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By Alana Church
Artwork by Moira Nelligar
Copyright 2017 Alana Church
~~ All characters in this book are over 18. ~~
By Alana Church
Artwork by Moira Nelligar
Copyright 2017 Alana Church
~~ All characters in this book are over 18. ~~
Is it possible to be bored in heaven?
Doriel, beloved seraphim of God, singer in the heavenly choir, and ex-corporal in the Host of the Lord, sighed as she lay on her bed in her residence in the Celestial City. Across from her, having just completed an extended session of lovemaking, was Ambriel, her current lover, his jet-black hair spread on her pillows like a pool of ink.
He smiled, his perfect lips curving in a sweet bow. Ripe and red as cherries, they drew her in despite her discontent. Even after a prolonged and vigorous bout in his arms, part of her wanted to wake his wonderful cock again. At least while she was making love, she could ignore the dark thoughts that were crowding her mind. “Thank you, dearest,” he said. “That was...very nice.”
She smiled back at him, but her heart wasn't in it. Ambriel was everything she could want in a lover; kind, generous, and skilled in bed. It wasn't his fault she was tired of him, the same way she was tired of everything else.
Everything was perfect in the Celestial City. The hymns of praise to God were never out of tune. The streets were always immaculate, the pure white marble inlaid with precious metals and gems beyond price or count, indescribably beautiful. The weather was always, forgive the pun, heavenly. Even the rain and snow was, on those rare occasions when it was permitted to fall, only for the sake of variety. No stray lightning strike ever damaged one of the soaring trees, no sudden gust of wind ever broke a window, no one ever froze to death in a blizzard.
What do you do when perfection is dull?
Her lover rose from the bed, drawing his robes around the sculpted beauty of his body. “Doriel?” His beautifully modulated voice was oddly hesitant.
His glorious eyes, dark blue and fathomless as the sky at twilight, were sad. “I'm not making you happy, am I?”
A swift protest rose to her lips, but she slowly nodded instead. “No, you're not.” She closed her mouth on a sudden burst of bitter laughter. “To use a human phrase, it's not you. It's me.”
“Hmmm.” He took her in an embrace. True to his nature, the gesture held nothing but simple comfort and love. “Can I give you some advice?”
To her shock, her eyes were brimming with tears. “Please.”
“I've known for a long time that you have been unhappy. Years. You should see someone. It's not good for one of us to be discontented. You know what can happen.”
She shuddered at the reminder. Ages ago, some of the strongest angels had rebelled against God, seeking to overthrow Him and seize power for themselves. The War in Heaven had taken the lives of angels beyond count. Dozens of her friends had perished in the fighting. It was only by a supreme effort that Doriel and Ambriel and their allies had vanquished the traitorous hordes and had cast them down into the Pit. Even now, they lingered there, denizens of the foulest depths of depravity, plotting their destruction. Their hatred was everlasting and eternal.
She gave a shaky laugh. “Ambriel, I'm not the sort to try to start a rebellion.”
“No, you're not. But you need something to do. If one could accuse our Lord of making a mistake-”
“Which we won't.”
“-it would be that too many of us don't have tasks to suit our skills. We are beautiful and powerful and immortal. Isn't there more to existence than eternal songs of praise or the occasional smiting of the wicked?”
She nodded slow agreement. The same thoughts had passed through her mind, more than once. “So who should I see?”
“Michael,” he responded promptly.
“An archangel? Ambriel, be serious. He is too far above me in rank. It would be crazy for me to approach him.”
“Michael,” he repeated firmly. “If anyone will know what to do with you, it will be him. He has the ear of some powerful people.” He raised his elegantly drawn eyebrows significantly.
Doriel's mind spun furiously. There were very, very few individuals in the Celestial City more powerful than the archangels. If Michael set a task for her, it would be almost as good as claiming that God Himself had given it to her.
The audacity took her breath away. “I'll...think about it.”
“Don't think.” He bent and placed a farewell kiss on her forehead.
So it was that a few days later she found herself knocking timidly on the door of the Archangel Michael's office. It had taken her a full two days to work up her nerve. As she had approached the building, she had grown more and more afraid. It was close to where God Himself dwelt, and she could sense the terrifying blaze of power on her skin, like a campfire on a cold night.
The building itself was huge, with hundreds of other angels working there. As she passed through, she began to think that perhaps Ambriel had been right. Maybe Michael could find her something to do in administering the vast expanses of both Heaven and the mortal realm. Humans spirits showed up in Heaven, tens of thousands on any given day, and had to be acclimated to their futures. And there was usually some task that needed to be done on Earth.
Right now I'm even willing to be a guardian angel. I don't care how boring Ostiel says it is. It has to be better than this.
At last the tastefully decorated corridors led her to Michael's office. There was no one guarding access to the archangel. Anyone who got this far, it seemed, was important enough for him to see.
And deserved what they got if they angered him.
He could blow me out like a candle if I displeased Him, she thought in sudden mad terror. What am I even doing here?
“Come in,” said a resonant voice.
She walked in slowly. “I'm sorry. Are you busy? I can come back later.” In truth, it was all she could do to force her trembling legs forward.
The archangel made a polite gesture. “Not at all...Doriel, isn't it?”
“Yes, my lord.”
He smiled at her, the shining glory of his face making her squint. “And were we all not created on the same day, child? Are we not all equal in His eyes? Come in. Sit down. Stop shaking. What can I do for you?”
She sat in an elegantly carved chair. “I'm...I want...”
He raised his brows curiously.
“I'm bored!” she burst out suddenly. “I've existed for thousands of years. I've sung the praises of God for generations beyond count. I've taken dozens of lovers, lost them, and taken new ones.
