Chapter 22: Bleed
Hunter shut the light of the bathroom after he was finished. He held a towel for his wet hair as he returned to his bedroom again, which was brimming with another type of atmosphere this fine morning. The white light of the young sun was cascading all over the wooden floor and over his bed. The very bed where at the moment his mate slept soundly. Hunter and Hailey had barely gotten any sleep last night because they went to bed just before sunrise. Although he slept for only an hour, he was rested enough. But Hailey still had time, so he decided that he’d let her sleep in just for a little while until it was time for her own work.
Hunter tossed the towel aside to get dressed; his body was content almost lazy in its movements. He wondered, why that was? Usually adrenaline was surging through his veins and his wolf was ready for any mission or training. But as of this morning, Hunter felt as if nothing was more important than the quietness he felt in his room with Hailey.
Hunter’s jeans were snug and ripped from being worn in so much. He was about to choose a shirt from his closet when his eyes landed on his reflection. The mark on his neck was faint but it was definitely visible to him. Hailey had finally marked him as hers, which caught Hunter by surprise that she had last night. He would have thought that she needed more convincing on his part, but she had entrusted her wolf and herself to him. Hunter knew that Hailey didn’t just bond with anyone, she marked him because she chose to believe in him and their mating.
“Hunter,” a soft voice interrupted Hunter’s thought.
Hunter turned to find his mate’s eyes flutter open under the rays of the sun. Her silver eyes glistened like opals when the flecks of blue sparkled because of the crisp light. Hailey’s vibrant red hair cascaded over the pillows, and he felt the darkest urge to run his hands through the soft, thick waves. The duvet covered her bare body that he took his time with last night, but her toned leg was out from under the covers and so were her arms, which were positioned beside her head.
Hunter stood at her bedside. His hand moved on its own accord when he caressed her soft calf and inched closer up to her thigh. “Hi, baby,” he whispered near her ear. “It’s six thirty.”
She hummed and turned over to her side. “Why are you awake so early?” she asked groggily.
Hunter kissed her cheek. “I actually woke up late,” he told her.
Hailey reached over and gently caressed his jaw that had a slight stubble last night but was gone now. “You took a shower,” she said when she felt his wet hair too, even though she was half asleep. “If you had waited I could’ve joined you.”
Hunter raised a brow at her teasing tone and smirked. He pushed the duvet off of her body and rolled her over to the middle of the bed. Hailey was fully awake now.
“Bad idea to tease me,” he growled viciously, but it didn’t work on Hailey. She simply beamed a smile in his direction and it calmed him right down.
“It’s good to know that you’re a morning person like me,” considered Hailey.
Hunter teasingly nipped her earlobe. “I’m only a morning person for my mate,” he grouched. “Everyone else can go to hell.”
Hailey turned over onto her stomach and tried to crawl out from underneath him, but there was no escaping his clutches. His single hand caged her hip to cease all attempts to move away. Hunter moved her hair over her shoulder and kissed down the length of her small back.
“That tickles, Hunter!” Hailey wriggled and tried to stop his teeth.
Hunter spared Hailey and stopped. He reached over and kissed her shoulder. “I think we’re both going to be late for work,” he said hotly.
Hailey bit her lip. “I don’t like being late,” she said faintly.
Hunter grabbed a strand of her luscious hair and brought it to his lips. “I think you’ll like what I’m about to do,” he promised daringly.
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” retorted Hailey.
Hunter nipped her shoulder. “Trust me, after I’m done with you, you’ll beg me to make you late every day.”
Hailey’s cheeks warmed to a blushing rose. “I’m going to hold you to that,” she replied curiously.
A soft knock interrupted Hunter.
“Don’t…Open…That…Door,” Hunter snapped at the would-be intruder.
“Gabriel needs you,” Vincent’s stern voice broke the mood in the room.
Hunter clenched his jaw and his irritation was quite visible on his face.
Hailey quickly urged Hunter off of her. “Go,” she ordered firmly. “See what your brother needs.”
Hunter got off the bed and grabbed a fresh shirt. “Will you be here?” he asked Hailey.
She shook her head. “I need to head home and get dressed for work too,” she said.
