"So, I had two visitors at my house yesterday," Thea said as soon as she stepped into Sage's house late the next morning. She would be going to see Asil later. "I couldn't help but wonder just how Ethan knew I didn't already have a secondary cooking method should the power go out for long and how he knew where I lived. Only three pack members know where my house is and two of them would have taken care of that themselves."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Sage said and Thea rolled her eyes.
"I haven't been a werewolf for long but even I smell that lie," she countered. "So, what was the plan? Send Ethan on the hope I'd give him a chance, get all hot and heavy with him, then send Asil to catch us so he'd wake up?"
Sage blinked. "Wait, Asil was your other visitor? Oh hell, tell me there wasn't a fight?"
"Yes Asil was my other visitor and no there wasn't a fight. Ethan left a few minutes before Asil arrived. You didn't send him?"
"God no, Thea. With as unpredictable as Asil can be, no way would I have sent him to your house while Ethan was there."
"Why in the world did you send Ethan to me in the first place Sage?" Thea asked. "He asked me out and I politely declined. The fact that he asked when he knows almost nothing about me, and was shocked to find out I was recently divorced, is just further proof that his interest in me is just because I'm an Omega."
Sage watched her friend for a moment. "But you don't think that would make Asil interested in you? He was mated to an Omega after all."
Thea thought about the question. "No, I don't." She held up a hand to stop Sage from replying. "It might play a small part but he is genuinely interested in the person I am. It's not 'Oh, an Omega to keep me calm and in control'. Not with Asil. With him, its more 'Oh, she's an intelligent, compassionate woman who happens to have a nifty talent'."
"Are my ears deceiving me or are you finally admitting I'm right when I say Asil is interested in you?" Sage asked with a cheeky grin.
Thea threw one of the small pillows piled up in the corner of the sofa at Sage and they both laughed. "Yes, you were right. I didn't realize it until yesterday. He's being so subtle, what was I supposed to think?" she pointed out.
"The older wolves tend to be like that," Sage told her. "And Asil is as old as they come. If there is a wolf older than Bran, it's Asil, and that's saying a lot. Also, you gotta remember, he's been alone for two hundred years, he doesn't have a clue what people do in this day and age when it comes to dating."
Thea thought about that. "I... I think he asked me on a date. Maybe. He said I should come to the hothouse today because he's moving some of his roses to bigger pots. And remember when he said he had something to do after Leah's funeral and he showed up at Bran's later? He gave me one of his rose bushes. It has these gorgeous orange and yellow blooms on it," she said and there was a dreamy look in her eyes.
Sage snickered. "Yep, that sounds like Asil's way of asking for a date." She sobered at the mention of the rose bush. "Thea, honey, Asil doesn't just give his rose bushes away. That.. if there was any doubt before, this would erase it, he definitely has feelings, deep feelings, for you."
"Really? What does he do with them?" Thea asked.
"Asil has this long application-like process. If someone wants to purchase some of his bushes they have to prove they'll take care of them. You would think they were his children or the offspring of a pedigreed pet or something. The fact that he just gave one to you, it's mind-blowing."
"I think, for Asil, it is very much like letting someone adopt a pet or a child. Those roses are his children, in a sense," Thea replied and the significance of him gifting her with one of his more unique bushes hit her. She was touched, honored, humbled that he cared that deeply for her.
"I think you're right, for him that is what it's like. Huh, I never really thought about it that way before," Sage replied.
"I should probably head over to Asil's," Thea said after a moment. "I wouldn't want him to think I changed my mind about coming."
Sage walked her to the door. "What are you going to do if Ethan persists in trying to get you to go out with him?" she asked.
"I don't know. Hopefully I'll have figured that out if it happens," Thea replied and left.
Asil was in the hothouse, working, as always, but he kept glancing at the door. He felt foolish, anxiously awaiting her arrival like some young pup. But he found he couldn't help it. There was so much about his Little Omega that pulled at him. She'd been so damaged by her ex-husband that he was sure she had moments where she doubted her own worth and yet she embraced life with a passion he admired. She was also so different from Sarai. It was odd that he was so drawn to her because they were such opposites. Sarai had her own passion, sure, but she was more of the no-nonsense type. She was a product of the times they'd lived in; hard, demanding, and a little aggressive when she needed to be. Thea, on the other hand, was calm, vibrant, and sensitive to the feelings of others. He'd loved Sarai, he always would, but he found that if a person allowed themselves to be open to others, they could still love someone they lost while learning to love someone new.
Thea arrived and somehow she just knew he was already in the hothouse. She stepped inside and sucked in a breath. The temperature change was a bit to adjust to. The roses were in full bloom and she closed her eyes and breathed in their sweet, heady scent. She stood there like that a moment before she opened her eyes and looked for Asil. When their eyes locked she smiled warmly at him.
When Thea entered the hothouse Asil felt it. That was new. He turned and watched as she closed her eyes and breathed in the rose-scented air. The sight of her surrounded by blooming roses was ethereal. In his mind's eye he saw her lying naked on a bed of rose petals with all that dark, glorious hair spread out around her. The vision made him groan and he knew he had to get himself under control before she came close enough to smell his arousal. When their eyes locked he felt the heat of it in his bones. "You came," he murmured.
Thea closed the distance between them. "Of course I came Asil. Did you think I wouldn't?" she asked.
