They arrived at the airport a little ahead of her father's flight and Thea tried to stop herself from pacing. She really hoped the plan went as smoothly as they all assumed it would. So much was riding on her father believing their story and not sensing something was off. She wasn't ready to tell her parents what she was. She knew that she could, for their own protection, but she just wasn't ready for them to know she was different now.
"I really wish you would try to relax Thea," Sage said. She was feeling jumpy herself and that wasn't normal for her.
"I can't help it. What if something goes wrong and my papa gets hurt or asks the wrong questions?"
"Nothing is going to go wrong," Sage replied.
"Sage is right. You really do need to relax," Asil said. Even he sounded on edge.
Thea frowned. "What's wrong?"
Asil sighed. "You are an Omega. You can affect those around you without even trying. If you're calm you can help others to be calm. If you are not calm..." he spread his hands out to indicate him and Sage.
"Oh, damn. I'm so sorry. I didn't realize that," Thea said and looked down. She had so much to learn about what she was now.
"It's the power of the Omega," Asil said and patted her hand. "You'll learn."
Thea sat down and closed her eyes to block out the people walking past them. She took several deep breaths and held them before letting each one out slowly. When she opened her eyes again she was much calmer.
"Much better," Asil purred approvingly. It was an odd sound coming from a werewolf but he made it sound natural.
When her father's flight finally landed she fought herself to remain calm. It wouldn't do any good to get upset now.
Mikolas Stavros was a large man, not fat but solid, and he carried himself with an air of command. He'd come to the states as a child when his parents immigrated there from Korinthos, Greece, and in a desire to prove his love for the new country he called home, he joined the Marines as soon as he turned eighteen and served for eight years. There was a saying about Marines. Once a Marine always a Marine. And it was true. He'd run his household with a firm hand, not allowing any of his children to get away with anything, and he made sure all three of his daughters knew how to take care of themselves. Some might call him an overly protective and paranoid father, he called it survival skills. He wanted to be sure that all three of his girls could take care of themselves and could protect themselves, because there were too many predators in the world who would readily take advantage of them if given the chance. He had no idea that they had more than human predators to worry about.
Heads turned to watch him as Mikolas strode through the airport, his carry on bag slung over his shoulder. His eyes scanned the baggage claim area where his wife had informed him their daughter, who'd finally called them back, was to meet him. It was easy to see why Thea said if he was a werewolf he would be an Alpha. He had that much command, that much dominance, in him. When he spotted his daughter his pace increased and there was obvious relief in his eyes. He embraced her when he reached her and held her a moment before he let go. "Manari mou, your mama and I have been worried sick about you. Why were you not answering your phone?"
She told her father the same story she'd told her mother, that she'd gone out of town and forgotten to take her cellphone with her. "I'm sorry papa. As soon as I got home and heard the messages I called mama. I'm sorry you flew all the way out here for no reason."
He kissed her forehead as if she were still a child. "You should have known I would." He noticed she wasn't alone and turned his attention to the man and woman with her. It was the man's intensity that made him stiffen. He shifted to put himself between him and his daughter and locked eyes with him. "Who are these people Althea?" he asked. He used the voice he'd always used when she was growing up that said 'Do not think to brush off my question, tell me now'.
Sage felt Asil tense at her side. Thea's father was very intuitive, that much was clear, and he knew dangerous when he saw it. And Asil was dangerous under the right conditions. But Asil getting his hackles up wouldn't help things, it would only make a mess of their carefully laid plan. She moved between the men and offered her hand. "Hi, I'm Sage Carhardt and this is my step-brother, Asil," she said with a friendly smile. She'd decided at the last minute to change their 'relationship' because, if Asil and Thea did end up together it could be difficult to explain why Sage and Thea were still friends, if she introduced him as her boyfriend. "We're friends of Thea's," she added. By moving between them she was able to distract the older man long enough to break the staring contest between him and Asil. "You must be tired and famished after your flight. It's a hundred mile drive back to Aspen Creek, and to be honest the town is so tiny we really don't have a restaurant in it, but there are some fabulous places nearby we could get a bite before heading back," she said after she was sure he was no longer staring at Asil.
