Our little project of medical paranormal romance.
Episodes come every two weeks.
Alpha-reading phase, we are still editing it 🙂
I shouldn’t have to stay late. The pounding headache that woke me up this morning was still there despite the copious amount of medication I poured into myself. I should know better. Instead, I over caffeinated myself to the point I struggled to sleep. Still, the resuscitation guidelines submission date was coming, and my data was not ready. I slugged through the day just to keep things going and try to recover enough that I would be prepared to face the mayhem of the night shift.
When I started my career as an emergency physician, all was exciting, and an adrenaline rush could keep me going for ages. Now, I was just worn out. Same shit day in and day out, with different and often hostile faces and a failing social system, brought us all to our knees. Maybe that was the reason I saw things. That must be the reason, or I’m going mad. The years of experience let one foresee when someone will die despite the best efforts, but I was sick to the core, never to be mistaken.
I wish it was different. I wish I could see the world with the fresh eyes of a uni student. Now, all cards are marked, and I know when I will win or lose.
‘Hey, boss, beautiful day, hmm?’
The porter welcomed me at the entrance and, pulling a friendly smile, I nodded, only now noticing that the evening was warm and with soft bird chirps. It was indeed lovely.
‘Sure, Tom, it is beautiful today. I hope you have a good day.’
He nodded, and I passed the automatic doors with a dreadful feeling. Pale in the sunset lights, the full moon had just entered the sky. It would be a fucked up shift worse, I still had this bloody headache to deal with, and I could only hope my favourite nurses would be on the shift to save my sanity.
As expected, the sad, the lonely, and the hopeless stormed out the front door together with a hefty amount of drunks. Every now and again, we had a genuine emergency, and I was called to assist my junior. Still, most of the time, I could sit in my office nursing coffee and looking at the screen to control the traffic. It was well past midnight when the phone rang, and panicking intern informed me we had a stabbing coming.
The resuscitation room was prepared just as I liked it, and a quick team briefing showed me everyone knew their role. Soon the door burst open, and a paramedic team came in with… a corpse on the stretchers.
The knife was stuck in the man’s chest when they frantically tried to resuscitate him, but I knew this one was long gone. A grey cloud of death was all over him when his soulless body bounced rhythmically during the chest compression. I took a deep breath and started issuing the orders.
‘Stop the chest compression,’
‘No, he has no pulse,’ Paramedic tried to argue, but one look at my face and his voice faltered.
‘He runs on empty. How do you want to restart an engine if you have no fuel?’ I said and turned to the team. ‘secure the airway, transfuse O neg and give me a thoracotomy set. We need to crack him open to check his heart.’ Like in formula one, the team was ready in less than a minute, and I bent over to start the incision. And I saw the bright blue eyes looking at me in surprise, and the cold male hand grabbed my wrist in a steel-like grip.
‘Oh, hell, you are not doing this.’ I heard, and the man I was about to cut open like a giant clam sat on the bed with the knife still sticking out of his chest. What an actual fuck, I thought, looking at him in disbelief. ‘Did you just pull Jesus on me?’ I heard myself saying, but my voice drowned in the screams of terror and clattering of fallen medical tools. I didn’t care. Why would I care about anything else if I’m standing before the bloody corpse who just talked to me?
‘Pulled what?’ He asked, still holding me tight, and for no apparent reason, I reached and pulled the knife out of his chest. No blood came, and I bit my lip, trying to comprehend the situation. He didn’t even wince when I examined the gaping hole, just looked at me unphased before he asked again. ‘I pulled what?’
I was staring at the knife in my hand. It looked old, more like a ceremonial dagger you can see in the museum than a street weapon. I had to resist the impulse to put it back into the gaping hole in the man’s chest just to get any human-like reaction from him. Instead, I focused on answering the question.
‘Did you just resurrect on me, like Jesus or Lazarus or something?’ I asked, and he laughed.
‘Yeah, or something. Now be a darling and give me the dagger.’ He commanded, looking into my eyes like he tried to touch the depths of my soul.
‘Stop this shit. First, the dagger is evidence. Second, I’m not your darling and stop gaping at me like a bloody mooncalf. That is borderline creepy, and who or what are you?’
I know I was rambling, and I wasn’t gentle with my words, trying to stall for time, hoping the team who so graciously left me with this undying hero would call the police. No such luck, and I registered the department is strangely quiet. This strange calm gave me a chill and kicked me to action, but as I was about to check it out, the door opened. I’m sure I looked like an idiot gasping when the man I would only wish I saw in my wet dreams strolled in. He was likely in his forties, or so he looked. Tall with broad shoulders and a short beard, he was perfect or, I should say, perfectly intimidating with the aura of strength that spoke to me in a way I couldn’t explain. As I stood there enchanted like a teenager, the object of my unwanted desires opened his mouth, and all charm went where the sun didn’t shine.
‘Adam, really? Out of all of them, you get yourself loaded into the ambulance? Couldn’t you at least play dead a little longer?
He talked over my head, and I huffed in anger, finally grasping his attention.
‘Anyway, the rest of the hospital is sorted now. Only this one, and we can go.’ He said, and his grey eyes brushed over me like he had just seen the stubborn cockroach.
‘I tried,’ said Adam, ‘but she resisted the compulsion after she tried to take my heart out. You can try to sort her out yourself. Forest magic may be more successful.’
‘No one will “sort me out”, and if you hurt any of my team, I will have you drag into court and hung to dry.’ I said as the tall man approached. I took a few steps back, but the resuscitation table blocked my further retreat. Without a word, he grabbed my arm and sank his gaze into my eyes. The weird feeling spread over my body, coating me like molasses. I knew I wanted him, and on impulse, I reached up to stroke his beard trailing my hand on his neck.
‘You have a beautiful vein.’ I blurted, playing with his jugular before the reality snapped back, and he stepped back with a shocked expression. Whatever he was trying to do simply didn’t work as planned. His lips twitched, and the narrowing of his eyes told me he was angry.
‘What the hell was that? Did you want me to kiss you or something?’ I said, hoping they couldn’t see my embarrassment, and Adam started laughing.
‘I told you it didn’t work on her, but it is funny to see the great forest lord fail.’
His mocking was a catalyst, and the man he called forest lord grabbed my arm. ‘What are you?’
His grip on my arm made me his in pain, and I punched him, or I would have, but he grabbed my flying fist and pulled me closer. I could feel his breath quicken, but he released me when I jerked backwards and somehow, I knew he would definitely leave the bruise. Frankly, I had enough of their attitude, and holding a dagger in front of me, I slammed the panic button for the first time in my life.
‘I am the doctor who will kick your arse so much, you won’t be able to find it. Now get the fuck away from my ED before the police arrive. I don’t know what happened here, but I have the department to run, and you just made my life more difficult. So off you go before I put this dagger where it came from.’
I counted the seconds when security should come running. I knew I should have made them stay, but no cavalry came to my aid. The life on the other side of the glass resuscitation door appeared normal as if nothing had happened. Like we didn’t just reanimate a corpse into a living talking being, and I wasn’t standing here with a dagger in my hand and two men looking at me like they tried to eat my soul.
I’m so fucked. I thought, trying to find out a solution to this impasse. It was about time to be wise, not brave, and make sure I won’t end up with the dagger in my chest. Suddenly the tension dropped, and the grey-eyed man looked at the name tag on my chest.
‘I will come back for you, Sara, and we will have a talk, and don’t talk to anyone. They won’t remember, and no one will believe your words. You will be quiet for your own good unless you want to spend the rest of your life in one of your human mental institutions.’ He pried the dagger from my hands and left the resuscitation room, undisturbed by the passing staff.