"I don't know," he admitted. "I know I am not the only male in our pack who... desires you, Little Omega, and there are others more appealing, more stable, than I."
Thea studied his face. He was only a little taller than her so it was easy to do without having to crane her neck to do it. She found him to be very lovely to look at, very appealing. Her hand lifted and she rested her palm against his cheek. "There is no one in the pack who is more appealing to me," she countered.
Asil leaned into the touch and sighed. "You are such a treasure," he murmured. "I don't mean your gifts, I mean you," he added, emphasizing the last word. He needed her to know his interest was in her, not in what she could do for him.
"I know Asil. You genuinely want to know me as a person."
He relaxed at that. "I'm glad you know that. You should also know that I have come to think of you as my Little Omega," he said with a slight smirk.
Thea laughed at that. "Have you now? Well... it's a good thing for you I'm not bothered by that," she replied. "You know, we should make this a genuine date and let me cook dinner for us later," she added after a moment.
Asil gave her a look. "You figured me out. I fear I am not very good at this, my dear."
"Honestly, neither am I," Thea replied. "My ex-husband is the only person I've ever been with so dating is a bit awkward for me too. But I don't feel awkward with you, Asil. This all feels very... natural to me. Like this is where I'm supposed to be."
"We're quite the pair, aren't we?" he said and was touched by what she said. "Come, let me show you what I have been doing."
Thea arched a brow when he led her to an area at the back of the hothouse that was closed off to others. What she saw when she stepped into the smaller room took her breath away. Small blooms that were such a deep scarlet red they were almost black. "They're beautiful, Asil," she hushed.
"They're a hybrid cross between the Black Baccara rose and the Black Beauty rose," he told her. "You are the first, besides myself, to see them," he added. He stood at her back and leaned in to breathe in her scent. "You smell lovely," he growled. "Musk, mint, rose, and vanilla," he added. The vanilla was her own unique scent.
Thea closed her eyes at the growl and leaned back against him. "Thank you," she said softly and she wasn't sure if she was thanking him for sharing his new roses with her or the compliment. Maybe it was both.
His arms wrapped around her slowly and he gave in to the urge to nuzzle her neck. He only just managed to not nip at her skin in the process. "Their beauty pales next to you," he hushed and meant it. They stood that way for several minutes before he reluctantly let go and stepped back.
Thea turned around to watch his face. "You know I'm not interested in Ethan or anyone else in the pack, don't you?"
"Yes, but that doesn't change their interest in you," he pointed out.
"I know, but I can handle them just as I did Ethan," Thea countered. "Let me go cook us dinner," she said after a moment. "I'm sure you have something in your kitchen I can work with," she added with a cheeky grin.
Asil chuckled at that. "I'm sure I do," he said and offered his arm to her. If he did take her for his mate they would have to decide on where to live. He decided to not think about that at the moment since they weren't at the point where he needed to be worried about it, yet.
Thea raided his kitchen and soon his small house filled with the smell of steaks being cooked. She knew the meat was venison, and with the fresh herbs she used to season the meat with, it had even her mouth watering. She added a pasta primavera and salad to the menu and then threw together an apple crisp that would be done by the time they finished eating dinner.
"Thea, you are a wonderful cook," Asil said over dinner. "This is more than I would have done, thank you, and that dessert smells divine."
She preened at the compliment. "Thank you. I just took what you had and ran with it," she admitted. "I'm just glad it turned out so well."
"You didn't get to cook so often when you were married, did you?" Asil asked.
"How did you know that?" Thea asked, surprised by how intuitive he was being.
"Because you were surprised it turned out as well as it did and that I am enjoying it," he replied.
"You're right. My ex-husband, we didn't eat meals at home. There was always somewhere to be. When I stopped attending the different functions with him, because he was taking one of his mistresses, I'm sure, I would usually just order take-out," she confessed.
Asil growled a little. "That man deserves to be hurt, severely, for the things he did to you."
Thea ducked her head at that. "He's not worth it. That was why I said nothing to papa or my brothers about how violent he was getting. He wasn't worth them getting in trouble."
"I disagree, and I'm sure your father and brother's do as well, but one day the karma will come back to him."
That made Thea laugh. "Exactly. The karma will get him."
They ate in companionable silence after that and when the sky began to darken Asil walked her out to her car. "Rest well my Little Omega," he murmured and lowered his head to brush his lips across hers. He intended it to be a quick, gentle kiss but the moment their lips touched he pulled her closer and kissed her with passion. When he finally pulled back they were both breathless. "Go, before I lose control and give in to all of my urges," he growled and made himself step back.
Thea could have ignored the command in his voice but she saw the tension on his face. She knew he was afraid of what he might do in that moment and because she loved him she did as he asked. She stepped back from him and then slowly backed up towards her car before she left. She'd moved slowly because his wolf was so close to the surface and moving quickly could have triggered the natural urge to give chase.
As soon as she was gone Asil stripped and changed. He ran across the snow and into the hills outside of Aspen Creek. He stalked across the very trail where, only a few months ago, Thea was attacked and changed by the magic that made them werewolves. He reached her property line and stalked close enough to the house to hear her moving around inside. He would claim her as his mate, soon, and then he would begin the slow process of moving the hothouse and all of his flowers onto her property. She built this house to be her refuge, her sanctuary, he would not take her away from it.