tagNonHumanThe Dryad Ch. 01

The Dryad Ch. 01


"So this is what my life has come to," Raven Keppler muttered as she shivered in the cool autumn night.

"Hey, you think you got it bad?" the being on the ledge next to her asked. He called himself Peter, he was her frequent fellow "night owl," and he was a mourning dove. "I'm up like three hours after bedtime, these damn blue jays are chasing my kids all over creation, and now you want me to fly how far?"

"Hey, if you do this you can hang out on my balcony, any time you want. I have good food and no blue jays."

"Lady, I've been to your place; it's a freakin' zoo. No thanks."

She forced a smile at him tough the anxiety over the coming night kept it from blossoming. Peter cocked his head, his beady black eyes softening when he saw her own eyes brimming with unshed tears behind her mask. "Oh, hell, since the kids like you so much, I'll do it."

Raven swallowed the tears when she realized there was a chance she could still pull it off. "Okay. Repeat it back to me."

"Jeeze, anal much? Okay, Ra-"

"Call me Dryad," she ordered in a loud whisper.

He cocked his head and laughed a little dove laugh, sounding like a keening coo. "You're not the real Dryad, I don't know who's gonna buy it."

"Well, I have the same powers and I have her suit. I have the same hair and mask. Who'll know the difference?"

Peter shrugged. "Okay Dryad; I fly over to the Bank of America branch over on Ohio. There'll be two pigeons waiting there for me. We all sneak in the open window in the building next door, and there'll be five rats waiting inside for us. Tell them to set off the alarm at exactly eleven thirty. Wait, make sure it happens, then fly like hell."

Raven sighed and leaned her head back into the wind coming off Lake Michigan. "You got it."

Peter yawned and shifted against the same wind, looking down off the Tribune Tower where they were perched. It was obvious the lofty height made him nervous. "You mind me asking what you're up to? I know we talk and stuff, but you've never asked for a favor before. And setting off a bank alarm? What for?"

"It doesn't matter. It's not Raven Keppler asking this, Peter, it's Dryad."

"You look like they rented you the wrong costume or something. I mean, nice suit." He gave a dirty laugh.

She looked down at the black spandex suit straining over the few curves Mother Nature had seen fit to gift her with and shrugged. "It was my aunt's, and she was a little shorter, a little bit...smaller, in certain areas. It's not like anybody's going to see me." Despite her logic Raven felt herself blushing. "And don't worry about the alarm. Normal humans never suspect animals of having any intelligence, and it's not like the bank's actually getting robbed."

"So why are we setting off a bank alarm if you're not going to rob it?"

"You're doing it to distract Gryphon."

Peter cursed in a streak she couldn't believe a mourning dove would know. "Gryphon! Are you nuts? He eats little villains like you for breakfast! He's the best damn superhero in the whole country!"

"I'm not just any villain, I'm a Supervillain. Bane of Master Bloodless, jewel thief extraordinaire."

He snorted, or tried to, but it came out like a coo. "Don't forget you've also been dead ten years."

Rave started to say something but the thought of her aunt's death brought a lump to her throat. The original Dryad had been everything to her, and her brutal death at the hands of Master Bloodless was still a wound, even after all that time. It didn't matter that Bloodless had turned bad himself and been killed by Gryphon, Raven knew the terrible secret of the walking wounded, that there was no such thing as closure.

Peter edged over and stroked a wing down her thigh. "I'm sorry kid, I can be a real jerk. Look, you can do anything you want, you know that. You're even more powerful than the first Dryad."

She sniffled back the tears. "Oh yeah? And how would you know?"

"We still talk about her. You don't know what it's like to have someone who understands us, a human who doesn't call me a statue rat and throw rocks at me. We never had that before the first Dryad showed up and since you seemed to have her powers you're all we talk about."

"Oh, stop it."

He sidled closer. "We'll take care of Gryphon for you, don't you worry. Hell, all we animals want is to see you happy. You're so quiet, so lonely."

"That's enough, Peter. You make me sound pathetic."

"Not lonely. Carlos tells me you're pining over that boss of yours. Human mating, you people drive me crazy."

"Carlos? My pet Carlos?"

"Yeah, he chats. A lot. You just be careful, kid."

