Chapter 7: The Summit
The grey clouds over the Waldorf territory didn’t surprise Hunter. This property was ominous enough to make the pack members want to leave it behind forever, but no one had the guts to face Lucas and request their freedom. The compound was built up of multiple houses where a couple of families resided, but most of Lucas’s men occupied the majority of the space. Waldorf’s main castle blocked the hidden property, and it was the first line of defence if anyone tried to infiltrate their territory.
Their car passed the barbed security gate which was packed with thugs that were always ready for a fight.
“This may just be a simple meeting,” said River from the front seat as he drove up the drive way. “But stay alert. I don’t want anyone getting hurt.”
“Are you warning us to behave?” asked Vincent with a smirk.
River glared at Vincent through the rear-view mirror, and then, his cold blue eyes locked with Hunter’s, but he didn’t say anything because he didn’t need to. His cold calculative gaze made sure that Hunter understood to stay calm during the summit.
“Ryder will guard Hunter and Vince,” explained River with great care. “I’ll be beside Gabriel.”
After bypassing the inner ring of security, they entered the property that was quiet but eerie. They all grew alert at the silence that was almost dangerous. Hunter didn’t see any kids or wolves, there was only guards protecting the main estate. Waldorf’s castle stood proudly on a jagged hill; the structure was strong and sturdy like it’s leader.
The car came to a full stop and every single guard stepped closer to their vehicle even though they knew who had arrived. Hunter stepped out first and faced the group of fiery wolves who didn’t even stand as a challenge for any of them. Hunter closed the door after Gabriel, when he found River and Ryder already in their positions.
Gabriel confidently lead the way with River and Hunter was right behind his older brother with Vincent and Ryder next to him. They climbed the fleet of stairs and faced the massive ebony doors, the Waldorf family was extremely wealthy, and since they are the second original family they should be held at the highest regard like the Centauri’s, but that was not the case because Lucas Waldorf didn’t keep his hands out of muddy waters.
The Waldorf’s were notoriously known to be part of the mafia, drug dealing and even weapons trafficking, but they were never caught. When Robert Centauri was the alpha, he was determined to confide Lucas of his crimes, but the Waldorf dodged those accusations and disappeared for a while. Until, Gabriel became alpha and the whole situation changed for both families. However, the counsellors of the wolf society, which is built up of the alphas of each pack got together and decided that no one shall interfere in the matters of another pack. Gabriel decided it was easier to end the feud between the two families before a war broke out because Lucas always wanted Gabriel’s title. But what Lucas didn’t understand was that Gabriel’s position was chosen with a power greater than just chance.
They all reached the last step when the doors swung open and a scent that Hunter detested wafted through the cool and brittle air. A tremendously large man appeared and it was Lucas’s beta Don Sullivan; his dark hair was cut short to his head and he always had a twisted smile although it never reached those bottomless black eyes.
Hunter blanked his face and made sure that Don couldn’t read anything off of him.
“You’re late,” rebuked Don.
“Terrible traffic, Don,” retorted Gabriel and he stepped in front of the beta with ease and dominance only he can conjure. “Now move or you’re going to make us even more late.”
Don gritted his teeth and moved from the entrance. “Lucas is waiting for you in the office,” he said as he escorted them towards the side hallway and through a pair of double doors.
Hunter purposely cracked the kinks in his neck, which allowed him to get a clear view of how many men guarded the area. “Two men right-hand side and there’s a wolf hiding on the second-floor terrace,” he cautioned all the guys who were listening closely.
“Wait here,” said Don before he vanished behind the doors.
River didn’t even try to conceal that he was surveying the area, he brazenly made eye contact with every wolf that was in hiding.
“I get a feeling Lucas is going to separate us,” observed Ryder.
“I was just thinking that too,” agreed Gabriel.
Don came outside the door. “Lucas will only allow two of you to enter,” he relayed the message they already guessed.
“I don’t think so,” retorted Hunter sourly.
Don threw a bitter sneer towards Hunter. “Well, no one asked you.”
Gabriel straightened his coat. “Wait out here,” he told them all including River. But that wolf wasn’t going to listen, he made sure that he was glued to Gabriel’s side no matter what happened or whoever tried to separate them. Hunter was the same, but he knew that River would protect their alpha better than anyone here. Hunter and Gabriel’s eyes met for a moment and it clearly told him that they’d be joining him in the room soon.
