Dakota never knew he could take stairs as fast he was, skipping two or three at a time as he made his escape. Shit, shit, shit. He thought as he tripped and slammed into the wall at the bottom of the steps. He took a couple of calming breaths and started for the front door of the abandoned apartment complex. A set up, it had been a damn set up. He saw a silhouette on the other side of the foggy window and he spun around, going for the alleyway. He slammed against the door, stumbling out and skidded to a halt when he saw the man standing in front of his only exit, a car behind him with headlights on. He started to turn back around when a couple of men came out and he put his hands up. “Alright you got me.” He said. “Want a prize?”
“Adorable.” There was a hint of an accent to the voice, something that Dakota couldn’t quite place, not that he had ever been good with accents, accents didn’t pay the bills.
“So I’ve heard.” He shot back as he dropped his hands. “So, what’s going on?”
“You’re the one who has been following me.”
“You’re good at this.”
Rais Arbor stepped forward, his intense blue eyes studying Dakota, moving from the tip of his sneakers all the way up until he was looking into his eyes. Dakota swallowed, but kept the smile on his face. All he had to do was get past him and the car and he would be free. “I’m afraid I will need your camera and your phone.” Rais said.
“That’s not going to happen, they’re quite expensive.” He readied himself to attack and nearly laughed when Rais stepped closer. He swung, aiming for Rais’s cheek when the man blocked, lightening fast and then punched him in the solar plexus. The next thing Dakota saw was stars as he gasped for air and then he was on his hands and knees coughing and trying not to vomit. He couldn’t stop Rais from taking his camera bag or his phone and he cursed himself for being caught off guard.
“You should not be doing this sort of thing, imagine if someone not so forgiving had cornered you. I feel the punch is well deserved.” Rais patted him on the back. “You can come and get these tomorrow, once I have destroyed any data.” He raised his head enough to see Rais pull out his own wallet and fish out a business card. “If you feel the need to take risks, perhaps consider me and mine.”
Dakota wanted to be pissed but all he could do was smile. This man was as cocky as he was and that was something he always admired in others. This investigation was proving to be just the excitement he needed in his life. His cases had become so mundane, so like every other one he had been on but it seemed like he finally found himself somebody fun to follow. So he was losing what he had collected today, that just meant he could spend more time on this case. Dakota was a little surprised when Rais left, truly doing nothing more to him. It was rare for Dakota to not be one step ahead at all times but the few times like this one he wasn’t it usually ended with him in the hospital.
When he was sure he wasn’t going to puke, he grabbed the business card off the ground and stood. It felt like someone had taken a bat to his abdomen and he had a feeling that that had been a love tap. Rais had held himself back. Dakota coughed as he made his way out of the alley and to his car, his eyes moving over the card. He would have to go in the morning, it wasn’t like Rais had given him a choice, he had his phone and more importantly his camera. It hurt to sit down in his car and hurt even more getting out once he made it to his apartment. He popped a burrito in the microwave then went to take a shower, seeing a bruise already forming on his skin when he took his shirt off. He touched the spot with his fingers, flinching at how tender the spot was. His shower was quick and he practically inhaled the burrito before brushing his teeth and climbing into bed.
He jerked awake early the next morning, yawning as he pushed himself up, groaning at the pain. The bruise was more prominent that it had been the night before, looking like he had taken more than just one punch. He dressed as quickly as his injury would allow and headed out. First it was coffee and then he would find out what Rais wanted from him and how he had managed to find out he was being followed. No one ever knew, Dakota had mastered moving along streets and alleys, knew how to use the shadows to his advantage or how to look like nothing more than an innocent, unassuming bystander.
Dakota pulled up to his favorite coffee spot and ordered what he always got. “good morning” the same perky girl said just as cheerfully as if she had won the lottery. “morning” He answered halfheartedly. His mind was elsewhere, on Rais but she was so nice he always said morning back to her. She started humming as she always did but today it was like a far away sound. He may aswell been a football field away for how faint her voice was and how clear Rais’s was in his mind. His mind was replaying every second he had been following the man, it even replayed last night. He needed to know where he messed up and he needed to know much more about this man.
He hadn’t realized how intently he had been thinking until his name was called for the third time and he looked up, giving the barista an apologetic smile as he took his coffee and paid. He sipped at it as he walked back out into the early morning hustle and bustle of the city. Food carts were being set up, taxis were moving up and down the streets and he could see some night shifters coming out of the subway as he slid behind the wheel of his car. He focused, pulling his mind away from trying to study the world around him. He remembered walking into that building, remembered going up the steps to find the perfect vantage point. He had had a fleeting thought about how dark the building interior was, how the shadows seemed thicker, almost like living things. He had shaken off the feeling of being watched, knowing it was probably nothing. He realized then that that had been his alarm bells going off, but he hadn’t listened to concerned with the chase. He let out a long sigh as he pulled away from the coffee shop.
