Heart of a Beast

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Chapter 22 - Crystal

When Crystal finished her shower, she found her father drying Tiberius with a towel on the deck. She was about to open the sliding door when her mother stopped her. She looked up to meet her mother’s smiling eyes as Crystal furrowed her brows.

“Unless you want to embarrass him, I’d let your father take care of him,” her mother said.

“Why? He’s my mate, I’m supposed to take care of him.”

Her mother leaned in and lowered her voice. “Exactly. You’re his mate. He’s a lycan and the new moon is tomorrow night. He experiences it differently from werewolves. While all his senses diminish when the Goddess closes Her eye, one thing gets heightened in its place.”

“Huh?” Had she forgotten something important about the new moon?

She tried to recall her after-school lessons on werewolf culture, history, and biology, and came up dry. Taking a wild guess at the only logical thing that came to mind, she said, “Um, animal instincts are heightened?”

Her mother nodded. “Certain instincts are when the third eye that connects us to Her is closed. Our strongest instinct at the time of the new moon is heightened and for unmated lycans and werewolves…”

Her mother trailed off, allowing Crystal to fill in the blanks.

Crystal stepped back, her eyes widening as she put the pieces together. “He-He’s…”

“Highly sensitive to your scent and touch. Let your father dry him off from showers and the pool for the next few days. He’s going to be a little more aggressive and easily aggravated, so don’t mind him. Give him space, relax, and try to watch your own emotions.”

Hanging her head, Crystal swallowed before peering out into the backyard while chewing on her bottom lip.

She knew what her mother was referring to. Her seizures were always the worst when the Goddess closed Her eye and her thoughts would drift to suicide more frequently as she held herself and cried in her bed.

The next couple of days were going to be rough.

“I’ll try Ma.”

Her mother’s palms cupped her cheeks and drew her eyes up to meet her mother’s olive green ones a few inches above hers. She brushed her nose lightly against Crystal’s.

“I know you will, Cricket. Maybe if you think more about Tiberius’ needs and sensitivity right now, it will be enough to keep those seizures from happening? You’ll be thinking too much about him to worry about yourself,” she said as she pulled away, giving Crystal a crooked grin.

“Ma, you’re creeping me out with that look.”

Her mother wiggled her eyebrows at her, sending warmth to shoot up her neck to her cheeks.

Crystal made a beeline to the fridge for a drink of water while her mother giggled to herself and said she was going to go out and run a few errands. Her father poked his head in the kitchen, grinning at her mother with an air of mischief around him. Crystal looked away from their private exchange, her face growing a few degrees warmer.

She didn’t want to think about how the new moon affected her parents’ animal instincts. Gross.

‘Think more about Tiberius’ needs.’ Her mother’s words flitted around her mind as her father stepped into the kitchen with Tiberius ambling behind on all fours. His head was down, but she thought he was watching her from the corner of his eye.

She followed her parents to the front door as they chatted and slipped shoes on, telling her they’d be back in an hour or two. Closing the door behind them, she turned to Tiberius with her head lowered. She stared at the ground as warmth spread across her face.

It was just her and Tiberius now.

And Brooke, who would be sleeping for another hour or two before she got up for breakfast and the nightly hunt.

Brooke was always strong. Always independent. She didn’t need anyone and was kicking ass before Crystal was in the first grade. Usually, wolves started climbing the ranks after finishing high school, but Brooke was already a mid-level warrior by then, chomping at the bit and carrying herself with all the dignity and pride she deserved. She was a couple of positions away from being the Head Female Warrior and would probably claim it in five years when she turned thirty. She was currently working toward the second rank and once she was in that, she’d start training in strategy and warfare and attending meetings with the other higher-ranking wolves in the pack.

Crystal wished she had the same kind of strength her big sister had. To hold her head high and face anyone who crossed her path with a straight and even gaze, lowering it only in respect to those ranked above her.

Crystal always thought her place was at the bottom, but with Tiberius as her mate, a lycan, and a rogue, what was she? What was her place now?

A wet nose nudged her arm and she automatically reached up to scratch him behind the ears. With her head still bowed, avoiding his gaze, she said, “With the new moon tomorrow night, I understand if you need more space.”

His arm pulled her against him as he nuzzled into the curve of her neck and sighed.

The corners of her lips pinched up.

“I guess that means you’re okay, huh?”

For now, she added to herself.

She understood the new moon was heightening the effects the matebond had on him. Memories of her lessons from years ago began to slowly trickle into the forefront of her mind. The urge for mates to join their bodies and souls together was greater when the Goddess closed Her eye, the primal, animalistic, bodily needs growing even stronger. The full moon would have the same effect but was more of an inner yearning of the souls, drawing strength from each other and the Light of the moon on a clear night.

As she closed her eyes and leaned into his warm embrace, her thoughts drifted away. The steady drumming of his heart lulled her in the silence that engulfed them.

Peace was in his arms.

Peace spread from him to her, seeping into her skin and radiating throughout her body.

Peace stole every negative thought and emotion from the harsh clutches of the monster within that sought to tear her apart.

So relaxed and content was she, that his name whispered from her lips in a sigh.

He lifted his head and held hers in the rough pads of his paws and her eyelids fluttered open. She felt as if she was looking at him through the haze of a dream. Her heart was full and her body was weightlessly floating as she gazed into his eyes.

His eyes…

His eyes were beautiful. His soul was beautiful.

She was beautiful. She felt beautiful.

For the first time in her life, she felt beautiful. She felt significant. She felt cherished. She felt loved.

Never before had she felt so many overwhelming and wonderful emotions all at once. They bubbled up and caught in her throat, as he closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to hers.

Tears dripped from the corners of her eyes as she closed them. Reaching up, she dug her fingers into the thick fur of his neck.

Was this feeling, this emotion… love?

She gathered air into her lungs, breathing in deeply and exhaling slowly out.

She didn’t want this feeling, this sensation, to end.

“Tiberius…” His name on her breath again, breathing him in as her fingers kneaded into his neck. She pulled on his fur as she tilted her head, exposing her neck to him.

“I trust you.”

His breath against her neck made her shiver as every hair on her body stood to attention.

Her heart beat a little harder. Her stomach clenched into knots.

Maybe this was the cure?

She swallowed as his head lowered.

His paw touched the small of her back as the other continued to cup her cheek.

Safe in his hands.

His wet nose pressed into the soft curve of her shoulder between her neck and collarbone before his tongue licked her sensitive flesh.

She whimpered, not out of fear, but out of pleasure. A sound that was foreign to her own ears as she braced herself for the pain that would come when he sank his teeth into her flesh.

I won’t be scared anymore.

He grazed his teeth over the flesh he would mark and nipped gently, not to break the skin, but enough to make her moan as the lower, most ignored part of her, sprang to life.

She was pushed to the couch as a growl erupted from within him and he tore away, snatching the pillow next to her and storming out of the living room and into the kitchen.

Her head was swimming as she tried to gather her bearings and heard the faint clicking of his claws on the floor before the back door slid open and shut.

Touching her shoulder, she felt the flush of her skin and the thin coating of his saliva under her fingertips.

No puncture, no mark, but a promise.

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