I SMELL FEAR

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UNDERCOVER

Swapping the Jeep out for an unmarked car Delacourte and Vinchenzo dressed down along the way into plain leather jackets, ripped jeans, and hoodies to hide their faces as much as possible. Having some of the most recognizable faces around, dressing down helped keep eyes off of them.

“You sure this will work?”

“It should, we aren’t dressed as your stereotypical royal, people.”

“People?”

“What would you call us?”

“Does it matter?”

They smiled at each other before climbing into the rusted, powder blue faded, 1980 Ford Cortina.

“Where did you find this rust bucket?”

“One of our guards was selling it,”

“And you thought you might need a falling apart piece of shit?” Vinchenzo mocked

“It’s coming in handy now is it not?”

“As if you knew we were going to do undercover shit like this.” Vinchenzo slapped the flyer onto the dashboard, Delacourte felt his temperature rise reading the words “Revolution” again, they needed to get to the bar asap. Trusting their men to handle it as their father had suggested just seemed, boring. But this hit home, and they wanted to look into the face of who had decided to turn so many into new wolves. Somehow, and they didn’t know how, but the head their father was dealing with and Balakin had to be related; they were the only clan with more new recruits than anything else.

“Are the team following us?”

“They will be in the bar,” Vinchenzo confirmed typing on his phone making sure their task force, and private guards would be there ready to jump. Putting the car in gear they made their way to the bar, stopping at a T-junction pulling their hoodies up.

“And now?” Vinchenzo noticed the delay, there were no cars coming from either direction yet his brother sat not moving, he looked out the front and around but they were safe, “D?”

“I just, that fucking Travis man, I know he knows shit he is just not telling us.” Delacourte looked to his right, turning right took them to the main warehouse holding the new turn.

“Obviously, it doesn’t take ten days to get your memory back.”

“We should force him to speak.”

“We need to be patient.”

“You sound like Da.”

“He is a wise man.”

“Indeed” Delacourte sighed turning left.

“Relax, Travis will eventually talk, they always do. It’s only because he now knows who we are that he is silent with fear, the one that turned him would have told him as much.”

“I just wish we were more prepared, that’s all, perhaps we should dye our hair black.” Delacourte huffed annoyed. Vinchenzo burst out laughing holding his side punching his brothers arm as the laugher kept coming, Delacourte smiled before asking his brother what was so humorous.

“You want to go goth for a few hours of questioning?” Vinchenzo laughed again, “Da would put our own heads in a bag.” He coughed another laugh before looking at his brother “Do you not remember the last time we did something so drastic right before the Ball?”

“You going to have to refresh my memory.” Delacourte smiled stopping at yet another red light, each one had caught them so far and he was tempted to race right through them all. The delay in getting to their destination was making his anxiety worse.

“When we were eighteen, a week before the ball you and I decided to test each other’s fears, climbed the highest mountain, and jump off.”

“Oh yes!” Delacourte now laughing, “The ultimate chicken test, I still do it with new recruits once a year, much smaller mountain though, dam, can u imagine the clean-up if it was the same mountain?”

“No thanks,” Vinchenzo chuckled.

When they were eighteen, the brothers had basically explored all their land and its secrets playing extreme tag amongst other things, one sunny day boredom had them racing up the largest mountain they owned. It was there they had decided to play chicken, most kids their age had done so in a car head-on.

But the Alexeyev brothers had another plan, to jump off the mountainside, testing each other’s fears, waiting for the last possible moment to transform into a wolf to save their fall. Stubborn to the core they had left it too long hoping the other would change, neither had. The brothers had panicked when the ground came racing up to them, transforming at the same time, but it didn’t stop the fall from breaking Delacourte’s arm, and Vinzencho’s hand mid-shift. It was only on their way back home that they had discovered the impact had broken something else as well.

They had gotten home to concerned father who had changed from love to fury in a matter of seconds when he had found out they had done it all voluntarily. About to be sent to their rooms he had stopped mid-rant grabbing Vinchenzo’s Jaw then Delacourtes, the red color returning to his face in seconds.

“He had been steaming out the ears when he saw our teeth.” Delacourte laughed pulling his lip up to show him a row of white teeth pointing to two. “These two had been knocked out, and my front one hand been chipped off at the corner.”

Vinchenzo pulled his own lip showing where his teeth “This one canine had been broken off and this lateral incisor,” He chuckled releasing his lips, they both laughed again.

“Da had nearly made us wear masks to the ball covering our mouths as well.”

“Could you imagine the guest’s faces seeing us eat, with missing teeth when the masks came off?”

Barking with laughter again, Delacourte finally climbed onto the highway. Their father had sent them to an emergency dentist to fix both their teeth, bribing the dentist to keep their visit private and they had attended the ball as they had every year perfectly groomed with straight teeth and mended bones. Bones healed but teeth were just one of the things that didn’t, certain things about them remained very human.