The building wasn’t exactly what he had been expecting, it was so normal, and even as he walked through the front door where he was greeted by a smiling receptionist, he couldn’t help but think it looked like any other business. All of the furnishings were expensive and the large windows afforded a gorgeous view of the city, but other than that, there was nothing suspicious about it. “How may I help you?” The receptionist asked, jerking him out of his thoughts.
“Oh, yes, sorry, I have a meeting with Mr. Arbor.”
“Are you by chance the investigator?”
“Take the elevator up to the top floor, he said he’d be waiting for you.” She waved him on and he stepped around her desk, getting that feeling of being watched again as he stepped into the elevator and pushed the button for the top. The doors closed soundlessly and he felt that dropping in his stomach as it moved. There was no ding at the top, just the doors opening and letting him out. He took in his surroundings, the young man sitting behind the desk on his right, the two men on the couch to his left, obviously bodyguards and the door in front of him with the name Arbor printed in beautiful, flowing font on the glass.
The bodyguards didn’t seem too concerned with him which was almost insulting. He however would not indulge his ego by messing with them. Their boss had gone easy on him when he punched him in the stomach and the result looked like he had punched repeatedly with all his strength. There was something different about this man and his entire building. He was sure those body guards weren’t on edge because they were used to dealing with men far more formidable than he was. Dakota approached the man he assumed was Mr Arbor’s assistant “do I need to wait or can I go in?”
“Go in, he’s been waiting” Dakota pushed open the door and entered Rais office. Dakota didn’t know what he was expecting but the inside of the office was beautifully put together. He had to have spent quite a bit of money and it didn’t seem like it was to show off at all. “hello again” Rais said almost smugly. Dakota chuckled “you better be glad I like your attitude” Rais smiled in return “Your stuff is ready for you”
“I hope you didn’t screw anything up.”
Rais chuckled. “I had a friend handle your things, a photographer.” He pulled a drawer open and pulled out the camera and phone, sitting them gently down on his desk.
Dakota eyed him, wondering if this was some sort of trap. Rais just smiled and Dakota finally moved, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of having the upper hand. He lifted his camera, switched it on and went through it. All of the photos of Rais had been deleted. He then checked his phone, glad that at least his videos were still on there. “Good, still functioning.”
“You have a lot of interesting things on there, shouldn’t you have moved it over already?”
“I do when the card is full. So what did you take?”
Rais chuckled again. “Everything.”
Dakota glared at him. “You had no right.”
“Says the man who stalked me without even a single hello. If anyone is in the wrong here, it would be you. I was simply defending myself.” His eyes flicked to Dakota’s abdomen. “Are you in pain?”
Dakota rolled his eyes. “You wish, I’ve had worse. One little punch isn’t going to do anything.”
“Take a seat why don’t you.”
“In case you have to run?”
Dakota swallowed as those gorgeous blue eyes twinkled with amusement and knowing. How could he read him so well? “What do you want?”
“I would like for you to work for me, Mr. Stewart. You have such an amazing gift. You’re investigative and photography skills are far more than exceptional, even my friend said you had a good eye.” He grinned. “You made her blush with some of them.”
“Work with you? Why would I do that?”
Rais cocked his head to the side, Dakota finding the movement uncharacteristically cute for someone who was known to be intimidating. “Why not? I can pay you well, I can protect you, all I ask is that you work exclusively for me. You gather information on your targets and you bring it back to me.”
“And what if I say no?”
“You go home.” He stood then, making Dakota’s heart leap as he moved around his desk. “Or you could let me go out with you and I will show you how beneficial it can be to work for me. You’ll enjoy the work, I promise, the people I’m after are not good.”
“A trial run to see if I like working with you?”
“Yes, I don’t take on any employees against their will. I’d really like you to work with me, you’d be an incredible asset, I mean that. From what I know of you you have a good heart deep down, sometimes deeper down than others but you do. I think your true nature would want to work for me”
“Lets talk after a trial run I suppose” Dakota was surprised how pleased Rais looked, he was an odd man indeed. It was especially odd he cared at all about his wound. Dakota was beginning to wonder if everything he heard about this man was true and if he really would just be let go if he didn’t want to work with him.
