“Sorry about that.” The stranger chuckled. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t scare me. Just caught me off guard.” She laughed softly, holding a hand over her heart, willing for it to calm down after the fright she had just suffered.
“Seemed like you were scared with the way you screamed.” The tall stranger chuckled as he stared down at her with a small smile on his face, watching her curiously as her fingers stilled on her keyboard.
Anastasia noticed his gaze and cleared her throat as she made sure to save her work and close her laptop. She had absolutely no qualms about reading or writing steamy scenes or erotica, but she felt uncomfortable doing so in front of a stranger.
“I didn’t scream. I gasped.” She chuckled lightly as she pushed her laptop to the side, gesturing with her hands for him to join her as he had requested before. “Not sure if you’re aware but there’s a difference.”
“Oh, I’m aware but it sounded an awful lot like a scream.” The stranger chuckled as he slid into the booth in front of her, effectively taking a seat. “The name’s Harvey. Harvey Ainsley.”
Her lips tipped higher into a small smile.
“Nice to meet you, Harvey. I’m Anastasia.” She reached out to accept his outstretched hand, making sure to omit her last name. She was a firm believer of stranger danger, especially since she could tell that Harvey was a wolf.
With his wolfish grin and the aura of confidence that evidently surrounded him with the way he held himself, it was a no brainer to recognise that he was a wolf. However, she wasn’t quite sure if he was from The Lupum Griseo pack or any of the other surrounding packs as this was neutral territory and surrounded by four packs from every angle. Essentially a safe haven for humans as the packs kept out any rogues and other dangers alike.
The thought that he was the wolf outside her window today briefly ran through her mind. She was quick to shake her head and rid her mind of the absurd thought, not believing it to be possible as it was more of a coincidence than something purposely planned.
“Anastasia. What a beautiful name.” He remarked with a big grin, leaning back in his seat as he stretched his arms over the back of the booth, his eyes taking her all in. “No last name?”
“Not when I’m speaking to a stranger.” She remarked with a smirk of her own.
“Fair enough. I can respect that, Anastasia.” He paused, his eyes flicking over her face. “Can I call you Ana for short?”
“Nearly everyone does.” She shrugs nonchalantly, glancing over his shoulder as her stomach grumbled again, trying to locate her waitress.
When she spotted the woman walking out of the kitchen with a loaded plate of food, she hoped it was for her.
“What brings you over to my booth, Harvey Ainsley?” Anastasia turned her eyes back to him, making sure to use his full name, wanting to exuberate just as much confidence as him.
If she was unsure about him being a wolf before, she was definitely sure of it now. She hadn’t missed the way he had laughed quietly at the sound of her rumbling stomach, even if it had been quiet and probably something a regular human would have missed.
“I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we’re the only two people that are here alone.” Harvey remarked in a quiet voice as his eyes trailed over everyone in the café, all of them couples or in a group. “And you looked like you could do with some company.”
Anastasia forced a polite smile and nodded her head, her eyes trailing away from him, not having the heart to let the stranger know that she was more than happy being on her own. In fact, she had been making some real progress on her novel and right now, all she could think about was finishing off that last scene so she could get started on the next chapter, but her parents had taught her to be polite and tolerable. Especially since it appeared that Harvey really needed some company.
“Well, I appreciate that, Harvey.” She nodded but before either of them could continue the conversation, the waitress approached their table with Anastasia’s meal.
“Thank you.” She smiled warmly at the woman before turning her gaze to all the delicious food in front of her, her mouth already watering as she debated what to get started on first and whether or not she should order dessert now or later.
Either way, there was a chocolate cake on the menu which she refused to leave the diner without tasting.
“That’s a lot of food.” Harvey said, his words more of a statement than a judgement, not that she cared at all what he, a stranger, thought of her and her eating habits.
“Well, I’m a growing woman. Do you have a problem with that?”
“None at all. In fact, I like a woman that isn’t afraid to eat in front of others.”
“Well, I’ve never been the shy type.” She forced an awkward smile and avoided his eyes, not a fan of the way he seemed to be aware just how comfortable he was making her. Even more so as he seemed to enjoy it.
“I’m glad to hear that.” Harvey murmured quietly, still watching her intently as she nibbled on a French fry.
An awkward, uncomfortable silence filled the booth as she avoided his eyes, not really sure of what to say or if she was supposed to offer him some food or get started without him. Thankfully, the same waitress approached the table again with his meal very soon after, and the both of them thanked the woman before she turned around to leave.
“I see we have similar taste in food.” Anastasia murmured with a small smile as she eyed his lasagne and fries, the only thing mismatched between their meal choices being that he didn’t order a burger and opted for a cold brew instead of her flavoured milkshake.
“Great minds think alike.”
“So, are you new around here?” She asked curiously after a mouthful of lasagne, hoping to make some conversation instead of sitting in silence and awkwardly staring at each other.
Anyway, even if she did want to ask him to leave, all of the tables had already filled up so he wouldn’t have anywhere to go.
“You mean to this diner?” Harvey chuckled quietly as he reached down to get started on his food. “Or to the area?”
