Izabella (The Bloodstone, #1) ✓

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19. Hunters

The last thing I remembered was his musky scent, the warmth of his chest and his wolf’s pain-filled cries. I didn’t know what happened next. After running off into the woods, I spent the whole day isolated from the pack, recovering from his backlash. Never have I ever felt so alone, not even when I was away in The Blue Moon. The one person you’d think should be a reflection of yourself doesn’t understand your wants, your desires. It sucked. Big time.

Tensing, I sensed a change in my surroundings. When the familiar smell of warm earth and rose petals hit my nostrils, on impulse, my body relaxed. I’d recognise that smell from anywhere. It signalled safety, comfort and bubbles of excitement filled my stomach at the thought of meeting my family.

The Midnight Moon.

How did I get here?

Slowly, my eyes fluttered open and I was greeted by the ceiling. Sleep faded from my system and I sat upright, taking in my childhood bedroom. A dull throb pounded through my skull, causing me to wince painfully. What happened last night? I couldn’t remember a single minute of the journey back home.

Where is Basil?

The door opened and my mother, Sabrina, walked through the threshold with a tray of food. My stomach growled – the sound so unholy, my cheeks reddened with embarrassment. With her heightened hearing, mom grinned slyly, nodding at the tray.

“Thought you’d be hungry,” Sitting by the edge of the bed, she placed the tray on my lap, urging me to eat. And I did, resisting a moan as I munched on the greasy bacon making my tummy happy. From the way I felt, you’d think I hadn’t eaten in years.

“When did I get here?” I asked, genuinely confused. She tilted her head to the side, brows knitting together as she thought about it.”

“Early morning, I think. There’s a scheduled meeting with your brother and Basil. You don’t remember falling asleep?”

Slowly, I shook my head. She caught my interest the minute the word ‘meeting’ slipped through her teeth. “No, I don’t. You said there was a meeting?”

Mom nodded, tapping the plate, silently ordering me to finish my meal. She glanced at the clock. “I think it’s starting now,”

“Now?” Quickly, I pushed the tray away, throwing over the duvet and stumbling to my feet. I swayed slightly, the dull pulse making itself present but not as prominent as before. “Why didn’t you wake me earlier? I need to be there,”

“Izabella!” She yelled as I rushed out of the room. “You didn’t eat your food”

Ignoring her calls, I ran through the corridors, brushing off the stares of some pack members, especially little pups. Unintentionally, I neglected some greetings passed my way. My mind was focused on the meeting. With a loud bang, I barged into the meeting room, declaring my presence with the gush of wind flailing their papers. In sync, all men turned their eyes to me, some frowning in confusion, others scowling while some blinked a couple of times. I wasn’t supposed to be here. From their expressions, you could read ‘men only’ and I fought the irritation creeping inside.

Hunter, my dear brother, raised a quizzical brow. “Need anything, Bell?”

“Yeah,” I said coolly, scattering my brains for an excuse. “I…” I jumped when his voice invaded my thoughts.

‘Come,’ Like two magnets colliding, my eyes locked to his wild ones. For a brief second, what happened yesterday stopped me but not wanting to make some sort of a scene, I moved to him. My eyes lowered to my feet the closer I got to him, not knowing how to act after the situation that’d happened between us. Low murmurs filled my ears Basil pushed back, lowering me into his lap. I flushed at the unwanted stares and buried my face in his chest.

“Elaborate, Thomas,” Thomas’ response was delayed and he continued his point. At first, the embarrassment cancelled any noise but I focused my attention when particular word he spoke caught my interest.

Hunters.

Slowly, I lifted my head, casting my eyes to one of the elders in the pack. He caught me staring and his eyes narrowed in annoyance. Basil’s chest rumbled threateningly, and Thomas quickly looked away. I turned to Basil, flattening my lips.

‘I can handle it myself’

He turned away. Even when he didn’t reply, I knew he heard me.

“How close are they to the borders?”

“A couple of miles south. We should place a curfew around eight,” Another spoke. “Probably even less,”

“We need to get rid of the threat immediately. If not, we’re sitting ducks!”