Rais seemed to brighten, his smile widening. “Excellent, when?”
“Uh.” Dakota didn’t actually know, he had just got his phone back and hadn’t had time to check it. He quickly looked at his emails, hating that he actually felt embarrassed. “So, I’ll meet you here at eight, tomorrow night.” He put his phone away. “Wear something dark and maybe cover your hair, it stands out.”
Rais chuckled. “You don’t need to worry about me, I am very good at hiding when I need to.”
Dakota couldn’t help but look him over. He didn’t seem like the espionage type. “And how is that?”
“That’s a secret until tomorrow.”
Dakota huffed. “Doesn’t seem fair.”
“It’s not supposed to be.” He leaned against his desk. “I hope we can become friends.”
“I doubt it, see you tomorrow.” He said as he turned.
“I look forward to spending time with you, Dakota. Be safe until then.”
Dakota left without another word. Rais thought that went as well as it could have and looked forward to tomorrow. He truly wanted someone with his skill to be a part of his team. The only thing Rais wished would have gone different is Dakotas unwillingness to talk about his wound. He had hit him as gently as he could but Dakota was a human so he was still worried over him. Dakota didn’t always make the best choices but Rais had meant it when he said he thought deep down Dakota was a good person. Sighing he returned to what he had been doing.
Dakota couldn’t believe how nervous he had been and he realized he was shaking as he got in his car. He didn’t know if it was adrenaline or fear. He couldn’t believe he had agreed to run a job with Rais, he hadn’t planned on that. He had wanted to tell him to go to hell, but his curiosity had caused him to run at the mouth. He let out a frustrated sigh as he pulled away, knowing it was going to be a long day. He grabbed breakfast on the way home and he spent some time going over his camera, making sure it was clean and that everything was intact. Rais had said he had a photographer look through his camera, but Dakota only trusted himself to mess with it. Everything was set up perfectly. When he was satisfied, he plugged it into his laptop and transferred everything then cleared the card. His stomach ached too much to sit in one place for to long so he decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. His phone rang around lunch and he answered it without looking, thinking it was another client.
“Hello, Dakota.” He nearly dropped his phone at Rais’s voice. “Dakota?”
“What do you want?”
Rais chuckled. “How mean, I was simply checking on you. How are you, still in pain?”
Dakota sighed. “I’m fine.”
“You don’t have to lie to me, I know how strong I am.”
“You were holding back.”
“If I had not, you would be in the hospital or dead. Would you like me to come over?”
“Don’t you dare.”
“Despite that mouth of yours, you are quite shy.”
Rais could hear the irritation in his voice, but it was tinged with a slight nervousness. “Let me at least buy you lunch as an apology.”
“You don’t have to do that. You said we were even.”
“I’ll have it delivered.”
“Now hold on a second.”
“Is pizza alright?”
“I don’t need some pity lunch”
“there is no pity involved. I hurt you last night and for my own conscious I want to buy you lunch. If you don’t tell me what kind of pizza you enjoy I’ll just send three or four different kinds. For one man that will be pretty wasteful but you gotta do what you gotta do” Dakota groaned again “just cheese is fine”
“Good, I’ll see you tomorrow” Rais hungup to order pizza and Dakota just laid on his couch, thoroughly irritated by Rais now. He guessed he was being grumpier because he was uncomfortable no matter how he sat or laid but he hadn’t really wanted him to buy lunch but he also hadn’t given him a choice, lunch would have appeared now matter what he did. When the pizza finally came he decided to be grateful but he still was determined not to let Rais know he had needed any help today.
One pizza had been enough for both lunch and dinner and Dakota was soon in bed and switching on the TV for noise. He didn’t remember the last time he was this exhausted. He decided to was a mix of last night’s events and having to deal with Rais. The man was alarmingly intuitive, reading Dakota’s every movement and expression with ease. It threw him off and not even his sarcasm had been able to save him from those too prying eyes. Dakota settled down under the covers, opting for his back since every other position made the bruise ache. All he knew about Rais was what he heard from others, that he was dangerous, wealthy, that just a glance could kill a man. His past was a mystery to everyone it seemed and it didn’t seem like Rais went out of his way to hide who he was. Dakota didn’t understand. By now he would have had everything. His eyelids grew heavy as he watched the pictures flitting across the television screen and blur into a fog. Tomorrow night, Rais had said he would show him tomorrow night and Dakota was both nervous and excited at the thought of them working together.
