I SMELL FEAR

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A SIMPLE KISS

The Alexeyev brothers took a deep breath in of the chilled evening air. They stepped out onto their glass balcony accepting drinks from their live-in staff, it was good to be back home surrounded by mountains and open land, nothing compared to the wilderness, the stillness.

Two weeks had gone by in a flash, their da had called from Moscow demanding their immediate presence, and they had left immediately. Most of the time getting out of being at court and staying at their main castle in Moscow was easy, with technology these days a video conference solved most issues. But they knew they had been pushing back their responsibilities trying to resolve the plots against them back here.

Unfortunately, for them, there were sensitive subjects that were too risky to do over the phone or the internet. Top-secret, case-sensitive missions that required them to be there in person.

Looking out into the starry night listening to nature's calls, it was hard to believe that they had been in Montana USA just a week ago, wiping out a rogue group of werewolves, eating their way through the surrounding towns. The USA government had needed their assistance killing the threats and sweeping it under the rug. Shortly after they ventured to Northern Alaska, to assist their own government with a mission their men couldn’t do in the harsh climates. Then back to Moscow to dress in formal, royal attire, for what felt like endless meetings at courts.

They had all stayed at the Alexeyev castle while there, it was grand, ancient, and had been there for countless generations, filled with over three hundred staff members to see to their needs, and the needs of extended family that lived there too, duchesses and dukes they were all connected to some way or another.

It was supposed to be their living quarters.

But nothing, nothing compared to being back home, their home away from the front line of social media and millions of people in a constant rush, in the overpopulated capital.

“And to think, we almost had to stay another week.” Delacourte groaned leaning on the glass balcony railing.

“Hell no, I was ready to rip the next servant I saw apart.” Vinchenzo responded. “I think I have officially met every bloody female servant ranging young to old working in that dam castle.”

“I think I actually barked at a servant boy yesterday trying to take my bag to the car.” Delacourte smirked.

“I could barely wipe my ass without a servant wanting to be present!” Vinchenzo shook his head as a smile started to pull at his lips.

“Which one wiped your ass last night?” Delacourte asked, mischief in his eyes.

“What do you mean?” Vinchenzo asked looking out into the night, hiding his smile as he sipped his drink.

“Come on, we both left parliament back to our rooms the same time last night, and I saw that maid at your door.” Delacourte cleared his throat, raising his voice an octave. “I’m so sorry to interrupt his majesty, I think I forgot my feather duster in here, oops.” Delacourte chuckled dropping the act, jumping back to avoid his brother’s punch. “And then the door closed,” He wiggled his eyebrows jumping back again to avoid his brother’s playful attack. “But, when we got up to leave this morning, miss feather duster’s feathers were…” Delacourte winked.

“What was I supposed to do?” Vinchenzo laughed cutting him off, “The maid kept dropping the dam thing purposely positioning her behind towards me, no matter how I sidestepped her, that dam fine ass was just, there.” He laughed pointing to his crotch. “Can’t blame me for letting off steam, she had a perfect firm ass.”

Delacourte chuckled, “You lucky Da didn’t come to see us off, you could have been caught.”

“Then Annabella would be all yours.” Vinchenzo smirked looking at his brother, watching his brother’s smile dissolve with a low growl. “Can’t deny she has grown into one hell of a woman?”

“I don’t deny, she is beautiful, a perfect match, for either of us.” Delacourte caught his brother’s eye, his face serious.

“Da would approve, he had practically been shoving her under our noses every chance he got.” Vinchenzo sighed downing his drink, not liking the idea either.

They stared out into the night as silence fell between them, Annabelle was the first daughter from a royal German wolf tribe, blond long hair, whiskey eyes, tall, filled out in all the right places with a strong logical mind. Their families had been close for generations uncounted and she was a perfect match for them in every way, she would make the perfect queen for either of them.

The silence continued, they didn’t need to speak to understand each other’s plight, they both knew it well enough.

Their time was up, they needed to take a wife each, needed to secure their royal line. Needed heirs needed to show their strength, they were just too vulnerable at the moment without it.

Problem was, as much as they wouldn’t admit it aloud, they both wanted to marry for love, not a luxury for royals. Both of them had danced with Annabelle, wined, and dined her, as requested by their Da, and Annabelle had been giddy with happiness every time she saw them, as did every female they approached.

Yet both had been disappointed at the lack of connection from their side.

Delacourte couldn’t help but compare every socially acceptable woman he had been forced to endure, to a human in a red gown that had set his skin on fire. Sintia, the one he had failed to kiss before leaving for Moscow, had stayed with him. Just the thought of her, had him worked up recalling the breathless moments of grabbing her in the elevator, almost smothering her lips, the desire to consume her was clouding logical judgment of late.

It was pissing him off.