Gabriel and River entered alone.
Don closed the door and stood guard in front of it.
Hunter tried to ignore it but he clearly felt Don’s callous eyes watching him. Hunter stuck his twitching fists in his pockets and counted to ten in his head over and over again. But the annoyance didn’t disappear because Don was someone that itched Hunter and his wolf the wrong way.
“What the hell you staring at, Don?”
Don’s slimy grin appeared. “I was just thinking about our fight the last time you visited,” he said. “If it wasn’t for your brother, we could’ve ended it and seen whose better once and for all.”
“You should be happy this treaty is being signed, Don,” said Hunter. “Otherwise I would’ve knocked you out.”
Don’s conceited expression screamed annoyance.
“Cut it out, Hunter,” sighed Vincent with boredom.
Don turned his attention towards Vincent. “Why do the Centauri’s always but in other people’s fight,” he rebuked with an insidious sneer.
“Watch it, Don,” cautioned Ryder.
Don kissed his teeth and his dead eyes glared at Hunter. “Always hiding behind your brothers,” he mocked cynically.
Suddenly, the door swung open and River appeared. “Get in,” he said and left.
Hunter strode into the office with anger twisted across his face. And the heavy smell of cologne and tobacco didn’t help him at all.
Gabriel sat at the round table with the infamous alpha Lucas Waldorf. Hunter wasn’t impressed by Lucas or intimidated by the loaded rifles hung around the room and the dreadful poached animal skins. Hunter thought was a bit too excessive but he didn’t expect anything less from Lucas. The old alpha was a sturdy and full-bodied old man, his hair may be purely white as snow but his officious gaze was as hard as coal and just as black.
“Vincent,” said Gabriel.
Vincent placed his briefcase on the table and pulled out two copies of the accords. “Both parties need to sign the copies of the treaty and it’ll be sealed for each of you to keep with you. The treaty will take up to two weeks to register through the courts and then the council, is that clear?” They simply nodded and followed through the simple instructions set out by Vincent. He collected the contracts and neatly put them in folders for the two alphas.
“I’m surprised you didn’t bring your own attorney, Lucas,” said Gabriel.
Lucas grabbed the lighted cigar that rested in the crystal ashtray. “There’s no need, you’re a Centauri,” he said sardonically. “And a Centauri wouldn’t use schemes for something as important as this. Besides, this treaty helps me too.”
Hunter scoffed because he could sense Lucas’s bullshit from a mile away. This alpha didn’t give a shit about the treaty, it was only because of the pressure from Gabriel did Lucas give in so leniently.
“What are you laughing about, beta?” asked Don coldly.
“Mind your own business, Don,” snipped Hunter.
“What’d you say?” Don challenged.
“I said back off,” grumbled Hunter. “Or are you deaf along with being dumb?”
Don moved around the table. “You think you’re so tough because of that Centauri blood?”
“I don’t need a title to prove to you that I can kick your ass,” snapped Hunter.
The colossal beta marched over to Hunter and sneered, but instead of hearing another comment, Don froze and a thin smile crossed his face. “Looks like someone’s found himself a girlfriend,” he leered.
Hunter gritted his teeth. “Don,” he cautioned carefully. “You better shut that mouth of yours or else I seriously will kill you.”
“Looks like you’re going soft,” he remarked. “The old you would’ve attempted to kill me already.”
Hunter didn’t even hear what Don just said because he was trying very hard to remain calm.
“What’s your girlfriend like?” asked Don. “Is she pretty?”
Hunter heard that like a splash of cold water had been thrown into his face. The heat grew inside his gut, his wolf clawed his way through Hunter’s defence and tried to attack Don for even having mentioned Hailey from his tainted mouth.
“There he is,” reeled Don. “Show me what you got, bloodhound!”
“That’s enough,” a third voice intervened. It was Ryder.
“Tell your beta to fuck off Lucas or I will,” ordered Gabriel.
Don didn’t need any warning from Lucas because he backed away himself. Don glared at Hunter with a scornful smirk. “Looks like you’re always going to be somebody’s bitch.”
Hunter slammed his fist in Don’s jaw hard enough that the fracture echoed through the room. Hunter was immediately separated from Don’s battered face that was beginning to turn purplish blue with splatters of blood dripping out of his nose.
“Calm down,” whispered Ryder harshly.