“I want...I want...I don't know what I want. But I know it isn't this. Please. Give me something to do, or I will go crazy.”
He looked at her for a long moment, his eyes frankly appraising. “Doriel,” he said, as if familiarizing himself with her history and her skills. “A singer. And a warrior.”
She fidgeted, twisting her foot into the lush carpet. “I'm no warrior. Not really. I fought to stay alive during the war. Like most of us did.”
He made an elegant movement of his shoulders. Not disagreeing, but not agreeing, either. “As you say. Yes,” he said slowly. “Yes, I think I might have a task for you.”
He sat down behind his desk, his agile fingers tapping at the buttons of his keyboard. “Come on, you thrice-damned son of a motherless donkey,” he swore gently. He looked up at Doriel, his eyes mischievous. “Isn't it strange,” he said, “that humans have better computers than we do? If it wasn't flatly forbidden, I'd arrange for few convenient traffic accidents at Microsoft, just so we could get some decent software engineers up here. Try running an organization this big when everything you have is at least ten years out of date. Unfortunately, there's not enough believers in the tech set. Too many atheists. We don't get them up here when they die.”
“Where do they go?” she asked curiously, drawn out of her depression by his cheerful chatter.
“Not for me to tell, even if I knew,” he said, pointing his thumb upward. “I'm high up the totem pole, but there's a lot of things the big man doesn't share. Ah, here we go,” he said with a satisfied air. He spun his monitor around so she could see the screen. “What do you make of her?”
She leaned forward, studying the beautiful face, frowning slightly. “That's no human.” A terrible thought struck her. “One of the Forsaken, or their children, in human form?”
“No, thanks be,” he said. “But you were close. She lives in that part of the world called the United States, near Chicago. Her name is Althea Carpenter. And she is the oldest living being who walks the earth.”
Understanding dawned. “A succubus.”
Succubi were the offspring of humans and angels who had been expelled from heaven. During the War, there were some who refused to choose a side, who agreed that God had erred, but were unwilling to take up arms against Him. Objects of scorn, they were not permitted to stay in the Celestial City, but they had not been cast into the Pit, either. They had been exiled to Earth. To the outrage of their heavenly kindred, many of them had mated with humans, siring children who bore the stamp of their angelic ancestry on their faces and bodies.
Eventually most of the angels had died after their human mates did, choosing to see what lay beyond rather than to spend eternity in limbo on Earth. But their children lived on, engaged in an unceasing war with the denizens of the Pit. It was the price they paid for their forebears' lack of resolve. They might have beauty and power and the immortality of their angelic parents, but the cost was to defend humanity against those demons who escaped from Hell.
“And what does this woman have to do with me?”
Michael gave a wintry smile. “Succubi and incubi are, by their nature, incapable of bearing or siring children. It was so decreed shortly after they came into existence. They could take lovers by the thousand, but they would never pass on their legacy.”
“But this one has. Somehow she has given birth to a son. And her wife has born a daughter, blood of her blood. I want you to investigate and report back to me.” He drummed his fingers on his desk. “If the children of the Fallen have found a way to circumvent what God Himself has made law, we need to know. I do not think she means ill.” The look in his silver eyes was almost pitying. “But it is a disruption in the natural order.
“So, Doriel. Will you do this for us? When was the last time when you were on Earth?”
“About forty years ago,” she replied promptly. “In New York. It was during the Disco Crisis.”
Michael shuddered. “Terrible time. I'm not like some of your friends, who think that humans should be mindlessly obedient. But that era should be buried deep and never exhumed.
“Regardless,” he said, “things have changed a bit since you were last there.” He pushed over a bundle which suddenly appeared on the polished glass surface of his desk. “Get acquainted with these things. If you don't know how to operate a cell phone and credit cards in present-day America, you might as well be a cave-woman with a bone through her nose.”
“And what is my mission?”
“Make contact with Althea Carpenter. Find out, if you can, how she circumvented the decree against succubi bearing children. Observe and report back. Do not, under any circumstances, engage her in violence or threaten her children. She is an incredibly skilled warrior.”
She felt her own eyebrows climb high. “No offense meant, sir, but I survived the war against the Forsaken. What could one half-human woman do to me?”
“This 'half-human woman,' as you call her, has survived more than two hundred battles against the demon-spawn, and has sent one hundred and sixty-two of them into the outer darkness, where their damned souls can howl for all eternity. Do you think you could do better, seraphim?”
Despite herself, Doriel was impressed. As succubi and incubi were the half-human children of angels, demon-spawn were the half-demon spawn of the Pit, the loathsome offspring of those who escaped eternal captivity and seduced humans into mating with them. They bore the seeds of their angelic origins within them, though they were born of suffering and pain. To send over a hundred into the abyss which waited for their souls marked Althea as a warrior of incredible skill and resolve.
“Right.” The archangel nodded. “I expect to see you back here in less than a week. Any longer than that, and I send a retrieval squad in after you.”
He stood. “Good luck.”
I'm bored, Althea Carpenter thought.
She wheeled the twin stroller through the bookstore, idly glancing at the titles as they passed by. Bujold, Carey, Kowal, Lee, Scalzi. She had read them all. She sighed. I need to find something new to read.
Or someone new to screw.
Of course, she thought wryly, one would think that having both a wife and five lovers would be enough even for a succubus, whose blood ran hot, and for whom sex was both a pleasant activity and a physical need. She sighed. But her wife was working a double shift at the hospital, assisting in a delicate piece of surgery on a young child. And Alex and his wife Maria were on tour with his theater company, showing the latest edition of Our Town throughout the small towns of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, and garnering good reviews for their eventual move to Hollywood.