“The ball will tell.” Vinchenzo finally said watching three wolves weaving through the trees to his far-right, their men on border patrol.

“Indeed.” Delacourte swallowed his drink shoving Sintia from his mind, they had more important issues at present.

Their father had informed them once again in Moscow that this ball was their last chance, every eligible woman would be attending from all around the world and he expected his sons to choose. They had been warned that it was "choose or be chosen a wife", there was no longer a back door to escape out of, and they knew it was true. The dreaded masked ball was do or die.

Delacourte turned to walk back inside, in the study on the coffee table sat a tray of snacks a servant had placed, he grabbed a few slices of cured meat sticks, before sinking into one of the armchairs as Vinchenzo went to refill their drinks.

“Think Pavel will show?” Vinchenzo asked handing his brother a drink, all reports still showed the alpha, Pavel Balakin missing. The annual ball was the night of their punishment, they had been warned that at midnight the head of the Balakin house was to meet them at a set location. If they disrespected the Alexeyev family by not showing up, well then, the brothers would unleash hell.

“If not, his eldest son be forced to step forth and take it in his father’s place.” Delacourte frowned recalling the news their father had given them the first night they arrived in Moscow.

The DNA results from the marks left on the bitten-off head, belonging to one of their guards, had come back. They had hounded their father for an answer, but he had refused till seeing them in person.

It had been a hard thing to lie to the poor guard’s family, telling them there were no current leads on who would decapitate their son, to use as a threat. Their father had covered all funeral costs as well as provided the family with whatever they had needed. A promise to revenge his unnecessary death had also been made.

But the shocker, or rather the confirmation for them was finally revealed. The DNA results belonged to not just one, but three Balakin pawns.

There was now no suspicion left among them that the Balakin and Molchalin were working together.

“Are your teams assembled?” Vinchenzo asked.

“Yes, yours?”

“Every last one of them.” Vinchenzo answered, walking to the desk picking up a photo, they were ready for this war, for any and all attacks.

“Good, it’s going to be one hell of an entertaining night.” Delacourte stated.

All their private guards were on high alert to remain as hidden as possible, showing no indication that they had upped their guard count, but prepared to back them for an attack at any time. Sintia had been right Delacourte thought, every royal did sometimes need extra protection, regardless of being practically invincible.

“Which part? Finding our wives or the ripping of throats?” Vinchenzo asked

“I guess both in its own right.” Delacourte said watching his brother's face darken holding the photo. “Read the threat again.” Delacourte asked holding his fist in his lap, they were too easy of a target at the moment, no matter the strength they both possessed, they were still exposed. Against their will they had agreed with their father's wishes to contact their birth giver, asking her to return to Russia with her children to increase their chances at the ball. As it was their uncle and his family were to arrive tomorrow, a few days before the dreaded ball.

“Howls of painful fury, Bloody fangs sending fear, Traitors should worry, No escape is near, The enemies shall fall, The true wolf will always stand tall, Untamed by all, See you at the ball, Even the royal Alexeyev can fall.” Vinchenzo read aloud gritting his teeth with fury at the note. “I can’t wait to fucking de-skin these bastards.”

* * * * *

Sintia swallowed a squeal of delight as she sat opposite Dr. Orlov who had finally pulled back all the dressing and bandages on her arm, it had healed better than she could have expected.

“Very nice, good.” Dr. Orlov said turning behind him to get a cleaning aid from his assistant. “It has healed very well; you will have these four scares though.” He said trailing his finger along the lighter-colored skin slightly denting into her arm. “But two surgeries with your plastic surgeon should have you as good as new.”

“I can’t believe it, I really expected there to be hard uneven skin, or bad discoloration.” She said raising her arm up into the light after he wiped it clean. “With some heavy contouring, I can actually cover this up easily enough.”

“Are you meaning makeup?” The doctor asked

“Yes!” She smiled broadly. “Oh, thank you so much, really I don’t know how you did it.”

“I have had to amend worse over the years for Delacourte and Vinchenzo.” The doctor smiled

“They must have been a handful as youngsters.”

“Still are, more broken bones than I have ever had in all my years of practice, those two.” He tisked as he shook his head. “I’m just relieved that they heal so fast, a human would have been a cripple vegetable years ago.”

“Huh?” Sintia asked a little lost for words as to what he was saying.

“Now, you rub this on twice a day and every time after washing your arm, ok?” Dr Orlov said handing her a bottle of scripted oil. “No pains?” He asked taking her arm again running his thumbs up and down different pressure points.

“None.” She smiled

“Good. Now if you have any other concerns, you call me, yes?”

“Yes.” She nodded happily.

“Till then I see no need to further my visits, yes?”

“Yes.” She repeated as he smiled back getting up to pack away his equipment.

“Good, thank you Miss Swan you have been a star patient.”