The rest of the shift passed for me in a haze of surreality of all this situation. My co-workers and other patient behaved like nothing had happened. We had a few routine cases of cardiac arrests and accidents. Still, no one even bats an eyelid when I was making casual remarks of ‘good it is not stabbing’ or ‘let’s make sure this one survives. I don’t want to have the second coming of the Christ.’ At the end of the shift, I was sure I had just gone crazy. After all those years of seeing death and pretending I didn’t know when it happened, the strange voices and creatures I sometimes saw finally caught up with me, and I was on the straight way to the asylum.
When I left the hospital, the streets were empty and flooded by the fog coming from the river. I had to remind myself it was simply Sunday, not a sudden world catastrophe. Still, the mist was unusual for the time of the year. Even being generous, Motława didn’t produce that amount of milky film even on the best days. I could have taken a tram, I should have taken a tram, but like the last fool, I had crossed the old town and had an early walk on the river bank. I needed the time to think, and I was hoping the morning sun would dispel the dreadful feeling and the yearning I had been carrying in my chest since encountering a strange man. The one they called Adam was easily forgettable despite the knife sticking from his chest. Handsome in his own undead, polished way if you like this type. Still, the older one with grey eyes engraved on his face in my brain, and each time I closed my eyes, I could see him looking at me with an intensity that burned like a sun.
‘Oh fuck you.’ I cursed softly when lost in the thoughts I’ve tripped on the loose stone, and waving my arms in the air, I tried to balance myself to not slide down on wet slippery steps.
‘That is also on the table, but for now, let us talk about our little problem.’
The muscular arm grabbed my waist when the familiar voice spoke next to my ear, and I instantly recognised the timbre. Soft but sturdy like forest moss, it could belong only to one man. The grey eyes were standing behind me, preventing a poor damsel in distress from falling onto her arse. Much to my shame, I never felt so good being rescued. Here we go, feminism goes with the bang once you meet a man who makes your pants wet. I thought, detangling myself from the alluring grasp. My movement made him frown, and he looked at his hands for a moment. I thought I saw the confusion in his eyes, like he didn’t like them empty.
‘Good morning Sara. You should be more careful. How would you like your coffee?’
‘My what?’ His casual question baffled me completely. First, what was he doing here? Second, it is Sunday, and no respectable coffee shop will be open at this hour.
‘We need to talk, and you look tired. I thought coffee would do you good. I smelled it on you in the hospital, and I thought you liked it. There is a nice little coffee shop around the corner already open, so … shall we?’ He offered me his arm like it was the most natural thing to do, and I took the offer like the last idiot. Strolling like a couple, we passed the sleepy street and a few unfortunate people who needed to work on Sunday. I could not believe I was actually doing this.
‘I don’t even know your name.’
He smiled and led me to the table in the already opened restaurant. ‘You can call me Leszek, so how do you like your coffee?’
‘Latte with caramel.’ My answer seemed to amuse him as the corner of his lip rose in a mischievous half-smile when he went to the counter to place the order. I should have run away, called the police or done anything to take me out of danger. But I realised that contrary to common sense, I felt safe, and there was also the curiosity that not once dragged me into trouble. I must know what he wants. I thought, convincing myself to stay. Besides, it was better to talk in public rather than be cornered in a dark alley because I was sure as hell Leszek was adamant about having this conversation with me whether I wanted this or not.
When he returned with the steaming cup and the aroma of fresh caramel goodness hit my nostrils, I was more or less back to my sanity and ready to face the situation without embarrassing myself with this groupie grin I had felt on my face before.
‘What do you want to talk about?’ I asked, avoiding looking straight at his face to not drown in his eyes. He chuckled softly, amused by my abruptness, and I felt the goosebumps on my back like someone trailed a clawed hand softly along my spine.
‘I want to offer you a job, lady doctor.’ He said, and when I frowned and shifted on the chair, he added. ‘Last night was a revelation to both of us, and I genuinely don’t want to kill you, but I can’t let the seer witch run unchecked. In exchange for your human doctor’s skills and silence, I will offer you a job and an easy one. All you have to do is to call me if you have any more unusual patients.’
The coffee suddenly lost its taste. What he offered was essentially a mob job, even if the mob was supernatural, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
‘And what if I refuse?’ I asked, though I already knew the answer.
The velvet softness of his eyes was replaced by steel, and Leszek moved his chair closer.
‘Your unique abilities make you my problem, Sara, and if I can’t solve the problems, I bury them.’
I knew he was telling me the truth somehow, I just knew, and that made this experience even more terrifying. ‘What guarantee I have that you won’t do it, anyway?’
‘You don’t, but you amuse me, and I think I like your sassiness. That is more than many problems can say. Let me show you some perks of working for me.’
He reached out, tucking the stray trestle of my hair behind my ear, and placed his hand on my cheek. The warmth spreading from it was invigorating, washing away the tiredness of the night shift and the need for sleep. My muscles relaxed, and I melted against his touch. Part of me screamed, recognising the power the other part of my brain didn’t comprehend. I knew whatever he was using weakened my will and made me want to crawl and curl on his lap.
‘Stop, please.’ I whispered, and he took his hand away with a hint of surprise.
‘I thought you liked it.’ There was no hint of shame in his voice, more like disappointment, that I told him to stop. I felt the frustration raised from this yearning, but I also knew I couldn’t let any stranger manipulate me like this. To avoid his touch, I jerked my chair back. ‘You didn’t leave me much choice. Give me your phone number. I will call you if I encounter a strange patient, but please don’t contact me again.’
My words were grit in my mouth when I released the sentence with a speed of light, terrified he would enthral me again. When he passed me his business card, I didn’t even look at it, grabbing my purse off the table. ‘Thank you for coffee and goodbye.’ I throw it in the air, rushing toward the tram stop.
‘See you again very soon, my lovely Sara.’ I heard, but I ignored it. His touch invigorated me, and now, like a graceful doe, I was jumping over the curb toward the safety of my home and far away from the strange man with grey eyes who made my heart flutter.
I stared at the computer screen, trying to remember what I was about to write, I had to give up. I snapped the lid close, groaning in frustration. Since yesterday, I have seemed unable to focus on anything. I even exercised to get rid of this weird tension in my body, but nothing helped, and I caught myself drifting into a daydream, and the man with grey eyes was a central part of it.
Anyway, it was late, and if I couldn’t do anything productive, it was better to go to bed. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep like this and resigned myself to pulling the vibrator out of the drawer and looking at it, biting my lips. If I use it, it will be like an admission. I’m a complete idiot creaming my pants for the man who threatened me, but If I don’t… I didn’t want to face another sleepless night tossing and turning on the bed, after all, no one had to know about it. The absolution that came with the last statement pushed me to action, and while putting a vibrating toy between my legs, I imagined his firm hands caressing my body.
The feeling was so delightful it took me a moment to hear a persistent knocking on my door. ‘Oh, for fuck’s sake.’
There is one thing about being rude to come so late at night, but there is a whole other level to disturbing the woman who was about to pleasure herself, and I was ready to shred my unwelcomed visitor to pieces. Barely covered by the dressing gown, I snapped the door open only to see my Lazarus of a man standing there with two other goons and a cup of what my nose identified as a caramel latte.
‘You are needed. Dress and come with us. Oh, and Leszek said you will be angry and told me to buy you this.’ He pushed into my apartment, leaving his escort standing in front of the doors like obedient lap dogs, and looked at me.
