Prince of Tricks (Demons of Elysium, #1)
When desire rises, angels will fall.
Over the past century, Belphagor has made a name for himself in Heaven’s Demon District as a card sharp, thief, and charming rogue. Though he’s content with his own company, he enjoys applying the sweet sting of discipline to a willing backside—angel, demon, and even the occasional human. He’s not particular. But when a hotheaded young firespirit steals his purse—and his heart—all bets are off.
Vasily, a former rentboy and cutpurse from the streets of Raqia, has never felt safer than in the arms—and at the feet—of the Prince of Tricks. He’s just not sure if Belphagor returns his feelings. The attentions of a rich, angelic duke provide the perfect opportunity to find out whether Belphagor is willing to fight for him, but the foolish game backfires—spectacularly.
When the duke frames Vasily in an assassination plot, Belphagor will do whatever it takes to clear his lover’s name and expose the real traitor. Because for the first time in his life, the Prince of Tricks has something to lose.
Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes:
Drug Use (alcohol and nicotine)
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish. Click on a label to reveal its content.
Themes: abandonment, abduction/kidnapping/hostage (actual), age gap, angst, antihero / bad boy, bisexuality, child abuse / neglect, coming of age, commitment, feminism, financial gap / class disparity, first love, first time, gender roles, history, homelessness, homophobia / transphobia, lovable rogue, military, misogyny, politics / power struggle, prostitution, protection, racism, religion, self-confidence, self-discovery / self-reflection, trust issues
Kinks: barebacking, bondage, clothed sex, cross-dressing, dirty talk, exhibitionism, face-fucking, humiliation, insertables, leather, masturbation, orgasm denial, piercings, power exchange, rimming / anilingus, rough sex, sadomasochism, spanking
Settings: alternate dimension, Apartment, bar / club, church, city, Gambling Den, Heaven, Lake Baikal, mansion, market, Moscow, museum, palace, Palace, Russia, Russia, sex club / strip club / brothel, Siberia, St. Petersburg, theater, train, Vladimir
The demon in his bed had a spectacular ass. Belphagor let the sheet slide down as he shifted position beside Vasily on the narrow cot, baring the part in question. Light played against the marked flesh in stripes through the threadbare curtain—watermarks against fire.
It was this lovely bit of firespirit ass that had been Belphagor’s undoing—though its form at the time had barely hinted at its present magnificence. For the reigning master of wingcasting—the preferred game of chance in this demonic little enclave of Heaven—reputation was everything. Having his purse cut by a scrawny, untrained street demon had warranted a swift and public response.
At a full hand above six feet, Vasily would have stood out in a crowd even without the flame-red hair that distinguished him. And yet of all the marks he might have chosen, he’d targeted Belphagor that evening at The Brimstone a year ago.
Ghosting his finger over the pleasing lines of his handiwork on Vasily’s skin, Belphagor shook his head in amusement, the corner of his mouth turning up at the memory of that ill-advised attempt.
The firespirit scoundrel had been watching him all night. As usual, Belphagor had cleaned out nearly every player in the Raqia den of iniquity. He gathered his winnings and stretched as he stood, giving the obviously inexperienced cutpurse the chance to make his move. At the lightening of the weight at his hip, he turned and grabbed the thief by the collar as he tried to slip away. Without missing a beat, the next player slid into Belphagor’s vacated seat, the kibitzers flowing around the pair like parts in a well-oiled machine. An altercation over facets or even a brawl was a minor inconvenience at The Brimstone.
The thief twisted in Belphagor’s grip, hissing like a cornered alley cat, but Belphagor held fast. He took stock as he retrieved the purse. Lean and hungry looking, with hard eyes of a startling hazel hue that danced with the glittering flames of reflected lamplight, the young demon couldn’t have seen more than eighteen summers. He wouldn’t make it to nineteen if he continued such inept thieving.
Belphagor tucked his winnings away. “You’ll have to be much faster than that if you expect to make a living.”
“Fast enough for you, old-timer.” His vocal chords grated like sandpaper, as if from years of smoke and drink.
“We’ll see how fast your fingers are after the Ophanim have broken your knuckles.” Belphagor turned him about and hauled him toward the stairs that led up to the street. The young finger-smith struggled to free himself, spitting in Belphagor’s face when his efforts failed, a glint of feral terror in his eyes.
Belphagor wiped the warm spittle from his cheek. “Relax, little spitfire. I’m sure they’ll leave you one good hand.”
“I’m hardly little.” That much was true; the closer Belphagor held him, the more obvious it became. “And I’m not afraid of the Ophanim Guard.” That much was not true. “Or of you, you ponce.”
Belphagor’s mouth twitched as he tried to keep a straight face. “On second thought, a night in the supernal cellar probably wouldn’t teach you a thing. What you need is to learn some manners. I’ve half a mind to give you a good strapping.”
The threat elicited a derisive laugh. “I’d like to see you try!”
Belphagor let his eyebrow drift upward. “Is that a challenge?” He held up the purse. “I have a pound of crystal that says you won’t last three strokes without begging for mercy.”
The thief fixed his gaze on the offered prize like a starved dog with a cutlet dangling before him. “You’re lying. You’d never give that up for such a sucker bet.”
“I never go back on my word. And I never make a sucker bet.” Belphagor let go of him, tossing the winnings lightly in his hand as he turned back into the club. “My room is in the rear.” He made his way to the rented rooms without looking back. When he reached his door, he turned to find the would-be thief behind him, eyes glowing and changing in the light like fire opals. There was a pureblood in his line somewhere—and not far back.
