Chapter 25: Waiting Game
Hailey was in Viola’s master bedroom putting her expensive red dress on, as the other girls got ready in the lounge room. She stood in front of the long mirror taking one final glimpse over her appearance. The dress molded to her body; every curve was structured to look breath-taking. The satin finish on the gown was her favourite part. Hailey fixed the off-shoulder neckline that confined her breasts. The heels helped Hailey control the small trail and the slit that ran along her leg.
“Are you ready, Hailey?” asked Sakura from behind the door.
“Yeah,” she took a deep breath. “All done.” Hailey walked out with the gown on once again. Sakura removed the clips from Hailey’s styled hair that took an hour, since it was long and thick. Sakura’s stylist sprayed hairspray one more time over Hailey’s curled hair. Her heavy hair was twisted into a loose chignon, a few tendrils fell free around her face and neck. Sakura put little diamond studs into the weave of curls, so every time her hair hit the light the diamonds blinked. The last task was to put those red satin gloves that ended at her elbows.
“Perfect,” stated Sakura. “After a good hour, you two are finally ready.”
Viola rose from the chair and looked absolutely stunning. The icy crystal choker around her neck captured everyone’s attention. Her gold hair was sleeked back in a low chignon, her regal eyes were sharp and ferocious. The blue gown made her look formidable and presented her like the infamous Centauri she was.
Hailey and Viola joined Azura down at the foyer. The guard wore a dark suit with an open-collared crisp white shirt. Azura fashioned heels that had red soles and silver spikes all over the black leather heels.
“You look killer, Azura,” complimented Viola.
“Thanks. You ladies look beautiful too,” she said. Azura pulled out her hand from her pocket and looked at her watch with annoyance. “Why aren’t they ready yet?”
“It’s different in this house,” Viola turned to Hailey. “The boys take longer than the girls.”
Hailey laughed and waited for everyone to arrive, but time passed and no one showed. She felt a little stuffy standing in the middle of the hectic house. So, she opened the door behind her to take a breather, but then, she was ambushed by River and Ryder who were dressed in matching suits.
“You look stunning, Hailey,” said Ryder as he came up to her on the porch.
“Thanks,” she smiled bashfully. “You two look very handsome. It’s nice to see you two in something other than training gear.”
River and Ryder chuckled together, and then, they went inside to see where everyone was because they were getting late. Hailey heard Ryder’s whistle that rang through the house to call the rest of the Centauri’s- expect Klaus who decided to stay home and skip the party. Hailey returned to the house with the others, when Hunter came down the stairs in an unhurried pace. In a three-piece suit, he looked sophisticated and rich, but that devilish glint in his amber eyes was still as pulsating. Like his brothers, he had raked back his dark and thick hair. The sharp contours of his face were prominent and made him more wickedly handsome.
“Let’s get going,” said Vincent as he appeared in a dark burgundy suit.
“We were waiting on you, remember?” remarked Viola.
Vincent walked out the door. “Now, we’re waiting on you,” he snickered as they all went to the underground sector of the property.
Hunter promptly made his way next to Hailey’s side. His arm circled around her waist without hesitation and he tucked her close to him. “You look stunning,” he said softly as they deliberately put distance between them and the group.
Hailey was surrounded by his dark cologne, which was pleasantly strong tonight. “Thank you,” she composed herself as best she could. “You don’t look so bad yourself,” she whispered, teasing him when they were alone.
Hunter stern composure fell and he smirked very charismatically. “I might just make a detour if you keep that up,” he stated.
Hailey shrugged innocently. “I didn’t do anything,” she defended herself.
“Uh huh,” he smirked as he backed her against the car door. “All that red and those blue eyes of yours. Fire and ice, all in one.” Hunter opened the passenger door for her. Hailey got in and he closed door before getting in the car himself.
“Everyone is going in different cars?” she asked him.
“Yeah,” he said. “If anyone wants to leave early or if something happens, it’s easier to make an escape.”
