Chapter 8: Wolf and Moon
Hailey had left the pups and Gabriel behind her, she sauntered deeper into the thick woods and many would get lost but she knew these paths very well. All the pack members were required to study the entire property for their own safety. So, as she walked down a few jaded trails and climbed a few boulders she expected to find Hunter immediately but that didn’t happen.
“Where are you, Hunter Centauri?” She muttered only for the trees to hear.
Gabriel had purposely sent her because apparently the mating bond would be able to help Hailey track her mate. However, she didn’t know a single thing about using her bond to track someone. Hailey wandered aimlessly and she couldn’t help but feel worried because the last hint of light peeked up from the horizon and she was still alone in the woods. Although she knew this property pretty well, she was still slightly creeped out by the howl of the trees and the rustle of branches and bushes.
By the time Hailey reached the edge of the forest; the moon was high up in the sky basking its full glory, Hailey felt like a ton of bricks had dropped on her shoulders and her head started to pound like drums. Her trained legs grew sluggish and she couldn’t continue further especially because she was famished, she slumped against a massive rock and dropped the bags on the ground. Hailey rolled her stiff shoulders and marvelled where Hunter had run off to so quickly. She pondered if he had returned back home, but Gabriel would have called her to let her know.
Hailey reluctantly pulled out the cookies she had packed earlier today and was grateful that she had. She opened the Tupperware box and got a whiff of sugar dough and melted chocolate- her favourite. Hailey grabbed a cookie and devoured the treat without a second thought.
“At least the cookies are good,” she muttered.
Hailey was defeated and confused by the fact that she couldn’t track a massive wolf who also happened to be her mate. Hailey untied the tight chignon that rested on the crown of her head and let the heavy mass fall free, instantly her headache lessened and she could think straight again.
The glimmering lake was being hit by pale moonlight when a few trees rustled with a harsh breeze that swept through the forest and took her by surprise. The strong wind howled through the night and tousled her hair, she quickly fixed her appearance and didn’t even realize when something prowled behind her.
“Fuck,” the profanity slipped from her mouth before she could stop it.
Hailey’s back stiffened and she didn’t even try to move because the last thing she wanted to do was scare a wolf and probably a hungry one. Her eyes could see the bright amber globes that were fierce and held in narrow slits; she could smell the strong scent of male dominance and the pure blood that only a Centauri can emit; her ears could hear the massive paws crushing leaves and branches. Hunter’s wolf wasn’t even trying to stay hidden behind the darkness of the trees. She could feel his presence more than she’d like to admit, her skin crawled with the deep scent of his wolf bonding with her own. Hailey’s pulse quickened and she could feel it in her ears, she tried to remain calm because Hunter could probably smell her anxiousness from far away.
Hailey froze; she didn’t understand why she was nervous, it was just the same Hunter she knew.
“Hey buddy,” she jumped off the boulder and stood on the plain ground for him to approach her first. “Why don’t you come on out,” she offered but Hunter’s wolf hadn’t obliged, when she got a useful idea. “Alright then, I guess I have to finish all these cookies myself,” she said teasingly because this trick always worked on even the stubbornest of pups. And like she had hoped, a massive wolf stalked out from the darkness in front of her.
“Hi,” she welcomed him and although the wolf looked dangerously ferocious, she could see those kind amber eyes that only belonged to Hunter, so she wasn’t entirely scared. “Want a cookie?” She teased and the wolf’s scowl deepened enough to display those sharp canine teeth. “I’m guessing you do,” she giggled and pulled out a cookie for him. She broke the dough in smaller chunks and plated them on her open palm, the wolf hesitated for a moment like all the pups do in her class before they lick away at her hand for another cookie. Hunter’s wolf relaxed almost instantly and so did Hailey.
Hailey bent down on her knees, she quietly but confidently stepped closer to the wolf to let him know that she wasn’t going to leave any time soon. She made sure to keep minimal contact with his eyes because that always sent a challenge to any wolf, especially if it was such a high rank like Hunter. Hailey started off with small touches; she skimmed her hand across his paw and them his arm, she slowly got closer to his back and then she pulled her hands away. The wolf wasn’t too happy about that, his feral amber eyes darkened.
