Chapter 16: Only You
“Why the hell are you two following me?” Hunter growled.
“Because River doesn’t want you going alone,” answered Ryder.
Hunter rubbed the ache growing in his head. “Goddamn it,” he grumbled harshly and reluctantly let Lupin and Ryder follow him.
“He’s got a point though,” said Lupin. “Bodyguards on a date seems a bit excessive.”
Hunter gazed at Lupin. “Thank you.”
“Besides, who would attack Bobby’s restaurant?” asked Lupin. “No one would dare touch that place especially since everyone knows that it’s under Gabriel’s protection.”
“Right,” said Ryder as he crossed his arms across his muscular chest. “And are you two going to take responsibility if something happens to Hailey?” He asked as he glared at Hunter. “My brother assigned me to get you and Hailey back home safely. And you should already know that I don’t fuck with my brother’s orders.”
Hunter sighed heavily and ushered them to hurry across the path so he could reach Hailey’s home faster.
Although Hailey started three hours ago, she still stood in front of the mirror contemplating if she should wear the black heels or the nude ones with the midnight blue dress she decided with at the end. The dress had spaghetti straps and was a low neckline that exposed a lot of cleavage. She was shy about this option but she didn’t have anything sexier than this or better for a date. The dark satin clung to her narrow waist and wide hips before it rested just below her knees. She liked the dress and felt comfortable but also very sexy, so it felt like the way to go. She dropped the nude pumps and went for the black strappy heels instead. Hailey curled her hair and rolled it into an extravagant bun, a few stubborn tendrils fell along her neck and face so she let them be because she didn’t have that much time left before Hunter arrived.
Hailey sprayed some perfume and applied lip-gloss before she took one final accessing gaze over her appearance. Her eyes popped bluer with the dark smoky liner and light mascara. She straightened her dress and took a deep breath.
“Relax, it’s just a date,” she repeated the mantra to herself when her phone pinged alive with a message from Hunter telling her he’s outside. Her stomach did a somersault and her knees slackened, she grabbed her clutch and tried not to fall down the stairs.
Hailey opened the front door and stumbled onto the porch. “Hi,” she blurted out when she turned to find not one man but three. Hunter, Ryder and the muscular red head named Lupin were all standing on her porch in dark suits and surprised expressions.
“Wow,” they all spoke at once.
A blush crept up her cheeks when she noticed them stare. She looked from each man and smiled. “I don’t remember agreeing to go on a date with all of you,” she said jokingly. Lupin and Ryder laughed. “Why is everyone here?” She asked Hunter as she viewed the others.
“They’re our security detail,” said Hunter and then he turned his gaze to Lupin and Ryder. “Can you give us a moment.” Hunter wasn’t asking them, in fact, he was demanding that they get off the porch and wait by the car.
“Are we going somewhere dangerous that we need security?” asked Hailey.
“No,” he shook his head and stepped closer to her. “River’s just being careful.” Hunter circled his arms around her and tenderly pulled her against his rock-hard body.
“You look really nice,” she complimented him.
Hunter chuckled against her ear. “I should be saying that,” he whispered hotly. His arm tightened around her waist and he gazed into her eyes. “You look breath-taking.”
Hailey blushed brightly. “Thank you.” She drowned in his arms and was lost in the heat of his deep cologne that was raging masculinity and strength; it drove her wild. His dark sterling grey suit was stitched onto his trained body and he wore a dark shirt that had a few buttons open at the top revealing his collarbones and upper chest.
Hunter cupped her nape and tilted her head back. “I’m going to kiss you.” And he did. Hunter stirred her alive as his lips caressed hers so sensually. His tongue plunged into her mouth and she devoured his spicy, dark taste that made her wolf rage with hot fiery need. He bit her bottom lip and licked across the burn. “Should we get going?” he asked.
Hailey was bewildered. “Huh?” Hunter chuckled as he circled his arm around her waist and escorted her towards the car.
They drove over the main roads after Centauri territory was long behind them. Music played and Hunter kept her engaged in a conversation, but she noticed how serious Lupin and Ryder were at the front. They were nothing like how they usually were back home. Lupin’s green eyes were constantly observing their surrounds, and whenever the car came to a stop, he slightly stiffened as he watched carefully.
Ryder’s jaw was tightened and he looked rather intimidating and dangerous. His eyes never left the road and although his eyes were always kept straight ahead, she was sure that he was fully conscious on his surroundings. These men were fully trained fighters that had no room for relaxation, they were here to do the job they were born to do, which was keep Hunter Centauri safe no matter what happened.
They car came to a full stop at a street she wholeheartedly recognized. Hunter got out of the car and held the door open for her. She slipped out from his side and held his hand as he helped her up the curb of the sidewalk.
Hailey beamed a smile when she recognized the restaurant they stood in front of. “You brought me to Bobby’s place,” she astonished.
Hunter gazed at her surprised expression. “Do you not like it here?” he asked with a frown.
“No,” said Hailey quickly. “I used to work here when I was in high school.”
