Chapter 15 - Tiberius (Part 2)
His heartbeat pounded in his ears. Or was it Crystal’s pounding louder and faster?
The raven cawed and clacked his beak. At the same time, a sharp pain struck the front of Tiberius’ skull.
He growled and winced, pulling Crystal tighter against him and making her cry out as his claws cut into her soft flesh.
Nostrils flaring, Justin reacted. Lunging at Tiberius and shifting into his wolf in mid-air, he jumped on Tiberius and sank his teeth into the thick fur on Tiberius’ nape. He tried to yank Tiberius back from his sister, but Tiberius was stronger.
Yowling in pain, Tiberius reached over his head and grabbed Justin’s wolf, his sharp claws slicing through flesh and fur and pull the smaller wolf from him.
A blast of ice shot through his veins. It was so cold it burned and while Crystal screamed in shock, Tiberius’ snarl caught in his throat as his body froze in place.
A whimper inches from his ears told him that Justin was struck with the same icy blow. Both of them were frozen in place, their breaths puffing out before them as Madame Papillon stepped into Tiberius’ line of vision with her wand pointed between his eyes.
“You will both chill, do you hear me? I will not have a pack of dogs destroy my livelihood over a few drops of blood,” she snapped as Jackson took Crystal by the shoulders and guided her to the corner of the room.
That male touching his mate only infuriated Tiberius more. Instinct gripped him and he tried to wrestle free of the witch’s spell and tear that son of a bitch in two, but the greater the burn of his rage, the greater the burn of the ice that crippled him.
“Relax, Lycan. The spell will release you once you cool your jets. The more you rage, the stronger the bite of ice,” Madame Papillon said, her wand and gaze still fixated on his.
“He’s upset that I’m touching you, Crystal,” Jackson whispered to her. “We should move out of his line of sight.”
Seething, Tiberius watched his wide-eyed mate stare at him, her cloak torn, with blood dripping down her arms as she disappeared from his vision. It only enraged him more.
He should be the one comforting her and treating the wounds he accidentally inflicted on her. He should be the only one touching her. That male had a mate. He should keep his grimy paws to himself. He shouldn’t touch what didn’t belong to him.
[If you want her to love you, don’t think of her as an object of your possession,] a voice whispered into his mind.
Tiberius growled. He didn’t recognize the voice. It was male with a French accent.
The raven was still perched on Madame Papillon’s shoulder, his beady eyes staring through him and into his soul.
[I do not possess her in any way, shape, or form. She is free to do as she pleases, but I will put her life, safety, and well-being before my own at all times. And who are you to tell me otherwise?] Tiberius demanded, unable to tear his eyes away from the bottomless black depths of the raven’s.
[Introspection. Why does it anger you when another touches her?]
[Because she is my mate and no one touches my mate.]
[Replace the word ‘mate’ with any other noun, and you have directly objectified her and turned her into a piece of your property, n’est-ce pas?]
Tiberius growled as Justin collapsed to the ground behind him, panting. A brief grinding of bones announced that he’d shifted back into his human form as his teeth chattered. “Damn, that was cold!” He cursed. “My clothes are destroyed.”
“Here, take this. Don’t go rummaging through my pockets, though,” came Darnell’s voice.
“Why? Ya got vampire tokens in here? Hey is that a condom?”
“Shut it, wolf!”
Ignoring the beta and vampire slayer, Tiberius tried to crane his neck around to see his mate, but it wouldn’t budge. His breath puffed out in a cloud before him as his frustration grew. Where was his mate?
[She’s fine. An alpha would never harm or take advantage of his own, oui?]
The voice was obnoxious and nasally. It grated on his nerves, pushing through his mental barriers and reading his thoughts without regard.
[There’s a lot of anger within you. That is never good. And while you stress over your soulmate’s well-being and affections, you are overlooking your own that need to be dealt with.]
[Get out of my head!] Tiberius’ snarl caught in his throat and was more of a gurgle—hardly threatening at all.
The icy-cold bite gnawed on his bones and his mind grew foggy. He tried to shake the fog from his head and couldn’t.
“Stop fighting it, Tiberius, or you will catch hypothermia,” Madame Papillon warned.
Her voice was soft like a harp and she plucked the cord that bound the rage within him. The tremor of it shook through him as his mate stepped in front of him and reached up with trembling, blood-stained hands. Standing on her toes to reach his arms that were raised over his head, she gently caressed his biceps and spoke in a soft, soothing voice.
“I’m here. I’m okay. You can relax.”
He shivered, the rage draining away like an icy-cold current through his veins and slipping down to his toes. A tingling sensation sparked under her touch and melted through his skin to his muscles and bones. Lowering his arms to envelop Crystal, the heat of her body seeped into him, warming and calming him.
I’m sorry, Beautiful. He nuzzled the top of her head and inhaled her delicate scent, tainted by the metallic scent of her blood.
“Tell me, Tiberius,” Madame Papillon prompted, her steel-gray eyes still locked on him. “What happened between you and my niece, Catherine?”
“Your niece?” Alpha Jackson asked behind him.
Jackson’s question echoed in Tiberius’ head as a deeper chill set into his bones as the raven-haired beauty flashed in his mind.
How did she know Catherine was the one behind his curse? How could she be her niece?
He immediately pushed all thoughts of her from his mind, replacing it with memories of Crystal. How peaceful she looked when she slept. The rosy shade her cheeks turned when she blushed.
He didn’t want that damned bird to see what that horrid witch had done to him. Even if ravens were the “Keepers of Secrets,” he would surely tell Madame Papillon everything he saw in Tiberius’ mind. The spells she cast on him, the way she manipulated him…
His shivering intensified as he struggled to push those thoughts and memories from his mind and replace them again with Crystal. The way her face lit up when she successfully created fire. The way the sun shone between the leaves in the trees and shimmered against Crystal’s dyed black hair.
Even though Crystal and Catherine both had dark hair, Crystal’s features were softer with her heart-shaped face, full lips, and gorgeous gemstone blue-green eyes. His mate was good and pure, not a malicious speck in her heart and soul.
Madame Papillon leaned against the table and crossed her arms over her chest while Beckett preened her hair.
“Catherine was always a stubborn, willful child. My sister died giving birth to her and her father took off. I raised her. She was every bit as cunning as my sister, even as a child. Cruel sometimes, even. Every time I tried to disciple her, she would find a way to turn it around and use it against me. She soon grew too strong and powerful for me to control and ran away when she turned seventeen. I haven’t seen her since. That was sixteen years ago.”
She reached for the glass that held Crystal’s blood, now simply a coil of black threads frozen in place. “Every spell a witch casts has her signature imprinted on it. Catherine’s signature is imprinted in here. I can recognize it anywhere. She’s grown dangerously powerful since I last saw her if she can conjure up a curse as deadly as this one.”
She set the glass back down on the table and tapped a long painted nail against it. “I must find her and Mandala.”
Squawking, the raven flapped his wings before darting out the door as the curtain slowly opened.
“Mandala?” Crystal asked, the name triggering Tiberius’ recollections of the vampires taunting him. “Master Mandala?”
“Yes. Catherine’s father.”
Tiberius swore as a growl rumbled up his throat, still burning with the warming of his body.
“I’m afraid I will be of no help to you, but it seems you two are already on the right path,” Madame Papillon said, going to the shelf and pulling off a thin black book. “Continue down this path and don’t veer off track. Your time is running short. Trust in each other and you will find your way.”
With that, they were dismissed.