Belphagor ushered him inside and locked the door, pocketing the key. “In case you have any ideas about snatching and running.”
Defiant heat flashed in those opalescent eyes. “You want me to roll for you, you’ll have to pay. Five facets. Ten if you want me to act like I like it.”
Belphagor regarded him evenly. “The deal is you take three strokes without crying mercy, you get the money. You don’t, you get nothing. It’s a wager. I’m not renting you.”
He reached for the hooks above the dressing table, fingers pausing to stroke the straight-edged razor before closing around the strop. Let the insolent pickpocket wonder just what he had coming.
With the strop folded into a loop, Belphagor turned and appraised his subject. The bones needed a little meat on them, but they were good ones.
He snapped the loop between his hands. “What’s your name?” Judging by the startled blink, Belphagor had successfully unnerved him.
The growled answer came after a slight pause. “Vasily.”
Belphagor stroked the leather against his palm. “Well, if five facets is all you’re asking, young Vasily, you’re selling yourself short. But I’m going to call you mal’chik.” He grabbed the long tangles of Vasily’s hair and twisted. “Because you’re behaving like a spoiled little boy.”
Vasily stumbled as Belphagor swung him around, grabbing at his own hair instead of aiming a blow that might have ended things then and there.
Belphagor pulled up the stool by the table and sat, tossing Vasily over his lap in one smooth motion and pinning him with a one-armed wrestler’s hold.
“Let go of me, you bastard!” The panic in Vasily’s voice said he was already too disarmed to fight.
Belphagor responded with unaffected calm. “You have a decision to make, Vasily. We made a bargain. The question now is whether you intend to honor it. Three strokes without crying out, and you win the purse. Are we agreed?”
Vasily’s breathing was rapid as he seemed to consider, before finally growling, “Agreed.”
“What was that? I didn’t quite hear you.” In the quiet, the pounding of firespirit blood was audible. “Understand that once we begin, there is no changing your mind.”
Without giving him time to reconsider, Belphagor brought the strop down against Vasily’s thighs, satisfaction curling the corners of his mouth at the strangled gasp this elicited. Vasily had obviously never had a proper beating. Of course, the beatings Belphagor gave went well beyond what could be considered proper.
Before Vasily could recover, Belphagor drew back and struck again, this time at the top of his buttocks—just a touch too high, designed to deliver a blinding sting. The threadbare pants tore as Vasily shuddered from head to toe.
Belphagor let him wait for the next stroke so the sting would build. “Had enough?”
“Was that supposed to hurt?” Vasily’s voice was tight. “I barely felt it.”
On the last word, Belphagor hauled back and struck, the tip of his strop curling around the exposed flesh on Vasily’s hip as it landed.
Vasily cried out as though the sound had been wrung from him by surprise and jerked against his hold.
“Just as I thought,” said Belphagor. “You forfeit.”
The defeated thief struggled to catch his breath, clearly on the verge of tears, and Belphagor struck him again to see them spill. The teardrops almost sizzled as they hit the floor.
Vasily countered them with rage, his fury building until he radiated heat. “You said three strokes.” The rough growl bordered on a sob.
“Three if you could take them without crying out. You forgot to ask what happened if you lost.”
Belphagor struck him again, and Vasily snarled and swore, wasting his energy and magnifying the pain by thrashing and howling. Anger transformed into desperation as the strokes continued, until he broke down at last into incoherent begging and went limp, all resistance drained from him.
Belphagor let him cry. Instinct told him it was what Vasily needed, to be able to let go and express the emotion erupting as if it had been bottled inside him without leaving room for air.
When Belphagor released him, Vasily slipped onto his knees, still sobbing, his head hanging in defeat.
“There now, mal’chik.” Belphagor brushed the damp hair away from Vasily’s eyes. “I reckon you’ve learned your lesson.” After a moment’s hesitation, he kissed the fire-warm brow.
Vasily’s breath drew in with a hitch, and he gazed up at Belphagor in confusion, as if kindness were foreign to him. “Do you want me to get you off now?”
Belphagor pushed away the hand reaching for his belt, annoyed at having considered the offer for an instant. “Really, mal’chik, I’m much too old for you.”
Vasily continued to stare up at him with the unfocused gaze of one who had just experienced for the first time the ecstatic transport possible through extreme physical discipline. It would be a shame to put him out on the street in such a state.
Belphagor sighed. “I suppose you need somewhere to sleep.”
The young demon nodded uncertainly, and Belphagor drew him to his feet and led him to the bed, where Vasily curled up in his arms as if he’d always belonged there.
Belphagor had only meant to hold him until Vasily drifted off, but sunlight was streaming through the leaded panes when he opened his eyes, making fire of the red hair sprawled across his chest.
He kissed the top of Vasily’s head, and the demon stirred and stretched. “Come, mal’chik. Time to go.”
Vasily paused midyawn. “Go?” He repeated the word as if it had no meaning.
“I have business to attend to.” Belphagor rose and picked up the purse from the bureau. “You didn’t win the wager. But you were a very good boy.” He shook a pile of facets into his hand and held them out—enough to keep the firespirit belly full for a month.
Vasily’s eyes flashed, the urge to knock the facets to the floor plain on his face. But living on the streets of Raqia had no doubt made him too wise for that, and he took his reward. Something in the volatile anger emanating from him as Vasily made for the door kindled a fire of Belphagor’s own—deep inside, in a place he’d forgotten. It took everything he had not to call him back. Before he could do anything so foolhardy, Vasily was gone.
