The brothers stepped out the glass elevator onto the top floor, the lodge had converted the top floor into a large open plan restaurant, framed by solid trunks supporting a high raised, wooden pointed ceiling decorated with crystal chandeliers, all four walls were framed with solid glass panels displaying a full three-sixty view of the mountains that surrounded them, they had purposely been designed this way, to make one feel as if they dined upon the clouds. The custom-made crystals hanging from the chandeliers mimic the stars that displayed themselves vividly tonight.
It took less than a second for Delacourte to spot Sintia through the filled tables near a window looking out into the night, Delacourte watched her sip at a glass of wine wondering what such a woman had on her mind, its true his attraction to her had been a sneaky one, he hadn’t even known he was drawn to her till his brother had confronted it.
“This way your majesties.” A waiter arrived in front of them, they nodded and followed to their reserved table nodding to Rod and Don who stood on either end of the restaurant on guard. As they weaved through the tables, many of the filled tables began to chatter turning to see the brothers trying to sneak photos, a norm to them, still, the increase in chatter caught Sintia’s attention.
She turned to scan the floor spotting the two men crossing the room layered in black suits, perfectly chiseled faces, ocean blue eyes, fixated on her.
Sintia sipped at her wine to hide the gulp as heat radiated from her ears; man, oh man, one did just not get men built like these anymore. They were gorgeous, a Hollywood’s hottest list smasher! She watched as they walked proudly, arrogantly as if knowing everyone would step out their way, bow before them.
They both dipped their head in greeting to her and she raised her glass slightly returning the greeting, forcing herself to look back down at the menu before her.
Wow, holy shit wow. Her corset under her evening gown was suddenly too tight, not even Jarred who was sexy as hell in his own bastard right had such an effect on her as these men.
Sneaking a peek towards them she caught Delacourte side-eyeing her, and immediately looked away tucking her hair behind her ear feeling foolish for turning away too fast. She wasn’t a teenage girl anymore, why was she acting this way. Raising the glass to her lips she snuck a peek again at the brothers admiring the view when, Vinchenzo looked up catching her eye, a small smirk on his lips.
“Shit.” Sintia hissed to herself raising her hand to call a waiter, who instantly responded coming to her table.
“Hi, yes, uhm.” Sintia scanned through the starter menu trying to pick something, anything, but this had dishes on it she hadn’t seen before.
“She will have the smoked salmon with Blini.” Came a deep voice.
Sintia looked up to see Delacourte pulling out the chair at her small table taking a seat near her.
“I’ll have the borscht, and a refill.” He knocked his knuckled at the empty crystal tumble in his hand.
“Right away sir.” The waiter bowed taking the menus before disappearing.
“What if I was allergic to fish?” Sintia raised an eyebrow looking at the man.
“Are you?” Delacourte smirked, looking her up and down, she was wearing a flattering deep v-neckline, off-shoulder sleeved wine-red satin dress, the way the built-in corset cupped her breasts, and her shallow breathing had him swallowing a growl of approval.
“No, but I do like to choose things for myself.” She smiled waiting for his gaze to lift from her chest, a common thing for the male species to do around her. It had always pissed her off, why couldn’t they just make eye contact. But now as a woman, she loved it, especially flaunted it to get the reaction.
“My apologies, but the salmon here is a must.” Delacourte blinked looking away to the waiter returning with this vodka on the rocks.
“We shall have to see.” Sintia took a sip of her wine looking past him to Vinchenzo. “You left your brother alone?”
“Our table is never empty.” Delacourte looked over his shoulder to a few of their friends taking a seat watching his brother instantly engage with a few of them. He turned back to look at her holding her gaze, her midnight hair had been swept to the one side in a diamond clip letting the locks spill down over one bare shoulder, he followed it to the last curl then back up into her eyes holding her stare.
A flash went off.
Sintia blinked looking away to see a young couple taking a photo of them, till Don appeared alongside them, to guide them away and have the phone confiscated.
“Don knows the procedures, a loyal soldier for many years; it will not go to press.”
“I appreciate it, my dating life is a bit, complicated, I can’t really have any more focus on it at the moment.” She smiled at him appreciatively.
“Complicated?” He looked from her to her left-hand ring finger, recalling the phone call he had eavesdropped on, “A fiancé?”
“No, no strings, yet.” She felt the heat returning to her ears, hoping the golden glow on her skin from the chandeliers gave nothing away.
