Heart of a Beast

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Chapter 29 - Crystal

When her seizure finally stopped and Crystal cracked her heavy eyelids open into the early morning sunlight, the bloodstain on her pillow caught her attention. A metallic taste filled her mouth and a lingering pain from where she bit her tongue during the episode remained.

Sweat coated her skin and moisture stained her cheeks until Tiberius’ calloused paws wiped them clean.

Looking up into his gray eyes, her heart hurt. The pain ripped through her and she broke down in tears.

“How... How could she do that to you?”

The fear and worry in his eyes lifted and he pulled her tenderly into his warm embrace.

Her ear pressed against his speeding heart. She listened as its tempo slowed, her eyes growing heavier with each passing minute until she could no longer keep them open.

He didn’t meet her in her dreams and when she awoke a couple of hours later, she was still wrapped up in his arms.

She smacked her dry tongue against the roof of her mouth. She didn’t want to leave this place—her place—but her mouth was dry as a bone.

Tiberius helped to sit her up, leaning her back against her bed, and brought the glass of water from her nightstand to her lips.

She reached up with weak hands and steadied the glass.

His paws had healed. She noticed the scabs on his nail beds had flaked off and little-pointed claws were now growing in place.

He set the glass back on the table once she was done and she took one of his paws in her hands to examine its condition. With his claws growing back, she held him gently as she brushed her fingertips over the healed flesh.

He reached around with his other hand to the base of her skull as he pressed his forehead to hers.

“I’m okay,” she lied.

She wasn’t okay. She was angry. Angry at that horrible witch for what she had done to them.

She needed a bath, but a deep-seated need to hold Tiberius tighter than ever before gripped her. A few questions lingered in her mind that she was afraid to ask.

A quiet bath would help to relax her and give her time to gather her thoughts and feelings about this new revelation.

She asked him to carry her into the bathroom and set her down on the toilet. After he left, she reached over to plug the tub and turn the water on before slowly undressing.

After easing herself into the cool water, she shivered and took a deep breath before holding it as she turned the cold water off and left the hot water on with her toes.

Tears of rage stung her eyes. Catherine not only tried to steal her mate, but she tried to steal him by force. She couldn’t imagine what kind of sick and twisted person would do such a thing.

Did she know Tiberius was a lycan? Or was she only interested in his looks? Why would she do something to someone who showed no interest in her?

The thought of her mate kissing someone else made her stomach churn and bile to climb up her throat. She tried to push out thoughts of them having sex because she knew she couldn’t handle such vile thoughts.

She clutched herself and cried out for her mother. When Ma came, Crystal pulled the shower curtain across so that only her head was visible as her mother took a seat on the toilet.

“What’s wrong, Cris?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted softly, “but my heart hurts.”

“How about you dry yourself off while I bring you a change of clothes and you can tell me all about it?”

She nodded as her mother got up and brought her clean clothes and a towel for her before leaving.

Crystal pulled the plug and sat up on the edge of the tub. She wrapped the towel around herself and watched until the last of the water swirled down the drain before taking a deep breath and drying herself off.

When she was done and dressed, she carefully walked out of the bathroom and into her room and sat down on her bed. She didn’t have to wait long before her mother came in and closed the door behind them.

“Where’s Tiberius?” Crystal asked.

“He’s outside. Want me to get him?”

She shook her head, no. At this moment, she wanted the comfort only her mother could give her.

When her mother sat down on her bed next to her, Crystal wrapped her arms around her and rested her head on her shoulder, whimpering lightly.

Her mother mirrored her and nuzzled the top of Crystal’s head. “What’s bothering you, hun?”

Crystal closed her eyes and inhaled her mother’s scent. She missed holding her mother like this. The last time she did, she was much smaller. How long had it been? “A lot of things.”

“I’m listening,” Ma coaxed when Crystal didn’t elaborate.

Heaving a sigh, Crystal opened her eyes and stared off to the side. “I don’t know how to feel about everything.” She swallowed. “Tiberius told me what happened... Well, the main information. And...”

She trailed off and held her stomach as it roiled.

“And?”

Crystal’s breath caught in her throat as she clenched her hands into fists. Anger, disgust, and hatred waged war within her and she focused her attention on it as she pushed it out slowly through her gritted teeth.

“I want her dead. She doesn’t deserve to live after what she did to him.”

She never wished harm on anyone before. A part of her resisted, but another part of her said it was okay. It was deserved.

Catherine could do it again to someone else and that thought made her sick.

“I... I don’t even care if he kissed her or...” She swallowed back nausea, refusing the finish her sentence. “She gave him a love potion. Whatever he did, he couldn’t help, so I can’t blame him for it.”

