The next morning Eric and Anna set off for her parent’s house with her driving.
“You were right, it truly is beautiful here, Anna. Do you miss living here?” Eric asked.
“No. I mean, I miss my parents and my sisters. I know I’m missing so much of my nieces growing years, but I’m happy where I am now,” she told him softly, glancing his way.
Eric nodded and once more turned to watch out the window as they pulled into a long driveway. There was a white fence along the one side, and he saw a few horses out across the field. “Does your dad raise horses?”
“No, he just has a few he picked up here and there. He and mom ride, well, so did us, girls.” She answered. “Dad was an accountant, a highly paid one until he retired. He helped Gary, my ex, get a job with his company when we decided to get married. It was right before Dad retired.”
They arrived in the driveway to see a beautiful blue wooden framed two-story house, with a corner-to-corner porch painted a clean white color. The black shutters complimenting the dark shingles perfectly. Attached to the side was a garage, both doors open to show the two cars parked inside it.
“Good money or not, this is a fancy place.”
“Mom came from money, old money. The house belonged to her parents until they were killed in an accident when my oldest sister was… about three, I think. Anyway, they moved here, and mom quit working to raise us girls.”
A dog ran out of the house, barking at the car and a man stepped out behind her.
“There’s Mazie. She may be old, but she still loves to bark,” Anna said with a laugh.
“Mm… she may not be thrilled when she gets a whiff of me.”
Anna turned to look at him. “What do you mean?”
“She’ll smell the wolf in me. Be prepared for her to become aggressive towards me.”
“Um… this could be a problem because they let her in the house,” Anna announced in a worried tone.
He shook his head, “It will be fine, I’ll just have to convince her to leave me alone. Can you keep your dad occupied for a bit?”
He gave a nod and waited for her to get out of the car first. He saw the dog as she raised her muzzle, taking in the scent of whoever was in the car. Her tail wagged as she caught Anna’s scent. Suddenly, she gave a slight growl and looked his way.
Anna looked back at him, but he waved her on as he slowly slid from the car. The dog growled louder as she headed his way. Eric knelt and waited. The dog stopped at the front of the car, hackles raised, and teeth bared.
“Well, I haven’t seen the old girl do that in a long time. What’s that fella of yours doing, Anna?” Eric heard her father say.
“Um… just going to calm her by letting her know he means her no harm.”
Eric let his wolf rise slightly as he stared the old dog down. Then baring his teeth, he showed her he’d fight if that were what she wanted from him. She held his eyes for a moment, suddenly, as if realizing he was her alpha, she relaxed. Whining low, she dropped to the ground submissively.
“Good girl.” Eric smiled, his wolf growled his satisfaction, and he patted the old dog. Then he stood up and prepared to meet his new in-laws.
“Dad, this is my husband, Eric. Eric, this is my dad, Timothy Burkley.”
Eric held out his hand to shake as he said, “It’s very nice to meet you, sir.”
“It’s nice to meet you too, Eric, and it’s Tim please.”
Eric gave a slight nod, and they all headed inside.
“Anna, your mother has been cooking all morning, so I hope you didn’t eat before you came,” Tim said.
“No, dad, no breakfast. I know how mom is,” Anna answered Turning to Eric, she mentioned, “Mom could open a five-star restaurant. She is the best cook.”
“I love excellent food,” Eric stated as they walked into an enormous kitchen.
A short, plump lady turned from the counter where she was cutting fruit and smiled. “Anna!”
Anna moved her way and hugged her. “Hi mom, I’ve missed you.”
“Oh, how I’ve missed you too,” Anna’s mother said before looking over at Eric. “This must be that handsome new husband of yours. My, he is big, isn’t he?”
Anna laughed. “He’s a big teddy bear.”
“I prefer wolves myself,” Eric teased with a wink.
“Oh, my, wolves! Wolves are anything but cuddly. So, why would you compare yourself to one?” Anna’s mom asked.
Eric shrugged. “I like to think of myself as a protector, and wolves are very protective.”
Anna’s mom gave a nod of understanding. “Being protective of your loved ones is an excellent quality to have, I agree.” Walking over to him, she gave him a hug, her head barely coming to his chest. “Welcome to the family Eric, I’m Claire.”
Eric hugged her back. “It’s very nice to meet you, Claire.”
Moving away from him, she shooed everyone toward the table. “Sit, sit, I’ve fixed breakfast.”
So, sitting down, they waited for her to pass the plates heaped full of delicious smelling food and Eric’s stomach growled. Claire had even fixed steak and his wolf’s side was in heaven when he cut into it and found it to be slightly rare.
Breakfast was almost over when the front door slammed.
“Mom, Dad, I’m here!” A high-pitched female voice sang out.
Anna stood up as a younger version of herself walked in. “Mary!”
They hugged each other tightly and cried a bit.
“I’m so glad to see you, Anna,” Mary said as she glanced over Anna’s shoulder at him. “Is this the hubby?”
