The following afternoon Thea was once again on her way to the airport in Missoula with Sage and Asil. She sat in the back with her father so they could talk while Sage drove. She noticed Asil wasn't nearly as tense as he'd been the first time her father sat behind him in the car. That was a good sign, right?
"If you need anything, you are to call me. You may be all grown up, you may have a new family, but you are still my daughter, still my flesh and blood," Mikolas said to her.
"I will papa, I promise," Thea replied. She had to wipe tears from her eyes. She'd cried when she'd left New York too, but this time the tears were more of gratitude than sorrow.
"You will keep her safe for me," Mikolas said and his eyes were on Asil. The werewolf shifted in the seat to look back at him and Mikolas held his gaze a moment before looking away. "Family is everything and my children mean the world to me. I know I cannot always protect them but I can do my best," he added. "Even if that means trusting another to watch over them."
Asil nodded. "She will be safe."
Once they were at the airport Asil and Sage hung back so Thea could say good-bye. "Call me when you're back in New York so I know you made it safely, please," Thea said and hugged her father tightly. "I love you papa. Give everyone else my love."
"I will manari mou. I love you too. Don't be afraid to go after what you want, even if he's reluctant for what he may think are good reasons." He chuckled at the look on his daughter's face. "The man is attracted to you Althea, but something tells me you will have to pursue him." Mikolas kissed her cheek and headed for his gate.
Thea was quiet on the drive back to Aspen Creek. Sage glanced at her in the rear view mirror but it was hard to tell what she was thinking. "Hey, you know what we need? A girl's night. What do you say, when we get back to town, I call the girls and we all hang out at my place? Just me, you, Anna and Luna. Luna was the quiet little red-head who hung back during your joining ceremony. She's good people and if you get her going about myths and legends she will talk your ear off."
"That sounds like fun," Thea admitted. "I wondered who she was. I mean, it's not like there are a lot of female werewolves here. Why is that?" she asked.
"There aren't many female werewolves anywhere," Asil replied. "The change is so violent that few females survive it. Luna is a submissive wolf, which makes her nearly as unique as you and Anna because most females who survive the change are dominant to some degree," he added.
Thea thought about her own attack. She could understand why it was hard for women to survive something like that. "That makes sense. I don't know how I managed to survive it but... I'm grateful."
"Being a werewolf is nifty," Sage agreed. "Well, as long as you overlook the quick to anger and turning furry," she added.
Thea laughed. "True, but I could be dead and that would have broken my pap's heart." She didn't want to think about the fact that her parents and siblings would all grow old and die while she stayed forever young.
Sage dropped Asil off at his house, swung by the motel for Thea to get her things, and then drove both of them to her house. Once there she called Anna and Luna and by the time they arrived she had trays of snack foods ready to much from.
"Soooooo since you two haven't officially met, Luna meet Thea, Thea meet Luna. There, now that that's out of the way, how about some music?" Sage said and put on something with a beat.
Anna shook her head. "When Sage get's going, look out. She's a whirlwind."
"Of course I am. I'm the life of the party!" Sage replied as she sashayed to the music. The others laughed at her comment. "Come on, get up and dance," she added before she grabbed Thea's hand to pull her to her feet.
Once she was on her feet Thea tugged Anna up who in turn did the same to Luna. The four of them danced around Sage's living room for a while before finally turning their attention to the food. Every last bit of it was fattening, or would be if they were human. "Want to know what one of the best things about being a werewolf is?" Sage asked after popping a cheesecake bite in her mouth. "I can eat as many of these as I want and never have to worry about getting fat," she added with a grin.
"That's so true!" Anna said with a laugh. "Have you ever seen a fat werewolf because I know I sure haven't."
"What's one of the worst things about it?" Thea asked after a moment.
"Watching the people you love, your family and friends, grow old and die," Sage replied soberly. "After a while you stop interacting with humans because it just hurts too much. It was probably worse back before the US was founded. I mean, can you imagine how people back then would have reacted?" She shook her head. "Anyway, there's no use dwelling on that. There's no way to change what we've become."
"No, we can't. Not that I would even if I could. Not now," Anna replied. "I wouldn't have Charles if I wasn't a werewolf."
"Charlie is definitely a catch," Sage said with a wink. She was the only one who could get away with calling him that. Well, she figured Anna could too if she wanted to, being his mate and all, but Sage had never figured out why Charles let her call him that. It was just one of those oddities of life.
"Yes, yes he is," Anna said with a grin. "Mind you he's not the only wolf in our pack who is," she added. "There is a certain male who has a passion for roses who's not bad on the eyes either." She was of course trying to get Thea's interest piqued about Asil since it was obvious he had a thing for her.
