I SMELL FEAR

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THE COVER UP

The lodge's lobby had always been grand and inviting, spacious with windows that took up most of the place displaying the stunning views at its high vantage point, the windows joined up with large wooden logs and stone-clad fireplaces on either end, large enough to stand in keeping things warm. High back armchairs framed couches in perfect settings allowing for privacy to most who needed it in the large space.

Despite all this though, it suddenly felt way too small.

Stepping into the lobby the brothers spotted medical staff, their staff, and a crowd of what looked to every occupant currently staying with them.

Dreed filled them as they neared, they could smell blood and every tourist’s phone was out recording.

If this was related to the new wolf, they would have endless shit making it disappear.

“Step aside,” The brothers pushed through the thickness of humans, “Move,” Delacourte purposely bumped a younger man recording live on some form of media making him drop the phone with the impact.

“Hey.” The youngster said bending down to retrieve his phone when Vincenzo passed kicking it just out of reach apologizing with a small smile of victory, it was just one less fire to put out later.

“I can’t see, is it her?”

“Do you know what happened?”

“Who attacked?”

The brothers listened to the chatter pushing through the last row to the scene in front.

Sitting in one of the high back chairs was a woman with black hair covering her face looking down at two paramedics working on her arm, she was bobbing her head in agreement with the paramedic’s commands. Delacourte turned around in the small circle to see the lodges staff members holding the people back staring at him for some direction.

“Just keep them back and try convince them to leave, if you can.”

“What’s going on?” Vinchenzo asked stepping nearer to the medics.

“Please step back sir.” A medic said turning to push the brothers, they didn’t move.

“Can we move this somewhere private? This is our property and it’s causing a scene.” Delacourte said looking around him and at the sea of flashlights from recording phones.

Sintia stopped listening to the medic before her and looked up at the two men, “Its? It's causing a scene?” She snapped up at them. “Are you serious?”

“What happened?” Vinchenzo asked the medic moving closer to see her arm ignoring her.

“Hey assholes,” Sintia cut the paramedic and Vinchenzo short shooting daggers with her eyes, “As much I love being spoken about while sitting right here, just like every other woman in the world,” dripping sarcasm, “I’d appreciate it, if you tucked away your egos, backed the hell off, and let the paramedics finish.” She said tucking her loose hair behind her ear with a blood-splattered free hand. “I’d hate to cause a scene.” She smiled, but anyone with enough brain cells could see it was anything but genuine.

The lobby started to buzz the moment her hair had been tucked, one or two calling her name.

The brothers looked slightly dumbfounded from her asshole comment to the crowd than at each other.

When last had they ever been called assholes?

Without losing any more time the brothers invaded her personal space bending down towards her, blocking the onlookers, looking down at her arm with her cut palm face-up, the one medic was cleaning and testing her fingers while the other had begun to seal the deep rips into her wrist and arm where blood was seeping, the fact that she wasn’t screaming or crying with pain amazed them.

“Miss, we need to know what happened?”

“Why?” She shot them another look still pissed at the fact that they thought she was causing a scene, she had been perfectly calm through it all till now.

“Were you bitten?”

She looked down at her arm then back up at them about to reply when the crowd got louder.

Sintia! Sintia! What happened? Sintia are you ok? Who attacked you? Who are you here with?

She paled slightly at the questions noticing for the first time all the phones pointed at her, and turned back to face the men. “Is there a less busy place we can move to?” So caught up in having her arm checked she had forgotten her surroundings.

The brothers acted quickly in pulling up the medics and directing them to a nearby office then turning to help her up, she stumbled slightly but refused to be helped as they made their way to the office, the brothers created a shield around her keeping the guests back till they were all in and locked the door.

Delacourte neared her reaching for her arm then stopped letting the medics carry on, he would try a reasonable way first, she might scare easy.

He looked down into her guarded eyes for any fear, and saw none.

“Do we need to repeat ourselves?” He didn’t want to be rash, but looking at her now, he noticed a few concerning factors. There was a sweat forming at her brow, a lot of blood, and her skin was pale, it if was a wolf bite he needed to know now before the transition started, he didn’t know how long it had been between now and when she had been attacked, they were minutes away from what could possibly be an absolute disaster.

Getting out of the office and moving a semi-transforming wolf through so many would be impossible, they couldn’t risk the exposure which meant she would have to be killed and the medics? Well, they had dealt with worse odds.

“SPEAK WOMAN!” Delacourte roared.

“Keep it up and you will get nothing from me.” She glared up at him fearless.

“Cooperate and we will all be done sooner.” He glared back.

“She is losing a lot of blood we recommend keeping the heart rate down for now.” One of the paramedics spoke trying to get her to sit back down.

