Chapter 5: Young Hearts
Hailey walked alongside Hunter and maintained a good distance between them. She kept a light conversation going so they wouldn’t silently be walking in front of the other pack members, even though they were too busy working on their own things to even notice them. She had to admit that she was tremendously nervous around Hunter, his penetrating gaze and invigorating scent of dark pine and leather made her trip over her own two feet.
“It’s a beautiful day,” she commented.
Hunter’s eyes moved over her face. “It is,” he answered. “Great for a run.”
“Or a swim,” she groaned inwardly for saying that, she didn’t want to give him the wrong intention that she wanted to go take a swim with him.
Hunter’s smirk appeared. “You sure like to talk,” he observed.
Hailey awkwardly laughed. “It’s bit of a habit when I’m nervous,” she told him.
“Why are you nervous?” he asked earnestly.
Hailey wondered if he was seriously asking her that question. This man did not know the effect he had on people. “You’re quite intimidating,” she revealed. “If you haven’t noticed.”
Hunter shrugged. “I’ve been told,” he said. “But you don’t need to feel such a way. I actually quite like you.”
Hailey chuckled. “Right, I like you too,” she mentally screamed at herself for spewing gibberish. She probably sounded like a teenager talking to her lifelong crush. Not that she had a crush on Hunter, it was just something he did to her that made her not want to leave his side all day. And her wolf couldn’t agree more.
Hailey’s house was inches away. “Thank you for walking me home, I’m sure you had other things to do,” she said as they stopped just before the porch stairs.
Hunter straightened his shoulders. “I would’ve walked you home either way,” he told her openly.
Hailey didn’t know how to respond to that, she pondered over why he was showing such an interest. She didn’t want to get the wrong signal and he wasn’t as transparent as she thought he would be.
“I can’t seem to figure you out, Hunter Centauri,” she aspirated.
Hunter’s golden gaze brightened. “I’m not that complicated,” he disclosed. “It’s my wolf you should worry about.”
Hailey laughed at his conviction. She turned towards her house, when suddenly, her arm was seized in tight hold, she looked back and found Hunter’s eyes narrowed and his smile turned into a frown.
“What’s wrong?” She asked him the reason behind his sudden change of attitude.
“Do you always leave your door open?” He asked strictly.
Hailey looked back at the front door and it really was open. “That’s weird,” she mumbled.
“Stay here,” ordered Hunter.
“Er- I don’t think so,” she followed him despite his order.
Compared to her, Hunter crowded the small porch. The cabin size seemed to shrink with him on it, the space that was only meant for her felt so different with Hunter here with her, his relaxed confidence made his presence at her home so intimately personal. Hunter’s muscular stature filled the frame of her door and he moved forward without hesitation.
Hailey panicked when she realized the mess that would be inside her house. “Hold on,” she grabbed his strong arm and barred him from entering her house. “You can’t go inside.”
Hunter’s frown deepened. “Why not?”
Hailey noticed the flare of irritation inside his eyes. “It’s messy,” she admitted embarrassingly. “I don’t want you to see my house like that.”
Hunter was dumbfounded. “You do understand that there could be someone dangerous in your house,” he said. “And you’re worried about the mess.”
“It’s not that serious, besides no one dangerous can just waltz on Centauri territory,” she argued.
Hunter leaned closer down to her face. “I’m not going to take a chance with you,” he said sternly. Hunter grabbed her hand that held his arm and pushed through the door inside her house.
Hailey closed her eyes in embarrassment. “I can’t believe this,” she mumbled when it clicked to her. “Hold on,” she froze when she realized who had entered her house. “Daniel!” She shouted the name.
“Hailey, is that you?” A familiar voice echoed down the stairs.
“Yes,” she yelled back. “I’m home.”
“Why is there a man in your house?” asked Hunter, the grip on her hand had grown rigid and his firm gaze bore into her.
“No,” she felt the need to clarify that Daniel was just a friend. “He’s just a friend.”
“I fixed the mirror and the oven,” Daniel’s voice got closer.
Hailey tried to pull her hand away but Hunter didn’t let go of her. It surprised her that he held onto her, she couldn’t look away from his gaze that flickered like candles with an emotion that sunk in her heart.
She broke the silence and turned towards her friend that came down the stairs with a tool box. “Hey,” she greeted chirpily.
