Chapter 30: Knights at the Round Table
A warm day rolled in with a bright blue sky and the sun shining to its full glory. The air was humid and not one leaf moved on any tree outside the property. Hunter was already downstairs in the busy kitchen dressed to go to the company with Gabriel. Viola and Klaus were eating breakfast around the counter. Vincent waltzed into the galley dressed in a suit ready for the demanding day, that wasn’t unusual for them.
“Where’s Hailey?” Vincent asked as he grabbed the sandwich Klaus had prepared for all of them.
“She’s still getting ready,” said Hunter.
“How is she feeling today?” Klaus frowned disrupting his calm expression. “She seemed a bit down last night.”
Hunter wasn’t surprised when Klaus had detected that Hailey’s mood was off. Klaus had the knack to see people’s truth without exchanging any words with them. “She’s doing better,” Hunter believed. “A car accident yesterday reminded Hailey of her parents-” they stiffened when they heard that piece of news- “her parents died in a car crash and she carried that burden around with her for years.”
“Can you blame her,” Viola sighed wearily. “We all carry the loss of our own parents too.”
Hunter’s gaze landed on Klaus who had turned away from them. His back slouched over the sink as he rinsed his hands under cold water. “No one should carry a weight like that,” Hunter said to them, but he directed those words mostly to Klaus. “The child carries no fault.” Klaus stiffened when Hunter expressed those words to them. Viola and Vincent both looked at their baby brother with solemn expressions.
Vincent supportively patted Klaus on the back. “Thanks for the breakfast,” he smiled warmly and Klaus smiled back at them too. “Where’s Gabriel? We have to get going.”
Hailey was the one who joined them in the kitchen next. “Good morning,” she greeted them kindly. Hunter could tell that she had rested well from last night and was back to her usual self. She sauntered over to Hunter’s side dressed in a black dress with her flaming red hair loosely tumbling down her back. Klaus passed her a sandwich for her to enjoy as well before they went to the Institute together.
Hailey looked at the clock, and then, she directed her gaze towards Klaus and Viola. “We should head out soon,” she suggested as she finished up her quick breakfast.
“Yeah, let’s get this show on the road,” said Viola. She slipped off the stool and the three teachers grouped together near the front-door. Gabriel had arrived just on time too, his expression looked stricter than usual. Hunter and Vincent joined Gabriel at the door with everyone else. They all left the house behind as Klaus locked the entrance securely.
Hunter sauntered around his siblings and put his arm around Hailey. He gathered her close to his side. “Have a great day,” he whispered near her ear.
Hailey’s smile grew bashful. “You too,” she said. “I’ll see you tonight.” Hailey waved him off and joined Klaus and Viola who were on their way to the Institute.
“Hailey seems to be doing better,” alleged Gabriel.
Hunter nodded. “That woman went through some tough shit,” he said. “But that didn’t stop her from building a new life.”
Gabriel strict frown lifted into an eased smile. “Those are the best kind of people,” he laid a hand on Hunter’s shoulder.
“Do we have to wait all day for you two?” Vincent asked his brothers cynically.
Gabriel rolled his eyes as Hunter had done too. The twin arrived punctually as always and joined them around the cars. They drove through Manhattan with speed, that helped them get to their destination in half the time. Arriving at the steel-blue skyscraper known as Centauri Enterprise; Hunter and River followed Gabriel after Ryder accompanied Vincent to his office in the Law Department.
“Vincent got the house signed off,” said Gabriel as they entered his office on the top floor. “Although, we still have a few papers to sign, but the house and property is under our name.”
Hunter’s ears perked with interest. “The manor is yours now?”
Gabriel nodded. “I don’t know how Vincent did it, but he pulled it off faster than I thought,” he commended.
“That’s why he was in such a rush today,” Hunter figured. “He wanted to get this done as fast as possible.” Hunter couldn’t help but smile. Finally, the house was Gabriel’s now once and for all.
“I also called you here so you could sign too,” Gabriel revealed.
Hunter settled back on the couch, that faced Gabriel’s table and the massive sky-high windows, which displayed the impressive view of New York city. “What do you mean?” Hunter asked Gabriel.
River settled in a seat next to Hunter. “I thought you were going to get Klaus to sign off with you?” he asked Gabriel.
“I thought the same too,” said Hunter. “I favour that idea more, actually.”
Gabriel leaned back on his desk. He crossed his arms as he did his legs, that were spread out in front of him. “I’m thinking of getting everyone to sign for the house,” he said. “I want all of us to have equal shares.”
