When they arrived in Aspen Creek Sage drove directly to the motel. She would stick around for as long as she could, outside, waiting for Thea's dad to get settled in. She hoped Asil decided to go home, he was having enough trouble distracting himself as it was.
"It's a very small town, as you can see papa, but I think it's quaint. I know it's a big change from New York, but I like that it is," Thea said as they parked. She tried to coax him into taking one of the larger rooms further away from hers but he insisted on having the room right next to her.
"With such a small town, I assume you don't get very many tourists, so why a motel?" Mikolas asked.
"True, we don't get a lot of tourists, but we do sometimes get hikers who decide they'd rather sleep inside when the weather gets bad and they come here. A lot of them are people who have hiked in this area for years so they know about the motel," Asil replied before Sage could.
"I suppose that does make sense." Mikolas carried his bag into the room he was given then turned to study his surroundings. Most of the buildings, many of which he could tell were houses, were camouflaged by all the trees. It was nice and secluded. "I think I will take a walk before I try to get some rest," he said and moved away from them.
Thea watched her father go. "Thank you, both, for trying to put him at ease," she said softly. "You don't have to stay, I'm sure everything will be fine." She had a feeling both of them would hover nearby at least until her father returned and retired to his room for the evening.
As he wandered through the small town of Aspen Creek, Mikolas got the feeling he was being watched. His instincts had never failed him before, but try as he might, he never saw anyone. By the time he returned to the motel he was on edge. Something was off about this town and he didn't like it one bit. He went straight for Thea's door and knocked.
Thea heard the knock and looked out the little peep hole to see her father standing there. He looked troubled and she wondered if someone had bothered him. "Hello papa. What's wrong? You look troubled," she said when she let him in.
"I am troubled," he said after she closed the door behind him. "Something is not right with this town Althea. I felt eyes on me the entire time I was out but not once did I see anyone. Something is off." He paced the small room. "I do not think you should stay here. I think you should come back to New York with me."
Thea listened to his concerns and sighed softly. "I'm sure it's nothing papa. You're just used to New York, the quiet and lack of people is unsettling."
Mikolas looked at his daughter. "Are you being threatened? Is that why you insist on staying here?" he asked. "Are these people making you stay against your will?" His voice rose with his anger and agitation.
Sage had crept near the door to be close in case she was needed and she heard him even through the thick door. "This isn't good."
"No, it isn't. Call Bran," Asil said, having followed her. He was tense. If Thea's father tried to cause trouble, would Bran do something extreme to stop him?
Sage dialed Bran's number and waited for him to answer. "Bran, we need you at the motel. Thea's dad is... making things difficult for her. He thinks she's being threatened and is being forced to stay against her will and trying to take her back to New York with him. To make matters worse Asil looks like any minute now he's going to barge in there and start snarling at the man."
When Bran saw Sage was calling him he got a bad feeling. How could they mess things up so quickly? "I'll be right there," he said after her rushed explanation. He was going to have to give the man answers he would accept, which meant a full explanation after all. It was a good thing he'd anticipated this and already had Charles alerted as well. Thea's description of her father suggested he might not be so easily swayed into thinking all was well in Aspen Creek and it appeared that was correct.
Asil was standing in front of the door when Bran arrived. It was hard to tell what the Marrok intended to do and for a moment he refused to move out of Bran's way. "I won't let you hurt her by harming her father," he growled. "It would destroy her and make her leave us. And if she leaves, I will leave with her." His eyes changed color as his wolf rose to the surface for a moment.
Sage stared at Asil. Not only had he growled at Bran, which could get him killed if Bran was in a foul mood, but he'd also decided that Thea was more than just a pack member to him, especially not to his wolf. She didn't think he realized it though.
"Easy old wolf. I have no intention of harming our new wolf's father. I anticipated that he might not be misled about things here. He needs answers that will settle his mind, I will give him them. I am sure Thea wanted to wait to tell her family, but it seems her father is too perceptive for that. Move aside," he said and added a little push to his voice. Bran could have taken Asil's actions as a challenge but he too noticed the protectiveness that indicated his wolf had already chosen Thea for their mate and was waiting for the human half to catch up. A wolf will protect its mate, even from its Alpha, if it thinks its Alpha intended to harm its mate. Because of that Bran let it slide.
Asil stepped aside, not even trying to resist the mental push, because he knew the Marrok was a man of honor. If he said he wouldn't harm Thea's father, he meant it.
Bran knocked and waited. He was certain Thea knew that he was there, that all three of them were out there, but she was doing a very good job of pretending to still be human for her father.