But the firespirit was impossible to get out of his head. Vasily returned to The Brimstone for the next several nights, ignoring Belphagor, playing errand boy to a pair of demons with questionable reputations. Belphagor considered taking him aside and cautioning him, but it would probably do more harm than good.
When the three of them arrived one evening with a large entourage in tow, already well in their cups, Belphagor kept a surreptitious eye on Vasily. The attention of one demon in particular raised Belphagor’s hackles. Valac was a famously sore loser who’d met Belphagor on the street once after a game and attacked him with a knife. Belphagor had given him a serious thrashing, but he still bore a scar on his forearm as a memento.
Valac plied Vasily with drinks, laughing at his increasing state of inebriation as the younger demon quickly became too drunk to notice he was being made sport of.
Belphagor fumed, trying to keep his mind on his game, losing a round that ought to have been child’s play. When the group departed, loudly proclaiming they were bent on more ribald adventure, and took Vasily with them, Belphagor folded, leaving his stunned opponent a sizable pot.
It didn’t take a genius to guess where the group was bound—the less reputable venues in the quarter known as the Devil’s Doorstep, where Belphagor spotted them in a drinking hall famous for rough trade. Several demons were gathered around Vasily as they challenged him to guzzle whole pints of ale. He swayed on his stool but gamely took their challenges—so far managing to stay upright.
Belphagor pulled up the hood of his cloak and sat nursing a cordial of wormwood in the corner, determined to step in if things got out of hand. Their disrespect for the naïve demon had raised his ire, but the sight of Valac groping him was almost insufferable.
When Valac tilted Vasily’s head back for a kiss and emptied a mouthful of whiskey into him, Belphagor found himself on his feet, fists clenched against the table. But after a sputter of surprise, Vasily swallowed and grinned, and the party cheered him.
“Swallowed it all!” Valac slapped him on the back. “Our boy’s a pro.” He took the bottle in one hand and Vasily in the other. “Let’s see what else he can swallow.” The others rose with him, leading Vasily weaving between them out to the alley.
Belphagor choked the glass in his hand. It was none of his business. Vasily was old enough to consent and had gone willingly. Belphagor’s interference wouldn’t be welcome. He forced himself to finish his drink and set out for The Brimstone, but cheering from the alley as he passed gave him pause. After pushing his way through the gathered crowd, he found Vasily on his hands and knees in front of Valac, engaged in an act of which he seemed barely conscious. Tossing demons out of his way, Belphagor dragged Valac off and threw him against the wall.
Someone else grabbed Vasily by the hair to keep him upright.
Belphagor uttered a low growl. “Get your filthy hands off my boy.”
Red-faced, Valac pulled himself together as he scrambled to his feet. “And who the fuck are you?”
He fixed Valac with a cold stare. “The name’s Belphagor.”
Recognition seemed to sober Valac up. He cleared his throat, looking sullen. “Nobody told me he was your boy.”
“You knew well enough he was somebody’s. But I doubt you gave a damn.” The others backed away, and Belphagor caught Vasily as he slumped to the ground. “Spread the word,” he warned darkly. “Anyone who touches Vasily will answer to me.”
There were no objections as Belphagor led him away.
Vasily’s demeanor was far from grateful when he woke with a hangover in Belphagor’s bed. He squinted in the late-morning light, his expression surly and his glower deepening when he focused on Belphagor. “Who said you could bring me here? I suppose you want your facets’ worth.”
“You’re not here to talk,” Belphagor snapped. “You’re here to listen.”
Vasily managed to wince and widen his eyes in the same gesture.
“You’re to stay away from that filth you’ve been carousing with.”
“Who’s going to stop me?” Vasily threw off the covers but stumbled when he tried to stand. Belphagor caught him around the waist and pulled him onto his lap. He could feel the ribs beneath the warm skin.
“I am.” Belphagor wrapped an arm around him, murmuring against his ear. “Even if you decide to spit in my face and go back to the street when I let go of you. I’ll be watching out for you. You want to sell yourself, that’s your business. But you’ll get what you’re worth, from respectable sources.”
Vasily stiffened against his hold. “What makes you think I want a pimp?”
Belphagor smoothed the hair away from his cheek. “I don’t want to be your pimp, you stupid boy. I don’t need the bother. But I will beat the living hell out of anyone who misuses you, whether you think you deserve it or not.”
“Why?” He choked out the word, clearly fighting tears.
“I don’t know. I just know that I will.” Perhaps it was because Vasily reminded him of himself when he was young and naïve with no one to look out for him. Perhaps it was more than that. “From now on, you are my boy. My mal’chik.”
Firespirit tears, it turned out, were extremely hot.
“Sweet boy,” he murmured now against Vasily’s shoulder, sculpting a hand around the firm slope at the thigh. In a year’s time, he had filled out impressively. Vasily stirred, not yet awake but his muscles tensing beneath the flesh. “Moi mal’chik.” Belphagor breathed the word, an exhalation of essential rightness and desire. This was his boy, his mal’chik.
Vasily’s pulse quickened, waking mind surging to the surface. Belphagor rested his cheek against a flexing biceps and watched Vasily’s magnificent cock swell with blood.
“Good morning.” He pressed his own hardness against the small of Vasily’s back. “Any regrets?”