Daniel Callahan has been her friend along with his family; they all met at the annual bonfire that was carried out for the pack members every full moon, his nephews and nieces were her students as well.
Daniel was considered the handy-man on the territory, he fixed anything and everything for everyone here, so when she found out about him through a few teachers, she called him over to repair her cabin. His work was quite exceptional and she had called him again a couple of days ago, she couldn’t believe that she had forgotten that he’d be here today.
Daniel’s tall figure appeared in front of them, he was a handsome man with chestnut hair that was cut short and stylishly, and his blue eyes were deep and sharp- oddly like a cat. He had a cool charm about him that attracted many girls, but Hunter’s dark charisma was something else entirely for Hailey.
“Hunter,” Daniel looked baffled, his eyes looked towards their hands and then their faces. “What brings you here?”
Hailey jumped in the middle. “He was just leaving,” she said. She quickly pulled Hunter outside the door and away from Daniel’s view.
Hunter’s mood darkened and his jaw was shut tight. “Lock your door next time,” he warned. “And make sure no one can just barge in.”
“Daniel’s just a friend,” explained Hailey. “And I was the one that called him to fix my mirror and oven.” Hunter didn’t seem satisfied by her explanation. She didn’t even know why she was justifying her actions to him, but his golden gaze that resembled a wildfire forced her to calm him down.
Hunter tilted his head and closed the gap between them, he daringly pressed his strong hand against her stomach and lightly pushed her back to lean against the wall. His hand lingered on her stomach possessively, he kept her where he wanted her and it killed Hailey to be so close to him. His heat radiated through her thin dress and the sensations of his hand were amplified not only on her stomach but all over her body. Hailey’s heart quickened, her breath froze and all she could think about was his hand and his scent that swarmed around her.
“I won’t repeat myself,” he whispered. “I don’t want random men in your damn house.”
Hailey was baffled at Hunter’s candour. “I understand,” she said and she bit her lip before speaking her mind. “But it’s really none of your business, Hunter.”
Hunter’s brow arched and his hand dropped away. “We’ll see about that,” he grumbled like he was bothered by this whole situation.
Hailey craved to hold onto his gaze a little longer, but she could not escape faster. “Thanks again,” she breathed softly and moved away from his body that was pressed a little too close for her comfort. “I’ll see you around,” she threw him a kind smile and practically scampered back into her house. “Oh god, I thought I was going to die,” she mumbled aloud.
“That was intense,” spoke Daniel.
Hailey whisked around. “Sorry about that,” she groaned hopelessly.
Daniel smirked with growing curiosity. “Why were you two together anyways?” asked Daniel.
“I had something to report in,” she told Daniel briefly on purpose, she didn’t think Gabriel or Hunter wanted anyone to know about Waldorf’s men being on their territory. “Gabriel told Hunter to walk me home, that’s all.”
Daniel’s head tilted. “There’s more, isn’t there?” He baited her suspiciously. “What are you not telling me?”
Hailey walked past him to hide her flushed cheeks. She sauntered up the stairs to check his finished work. “Nothing,” she didn’t sound convincing enough.
“Really,” he followed her.
“Thanks for replacing my mirror,” Hailey tried hard to divert his attention. She strode into her bathroom and the cracked mirror had been replaced with a new one.
“Hunter looked like he was angry,” pondered Daniel.
Hailey walked past him down the stairs to her kitchen, she examined her stove and noticed it had been polished and renewed. She could finally start cooking again. “He looks angry all the time,” she remarked teasingly.
“That’s true,” agreed Daniel. “But he had this look in his eyes.”
Hailey grabbed a cloth and cleaned the fingerprints on the stainless steel. “What do you mean?” She asked Daniel.
“You seriously don’t know?” Daniel was bemused. “Gosh girl, his scent is all over you.”
Hailey gaped at Daniel. “What are you saying?”
Daniel chuckled and shook his head. “Poor guy,” he sighed.
“That can’t be,” mumbled Hailey. “Hunter did no such thing.”
Daniel crossed his arms. “You keep telling yourself that,” he said. “Anyways, I’m done here.”
“Wait, you can’t just leave after saying that,” panicked Hailey. “So, you’re saying that Hunter bonded with me?”
