Chapter 19 - Tiberius (Part 2)
Huffing, he turned from her parents and took off to the tree at the back of the yard, ramming his shoulder against the trunk and knocking his arm out of its socket.
He howled in pain and collapsed to the ground, clutching his arm and popping it back in.
This is all your fault. If you had just left Arizona earlier to find her, things wouldn’t have gotten this bad. She wouldn’t hate herself. She wouldn’t hate you—
His entire body ached as guilt wracked through him. He whined and clutched his head, raking his claws against his skull and tearing open flesh. He squeezed his eyes shut as blood poured down.
Stop thinking like that! You know she doesn’t hate you! Stop hating yourself! Be strong! She needs you to be strong right now!
How could he be strong when his soulmate considered killing herself?
As he fought the demons torturing him, the wind began to pick up and storm clouds brewed in the distance, drawing closer. He could feel the electricity building in the air as thunder rumbled far off, drawing every hair on his body to stand on end.
“Tiberius?” Crystal’s father called from the kitchen door. “Come on in, son, before the storm hits.”
A conflict of emotions warred within him. A part of him wanted to tear that male apart for keeping him from his mate, but he knew better. He knew better and the male’s choice of words dampened the fire that surged forward.
He dug his claws into the earth and pushed back the beast clawing to the surface.
He needed his mate by his side. He didn’t trust himself with that male right now.
Thunder clapped closer now. His muscles jumped at the sound of it and a whine slipped out.
He wanted to go inside. Wanted to be close to and comfort his mate, but not until he got himself under control.
The approaching storm wasn’t helping. It brought forth the beast, the instinct to run or fight, and Alexander standing in the doorway was activating his fight instinct.
Crystal’s father sighed and closed the door as the rain began to fall, softly at first, then splattering hard against him as lightning forked in the sky and thunder cracked, roared, and rumbled.
Voices murmured over the pounding of the rain, and a few minutes later, the sliding door opened and her voice called out to him.
Like a siren’s song, her voice drew him toward her, but he kept his ground. Raking his claws through the earth, he pulled his paws up underneath him as the rain continued to pummel against him. He needed it to beat the beast down lest he snapped and lost control.
With each passing minute under the torrential downpour, the cold seeped into his flesh, chilling him to the bone and his capacity to fight diminished.
The wind changed directions, the storm shifting, but the rain held strong.
Flipflops smacked against the wet wooden deck and squished over the soggy earth.
Tiberius’ ears perked forward as she hurried toward him with a raincoat covering her head and upper body against the beating rain.
She came to a stop a few yards away. “Come on! What’s with you? It’s freaking pouring out here!”
He dug his claws into the earth beneath him but didn’t move.
Come closer, mate.
She sighed and took a few paces toward him, her tone softening. “Come on, Tiberius. I want you to come inside.”
Red-rimmed gemstones looked down at him, pleading, her delicate scent curling around him and relaxing his tense muscles.
She reached out with her hand and brushed her fingers through the wet fur on his head and frowned. “What happened to your head?”
Closing his eyes, he relished in the tingling sensations she created and pushed his head into her palms for more warmth and pleasure.
If she had any idea of the effect she had on him, she would never question his devotion. If she only believed she was worthy of love and a mate, she would understand how cherished she was and how much he needed her in his life.
He rubbed his head against her palm before licking her hand.
Thank you, Beautiful.
Before she could utter another word, he pushed himself up from the ground and nudged her shoulder with his nose.
Sighing, she hung her head and didn’t say anything, but again kneaded her fingers into his fur on his neck as they walked across the yard and into the house.
Thunder rumbled, farther away now, the storm moving south and the trail of heavy rain began to let up.
When he stepped into the light, she gasped. She stared at his head, reached out to touch him but drew her hand back to cover her mouth.
“What did you do?” she asked in a small voice.
Trying not to lose control, Beautiful.
“Good Goddess! Cris, help him into the shower,” Rhonda exclaimed as she peered over her shoulder, her hands in the kitchen sink scrubbing a few dishes.
Tiberius looked down at the puddle of mud dripping on the tiled floor underneath him and flashed Rhonda a cheeky grin.
“I told him to come in before the rain,” Alexander said from the living room.
It was as though nothing had happened and everyone was back to normal.
Tiberius followed Crystal to the bathroom where she turned the shower on for him and he sat down in the tub while she pulled down the hand-held shower-head and rinsed him off. She scrubbed him up with a large brush, lathering half a bottle of body wash on him, and rinsing him back off. She then sat on the toilet with a washcloth and gently washed away any leftover blood from his head.
“What did you do, Tiberius?” she asked again in a whisper as she rubbed him carefully between his eyes with the moist cloth. “Your head is all scratched up. It will take some time for the fur to grow back.”
This is what you do to me, Beautiful. A rumble of contentment and pleasure vibrated in his throat at her careful attention.
“You’re no better than me,” she mumbled. “I mentally beat myself up and you physically hurt yourself. We’re a fine pair of messed up misfits.”
Opening his eyes, he reached out and brushed her cheek with the back of his paw.
But you’re my perfect messed up misfit.
She stopped cleaning his face and pulled back, sitting up straighter on the lid of the toilet. “Why did you have to tell my parents? Do you have any idea how humiliating that was?”
His throat rumbled. How could I not? I don’t care if you were embarrassed. Everyone there loves you and you need to know and accept that. You’re not worthless.
He wished he could have said that to make her bite back the words she uttered next.
“Everyone is going to pity me even more than they did before. How am I supposed to face them again? I don’t want to be pitied anymore.”
Take control, then, he wanted to tell her. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop hating yourself. Tell yourself that you’re not that female anymore. That you are better than that female unable to even get out of bed. You’re the only one holding yourself back now. Why can’t you see that?
He huffed as she rubbed her face, exhaustion bearing down on her.
“I don’t know what to do.”
His thoughts were starting to sound like a broken record as they repeated in his head and he had no means of speaking his mind with her.
He watched her stand up and rinse the cloth in the sink before handing him a towel to dry off and walk out.
What to do? He mused as he dried himself. His thoughts circulated around everything she’d told him and the way she behaved. He was beginning to see a pattern repeat itself.
When the towel became too saturated, he climbed out of the tub and hung the towel up on the shower curtain rod. He glanced at his reflection in the mirror and grimaced at the crisscrossing lines of pink flesh over his head.
She was right about one thing. She needed to stop mentally beating herself up like he needed to stop physically harming himself.
Break the cycle, he told himself. That’s how we fix this.