Vasily turned his head toward him, the rough nap of bearded cheek rubbing a pleasant irritation against Belphagor’s skin. “Regrets?” The gravel in his voice was even more pronounced first thing in the morning. “Nyet, ser.”
The Russian response sent a rush of possessive fire through Belphagor’s veins. It was the language he demanded during discipline, part of the ritual of obedience as well as a device to focus the subject’s conscious mind on something other than physical sensation. Vasily had used it without prompting, a sign of his total surrender. It made Belphagor want to possess him fully. Immediately.
But he was also a bit of a masochist in his own right. He could wait. He’d waited a year just to have him the first time. And it had been mere hours since.
He tightened his hand against the bruised, beautiful ass, and Vasily made a slight noise of discomfort. “You’ll have quite a reminder of my hand when you try to sit for the next few days.”
“Not just your hand,” said Vasily gruffly.
To keep from giving in to the desire for instant gratification, Belphagor had to bite Vasily’s shoulder, drawing a lovely hiss of steamy breath from him. “Show me how that memory makes you feel.” He sucked lightly at the place he’d bitten. “Put your cock in your fist.”
Vasily didn’t hesitate, his sizeable hand closing around the equally sizeable shaft. He stroked himself rapidly, enthusiastically, while Belphagor snaked an arm around his waist beneath the pumping forearm and played with Vasily’s nipples.
“Good boy. That’s it, my sweet boy.”
“I’m not a boy,” Vasily growled, his last word grunted in an almost surprised ejaculation of sound to match the efforts of his body. Hot firespirit fluid shot from the swollen head of his cock in a perfect trail up his abs and into the hollow below his throat.
Belphagor pushed him onto his back and straddled him, his own unfulfilled erection poised between them like an exclamation point. “I told you, you’re my boy. Mine.” He dipped his head and scooped his tongue into the warm stuff at Vasily’s throat like a cat’s into cream. “And don’t you forget it.”
A red glimmer threatened in the depths of Vasily’s pupils, giving the irises an amber cast. This evidence of his defiance, despite the fact that Belphagor had finally given him what he wanted—or broken down and caved to his charms, more like—was a Pavlovian bell to Belphagor’s hunger for him.
It had nearly driven him mad to keep Vasily at arm’s length this long, telling himself he didn’t deserve him, that Vasily couldn’t possibly want him. He’d felt a duty to mentor him and see to his neglected education, putting aside the possibility of anything more. The past year had been a kind of delicious torture as he’d taken to the floor at night with a pile of blankets to give Vasily the bed—only to wake most nights to discover Vasily climbing under the covers to curl up in his arms. Sleep had been impossible, tangled in those long, sinewy limbs, enveloped in the uncanny warmth Vasily exuded without breaking a sweat—all the while resisting his growing desire.
Even now, after the consummation of it, his heart fluttered like a panicked bird caged in his chest, waiting for something terrible to happen. Waiting for Vasily to realize Belphagor wasn’t as young as he appeared and to ridicule the helpless state to which he’d reduced him: hopelessly enamored of another demon, after the equivalent of a human lifetime of solitude.
For Belphagor, that solitude had been his strength. He hadn’t needed anyone since the earliest betrayals of youthful love. But Vasily had brought him to his knees. Never mind that it was Vasily on his knees that had done it to him.
“What’s got your fire up, mal’chik?” He kissed the spot he’d cleaned with his tongue beneath Vasily’s Adam’s apple. “I thought you wanted to be mine.”
“I hate it when you treat me like a child.”
Belphagor raised an eyebrow. “I’m fairly certain I treated you as rather the opposite last night. Was it not satisfactory?”
The natural pink of Vasily’s cheeks reddened more obviously. “Of course it was. I mean, it was more than satisfactory. Way more. Damn it, Beli.” He crooked his arm across his face as if looking up into Belphagor’s eyes during such talk embarrassed him. He was utterly charming. As was the little endearment that had slipped out, though Belphagor might have decked another demon for it.
He kissed Vasily’s sullen mouth. “It was also far more for me.” It was almost a whisper. “You’ve absolutely spoiled me for anyone else.”
“Good.” The word was delivered with a sudden sharpness. So that was what was bothering him. It sparked a bit of defiance of his own. He wasn’t used to having anyone put restraints on him. That was Belphagor’s specialty.
“Don’t seek to possess me, mal’chik. I’m an airspirit.”
Vasily moved his arm away from his eyes, and they were glowing with furious heat. “So that’s how it is. You own me, you tell me what I can and can’t do, but you can do as you like.” The roiling anger in that gaze warmed Belphagor like combustion from the inside out. The thought of putting Vasily over his knee once more made him almost painfully hard. Without equivocation, he was a slave to this brutally beautiful young demon. Which was all the more reason to play it cool.
“Yes, Vasya. That’s how it is.”
The violent rebuff wasn’t unexpected, but Belphagor had nonetheless failed to brace for it. He found himself forcefully ejected from the cot and sprawled on the cold wooden floor with Vasily standing over him, magnificent in his literal naked anger.
“Then maybe you should skip the foreplay and go fuck yourself!” Vasily delivered the Germanic hardness of the lovely verb fuck as if he were demonstrating it. As Vasily jerked his jeans onto his legs like he was punishing the fabric, Belphagor watched with unabashed admiration of the musculature being hidden away. Hooray at least for his lazy laundering habits that had resulted in this morning’s “commando” mode.
