Heart of a Beast

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Chapter 35 - Tiberius (Part 2)

She tapped on the screen before Tiberius buried his head in his hands.

How had it come to this? What choice did he have? He had to leave to find Crystal. He knew he had to. If anything, he should have left years earlier to find her before everything had gotten as bad as it did.

Would his parents have reacted the same way if he had left years ago when he was still capable of shifting, even if it brought excruciating pain?

Crystal stood before him for a few seconds before cradling his head in her arms and pressing it to her heart.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, brushing her fingers through his hair.

He couldn’t speak over the lump in his throat. [Why are you apologizing? You have nothing to apologize for.]

[They’re your parents. They love you—they should love you. But I don’t understand this kind of love. I don’t understand why they are turning their backs on you now. So, you didn’t leave on the best of terms—they’re you’re parents! They should be able to see past that. They’re supposed to love you unconditionally!]

He didn’t know how to respond to that. He wanted to agree with her, but he knew his parents. They held too much pride—especially his father.

[We can try to talk to them another time, but even I can’t handle their responses right now. I’m so angry. I…] She sighed, trailing off and withdrawing from his mind as she continued to hold him to her and stroke his hair.

Reaching up, he urged her to curl up on his lap, taking comfort in holding her close.

Her fingers brushed across his flesh in gentle caresses as he did the same, off in their own separate mental spaces as they considered the conversation that took place.

If his parents refused to let him return, where would they go? Alpha Jackson extended their welcome as long as they needed, but he knew they couldn’t remain in the Lancaster Pack forever.

Damn their pride!

The door behind them slid open a few minutes later and Alexander’s feet padded softly toward them.

“Uh-oh. I don’t like the looks of those long faces,” he said as he pulled up a chair next to them. “What happened?”

Crystal sighed. “Dad, I don’t think we should talk about it right now.”

“It’s fine, Beautiful. No point in denying it,” Tiberius mumbled. He heaved a sigh himself, avoiding his father-in-law’s eyes as he continued to rub small circles into Crystal’s lower back. “I called my parents. It didn’t go well. In their eyes, I abandoned my pack and am not welcome back. I guess the saying is true: Once a rogue, always a rogue.”

“Not always,” Alexander said after a moment’s pause, humming. “While I sympathize with you—it really is terrible—maybe it’s for the best? Maybe the Goddess knew you both would be unhappy there and has something better in mind for you?”

Tiberius huffed but didn’t say anything lest he offend his father-in-law or worse, the Goddess and whatever path She had in mind for them.

“What are you getting at, Dad?” Crystal asked.

“Well, you two have been through a lot—more than most mates, I’d say. Tiberius, I know you care a lot about Crystal and that you’re proud of her growth as much as I am, do you see her continuing to grow in your family’s pack?”

He grimaced. While he loved his parents, he knew they would be very hard on her and have extremely high expectations of her. Worse, they might force them to become Alpha and Luna—positions he never wanted and couldn’t imagine Crystal struggling through with her anxiety.

“No,” he admitted, “I know them. It’s their way or the highway. They bend for no one. They will try to mold Cris into their ideal and Cris needs to be herself and grow at her own pace, not at the pace they dictate. I won’t have them break her spirit to meet their demands.”

Hesitantly, he lowered his head and caught her gaze. [I’m sorry, Beautiful. They didn’t respond the way I had hoped. I feel blindsided. Maybe I don’t belong there anymore and maybe I knew that all along and I didn’t see it because that was the only world I knew. Everything changed the moment I found you. I don’t want to be part of that world anymore. You’re my world now and I won’t bend to anyone who won’t love, respect, and honor you for who you are, and I don’t think they are capable of that.]

Spending time with Crystal’s family gave him a new perspective. While they were far from perfect beings and were too lenient and passive when Crystal struggled with her seizures, he understood their fear of generating more anxiety and causing more pain and destruction within her. They didn’t know the root cause of her seizures and had they known, perhaps they would have handled things differently and she would never have become suicidal.

Their love and encouragement in the time he had known them, showed him that there was a different way to live—a less coercive way that, deep down, he knew was the difference between earning and obtaining Crystal’s affections to break the curse.

[I won’t bend to anyone who disrespects you either,] she whispered in his mind.

“There is one lycan pack we know who has broken away from the Olde Ways,” Alexander continued. “Their ways are less orthodox—if you will—from most lycans, and their Luna is a friend of the family’s.”

Crystal looked at her father with widening eyes. “Aubree’s Pack?”

Excitement began to bubble up in her—a sensation that was new for him to feel now that they had sealed the matebond. He couldn’t help but begin to feel hopeful, if not for the fact that the name sounded vaguely familiar, but couldn’t remember where or when he had heard it or picture the female in his mind.

Crystal had a clear picture in her mind of a petite female with golden hair that shifted from one memory to the next as warmth spread from her to him.

Alexander nodded. “We can arrange a meeting if you want. They might still be on their honeymoon though, but it doesn’t hurt to at least call and find out.”

Crystal was nodding, hope filling her as she looked up to meet Tiberius’ confused gaze. “Aubree is Brooke’s best friend. She’s was always really nice to me.”

“A werewolf?” He didn’t remember meeting any werewolf named Aubree, but the name still tugged on his mind, as if he should know her.

“Um,” Crystal hesitated, glancing back at her father.

“No,” Alexander said with a note of uncertainty as he scratched his chin, his eyes shifting from Tiberius to Crystal and back. “She’s a lycan now.”

That last word caught Tiberius’ attention. “Now?”

Everyone knew that lycans were born, not made.

Alexander’s gaze continued to shift from Crystal to Tiberius, his brows furrowed in thought. “Yes, she was human before she found her soulmate, a lycan, and somehow…”

It clicked as Alexander trailed off.

He knew who Aubree was, even though he never got the chance to meet her.

Aubree was the so-called “mate” of that disgrace named Stone of the Blauwald Pack in Minnesota, the father of his younger brother’s mate.

“The Blauwald Pack?” Tiberius asked, incredulously. “You’re suggesting we join that disgraceful excuse of a pack?”

“Tiberius!”

“I won’t bend my neck to that male, Cris,” he growled, lifting her from his lap and marching out of the backyard to the street with Crystal calling out to him and her father telling her to give him a few minutes to cool off.

Alpha Stone was a disgrace to all lycans. He would never bend his neck and submit to him.

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