Hunter’s heartbeat was inside his ears. He was itching to choke the life out of Don for the disrespect he showed towards not only him but to Gabriel and Hailey.
“I think it’s time for us to leave,” said Gabriel. The alpha quickly shook his hand with Lucas and they showed themselves out of the castle.
The car ride back home was long and irritably annoying, Hunter’s fist burned from the impact of Don’s hard jaw but he was utterly satisfied that he drew blood from that asshole’s nose. Everyone was quiet and didn’t speak of what just happened, but they were all thinking and being extra cautious around him which just irked him even more.
River parked their car and Hunter opened the car’s door and jumped out. He stepped aside and gave his wolf full control over his body. His wolf thundered alive and didn’t waste a moment more before he shredded through the Valentino suit he had on and emerged as a raging beast.
“Hunter!” Gabriel called out for him, but Hunter was long gone into the woods.
“Alright class,” she clapped her hand together and gathered all the kids of her class around her. “Today, is transformation training.”
The eager kids gathered at once because they’ve been waiting for this exercise since they started their first year at the Institute. Hailey escorted them to the front courtyard because she liked the privacy it provided for the pups. The rich soil ground was perfect to run on and the thick trees calmed the anxiety any of the pups felt for today’s training session.
“Remember what I taught you,” instructed Hailey. “First, it’s very important to be patient with your wolf spirit. Second, focus on the divide between you and your wolf. And… have fun no matter what, okay?”
“Yes, Ms. Swan!” all the kids exclaimed.
The training commenced efficiently.
Hailey circled around her students as they focused their energy to awaken their dormant wolf. She could smell the soft mark of wolf-blood from each and every kid. They all had their own unique scent, which made it easier to detect them in their wolf form or not. Some of them smelt of wild flowers or misty forest rain, but only Hunter had that dark pine scent mixed with leathery cologne. It took her the whole afternoon to forget about any and all thoughts about that particular Centauri, but it just wasn’t working when all she could smell was that bonding mark all over her skin. Hunter’s scent was infused into her flesh so deeply that even in her wolf form the scent wouldn’t dissipate. She even tried to rub her wolf body in mud and she had a lot of fun splashing in the lake. But she knew deep down that the bonding mark wasn’t going to just vanish in time; it’ll only get stronger.
Hailey remembered the bond between her parents when they were still alive. Her parents loved each other to a point where it didn’t seem possible to ever acquire that in this lifetime for herself. She envied their bond for the time she got to witness it, but now it just gave a queasy feeling in her stomach. Hunter was her mate, but she didn’t know how to react to that anymore.
How long was she just going to brush it off and consider it a fluke? She thought.
At some point, Hunter will come to her and he will hope that their bond will strengthen. Hailey knew that she would have to accept all these feelings and still move forward in this relationship or whatever it was right now. She assessed that it would be better to let Hunter know how she felt rather than to avoid him.
Abruptly, Hailey was pulled out of her thoughts when loud thrashing rustled through the trees around them.
“Kids,” she cautioned and just like how she trained them, they grew alert and moved simultaneously. All the kids rushed their way towards Hailey and they didn’t utter a sound.
Hailey senses heightened more than usual, she never felt this type of rush before and it wasn’t because of this sudden emergency she had been thrown into. Many times, she had to take precautions and protect the pups, but this time something in her heart told her to search for this sound and comfort whoever it belonged to.
Suddenly, a ferocious beast pounded his paws through the soil and dashed across the courtyard. She recognized the dark black fur that was thick and tough, those dangerously sharp amber eyes that were always alert were never forgotten by anyone once seen. But it wasn’t just those qualities that told her who it was; it was that pine scent and that dark attraction which told her instincts that this wolf was hers.
Hunter’s wolf ran through the woods with no intention of stopping. So, she didn’t see any need to stop either, and like that she instructed her class to resume their training. Hailey diligently helped her students, but in the back of her mind she wondered what had upset Hunter so much that he didn’t even notice the courtyard full of pups or even her.
Time passed, all the pups had transformed into their wolf forms and the auburn sun dipped low enough where it seemed to be right in front of her eyes. The whole time she surveyed the area around her but there was no sign of Hunter’s return. Hailey assumed he had retreated back home another way through the forest route, but her wolf begged to differ.
“Johnny spit out your brother’s paw right now,” she disciplined. “And Jenny don’t wander too far!” She quickly separated the three cousins that began to wrestle in the mud.