Rachel, the woman whose mind she had been forced into many months ago, when first she became entangled with her family, was working on an important environmental case, and was at a pre-trial conference with her fellow attorneys. And her husband Joshua was barricaded inside his studio, working on a new project. Even Althea had learned not to bother him when he was in the throes of artistic fervor. And their daughter Sarah and her husband Jeremy were out of town. Sarah, an aspiring chef of no little skill, had an interview at a restaurant in Boston. While not the position in New York or LA she hungered for, it was one more stepping stone on the path that would give her the experience she needed before she opened her own place in Chicago. Sarah was tiresomely heterosexual, and not even Althea had been able to seduce her to her bed, but she was willing to share her husband.
It had been, she thought carefully, nearly two full days since she'd had an orgasm. Which was far, far longer than what she had grown accustomed to over the past two years. And after becoming used to having a bevy of lovers on call, she was strangely unwilling to take matters into her own hands, as it were.
Lily began to meep hungrily, and Althea smiled fondly. After six thousand childless years, her desire for a baby of her own had become a desperate need, but one she thought would never bear fruit. When Yasna had told her she could give her what she most wanted, she had been driven to blank incomprehension. But her future wife had been right. With the help of an incredibly skilled geneticist, she had born Lily four months ago. And Yasna had given birth to her almost-twin John a few days later.
She sat on a comfortable sofa, put there for the ease of patrons who might want to spend a few moments reading before purchasing their books, and pulled Lily out of her half of the stroller. John was dead to the world, a bubble of drool clinging to his tiny lips. She slid the strap of her dress down over one swollen breast, and let her daughter suckle. She sighed in relief as her milk began to flow into the eager little mouth.
“She's beautiful,” came a voice to her left. “What's her name?”
“Lillian,” she answered, smiling at the young woman. She paused, looking deeper, and her heart filled with sudden terror. She stood, putting her body between John and the impossibly beautiful woman. From a hidden sheath at her belt she drew a knife, cursing the fact that she had left Atashe', her sword, at home. Lily, startled by the sudden movement, began to wail. John, brought to consciousness by his sister's frightened cries, echoed her.
“What do you want, angel?” The word was a curse when it came from her lips.
The woman held up open hands. “I am no threat to you.”
“You are no friend, either. You and your kind abandoned me and mine thousands of years ago. Why are you here?”
“Come now, Althea.” One elegant eyebrow rose. “Surely you must have realized that as soon as you bore a child there would be...questions.”
She's right, damn her. “And so what if there are?”
“Consider me a...preliminary investigator. Some of my superiors are curious. They mean you no harm. My word on it. But...” a long pause followed. “How on earth did you do it?” The wonderfully modulated voice was filled with frustration, and despite herself, Althea had to bite back a triumphant smile. “They are both your children. Even a blind man could see it. But our Lord's edict remains in force. How did you get around it?”
She eyed the angel for a long moment. Part of her was tempted to tell her to figure it out herself. But the repercussions of such an act would be beyond her control. Better to make nice instead. She patted the arm of the sofa. “Sit down, and I'll explain.”
The angel sat down gingerly, as if the sofa was a land mine, and would explode if she made a false move. Sheathing her knife, Althea sat beside her. “What's your name?”
She blinked. “I think...I think my father spoke of you. Before he followed my mother through the dark gate. His name was Imriel.”
“Imriel.” The dark eyes softened. “I knew him. He was a good angel. A very good angel. We were lovers for a time. It shocked me when I learned he had joined the Fallen.”
Althea bit back harsh words. Her father's exile had been due more to the stubbornness of God than to any ill deeds on his part. But when faced with an actual angel, one learned to temper ones responses. “I miss him every day. My mother as well.”
“Your mother. Lilith. Is this one,” she nodded towards Lily, “named after her?”
She raised her chin. “There are limits to how far I will mock God. Even for me. Lillian is named after the good friend of my wife.” She stressed the final word. “Do you have a problem with that?” she spat, her eyes challenging.
“Indeed not. I have had several female lovers in my time. It's a pity humans have so badly misinterpreted the word of God. I am relieved they are finally struggling towards the truth. Love is love.”
“Your God could have done quite a bit more, if He had bothered to get off His ass. For instance, He could have told His self-appointed interpreters they were all full of crap. But I expect that would have been asking too much. He hasn't done a damn thing in two thousand years. Why should I expect that He'll actually try to make people's lives better? He certainly hasn't done anything recently.”
The gloriously beautiful woman sat upright, her face filled with outrage. “You dare!”
“Damn right I do. Where was He when me and my kin were fighting against the demon-spawn? Where was He when we were dying?” She glared at the gorgeous woman. Smug, self-satisfied bitch. “Where was He when my brothers died? My sisters? I had a dozen siblings, back when the world was young. Now I have but two.”
“He has a plan. He has not shared it with me.”
She sighed, her anger running out of her. “Nor me.” She closed her eyes. It was useless to spend her anger on this woman. She was as powerless, in her own way, as she was.
She studied her through narrowed eyes. Whoever said that brown-haired girls were boring never met her. Despite her instinctive antipathy for angels, she was mesmerized by Doriel's beauty. To human eyes, she might appear as an attractive young woman just escaping her teenage years. But Althea saw through the illusion. Chocolate-brown hair framed a face of sculpted perfection. High cheekbones and a firm, sensual mouth drew her gaze, and her eyes were dark and deep, shadowy pools that a woman could fall into and drown.
She felt her pulse began to beat hard in the junction of her thighs, and bit back a sudden spasm of longing. She ached to strip her out of the floral-print sun dress she was wearing, and feast on her magnificent body. Her mouth grew dry as she wondered what the spot between her legs would taste like, and whether she shared the desires of her sister Lucifer, who would occasionally take a male body. The better, she said with wicked eyes, to understand humanity. Would Doriel want to ride her, a new-grown cock thrusting into her sheath?