Hunters... they’re here. I thought, my heart beating, fuelled by a sense of panic. My brute of a mate squeezed my thigh, his eyes slicing into mine. I listened to his thoughts but heard... nothing. Knitting my brows, his eyes slowly skimmed the crowd. No doubt, meeting a few eyes watching our interaction. They couldn’t hear our thoughts. The mind link between two mated wolves was sacred. It was the one thing of our bond I was comforted by. Too many times these men tried to control my life. In how society has progressed, you’d think things would’ve changed.

Nothing changed, especially when it came to politics in the wolf culture.

“We should prepare our warriors for a battle, gather our people into the panic basements,”

There were many built adjacently to each other underground, only used when war brimmed the horizons. This conversation wasn’t comforting, yet, I couldn’t shut my ears.

“What is your suggestion, Basil?” Hunter asked, his eyes brightening to electric blues when focusing his attention on my mate. “After all, you have firsthand experience,”

I didn’t miss the taunt in his voice or the way Basil’s fingers sunk into my hips. Nostrils flaring, he leaned forward, staring at my brother, his jaw ticking with unrelieved tension. Hunter’s comment was uncalled for but curious, I glanced over my shoulder, meeting the storm brewing in his eyes.

“Kill them all,”

The temperature so fast, chills broke through layers of my body heat. There were other strategies to avoid death but they all went over his head. Hunter didn’t blink nor did the men didn’t raise their voices in protest. They were all in agreement.

“That’s irrational,” I spoke and all eyes were on me. Tilting my head, I didn’t allow the pressure of their gaze to weigh me down. “What if they had others, family members? Won’t their sudden disappearance throw them off?”

“We can’t sit here and do nothing,” Thomas grumbled. “Anyways, you’re not a part of this council,”

“I’m here aren’t I?” Sneering, I turned my eyes to my dear brother. “We should watch them for a couple days. Let’s see if they’re truly on their own and not a secret organisation. Hopefully, if they are, we attack,”

The room was deadly silent and I felt Basil’s gaze drill holes into my skin. I was probably the first female to put forth her opinion. Would they refuse? These hunters may be very few in this world but there were organisations that made it their mission to completely wipe out our race. To them, we were an abomination. Killing those little few would look suspicious and more importantly, notify them of our location. Chatter flooded the room and Hunter rubbed his stubbly jaw thoughtfully. I waited for their approval. What felt like a thousand years passed when Hunter stood, bracing his hands on the wooden table.

“We’ll take it into consideration,”

Translation - no.

My skin heated with anger as I watched everyone reaching for the door, dismissing themselves from the meeting. Basil nudged my leg in warning as he stood, clasping my hand and taking long strides to the door. We didn’t say a word to each other. Literally, in a sense, we haven’t spoken from our mouths but through our bond. Pulling him into a darkened corridor, I stared up at him expectantly, raising a quizzical brow.

“Why didn’t you back me?” He furrowed his brows. “You allowed them to dismiss me as if they didn’t hear me, as if I wasn’t there!”

“Why wait? Why hesitate only for them to attack?” Stepping closer, he gripped my chin, making sure I met his intense stare. “This isn’t my pack, I can give advice but I can’t demand my opinion,”

“But it’s mine and all I ask is to be treated with some respect,” I growled, huffing my frustration.

“Be grateful you got a single word in, let alone, you staying for that long,”

“You hardly said anything! Do they even know what you are?” He didn’t respond and I grinned triumphantly, folding my arms, getting into his space that was already so tight by his brooding physique. He didn’t back down though but a muscle in his jaw ticked in a silent warning. “Maybe now they’ll be more appreciative of my contribution.”

I tried to walk past him but his grip on my upper halted me. I clamped my mouth shut as he lowered so we were at eye level. The pad of his thumb skated across my jaw and my breathing hitched when his fingers curled around the back of my neck, squeezing it lightly.

Lowly, he growled. “Don’t test me, Izabella,”

Loosening his hold, he stepped back, his face hardening with an expression I couldn’t decipher. I turned and walked away, taking his words to heart.

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