WARNING: Adult content intended for readers 18 and older

Originally published by Cleis Press in Best Lesbian Erotica 2011 under my real name, Betty Blue, "The Garden of Earthly Delights" is a related-world story to The House of Arkhangel'sk and Demons of Elysium series. If you can't tell by the name of the anthology, this is f/f. ;) It features all the hot demony (and angely) goodness of the series.


by Jane Kindred

Phera danced like a demon goddess, limbs twisting and whirling amid the feather and flame in a way no ordinary creature ought to be able. Her ebony hair sparkled with bits of mica in the candlelight and Aryn held her breath, certain the flying strands would catch fire as Phera spun herself through the maze of candelabra. As she reached the end, she plucked the last candle from its holder and ran the flame across her bare skin, igniting the accelerant she had painted herself with in a stunning swirl of pale violet that licked across her body.

She somehow used the fringe of feathers that decorated her arms to snuff the flame as she danced, and with the last of it still burning, Phera snaked toward the crowd and presented herself to be extinguished by some lucky patron. Aryn swallowed as Phera’s eyes settled on her. There was no time to be bashful or Phera could be scarred. The dancer knelt over Aryn’s lap and arched back with her feathered arms poised like wings across her crown, a trail of violet running from her navel to the dark patch of hair between her legs and another circling up around one sharp-peaked breast.

Aryn ran her fingers down the smooth flesh, smothering the flame and pausing over the moister heat below it while reaching with her other hand for the fire teasing over Phera’s breast. Before she could close her hand over it, however, Phera rose toward her, placing her breast before Aryn’s mouth. She made a sound of pain as Aryn hesitated, and Aryn dove forward and smothered the flame with her tongue. Phera sighed and pressed in close, running her feathers down Aryn’s back, moving against her until Aryn took her in her mouth and sucked.

Aryn closed her eyes, sliding her hands around the muscled back and holding the smooth body close, the hard nipple still hot against her tongue, and then Phera pulled back with a whispered laugh and took her body away.

“Don’t be greedy, little boy.” She winked and stroked her feathers down Aryn’s temple and throat before she twirled away.

The man to Aryn’s right nudged her in the ribs with a grin and several others slapped her on the back as the show ended. “First time?” asked one of them and Aryn nodded, not trusting her voice. But it wasn’t. She had watched Phera from the back of the crowd dozens of times and only tonight had scraped the coin and the courage together to pay for a seat on the cushions that circled the stage.

The Garden of Earthly Delights was a high-class establishment among the many lesser names that jumbled for space and clamored for attention in the district of Raqia known as the Devil’s Doorstep. It was the lesser end of the celestial plane, where the peasant class of the Fallen was relegated to its ghetto. But The Garden drew a more exclusive kind of clientele than the average den of iniquity. Young men of means among the angelic class who spent their school holidays in Raqia as a lark were its frequent patrons. And Phera was its main attraction.

Aryn slipped back into the crowd, her tongue still tingling from whatever accelerant Phera had used. It tasted sweet and peppery at the same time. She wandered out into the cold night, still feeling the soft slope of the dancer’s belly against her palm and the downy tuft of hair she had dared to slip her fingers into to touch the heat of Phera that had nothing to do with flame.

She stumbled into someone coming out the side exit as she rounded the corner. Aryn ducked her head, mumbling an apology, and then pulled back in surprise as a firm hand grabbed her around the wrist. Eyes like minks’ were laughing at her inside a hooded cloak. She had stumbled into Phera.

“Watch where you’re going, boy,” she chided. Her hand was still on Aryn’s wrist. “What house are you with?”

“House?” Aryn took a conscious step back, her heart thudding in her chest. “I’m not with any house. I’m from Raqia.” Aryn let out a hiss of surprise when Phera let go of her wrist and slapped her.

“Do I look like a fool to you? Do you think I don’t recognize one of the Host? You highborn angel boys come here slumming, to get your dicks in the dirt, and you think the stupid peasants can’t tell the difference. Then you go back to the heights of Elysium, laughing about the nasty snatch you bought for a tinker’s coin.”

“I’m….” Aryn couldn’t very well tell her what she was really doing here, that she’d stolen her brother’s clothing to sneak out and watch Phera dance every night since they’d seen her at the demon faire at Ma’on.