At the knock Thea frowned and went to look out the peep hole to see who was there. Of course she was already aware that it was Bran, she'd caught bits of the conversation with Asil, but she couldn't let on that she knew it without her father getting suspicious. "Oh, hello Bran," she said softly when she opened the door. She'd begun to panic when her father started pressing her for answers she couldn't give and there was relief in her eyes now that Bran was there.
"Hello Thea. May I come in?" For all intents and purposes he seemed like a completely normal person. His power was masked so completely he could pass for human.
"Of course, please do," she replied and stepped back. "Papa, this is Bran Cornick. Bran, my father, Mikolas Stavros," she said, introducing them.
"Mr. Stavros its nice to meet you." He didn't particularly care for humans but he didn't detest them so he hadn't lied.
"Who, precisely, are you Mr. Cornick, and why have you suddenly come to my daughter's room?" Mikolas asked with a frown.
"Well, if Aspen Creek had a mayor I would be it," Bran replied. He moved to the small table and sat. "I've come to speak with you about the situation here, as it pertains to your daughter, Thea." He saw the flash of worry in her eyes and tried to soothe it.
'He will only accept the truth, you know this as well as I and that is what he will get. I know you wanted to wait, but this is for his protection'.
He'd forgotten that that was one little talent he had that she'd not known about but Thea made no outward sign of being startled to hear his voice in her head.
Mikolas watched him warily. "If you are holding her here against her will I will not hesitate to go to the authorities," he threatened.
"Its nothing like that, I assure," Bran said and motioned to the chair opposite him. "Shall we talk like civilized men, Mr. Stavros?" he said and cocked a brow at him. When Mikolas sat he continued. "You have concerns about your daughter, about her welfare. That is understandable. You wouldn't be a very good father if you didn't, and you flying across country out of concern for her shows that you are a very good father indeed." Bran watched him a moment. "There is no easy way to say this. I've tried to find easy ways over the years, but it never works. That is just one of the many reasons concerning a decision I have made that will come out very soon, but that is a discussion for another time. We are not keeping your daughter here against her will, but at the same time she cannot leave."
"That makes no sense," Mikolas interrupted. "It cannot be both ways."
"Hear me out, if you please," Bran replied. "You heard about the animal attacks that happened here recently, that is why you came here out of concern for your child. That is understandable. However, what the news has not mentioned, because they are unaware of it, is that it wasn't an animal in the sense the media portrayed it to be. What was it they called it? A rabid bear?" He scoffed. "Hardly. No, it was a rogue werewolf. I say was because it has been dealt with and the threat has been eliminated, but unfortunately there were four victims, not three. My son was not able to track the beast before it attacked your daughter."
Mikolas looked at him as if he was crazy. "That's it Althea, you are coming home. This man is not sane and these people cannot be safe to be around."
Thea hadn't wanted her family to know yet, but she understood why Bran did it. "No, papa, he's telling you the truth," she replied gently. "Three days ago I was out hiking, I'd not been paying attention to the news so I knew nothing about the attacks, and I ended up in the path of the creature, the rogue werewolf. I almost died but I didn't. I was changed."
"There is no such thing as werewolves."
"The same used to be said of the fae," Bran replied. "Yet, we now know they exist and have been here as long as, if not longer, than humans have. You are a man who requires proof before your mind will believe what it is being told. I will have my son come and change for you. He is different from others of our kind, due to circumstances related to his birth. For most of our kind, it can take as much as fifteen minutes to shift from human to werewolf, and the change is painful. It is different for him. He is on his way as we speak," he added.
Mikolas frowned. "Pardon? How do you know that?" he asked.
Bran gave a slight shrug. "It is an ability I have, quite unique really," he replied without elaborating.
Charles was forewarned that he might be needed so he wasn't surprised when his father contacted him. He was stretched out on the sofa watching a movie with Anna when it happened. "I'll be back honey, Da needs me for something," he told her and left. So much for things going smoothly.
When Charles reached the motel he saw Sage and Asil hovering near the door. They looked like they were torn between wanting to go inside and wanting to leave in case things went badly. He shared a look with them before he knocked on Thea's door. "You needed me Da?" he asked when Bran opened it.
"Yes. Please, come inside." He waited until Charles stepped in to continue. "Mr. Stavros, this is my son, Charles," he said, introducing him. "It seems Thea's father is reluctant to believe werewolves exist and his daughter was attacked by a rogue and is now one of us. I thought it best to give him proof so he doesn't think we're all crazy."
Before Charles could answer him Mikolas spoke up. "Do you expect me to believe this man is your son? What kind of fool do you take me for?" he said. "That's it Thea, I do not care that you are a grown woman, I will not leave you here with these... people, you are coming home to New York. Now."