Belphagor picked himself up, along with the black T-shirt on the floor beside him, which he held out to Vasily as if he couldn’t care less whether the demon walked out on him. He’d learned better than to show his hand in matters of the heart.
Vasily snatched the shirt from his grip and yanked it on over the tangled red locks he’d been cultivating. The shirt had once been Belphagor’s. It had stretched to its limits and was now much too small on the firespirit’s frame. Belphagor wished there were cameras in Heaven. He could just about die from gazing at the image Vasily struck.
Vasily was waiting for him to apologize or take back what he’d said, to placate him into staying. Belphagor had no intention of doing so. He had simply stated a fact. Vasily was his. It was indisputable. When he finished pouting over being consigned to the role he’d chosen himself, he’d be back.
The younger demon yanked open the rickety door—now in danger of coming right off the hinges in his grip—cast one last furious, fiery glare in Belphagor’s direction, and left with a fierce slam. The bottom hinge bent.
Belphagor glanced down at his relentless state of arousal with a sigh of resignation. His masochistic streak might be at an all-time high.
Belphagor had expected Vasily to be gone no longer than a day. Tooting his own horn though it might be—and the exquisite whipping he’d delivered aside—he’d fucked Vasily to the point of blissed-out insensibility. It was difficult to imagine anyone not coming back for more, let alone his mal’chik, who’d been begging for the physical consummation of their intense attraction for nigh on a year.
But Belphagor had underestimated Vasily’s own masochism. Blessed with the most stubborn, bull-headed personality Belphagor had ever encountered, Vasily might deny himself what he wanted most, even after having had a taste of it, just to get back at Belphagor for his apparent indifference.
It was an essential part of the game they were engaged in. As that first whipping a year ago had demonstrated, the power dynamic the younger demon craved required the added element of emotional betrayal. He needed to feel wronged, to reach a fever pitch of indignation, in order to let go and fully surrender himself to Belphagor’s control. Unless he was driven to a hopeless resignation, no amount of physical dominance or eroticized pain would satisfy him.
Bringing Vasily to the brink of despondency and then enveloping him in the comfort and tenderness he despaired of—knowing nothing else in the world could make him feel loved—was in turn the most emotionally fulfilling experience Belphagor had ever had. To be loved himself by the one who felt utterly abandoned by him pierced Belphagor in a deep, internal place—went to the very marrow of his bones.
He knew what it was to love desperately and to be abandoned. The one he’d loved would never come to redeem him, but he could be for Vasily what he himself had once longed for so hopelessly.
In the gaming room of The Brimstone for the next several evenings, Belphagor kept an eye out for Vasily’s entrance without appearing to do so. He hadn’t become the best wingcasting player in Raqia by telegraphing his moves. He played exceptionally well, in fact, by maintaining an external awareness beyond the boundaries of the marble-rimmed table while projecting an air of inattentiveness to anything but his own cards. The false inward focus was contagious and tended to make his opponent forget to take note of the broader actions of the game.
When he cast the die or called his opponent’s cast, he let his attention encompass the entire establishment. This part of the game was only chance. Willing the die to land on the elemental creature one had called as the twelve-sided game piece struck the table’s rim had no effect on the outcome. Shifting the air around the table might—with a flick of the wrist in casting or the breath of a bored sigh—but most demons were woefully ignorant of their own elemental power. That Belphagor’s cardinal element responded more readily to his influence was no coincidence.
He’d devoted years of his life—and the number was considerable for a demon who, in truth, had fallen to the world of Man more times than he liked to admit—to understanding how to master the dominant element in his blood. The number of Fallen who literally fell was small in comparison to the demonic population, and the average demon had never experienced terrestrial magic.
In Heaven, a demon—or even an angel, though they were generally too uptight to try—might manipulate his element for simple tricks and folk magic, but in the world of Man, every celestial possessed a power that manifested as elemental wings.
Belphagor had first fallen when he was only fifteen. He hadn’t known about earthly radiance, and the Fallen he’d encountered there, in the city of Petrograd, hadn’t told him. It was only in fleeing the law some months after his arrival that he’d inadvertently found his wings.
Leaping from a bridge to escape, he’d expected to swim for the riverbank and found himself instead soaring far above it. Elemental magic had burst from his shoulder blades as wings of solid air, perceivable only as an absence of light, as if they absorbed its visible range.
“Ptarmigan,” he said absently as the die tumbled from his opponent’s fingers and struck the rim. The other demon scowled as the die landed with the aforementioned fowl faceup. Sometimes Belphagor’s luck was better when he put no effort into the game at all.
“It’s a loaded die,” the player accused. The demon had clearly had too much to drink.
Belphagor narrowed his gaze on the pallid waterspirit. “I beg your pardon?”
“Loaded die!” He stood and delivered the accusation loudly enough for the house to hear. Any such accusation had to be taken seriously. The game was immediately halted and the pot forfeited to the house while the deck and die were confiscated for examination.
It took every ounce of Belphagor’s restraint to keep from leaping on the little worm and delivering a very unerotic beating. He’d turned up the cuffs of his shirt in preparation for it without being aware he’d done so, showing his ink like an animal might show its teeth in warning.
The bluish-black tattoos that decorated his fingers and the backs of his hands were the badges of his incarceration in the Russian prison system. They marked him as vor, a thief, and announced in no uncertain terms that he was not to be trifled with.
