Beacon Hills, New Year’s Eve 2014
Allison Argent isn’t really sure if Emma Hale’s Pride New Year’s Eve party is a great idea or a horrible one.
Security is tight. Everyone is tense. And fireworks would be a categorically bad idea.
Allied bonded pairs visiting from all over the country are patrolling the entire Center grounds and large chunks of the surrounding countryside. They are questioning everyone and searching every vehicle that turns onto the Center driveway, both themselves and with what Allison is fairly sure are bomb-sniffing dogs.
The party itself is scheduled to take place mostly in the New Gym of the Beacon Hills Sentinel/Guide Center. ‘New Gym’ being a designation relative to its brother the ‘Old Gym’. The New Gym was at least 10 years old when the retired high school was taken over by the Pride and remodeled within an inch or two of its life.
No one seems to want to let their family members out of sight so the doors between the New Gym and the Old Gym are propped wide open. Partygoers are continually walking back and forth between the two gyms.
Kids of all ages are roller-skating to stupidly loud music in the Old Gym. It’s dark and there are lights making goofy shapes all over the floor. Allison is fairly certain there is a disco ball involved. It’s ridiculous.
There is a half-court basketball game going on in the New Gym on the opposite side of the room from the buffet and temporary bar. What probably used to be storage rooms all around the New Gym’s basketball court are full of different groups participating in a variety of activities. One room has several of the smaller kids watching cartoons. Another room has a bunch of comfy chairs, about half of which are filled with readers. A third one has a boisterous button-mashing, trash-talking video game tournament. The kitchen in the New Gym is full of what Allison can only describe as ‘moms’ even if half of them aren’t actually female.
The newly bonded pairs aren’t there, which is a relief. She’s not sure she could handle having to watch Scott being all protective and adorable with someone else. Not without shooting something, at least
People keep staring at her. Not threateningly, exactly, but they aren’t being shy about it, either. There are rumors going around that the Fire was started by her sister. Her sister/Aunt, Allison corrects herself mentally and frowns around the room. She can feel their assumptions and anger pressing on her shields. Betrayal runs deep through the room and is leaves her feeling naked, defenseless.
The party is a full-blown social battlefield.
Alex abandoned her early on, melting into the video game tournament and disappearing without a trace.
Her new ‘siblings’ don’t let her linger alone for long. Malia and Marcus find their way into her space and start making up loud, horrible and hysterical stories about each and every person that glares at Allison even just a little too long. They are too shameless to make any politically correct connections at the party and they obviously couldn’t care less. Allison can’t help but love them a little bit for it.
Charlotte Argent and Heather Kessler, the Alphas-in-waiting for the entire Argent Clan, are waging a very different battle. Not for Allison’s mental well-being like her new siblings, but for their Clan’s welcome in the Hale/Beacon Hills Pride.
They are floating between the tables and different groups of adults being charming and generally gorgeous. They are telling stories to anyone that stands still long enough, both about Pride life in France and their experiences thus far in Beacon Hills. Peter and Michael Hale feature heavily in their stories but Gerard is left out and twice his mention is pointedly avoided in conversation.
Beside Allison, Malia freezes. Allison follows the younger girl’s eyes to Lydia Martin. Lydia Martin is the most popular girl in their grade, in the entire school actually, and a guide. Allison has never seen her speak to anyone that isn’t a sentinel or Danny Mahealani.
Lydia marches right over to their little cluster. She maintains eye contact with Malia the entire way and for the first time in the week that Allison has known her new sister, the Coyote Guide backs down. She goes so far as to herd her older brother away from Allison until they are half way across the room and then gets them both into the ongoing basketball game.
“I wouldn’t stand too close. You might catch the crazy.” Allison says snidely. It’s a defense mechanism she’s picking up from Peter.
Lydia just gives her a look so full of understanding that Allison almost apologizes even though it wouldn’t do her any good. The words are said, she’ll just have to do better.
“So, which one are you going to let take you home?” the question is abrupt but breezy and way too familiar for Allison’s comfort.
“What? I mean, I can’t just-”
Lydia serves her another one of those understanding looks and it shuts Allison right up. “You can’t expect loyalty from an unbonded sentinel. You know that. They’ll try. They will really, really try but once the one shows up that’s it. It’s over.”
“You mean like that?” Jackson is holding court to several guides, including Malia. At least one, who is probably still in Middle School, is rather blatantly trying to get a good look at his soulmark. Allison is almost certain another of them is a Sheppard, “Wait, I think that one’s bonded. Isn’t that-?”
Right on cue, Paula Cassidy slots into her guide’s personal space. Her chest presses against Olivia’s back, her arms cross over Olivia’s stomach and she rests her chin on Olivia’s shoulder as she glares at Jackson. He just keeps right on flirting, now with the both of them. Paula just snarls something probably derogatory at the would-be Casanova and pulls her laughing guide away.
“And you are my new best friend.” Lydia is turning back to Allison with a mean little grin on her face when something catches her eye. “Oh, I want one.”
Allison looks to the door. The Judgment Friends, as Malia calls them, are back but this time they have brought three fine young sentinels with them. The front two are a matched set, walking side-by-side. They’re both blonde, broad and brawny with eyes just a little small for their faces.