She shook her head, hard, dispelling the tempting vision. Suddenly she had a new-found sympathy for her mother, who had fallen under her father Imriel's spell thousands of years ago. The allure of angelic beauty was great. But it hadn't only been the draw of Imriel's beauty or the lure of the forbidden; her parents had loved each other as well, that she knew. Had loved with a fiery intensity which had burned brighter despite the knowledge that they only had a short span of years together. When her mother died, her father chose death rather than to continue his life without her.
“A little over two years ago,” she heard her voice say, “A young man attempted a spell. I was the target. He meant to pull me out of my body, and send me into the mind of a young woman he desired. It was his belief,” she continued, as Doriel's eyes grew round with horror, “that with my spirit inside her, the woman would be helpless to resist him, which would allow him to take her. Sexually.”
Doriel swallowed. “That's...that's even worse than rape. He would be violating both of you.”
She nodded grimly.
The angel's hand reached out, perhaps to comfort her, then stopped, as if encountering a hidden barrier. “Is that why you are so strongly warded?” she asked.
She nodded. “For that reason. And for the children.” She looked down fondly at little Lillian, who was hungrily rooting at her nipple again. “If anyone wants to get to them or my family, they will have to break through the strongest wards I can create.
“Anyway,” she continued. “That idiot never had a chance. He botched the ritual, and I was pulled into his mind instead.” She shuddered in disgust. “It was a sewer. Fortunately, the police showed up right about then. They had received a kidnapping report, and a witness had seen him dragging that poor girl into the warehouse.
“He panicked and ran out into traffic. Got hit by a bus,” she said with vicious satisfaction, “and died almost instantly.”
“But-” Doriel wrinkled her brow. “Shouldn't you have died, too? From what I understand about sharing minds, if the host dies, the...passenger dies as well.”
She nodded. “It was close. It was very, very close.” She still woke up sometimes, her skin clammy and panting for breath, gripped in that nightmare, feeling herself being pulled down into the dark. She didn't know what afterlife existed for her kind, and she was not tempted to find out. “Luckily, a woman had seen the accident and had stopped to help.
“Her name was Rachel. I had just enough power to transfer my mind into her body.” She allowed herself a smirk. “After some...encouragement...I had pulled enough power from her sexual activities to transfer back into my body.”
“That doesn't explain these two,” Doriel said. She glanced at John, who was awake and looking at her with wide-eyed interest. “Can I hold him?” she asked. “I swear,” she said as Althea frowned at her doubtfully. “I swear to God Himself I will do nothing to harm him, his sister, you, or anyone else under your protection.”
She nodded slowly. “All right.” She unbuckled the little boy from the stroller. Doriel reached in and gathered up the wriggling bundle. “No no,” she said, laughing, as a chubby hand reached up and tugged at her hair. “Ow! He's got a good grip.” She busied herself untangling his fingers from her brown tresses.
Her eyes softened as she looked down at the little boy in her arms. “He's lovely,” she said softly, her fingers stroking the cap of blonde hair, the same color as Althea's. “You were telling me about how you acquired these two.”
“Was I? All right then.” She settled back more comfortably on the sofa. “When I was pulled out of my body, it was outside my home in broad daylight. Which was lucky for me, all things considered.
“Some good Samaritans called an ambulance, which took me to a hospital. My body stayed there for the next several days. My doctor was Yasna Marafi. She became infatuated with me.” She grimaced. “One of the dangers of being around one of us for too long.
“After I was returned to my body, Yasna moved in with Rachel and her family. It was for her own protection, since we had discovered that a demon-spawn had found out about me, and was intending to kill us all. By the time I had managed to trap and kill him, we were well on our way to falling in love.”
“And the children?” Doriel asked with growing impatience.
“I wanted children,” she said, her voice low. “I wanted them so badly.” A tear escaped and flowed down her cheek. She wiped it away roughly. “When I was in the hospital, Yasna ran tests on me. She discovered that...she found out...” She found herself blushing violently. She finished in a rush. “She found out that my vagina secretes an incredibly powerful spermicide when I am aroused. There was no way I could ever become pregnant through normal intercourse.
“So we cheated. We did an in vitro fertilization. Yasna had a friend. An amazing geneticist in Minnesota. She's a damned genius. With her help, we were able to do what everyone else thought was impossible. We used two of my eggs, and two of Yasna's. These two bundles of joy are the result.”
Doriel cocked her head. “Twins?”
“Of a sort. I suppose technically they're fraternal twins. We each carried one. Which was more than a bit strange, from my point of view. Having a tiny person inside me, dependent on me for everything...” she trailed off.
“When these two are a few years older, I intend to have more children.” She frowned. “It's a pity this country is so backward about its marriage laws. I have one legal wife. But in reality, I have four. And three husbands. I want to have all their children.” Her voice quavered. “I love them all so much. They saved me. I was living from day to day, not giving a damn about the future. They brought me back and taught me how to hope again, how to dream.”
Doriel was quiet for a long moment. Her finger stroked John's chubby cheek, and he turned into her caress with a happy, toothless smile. She found herself smiling back at him. He was so cute! “What will they be like? When they're older. Will they share your gifts?”
She sighed. “Gifts? Some days they have felt more like curses.” She dropped a kiss on the sable mass of Lillian's hair, so like that of Yasna. Her daughter resembled her wife, down to her dark eyes and olive-toned skin. John was more like her, with golden skin and dark blond hair. “I don't know,” she finally said. “Some days it seems that it would be better if they did not. Maybe it would be better if they were fully human. There have been dark times in my life. Days when I have cursed my father's blood within me.
