Blood dripped from her fingers onto the grey fur carpet, she stared at it trying to even out her breathing, hunched next to the bed, she jerked remembering what she was there for, the gun.
“Why do you have to push me so far” Heavy footsteps boomed entering the room, no matter where she tried to hide, he found her.
She grabbed her blood-soaked arm trying to hold the deep flesh-ripping slice into her closed, but It just hurt more, she hissed at the pain searching for a cloth or something to tie around her arm, she was no expert but pressure had to be applied else it wouldn’t stop bleeding.
The footsteps stopped and switched on the light. He didn’t care if the neighbors saw, let them watch the show.
Sinita jerked to a stop turning to see him, their eyes connected.
“Your phone is not there.” He chuckled, proud of the fact that she had no means to call for help.
She turned from him in a rush digging through the last draw, the gun was there, somewhere, it had to be.
Seeming to grasp what she was after he went for her.
Sintia jumped on the bed to roll off the other side as he grabbed her foot, she looked down at him and raised her other leg kicking him in the face, he let go stumbling back as she leaped from the bed on the other side back against a wall of glass.
“Why are you running,” Jarred shouted
“To stay alive.”
“I won’t kill you.” He lowered his tone.
She looked at him confused her brows furrowing, her arm was badly hurt from him having thrown her into the glass coffee table just moments ago. She had landed on the arm she was cradling all because he wanted her to join him at one of his clubs, not for her company but to be his prize to show off, she had said no, he had shouted then demanding she get dressed, she had stood her ground. He wanted to show the world how he had bagged the most eligible bachelorette like she was some prize horse, something about him having to show off his victories made her blood boil.
“You won’t kill me?” She asked anger rushing to her cheeks, “But hurting me is fine?”
“You fell into the table.”
“You pushed me!”
“You pushed ME!” He roared the last part taking a step to the edge of the bed his chest rising and falling, his hands were clenched fists at his sides, hands that could snap her neck in a split second.
“All I said was no.” She said trying to defuse the situation.
“Who do you think are?” He snapped as if her having any choice was outrageous, she saw red then, dam him, she was her own woman no one controlled her.
“Enough, I want you out.” She released her arm pointing at the door.
“Careful.” He hissed tensing up.
“Careful?! I lose nothing with you out my life no GO!” She screamed at him pointing at the door again. The change in him was instant, one moment he looked as if he would calm down, the next, his face was demonic and she was the tempting bait.
With not a moment to lose he launched at her again, she was backed up against the glass balcony door and grabbed the standing lamp next to it swinging at him as hard as she could, it connected with his neck but didn’t stop the momentum at which he was charging at her.
He grabbed her losing his footing with the lamp sending them both through the shattering glass door onto the balcony.
He landed on her trying to pin her down, she kicked and bit into his closest arm down as hard as she could.
He roared pulling back.
Sintia sat up pulling her leg he wasn’t on, to her chest, and kicked him three times until he grabbed it dragging her closer to him.
“Stop fighting me.” He shouted pinning her down on the ground, she wiggled and pushed, strained, and shouted but no matter what his strength was no match for him. “Stop Tia.”
“No, I will never stop.” She snapped staring up at him daggers in her eyes, they looked at one another along moment until she spotted the gun peeking out in the side of his pants.
“This doesn’t have to be so difficult.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“Forget it.” He sneered looking down at her knowing what she meant. “I get what I want Tia, if that means you for the time being so be it.” He sat back on her hips victorious, she could hardly breathe with his weight on her, she had to, get the gun.
“Now let’s get you stitched up and ready.” He purred, his voice was like silk, silk over a barely contained beast. His gip was released on her arms.
Not waiting for him to fully release she pulled her arms free grabbing the gun, cocked it, and pulled the trigger.
Scrambling to her feet she raced downstairs dropping the gun, she skidded into the kitchen knowing her phone was there last, she grabbed it looking up at the bedroom balcony from the kitchen window where he would be laying, he wasn’t there.
She looked again sure he had fallen where she had shot him.
A figure moved behind her, she spun around to face it.
Nerves on end she grabbed the nearest knife creeping forward, she was sure he was wounded enough to take him down, she slipped grabbing the tabletop.
There was a blood trail in the kitchen, was it his or hers?
A shadow passed just out of her vision again, she spun slicing the air behind her and her brother’s neck right across.
A menacing laugh filled the air then as Jarred kissed her ear holding her in a crippling hug from behind.
She watched the color leave her brother’s face unable to respond, what had she done.
“Welcome to my hell.”
