When Dylan learned that a friend had robbed his apartment he decided not to alert the police. The stolen money had come from a charity drive for the shelter he ran for magical people in need, and unfortunately the thief was a young man he'd rehabilitated. Correction. Thought he'd rehabilitated. Cass had done so well since he'd severed his ties with his tricktus suppliers on the streets of Grimton City. Tricktus powders enhanced magical abilities and provided temporary ones while at the same time destroying the user's physical body.
For months Cass held down a regular job in a greenhouse as he developed his talent for working with magical plants. It shouldn't have come as a shock to Dylan that he'd slipped back to his old ways. Sometimes it took several tries for people to overcome their addictions, but Cass had done so well that Dylan had hoped he'd be different.
Dylan's roommate, Antjuan, had been furious about Cass robbing their apartment. Yet Dylan knew much of that fury was because he felt just as badly about Cass's relapse.
After finishing his shift that evening, Dylan walked to his apartment above the shelter. He could scarcely believe it had been fifteen years since he'd opened the shelter right in the heart of Grimton City, one of the most populated areas along Hot River. That river flowed through and connected the magical world. Hidden from outsiders, human and non-human magic users mingled in the world of Hot River.
Unfortunately not everyone with supernatural gifts used their powers responsibly. Sometimes misuse was intentional and other times it wasn't. Like everyone else, magical people had their share of problems. Dylan knew that firsthand. Problems had driven him from the homeland of his Elfin ancestors. Making a place for himself outside of the only world he'd ever known hadn't been easy. Once he'd gotten his life together, he decided to open the shelter to help others. Maybe that had been his purpose all along. He was proud of the work he'd done and pleased with the friends he'd made, friends who had become like family.
Thoughts of his friends, specifically Cass and Antjuan, filled his thoughts today. He couldn't help worrying about Cass in particular. Though his day hadn't been any busier than usual, he felt emotionally drained. By the time he finished climbing the stairs and unlocked the door to his apartment, he decided not to bother cooking dinner.
What he needed more than food was a long, hot shower and a short nap to clear his head.
He was surprised to find the apartment empty. Usually after finishing work at his dance studio, Antjuan stopped home, even if to change his clothes or eat dinner. Maybe he decided to practice later than usual. With a dance contest coming up at the end of the month, he'd been quite busy. He knew Antjuan had been upset about Cass reverting to his old ways. Antjuan seemed to identify with the boy, perhaps saw himself as a wayward youth. No matter what he'd promised Dylan about leaving Cass alone, Antjuan wouldn't let the young man off the hook so easily.
In the kitchen, Dylan drank some iced tea then he walked to his bedroom and undressed. He decided that after he took a shower he'd call Antjuan's studio and find out if he was still there.
It felt good standing under the stream of warm water. Dylan braced his hands against the tile, letting the water soak his elbow-length black hair. Beads of moisture dripped from his neatly trimmed, silky goatee and trickled over his body. He closed his eyes for a moment then opened them and reached for a bottle of herbal shampoo. Though he had relinquished the elfin habit of shaving his beard, he'd kept the customary long hair. He knew his black mane was one of his best features, or so he'd been told. By elfin standards, his features were considered too harsh to be traditionally handsome.
After Dylan finished washing, he stepped out of the shower and reached for a towel. He'd just started drying off when someone pounded on his door. Muttering under his breath, he wrapped the towel around his waist and walked down the hall, leaving wet footprints on the wooden floor.
The pounding continued and he shouted, "Who is it?"
"The police," replied a stern, masculine voice.
Dylan's stomach clenched. Why were the police at his door?
"Open up," the cop ordered.
Had something happened downstairs at the shelter? An accident involving Antjuan, or maybe his cousin Shane, who ran a nearby shop with his wife?
Not even considering that he was wearing nothing but a towel, Dylan opened the door. He scarcely had time to glance at the tall, bald guy with hawkish features before his unexpected visitor shoved him into the apartment and forced him face-first against the wall, his arms twisted behind his back. He felt the cool, hard handcuffs snap on his wrists and Dylan's heart pounded with pure rage and a hint of fear.
"What the hell is going on?" Dylan snapped.
"By order of the Grimton City Safety Department you are ordered to be taken for questioning."
"For what? What's the charge?"
"No formal charges at this time."
"Who the hell are you anyway? Where's your ID?" Dylan probably should have asked for that before opening the door. With all the shady people he'd dealt with over the years, he should have had more common sense than he'd just showed moments ago.
"Detective Joel Tristan." He tugged Dylan away from the wall and held a round steel badge in front of his face. "Tell me where your pants are."
"Unless you want me to take you in wearing the towel."
"Down the hall. The first door on the right."
The cop guided Dylan roughly toward his bedroom where he took jeans from the closet. Dylan had to admit he felt pretty stupid having someone else help him into his pants, at least under these circumstances.
"Tell me why I'm being questioned."
"When we get to the precinct," Joel said curtly.
This bald bastard was really starting to piss Dylan off. He nearly called up an elfin spell to knock him on his ass, but decided that wasn't a wise idea. Attacking a cop, no matter how much he deserved it, was never a good thing.
Worst of all, in spite of the humiliation and very real danger of the situation, Dylan found this cop attractive in a rather crude way.
The detective took a pair of sandals from the closet and dropped them in front of Dylan who shoved his feet into them. His long, wet hair stuck to his face, rendering him half-blind. He tried tossing his head and blowing the strands from his eyes, but it didn't quite work.
"Here," the cop said gruffly and brushed the hair from Dylan's face. Finally able to see again, his gaze locked with the detective's and Dylan's stomach tightened even more. Fuck, this guy had gorgeous eyes--wide set, blue, and large yet slanted, almost like elfin eyes.
They stared at each other for several heartbeats, then Dylan muttered, "Thanks."