"I assure you Mr. Stavros, Charles is my son. When the change occurs it erases all signs of aging. Your daughter will never look any older than she is today. With those who are changed before they're done growing, they continue to age until they're roughly in their twenties and then it stops. That is privileged information, Mr. Stavros. I trust you will not dishonor your daughter by talking about it to anyone."
Mikolas stared at the man, then stared at the person he claimed was his son. "And he looks nothing like you because of this change, hm?"
"No, that is because his mother was Native American, one of the Salish people, and he took after her side of the family. My older son, Samuel, looks more like me, to an extent. I know it is difficult to understand and to believe but what I am telling you is the truth. Now, Charles, if you will be so kind as to show our guest your other self."
"Are you sure about this Da? I know we'll be coming out to the world soon enough, but this is a bit different."
Bran nodded. "It is necessary, Charles. I would not have asked otherwise."
"Alright then." Charles headed into the bathroom to strip and change. Most werewolves get over the discomfort of being naked in front of others since the change is painful and changing while dressed even more so, but Charles took after his Salish blood; he didn't like being naked in front of others, especially strangers. What would have taken even Bran quite a few minutes he accomplished in moments. Once he'd finished the change he whined and scratched at the door to indicate he was ready to come out. Bran moved to it and opened it, watching Thea's father the entire time.
Mikolas thought the blonde man who'd come into the room was crazy and despite his daughter's assurances he still thought he was. Then, when the bathroom door opened and an animal far larger than a regular wolf, an animal that was red with black legs and feet, stepped out into the main part of the motel room, all he could do was stare. He took a step back, on instinct, then stood his ground. He could control his reaction but he couldn't stop the fear he felt so easily. He had no idea that fear was a bad thing to feel around werewolves. Had Charles been newly changed, it might have been difficult for him to resist the lure of 'prey'.
Thea moved to her father's side. She could smell his fear, and that caught the interest of her wolf, but being an Omega made it easier to resist the wolf's urge to see her father as prey. "It's alright papa, he's not going to hurt you. But you see now that what Bran said is true. Werewolves are real and I am one of them now. I have to stay, to learn how to control my wolf, so that the people I love will be safe around me. Besides, this is my home now. I know you worry but I am safe here, and happy," she said softly.
"You are saying you are one of these... creatures? That you can change, like he did, and be an animal?" He looked at his daughter. Myths called such things 'monsters' but his child was no monster.
"I am papa. I'm still me though. I'm just something more now."
Mikolas stood there in the middle of the room with his eyes shifting between his daughter, the werewolf, and Bran. He knew he had a choice to make. Either he could be appalled and disown his daughter or he could accept the truth that was right in front of him. He saw the worry in Thea's eyes and he knew she feared he would reject her now. He reached out and pulled her into his arms. "You are still you, manari mou. You are still my daughter and I love you."
Thea felt herself trembling at his words and realized she'd been terrified he would denounce her. "Thank you papa," she said softly. "I am still your daughter, I always will be. Being what I am now doesn't change that."
Mikolas turned his attention to Bran. "You will keep her safe? She will not come to harm here?"
"She is safe here, yes. Your daughter is special among our kind, no one will harm her."
"The one who came to the airport with her, this Asil, he is one as well?"
Mikolas nodded. "I will speak with him before I return to New York." To Thea he added, "If this is where you find your happiness, so be it."
Thea hugged him. "It is papa. Thank you for understanding that."
While they talked Charles shifted back, grabbed his clothing from the bathroom, and slipped out. Things had gone well and he ushered Sage and Asil away. "Go home you two. It's getting late and everything is settled. Her father understands and accepts what she is and knows why she can't leave. Oh, and Asil, mind your temper when her father speaks to you. It seems he noticed your interest in her."
Sage snickered. "You should have been here when Bran showed up. Asil actually growled at him, and Bran brushed it off because he knows why Asil did it."
Charles cocked a brow at that. "That's a dangerous thing, old wolf. Its good for you Da didn't take offense to it," he said to Asil and headed back home to his mate.
Asil gave Sage a dirty look before he slipped away. He didn't go far but he watched from the trees as Sage got into her car and headed home herself.
After Bran left as well, Thea and her father sat up in her room talking for a while. Finally, though, he went back to his own room to get some much needed sleep. She'd promised to take him to see her house the next day and then he would make arrangements to catch a flight back to New York. When she finally settled down to sleep her mind drifted, once again, to Asil. Why did her father want to speak with him? Had he seen something she'd missed? She made a mental note to ask him in the morning and then she drifted off to sleep.