* * * * *
A long hot shower, two coffees, and a hot breakfast later she was on the couch with the double doors open to her deck letting the fresh chilled Russian air float in, nothing had helped shake the nightmare, it had felt so real, so unbelievably tangible.
The first thing she had done from waking was calling her brother, she wasn’t sure what time it was in South Africa, she didn’t care, she had to hear his voice.
He had answered very much alive, and they had chatted for over an hour catching up, mom was well and enjoying the vacation, he was resting and had met a girl he wanted Sintia to meet, she had avoided the subject. South Africa wasn’t her home anymore she didn’t want to go back but had suggested they all came up for one of the holidays perhaps Christmas.
She had then told him about her dream and he had laughed telling her she was much shorter than him and would have probably only cut his belly button mocking her, she had laughed then finally feeling a bit more at ease.
Now on the couch, she tried to analyze her dream listening to the rustling leaves she came to the conclusion that Jarred, was a problem she needed to eliminate.
she hated him but would not fear him, he was just a man and she would put him in his place very soon.
Her brother she thought, symbolized family & those close to her she might fail to protect, she thought then about whom else she was close to, apart from her brother and mother she couldn’t picture any other. She knew a lot of people and had a set party list for guests for events and celebrations, there she would meet and greet and catch up on basic surface-level questions such as how the weather was, family, travel, pets, and upcoming events.
She frowned, Sintia couldn’t even think of one other that she could connect with personally.
No one that she ever made arrangements with privately, apart from past boyfriends which were all just strained relationships doomed to failure anyways with work coming first, she had given up.
She was too busy for friends, Kiki was the closest she had to it back home and even then, she was a paid employee, not someone she could discuss private matters with.
A bitter smile curved her lips, what a sad lonely woman she had become, not even a pet to be excited to see her when she got home. She had decided against one, her ridiculous hours and traveling schedule would have just been cruel to an animal.
But having everything she could ever possibly want and no one to share it, how depressing?
Twisting a piece of her hair into a lock she shook her head, she didn’t feel sorry for herself she loved being independent, walking her own path was everything she ever wanted.
Her thoughts traveled back to the nightmare, and the gun.
She mulled over that a while watching birds fly past in a cloudy grey sky.
The gun could only be the protection she needed for and from everything, protection such as a bodyguard?
“Right, well let’s get that sorted.” She told herself logging on to her emails to view the possible candidates, sadly none were that impressive to her, it seemed Kiki’s version of power and hers were very different, she should have guessed deleting all the emails starting a new search.
A knock came at the door, she got up to see one of the lodges staff holding a tray with an envelope on it next to a set of keys, peering behind her sat the set of wheels she had leased.
“Thank you.” She stopped noticing the cleaning staff making their way down, looking at her watch it was rather late and she really wasn’t in the mood to work as cleaning staff shuffled around her.
“Anything else we can get for you, ma’am?”
“Yes, does this place offer guided tours?”
“Yes, it does, I will ask someone to be in touch with you right away.” The staff member said, bowed then turned to leave. Sure, enough within half an hour someone had contacted her regarding a tour that was leaving at 10 am for a three-hour drive that included lunch.
She booked it and got ready making sure to leave her phone behind in the safe, sometimes one just needed to escape everything completely, Kiki was well trained enough to manage things for a couple of hours.
The tour was thankfully empty as she grabbed the back seat passing just one couple presumed to be in their late forties, they greeted each other in English, another mini blessing, she was worried what language the tour would be in.
Each seat had a little welcome gift containing a fur blanket, a pair of binoculars, and a flask filled with mochaccino, she knew because they had asked her for a warm drink choice before they confirmed the booking.
Sipping her hot drink, they made their way through the gates entering the reserve, the guide turned to explain the wildlife expected to be seen and that the weather was fine as much is it was dark more animals would be out, and that a snow forecast was only for later in the evening.
Wrapping up in the fur blanket she watched the trees and mountain terrain pass by her marvelling at its beauty, high peaks framed by all types of trees that had mostly lost their leaves. They turned then to a little bridge that looked to be made in the stone age carved over a steady flowing river.
Crossing over the driver stopped.
“There to the left you will see a brown bear; a brown bear can smell scents up to 2 miles away…” The guide carried on but Sintia tuned him out watching the lone bear in the river watching the water flow by, he seemed to swipe at the water lazily instead of trying to catch something.
She looked closely wondering if it was the same bear from yesterday. It wasn’t though, this one was larger and much older.
