I SMELL FEAR

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CONFRONTATION

“This is foolish, that place is probably crawling with eager whelps wanting to show off.” Vinchenzo stood pacing the study again. “We are but two, my task team should come with us” entering the enemies’ den with no backup was just asking for trouble, with his task team they had a higher chance of getting out alive.

He didn’t doubt his and his brother’s skill, they could take on anyone and win, their bloodline was strong and pure, others were weak, interbred. But the odds were not looking so great at the moment. “We could very much lose an arm or get some serious damage.”

“They will not draw first blood.” Delacourte frowned listening to his brother’s objections again.

“How sure are you?” They stared at each other for a long moment till Delacourte folded his arms across his chest waiting for him to sit back down.

“Do I smell fear?”

“No, I just think it’s foolish, they outnumber us by too many.” Vinchenzo huffed slumping behind the solid oak desk again, he knew they had a power card to play that would guarantee a win. The contracts were older than time, backed up by a long line of succession should their reign end.

Laws set down to protect man from werewolf and visa verse, laws governed by the Alexeyev and Russian government to keep the peace, keep the worlds completely separate from one another, only intervening when needed. Disrespecting the Alexeyev was disrespecting your country, not something taken lightly and not done so without causing a war or dealing with some serious punishment. The Russian government and Alexeyev were partners, the one washed the hands of the other. So those that opposed them had to be sure they had an army to go against such a fierce gun and tooth country.

The basic laws had never changed, as the world modernized though, some had been adjusted with extra points put in, but the basic set rules had always remained.

Each new werewolf case, whether a new turn, loss, or accident was governed by them and put in line, just like the Balakin, they would be put back in line or put down.

Yet he still felt uneasy.

“They won’t draw first blood, Vin.”

“You keep saying this, yet how do you know what’s in their minds?”

“Do you not trust me?”

“Don’t be an idiot, it’s not you I don’t trust.” Vinchenzo snapped, they had gone in endless circles about the meeting, most matters with the other packs had needed nothing more than a quick call or a video chat, one on one meetings were unnecessary, a waste of time and money best served with everything else they had going on.

“Da will not like this.” Vinchenzo relaxed watching his brother, no matter their Herculean strength and killer human and wolf form they didn’t need bodyguards or escorts like most royals, they were intimidating enough, yet now he felt it was needed if only from a distance.

“Da does not need to know everything. It will all be dealt with quietly, quickly, and without any more delay.” Delacourte shot his brother a look.

“Fine, but if I get bitten again, we will do things my way.” Despite the endless debate, he saw Delacourte’s logic in the situation, it was risky but it was a power move; just the two of them walking into the Balakin domain with no support threw two things in their face.

One; they were not afraid no matter the threat, they would not back down, if it was war, they wanted, the Alexeyev would bring it to their doorsteps.

Two; None defies them and the contract without some serious consequences which they would be delivering.

* * * * *

Walking up the stairs of the Balakin manor the brothers were greeted with hostility, forced nods, and smiles, it was no secret they weren’t welcome and Vinchenzo wondered why they even bothered to try fake pleasantries when the feelings were mutual.

They were guided through the manor into a large dining room with the head of the Balakin waiting for them, Pavel.

Father to four sons and three daughters all around the age of Delacourte and Vinchenzo, Pavel had lost his mind many years ago, Vinchenzo wondered if it had anything to do with the overwhelming size of the clan he now had, too many new faces too fast, there were bound to be a million fires to put out daily on his own.

Delacourte entered alongside his brother with a heavy heart, as much as his face portrayed control he couldn’t help but reflect on the childhood he’s shared with the Balakin heirs, they had made unbreakable friendships that they all thought would last forever.

A child’s outlook on life was indeed more hopeful than now, for across the long polished to a mirror finish dining table sat Pavel, with his seven grown offspring, distaste written on all their faces. All traces of the grand adventures, laughter, and bonding they had shared growing up, was gone.

“You called this meeting?” Pavel spoke showing a hand for the brothers to take a seat.

They took their seats keeping an eye on the different doors closing around the room as more Balakin entered, once they were settled there were roughly forty watching them, standing in different spots around the room.

“Don’t act as if you don’t know what this is about,” Vinchenzo replied dismissing offers of drinks and snacks for them.

“You want to negotiate the contract with us.” Pavel smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes, the man was well in his late sixties, salt and peppered beard joining up to his hair, a strong and bulky man with heavy bags under his eyes. One could see he didn’t get much sleep, but Delacourte knew it was self-inflicted, he had reached his prime and it was time to step down, hand the affairs over to his kids. Something they all knew would never happen, Pavel thrived on being in control, winning, being the best.