Hunter rolled up the sleeves of his dark shirt. “I wanted to take you home and get you to work.”
“You mean, take me to work late?” she teased as she got off the bed.
Hunter grinned. “Late, hot and bothered,” he winked.
Hailey boldly stepped in front of him. Her hands inched up to the buttons of his shirt that were still open. She reached up on her tippy-toes and came to his eye-level, she tilted her head and kissed his taut jaw then she trailed her soft lips down across his corded neck.
Hunter was acutely aware of her daring fingers that skimmed down his chest and abs. He stiffened under her touch and tried his hardest to keep himself in check, otherwise Gabriel would have to wait.
“I’m not the only one that gets hot and bothered,” she whispered against his neck where her plump lips laid over his raging pulse. Hailey removed her hands, her lips and the warmth of her body away from Hunter. She whistled innocently as she reached for her clothes and swiftly got dressed leaving Hunter stumped by himself.
“Every little thing you do,” he whispered, “drives me wild.”
“I’m going to head back to my cabin,” said Hailey. “I’ll see you after work.”
Hunter grabbed a hold of her hand. “Make sure to eat, have your meds on time too, and take it easy,” he instructed gently.
Her lips lifted in that gentle way whenever she smiled for him. “I will,” she reassured him. “And you should make sure not to bit everyone’s head off with your grumpy attitude.”
Hunter grinned. “I’m not going to make any promises.”
Hailey reached over and kissed his cheek. “Have a great day, Hunter.” She let go of his hand and used the secret door in his room to get to her cabin faster.
Hunter didn’t linger in his room once Hailey was gone. He made his way to his brother and readied himself for any mission.
Hunter heard River’s voice just before he entered. “We should head out soon,” said River.
“Where to?” asked Hunter as he closed the door behind him.
River’s dark expression told Hunter that shit was going down today, so there was no resting or taking it easy for him. “Azura got intel that the men who tailed you are back,” said River. “They’re positioned outside of Bobby’s restaurant waiting for Gabriel.”
Gabriel emerged from his bedroom. He was stone cold and intense with his dangerous gaze that warned anything before them to back the fuck up. He had a dark suit on and he didn’t bother wearing a tie because it’d just get in the way if he was going on a hunt. “Does Azura and her team have eyes on the men?” asked Gabriel as he tucked his hands in his pockets.
River nodded. “If we want them, we need to leave now.”
“What are we waiting for?” asked Hunter- clearly irked.
“Your ass apparently,” remarked Gabriel. “Why’d you take so long?”
Hunter laughed in disbelief. “Er-” Hunter would have thought that Gabriel would understand if he was a little late every now and then, especially because he has a mate to take care of now. Hunter raked his tousled hair. “I was occupied with-”
Gabriel smirked. “I’m teasing, brother,” he revealed.
Hunter kissed his teeth. “Let’s just go get those sons of a bitches that think it was a smart move tailing me.”
Gabriel slipped on his sunglasses with River following closely behind them.
“Gabriel will take a separate car with me and head to Bobby’s place like he always would,” instructed River. “Ryder will shadow us-” River’s calculating blue eyes matched Hunter’s focused stare- “I’m sure I don’t have to tell you your mission.”
Hunter smirked. “Capture them alive.” He twirled his keys on his fingers and walked away to get on with the mission. Hunter’s wolf was craving the adrenaline and the thrill, that sparks in their hot-blooded bodies when their eyes meet the fear in their prey.
Hunter got in a black convertible and sped down the freeway away from their territory. He put the small Bluetooth chip in his ear and clicked the small button. Instantly, voices of their team spilled through. But they all hushed when Gabriel spoke through the intercom.
“I want this done quietly,” he ordered with his deep voice, that’s just as intimidating through the phone as it is in person. “If anything does go down, I can hold my own. Bobby’s restaurant and pedestrians take priority over me,” said Gabriel. “Watch your backs-” the silence through the Bluetooth was daunting, but not for these group of wolves. They fed off their alpha’s power, like they always have been- “and those assholes better be at my feet when we get back to my turf.”
Hunter and his wolf were riled up now. He pressed on the gas and made his way behind Bobby’s restaurant.