‘So you gonna dress, or I should throw you over my shoulder as you stand?’
‘I know now why you earned this dagger in your chest. Should have left it there or even pushed it deeper, so it pierces your rotten heart.’
Adam laughed and followed me to the bedroom. While I dived into a pile of washed, unfolded clothes, trying to find something more suitable for the late-night trip, I felt his presence behind me. He didn’t touch me, but having a stranger in my personal space was not pleasant or welcome. I accidentally swung my arm, my elbow catching his stomach on its sharp end. The painful “umph” that followed my action pleased me greatly.
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t know you would come here to watch. Did it hurt a lot?’ My sweet saccharine voice must get on his nerves because he pushed the cooling coffee in my hands and sneered.
‘If only you were not under his protection, I would play with you differently.’
The fangs that flashed following his words were meant to be a warning, but I was too angry to care. ‘If you were not under his protection, my elbow would be aimed into your bollocks. Now get out of my bedroom before I change my mind.’
After he left, I looked at the coffee and took a sip. Caramel velvety taste meted on my tongue, and I sighed softly. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, the thought sprang into my mind when I was pulling the jeans and simple jumper, but there were some gifts I could not refuse, and coffee was one of them. When I returned to the living room, Adam was still there, arms crossed on his chest and looking like a fury incarnate.
‘Your cat pissed on my cloak, and Leszek called. We need to hurry.’
Choking with laughter, I stroked the grey beast of a cat that one day simply waltzed into my apartment and decided to stay in. ‘Good boy, mommy will give you a treat when she returns.’ My cooing voice must have irritated Adam because he pushed me out, and I barely locked the doors when the goons flanked me and escorted me to the large black car.
‘At least it is not the black Volga.’ I said, provoking surprised stares till I felt the need to explain my remark. ‘Just an old joke, you know, there was the rumour communists kidnapped children into the black Volga to imprison them in the mines.’ I pointed to the car, waiting for the synapses to connect in their brain before adding. ‘At least it is not the black Volga.’
Only Adam laughed shortly, and soon I was packed in the car and squeezed between two massive men who surprisingly smelled like wet fur. I was annoyed and decided to annoy my captors out of pure spite.
‘Are we there yet?’ I said, passing the first crossroads, and Adam looked at the rear mirror, meeting my eyes from his driver’s seat.
‘No,’ He answered shortly, and this only enticed me to play again. With each passing crossroads or red light stop, I repeated, ‘Are we there yet?’
Initially, they tried not to react, but my escort became increasingly irritated with each passing minute. Finally, one of the goons turned his glowing in dark eyes in my direction and growled. ‘Will you shut up?’
I chuckled, looking at him and led by some self-destructive thought, I asked. ‘Grandma, why do you have such big teeth?’
The roar that shook the car scared me a little, but soon the vehicle came to a screeching halt, and I noticed we stopped in front of the old magazine in the dock district. I was pushed out of the car and into the building like my captors couldn’t wait to get rid of me. I was guided inside, and at the end of the long, dark corridor, we stopped in front of the rusty doors, and Adam pointed at them with a sarcastic smile.
‘Well, show us you are as good as Leszek said, or you will find out why grandma has such big teeth.’
With nonchalance I hadn’t felt then, I pushed the door and smirked.
‘Of course, I’m that good. Why do you think I’m here?’
And the view that greeted me made me wish I could turn back time and swallow my words.
The room was relatively dark, and only one brightly lit space was a metal table with some animal strapped to it, writhing in pain, whose howling made my skin crawl. Leszek stood there, and I could clearly see a deep frown on his face when he placed his hand on the animal’s head before he turned his gaze to me. ‘Thank you for coming. I wouldn’t drag you here in the middle of the night, but I had no choice.’
His apologetic tone didn’t calm my anger, and I marched toward him, pointing to what looked like a big dog. ‘What kind of sick experiment is this? I won’t take part in anything like this.’ I heard my voice rise to a high pitch like always when I was on the edge of going full berserk, but I had enough of this. Even the owner of the most mesmerising eyes in Gdansk won’t make me torture the animal. Agitated, I gesticulated wildly, and my hand trailed dangerously close to the creature’s muzzle before I knew Leszek grabbed me, pulling me away from the snapping muzzle.
‘Sara, I need your help.’ He said, pressing my hand to his torso before I ripped it from his grasp.
‘I won’t torture animals. Who the fuck do you think I am?’
The lack of understanding in his eyes didn’t stop my tirade until he approached the table and placed his hand on the animal’s head. ‘Change.’
A simple word carried so much command that I sucked my breath, holding it for a moment when the creature at the table shifted in front of me, and its contours blurred for a moment. When I rubbed my eyes, unsure of what I was seeing, its shape changed and soon, a naked young man lay on the table screaming and cursing in pain. I could clearly see the bullet wounds on his torso and the faint hue of silver smoke that trailed from it. Not that I have any experience in gun trauma. Gdansk had its crime, but gunfights were not a part of it.
‘We need to take him to the hospital. Bring some covers, and I will call the ambulance. Guys from S3 owe me a favour. They won’t say what they saw here. Hurry up.’ Now my commanding voice dominated the space, and I saw Leszek’s lips twitch slightly in a half-smile before he shook his head.
‘That’s not how we do things here. Our healer will look after him, and his shifter magic will do the rest, but I need you to remove bullets without killing him. I can’t do it. None of the Others can, as whoever wants him dead, entangle iron, silver and death magic in the bullets.’
‘You mistake me with a surgeon. I’m ED, which means I can keep him alive till he gets to the theatre, so don’t be difficult and let me take him.’ I moved to the table, releasing leather belts that kept the man’s frame tied in a prostrate position, but Leszek once again took my hand.
‘No, he must stay here, and whether he lives or dies, it’s in your hands now, Sara.’ As if to confirm his words, metal doors to the room slammed shut with a thud and a small operating trolley full of tools that likely remembered soviet occupation appeared on the scene.
‘You fucking bastard! That is not the end of this conversation. I have nothing to even anaesthetise him.’ I was at my wit’s end, but Leszek positioned himself towards man’s head, visibly tense.
‘He will endure it. I will make sure of this,’
As soon as these words sounded in the air, the man opened his eyes and protested with his voice hoarse from the screaming. ‘You can’t. I will be fine. I don’t want your magic.’
Leszek’s hand stilled over his forehead, and again I heard the command in his voice. ‘Sleep,’
I could swear I could smell the pine forest at this very moment, but the impression of freshness and bliss was short-lived because as soon as the young man’s eyes closed, Leszek looked at me, and I knew he expected me to proceed.
I closed my eyes and slowly inhaled the blood-smelling air. Improvise, Adapt, Overcome Sara. You are the emergency doctor. Emergency doesn’t wimp out in front of the challenge. My simple mantra enabled me to exhale, and when I opened it, my anger was replaced by crystal clear focus. I took a scalpel from the pile of random tools placed in front of him and trailed it along the skin, making the first cut. My patient didn’t flinch, but Leszek, whose hands were still on the man’s temples, hissed quietly, making me look at him.
‘What the fuck?’ My question was to no one in particular, but the old woman who emerged from the shadows in the corner answered.
‘He is taking the pain. Hurry up, child. I don’t have a whole day. Take out this blood bullet so we can start the real healing.’
For some reason, her tone amused me, and I chuckled high on adrenaline before I proceeded with the removal of the first bullet that was barely lodged in the man’s shoulder muscles and moved to the abdomen, carefully cutting through the layers. I was so focused on my work that I barely noticed Leszek’s forehead drenched in sweat, cutting, tying bleeding vessels and suturing the wound made me work like a robot till I reached the last hole where the bulled rested was right under the clavicle.