Delacourte growled deep within reaching for her arm, there was no more time left, he made sure to not cause pain holding the underneath firmly pausing the medics.

She sucked in a breath with what she thought would be painful but was only mildly discomforting, whatever the medics had injected her with was working like a charm at numbing her arm. “What the hell is wrong with you two?” She shouted looking from Delacourte to Vinchenzo in the corner on a call oblivious to the current situation.

“I need to see if you were bitten.”

“Are you that worried about rabies?”

“Aren’t you?”

“I’m not the one acting like an animal.”

Delacourte sighed with relief letting her arm go allowing the confused and concerned medics to carry on. He chuckled at her comment leaning back against the wall giving a small nod that everything was ok to his brother who nodded back stepping out of the office to finish his private call.

It wasn’t a bite mark, thankfully, but some animal had tried to grab her.

“What’s with the nodding?” Sintia asked noticing both the men’s shoulders relaxing.

“Observant.” Delacourte winked at her.

“What were you hoping to see? What’s going on?”

“That’s what we have been asking you, now, are you going to spit it out or should I leave it up to my staff to resolve this?”

“This? First, I’m an it, now I’m a this?”

“No one is calling you anything, Sintia.”

She frowned slightly taken back by how he would know her name, then recalled the crowd and groaned.

“So?” Delacourte sighed pointing at her arm. “I am not a man to ask more than once.”

She had a million questions as to who he and what she assumed was his brother were, but from their previous encounter and how they walked with such confidence as if they owned the world, she knew they had to be the owners of the lodge, part of the Alexeyev family she presumed, well that’s if she recalled the name correctly from what the tour guide had said, but either way he was right, she needed to tell them.

“We were out on the morning tour,” She began as Vinchenzo re-entered the room closing and leaning against the door nodding for her to continue, “We stopped at the top of one of the mountains,” She unconsciously went to move her arm as a reflex in explaining the story when her face strained, she looked down at the medics finishing up a section close to where a drip was now tapped into her. “On one of the mountains, there is a walkway to the other side where you stand in a small build-out wall?” She tried to explain.

“Yes, I know it well.”

“Well, I was watching the view when out of nowhere a wolf was creeping up to me from the left.”

Both brothers tensed slightly locking eyes.

“Ok, that’s it, what is happening? Every time I mention a wolf lately people get like that” She said looking them both up and down.

“We have a lone wolf that’s been attacking people lately around the area, I believe it was caught right before we came through here.” Vinchenzo lied easily, “Please, continue.”

“How do you know it’s the same one?”

“First finish your story then you can ask all the questions you want.”

“Or, you could show me a woman some respect, and answer them now.” She straightened her spine.

Delacourte smiled, did anything intimidate her. “Was it a large black one?”

“Y, yes.” She confirmed.

“Then yes, we have it.”

“I want to see it.”

“Finish your story.”

She sighed looking at the medics defiantly, “I don’t mean to sound concerned, but is this not supposed to hurt a lot more?”

A deep growl rumbled from within Delacorte’s chest, his patience was wearing thin, first the Balakin in the morning now this woman purposely delaying her answers. She side-eyed him then looked back at the medics quickly and he could have sworn her lips nearly pulled a small satisfied smile.

While the medics explained to her about the adrenaline still pumping through her and the meds, she had been injected with Delacourte turned to his unusually quiet brother.

“Fearless little thing,” Vinchenzo smiled.

“Stubborn, should we go?” He asked as they both turned to leave, she was clearly not going to be cooperative and they had a lot to still get through for the day now that the risk of her being a werewolf was eliminated, they would send someone to sort this all out properly.

“No, we have a few things to discuss.” Sintia spoke looking at them, “Stay the medics are nearly done and then we can talk.”

“Ma’am, its best if you come back to the hospital with us, this is only a temporary fix to stop the bleeding, there is damage here that,”

“I will get myself to a hospital for a check-up when my business is done ok?” She cut them off politely as possible.

The brothers stood still till she had finished being bandaged up, vitals checked, a small stubborn battle about not leaving with the medics even after they persisted. Vinchenzo had grabbed the medics having a quick word to them about respecting their guest’s privacy, then finally, it was just the three of them left in the office.

“I’m starting to assume that where you are from people wait on you, but we do not have all dam day to babysit, say your say.” Vinchenzo grunted easing into a chair checking the time, “you have ten minutes.”

Sintia raised her eyebrows to the men, “Rude, I was just attacked on your property, while being an active guest here, you should be doing everything in your power to make me not press charges, or at least try to keep yourselves on my good side.”

