The Night Belongs To The Wild Things
October 31, 3032, Torrey
It was a strenuous climb up to the gate. Not because it was long or steep, but because Hailey dragged her feet there unwillingly. The dirt road was lined with torches stuck into the ground and tiny “fairy lights” were scattered in the grass. It was a chemical composition she’d helped them develop. The miniscule globes would glow and flicker for exactly nine point three hours and then dissolve harmlessly into water.
Three couples in front of them, a gaggle of females behind them. Normally Hailey would be jumping up and down for a party. But this one was hosted by Hunt. She growled softly and felt Jeremy’s hand squeeze hers. “Behave yourself,” he said.
Hailey glared at him, not in the least charmed by the eye patch, or the way he’d left his hair just tousled enough for her to want to sink her fingers into it and kiss him senseless. “Do I have to go?”
“Yes,” he said sternly, adjusting his sword belt. “But I doubt you’ll see much of Hunt, anyway.”
There were chains rattling on either side of the gate and someone had already cued the wolf howls. Hailey sighed heavily and trudged like a good little soldier across the bailey and around the bon fire in its middle, flipping off the people wearing tattered sheets over their heads and hopping from foot to foot making woo-woo noises.
There was a butler in the entry way to the castle. His uniform was faded and dusty, frayed at the seams, and his makeup made him look like a ghost. “Welcome,” he said in a deep monotone and waved them inside.
“A Halloween party in a castle,” Hailey said dryly, “How original.”
A black shadow crossed her path, a huge one. The tail swished at her legs hard enough to bruise and a large head at the level of her waist swiveled around to spear her with a glare and a huff. Hailey hissed at him and pretend-spat on the ground.
Jeremy chuckled. “I do believe a black cat just crossed your path.”
She glared at him and kicked at the black panther, making him growl in annoyance. “I can’t believe people aren’t running out screaming.” Illusions and holographs was one thing. But Gabriel wasn’t either. Boy had better hope no one decided to touch him to see if he was real.
She watched him stalk through the shadows to the other side of the grand ballroom where Amelia stood talking to Dara. Her sister was dressed in Roman garb, blood red sheets draped gracefully over her and tied with golden cords. Her eyes were dramatically dark with makeup and her lips crimson. Gabriel brushed against her like a cat asking to be petted and Amelia reached down to do just that, running her pale hand over his shiny black coat.
The big cat’s eyes slitted in bliss. Hailey had to admit that they made a nicely matched couple. Aesthetically speaking.
“How come I couldn’t be Hellcat?” she groused.
“Because then you couldn’t have worn what you’re wearing.”
There was a healthy dose of appreciation in his tone and Hailey looked down at herself with satisfaction. She was practically naked, with glittery silk covering the important parts for decency’s sake, but aside from that, nothing covered her, except soft, transparent strips of cloth attached in strategic places that billowed around her every time she moved. She was winter. “But I am ever so cold without my coat,” she said, blinking her long white lashes at him.
Jeremy grinned and spun her into his arms. “Is that so?” he murmured against the side of her neck.
Hailey shivered. “Freezing.”
“Mmm we’ll have to fix that.” He looked around and then took her hand and pulled her to one of the massive tapestries. He was just about to draw it aside when a loud bell tolled, making Hailey slap her hands over her sensitive ears.
“Midnight,” Jeremy said.
She had to endure thirteen gongs as the congregation of costumed attendants parted to allow a procession of chanting, hooded figures to make their way to the stage, each carrying a candle. They lined up, facing the crowd, drew their cowls back, and raised their candles high. As they did, the chandeliers above the dance floor burst into flaming light and the ghostly music echoing around them became louder and louder, seeming to float around the dance floor until it reached the stage.
The hooded people were suddenly gone, leaving only their cloaks where they had stood, and behind them the band appeared, made up to fit the occasion in very realistic looking costumes. Their host walked out on stage, his hair wild and streaked, his skin tattoo-striped like a tiger. He wore torn pants and a sleeveless shirt ripped open down the middle.
His shining golden gaze swept the crowd and Hailey rolled her eyes at the theatrics. “My lords and ladies,” he said, his voice a deep growl. “This night belongs to the wild things.” He gave them all a sharp-fanged snarl-smile. “Watch your fingers.”
Gabriel went up on his hind paws and roared, making those closest to him squeal and move away and on that cue, the musicians struck up a loud tune. Bastard even got to be part of the show.
“Come on,” Jeremy said, chuckling. “There is one thing none of them get to see tonight.” He drew the tapestry aside and pulled her behind it, through the hidden doorway into a pitch black passage.
“Oh goodness me,” she said dryly. “A dark hole in the wall. You spoil me, husband.”
“Just wait,” he said.
When they emerged in the torture chamber, which had been somehow magically transformed with candled and rose petals, and sheets of silk draped over the walls into a gothic version of a wet dream, Hailey’s mouth went slack. “Things… just… got… interesting.”
“Somehow,” Jeremy said, practically purring, “I knew you’d approve.”
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