Among the right people, the association commanded a certain level of respect in the world of Man that he might never have been afforded due to his less-than-impressive physical stature. But in Raqia, it had the added intimidation factor of making it clear that he had not only dealt with the harsh prison system of the Zona but with the Seraph bounty hunters who exploited it with their own terrestrial magic.
Just as the game inspector pocketed Belphagor’s favorite wingcasting set, the street door opened, ushering in a blast of wet winter wind and a party of young angelic toughs.
One of them had his arm over the shoulder of a demon smartly dressed in a black velvet frock coat and tailored slacks. Despite his impressive size, had it not been for the shock of red matted locks done up in a knot just below the demon’s crown, Belphagor might actually have missed him.
The player still glaring across the table at him ceased to matter.
Angels were touching his boy.
Belphagor’s brain dropped into his testicles. Charging across the bar like a bull sporting bloody banderillas, he struck the angelic prick right in the kisser.
The angel went down in stunned surprise. Time seemed to freeze for a moment before the rest of his entourage sprang forward and descended on Belphagor, dragging him upstairs to the street. Despite his size, he was more than a match for a pair of the little bastards, or even three; prison had taught him a number of valuable skills. But Belphagor had angered a pack of them.
“Learn your fucking place, you piece of Fallen trash.”
While he struggled, snarling, with the ones who had his arms, a fist landed in his gut, and another slammed into his cheek. As Belphagor spat blood into the snow, the angel about to pummel him suddenly howled with pain. Vasily was behind him, twisting the angel’s arm into an unnatural pose.
Belphagor’s odds had just improved.
The howling one went sprawling across the slush-dirty cobblestone while the pair holding Belphagor let go of him to converge on Vasily. Belphagor slammed his elbow into the throat of another on his left, simultaneously kicking sidelong against the knee of the one on his right, dislocating it with a loud pop drowned out by the angel’s shriek as he hopped backward. While the choking one on Belphagor’s left swung wildly at him, Belphagor grasped the wide-swiping arm and knocked him face-first into the brick wall of The Brimstone, punching him in the kidney for good measure.
He turned and saw the two who’d attacked Vasily scrambling away, badly bloodied. The one who’d been sprawled on the ground dragged himself across the street with his arm at an alarming angle, wailing like a child. The rest wisely took off running, shouting racial slurs over their shoulders in cowardice.
Belphagor wiped his fist across his bloody lip and met Vasily’s eyes. Flame sparked dangerously in them.
“Sukin syn,” Vasily snarled. This was not the Russian Belphagor had taught him. “You think you own me, you son of a bitch? You think you can just march up and mark your property the moment someone else takes a fancy to me?”
Belphagor’s stance was casual, but the set of his jaw was hard. “I told you.” He spoke calmly. Dangerously. “Angels are not to touch you.”
Vasily had just dispatched a handful of angels in seconds, the same angels who’d been beating the snot out of Belphagor a moment before, yet his angry expression was now tinged with fear.
Knowing he could strike that fear into Vasily despite his superior physical strength made Belphagor hungry to make good on the unspoken promise. “Did I not make myself clear, mal’chik?”
“No— I mean, yes, you—” Vasily stopped and swallowed, clearly trying to pull his defiance back on. “Why?”
“Why can’t I take facets from angels if they want to spend them on me?” He brushed at the velvet coat a bit proudly. The gesture reminded Belphagor of a fine gray velvet frock coat he’d received from a patron on his first fall. He ignored the long-buried ache in his chest.
“What did you do to get it?”
Vasily eyed him warily. Snow had begun to dust his broad shoulders. “Same as always.”
Belphagor took a step closer. “When I took you off the street, you weren’t making enough to keep your belly full. Now you’re earning expensive gifts.”
Vasily’s cheeks reddened. “You don’t think I’m good enough to earn them?”
Belphagor’s fierce mien slipped a little. “Of course I do. It’s the angels who aren’t good enough. I’ve never met one who wasn’t five times as tight with his purse as a demon with only a handful of facets to his name.” Stepping even closer, he grabbed the satin-backed lapel. “What did you do?”
Vasily glared. “The duke wanted to show off for his friends. I let them all watch.”
Belphagor took several slow breaths without showing it outwardly, willing down the anger licking over him like his own seraphic fire. “Did he keep you well fed?” He realized as soon as the words left his mouth that this could be taken in more than one way, but Vasily didn’t seem to recognize the potential double entendre.
The younger demon shrugged. “There’s a whole staff of demons at the place—the duke keeps a villa on the Left Bank for parties—and there’s a buffet constantly filled for his guests. He let me have as much as I liked.”
“I see.” The scene sounded all too familiar, though the parties at which Belphagor had been the star attraction had been in Petrograd more than half a century ago. “This duke can obviously offer you finer dress and fare than I can. Maybe you’re better off with him.”
Vasily’s stunned expression made his heart ache. “You’re throwing me out?”
“You left, Vasya.”
The normally gruff, burly demon looked as though he was about to break down in tears. “I was mad at you. I wasn’t going to . . .” His gravelly voice trailed off, and he glanced down the dimly lit street. “I beat them all up.” He’d blown his only meal ticket. Vasily took a step back into the lamplight, standing in the snow that was now falling steadily. A group of revelers being kept warm by the spirits they were drinking spilled out of the tavern across the street.
“Mal’chik.” The sharp, quiet utterance did the trick. Vasily turned his bewildered focus on him.
Belphagor moved in and took hold of Vasily’s lapel once more. “If you intend to be mine, get your ass back in that room.” He yanked on the fancy coat and shoved Vasily toward the door of the familiar den of iniquity. The demon went without a word.