That a ten month old bird was calling her kid cheered her up a little, and she laughed softly. "I will. And when I get home I'm going to tell Carlos to shut up or I'm clipping his flight feathers."

"You sure do talk tough."

"Just talk?"

"Yeah, just talk. That's not such a bad thing, R- Dryad. Your aunt, well, she was one tough cookie, and she was a true villain. You're pretty cool, but you're a nice girl. Are you really sure you're made of the same stuff?"

It was a question she'd wrestled with all her life. Jewel thief and supervillain, or quiet and mousy personal assistant with no life beyond all her pets. Neither choice seemed like much, but it was all she'd ever had. "I guess we'll finally see tonight, won't we?"

Peter thought on it for a moment before sidling towards the edge. "Whatever it is that you do, you do it well," he ordered.

She nodded and pushed away, floating above the bright city. She scratched at the spandex and made sure her mask was on, held in place with the trick her aunt had taught her. No one could remove it but her, but that didn't stop her worrying that someone might try and bring her two worlds crashing together. "Thanks for all your help. You be careful too."

"I always am. Just watch out for the Gryphon, he always gets the girl."

She thought of the powerful superhero, the flying boy scout with super strength who made women's hearts (and lower things) flutter every night.

Carlos could blab about her boss James all he wanted, but there was a part of her that would be forever fascinated with the blonde superhero. She had every reason in the world to hate him but her body just didn't seem to understand that.

She wasn't worried that he'd catch her; she was worried she might give in to temptation and let herself be caught.


He was too tired to go out, and if he had to fight with that little minx again he was sure he'd ruin his good reputation with a serious spanking. He thought of the tight spandex suit and her lush curves and closed his eyes, groaning. Okay, spanking was not the right idea, nor was bondage, or any of the other mental images he couldn't shake.

She'd spent the last two nights trying to break into his house, and tonight, instead of going out to stop her as Gryphon, James McBride was just going to damn well sit there and wait for her as himself. He knew who the would-be villain was, and what she was after, and she'd have to come inside his bedroom to get it.

He made sure the curtains were open, the window too, and he changed for bed as if it were just a normal night. His movements were stiff, and though he had only pure intentions in his mind, his body knew better. Once he had Raven Keppler in his bedroom, he wasn't going to let her go. He would make her fess up, and then he was going to give them what they both wanted.

It was not yet eleven and he poured himself a glass of brandy to pass the time. For two days now he'd waited to see if she knew he was Gryphon, or if she'd admit to it. To see if she'd admit she'd put on her aunt's suit and assumed the dead woman's identity. Not that she had any reason to come clean, after all she was trying to steal from him, and Raven had no idea at all that he knew her aunt had been Dryad.

The world of Supers was a small one, and she had been raised on the wrong side of it. Her damn aunt had used her as a sidekick when she was just a kid, working as lookout while she pilfered houses. No great evil cause, she never tried to take over the world, she just had a need to strike back at a world that had been cruel to Annette Keppler. Pretty young Raven had been caught up, and when Master Bloodless had killed Dryad, she'd been alone in the world.

Annette had long been James' father's lover, and if Samuel McBride knew Annette's real identity he hadn't let on. Instead he'd taken Raven under his wing and saw to it she had an education, and made his son promise to always look out for her.

She'd been back for five years. Five years and he hadn't once seen her use her powers. Five years of tightly wound hair buns, bad suits, and soft smiles that had driven him out of his mind. For five years he'd wanted to touch her but couldn't.

Raven was many things, and the biggest part of her was honorable. She hadn't wanted to repeat her aunt's mistakes, to fall in love with a man she saw as so different, to find herself tempted by a lifestyle that was foreign. For five years he had greatly admired that restraint, but he too had waited too long and now it seemed she'd given in to the dark side.

And that meant she was fair game.

He didn't know if she was there for the key sitting in his safe, or if she was after something else. He didn't have much that would tempt the niece of a great jewel thief, especially not since every day she was in his house, could walk off with a Lalique vase if so desired. Truthfully, he didn't really care why she was trying to break in. He would find out, and James was in the mood to toy with her first.

He wanted that long brown hair wrapped around his fist, to feel those long supple legs wrapped around his waist as he sank into her pale, soft flesh. He wanted to feel her surrounding him, hear her moan and surrender to him, to taste her and feel her as he'd ached to do for so long.

