**Episode four of Rowan and Luca. Late again, but I had to sort out what was going on with Rowan. Enjoy!**
I wasn’t surprised that Tom came by to check on me. He was the best kind of alpha, the kind that took care of his pack, so when he showed up at my door, I released a breath and leaned into his touch. The scent marking soothed my soul, and when he pulled me into a quick, tight hug, the last of the tension left me.
I was surprised that the first thing out of his mouth was, “We need to talk.”
Just that fast, panic started to coil in my gut. But Tom knew me well by now, and he slid his hand to the back of my neck and squeezed tightly, holding on, which steadied me. He ducked his head so he was staring into my eyes.
“Nothing bad. Breathe, Rowan. I’m sorry my choice of words was triggering.”
I tried to wave it away. “It’s fine.”
He shook his head, a little frown marring his face. “It’s not fine. I need to be more careful with my words with you.”
“You shouldn’t have to walk on word-eggshells with me.”
Tom’s smile was kind. “No, but because I care about your well-being, it’s important that I be conscious of my words and actions.” Another pointed look. “We should all have those considerations for each other, yeah?”
He was right, of course. And that’s was yet another reason he made a good alpha. Another reason I was glad that I’d gotten out of my old pack and that Tom had taken me in. Taken care of me until I was on my feet again, and made sure I had the time and therapy to heal.
I took a few breaths, using my coping techniques until I felt steady again. Then I was able to pull away and offer him a genuine smile and something to drink. He declined but headed for my living room. By the time I followed him in, he was already making himself comfortable on my couch. Oh. So this was going to be one of those kinds of talks.
I reminded myself, yet again, that I was safe with him. Usually, it wasn’t a challenge. But since the panic attack yesterday and the ensuing feelings, everything was closer to the surface than usual. The run had helped. Luca’s attention had helped.
“I wanted to check in with you, see how you’re doing.” Tom’s tone was conversational, and I was adept enough at reading people to know it was deliberate. It came from a lifetime of figuring out people’s tones on the fly, needing to know how I had to react to them in order to keep myself safe.
I appreciated his effort nonetheless. “I’m fine.”
He quirked a brow. “Really?”
I almost chuckled at the disbelief in his tone. “Really.” I shook my head and blew out a breath. “I’m not back to baseline yet, but I’m getting there. Fine is an apt descriptor.”
Tom laughed then, and he relaxed even more. “Good. I’m glad to hear it. Now. You okay about Luca?”
I froze for a second, not sure how to respond, but then decided I would go with politely puzzled. “What about him?
Tom just stared at me. Just stared, no expression, blue eyes piercing me from where I sat across the room. I knew he wasn’t disappointed, just waiting me out, but I didn’t squirm and I didn’t break. I had far too much practice at being still and quiet, going unnoticed and unseen.
Oh right. Tom always saw me. No matter what. He saw everyone in the pack, all the time. He knew us inside and out, because it was the only way he could see to our needs. I’d…not forgotten, because I could never forget, but falling into old patterns was easy when I was coming back from trauma response.
I cleared my throat. “Yeah, I’m okay.” I couldn’t look Tom in the eye, but I knew I didn’t have to. “He was really good to me and he said some…stuff. But I’m okay.”
Tom was so quiet for so long that I eventually looked up. Tom’s lips were quirked up in a small, and he had his hands clasped over his stomach. He held my gaze for a moment, making sure he had my attention, before he spoke.
“And what are your feelings about his feelings?”
“I don’t know yet. I don’t know him well enough,” I said, because I could be nothing but honest with my alpha. “But we’re going to dinner tonight to get to know each other better.”
“Good.” Tom’s satisfied tone made my eyes widen. I opened my mouth to ask what that meant but before I could get the words out, he spoke. “Luca is a good man, with a good heart. And he’s been pining for you. I’m glad you’re taking the time. And you can trust that he’ll respect any boundaries you set, all right?”
Pining? Really? Luca had been pining? How had I not seen that? Not noticed? I mean, granted, I hadn’t always paid attention to Luca. But Tom had clearly seen it. Was it because he was that in tune with his packmembers? Or had Luca been obvious and I’d just been freaking oblivious?
I nodded in response to my alpha’s question, but I couldn’t wrap my brain around words, so I didn’t say anything. Instead, my mind raced back, trying to think of all the interactions I’d had with Luca over the past few years. There hadn’t been many, really. We’d always been in the same room when the pack gathered, but direct interactions? There’d only been a handful of times, really.
Like about a year ago when the door had slammed, and I startled and nearly fell off the front stoop and Luca had been there to steady me. Or when I’d been sick with Lycan influenza six months ago and he’d dropped off soup and drinks a few times. Or both times a group of us had gone into the city to hit up the clubs and he’d put himself between me and rowdy, handsy patrons. Or the time the storm tore the shutters off the front of my cottage and they magically replaced themselves, fixed and repainted, before I could even think to fix them, and I’d seen Luca later with a smear of the same pale blue paint on his hands.
I smiled then, warmth filling my belly. It helped, too, that my alpha approved.
But yes, I definitely had to get to know Luca better.