“Not what? Old enough for demon pussy?” Phera’s eyes were reflecting the torchlight on the street with an odd, amber hue, and Aryn lost the last bit of sense she might have had.

“You’re a real firespirit,” she breathed.

Phera blinked at her and the glints of burning embers in her pupils disappeared. “Oh, boy. And you’re a real virgin, aren’t you? How old are you? Does your daddy know you’re here?”

Aryn backed away. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.” She turned around and headed back toward the main street before Phera could see her cheeks blazing hot enough to rival her act. What an idiot. You’re a real firespirit.

“Hang on,” called Phera after a moment, hurrying to catch up to her. “Come on, kid, wait a second.” She caught Aryn by the sleeve and Aryn shrugged away. “I’m the one who was rude. You didn’t deserve that.” Phera sighed. “Look, this is a dangerous neighborhood for you to be walking around alone in at night. Why don’t you come with me to the auberge where I’m rooming and get some breakfast until it’s a little lighter out here.”

“I’m not a child,” snapped Aryn, turning toward her finally. “I know my way around Raqia.”

“Well, maybe I’d like an escort,” said Phera with a toss of her glittering hair. “Or aren’t you a gentleman?” Phera’s condensed breath glowed dimly as it hung in the air before her, a reminder of the heat she had generated in the club.

Aryn put her hands in her pockets. “I guess.”

“You guess you’re a gentleman?”

“I guess I can give you an escort,” sighed Aryn in exasperation.

Phera winked and tucked her arm through Aryn’s. “This way,” she said, turning Aryn back toward the alley where Aryn had stumbled into her. The alley was unlit by torches and the cobblestone beneath their feet was pitted and cracked, with patches of dead grass poking up through holes where stones had been dug out and carried off as if demons had picked at it like birds robbing for their own nests. It was a far more dangerous-looking place than the main strip of the Devil’s Doorstep, and Aryn found herself worrying for Phera that she had to walk this route after dancing for the liquored rabble back at the club.

Liquored rabble of which Aryn was one. It had taken three shots of Raqia Redeye to get up the nerve to buy the full-price ticket. Phera pressed in closer to her and Aryn felt her palms sweating in her pockets despite the cold. The dancer’s sleek curves melted into her through the cloak. Aryn wondered if she wore anything beneath it.

Phera stopped at a brightly lit stoop and nodded her head toward the door. “This is the house,” she said, waiting for Aryn to open the door like a gentleman. Aryn hurried up the steps and pulled on the latch, but it wouldn’t budge. “You have to knock,” said Phera, coming up behind her. Aryn blushed. Of course you had to knock. As she raised her hand to do it, the door flew open.

“What business do you have here?” demanded the house matron, and then saw Phera behind her. “Ah, it’s you, dear, sorry. I heard voices and thought it was that damned angel riffraff again. Think every house in Raqia’s a den of iniquity.” She looked Aryn up and down as Phera led her in. “Where’d you pick up that one? A little wet behind the ears, ain’t he?”

“Hush, Myra, he’s just here for a bite to eat and to keep me company.”

The front hall of the house was equipped with a long table and half a dozen boarders—dancers like Phera home after a late shift—were already seated at it, devouring a simple meal of biscuits and gravy despite the hour. Phera dragged Aryn to it and pulled off her hood as she sat on the end of the bench and scooted in.

“Sit down,” she said. “They don’t bite.”

Myra was already ladling gravy onto plates of biscuits and tossing them down in front of them. Aryn sat and accepted the plate, wondering if she ought to pay the woman now or afterward, and how she was supposed to know what it cost. She had little left after the extravagance of the ticket. Her family might be Host, but they were no noble, moneyed house, just simple textile merchants who dealt with the lower echelon of Elysium—and often, of Raqia. Her father wasn’t particular. Coin was coin.

“So what do they call you?” asked Phera, sopping up gravy. Aryn hesitated. Her name was ambiguous enough, but did she want to give it out so freely? “Never mind, I’ll give you a name myself.” Phera tilted her head and looked at her for a moment. “Babe,” she said decisively. Aryn reddened and flinched as Phera ran a finger across her jaw. “Not even peach fuzz yet.” She shook her head. “And very good at suckling.”