My steady so far hands trembled when I imagined cutting near the subclavian artery.
‘You can do it, Sara. You are doing great.’
The husky voice from the side averted my attention from the fearful wound, and I looked at Leszek. His face was ashen grey, and I gasped, seeing dark circles under his eyes, yet he encouraged me to continue. I bit my lip and with determination, I hadn’t felt since my student times. I slowly peeled the layers of flesh till I retrieved the last bullet. Suddenly it felt like time sped up, and the wound started to knit itself in front of my very eyes like I’d just removed the obstacle that held the body back from regeneration.
An old woman pushed me aside, and I staggered dizzily from tiredness. I would have gracefully fallen on my arse, but strong hands caught me. In the blink of an eye, I stood there pressed to Leszek’s side, observing how the old woman chanted, pouring some herbal-smelling liquid all over the man’s body, and his breath evens up. At the same time, his wounds fade, leaving silver, slightly iridescent scars.
‘You won’t cease to amaze me.’ A quiet voice next to my ear sent shivers down my spine, and I realised I was way too close to Leszek’s masculine presence. In fact, I was pressing my every curve into him like my body decided to make its own decision while my mind was engaged. To make it worst, he didn’t seem to mind it, gently caressing my back while his beard tickled my temple. I pulled away, stifling my body’s protest, and looked at him, hoping I projected daggers I would happily push into his chest.
‘This must never happen again. What have you been thinking about forcing me to operate in the warehouse with tools from the museum?’
I was practically shouting, and my voice dragged the goons now standing in the open doors looking at the scene with round eyes till Leszek’s gesture didn’t send them away. Only Adam remained looking at me with a knowing smirk.
‘I will drive her back. I think you are done here. Will he live?’
I saw anger slashed through Leszek’s face, although I couldn’t understand what caused it before he answered.
‘He will live, and as soon as he is properly awake, investigate who caused it, and I will drive her home.’
They were talking over my head like I was not in the room, irking me immensely. I was tired, dirty and not in the mood for male ego boosting. ‘Her’ can take herself home, and none of you dares to contact me ever again.’ I said, marching toward the door, followed by Adam’s laugh and Leszek’s snapping commands to his subordinate. When I walked outside, the morning sun blinded me for a moment, and before I could see again, the scent of the forest coated me in a comforting blanket, and I heard.
‘Sara, we need to talk.’
I turned around and looked at him, sheltering my eyes from the rising sun. ‘We talked a lot recently. So what do you want to talk about now? How did you force me to perform in the dirty warehouse, or how can I lose my licence for operating outside of my scope of practice?
I saw him approaching and put my hand forward to make him stop before the concern in his eyes melted my defences. I needed anger to stop this madness and time to process what had just happened. He manipulated you to do his bidding. I thought, luckily, it was enough to spark the fury inside me. I hate being surprised and treated like a puppet by the high and mighty, and I was unprepared for what happened last night, not to mention stripped from choice because I couldn’t let the man on the table die, and he knew it.
He stopped and looked at me with a deep frown, making me wish to slap him. He didn’t make my life easy, and I was an emotional wreck the last few days without even trying. Worst, deep down, I wanted him to lock me in a tight embrace and just stroke all this tension away. Get the fucking grip, Sara or find some escort if you’re that desperate. I scorned myself, annoyed that I wanted to hurt him for what he did and kiss him for what he was. Even if I didn’t know who or what exactly he was. Instead, I clenched my teeth, calming my racing heart and acted like a reasonable adult.
‘I know you have your secrets, and I understand your … circles, … world whatever you call it, differs from mine. I agreed to help you by informing you about the special arrivals to the hospital, but that’s it. I’m not a mob doctor, supernatural or not, and I won’t be put into a situation like this again. Do I make myself clear?’
I saw a light smile playing on his lips before he nodded and pointed to the car. ‘Yes, you made yourself perfectly clear, my lady. Please let me drive you home.’
‘I told you I can get myself home. I don’t need a lift.’
My outburst didn’t discourage him. Instead, he opened the car door and gestured inside. When I didn’t move, he came and gently placed his hand on the small of my back, barely touching it. ‘Sara, please. You are tired and have had no sleep, so please let me do this. I owe you this and much more for what you did. Let me look after you.’
‘… and whose fault is it?’ I asked, but like the last idiot, I let him lead me to the car. Maybe I didn’t want to behave like a petulant child, but it was so long since someone wanted to look after me and his words struck the right chord. I turned to the window as soon as the doors closed, confused by contradicting emotions. Leszek seemed to sense my mood, and we drove silently for a moment. His scent and the hum of the electric car were strangely soothing, and before I knew it, my face plastered itself to the window like the algae eater to the aquarium glass. I was known to have the ability to fall asleep in the strangest of places. Still, my body chose the worst moment to fall asleep, and I didn’t even know how or when he parked under my apartment. I vaguely remember gentle rocking when he pulled me out of the car and the words softly spoken when I embraced his neck out of instinct.
‘I’m sorry. I keep forgetting how fragile your race is.’
‘Yeah, we are all withering roses.’ My words were barely muttered in half asleep must have amused him because I felt a soft chuckle when he stood me on the floor.
‘Give me your keys.’
I blinked several times, trying to focus my eyes, only to notice we stood in front of my apartment. ‘You wish, what next, a toothbrush and drawer for your pants.’ I said, patting my trousers till I pulled the set of keys from the back pocket. It took me a moment to aim into a keyhole, and all the way, I felt his gaze following my every movement. When the door finally opened, he pressed his hand to the door frame, locking me between the wall and his body.
‘I don’t need a toothbrush … yet, but I will visit you tomorrow evening around six o’clock. Some things in your life will change, Sara. Whether you like it or not, you are part of my world now, but I promise you I will make this transition as easy as possible for you.’
‘I will change nothing.’ My chin lifted in a challenge, but looking at him from such an angle was difficult. I was going to say more, but as soon as my lips parted, he inhaled sharply when he looked down at me.
‘Yes, you will. Now go to bed before I take you there.’ His words were harsh, but the hand trailing my neck offered a soft caress, and I shivered, leaning closer. What the hell is happening to me?
‘Go!’ Leszek pushed me in and shut the door behind me. The loud thud and sudden space around me woke me up, stripping all the charm of the encounter.
‘What in the living fuck was that?’ I asked, turning back toward the doors only to meet the silence on the other side. After a moment, picked up the cat, rubbing it over my shin. I really needed to sleep, but I was not in the mood to be alone in the empty bed, not after his touch awakened something I yet had to find the courage to name.
I stopped for a moment, looking at the closed doors to Sara’s apartment. I had to push her in and create the barrier before I lost myself in her smile and did something I would regret later. She was a seer witch but also primarily a human and the one not very aware of her own gifts and potential. Still, even the best witch doesn’t live long enough to be worthy of the interest of the Lord of the Forest, so why suddenly do I want to have my hands all over her and carry her to bed in this cramped concrete cage she lived in? Even now, with her safe behind closed doors, the temptation to break in and taste her lips was overwhelming.
My hand leaned on the dead wood, and green tendrils of ancient magic carved intricate patterns, I marked this place as mine, and that was the best protection I could offer her at the moment. I knew it was time to go. With recent attacks, I didn’t have time to deal with … this, but I couldn’t stop seeing her stunned reaction and the raw hunger on her face when I touched her. At least I was not alone in my cravings, and as soon as I sorted out whatever was causing problems in my city, I would return to her, even if only to find out what was so alluring in this stern doctor.