“Yet?” Delacourte took a sip of his drink enjoying the way she was turning slightly pink, good, it meant his questions affected her, he affected her.
“You suddenly seem very interested in my personal life.”
“It’s a good ice breaker to go deep end first, don’t you think?”
“I think we a little more acquainted than random strangers trying to break ice.” She smiled
“Indeed.” He held her gaze again longer than needed.
“Well, I am still a stranger compared to the party happening at your table, which makes me wonder why a, prince of Russia would be sitting at mine.”
“Prince? Really?” He chuckled. “Please let’s stick to first names.” Delacourte took another sip of his drink before placing it down. “Perhaps I just wanted to check up on our VIP guest.”
“VIP huh? What happened to first names?” Sintia looked away to Rod and Don then back to Delacourte her smile faltering. “Which reminds me, I have actually been trying to call you, we need to talk.”
Delacourte’s heart skipped a beat at the thought of all she might say, he had been slightly careless earlier but she hadn’t made a connection to the eyes being the same yet. Nonetheless, he nodded for her to carry on.
“I need to hire more of your men, I am very pleased with Rod and Don, and feel an extra two would be better suited to my needs. I would also like them to stay on permanently and come with me when I go back home. I will of course provide for all their needs back in the states.”
“Two more?” Delacourte frowned, “Yes, you mentioned wanting more, but the two you have, I can guarantee will handle almost every situation.”
“Oh, I know!” Sintia breathed placing a hand on his wrist excitedly, pulling away instantly as if burnt. Delacourte looked down at his arm as goosebumps crashed over him, the connection with this woman was unreal.
“Sorry, I just meant, I had an incident earlier today and they were very well prepared for it.”
“What happened?” Delacourte asked looking at Rod, recalling what the Molchalin had said by popping in to say hi to them, he hadn’t had a chance to debrief the men yet.
“I’m sure Rod and Don will update you soon with more details, but we had a pack of wolves chase us on the main road, huge ones, I almost thought they were bears, and…” Sintia stopped to take a sip of her wine as the waiter returned with their starters, they waited till he left before she carried on. “Rod and Don acted immediately pulling out guns forcing them back, but, the thing that had me concerned is that they spoke to the wolves, as if they understood!”
“So, speaking to animals concerns you more than guns?” Delacourte questioned trying to swallow a smile.
“No, stop, let me finish.” She answered feeling her seriousness dissolve into a giggle as he pointed that out to her. “Yes, guns are concerning, but it’s the way, in which they spoke.”
“It’s not an uncommon thing.” Delacourte shrugged acting natural.
“Sure, saying hello to your pet every day, and asking if they hungry, while shaking their bowl of pellets is fine, knowing they can’t answer is normal. But to tell a wild animal, with no human interaction that they don’t want to be the first to start a war, why a war?” Sintia stopped looking at him pointedly.
“What?” Delacourte asked short of an answer.
“What war? Why speak to the animal like that?”
“How should I know, ask them.” Delacourte frowned no liking where the conversation is going. “People speak to animals all the time; I don’t see the issue.” He deflected.
“The issue, is that everywhere I go lately I see wolves, and not your normal kind either, these things are huge, unnaturally so, as if they have all fallen into nuclear waste and come out, alpha furry aliens.”
Delacourte choked on his drink placing it back down before throwing his head back with laugher.
“Alpha, furry, aliens?” He asked before laughing again. “Is that what you think we are?”
“We?” She titled her head slightly confused.
“I mean our wolves.” Delacourte corrected instantly sobering.
“Yes, these same wolves, that everyone swears don’t exist or say don’t venture into this part of the world. I’m starting to believe everyone is lying to cover something up, the way they hesitate at even the mention of the word wolf, even Don asked a wolf I saw again earlier if it was lost! I mean come on.” Sintia said watching him closely.
Delacourte’s eyes thinned slightly as he studied her, not about to break eye contact first he leaned forward closer to her, the moment tense holding her gaze a while longer.
“Do you think, the wolves are conspiring against tourists?” He whispered, the left side of his mouth pulling in a small smile.
