Chapter 30 - Tiberius (Part 2)
“You’re so strong,” he told her.
She shook her head and smirked in disbelief. “No, I’m not.”
He grinned. “Yes, you are. Don’t argue with me. I call it as I see it and you are strong and beautiful and nothing you say will change that.”
Shaking her head again, she didn’t argue with him and he grinned. “Say it with me now. You are strong and beautiful.”
“You’re so weird.”
“Say it, Cris!”
Huffing, she rolled her eyes at him and said, “I am strong and beautiful.”
She quirked a brow, and he peaked one back in challenge.
“I am strong and beautiful.”
“Say that fifty times more and add one more adjective tomorrow, and another adjective the next day, and keep telling yourself over and over again until you believe it.”
“Will you always be this demanding?” she asked.
A sly smirk spread across his lips. “Just wait until we’ve mated, Beautiful.”
Her cheeks grew crimson as he chuckled and pushed himself up to grasp her lips again.
He lingered longer this time, kissing her tenderly as he familiarized himself with the taste and texture of her lips. The sensations they spurred within him spread down to his groin and he pulled away before pitching a tent.
He gazed up at her, mesmerized by all that she was in this moment of blushing bliss, unable to conceal her joy no matter how bashful.
They stayed like this for a few moments, gazing at each other and touching each other as sparks danced within them. When he felt stronger, he wrapped the blanket around his waist and Crystal helped him into the house to shower up.
After closing the bathroom door, he stared at his reflection in the mirror for a few minutes. Even after watching his reflection touch his cheekbones and run his fingers through his long beard, he couldn’t believe the person staring back was him if it weren’t for the gray eyes.
He pulled open the drawers of the vanity, looking for grooming tools to tame the wild. He found a pair of scissors and cut back the beard as much as he could without cutting his skin. When he was done, it was uneven and rough in places, but he didn’t feel right using someone else’s razor. Inches of hair collected in the sink and he silently cursed at the mess he made. He tried to scoop it all out and toss it in the garbage can. His hair was a tangled, matted mess, but didn’t know a thing about cutting his own hair. He figured he’d ask someone else for help to tame that beast.
He turned on the shower and thorough scrubbed every inch and pore of his flesh before turning the hot water on full blast and pressed his palms against the wall, letting the scalding water hit his neck, shoulders, and back.
After a minute of that, he turned it off and dried himself.
He paused to regard his reflection once more and shook his head, knowing his father would never approve the long hair. It had to go before he saw his family again—whenever that would be. He needed to set things right with them and now he could with his mate by his side and the curse broken.
He wrapped the towel around his waist and left the bathroom. Going to Crystal’s room, he saw a stack of clothes on her bed that smelled of her brother, Justin.
He could hear everyone talking in the backyard. Alexander was home, Justin and his mate were there while their pups squealed and shouted. Even Brooke was up despite having only a few hours of sleep since her night shift ended.
After getting dressed, he walked through the house and stepped out onto the deck. The smell of barbecue hit him and made his stomach roar.
All heads turned to him and greeted him with full smiles that reached eyes. He greeted everyone and smiled back, his eyes searching for those blue-green gemstones until he found them and his heart skipped.
She was sitting in a chair at the patio table with her mother, her father manning the grill with Justin, and Brooke and Teresa in the pool with the pups.
A rosy hue blushed across her cheeks as his gaze met hers. She looked down, her hair falling around her as he strode toward her.
“Want to go for a walk?” he asked her, keeping his eyes trained only on her despite the others piercing through him.
“Okay,” she replied softly, her head still bowed and the blush intensifying under everyone’s gazes.
“I’ll have food ready soon, so don’t be gone too long,” Alexander said with a knowing grin.
Tiberius gave him a nod and held out his hand for Crystal.
Her heart was beating erratically. She looked up only enough to take his hand and rise to her feet. The hairs on her arms stood on end as the tingling effect of the matebond rushed over her, adding more heat to her already flushed face.
She followed closely behind him as he led the way off the deck to the gate. Once out of eyesight, she stepped up beside him but still kept her head down.
“You cut your beard.”
He rubbed the uneven scruff on his chin. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll shave it all off later and see if I can’t get my hair cut too so I look like a decent human being again.”
Chuckling, he remembered the times his father lectured him and Domo when they went without shaving for a week or let their hair grow too long.
“We deal with swarms of humans on a daily basis! We must look like respectable human beings at all times!”
She mashed her lips together, her eyes staring down at the sidewalk as they passed by her neighbor’s house. “I liked the beard.”
That caught him by surprise and his eyebrows rose. “You did?”
She nodded and chanced a glance up to meet his eyes for the briefest second before looking away again and chewing on her bottom lip.
He couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face. “Well, hair grows back.”
Again, she nodded but seemed too shy to say anything more.
They walked past a few more houses in silence before turning around to go back.
Now that he could speak freely to her, he didn’t know what to say. He just wanted to steal her away from prying eyes for a few moments, even if she was still too shy to even look at him, never mind speak.
Before returning to her backyard, he pulled her under the shade of one of the trees next to the fence and leaned his back against the trunk. He held her hands in both of his and caressed her knuckles with his thumbs.
She let out a shaky breath as the matebond played with the sensational sparks setting off between them with every stroke of his thumbs.
When her eyes met his, he asked in a whisper, “Why do we have to listen to our hearts?”
The smile that unfurled took his breath away. He reached up with a shaky hand to cup her cheek when she answered his quoted question from The Alchemist.
“Because that is where your treasure is.”
His head grew light and dizzy as he struggled to breathe. His heart swelled, expanding and pushing against his burning lungs. Tingles danced across his flesh and raised every hair on his body as he took his hand that still held one of hers and pressed her palm against his chest and over his heart.
“And there it will forever remain,” he whispered before bending down and holding her lips with his.