Raven Keppler had been in his blood for five years now, always quiet, always hard working, always evasive. Now he knew what it was she had been hiding, and he wasn't above exploiting her secret to get what he wanted.

Raven Keppler, now Dryad, wouldn't know what had hit her.


She was trembling. Ten years ago she had sworn she'd never do this again, and yet here she was, about to steal from the man who'd taken her in and given her a chance when the whole world had turned its back on her.

No one knew for sure that Annette Keppler had been the first Dryad, the McBrides had seen to it that her aunt's secrets were buried with her. They'd made sure she had an education and a future, and James had always been a friend. And now she had to violate the trust between them.

She had no idea just what she would find in his personal safe, but if she didn't retrieve it, well, her life would be over. Again. The man waiting at home for her would see to it the whole world knew not only Annette's secrets, but her own. If she didn't make it back that night with the contents of that safe...well, she wasn't going to think of what would happen.

As she flew into the yard on Prairie Avenue, Gryphon was nowhere to be seen in the skies above. She checked her watch and smiled, knowing he must be across town foiling a nonexistent bank robbery by then. As James' personal assistant she knew he was going to be at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation gala until late into the night, and everyone else in the house was asleep.

The coast was clear.

As far as super powers went, hers were generally considered useless, but as she was the only one around who could talk to animals they were usually happy to help her out. James' dog Zeke was supposed to leave the window open, and his room was dark and the window open a crack.

"Good boy," she chuckled softly under her breath as she floated down and grasped the window. Slowly she pushed it up, checking the dark houses surrounding James', and scanning the sky all the while. Nothing but a few planes headed for Midway, she saw with a smile. No big, flying blondes anywhere near there.

The window was up and she artfully flew in, her flight not like Gryphon's powerful speed, more like the gentle movements of a butterfly. At least she could do it, and while that wasn't an offensive power, it was defensive, and quite handy for a villainess. At that moment she might have been willing to trade it for night vision, since she was cursed with very human night blindness. The light outside was too bright and the room too dark for her eyes, and as she was only his personal assistant she hadn't spent more than ten seconds in James' bedroom in five years of employment.

She tried to navigate by memory and tripped over something on the floor by his chair and went sprawling on the bed. Before she could recover she heard a grunt and then a body was on top of her.

She fought instinctively but the attacker was larger, stronger, and faster. Damn her family for not having any super speed genes, or super strength, she thought as she tried to use her nails to some effect. At last she was pinned down, her arms stretched above her and clamped in a large hand, wrists together.

The attacker moved and before she could say anything a very soft light flipped on by the bedside, and she was staring into the bluest eyes she'd ever seen. Rave froze as James smiled down at her.

"Hello," he said with smugness in his voice. "What do we have here? The great Dryad, caught by a- what did you call me the last time we met? Oh, yes, a 'pampered rich boy'."

She gulped. Had her aunt really called him that? James might be rich and he might be male, but pampered was not the right word. Nobody she knew worked harder or had better ethics than James McBride, or a better body.

"So easy to catch, and such a treat. No one's seen you in years. Shall we just see who you are?"

He reached for her mask and she struggled against him, but he was like a rock. To keep her from kicking him he settled between her legs and the intimate pose made her freeze. She didn't trust her voice to speak, and she just had to trust that the live saplings would hold the mask in place.

His free hand found her mask and tugged but it wouldn't give. She smiled at him then, relieved to know her one other power worked. The ties on the back wouldn't give up their hold on her mask until she ordered it or they died. Or until he cut them with an iron knife, but she knew for a fact he didn't have one handy.

"What is this? Superglued?"

She wanted to laugh at his puzzled expression but then he glared at her. Even irate he was still the most handsome man she'd ever seen. His face belonged in a museum, on a statue, from the thick, sensual lips flat-lined in anger to his patrician nose, and those eyes of his, jewel blue, thickly lashed, and large.

She stared into them for a breathless moment, terrified they could see more than she wanted, terrified that all her secrets were laid bare. Worse, that he could tell her body was reacting to him with all the pent-up need she'd held in check for five years.

