I tried to stay away from Dagen.
There’s a persuasive edge to his touch I can’t ignore. His voice pierces my soul—every cell of my skin reacts to the deep tones as if his hands were on me. Any strength I gather to leave him alone vanishes the moment he comes near me.
Nothing between us was resolved. I didn’t want the noose of monogamy and Dagen requires my undivided attention. Calling him Leo at the club bruised his ego, wounding him beyond what I thought possible. I spent my free time reading articles online, trying to find a strategy to fix what I’d done.
The loneliness of sleeping in my hotel room by the airport felt amplified by the uncertainty of our bruised relationship. Dagen’s stubbornness causes problems, but it’s also what draws me to him. He is the unwavering pillar I can tie myself to in a storm.
My newly carpeted apartment was ready. If I wanted the keys, I needed to meet the broker before my morning shift for the walkthrough. I gladly accepted the inconvenient appointment. After two nights alone, contemplating my existence in a tiny hotel room, I was ready to leave by any means necessary.
A traveler pack of coffee and a dozen pastries felt like an excellent way to celebrate my new accommodations with my fellow interns. My coworkers are an odd bunch, quiet and competitive. I should be more competitive, but I don’t need to stab anyone in the back to move my professional life forward. I have the luxury of time.
“Hold the door, please,” I called out to Sasha, the only other female intern in the program. She walked with her earbuds in and head down, stopping briefly to help me. “Thanks, Sasha. Have you tried the dark roast?
“Don’t drink coffee. It dulls the olfactory senses.” She didn’t like me. I don’t mind. Most women don’t like me until they get to know me.
The breakroom was crowded as everyone hurried to cram their belongings into a locker. I dropped the coffee box and the bag of pastries on the counter.
“What are we celebrating today, Ganas?” Our Chief Medical Examiner was an older man with a meticulous appearance to his dress and hairstyle.
“Doctor Green,” I startled. “Picked up my apartment keys this morning.” I jingled my new keys for the room.
“Very good. Hopefully, the lack of vagrancy allows your focus to fall squarely on your work.”
“Yes, I expect it will,” I nodded.
“Your top is not white,” he pointed, wiggling his finger at the long sleeve undershirt beneath my scrubs.
“No, Sir, it’s dark blue. The secondary color allowed in the dress code.”
“Why do you feel it necessary to part from the commonly worn white?”
“White makes my arms look pudgy. This undermines my confidence causing me unnecessary stress. I’m removing anything that zaps focus from my life.”
“You feel dark fabric will help towards your goals?”
“Yes, combined with my permanent housing. I should feel a change any day now.”
“Very well, I learned something new about women today.”
“Roughly fifty percent of the world is female. Small details you observe in a natural setting may prove valuable when you least expect, Sir.”
“Possibly,” he conceded.
The door flew open. My coworker Jeff stumbled inside. Dr. Green looked at the clock, annoyed.
A harmless lie floated from my mouth. “Did the man wandering outside find what he was looking for? Thanks for taking over. My arms were about to give out listening to him.”
“Not a problem,” Jeff answered, confused. “Uh, he was looking for vital records.”
“Hmm,” Dr. Green uttered. “Customer service is crucial to public interactions, Ganas.”
“Yes, sir.” I faked anxiety, gulping down my coffee. We followed Dr. Green into the lab with our notebooks in hand, like a line of ducklings.
A body delivered overnight was marred with deep slash marks across the neck and chest. We were to examine the corpse under close supervision. The detective on the case was eager for answers.
“So, what do you think is the cause of death?” The detective chewed on his pen cap.
“Detective, cause of death will be discovered through methods, not assumptions.”
“Of course,” he agreed sarcastically.
Dr. Green scanned the room and pointed at me. “Miss. Ganas, tell me what you observe.”
I nodded, placed my hands behind my back, and walked around the corpse.
“Fourteen equal gouges across the chest and throat. Perhaps a metal rake. Postmortem—due to the lack of blood around the wound edges.
“A puncture at the edge of the twelfth gouge. Maybe something rounded poked deep. Where was the body found?” I dipped my nose closer to the cadaver’s skin, detecting hints of redwood and sharp-edged chemicals.
The detective looked at his notes. “On the street by a car door at three in the morning by a store clerk.”
“Looks like a wood fiber here in the man’s beard.” My superior handed me a collection tube and a pair of sterile tweezers. I pulled the tiny fiber from the body, capped the tube, and handed it back.
“We will test to determine if the fiber is indeed wood.” I stepped back with my colleagues. “Any further questions for the detective Miss Ganas?”
“If I may. Were fence boards within staggering distance of the body?” The detective looked at me blankly.
“Maybe? Do you think it was the murder weapon?”
I could almost hear my boss grumble. “I have no theory as I’m not sufficiently trained to offer one. But, consider a nail in the lung, then death. The body is mutilated with a metal rake for spite then staged by the car.”
“Hmm, I’ll go look for a fence board and a metal rake.” The detective left abruptly. Dr. Green’s face rested in a neutral posture.