“It’s okay,” she spoke softly. “I’m right here.” Hailey’s hand bravely landed on his neck, the fur was the softest and lightest under there, which always made her want to run her fingers there but she knew wolves weren’t like pets, they didn’t like their necks being petted. But Hunter’s wolf thought otherwise. He leaned into her touch and as much as she adored ruffling his thick coat of fur that could withstand even the harshest of winters. She grew tired on her knees and as she crossed her legs to take a comfortable seat so did Hunter. He laid out beside her with his head down and away, but his body was huddled close behind her. She snuggled against his heavy body and she preferred it over the cold boulder. Now that they were both relaxed it was time for the hard part.
“Gabriel told me that you were upset,” she spoke softly. “I understand how you must feel but running off without letting him know was careless. I didn’t expect you to handle this with such a hothead, Hunter.”
Hunter’s wolf stiffened, he turned his sneer towards her but she didn’t back away.
“Don’t give me that face,” she rebuked and put her hand on his snout stopping his chilling sneer. “I deal with transitioning pups every day, you don’t scare me.”
Hunter’s wolf rolled his eyes and sat back down, she knew at that moment that Hunter was more in control than the wolf spirit.
“Gabriel’s worried about you,” she said and she saw the wolf’s ear twitch. “And it’s not like you to make your brother upset. What’s wrong, Hunter?”
Suddenly, a cold wind swept through the air and it froze her to the bone. She wrapped her arms around her trembling body when the wolf rose and wrapped his body around her providing a better cover from the cold, she immediately felt the intense heat radiate off of him and enter her system, it melted her bones and reddened her cheeks. Hunter stuck his snout in her hair, and he moved along her cheek. She could feel his paw along her knee and his playful manner ignited a smile on her lips.
“Stop trying to distract me,” she sighed and he stopped because he knew no trick would work on this preschool teacher. “I won’t know how to help you if you don’t tell me.”
Hunter’s feral wolf eyes locked with hers.
“I know because of our mating bond that doesn’t give me a right to force you to tell me anything,” she thought hesitantly. “But over the past couple of years, I’ve gone through a lot and it’s made me quite a good listener and an even better friend. You can tell me what’s on your heart, Hunter.”
Suddenly, Hunter’s wolf transformed and if Hailey hadn’t look away on time she would have gotten a full view of his naked body. She didn’t deny that he had a great body, she had occasionally seen him shirtless; multiple times shirtless because he’d train most of the perimeter guards every couple of weeks with the Drakov twins.
Hailey grabbed the bag near the boulder and tossed it towards Hunter. “Gabriel packed extra clothes for you,” she told him.
“You know about the bond?” asked Hunter hurriedly.
“That’s what you transformed back for?” She asked befuddled and shaken.
“When did you find out?” He asked. “Was it because of Viola today?”
“No,” she quickly defended Viola because it sounded like Hunter was upset. “I knew before then. Besides why are you so upset even if Viola told me?”
Hunter’s chattering stopped then and he appeared in front of her fully clothed in a pair of ripped jeans and black shirt that couldn’t be more suited for his deliciously chiselled body and gorgeous face. Hunter didn’t even let her speak or back away when he forcefully wrapped a thick wool cardigan over her body.
“It’s okay, Hunter,” she protested but he didn’t listen.
“I can hear your teeth chattering from here,” he grasped the sides of the sweater and pulled her body closer to his own. “Keep the sweater on,” he dared her to do otherwise, but she didn’t because her body was frozen and she welcomed the soft wool against her bare skin that smelt of Hunter.
“Thanks,” she mumbled. She couldn’t help but feel shy around Hunter. Hailey admitted that she was much more upfront with his wolf because whenever Hunter raked his dark hair or had that rakishly charmed expression in his sharp amber eyes, she couldn’t help but feel a flutter in her heart and weakness in her knees.
“We had a meeting with the Waldorf pack today,” spoke Hunter.
“I know,” interrupted Hailey. “Gabriel told me everything.”
Hunter nodded but didn’t say anything further.
“He also told me what that beta said,” she informed him. “And that you got upset because he talked about me. But I can tell that’s not the reason why you’re out here.”
Hunter’s jaw tightened. “How do you know that?” he asked her.
