Chapter 35 - Tiberius (Part 1)
After mating twice more and taking a shower, Tiberius and Crystal went out to the backyard and fired up the barbecue. The sun was close to setting and there was still no sign of anyone coming back. Crystal said she was still unable to reach her family through the mind-link as Tiberius stepped up to her and pulled her against his chest.
“Guess we’ll have to get their attention the old-fashioned way,” he told her before throwing his head back and howling.
The sensation was foreign against his human vocal cords. It had been far too long since he used them to communicate in this way, but he loved it. Loved announcing to her pack of their union.
Her family began to trickle in then. First her mother, father, brother, and sister, and then her extended family within the pack. All came over to congratulate them. Bringing slabs of meat, salads, and dinner rolls, they built a feast to celebrate.
Alpha Jackson and Luna Leanne paid them a visit as well.
“What will you both do now?” Alpha Jackson asked after bestowing his blessings and congratulations on them.
“Well, I still need to call my family and tell them the news,” Tiberius said. “Then, I guess we will be on our way whenever Cris is ready. I know it will be hard for her to leave her family here.”
Tiberius cast his eyes across the deck to Crystal reclining in a chair and holding the sleeping form of her niece. She looked up when she felt his gaze and blushed before turning her attention back to the sleeping pup in her arms.
He couldn’t wait to put a pup of their own in those arms.
“There’s no rush,” Alpha Jackson told him. “Take your time to sort things out. You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need.”
Tiberius bowed his head with a slight tilt to show his appreciation and thanked the alpha.
About two hours after the sun set and all the food had been eaten, everyone returned to their homes and their beds.
Tiberius held Crystal to his chest, falling asleep instantly, with a smile on his face.
He brushed his fingers through his hair as he stared at the cell phone in his hands the following afternoon.
What would he say to his parents after being gone for so long? ‘Hey, sorry I took off on ya, but I found my mate and I’m ready to come home now.’
He didn’t think that was going to fly with them.
Crystal sat across from him with the table next to them. She palmed his knees in an effort to calm and reassure him.
He sighed and began to tap in the digits, knowing that the longer he put it off, the more anxious and the more he would stress his mate out over nothing. She didn’t need that.
The phone rang and went to voicemail. He hung up without thinking and cursed under his breath.
Crystal prodded against his mind and he opened it to let her in.
[Just nervous. It’s been so long. I don’t know what to say.]
[Maybe start with ‘Hi, how are you?’ and ‘I miss you’?]
He reached for her hand and brushed his thumb across her knuckles. “Yeah.” He heaved a sigh. “Yeah.”
Why was he so nervous? His family loved him. They’ll be relieved and happy to know that he’s not only still alive, but that he found his mate and broke the curse.
With that in mind, he dialed their number again. When it went to voicemail once more, he took a deep breath and left a brief message, informing them that he was fine, he’d found his mate and broke the curse, and couldn’t wait to hear back from them.
Afraid to miss their call, he and Crystal set the phone on the patio table while they did some yard work and then jumped into the pool to cool off afterward.
When the phone rang, Tiberius jumped out of the water so fast, he almost lost his swim trunks.
His throat closed up as he picked up the phone and put it on speaker. “Hello?” he croaked.
“Tiberius?” The deep rumble of his father’s voice was a mixture of emotions.
Exhaling, he leaned against the table as Crystal came up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Yeah, Pa, it’s me.”
“Do you have Skype, or Facetime?”
He turned to Crystal and she nodded.
“Yeah, give us a minute,” he told his father.
He set the phone down and dried himself with a towel before pulling on a T-shirt. Crystal did the same before setting up the video call and leaning the phone against a water bottle on the table. He sat down on a chair as she perched on his knee, looping an arm around her waist to ease his nerves more than anything else.
The connection was made and his mother and father looked back at them through the small screen.
They hadn’t changed a bit in the year to pass.
His mother’s rich brown hair was swept to the side. Her dark brown eyes stared back, even the clouded one with the scar running from her eyebrow straight down to her cheekbone appeared to regard him with quiet firmness.
His father’s dark blond hair was wet, a bit longer than usual and slicked back from his face. His gray eyes were distant and his face clean-shaven.
The cold regard on both of their sun-kissed faces raised his hackles as his heart pounded against his ribs. He knew they always put up an emotionless front, but shouldn’t they be more excited than this?
“Hi Ma. Pa. You’re looking well,” he greeted, his voice stronger and surer than he felt.
“You too, Tiberius,” his father replied. “A little on the pale side, but well.”
The muscles in the corner of Tiberius’ mouth twitched upward. “Yeah, I guess traveling at night will do that to ya.”
A moment’s pause urged Tiberius to continue. “Sorry, I left without telling you. I was frustrated by everything and needed to find my mate to break the curse before the next lunar eclipse. Finding her and having her fall in love with me was the only way to break it. And as you can see,” he looked to Crystal and flashed her a proud smile, “I found her. Cris, this is my father, Eramis, and my mother, Elena. Ma, Pa, this is my mate, Crystal.”
A chorus of hellos rang out before another moment’s pause settled.
What was going on with them?
“Ma, Pa, what’s going on over there? I thought you would both be happy to see that I’m not only alive and well, but that I’ve found my mate and broken the curse. I’m ready to come back home now.”
“Are you?” his father asked as his mother noticeably swallowed.
“Yes, of course. I told you, I had to leave to find Crystal and break the curse. I couldn’t risk waiting any longer and it’s a good thing I left because I never would have found her if I hadn’t.”
What was up with them?
“We’re very relieved to see that you are doing well and that you’ve found your mate. However, that said, you left the pack,” Pa said.
“I had to leave,” Tiberius said, his voice growing stronger. “Would you have granted me permission if I asked?”
Their expressions remained unchanged, but he thought he saw sadness pool in his mother’s eyes before she blinked it away.
Anger bubbled up. He couldn’t believe it. Hypocrites!
“You let Domo and Mari look for their mates! I’m the one who needed my mate more than anyone!”
“You were unstable—”
“Only because I was pissed off!”
Soothing warmth mixed with anxiety touched his cheek as his nostrils flared and his nails extended into claws. It was gentle, yet strong enough to snap him back to attention from the rage that sprang up within him.
Glancing at his mate as she pulled her hand from his face, he finally heard her mentally telling him to calm down.
“I’m sorry,” he grumbled, leaning back in his seat and crossing his arms over his chest. “We’ve had a rough few weeks and I guess I expected more from this call.”
“We understand why you left so suddenly, but the fact remains that you abandoned the pack. What would that say about us if we reinstated your position?” his father asked.
“It isn’t about you. It’s about me and my mate coming home. And I didn’t abandon the pack. Stop putting words in my mouth,” Tiberius said through gritted teeth.
“It’s about trust, Tiberius. To be a respected member of the pack, the pack has to trust you to have their backs in times of crisis and they will have yours when you need it. Leaving the pack severs that delicate thread of trust.”
“Have my back? Who had my back when I was cursed? If you had my back, you would have allowed me to leave and search for my mate!”
Keeping his anger under control was proving to be more challenging with each passing second.
“We did have your back. Have you forgotten how many healers we sought out? Even when you went rogue, we—”
“I didn’t denounce my pack!”
Crystal slipped from his lap and snatched the phone from the table. “It was good to meet you both, but I’m afraid I must end this call now. We can resume this discussion at a later time. Blessed be.”