Hunter frowned grimly. “You know we don’t care for those things, Gabriel,” he said. “Whether it’s the house or the company. Your name is on everything and we prefer it that way.”
Gabriel took a deep breath in, and then, he slowly let it out. “It’s not about that, Hunter,” he said. “I want all of you to have shares in the company because you have a future to think about now. You’re mated to Hailey and soon you’re going to want to build a home with her, a family.”
“I know, but-”
Gabriel held his hand up stopping Hunter. “Viola, Vincent and Klaus are going to find mates and have kids too,” he added reasonably. “I want all of you secured so when you need to support your family, you can do it without any troubles. I need you to make sure everyone signs to the rights of the house. I will get Vincent to work up the papers for the company tomorrow.”
Hunter nodded. “Whatever you need, brother,” he said.
“I also have a few investors in mind that I wanted to team up with,” revealed Gabriel. “They’re a bit rough around the edges, but I like them.”
“Names?” asked River.
“Well, the first one is King Vitiello,” disclosed Gabriel.
River and Hunter shared a worried frown. “Isn’t he a bit too rough?” asked Hunter austerely.
“Vitiello has a pristine name in the business industry,” said Gabriel. “But he’s known for his control over the underworld, that’s why I want him.”
River shook his head. “He’s had dealings with traffickers, weapon’s dealerships and drug cartels all over the world,” he informed Gabriel.
“But he’s shut more of them down than anyone else ever has,” added Gabriel. “I like how he conducts his business and I want him on my side.”
“Did you already contact him?” asked Hunter.
Gabriel sighed despairingly. “I tried a few times, no response or call back,” he said. “Honestly, I didn’t expect anything different from the solitary wolf. I was almost going to give up too, if I hadn’t met him during my trip to Russia.”
“Last year?” asked Hunter.
Gabriel nodded. “I met a few viable prospects that can serve me well,” he told them. “I just need them to see the benefits they’ll have too.”
“Do you need me to talk to them?” asked Hunter strictly.
Gabriel tilted his head. “And scare them off,” he scoffed. “No, thanks. This needs to be handled with tact and a degree of charm, that you don’t have.”
“Vincent could do the trick,” suggested River.
“I was thinking that too,” said Gabriel. “But I have a feeling Vitiello is going to need another kind of push.”
To be entirely honest, Hunter didn’t know what the grin on Gabriel’s face entailed. Hunter wasn’t surprised that his brother was gathering more investors on his side. This was just an ordinary occasion for Gabriel Centauri. Except, King Vitiello was a dangerous man and wolf who had grown his name all on his own in this cruel and unusual world. Hunter wasn’t aware of the details nor did he ever meet King Vitiello. But for a single man to wipe out legions of dealerships and drug cartels had a special type of power in the underworld. If Gabriel wanted Vitiello on his side, then Gabriel would figure out a way to do that without even lifting a finger, that much Hunter was sure of about his older brother.
A knock interrupted their conversation.
“Mr. Centauri-” the receptionist from the security desk on the first floor popped her head inside with a troubled frown.
“What is it, Cassie?” Gabriel asked.
“Lucas Waldorf is here to see you,” she said with concern that was clear on her young face. “He said that he had an appointment, but I wasn’t told anything about that. So, I didn’t let him pass.”
River frowned and got out of his seat. “Where is he, Cassie?” he asked.
“I took him to the lounge area so he wouldn’t throw a tantrum in front of the lobby,” she said firmly.
“Thanks, Cassie,” said Gabriel when he turned his deep frown to River. “Make sure that man doesn’t wander. Bring him straight here to me.” River left the office with Cassie.
“What’s he doing here?” asked Hunter sourly.
“Probably here to gloat,” supposed Gabriel. “From what I know, he’s going to say something along the lines of how I shouldn’t make any mistakes while he’s around.”
“I’ve wanted to put a bullet in Lucas’s head for a long time now,” grumbled Hunter, “and his smug beta.” Hunter’s blood was already boiling off the charts. His wolf feeling the same adrenaline coursing through them.
“Soon,” whispered Gabriel, when suddenly, the door opened and Lucas sauntered inside with his beta Don. River closed the door as he entered last with the same irked expression, that matched Hunter’s and Gabriel’s face.
“Good morning, Gabriel,” said Lucas as he fixed himself a drink. Don’s inky black eyes landed directly on Hunter. His brow raised as a tease and he grinned before he crossed his arms.
