PROLOGUE - I.. SMELL FEAR
Scratched, exhausted, lungs burning, thighs numb, calves on fire, she couldn’t give up, not now, not after all of this!
A panicked squeal escaped her as she slipped down the embankment, trying to pull herself back up by any means possible, grabbing onto roots, bushes, mud, anything to help.
“What the?” She panted sucking in as much air as she could rubbing her thighs, she had made it up further to what she was certain should be the mountain top...
Just another level in the dense dammed forest.
Tears began to burn her cheeks as she swallowed the emotional lump building in her throat, the panic threatening to leave her lips.
She scanned her surroundings, looking for a new escape route, one that might lead to a watchtower, campsite, a house or any form of human life, but scanning the forest, everything was beginning to take on a dark green and black hue as the sun set further, her time was running out.
A deep howl echoed from the valley below and Sintia shivered as the sound ran down her spine, it was terrifyingly silent in the forest, and the lack of birds and critters was getting to her.
Were they silent with terror? Perhaps they were all driven out by the demons now after her.
Sintia scrambled to the nearest rock face to climb further up, wiping at her black matted hair falling across her eyes, she climbed again, grunting at the exhaustion running through her.
A closer howl answered the first and she froze.
Every hair on her neck stood on static end.
The beast couldn’t have been more than ten feet away.
“No…” She whispered to herself, she couldn’t curl up and admit defeat, they would not have her!
Sintia rushed up the rock face as fast as she could screaming as the panting breath rushed up below her snarling and snapping at her heels. She had never seen such wolves in her life! Even wolves in all the movies looked like cute Huskie distant relatives, but these, they could make a bear bow down in respect.
One more pull up and she was free, she had to believe it, but up above was just the other side of the cliff face she had been climbing and it was all, downhill...
Scanning the slope, Sintia tried to focus on breathing spotting them instantly.
There, an odd hundred meters ahead of her, she could see ice blue and grey, massive, hungry eyes scanning for her, beacons against the darkening wood.
Dropping to a leopard crawl, she snuck around the two wolves best she could, trying to get around quietly, the forest floor was anything but willing to cooperate as twigs snapped and the dried leaves rustled more than necessary.
Before she knew what was happening she was backed against a tree, trapped, eyes on her.
* * *
Did his senses fail him or did he pick up on the erratic heart rate, the sweat, panic and, he closed his eyes filling his lungs.
“I smell, hmmm, fear?” He sniffed the air once more, ah... The smell of fear... Finally!
She had been all but impossible to conquer, he could almost laugh at the irony.
“Interesting” He edged closer, hardened paws flattening the ferns meters between them, testing her panic limit, would he run her down again? He almost didn’t want it to end.
He could just catch a glimpse of her disheveled black hair.
This must be killing her, little miss name brand's hair was out of place.
“Do you fear me?” It wasn’t a stupid question he knew she did, he just wanted her to admit it! Admit she wasn’t fearless admit he was the Alpha, admit he had won, after all, how many beasts like him could she have met?
She scanned her surroundings clamping a hand over her mouth, she was sure higher ground would have taken her out of this dammed, never-ending forest but it seemed to have only gotten denser, colder, and an eerie fog had begun to lick at her Gucci hiking boots making the piercing eyes on her more terrifying then needed.
The night would soon be here and she wasn’t sure if the frigid Russian air would get her or him first.
Her head whipped forward watching the stealthy grey beast smoothly creeping forward, he was too close!
She didn’t want to admit defeat, all her skills and she was hiding behind a tree?! Damn him! She wasn’t scared, she wasn't! Her trembling hands gripped on the bark as she slowly rotated around the tree.
“Why would I? Fear you?” She huffed, ridiculous! Typical arrogant man!
She had to get up a tree, wolves couldn’t climb trees, could they? She scanned the treetops above her, none had low branches, could wolves climb them? She couldn’t recall any documentaries she had watched, well if she was being truthful, half paid attention to as they played on loop for more background noise than anything else in her hollow penthouse.
