Garden of Delights by Alice Gaines

Garden of Delights by Alice Gaines

Garden of Delights

by Alice Gaines

Changeling Press

Ebook ISBN: 07374-02378

[ Urban Fantasy Romance, MF ]

Wendy has to win the local garden show. Not only does she need to save her business, but she also wants revenge over her former lover and partner who absconded with the company assets. When Wendy commits the unthinkable in her efforts to defeat her ex-lover, only Sage can guide her back to the right path.

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Chapter One


Normally, the sight of a garden center, newly stocked for spring planting, would make Wendy Stewart’s spirits soar, but she’d never had to worry about how to pay the bill before. And she’d never have guessed she’d be flat broke right before the biggest show of the season. Hell, she’d probably have to break her piggy bank to buy the six-pack of Early Girl tomatoes on sale for $2.99.

Mrs. Chance emerged from the storage area in back and headed straight for Wendy. She wore her serene grandmotherly smile as usual. Working with plants all day could give you a sunny outlook on life. Working with people, on the other hand, could sour your stomach, and Wendy had the incipient ulcer to prove it. She steeled herself for the encounter. She adored Mrs. Chance — sincerely — but she’d never had to ask for credit before.

“I’ve been expecting you, Wendy,” Mrs. Chance said. “You’ll need plants for the big garden show.”

“Sure will, Mrs. C.” Wendy pasted a smile on her face. “Thing is… I was wondering… we’ve known each other a long time, no?”

Mrs. Chance’s sweet expression didn’t falter. It was her trademark, along with the potting soil smudges on her fingers. “Jeff was in here the other day.”

“Oh, yeah?” Wendy’s stomach did a flop. “Buying stuff for the show, no doubt.”

“Practically bought me out,” Mrs. Chance said. “But I held back some of the best merchandise for you.”

Interesting. She hadn’t told anyone that, along with ending their romantic relationship, Jeff had also walked away with the assets of their business. Unless Jeff had said something, Mrs. Chance would have assumed Jeff was buying for the both of them.

“Really good of you,” Wendy said. “There’s one little thing I should tell you…”

Mrs. Chance crossed her arms over her chest and waited for Wendy to continue. Her smile had faded a bit. Wendy struggled for words but couldn’t come up with anything to sugarcoat the reality that she’d been screwed over royally by her ex-partner, in business and in bed.

“Jeff’s never been in here alone before,” Mrs. Chance said after a moment. “And he had quite a bill. He even bought my prize cymbidium orchid.”

Damn it all. Wendy had lusted after that plant for months, but Jeff had insisted it was too expensive. Now he’d have it for the flower and garden show. The rat bastard.

“Did he, now?” Wendy said.

“Sure did.”

“Figures,” Wendy grumbled.

“Is there something I should know?” Mrs. Chance said.

Wendy might as well spill the whole sorry story. Over the years, Mrs. Chance had been more than a supplier and even more than a friend. She’d acted as a mentor, teaching Wendy all sorts of secrets of how to tend for plants and flowers so they could perform at their best and make Wendy’s business — and Jeff’s — look great and get landscaping jobs.

“We’re no longer business partners,” Wendy said.

“So I gathered. A woman was waiting for Jeff in the car.”

“Yvette.” More bustline than brains that one, which explained why the woman adored Jeff so much. Her adoration fed his ego, which really needed no enhancement.

“The whole thing made me wonder what he was up to,” Mrs. Chance said.

“We broke up.” Might as well blurt it out.

“Hmmm.” Even Mrs. Chance’s sunny expression soured.

“And… well… as a result, I seem to be short of funds.”

“He took your money, didn’t he?” Mrs. Chance said.

“I’m going to get it back.” And she would, even if she had to sue his ass and the person at the bank who let him loot their joint business account. “But for right now, I’m having what you might call a cash flow problem.”

“I can imagine you are.” Mrs. Chance didn’t have to add all the cash had flowed to Jeff. The fact that Wendy was here admitting to be penniless said it for both of them.

“There’s only one thing for you to do, then,” Mrs. Chance said. “You’ll have to win the Grand Prize in the show.”

“I’m going to need plants to do it.”

“You’ve come to the right place,” Mrs. Chance said. “I have lots of plants. Some most people aren’t even aware of.”

“I can’t pay you now.” Wendy fairly held her breath as she waited for an answer.

“Oh, pooh.” Mrs. Chance waved a dismissive hand. “You’ll pay me well enough once you’ve won the trophy and you have more jobs — and money — than you know what to do with.”

“My intention, for sure.” Not just to win the trophy but to wave it under Jeff’s nose to taunt him. That’d teach him to try to sink her business.