“You got it all wrong.” Vinchenzo snorted amused.

“We have come to give you a choice.” Delacourte smiled, his brother and him leaned back simultaneously folding their arms.

“So, you will not negotiate the contract?” Nakita snapped standing up next to her father locking eyes with Vinchenzo.

Delacourte watched the two carefully, they had a long-twisted history together, one in which Nikita had almost become a sister-in-law, Vinchenzo had fallen for her and she, him, it looked to be a match made in heaven.

The Balakin sisters were beautiful, strong, wild, independent, and could take on a lot of the men in the room, and it was one of the many things that had attached the Alexeyev brothers, but it was not meant to be, their dreams had clashed and they had ended the engagement.

“We have said countless times the contract is non-negotiable,” Delacourte answered Nikita then turned watching Ave glance away from him, another beautiful Balakin daughter, she had been his first love, or so he had thought.

They say you never forget the first love, but it all seemed to be as if in a previous life to him, someone else’s memories now, looking at Ave, he saw a stranger. He wondered then if it was even love at all, perhaps just a youngster’s heart craving of it, but no it couldn’t have been love, he would have still felt something.

“We need to know why after all these years of peace do you feel the need to now break the pact made, why now?” Vinchenzo asked drawing Delacourte back to the moment.

“We have listed our reasons.” Pavel huffed.

“Barely, if anything it has just been complaints,” Delacourte grumbled.

“I listed them!”

“List them again!” The brothers snapped.

“I do not repeat myself.”

“You WILL list them again, and we WILL go through them NOW.” Vinchenzo gritted through his teeth trying to keep his cool.

“Do not give cheek to me boys.” Pavel said rising “You will respect me in my house!”

Everyone in the room stilled watching Pavel as if waiting for his instruction, Delacourte scanned the room reading the static energy, barely contained fury and eagerness to shift to fight was dominant, perhaps he was wrong, perhaps they would draw first blood after all, whatever rumors had been spread amongst the Balakin about them was indeed something deadly, something very false.

“I believe you need to earn respect; it is not something you can demand or order off some menu,” Delacourte stated raising an eyebrow, the brothers gave each other a look, it was now the fifth time they had been spoken to in such manner, it could not go on. “You talk about respect and wanting it, yet where have you given it? Is a leader, as you calm to be, not supposed to lead by an example? Vin, do you feel as if Pavel has shown you any respect?”

“No.”

“What about me or anyone else in the Alexeyev family?”

“No.”

“Do you want me to ask him to give you some respect?” Delacorte mocked turning to face his brother.

“No,” Vinchenzo answered keeping his eye on Pavel.

“Why not?” Delacorte asked a twinkle in his eye.

Pavel watched the two in stunned confusion.

“Because a true wolf does not ask for respect, you respect it for its hunt, for its teeth, its unbreakable life force, its powerful claws, its undying loyalty. A true alpha does not ask your opinions or demand your trust, it stands its ground, it leads, the wolf does not request you to follow, you fall in line or starve, the rest eventually always fall in line.”

Pavel watched the brothers turning slightly redder by the moment.

“You forget where you are!” Pavel snapped as white fur began to sprout from his arms in a semi-transformation, his sons grabbed him from both sides forcing him to sit down as the rest of the room moved around uneasy.

“You forget who we are!” Delacourte snapped.

“I could have you both ripped limb for limb this every moment.” Pavel roared as his clan stepped closer to the brothers, Pavel’s eldest son stood then gripping his father’s arm forcing him to sit.

“He does not mean it; he is just tired.” The one son apologized, Delacourte ignored the son watching Pavel, he knew he wasn’t done.

Pavel shoved past his son standing again. “You are but two men, I could snap my fingers and the two of you would seize to exist, we outnumber you by hundreds.” He said triumphantly opening his arms showing off the room filled with Balakin. “No one would ever know you were even here.”

“Father stop this.” The son hissed pulling his arms down. “Do you want Russia to bring a war down on us?”

“They disrespect me.” Pavel shot at his son.

“They are the law father!”

“The law is but scribble written on a wall by some senile Alexeyev caveman long forgotten.” He spat at the brothers.

Delacourte bolted from his chair slamming it into the wall behind him “Are you seriously imprudent enough to threaten royalty? Do you have any idea what we could do to you?” Anger coursing through his veins. “How DARE you threaten us, we were willing to show mercy for past transgressions to keep the peace, but for this, you, will face the consequences.”

Vinchenzo stood then next to his brother letting his shoulder brush his, subtle, unnoticed by all but enough to remind Delacourte to calm himself.