“But I do not think that will be the case. Even if they can only claim their angelic heritage through their grandfather, that blood runs strong. I can already see the signs within them. They are very...sensual...children. They like soft things, like plush toys and pillows. They love to be held and kissed. I think that when they grow up, the arts of love will come to them easily.
“And I also fear they will be targets of the demon-spawn, and I will train them to defend themselves. And to kill if necessary.”
The angel sighed, shaking her head. “I cannot understand.” She raised her eyes to meet Althea's. “I do not fault you. A child is not responsible for her birth. But what your father did, taking a human wife and siring children on her. I cannot comprehend defying God's will in such a fashion.
“Can you not?” Althea cocked her head curiously. Doriel seemed uncommonly imaginative for an angel. At the least, she was not slavishly obedient. And the mere fact that she could think about defying God's will was a considerable leap for most angels. Althea had met several, both among the Fallen and among their heaven-dwelling kin, back when the world was young. Many were not all that different from some humans she had known. Every question about religion and personal responsibility was thrown back to God and his divine Plan. “It's not that strange, you know. Lilith, my mother, had been cast out of the Garden for having the audacity to not submit to Adam's rule. And my father had been thrown out of heaven for daring to question God's will.
“Was it any surprise that when they met, they each found a kindred spirit in the other? And I am sure it made their love all the sweeter.”
“The danger.” She set Lillian down in the stroller. The sleeping infant gave an inelegant burp, and nestled down in her bed of blankets. Under the pretense of feeding John, she slipped the other strap of her dress off her shoulder, not bothering to raise the first. Now naked to the waist, she took her son from Doriel's arms. She sighed contentedly as her son's mouth closed around her nipple and her milk began to flow.
“Someone is going to see you,” Doriel observed. Her voice was low, but her eyes were wide at her shameless display.
“No one will notice who I don't want to notice. I am a succubus. I have more than enough power to hide us from prying eyes.” Little John was not very hungry. After only a minute or two of nursing, he turned his head away from her breast. She extended her thought into his mind, already going drowsy. He was well-content, warm and loved and with a full belly. She set him down beside his sister, hiding a smile. The two were always happier when they were close; a situation Althea was sure would continue into their adulthoods.
“You cannot know what it is like, Doriel. When you are doing something you know is forbidden. The rush of excitement throughout your body.” She set a hand on the angel's thigh, feeling the slow burn of heat begin in her middle. Did she dare? Could she dare? She leaned close, catching her eyes with her own. She did not try to use her powers. Only the most basic one of all. Her own beauty.
“It rushes through you, making an activity which is pleasant into an ecstatic one. When I am bedding Yasna, or Alex, or Maria, or best of all, some combination of them, along with my other wives and husbands, I know there are thousands, millions of humans who would disapprove. Who would condemn our love as unnatural or evil.”
The hem of the dress had ridden high as she spoke, gathered in her grasping fingers. She pushed it even higher, exposing the lovely lines of Doriel's thighs. Her skin was softer and smoother than silk. “Father told me what sex was like, among the angels,” she whispered. “Almost an art of its own. But is there passion? Is there true desire? Is there the sense of spitting in the face of death itself, knowing our days are numbered, and each crumb of happiness we seize is a candle lit in defiance of the darkness?”
Doriel shook her head. Althea could feel her trembling. “No. There is not.”
God, she was soaking. She was as wet as she had ever been for Rachel, or Maria, or Yasna. Or her wonderful husbands, for so she considered them in her own mind. She knelt in front of the angel, parting her thighs. “Let me show you,” she said, pulling down a fragrant wisp of underwear.
“Let me show you.”
As the succubus knelt in front of her, Doriel's mind was a whirlwind of confused emotion. Part of her knew, in fact insisted, that she should put an end to this. She had been sent to find out the truth about Althea's children. Once that task had been accomplished, she should have returned to heaven to give her report to Michael.
Althea had told her the truth. She was sure of it. The woman had not tried to hide anything from her. In fact, she seemed to take a perverse amount of pride in her children's birth, as if by flouting the will of God, she had won a victory of sorts.
And why not, Doriel? a voice whispered in the back of her mind. If God did not mean for them to be born, they would not have been born. He controls all, and the world and everything in it is done by his design alone.
But are we puppets then? Mindless automatons merely created for His amusement?
She cut off the pointless argument. It was the eternal debate that raged among angels, and God had never seen fit to answer it. Did his creations have free will? Or merely the illusion of it?
If I have free will, I am free to choose this. And if I don't, then it is God's will that it happens. I can't lose. She stifled a hysterical giggle.
Althea looked up at her from her kneeling position. Her eyes were an arresting shade of dark green, bringing to mind lush grass in a fertile field. Her hands had pushed the hem of her dress all the way up to her waist, a fitting counterpoint to her own garment, which hung from her hips in ragged folds. “If you don't want this,” she said softly, “tell me to stop now. I have never bedded anyone unwillingly. And I will not.”
She shook her head. Not in negation. “I confess, I am curious,” she said, trying to keep a superior tone. She had already seen how much that irritated Althea. “Does a succubus, the mongrel offspring of one rejected by God, think she knows more about pleasing a woman that one of heaven's own?”
Althea's eyes flashed in humorous annoyance. “You know nothing. Nothing at all.” Her hands lifted her bottom effortlessly, drawing her forward until she was perched on the edge of the couch. She leaned forward, her lips a hair's breadth away from her folds. She inhaled deeply, then blew a breath of warm air across her nether-lips.