Driving home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the situation. Sara’s magic made her mine, the same as half of the magical population of Gdansk. The forest and the sea divided this merchant town long ago when it was still a fishing village with barely a few citizens. Jurata rarely crossed paths with me, preferring her ports and sailors while I precede over the verdant forest and land dwellings. Even with the expansion of humans, we didn’t change our ways, but my encounter with Sara told me neglecting the humans, I might miss something vital. My initial plan of having an insider in the biggest trauma hospital in the city turned out better than I expected, and seeing her working on this shifter boy, I realised we gained an asset worth keeping. It also made me wonder whether there were more ordinary people who lived their lives unaware of the magic they carried. All because of one woman who resisted my compulsion. I had already decided to keep her, but now I had to create a place where she could execute her skills without worry or hesitation. Her own magical emergency room.
I burst into laughter and almost caused the accident when my car danced on the road, imagining how surprised she would be when I showed her a brand new workplace, which would be very close to my office. I reached for the phone and rang Adam.
‘Find me a small empty warehouse preferably close to our main building and contract the builders, as we would have to renovate it.’
‘What for?’ Adam’s voice was surprised, and I didn’t blame him. That purchase was a significant investment, and I always was prudent with money.
‘We need our own hospital, especially now with these recent attacks we need a secure place where we could take the injured.’
‘And that has nothing to do with your newly gained doctor?’ Adam’s sarcasm was palpable, but not without its merits. Still, it was not his place to discuss Sara’s situation.
‘Keep your thoughts to yourself, bloodsucker, and find me the place.’
I heard his throaty laugh on the other side of the line and promised myself to discipline him later. Adam was incorrigible, but I had a soft spot for him, still seeing him as a young man who, after one fateful night, awakened dead, confused, and craving blood. With no nest laying claim on him, I was tasked with this burden, and through the years, I think I just got used to him. If nothing else, he was entertaining and fresh, and eternity knows I needed this.
I parked the car with the screech of tires and walked to the house. The white walls contrast nicely with the vivid green of the plants occupying every corner. I chose this place long ago when this small island was still covered with forest, and the temple was filled with a tribute to the horned god. Although times changed, I kept this land pure, with only a few settlements to avert human attention. The rest was mine, and the law I helped to create protected it for me. I sat in the oversized chair and looked across my desk at the statue of women painstakingly carved in yellow amber.
Jurata, I barely remembered her face, but the statue was there to remind me about the woman who almost broke this place and my heart with it. I reached and stroked the soft feminine curves of a statue, reminiscing of the times when the world was young, and I still believed in the flickering affection of the sea goddess. When the missionaries of the new god came to this land with the axes and torches, I adjusted she could not. Now her name was the symbol of storms, and many still call a piece of amber Jurata’s tears. But Jurat didn’t cry. Her rage destroyed Stary Hel, the wealthiest city in the Baltic region, before she just gave up and never returned from the depth of the sea, ruling her domain through her messengers.
I trailed my finger over her face, but I could only see Sara and her determination to save an unknown shifter. My little human was a fighter, possessing the trait I strongly admire. Maybe that pulled me to her. Seeing her for the first time when she stood her ground against the opponents that defile common sense was refreshing. I looked once again at the statue and locked it in the drawer with one smooth move. It was time to go back to business.
I had no clue what caused the latest attacks. There was no warning, no demands, nothing that would give me the faintest idea where to direct my wrath. It was just my people who disappeared or, like in the case of the young wolf, came back injured with horrific wounds all over their bodies. He was the first who survived. I took the phone and called the local pack alpha, it took him 4 long rings to pick up the phone, and I hoped he was not playing pissy dominance games because I needed his cooperation.
His voice was wary, and I suspected he had my number coded as ‘don’t pick up from the asshole,’ on his phone screen. ‘I’m glad you decided to pick up Tomasz, your young wolf. How is he?’
‘Licking his wound and confabulating about the human doctor that saved his arse. Is it true? You letting humans into our secrets now?’
His accusations irked me, this and the fact he cared more about his secrets than the life of the pup. ‘Send him to me, I need to ask some questions, and yes, there is a human doctor in my service. Her name is Sara. She will help and be discrete, but if any of your pack put the finger on her or be rude, I will get you to hang dry by your tails.’ I didn’t realise the magic reverberated in my voice until the words left my mouth. The silence on the other side of the line was deafening, and when I was about to say something else, I heard quite compliant. ‘Yes, master. He will be on his way in a minute.’
I put the phone down and cursed my lack of control. I strived to guard rather than rule the magical world, and my Gdansk blossomed under such an approach. Yet, I forced the alpha of the wolf pack to submit just because he mentioned Sara. I needed to distance myself from her as this interest was slowly becoming an obsession, and no one in the right mind would want to see an obsessed forest god. My delicious witch, let’s see what time and distance do with my thoughts. I firmed my resolve and stretched on the chair, scrolling through the local news while waiting for the young werewolf to arrive.
It was already late afternoon when I woke from the nap my sore neck told me I’d taken, barely catching a hesitant knock from the door. As soon as I let him in, the werewolf pup walked unsteadily into the room. I could see how much effort it took for him to stay upright and restrain the healing transformation. His barely scabbed wound was a silent testimony of his torment, yet he held his head high, withstanding my assessing gaze.
‘Sit down, boy, you don’t have to pretend here.’ I nodded toward the chair, projecting the aura of the forest. The sweet scent of pine forests filled the room as the boy shuffled to the chair.
‘Tell me what happened. How did you get captured?’
‘We were loading the shipment of amber at the docks when it happened. What about the others? There were two members of my pack with me.’
‘We haven’t found them yet. Adam and his group only found you when they checked the warehouse.’
I watched him crumble with every word I uttered, and uncontrollable shakes ran through his body despite my projecting a calming presence toward him, but I had no choice, not if we were going to find the others. ‘Tell me, how did you get wounded?’
‘They shot us with some bizarre weapon, it emitted a ray of light, and I couldn’t heal after.’ I looked at the boy, hoping he would recall more about that night when he blurted out. ‘Oh, and they spoke Russian.’
‘And what did you hear?’ I knew the human government of Gdansk had an ongoing issue with Russian mobsters, but they never dared to encroach on my territory. This revelation was both intriguing and worrying, especially when in connection with a weapon designed to kill the Others.
‘I don’t know, I could barely understand them, but I think it has something to do with Jurata and amber, as they often mention her name.’
‘Tell me what they did to you. Why did they just wound and not kill you?’
The werewolf’s haunted look pricked my conscience, I didn’t feel comfortable forcing him to re-live that fateful night’s memories, but I pushed it down. It had to be done. There were more important matters than looking after his fragile feelings. He remained silent despite my gaze pinning him down to the chair. ‘Guess if you need to.’
‘I think they were testing it, Sir. Each time they shot me or the others, one of the Russians came and inspected the wound, then wrote something on his tablet. That is all I know.’
This situation was becoming more and more complicated. Amber technically belonged to Jurata, but she didn’t show any interest in this mineral. Her inactivity permitted me to dig it out of the Baltic region. Why did she suddenly interfere? And why she dragged the Russian mob into this? I knew I would have to check it out, and the sooner, the better, before it ended in a full-scale war with the sea itself.
While I was lost in my thought, pondering the implications of Jurata’s attack on one of the core branches of my Baltic empire, the young wolf sat there patiently before finally clearing his throat to get my attention.