Anna nodded. “Eric, this is my younger sister, Mary.”
Eric stood, and Mary walked over to hug him. Close to his ear, she whispered, “The last one was an idiot; I hope you’re different.”
“I try to keep my stupid to a minimum,” Eric whispered back. Moving away from her, he smirked.
She grinned and turned to Anna. “I like him.”
Anna grinned back. “Me too.”
They all took their seats again. Mary nibbled on a piece of toast as the conversation continued. When breakfast was over, they moved into a small sitting room.
“So, Eric, Anna told us you run security for a large construction company,” Tim stated.
“I do. I’ve been with Tanner Construction for ten years now. I started right out of high school and worked my way up. I’m the head guy now and love being boss,” Eric told him.
Tim chuckled as he leaned back in his seat and put his arm around his wife. “I remember the days of being a boss. I’m enjoying a bit of retirement now though, even if my boss told me I was too young to retire.”
“So, Anna, your dad and I thought perhaps while you’re here, you and Eric might like to go to the annual barn dance on Friday,” Claire mentioned.
“Ooh, a barn dance. Those are always fun. If you’ve never been to one Eric, the two of you should go,” Mary said excitedly.
Anna turned to Eric and questioned, “Does that sound like fun?”
Eric shrugged. “I’m not a world-class dancer, but sure. When are we going to see your other sister, though? I only have a week.”
“I thought we could load up and go tomorrow, I won’t pass up an opportunity to see my newest grandbaby,” Claire answered.
“Sounds great. So, today how about you show me the sights and I’ll treat you all to lunch?” Eric suggested.
Tim and Claire agreed that would be fun. Mary declined because she had to work the afternoon shift.
“I know the perfect place for lunch, the Big Grill Steak House,” Anna suggested.
“Perfect. What are we waiting for?” Eric asked as he stood up. He was never one to turn down a steak.
With a laugh, the women stood, and everyone headed for the door. They spent the day sightseeing. Then after lunch headed back to the ranch. Once there, the older couple retired for a siesta and Anna showed Eric around the ranch.
The next morning, they loaded up early and headed out to see Anna’s older sister Rayna who lived roughly four hours away. They planned to find a motel and stay overnight rather than try to head back so late that same evening.
Arriving at Rayna’s they found her husband Mac had taken the day off and was there too.
“Oh Anna, I’ve missed you so much. I know you didn’t get by much, but you did get to visit now and again,” Rayna said as she hugged Anna tight.
“I know and I’m sorry,” Anna murmured as Rayna let her go to hug their mom.
“Well, as long as you’re happy there…” Rayna said.
“Oh, I am, I’m thrilled I decided to go there,” Anna told her with a big smile.
Rayna turned to look at Eric. “So, you’re Eric.”
Eric smiled. “That would be me.”
Rayna hugged him. “Welcome to the family. I can tell just by mine and Anna’s phone conversations that you already treat her better than that other one… the one we will not speak of, was.”
“I try to treat her like my queen,” Eric agreed. He turned to wink at Anna and watched as her cheeks turned pink.
“Good, she deserves to be happy,” Rayna said just as two little girls came running in.
“Auntie Anna,” the first little blonde girl said.
“Mackenzie, look how big you are!” Anna exclaimed as she picked the little girl up in a big hug. Then she put that one down to pick up the second blonde girl. “Oh, how I’ve missed you two little dolls.”
“I’ve grown too, Auntie,” the second little girl whispered.
Anna laughed. “Yes, you have Tina.”
“Who’s the big man?” Tina asked in a whisper.
Anna turned and walked toward Eric. “Tina, I want you to meet my husband, Eric.”
Tina looked at Eric with wide blue eyes. “Is he my Uncle now? My friend Gigi has an uncle, but he’s not as big as him.”
Anna giggled and tickled the girl’s belly a bit. “Yes, he’s your uncle. He is big, isn’t he?”
“I think he’s cute, Auntie,” Mackenzie said from where she stood next to Anna.
Anna looked down at her. “I think he is too, Mackenzie.”
Mackenzie looked up at Eric before holding up her arms. “Hold me, Uncle Eric, and I’ll take you to meet my little brother. You can tell him how to get big like you.”
Eric chuckled. “You think, so do you?”
Mackenzie nodded as he picked her up. “Yep, I want my brother to be big and strong. That way he can beat up anybody who tries to be mean to Tina.”
Eric looked over at Tina, who had her face buried in Anna’s neck. Tina must be the timid one of the two. Then he looked over at the girl’s father. “Don’t you think your dad could do that for her?” Eric asked her.
Mackenzie nodded and with childish logic, explained, “Yeah, but daddy has to work sometimes, so if Brock is big and strong, he can do it when daddy can’t.”
“Well, let’s go tell that brother of yours how to be big and tough like daddy and Uncle Eric then hm…?” Eric asked with a grin.
Mackenzie nodded and pointed the way to the nursery.