“What brings you here, Lucas?” asked Gabriel.
“Oh, come on, can’t we share a drink sometimes?” asked Lucas as he stood facing the massive windows. He let out a whistle. “What a view,” he praised as he drank Gabriel’s favourite whiskey from the squared glass. “Everything looks so small from up here. Must be hard to see everyone.”
“I see perfectly fine, Lucas,” said Gabriel. “You should be more careful at your age. None of us want you falling blind or sick anytime soon. Especially, now that we’re allies.”
Lucas threw the rest of the drink in the back of his throat. “Being allies with you has finally given me some peaceful night’s rest,” he connived. “The long and boring feud is over, now my old bones can take it easy.”
“Don’t strain yourself, Lucas,” Gabriel warned. “The treaty was signed to put everyone at ease. There’s no need to rile ourselves up again. Or you might lose what you already have.”
Hunter sensed Gabriel’s dark aura permeate through the massive office. Gabriel was clearly warning Lucas to call off the bounty and save himself the consequences of his actions. But Hunter knew that these two imbeciles, that walked in here didn’t come looking for friendship or peace. They wanted bloodshed and Gabriel destroyed, but Hunter or any of their pack members weren’t going to let that happen.
“That’s the curse of a throne, Gabriel,” said Lucas. “Once you’re seated, you don’t wish to lose it. But it’s a constant reminder of the danger outside your doors.”
“Only fools are scared to lose their throne, Lucas,” said Gabriel calmly.
Lucas’s face twisted. “Don’t be arrogant,” rebuked Lucas with a sneer.
Gabriel turned his head and glared at Lucas. “You don’t get it,” he said. “You can take my seat, my throne, even my whiskey. But people don’t follow just anyone that sits on the Centauri throne. They choose to follow me. And wherever I sit, is the throne, Lucas.”
The facade on Lucas’s face fell pale. “One mistake is all it takes,” he forewarned.
“I don’t make mistakes, Lucas,” Gabriel’s brutal eyes pierced through Lucas and Don.
Lucas’s phone buzzed in his pocket. He dropped his eyes from Gabriel and answered the phone call with a curt discussion. “I guess our time has been cut short,” remarked Lucas. His face turned red from annoyance, that was clear as day to everyone in the room.
“Escort Lucas out of the building, River,” ordered Gabriel. “We don’t want him getting lost.” River bit back his laugh as he opened the door and took Lucas and Don to the first floor.
“What an asshole,” grumbled Hunter.
“He’ll never understand,” Gabriel shook his head in a sigh.
“Understand what?” he asked his brother.
Gabriel finally took the seat behind the dark desk, that only belonged to him. No one else ever had the nerve to sit in that chair. “I wasn’t given anything from our father,” he said. “Our pack looked to me to lead when our mother died.”
Hunter smirked. “No one could have done it better,” he remarked.
“Lucas believes that fear drives people to follow him,” he said. “But I’ve noticed that true loyalty lies in hands of a leader who instills courage in his followers.”
Hunter looked sternly at his brother. “Why do I get the feeling that Lucas is going to do something very stupid?” Hunter sighed as he leaned back.
“The bounty that Lucas put to end me will only end him,” said Gabriel. “He can send whoever he wants to kill me. But it won’t work.”
“We won’t let anyone hurt you,” said Hunter with a deep frown. “Lucas has to face your pack before he can get to you.”
The door reopened and River sauntered back in. “Lucas looked ready to explode,” he laughed all the way inside.
Gabriel smirked. “Lucas should’ve just retired when I gave him the chance.”
“He’ll retire very soon,” Hunter said, “to the grave, that is.”
“It smells like cheap cologne in here now,” River scrunched up his nose. “I need a drink.”
“Get me one too,” said Gabriel as River got out of his seat.
“I had to ask you guys something,” said Hunter. Gabriel and River looked up from their glasses. “Hailey told me about her parents last night. They lived on the road a lot, and at first, I thought it was because they were rogues. But something didn’t sit right with me.”
Gabriel fixed the vest of his suit. “Her parents weren’t part of a pack?” he asked.
Hunter shook his head. “From what Hailey told me, it felt like they were on the run,” he told Gabriel and River. “They never stayed in one place for more than a couple of months. And when they did, they were killed in car crash.”
“Rogues are always hunted for sport,” said River bitterly. “Some packs are known for setting bounties on rogue wolves for competitions or prize money.”