Luna was quiet while they bantered back and forth about Charles. He was a good man but he was also very scary when he needed to be. She saw the way Anna glanced at Thea when she mentioned Asil and smiled a little. Her friend was trying to play matchmaker it seemed. When there was a lull in the conversation she spoke up and changed the subject. "So, um, I've been thinking that it... might be time for me to move on and leave Aspen Creek."
Anna and Sage both stared at her. "What? Why?" Sage asked. "I thought you were happy here Luna."
"I am," she said then sighed. She thought about the best way to answer the question and went with frank honesty. "Because I think it's time for me to get back out in the world. I love it here, don't get me wrong, but... I need something more. I'm going to talk to Bran and see what he thinks... see if there are any packs kind of close by where I could still visit when I wanted to without going across country to do it."
"Our little Luna is all grown up," Sage teased before giving her a hug. "You've healed and you're ready to take on the world again. It makes sense," she added. "Me, I'll never leave. This is home now. Besides, someone has to stay to keep our Omegas from getting bored," Sage said with a cheeky grin. She'd been in Aspen Creek for two decades now and couldn't see herself living anywhere else.
"Heaven help us," Anna joked.
"Hey, I'm not.. oh, wait, maybe you're right," Sage replied.
"You know Sage, you remind me a bit of my brother, Cyrus," Thea said after a moment.
"Gee, thanks. I remind you of a guy."
"No, it's not in a bad way!" Thea said with a laugh. "Your love of life and the way you like to have fun, Cy is like that. If you were human I could see you on the streets of New York hitting all the hottest nightclubs."
Sage thought about that for a moment before she nodded. "Yeah, I could see that."
"How many siblings do you have?" Luna asked.
"Five. I have three brothers and two sisters. Needless to say my parents feel very blessed."
"Wow, big family. I have an older step-sister but that's it," Luna replied.
Their talk turned to other things, favorite movies, favorite actors, favorite things to do, and the conversation lasted well into the night. Slowly everyone else drifted off to sleep and Thea slipped into the kitchen for a drink before bed. Her gaze drifted to the window and when she looked out she saw Asil, in wolf form, watching the house. He was definitely taking his promise to her father to keep her safe seriously.
Asil waited until darkness fell before he changed into his wolf and loped over the terrain between his home, which was located as far from town limits as possible while still technically being in Aspen Creek, and Sage's home on the other side of town. He got close enough to listen to them talk and he leaned forward a little every time Thea spoke. He finally admitted to himself that he desired her but he was intent on not pursuing her. He had his reasons, he just wasn't sure his wolf was willing to listen to them.
He moved a little away from the house when he realized they were going to sleep. He was just getting ready to leave when, through windows over the kitchen sink, he saw Thea. Her hair was loose and falling in soft waves down her shoulders. The soft lighting made her hair shine and it almost looked like she had a halo. It was an ethereal sight and she was most assuredly an angel in his opinion. When he realized she saw him he slipped further away until he was sure he was out of sight. Then he turned and headed home.
The following morning Thea awoke first and feeling the need to do something she raided Sage's kitchen and cooked breakfast. By the time Sage, Anna, and Luna were all awake she had a huge stack of pancakes accompanied by scrambled eggs loaded with cheese, fried ham, and sausage.
"Lordy Thea, how long have you been up?" Sage asked.
"Um.. a while. I hope you don't mind me fixing breakfast," she replied.
"No, not at all. It saves me having to do it," Sage said with a laugh.
They all fixed plates and sat to enjoy the meal. "Mm, this is good. What did you add to the pancakes?" Luna asked.
"A hint of cinnamon and brown sugar. It's the way my mama always made them when we were growing up."
"I'll have to remember that. Charles likes pancakes, I'll bet he'd really like these,"Anna said.
Since Thea cooked the others cleaned up and eventually headed off to their own homes. Thea headed first to Bran's, to drop off her bags in the room she would be using for the time being, managed to avoid a run in with Leah, and then headed over to Asil's. Part of her was anxious to begin learning all she could about what being an Omega meant but the larger part just wanted to see him. She was attracted to him, she wouldn't deny it, and the thought of spending time with him made her smile. It didn't matter if that time was spent learning from him, at least she'd be close enough to breathe in his scent, which she found very appealing. She had no idea why he affected her the way he did. Maybe she could talk to Sage or Anna about it later.
Asil heard the car pull up and knew who it was. He let her come to him though. He didn't want to look like he was overly-eager to see her even if he was. His wolf snarled in his head but he ignored it. She was young, how could he even think to claim her when he could lose control and leave her to grieve? He shook his head to clear it and focused on the rosebush he was in the process of pruning.
