Chapter 31 - Crystal (Part 1)
The sensations within Crystal were so foreign, she shied away from everyone—especially Tiberius.
Every time she looked at him, her heart raced and warmth flooded her face.
Every time she touched him, sparks fired off and tingles danced across his skin.
His voice, a timbering tenor, played in her ears and made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
He smelled good now! He smelled amazing and fresh with a hint of orange peel and soap from his shower that rose up her nose and made her mouth water.
And the way he kissed her…
He hadn’t urged her to open her mouth yet, and already his kisses curled her toes and had her fingers, likewise, curling into the fabric of his clothes.
It drove her wild. It was enthralling and terrifying at the same time.
Did Tiberius endure this effect this whole time?
Even when they returned and he took the patio chair next to her, he gave her a bit of space to adjust rather than to engulf her and smother her in the overwhelming sensations the matebond inflicted.
They ate a late lunch before her father’s friend, a barber in the pack, came over to cut Tiberius’ hair and give him a proper shave.
She watched his wild fall to the ground in clumps and pieces and the clean-cut male from her dreams take form before her. His face was smooth and his hair short on the sides and a bit longer on top for her to run her fingers through. She loved him either way, but a part of her missed the beast.
“I can tell you don’t like it,” he whispered to her as the day wore on and the sun neared the horizon.
Heat rushed up to her face and she tried to hide behind a curtain of her hair.
“It’ll grow back. I’ll let it grow more naturally and keep it clean and trim for you.”
She chewed on her bottom lip. “You don’t have to. It’s your hair.”
“I don’t care about my hair. I care about you.”
All kinds of flustered emotions rose within her, along with a feverish heat that intensified as the sun dipped lower and lower.
Teresa left with the pups to put them to bed while Justin stayed with everyone still gathered in the backyard.
She knew why. With the curse broken, they were anticipating her shift. To be blessed by the moon like every first shift.
Their fleeting glances continuously cast toward her, checking on her. The hairs on her nape prickled every time.
Tiberius’ touch on her arm or hand felt colder each time as her temperature continued to rise and sweat began to gather on her brow.
The clouds had parted over the course of the day and only a few thin wisps stretched across the sky inflamed in red and orange hues.
Tiberius stared up at it with a smile on his face, his eyes peeking at her from time to time as he’d brush his thumb across her knuckles.
Feeling hot, sticky, and gross, she excused herself to go to the bathroom and splash some cold water on her face.
She knew these were the early signs of her body preparing to shift. Excitement bubbled up within her, but also fear at the impending pain that she knew she would have to endure for several hours.
Gulping air into her lungs in slow and even breaths, she wiped her fevered face and changed into a long, loose shirt and nothing else. When she opened the door to exit the bathroom, she saw Tiberius standing there, leaning against the opposite wall, waiting for her.
Scars etched across his face and body—a road map of the struggles he endured in his pursuit to find her. She tried to study them, to understand the story each one told, but was afraid of being caught staring.
He always emphasized her struggles over the years, what about his own? How many times had he been on the brink of death by another lycan or wolf protecting their pack and territory? How many times had he thought about giving up?
She tilted her head to question why he was there, and he lowered it to hide the smile on his face.
“Just making sure you’re alright, Beautiful.”
“I’m fine.” She stepped up to him and took his hand in hers. It was cool, his nails small, and his palms rough for a human hand, but still ten times softer than the pads of his lycan paws.
He reached up with the other hand to cup her cheek.
“You’re burning up,” he said with a grin. “And not just because some sexy beast is standing before you.”
She quirked a brow and he chuckled before sliding his hand from her cheek to the base of her skull and tilted her head up as he bent down to press his lips gently to hers. It was soft and chaste, but enough to make the smoldering embers within her spark and come alight.
He pulled away a few seconds later to swipe a damp strand of hair from her sweaty forehead and kiss it. “Better get ya outside. The moon will be out soon.”
With her hand still in his, he led her through the house to the backyard. Her father was lighting the firepit while her mother was tending to the dogs in the Nursery, and Brooke and Justin were chatting softly at the patio table with cans of soda in their hands.