Rais was working late, wanting to be completely free of worry tomorrow. He knew he wouldn’t be seeing Dakota until the evening, but it paid to get rid of any obstructions. He was intrigued by the young human, finding the way he spoke amusing and the way he moved through the city and its shadows amazing. Dakota didn’t seem like the type who had been raised on the streets, he didn’t have that look about him, yet he was still wary, making sure he always had a way out and he distanced himself from others. He was so easy, his face betraying everything even as he tried to hide it behind a mask of sarcasm and aloofness. Rais would break down that wall no matter how long it took him.
A rhythmic knocking on his door woke Dakota the next morning. He didn’t know who it was and he was and nobody important should be showing up so he took his time pulling pants on and making his way to the front door. Whomever it was was incredibly patient because they hadn’t knocked again. It briefly crossed his mind as off until he opened the door, finding Rais on the other side “what are you doing here?” he asked in a slightly irritated voice. “we didn’t say where we were meeting tonight”
“your phone isn’t working?”
“It is but I like talking in person” Rais came inside without an invitation, surprising Dakota. “what’re you doing?” he asked and Rais answered “seeing where you live”
“ah, the real reason you’re here”
“It’s not the only reason, Dakota.”
Dakota felt a shiver move up his spine at the way Rais said his name. It shocked him, made his heart trip over itself and he quickly pushed the feeling down as he followed Rais, glaring at him. “It’s rude to just barge into someone’s home.”
“If you don’t like it then stop me.”
Dakota felt heat sweep through him. why wasn’t he stopping him? Could he if he really wanted to? His hand moved to his abdomen, the movement catching Rais’s attention as he examined the living room. He quickly dropped his hand, trying to maintain his anger. “What?”
“You still hurt.”
Rais moved closer to him and Dakota backed up, his legs having a mind of their own as they pushed him away. He barely even saw Rais move, his hand moving like lightening to grab Dakota’s wrist and tug him back. He was so shocked he froze, only coming back to his senses when Rais lifted his shirt, wincing a little. “I should have held back more. I apologize.” Rais’s fingers brushed his belly and Dakota gasped shoving his shirt down and pulling until Rais suddenly let him go so he fell back onto the couch.
Rais’s smile returned. “Why don’t you give me a little tour of your apartment or should I look around on my own?”
Dakota decided to stop fighting him quite so much and began giving him a tour. Rais smiled but made sure he kept it small so he wouldn’t irritate Dakota again. It was fun but he knew too much would make it harder to get past the walls he had put up to protect himself. Dakota talked about a few things in the living room then took Rais to the kitchen where Rais noted “your place is cleaner than I pictured it”
“You haven’t seen my room yet’ Rais lightly chuckled then just listened as Dakota said a little bit about the kitchen. It also surprised Rais that he was getting a sort of detailed tour. He expected, out of his irritation he would just get a curt here’s all the rooms tour. Dakota showed Rais his room last “I’m in here more so it tends to get messier”
“hm, well that’s pretty normal”
“Oh sure, I bet yours is spotless.”
Rais shrugged. “Helena cleans it, but I’m sure if she were not around, it would be just as messy.”
“One of my employees. She has been with me four years now.”
“You sound like you like her.”
Rais smiled. “I care for all of my employees, they are like family to me. They’ve all been through their own personal Hell, though you wouldn’t know it by how they act.”
“So you run some sort of charity?”
“I give those who wish for it a second chance. Helena was a drug addict living on the streets, doing some very unsavory things to feed her habit. I came upon her dealer trying to strangle her to death. He is no longer a problem.” The way he talked about that moment sent another shiver up Dakota’s spine. There was something dark in his eyes, a shadow of darkness that flashed there for a moment before he was smiling again. “She has been doing very well and is going to college. I’m proud of her, of all of them.”
“I see.” He cleared his throat. “So you’ve seen my place, you can leave now.”
“Have you had breakfast, Dakota?”
“Do you have anything in your refrigerator?”
“Because I would like to cook for you, I’m sure you’re hungry.” He headed back out to the kitchen, Dakota following close, still irritated.
“I don’t need…”
Rais shrugged off his coat and unbuttoned and rolled up his sleeves. Dakota felt his heart jump. Why did he look so good? “Just let me, stop being so stubborn.” He took a ponytail holder from his pocket and pulled his hair back. “So, do you have anything in your refrigerator or am I going to have to call one of my men and get them to bring some?”
Dakota huffed. “There’s bacon and eggs, coffee’s in the pantry.”