Thea headed for the hothouse first. If he wasn't there, which was highly unlike from what Sage said about his passion for his roses, then she would check the house. She paused just inside the door and breathed in the warm air that was heavily scented from so many roses in bloom. Her eyes scanned the building before she found him and headed his way. "Hello Asil," she said quietly once she reached his side. This close his scent mixed with the roses in a way that made her ache to bury her nose against his neck just to breathe it in. Thea blinked at the thought. That had not come from her. That was her wolf. Her wolf wanted to wrap herself up in his scent until it clung to her. The realization unsettled her.
Asil felt her sudden unease and turned towards her. "Thea? What's wrong?" he asked and he sucked in a breath when he met her eyes. They weren't the warm brown eyes of her human half but the gold eyes of her wolf. What happened to bring her wolf out?
"It's... nothing," Thea murmured. "Er, nothing to worry about anyway," she added because of the look om his face.
Asil studied her. "I cannot help you if you aren't honest with me."
Thea sighed softly. "It was just a stray thought I had that I realized wasn't me thinking it but my wolf. It's just a huge adjustment, having thoughts that aren't my own."
Asil patted her hand. "You'll get used to it my dear. It just takes time. Now, let's go inside to have a cup of tea and we can begin your training."
Thea followed him inside the house and admired the warm feel of it; dark browns mingled with lighter beige tones. His scent was strongest in the living room and kitchen and she figured he spent most of his time in those two rooms.
"You know some of the basics, you know an Omega is outside of pack structure, which means you can choose when you want to listen to orders and when you don't. But being an Omega is so much more than that. Packs that are blessed with an Omega suffer far fewer losses than other packs. When dominant wolves are angered to the point of fighting an Omega can calm their their wolves and allow cooler heads to prevail. They reduce aggression, anger, even rage and can put the wolf to sleep. It takes practice to perfect it so that you don't overdo it and cause everyone around you to feel like they're drunk though."
"One person can do all that?" Thea asked softly. She couldn't imagine being able to stop a fight before it even happened just with her presence.
"One Omega, yes. As Bran told your father, you are special Thea. A rare treasure that is to be protected and cherished." He debated on his next words but he felt she needed to be warned. "There is something you should know. We have a number of unmated male wolves in the pack who have already begun to... take notice of you. It won't be long before at least some of them begin trying to court you. Female werewolves are rare and that alone is enough for you to garner their attention. When you add in the fact you are an Omega, and you are quite lovely, you will no doubt have your pick of potential mates. There are many who would worship the ground you walk on if you chose them." 'Myself included,'he added silently.
Thea blinked at that. "Why would they do that?" she asked.
"Because you are a treasure my dear."
"So.. do they court Sage and Luna too?" she asked.
"Some have tried, yes, with Sage, but she's shown no interest. Luna has only been with us a few years and she was damaged when she came so the Marrok made sure the males left her alone."
"Okay, so if that happens, is there a proper way to decline? I wouldn't want to offend or say something wrong."
"Just be gentle about it my dear. Not that I could ever imagine you being rude to anyone. You have a very gentle nature."
Thea laughed a little. "My ex-husband would disagree, especially after the way I went after him in the divorce."
"Yes, well, your father shared some insights about the man, he didn't deserve the treasure that you are," Asil growled.
Thea felt herself blush a little. "Thank you for that." She watched him a moment. "What made you want to grow roses in Montana?" she asked curiously.
"I have always loved them. Before I left Spain I had the most beautiful Spanish roses. It hurt to have to leave them behind. When I came here, building the hothouse and growing the roses helped me to not feel so... lost inside my own head," he confessed.
"It helped you to focus, I can understand that," Thea replied. Then she asked the question she really wanted to know the answer to. "Why were you outside Sage's house last night? I saw you and I think you realized it and hid in the shadows so I couldn't see you anymore."
He'd been hoping she wouldn't ask about that. The best answer was the truth but he wasn't sure he was ready to admit it out loud yet. "I was making sure everyone was okay, that you were okay. You seemed sad on the way back from Missoula."
Thea studied him before she nodded. "I was, a bit. It was sweet of you to be so concerned Asil."
"Yes, well. I think that's enough for today," he replied gruffly. "You know, you most likely won't have to stay at the Marrok's for long, just until the full moon. Omega's tend to have better control of their wolves than others because of what they are."
"That would be nice," she admitted "I miss my house," she added. She set her empty tea cup on the table where they'd been talking. "I will let you get back to your roses. Have a good rest of the day Asil," she said and left.
Asil watched her go. His wolf wasn't happy with him. He'd told her about the other males because they were all a lot closer to her in age than he was and she deserved to know that she had the right to accept or refuse any male who wanted to court her, but his wolf howled at the thought of them not claiming her before anyone else could.