“It would have made the night rather remarkable, charming all the ladies with our handsome smiles, now for this year’s ball you wish to dye your hair black?”

“Yeah, Da would probably disown us.”

“Especially since he has been using the ball as an excuse to find us, wives.”

“As if we haven’t noticed the increase of royal female introductions.” Delacourte sighed.

“Black hair is not a bad idea; every girl likes a bit of bad, dark, and rough.”

“Every girl wants a prince.”

“Have you met every girl?”

“I’ve met enough to know what they want from us; most see our name, titles, fortune and picture themselves being Mrs. Alexeyev before getting to know us,”

“Makes wife picking easier, doesn’t it?”

“I guess,”

They grew quiet, Vinchenzo didn’t have to say anymore, they both felt the same way. Being a royal came with certain duties, responsibilities. One of them being; they needed wives and to further the family name by the time they had turned twenty-five. That time had come and gone a long time ago and each royal female they had been introduced to had been perfect in every way, but their inner wolf had not recognized them as a match. Klaus had fought endlessly with them to just pick one, marry one. Klaus had even advised that they could live separate lives on other sides of the castle as long as they produced heirs. Damn the castle, damn the women, their father had been nothing but miserable with Zarah. Why did they have to suffer the same loveless marriage? Their uncles had found their perfect mates and were still happily married, with their cousins also happily married, with, kids. How much longer could they avoid the duties, even the newspapers had been concerned with their Bachelor lives, comparing their ages to the past kings and lastly their father’s in when “Future Kings Were Born”, even having the nerve to create voting polls for the public to vote and guess if the Alexeyev brothers would finally pick wives at the upcoming ball. They had even heard a few of their men placing big bets, as if the pressure wasn’t enough, had just avoided the subject together, but soon enough they would have to decide what to do, perhaps picking a random royal wolf at the next ball was not such a bad idea, a lifetime in a loveless marriage could work, if only for the kids, they could make it work. But what happened when they finally tied the knot and then found their true mates? Royals were not allowed to divorce; the country had shone a bad light on their Da for doing so with Zarah, the second divorce in a hundred years.

“We here,” Delacourte said pulling to a stop, Vinchenzo blinked drawing himself back to the present. Switching off they looked at the busy bar, the parking lot had maybe three free spaces left.

“Think they all here for this shit?” Vinchenzo folded the flyer putting it in his pocket.

“I’d say half yeah.”

Checking themselves, they climbed out tensing, “This cover better work.”

“We have never been here they won’t know us.”

“Our face is all over Russia, how do you know,” Vinchenzo growled looking around them spotting his task forces cars parked at different spots, Delacourte noticed the same clenching his jaw. Vinchenzo noticed then his brother’s cool façade failing, he was worried about things going south too. If they were found out, this and every lead they had would go up in smoke. “Come, let’s get this over with.” He said nudging his brother’s shoulder as they headed to the bar entrance.

* * * * *

“Yes jane, I promise everything is fine.” Sintia kept the smile in her voice taking yet another call, from a so-called concerned friend of hers back in Manhattan. “Yes of course I know Dr D.James.” She smiled again, listening to the woman rattle on about how good her plastic surgeon was. Her irritation was taking a drastic turn to rage and she needed to end the call before she slipped up and called poor Jane a fake bitch, pun intended.

Sintia had been receiving calls from many ‘concerned’ so-called friends that she only ever saw at social events. Each one had asked if she was ok after her horrid fall, each one had instantly jumped into explaining how they personally knew a plastic surgeon, it didn’t take a genius to realize what was going on. Once she returned to Manhatten the surgeon she did see would be splashed all over the news with before and after images of her arm, it was a huge boost for them with regards to advertising, people always flocked to places that had worked on celebrities.

No one gave a damn about her, they just wanted the mention of them in the newspapers being the one that referred her, this was what being in the advertising industry was like. Take nothing to heart and you might just get out alive.

“Jane, I have to go, terribly sorry for cutting you off like this doll, but I have my assistant on the other line, apparently it’s urgent.” Saying goodbye, she ended the call picking up Kiki’s call “Thank goodness you have impeccable timing.”

“Another referral?” Kiki giggled, “I’m sorry to worry you with this but I have found a private detective that will take on your case.” Sintia stopped mid-stride turning to face a display at one of the shops in the mall, not really seeing she stopped the trolly listening intently.

“And?”

“And he should be giving you a call soon, apparently Jarred is a real piece of work and has many people scared, it was hard finding one’s that weren’t already in his pocket to look the other way.”

“Oh my gosh, I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Nor had I,”

“Thanks again Kiki,”

“it’s a pleasure, oh and I nearly forgot, Gary, is gone, yay.”

“Gary?” She couldn’t for the life of her recall the name.