Delacourte chest was rising and falling, fists clenching, he watched Pavel until he spotted it, a momentary flicker of regret passing over Pavel’s face before it was replaced by a mask of control, but he had spotted it, there was at least now a small bit of hope to turn things around, Pavel was at least not too far gone yet.

They all know Pavel wanted the Alexeyev to step down and let the Balakin run the show, Delacourte would never let it happen.

“What my brother means is, you will list your changes needed to the contract, you will do so here, now, today, be warned that this will be your last chance to do so, and we will, as always take into consideration your requests, but, it will not stop the consequences you now all face due to breach of contract, and having the audacity to threaten us, not just today but last week twice, I do not need to explain further you know of which I speak well.” Vinchenzo finished recalling the growling wolves on their turf the night they hunted stag.

There was a long silence in the room until Pavel’s eldest son cleared his throat. “Forgive me but what is the point of listing our demands when the contract is not negotiable?”

“The contract as you by now should know, is able to take in new conditions, but not erase what is there, we are able to add sub-clauses, exceptions, draft a new section to add to your existing contract with us with extra conditions if there is a proven threat or reason as to why the contact can’t be upheld. Surely this has been discussed with you all before?” Delacourte asked watching them slightly dumbfounded, how did they not know this? Were they so hungry for power they had blinded themselves to other options?

After three hours of heated debates, a very grumpy Pavel, and addressing all their concerns they were done. No agreement had been reached and a lot more questions were left hanging, but the brothers had given their word to see what could be done and get back to them by the week’s end making sure the Balakin did nothing further they would regret.

As for punishment Pavel and his family were to meet Vinchenzo at midnight at the first full moon, further instruction would be delivered.

* * * * *

“You can dismiss them now.” Delacourte smiled closing his eyes leaning back in the passenger seat, as they exited the manor, the drive back home was another hour at least, he might as well get comfy.

“What do you mean?” Vinchenzo asked confused.

“Your task force, I know you called them, I can bet you now, they were in the forest waiting for your signal.”

Vinchenzo opened his mouth to object several times then laughed pulling out his phone to cancel the security. “You know da would have killed me if I came home with you missing a limb.” He chuckled. “It was only a precaution in any case.”

“I know.” Delacourte smiled, family always first.

Halfway home, they slowed crossing over a large river with a broken swing bridge to their left a couple of meters down, rope and snapped wooden planks swinging in the wind. It had been one of their hang-out spots as kids, the halfway point between Balakin land and theirs.

“Do you miss Nikita?”

Vinchenzo pulled his gaze from the broken swing bridge to his brother’s concern, it had been there where Nikita and he had shared their first kiss, it had been where he had proposed, he hadn’t seen her since the breakup, today had been a brutal reminder of happier days.

“No.” He said putting gas forward, crossing over then slamming on the brakes.

“What the F…” Delacourte shouted sitting forward with whiplash, his words fell away at the sight before them.

Loping along the side of the road up ahead, was a large black wolf with a brown leather ripped thing hanging from its mouth.

“Is that a?”

“Yeah, that’s one of us all right, I just don’t recognize who…” Vin trailed off watching the leather floppy thing in his mouth.

“It looks like a jacket,” Delacourte whispered, this was bad news.

They stepped out of the Jeep meeting in the front, the werewolf had hopefully attacked only a lost piece of clothing and not the owner of the coat.

“I don’t see blood on it.”

“Same.”

They walked in unison towards the werewolf who hadn’t noticed them till they were within a hundred meters apart. The werewolf stopped watching them with concerned whiskey eyes as if lost and uncertain of what it was doing.

“It doesn’t recognize us,” Delacourte whispered watching the black beast start to growl at them backing up slowly.

“I think it’s a new turn, look at the shaking legs,” Vinchenzo commented slowing as they got closer, new werewolves were not used to the turn yet, their bodies’ adjustment in either form left them unstable, tired, and disorientated.

“I need assistance with a new wolf at Olenyok river, bridge four,” Delacourte spoke on his phone to one of this teams, they didn’t have time to deal with a newbie, any other day would have been fine but they were not in the mood to chase one down today, especially after all the Balakin had just demanded.

Their men would capture it no problem, they had all the right training for such events. “It’s heading northeast, make it fast, and find out who’s jacket it’s holding onto, we need to know if it’s his or from its first attack.” They both circled back to the Jeep watching the wolf tuck tail and run.

“I think I know who that coat belongs to.” Vinchenzo frowned as they got back in the Jeep. “I think that’s what the snappy tourist was wearing at the lodge.”

“The one you tripped?” Delacourte teased recalling the cheeky little guest.

“I didn’t trip her.” Vinchenzo laughed putting the Jeep in gear pulling out his phone, a quick call to the lodge might help confirm his suspicion.

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