“If you were going to press charges or demand suck ups, you would have hinted as such by now, you would have had the police in here and gone willingly to the hospital playing the perfect victim, we are not here to beat around the dam bush, miss Sintia, are you?” Delacourte chipped in.

She smiled slowly in agreement.

“No, I suppose not.” She sighed cradling her wrapped arm in her lap shifting in the blanket that had been placed over her shoulders ready to finish her story. “The wolf on top of the mountain was looking at me as if I was its first meal after a month-long fast.”

Delacourte swallowed silently, he had been having the same thought about her, had been denying it, in fact, she was the only all human woman he had ever seen to make him want to…

He stopped his thoughts on the matter focusing back on what her moving lips were saying.

“I knew it was going to attack so I eased my jacket off, cutting my palm open with the pendant on my necklace,” She looked down at the now clean golden leaf pendant with a sharp tip. “I thought the blood on the jacket would mislead it as I threw it as a distraction to run.”

The brothers cringed slightly, she was lucky the blood hadn’t made the new turn lose all sense and kill her.

“I overdid it though cutting my palm too deep, as it launched for me, I threw my jacket at it, but underestimated its speed, it attacked the jacket and me at the same time, its claws hooked into my arm, but thankfully the blood on the jacket had it turning on that next, I took that as my opportunity to run.” She blinked slowly taking a deep breath, “Thankfully I was fast enough, the ranger and driver-assisted in wrapping me up, then one of them went to check, but the wolf and my jacket were gone.”

“I’m impressed, not many can react appropriately in such a situation, well done.” Delacourte praised.

“Thanks, now, two problems, first I do not want to go to a hospital, I require medical treatment in my suite where I can be alone to heal and carry on with my work. Secondly, the guests,” She pointed to the door “They were recording me, I need your help to get me out and a story that keeps us both in a good light, I cannot afford to be made out to be some dumb tourist that wanted to pet a wolf, it will ruin my reputation, and as for your lodge.” She let the last part hang.

“Yes, we are well aware of how fast words can get out of line, our lodge would be put in a bad light with questions as to why our ranger was not vigilant enough, leading to questions on training, staff, etc that could affect the lodge’s rating.”

“Exactly.” She agreed

“Now, not that we don’t appreciate your concern for this lodge’s reputation, but why?” Vinchenzo crossed his arms slightly confused, he had been working on a plan to suggest such a thing, not because they cared about the lodge’s reputation, they did. But their main concern was word getting out to all the other werewolf clans, hearing of the attack on the Alexeyev property specially from a wolf, it would be like the first gun fired in a war where everyone was told to stand down. It would cause a chain reaction they were not ready for, starting a war sooner than they could prepare for.

Many new clans would take it as a sign of weakness and test the waters themselves.

Da had been right, they thought looking at each other seeming to have the same thought.

War was a single wrong step away.

“Why what?” Sintia broke their thought process

“Why lie to protect us? What do you gain?”

The brothers leaned forward watching her with such intensity she felt her gut twist with anxiety, she couldn’t believe it. She had stood up in front of thousands, fearless, yet these two gorgeous men with such unnatural predatory eyes made her want to sweat, it must be the loss of blood she thought.

“I do not need more drama in my life, the faster it can be swept under the carpets without causing a fuss the faster we can continue with our lives, despite the ruined day, I actually enjoy it here and would like to return someday.”

“Sintia, correct?” Vincenzo confirmed

“Yes, uhm?” She fell short realizing she didn’t get their names, then her memory from the tour kicked in, “Alexeyev brothers?”

“Vinchenzo, Delacourte.” Vinchenzo introduced, “Yes, the Alexeyev brothers, so what story would you like to go with?”

Before Sintia could begin a knock came at the door then was opened by two men Sintia hadn’t seen before in what looked to be taskforce uniform, they then closed it with the manager she did know running the lodge popping up behind them.

One of the men bent down to Vinchenzo whispering something into his ear.

Sintia was about to demand an answer when the manager approached her with a cordless phone in his hand giving it to her, the screen was blue showing an international number across it counting the minutes.

“What’s going on?”

“It’s your assistant and your lawyer.” The manager said still holding the phone out to her, she grabbed it instantly.

“Hello?”

“Sintia its Kiki, are you ok?! Oh my gosh! I have been calling your cell, which is dead, and when I called the lodge, I got this bloody idiot of a manager that works there, he said…”

The brother turned to the other two men in the room tuning the call out, it was no threat to her.

“Find out who this woman is, what she does and her social circle, your detail is to protect her and guard her at all times, while she is here,” Vinchenzo ordered.

“Yes sir.” They answered together.