“Oh stop, I have proof.” Sintia let a small laugh escape her at his playful mock, touching her bandaged arm. She leaned back looking at the starter he had ordered tasting it, feeling completely foolish about speaking out loud about her experience of late with wolves, and thinking there was something more behind it all. To her something had been bugging her about it, it still was, yet trying to speak it aloud sounded idiotic, and she hadn’t just spoken about this to anyone but a prince of Russia! How foolish could she be really! Sintia bit into the perfectly prepared fish closing her eyes savoring the flavor.
“Amazing right?” Delacourte smiled.
“Well done on your choice.” She smiled. “So?”
“Your thoughts on allowing me to hire two more men?” She asked gently.
“I would need to know why, why do you still feel exposed having these two?” Delacourte said after swallowing another bite of his own starter.
“When I return to the states, the cameras and paparazzi follow me constantly, I feel extra eyes can keep me safe.” Sintia answered looking out across the dining room. Delacourte watched her, noticing the way her back straightened ever so slightly, her shoulders squared, and the fact that she was no longer looking at him spoke volumes.
“You lying.” He whispered leaning back folding his arms. “I can see when someone is trying to hide something, besides you never had protection before I gave you these two.”
“I was in the market, looking right before you assisted with them.”
“And you don’t wish to discuss the reason why?”
“No, I do not.” She turned to face him, her features harsh, her eyes blazing.
“I apologies, but if my men are to best protect you, they need to understand the nature of the threat.” Delacourte frowned.
“I, uhm.” Sintia began fiddling with her bracelet, “Pissed a powerful man off back home, who is determined to make my life hell.” She looked back up to him slowly.
“So, he hurt you.” Delacourte unfolded his arms leaning nearer as his heart began to race, who would want to harm such a stunning, independent woman like this.
“No.” She answered quickly. Dleacourte’s one eyebrow rose to her lie.
“Ok, fine, yes, he tried to physically harm me. But I am no victim, the bastard will not win, I will come out on top regardless if you help or not.” She said a bit more harshly than she had intended. Delacourte felt a rush of heat sweep through him at her words, this woman was a true warrior, fierce, strong and knew what she wanted in life. The attitude was bloody sexy on her.
“What?” Sintia asked catching him staring.
“I snap at you and you call me gorgeous?” Sintia sat back slightly stunned. “Are you drunk?” She whispered to him still stunned by the comment.
“You are not in the least bit intimidated by me, are you?” Delacourte laughed
“No, forgive me if I should be but, I have met my fair share of royals from events I have attended back home, you are not.” She smiled through the easy lie, a lie she had learned to master in her early days of climbing the success ladder. The fact was, this man was overwhelming, his cologne addictive, his eyes a dream.
“No good, it’s not often someone can speak openly to me, I like it.” He smiled looking from her eyes to her red lips.
Sintia blushed feeling her stomach do a flip at the gaze he was giving her, there was so much heat rolling off this man she could almost not breath, this kind of attraction couldn’t be real.
“Thank you.” She said sipping the wine, yes she blamed the wine, it was the wine's fault she was turned on by this man.
“The extra men are yours, and you are most welcome.” He winked at her.
A table laughed and they both peered to see someone showing Vinchenzo a video on their phone, the entire table was in stiches with laugher including Vinchenzo.
“Why did you leave the party to sit by this lonely soul.” Sintia smiled looking from them to him.
“Perhaps I wanted to ensure you were still ok.” He said softly leaning in.
“Does a prince not have people to do that for him?” She whispered mirroring him.
“He does, but sometimes a personal touch is needed.”
“Why is it needed with me?”
“Do you have to even ask?” Came a low growl as his predatory eyes left hers, down to her lips again. The break of eye contract had her suddenly realizing how close they were, a mere breath apart. Sintia froze, when had he gotten so close, when had resisting a kiss been this dam hard, specially such a forbidden one, this man was a prince of Russia. But she couldn’t move, the pull to him was too strong, and he was so very close.
Delacourte caught movement out the corner of his eye and pulled back raising to his feet in one swift motion. Sintia sucked in a breath blinking as she sat upright, noticing Don and Rod suddenly stationed in front of their table, blocking the view of them from curious onlookers, that had snuck nearer to get pictures. Sintia frowned as the thought of what the news headlines would say
“Lady in red, a prince’s new flavor for the month.”
No thank you, she thought looking through the crowd to where Vinchenzo had been sitting, the table was empty, all plates cleared.
“Come with me.” Delacourte put out his hand for her, she looked back to her two guards backing up the crowd and took his hand following him out the restaurant into the elevator.
