Wolf's Lullaby

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Red

TARA

I was so out of place.

I stuck out like a sore thumb.

A proverbial red elephant in the room. A flashing red light in a sea of dark hued attires other guests wore, with a splash of white and an occasional silver or gold gown. Some, both men and women, wore traditional garb similar to Philip’s, though the women had no sash, but a cinched waist and flaring elegant bell sleeves. The intricacy of embroidery, which I spotted adorned necklines or hems of some ladies’ dresses as well, in gold, silver, and bronze varied.

But seeing the prevalent palette made me come to a decision…. I’m gonna smack Philip.

He should have told me there was a color code to this thing.

Miffed, I weaved between the tables, making my way to the buffet that Theo enthusiastically pointed me to before his mother excused them and whisked the kid away to greet the guests. That lady wasn’t a particularly chatty one. Since the greeting, she barely spoke a word as we walked towards the party hall, but I could sense her gaze on me as Theo chatted animatedly. Beautiful as she was, her demeanor was distant. Even by the small exchange with Philip in the study, so formal and rigid, it was obvious he received little warmth from the woman who was his stepmother. That made my heart ache, and I rubbed my chest absently.

The hall was huge, brightly lit with lights flowing from the vaulted ceiling as if they floated, bathing the space in a warm glow, though I couldn’t help but feel cold. It had been like that the moment I caught sight of the manor. Beautiful, yes. Magnificent and mesmerizing, sitting there atop of the hill, all imposing in its glory yet kind of lonely. Isolated and… sad.

Not a home. The thought kept ringing in my mind. Probably because of Philip’s expression… I didn’t like the sorrowful shadows playing over his features.

The scent of food grew stronger, but mingling with a sweet fragrance from the table centerpieces, the arrangement of blue hydrangea and white rose flowers as I got closer to a giant buffet table. And my shameless stomach responded with a resounding growl. Like I starved myself for days. The soothing, slow beat music reverberating through the hall did nothing to cover the roaring beast.

Clutching my gut as if to hush it, not daring to scan the surrounding faces, I plowed forward, but fully aware of the stares I had received from the moment I stepped into the room. Their gazes lingered on me, crawling over my skin, assessing, making me very self-conscious. The scrunched up, sour faces, and raised brows in my direction made the sense of not belonging even more uncomfortable.

And even though I was now faced with rows upon rows of delicious smelling, mouthwatering seasoned varieties of meats, vegetables and desserts, my stomach, which wailed moments ago, tied itself in knots. Too nervous to do any digestion under the scrutinizing stares. Like, what is the etiquette here?

My peasant ass had no idea. I was afraid of making another blunder. Because If we were being honest, me telling my boyfriend’s father he had a resting bitch face was probably just the beginning. I couldn’t believe I said that out loud. Then again, why was I even surprised? My mouth had a life of its own. It was its own entity. The damn thing.

The night was young, still. As the universe’s favorite joke, more was likely to follow. All of it just added to my pool of mortification as embarrassment climbed its way up my neck, deciding the red I wore didn’t pop enough, so it colored my exposed skin too.

Appetite gone, I decided to grab a drink, find a nook somewhere, while I wait for Philip to come find me.

A row of pinkish liquid in glass goblets with chunks of strawberries and cherries, decorated with slices of orange, called to me. The color looked so pretty, and as I picked one up, I subtly brought it to my nose for a sniff. It didn’t smell like it contained alcohol, and upon closer inspection, the ice had pink petals frozen inside. So pretty!

Taking a sip, a mix of tart-sweetness burst on my tongue, the taste refreshing and quite pleasing to my plebeian palate. Mmm… delicious.

Satisfied with my choice, I spied the opened French double doors leading to the balcony. Most of the guests were inside sitting or standing in groups, conversing, some swayed on the dance-floor. So, I thought the perfect place would be the balcony as it was directly in the line of sight of the short flight of stairs at the main entrance to the hall. I would spot Philip the moment he arrived, though it would really be hard to miss his striking, hulking figure. Especially dressed in those clothes, with his messy dark hair all styled away from his handsome face, making his green eyes stand out more. Be still my beating heart!

The balcony was mostly vacant. The guests flitted in and out of it. I approached the wide cast stone balustrade, placing my glass on it as I marveled at the view of the enormous manicured garden. The hedges, styled and trimmed in intricate swirls and shapes you wouldn’t think possible, with strategically placed benches for when your royal ass gets tired while taking a stroll. Like with the ivy at the entrance, the hedges had weaved fairy lights into them, their flickering resembling fireflies on a warm summer night.

Damn beautiful… but how big is their electricity bill? There were in-ground lights there as well.

I sipped on my drink, enjoying the fresh, balmy evening air. My muscles relaxed as warm fuzzies spread through my system. The nervousness all but faded away as my eyes lifted to the clear onyx skies, dotted with millions of twinkling lights, and my head swam pleasantly, cheeks feeling a bit flushed. I sighed in bliss, ready to take another sip when I realized my glass was empty.

Disappointed, I frowned. Throwing my head as far back as I could, I tapped the end of the glass so I got all the fruit into my gaping maw.

