On the Case
Guardian’s Tales, Book 2
Ebook ISBN: 06836-02201
[ Paranormal Romance, MF ]
Everything changes when the tree hugs back.
Darah took what she thought would be an easy assignment — wake up a tree. Nothing to it, except this tree rouses with a case of morning wood.
Shirish has been asleep for the last few decades and is eager to get reacquainted with the world, starting with Darah. She wants to believe they have a future together but the past has unfinished business with Shirish.
Family secrets long buried threaten to set fire to their budding relationship. Without help, Darah fears their final act of love will be to burn together.
[bctt tweet=”Read #excerpt of On the Case by @ZenobiaRenquist #IRromance #PNR”]
Being a sensitive landed her the most interesting jobs at times. Darah was one of the rare humans who could sense preternatural beings. The majority of the population thought witches and werewolves and the like were all figments of the imagination used to populate books, movies, and TV shows. She and those like her knew better. Sensitives helped to keep the preternatural community secret as well as working alongside them to solve problems unique to preternaturals.
Darah had met some amazing people capable of doing things that still boggled her mind. Today her job had her meeting a tree. She sighed as she stared at the large plant, unimpressed with this assignment.
The tree itself was awe-worthy. It was huge. Three stories tall at least. The trunk was surrounded by thousands of vine-like growths sprouting from the branches like hair that flowed to the ground, some taking root and some hanging. The plaque next to Darah named it a species of Banyan tree that had been imported from India by sailors and gifted as a sapling to the family who once owned this land.
Darah couldn’t imagine this tree ever having been small enough to be labeled a sapling. She also couldn’t imagine how she was supposed to do her job. Guardian wanted Darah to talk to the tree. Talk to it. A tree.
Granted, Darah had spoken to a lake once. The Lady of the Lake from Arthurian legend to be exact. Fascinating woman, though she did tend to ramble on since she didn’t get out much or have many visitors who could understand her. Talking to a tree was no less strange than talking to a lake. Both had beings inhabiting them, so technically Darah was supposed to talk to the man inhabiting the tree, not the tree itself. Though some would argue that was the same thing.
What Darah wanted to know was how to accomplish the job when the tree was considered a historical monument, which meant it was surrounded by dozens of visitors kept at a reasonable distance by a waist-high fence. The fence was there to limit soil compaction from foot traffic and the guards hired by the garden owners at the behest of the historical society happened to take their jobs very seriously.
Darah glanced over at one of the guards, who was answering questions about the tree for a family of four. If she even thought about putting her leg over the fence, that guard would be there in a second to talk her out of it. The guards weren’t solely for the tree. The large amount of acreage surrounding the tree was a botanical garden, housing at least one of every plant growing in the state and a few imported to add a little more color.
Another much larger fence surrounded the property and was locked at night once all the visitors had vacated. Darah glanced at her phone. She had an hour before the garden closed to figure this out or else she would have to come back tomorrow.
A familiar sensation thrilled along her skin. Darah glanced around for the source. The guard walking past her brought a smile to her face. Bingo. She’d found the way to get close to the tree.
She trotted after the guard. “Excuse me.”
The guard stopped and looked at her. “Did you have a question?”
“Yes, I did.” Darah got close and asked in a low voice, “If I told you Guardian sent me, would you be able to get me close to that tree?”
The guard stiffened and looked around then at her. “Guardian?”
“The one and only.”
“Why does she want you near the tree?”
“To talk to it.”
“Talk? That’s it?”
He made a thinking noise as he regarded her. Darah smiled sweetly and waited for him to say he could do it. Messengers from Guardian didn’t get rejected. Guardian was just that powerful and influential.
Guardian was a cornerstone of the preternatural community in the United States. Preternaturals who needed anything — help getting out of trouble, help getting a job, help getting laid — went to her. She asked for nothing in return for the service though it behooved everyone to say yes when she asked a favor.
The guard asked, “How do I know Guardian sent you?”