Suddenly, a chill crawled down Hailey’s spine and she instantly knew again that they weren’t alone anymore. She spun on her feet and a massive form appeared through the trees, but that dominant aura fooled no one.
Their alpha approached them with controlled ease, he had no smile on his face but it was still soft and it surprisingly calmed the raging butterflies in her stomach. “Hello, Hailey,” he said. “What are you doing out here?”
Hailey moved to side and presented the pups who were tumbling over one another and experiencing the strength of their wolf forms.
“We were out for transformation training,” she informed.
His amber eyes brightened. “I remember when I had to transform for the first time,” he shared.
It surprised Hailey that he was comfortable enough to give her a glimpse of his childhood, she had noticed how much he spoke with just his eyes like Hunter. Gabriel hopped over the wooden fence and joined them.
“Class!” She was so grateful that her class chose this time to listen to her even though they were wildly distracted. “Gather around so you can greet your alpha.”
The pups didn’t care about their dirtied paws or slobbering mouths, they all gave short chirpy howls and swarmed around Gabriel’s feet. The pups jumped nearby and wrestled with each other and Gabriel didn’t seem to mind getting his hands dirty or shoes muddy. Although he was an alpha with a ruthless reputation and pristine pedigree, he never once let the members of his pack feel the weight of it. The pups were comfortable to interact with Gabriel, and for Hailey that was quite up-lifting.
“These pups are a gift,” mumbled Gabriel very softly, but Hailey heard him.
“They truly are,” she surprised him.
Gabriel got to his feet and leaned on the fence. He had an expression on his face that was almost lost in memories like she would be half the time. “I had to prepare Klaus for his transformation,” he revealed. “It was hard, but it was also the best moment of my life because I saw the life that was gifted to us by Maya grow in Klaus.”
“I understand that more than you think,” said Hailey.
Gabriel gazed at her- the amber in his eyes was just as bright as the sunset. “I know you do,” he said. “That’s why I’m here to ask you to help me with something.”
Hailey brows shot up. “Er- I would love to, but what are you asking me to do?”
“It’s about Hunter,” said Gabriel. “He ran off after the meeting with the Waldorf pack. I know for sure that he’s upset about something and I wanted to give him some time alone. But he hasn’t returned all day and I’m worried.”
Hailey’s palms began to sweat when she recalled how ferocious Hunter looked in his wolf form. “If you don’t mind me asking,” she said. “Why’d he run off?”
Gabriel explained what happened at the summit, and Hailey couldn’t believe that at such an important and formal assembly two betas would challenge each other, and in the presence of their alphas. Hailey figured that Don must have said something quite upsetting in order for Hunter to jeopardize Gabriel’s reputation.
“Hunter can be quite hot-tempered and a gloomy fellow,” alleged Gabriel. “But he’s always been soft when it comes to family.”
“Why did you come to me for this?” asked Hailey. “Besides the obvious mating reason,” she muttered.
Gabriel’s eyes turned over to the pups. “Because I’ve seen the way you treat your family,” he answered. “And mine.”
Hailey’s gut churned because the last thing she thought she was good towards was family, and her dead parents were proof of that. “How am I supposed to even find him?” she asked hopelessly.
“Hunter is impossible to find even for me,” admitted Gabriel as he rubbed his hard jaw.
“Then what do you expect from me,” she astonished.
Gabriel’s eyes smirked. “This is where your mating situation sets in,” he finally revealed the real reason he approached her. “Your mating bond can track him in seconds.” Gabriel grabbed the bag on the side he threw down earlier. “Take this and find him for me.”
She tried to move against Gabriel as he nudged her towards the thick forest. “Wait, what about the pups?” she exclaimed.
“Don’t worry about them,” he reassured. “I’ll take them home.”
Hailey couldn’t help but feel worried, and it showed on her face.
Gabriel read her expression. He stood to his full height and squared his muscular and reliable shoulders; his face grew stern and his eyes hardened. “Nothing will happen to the pups, Hailey,” he said firmly. “I promise.”
Hailey swallowed the tightness in her throat. “Alright,” she agreed and trusted in Gabriel’s promise because who wouldn’t. She grabbed her own bag and hung the duffle bag over her shoulder, she strode into the forest where an angry wolf prowled through the dark trees and the only defence she had was a bag-full of chocolate chip cookies.