But he still blames himself for it.

Why?

“He’s my mate. And if anything happens to him...”

“It’s okay to be angry,” her mother said when Crystal fell silent. “If someone did that to your father or any of you pups, I’d string them up and cut them until they bled to death. No one comes between me and my mate and pups.”

Crystal nodded, biting down on her lip as her stomach heaved. “What should I do, Ma?”

“What do you think you should do?”

“I don’t know...”

“Well if you don’t know...”

Her mother moved to get up, but Crystal clutched her arm tightly to keep her still. “No, no, no! Wait!”

A shadow of a grin tugged at the corners of olive-green eyes, waiting for an answer.

Crystal hung her head. An iron rod of nervousness poked and stirred the embers of burning emotions. “I think... I think I should talk to Tiberius... And tell him what I’m thinking and feeling.”

“That sounds like a great idea.” Ma touched Crystal’s knee. “I know it’s hard, but it will be worth it.”

Letting go of her mother’s arm, Crystal nodded her head as her mother rose to her feet.

“Are you hungry?”

She shook her head, her stomach in too many knots to be able to keep anything down.

“Alright. Don’t think too much about it, sweetie. Like you said, if he was under the spell of a potion, he couldn’t help doing whatever he did. He was being manipulated and you have every right to be angry and upset about it.”

Crystal nodded again wordlessly before her mother left the room.

She twisted the tips of her wet hair.

Why did talking to Tiberius frighten her?

She knew why.

She buried her face in her hands and exhaled a shuddering breath.

Let it go. If they had sex, it happened and nothing can change that fact.

Whimpering, she raised her head after a few minutes of deep breathing exercises and went to the bathroom to comb out her hair and blow it dry. After winning the battle over the knots, she felt a smidge calmer, but still too nervous to eat anything. Her body was tired and drained of energy. The conflicting emotions within her were also weighing heavily on her and making it harder for her to spring back to her normal self.

Oh, to be normal...

She walked out of her room, noting the strength in her legs and stopping to lean against the wall when she needed to.

Her mother was in the living room folding a load of laundry. Her father was out. Brooke was sleeping.

She ambled to the sliding door in the kitchen and peered out into the backyard.

It was a gray and cloudy day. The branches of the tree at the end of the yard rustled in a gentle breeze.

Tiberius was sitting on the deck at the edge of the pool with his legs in the water. His back was hunched and his ears dipped low.

An ache gripped her heart as she watched him.

He suffered so much because of Catherine. It broke her heart.

One of his ears flicked toward her, listening. She took that as her cue.

Slipping out the door, she walked barefoot across the wooden floor and sat down next to him with an inch between them.

His downcast head tilted slightly toward her, his eyes on the space between them.

“Did you hear what I said to Ma?” she asked.

His gray eyes glided up to meet hers and he nodded.

She scooted closer so that her hip was pressed against his and leaned her head on his arm.

“It’s true. I don’t blame you. I’m not angry with you. I’m angry with her. I’m hurt that she did that to you. You’re my mate and I...” She hesitated, chewing on her lip as she squeezed her eyes shut. “I can’t bear the thought of someone hurting you or trying to steal you away from me.”

She sucked in a breath and held it for a few seconds before releasing it slowly.

“I can’t bear it. I love you so much it hurts.”

Tiberius stiffened and grabbed her face in the callous pads of his paws.

Her heart skipped a beat before speeding off like a race car as his gray eyes looked intently into hers. She blinked in shock despite the pull of his soul until he broke contact, closing his eyes and hanging his head.

A long low whine seeped from him before breaking off into fits of whimpers. It shredded her heart as he pulled his legs out of the water and hastily sprang off the deck to the grass on the left side of the pool.

The iron rod that poked her before stabbed into her heart and thrust her to her feet.

She raced after him to the tree at the end of the yard and paused a few yards away. The pain constricted as her heart hammered violently against her ribs.

With his back to her, he slumped against the tree on his hind legs. His shoulders sagged. His tail curled underneath him. He clenched his paw against his chest, over his heart as a mixture of whines and whimpers continued to pour forth.

She didn’t understand, but couldn’t stand the sight before her and the haggard cries that threatened to bring her to her knees.

Without hesitation, she swiftly glided around him and stood before him. She reached up and took his head in her hands. Tears prickled her eyes as his pain crashed over her and all she wanted to do was wash it all away.

“Hey, hey,” she cooed as she brushed her thumbs along the swirls of caramel under his eyes clamped shut. “Look at me.”

Emotion clogged her throat as his pain-riddled eyes reluctantly opened and looked into hers.

She gasped.

It was then that everything changed.

And he shifted.

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