He shifted, grinding his hips against hers, and her eyes flared. Oh, yeah, he could tell. "The mask isn't coming off," she finally whispered.

The hand tugging at it dropped to her shoulder. "I can see that." Somehow he found the zipper beneath her arm and yanked. She gasped but it was no use, the left side of her suit was opening, the spandex eager to return to its naturally smaller state, leaving her skin bare in the night air.

What the hell was he doing?

"If I can't see under the mask, I'll see under the suit," he said in a low voice.

She blushed, hadn't realized she'd spoken aloud. She struggled but it was impossible. The man was pure muscle and she wasn't getting up until he wanted her to.

"You don't want to do this," she said on a breathless whisper.

"Don't I?" He lowered the zipper to her hip and the only thing keeping the top covering her chest was the press of his body. "I seem to think we both want this."

She tried to still her breathing but it was too hard. Even with everything that was happening, all she could focus on was his eyes, those large hands, his warm skin, and the scent of him. For far too long she'd wanted this man and here was her chance to take what she didn't dare in her alter ego. She didn't care that he didn't know who she was, if it gave her a chance, she was going to take it.

He lifted his chest and the spandex pulled back, exposing her breasts held only in her bra. Thank God it was decent, she thought. Even if it was the plainest one Victoria's Secret sold it wasn't grandmotherly at all. He picked her up like she weighed nothing and dropped her on the bed, claiming her wrists again before she could move.

Something almost feral flowed into his eyes and he licked his lips slowly. Her body shuddered in response and at long last he lifted his gaze to meet hers. "Tell me to stop and I will, Dryad."

She winced at the name, but her heartbeat was pounding in her ears. Every inch of her felt alive and needy, straining to touch him. He lowered his chest and she felt the press of flesh and crisp hair to own soft skin, realizing he was most likely naked. He didn't stop until his lips hovered over hers. "Tell me to stop," he repeated.

She shook her head and he stopped her with a kiss. Her body sizzled with heat and need at the press of lips, and then he opened her mouth and slid inside. Her body damn near exploded at that, and she moaned while her legs wrapped around him to press them closer together.

There was shifting and she felt something complicated happening with her arms but her brain didn't register, all she felt was him, all she tasted was him. Her eyes closed long after his to savor the taste of man and something darker.

Then the sensation of cold against her wrists made her tear away from the kiss. "What the hell?"

He smiled down at her and she looked up, but could only see her arms were bare, freed of the suit. Her wrists wouldn't move, not even when he slid the hand that had been holding them down to cup her face. She really wished there was more light.

"You handcuffed me, you bastard."

"You didn't say stop." He grinned triumphantly while she just glared at him.

He rolled off her and peeled the suit down slowly, feeling in the material no doubt for keys or a wallet, as if spandex would allow for it. He came up for empty, save for a wolfish grin.

She wondered just how well he could see in the pitch dark, and though she wanted to cover her body the damn handcuffs wouldn't allow her to move. How the hell was she going to get out this? Worse, did she really want to?

He knelt again on the bed and slid his palms over her ankles and up her calves. Just as reason had begun to return his touch burned it away, brought sharp focus to the sensations he granted. Her breath hitched as his thumbs kneaded their way over her knees. Her legs spread further apart without conscious thought, her whole being centered on his hands.

She closed her eyes, though it didn't matter. The dim lamp beside the bed revealed nothing but a few scant lines of his body to her, but his touch was sharp and lasting.

He skimmed over her hips leaving her in keen disappointment until he slid his hot palms up to cup her breasts. Even through the lace of her bra she could feel his rough texture and her nipples hardened quickly, her back arching into the caress.

"God, I wish I didn't want you so much," he whispered. The comment puzzled her but then he tugged down the cups and she felt his thumbs swipe over her aching flesh, thrusting all conscious thought from her mind.

Everything narrowed down to that moment as he stroked slowly, and then pinched the sensitive nubs. She cried out and he rolled them between thumb and forefingers as she twisted on the bed, desperate for more.

He shifted and she opened her eyes to see him take one dark tip deep into his mouth. The wet pressure drove her mad and she moaned louder, a wordless plea for relief he blatantly ignored. He used lips and tongue and teeth to push her higher, until she was making animal sounds she didn't even recognize.

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