Grimacing, I decided I had no choice but to attempt to make my way through the briars without the help of my blade. Thankfully, I’d thought to bring my hunting gloves, but I highly doubted they’d help me much. Those damn thorns looked as sharp as daggers, and they’d likely tear right through the leather.
Just the same, I reached for the briars and tried to work my way through them. Predictably, it wasn’t exactly easy. The plants resisted so much that my gloves tore far sooner than I’d expected. I still did my best not to rip the flowers, though. For some reason, I felt it was important.
And then, one of the thorns dug into my palm and drew blood. I cursed and took a few deep breaths, steadying myself before I tried again. At this rate, I’d never get out of here, but the mere idea of giving up or changing my original plan clashed with my sense of self.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to worry. This time, when I touched the plants with my bare fingers, a soft sigh seemed to come from all around me. The roses trembled, the petals glowing like they were covered in dew.
The vines and trees seemed to move, the foliage fretting strangely. I thought I could distinguish far-off voices, odd whispers almost reaching my hearing, but not quite. This wasn’t exactly surprising. Merlinia had laughing trees, and this was presumably the Dryad Kingdom. It made sense for the vegetation to be enchanted.
That didn’t mean I wasn’t surprised when the forest began to part for me. I watched the process suspiciously, half expecting the trees to attack me. Nothing like that happened. Deciding to take my chances, I stepped forward, leaving behind the tiny grove.
I slowly made my way through the strange woods, not understanding a single bit of what was going on. In fact, I should have probably been creeped out, because every time I touched a plant, it moved out of the way. Of course, it wasn’t exactly quick progress. Whoever said that magic always worked fast must have been out of his mind, because the vines and thorns took their time in granting me passage.
More disturbingly, as they moved, the roses brushed against me, and I could have sworn that they moaned. It was particularly disturbing when a plant rubbed against my crotch. I did my best to ignore it, continuing to walk through the forest as if nothing had happened. They were just plants. Magical though they might be, they didn’t have a sexuality, and even if that had been the case, I couldn’t exactly attack vines for supposedly molesting me. That was just plain idiotic.
Still, I couldn’t help but experience a feeling of relief when the last of the plants moved aside to reveal a large clearing. As I finally stepped out of the forest, I heard those sighs again. I turned toward the trees and nodded slightly in acquiescence. I didn’t know why, but all sexual harassment aside, I had a feeling that they wouldn’t have let just anyone pass. For whatever reason, I’d been handed a privilege. It might have been strange, but I’d always followed my instincts, and right now, they were telling me to be grateful.
The wind blew through the trees, and it almost felt like they were talking to me. The roses whispered and sang, like they were trying to tell me something. I didn’t get the chance to decipher the message, though. A small giggle sounded behind me, snapping me out of my trance.
I turned, my hand instantly going to my sword. How had I missed my opponent’s approach? As distracted as I’d been, I should have noticed someone coming up behind me.
Before I could draw my weapon, though, I froze and blinked, trying to clear my vision. Yes, I must have definitely hit my head. I had seen many strange things today, but none of them compared to what I was facing now. A slender young man sat in front of me, lying down in the grass and watching me with undisguised interest. His golden-blond hair was loose, adorned with what seemed to be live roses. Stranger still, the only thing he seemed to be wearing was… rose petals. Suffice to say, the damn things weren’t doing a very good job hiding his body. If anything, they just drew the eye to his pale-pink skin, the tiny nipples that barely peeked out from under a bloom, his flat belly… I didn’t even dare to look lower down, because I was already hard as a rock.
“They like you,” the apparition said. He tilted his head and stole a look at my waist. “I’m sorry. Did I startle you?”
It was only then that I realized that I had yet to release my hold on my weapon. Clearing my throat, I straightened my back and relaxed my stance. “Perhaps a little,” I admitted. “I did not expect finding anyone here, in the wild.”
“Well, technically speaking, it’s not exactly pure wilderness,” the strange young man said with a sweet smile. “But I can see what you mean.” He got up and bowed elegantly. “But forgive me. I’ve been rude and inhospitable. I am Briar, noble warrior. Welcome to the Dryad Kingdom.”
“Thank you,” I replied. “I am Leonard of Arthuria.”
To my ears, my voice sounded a little shaky, but the strange young man didn’t seem to notice. “Arthuria?” He hummed thoughtfully. “You’re a long way from home.” He peered closer to my face, his beautiful green eyes glinting with something I didn’t dare analyze too closely. “Did you come to break the curse?” he inquired breathlessly.
I distantly noted that his lips looked just like dewy rose blooms, plump and full, and made for kissing. At the same time, though, I noticed something else. His lower half was see-through.