“Azura has eyes from the top,” said River stealthy.
Hunter parked his car behind the alley of Bobby’s place. As usual, the place was bustling with people. Hunter knew that Azura was positioned directly in front of him, he couldn’t see her because that’s how good she was at disappearing. River remained in the car that Gabriel stepped out from, and they all saw Ryder park opposite of his brother. All their cars and windows were tinted black, so the men couldn’t see that Gabriel arrived with an entire force. They all grew alert and their wolves heightened all of their senses to protect their alpha. The mission may have been to capture the targets, but Gabriel’s safety always took priority for them.
Gabriel took of his sunglass. It wasn’t for long but he lingered outside long enough for the two targets to spot him. “Being bait is so boring,” sighed Gabriel over the intercom.
Hunter grinned. “Relax, it’s the easiest task,” he calmed his brother as he entered the restaurant.
“Focus guys,” warned Azura. “They’re here.”
Hunter spotted the man standing directly in the alley ahead of him. “I have eyes on one,” he said.
“I got eyes on the other,” informed Azura.
Hunter stepped back into the shadow of the building and vanished. The darkness engulfed him and he masked his scent so he could conceal himself better. Both the men were hiding in the same alley. They were careless not to look around them, which wasn’t strange because all of their focus was on Gabriel.
“One of them is moving,” said Azura. “He’s coming your way, Hunter.”
“I know,” his voice went quiet and so did everyone on the intercom. The man who had a bigger built walked across the road casually as he could, but his tattoos and bald head made him stick out like a sore thumb. The man made his way directly to Hunter who was ready to attack.
From the shadows, Hunter spotted Azura jump off the roof of the building she was positioned on top of. Her agile feet landed directly behind the other man. In a second, Azura emerged and took out the target.
The man that appeared in front of Hunter didn’t even know what happened around him. He had no clue of who waited in the shadows he thought would protect him. Hunter stepped out from under the darkness, he saw the target’s inky eyes broaden, before Hunter snapped his neck- not to kill him, just to knock him out quick and clean.
Lupin appeared right on time with a van. Hunter dropped the body he had and then Lupin went to Azura.
“Nicely done,” Ryder snickered over the intercom. “Poor fellas, they had no clue.”
Gabriel sauntered out of the restaurant at that time with five cups of coffee. “Are we done here?” he asked evenly.
“Yeah,” answered River.
Gabriel put his sunglasses back on and got in the car where River waited. But no one drove from their positions before their alpha safely departed. Lupin and Azura drove in the van and Hunter sped in front of his brother’s car, he escorted Gabriel back home. They safely reached the gates, but Lupin drove through the underground parking to drop off their packages.
Hunter parked his car, so did Gabriel. “Here,” Gabriel pushed a cup of coffee in Hunter’s hand.
Hunter drank the expresso because his brother got it for him, but he really didn’t feel like eating anything right now. His body and brain were wired to handle the mission, and it wasn’t over just yet.
“Azura’s waiting, let’s go,” said River as he appeared with his twin.
Hunter and all of them made their way into STAR tower, but instead of taking the stairs up, they went down to the cold concrete basement. This lair was built to interrogate whoever opposed as a threat against the Centauri pack. The concrete walls were thick and dense, built-in furnaces that were powerful so evidence could be destroyed, including the bodies. The basement had showers to use after Hunter or anyone else was done interrogating. It was a hopeless dungeon for anyone who was brought down here, because once they were, there was no glimpse of light or any hope of freedom or escape; especially since no one knew of this place- other than the victims and the people in the basement right now.
Gabriel, River and Ryder stood behind the two-way glass and Hunter entered the square concrete room. The two men they captured were tied down on wooden chairs, which would also be burned in the furnaces with their bodies. Their eyes focused on Hunter the moment he stepped into the room. They were scared because they had no idea what was about to happen to them- except that it was probably nothing good.
Hunter approached the small trolley that Azura positioned on the side. He grabbed a small towel and cleaned a long thin blade he preferred when completing this task. “I’m going to make this simple,” he offered calmly. “You can either tell me why you were tailing Alpha Gabriel Centauri-” Hunter played with the knife- “or I can hurt you.”
