Sage arrived at Bran's and sauntered into the house in search of Thea. "There you are," she said when she found her in the sun room Bran had added to the house a few years ago. "I figure we can go get some of your things first and then I can take you to Asil's. That way you can wear your own clothes and feel more comfortable."
Thea smiled at that. "That sounds great. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the clothes you loaned me, but it would be nice to have my own things again. Besides, I need to get the charger for my cellphone so I can charge it up and call my parents. I'm going to tell them I decided to take an extended holiday at a resort so they don't worry about me. I do not want my papa flying out here because he thinks I'm in trouble."
"That protective, huh? So, I'm curious, what brought you to our remote corner of the country?" Sage asked as they headed out to her car.
Thea sighed softly and waited until they were both in the car to answer. "I needed a place to start my life over. I was married until a few months ago. It ended badly. It turned out that even though I honored our wedding vows, my ex-husband didn't. He screwed up though. See, I'd always been the calm, docile wife, he thought I would stay like that. He had no idea I'd come at him as viciously as I did once I found out he'd had multiple affairs with several different women. He was a financial wiz with the stock market and as luck would have it, we lived in a state that didn't have a no-fault policy for divorce. I was able to get him for adultery and took him for every penny my lawyer could get out of him. He didn't have a leg to stand on when we went to court and I brought in four of the women he'd had an affair with to testify to his adultery."
Sage looked over at her with sympathy. "Ouch. Men can be such bastards sometimes. But his loss is our gain," she said after a moment. She followed the directions Thea gave her and when they neared the property she glanced at her. "Did you know that you bought land that is actually in pack territory?" she asked. "Old man Carmichael bought this place way back when land was cheap, but he and his family lived in Aspen Creek. He'd planned on building his wife a house where the old shack used to be, but she died before he could do it and he decided not to bother. Then all three of his sons decided they wanted to try to become werewolves, only one of them survived the change. This was all long before I came here. From what I understand, the son who made it lost control of his wolf one night and he almost killed his wife. The Marrok had to kill him. It broke the old man's heart. He'd lost his wife and now all three of his children were gone. His son's wife moved away after she recovered from her attack because her injuries weren't bad enough that she became one of us. The old man moved into the shack after that and avoided town as much as he could. He died before I came here and the place has been empty ever since. Every now and then someone would be sent to mow down the weeds but I had no idea the land was for sale."
Thea listened and her heart ached for the loss the old man must have felt. 'That poor man," she said softly and wiped a tear from her eyes. "The real estate agent actually tried to talk me out of buying it, which I thought was weird. I mean he would get a cut from the sale price, so why wouldn't he want to sell? I fell in love with the area the moment I saw it and offered more than the asking price to convince him I was serious."
Sage laughed at that. "Damn, that's what I call determination." She pulled up to the Victorian style house with its wrap-around porch and whistled once she got out of the car. "Wow, this place is beautiful. And huge. You live here alone?" she asked.
Thea blushed. "I know, its a lot of space for one person but I got used to having a lot of space, while I was married especially, and the design appealed to me. Come on in, I'll fix you a cup of tea before I pack."
The interior was done in soft shades of brown, yellow, and gold. The hardwood floors gleamed and throw rugs were scattered about to give the house a warm, homey feel. "It's even more beautiful on the inside," Sage said, following her to the kitchen.
Thea beamed. "Thank you. It's a hobby of mine, interior decorating. It gave me something to do back in New York when I was home alone for hours on end." The kitchen had all the luxuries a woman could want and Thea busied herself with heating water for the tea. She showed Sage where she kept the various flavors she had. Some were prepackaged teas but most were loose leaf. Once Sage made her decision Thea took it and steeped it for her before handing it over for Sage to sweeten herself.
"You should hire yourself out to others as an interior decorator. You could make a killing," Sage said after taking a sip of her tea. "Seriously, you've got a lot of talent girl," she added at the look Thea gave her.
Thea shrugged. "I don't know, I'll think about it. Feel free to look around while I pack." She noticed the message light was blinking on her answering machine and pressed play to hear them. All six messages were from her parents, each one increasing in panic. The last one was frantic. "Althea Raelyn Stavros you better call me back right away. Your papa is ready to catch the next flight he can get out to Missoula. Please call me little dove, we're scared. We heard about those awful attacks in your area and now you aren't answering either of your phones." There was desperation in her mother's voice.
"Damn it, I didn't even think about that," Thea said. The last call was made six hours ago and she got a bad feeling as she dialed her parents' number.
Her mother picked up on the second ring. "Thea? Oh thank the gods," the older woman said, relief filling her voice. "Where have you been sweetheart? We've been calling for two days. Your papa finally had enough and caught a flight out there, he left an hour ago."
'No, no, no, no,' Thea thought. This is so not good. "I'm sorry mama, I didn't mean to worry you guys. I was out of town, I went to visit this quaint bed and breakfast I'd heard about and forgot to take my cellphone with me." She hated lying to her mother, but it was her only option.
"Althea Stavros, you know better than that! We know you're a grown woman, but it was hard enough on your papa and me when you moved across the country. You should have known we'd worry once the news broke of the attacks."
"I'm sorry mama, I didn't even know about the attacks before. I've not been listening to the news," she admitted. It wasn't a total lie. She hadn't been watching the news and until she was attacked she hadn't known about the three people who'd already died.
"Well, your papa will be in Missoula in about five hours. I suggest you be there when he arrives."
