Heart of a Beast

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Chapter 25 - Tiberius (Part 2)

After leaving the cell, they went back to Crystal’s parents’ house. She carefully washed his paws in a bowl and cloth, gingerly working around his scabbed over nail-beds and digging out the dirt between the creases of his callous pads. Once she was satisfied, she drew him a bath and scrubbed him up with a brush.

He lapped up the attention like a lovesick puppy.

She was so gentle in her movements, stroking him in such a way that made his heart sing and his throat to vibrate in a pleasurable purr. She hummed along herself, a tune he didn’t recognize. But the love was there in her touch, in the stolen glances over heated cheeks, in the perfume wafting up from her and drowning him in bliss.

At one point, his maleness slipped out and she froze. He quickly covered it with a paw and drew her attention back up with his other paw, pointing at her eyes and then his.

She nodded, her cheeks bright red.

His bath mostly done by then, she drained the water and rinsed him off with the shower nozzle before excusing herself. Once he was alone, he rose up on his hind legs to dry himself off with a fluffy towel and tuck things back into their proper place.

When he exited the bathroom, Crystal was in her room sitting on the floor with her back against her bed and her sketchbook open on her pulled-up knees.

She looked up, blushed, and patted the floor next to her. Her scent beckoned him forward and even if he wanted to resist the pull, he would be unable to.

He took his rightful place at her side and gave her cheek a little lick. She scratched him behind the ear and turned her attention back to her sketchbook on her lap. Following her gaze, he saw a half-finished drawing of him. The human side of him. His cowboy hat was tilted down, covering half his face with a knowing grin gazing back off the page.

She missed him last night.

He nuzzled her neck and she flipped the page to a drawing of his wolf head resting on the edge of her bed, an adoring look in his eyes.

“I drew this one last night,” she said, trailing her finger along the edge of the page.

His throat rumbled as he nuzzled her again. Her heart was hammering, drumming away in his head as the heat in her cheeks intensified. The scent around her grew heavier and he closed his eyes to inhale the intoxicating aroma as his head swam in bliss.

“And when I drew it… I realized… Even then… The first time you looked at me like that… You loved me.” She swallowed. “And I was too scared to see it for what it was.”

“Cris! Tiberius! Lunchtime!”

Crystal groaned and was about to protest at her mother’s interruption when Tiberius’ stomach growled hungrily.

She mashed her lips together as she lifted her hand to cover them, her eyes laughing. She gave her head a shake, grinning broadly, as they got up from the floor and went into the kitchen for lunch.

Rhonda gave him a steak and the leftover roast he didn’t finish the day before. Or was that two days before? Goddess, he couldn’t remember. The days blurred and he couldn’t recall when one ended and the next began.

Not only that, but it was harder for him to think straight. To see the big picture and look into the future. Crystal occupied his every thought. Her scent over-powered every sense. He was stuck in the present with her and the furthest into the future he could muster was when she would say those three little words, break their curse, and seal the matebond in a frenzy of passion.

She would break the curse soon. He believed it. But then what? Would she return to Arizona with him?

As much as he loved basking in her presence, he knew they needed to talk more about the future. Did she want to live with his pack? What if she didn’t? It was already made clear that lycans wouldn’t be welcome in a pack of werewolves. He wanted her happiness above all else. What if she couldn’t be happy in his pack?

She scratched him behind the ears as she got up after finishing her lunch and took his and her empty plates to the sink. His worries and fears were immediately swept away by the gesture and his tail thumped on the floor as he watched her, smiling to himself.

How much of her little touches were intentional or unconscious now? She was so smooth with her caress that it seemed like second nature to him.

His eyes followed her across the floor to the sink and back. She flashed him a smile and tilted her head in question, the way he did. He mirrored her before turning and going to the sliding door to the backyard.

She followed him out and he led her to the patch of dirt he used to communicate and crouched down on his knees when a familiar scent caught his attention.

A growl rumbled in his throat as he looked over at the tree at the far end of the yard and saw the damn bird before he cawed obnoxiously.

[What do you want, Beckett?] he demanded as he wrapped a protective arm around Crystal’s shoulders.

The sleek black raven took to the air and landed on the fence over his head a few yards away. [Madame has been concerned since the meeting was canceled. She is pleased to know that you are both well enough to proceed with the meeting now.]

The vibrations in Tiberius’ throat increased in volume. [We do not wish to have any further connection with her. Leave us alone. Understand?]

Beckett ruffled his feathers and puffed out his chest and clacked his beak together. [Madame will not take no for an answer. She is on her way now.]

With a snarl, Tiberius pushed himself up from the ground and lunged at the large bird, but Beckett flapped his wings and took off before Tiberius could wrap his paws around him.

Why in Goddess’ name did that old bat insist on meeting with them? He knew the cure for the curse and Crystal was so close to breaking it. He didn’t need, nor want, anything more to do with her.

“Tiberius, what’s going on?” Crystal asked with furrowed brows.

Still growling, he watched the bird disappear from view before he turned back to his mate and huffed. Lowering himself back down to his knees, he scowled at the tips of his scabbed fingers. His lips curled back in a grimace as he dug his sensitive fingertip into the earth and gingerly wrote, ‘I told him we didn’t need to meet with the witch, but she insists on meeting with us.’

He listened to her heartbeat for any sign of distress.

She swallowed as a hint of fear tainted her scent. “Okay. When will we meet her?”

‘Soon. He said she’s on her way.’ His fingertip stung slightly and he forced himself to continue. ‘Let’s get this meeting done and over with.’

She nodded and fell silent, hanging her head and twisting a blade of grass between her fingers.

He nuzzled her neck, praying that she didn’t withdraw back into herself again.

She leaned into him and closed her eyes, heaving a sigh. “You’re right. Let’s get this done and over with.”

He licked her cheek and promised her that everything would be fine.

Madame Papillon arrived some thirty minutes later in a long, flowing black skirt, a plum-purple blouse, and Beckett sitting comfortably on her shoulder, preening her gray hair.

Despite raised hackles, Alexander and Rhonda welcomed the witch into their home, but she refused to enter.

“I need them both to come with me at once,” she stated.

Both Tiberius and Alexander growled while Rhonda’s nose flared.

“And why is that?” Rhonda demanded, her head held high as she looked down her nose at the shorter woman.

“There is more to the curse that they share,” Madame Papillon explained. “I only just learned of it the moment I was able to find Catherine.”

Catherine? The mere mention of that witch's name drew a snarl from Tiberius as bile rose up his throat.

No, no, no. He growled, his lips curling back and exposing his teeth. He didn’t want anything to do with her ever again!

He held Crystal close, her back pressed against his chest as his arms tightened around her. He didn’t want to bring his mate within a hundred feet of that witch. Who knew what horrible spell she could cast on her?

Crystal held herself stiffly despite the thundering of her heart. “What is it?” she asked with a slight tremble in her voice.

Emotion clouded those gray eyes that looked upon Crystal as she swallowed. “Catherine bears the full brunt of the curse she placed on you both and is wilting away. Please, I beg of you. Just come and see her and listen to what she has to say.”

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