Daniel tilted his head. “Can’t you tell?”
“It’s hard to know anything concerning Hunter Centauri,” she remarked. “I thought he had that effect on everyone.”
“He does have that effect on people,” agreed Daniel. “But he’s never left his mark on girl before. Maybe because I’m a guy I can tell how strong it actually is.”
“What do I do?” asked Hailey, she barely knew Hunter and now they were bonded.
Daniel sat on the stool. “Do you like him?” He asked candidly.
Hailey’s mouth opened and closed, she didn’t know how to answer that question.
“I will take that as a yes,” understood Daniel.
Hailey slumped her head down. “How am I supposed to face him now?”
“I don’t think you have to worry,” said Daniel. “He seems the type to take charge.”
Hailey’s heart skipped a beat. “I can’t believe this is happening,” she mumbled.
“Oh, will you be coming to the bonfire this week?” asked Daniel out of the blue.
“Huh,” it took her a few moments to comprehend his question.
“The Full Moon Bonfire,” Daniel chuckled.
“Oh,” she raked her hair. “Yes, I’ll be going.”
Daniel smiled. “I’ll see you there then,” he picked up his tool box.
“Thanks for the help,” she said as she followed him to the door. “And the advice.”
“You’re welcome,” he smiled. “Oh, and Hunter’s a great guy. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” Hailey closed the door behind Daniel as he left her house.
Hailey had everything to worry about, she could barely form two sentences when she’s with Hunter. How was she supposed to mate him? She pondered as she sauntered into her kitchen. Hailey took out the pre-made cake batter and all the other things she needed without even having to out any thought to it. Cooking was the only way to take her mind off of things, and right now she needed it more than anything right now.
Hailey didn’t deny the feeling she got in her whole body when she was near Hunter, her wolf seemed to support that decision as well. Hailey found it quite peculiar that her wolf had accepted all of these foreign feelings without any problem. This convinced Hailey even more that Daniel could be speaking the truth.
“Hunter is my mate,” she spoke those words aloud and it didn’t sound real.
Hailey remembered his hand when it was pressed against her stomach to keep her close to him, if he could stir her body with just a simple gesture like that, what would happen to her if she was under him in bed? She wondered.
“What the hell are you thinking!” she scolded herself for imagining such a thing. “Oh god,” she groaned and realized that cooking wasn’t helping her at all.
Hailey’s doorbell chimed throughout the house. Hailey scuttled to the door and opened it, she was stunned by the person outside her door. “Hi,” she greeted. “Viola.”
“Hey,” Viola matched her smile. “Can I come in?”
Hailey didn’t have time to think, she moved to side and let Viola inside. “What brings you here?”
“I just wanted to see if you were alright?” asked Viola.
Hailey moved the pillow on the couch and presented the seat to Viola. “Thank you,” she answered Viola. “And I’m doing fine.”
“Wow, something smells really good,” said Viola.
Hailey beamed a smile. “I’m baking right now,” she pointed towards the battered mess behind her.
“You bake?” asked Viola.
“A lot,” admitted Hailey.
“I can’t bake at all,” said Viola. “Klaus tries really hard but can never get the hang of it.”
“Baking isn’t for everyone,” said Hailey truthfully. “Oh, would you like something to drink?”
“Some water would be nice,” said Viola.
Hailey got out of the seat and Viola followed her, she took the seat on the stool where Daniel sat earlier. Hailey found it more comfortable after they had entered the kitchen, it was less formal and Viola seemed right at home, it felt more like Hailey was the guest at Viola’s house and not the other way around. Hailey handed her the glass of cold water to beat the summer heat.
“What are you baking?” asked Viola.
“I was debating between cupcakes or brownies,” said Hailey. “Any preference?”
“Cupcakes all the way,” announced Viola.
Hailey laughed. “Cupcakes it is then,” she said and got busy. “I’m sure you didn’t just come here to ask how I’m doing, what’s on your mind?”
Viola’s emerald eyes reflected joy, but her clever smile said something else. “I just want to get to know you better.”
Hailey grabbed the cupcake pan. “Are you sure this isn’t about Hunter?”
Viola’s eyes widened and she took a few moments inside her own thoughts. “You figured it out,” she confirmed suspiciously.