‘This human doctor that helped me. Pack says you took a special interest in her, Sir.’
The lack of judgement in his voice was all that saved his pelt for asking about my affairs.
‘And what it is to you, pup?’ He flinched at my choice of wording. A quick tightening of his lips told me he already considered himself an adult, and this young soul fought for his place in the pack hierarchy.
‘She helped me. It’s only right if I can protect her now. The people who got to me may want to hurt her.’
‘You can barely walk, and it will take you a couple of weeks to recuperate. How do you intend to protect Sara? By bleeding on her carpets?’
‘I can tail her when she goes out and make sure no one is after her. I can…’
‘No, Adam already has his men monitoring the situation. I don’t want you to get under their feet. If you must express your gratitude, send her flowers or chocolates. Now, go and rest, or you’ll never heal.’
The young rebel intended to protest, but my slightly raised eyebrow held his tongue, and he bowed before exiting the room. I wouldn’t be surprised if he cursed my name all the way to the pack districts. Still, he was too young and inexperienced to be anyone’s protector, let alone a woman who I …who I what exactly? Have known for less than three days and crave with the desperation of a first-time lover? My thoughts drifted to her surprised face when I pushed her into her apartment and closed the door in her face. I had to stop this madness. Maybe I should listen to my own advice, send her flowers, and forget about the whole situation. But I didn’t even know what type of flowers she liked.
‘For fuck’s sake!’ I slammed my fist on the table, and the wood groaned under the strength of the impact. The noise that followed brought my assistant, who looked at me like a deer in the headlights.
‘Inform Adam to assemble the small team for the evening. We need surveillance on the docks and make sure he knows everyone is to wear bulletproof vests. I don’t want any surprises. Inform our people in the police to avoid the docks tonight … oh, find out what flowers Sara likes and send her a bouquet.’
‘Yes, Sir… what, what?’
‘What you didn’t understand? I know Adam thinks he is indestructible, but tell him it’s my order, and if the police oppose, remind them what happened the last time they tried to interfere with otherworld affairs.’
‘No, I know all this… but flowers?’
My assistant, a big and burly shifter, looked at me like I had suddenly lost my mind, and I didn’t blame him. Maybe I was, but something deep inside me wanted to remind this stubborn woman of my presence. I removed my jacket and rubbed my neck. I needed to draft plans for the night’s excursion, but before I turned my attention to the laptop screen, I looked at my assistant and added, with a hint of mischief.
‘You’re right. Flowers are not enough. Make sure they are delivered with freshly baked cinnamon buns and a caramel latte.’ As an afterthought, I added. ‘Oh, and send a letter to the coven asking them for a meeting. They have a stray lamb in desperate need of training.’
The disapproving grunts my assistant produced as he exited the room made me chuckle, but, as soon as my gaze fell on the scout’s reports, I knew it was time to focus on serious matters and defend the little empire I had built as recent events threatened to tear it apart.
Six o’clock came and passed while I pretended not to look at the clock. I hadn’t dressed or put makeup on, on the contrary, I was in my comfy house clothes, busy cleaning the cat litter, and the bloody tray was never so pristine. Scarface sat there with an unreadable expression on his damaged muzzle, patiently waiting for me to finish before going to the bathroom and reliving himself under the shower. Sara, you are an idiot. I thought when my attempt to prove the point came with such consequences.
I only wanted to show Leszek I was not waiting for him, that I didn’t care what he thought or wanted, and how his touch and soft baritone affected me. I had to admit that I heard this voice in my dreams spreading like molasses on my skin, and despite telling myself I didn’t want to see him, I was angry he didn’t even bother to come. I had been stood out by the man I didn’t want to know. I would have laughed if I wasn’t so embarrassed by my dreams and for waiting like a stupid teenager. I was halfway to preparing a hot relaxing bath when I heard a knock on the doors. Not the best moment, and judging by the round eyes of the messenger, he also didn’t expect to see my humble person dressed only in the bathrobe.
‘yyy… I have a delivery for Sara Wilska?’
His shocked stutter earned him my curt nod when I tried to hold the laugh, observing his valiant effort to avert his eyes from my cleavage. I had a t-shirt and shorts on, but it looked like the bathrobe gave him the ideas that enflamed his vivid imagination. While I observed him trying to not look at me, I almost missed the massive bouquet of freesias till he pushed it in my face.
‘I apologise for tonight. Some events need my attention. Please enjoy my little gifts. I didn’t forget about you, Sara, and I never will.’
‘You what? Child, I don’t know you, and I’m way out of your age group. What are you talking about?’
Now we were both shocked, or I should say I was more gobsmacked and tried to collect my jaw from the floor after such a passionate speech from the unknown teenager. I saw the bright red blush crawling up his neck when he pushed the flowers in my hands and reached into his bag to pull a warm paper bag of what my nose identified as cinnamon rolls and coffee.
‘Not my words, Master… I mean, Leszek asked me to tell you this.’ He put the bag next to me on the floor and turned while I still could not believe what had just happened. Still, the coffee and rolls smelled divine, and freesias were my favourite flowers, so I took it all in quietly, closing the doors. I put it all on the kitchen table and went to turn off the water. As he said, they were little gifts, a cheap trick many men could pull to make a woman fall for them. I saw the honey trap and was waltzing into it with a cheerful smile. He is smoking hot and keeps grooming you to do his bidding, so try to think like an adult and don’t fall for his caring pretence.
My common sense fought hard with how he made me feel until I finally stopped grinning like an idiot. The old practical Sara soon reminded me of the injured boy I was forced to save in the grim warehouse, so I ate, drank, bathed, and went to bed. Whether I could sleep was another matter, but I was determined to forget the forest lord. He was trouble, and I hate the troubles in my life. The further we stay away from each other, the better. Quietly blessing whatever held him busy, I closed my eyes. After all, I have work tomorrow, and that was my priority.
Emergency Department was hectic as always, but its chaotic nature calmed me down and removed thoughts of Leszek. You have no time to brood over the lack of a love life when there are patients to attend to and battles to win with the system that does everything to make your life a living bureaucratic hell.
‘These two Russians today were weird. Why did they say it was a dog? What dog could leave such marks?’ I overheard the nurses talking while eating my lunch in the staff room.
‘What Russians?’ I love juicy stories, with conspiracy theories being my favourite, and their remark piqued my curiosity.
‘Limb injuries Sara, nothing we needed to concern big doctor about, but it was weird. I would think no dog had such a muzzle to break the femoral bone, but that’s what they said before the ortho took them to the theatre.’ When the pair of minor injuries nurses demonstrated the distance between the teeth, I felt a chill run down my spine. I covered the dread with a pleasant smile, asking them if we could search the dog breeds to see if anything matched.
‘Sara, if you finish, I will use your help.’ The voice above my head made me look up. My colleague stood above me, flashing an apologetic smile. Noticing my interest, he continued. ‘We have a young female patient who only wants to speak with a female doctor, and you are the only female doctor we have on this shift. I’m afraid it is rather a Boyzone Monday.’
I nodded and excused myself from the company, my lunch break was ending anyway, and I didn’t mind a little light work on the side, especially since such a request was not commonly heard. In this department, if a patient asks for female doctors tends to mean one thing, domestic violence or sexual assault. Maybe this time I will be able to help. I thought following my colleague, but my experience told me this, the same as many cases I attended, this would be a lost cause, and I would have another night stewing in anger the law forbids me to simply punch the culprit in the face, and maybe break his arms as a bonus.
‘I miss medieval times.’
