The slammed door shakes terribly, making a loud sound that attracts everyone’s attention; hence everyone turns to face Marco as he exits room 401. Shocked, I realize that I have underestimated how tall and huge he is. He is at least a head taller than everyone in the hallway and his cold, icy eyes sweep through the crowd in one swift glance.
“What’s the problem?” he says, leaning against the doorway to his room with a cup of whiskey in his hands. “You all won’t let us sleep.”
“It’s this bitch,” Alina yells. “She cheated on her boyfriend.”
“Is that so?” he glances at me as though he has never seen me before in his entire life. “And what makes you think so?” he calmly asks, his eyes still lock on my face.
“What?” Alina asks, confused by the question.
“You march in here,” he turns to face her, standing erect and dominating everyone with his incredible physique. “Yelling and screaming at the top of your lungs that this pretty girl just cheated on her boyfriend as though you caught her in bed with another man.”
Despite my uncomfortable situation, I blush slightly that he calls me pretty. It isn’t the first time that I’ve been called that, in fact, I’ve been called pretty much more than I’ve been called my name; but, somehow, the way he says it, sets my body on fire and I have a quick flashback to the events of the previous night. The crowd murmurs in agreement and turns to Alina and Brandon for an explanation. Indeed, it does seem weird that they’ve just barged into the hotel and started accusing me of infidelity with no evidence.
“Don’t you see?” Brandon yells at the crowd. “Her hair is unraveled, and see her puffy eyes.”
“Last night was wild,” Marco replies, his thick, bass voice easily overshadows Brandon’s and commands the attention of the crowd. “Everyone was celebrating the engagement of Eric and Lily. There were free drinks everywhere. It’s expected that most people would be hung over, and just like this girl right here, would have puffy tired eyes, with scattered hair; a result of last night’s hard party.”
Alina and Brandon exchange nervous glances. The public sentiment is already swinging in my favor and it seems their evil plan is backfiring on them.
“Don’t you see that she…” Alina stutters. “And who are you by the way?”
Marco smiles, exactly the way a villain will smile, “I’m just a guest of this hotel whose sleep you just disturbed with your incessant yells and unconfirmed accusations, so it’s only right that we get to the bottom of this. It’s the least you can do for us for disturbing our sleep,” he yells, loud enough for the crowd to hear him and they all seem to agree.
Angrily, Brandon steps closer to Marco. Brandon is one of the biggest men in our pack, but even he seems like a miniature creature against Marco.
“Step away from this man,” Brandon growls, backing his words with wolfish power. “This is not your fight.”
“But it is,” Marco snarls and the raw power that emanates from him is so powerful that it makes Brandon avert his gaze and pushes the crowd a step farther away from him. I am awed by his power and his charisma, and I can scarcely believe that I’ve just spent night with such a powerful man.
“I presume you’re her sister,” he turns to Alina, and she recoils slightly from his attention. “Why are you so eager to accuse your sister that she’s cheating? Even if her boyfriend is paranoid and believes his girlfriend is cheating on him, shouldn’t you stand up for your sister and prove him wrong? Instead, you’re the one instigating the accusation. You both seem very certain that she cheated when she hasn’t even been in her room.”
“Give me your keycard,” he whispers to me and I hastily passes it to him.
“Look here,” he yells to the crowd. “Her key card says 401 and she’s not even there yet.”
Everyone’s attention turns towards room 401 and the fat, old, rich businessman that stands, half-naked, by the door.
“I wonder what this old man is doing in her room,” Marco sniggers. “Unless certain persons have conspired to frame this innocent girl and set her up.”
The old man must sense that the plan has backfired and decides to save himself by throwing Alina under the bus.
“It’s all her,” he yells in his gruff, rough voice and points to white-faced Alina. “It is all her idea. She was supposed to lure the girl here. I already paid half of the agreed fee and she didn’t deliver her end of the bargain.”
“Alina,” Marco smirks. “What is he talking about?”
