiberius and they mused about how to help him with his curse.
He huffed at their suggestions, but his interest was peaked when they mentioned the Underground Market.
Crystal’s father was reluctant about it when the former Alpha brought it up. “Do you think that is wise?”
“With a guide, there should be no problem. It’s the one place in Middle America where supernaturals mingle and purchase items not available in the human world, but it’s also the place to inquire and gather information on beings of interest, like this Mandala figure Crystal mentioned.”
Alexander growled. “I don’t think it is wise for my daughter to enter such a place. She has no means of defending herself if anyone broke the peace—like it always happens.”
“Please, you can’t be serious to even consider such a character that vampires would bring up,” Rhonda said. “If the male isn’t a vampire himself, he could be a wizard, and they don’t care much for our kind as well.”
“A wizard might know the cure for Tiberius’ curse,” the former Alpha pointed out. “And besides that, no one said they had to meet Mandala. We’re merely curious as to who he is exactly.”
Alexander growled as he glanced at Crystal before his blue eyes flicked away to meet Tiberius’. “Cris, Tiberius, this is your decision to make. If you want to try finding Mandala or another witch or wizard to help break this curse, we will arrange a guide for you.”
Crystal hesitated, curling her fingers into fists on her thighs as Tiberius huffed.
But a thought occurred to him.
To what lengths would his mate go to help him?
True, he knew he had to obtain her affections and love in order to free himself from the curse, but love was a give and take exchange. He had already given himself wholeheartedly to her, tried to take care of her, and give her space when she needed it even though it hurt to pull away from her.
And what had she given him? A chance?
Was it selfish of him to want more? To desire her to help him, even if it proved futile?
He had always intended on finding a way to tell her how they could break his curse, but what if he couldn’t? Butterflies exploded within him at the enticing idea of her trying to help him.
Nudging her elbow with his nose, he urged her to agree—or at least consider it.
Shocked, she looked over her shoulder as he sat up tall and straight, his eyes level with hers.
Will you help me, mate?
Her scent soured as she swallowed, her blue-green eyes searching his as her heartbeat quickened. Instinct drove him to wrap his arms around her and press her head against his heart again.
He was starting to read her better. Anything that stressed her out would bring forth her trapped wolf in an effort to protect herself. Even if holding her like this would embarrass her in front of the others, he knew they would all rather deal with the embarrassment than the seizure.
Trembling, Crystal whimpered as he carefully brushed his paw over her head, smoothing her black hair back from her face in a gentle caress.
He closed his eyes as the warmth of her body wrapped around his, encasing him like a glove. Her heartbeat slowed to match the rhythm of his, her body falling in sync with his as they drew air in and out in unison.
Once relaxed, heat radiated from her skin as she buried her face into his chest fur and whispered, “Okay.”