“That slime ball from IT? He gave in his resignation yesterday after we picked up another virus that crippled the June layout files.”

“What?!” Sintia screeched looking around her, Don and Rud immediately encircled her, but she put her hand up letting them know she was ok.

“No sorry, that came out wrong, we had backups of everything so we technically lost nothing, except Gary.”

“Kiki,” Sinita warned taking a deep breath. “He left willingly?” She asked sensing more.

“Not exactly.”

“Do I need to know?”

“Unfortunately, yes, he said a few strong words against you, and mentioned that you forced his hand to hand in this resignation, also said you threatened his job and he would see you in court for it.”

“So, in other words he just wants to get money out of me to lay on his arrogant ass all day instead of finding another job.”

“It seems that way, yes.”

Looking now for the first time into the shop’s glass window she spotted a different row of gold and silver rings, but her eyes always drifted over the rose gold selection. The selection was done by some Russian designer she didn’t recognize, but it had her thinking of the beast Jarred had forced onto her hand, then to a worse thought.

“Heard anything back from my lawyer regarding Mr Ching’s contract? Has he managed to find a loop whole?” Sintia cut Kiki off, she hadn’t been listening to anything she had been saying anyways.

“Not that I am aware of.”

Sighing she turned from the display case suddenly over her shopping spree, her trolly was full enough.

Making their way back to the car, Kiki ran through a list of things she needed answered while Don and Rub helped load the boot and they got in heading back to the lodge.

“Anywhere else?” Rud asked when she finally got off the call rubbing her poor ear.

“No, thanks.” She needed to get back to her laptop and finalize a few things that Kiki just didn’t have access to. Then to book a trip back to the states, she loved it here but with everything she just wasn’t getting any rest, she might as well return home and get right back into it. Which reminded her she still needed to confirm a last few things, like these men. They were fantastic, could she get them to go home with her? Could she get more? How big was the security company the Alexeyev owned? Picking up her phone she dialed Delacourte’s number he had given her in case another situation came back up, but pressing call had a wave of goosebumps run over her. She hesitated looked at his name wondering why, hovering her finger over the green call button.

“This is ridiculous.” She whispered to herself pressing call ignoring the feeling, yes the men were drop-dead gorgeous but she was a grown-up woman. It rang a heartbeat before being picked up.

“Sintia?” Came a deep voice, the hair on her arms stood up at his voice and accent pronouncing her name.

“Hi there, yes it’s me. Have you got a minute to talk?”

“Not really,” He almost whispered she could hardly hear him through the noise, it sounded like they were at a bar or something.

“Bit early for day drinking?” She couldn’t help, it just slipped out. She nearly slapped herself daring to insult a Russian prince, who the hell did she think she was? to her relief, a chuckle came through the line.

“If only it was for the pleasure of it. What can I do for you?”

“I wanted to ask about Don and Ron, I’d like to hire them and a few more to come back home with me.”

“A few more? something wrong back home?”

“Nothing these men couldn’t handle,”

“If you want my men, we need to know what we getting into.”

“Alright, when can we meet?”

“Sintia, I have to go but,”

She held the phone closer as he cut his response short, seeming to speak to someone then the call went dead.

“Odd,” she said to herself returning her cell in her bag, perhaps the man had a date. She looked out the window at the white world, snow had been floating down gently most of the day and the clouds only got darker, they were almost back passing open fields when her eye caught sight of a large running animal.

“Are we back in the reserve yet?”

“Not yet why?” Don asked looking at her through the review mirror. She pointed out the window and they both whipped their heads to the left watching dark fur covered by most of the overgrown bushes racing through the fields almost keeping up with them.

“Is that a bear? They can’t run that fast, can they?”

“Call the office.” Don shouted to his comrade. Without delay Ron had his phone to his ear cocking a gun with the other, she hadn’t even seen him pull it out.

“What the fuck is going on?”

The sudden tension in the car didn’t go unnoticed, and they didn’t answer her.

“Stop.” Rod barked at Don, he did, tires screeching and slipping on the iced road as they came to a halt. But that’s not what had her attention, the brown beast stopped as well, turning to look at them, and five more came into view edging closer to the road. Rod jumped out of the car scanning the opposite road then backed up turning back to the other side of the road slamming his flat hand on the bonnet.

“Turn back, this is not your land!” Rod shouted at them, slamming his hand down again creating a loud clapping sound. Was he talking to the animals? Sintia whipped around looking behind and in front of them, there were no other cars in any direction, what the hell was going on? The man really had a gun, she followed its point to the animals creeping nearer, and sucked in a breath as they finally came into view, they were gigantic wolves!

* * * * *

“What did she want?” Vinchenzo asked his brother after taking a seat at the busy bar.

“Later,” he said as the bartender finally came near them throwing a drying cloth over his shoulder, they tensed, now was the true test to see if they would be noticed or not.