“good” Rais got right to work, seeming to have little trouble finding where his pans and dishes were. Dakota didn’t think much of it, as he had learned as well most people put them in about the same places. When you paid attention to human behavior you could easily find anything in someone elses home. Rais kept breakfast simple, preparing scrambled eggs and heating up the entire pack of bacon for the two of them to enjoy. Dakota brought Rais plates to fill then set them on the table while Rais began rinsing the dishes he used. He considered telling him he didn’t have to do that but he just sat down, waiting on Rais to join him at the table.
“I hope it’s too your liking.” Rais said as he sat down across from Dakota.
“It’s bacon and eggs, it’s hard to ruin bacon and eggs.”
“It depends on who is cooking them. There was a man I knew who wasn’t very good at it, not that I told him, he said that a growing boy needs to eat and he made me breakfast.” He glanced at Dakota’s plate and back up to his face. “Come now, eat.”
Dakota rolled his eyes, stabbing a piece of egg and sticking it in his mouth. He paused, the flavor catching him a bit off guard. “How did you do that? These eggs are delicious.”
“I cooked them in a lot of butter without milk. I’m glad you like them.” Dakota stuck another bite in his mouth, knowing if it wasn’t occupied, he was going to say something snarky. Rais smiling at him didn’t help, nor did the way his eyes seemed to bore into him.
“So, about you.” He finally said.
“What about me?”
“I think I should know more if we’re going to be hanging out.”
“Alright, let me get us some coffee.” He stood, finding the cups and filling them. “Sugar and creamer?”
He brought them to the table, his own black while Dakota’s swirled with the color of the creamer. “What would you like to know? My age? My height? My favorite foods?”
“Whatever you’re willing to divulge.”
“And will you do the same?”
“Maybe, a little.”
Rais smiled, happy breakfast was heading in this direction. He had wondered if coming over this morning would be a good idea and now he saw it was. “ask away, I think a fair way to do this is if you ask me a question and I answer you have to answer the exact same question”
“Fine, how old are you anyway?”
“there’s no way. You’re supposed to answer honestly”
“I am, I’m a half demon. It’s how I accidentally hurt you so badly. I really did try to go easy on you. It can be hard controlling all this strength”
“I really feel like you’re messing with me”
“I’m not, I swear, what I’m telling you is the absolute truth”
“I’m twenty four and a human”
“so you believe me?” Dakota shrugged and Rais laughed.
“So why mob work? I mean if you’re such a big, tough, powerful demon, you shouldn’t need a mob.”
Rais took a sip of his coffee. “It’s not about whether or not I need a mob, it’s about giving people a life. Believe it or not, I grew up alone, on the streets. That man I mentioned before was an elderly homeless man who shared his food with me.” Dakota swallowed, feeling suddenly embarrassed he had been giving Rais such a hard time. “Did I take you by surprise, Dakota?”
“No, why would you?”
“Why be a private detective?”
Dakota shrugged again. “I’m good at it.”
“That’s only a partial truth. There’s a reason, a real reason.”
Dakota didn’t like talking about his dad, about his loss, it brought up to many emotions he would rather keep at the back of his mind. It still stung even today, though he’d never admit it. “There is, but it’s personal.”
Rais studied his face, seeing the flash of pain. “Alright, then tell me how you learned to move through the streets like you do. You weren’t born on them, I can tell.”
“I just learned by running with the wrong crowd for awhile, learned where to go, how to make a quick exit, how to bullshit my way out of trouble. I guess that kind of transferred over to what I do now. I’m good at talking and running and taking pictures and until I met you, I thought I was good at fighting, but apparently not.”
“You had good form, but I had the advantage.”
“Jerk.” He took a drink of coffee then something dawned on him. “Did you use your demon stuff to trap me?”
“Maybe, you’ll have to wait and see.
Now Dakota didn’t feel as shitty for being caught. He had been up against a demon. A half demon but there was little difference between a half and full demon that he knew of. He had thought them fantasy until now but he had an open mind, especially after everything he had seen being a private detective. He had seen magic first hand and if he could believe in magic what was believing in the existence of demons. Eighty though, Dakota thought it must be nice to be able to get that old and still look so young. It wasn’t fair to be human, at twenty four Dakota guessed he probably only had another twenty years of looking this good. They finished their coffee and Dakota asked “so are we still talking or are you heading out?”
“we didn’t really talk long. You seemed to drift off when you asked if my demon stuff was what trapped you.
“I was just thinking, I do a lot of thinking.”
“About how unfair it is? How I not only sniffed you out, but used my other gifts to trap you?”