“Where is your brother?” She asked as the lift doors closed; leaving them alone.
“He left with a few others a while back.” He said stepping away from the door turning to face her. “And we are safe from preying eyes.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cause a situation like this for you.” Sintia sucked in a breath covering her mouth in regret. “You’re a prince, I had no right to step across your boundary, your betrothed will be furious.” Sintia began to hyperventilate. “I will be labeled as trying to steal her crown, a vow breaker.”
Delacourte stepped forward placing both his hands on her shoulders.
“Hey, hey, breath,” Delacourte said gently pulling her hand away from her mouth. “I leaned in because I wanted to.” He said looking down at her.
“There is no betrothed, we have suiters, yes but nothing has been agreed upon, technically I am still a single man.” He smirked stepping nearer. “No one, will be able to leave the top floor without wiping their phones, of our kiss.” He whispered taking a few slower steps forward till he had her backed up against the glass elevator wall.
“We didn’t kiss.” Sintia swallowed, how was it legal to be so attracted to this.
“But don’t you wish we had.” Came a low growl as he placed a hand on the glass above her leaning near, her dipping his head at an angle towards her cheek. Sintia’s lips parted breathlessly as a desire to touch him took control, feeling his warm hand touch her side pulling her from the glass into his embrace was intoxicating.
The elevator door opened, and they pulled apart as the lobby came into view. She cleared her throat stepping out the elevator to turn and say good night, but he was suddenly right beside her, she hadn’t even seen him move. How was it that such a large man, that took up an entire room could move so unearthly fast?
“I’m not ready to say good night.” He smirked down at her.
“Why? I think we have created enough of a stir.” Sintia giggled pointing to the roof. “As it is there are rumors from the wolf attack, I had, that I’m secretly dating one of you.”
“Would that be so bad?” Delacourte cocked an amused eyebrow.
“We both know that’s not possible and I am not a one-night stand fling kind if woman,” Sintia dipped in a small curtsey to mean no disrespect. “Your majesty, so I’ll be saying good night.”
“Your men have not returned, let me at least walk you back to your suite.” Delacourte put out his hand, his playful features now serious.
“If you must.” Sintia winked walking past him and his hand, smiling to herself as she heard the chuckle follow from behind her.
“Third time is a charm?” Delacourte stepped up next to her as they exited the building along the garden path to the different units.
“Are you that determined for a kiss?” Sintia spun around to face him, a rare unmasked smile on her face.
“You can’t blame a man when he has this vision in front of him, have you seen the way you are dressed? I’m surprised no other men tried to approach you.”
“Pretty hard to compete with a prince.” Sintia giggled as they carried on along the walk, she felt his hand near hers and wondered if he might try to reach for it, the closeness tingling her skin.
On their way down the final path, Sintia stopped looking behind her.
“What is it?” Delacourte turned with her to search what had her attention.
“Nothing, I just,” She turned to face him with a frown, his eyes such an unnatural shade against the garden lights. “You and your brothers, are the true heirs to the throne in the Alexeyev royal family, correct?”
She looked around again scanning the dark gardens seeing no one around.
“I just realized, I have never seen you with any form of escort or guards. I mean you own an entire army, are soon to be crowned kings, yet no guards?”
“You think I need them?” He smirked down at her.
“Every royal throughout all of history has had them, its just.” Her frown deepened, “Are you seriously stupid enough to not have any?”
“Are you seriously insulting me by calling me stupid?” He snapped.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean offense, I’m just shocked.” She apologized. “Don’t be a hero, the world is a dangerous place, having protection doesn’t make you weak.”
“I am my own protection, I am not like all the other royals you know Sintia, to quote you from earlier, I am no victim.” He stepped nearer to her. “No matter the situation.”
A car turned in the parking lot behind them and its lights shone over them. Sintia blinked unable to understand what she was looking at, Delacourte’s eyes were reflecting the car’s light, like that of a cat in the night, it was terrifying, it was beautiful.
“Your eyes.” Sintia said her eyes enlarging recalling the wolf she had seen earlier, with the exact, same eyes.
He turned away from the light seeing her recognition, clearing his throat. “Good night Sintia.” And before she could stop him, he was gone.
She blinked spinning around looking for him, how the hell had he disappeared so fast! Walking up the steps and unlocking her front door she shivered, hearing a deep low howl far off in the distance.