Drake (Book 1)

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[14]-Forbidden fruit

Genesis 3:19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.

8:36 a.m.

Lyn looked over her shoulder to see the old gardener gone without a trace. A gust of wind ruffled her hair and blew a pile of leaves into a crazed frenzy. The entrance that led to the forbidden tree was sealed shut by thick vegetation lined with whip-like thorns. She heard a voice that hissed like a snake. Terror strangled her body like iron chains, but she turned towards the tree.

She gulped. In the center of the tree were the petrified faces of several women. Beautiful women that she had never known but seemed familiar. One face stood out. Lyn shrieked as it opened its eyes and formed a wicked smile. The face sported long tangible hair, eyes like a dove and a heart-shaped face. Lyn knew that face. Irene. She muffled a scream with her hands and shook like a leaf.

The tree presented her with an apple resting on its branches. Lyn closed her eyes. For a moment, she returned to the past of her childhood. It was one crisp Autumn day where she was surrounded by a plethora of red and orange leaves on the ground. She stood before a tree in the playground. Her friends had all gone home for the evening and she found herself alone.

“I remember that day… That tree. Just like the one I had seen when I was a girl. It was skinny, twisted, and evil. Just like this one here…”

“There has been no one here since Drake,” the tree said, “and that girl. Yes, that’s right. She was beautiful. Just like you are.”

Lyn pushed away the branch. The tree’s face formed an angry frown. It formed a wall around her with its branches. “Stay a while. I have had no visitors in years…”

Lyn summoned the courage to form her first few words. “What- what are you?”

“Ah,” the tree said, relieved. “My name is Dryad. I am the nymph that lives within this tree. I bear the demon fruit.”

“Demon fruit?” Curiosity briefly overwhelmed Lyn’s fear.

Dryad chuckled. It had a distorted voice of something that didn’t belong in this world. Something sinister. As it laughed, another voice emerged from within. Like the voice of a regular woman. Lyn guessed most likely Irene. Then it disappeared within the bowels of darkness.

“Yes,” Dryad continued. “My fruit will give you everything you’ve ever wanted. Your deepest desires. There is just one thing I want in return-”

“Which is?”

“My roots require the blood of a young maiden. Just a few drops. What do you say?”

Lyn averted her gaze. Before she could even contemplate her words, the tree spoke again. The bait was cast and Lyn was the fish in the pond.

“You want to know where your sister is, right?”

Lyn’s head snapped towards the tree. “How did you know about my sister?”

The face formed another wicked grin. “These roots are planted deep and have seen many things.”

It presented her with another apple. Dryad lowered into Lyn’s awaiting palms. She pulled the apple from its branch and observed its brilliance. The apple shimmered in the sun like it was made of glass. She didn’t recall apples looking this enticing. Just how far down the rabbit hole would she go this time? Lyn opened her mouth.

“Nothing ventured… Nothing gained…”

8:37 a.m.

That stupid girl… He grabbed her arm and squeezed just before she could bite into it. Lyn yelped and dropped the apple. She instinctively turned to strike him. But as she realized who she was striking, she pulled her punch. Her fist thumped against Drake’s broad chest, and she lowered her head. He lifted her chin to eye level. His face was dark with anger. The firm grip on her chin was less than pleasant.

She stumbled back as he released her. His eyes strayed towards the tree. He cringed at the sight of Irene’s petrified face embedded in its bark. That was too fucking close…

“Drake… I- I thought you were in London on business…”

“I was,” he replied. “But I left something here that I needed. Aren’t you supposed to be at ballet?”

“Today’s a down day…”

He looked over to see the face in the trunk had vanished. It was just another petrified tree. But Drake knew better. Lyn’s curiosity would lead her back to it again. Some things were better left buried, but he couldn’t run from the past forever. How he wished he could have burned that tree to the ground. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

The tree was just as part of the estate as everything else was. But more so, a monument. A monument of his colossal failure to his love, Irene. No deed, no matter how great or noble would ever redeem such a failure. He took that punishment upon himself. The tree would remain there until the end of days. Its roots embedded deep into the soil until he himself would return to ashes.

“How did you get in here?” Lyn asked. “The entrance was sealed…”

Drake formed a dubious expression. “Sealed? What are you talking about? It was wide open.”

He snatched her hand and pulled her away from the tree. They left its perimeter and headed back towards the cemetery to the main house. As they passed a few gravestones, Lyn saw the old gardener leaning against his shovel. His face was as blank as the graves. Drake didn’t seem to notice him.

She dug her heels into the ground, stopping them in place. Drake sighed and folded his arms. “Okay? What is it now?”

Lyn scoffed and turned her head.

His face softened. Damn that girl. She was the only person in the world that could make him do that. The only person who he made himself vulnerable for. “I get it. You’re doing this for attention aren’t you? Shit…”

He pondered for a moment, and then it came to him. “It’s because I missed your ballet recital the other day, right?”

Lyn crossed her arms. Her expression was resigned. “Well, that’s a start.”

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