Her first full moon cycle arrived and no one could have prepared Thea for the pain that came with it. Sure the shift hurt anyway, but this was so much worse. It was no consolation at all to know Cyrus was going through the same excruciating pain. By the time it was over she didn't even want to move. She lay there panting, her eyes closed, until she felt a nudge followed by a soft growl. It seemed Asil wasn't going to let her wallow in pain. Thea huffed and rose to her feet. Her gaze fell on her brother and she noticed that Sage was hovering near him.
The run that night was wild. She felt the pull of the moon as it sang to them. She'd never felt more free than she did in that moment. Those who ran close enough to her to be influenced by her joy howled at the moon as they raced through the woods and soon the woods echoed with the chorus of wolves.
The last time she'd gone running, before the full moon, she'd been able to return to human form after a few hours but it was made clear to her that the full moon was different. Newer wolves would find themselves unable to change back until morning. When the pack returned to Bran's she and Cyrus weren't the only ones who made their way on four feet to the designated area in the basement that was set up for full moon runs.
Asil originally planned on going home. He'd stayed near Thea on the run to be sure she was okay but he didn't often do well in a large group, especially when indoors for a long period of time. But before he started shifting he saw a couple of unmated males watching her and he bared his teeth. No, he couldn't leave her defenseless. He moved to her side, putting himself between her and the others, and settled down next to her.
If Asil being there was a surprise, Sage remaining was a complete shock. It had been twenty years since she joined the pack and she never remained after the full moon. And yet, when Cyrus laid down she joined him and rested her head on his paws.
The next two nights of the three-moon full moon cycle passed the same way. The four of them ran together then slept off the exhaustion of the change together as well. There was some tension between Cyrus and a couple other males but it was settled quickly and without bloodshed. There was a lot of speculation about Asil and Sage but only when the two of them were out of earshot.
Thea was puzzled when, the morning after the cycle was over, Bran asked to see her in his study. When she reached the door she knocked lightly and after being told to enter she did so and stood there quietly.
"Please, take a seat Thea," Bran said, motioning to the two chairs across from his desk. When she did as she was asked he continued. "I wanted to speak with you about the recent full moon. Many new wolves, like your brother, struggle with control the first few times they change during the full moon. You, however, did very well. Asil was quite vocal about assuring me that the reason for that is because you're an Omega, and after talking with Anna about her own situation, I can't help but agree. She learned control, very quickly, all on her own as well. That said, I see no reason to make you stay here any longer. You're free to return to your home if you wish to."
"You mean it?" Thea asked in surprise. "What about Cyrus?" she added.
"He will stay until at least the next full moon. The more dominant a wolf is, the harder it is sometimes for them to learn control. He's not a prisoner Thea, he just needs to be monitored to be sure he's adjusting to the change. If the wolf and human cannot coexist then problems can and do arise. Our goal is to make sure that doesn't happen."
Thea considered what he said. She knew from talking with Sage, Asil, and Anna that she was one of the 'lucky' ones, like Anna, who could adjust easier to what she was. And she really did miss her home. "Thank you Bran. I really do want to be back in my own space." Going home would mean no longer accidentally running into Leah all the time too. That was a bonus.
Thea left Bran's office with a smile on her face and not even a snide remark from Leah could make it fade. She searched out, and found, her brother watching TV downstairs with Sage almost snuggled up to him. "There you are. I should have known I'd find you watching TV," she said in mock annoyance.
"You look like a woman on a mission, what's up adelfi?" Cyrus asked after muting the sound.
"Umm... I just had a talk with Bran and he said that, if I wanted to, I could go back to my house. I really do miss it, it's my sanctuary, but I don't want you to feel like I'm abandoning you," she replied after a moment.
Cyrus snorted. "Abandoning me? Adelfi, I'm a big boy, I think I can handle crashing here a while longer." He sobered and continued. "I don't want to hurt someone, so if I need to stay here to be sure I can control what I am, I'm okay with that. I just need to figure out what to tell papa."
"Would you like me to handle that for you?" Thea offered. "It might be easier if he hears it from me."
"No, I have to do this. I am not a coward and I won't have my sister confronting our father over something so life-changing. Go, pack your bags and go home Thea, you've earned your sanctuary," he told her.
"Alright Cy," she said softly. She wasn't going to argue with him about it. She'd perched on the arm of the couch while they talked and she leaned down to kiss his cheek before she left.
The moment she walked into her house she felt at peace. She'd been completely honest when she'd said it was her sanctuary. She doubted many people would understand how such a big space could be a sanctuary, but for her it was. Because it was hers. She made herself a cup of tea and then unpacked her things. She still felt a bit guilty about leaving but she already felt calmer because she wasn't so stressed out. The only downside was that if Asil happened to go talk to Bran she wouldn't 'accidentally' bump into him anymore.
Although she'd only been gone a few weeks, Thea spent most of the afternoon dusting and airing out the house. By evening the temperature outside had dropped dramatically and after a moment of thought she decided to turn the television on to get the weather report. She knew the closer it got to fall and winter the more unpredictable the weather there in Montana could be.
Thea wrinkled her nose. They were calling for a storm with several inches of snow predicted. She was used to snow, she grew up in New York, but she knew that conditions in Montana were vastly different from New York. In New York snow plows would eventually clear and salt the roads for travel, did they do the same thing in Aspen Creek? She briefly considered going back to Bran's but that would be cowardice.
She pushed that thought away and went to find something for dinner. The snow started before she even got the steak she'd chosen in the microwave to thaw. In the time it took to get the steak thawed out and cooked the ground was completely covered. Within hours there were a couple inches of snow on the ground and it was still coming down. A quick check of the weather report told her the original forecast of 2-4 inches was changed to 4-6 inches.
