Anderson paced his apartment Friday evening, trying to figure out what to wear to dinner. He’d never put in any thought to his dates before, but tonight he needed to show Evvy he was serious. He needed her in his life and would do anything he had to, to get her back. Pulling out a dark polo shirt and a pair of dark wash jeans, Anderson heard his phone ring.
“Hello?” he answered the phone and was surprised to hear Roxie on the other end.
“Anderson, are you going out with Evvy tonight?”
“What are you going to talk to her about?” Roxie asked he furrowed his brow, it wasn’t like Roxie to be so openly nosey.
“Is that something we need to get into now? I am trying to get ready,” he asked, flicking on his shower.
“Are you going to try to get her back?” Roxie demanded.
“Yes. Xander knew when I took the job moving back home, I wanted to make things right with Evvy. What is it you need?” he asked, being a little terser than he would have.
“Be gentle,” she replied, and he paused.
“Be gentle with her. I can’t say more,” she answered. He stared at his phone in surprise.
“Is she in trouble?”
“No. Just be gentle with her. Good luck tonight.” Roxie hung up, and it left him trying to figure out what his little sister meant by telling him to be gentle with Evvy. He stepped into the shower and used the time to think through everything Roxie didn’t tell him. He would do everything in his power to show Evvy he was the right mate for her. He knew in the past he had been flakey and refused to commit. Today he was ready to change everything. He knew he couldn’t run from his mate anymore, and if she wanted children, they would handle his fear. There was no saying she had to get pregnant with his child, they could adopt, there were plenty of children in the world without parents. If she wanted a child biologically related, then they could find a surrogate. With the years he’s been working for Xander, he had amassed a tidy amount of money set aside. He’d been saving for a house to buy or build near Xander and Roxie. He loved how Marcus had built his home near the national forest. Maybe he could do that too?
When he finished with the shower he trimmed his beard to the scruffy look, he knew Evvy couldn’t resist. Walking into his closet, he chose a pair of dark wash jeans, a dark green, and navy blue plaid button-up shirt and his favorite pair of black boots. He took more care with making sure his clothing was wrinkle free and looked nice before he grabbed his keys and drove over to Leonardo’s. The entire drive he felt butterflies dancing in the pit of his stomach. Tonight he hoped everything would change. Parking the truck, he stepped out and looked around for Evvy’s car; he knew she liked to be on time. He spotted her beat up little car and grimaced. While they had been dating, he hated her driving that car. If she agreed to be his mate tonight, he would offer to help her buy a new one.
Anderson walked into the restaurant he saw Evelyn sitting at a booth made for two. She was staring at her phone typing away. He bet she was texting with Roxie and the girls. The host noticed him and asked,
“Are you just a party of one?”
“No. I am here to meet my mate,” he told the host and walked past him to where Evelyn sat.
“Is this seat taken?” he asked in a deeper voice than usual.
“Yes, I am waiting for...” she trailed off when she looked up into his eyes. He smiled and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek before sliding into the booth seat. The seat was a little tight for his feet, he was tall at six foot four and didn’t want to hit her with his shoes.
“How are you Anderson?” she asked him, putting her phone away in her purse. He loved that when they had been together, she gave him her undivided attention.
“I am doing well. I did not understand how much work you did for our artists until you took Friday off,” he told her, giving her a lopsided smile.
“Was it bad? Usually the day after a show his hectic making sure all artwork is marked for the correct buyer,” she replied, tucking her hands in her lap. She looked tired to him, her normally bright eyes were dull today, and she seemed to be thinking hard on something.
“Not too bad. Are you feeling well?” he asked her and she jerked her head up to look at him.
“I am fine. It has been a long week. My weekend wasn’t exactly relaxing being in Philly with my brother and future sister-in-law. I also found out that Victor and Jeanie got married a few months ago and didn’t tell any of us. They flew to Las Vegas and got married with no one knowing,” she explained, and he gaped at her.
“You’re kidding,” he replied, and she shook her head.
“How did your mom take it?”
“I don’t know to be honest. Victor and Jeanie didn’t want to tell anyone over the weekend. I know he told her earlier this week when I called to chat with her. She seemed rather put out, but resigned to the fact Victor and Jeanie did their wedding their way. Luke and Alexis are making their wedding into a production. Her parents are very wealthy and they have asked me to be a bridesmaid,” she shared.
“I am sure you will look wonderful in your dress. You always look beautiful to me in anything,” he said, giving her a grin, trying to convey his feelings for her.
“Thank you, Anderson,” she replied and sipped at her water.
“Are you ready to order?” a waiter asked, walking up to their table.
“Can I get a sweet tea and we’ll need a few minutes to look over the menu,” Anderson answered and looked to Evelyn for her agreement. She nodded and picked up the menu to look it over. Anderson watched her, he always got the same dish every time they came here. Tour of Italy, three different dishes on one plate. With his shifter metabolism, he needed to eat more calories than the average person.
“How was your trip to Philadelphia?” Anderson asked, trying to keep the conversation light.
“It was great. I got to go to the Reading Terminal Market and walk around. It is huge and I feel like I only scratched the surface of the place,” she answered, he could see the excitement in her eyes.
“I’ve been through it a time or two to eat at the deli counters. There is an ice cream place I’ve heard great things about,” he answered and she smiled.
“I went in the morning and got called away when the florist my mom hired for the party lost their order. I found a flower stall, and they gave me a good deal on a bunch of flowers. I then spent the rest of the morning putting together centerpieces for their engagement party,” Evelyn explained, and Anderson stared at her in surprise.
“You had to work?” he asked, shaking his head. Evelyn was amazing. She didn’t sound at all upset about helping her mother out of a tight spot.
“That is what you do for your family. I didn’t want my mom to stress out. She has multiple sclerosis and so stress can cause a flare-up.”
“I don’t have the same experience. In my life, they used me as a protector for Roxie and Elizabeth until I turned eighteen. Then Martha threw me out and my dad did nothing to stop it,” Anderson explained and Evelyn nodded. He knew she had been around when it all happened. She was Roxie’s best friend from high school.
“I remember you leaving. It devastated Roxie. She refused to speak to anyone for a week. She thought it would make her mom change her mind and let you back in the house. Neither of us knew you were a tiger shifter,” Evelyn shared, and she gave her a sad smile.
“I wanted to come home so many times to see my sisters. Martha was what stopped me, then when I graduated high school Xander picked me up and I’ve been working for him for ten years.” Their waiter came back and Anderson looked at Evelyn, letting her order first.
“I’ll get the lasagna with a house salad,” she told the waiter.
“I’ll get the Tour of Italy,” he said, and the waiter nodded, walking away to put in their order.
“So you’ve worked for Xander for ten years and never once tired of traveling?” she asked, and he had to think about it.
“Sometimes I did, but I didn’t have a family to come home to. Nothing was tying me down to White Valley or Green Falls. I wasn’t speaking with my dad and knew nothing about what Roxie and Elizabeth were doing,” he shared.
“That sounds lonely,” she comments, and he thinks about it.
“It was but now I am speaking to my dad again and an uncle to two beautiful babies,” he told her.
“Sophia and Bentley are the sweetest. I get to snuggle them once a week when I see Roxie for our girls’ night. We’ve added quite a few women to our group, Josie, Ellie, Caroline, and Elizabeth are all joining us when they can. Ellie and Marcus are expecting a little girl in October,” Evelyn shared, and he could hear the wistfulness in her voice. Catching her eye, he paused and knew he needed to tell her what he wanted. He couldn’t keep her in the dark any longer.
“I want to tell you why I have been so against having a mate and children,” he began and watched as she straightened up in her seat.