Darah didn’t take offense. She didn’t know of anyone stupid enough to use Guardian’s name who didn’t have permission, but some people liked living life dangerously. Guardian was a demigoddess. She knew when people were taking her name in vain. She also knew when people she’d sent on errands needed a helping hand.
The guard’s cell rang. “Hello?” He startled and his eyes widened. “Yes, but I –” He snapped his mouth shut and nodded quickly. “M-my name? It’s uh… It’s Brian.” A pause. “I can. No problem.” He nodded some more. “Yes, ma’am. I will. Thank you.” A soft smile curved his lips. “You have a good evening too, ma’am. Bye.”
Darah wanted to let Brian bask in the afterglow of his conversation with Guardian — she had that effect on people who weren’t used to her — but couldn’t because she wanted to get this assignment over with. “Well?”
“Huh?” Brian startled and looked at Darah as though he’d forgotten she was there. He grinned wide. “Guardian said I should stop by her office. She knows a nice bat shifter I might hit it off with.”
“I’m not talking about your love life. Congratulations, by the way. The tree.”
“Right. Yeah. Sorry. Sure I can get you close. How long do you need?”
“I have no clue.”
“My shift ends in an hour. I can get you close to the tree then. I have a buddy on night shift who can help get you out again without raising any suspicions. That work for you?”
“If you want to thank me, don’t get caught. There’ll be two other guys on night shift. They aren’t in the know and will get all types of pissed if they catch you here after hours and near that tree.”
“Good. Back here in an hour.” He turned and continued on his way.
Darah’s day, or rather evening, was looking up. Why Guardian hadn’t told Darah there were preternaturals working security, Darah had no clue. That would have sped things up considerably. But it was better Darah try to talk to the tree when there were no witnesses. Three guards patrolling a few acres of land was as private as it was going to get, and she could work with that.
An hour later, Brian escorted Darah through a gate in the perimeter fence and up to the base of the tree. He pointed to a gap in the roots that created a hidey-hole big enough for Darah’s petite form. “Stay close to this spot. If you hear someone coming, duck into it. My buddy Adam is the one who will get you out. He’s a bat like me. Good ears. Just whistle when you want to leave and he’ll come get you. You do know how to whistle, right?”
“Nothing fancy. Just a plain whistle.”
“Good luck and don’t get caught.”
“Thanks and I won’t.” Darah waved at his retreating back and then faced the tree. “It’s just you and me now, handsome. What should we talk about?”
The tree didn’t answer. Darah hadn’t expected it to. Guardian had warned her this would be a tough case. The tree hadn’t spoken in decades. Guardian had said it had been hibernating all that time but she wanted to wake him to make sure of his health. That made Darah his alarm clock.
How was she supposed to wake up a tree? Splash him with water? Pull his branches? Knock on his trunk? If she could get to his trunk. The vines were thicker than she’d thought and surrounded the tree like a dense rope curtain.
Staring at them made Darah shiver. They were almost like something out of a horror movie. She felt like they would grab her any second. That was silly. Trees with inhabiting spirits weren’t hostile unless provoked. There were no exceptions. So long as she didn’t act threatening, the tree wouldn’t harm her.
“How do I wake you up? Do I just keep talking until you tell me to be quiet, because I can do that.” She had pulled in a breath to make good on her threat when heavy footsteps on the rock walkway stopped her.
She rushed over to the hidey-hole and crawled into it, hoping there were no bugs calling it home. It was a tight fit even for Darah’s small frame but she managed to squeeze in. Several of the branches pulled at her pixie-cut hair and scraped her skin. It felt as if a few drew blood. Or maybe that was sap from the tree dripping down her arm. Whichever the case, she ignored it to listen to the guard as he walked past.
The beam of his flashlight played over the spot above Darah’s head. She hunkered down more and hoped her clothes weren’t sticking out. Her medium brown skin and dark blue jeans might blend with the shadows but her white shirt was a dead giveaway. If she had known she would be playing hide-and-seek for this assignment, she would have dressed for the occasion.