Inside their room, however, the firespirit defiance showed once more. “So I can’t sell my favors to angels, but you can have whoever you desire.”
Belphagor allowed himself a little smile. “That is precisely whom I have.” He leaned back against the door, arms folded across his chest. “Give me the coat.”
Vasily’s eyes flared, but after a moment’s hesitation, he complied, throwing the garment at him.
Belphagor caught it smoothly, an eyebrow raised at the attitude. He pulled on the coat, though it hung on his smaller frame, and busied himself with rolling up the cuffs. “Take off the shirt. I want your back bared.”
Vasily stiffened at the implication that a flogging was in order but silently did as he was told, taking the time to fold the shirt and set it aside, though his demeanor was far from obedient. He stared Belphagor down in nothing but the formal slacks.
Belphagor shook his head in disapproval. “Get rid of the pants. They’re dreadful. What did you do with your blue jeans?”
“They’re at the villa.” Vasily dropped the pants and worked them with sharp jerks over the boots he still wore. Commando, Belphagor noted, and properly saluting. He stroked his answering salute through his leather pants.
“That’s unfortunate, as those are going in the trash.” Belphagor frowned. “Do you have any idea what I had to do to get those jeans? They’re fairly common in the world of Man, except in the land of our mother tongue, where they go for a pretty kopek. There’s been another revolution, you see—much like the ones the Fallen are constantly threatening and never following through on. The jeans are a symbol of the freedom enjoyed in the lands beyond the wall that has recently been torn down, and everyone your age wants to wear them.
“Before the revolution, they were much scarcer, but the demand has outpaced the new availability. I gambled for them with the equivalent of a rather large sum of crystal facets, won them, and then had to resort to fisticuffs when the loser decided he didn’t want to part with them after all.”
He’d been coming closer to Vasily while he spoke, his expression stone hard to match his cock, though the words seemed trivial. He wrapped his hand around the back of Vasily’s neck and bore down on his shoulders. “Show me exactly what it was you did for your pretty duke and his audience of angels.”
Vasily resisted the pressure on his shoulders but allowed Belphagor to push him onto his knees nonetheless. Eyes red with anger and unshed tears, Vasily opened his mouth without question when Belphagor unbuttoned and released himself.
Belphagor kept his hand at the back of Vasily’s neck, letting out his breath in a soft sigh of pleasure as Vasily stroked his warm tongue along Belphagor’s rigid cock from base to tip and swallowed him.
Vasily’s celestial ability with his element was superbly controlled. He could vary his internal heat, and he used this skill now to mind-numbing effect. Belphagor clutched Vasily’s locks at his nape to steady himself as the demon took him in deep, tongue and throat working in tandem around the cock he’d swallowed without the slightest sign of discomfort.
The low answering moans to Belphagor’s groans of pleasure nearly did him in, and he had to take control. He used Vasily’s mouth like a passive vessel as he thrust into him, pulling the eager demon forward by his tangled locks. Belphagor closed his eyes, a shiver building in his spine as he contemplated letting go and spilling into the hot throat. But when he opened his eyes again, Vasily’s were leaking tears.
He stopped and drew himself out in alarm. “What is it? What’s wrong?” He cursed himself mentally, realizing they hadn’t established a safeword. He’d let himself get carried away at Vasily’s expense. “I’m sorry, mal’chik—”
“No.” Vasily shook his head forcefully, hazel eyes no longer full of heat as he looked up at Belphagor. “Mne zhal. I disappointed you. Prostite menya.”
“Sweet boy.” Belphagor cupped the bearded cheek. “No. Why do you think you’ve disappointed me?”
“I let the angels have me, I lost the jeans—”
“Mal’chik.” Belphagor slipped out of the coat. “Stand up.”
Vasily obeyed, his tearstained face bewildered as Belphagor put the garment on him.
Belphagor straightened the velvet collar, brushing at Vasily’s shoulders as he considered how to handle this. He had gone too far, but not the way he’d feared. He’d gotten so carried away with the erotic give and take of cruelty and anger that he hadn’t considered that Vasily would begin to take his chastisement to heart. In his enjoyment of Vasily’s submission, Belphagor had stopped paying attention to his state of mind. Given half a minute to consider his actions, Vasily had internalized Belphagor’s correction. He’d have to be careful to watch for the signs in the future. Using Vasily passively, as satisfying as it was, had given his boy time to think and to doubt his own worth—as if a pair of jeans could be more valuable to Belphagor than he was.
He drew Vasily’s head down gently to kiss him, the heat of his mouth making Belphagor’s cock twitch as his tongue usurped its place. “You could never disappoint me,” he said when he’d let him go at last. “Everything you do—every scowl, every burst of temper, every act of defiance against me—it gives me pleasure, do you understand that?”
Vasily shook his head, his expression baffled.
“You give me an excuse to punish you,” he admitted with a wry smile. “The only way you could truly disappoint me is if you behaved. I’d hate it if you didn’t constantly infuriate me.”
Vasily’s nervous laugh said he wasn’t convinced. “But the jeans. I cost you crystal.”
“The jeans, you silly boy, were an evening’s winnings.”
Vasily’s eyes narrowed. “But you said they were scarce and costly.”