“We won’t say shit,” spat the man with the tattoos.
Hunter positioned his blade behind him. He grabbed the extra chair and sat in front of the one that spoke up. “I don’t need you to say anything,” said Hunter coldly. He turned and pointed at the one tied up next to them who was quaking in his shoes. “I’m going to torture the fuck out of you to scare him.” Hunter spun his blade around and stabbed the man right in the knee.
The man bellowed a curse as the knife had visibly penetrated through the entire knee.
“You see, this place is built of concrete and soundproof walls,” said Hunter. “So, scream and cry all you want. No one is coming to save you.” Hunter slowly, painfully slid the knife out of the man’s leg. Hunter’s wolf sneered and everything closed inside of him. He only had to use one knife to shred the man in front of him to pieces. The man was unable to say anything and was clearly dead in the next few seconds, because he was bleeding out right in front of his partner.
“Fuck,” the other man trembled. Tears soaked his face, which was as pale as a dead fish’s belly.
Hunter’s deadly eyes moved onto his next target. He dragged the chair in front of the trembling guy. “It’s up to you,” said Hunter as he wiped the blood on his face. “Do you want to die like him or more peacefully?”
“Lucas Waldorf wants to kill Alpha Gabriel,” said the man quickly to save his own life. “He put a bounty on Alpha Gabriel’s head that whoever can do it the fastest gets five million dollars.”
“How many know about this bounty?” asked Hunter.
The man shook his head. “I don’t know,” his sweat and his partner’s blood that landed on him went in his eyes, “but we’re not the only ones who tailed you. There are more out there, looking for an opportunity.”
Hunter itched his brow irritably. He didn’t even need to look back for a cue to kill this piece of trash. The knife he held cut straight through the man’s jugular in his neck, he bled out in a minute and died in two.
Azura entered the room with Conner and Brandon. They didn’t exchange any words because they knew how Hunter gets after interrogations. They grabbed the knife from his hand to dispose of it properly like everything else in the room.
Hunter left the chamber that smelt of blood, sweat and concrete. He met Gabriel’s dangerous gaze that matched his own, before he went off to the showers to get cleaned up. The showers were empty when Hunter arrived. He tore off his blood-soaked clothes and put them in the trash bag Azura left for him. The hot shower sprayed down Hunter’s dirty body that was still tense and on edge.
He put his hand on the wall and his head hung low as he stood silently under the spray of the hot water. For a momentary moment Hunter forgot that this was a part of his life. His job required him to become a beast that didn’t think twice before going for the kill.
Hunter clenched his jaw. He composed and locked down what was consuming him because that was the only way to get on with his day. The darkness twisted inside of him but he held on for his team. Hunter turned off the hot shower that wasn’t hot enough to burn off his skin, that he still felt like smelt of blood. He spotted the fresh clothes Ryder brought down for him and got dressed to meet Gabriel.
Hunter strode into the only room that wasn’t just concrete walls. It had a seating where everyone was right now and it had a desk for Gabriel, but he was standing in front of the roaring hearth. They all had the same expression and dangerous mood. Klaus, Viola and Vincent came from the institute and had joined them when they heard the news.
“There’s no reason to be worried,” Azura broke the grim silence. “We know about Lucas’s plan, that’s more than he could have imagined.”
“I agree,” said River. “If we stay careful and-”
“Let’s not take defence,” protested Ryder.
Hunter put his frozen hands in his pockets. “Lure Lucas out?” he suggested.
Viola stepped in. “You want to hang Gabriel in front of Lucas like a tease?” She astonished. “This is our brother, we’re talking about.”
“Because of the treaty, Lucas can’t attack Gabriel nor can his men,” reassured Vincent. “And anyone that knows about the bounty won’t attack Gabriel when Lucas is there.”
“Why would Lucas even try to kill Gabriel after the treaty?” asked Azura. “It’s a stupid move, especially since the consequence is being stripped of his title.”
“He’s not trying to kill me,” Gabriel spoke strictly. “The bounty is just to provoke me.”
“To get you to act up,” said Hunter. “He wants you to confront him, fight him.”
“Why would he want that?” asked Viola.