Thea watched the sun fade from the sky and as night deepened the snow continued to fall. Looking out at the snow covered landscape she felt a moment of isolation. What was it like, all those years ago, when Bran first came to the area? Oh sure, visually it probably hadn't changed too dramatically but with the technology they now had you could reach out any time and be able to connect with others. That made a difference.
Asil watched with indifference as the snow began to fall. He'd gotten used to it after twenty years of living in Aspen Creek and was well prepared with ample firewood to get him through the long winter months. The cold, and the snow, didn't bother him so much especially since he still had his roses no matter the time of year.
Thinking of his roses turned his thoughts, not to his long dead mate, Sarai, but to Thea. He knew she'd gone home but until the snow started to come down he'd not really thought much about it. Was she prepared for snow this early in the year? It didn't often snow late August/early September in New York, and she'd been at Bran's for several weeks. Did she have firewood in case her power went out? He began to pace his living room as his wolf latched onto the thought that she might be unprepared should she lose power.
With a growl of frustration Asil headed for his front door. He didn't know where Thea lived but Sage did. Call her or drive over? Calling was quicker, especially if she wasn't at home, because then he'd have to go over to Bran's where she would no doubt be spending time with Cyrus. He grabbed wood from the pile near his porch, tossed it in the trunk, and pulled his phone out of his pocket as he slid into his car.
Sage was finishing up making sure she had everything she needed in case of power issues due to the snow when her phone rang. She felt a moment of disappointment when she realized it was Asil and not Cyrus and no she wasn't going to think about that too hard. "Hello, hello, what's up?" she asked when she answered.
"I need to know where Thea's home is. Yes, I could use my abilities to find a pack member whenever I need to, but this is faster," Asil said before she could comment.
"Is something wrong?" Sage asked. She'd not sensed anything but maybe he did?
"Wrong? No, not that I am aware of. It's the first snow of the season and not only has Thea been at Bran's for weeks, she isn't accustomed to the tricky weather we get here. I want to be sure she's prepared in case of trouble with the power. I seriously doubt she even realized she would need to prepare so early in the year so I highly doubt she has firewood stocked up."
"Oh, shit, I didn't even think about that," Sage replied. "She bought the old Carmichael place, er the land I mean."
"Thank you," he said and hung up.
Thea saw headlights approaching and assumed it was Sage coming to check up on her. When the car stopped and it was Asil who got out, however, she arched a brow. She honestly hadn't expected to see him. She opened the door as he reached it. "Hello Asil, come in," she said with a warm smile. "I'm a little surprised to see you," she added.
"Hello Thea. Well, I was watching the snow when I realized you aren't accustomed to it snowing this early in the year and you aren't aware that it can easily knock out the power in this area. I feared you might not have stockpiled any firewood yet, especially since you were at the Marrok's until today."
Thea blinked. "I hadn't even thought of that," she admitted sheepishly.
"As I suspected," Asil said and touched her arm lightly. "I brought some logs to get you through tonight. I'll see that we get more logs to you tomorrow. Do you know how to start a fire in the fireplace?"
"That is one thing I do actually know," Thea replied with a soft laugh. Her skin tingled where his fingers brushed it when he touched her.
Her laughter made him smile. "Good. That's good. Do you have enough blankets should you need them?" He found himself admiring her home as his gaze moved around to take in the décor.
"Yes, I have enough blankets. It's very sweet of you to worry so much."
Asil turned to her and his eyes flashed gold briefly. "I care about your well-being little Omega," he growled. He closed the distance between them and touched her cheek. "You are important to me Thea," he admitted. "I'll go get those logs for you," he added and stepped back. It took more effort to do so than he cared to admit to. What he really wanted to do was take her in his arms and kiss her breathless. Allah help him he was losing the fight to stay away from her.
Thea held the door for him so he could bring the logs in and set them down by the fireplace. "Would you like a cup of hot cocoa before you leave? Real cocoa, made with milk and chocolate, not that powdered stuff," she added.
"That sounds delicious, I'd be delighted," Asil replied.
Thea went to the kitchen, melted the chocolate, and soon had it blended in with the heated milk. A touch of sugar sweetened it just right and she set a cup down in front of Asil who'd sat at the breakfast nook to watch her.
"Your home is lovely Thea, but why so much space?" he asked curiously.
"Honestly, I'm just used to the space, really, and when I designed the house it was with the thought that maybe one day I'd have children and would need the room."
"There is always adoption. I know that could be difficult, even with wolves coming out into the open, but it is an option." Things were happening rapidly now that the decision was made. He knew Charles and Anna were in Seattle now, taking care of the concerns of the European wolves, and in days, really, the whole world would know about them.
"True. I guess I'll have to wait and see how things go, right?" she countered. Then she sighed. "Being a werewolf would only be one obstacle in my way. Many agencies are uncomfortable about letting a single woman adopt, but who knows, maybe someday in the future." She shook her head. "Anyway, thank you for worrying."
"No need to thank me for that," Asil replied. The wind was picking up and he set his now empty cup down. "I should go before the wind makes it dangerous to travel. We'll get you a nice stock of firewood tomorrow," he said again.
Thea followed him to the door. On impulse she leaned up and kissed his cheek. "Thank you Asil. Goodnight, and please drive safe." She'd feel responsible if he was in an accident since it was because of her that he'd gotten out in the snow.
"Don't worry so, little Omega. I've driven these roads for almost two decades," he growled softly and left before he followed his urges and kissed her the way he ached to.
Thea watched him go with a sad smile. Twice now she'd taken a chance and kissed his cheek and twice she'd gotten no reaction from him. He 'cared' for her, as a friend, as a pack member, as a student. But she wanted something more. Why did she fall for men who, in the end, didn't want her the way she wanted them?