“The brown bear can reach a weight of between 330 and 915 pounds depending on the age, sex, and season.” He finished turning to the couple who had a question.
The wind howled past them sending chills down the back of her neck, she turned her head, the instinct to brush it away then stopped spotting a large outline of a creature slowly weaving between the trees just out of sight, she grabbed the binoculars and turned back to find it, but it was gone.
“What did you see?” The guide asked smiling at her.
“I thought I saw a wolf.” She frowned rather unsure of what she saw, wolves couldn’t be that large.
“Unlikely the wolves don’t come down this side.” He laughed lightly turning back to the driver instructing him to carry on forward. Sintia looked back at the bear who was now on its back legs sniffing the air in the direction of the shadow she saw.
“I Heard a wolf howl nearby to my cabin last night.”
“That is odd, and highly unlikely” the guide looked at his driver concern on both their faces.
“Why is it so hard to believe that wolves wouldn’t wander down this side of the reserve?”
The guide looked strained as if trying to find the right answer.
“Oh, id like to see a wolf pack.” The couple in front of her started pulling the tension away from Sintia
“There are some much further north, perhaps we might spot one.”
“What kind of animals are nearby that pose a threat to a bear?” Sintia asked watching as the bear disappeared from view.
“Well, we have tigers but they seem to respect one another to stay away from one another.”
“And they are threats to a wolf?”
“Ah, I see they must be your favorite animal.” The guide laughed trying to keep the mood light.
“No, not actually, I just find it odd, how a lodge named after wolves, that even has a logo of wolves” She raised her flask branded with the lodge logo “Doesn’t seem to own any?”
A long pause
“They are a protected species that have been hunted into low numbers over the past century, the Lodge was founded by the Alexeyev family in 1845 which was here before they were thinned out.” The driver finally answered keeping his eyes on the road.
She left it then, whoever the Alexeyev family were and their history; she wasn’t very interested, there were wolves once now they were gone. She pulled the fur blanket around her shoulders again rubbing her stinging cold cheeks into it.
The couple asked more questions until they started to climb a steep uphill gravel road to the mountain top, they stopped halfway spotting a group of Caucasian turs jumping between the mountain rocks. The closer to the top they got the more the temperature dropped, she was going to have to go shopping for a warmer wardrobe soon.
They reached the top of one of the mountains at a fenced-off section where they were safe to exit the vehicle and admire the view.
It was breathtaking, as far as the eye could see; snow-capped mountains and thick forage with snaking rivers that shot out in different directions, some carried ice sheets, others ended in little pools for the animals to drink peacefully from, far off to the right they spotted an arctic fox with a brilliant orange shine against the white and grey landscape.
It was just what she needed; the nightmare was finally leaving her thoughts being replaced by peace.
The guides spotted a tiger in the far distance and everyone grabbed their binoculars to watch it walk amongst the trees until out of sight.
Lunch was served on fur blankets that covered the cold ground with a warm thick hearty stew, pita bread, salad, and a slice of cake with cream.
“What is this?” Cutting an edge off the cake slice to taste.
“It’s Medovik, it’s a layered honey, sour cream, and assorted nut cake, do you like it?”
“Yes, I do.” She nearly went for a second slice but decided against it and got up to stretch her legs.
“Do not wander too far we shall be leaving in 15 minutes.” The guide said smiling after her.
“I won’t get lost.” She said dryly walking along a narrow arrow-painted path between the rocks, if the view was this spectacular from where she was it was guaranteed to be just as breathtaking around the other side.
About a 5min walk later she came to the other side leaning on the built-up stone wall to protect people from falling over, it was just high enough to rest her elbows on, she leaned on it smiling at the view.
A picture-perfect display.
To her left, were a few trees and bushes that could survive up at such a low altitude next to her sloping down the mountain into a denser forest, to the right was the edge of the mountain, a little wall wrapped right around the edge into the rock creating the perfect little cup for her to stand in and lookout.
But in front, she gazed out as the sun peeked its head through a cloud breaking, spilling its golden rays onto the open plane below of perfectly white, untouched snow.
For the first time in forever her mind was free, no pressing matters, no thought trail at all, it felt as though she stood on top of the world at that moment everything as far as her eyes could see was peaceful, beautiful, and she loved it.
A twig cracked in the tree line on her left.
She wiped her head in the direction and sucked in a breath, taking a step back.
There, not more than a few meters from her stood a massive, black wolf the size of a full-grown male bear, lips half drawn up in a snarl, with massive whiskey-colored eyes, she could see her reflection in them as it took another powerful step forward.