‘What?’ my colleague asked, hearing his murmur.
‘Nothing, I just need to drop the shining armour and stop charging on the empty field.’ I said, chucking slightly, observing his confused expression.
‘We love you, Sara, but you are sometimes so weird.’ He said, shaking his head, and I laughed harder.
‘You have no idea how right you are.’
The woman in the examination room was breathtakingly beautiful despite her injuries, also very young with typical modern twenty years old blue-greenish hair that perfectly matched her eyes and pale complexion. When I entered the room, she raised her head but promptly looked down at the floor, avoiding my eyes.
‘Wait outside.’ I said to my colleague, who frowned at this blunt violation of chaperone protocol but didn’t try to argue. I sat down and waited for the click that signified the door closed behind him, quietly assessing the visible injuries.
A bruise under the left eye, another on the girl’s neck, like someone held her by her throat, and a split lip didn’t leave much to the imagination. Her quiet deer in the headline pose told me it wasn’t the only injury I would find on her body. I gave her a moment to get used to my presence before I introduced myself.
‘Hi, I’m Sara. I will be your doctor, and who you might be?’
‘My name is Ilona. I… can you help me?’ She said, and I gasped, hearing the entrancing melody of her voice. It was lower than I expected, but even those few simple words carried the undertones that spoke straight to the soul, compelling me to help her.
‘I will try my best, Ilona, but I need to know what happened to you before I can help you. I can see you were abused. There is no sense in denying it. Was it the first time?’ I saw the girl’s eyes filled with tears and knew my answer. ‘I need to examine you. Everything I see or find will remain confidential unless you want me to alert the police.’
Same as usual, I couldn’t do anything unless the girl wanted to press charges, but when she pulled her jumper out, I wished I could lay my hands on the one who did it as beating marks of various shades of black, green and yellow was all over her torso.
‘Who did it, Ilona? If you tell me, I can stop them, and I don’t even mention your name.’ I asked, gently touching her rib cage to assess if there were any fractures. As soon as my fingers got in touch with the girl’s skin, something in me flared up to life. Almost like this simple touch told me the story, and what I learned baffled me completely.
‘You are a siren, is that why they beat you? Because you refused to sing?’
Ilona flinched, trying to avoid my hands before hastily picking up her clothes. ‘You are insane. There is no such thing as a siren. I want another doctor.’ The panic in her voice was unmistakable, but I knew I was right, and Leszek’s face flashed in my thoughts. He wanted me to tell him about the unusual patients, but will he be able to help me with this one?
‘You are not the first other that I treated. I know things… I know …’ fuck, how did vampire boy call him. ‘I know the lord of the forest.’ I said, desperately trying to keep the girl in. I knew if she leave this room, she won’t go to the police and most likely end up in the hands of the one who abused her. Ilona gasped and grasped my hand, looking me in the eye for the first time.
‘Stay away from him, you are a good person, and he is a dangerous man. You shouldn’t know things like this.’ she said before the doors burst in, and a burly man came inside. He gave Ilona one look and the woman’s posture hunched while colours drained from her face.
‘We are going home.’ His voice carried a faint accent I couldn’t recognise, but something about this man made me step between Ilona and him, especially since he had already reached to grasp the woman’s hand.
‘I haven’t finished the examination, which means my patient is going nowhere.’ I said, pulling the most arrogant pose I could. The door was open now, and anyone in the corridor, including security cameras, could see if he threatened me or, even better, attempted any attack. It was my insane plan anyway, as I had no hope my quiet siren would have enough backbone to stand up for herself.
For a moment, it looked as if it would work as he measured me with a hostile glare, and I saw his jaw muscles pulsing when he clenched his teeth, but Ilona sneaked past me and nodded to him meekly.
‘Yes, I finished here. Please let me collect my things.’
She moved past me to reach for the bag she left on the chair, and while bending, I heard a quiet whisper.
‘The are more of us. They will get punished if I don’t return. We are in The Anchor.’
Ilona left, and I could stand here, clenching my fists. I knew the place she was talking about, the brothel disguised as a nightclub where you can get all sorts of entertainment, many of them illegal. Their visitors frequented our ED on Saturday nights, often telling the stories of overpriced drinks that contain more drugs than alcohol and how they wake up in the ditch with empty wallets and hurting heads. I often had to restrain myself to not congratulate them they at least still have two working kidneys, as, with a place of such reputation, anything could happen.
My police friends often visit the place but find nothing, almost as if the owners knew they were coming, but this time I didn’t intend to leave it in the hands of the law. Ilona was a siren, or at least I suspected because she never confirmed it, but that gave me leverage. If Leszek wants to know about his kin, he will have to help me close this damned place, and if he does, I will reconsider becoming his mob doctor.
I pulled up my phone and searched for his business card. Maybe I was making a mistake, but I didn’t have much time, especially since I suspected Ilona would get beaten for attending the hospital. My hands were shaking a bit when I typed a brief message.
‘We need to talk. Meet me at Anchor at 8pm. Sara.’
I finished my work at seven in the evening and barely had time to go home and change my clothes. It took me a moment to decide what to wear. If I was going to the Anchor, it was better to not stand out in the crowd, at least not at first glance, but I also didn’t want to look like a hooker and fend myself off the drunkards. There was also a question of fight and escape, and I decided I needed to be prepared for both.
Fake leather trousers and a silk tank top looked good on me. Even more than good, and I smiled to the mirror, looking at how my tits pushed forward in a black lace bra. I pulled out the fluffy black cardigan my grandmother gave me last Christmas. It was supposed to be a hit of the time, but it was too short, showing my belly button, and the shiny red thread interwoven with fluffy wool gave it a vibe of chaw. Perfection, not a hooker but close enough not to provoke the crowd. Opening the jewellery box, I put all the heavy rings I had, transforming my hand into a knuckle duster and wrapped my long hair in a tight, sleek bun.
The woman that looked at me from the other side of the mirror, especially when I put heavy makeup on, was dangerous in a strange, sultry way, and I felt adrenaline cursing through my arteries, reading me for the challenge.
I barely remember the road, but when I parked the car two streets away from the Anchor, I didn’t expect it would be so crowded already. Muscular young men boosted their egos in front of young women in revealing clothes, and I congratulated myself on the choice. In the dim night light and with heavy makeup, my quite perky arse, with a bit of push, could make me pass for a late twenty-year-old.
I looked at my watch; it was already 8 pm, but Leszek was nowhere to be seen. Either he didn’t get my message or decided not to come. I gave him another 15 minutes in case he was stuck in traffic, and with a heavy sigh, I walked to the club entrance. The bouncer gave me a measuring look and crossed his arms.
‘We are full today.’ His statement sounded final, which was strange because most of the patrons seemed to be outside still, I had tits, so letting the cardigan arm slide low when I pressed my hands together, I inhaled deeply, practically making my girl’s almost pop out of the bra.
‘But Zbyszek told me to come tonight. He was going to show me something special.’ I lied smoothly, batting my eyelashes at the frowning bouncer. Zbigniew Nadolny, by working girls called Zbyszek, was the owner of the Anchor, and this man had a reputation. I didn’t meet him, but my colleagues from the police cursed his name with anger and professional respect. Prostitution, extorsion, selling of stolen goods. This man did it all without a hint of shame, but somehow he was never tied to the deed, and there was always some convenient current culprit. He was also merciless to his enemies, and the circulating rumour was that he was the one who removed mobsters from Sopot once they sold drugs to the school.
This man was dangerous, territorial and had his principles, and I was going to encroach into his domain.
