Heart of a Beast

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Chapter 28 - Crystal (Part 1)

They left soon afterward.

Crystal was so conflicted, she didn’t know how to feel. Anger swelled within her. She confronted the cause of all her problems and the horrible, horrible woman still tried to steal her soulmate from her. She didn’t try to apologize or admit to doing anything wrong. Worst of all was that she was going to get away with it once the curse was broken.

Catherine even had the nerve to repeatedly call for Tiberius to return to her bedside.

He refused, staying with Crystal outside and holding her as she cried angry, bitter tears. Master Mandala and Madame Papillon both tried to convince him to go back, to hear Catherine’s apology that she then claimed she wanted to make, but he snarled at them and turned his back.

Seeing no point in sticking around, Crystal’s father urged Madame Papillon to take them back home.

It was a silent ride and Madame Papillon again tried to persuade them to come back another day, but Tiberius growled and Dad agreed—they didn’t want to see Catherine again. What good could come out of it? She had her chance to apologize and she chose not to. A forced apology was a meaningless one.

It was evening by the time they got home and Crystal wanted nothing more than to curl up with Tiberius and watch a chick flick that she could momentarily forget about everything and cry more tears.

Dinner consisted of a big bowl of popcorn and ice cream, and Crystal was glad her mother didn’t try to force her to eat anything else.

Once the movie reached its happily ever after, Tiberius scooped her up and carried her to her room.

He licked the tears from her cheeks when he set her down on her bed and held her face in his palms as he knelt before her. His gray eyes gazed into hers as he stroked her hair, caressed her cheeks, and gently rubbed her arms.

His tenderness was more than she could bear and she reached up to wrap her arms around his neck and bury her face in his fur in an effort to keep the tears from surfacing again.

She wanted to believe that whatever happened between him and Catherine was all Catherine’s fault. That Tiberius hadn’t done anything wrong.

But what if he had? What if behind his tenderness was guilt?

Goddess, she wasn’t sure she could handle the truth.

She wished she had asked Tiberius before about Catherine. But he found out her shame instead and all his attention had been on her. Encouraging her and supporting her to be more than that bedridden female plagued with seizures and wishing for Death to end the suffering.

It had worked. For the second time since coming home with Tiberius two weeks ago, Crystal didn’t recognize the female that looked back at her in the mirror as she brushed her teeth and got ready for bed. Her cheeks were flushed with warmth. The bags she was used to seeing under her eyes had disappeared. Even though her eyes were red-rimmed from crying, they held the spark of life that she couldn’t remember seeing before.

How was all this possible? How could she, just a few months ago, contemplate giving up and throwing it all away?

Emotions rushed forward with those thoughts.

She could have killed them all. She could have killed this male who not only wanted a chance to be with her but to help her see the value of existing.

It was because of him that everything had turned around. He challenged her to not only see the world that existed outside of herself, but to look deeply into herself as well. He forced her to face the self-destructive thoughts she carried. He helped to ease her suffering and diminish the frequency of her seizures so that she had the strength to pick up the pieces of herself that had shattered and put them back together again.

He may have made mistakes in the past, but didn’t they all?

He believed in her even when she didn’t. He refused to give up on her when she had.

A knock on the bathroom door had her wiping the fresh tears from her cheeks and exhaling a shuddering breath.

“Yeah?” she croaked out.

Two more taps on the door told her it was Tiberius. She opened it and immediately wrapped her arms around his waist.

He may be a big hairy, stinky beast, and an imperfect one at that, but she couldn’t imagine her life without him now.

He brushed her hair from her face and tilted her chin up. Her eyes met with his and warmth flooded over her. Spilling over from her heart and spreading throughout her veins.

“Thank you,” she whispered as he wiped the remaining moisture from her cheeks.

He tilted his head in question, but she smiled through her tears and pulled away. Taking his paws together in her hands, she urged him to follow her back to her room, where she set her pillow and blanket down on the floor and snuggled up in his arms.

“This is my place,” she said as she nuzzled into his chest. “This is where I belong.”

In these arms that will protect me. In these arms that will give me strength. In these arms that will lift me up. In these arms that have returned meaning to my life.

She fell asleep with these thoughts, a smile on her face, and her heart full with the knowledge that the past was behind them. The future was before them. And miracles were possible with her mate by her side.

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