“Naturally, they’re costly. To anyone else. You do realize I’m rather good at this game.” He winked and then pushed Vasily backward onto the cot, taking him by surprise as he climbed over him. He bit his lip at the picture of Vasily beneath him wearing nothing but the coat. “Your pretty prize is worth far more. But I’m afraid it may end up a bit the worse for wear, my dear mal’chik, because I’m about to give you what-for.”
With his knees pinning Vasily’s arms, Belphagor lowered his cock, and Vasily moaned as he took it in. Belphagor teased the eager mouth until his cock was slick before sitting back with his leather-clad thighs resting over Vasily’s bare ones. Just enough room to slide his damp cock beneath Vasily’s, stroke it along the cleft of the firm buttocks, and open him. Vasily arched up with a gasp as Belphagor stopped just inside the tight rim.
He leaned close. “If you want a proper lubricant, lovely boy, tell me now.”
“Fuck me,” Vasily begged, and Belphagor obliged.
Buried deep inside him, he took Vasily’s flagging cock in his hand and stroked it like it was his own—fucking him slowly all the while—until it was at full mast. While it bobbed between them, Belphagor slipped his belt from its loops, fastened the leather around Vasily’s wrists, and stretched them back over the firespirit’s head to thread the belt through the frame of the cot and buckle it in place.
“Are you mine?” He began to fuck him in time with the stroke of his hand around the base of Vasily’s stiff cock.
“Da, ser,” Vasily gasped. “Pozhaluista.” Please. This was better than obedience. He wanted to be Belphagor’s.
Belphagor worked his hand faster over the generous shaft, groaning with pleasure as he pumped his hips, almost forgetting the cock in his hand wasn’t his own. Vasily tilted his head back, bearing a striking resemblance to a painting of the martyred St. Sebastian with his eyes on the divine. The image of Vasily as Regnier’s tortured saint nearly pushed Belphagor over the edge, but he wanted to watch Vasily’s climax before he had his own.
He didn’t have long to wait. The muscles in Vasily’s thighs tightened, and he moaned loudly before letting out a deep, guttural sound as he jerked against the belt at his wrists and shot straight into the air like a geyser. And like a geyser, the fluid bursting out of him was hot.
Belphagor sucked in a surprised breath, having pointed the cock at himself to keep from soiling the handsome coat. The semen spilled down his shirt to his exposed lower abs and into his groin like melted wax.
“Mne zhal!” Vasily gasped. “I’m sorry!” Though another groan of pleasure followed this exclamation of regret. He could hardly be expected to stop mideruption.
“No matter.” Belphagor bit the words out through gritted teeth. It wasn’t as if this was the first time he’d taken his pleasure with a little pain.
Vasily shook his head. “It matters. You promised to punish me,” he reminded Belphagor breathlessly.
“So I did. For my mistakes as well as your own.” Belphagor braced his hands against the cot on either side of Vasily’s upstretched arms and dug his knees into the mattress. “In that case, we need a word for you to say if the punishment exceeds what you can bear. A word that won’t be difficult for you to think of even if you’re a bit dazed but one you’re not likely to say on accident either.”
Vasily squirmed beneath him and let out a soft sound of protest as Belphagor reminded him of his vulnerable position with a sharp thrust.
The heat inside Vasily gave him an idea. “How about Seraphim?”
Vasily nodded, looking up at him with a mixture of anticipation and misgiving on his face.
“Say it, so you’ll remember.”
“Seraphim,” said Vasily and then let out a yelp as Belphagor yanked his head back by the hair at his forehead.
“Good boy.” Belphagor gave him one more slow but sharp thrust. “You can make as much noise as you like. You can swear at me or plead for mercy or resist if you wish to. I will only stop if you use the word.”
“Da, ser,” Vasily managed as Belphagor let go of all restraint and fucked him like a battering ram.
Belphagor tested his limits, holding nothing back, and Vasily in turn held nothing back in his vocalizations, yet the agreed-upon safeword never passed his lips.
No one had ever taken this much from Belphagor. There had been negotiations with many over the years who’d chosen to be Belphagor’s “boys,” some true masochists among them who had reveled in punishment, but they’d been nothing like Vasily, who took what Belphagor dished out like the brutality it was and yet desired it even as he railed against it.
Belphagor would have to be careful not to push Vasily too far. At some point in the near future, he’d have to test him to make sure Vasily would use the safeword. But not today.
Belphagor roared out his release, his final thrust drawing a loud cry from Vasily. He watched Vasily’s face as the last of the ecstatic pleasure shuddered through him, hoping his boy hadn’t allowed him to exceed his comfort level once more out of some misguided notion that using his safeword would be yet another infraction.
Just as Belphagor was about to open his mouth to ask if he was all right, Vasily gasped out, “I love you, Beli.”
Belphagor laid his head against Vasily’s heaving chest, wondering what he’d done to get so lucky. Whether he deserved such love and devotion or not, it was terrifying how much he’d begun to need this demon. He’d let himself become more vulnerable with Vasily than he’d been with anyone in his life.
They both had similar backgrounds, growing up on the streets of Raqia—on their own since early childhood—and neither with any qualms about selling what they had. But Belphagor had built a careful wall around himself, brick by brick, to ensure that no one could hurt him. Vasily, however, was raw and full of need, eager to lay himself bare for the love he craved.
“Don’t ever leave me,” Belphagor whispered.
It never occurred to him that someone might take him.
Word Count: 89,000
Page Count: ~330
Cover By: L.C. Chase
Series: Demons of Elysium
Release Date: 07/10/2021
Release Date: 07/12/2021