“What you want?” The man asked placing both hands on the counter, Vinchenzo slid the flyer onto the counter with a few bills on top.

“Two double vodkas on the rocks.”

The bartender nodded taking the flyer and cash, they watched carefully as he slid the flyer in his back jean pocket as if it was an everyday normal tip and gave the cash to a younger bartender near the cash register. Before turning to pour their two drinks, they looked at each other with a frown, had they done it wrong?

“Here you go, stay put.” The bartender said going to help another customer. Delacourte looked down at their drinks then the bright red coasters they had been placed on, they had watched the drinks being poured, it was clean, but that’s not what had his attention. The bar top itself was as old as the hills, dinged, scratched, stained, and cracked with more nails and varnish to keep it together than anything else, it had seen so many visitors there were smooth, dipped curves in the wooden top, from thousands of elbows and grease sitting there to drink their sorrows away, yet out of all the spills and different liquids lined up to everyone else, they had coasters. Discreetly tapping the coaster, Vinchenzo caught on and started to scan the room looking for anymore, he spotted two others than another set at his men’s table, they had promised to join in with them. Vinchenzo didn’t need the protection, but the men had said they wanted some action, so red coasters for them too. He turned the other way looking for more and spotted a few, then a table with eight men laughing and having a good time, had eight red coasters. Looking back at Delacourte he nodded, they had been noticed.

Before they had taken the last sip the bartender had thrown serviettes at them and passed greased fries to the men next to them talking a load of shit, Delacourte turned over the serviette nudging his brother.

Through bathroom, back door, ten minutes.

Folding it and slipping it in his pocket, he smiled at the thought of their house cleaner, doing their washing and finding this, all that was missing on the serviette was a lipstick-stained kiss and they had a scandal on their hands.

Ten minutes later they watched all the men given red coasters casually get up, stretch, distract, anything possible to make it seem as if a group of men was not just going to the bathroom together. But the bar was full and no one seemed to notice, being the last to get up, Delacourte and Vinchenzo made their way to the revolutionary bathroom.

Sure enough, in the tightly stacked three-stall bathroom stood another door manned by what they could only describe as a bathroom attended, those found at five-star restaurants that did everything for you but wipe your ass. The attendant or bouncer stood with his back to the next door, watching them all as if waiting for instruction. After a few minutes, the bathroom was crowded with men awkwardly looking around, clearing their throats, having small coughs, and stepping side to side with nerves. The brothers kept to the back observing, scanning each face, waiting for something to look familiar, their men in disguise were all so far.

They heard the unnoticeable lock slide into the bathroom door locking it from someone on the outside, followed by a small nod from the man watching them, listening to something in his earpiece.

“Good day gents, if you would step through here, please.” The man said unlocking the door behind him pulling it open, “Let the revolution begin.” He smiled and nodded to all the men pushing forward to enter.

The room was dark hosting no windows, bad lighting but at least much more room, they scanned it noticing three cloaked figures on a small stage waiting for them all to enter.

“I can’t see their faces.” Delacourte whispered to his brother.

“Let’s hope the voices give something away,” Vinchenzo whispered back keeping to the back of the crowd.

“Welcome brothers.” One of the masked and cloaked men said in greeting.

“What happened to being spoken to at a booth in the bar as Travis said.”

“Business must be doing well.” Vinchenzo whispered watching the crowd.

“I ask you all to switch your cell phones off and drop them in the boxes provided, you will also be scanned for any other listening devices, this is just for you and our protection.”

Sighing the brothers pulled their phones out to switch off when Delacourte noticed five missed calls from Rod. His blood ran cold, when he had hung up the phone on Sintia he hadn’t realized the phone had gone on silent.

“Your phone sir.” A cloaked man stopped before them where Vinchenzo had already dropped his phone into the box.

“I,” Delacourte looked at his brother with worry tilting the screen slightly for him to see, Vinchenzo’s frown grew deeper but he shook his head ever so slightly. “I’m sorry, was just checking the messages.” He cleared his throat turning it off as another call from Rod started.

“Thank you.” The cloaked man said moving on to another.

“Fuck.” Delacourte clenched his jaw grinding out the frustration making fists at his side.

“Breath, there is nothing we can do.”

“Something is wrong, I need to go!”

“We are not the only men they can call for help.”

“Rod and Don are some of my best men.”

“Breath, we are stuck here.”

“Stop telling me to bloody breathe.”

“Stop making a scene.”

They looked up casually making sure no eyes were on them, thankfully no one was focused on them. They stood still as another cloaked figure ran a wand over each man, beeping every now and then making the men empty their pockets. Nothing but pocket knives, keys, pens, knuckle busters, and an odd gun was picked up, the rest of them were clean from being spies.

“Now that we are secure, let’s begin.”

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