The guard took his time strolling around the perimeter fence. Was he taking in the sights or something? A fine sheen of sweat coated Darah’s body. She wanted to tell him to hurry the hell up, except that would defeat the purpose of hiding. Her need for the man to leave became more urgent when something brushed against her leg.
She thought it might be a root resituating itself because she moved her foot but whatever it was rubbed against her calf in a deliberate manner. It slid down to her ankles and curled around her bare skin above her sock.
Darah bit back a scream. A snake. There was a snake in here with her. A snake that had decided her pant leg was a nice nook to call home. She shook her leg to jar it free but the snake continued its upward path.
Fuck this! Guardian didn’t pay her enough to mess with snakes. Darah scrambled out of the hole, not caring if the guard was still there or not. He wasn’t, which was good because Darah all but jumped out of her pants to get rid of the snake.
She pushed her jeans to her ankles while slapping at her left leg. The snake was gone so far as she could tell. She couldn’t see it and wasn’t sure she wanted to. After indulging a full-body shiver of revulsion, she started to pull up her jeans. The last thing she needed was to get caught with her pants down. Nothing she could say would ever explain it well enough to keep her from being arrested for public indecency.
Something thick and long circled her waist. Darah had time for a frightened squeak before it yanked her back into the curtain of vines, which closed around her. She struggled to get free but the vines coiled around her arms and legs.
The tree was awake. Good. Great. Mission accomplished. She didn’t know how she’d done it, but job over. Too bad the tree didn’t think the same. The vines continued wrapping themselves around her body. Some of them slipped under her shirt. The vines pushed her bra out of the way and started circling her bare breasts.
The tips nudged her nipples, teasing them into taut peaks that tingled with a growing desire that made no sense to her. She should be freaked out, not turned on. The vines rubbing against her panty-clad slit added to her contradictory reaction. As much as she wanted to deny it, the teasing was getting her excited.
Just her luck she got the tree that wakes up horny. That wasn’t why she was here though. Excited or not, she couldn’t let this happen. “Hold on a second. This isn’t that kind of party, mister. Let me go.”
If the tree heard her, it didn’t act like it and continued fondling her body. Darah hated to admit it but the tree was good with his vines. The ones between her legs had located her clit and stroked it through her panties.
Darah wet her lips, trying to ignore her reaction to the stimulation. She was not so hard up in the sex department that a little clit tickling should make her forget she was in the middle of a garden and there were security guards patrolling. It shouldn’t, but the vines made a good case. The moisture gliding down her channel to coat her lower lips was testament to her willingness to hear them out.
“Ca-can we talk about this? Guar-Gua-G… Mmmmm.” One of the vines edged her panties out of the way and touched her clit directly. The bolt of pleasure from that gentle touch rendered her momentarily speechless as she enjoyed the sensation.
It seriously shouldn’t feel this good. She was being groped by a tree. Nothing in dealing with the preternatural community should make her okay with this. Frisky shifters she expected. Keeping them at arm’s length was no easy feat but she’d learned to do it. A tree with morning wood was a little out of her skill set.
The vines pulled her panties down her legs to join her jeans around her ankles. Darah couldn’t think of a single protest for that action when one of the vines started caressing its length between her pussy lips so it brushed her channel entrance and clit.
Darah sucked in a breath and then let it out as a soft moan of pleasure. The tree had to be doing something to her. She should be protesting instead of wiggling her hips and arching her breasts forward. Tree aphrodisiac or hypo-pollen — she needed something to explain why she pulled one foot free of her jeans and opened her legs.
The vines supported her as they lifted her knees and spread her thighs. The cool night air filtered through the dense mesh of vines to fan over her hot, damp pussy, titillating a coo from Darah’s lips. The sound graduated to begging whines as the tip of one vine traced her channel entrance.
Another tip spiraled around her asshole. Darah startled and stiffened. “Wait. I don’t do anal. Do you hear me?”