Aryn nearly choked on her biscuit. The others at the table laughed and Aryn didn’t dare look up. She tensed as Phera put a warm hand on her thigh beneath the table. The heat from the dancer’s hand was deliberate, and it was drawing an answering heat from deep inside her.

“Tell you what I’m going to do for you, Babe.” She pushed her plate away and edged her hand up farther. “Since you’ve been such a good sport, I’m going to give you a private dance.”

Aryn nearly jumped away from her, grabbing her hand as it got too close. “That’s not necessary,” she said. Not necessary? Idiot. It was very necessary. Nothing had ever seemed so necessary in her life. How likely was this offer ever to come again?

“Ah, I’ve embarrassed you.” Phera stood up, pulling Aryn to her feet. “Come on, we’ll talk in private.” Aryn went with her dumbly, her body arguing with her mind. Phera led her up a narrow staircase of painted wood toward an attic room. There was no rail, and the steps were poorly placed, so Aryn held tight to Phera’s hand, palm sweating against it, like a fool.

Phera unlocked a low door that they both had to duck under and ushered Aryn into a pleasant room draped in cerise fabric and tossed with overstuffed pillows on the bare wooden floor that seemed to be used in place of a bed. Phera sat her down on the single chair facing outward before the vanity and lit a lamp and some incense in a bowl that sat before the mirror.

“I know; it’s cold as the devil in here,” Phera said as Aryn shivered. The Fallen were fond of invoking the earthly myth, and employed it liberally throughout Raqia as a conscious acknowledgment of what the Host thought of them. Phera took off her cloak and settled it over Aryn’s shoulders, and as Aryn had suspected, she had on only the feathered sleeves made of sheer fabric and the equally sheer drape, with a skirt made out of chiffon scarves, that she had worn when she first began her dance. The lamplight glinted off her body in strategic places.

“You liked my dance,” said Phera, swaying slightly, and playing her fingers between the hanging strips of cloth at her thighs.

“Yes.” It would be stupid to deny it.

“I think you’re a very naughty boy,” said Phera, coming closer.

“I’m not….” Aryn bit her lip. Shut up! You’ll never get to see her dance again. Just shut up.

“Not naughty?” Phera straddled her legs and stroked Aryn’s thighs. Her hands were too close and Aryn scooted back.


Phera thrust her hand into the waistband of Aryn’s brother’s pants. “Or not a boy?” Aryn gasped as Phera dug her fingers in deeply to verify her suspicion. “Oh, definitely naughty, Babe. Very naughty.”

Phera’s fingers began to prickle with firespirit heat and Aryn felt the moisture almost running from her cunt at their touch. Phera prodded her, fingers teasing around the outside, and then one slipping across the center between her damp lips, drawing a breathy gasp from her.

“No, I don’t think you deserve a lap dance after all.”

Aryn moaned as the hot fingers burrowed into her. Phera stroked her lightly for a moment, moving like silk between her aching flesh, and then thrust with expert dexterity. Aryn yielded to her, hips moving in involuntary waves, and Phera laughed and pulled her fingers away as a moan of disappointment escaped her. The dancer painted her wet fingers over Aryn’s mouth and then pushed them between her lips as she had done below.

“Suckle, Babe,” she murmured in her ear. “Since you do it so well.”

Aryn suckled, tasting her own arousal on the heat of Phera’s fingers, tasting the warm skin and wanting more. Phera took the fingers away and slung her leg off Aryn’s lap as she dropped the bare garment onto the floor, once again wearing only the stylized sleeves meant to be a jab at the earthly concept of an angel’s wings. The white feathers were stark against her deep olive skin and her eyes sparkled with brimstone fire.

“Naughty Babe. What can we do with you?” She pushed the cloak over the back of the chair. “Are those even your clothes?” Aryn shook her head. “Then take them off.” The brimstone flared. Aryn pulled down her suspenders and unbuttoned her shirt, hardly daring to look at Phera as she exposed herself. Phera crouched beside her and smoothed her hands across her torso and then ran an impossibly warm tongue up one side of her ribs.