Hailey laughed at his bewildered expression. “It’s been so long,” she revealed with a smile that just didn’t want to leave her face. Hailey laced her hand with Hunter’s and they went inside the restaurant that was bustling with people as usual.
The restaurant was dimly lit and round tables were scattered around the familiar large room. There were booths lined up against the wall and had families gathered at every single one of them, even the round tables were taken. Hailey wondered if Hunter made reservations because she knew from experience that it wasn’t easy getting a table here.
“Hunter,” a thick and heavy voice boomed. A tall, robust man with thick white hair strode out with a broad smile from under his snow-white beard that reached his Egyptian blue eyes.
“Bobby,” greeted Hunter politely.
“Your brother asked me to arrange his table for you and your-” Bobby’s blue eyes landed on Hailey and he froze. “I’m sorry,” he gazed at her, “you look a lot like a kid that I knew.”
“Bobby,” said Hailey chirpily, “it’s me, Hailey.”
Bobby’s mouth dropped open. “Hailey,” he clapped his hand together. “What took you so long, we all missed you here.”
“I missed you too, Bobby,” said Hailey as she hugged her old boss.
“Diana and Leo are still here too,” said Bobby. “They’d love to see you.”
“I would too, but maybe after,” she promised him.
Bobby smile didn’t falter like hers. “Of course,” he said and guided them towards the solitary booth near the end of the restaurant. It was private and turned away from the crowd and noise, a very pleasant seat for a date or just to enjoy dinner alone.
“What can I get you?” asked Bobby.
“Can I get the pasta with sausage ragu,” said Hailey without even looking at the menu.
“I’ll get the chicken parmesan with risotto,” said Hunter.
“We’ll get the Arugula salad with the risotto too,” added Hailey.
“White wine will compliment these choices really well,” he suggested and they agreed and let Bobby bring them a chilled bottle.
Hailey sipped the wine and felt a flutter drum through her heart. She couldn’t believe that she was back here and with Hunter. It felt so surreal. She looked up from the rim of her glass and followed Hunter’s eyes which were busy surveying the area.
“Are Ryder and Lupin still in the car?” she asked.
“No,” he answered. “One is probably on the roof and the other making his rounds.”
“I feel bad,” she said. “We’re here eating and they’re outside in the cold.”
“Bobby will probably take them some food later,” said Hunter. “Don’t worry about them. It’s their jobs to do this. They’re probably so comfortable right now.” Hailey chuckled and didn’t doubt him for a second that they all took their duties very seriously. “You’ve known Bobby since high school?” asked Hunter.
Hailey put the glass down. “Yeah. Bobby taught me everything I know about cooking,” she answered. “I worked here for a couple of years so I could save up for university.”
“Bobby let you work here as a minor?” asked Hunter.
“It wasn’t a weird thing, a lot of kids worked as waiters,” she told him. “And Bobby was one of the few people that paid them fairly. He helped a lot of wolves like me.”
“Bobby isn’t part of any wolf clan, that’s why he was able to do that,” said Hunter.
“I know,” she said. “He always said that his restaurant was open for all wolves.”
“I love that about him,” said Hunter. “That’s why this restaurant has our protection,” he said. “Gabriel and all of us make sure that no one attacks this place.”
Hailey smiled over the candlelight that flickered between them. “It wasn’t always like that here,” she said. “Bobby protected this restaurant and everyone that works here with his life.”
Hunter nodded. “All of us came here often after school too,” he shared openly. “Gabriel and River always treated us to ice-cream.”
“Do you think we ever would have met?” she asked. “I used to work here almost every day.”
“I would have remembered if I ever saw my mate,” said Hunter before he quieted down behind a despondent smile.
“What’s wrong?” she asked him.
“You were so close to me,” said Hunter. “Yet so far-” Hailey’s breath fumbled- “you were all alone and needed help.”
“You were just a kid, Hunter,” she touched his hand.
“Maybe. But so were you,” he said. “Who helped you?”
Hailey stared into his golden gaze. “Someone always came to help me when I truly needed it, like Bobby,” she said with a smile. “Viola and Klaus were the ones who hired an outsider wolf like me. And now, I have you.” Hunter laced his fingers through hers and matched her earnest gaze that told her everything.
Food arrived. Hot and steamy on white plates. Hailey wasn’t shy because she knew that Hunter wasn’t one to joke around food, like her. They both took their meals very seriously, and she loved that about him. They devoured the food that was just as delicious as they remembered. She adored Bobby’s cooking, it reminded her of their old days and how much she spent time she spent in that kitchen with him.
“I could eat his food all day,” said Hailey and Hunter unequivocally agreed because the food was just that good. “Hunter,” his gaze lifted from his food. “Can I ask you a question? Which you don’t have to answer, if you don’t want to.”
Hunter wiped the sides of his mouth with a cloth and stared straight into her eyes. “Shoot,” he said.
“How many women have you dated before?” Hailey was slightly nervous when she asked that question and regretted even bringing it up, but she couldn’t help but be curious.
“I’ve never dated anyone before you,” said Hunter simply.
Hailey gaped. “Really?” she couldn’t hide the astonishment from her voice.
