Heart of a Beast

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Chapter 21 - Tiberius

[Madame Papillon requests your presence over tea tomorrow,] Beckett the Raven mentally told Tiberius before landing in the tree overhead and pecking a piece of paper loose from his leg.

Tiberius growled lowly. [And what does she want? She almost spilled the cure to my mate and then—]

Beckett interrupted, [And Madame apologizes for that.]

[So, what does she want?]

[You’ll see,] Beckett replied before taking flight.

Crystal started to panic as she stared at the small strip of paper in her hands.

Tiberius wrapped his arms around her, sensing her wolf clawing at the surface as she began to hyperventilate.

“Wh-What d-does s-she want?” she wheezed, crumpling the paper in her hands and turning to bury her face in Tiberius’ chest.

She shuddered with each breath as Tiberius smoothed his paw over her head and her mother leaned in, encouraging Crystal to take deep cleansing breaths.

He didn’t trust that spell-casting witch. She was Catherine’s aunt, for Goddess’ sake! She had a raven as a familiar capable of tapping into his mind against his will to communicate. Raven familiars only chose skilled witches.

Or the ones wise enough to understand them, he reminded himself as Crystal stilled against him.

She brushed her fingers against his chest, a comforting habit she had that sent ripples of pleasure to surge through him. As she relaxed and her caresses continued, he pressed his paw over her hand to stop her.

His maleness throbbed and threatened to spill out—a constant struggle he had with himself the last few days. She was oblivious to his struggles and he wanted to keep it that way as she worked on improving herself.

Taking one more deep breath, she pulled away as she exhaled and thanked him in a whisper. With her gaze lowered, she withdrew into herself as everyone pointedly looked away as the stink of her embarrassment wafted in the air for all to smell.

The picnic wrapped up soon afterward and everyone returned to their homes.

Crystal went straight to her room and shut the door before Tiberius could follow her in.

He stood outside and wanted to smash his head against the doorframe as anger and pain ripped through him.

Dammit! Why? She was doing so well!

A whine slipped out from him as he paced up and down the hallway, pausing for a second each time he reached her door.

Her parents and sister watched on. Their heartache and helplessness saturated the air with a saltiness he could taste on his tongue before they busied themselves and murmured amongst themselves to “Give her a moment.”

After five minutes, he parked his rump on the floor and lightly scratched at the door.

“Come in.”

His ears perked forward at the softness of her voice before he gingerly turned the doorknob and peered in.

Crystal was on her bed, lying on her back with her eyes closed and her hands clamped together over her heart. Her furrowed brows relaxed a little as she blinked her eyes open and stared up at the ceiling.

Tiberius closed the door gently and padded on all fours to her bedside and rested his head on the edge. A little whine crept out as he nudged her arm with his nose.

Taking a deep breath, she inhaled and exhaled as she closed her eyes again. “I’m okay.”

She repeated it again, reassuring herself.

Rolling over onto her side, she turned to face him, her eyes watery. She clutched something in her hand that disappeared under her pillow as she slipped her hand under to prop her head up a bit.

“I was doing good, right?” she asked.

He licked her cheek. You’re doing great, Beautiful.

Tingles danced across his face as her gaze traveled over his scars.

“You’re my best friend,” she whispered. “You’re more than that. It’s because of you that I haven’t had a seizure in over a week. Do you know how amazing that is? When a month ago, I couldn’t even get out of bed?”

She struggled to swallow as tears pooled in her eyes and threatened to fall.

“I don’t want to be like that anymore. I don’t want to be scared of it anymore. But I’m still scared.”

Oh, Cris…

Smoothing the callous pads of his paw over her head, he leaned forward and pressed his forehead to hers as tears dribbled down her cheeks.

You’re doing great. And if you have a seizure, don’t worry about it. Don’t let fear rule over you and control how you live your life.

Like you said, you haven’t had a seizure in over a week. You’re stronger now. More confident now. Everyone experiences setbacks, but you can’t let it hinder all the progress you’ve made.

Don’t be scared. I’m here. I’ll always be with you.

She had been doing better all week.

He wished he could say the same about himself.

The new moon was tomorrow night; the time when the Goddess closed Her eye. Without Her Light to guide him, he could lose his way and stray from the path. His hyper-senses would be dimmed, but he could handle that.

It was the effect the new moon would have on him as an unmated lycan male that concerned him.

With the days leading up to the new moon, he could feel his self-control slipping. The urge to seal the matebond became increasingly difficult to subdue.

The last couple of mornings, he had woken up aroused with the deep-seated urge to sink his canines into the soft flesh between her collarbone and neck.

He didn’t want to bond with her in that manner. She wasn’t ready. She wouldn’t accept it. He would only hurt her more—both physically and emotionally. He couldn’t force that on her. He would never forgive himself.

Not wanting to distract her, or hinder all the progress she was making, he kept his struggle to himself as best as he could. He covered his maleness when it slipped out or turned his body away so she wouldn’t see it until he’d pushed all the sensual thoughts from his mind and slipped his maleness back into its protective fold.

With the new moon now upon them, he could only pray that he keep the instinct to mate at bay.

After Crystal had calmed down, she changed into her one-piece bathing suit and went for a swim in the pool in the backyard.

Goddess, as if he needed anything else to stimulate him now. Seeing her nearly naked was an even bigger test.

Every day after working at the library, she’d come home and swim laps in the pool until she was tired. Sometimes, her sister would join her and add a bit of competition to encourage her to do better and to keep at it, emphasizing that exercise was a great way to burn off excess emotions stressing her out. Crystal did seem better when she was done and it was a great way to escape the humidity that had settled over them all week.

It took everything in Tiberius’ power to keep himself from spilling out in front of her or her family. Goddess, the skin-tight material left little to the imagination and he wanted to lap every drop of water that dripped off her flesh with his tongue.

He watched her swim back and forth from the shallow end to the deep end as he sat in the shallow end next to the deck to watch her and keep his nether region cool.

The sliding door opened and her father’s feet padded across the deck. Tiberius looked up as he groaned, getting down at the edge of the deck and dipping his tired feet into the cool water. He sighed loudly as Crystal stopped swimming long enough to greet him and ask him for the time.

The two males watched her swim back and forth a dozen more times before she climbed out and said she was going to take a shower.

Tiberius was about to get up when her father pressed a hand to Tiberius’ shoulder. Settling back down, Tiberius waited, looking up at Alexander expectantly.

“I wanted to thank you, Tiberius,” Alexander said. “I know this must be hard for you. It’s hard to see anyone you love struggling so much and I thank you for your patience. Thank you for being able to reach her when she has pushed us all out for so long. Rhonda and I have been trying for years to get her to open up to us, but she kept pushing back, pushing us out and not letting us in to help her.”

He gave Tiberius’ shoulder a gentle squeeze. “We are in debt to you. We couldn’t ask for a better mate for her. She’ll come around to you soon, I am certain of it.”

He released Tiberius’ shoulder and looked out over the pool. “With the new moon nearly upon us, I know you must be struggling even more, son. I trust that you have the best intentions for my daughter, but if you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask us.”

Embarrassment pulled his ears back as he lowered his head and covered his groin with a paw even though nothing had slipped out. He wanted Crystal in ways he only imagined and he couldn’t act on them. Not yet, at least, he reminded himself.

A minute passed before the strong hand returned to his shoulder and gave a reassuring squeeze. “You’re not alone. We’re here for you too. I know what it’s like. Even the strong need help sometimes.”

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