“I need to know more about it,” said Hunter.
River nodded. “I’m on it,” he said before he looked down at his watch. “Damn it, we needed to get you two into the conference hall, like ten minutes ago.”
Hunter and Gabriel made it to their meeting before they got too late. He left River and Ryder to find what he needed to answer the questions of Hailey’s past. At least then, his mate could have some closure about the past that burdened her.
The dark sky outside the windows of Gabriel’s office told Hunter how late they had worked until. Hunter rolled the knots in his neck; his tie had come off and the jacket to his suit was discarded to the side. All the meetings, conferences were over for Hunter but Gabriel was in one last brief meeting with the shareholders. Vincent had already gone home with Ryder. A short while back, River returned with a very thin file on Hailey’s parents. Hunter was surprised that the twins had found the information already. But nothing was hidden too far in the dark for River and Ryder Drakov to not be able to find.
Hunter opened the file; two squared photos fell out of a man and woman. Hunter immediately recognized the flaming red hair and those silvery blue eyes the woman had. Hailey was the spitting image of her mother. Hunter turned to the other papers and read the brief data that was reported ages ago. Marcel Swan and Layla Swan were married for 9 years before they had Hailey. They worked for the secret organization known as the Black Seal. Intrigued, Hunter flipped the page and continued to read down the report. Hunter figured out that Hailey’s parents weren’t just any rogues. They were mercenaries that helped the Black Seal find and annihilate wolves who hunted rogues. Hailey parents were like Zero, they dedicated their lives to protect those who couldn’t.
“What are you reading so closely?” asked Gabriel as he returned from the meeting with River by his side too.
“Hailey’s parents were part of the Black Seal,” he told his brother. “They hunted corrupt organizations, politicians and packs that hurt rogues.”
Gabriel grew stern. “The Black Seal ended decades ago,” he said. “Zero is the only one that continues the same vendetta.”
“It must have ended after Hailey’s parents died,” he figured.
“They were most likely important members then,” considered Gabriel. “Your mate keeps getting more interesting.”
Hunter smirked down at the paper. “I was thinking the same thing too,” he mumbled.
Gabriel shrugged on his jacket. “Let’s head home,” he told Hunter. “We’ll finish up everything else tomorrow.”
Hunter gathered everything off the couch and followed Gabriel and River to their cars. The exited their building and strolled onto the dark pathway. The lights had all been turned off in the buildings around them and the street was grim, like the cold weather that was setting in over them. Hunter’s back stiffened when they all stood out in the open on the empty street; it was terribly quiet; enough for it to become ghostly… almost sinister.
“River,” Hunter’s voice grew hoarse as he alerted them of the foreboding danger.
“I know,” grumbled River as he stepped in front of Gabriel like a shield. “The car is parked on the south side. I need you to cover our back as I get Gabriel in the car.”
“Got it,” said Hunter. His eyes surveyed the perimeter that was pitch black- expect for the flickering street lights nothing else could be seen. Even the moon had hidden away behind thick storm clouds that rolled in on this humid day.
“There’s more than one,” alerted Gabriel. “Three are on the left and there are two right in front of us.”
“Lucas must have called for them to attack us,” gritted out River.
Hunter raked his hair. “I can handle it here,” he said. “River, take Gabriel.”
Gabriel’s mood darkened. “We can fight them better if we stay together,” he told them. But the boys didn’t budge on their plan, that would ensure their alpha’s safety above all else.
Electric blue lightning sliced through the black clouds, and soon later, thunder reverberated over all of New York’s skyscrapers. The mercenaries in the dark emerged with masks and sharp weapons, that were meant to be concealed and quick when used for confrontational fights.
“Gabriel, I need you to move,” said Hunter.
Gabriel rolled his eyes. “No, let me help-”
Hunter scowled at Gabriel. “I can’t let you get hurt,” he gritted out. “Don’t be stubborn and go with River.”
Gabriel clenched his jaw tightly. “Don’t go easy on any of them,” he growled.
Hunter exchanged a heavy look with Gabriel and River, reassuring both of them that this was the last place he’d perish and fall. Hunter waited until Gabriel was safely in the car and on the road before he prepared himself for the fight. Hunter silently vanished under the shadows of the storm, that was going to be his ally in this fight. These mercenaries may have been trained to fight and collect, but Hunter was ruthlessly trained to kill without hesitation. In the darkness of the rumbling storm, two amber pinpricks were all the mercenaries saw before Hunter snapped their necks in half.