Hunter chuckled. “Do I look like someone who dates?” he asked sarcastically. “I barely had the time and I wasn’t interested. Outside of pack duties, I trained most of the days of the week. I would go out with all the guys once and a while and hook up, but that’s about it.”
“So, never?” she asked again.
“Never,” he repeated. “You’re my first and last, Hailey Swan.”
A shiver crawled down her body from his deep, reverberating voice. “Oh,” she breathed.
A charming smile tugged at the corners of Hunter’s lips. “How am I doing so far?” he asked as a tease.
“G-good,” she faltered and covered her blushing smile with her wine glass.
They finished their food and made sure to not leave a bite behind. Bobby brought them the classic vanilla and strawberry swirl ice-cream in one big bowl as a treat from him. Hailey and Hunter shared the sugary goodness from the bowl with their small spoons. They also shared the same taste in ice-cream too, she liked vanilla just as much as him. They finished their dessert and met Bobby at the front. Hunter paid as Hailey visited the kitchen staff at the back. They all burst into tears when they saw her all grown up, Hailey had to stop herself from crying too, otherwise her makeup would become a mess. Hailey said goodbye, and as she turned to leave, Hunter was already by her side.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Yes.” She followed him outside the restaurant where Ryder and Lupin stood to take them back to the car. They all slid into their seats and buckled up for the ride home.
“Are you cold?” asked Hunter softly against her ear.
She leaned her head on his shoulder. “A little,” she sighed and welcomed his warmth. His hands laced into hers and she let him move her closer to his body. She was just about to dose off to the slight humming of the car and Hunter’s steady breath when he stiffened and her wolf warned her to wake up and stay alert.
“We have a tail on us,” warned Hunter.
Ryder’s fist on the steering wheel tightened until his knuckled were white.
“Black sedan on our south side,” said Lupin strictly.
Hailey’s heart sank. She wanted to turn and see who was following them, but she knew that wasn’t a good idea because it could give away that they knew about the tail.
“Lose them, Ryder,” ordered Hunter. His dangerous tone and severely strict eyes were what everyone feared about this infamous beta that sat before her.
“I know,” said Ryder and he turned the car abruptly down another street. He maneuvered the car around a couple of streets and entered a highway with traffic. He lost the tail when he sped through a few cars and speedily exited the intersection and ran a few empty red lights.
Hailey hadn’t even realized that she had closed her eyes when Ryder was driving so fast. She released her tight grasp on Hunter’s hand and took finally took a breath.
“Everything’s fine now, baby,” Hunter’s cool voice whispered softly. She eased the tension in her body and accepted his support until they reached Centauri territory. Their car passed the security gates and Ryder parked in front of Hunter’s home.
“Great driving back there,” said Lupin as they all got out of the car.
Ryder looked irritated. “Who the fuck tailed us?” he snapped.
“Ryder,” Hunter growled at Ryder’s harsh tone and motioned towards Hailey.
Hailey waved her hand. “Don’t mind me,” she said as she came next to Hunter. “I’m kind of curious to know myself.”
Hunter wrapped his arm around her. “You two can head off for the night,” he said. “Ryder text your brother and Lupin text Azura.”
“Got it,” said Lupin before he said ‘goodnight’ and walked off.
Ryder’s frown didn’t dissipate. “A black sedan. Plate number, BCW 9872.” He pulled out his cellphone and Hailey figured that he called his brother.
“Come on, Hailey,” Hunter pulled her towards the front door of his house.
“I’m coming to your house tonight?” asked Hailey shyly.
Hunter grinned. “Do you not want to?” he asked.
“No,” she stuttered, “I mean, yes.” She groaned and dropped her head on his chest.
He laughed. “Let’s just go inside before we don’t even make it past the door.”
She gaped at his crudeness. “You’re insane,” she hid her face behind her hands as he took her inside his home. She has approximately been here three time; the first was a party, second was to let them know about the men outside their property, and now this was the third, she was here to share Hunter’s bed with him. That was some leap.
They climbed the long staircase and she couldn’t help the storm of butterflies in her stomach. Hailey breathed in and then out and wondered how she was going to survive the night in the arms of Hunter Centauri. As she followed him up the stairs, she traced over his broad shoulders, his back and those strong legs. He was a storm she was never going to be prepared for. Her wolf haughtily admired Hunter and clearly told Hailey that she liked him. Hailey bit her lip as she found herself in front of a door to his room.
“Wait inside for me,” said Hunter. “I need to go talk to Gabriel.”
Hailey nodded because she couldn’t find her voice. Hunter opened the door, she walked in and he closed the door behind her. This was the room where Hunter slept, changed, bathed and was his most relaxed. She stood near the door wishing that he was with her because she felt like she was intruding in his private space. Hailey prepared herself as much as she could before Hunter’s return. She needed to get her wits about her if she was going to be here all night with her mate. But that was nearly impossible when everything in the room smelt like him.
Hailey closed her eyes and brazenly strode deeper into his room to explore and diminish her curiosity that made her a tad bit wicked.