“Well,” she hesitated for a moment. “We may be bonded but we’re not that close yet for you to feel upset over me. You’re upset because of what that beta said about Gabriel, right?” Hunter’s eyes gaped at her and his perplexed expression answered for him. “You can tell me, I swear I won’t tell anyone-” she smiled “-cross my heart and hope to die.” A smirk appeared on Hunter’s face even if it was a small one.
“I’ve protected my family ever since I learned how to throw a punch,” said Hunter lightheartedly. “Many have always asked me why I haven’t started my own pack or if being a beta ever gets difficult? But it doesn’t and I don’t want to leave Gabriel’s side. And for some reason that bothers people. To outsiders it looks like I am protecting my family because of orders, but it’s nothing like that at all. I follow Gabriel and I can speak for my younger siblings as well that we would always choose this pack and our brother over everything.”
“I know for sure no one in this packs thinks that way about you, Hunter,” said Hailey.
“I know,” he sighed. “But how do I stop the world from doubting my loyalty to my brother-” he gazed into her eyes- “Is it so hard to believe that I could follow my brother simply because he’s my family?”
“For some it is hard to believe,” admitted Hailey. “You can’t forget Hunter that not everyone has a family like yours.”
“I get that, trust me I’ve had a pretty fucked up childhood too,” revealed Hunter and that little piece of information surprised Hailey. “But I never let people degrade my relationship with Gabriel.”
Hailey was aware of what he was talking about. Apparently, the beta from the Waldorf pack had said to Hunter that he would always remain someone’s bitch. Hailey could predict that Hunter was not that upset over being called a bitch rather than he was for the sadness he felt because someone tarnished the good name of his relationship with Gabriel.
“I don’t even know why I got so upset,” grumbled Hunter as he angrily raked his hair. “People have said much worse to me when I was younger.”
Hailey wondered who would say such harsh things to a child. She couldn’t help but feel sad for Hunter, and when she saw that foreign tinge of vulnerability in his eyes her heart almost broke. It was hard to believe that someone who is always so strong feel desolation.
“You’re upset because in mere seconds someone threw mud at a relationship that took years to build,” said Hailey.
Hunter took a deep breath. “Gabriel was the only one that didn’t give up on me,” he said. “He raised me and I owe him everything.”
“I’m so happy that I moved here,” said Hailey chirpily. “I never would have learned the value of family if I hadn’t met this pack and your family.”
“I’m sure that’s not true,” insisted Hunter.
“No, it is,” exhaled Hailey. “I was a very different person before I took the teaching job at the Institute. And the love you grew up with took me years to understand... But it was too late.”
Hunter earnestly held onto her eyes. “You can tell me,” he teased. “I swear I won’t tell anyone, cross my heart and hope to die.”
Hailey giggled at his attempt to copy her from earlier when she reassured him to open up to her. “Maybe another time,” she said. “I already promised I’d listen to you for tonight.”
Hunter’s smile broadened.
“Would you like some dinner?” she asked out of the blue and she felt his hesitance. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“I would like that,” he said firmly.
Hailey grabbed her bag and lead the way to her own house. “Oh no,” she exclaimed.
“What’s wrong?” asked Hunter.
“I forgot to call Gabriel to let him know that I found you,” she told him and quickly fumbled to find her phone.
“It was more like I found you,” teased Hunter and the glimmer in his eyes told Hailey that he would okay.
“Would you like to call him?” asked Hailey.
Hunter exhaled a heavy breath. “Sure,” he said.
Hailey handed her cell phone after she dialled Gabriel’s number and gave Hunter a moment of privacy. She entered her house and made her way to the kitchen to prepare a nice hot meal. She had a clear view of Hunter who was perched against the porch railing, she could sense that he was a bit nervous and a deep sense of helplessness wrapped around Hunter as he spoke to his brother.
Hailey couldn’t hear what Hunter was talking about, but it clearly looked like he was being scolded by his older brother and alpha. Hunter had an easy smile whenever he talked to his siblings and she preferred it if he smiled more often. After everything he shared with her today, her fondness for him grew substantially, she could feel their bond getting stronger by the minute and she didn’t know how long she’d have before she accepted her fate to mate Hunter.