The sky was darkening and she looked about for the moon, but couldn’t find it.
They strode up to her father at the firepit and sat down on a pair of lawn chairs he had set up. The heat from the flames licked across her exposed skin and she had to move her chair back two feet.
Her loose shirt was starting to cling to her shoulders. The cotton becoming more saturated in sweat with every minute that passed.
“As much as I want to shift, I wish it would just hurry up and be done with already,” she grumbled as she started to fan herself with her hand.
Both Tiberius and her father grinned back at her before her father turned away to add more wood to the fire and Tiberius gave her hand a little squeeze.
A half-hour passed. Then another. The sky grew darker and darker until it was pitch black and a couple of stars twinkled in the vast open heavens. The cooling air did nothing to ease the fever consuming her body. Ma had ordered her to lie down on the ground and she covered Crystal’s body with a wet towel until the heat of her body warmed the towel and Crystal begged her mother to take it away, only to be replaced by another cool, wet one.
Finally, searing hot pain struck her skull as the moon rose over the roof of their house.
She cried out and the wet towel was yanked away as she thrashed about on the ground. The pain ripping through her body as her muscles and ligaments stretched and shifted. Bones ground against bones. Tiny pinpricks spread across her body as fur pierced through her flesh. Her jaw and nose elongated from her face as her muzzle grew and she screamed out in agony.
Hours passed and when the raging inferno within her was snuffed out, she was panting in exhaustion on her side. Various hands caressed her. Hushed voices shouted in her ears. Hundreds of strong smells assailed her, but one struck her the strongest of all and she whined for him to drown out all the other foreign odors.
“I’m here, Beautiful.” His voice held a whispered quality, but it thundered in her ears.
All of her senses were heightened and it was so overwhelming it scared her, and she was too weak and exhausted to run away and hide in a safe place.
Strong hands rubbed down the length of her from her head to the base of her tail.
There was rustling around her and when she pried over her eyes, she saw her family and Tiberius stripping down before their bones crunched and shifted from their human forms to their wolves.
Tiberius took more time, still trying to regain strength and control over his shift, but ten minutes later, they were all surrounding her in their wild, licking her face, their tails wagging and yipping at each other.
[You did it, Cris!] Brooke’s voice shouted in her head as she pounced on Crystal and nipped playfully at her ear.
[Stop it! Get off me!] Crystal laughed in a wheezing huffing sound as she tried to throw her big sister off, but failed miserably.
Justin tackled Brooke and they wrestled a few yards away as her parents leaned in to lick her face and tell her through the mind-link that they couldn’t be more proud.
When Tiberius completed his shift, he curled up around her, his tangy aroma surrounding her in a warm, comforting cocoon that made her tail thump against the earth. He was much larger than all of their wolves and engulfed hers easily.
He nuzzled her affectionately and she couldn’t stop from grinning, feeling like she was on cloud nine as her muscles strengthened and hardened.
Alpha Jackson and Luna Leanne soon arrived in their wolf forms to congratulate her and howled their praises to the Moon for Her blessings. A chorus of howls from the pack responded and one by one, the wolves drifted into the backyard to sniff her, imprinting her scent into their minds, and licking her face.
Tiberius growled lowly at all the unmated males of the pack but was otherwise beaming with pride and holding his head high.
When Crystal was strong enough, she rose to her four legs and ran with her pack around the gates of the community. A dozen rabbits were released from a rabbit breeder and she participated in her first hunt and tasted fresh meat between her teeth before running some more with Tiberius by her side and her family around her.
Tiberius nipped playful at her heels and rubbed his flank against her own, which stirred up a flurry of emotions she wasn’t ready to face yet.
When her first run with the pack was over, everyone retired to their homes or duties and Crystal had to shift back into her human form.
By then, she was so exhausted, she didn’t care that she was covered in dirt. She and Tiberius fell into a fitful sleep on her bedroom floor, her back against Tiberius’ chest in his beast form with smiles on their faces.
When she woke around noon, she rolled over and found herself in the arms of a naked man. A delicious smelling naked man that made her skin tingle, but a naked man nonetheless.