Heart of a Beast

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Chapter 14 - Tiberius (Part 1)

Friday night came quickly and if it hadn’t been for Tiberius’ keen senses, Crystal would have had multiple seizures brought on by her increased anxiety to go to the Underground Market.

Tiberius noted Rhonda’s desire to protect her daughter, but after speaking with her Wednesday night, while Crystal was tending to the dogs, they agreed that Crystal needed to step up her own game and not let others make decisions for her and encourage her to take more responsibility and risks for herself. She needed to grow on her own, with gentle encouragement and guidance when needed, and not shielded as much.

A mother’s love knows no bounds and seeing her pup struggle and not develop normally only heightened her urge to protect her—even if she knew it was detrimental to her own self-esteem. Tiberius understood, but they both knew that it couldn’t continue.

Only in secret did Rhonda question whether or not Crystal should go to the Underground Market while asserting to Crystal that it was imperative that she go.

“Do it, not only for your mate but for yourself as well, Cris,” her mother had told her.

Crystal would only nod with her head down, though fear saturated every pore of her body.

The only way she’d be able to sleep was curled up with him on the floor, her wolf constantly straining against her flesh and Tiberius’ heartbeat was the only thing to soothe the beast within.

He could have called off the excursion, knowing that it would be a waste of time, but Rhonda agreed in a brief conversation on Thursday evening that it would be good for Crystal.

During his chat with Rhonda Wednesday evening, he also told her that he knew the cure for his curse and how he thought his curse was linked to Crystal’s inability to shift. He confided in how he wanted to try and tell Crystal the cure in their dreams, but he was afraid it would do more harm than good. He didn’t want her to feel forced into caring for him and then hating herself for not returning the same feelings that he had for her.

“You’re right, Tiberius,” her mother agreed. “Love cannot be forced. Her feelings need to develop on their own. Don’t tell her.”

She would come around eventually. They just hoped it would be sooner rather than later.

He met with Crystal again in their dreams Thursday night and Tiberius again wanted to hold her from behind as he told her about his life before the curse. How his family left Europe after his sister, Marina, matured in 1825 and settled in Arizona and he was born ten years later. How his younger brother, Laurencius, recently found his mate and their parents were forcing him to become the next alpha despite the fact that their older brother, Dominius, had been preparing for centuries to take over the pack once he found his mate.

“He hasn’t found her though, and no one knows if he will, but Lance’s mate is strong and will make a good Luna once he completes his training. I’m sure of it,” he had said and then shifted gears and told her about his travels in the last year, not wanting to dwell on the topic of his family any longer. The lingering feelings of betrayal were still too strong, and he didn’t want to bring her down with his problems yet.

He wanted her to get to know him and to feel more comfortable around him. Even if they couldn’t physically feel each other in the dreams, he used this time to tell her about himself and his life.

Friday was riddled with anxiety for Crystal and it ate away at everyone around her too. They all tried not to show it, but they felt it and were thankful that she didn’t share their heightened senses as well.

She didn’t go to work at the library on Friday and instead stayed locked in her room, watching movies with Tiberius and listening to music while sketching in her book. Sometimes, she would sketch while watching a movie, anything to keep herself occupied while staying close to him.

“Cris, you have to eat,” her mother scolded her at dinner time when she refused food.

All she could keep down was chicken noodle soup, and even then, she ate very little of it and had to force herself to eat.

When it was eleven-thirty, Alpha Jackson and Beta Justin arrived to take them downtown.

“Have you ever been downtown before?” Alpha asked Tiberius.

He shook his head, having never left Arizona until last year.

“It will overwhelm your senses, but we’ll be as quick as we can.”

He and Crystal were given matching black cloaks—his just barely covering his large frame—and they headed out.

The city was buzzing with life, even though it was close to midnight.

The dark-tinted windows of their black van slipped through the illuminated streets and he couldn’t help but stare in awe at the skyscrapers. There were no stars to be seen overhead, but there were lights everywhere from the lampposts to the windows of the tallest buildings.

The noise grated against his ears and the street odors made his nose wrinkle, but he held Crystal close, her back against his chest and his arms wrapped around her shoulders as she leaned against him, taking deep cleansing breaths in an effort to remain calm.

A large church loomed before them and they pulled into the driveway that led to the parking lot behind it. They waited only a few seconds for a figure to emerge from the darkness and climb into the vehicle before leaving.

The man sat across from Tiberius and Crystal in the back—dressed in a long, black trench coat with skin as dark as the night and his head shaved clean. A long scar ran down his cheek, from the tip of his high cheekbone to his jaw and dropping down another two inches along his neck. He reminded Tiberius of his mother and the scar she wore proudly on her face.

Alpha introduced the vampire slayer as Darnell.

“You best watch your back, lycan,” he said. “The Underground don’t care much for your kind.”

Tiberius stared him down as Crystal’s heart pounded a bit harder for a few seconds before calming down again.

“Stop messing with him, Dar,” Justin said.

“I’m not. Just telling it like it is.”

They turned down a dark alley and down a cement tunnel. A door must have closed behind them as the noise from the streets dimmed.

Darkness engulfed them, save for the headlights of their van as they continued to travel down.

A parking lot opened up and their vehicle pulled up to a woman sitting on a fold-out chair, knitting.

Justin rolled down the window and greeted the woman. They exchanged a few words before she pulled a wand out from her pocket and stepped aside. Pointing the tip at the wall, she uttered a few strange words before the wall disappeared and another tunnel opened up.

Rolling up his window, Justin drove them down the tunnel. Flaming torches lit the way along the cement walls before opening up to another parking lot. He circled around to the other end of the lot, passing by thick iron doors guarded by two stern-looking men, before pulling into an empty space and unlocking the doors.

“Welcome to the Underground Market,” Justin announced. “Don’t talk back to the trolls and don’t touch anything. The witches tend to put spells on all their products to ensure nothing gets stolen. Always ask them about a product and let them handle it.”

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