Heart of a Beast

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Chapter 23 - Tiberius (Part 2)

She was tangled up in a thick field of thorny vines and he slashed his way through with his massive claws to reach her. Pulling her free before shifting back into his human form, he dusted his hands on his jeans like it was a piece of cake. Looking back at her, he tilted his head in question as he glanced over her shoulder at the brier patch and scratched his chin.

“Were we watching Sleeping Beauty before bed or something?” It looked like a scene right out of that movie, minus the castle in the background.

She hung her head, twisting a lock of her hair around her fingers. “Yeah.”

He closed the distance between them, smirking. “I thought she was the most boring Disney Princess ever?”

“She is but I still enjoy the movie from time to time.”

Still grinning down at her, he reached up and brushed his thumb over her cheek. “And how did you get caught up in all those thorns?”

Her cheeks reddened. “Madame Papillon…”

“Are you worried about her?” She nodded. “She won’t hurt you. Not while I’m around, anyway.”

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath in and out. “I know. I just wish I knew what she wanted.”

Tiberius didn’t know what prompted this visit either, but he wasn’t going to get worked up about it. He had other pressing matters and urges to suppress than to contemplate the witch.

He brushed her hair behind her ear. “Whatever it is, I’ll keep you safe.”

“Will you?” she asked. “You’re struggling with the new moon.”

Sighing, he closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against hers. “I’ll be struggling to keep myself from ripping apart anyone who crosses my path tomorrow… but you will be safe.”

She swallowed. “And tomorrow night?”

He pulled away to gaze into her blue-green eyes as he caressed her cheek. “I’ll have your parents lock me up somewhere if need be to keep you safe.”

Her brows frowned. “You shouldn’t have to do that.”

“But I will if it means you’ll be safe.”

“Why can’t you mark me?”

He traced a furrowed brow with his thumb. “I don’t know what will happen if I do that. I don’t want to take the risk. We’ll be breaking the curse soon, anyway.”

Her eyes widened. “We will? How?”

Goddess, the things she did to him. He wanted to kiss away every little crease in her forehead before taking her lips with his.

His thumb trailed down her cheek to her jaw and over her chin before pressing lightly on the soft cushion of her bottom lip.

Dammit, if only he could feel her now. If only he could touch her like this outside of their dreams…

“You’ll see,” was all he would tell her as he stared at his thumb on her plump lip.

His chest ached as he dragged air into his lungs. Crushing temptation was inches away.

What would it feel like to kiss her?

He dragged his gaze up to meet hers. Those precious gemstones stared back, studying his face.

Shy hands reached up and touched his face.

He closed his eyes momentarily, imagining in his mind what it would feel like for her soft fingertips to touch his flesh. The tingles that would dance across his skin and make the hairs on his nape stand on end. The sensation of her breath fanning over his lips.

“I can’t feel you,” she whispered, her voice beckoning him to open his eyes.

Looking down at her, his face in her hands, he placed his palms on the backs of hers and brushed his thumbs over her knuckles.

“I know. I wish I could feel you too, Beautiful,” he said as he drew her hands from his face and kissed her palms. Lingering lips confessing the affections of his heart.

A rosy glow on lily-white cheeks greeted him under eyes seeking cover from a blossoming of foreign emotions. Shifting, tilting, unsure of how to feel or think or respond.

“Someday, I will paint a portrait of you,” he whispered in hopes of catching her shy gaze again.

She continued to sway, chewing on her bottom lip. “Why?”

“Because I paint what I find beautiful. What inspires me.”

Her cheeks deepened as she glanced up at him through her lashes before looking away.

“I know you don’t believe me. Someday, I hope you will see what I see. The strength within you and growing every day.”

He pressed one of her hands to his heart and released the other to tip her chin up. “I need to ask you something.”

Her eyes flitted about for a minute before she would meet his gaze. She mashed her lips together, her eyes wary, but she gave him a slight nod to continue.

“I need you to be my strength. I need you to be strong when I can’t be and, right now, I’m struggling.” He released her other hand and reached up to cup her cheeks in his palms. “Can you do that for me, Crystal?”

“I’ll try,” she whispered.

“Don’t try. Do. I believe in you.”

She looked away, pressing her lips together again as her eyebrows pinched. Her thoughts didn’t linger too long before she looked back at him with a flash of determination. “Okay.”

His chest tightened as he took in every inch of her face. Tracing every curve and line and imprinting it on his mind. He brushed his thumb over her still slightly pink cheeks, brushing more color to the surface as she blushed. There was no single color he could describe her eyes, even with his broad pallet of color names. Navy blue circled the outer edge of the iris, turning sharply into a royal blue and then a tranquil azure before turning teal and grass-green around the pupil. The most beautiful colors merging together flawlessly by the Goddess’ hand.

As beautiful as her eyes were, he could not tear his gaze away from her lips. Plump pink cushions he longed to caress with his own.

He dragged in a haggard breath. “Goddess, what you do to me…”

“What do I do to you?”

Such a suggestible question that he couldn’t tell if she really had no clue or if she was daring him.

Those eyes looked into his, her forehead smooth and brows relaxed.

He smirked, a shadow of himself from years ago resurfacing with all the confidence and ego that got him into all this trouble in the first place. “Do you really want to know, Beautiful?”

“I think I should, seeing as this is the only way you can directly tell me.”

He chuckled lightly, reveling in her sudden boldness.

If that didn’t give him a raging hard-on when he woke up, he didn’t know what would.

“Unspeakable things, Beautiful,” he uttered in a husky voice.

The rosy hue returned and she tried to lower her head, but he tilted her chin up further. He looked into her eyes and then down at her lips, licking his own.

“It’s a constant struggle. To be patient. To wait for this curse to break. To wait for you to be ready. I want all of you—in every way, in every moment, with every breath I take. Even now…” He brushed his thumb over her bottom lip. “I want nothing more than to feel you and I can’t…”

“Kiss me.”

A growl rumbled up his throat as his eyes flicked to meet hers. “Please, don’t tease me, Cris.”

“I want you to,” she whispered.

Chest constrictions threatened to pull him from the dream. Threatened to steal the moment before it could begin.

He couldn’t let it.

Lowering his head, he closed his eyes and claimed her lips. Gently, he kissed her without feeling a thing but the fire burning within.

He pulled her tightly against him, wanting more, needing more, and not feeling the sensations to quench the flames surging to life. Frustration, anger, desperation, and misery filled him as he pulled away and pressed his cheek to hers.

“I love you, Cris,” he rasped, clinging to her soul as he felt himself slipping away from her.

Please, just say the magic words and I’m all yours.

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