Chapter 20 - Crystal (Part 1)
Crystal slept in her bed that night while Tiberius slept on the floor. His fur was still damp from his shower and she was still upset with him.
She understood why he told her parents about her suicidal thoughts, but she still felt betrayed by him. To have him spill her most shameful thoughts to those she cared about the most hurt. To see their reactions hurt even more.
They didn’t understand. They didn’t know the anguish of praying every night to the Moon Goddess for her wolf and her prayers to never be answered. They didn’t know the sheer terror and agony of being seized by convulsions on a daily basis; to be bedridden, to feel so utterly hopeless and completely alone.
To hear everyone offering their love and support was such a punch in the face. She was even more of a burden than before and she didn’t want her miserable existence to be that anymore.
Everyone invited her and Tiberius over whenever they wanted and Tiberius nodded his head like it was a great idea.
She didn’t want to spend time with anyone and have to face their pitying eyes. Didn’t he get that? Everyone pitied her.
She couldn’t shake those glances. They followed her everywhere and she just wanted to run away and hide from it.
Neither she nor Tiberius slept well that night. She could tell because she knew what his sleeping noises sounded like.
She clutched the mate stone under her pillow and ran her thumb over the engraving. Her thoughts drifted from one memory to the next of Tiberius from the moment she woke up in his arms in the shack next to the creek in Wisconsin.
She knew she could trust him. She felt safest when she was with him. Yet, when she considered her feelings for him as her mate, she felt he was more like a friend. She cared about him, and he cared about her, but she knew his feelings for her were much stronger than the feelings she held for him.
Guilt struck her with that revelation and she pressed the mate stone to her heart.
Tiberius was a good male and he deserved more from a mate.
Why couldn’t she be the mate he needed and deserved?
She fell in and out of sleep, her thoughts consuming her and never letting up long enough for her to meet with Tiberius in her dreams.
He, likewise, didn’t sleep well and when morning came, he slipped out before she got up.
Rolling away from the wall, she looked down where he slept. Before she could even wonder where he had gone or why he got up without licking her face, a heaviness pressed down on her chest.
Something had to be bothering him. It had to be her fault. It had to be.
Still clutching the mate stone in her hand, she looked down at it and rubbed her thumb over the engraving.
I am so undeserving of you. And yet, you haven’t given up on me. Why? When we are doomed to die soon, why haven’t you given up on me?
Closing her eyes, she pressed her palms together with the flat stone between them.
If I only have a little bit of time left with you, I want to enjoy it with you.
Opening her eyes, she tucked the mate stone under her pillow and changed into jean shorts and a tank top before leaving her room.
The house was empty and when she peered out the sliding glass door in the kitchen to the backyard, she found her parents sitting on either side of Tiberius as he wrote in the dirt. Sighing, she opened the door, but her mother held up her index finger.
“Give us a minute, Cris.”
Her brows furrowed. “What are you guys plotting now?”
“In a minute, Cricket,” her father replied. “Go make yourself some breakfast and we should be done by then.”
She huffed and started to slide the door closed when her mother added, “Oh, and Grandma Teela, Aunt Mary, Uncle Raul, Aunt Willa, Uncle Sam, Aunt Janice, and Uncle Kurt will be coming over around noon.”
“Huh?” Why were her relatives from other packs coming over? She hadn’t seen them since Christmas and New Years.
“Do you think you can manage today’s intervention without the tonic, or should I call Alpha?” her father asked.
Her heart sped up as her eyes widened.
Tiberius looked over his shoulder, his ears perked toward her.
“Yes, again,” her mother said, using the tone a mother used to scold a small pup. “They want in on this too and we didn’t give them enough notice yesterday. Believe me, they wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Closing her eyes, she lightly banged her forehead on the glass three times before heaving a sigh and leaning against the cool surface. “It’s okay. I don’t want to bother Alpha, so I’ll drink some tea or something.”
Guess I have no choice, she thought as she turned away and slid the door closed. They just want to help, even though I just want to shrivel up and disappear.
She wondered what her parents and Tiberius were up to as she made herself some eggs and toast for breakfast. Once she was done eating and about to get up and wash her plate in the sink, her parents came in and gestured for her to step outside.
When she stepped out onto the deck, the moisture in the air clung to her. The sky was gray, the humidity was worse than usual without the slightest breeze blowing to break through the heaviness.
When she reached his side and sat down next to him, he brushed his arm against her shoulder and wrote into the damp earth, ‘How was your sleep?’