Suddenly, Hunter’s head lifted and his amber eyes located hers watching him intently, she quickly looked away and awkwardly returned to making them some food. Purposely, she made a lot of noise and acted like she was busy in the kitchen when Hunter entered her house. His presence was marked inside her house like a radar; all she could feel and see was him around her private space.
“I hope you like pasta,” she said shyly because she was acutely aware of his gaze that was only on her.
“I do,” he answered her. “Gabriel would like to talk to you.”
Hailey grabbed the phone. “Hello,” she spoke politely.
“Hi, Hailey,” greeted Gabriel. “Thank you for finding my brother. I hope it wasn’t too hard.”
“Don’t worry about it,” reassured Hailey and she jokingly asked; “The pups didn’t give you a rough time, did they?”
“Nothing of the sorts,” he said. “They listened to me because they knew you would find out if they didn’t.”
Hailey chuckled and noted to herself to take a treat for her class tomorrow for their good behaviour.
“Hunter will be fine,” she told Gabriel because she was sure that he was worried. “I’ll feed him some good food and make sure that he doesn’t sulk all night.”
Gabriel grew quiet on the phone and something told Hailey he had a smile across his lips. “Thank you,” he said gently. “I’m glad he has someone like you by his side. I’ll leave my brother to you then.”
“Goodnight, Gabriel,” said Hailey.
“Goodnight, Hailey,” said Gabriel and he cut the line.
Hailey knew the only way to stop the butterflies in her stomach was to do what she loved to do and that was to cook. Hailey pulled up the sleeves of the sweater Hunter put on her and she whipped up two plates of cheesy pasta with tomato sauce.
“You look like you’re enjoying yourself,” said Hunter.
Hailey looked up and found him seated on the stool with a grin plastered on his face. “Cooking is my therapy,” she told him. And like that Hunter kept her occupied with a light conversation throughout dinner. For someone who barely smiled or talked in public, he held her intrigued with his words.
“My grandma used to cook for us when we were younger and before she passed away she made sure to teach each of us to cook,” said Hunter as he finished up his food, and she was glad that he enjoyed it so well. There was a joy in cooking for people who ate with so much gusto. “Only Klaus had the knack for it though because none of us never liked to do it. But no one had the guts to face her and tell her that-”
“Hunter Centauri was scared of someone,” teased Hailey.
Hunter chuckled. “You would be to if you had met her,” he remarked. “My gran used to pull us by the ears if we didn’t cooperate with her wishes.” Hunter fondly reached for his own ear like he was remembering again what it felt like to get scolded by his grandma. “She may have been old but she was stronger than us back then.”
Hailey laughed when she pictured Hunter and his siblings as kids being scared of their grandma. “You kids must have been so cute,” she chuckled warmly.
“Klaus was a cute kid,” said Hunter quite lovingly. “But Vincent and Viola were wild pups since they were so close in age. They always got in so much trouble because they would eat the peaches that would grow on our neighbour’s tree,” revealed Hunter. “But those little mutts never got caught, and I would always get blamed for it. I even had to plant a whole new peach tree for them. But that was also the year we got the most peach desserts.”
“Only Mrs. Brody has peach trees in her backyard,” she said hurriedly.
Hunter laughed. “Those are the ones.”
“Her peach jam is really good,” mumbled Hailey.
“I know,” agreed Hunter and suddenly they both craved it.
The night had passed with them talking on the porch. Hunter insisted that he’d do the dishes since she had cooked dinner for him, and she didn’t really argue since she was exhausted herself.
“Hailey,” he called out for her. “Is it alright if I can crash here tonight. It’ll be a little weird if anyone sees me leave your house at this hour.”
“Er-” Hailey didn’t know how to react. “Sure, you can just sleep on the couch. But it gets pretty cold down here around this time, will you be alright?”
Hunter smirked. “I’ll be fine,” he reassured.
She nodded and strode up to her bedroom after giving Hunter one of her pillows and a spare blanket. Hailey quickly changed into a nightgown and laid under her bedsheets with her sluggish limbs that were too tired to move another inch. Although she was exhausted, she couldn’t help but feel flustered over the thought that Hunter Centauri was asleep downstairs on her couch. With a timid smile and butterflies in her stomach she fell asleep wishing this night with Hunter wouldn’t end.