The flight to Marcus’ family home in Texas was uneventful, other than her being extremely nervous to meet his large family. They pulled up to a large farm house with a wrap around porch, a woman with flaming red hair stood on the porch. Eloise stepped out of the car and went to the trunk when Marcus stopped her.
“I’ll get the bags,” he said, and kissed her cheek gently, she smiled up at him, he had been taking care of her the entire trip, she never carried her bag and he always had her walk in front of him, holding open doors and giving her the window seat.
“Thanks sweetie,” she replied, and turned to face his mother
“Eloise!” Beth yelled pulling her into a bone crushing hug. She was a tall statuesque woman, standing six inches taller than Eloise’s five feet four inches. She wore a black t-shirt with the words Grandma Bear written on the front with seven small paw prints, each print bore a name. Eloise recognized a couple of them to be Marcus’ niece and nephews.
“You are beautiful!” Beth held her out to get a good look at her, she felt she needed to explain her heritage.
“Thank you, my mother is Portuguese and my father is Italian.” Next to Beth, Eloise looked several shades darker than usual. She looked over at Marcus unloading their rental car, his family’s home was a two-hour drive from the closest airport and he’d told her he didn’t want anyone to go out of their way to get them.
“Come in, Marcus hurry up, I want a hug too. Your brothers and their mates are out in the backyard,” Beth announced, Eloise smiled at the love shining in her eyes for her son.
“How was the flight?” Beth asked, training her eyes back on Eloise, her eyes were the same startling shade of grass green. She could tell right away who Marcus got his coloring from.
“Not bad at all, we were worried another snow storm would pass through and ground us,” she answered, they were standing on the wrap around porch and she could hear the screams of children.
“Ma, you going to let her in?” Marcus joked, bending down to kiss his mother on the cheek. Eloise held out her hand to take her bag from him.
“I’ve got it.” He yanked out of her reach and kissed her head.
“Come in and meet Trip, he is grilling dinner.” Beth ushered them inside, Marcus made a beeline for the stairs. Eloise hoped he wouldn’t take too long, meeting his large family made her nervous.
“Trip!” Beth called, taking her hand and pulling her through the large house.
“I’m right here Bethy, no need to shout.” Trip was a large man with bright blue eyes and dark brown hair. Eloise could see where Marcus got his larger than life build from.
“Trip this is Eloise Rucker, she is Marcus’ girlfriend.” Trip turned his blue eyes on her and she froze. She could see him assessing her and grunted,
“Girlfriend? Hmm, well we’ll see,” he replied, rubbing his dark beard.
“Nice to meet you sir.” She held out a hand and he shook it once before letting go. She felt like he’d found her lacking in some area and wasn’t impressed with his son’s choice in girlfriends.
“Dad don’t push your alpha on her, she is human and doesn’t understand.” Marcus came into the room and wrapped an arm around her waist. Instantly, she calmed and moved closer into his protective embrace.
“Sorry, Trip is the alpha of our clan and his job is to protect,” Beth explained, glaring at her husband.
“Come outside and we’ll introduce you to the others,” She continued, pulling Eloise out of Marcus’ arms. Eloise looked back over at him, he shrugged with a lopsided grin.
Stepping into the backyard Eloise noticed a large corn field to the left and to the right a massive expanse of grass. There she saw three women sitting in camp chairs watching four men with a group of children running around.
“Gather around!” Beth yelled, and all eyes trained on her. She felt Marcus step up behind her and stuck out her hand for him to take. Marcus slipped an arm over her shoulders, she instantly felt calmer, she could hear the beat of his steady heartbeat.
“Eloise these are my brothers and their families,” Marcus began.
“Travis and Rita with their two boys Vincent who is ten and Bobby is eight.” She looked over Travis and his family, he was the spitting image of Trip, although shorter than Marcus. Looking around she could tell Marcus was the tallest, even taller than his father. Rita had dark hair and eyes, their boys were the same.
“Clyde and his mate Dana, they have three cubs, Gregory is seven, Jill is five and Kelly three.” Marcus pointed to another family unit. Clyde was a good mix of Trip and Beth, with Beth’s hair and Trip’s eyes. His mate Dana had platinum blond hair, grey eyes and pale skin. The girls looked like their mother and Gregory his dad.
“Matt and Quinn with their daughter Hannah who is one. Rob is Matt’s twin and his son Adam who is eight,” Marcus finished pointing to two men with brown hair and blue eyes. The only way she could tell them apart were their hairstyles. Matt’s was cut military short, while Rob sported a man bun. Quinn had honey blond hair and hazel eyes, Hannah had Matt’s eyes and Quinn’s honey blond hair, the curls slowly covering her head.
“Nice to meet you,” Eloise said, giving them a bright smile. She loved children and the smiles she was getting back from them warmed her heart. All the adults were giving her curious looks. Clyde and his mate Dana were the first to move.
“Marcus brought home a girl!” Clyde cried, crushing her in a tight hug.
“I’m starting to think this is something unusual,” she remarked, glaring at Marcus over Clyde’s shoulder.
“He’s never brought a girlfriend home for the holidays,” Dana explained, she gave Eloise a hug, this one much gentler.
“How come?” Eloise asked, looking over at Marcus for the answer.
“This very reason, they are all treating you like you are something to marvel at,” he grumbled, Eloise could feel he was unhappy that so many people were touching her.
“Is she your mate Uncle Marcus?” Vincent asked, he’d come out from behind his parents and was standing in front of her.
“That is up for debate,” he replied and Eloise saw the confusion pass through the boy’s eyes.
“But Grandma says you know your mate the instant you meet her,” Adam pointed out, he came over to join his cousin.
“I know my mate, but Eloise here is having trouble accepting it,” Marcus explained with a smirk at her. She glared, just because she wasn’t willing to just give him her life she was having “trouble” accepting him.
“Then she is being smart,” Quinn remarked, she and the other two women nodded their heads. Eloise felt a sense of comradery with them, they’d come to stand beside her as if to give her back up.
“Women,” Marcus grumbled and this made all of them laugh.
“Go play with your nieces and nephews, we want to get to know Eloise,” Rita ordered, Eloise could tell she was the leader of the daughter-in-laws.
“Marcus grab your mate a chair,” Beth ordered, Eloise watched as he complied getting her a camp chair to settle in.
“You okay?” he asked in a soft whisper. She nodded and blushed when he planted a rather passionate kiss on her lips before running off to join his family. She watched as he scooped up either Jill or Kelly and spun them around as they screamed.