She studied his downward-facing face and the pink lines of scars visible across his head, a sadness fell over her. She reached up to trace her fingers along them but pulled back when he tilted his head slightly and looked at her from the corner of his eye. The ear closest to her lay back, but the other was perked up.
Drawing her legs up to her chest, she wrapped her arms around them and held herself as she turned her attention to the patch of earth and shook her head. “Not good.”
‘Me neither. I can’t sleep without you beside me anymore.’ He cleared the dirt and continued. ‘If it weren’t for the fact that I was still damp, I would have pulled you from the bed whether you liked it or not.’
He huffed, a sort of chuckle as he rubbed his arm against her shoulder again.
Her gaze rose from the earth to his face again. He still had the one ear down and the other perked up to attention.
“So, you’re not upset with me?” she asked tentatively.
His gray eyes turned away from the ground and met hers. Pain reflected within them as he held her gaze and brushed the back of his paw against her cheek. Sighing, he pulled away to write in the dirt.
‘I wish I could look you in the eye and talk to you normally.’ He sighed again as he smoothed over the soil. ‘I’m more upset with myself. Not you, Beautiful.’
She frowned, ignoring the last word. “Why?”
‘For my behavior last night.’
Her eyes trailed over the scratches on his head as he continued to write. He waited for her to tear her eyes off him and read the rest of his message before he continued.
’It’s getting harder for me to stay away from you. The matebond is toying with me.
’When your parents asked me to give you some space, I snapped.
’Even though I knew you needed some time alone because you were overwhelmed,
‘I wanted to slaughter anything keeping me from you.’
He sighed. ’I apologized to your parents right now. Thankfully, they understood.
’Still doesn’t justify my actions, but I needed to get it off my chest.
‘That’s why I didn’t come in last night when you called. I needed to get myself under control.’
Huffing, he scratched himself behind his perked ear.
’I’m really frustrated with myself right now. I wish you knew what it felt like.
’I need you all the time. It tears me apart when I have to give you space.
‘Sorry—not sorry—that I sound so clingy, but that’s how I feel.’
He coughed one of those rough, throaty lycan chuckles before nuzzling her hair.
She blushed as he pulled away to add, ’Believe me when I say you’re the most important being in my life and I can’t live without you.
’And no matter how many times you try to push me away,
’no matter how many times you scream, cry, or beat yourself up,
’I won’t give up on you. On us. I am nothing without you.
‘I will die before I give up on you. You are the cure, you just don’t know it yet.’
He leaned down and nuzzled the side of her head.
She stared at the words in the earth, her face growing warmer. She didn’t understand. “How am I the cure?”
He pulled back a few inches and drew her gaze to meet his. He brushed the back of his paw against her cheek as he looked into her eyes.
Warmth spread throughout her body as her heart squeezed. She couldn’t pull away from his gaze. A fuzzy haze enveloped her and her eyelids drooped. A tingling sensation grew on the tips of her fingers. The urge to touch him increased in strength the longer she looked into his eyes and the deeper his soul pulled her into the depths of his heart.
She saw the dark-haired man from her dreams staring back at her. She could see the love expressed in those glinting grays. The emotions he held washed over her, pulling her down into the deep pools and she gasped, blinking in shock and looking away.
She struggled to refill her lungs, the drowning sensation slowly passing with each second as he pulled her into his arms and pressed her ear to his heart.
She squeezed her eyes shut as a faint rumble of pleasure vibrated in his throat.
Was that the power of the matebond he described feeling? The pleasurable, though suffocating, sensations sucking her into the depths of his soul?
Reaching up, she kneaded her fingers into his chest fur and buried her face as she focused on taking deep, cleansing breaths.
“I’m okay,” she croaked, but he didn’t pull away. He continued to hold her, brushing his nose in her hair, and gently caressing her back.
Regardless of her pitifulness, he loved her fiercely. Guilt nibbled at her heart as she wished she could give him that same amount of love in return.
He gave a low whine and pulled away to look into her eyes, but she avoided meeting his gaze.
“I don’t want to do this,” she murmured. “Can we just got back to bed?”
He didn’t argue and got up to follow her inside and to her room where she set her blanket and pillow on the floor. She nestled up to him and closed her eyes, heaving a sigh, and feeling a smile pull at her lips.
Sleep claimed her in the warmth of her mate’s embrace, and she felt better when she woke a few hours later to meet with her relatives.