Finally, Leonard finished his quest of revealing my body. I was completely bare, the petals that had shielded my innocence and inexperience having succumbed to Leonard’s ministrations. It was very strange, because I didn’t remember ever being so exposed. The heat in his gaze made me tremble, reminding me that I truly didn’t know what to do after this point. Leonard didn’t seem to mind the fact that I’d never had a lover before, but the last thing I wanted was to disappoint him.
He had already done so much for me even if from the very first moment I’d stepped into his life, I’d only asked and taken. I craved to be a good mate, to show him that I could take care of him just like he took care of me.
With that in mind, I reached for his dick. Sadly, I moved too fast and struck my forehead against Leonard’s chin. Leonard hissed and moved back, while I fell on the bed, dazed at the shock of the impact. Instants later, Leonard crawled over me again, the desire that had been in his gaze replaced by concern.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Are you hurt?”
Way to shatter the moment, Briar. We’d been so close to what I’d been waiting for, and I had to go and ruin it. I shook my head, incipient tears burning at the corners of my eyes. “I’m the one who should be sorry. I don’t know anything about all of this.”
“Let me worry about that,” Leonard said, his frown melting into gentle smile. “I’ll take care of you. Just relax and let me love you.”
Leonard peppered my face with kisses, his hands gently caressing my sides, the skin he had earlier exposed. He didn’t rush, avoiding touching the areas where I most wanted him. It worked, because my brief foray into self-pity melted away, leaving behind only the need to be with my mate.
“Leonard,” I called out, “please…”
I didn’t even fully realize what I was asking for, just that I couldn’t take this slow torture for much longer. I might not have intellectually had much knowledge about what our intercourse would entail, but my body knew what it craved—having Leonard’s hard dick piercing me, taking me, claiming me.
My lover kept me from explaining what I had in mind in the most beautiful way possible, by crushing our mouths together. This time, the kiss was nothing like those butterfly-light pecks he had teased me with. At first, he licked over the seam of my lips, and I instinctively opened my mouth. I was rewarded when Leonard thrust his tongue into my wet cavern. After that, he simply ravaged me, taking my mouth with almost brutal passion. My natural clumsiness didn’t matter anymore, not when I surrendered to him. In his mastery, I found guidance, and my nervousness disappeared. I felt so very safe with him, so loved and so desired.
When Leonard broke the kiss, we were both breathing hard. I was now more than ready to be taken, and I decided to tell Leonard this. “Leonard, please… Inside me.”
Much to my dismay, Leonard disagreed. “Tsk, tsk.” He shook his head. “You know how pollination is a process? So is lovemaking, and anticipation is part of it.”
Anticipation? I’d been anticipating his arrival for the past centuries. All right, I hadn’t been cognizant for most of that time, but my body was still starved for his touch, for his affection.
I must have looked pretty put out, because Leonard brushed his thumb over my lips. They felt swollen from his kisses, but I parted them, sucking on his finger like I wanted to do with his dick. Goddess, there was so many things I craved. My mind was all over the place, my instincts awakened by Leonard’s touch and his presence.
Leonard’s eyes had that look again, the one that promised the most delicious retribution for me fellating his finger. Even so, he didn’t pounce on me again. “Hush, my flower,” he said instead. “I promise you that I’ll give you what you need.”
Gently, he started to kiss down my chest, his clever fingers stopping over my nipples to rub the sensitive nubs. Shocks of ecstasy flashed through me as my mate teased the bits of flesh. It almost seemed like they were directly connected to my cock, and the twists and slight pinches Leonard tortured me with also caused my dick to throb painfully.
Leonard was relentless, both worshipful and ruthless at the same time. He explored every inch of me with his fingers, with his tongue, driving me higher and higher on the peaks of pleasure. When he wiggled his slick muscle into my belly button, I almost came on the spot.
I started to writhe so hard that I almost pushed Leonard off me. However, Leonard held onto my hips, never once ceasing his ministrations on me. In fact, he became even more thorough, apparently quite interested in my reactions.
If I’d been able to speak, I could have answered his questions. I would have told him that belly buttons were erogenous zones for all dryads, because that area—the one regularly covered by petals—was the strongest connected to our roots, to the way we’d been born and how we would eventually reproduce. But I definitely couldn’t muster the ability to form words, since even coherent thought was a problem. My dick leaked copious amounts of pre-cum, more and more liquid flowing from the tip in response to the flicks of his tongue.
Just as I thought I would truly lose my mind, Leonard abandoned my belly button. I experienced a small moment in which I felt both bereft and relieved, but it didn’t last. Seconds later, his hot mouth engulfed my aching dick.
Pure bliss exploded over me, and my mind just about melted. I was distantly aware of crying out my mate’s name, over and over, like a prayer.