Chapter 6 - Tiberius (Part 1)
Tiberius couldn’t face her. Self-loathing ate away within him like a parasite.
He’d done this to her. To them. He’d taken away her wolf with his curse. He waited too long to find her to be able to communicate with her and get her to understand him. Moreover, he kept hurting her and scaring her. How could she give him a chance? How could she possibly accept him now?
She didn’t feel anything for him. She saw him as a monster. Tiberius the Rogue.
He was a beast, and he didn’t know how to fix this.
He turned his back to her, giving her space while guilt gnawed away within him.
Fear and nervousness tainted her delicate scent. It hit him hardest when he felt her gaze on his back. Her heartbeat would skip. She’d take a step toward him before changing her mind and holding back.
He stayed by the water’s edge for hours until long shadows cast across the land. The sky grew darker, red and orange peeking between the leaves in the trees.
It was time to move on, but where?
A howl in the distance, too faint for human ears to decipher, had him rising to his paws, hackles raised.
They had to keep moving. His scent had been picked up along with the remains of the vampire he’d destroyed but didn’t have time to dispose of the torn body parts.
Looking over his shoulder, he beheld his mate sitting next to the fire. Sadness gripped her features as she dug the tip of a stick into the dirt. The low flames danced in the reflection of her eyes, a faraway look in them. The bones of the rabbit were in a heap next to her, the meat picked away.
She had eaten the food he’d provided for her and he was more than happy to eat her scraps. The sight and smell of it made his mouth water.
He hadn’t eaten in nearly twenty-four hours and now the need for nourishment twisted his stomach.
She looked up as he neared and froze. Her heartbeat sped up and he realized he was salivating and probably looked like a terrifying predator.
Licking his lips and wiping his chin with the back of his arm, he pointed to the bones.
Her wide eyes shifted slowly from him to where he pointed. She blinked for a moment as it registered what he wanted.
“Hungry?” she asked, scooping up the bones into her hands and holding them out to him.
Nodding, he shifted his weight to his hind legs and reached up with both hands for her to drop the bones into. He rose up and debated eating in front of her, but turned his back and moved a few yards away. She wouldn’t want to see him chewing and crunching on bones like some kind of carnivorous animal.
He was gnawing on the spine when she asked, “Will you take me home?”
His ears flicking back to her as he paused. Her voice was soft and sad, tugging on his heart.
Take her home? She belonged with him. He was a lycan, not a werewolf. She should follow him back to his pack.
But how could he force her to travel a thousand miles to Arizona? It wasn’t like he could fit in a car. He stood eight feet tall. They would need a truck to conceal and transport him across the country.
But would she accept him if he forced her to leave her pack?
He needed to break the curse more than anything. He needed her to fall in love with him to do that. Forcing her into something she didn’t want to do wouldn’t help. It would only hinder progress in obtaining her affections.
But what if her pack forced him away from her? Denied their bond that she didn’t feel? Refused to let him into their territory to court her because he was a lycan—and a rogue in their eyes?
He hung his head, remembering how he found her last night. A vampire had her hands around her neck. Obviously, she’d been kidnapped and taken away from her pack. Her family was sure to be worried about her and her family would hunt and hunt until they found their missing member. Nothing would stop them.
The longer you keep her from her family, the worse things will get.
His throat rumbled. He didn’t like it, but it seemed as if he had little choice in the matter.
There was no love in coercion.
Picking up the rabbit’s spine in his jaws, he cautiously approached her side and paused, dropping the bone at his paws.
She’d cleared a patch of earth from grasses, weeds, and other foliage and in the dirt had drawn a house with a bunch of human stick figures in different sizes and a few dogs and trees.
Her home. Her family. This was occupying her mind in the last few hours. Homesickness must be that sour-lemon sad scent seeping from her.
Wolves weren’t meant to live solitary lives. They were social creatures, needing to be surrounded by their friends, their family, and their pack. It was only natural that she felt this way when she didn’t feel anything for him.
It was getting darker now. A thin mist rose up from the river, the humidity not letting up an inch.
The fire was just some glowing embers now with wisps of smoke curling upward. The pale glow gave her face a haunting look as she watched the embers smolder, poking them absentmindedly with a stick.
He itched to touch her. To brush away a stray hair from her face. To caress her cheek with his knuckle.
She shifted away, her nose wrinkling.
He huffed when she didn’t look at him.
Crouching, he tapped a claw on the drawing of her family before pressing his claw into the earth over the house and writing, ‘Where?’
Her eyes widened before she raised them up to look at him. “Really?”
Bittersweet agony squeezed his heart.
Goddess, she was so innocent and beautiful. He wanted to pull her into his arms, brush that strand of hair from her face and kiss—
He shoved that thought from his mind.
He was still a beast. She would only cringe.
Swallowing down a rumble in his throat, he nodded and pointed to his previous question written in the dirt.
“Oh, I’m from the Lancaster Pack in Chicago but got separated from my family in the middle of Wisconsin,” she said.
Her eyes were dancing, heightened by the smoldering embers in the firepit.
His chest constricted. It was hard to breathe. She was eager to go home, but not eager to be with him.
“Do you know where we are, exactly?”
He shook his head at her question. He always followed rivers and streams that separated territories and washed away his scent. There were no signs to guide him or inform him of his location.
She hummed. “Well, we were near Madison and the Matheson Pack came to our aid when our car broke down… That was before the vampires kidnapped me and knocked me out…”
She trailed off, brushing that loose strand of hair behind her ear. “I don’t know if that helps.”
He didn’t know the countryside in detail, nor the various packs that occupied it. That was the job of alphas and he was no alpha, and didn’t want the title and responsibility that came with it. He knew all the states and their capitals, and he knew everything about Arizona, but Wisconsin was too far away to interest him in the past.
He’d been traveling south for some time now, having explored the Canadian prairies all spring. It took weeks for him to find his way out of the north. He wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d gone around in circles for months in the winter. The sun was barely up to guide him anywhere and everything looked the same in the tundra—a frozen desert wasteland.
It wasn’t like he could ask anyone for help or get directions either. Whenever he got too close to another pack’s territory, they always attacked. Were they still in Wisconsin? If they kept going southeast, would they eventually reach Chicago?
He had to shake that thought from his head.
She wasn’t a lycan, nor could she shift into her wolf form. It would be hard for her to travel hundreds of miles on human feet. He could carry her on his back… If she was okay with that.
Another howl reminded him that they had to move soon.
But where would they go? They couldn’t go back—they would run into those wolves for sure. If they continued to follow the river in the direction they had initially been going, where would it take them? It didn’t seem as though it would take them southeast toward Chicago.
And what of her family, whom she got separated from?
Closing his eyes, he bent down and pressed his forehead to hers, much to her surprise.
For you, I’ll take the risk.