“Ready your notes, lower your visors as I begin a gross examination of the body. Adequately done, Miss Ganas.” Neutral was a good look for Dr. Green.
Lunch rolled around, giving me time to breathe. I walked to a rundown but clean deli and bought a sandwich. It was nice to be outside in the fresh air. I sent Dagen a text about getting my keys and how I was happy to be off for three days. He sent back a K.
He’s terribly busy, but the single letter felt deliberately dismissive. I pushed the thought out of my mind. It was becoming too easy to find fault with Dagen’s every move. I needed to worry less about his microaggressions.
Day end procedures consist of two hours of paper pushing and equipment cleaning. It’s essential work, but it’s life-sucking.
Jeff cautiously edged closer with a completed file in his hand. “Thanks for this morning. I can’t seem to get my shit together.”
“I couldn’t help myself. I felt so bad for you last time he verbally castrated you.”
“Miss Ganas, may I see you in my office please,” yelled Dr. Green.
“Holy hell, what did I do?” Jeff raised his brows and crept in the opposite direction.
“Yes, Dr. Green.” I cheerfully entered his office, contemplating my actions throughout the day.
“Please close the door.” I complied, shuttering my exhale. “You are a MacTernan,” he stated.
“Yes, but my legal name is Ganas.”
“Um, hm. You are my Clan leader.”
“Not for twenty-six years. Dagen Bissett is our leader now.”
“Um, hm. Why did you pick my program? Were you expecting special treatment?”
“No, Sir. It’s located near an airport.”
“I don’t follow Ganas.”
I plopped down on the floor by his desk and told him the abridged story of the White, and Henry, and Leo.
“Now I just want my life back, but Dagen.” I hung my head in my hands. “It’s difficult.”
“So, you hold bloodline ties to the White.”
“Yes, recently I discovered I’m shadow. My skin gets hot, and I have a hard time concentrating, but I’m sorting it out.” He sat back in his chair and opened up his desk drawer, pulling out two bags of salted pretzels. Tossing one at me.
“I was born on the land my home occupies today. My great aunt by marriage was of your bloodline. There is a physical portal to the White in my rose garden. It’s been dry without your family’s blood for over three hundred years. The portal is at your disposal.”
“Thank you, Dr. Green. Who else knows about the portal?”
He was quiet as he bit into his snack. “Hmm, no one alive today.”
“May I ask you to keep this information between us. When the angels call me, it’s not convenient to answer them.”
“Onus Angelorum,” he murmured. “It flows both ways. Henry’s responsible for your soul and his oath to protect humanity. Why are you pursuing a profession like this one?”
“I was raised, human. I will finish the degree I started. I want to feel like I made a difference in this life.”
“Well, it will be my honor to teach you how to matter in this profession, Miss Ganas. Please find time to visit my home for dinner and a rose garden tour.”
“Thank you for the invitation. May I visit you next week? I’m setting up my apartment on my days off.” He nodded and motioned towards the door.
“We must keep up appearances.” I agreed with a nod.
Driving home after work, the stench of death permeated my clothes. I gathered my stuff and shoved it in a bag before heading up to my apartment. The hallway was buzzing with workmen removing unruly packing boxes and wood pallets.
I walked past several people with a polite nod.
Unlocking my new door, I found a brown couch and ottoman sitting by the balcony window. A dining table and sideboard with a large mirror sat off the kitchen. It was all hardwood and minimalistic, very Dagen. Wandering into the bedroom, I found a queen-sized bed and matching dresser. The sheets were white, and the coverlet was deep green.
A knock at the door pulled me away from my amazement. Looking out the peephole, I saw Dagen.
“Did you do all of this? It’s absolutely perfect.” I threw my arms around him and his fancy blue suit.
“Dear God,” he cringed, pinching his nose.
“Shit, sorry, it’s dead people. Come in and close the door. I’ll put my clothes in the wash.”
“Did you see the bathroom yet, Sweetheart? It’s stocked with towels and soap.”
I peeled off all my clothes and set them in the washer closing the lid. “I’ll freshen up. The whole place looks spectacular. Thank you.”
Dagen sat on the couch, worry settled in his eyes as he looked intently at his phone. I returned later from my shower to find him hunched in the same position. I closed the curtains and laid naked across the ottoman on my stomach, waving my legs in the air.
“What are you doing?” he snickered.
“I read an article about spanking and how aroused some people become by giving and receiving—a little pain, the sounds, the control.” Dagen dragged me and the ottoman closer, tossing his jacket on the new couch.
“You’re serious?” he gasped. His clothes dropped off quickly. I grabbed his tie from the floor and wrapped it playfully around my wrists.
I looked up at him. “I think this might be something you’ll like.” He nodded in agreement. “Stand over here so I can watch you get hard.”
“Too late, Lass.”
I served him his favorite dish—control over me.
Dagen’s touch was light and playful at first—a brush of my skin, a firm smack on my cheek, followed by a hard kiss. Eventually, every move felt much less controlled, and he got much harder.