Oh, how she would kill to be home now in her warm marble bath drowning out the world.
Who’s messed up idea was it for her to come to the wild of Russia really! Someone will be fired!
The ferns fell flat one by one as she sank to her haunches looking into stormy grey eyes, one flinch and she could be dead, he was that big, that powerful.
“Do you know what I am?” The voice echoed loudly in her mind.
He knew she had seen him and his brother shift, it’s why they had to hunt her. Studying her, even with midnight hair wet and tangled around her pale face, makeup mostly off & plump natural chapped lips, he could almost not resist her beauty.
“Let me go home.” She whispered ignoring his questions, ignoring the crazy reality she was in, ignoring the fact that he could ask questions!
Logic denied everything she had seen, the world was not magical, and did not have mythical creatures, hence the name myth, no not in her world. There was no room for such green screen monsters, if there were surely the capitals of the world would have them roaming?
And there were no werewolves or whatever cursed beast was before her on her island.
Manhattan, it had been her dream, big city life, a chance to take the world, and she had done it! It was where her polished marble bathroom was waiting for her.
Sleepless nights, no social life, and swallowing all emotional feelings to be the bitch that was needed got her to the top, CEO of a major marketing chain, and voted most successful young bachelorette of Forbes magazine last year at only 27 years, she had achieved more than 80% of her age group.
Being from a small farm town in South Africa life was tough, yeah everyone had their own struggles but working on a failing maize farm was bottom-of-the-barrel tough.
With a disabled mother, and an elder brother by two years who had to leave school to take over the farm full time. A problematic father who gambled more than lived and was sure that every next bet would be the “big one”, they hardly saw him, he wouldn’t come home for weeks till, one day he just didn’t.
What hurt the most was her brother and her trying to get through high school while feeding and caring for their mother, even if that meant they had to skip a meal as long as their mother was cared for they did it, bathing her, cleaning her, supplying her with all the medicine they could afford, which most of the time had been in short supply.
Her mother had never recovered from being attacked by baboons on the perimeter of their farm a couple years back. It was presumed the baboons had tried to steal food and their mother had gotten in the way, attacking her, leaving her for dead.
The operations needed to fix her nerve system and reattach ripped muscle had just been too much for the family to afford, especially since the only income was from her brother’s hard work which hardly fed them for the month as it was.
They had been transferred from one public hospital to the next fixing what little they could, till nothing more could be done without the proper funding.
All of it, was just too much for a teenage girl, to watch her brother suffer working more than sleeping to provide for them with blistered hands, constant exhaustion, then to look into her sad helpless mother's eyes...
So when Sintia saw a competition at her school to study abroad full expenses paid...
Who could let an opportunity like a scholarship to be won slide? Especially in her current failing situation. It looked to be the key to her prison cell and was grabbed with both hands, without hesitation.
It broke her family’s heart, but she knew they were better off without her as an added burden.
Bitch move to just drop them, but it was needed to help her find the backbone and passion for life again.
Sintia studied at one of the top art schools in America and kept her head firmly down knowing what she had left behind. She had found her calling soon after in marketing and wanted to be in advertising, wanted to be in control of her own destiny.
Working in advertising seemed low-key stress to her brother, he had said all she basically did was get people to notice and the job is half done, right?
If only it was that easy, everyone would be CEO by eighteen.
Becoming CEO of her own company at one of the top firms in Manhattan was exactly where she wanted to be, at the top of her game and with no more ass to licking, no one to answer to.
Yet... Here she was, asking why the hell was she in Russia speaking to a wild beast whom she was so very sure had been a sexy muscles-to-heaven man an hour ago?
“Answer me!” Delacourte snarled looking down at Sintia, he didn’t have much time, the pack would be by his side in moments, and her answers could save or kill her...