“Didn’t tell you to stop,” she breathed, and yanked back on the gentleman’s bob Aryn had tied her pale brown curls into. Aryn unbuttoned the pants and began working them down as Phera’s mouth closed over her breast. The heat of her tongue increased and Aryn’s chest was heaving as she arched beneath her, the pants stalled at her thighs. Phera yanked them down to her ankles and sucked the other breast into her mouth as her fingers worried Aryn’s clit.

Phera looked up at her then, and her eyes were glowing orange. “So you want to know what it’s like with a real firespirit.”

“I didn’t know you were—”

“Grab the chair legs and don’t you move,” she ordered. Aryn put her arms behind her and clutched the top of the chair legs, and Phera darted forward toward her open thighs. Aryn saw the glowing tip of her tongue before it entered her and she cried out, nearly toppling backward into the vanity.

Phera was devouring her, the hot tongue slaking its thirst inside her, her hands nearly crushing her breasts. It never occurred to Aryn to try scramble away or tell her to stop. Phera’s tongue was plundering her, a red-hot brand that snaked and lapped and prodded her until she thought she would die. The legs of the chair began to rock as Aryn shook, a violent storm building in her, and she began to wail and moan, rocking harder and faster against the wood floor in a desperate rhythm until she screamed and arched up on her toes into the hot mouth.

The climax tore through her in rolling waves as if the storm inside her had broken and she was now its beach, pounded and battered and tossed about like wet sand, a ferocious ocean of caps and swells hurtling onto her again and again until she was weak and trembling, pulled back into the deep until she thought she’d drown and hurled once more into an untidy heap of her own pulverized matter. And then the waves at last rolled out and stilled, leaving her a sodden, shipwrecked mess in Phera’s hands.

Phera’s tongue cooled and she sucked at her gently, her hands loosening on Aryn’s breasts and teasing her nipples, and Aryn closed her eyes, tension draining from her like the sweat rolling over her skin. Phera laughed against her softly, a sound of pleasure, a wicked, hungry sound vibrating her sensitive clit, and then the heat rose like a rocket candle into her cunt as Phera began again.

Aryn wailed in protest, cupping her thighs around Phera’s head with her brother’s pants dangling from one ankle as Phera drove her once more to a frenzied pitch, hot hands moving over her breasts and pinching her nipples while her tongue scoured her until she thought she would be burned away. And then she rocked violently into Phera’s mouth once more, shrieking and gasping, and thrusting her ass as far forward on the chair as she could get to reach that heat.

Phera steadied her as it receded at last, pushing her back onto the chair with a gentle kiss. Aryn opened her eyes, panting, exhausted, and saw the flash of fire in Phera’s eyes once more. Oh, no. No more. Her head was shouting it, but her mouth would not, and Phera took her again, growling into her with exuberant sounds of delight as she suckled and thrust without mercy, bringing Aryn to a howling maelstrom of climax again and more, boiling over, the heat unbearable, until at last Aryn fell forward against her, sobbing and grasping incoherently at her mica-littered hair.

The demon dancer untangled the pants from her feet and pulled her down into her lap, letting Aryn cling to her until the sobbing ebbed. She kissed Aryn with her own smoldering scent, her face sticky with her, and rolled with her onto the pillows as Aryn quieted, dragging a blanket of silk across their bodies as they tumbled, limbs threading in their own elaborate dance.

It should have been freezing in the attic room, but Phera’s body was warm and humid against her. Phera lay back, her dark hair snaking across the pillows, candle and moonlight turning the adorned tresses into a swell of dark, rippling waves that hinted at the power she had drawn from Aryn’s body, and sighed. Her dark-tipped breasts were heaving as if she too were depleted and scarce of breath.

“I’ve never even met a demon who would sit still for that,” gasped Phera, sounding pleased and a bit amazed. Aryn could only hum against her shoulder in answer. Phera curled her body around Aryn’s and pulled her back against her, brushing her fingers along Aryn’s thigh as she rested her head in the hollow of her collarbone. “Well, sweet Babe,” she murmured sleepily. “You’ll have to show me how well you suckle in the morning. You’ve worn me out.”

Aryn was drifting toward unconsciousness, her body so relaxed that it might have melted into a puddle, when Phera sighed and spoke once more as if in her sleep. “Don’t fly away, little angel,” she mumbled against her nape, her arms tightening around her. “I haven’t had a chance to punish you yet for being naughty.”