Hailey itched her brow and guessed that everyone knew before her. “Took me some time,” she muttered.
“Sure did,” laughed Viola. “My brother’s going to kill me for talking about him.”
“I feel a bit awkward too,” admitted Hailey.
“Don’t be,” reassured Viola. “I have you and my brother’s best interests at heart.”
“That’s good to know,” Hailey positioned the cupcakes in the oven and sat across Viola.
Viola rested her chin on her open palm. “What do want to know?” she asked.
Hailey bit her lip uncertainly. “What can you tell me about Hunter?”
Viola grinned at her timid but bold question. “He’s much simpler than he looks,” she alleged. “He’s an open book.”
“Really, I can’t seem to figure him out,” said Hailey. “Wait, does he know about the bond?”
“Hunter knows,” confirmed Viola.
Hailey groaned. “So, the whole time he was with me, he knew?”
“Pretty much.” Viola’s smile grew sad, Hailey wondered what Viola was thinking about that it dampened her mood. “My whole life I’ve watched Hunter take care of the family, and he always makes sure that Gabriel is safe and protected from every threat. If anyone deserves a mate, it’s him.”
Hailey felt her heart ache, the sincerity in Viola’s eyes melted her. “I know how hard Hunter works,” she admitted because no one could deny his contributions to the pack.
“I know my brother,” said Viola. “He thinks he doesn’t deserve you, but I think Maya has brought you two together for a reason.”
“I always wished for a big family,” revealed Hailey.
Viola chuckled. “You got one,” Viola grabbed Hailey’s hand. “Give him a chance, you won’t regret it.”
Hailey always found their bond so beautiful, she never expected that she would get a chance to share some part of it. Hailey hoped ever since her parents’ death that she’d be a part of something special, and now an opportunity was shown to her but all she felt was a sickness in her gut. How was she supposed to move past the guilt that always stopped her from making any bonds? Hunter was a good man who protected his family, but she was someone whose family died because of her mistakes.
The ping of the oven alerted Hailey out of her thoughts that drowned her soul. She pulled out the tray of fluffy cupcakes and got busy decorating them with her hand-made buttercream. She was thankful that Viola kept a light conversation between them because she didn’t feel like herself. Apart from everything, this was the first time she found someone who talked more than her. It was nice to know that she didn’t have to do much to make Viola comfortable around her.
Hailey garnished the last cupcake with rainbow sprinkles. “There we go,” she clapped her hands together, she cherished the small moment when she finished the cupcakes and the smell of sugar and cream filled her house. Hailey pulled out a box from her drawer, she swiftly packed a dozen cupcakes and closed the box whilst Viola was busy looking at the painting on the wall behind the couch.
“That painting is really beautiful,” admitted Viola.
“Thank you,” answered Hailey. “I can give the number of the artist, if you want?”
“I would love that,” exclaimed Viola.
Hailey got a card out and wrote a small note addressed for the Centauri family. She grabbed a pink bow to match the carton and tied it securely around the box and note.
“I should be heading back now,” Viola appeared when her eyes landed on the hot pink box in Hailey’s hands. “What’s this for?”
“You visited my house for the first time,” said Hailey. “I can’t send you empty handed.”
“There was no need,” Viola’s eyes filled with guilt. “I was the one who came unexpectedly.”
Hailey rolled her eyes and pushed the box into Viola’s arms. “Make sure to share them with your brothers,” she instructed.
Viola smirked after a moment. “I’ll see,” she teased.
Hailey giggled although her mood was a bit off from their earlier conversation. “I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”
“Absolutely,” said Viola as she stepped outside the door and waved Hailey goodbye.
Hailey closed the door to her house behind her, she didn’t want to be trapped inside any walls because her heart was feeling suffocated by her own breath. Hailey never remembered her parents without a pool of agony coming along with the memories. She didn’t know what to do, she couldn’t load all of this on Hunter when he already had so much on his plate. He didn’t need someone who was afraid of herself.
Hailey knew that the property around her house was private and secure, she torn off her clothes and her wolf knew exactly what to do next. Hailey’s body broke and transformed into a beastly form that no science could rationalize. Her muscles and senses had amplified for her to experience the wilderness. Hailey’s wolf took a deep breath of fresh air, she pushed her paws into the moist soil and broke out in a run down the mountain hill.