The vine smoothing over her rim continued without pause.
“I know you hear me, damn it. I said no –”
A vine entering her mouth stopped her words. It tangled with her tongue, almost like a kiss but there were no lips to accompany it. Despite that absence, it had the same intoxicating effect of a kiss. The same effect the vines had had on her from the start. Darah forgot her protest in favor of licking and sucking on the vine.
She shivered with delight as the vine at her entrance delved into her channel. It rippled and twisted as it thrust with a steady rhythm that had Darah rocking her hips and mewling with the need for more.
That more came in the form of a thin, slick vine slipping into her puckered hole. She barely noticed the intrusion. If this was the extent of it, then she didn’t mind letting the tree indulge in a little anal. But that wasn’t all. The thin vine felt as if it were growing with each stroke, stretching her hole slowly, getting her used to it, enticing her.
The surface grew ridges that increased her enjoyment of the act as they rumbled over her asshole. Darah never knew anal could feel this good, or double penetration for that matter. She’d never had a chance to be with two men before and her last boyfriend would have pitched a fit if she had suggested he use a strap-on to increase her fun.
A tree was giving her this unrivaled, ecstasy-filled experience. Darah couldn’t moan loud enough to show much she loved it. Her vocalizations ended when the crunch of rocks under someone’s feet caught her attention.
The beam of a flashlight seeped through the vines as the owner swept it over the tree. The guard couldn’t see her and wouldn’t have a reason to get closer unless Darah alerted him to her presence.
Another guard joined the first. “What’s up, Adam?”
“I thought I heard something.”
A second flashlight scanned the area. Darah held her breath. Could Adam see her? He must have heard her moans and thought that was his cue to come get her. Good thing it hadn’t been or else the second guard would have caught them leaving.
The vine nearest her clit danced over the nub while two others flicked her nipples. She shook her head, trying to fight her need to beg for more. The only thing she could do was writhe in place.
The second guard said, “I trust your ears because lord knows you’ve got hearing better than my cat, but I don’t see anything.”
Adam made a non-committal sound. “Must have been my imagination.”
They walked away together, leaving Darah to enjoy her orgasm in peace. She still couldn’t make any noise because the men were too close, but she wanted to. She wanted the whole world to hear how wonderful she felt, and all because of a tree.
A talented tree. A magnificent tree. A tree that continued its intimate perusal of her body, passing her to a fresh set of vines that elicited the same amount of bliss from Darah as the first set.
Darah made one full lap around the tree before it was satisfied. She was beyond satisfied. Orgasm after orgasm had left her exhausted, panting, and in desperate need of water.
If she didn’t know better, and she didn’t, she would swear the tree had been using her as a water source. As wet as it had made her, that was a strong possibility.
The vines lowered her to the base of the tree and then let her go. Darah’s legs wobbled. She had to put a hand on the trunk to keep from falling over. It took a few minutes before she could chance bending over and pulling her panties and jeans back on.
More minutes passed while she straightened her clothes as best she could while shaking due to afterglow. She finally worked up the energy to whistle. It was a pitiful sound that barely carried. She didn’t know if she could do one much louder.
Adam’s arrival said she didn’t need to. He jogged up to the tree, took one look at her and asked, “What happened to you?”
She shook her head and croaked, “Don’t ask.”
“Did you talk to the tree?”
She glared at him.
“All righty. Not asking. Come on.” He looped an arm around her waist and helped her hobble back to her car. “Are you okay to drive? Do I need to call someone?”
She waved him away. “Thanks, but no. Get back to work before you’re missed.”
“See ya.” He pushed the door closed and then jogged back to the entrance.
Darah slumped in her seat. One thought kept running through her mind. The more it circulated, the more she felt it was true. After she got some water, a shower, more water, and some rest, she would confront Guardian to find out if her suspicions were correct.
[bctt tweet=”Read #excerpt of On the Case by @ZenobiaRenquist #IRromance #PNR”]