“Yeah, that. I still can’t believe you’re eighty, I imagine there are a lot of envious women.”
“I wouldn’t know, most of the women I know work for me and they’ve expressed jealousy.”
“You must have had a girlfriend or a lover of some sort.”
Rais grinned as he reached across the table and let his fingers slide over the top of Dakota’s hand. “Not of the female persuasion.” Dakota’s heart stuttered and he quickly pulled his hand away, causing Rais to laugh.
“Is that why you want me?”
“Not at all, I’m interested in your work, in how you work. I just thought I’d tease you a bit.” He winked. “So what about you? Men? Women? Both?”
“Men” Dakota wanted to look away but wouldn’t give Rais the satisfaction, even if it caused that ridiculously smug grin. “I see” Dakota rolled his eyes saying “I’m not attracted to you” Dakota knew he was protesting too much but it was hard not to snap back at Rais’s teasing. “but you are single now though?”
“well I swear to you, I want you for your skill, not because I desire something physical.”
“I guess there are easier ways to get a date, especially for someone like you”
“I highly doubt you have trouble finding a date if you truly want one” Dakota shrugged again “I think we’re getting into a weird area. What’s your favorite color?” He asked because Rais had suggested the question earlier and he wanted to talk about anything but where they were in conversation.
“Doesn’t suit you.”
“It suits me better than you know.” He stood, taking his empty plate and cup to the sink and cleaning them. “Where would you like to meet me tonight?”
“Your office building, meet me out front and we’ll go from there.”
“Alright.” He rolled his sleeves down then grabbed his jacket and slid it on, the motion catching Dakota’s attention. “Relax until then, especially with that bruise.”
“You don’t want to hear my answer?”
Rais chuckled. “Of course I do.”
Dakota moistened his lips. “It’s blue.”
“Now that suits you.” He glanced down at the table. “Eat all of that, okay?”
Rais smiled, the movement absolutely charming as he left. Dakota hadn’t walked him to the door, he just sat there at the table, not doing anything until he heard his front door shut. Dakota finished his food then cleaned up the remainder of the dirty dishes. He was surprised that Rais had come this morning and seemed to genuinely want to know him as a person. He had never been hired by someone who gave a crap about him or his life. Deciding to take Rais advice Dakota settled back into his bed to watch tv and relax until it was time to meet him. His laptop was on his nightstand so he didn’t even have to get up for that.
Dakota felt better when he got up that evening and pulled on his clothes. He made sure his running shoes were tied tight then checked himself in the mirror. He made sure the battery on his phone was fully charged and then switched out the one in his camera before heading out. He didn’t want to be late picking up Rais. Dakota couldn’t help but be amazed at how much Rais stuck out even dressed as casually as he was. The black jogging pants and dark t-shirt did nothing to diminish how gorgeous he was. His hair hung in braid over his shoulder and he smiled as Dakota pulled to a stop next to him. “Hello, Dakota.” He said as he slid into the passenger seat.
“You stick how like a sore thumb.”
“Do I? Why is that?”
He sighed as he pulled away. “You’re just too damn good looking and your hair, people are going to notice.”
Rais grinned. “So you think I’m handsome?”
Dakota had to fight the blush. “I was stating a simple fact, it has nothing to do with me.” Shut up, shut up, don’t engage. He told himself. Rais was far to good at controlling the direction their conversations took.
“Oh I see.” He chuckled. “I already told you I have my ways.”
“You still haven’t told me what those are?” Rais held out a hand and Dakota’s eyes went wide as he watched something dark move up his arm, starting at his fingertips and stopping at his elbow. “What the Hell is that?”
“Shadows, it’s how I watched you in that building.”
“damn, that’s impressive.” Dakota couldn’t help the compliment, it wow’d him he was able to do such a thing. A demon, now there wasn’t even a sliver of doubt in his mind this man truly was a half demon. There was no other explanation for him to have such an ability. It just seemed beyond the mere magic of a human. “I think so, I feel blessed to have such a gift. Often demons are born with the abilities of their parents and other times, it’s like a roulette wheel. I’m not sure if I inherited this or not but weather it was sheer luck or from my parents I’m grateful to have it” Dakota wondered why he didn’t know. Since Rais seemed to ask whatever crossed his mind Dakota allowed himself to question it.
“Why don’t you know?”
“I grew up an orphan” Dakota swallowed, knowing the pain of not having a parent. “I’m sorry”
“It must have been hard.”