So. She has some skill after all. Doriel closed her eyes against a shiver of pleasure. She hadn't been sure what she had expected. Taking rumors about the appetites of the succubi into account, she had half-feared a clumsy assault on her womanhood. But to the contrary, Althea seemed determined to madden her with patience. She withdrew until her face was between her knees. Then, with delicate licks and tiny nibbles, she began to move slowly up her legs. At the same time, her hands caressed her tenderly, from calf to knee to thigh to hip and back down again. Each movement was carefully orchestrated, designed to bring her to a fever pitch of desire. Despite her reservations, she could feel her arousal grow as Althea's lips caressed her inner thighs. With every kiss, her tongue came out, a wet spot of heat tasting her skin. The heat slowly traveled through her body, inciting an answering echo in her loins.
This was different than anything she had ever experienced. Lovemaking among the angels was slow and sweet and patient, sometimes lasting for hours. But for all that, it was somehow shallow, riven of meaning. This was deeper, darker, richer, with an undertone of hunger she had never before felt with any of the dozens of lovers she had taken.
That is the difference, Doriel realized, with a sudden understanding. They are hungry. Hungry for life, hungry for pleasure, hungry to give their short existence meaning, before the curtain falls on the tragic play of their lives. We angels, who fear neither sickness, nor old age, nor death, do not have that drive within us. Althea does. And if a succubus who has lived for millenia has that hunger, how much greater the appetite of full-blooded humans, who only have three or four-score years before they go to that which waits beyond, without even the certainty of heaven to comfort them?
She found she was kneading her breasts through her dress, as if Althea's hunger had woken an answer, long-denied, in her own body. Althea had reached the place where her legs came together, her teasing lips circling her womanly mound, but never quite reaching it. Her hands stroked her legs, her sides, her flanks, then reached up and pulled down the straps of her dress without even looking. As the air of the bookstore struck her exposed breasts, she gasped, and tried to cover them with her hands. A pair of gentle hands circled her wrists, and she looked down into Althea's face.
“No one will see you. Only me.” The voice was gentle. A finger ran up her lips, and her legs turned to water, opening helplessly. “But you can't deny this excites you, can you? The shame of it, exposed to view if my spell should falter? An angel of God Himself, lewd and wanton as a common strumpet, being eaten by a succubus in broad daylight.”
She swallowed, and allowed her hands to fall away. Her nipples were stiff; tight, aching buds on her chest. Althea's hands caressed the curves of her twin mounds, then tweaked her nipples. Her hips hitched forward in mindless reflex, driven by a bolt of sheer pleasure. “Please,” she whispered.
“Please, what?” The finger, bolder now, entered her, slowly stroking her inner walls. She bit back a whimper of carnal delight. Her arousal was like nothing she had ever before experienced. She felt sinfully exposed, wonderfully violated. Her labia unfurled, and thick liquid slowly seeped from her channel, coating her inner lips.
“I need...I need...”
“You need to come, don't you?” A delicate tongue lapped up her nectar, murmuring in pleasure. She gasped as the tongue darted daringly low, close to her anus, then away. “Oh, you taste wonderful, little Doriel. So sweet. But you need to come. Not climax, not have an orgasm. To come.
“And what have we here?” she continued in tone of perky curiosity. “Why, it looks like your little clitty has come out to play. Should I kiss it?” She matched action to words, placing a chaste kiss on her throbbing pearl. It was all Doriel could do to keep herself from grinding her groin into the succubus' face. “Or perhaps,” the voice grew deeper, “you want something more.
“Lean back,” she said, and her voice was suddenly commanding. Doriel looked down, and was surprised to see her eyes glowing a molten greenish-gold. “Legs up.” A pair of strong hands caught the backs of her knees, forcing her legs high and wide, shamelessly exposing her glistening, swollen mound for anyone who had eyes to see. “Now,” she growled, “I'm going to eat that pretty little pussy of yours.”
“What about you?” she asked, then halted, stammering, surprised at her audacity. This woman might be less powerful than her, but in the sexual arena it was clear who was in charge.
Althea shrugged, making her breasts bounce fetchingly. Her nipples were bronze-colored and very large, sitting atop large, firm breasts that tilted upwards at the tips. A shimmy of her hips made her dress fall to the floor. “A succubus' nectar has aphrodisiacal properties. And it can be somewhat addictive. You are a pleasant bedmate, Doriel. But I doubt God wants you to join our happy little group marriage. So I will have to please myself.”
Doriel's eyes widened as she looked at Althea's groin. A spade-shaped object, about the size of the palm of her hand, appeared from someplace out of sight. It waved at her cheerfully, then began to stroke Althea's labia. As it did, the succubus groaned and shuddered, her entire body rippling with pleasure. “Is that-”
“Yes. It's my tail. Very useful. Especially when one needs the use of one's hands. Ready?” she asked.
“Yes.” Her mind was a whirlwind. She no longer cared about her mission. Or for Althea's children, looking on solemnly. Or for her own simmering discontent with her life. Her entire existence seemed to narrow to the fire in her loins, and her raging need to satiate it.
Althea's head bent down, and her world exploded. The feeling was indescribable, her tongue stabbing deep within her core, joined by her skillful fingers, caressing her inner walls. Each stroke made the fire of her desire burn higher, until her eyes had pinched closed and she was rolling her hips up to meet Althea's every movement. Her hands squeezed her heaving breasts, rolling her nipples in a frenzy of joyful sensation.
Lust, a small, calm voice deep within her whispered. This is what lust feels like.
Althea's head moved slightly. Her tongue exited Doriel's dripping core, though her fingers still moved in and out of her. God, the angel thought dazedly. A cock would be nice right now. Much better than those fingers. The succubus drifted higher, her mouth descending on the turgid bud of her clitoris, her tongue sweeping over the nubbin of engorged flesh in a kiss so sweet, so pure, that Doriel's mouth opened in rapture.
She was right. This isn't a climax. I'm coming!