Hailey viewed everyone get in their respected cars. Viola and Vincent got in a car with Ryder, and his twin got in the car with Gabriel and Azura. Suddenly, her vision was blocked by a suit. Hunter had come over to her side.
“Buckle up, baby,” he said, but he grabbed the seatbelt himself and fastened it over her.
“I could’ve done that myself,” she alleged.
Hunter’s grin didn’t fall ever since they got to be alone. “I like strapping you in,” he remarked hotly. Hunter turned the keys and the ignition of the convertible came to life. The blue head-lights turned on and Hunter gripped onto the leather steering-wheel.
One by one the cars exited the lot and entered the freeway under the starry night in the city. Hunter drove smoothly down the roads, he maneuvered with skill and stayed calm beside her. She always hesitated before she let someone else drive her because of her past experience- that was still very fresh in her memory. But in this car, with Hunter behind the wheel, she was calm and her wolf was at ease. She guessed it was because of their bond, but as Hailey studied him drive, she knew it was because he was so in control of every move that she felt safe.
“Are you nervous?” he asked her in the quiet, comfortable car.
Hailey was surprised he could sense even the minor change in her. “No, not anymore,” she said candidly.
“If you feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable or bothered at the party, you tell me right away,” he instructed. His intense eyes met hers for a brief second.
“I’ll be fine, Hunter,” she said.
Hunter jaw tightened. “I know you’ll be, but in case you do,” he said, “you have to tell me.”
Hailey nodded. “Okay.” She didn’t try fighting or making it difficult, and why would she? Hunter was thinking about her after all.
In another long twenty minutes, they had arrived to a massive banquet which resembled an old, rich manor. There were many windows and balconies, and from each, streams of golden light spilled out breaking into the dark night. The two main doors were wide open, guests were still arriving with their own pack members and families.
Hunter took the car to the front and a valet opened her door as soon as they stopped. She had just stepped out and Hunter was already by her side. Hunter tossed the keys of the car to the young man, who gladly got in the convertible and took it to the parking-area behind the manor. Gabriel, Vincent, Viola, River, Ryder and Azura punctually joined them on the steps.
“Make sure all your cellphones are with you,” said River. “And for god’s sake, don’t get drunk.” They all laughed at the stern wolf who never stopped being the mature guardian in the group.
“Keeps your eyes on Waldorf,” said Gabriel sternly. “I don’t want any trouble tonight.”
They all entered the banquet of wolf packs who had gathered to celebrate their titles and successes under the full moon granted by Maya.
Hunter arm was around Hailey’s waist, the small smile he had in the car with her when they were alone had vanished. He had become the cold-hearted and ruthless beta of the Centauri pack. His gaze scanned, analyzed everything around them, he didn’t miss anything as he observed his environment. But it wasn’t just him, all of them had turned into something else entirely. The relaxed, down-to-earth wolves she knew had taken a seat back. These were the wolves everyone feared, but definitely respected in the world and in this banquet. All eyes had landed on them the moment they had set foot inside the grand hall. Gabriel although dressed in black stood out the most- every single gaze was on him as he sauntered through the hall towards the front.
The floor was golden marble, each window had velvety sapphire drapes that looked fit enough for royalty, but everyone that was here in the hall deserved a hall like this one. There were dozens of chandeliers and the statues that were ethereal. Guests had gathered around the hall and didn’t take a seat at their designated tables, which were on the other side of the hall.
“Is this someone’s home?” she whispered to Hunter.
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s Czar Bacardi’s and his wife’s manor.”
“Why does that name ring a bell,” she observed.
“He’s the alpha of the WhiteWolf pack,” said Hunter.
A tall man approached them with a scowl and a very fierce green gaze. Although, from his intimidating demeanour, he didn’t feel dangerous as he made his way over to Gabriel.
“Gabriel,” his voice was husky and deep. “Glad you could make it.”
“You know I only came because it’s at your house, Czar,” said Gabriel.
