The man began to gently rub the back of her head as he spoke. “He’s gone now. Does he know where you live?”
“Yes, and where my car is parked, which is more than I know right now.”
He gave a slight chuckle. “I’m Eric by the way.”
That chuckle sent warm chills down her spine as she replied, “I’m Anna.”
“Nice to meet you, Anna. Although I wish it had been under different circumstances,” Eric said. “How about…”
“Hey, Eric, are you coming with us or not?” A man yelled.
She raised her head to look for him as Eric turned slightly.
About halfway down the block stood two men and two women.
Anna glanced back at the man, Eric, who was still holding her before stepping back.
His arms dropping away.
Instantly she felt cold and bereft without his arms around her.
“Yeah, I’m coming, just give me a minute,” Eric answered.
“We’re going to the steakhouse for supper,” Eric mentioned, his gaze returning to her. “Would you like to go with us?”
Anna’s stomach growled at the mention of food.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Come on then, you’ll like my friends.”
“Oh, I couldn’t impose like that. Just point me in the direction of…”
“Listen to me, Anna. I’ll take you somewhere if you like, but you aren’t safe alone. That man was a whole lot of angry. He could be waiting for you at your car or your house,” Eric cautioned, holding her gaze.
“I didn’t think about that,” Anna admitted as a shiver of fear moved down her spine.
“If you don’t want to go with us, I’ll take you home. Or if you would be more comfortable with a woman, I’m sure my friend’s wife would take you home.”
Anna felt her heart pinch at the thought of leaving this man she’d just met. She wanted to at least learn something about him before they parted ways. So, looking down the block again, she saw his friends patiently waiting for him, talking among themselves. There were women with them so… maybe she’d be safe enough.
“Okay,” she agreed softly as she returned her gaze to him. “I did run out of the Bistro without eating and a medium-rare steak does sound really good about now.”
He grinned and grabbed hold of her hand to led her toward where his friends stood. As he came up to them, he said, “Let’s go get some steak.”
“It’s about time, slowpoke,” the biggest man said, grinning.
Anna stared at him for a moment, her head cocked. There was just something about him, an aura of… what was it exactly?
The third man spoke softly, catching her attention. “Hello, my name is Tony, this is my wife Minnie.”
Minnie smiled at her as she stood rubbing her slightly large stomach.
“Hi, I’m Anna.”
The big man spoke again, once more drawing her gaze. “I’m Pete. This lovely lady is my wife Maura.”
“It’s very nice to meet all of you,” Anna said with a smile.
“Now let’s eat,” Eric prompted.
So, with a laugh, everyone headed down the block to the steakhouse.
Walking into the steakhouse a few moments later, Anna took a deep breath, and the smell of steak caused her stomach to grumble.
Eric, who was right beside her, chuckled lightly but didn’t say anything.
Pete led the way to a table close to the back, the hostess giving him a nod.
“Regulars I’m guessing?” Anna inquired.
“Mm… Pete practically runs the town to hear him tell it.” Eric said softly, close to her ear.
Apparently not soft enough because Pete heard him and turned to look at them. He raised an eyebrow even as he seated Maura. “What do you mean practically? I do run the place; my good buddy Jim is just a figurehead.”
“Stop making up stories Pete,” Maura instructed with a laugh, lightly slapping Pete’s arm. “He’s just teasing you, Anna. All Pete runs is his construction company.”
“Oh, your Pete Tanner. My friend Renee’s fiancé Ryan works for you,” Anna divulged as she put two and two together.
Pete smiled. “Ryan, he’s a good kid and works hard. I like hard workers.”
The waitress walked over, and everyone placed their drink orders.
“Most bosses do,” Anna said after the waitress had left.
“So, where do you work?” Minnie asked.
“I work at Morris Outfitters.”
“I’ve been there! Lovely place,” Maura exclaimed.
Pete chuckled, saying, “If it sells clothes, shoes, or purses, it’s a lovely place.”
“Oh, you!” Maura pouted at him.
Anna could see the love shining in both their eyes as they teased each other. It made her long for a man to love that way.
It wasn’t long before the waitress returned with everyone’s drinks. While there, she took their food orders before once more leaving, though not without a longing look in Eric’s direction. It was a look Anna noticed he either missed or ignored. Maybe it was stupid of her, but she hoped he was just ignoring the woman. Even though Anna and Eric had just met, and he wasn’t exactly ‘with’ her, somehow, she felt like they were a couple as she sat next to him.
Anna spent dinner getting to know everyone. They were polite and asked very few questions about herself. She was having a wonderful time and enjoying the warmth of the man next to her, maybe a bit too much.
Finally, everyone was finished, yet seemed in no hurry to leave.
Anna glanced at her watch as a small yawn escaped.
Eric wrapped an arm around the back of her chair and moved closer. He seemed to do it unconsciously because he continued to talk even as he did it. She felt her eyelids droop as her body naturally swayed his way, almost as if a string pulled her. Her head landed on his chest, and the steady beat of his heart soon lulled her to sleep.
“Um…Eric, I think she went to sleep,” Tony said softly.
Glancing down at Anna, Eric stopped talking when he saw Tony was right.
“She’s your mate, isn’t she?” Alpha Pete asked Eric then.
“Yes,” Eric agreed. He’d waited so long for a mate. Most find theirs between sixteen and twenty, Eric was twenty-eight.
“Today was a good day then,” Tony commented.
“Yes, it was, and now it must end. The question is, do I take her home or take her with me?” Eric questioned.
At their puzzled looks, he decided he needed to explain how he’d met Anna.
“I don’t think it would be safe to take her home, but she might not want to stay with you either,” Alpha Pete commented. “Although, she seems to have gotten amazingly comfortable with you very quickly. She must feel the mate bond already, which is surprising since she’s human.”
“I’d suggest taking her to your truck where you can talk privately. Then ask her what she wants to do. I’ll go with you and stay with her if she wishes to go home tonight,” Minnie added.
Eric gave them all a nod. With his course of action decided, he picked her up and carried her outside. Once he arrived at his truck, Tony opened the door for him before leaving, and he placed Anna in the seat. Then Eric gently shook her awake.
Her eyelids fluttered, and opened, allowing him to see her bright green eyes.
Glancing around, she quickly sat up and exclaimed, “Oh! I fell asleep, I’m so sorry!”
“It’s okay. I do need to talk to you about some things though. I feel you don’t need to be alone tonight and thought about taking you to my house. But Minnie has offered to go home with you if you’d feel more comfortable going home than going to my house. Or she can go with me to mine with us if you don’t think you would feel safe at home. I just need you to tell me what makes you comfortable so I can make it happen.”
“I know it isn’t safe to go home alone, but I also know I have to return at some point. I could always call the police on him,” Anna said quietly.
“I agree. However, if he can’t find you tonight maybe it will give him a chance to calm down. Then perhaps he won’t do anything stupid.”
Anna released a deep sigh as she lay her head back on the headrest. This action put her face in the dome light, lighting up the cheek where the man’s handprint had been earlier. It was almost gone now, but Eric was still angry that it had been there.
“Yeah, that’s true but…”
“I don’t know you well and Minnie needs to be home taking care of herself, not me. Besides that, I just met you, and…” Her voice faded out as she stared at him.
“And don’t feel comfortable staying in a strange place with strangers,” he concluded for her.
She gave a nod as she looked away from him.
As Eric continued to watch her, her face turned pink and she took glances at him. He worked hard not to grin because this clued him in to the fact that she did want to stay with him.
It would seem as though their mate bond was hard at work drawing her to him.