Heart of a Beast

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Chapter 16 - Crystal

Crystal was terrified when something snapped in Tiberius and her brother lunged at him. Terrified that her mate would kill her brother in one swift movement because she knew he was fully capable of doing so. And she was terrified to see him frozen in place, his mouth open with large teeth ready to rip flesh, his massive paws with razor-sharp claws raised over his head, and struggling under the witch’s spell.

She was terrified that whatever caused him to snap would only enrage him more and he would freeze to death under the witch's spell.

Crystal had to act. She was compelled to step away from her alpha and reach out to her mate.

He had always had the power to calm her, could not she do the same?

When he relaxed into her touch, she realized she had been holding her breath and slowly released it as he wrapped his arms around her. He whimpered softly as his body shivered and pressed his nose into her hair.

When Madame Papillon dismissed them and they left, Crystal had more questions than answers.

Who was Catherine and what had happened between her mate and this witch? What kind of a witch would cast a curse strong enough to cripple them both before eventually killing them? It seemed as though Tiberius knew the cure all along and that upset her.

Why wouldn’t he tell her something so important?

She didn’t want to bring up the secrets he held in front of the others. How could he respond anyway? There was no point in asking when he had no means of answering.

Even though she knew a witch was responsible for his curse, she had never thought to ask him what he had done to warrant it. Madame Papillon said his curse was a powerful and malicious one that would have taken time to conjure up. What had he done to warrant such a death sentence?

She hugged her tattered cloak around her as they wove back through the throngs of supernaturals shopping at the Market. Tiberius was as protective as always, and with the herbal potion still effective in her system, she looked about her with a curious eye instead of shrinking away like she had before.

The Market wasn’t so frightening and all her stress and anxiety seemed stupid now. Her first encounter with witches had been friendly and somewhat informative. They may not be so nice if threatened, but then neither were werewolves. They had every bit of right to defend themselves as the next being, which again begged the question as to what Tiberius had done to get cursed?

They climbed back into their van and dropped the vampire slayer off at the church.

Tiberius had stopped shivering then and still pressed his body as close to hers as he could, curling around her in an attempt to absorb more of her warmth. He licked her wounds and the dried blood from her arms as the night’s adventures played over and over in Crystal’s mind.

When they arrived home, her brother and Alpha Jackson helped her out of the van and asked if she was okay.

“Yes, why wouldn’t I be?” she asked, glancing at them and reading their concerned expressions.

Justin narrowed his eyes at Tiberius as he climbed out and Tiberius curled his lips up.

“Be more careful,” was her brother’s warning to her mate before he turned and climbed back into the driver’s seat.

Alpha raised his palms to Tiberius and uttered “Blessed be the night,” before he too turned and climbed back into the van.

Her mother was waiting for them, stifling yawns, and ushering them inside to bed as the van pulled away.

Deciding to take a quick shower, Crystal glanced at her reflection in the mirror and noted that her dark brown roots were starting to appear on her scalp. She’d have to dye her hair again soon, but as she looked at herself now, she wondered if she should dye her hair black again. She felt different. She didn’t see the same fearful, dejected, emo werewolf staring back at her.

She stripped down and examined her wounds, but all that remained was some soft pink skin in its place.

She remembered her dream, the one where she’d cut her leg and her packmates had turned their noses up at her and Tiberius had licked her wounds.

Today had proved that her alpha and brother cared enough to help her and her mate. Taking them to the Underground Market in search of answers when it seemed Tiberius had all the answers already.

Why hadn’t he said something instead of dragging them all to the witch’s market?

Tying her hair up in a messy bun so it wouldn’t get wet, she hopped into the shower for a quick rinse, dried off, changed into her pajamas, and brushed her hair and teeth. She glanced once more at her reflection in the mirror and noted to herself that something was definitely different about her and chalked it up to the herbal tonic she drank.

Returning to her room, she paused in the doorway when she saw Tiberius had laid out her blanket and pillow on the floor. He looked up at her expectantly and cocked his head to the side as she stood there staring for a few seconds.

His scent still had that stinky musk that made her nose wrinkle and from where she stood, it was still prominent and stronger than it had been all week even though she helped him shower every day.