“The area.” She nibbled on some more fries, ignoring the urge to dunk them in her milkshake as she usually did. “It’s just that the neutral territory isn’t that big so everyone kind of knows each other. The only time that there are wolves around here is when they’re travelling from one pack to another, and that’s usually in groups, not alone like you.”
“Alone.” Harvey hummed after he finished the morsel of food in his mouth, a thoughtful expression on his face. “It’s funny you say that.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I don’t really want to talk about it right now, especially since we’ve just met but maybe another time.” He deflected the question expertly, almost as if he had done this all before, and all with a polite smile on his face.
“Sure.” Anastasia murmured before reaching for her cutlery to get started on her lasagne, smart enough to not bet on the fact that they probably wouldn’t meet again, especially since he didn’t appear to be from around here.
“How about over dinner?”
She nearly dropped her fork at the abrupt question but was quick to compose herself, glancing up at him with a questioning look in her eyes. She blinked a few times and continued to stare at him, waiting for him to burst out laughing but that never came.
“You’re asking me to dinner?”
“Yes.” He confirmed with a friendly smile and a hopeful look on his face. “People do, do that around here, right? Ask each other to dinner when they’re interested in getting to know them better?”
Anastasia resisted the urge to roll her eyes at his blatant and obvious attempt at flirting, but failed in keeping the grin off her face.
“Is this you trying to ask me out?” She dared to ask, unable to wipe the humoured grin off her face, enjoying her company now than she had done initially, especially since his gaze was no longer so smouldering and he was more interested in his food than staring at her.
So far, it appeared that while Harvey Ainsley was an alright fellow. Even if he didn’t give off the best first impressions.
“I’m new to the area and would love to make some friends.” He shrugged, his lips twitching at the corners even when he wiped at his mouth with a napkin. “I thought I’d start by trying my luck with a pretty lady like you.”
“Ah, I’m not great company you see.” Anastasia chuckled awkwardly as she blinked back at him before quickly returning her gaze to her food, hoping he would give up and they could return to the light conversation they were enjoying before.
“I beg to differ.”
“You don’t know me.”
“No, but I’d like the chance to get to know you. So, what about that dinner?” Harvey’s lips tipped higher, even going as far as to hold up his index and middle fingers on both hands, crossing them together, willing for her to agree.
Anastasia couldn’t resist throwing her head back and laughing at his lack of subtleness.
“I’ll have to ask my boyfriend but I’m sure the three of us will be able to fit some time in.” Anastasia made sure to drop in casually the mention of her boyfriend, purposely leaving out the fact that he was imaginary and very much didn’t exist.
Harvey hummed and his smile dropped a little at the corners, bowing his head just a little.
“I figured a pretty thing like you would have a boyfriend.”
She nodded, feeling slightly bad for the rejection but all in all, Raphael was probably right about her being too fussy and picky about everything, especially men. In front of her sat a handsome man who had been nothing but sweet and friendly to her and the moment he suggested that they grab dinner sometime, she had concocted an imaginary boyfriend so as to turn him down.
“Plus, you’re a werewolf.”
Harvey paused and glanced up at her in surprise before a quiet chuckle passed his lips, an impressed glint in his eyes.
“I’m surprised you picked up on that. Smart and beautiful. The whole package.”
“My boyfriend certainly thinks so.” Anastasia made sure to slip in the comment, not bothering with being subtle or coy about it anymore. Especially since she doubted that she would be seeing more of Harvey as he didn’t appear to be from around here but rather, a passer-by.
Light conversation continued between them and the more they spoke, the more Anastasia found herself enjoying his company as well as regretting to reject him so quick. However, she soon finished off her meal and glanced down at the time, she realised that needed to head to the supermarket before she returned home to finish the chapter she was previously working on.
“Holy shit!” Harvey whistled lowly as she rose to her feet and slipped her jacket over her shoulders. “It seems like you have more than a boyfriend.”
Anastasia laughed softly and grabbed her purse, dropping three bills on the table before he could reach into his pocket for his wallet, just enough to pay for both of their meals – feeling slight guilt with the way she had rushed to turn him down – and leaving a small tip for the waitress.
“Thank you.” He murmured in gratitude but she was quick to dismiss his thanks with a simple wave of her hand.
She pressed a hand to her stomach as she rocked back and forth on her feet, smiling softly at him. “Well, I have a few errands to run so I guess I should get going.”
“Well, I hope to see you around some time.” He grinned up at her before reaching over for her fries, having already polished all of his off.
“You’re sticking around?”
“I actually moved to town only last week so I won’t be going anywhere for a while.” He nodded.
“Well, Harvey Ainsley, I guess I might just see you around.”
“Both you and that baby daddy of yours.” He teased, a look of disbelief on his face even though his eyes lingered on her protruding stomach.
Anastasia laughed softly as she turned around and headed out of the diner, smiling politely at her waitress before she left.
When the sound of a notification on her phone beeped aloud, she let herself into her car and fished for the device in her purse. Her lips curled up into a smile as she read the message before her fingers worked quickly to type back a response. Dropping her phone back into her purse, Anastasia started up the car with a new destination in mind.
It appeared that grocery shopping would have to wait another day as she now had plans for the evening.
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