The man in front of them was Czar Bacardi, the alpha of the WhiteWolf Pack. Formidable and private, was what he was known for in the wolf and business world. Everyone knew that Czar and his wife kept a tight lock on their pack from the outside world. He wasn’t a cruel pack leader from what Hailey had heard through the grapevine. But from his scars that ran over his neck and hands, his eyes were sharp and alert, she thought otherwise. Czar was a deadly alpha who was respected even by Gabriel, and that wasn’t something common for someone like Gabriel to confess.
“Czar-” A woman emerged through the crowd with a vibrant smile. Her brunette hair spilled down her back in heavy curls. She had big, blue eyes like a porcelain doll and her skin was just as flawless. She adorned a midnight black gown that was long and elegant, and it glittered like the stars.
“Lady Bacardi,” Gabriel grabbed the woman’s hand and kissed it. “Thank you for inviting us.”
Lady Veronica Bacardi laughed not because of what Gabriel had done, but because that gesture irked her husband. “Oh, calm down, Czar,” she smacked her husband’s tough shoulder. “The boy’s just being kind.”
Czar rolled his eyes. “Let’s just get them to their table,” he said after glaring at Gabriel.
Hailey inwardly laughed at the couple. Czar was an impressive alpha who dominated his pack with an iron-hand. But his bubble, charming wife made him feel like an endearing man who is always dotting on his woman.
“It’s hard to see someone like Czar with a woman like that,” she whispered to Hunter.
Hunter smiled. “Czar’s a bit on the tough side.”
“A bit?” astonished Hailey. “He looks more dangerous than you.” Hunter quietly chuckled beside her.
Lady Bacardi’s sparkling eyes found Hunter. “I heard the news,” she said kindly. “Is this your mate?”
“Hailey Swan,” she introduced herself. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Lady Bacardi and her husband shook Hailey’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you,” remarked Lady Bacardi. “I’ve been waiting years for these kids to find a mate. So, I’m thrilled to finally see that it’s possible.”
Hailey chuckled and looked over to Hunter’s embarrassed expression. “It’s wonderful when you find your mate,” she shared.
Lady Bacardi looked up into her husband’s eyes. “Sure is,” she smiled. “I was great friends with Rose Centauri. And I know the one thing she was thrilled about was her kids finding mates for themselves. So, I feel like I’m living this wish for her.” At the mention of their mom; Gabriel, Viola, Vincent and Hunter stiffened. Lady Bacardi laid her hand on Hunter’s arm. “Your mom would be proud,” she said gently. “You’ve found a beautiful mate.”
“Thank you,” said Hunter sincerely.
“We should greet the other guests, Veronica,” Czar spoke.
Lady Bacardi hugged Hailey and then went over to Viola and Azura. Before she left them settled at their table, she greeted all of them personally, and then, she joined her husband.
“She seems nice,” whispered Hailey as Hunter pulled the chair out for her. “How long have you all known her?”
“We knew her since we were young,” said Vincent. “She used to take us shopping with our mom.”
Hailey smiled at the cute memory. Hunter sat down and positioned his arm behind her chair. Their round table was in the front of the dance floor where everyone stood just chatting away with friends and partners. Waiters swarmed around their table placing chilled glasses of golden champagne and plates of food. They couldn’t wait to dig into the food because this group was always ready, but then, the atmosphere around their table grew cold.
“Gabriel,” a voice she didn’t recognize spoke behind their alpha. A white haired robust old man stood with a glower and his inky black eyes masked with fake charm. There was another man who stood next to the older one. He was tall, muscular and had a buzz cut with the same black eyes.
“It’s good to see you here, Lucas,” said Gabriel, not even bothering to get out of his seat to greet the alpha. “I didn’t think Czar would have invited you because of what you pulled at his birthday party last year.”
Anger rose in Lucas’s dark eyes. “All was forgiven,” he gritted out. “Czar isn’t one to hold grudges.”
“You should learn something from him,” remarked Vincent.