"Yes mama. Don't worry, I won't let him get lost out here in the middle of nowhere. I love you mama, I'll call you once papa is here."
Sage was quiet the entire time Thea was on the phone. "This isn't good. Hurry and pack. We've got to talk to Bran. He won't want you going alone because all those people at the airport, it can be a bit overwhelming for your wolf if you're not used to it."
Thea rushed upstairs and threw clothes into bags. She took everything she might need, including her phone charger, and Sage helped her carry the bags out to the car. "Maybe I should follow you in my car so I can drive myself to the airport. I'll need to come up with a good reason why I am not staying in my own house and why papa has to stay at the motel in Aspen Creek. He's not a stupid man. He'll know something is going on." She was worried about the upcoming conversation with him.
"We'll figure something out Thea. Sure, you can follow me. That way you won't feel so trapped and dependent on others to get around," Sage replied. They would have to let Asil know she wouldn't be coming by today, as originally planned. "I'll call Bran on the way to give him a heads up. Maybe he can come up with something your father will accept," she added before she got into her car and dialed the number as she headed back to Aspen Creek. Sage tapped her fingers on the steering wheel while she waited for Bran to pick up.
"Yes Sage, what is it?" Bran asked when he answered. He sounded preoccupied.
"We have a problem. I took Thea to her house so she could pack some things for her stay and there were several messages on her phone from her parents. They'd heard about the attacks on the news, all the way out in New York, and after not getting any answer on her phone for two days her dad hopped a plane for Missoula. He'll be here in like five hours and Thea's mom implied if Thea isn't there to meet him he might do something rash."
Bran listened and then growled. "I want you both to come here right away. We will figure out a course of action and I want to send an escort with her to the airport."
"Already on the way. We'll be there soon," she replied and hung up.
Bran rubbed his temples. This was one of the many reasons for his recent decision to bring wolves out into the open. The plan to do so was already in the works. If they'd already been out Thea could have easily assured them she was fine, and it would have been her choice if she wanted to tell them about her attack. He needed to decide on who to send with her. There were only two wolves he was comfortable choosing and he sent two messages; one to his son, the other to Asil. 'Something has happened. I need to speak with you. Now.'
Charles arrived first. "What's going on Da?" he asked as he took the seat his father indicated.
"Asil is on his way as well. I will wait for him so I only have to say this once."
Asil considered ignoring the request but he knew his Alpha could, and would, use his dominance to force him if he had to. So he left his hothouse and drove to the Marrok's house before letting himself in. "You called," he said as he entered the study.
"Yes. We have a situation. News of the attacks went further than we thought. It seems our newest wolf comes from a very close-knit and protective family. After not being able to reach her for two days her father got a flight out and will be in Missoula in roughly five hours. I don't want Thea going to meet him alone in case her wolf has trouble with the crowds."
Before Charles could speak Asil did. "I will escort her there and keep her wolf under control."
Charles cocked a brow at the old wolf. "You sure about this?" Sure Charles hated airports, the heating and cooling system made it impossible to pick out scents, but he could handle it if he had to.
"I am quite capable of going to an airport, pup," Asil replied with a growl. Oh, it rubbed him the wrong way to know Charles was more dominant than him but he was centuries older than the other wolf and took advantage of that to rub it in from time to time. Like now.
Charles growled dangerously but Bran held up his hand. "Enough. While Asil goes with Thea we will come up with a feasible reason, one her father will accept, for why she has to stay here." It was surprising that Bran was even considering not telling her father the truth. He didn't like lies, not even lies of omission.
"We could use the attacks to our advantage," Charles suggested. "Hear me out. She's a single woman living all alone with her nearest neighbors miles away from her. She became fast friends with Sage and as a result we, Sage's family, encouraged her to stay here until the animal can be caught. We can move her into the safe room at the motel, in case she has trouble with her wolf, until her father is satisfied she's in safe hands and leaves."
Thea and Sage had arrived by then and caught the tail end of what he was saying. "That.. actually might work. My papa wouldn't think there was an ulterior motive behind it if we are both staying at the motel. I can tell him Sage offered to let me stay with her but I wanted the independence of staying at the motel. Honestly, I think if my papa was a werewolf he'd be a very dominant one, possibly even an Alpha," Thea said.
Bran listened to her view on it then nodded. "Very well, Asil will be escorting you, in case there's trouble."
"Uh, I should probably go with them," Sage suggested. "If her father is as dominant as Thea says, and he gets into a staring contest with Asil, that could get dangerous. I can break the tension by getting between them and breaking their eye contact with each other. Besides, if she goes with just Asil he might question why she's showing up at the airport with a man none of them has been told about. Especially since she's only been in the area a short time. I can pretend to be Asil's girlfriend," she said with a wink in his direction.
The look on Asil's face at Sage's suggestion was priceless. It was a good idea though. "Sage is right. My papa would wonder why I didn't tell them I'd met someone. He'd think I was either ashamed of them, ashamed of my beau, or hiding something," Thea said softly.
For half a second Asil thought about bowing out and letting Charles and Anna go with her. "Fine, we'll do it that way," he growled.
Sage batted her eyelashes at him. "Aw, now sugar-pie, don't get all pouty," she teased in a southern drawl before flashing him a mischievous grin.
"I think I'm going to regret this," he grumbled before plans were made and all of Thea's bags were taken to the motel. Then it was off to the airport to put their plan in motion.