Between them and a step behind is a taller, skinnier, quieter looking male.
“Which one?” Allison asks her new ‘friend’.
One freezes and turns toward Danny, the other two continue over without breaking stride. Allison is 90% sure Lydia’s eyes are locked on the remaining twin.
The two remaining boys make their was over to the two female guides. Lydia and the shorter sentinel are shamelessly obvious about checking each other out right up until he offers her his hand.
Lydia smirks at Allison as takes the proffered hand. The two all but vanish, last seen headed for the door.
It has to be the most amazing thing he has ever smelled. Ethan takes a deep breath. Then, he takes another and another, following his nose until he is facing a gorgeous back.
“It’s Armani.” A charming voice drifts over one broad shoulder.
“My aftershave.” The guide turns around and looks down (down!) at Ethan. “It’s Armani, from their new Sentinel line.”
“Can – Can I?” Ethan is mortified. He is usually so much smoother than this.
The guide gives him a little grin and leans forward. Ethan takes a deep breath. This is the one. This is it. He’s perfect.
“What’s your spirit guide?” his guide asks.
“A tiger. A white Siberian Tiger.”
The guide nods. “We are going to take it slow. We are going to get to know each other. You are going to court me. And, once I say so, we are going to fuck like bunnies.”
“Oh, thank god.”
“Now, your name?”
Isaac is shocked. Not that Aiden abandoned him in the middle of a party. Not that Aiden abandoned him in a place where Isaac knows exactly no one. Definitely not that Aiden abandoned him in order to fuck a girl.
This is not the first time any of these event have happened. It’s not even the first time they have all happened together.
It is the first time that Aiden has taken off without even introducing himself to the girl he’s going to fuck. At least, Isaac is fairly certain there were no introductions. It all happened so fast that he really can’t be sure.
“Lydia Martin.” Isaac looks at the remaining guide. “Her name is Lydia Martin. And she’s my best friend, apparently.”
The last was said so softly that Isaac isn’t sure if he was supposed to hear it or not, but she’s got to be aware of his sentinel status thanks to the bright blue soul-cover Jennifer insisted all three boys wear, so Isaac just nods.
“Aiden.” He gave back to her. Big brown eyes looked up at him, all kinds of wide and confusing. “He’s Aiden Blake. My brother.” Then, because he feels the need to clarify. “I’m adopted.”
“And you are?” she questions with a smile. She has dimples. Honest-to-god fucking dimples.
“Isaac Lahey. Clouded Leopard Sentinel.” What the fuck, Lahey! It is way too early to be throwing that out there!
Her eyes go impossibly wide. She is a total Disney Princess. Isaac Andrew Lahey is officially trying to get it on with Belle. No, she looks more like Snow White? Whatever! He clears his throat self consciously, “You?”
“Allison Argent. Crowned Eagle Guide.”
Okay, so maybe not so much trying to as going to. Probably.
She holds out her right hand, obviously intending for them to shake. He clears his throat, yet again -he really needs to stop that!- and grasps her hand.
It’s a punch in the gut. Seriously. His intestines feel liquefied and solidified and electrified, all at the same time. He can hardly breathe. It’s so confusing. It feels so horrible he wants to scream and cry, but at the same time, it feels so good he’s pretty sure he could come just from holding her hand.
She slides her left hand down his right forearm and lets her hand linger on his soul-cover, a question. He nods. She slides one finger under his wristband and pulls down.
She stares a little longer.
He’s starting to get nervous. Is it her fucking bird or not?
His best friend is an idiot. No, seriously. He’s a complete idiot.
Danny is certain Jackson had noticed when his girlfriend took off with another guy. That Lydia Martin left a party with some strange sentinel that is not Jackson Whittemore.
And is Jackson doing anything about it?
He’s too busy chasing one of the visiting guides around the party and making an ass out of himself by flirting with anyone else in her general vicinity.
She is so obviously attached to the sentinel that she came with that Danny is almost embarrassed for Jackson.
The guide and her companion are moving to the skating gym. Probably hoping to escape Jackson by leaving basketball behind.
Jackson shamelessly follows along, talking way louder than necessary about how great he is at everything.
Danny uses his chin to point them out to his sentinel. Ethan grins, rolls his eyes and nods. No stealth is even attempted. Danny and Ethan just pile right into the group.
While they are picking out skates from the shelves of spares in the storage room, Ethan helpfully distracts Jackson long enough for Danny to introduce himself to Malia and her brother, Marcus.
Okay, so, Jackson might stand a chance?
Danny settles in to watch the disaster that is Jackson courting someone unfold. After all, he’ll have to be the one to explain to Jackson exactly what went wrong. Or provide Lydia a play by play to giggle over this weekend. Maybe both.
“Man, he doesn’t even notice the guys checking him out.”
Danny sighs in his sentinel’s general direction, not taking his eyes off of his idiot of a best friend. “He never does. Jackson is the straightest sentinel in all of Beacon Hills.”
“The way he dresses? No way, Aiden’s the straightest sentinel in Beacon Hills.”
“Hah! I’ve seen your brother, remember? He doesn’t dress any worse than Jackson.”
“Because I dress him. Five bucks says I can set up Jackson with a guy before you can get Aiden with one.”
Danny scoffs. “You’re on.”