The other man next to him who was obviously Lucas’s beta reacted negatively to Vincent’s comment. But Lucas stopped his beta from speaking or doing anything.
“All differences aside, it feels liberating to be here with the Centauri’s,” said Lucas. “I never thought in this lifetime, I’d get to make peace with your father’s pack.”
“It’s my pack now, Lucas,” gritted out Gabriel. He lifted his scalding eyes and glared at Lucas.
“Of course,” Lucas laughed flatly, with no life. “Enjoy the party.” Lucas turned to leave when he froze in his tracks and looked right into Hailey’s observant eyes. “Is this your mate, Hunter?” he asked as his eyes never left Hailey’s face.
Hunter didn’t answer, his dangerous scowl was enough said.
“Congratulations,” he sounded like he was cursing them instead of praising them. “It’s not every day a wolf finds his mate,” he said and then he walked off with his beta.
“Ruined the party right from the start,” grumbled Vincent.
Ryder downed all the champagne. “He had some nerve,” he said. “Coming here after all the shit he’s pulling behind our backs.”
“Quiet down, you two,” rebuked River. “This is not the place to discuss that matter.”
“They didn’t say anything wrong,” added Viola. “Lucas has some balls.”
Azura crossed her legs and her arms. “I would have happily butchered them right here and serve them to the rest of the guests as appetizers.”
Viola sneered coldly. “I don’t think anyone here would enjoy trash, Azura.”
Hailey noticed Hunter and Gabriel discreet demeanour. They both didn’t interfere in the conversation, but they shared the same concern in their eyes without exchanging one word.
“Was that Lucas Waldorf?” she asked Hunter quietly, who responded to her question with a nod. “And was that the beta who fought with you last time.”
“Don,” Hunter gritted out the name like it was a profanity.
Hailey dropped the subject right then and there, she didn’t want to ruin Hunter’s mood even more by bringing up matters, that were definitely still fresh in Hunter’s memory. But looking around the table, everyone’s mood had already diminished.
“The food looks great,” she announced happily. “We should eat before it gets cold.” Hailey got out of her seat and started to pass around the seasoned chicken bites and cold salad. “I wonder what’s for dessert?”
“Your mind is always on cakes,” remarked Viola jokingly.
Hailey finished the bite in her mouth and shared; “Parties are a great place to get more ideas.” She filled the plate in front of Hunter and urged him to eat. “It’ll help,” she whispered to him. He kissed her temple, and then, he followed her simple order and started to eat. Thankfully now, the mood around the table had lightened and everyone was back to smiling instead of frowning.
As Hailey dug into the pasta, she asked them; “What other packs are here?”
Hunter leisurely drank a glass of malt whiskey. “Five packs including ours, the WhiteWolf pack and the Waldorf,” he told her.
“The IronWolf pack is here too,” said Vincent. “Along with the CrimsonNorth pack.”
“The rest of the people are politicians, friends and family of Czar’s,” said Hunter.
As the party progressed, many businessmen and woman came to their table and greeted Gabriel. And as always, the Centauri alpha was as composed and cool with everyone that he met. Hunter was by Gabriel’s side the whole time- they knew everyone’s names and faces. Hailey saw a new side to them today. Hailey leaned back in the chair and viewed the grand party that was bustling with people of all race, heritage but they all had one thing in common and that was their status in the world.
A woman sat in front of a grand piano dressed in a simple black dress. Her nimble fingers played on the black and white keys of the instrument. A sweet, enchanting tune played that wasn’t overwhelming but calming, engrossed Hailey and many others into the classic melody.
Czar stepped onto the stage after the woman finished her piece. He welcomed the guests and urged them all to enjoy the night with drinks and food. From what Hailey gathered just from the start of this party was that not everyone here was an ally of the Centauri family. She understood the dangers of being such a powerful pack brought upon Gabriel, Hunter and the rest of them. Czar wished them a joyful night, but something bugged Hailey, and she sensed that this night held some surprises for everyone, which included her too.