“This is what I mean by who you are underneath all of this. You feel compassion even though you try to hide it.” He let the shadow melt back into place. “It is actually quite common for demons to be raised harshly, there are a few who are loved and have devoted parents, but being alone or abused is common. I have no memory of my parents, only the orphanage where I spent my early years. They were kind, but they could only afford so many children so I left and learned to live on the streets. My gift helped. I don’t regret those days, I spent them well, helped take care of those less fortunate.”
“So this whole mob thing?”
“A mask, a show of force, a safe haven for the freaks and outcasts.”
“You hide that well, it mostly sounded like you were the run of the mill ruthless mob”
“we have to sound that way in order for me to keep these people safe. Others don’t tend to mess with us. Does knowing this make you want to join any more than you did?”
“we’ll talk about it after tonight”
“fair enough” Rais looked out the window, still feeling the high from Dakota saying he was handsome. He didn’t lack self confidence but Dakota was adorable and someone he could see himself falling for so it felt good to know he was attracted to him. Rais didn’t want Dakota flustered while they worked so he decided to just stay in his thoughts, staying quiet the remainder of the drive.
Dakota pulled to a stop on the other side of town and switched off his car. His eyes took in the area and then he pointed. “We’ll use that building.”
“How do you know it’s the best spot?”
“The email I received said she would be down there at the docks, that building looks right down into it.”
“She’s part of a prostitution and drug ring, really in the money, someone who goes to charities and no one would suspect. I’m catching her with her dealer tonight.”
“The police. I can’t do anything with people like her, people that my da…” he stopped himself. “You really get me talking, you know that? Come on, we need to get set up. Can you use that little gift of yours to keep us hidden?”
They got out and Dakota retrieved his camera while Rais dimmed the street lights. The shadows deepened and Dakota once again felt impressed. “Good enough? I can wrap them around us if need be.”
“Only if we have to run.”
“We won’t have to run, I wouldn’t let them touch or see you.”
Dakota’s heart skipped a beat but he shook it off. There was something in the way he said it that was touching but he didn’t want to linger on it long enough for the half demon to notice. They hurried over to the building, both men being intensely watchful so they wouldn’t be seen. They got in unnoticed then went to the best floor to watch and get photo evidence. They needed more than just his word against hers. Rais watched Dakota prepare his camera and a few other things. He set them up in a way it would be easy to quickly pick it all up if they had to run out for whatever reason. “so now we wait” Dakota suddenly said.
Rais leaned against the wall, his eyes focusing on Dakota who did his best not to notice. “How about we talk more about you since we’re just waiting.”
“Why? I’m not that interesting, I point and shoot.”
“Now, now, no lying. Why do you look so sad sometimes? I can see it and I want to know.”
“You shouldn’t be so pushy, I might push you out a window.”
Rais chuckled. “You can try, I would just climb back up.” He reached over, taking Dakota’s hand. “Talk to me.”
Dakota, glanced at him then looked back out the window. He hadn’t talked about his dad since the funeral. People had tried, but he hated the pity. “It’s no big deal.”
“That’s another lie. I’m beginning to think I should keep a tally and punish you for it later.”
Rais grinned. “I can be.” He squeezed Dakota’s hand. “Tell me.”
Dakota sighed. “Maybe after this, if I decide to work for you.”
“alright, but is there anything else we can talk about?”
“we might get caught up in conversation and I could miss something critical”
“hm, I suppose you have a point” Rais continued just to stare at Dakota as they waited in silence, semi hoping how awkward he knew he was making Dakota feel would prompt him to talk more. He proved much more stubborn than he gave him credit for and nothing was said until after Dakota had collected the evidence he needed. “I’m surprised you actually left me alone”
“if you work for me I will respect you”
“You’re really pushy, you know that?”
“Perhaps I just really want you.”
“Excuse me?” His heart was tripping over itself.
“As one of my employees?” He winked at him, wanting to tease him.
“Let’s get away from here first, then we’ll talk.”
“Let me take you out for dinner, you must be hungry.”
Dakota chuckled. “At this rate I might get used to being spoiled. Buying me food, cooking for me, checking up on me. You better stop or I’ll come to expect it.”
“I don’t mind, Dakota, it seems to help you trust me and I really want that. So by all means, be spoiled.”
A blush crept up his neck and he was thankful Rais had dimmed the lights. What was going on with him? It’s almost like I’m…He halted that line of thinking, shaking his head. He couldn’t be, that was insane. Rais gave him a questioning look and Dakota just waved him off. “I’m fine, just tired and hungry. I want burgers.”
then lets go get some” they went back to Dakotas car where he said ‘Is five guys fine with you?”