“Thank you.” She said again looking down at her arm with relief. Exiting the lounge to the kitchen, leaving the Dr to clean up she found Rod and Don seated around the kitchen drinking coffee while watching the news.

“Don’t usually catch you two in here.” She smiled a little happy beat in her walk as she looked at her arm again.

They instantly jumped up switching off the news as she spotted her name on the screen, her blood ran cold.

“What, was that?” She called slightly horrified walking to turn it back on.

“Nothing, leave it.” Don called to stop her.

“We have it under control.” Rod agreed with his partner. Ignoring them she switched the tv back on reading the bottom highlights.

“A couple have come forward with actual footage of what happened to multimillion air Sinita Swan currently vacationing in Russia.”

“WHAT?!” Sintia snapped grabbing the remote flipping through the channels to celebrity talk shows, she knew would have the full story. The same channels she always plugged into at home to hear their thoughts of her and others once they popped into the spotlight for one thing or another.

“And we have to wonder, why approach the media first, could this be for their shot at fame Eddie?” The co-host on the screen said looking to her left.

“Indeed Louise, no footage has been released as yet, but they are threatening to do so should Swan not pay the high ransom.”

“I’m rather curious to know what that video might show us, and so are our viewers, below is a live poll currently running showing what Miss Swan could possibly be up to in Russia, and why the lies.”

Sintia grabbed her cell phone dialing Kiki.

“What the hell is going on! Why was I not informed?!” Sintia snapped at Kiki as she answered.

“I, I’m sorry, Richard said I needed to leave it to him to sort out.”

“And does Richard sign your payslips? Do you work for him now?”

“No, I just thought. With everything you going through, that I would let him handle it. I apologize, I didn’t mean to overstep.” Kiki’s small voice came through. Sintia sighed closing her eyes.

“I’m sorry Kiki. I didn’t mean to snap at you. Tell me what you know.” Sintia said pacing the foyer side-stepping as the doctor and assistant opened the front door to leave, she looked up to see a figure blocking their way with a hand raised in a mid-knock.

“Kiki, hold on,” Sintia said pulling her phone from her ear hitting mute, looking up at the man at her door feeling her blood boil instantly with rage, she had told him she would not be a fling, one-night stand girl, and he had just disappeared for two weeks. What was he back for more now that she was on the news after lying to her about dealing with the couple?!

“Oh no, not you, you are not welcome here today, good day to you.” Sintia fumed turning on her heel back in the suite calling to the kitchen to the guards, “Your majesty is here.” She snapped taking Kiki off mute as she stepped out onto the lounge balcony.

“Right, now what the hell happened Kiki!”

***

Delacourte stood in the foyer as Rod and Don popped their heads in to see him momentarily speechless by Sintia’s storm.

“Dare I ask?” He snapped towards the men. When he had arrived at her door, he had instantly felt unease in the place, which had worked him up more than he would have liked. A few weeks away from her should have driven away his desire for her, but her emotions were somehow now his.

“It’s not been great.” Rod said nodding towards the kitchen.

Delacourte followed looking toward the balcony where Sintia’s hands were moving dramatically as she spoke, and was about to listen in to see if she was ok, when he heard her name on the tv, and whipped around to view it.

“What have they been saying?” He demanded watching the hosts chatting, tally conspiracy votes about Sintia.

“Remember that couple that was on the game drive tour with Sintia?” Don asked Delacourte.

“Yeah, let me guess, they claiming they have the real story?”

“No worse, they have a video.” Don answered.

“What?” Delacourte whipped around to see him, “Let me see.”

“They haven’t released it yet, they warning Sintia publicly that if she doesn’t pay them, five hundred thousand dollars for emotional damage, within 24 hours they will release a video showing the lies she has covered up.” Don said.

“Yip, they said that on the news not ten minutes ago, word for word.”

“Shit!” Delacourte snapped storming out the kitchen onto the balcony as she hung up the phone.

“I thought I said goodbye!” Sintia snapped looking up to him approaching.

“I never even said hello.” Delacourte snapped back, clenching his jaw with tension trying to ease his breathing, he needed to ensure she was ok. The video would leak out there was no doubt about it, ransom paid or not, it was too good of a story to keep hidden when celebrities were involved, unfortunately. “Are you ok?” He gritted through his teeth trying to relax. What the hell was wrong with him! His inner wolf was clawing at the walls to break out and defend her, but there was no enemy here, he had to calm down!

“Of course, I’m not ok, have you seen the news?!”

“Just, yes!”

“Then maybe you can explain to me how this happened when you promised you would take care of them!” She snapped folding her arms over her chest taking a step nearer to him, her eyes a dangerous storm.

“We were unable to track them down.” Delacourte sneered, honestly though, he had sent a handful of men and they really had searched, but between everything else happening in his life he had completely forgotten to follow up on it, regretting it now.