She howled her happiness to the heavens, her voice raised in a paean of praise and joy, even as her body shook under the loving ministrations of Althea's mouth. It went on and on, her body shuddering in fulfillment, until she thought she would collapse under the weight of her pleasure.
When it ceased, the succubus gave her a last lingering kiss, her tongue sweeping up the remnants of her body's moisture, making her shiver in remembered ecstasy. Her eyes, when they met Doriel's, were awestruck. “I didn't know that angels sang when they came.”
“You sang.” Her lips quirked. “Nearly broke through my concealment spell, too. If you ever get bored in heaven, little angel, I think you could get a decent job in the opera.” With quick, efficient movements, she pulled down the hem of her dress and handed Doriel her panties. Standing, she smoothed her own garments, and in just a few seconds appeared as an attractive young mother, not the ravishing sex-goddess she truly was. Doriel followed more slowly, relishing the sweet ache in her center, the aftermath of the greatest pleasure she had ever known.
How am I supposed to go back to angels, after I have had a succubus?
“Will I see you again?” she asked, suddenly shy.
“I doubt it,” Althea answered. Her lips twisted in a wry grin. “I don't get up to heaven that often. And I doubt you'll be sent back here anytime soon.” She paused. “Who sent you down here, anyway?”
“Michael,” she answered absently, smoothing the front of her dress.
“Michael? As in Archangel Michael?”
Althea frowned. What was an archangel doing involved with her and her children? Or was Doriel the real point of interest? She gave an internal shrug. She had told the truth to the angel. If her superiors in heaven had a problem, they could try to do something about it. But she doubted they would. The succubi and incubi were too few for heaven to start punishing them for following their natures. Since God didn't seem inclined to protect Earth from demons and their unholy children, it was still the task of her and her kin. And perhaps her children, in years to come.
She let loose the bubble of protection which had surrounded them, and the sounds of the bookstore swept back in. She glanced down at her children, who looked back up at her with cheerful smiles creasing their round faces. “I have to go.” She gathered Doriel in an embrace, quick and strong. “If you are ever back on Earth and need someone to talk to, give me a call.” She handed her a card from her purse.
“I will,” Doriel replied, putting it in her pocket. “I had...” she looked at her feet. “I had a very nice time. Thank you.”
“No. Thank you,” Althea said. She raised her hand and brushed the young woman's cheek. “Be well.”
Althea returned home in the early evening to find that her wife was already there. “Hello,” she called, as she entered the house, laden down with diaper bags, toy bags, a plastic bag filled with books, and, incidentally, a stroller containing two dozing children. The olive-skinned doctor was still wearing a set of surgical scrubs, and looked exhausted, though her face lit at her entrance. “What did you do today?”
“Well, Josh was busy in his studio,” she replied, kicking off her sandals with a relived sigh. “And Rachel was advising that downstate firm on that lawsuit they're bringing to court next month. So I took the kids out shopping for a while.” She lifted the shopping bag as evidence.
“Find anything good?”
“Maybe.” She sat down beside her wife, pulling her in for a long, leisurely kiss. Yasna returned it with practiced skill, making her moan excitedly.
Quite a long way from the woman I met two years ago, who was so afraid of her own sexuality she had all but given up on it, she thought smugly.
A hand rose to cup her breast, skilled surgeon's fingers tracing her nipple lightly. “Althea Carpenter,” Yasna said when they broke for breath, her own face flushed. Her voice was full of mock-severity. “What have you been eating?” Her eyes twinkled merrily as she licked her lips suggestively. “Or perhaps I should ask, who have you been eating?”
“Hmmm.” She pulled Yasna into her lap, her fingers unbuttoning her top. As her warm brown breasts spilled into her hands, she gave a contented sigh, nuzzling her chest. “It's kind of a long story.”
“Well, the babies are asleep. Oh, right there,” she sighed, as Althea licked her nipple. “And we have an hour before we have to start on supper for Rachel and Josh. Why don't we put these two down for a nap, and then you can take me to bed and tell me all about it?”
“You,” Althea said, “are utterly decadent.”
“I know. Isn't it wonderful?”
“Doriel. Welcome back.”
“Thank you, sir.” She tried to still the trembling in her legs. Her stomach churned and heaved, and she, who had never known a single day of illness across a life of over ten thousand years, was suddenly terrified that she would vomit in front of Archangel Michael himself.
Guilt. Shame. Fear. It's no more than you deserve. You had sex with a succubus! And you enjoyed it!
She couldn't even blame Althea, she thought bitterly. The succubus had given her a chance to back out. She spoke truly. What she had experienced at Althea's hands was something she desired. There was not the slightest tinge of rape about it. As great as her sexual allure was, Doriel could have pulled loose if she wanted.
The problem, she reflected, was that she hadn't wanted.
“So.” Michael leaned forward in his chair. His eyes were alight with interest, his fingers steepled together. “What can you tell me about Althea Carpenter and her children?”
“Sir.” With quick, succinct sentences, she described her conversation with the succubus, and the way she had circumvented the prohibition on bearing children.
By the time she was finished, Michael was smiling ruefully. He shook his head. “Incredible. Though I'm not surprised. Althea Carpenter resembles her mother. That woman...she had a will of steel. And Imriel was ferociously intelligent as well.”
“To be honest,” Doriel said hesitantly, “I think that much of the...driving force...behind the idea came from Althea's wife, Yasna. Althea admitted to me herself that she was in a state of severe depression. It was Marafi who discovered the truth about-” she stuttered uncomfortably, “-about the true nature of Althea's body. And who also made contact with the geneticist who was able to bring the idea to fruition.”