“sure” Dakota drove them over and they went inside. “so, about accepting my offer”
“are you going to pay me well?”
“You wont want for anything” after a short pause Dakota said “alright”
“You seem pretty determined and if you plan to keep spoiling me, I mean, it’s a good deal”
“I guess as part of your pay I’ll take you out to eat or cook for you once a day”
“is that going to be in writing?” Rais laughed at the question.”I’m really happy you’re accepting the offer, I mean that” he said it almost affectionatly. it actually took effort on Dakotas part not to blush. The fact that they were eating helped him maintain composure. Rais was just messing with him and was hiring him because he was good at what he did. He needed to stop getting so caught up in him.
“So, where should I drop you off then?” Dakota asked when they were finished eating.
“I would like to go back to your place.”
“Because you said you would talk to me.”
Dakota sighed. “I was hoping you’d forgotten.” He sighed again. “Alright, let’s go.” Rais followed him out and stayed quiet all the way back to Dakota’s apartment. He could see the human was thinking. “Last chance to change your mind.” Dakota said when he pulled up in front of his apartment complex.
Rais unbuckled and Dakota just nodded as he switched off the car and got out. They went inside and Dakota dropped his camera bag and phone on the coffee before sitting down on the couch. Rais dropped down next to him, close enough that Dakota could feel warmth radiating off his skin. He swallowed, looking at his hands as he tried to decide how to start.”Dakota.” Rais said his name gently and took his hand. “Tell me.”
Dakota took a deep breath. “My father was a cop, and not just any cop, but the cop. You know the type, the guy who isn’t afraid to run into trouble when someone needs him. I idolized him, I wanted to be like that.” He swallowed, feeling the knot forming in his throat. “I was twelve when he died. I remember two of my dad’s buddies showing up and telling my mom he had been shot and…and he didn’t make it. The sound of her screaming was terrible.” Rais squeezed his hand, but stayed silent, afraid if he said anything Dakota would clam up. “The bullying started some time after that. A grieving kid was an easy target and I just kind of let it happen.” He reached up and wiped at his tears. He hated he looked so weak in front of Rais. “I got expelled when I was sixteen, apparently I used too much force on one of my bullies. After that I guess I just stopped caring. I was already messed up anyway.”
“I bet my dad hates me.”
“That’s enough.” He pulled Dakota into his arms, holding him gently as he soothed him.
Dakota didn’t fight the tears pouring from his eyes. He felt terrible but at the same time he felt tremendous relief to be getting this out, to have someone to hold him through the pain. His dad had been such a great man and Dakota knew he was shaming his memory with some of the underhanded things he did. He knew it was the right thing to work for Rais. He’d finally be making his dad proud and that too was causing him to cry. When Rais spoke again it was soft and soothing “You’re smart Dakota, you have so many skills, I mean, you aren’t always on the right path but you;re really good at what you do and I see an incredibly good soul in you. Your father is going to be so incredibly proud of the work you do with me. I’m going to keep you on a good path. I think if he’s seen everything he understands some of your bad choices, anybody would understand. You’re a good man and I don’t see how anybody could ever hate you, especially one of your parents”
“I messed up big time. I hardly even call my mother and she had it just as bad.”
“I’m sure she understands. You lost a father and a hero, that’s not easy.” He pulled back and took Dakota’s face in his hands, wiping away the tears. “We’ll get you settled into your new job and then you can call her and talk everything out.”
“You probably shouldn’t be so nice to me, I’m a bad influence you know. I might corrupt you.” Dakota sniffed and gave a small laugh. “I’m pretty dangerous.”
“I don’t mind a little bit of danger.” Rais smiled, almost lovingly it seemed.
Dakota took a couple of shuddering breaths. “I think you’re using some type of demon magic on me, I don’t talk to people, at least not that much.”
“But you feel better, don’t you?”
“Yeah, thank you.” Rais pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead and Dakota blushed. “What was that for?”
“I can’t show you a little affection? Besides, it got you to blush, your face is bright red.”
“Shut up, jerk.”
Rais smiled, gently stroking his cheek. He was definitely falling in love with this man and he saw Dakota was also falling in love with him but wasn’t quite ready to admit it to himself yet. Rais knew he only needed to heal more to be ready so that’s what he vowed to do. He would get Dakota comfortable at work, get him and his mother close again and then, then he would make him his. Rais was eager for that time to come but he was willing to be patient for the man who was capturing his heart.
~ The End