“How is it looking out there?” Delacourte asked the flustered manager.

“It’s, uhm, quieted down some, but there are still many waiting to see if everything is ok, I have tried to get them to respect her privacy but they won’t move, and a news crew is also here now waiting.”

“News crew? Who the hell is this woman, Hollywood’s hottest?”

“Hottest?” Vinchenzo Raised an eyebrow at his brother in silent mock.

“It was just an example,” Delacourte mumbled, cleared his throat then carried on “Who is she?”

“I’m unsure, but a guest gave me this.” The manager replied pulling out a curled-at-the-edges rolled-up magazine, unfolding it they all stared at it.

Forbes – America’s richest self-made woman.

There, on its cover standing arms folded in a white suit was Sintia.

“Ok then,” The brothers answered passing the magazine to one of the guards.

“There has to be an article in there telling us what she does with a background, it’s a start.” Delacourte said turning back to the woman still busy on the phone.

They adjusted their ears slightly to hear both ends of the phone call.

“No, and yes I will be going to a hospital soon,” She said.

“And just to be clear you do not wish to push charges? I have heard of the Alexeyev family, it will not be an easy win they have extremely powerful,” A deeper voice was now on the phone.

“No, I do not, they will be covering my medical fees, not that that’s needed either, and I am not not pushing charges due to them having some famous name, I couldn’t give a shit really who they are.”

“I advise you to,”

“The only advise I need from you is how to get out of here with a boring enough story that doesn’t affect both me and them.” She snapped cutting him off again.

“Give me a few minutes, I will call you back on this number.”

“Thank you.” She sighed hanging up the phone, looking up at all eyes on her.

“Who are these men?”

“Your new bodyguards, who was that?”

“My lawyer,” she said her eyes on the brothers, “I can find my own protection thank you.”

“We sure you can, but until you do these are yours.”

“Why is another wolf going to come after me?” She asked, a twinkle in her eyes.

Delacourte leaned forward elbows on his knees looking deep into her eyes, “He just might.” He spoke in a low husky voice, the left side of his mouth pulling in a small smile. Sintia’s spine tingled as she felt heat rushing to her cheeks, she didn’t know this man from a bar of soap but the way he had just said that sounded like a promise she wanted.

Vinchenzo cleared his throat, “What did your lawyer say?”

“My assistant, Kiki, is on all my social platforms and when she got all the notifications of activity about this,” She pointed to her arm. “She couldn’t get a hold of me, panicked, and called my lawyer. He has gone through most of the videos but there is no mention at what happened, just rumours we need to nip in the butt.”

The phone rang again and she reached to answer it, “Yes?”

“Are the owners there?” The lawyer spoke.

“Yes,”

“If the room is secure, put me on speaker.”

Sintia looked around the room, her new bodyguards, the manager, and Alexeyev were still there, they would all need to be a part of the cover if it was to work, she pressed the button.

“You on speaker.”

After introductions and a few notes jotted down through the phone by her lawyer they returned to the main situation.

“Ok, so this is what has happened, Sintia I see the lodge offers guided hikes, as far as everyone is concerned you joined the morning hike, slipped when the snow gave way down a small embankment, in your panic you reached for something to grab onto, and it just happened to be sharp rocks that cut into your arm. The tour guide responded immediately in retrieving and returning you to have a paramedic look you over. This way there was no attack which the tour guide didn’t see coming, which saves the risk of a negative light on the lodge.” He paused and they could hear the tapping of a pen on paper through the phone “I can see by one of the videos that you are wearing jeans and hiking boots, which works in this case of being more believable, but, most comments now circling is that of you being attacked by a mental escaped patient, apparently there is a mental home nearby?”

“There was, it’s been abandoned for over twenty years due to an electrical fire, it’s now a stone pile,” Delacourte answered.

“Well, when the public finds that out they will start blaming ghosts or the living dead, Sintia you know how fast stories can get out of hand, so I suggest you get this cover story out fast so we can put this all to rest.”

“Yes, I will be addressing them shortly.” She said nodding with the rest of the room feeling a little more relaxed.

“Then to a hospital, ok? That cut doesn’t look good, any questions?” The lawyer asked through the speaker to the room.

“Yes,” The manager hesitated stepping nearer. “What about the couple that was on the tour with miss S this morning? Should we include them in this arrangement? After all, they witnessed everything.”

“WHAT?!” The speaker distorted a bit as the lawyer’s voice boomed through the room.

“Oh shit.” Sintia breathed panic in her eyes as she looked at the brothers, she had completely forgotten about the couple.

But it was too late, the door had been jerked open and the brothers were gone, along with the dragged manager leaving her alone with two guards.

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