The pull of his eyes drew her forward, but when she looked down at the bed he laid out, the spell his soul had on hers was gone. No longer drawn to him and not in need of his comfort, she remembered the secrets he harbored and it left a bitter taste in her mouth.

What did that witch give me? She asked herself again as she walked to her bed and sat on the edge.

He whined and patted the bed he made for her.

She dug her fingers into the mattress.

“What happened between you and Catherine?” she demanded.

Her boldness only heightened the strength she felt over him. The bitter taste on her tongue only grew in intensity. Jealousy? Why was she jealous of someone who brought harm to her and her mate?

His ears drew back and he looked away.

Guilty.

Of what?

She snatched her pillow and blanket from the floor and set them on her bed. She turned off the light and crawled under the covers, ignoring his whines.

“Goodnight, Tiberius.”

He prodded her with his wet nose and licked her ear, only to have her pull the blanket over her head.

He whined louder for a few seconds before he fell silent.

She wondered if she was being unjustly mean, but she reminded herself that she was allowed to be upset with him. He’d been keeping secrets from her—secrets that could mean her inevitable death—and she deserved to know such things.

Before she could add further validation for her feelings, he whipped the blanket completely from her bed and threw it against the wall.

Squeaking, she was lifted into his arms and carried out of the room, down the hallway to the kitchen, and out the back door to the deck.

She protested in a hushed voice, demanding that he take her back to her room—that he could sleep outside if he wanted to because she didn’t want to sleep beside him tonight.

The waning moon glistened on the surface of the pool. Crickets chirped in the grass and fell silent as Tiberius carried her to the patch of dirt he’d cleared days ago.

She huffed as he set her down and held herself against the chill of the night.

“We can talk tomorrow. Besides, I can’t see anything you write in the dark.”

He turned and marched back into the house and returned a minute later with a throw from the couch and a heavy-duty flashlight that her father kept on the counter next to the patio doors. He handed her the flashlight before unfolding the blanket and draping it around her shoulders.

She muttered her appreciation as she clasped the blanket in one hand and turned the flashlight on with the other.

As he crouched next to her and began to write, she shone the light over the dirt and read, ‘I don’t believe in going to bed angry. Neither one of us will be able to sleep and,’ he cleared the dirt to continue, ‘I won’t be able to explain anything in dreams then.’

“So, are you going to tell me about Catherine and the fact that you knew we were both going to die if we don’t find a way to cure this curse?”

He sighed, cleared the dirt, and wrote, ‘I can tell you about Catherine if you want, but it would be easier to explain in a dream.’

She wrinkled her nose. “Is it a long story?”

‘For me to explain what happened well, yes.’

“Fine. I’ll drop it for now, but I want answers later.”

‘In our next dream, I promise I will tell you everything you ask.’

“Including what Madame Papillon said about you knowing the answers to everything, and yet you still insisted we go to the Underground Market for answers?” The bitter taste in her mouth made her spit out the question and made him flinch.

He hesitated and she was about to get up and leave him in the dirt when he wrote, ’If I could tell you, I would, but authenticity is the key to the cure.

‘It is best for you not to know, so it can happen naturally.’

She narrowed her eyes. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

She rarely swore and the harshness of the word sounded foreign on her tongue. It was something her sister would throw in others’ faces, not her.

‘Please, trust me on this.’

“How can I trust you when you’ve been keeping all kinds of secrets from me—like my own death?” she demanded.

'I didn’t know you would die as a result of the curse as well.

'I feared you would, but it wasn’t something I wanted to admit to myself.'

He rubbed his arm, thinking for a few seconds before continuing.

'I choose to believe that we can cure this because

‘I refuse to give up on you.’

She was growing more frustrated and heaved a sigh. Why couldn’t he just tell her the truth? Why did he have to keep it from her?

“And what if I choose to give up on you?”

As soon as those words escaped her lips, she wished she could take them back.

His ears flattened back and his lips curled into a snarl. He clamped his eyes shut. Nostrils flared, breathing hard. He clenched his paw into a fist and slammed it against the earth. Blood dribbled down and dripped on the dirt message board.

He stood up and took a step back.

Alarm bells were sounding in her head. She slipped up. She knew she had. He had done so much for her and what had she given him in return?

He turned and stormed away, jumping over the fence and disappearing from sight.

“Oh Goddess,” she uttered in a breathy whisper. “What have I done?”

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