Before she'd even figured out what to say, when her father asked who they were, Sage had come to the rescue and Thea was grateful to her for it. "They didn't want me driving here all by myself, because of the distance. Something I am sure you approve of, papa. It's a lot of lonely road between here and Aspen Creek where I now call home." She knew that would ease some of her father's tension. "My friends are very protective, like you papa," she explained. "That sounds like a wonderful idea, Sage. I'm a bit hungry myself. Why don't we get out of here?" she added.
Although Mikolas still didn't trust the young man with them, there was an intensity to him that sent out warning bells, the young woman, Sage, sounded sincere and Thea didn't seem on edge or uncomfortable with them. He relaxed, just a little, and nodded. "Ne, I am a bit hungry," he admitted.
"Wonderful. I'll drive. Thea, I'm sorry, but you drive like my granny and I know the streets better. Besides, this way you and your father can chat on the drive back," Sage said and held her hand out for the keys. She knew Asil would be jumpy about having the man in the backseat, but Thea's presence would keep that to a minimum. "I was with Thea when she got your message, I'd pestered her about wanting to see the house now that it's finished and it's beautiful. She's got a really good eye for details, she should go into interior decorating," Sage said as they exited the airport and strode through the parking lot to the car. "You were right to worry though. When I realized how alone her house is, where she had it built, I was worried too. We both were," she added, referring to Asil. "You have no idea how hard it was to convince her to not stay in that house all by herself until the animal can be found and taken care of. She is so independent, I'll bet she gets that from you Mr. Stavros." To Asil she whispered, "Why did it sound like he said no when he said he was hungry?"
Thea heard the question and wanted to answer but she couldn't because she knew her father hadn't heard and he'd want to know how she had. When Asil shrugged though, Sage repeated it more loudly and Thea answered her. "The Greek word for yes is ne, and I agree it does sound a bit like saying no, or nah. If papa hadn't been hungry, he would have said okhi, which I know sounds a lot like okay. It can confuse those who do not speak Greek so don't worry Sage, you aren't the first to be confused by it."
Mikolas realized he liked this Sage. She had one of those personalities that drew people in. "Ne, she does get it from me. I made sure all three of my girls were independent so they could take care of themselves," he replied.
"Three girls? How many children do you and Mrs. Stavros have?" Sage asked.
"Six, we were blessed by Hera with three of each." At Sage's puzzled look, he explained. "The Greek Goddess, Hera. She is the Goddess of many things, among them are women's fertility, childbirth, and heirs."
"Ah. You worship the old Gods and Goddesses. I knew there was a reason I liked Thea," Sage teased. "I've never been one for following strict religion myself. I've learned three new things today, two of them words I can use to confuse people. Cool," she added.
After they chose a restaurant they waited until their food arrived before discussing why Mikolas was there. "If Althea is not staying in her home, where is she staying?" he asked.
"The motel in Aspen Creek. I know, it's odd, we have a motel but not a real restaurant. I've tried to point that out but no one ever listens to me. Okay, that's not entirely true, but I still think we need a restaurant. Maybe I'll break down and open one myself. I'm quite the cook, or so I've been told. Anyway, I wanted her to stay at my house but noooo Thea has to be Little Miss Independent," Sage said with a cheeky grin at her friend.
Mikolas laughed. "That's our Althea. She can be as stubborn as her old papa." His gaze flicked to Asil who still hadn't uttered a word and he wondered if it was because he couldn't or because there was something else going on.
Asil had been quiet up to that point but he realized that by being so silent, it was keeping her father on edge. "We fully understand your concern for your daughter, Mr. Stavros. She is already very well liked by a number of residents in Aspen Creek. It's why we pressed her to stay in town even if she only agreed as long as she didn't impose on anyone. I think we would all be hurt if something happened to her," he said and there was feeling in the words. He would definitely be hurt by it. "I'm sure once you see she really is safe it will ease your mind greatly. Once this animal scare is past, you should come back for a visit, and bring Thea's mother. We might be a small community, but when the leaves start changing in the mountains, the sight is quite breathtaking."