“Oh, just like that? And you didn’t perhaps think to inform me so I could look into the matter?!” Her voice began to rise.

“With what resources?” Delacourte matched her rage, stepping nearer, looking down at her.

“I have my connections!”

“I doubt near as much as me!”

“You really want to do this? Who’s better than the other?” Sintia shouted.

“I don’t play games Sintia!” He snarled.

“Does it look like I can afford to play them either?!” She snapped “They have a video of me! A video you let slip through your hands all because you said you would deal with it, and didn’t!”

“What the hell do you want from me?! My men searched! Every train! Every plain! And every dam major road leaving these parts.” He snarled down at her. “Russia is bloody huge! We can’t always catch the ones needed.”

“How disappointing.” She spat right back up at him. Delacourte held her gaze, hooked into the dark specs of her unnerving eyes. Despite the fight he was beyond aroused, no woman he had ever met since his mother, had ever dared to stand up against him, in any way. Women fell to their knees for them, not demand they drop to theirs.

He had always thought the woman for him would be quiet, bendable, a perfect follower and mother, meek. He had never been more pleased to be proven wrong, this fireball before him was...

His frown deepened at the scary thought, this woman was what he wanted. His brother's voice sounded in his head, "Don't fall for her."

How could he not? He could see the way her body was trembling with rage, was so close to her, a mere breath away. How did he always seem to be so close, yet so far away from her?

“You know what your problem is, you expect too much!” Delacourte whispered holding her gaze, drinking her in greedily. “You expect too much from yourself, keeping up this image of perfection to the world that won’t allow you to let one foot slip out of line.” He looked from her eyes down to her lips. “You portray cool calm and collected, a model figure for all future independent women to follow, always on the straight and narrow.” He lifted a hand to her hair, tired of giving a dam if she would reject him, he had thought of nothing but her for the past two weeks, and needed this. “Too scared to have a hair out of place, worried how the world will judge your every word.” He whispered intertwining his finger around a loose strand of her hair. “I think deep down, you more than this superficial woman you have imprisoned yourself to be.” He whispered picking up on her elevated heart rate, the way her lips parted, oh yes, she wanted him, he traced a thumb over her cheek as he touched her nose with his gently, closing his eyes savoring her scent, the craving for her was letting his logic slip again.

“You can be wild with me.” He growled deep, low, feeling his canines extend slightly, unable to control the beast inside howling with longing, he was burning for her.

Delacourte sucked in a breath as he slid both his hands into her hair, pulling her into his arms as he sealed his mouth tightly over hers, his tongue seeking and claiming hers. He wrapped handfuls of her silk midnight hair around his fists, cradling her head in his powerful hands. Kissing her with all the passion he possessed, kissing her with raw need, as if his life depended on it.

Sintia completely lost herself, losing her footing on planet earth, being kissed by Delacourte was devastating.

He kissed like none other, a rawness, a heat, a hunger stronger than anything she had seen in any of those, now so stupid, romance movies. There was a wildness in this man that made her want to crumble, bring a woman to her knees. She was paralyzed in the moment, wanting nothing more but him, all of him. Her skin was on fire as she wrapped her arms around his neck molding into his embrace.

Her search was over, this was what she had been missing, this is what she needed, screw the world! It disappeared with his touch.

Who cared about anything when a mysterious, sexy as hell prince was kissing her!

“Stop.” Sintia said breathlessly between kisses, a prince!

Delacourte’s hand gripped onto her waist as the other slide under her shirt, up her back, his warm commanding hands on her skin almost had her gasping.

“Stop.” She whispered again, against her better judgment; her heart was screaming for him to carry on, consume her! Ignore her plea.

But her mind knew, she just couldn’t do this, he was a prince with his future planned out, she was not royalty, this couldn’t go further.

He is not a possible husband candidate Sintia! She screamed internally.

Sintia’s unwrapped her arms from around his neck, running her nails down his back, trying to ignore the internal war she was having. Their kiss intensified as he let out a growl of pleasure, she was about to melt into nothing, his kisses breaking down all her defenses.

“If, you want, me, to stop,” He chuckled breathlessly between kisses, “Say please.” He groaned moving from her lips to neck his hand wrapped around her with need, gripping her ass pulling her tighter against him.

“Please, stop.” She said breathlessly, her heart screamed no! Take him! She felt alive! For the first time in all her years of useless men, his kisses had awoken her from a slumber she hadn’t known she was in.

Delacourte pulled away slowly, resting his forehead against hers as they both tried to regain their breaths. Then he leaned in again, claiming her mouth one last time, pulling gently on her bottom lip nipping it as he released it. Groaning with frustration, he pulled away taking a few steps back, looking at her through hooded, lustful lids.

“You fucking delicious.”

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