“What nonsense?” Brandon yells and storms towards the fat old man, pushes him aside and pulls the door wide open. “She definitely slept in this room…”
Everyone follows him but finds no traces that I’ve ever stepped into the room.
“I guess the old man’s saying the truth,” Marco says. “You should leave before the crowd decides to punish you for disturbing their sleep.”
Brandon wants to fight, but Alina pulls his hands and they hurriedly leave the hotel amidst the condemnation of the crowd. The excitement soon dies down and all the guests retreat back into their room, chatting about the morning’s event. I want to thank Marco but he glares at me and goes to his room, shutting the door behind him.
Weeks pass, and I am back in the perfume shop, but I still find it very difficult to forget that day’s event. Not because of Alina’s and Brandon’s treachery, but because of Marco’s heroism. I don’t know him, yet he has saved me from a crushing shame. If Alina and Brandon have gotten their way, I would have been branded an ingrate and a cheat. It is bad enough that most people don’t see me as a true member of the pack since I’ve not been able to make my wolf manifest, if they have a real reason to throw me out, they would have already.
I chuckle slightly to myself as I remember how Marco has easily destroyed the plans of Brandon and Alina. He is so ruthless with his words that he makes me shiver in awe and fear. He is also very attractive that I sometimes imagine myself wrapped in his arms. Though I can’t quite clearly remember the details of what happened when we spent the night together, I remember enough to know that it feels really good.
“Get a grip on yourself,” I chide myself. “You don’t even know him.”
“Hey girls,” Malik smiles as he pulls his coat closer to his body on his way out of the shop. “I’m heading out,” he says to Clara and me. “I’ll be back soon.”
“Of course, boss,” Clara chuckles. “We’ll hold the fort.”
“I trust you will,” Malik smiles back. “You okay, Tanya?” He asks me and I nod my affirmation.
“He’s so cute, isn’t he?” Clara says to me after Malik is out of the shop and out of earshot.
“He’s married,” I chuckle.
“That’s the only reason I’m not all over him,” she laughs. “Are you sure you’re alright? You don’t look well.”
“I’m fine,” I smile. “Just tired.”
“Okay,” she replies and turns back to her work.
Clara is the shop’s clerk. While I focus on creating the perfume, she focuses on creating an inventory and making sure the perfumes are good enough for sale. Though we are colleagues, we never really bonded so it is difficult to tell her that I am not fine; that I’ve been feeling strange since that night at the hotel.
“I’m fine,” I tell myself for the umpteenth time, ignoring the flaring nausea in my stomach and focusing on my work. I have already vomited four times that day and Clara is already looking at me in a funny way. I try really hard to ignore the nausea that builds up within me, but it merely grows stronger and I have to scamper to the toilet to let it all out. When I come out, Clara is waiting for me outside, hands at her side and glaring at me.
“What?” I ask, trying to shield myself from her penetrating gaze.
“You’re pregnant,” she pronounces and steps close to me, pulling my eyelid open and rubbing her hands on my stomach. “Yep, you’re definitely pregnant. I didn’t realize you were already shagging Brandon.”
“What? It’s impossible,” I protest. “I can’t be pregnant.”
I push her out of the way and walk to my station, ignoring Clara’s inquisitive look. The only person I have sex with is Marco, an absolute stranger that I know nothing about. Although I try to deny it and disprove Clara’s words, I know she is probably right. I’ve noticed the symptoms but am unwilling to admit it. But I need confirmation to really know for sure.
“I’m leaving early,” I announce to Clara and storm out of the shop before she can stop me. I march to the nearest drug store, buy a pregnancy strip test and march home. In my haste, I clash with Alina but I totally ignore her. Luckily for me, she ignores me too and I go to the bathroom to test myself. I hold my breath while I wait for the result.
“Oh my god!” I squeal when the result comes out, and the pregnancy strip falls from my shaking hands. “This can’t be right.”