As soon as Luke saw him, his heart sank. Paul had been trying to find a weakness on Luke ever since he took over his father's pack. The way he looked at Aria, like he had struck gold, put Luke on edge. Had she not been there, he would have shifted right there, challenging Paul for stepping on his territory. But he couldn't. Luke didn't want her to find out this way, it would be a pretty big shock for her.
But he couldn't take her back to her home. He couldn't risk Paul following and finding her. The easiest way to an alpha was to get to his mate. A ruthless wolf like Paul wouldn't think twice about using Aria against him. Luke knew he had to keep her safe. He turned to her and said:
"I'm sorry, Aria. I can't take you home."
"Wait... what?" She exclaimed, a hint of panic in her soft voice.
Luke shook his head, he needed to phrase this right. He didn't want her to freak out or be afraid of him.
"That man we just met is very dangerous. He expressed an interest in you. It's not safe for you to go home."
He heard her gasp and felt her eyes boring into the side of his head as he drove.
"What? This doesn't make any sense! Take me home!" She sounded outraged.
"Aria, please. I promise I'm doing this to keep you safe. Please believe me."
"Please believe me." His earnest eyes turned to face her. She looked into the pools of molten gold. She didn't know why but something in her told her to trust him.
She sighed. "This is mental." She muttered to herself before turning back to him. "Where are we going, then?"
She could hear him let out a breath and visible relief flooded his face.
"I'm taking you to my family house. You'll be safe there. I promise."
They drove for twenty minutes before turning down an almost invisible trail. The car bumped over rocks and sticks and Aria could barely see a thing in the darkness surrounding them. After another few minutes, they pulled up in front of a large house in the middle of a clearing. The house was old, with a large porch. Surrounding the house were lots of smaller houses, Aria could see the lights shining through their windows. She counted at least twenty.
Luke opened her door and guided her up to the main house, opening the door and letting her in. The main entrance way was beautiful. The ceilings were twice the height of a normal room and the wooden floors were dark and highly polished. The room was classic but there was a modern twist in the decor.
Glancing around the room, Aria didn't notice the well-dressed, middle aged woman approach them.
"Luke honey, this is pretty late for a house guest. Who is your friend?" The woman smiled warmly at her.
"This is Aria. She needs to stay here tonight. We had a run in with Paul."
The woman looked intensely into Luke's eyes and then something appeared to dawn on her and she looked back to Aria with even more interest.
"Please, darling. Come on in. It's lovely to meet you. Let me get you a cup of tea."
The woman led Aria to a plush sofa and bustled off to the kitchen. Luke grimaced at Aria. "Please excuse my mother, she's just very excited to meet you."
"Your mum? Why is she so excited to meet me?"
"Bringing my dates home is not something I normally do. She knows you're special."
Despite the strange situation, Aria blushed at his kind words. There was something special between them. She had felt it from the start, like a bond. She trusted him.
Sitting on the sofa, a wave of fatigue washed over Aria. Her eyelids flickered and she yawned.
"Let me show you to your room" said Lucas just as his mother came out with the tea. She saw how tired Aria was and rushed to her side.
"Oh you poor dear. Come with me, I'll get you settled."
Aria was led up two flights of stairs into an impeccably designed bedroom. The walls were a soft pink and the furniture was white. She could see an ensuite bathroom off the side of the room and glass doors to a balcony at the back.
No sooner had she let her head touch the pillow, her eyes closed. All of the emotions of the day pressed down on her. She had so many questions but they could wait until tomorrow.
"Don't give me that, Lukey. I can tell who she is." His mum said, a knowing smile flickering across her lips.
"She's just a friend mum." Luke tried to assert.
"Nonsense. She's your mate and you know it. Ooh I'm so happy for you! After all this time you finally found her!" She was almost bursting with happiness.
"Fine mum. She's my mate. But take it easy. She doesn't know about us. Not yet. I don't want to scare her off. Send the message out to everyone that shifting is banned while she stays here."
"Luke, she needs to know who you are. If she's going to be your Luna, ruling the pack will fall to her too. You need to tell her."
Luke knew she was right. He rested his head on the back of the sofa. He sighed.
"Soon, mum. Soon."