Michael smiled at her choice of words. “Be fruitful and multiply?” he nodded. “True. Although a child of Lilith and Imriel would never be foolish enough to fall in love with someone stupid. It was a clever solution.” He leaned back in his chair. “Well, what's done is done. Not even we can change the past.” He fixed Doriel with a keen gaze. “Do you have anything else to report?”
She shook her head, though her legs were trembling. “Nothing important.”
“Indeed.” He cocked his head at her for a moment, and she was sure he was going to mention what had occurred. Surely someone had been monitoring her movements. There was no way they would let her meet with a potentially dangerous person like Althea Carpenter without having backup nearby. But Michael said nothing.
“Well, Doriel. Do you remember your days in the Army of God? What was the reward for a job well done?”
“Another job,” she replied with a rueful smile. Inwardly, she shook with relief. Somehow it seemed she had escaped.
“Exactly. Although this one will not be as easy as the first. There is a young man on Earth. Not too far from where Carpenter lives, in fact.”
He sighed deeply, looking unhappy. When he met Doriel's eyes, his face was grim. “I want you to understand. This is not easy for us. The decision was not made lightly. He has...he has the potential to disrupt things severely.
“Your task is to go to Earth and take his soul, Doriel.”
Her mouth hung open in shock. Take his soul? “Sir? I never trained under Uriel or Samael. I killed in the War, but I didn't like it. I am...” she gestured helplessly. “How can you send me to be the instrument of a human's death? Don't you have dozens of others who would do a better job?”
His look turned frigid, and she shivered under the weight of that stare. “You wanted occupation, Doriel. No one promised that all of your tasks would be pleasant ones.” He lifted a golden eyebrow. “I certainly hope you aren't thinking about being...disobedient.”
Her spine stiffened under the implied smear on her character. Ever since the War, to even have it implied one was disobedient to God was a deadly insult. “It is not disobedience to question the...wisdom...of an assignment, sir,” she said, through a red haze of anger.
He shrugged with studied negligence. “I meant no offense. Still, the choice remains. Do this task, and then receive another more suited to your skills, or go home.” His eyes hardened. “Be warned, though. If you refuse this, there will be no second chance.”
He looked at his computer monitor, then glanced back up, as if surprised to find her still in the room. “Was there anything else?” When she shook her head, he gave her a polite smile, obviously dismissing her. “I'll send the particulars to your residence. You should be ready to depart for Earth tomorrow. Please close the door on the way out.”
The doorknob was made of a large, multi-faceted diamond. Its value, on Earth, would be quite literally beyond price.
Doriel didn't quite tear it off the door as she exited Michael's office.
“You're out of your mind, you know.”
Nate Garner grinned at his soon-to-be ex-roommate. “You're just jealous.”
“Jealous? You're the one who's going to be spending all summer down here, not me.” Clint Beck shoved a cardboard box full of clothes into the trunk of his car, and shut the hood with a slam. “Jesus, man, I don't get you at all. This place is bad enough during the school year, when at least there's some tits and ass to look at. I can't imagine what it'll be like in July, with all the girls gone home.” He sniffed dramatically. “Can't you smell the South Farms? You'll have to deal with that all summer long.”
Nate shrugged. “I'm not like you whiny-ass suburban kids, Clint. I grew up in a small town. My grandfather was a farmer, before he sold out and retired. Heck, he still has a few head of hogs and cattle, just to keep himself occupied.” He broadened his downstate accent. “A little farm-stink ain't going to kill me.”
Clint shook his head, then stuck his hand out. “Well, it's been a pretty good year. Let me know if you want to do it again. Our asshole landlord says he wants an answer by the end of June. Jim and Terry and Derek are already in. I'd rather not wait until the last minute to start looking for a fifth wheel.”
He nodded as he shook Clint's hand, though it was all he could do to keep from rolling his eyes. Fifth wheel? You came crawling to me, after Sean flunked out. Again. “I hear you. It was a scramble for me, too.” Which was nothing but the truth. His girlfriend, with whom he had been intending to share an apartment, had broken up with him three weeks before the fall semester started. To add insult to injury, she had moved into the apartment they had leased with her new boyfriend, leaving him searching for a place to live.
“Well, I better hit the road. I have two hours of wonderful farmland to look at before I get back to civilization. You're not a bad guy for a pansy musician, but I can't wait to get home.”
“And you're not a bad guy for a soulless, money-grubbing business major. But I can't wait for you to leave.”
Clint laughed and swung into his Toyota. In a few seconds, the only hint of his presence was the rapidly fading sound of his stereo as he turned the corner onto Green from Locust.
Nate climbed the stairs to the third-floor apartment and smiled as the door swung closed behind him. Clint was the last of his roommates to leave for the summer. Finals were over and the exodus away from the University of Illinois was in full swing, as parents came down from Chicago or up from St. Louis to pick up their kids, or as those with cars bolted for their home towns. Only a tiny percentage would be spending the sweltering Illinois summer in the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign; only those who had summer-school classes or other responsibilities stayed on campus.
Or those like Nate, who considered three months of peace and quiet well worth the price. Besides, Urbana-Champaign was quite a bit larger than his home town. Winchester was so small there wasn't even a halfway decent burger joint. You had to drive fifteen miles to Jacksonville just to find a McDonalds. And forget about finding a job there which didn't involve unpleasant, sweaty, outdoor work. With students gone for the summer and companies desperate for warm bodies, he had already snagged a job stocking shelves at a local grocery store.
He sighed happily, taking in his domain. The apartment had five bedrooms, split between two floors, plus a small kitchen and a common area. The upper floor was reached by a circular metal staircase. There was a full bath downstairs, plus what was laughingly referred to as a 'half-bath' upstairs, though that only consisted of a sink.
All mine, he gloated.