“So, Gabriel loses his title,” said Hunter.
“So, Lucas wants Gabriel to lose this territory and his alpha title?” asked Ryder.
“What better way to defeat your enemy,” answered River. “Don’t kill Gabriel but take everything that’s precious to him.”
Gabriel rubbed his jaw that was set hard and taut. “We can’t kill him and he can’t kill us,” said Gabriel.
“So, how do we get rid of someone like that?” asked Viola.
“Like I said, lure him out,” said Hunter. “Make him so blind and paranoid that he fucks up himself.”
“We just need Lucas to lose control and attack first,” ordered Gabriel. “The moment he does, it’s all over for him.”
“Why don’t we just set up a bounty larger than his,” suggested Ryder. “An army to hunt that asshole sounds pretty nice right now.”
“I don’t need an army,” menaced Gabriel. “I just need this little rebel to do what they do best-” Gabriel’s eyes viewed his team in front of him- “and watch how Lucas falls.”
It was a little past nine in the evening after they all finished discussing their next plan concerning Lucas. The thick clouds had covered the sunset and it was fairly dark on the property.
Hunter left the basement and emerged on the empty grounds where it wasn’t stuffy and low. Everyone had returned to their homes for the night, but Hunter didn’t go to his house. He sauntered towards his mate’s cabin without even realizing it. It was only until the light’s he installed on Hailey’s porch turned on that snapped his attention back to this world. He was already in front of her door, and he really didn’t want to be without her.
Hunter knocked thrice, before the door swung open and behind it stood Hailey. Her flaming red hair tied back; exposing her rosy cheeks, red lips and those striking eyes. The scent of concrete, blood and sweat was erased when she opened the door for him. Hunter was surrounded by the scent of her subtle perfume that was Hunter’s personal drug, and her warmth that wrapped around his body.
“What’s wrong?” she asked when she noticed his blank expression.
“Nothing,” he lied because he didn’t want this part of his job to affect her light. “Just been a long day.”
Hailey smile broadened. “I know how you feel,” she said and ushered him inside.
“Did the kids give you trouble?” asked Hunter.
“Oh no, not at all,” she waved her hand at the notion. “They were perfect. But it’s just been one of those days where it feels like it’s never going to end.”
Hunter clenched his jaw. Hailey’s gaze assessed him when he turned it all off again. “Were you baking something?” he asked as he smelt the sugary dough, icing and cream from her kitchen.
Her eyes lit up like Christmas lights. “It’s one of my student’s birthday tomorrow,” she said cheerfully. “I’m going to surprise her and everyone with some cake.”
“You really do spoil them,” remarked Hunter with the faintest smile.
Hailey laughed as she made her way back to the kitchen. “I love spoiling everyone with my baking,” she said. “Would you like to help me?”
Hunter came around and stood in the kitchen with her. “What can I help you with?” He asked her a simple question. But in his own heart, he asked himself what his hands could do that wasn’t vicious or cruel.
Hailey pushed a bowl in his hands. “Mix, please.”
The same hands that held a blade that was brutally used to kill two men, Hailey had replaced it with a whisk. The golden light in the kitchen illuminated the darkness in the entire house. He was glad it was dark and quiet, he marvelled in the peace that his mate brought to him. Hunter diligently completed his task and handed Hailey the cream, which was whipped to a fluffy consistence.
Hailey grabbed the bowl from him and replaced it with a chocolate chip cookie. “A treat for a good job,” she teased.
Hunter ate the cookie, which the was the first crumb of food he could stomach all day. “Thanks.”
“You look like you haven’t eaten all day,” said Hailey. “Do you want me to make something for you?”
“No,” he said. “I’m not hungry.”
Hailey lifted her head. Her eyes stared directly into his and Hunter cracked under her gaze that spoke a thousand words. She raised her hand and laid it on his cheek where all the blood had splattered earlier. But now, the coldness had been replaced by Hailey’s warm touch. Hunter leaned into her hand.
“I don’t know much about the demons you’re fighting right now,” Hailey said firmly, “but I do know that it gets better.”
Hunter knew that he stared at Hailey with something he only showed her…vulnerability.