‘Fine, let’s go. It is a special night tonight, so I will take you to him and see what he says.’ Bouncer grabbed my elbow and pulled me into the dark entrance of the club. Fuck, what now? I didn’t plan this. My thoughts were racing when I was led deeper into the club till the bouncer didn’t pull the heavy curtains to the separate room for the special guests of Mr Nadolny. FUUUK! Screamed the voice in my mind, but my escape route was blocked by the mountain of the man, and the club was full of individuals I bet were not the usual kind. I couldn’t see clearly through the two naked women locked into a passionate kiss to entertain men on the other side, but even in the dim reddish light, it was clear that the gangster was not alone.
‘Boss, this woman claims you told her to come here is she a special entertainment?’ The bouncer pushed me forward, and my only choice was to pretend to be a dumb blonde. I intended to put my heart and soul into the performance, but when I raised my eyes to look at Nadolny, the person next to him made me blow my cover when I blurted out.
‘And what the hell are you doing here?’
Next to the gangster, stripped of his fancy suit and looking like my wet dreams just came to life, was Leszek. His shirt was only slightly creased, and the open collar suggested one of the dancing women had already taken some liberties and tried to put her hands there. Rolled-up sleeves uncovered strong hair forearm, and I swear he tensed them on purpose, noticing my gaze.
‘Do you know her?’ Nadolny looked at me with curiosity, and I desperately searched for the explanation when Leszek reached for my hand and pulled me onto his lap. The movement was so sudden I gasped and was going to protest when he grabbed my neck from behind and pressed his lips to mine in a long, devouring kiss.
He tasted as good as I imagined, and involuntarily, I moaned in response, barely registering his whisper. ‘Sara, what the fuck? Now, play along if you want to live.’ He finished his kiss and turned to the other man discarding me as if nothing had happened.
‘My new woman is a jealous type. When I didn’t come to visit her, she decided to find me. Did you miss me, kitten? Maybe I should tie you to the bed next time. and why your hair is like this? You know I like them loose.’ The fucker pulled the pins from my bun and let the hair loose, brushing them with his fingers, and when I tried to shift away, his fingers gave me a warning squeeze. It looked like I would have to play along.
‘Yes, you know I hate when you leave me alone.’ I said, leaning to his body and sliding my hand into the open collar. ‘I thought something had happened to you, and I had no choice but to look for the most powerful man to help me find you.’ I pulled what I hoped was an adorable pout on my face and looked at the club owner with doe eyes. ‘I’m sorry, Sir. I shouldn’t lie, but I needed to find Leszek and thought in all TriCity, only you could help me.’
Nadolny burst out laughing and patted Leszek’s shoulder. ‘Your kitten is truly adorable. Maybe you should include her as a part of our deal?’
Suddenly, I felt Leszek’s arm press me harder into his body when he looked gangster in the eyes and dished through the clenched teeth.
‘No, this one is mine.’
I was tired. The night at the docks went as planned, but we didn’t find anything to explain why a pack of Russians entered my territory and tried to take over the amber market. We searched the berths and warehouses, but most of them were empty, including the shipping containers. However, on the one closest to the waterfront, I found traces of silver and some unknown substance that burnt my fingers.
My green magic didn’t like the alloy. It was as alien to me as it must have been to the wolves who were shot. I instructed one of the pack to sniff it. The wolf looked at me, disgust written all over his face but didn’t contradict the order, and led by his sense of smell, the group went straight to the old dock master’s building. The structure was old, built before the first world war when these lands were still claimed by Prussia, its walls decorated in the old Germanic style, constructed with warfare in mind. Inside, darkness wrapped around us like a soft blanket, and I saw several wolves’ eyes flashing green as they were caught by faint flashes of light.
The scent the pack member followed grew stronger, and the gathered men growled in unison. I silenced them with a raised hand, but their muffled snarls had already awakened something in the basement. At the sound of shuffling feet and a faint cry, I gestured for someone to investigate. The stench of rotten fish hit my nostrils as soon as he opened the basement doors. The noise grew louder as he entered, and I heard a woman’s voice between the pitiful sounds.
‘Please, no more. I told you everything I know.’
Suddenly the lilting song of a siren filled the room, awakening soul-deep longing and sadness in the hearts of the gathered men, and if not for the hastily cast spell protecting the group, the desperation in the song would lead them to a premature death in the Baltic sea. It looked like this woman knew werewolves did not swim.
I gestured for the team to hold their positions and went downstairs. The sight I encountered left me seething in anger. Sirens and tritons belonged to Jurata, but as the lady of the sea no longer cared for her people, I often sheltered them from humanity and yet here, in my territory, one of them had been murdered, whilst the other …
‘Your song does not affect me, daughter of the sea.’ I said, approaching the siren pinned to the wall, blood-encrusted bolts the only things holding her upright. ‘Tell me, who did this to you?’ Her eyes were full of pain and disbelief as she looked at me.
‘Green lord, she said you would come, but it’s been so long since those bastards chained us here. My friend… they refused to give her water, laughing as she begged for her life.’
Without realising, my hands had grasped the bolts, ablaze with pain, as I exerted my strength to pull them out of the wall. They were secured so well that I had to bolster my power with green magic to pry them out of the concrete, and if the alloy composition hurt me so much, I couldn’t imagine the agony it caused to the siren.
‘Calm down, little one, and tell me who did this to you.’ I said as the girl collapsed into my arms, and her quiet sobs the only sound in the darkness. She was barely mature enough to be called a woman, yet someone tortured her brutally, and my blood boiled in fury at such a crime.
‘They arrived a few months ago, a few men in the beginning, eager to buy our amber for export. In the beginning, they offered more than you were paying, and we let them settle here, but soon more arrived, and they began working with humans, especially those from Anchor.’
She continued to talk as I carried her outside. When I emerged from the basement, the pack sent me a questioning look, and one werewolf pointed to the dark entrance of the basement.
‘What do you want to do with the carcass?’
‘Treat the body respectfully and give it back to the sea.’ I answered, trying to restrain the anger those words awakened, but despite their usual brash attitude, the pack completed the task with surprising sensitivity.
‘There are more merfolk in Anchor, help them like you helped me, and I swear my kind will swear allegiance to you. Our lady abandoned us years ago. Only you guard this place now, and we have no one else to turn to.’
The siren sagged in my arms when she lost consciousness, and I passed her to one of the wolves. ‘Make sure she reaches her kin. They will know how to help her and inform your alpha we head for Anchor tomorrow.’
The man nodded, carrying his precious cargo, and I strode back to the basement to look around. Except for a few cages and the siren’s blood, there wasn’t much evidence left behind. It looked like our enemies used it as a convenient location rather than a permanent base. I turned to the leader of my small wolf unit.
‘Tell Adam to monitor this location and inform me immediately should he see something. Whoever looks out of place must be followed. I need to find their nest, not the dumping grounds.’
I dismissed the unit and headed to my car. It was too late to visit Sara, and the fact I’d denied myself the opportunity to see her, and still found nothing, irritated me. I hoped she enjoyed the flowers at least. Thinking how surprised she must have been brought a smile to my face. Still, I would have to arrange my visit for another night as tomorrow I planned to visit Anchor and find out why a human nightclub took such an interest in the local merfolk.
I concocted a plan in my head, driving absentmindedly through the night traffic. It was still busy, even at two in the morning. Traffic blurred around me when my green magic flared, reawakened by the siren’s call repeating in my head. Only you guard this place now. She was right. It was my domain, and whoever encroached on it to cause harm would face the consequences.