Mikolas studied him. He noticed the way the other man's eyes kept straying to Thea when she wasn't watching. It was obvious to Mikolas that there was interest there. He would have to have a talk with him before he returned to New York. He'd never liked Thea's ex-husband, the man had always rubbed him the wrong way, but he'd never said anything because he'd wanted his daughter to be happy and she'd seemed happy with him. He'd failed to protect her once, this time he would make sure his daughter didn't get hurt.
After the meal, which Mikolas insisted he pay for, they got back in the car and headed for Aspen Creek. Asil told himself there was no reason to be uncomfortable with Thea's father seated behind him, but his wolf wasn't happy. The man was dominant enough for his wolf to see him as a threat. His fingers tapped against his leg as he stared out the window in hopes of distracting himself.
"What do you do, Asil.. I'm sorry, I don't recall being told your last name," Mikolas said. He wanted to know the man who was interested in his daughter.
"Hussan," Asil replied. "I am.. retired, you might say. I spend my time tending to my roses," he added.
"Retired? You're a bit young for that." He frowned and then had a thought. "Ah, you have enough wealth you do not need to work in a grueling job, so you do what you enjoy instead, ne?"
"Yes. I do enjoy my roses. I have been working with cross breeding them to get hybrids for some time now. I've had some success with several of them, but we shall see how well they continue to do." It was something he felt passionate about.
"His hybrids are gorgeous," Sage put in as she drove.
Conversation faded and Thea noticed her father watching the terrain as they got closer and closer to Aspen Creek. She knew he wasn't convinced everything was alright, not yet, but she was certain they could get him to that point.
"I see why you chose the area kopela mou," Mikolas said after a while. "It's beautiful country and the solitude suits you."
Thea smiled. "It does papa. And all those camping trips we took when I was younger, complete with hiking and survival skills, come in handy now. I can go hiking and not lose my way. Once the animal attacking people is gone, of course." He didn't need to know it had already been taken care of because then he'd want to know what it was.
"You will wait until it is safe," he replied. It wasn't a question. He was definitely Alpha material.
"Does that ever work with Thea? Issuing her orders?" Sage asked curiously.
Mikolas laughed. "Not really. But I am her papa. If I didn't say it she would wonder who I was and what happened to the real me. Our Althea has never really been one to listen to what she feels is an order."
Sage snickered at the blush she could see on Thea's cheeks via the rear view mirror. "She must have been a handful growing up," she said. "It explains why she so stubbornly refused to stay with me when I asked her to," she added.
"She was indeed," he admitted. "How long have you two known my daughter?" Mikolas asked.
"Honestly? Not really long," Sage admitted. "But I swear it feels like we've been friends forever and I can't help but feel protective of her," she added.
Asil nodded. "She's become quite dear to us very quickly," he put in.
"She has always had that effect on people," Mikolas replied.
"It's because she has such a good heart. She genuinely cares about others," Asil said and there was admiration for her in his voice.
"You seem to know my daughter quite well for having only known her a short time."
Asil shifted a little to look back at him before returning his attention to the front. "I'm just perceptive Mr. Stavros. When she found out you and her mother were so worried that you caught a flight out here she was very upset over the thought that she'd caused you such pain. Most people would just be embarrassed but not Thea. She was a nervous wreck thinking about how worried you must have been."
Thea blushed. "I am siting right here," she chided gently. "But Asil is right papa, I was very upset that I'd worried you so."
"It's alright manari mou. You are safe, that is all that matters."
"Oh no, I forgot to call mama when you arrived. I was so happy to see you it completely slipped my mind."
Mikolas waved it away. "I called as soon as I landed, she knows I am here. Now, show me where this Aspen Creek is, mm?" If he felt she wasn't safe enough he would encourage her to go back to New York with him until the animal was dealt with.