Chapter 13 - Crystal (Part 1)
Shame pressed down on Crystal’s shoulders for the rest of the day when she returned to work. Shame that she was so weak and pitiful and embarrassed for breaking down in front of Tiberius. He had to think she was so weak and pathetic now.
She couldn’t even look him in the eye after that.
He was always trying to comfort her. Why couldn’t she be stronger? Braver? With each day he got to know her, he would only see more of just how pathetic she was.
Then she would remember the way he’d look at her and she hated herself even more.
He didn’t look at her that way. He didn’t look down at her, curl his lips up at her, glare or snarl at her.
He gazed at her. Gazed at her in such a way that made butterflies dance in her stomach and her heart to beat a little harder. Gazed at her the way no one had ever gazed at her before.
He needed her.
Why was she such a pathetic mate?
They spent a quiet evening with her family before her father and sister headed out for the nightly hunt.
Their pack’s territory covered several neighborhoods in Chicago beyond the gates and they patrolled the streets in human form.
Tonight, they were also meeting with the vampire slayers, who were given the heart of downtown Chicago, with Alpha Jackson to discuss the Underground Market and arrange a guide for their trip Friday night.
After they left, Ma asked her to go out to the Nursery and settle the dogs for the night. Usually, Ma tended to the dogs, treating them like pups of her own, and struggled to give away each litter they bred to a loving home. She only asked Crystal or Brooke to tend to them when she was too busy to do so herself.
The Nursery was a small kennel with one main communal room and four separate rooms for the four females they bred. Two were already pregnant and their two males stayed with them in their own space away from the other two females. The males were usually kept separate in another kennel on the other side of the house, but when females were pregnant, they let them stay. The males got lonely and testy if they were kept isolated for too long.
After spending half an hour with the dogs, petting them, cuddling them, playing tug-of-war, then feeding and watering them, she left to find her mother and Tiberius in the backyard, hunched over a patch of cleared dirt next to the deck.
Her brows furrowed as she walked closer and Tiberius wiped away his message before she could see it.
“What are you guys doing?” she asked.
The summer sky was darkening, the sun splashing bright colors over the clouds as it dipped lower on the horizon. Long shadows covered their faces, making it harder for Crystal to interpret their expressions.
“Just talking, sweetie,” Ma said before turning and climbing up the four steps of the deck and entering the back door of the house.
Tiberius stayed next to the cleared earth, and although half of his face was covered in shadows, she could feel his eyes lingering over her before he looked away.
Suddenly feeling self-conscious, she tucked her hair behind her ear and rubbed her arms as she padded toward him.
His eyes were looking up at the sky as she sat next to him. She waited, expecting him to write something in the earth, and when he didn’t, she raised her eyes to his face. He was still looking up at the sky, so she turned her gaze upon it as well.
It was alight in oranges and reds in the west with a splashing of blue, purple, and indigo in the east.
“It’s beautiful,” she commented.
Turning away from the sky, he smiled and touched her cheek.
She looked away, blushing.
Dipping his claw into the earth, he wrote, ‘Sunsets are my favorite.’
She pulled her legs up and rested her head on her knees. “Yeah, I like them too.”
‘The brighter and bolder the colors, the better.’
She nodded, rocking herself back and forth.
He cleared the earth. ‘Back home, we had the best sunsets. I took up painting to try and capture them.’
She stared at the words for a second. Him? An artist? “Really?”
He nodded and smoothed over the dirt. ‘I like oil and watercolor painting. I can’t wait to show you my work.’
Her stomach flip-flopped and she chewed on her lip to stop the grin from spreading across her face.
He nudged her shoulder with his arm and she couldn’t help it. The grin broke out on her face and she looked up to meet his eyes. They grinned back at her for a few seconds before he pulled away and leaned over the dirt to write.
‘Your smile is beautiful. I want to see it more.’
Butterflies exploded with a flourish of heat that rushed up to her face and she covered it, abashed.
Compliments were so rarely given that she didn’t know what to say. She wanted to brush it off but she could feel his eyes on her, looking deeper, beyond her skin, and she was happy but also scared.
What if he realized she wasn’t good enough for him?
His tongue prodded her ear making her squeal and pull away. His pursuit continued relentlessly as she giggled and tried to crawl away. He pinned her down on the grass, licking between her hands as she tried to shield her face from the onslaught.
“T-Tiberius! Stop!” she cried through peels of laughter.
As she gasped for air, he pulled away, hovering over her as he panted heavily.
His face was covered in shadow but she could feel his gaze on her lips and she became aware of his position over her.
His gaze lowered to the rise and fall of her chest and an unfamiliar tingle grew between her legs.
Squeezing her legs together, she looked down her body at the space between them and gasped.
His maleness had slipped from its protective fold, a thick layer of skin and fur that held his reproductive organs close to the body so they didn’t bounce when running and were shielded in battle. The penis slipped out to urinate, but the balls only descended with it when males were sexually aroused.
Crystal got a good eyeful of his assets hanging over her lower body as Tiberius’ heavy breaths blew on her face.
Fear washed over her as her muscles locked. The sounds around her faded as her heartbeat pounded in her ears.
She stuttered his name as he tore himself away and leaped a few yards from her feet, a paw clamped over himself as he continued to pant.
The first bolt of pain struck her skull and shot down her spine, stiffening her body before the fire exploded through her veins. Her muscles spasmed and shook her as she silently screamed up to the sky bathed in red.
When the convulsions ceased, her head was heavy and her eyelids drooped.
Tiberius could have his way with her now and she’d be too weak to fight him off, but when she gathered enough strength to raise her head, she saw him hunched a few yards from her feet, his eyes clenched shut and hanging his head, whimpering softly before she closed her own eyes and let the darkness claim her.