Smacking my lips, I turned back to the hall, determined to go get another one, but winced as the new shoes I wore chafed my heels. So, I did what any sensible person would do. I took them off, sighing with relief as my bare feet touched the cool stone and padded across the balcony, zig-zagging it for the drinks table.

But somehow people seemed determined to stop me from getting there, as they kept popping right in front of me, bumping into me. And they had the audacity to glare and scrunch up their noses at me. Rude. They were the ones in the way!

Finally, I reached the table, scooting a bit clumsily, by a group of three to get my glass since for a moment now my legs felt wonky.

“It’s her right? The one the eldest son brought?” A deep male voice asked, and my ears twitched.

“The girl in red? Yeah. I don’t even know why David let him get away with shit like this. She shouldn’t be here. And she is wearing red! Preposterous! If he was my son, that type of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated.” A woman responded, her silky voice wrapped in disapproval and I peered over the rim of my glass, glimpsing a brunette in a maroon dress glancing my way. I quickly downed my drink, pretending not to listen in on their conversation, grabbing another glass, taking a sip.

I mean, they mentioned me, so I had every right to listen. Right?

Uneasiness roiled in my stomach even as a warm, pleasant buzz coursed through my body and a slight fog made the inside of my head feel as if stuffed with cotton.

Is Philip in trouble? His dad was pleasant enough, but maybe he was being reprimanded for bringing me with him. And what does she have against red?! Oh, right dress code violation. Reminder: Smack Philip.

“Guilt probably. He never bonded the kid’s mother while she was alive, right?” Responded a rough male voice. Which I guessed belonged to the other man in the trio, who by the glimpse I stole as I pretended to watch the ice cubes swirl, and swirl in my drink, stood with a ramrod straight spine in a hip width-stance, one arm resting at the small of his back, like a soldier, while he sipped his drink.

What did he mean by bonding? Is that like some BDSM thing? A weird and oddly intimate thing to know about their mayor and his private life. Kinky, but to each their own. No, wait, that’s bondage, right?

People in Blackwood had strange ways of saying things. I wondered if it was a local slang or something; I wasn’t sure.

“Good thing he didn’t get to do it. Can you imagine that woman leading at his side? What a joke.” The woman added with a haughty, unladylike snort.

“I don’t know why he even bothered acknowledging the kid. He should have walked away and be none the wiser. Look what it got him? A headache. We all know the thin-blood bitch latched onto David for his money and status. He should have made her terminate the kid. I know I would have and I wouldn’t even blink.” The deep voice spoke again, chuckling. Like he didn’t just utter the vile things he did about Philip and his mother.

Thin-blood? Like what? No lineage or pedigree for the prestigious home? What century do we live in?!!!

And just the thought that he so easily, nonchalantly spoke about how Philip shouldn’t have been born… It made my heart clench painfully to the point that my eyes stung and I praised god this man was not his father, and hoped he wasn’t anyone’s either.

I had to take a deep breath, balling my free hand into a fist, attempting to temper down the anger. The likes of which I had never experienced before. Not even when I blew up on Mina. It blazed inside of me, blood boiling. Pulse roaring in my ears, and the room shaky in my vision came to clear focus as the glass in my hand shook and I one shot it, trying to douse the rage, but it only made it worse. Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand I gritted my teeth, and bit my lip so hard I tasted iron as I watched the bald asshole who uttered those despicable words chuckle with his equally despicable companions, bringing his wineglass to his lips, throat bobbing as he swallowed.

Something cruel, dark, unfurled from within me, fueled by the anger.

“Why don’t you choke on it.” A spiteful whisper fell from my lips. Someone must have listened, because in the next moment he dropped the glass, shattering it and staining the marble floor in red as coughing and gurgling sounds poured out of his lips. A smile ghosting over mine, a giggle bubbling to the surface as I watched him bend over, falling to his knees, spitting.

He made a spectacle of himself. More and more people looked around the room, confused, as his companions tapped him on the back as he gasped for air.

“What the hell was that?” Someone rushed past me towards the man, helping him to get up as he caught his breath. Another person went to clean the mess he made, and I giggled out loud. Or was I giggling all this time?

“That’s called instant karma bitch!” My tongue suddenly too big in my mouth, and I laughed. Wobbling towards the man as my head swum more and more, making the entire room spin but my feet light, and my face hot.

I stood in front of him, poking the man in the chest as I craned my neck to look at his expression, though his face seemed rather unfocused.

“You, sir, should put a condom over your bald head, because you’re a major dick.” I slurred, smiling widely as I saluted him, mouthing ‘major dick’, not paying any mind to the shocked gasps that echoed around me. Ready to coolly sashay back to the balcony, I twirled on the balls of my feet when I collided with something. Ass suddenly glued to the cold floor as blood and glass rained down on me with a loud crash. Hmm? This blood tastes very much like wine, I thought, licking the liquid off my arm.

But right at that moment, a familiar presence graced the room. And my eyes shot up honing in on his arresting frame. As he came closer, pushing through the crowd, strides brisk, determined, his expression came into focus. And he looked pissed.

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