“Well then, let’s get you started,” Mrs. Chance said. “I have plenty more cymbidiums and lots of annuals. You’ll want some rolls of grass for a lawn. We can put together a pool and fountain.”

“Wow, you really are thinking ambitiously.” The display was already planning itself in Wendy’s imagination. An enchanted waterfall surrounded by flowers with a gravel path leading past a reflecting pool.

“I have a way to guarantee you’ll win the competition.” Mrs. Chance leaned toward Wendy and gave her a wicked smile — the sort of woman-to-woman thing that said “the bastard will be sorry he crossed us.”

“I’ve been wanting to tell you about something for a while,” Mrs. Chance said. “But I didn’t trust your partner with the knowledge.”

“I’m all ears.”

“I have a special section of my nursery for only my best customers. I guarantee you’ll find what you need there,” Mrs. Chance said. “In every sense of the word ‘need,’ if you get my drift.”

Wendy had never thought of her favorite plant lady as having ‘needs,’ if she got Mrs. Chance’s drift correctly. But the woman wasn’t all that old, and Wendy had never met a Mr. Chance. Could she have something or someone around who provided sexual services?

No, too weird. She wouldn’t even consider it. Although Mrs. Chance’s grin had taken a seriously lecherous turn. This was just a plant nursery, right?

“You want to go around to the back. There’s a walled-in garden. Knock on the gate that says ‘positively no admittance.’ I’ll text Sage to let you in.”

“Sage?” Wendy repeated. “Like the herb?”

“More like the learned one — a sage. Everything back there goes through him.” Mrs. Chance put her hand on Wendy’s shoulder. Conspirators again. “You’ll like Sage, and I’m sure he’ll like you.”

“All right, Mrs. C., and thanks.” Wendy turned to head off toward the back of the nursery, but Mrs. Chance held her for a moment.

“Remember,” Mrs. Chance said. “The gate marked ‘positively no admittance.’”

“Right.”

The area in question wasn’t hard to find. A wall of bricks over six feet high enclosed most of the area behind the nursery. Odd Wendy had never noticed it, but she’d never had any reason to come back here and had always assumed the space was a parking lot. The barrier didn’t appear particularly new, either, because ivy covered a great deal of it. That had to have taken some time to grow.

She searched until she found the gate. Made of metal, it appeared quite capable of keeping unwanted visitors out. When she knocked, the sound seemed to reverberate around her, as if someone had sounded a gong. As the noise faded, she stared at the sign. “Positively no admittance” was no kind of welcome, but she had no choice about turning back. She needed to win the garden competition to get her business back on track, and Mrs. Chance had assured her the vegetation on the other side of the wall would give her a victory.

Finally, the door opened with a creak that also seemed to echo around her. A man stood on the other side. Somehow, the name Sage fit him. He wore a flowing robe of earthy colors — browns, greens, and yellow like sunlight. His hair hung around his shoulders in thick curls of a rich brown matching his eyes. His expression reflected peace and relaxation. Exactly what you’d expect from someone who worked with soil and plants — at least if their business partner and love interest hadn’t abandoned them. Before she’d fallen head-over-heels in love with Jeff and had forgotten her roots, she’d felt that way often. This man seemed to offer to allow her to experience those feelings again. If she wasn’t overanalyzing the situation. She was certainly staring at him, rather rudely.

“I’m Wendy,” she said.

“I know.”

“Mrs. Chance must have texted you.”

“I would have recognized you anyway, Wendy.” He stepped aside. “Come in.”

Okay, a little strange but nothing to worry about. Maybe the guy thought he was psychic or something. Mrs. Chance wouldn’t employ anyone dangerous, and she certainly wouldn’t have sent a female customer into a secluded garden with someone who’d try something with her.

“You’re Sage?” she said.

“That’s how I’m known.”

“Is it your name?”

“If you like,” he said. “But you didn’t come here to discuss names, did you?”

“Mrs. Chance says you have special plants back here. I have a garden show to win.”

He smiled in the indulgent way you do to a child who’s said something entertaining but not overly intelligent. “You can win whatever you want with my plants. The trick is figuring out what you really need.”

“Sure thing, Sage. Maybe you can advise me.” He seemed to have a cryptic sort of ancient wisdom thing going on. Maybe he communed with the plants and the extra attention made them grow well. If so, a few lessons from him might help. After the way Jeff had left, she was low in the good vibes department.

He turned and headed down a path between some shrubs, his footfalls crunching on gravel as he went. Everything was perfectly manicured back here, as you might expect from the finest part of a nursery as excellent as Mrs. Chance’s.

Tree roses lined their path, giving off the most amazing perfume. For the first time in days, Wendy’s shoulders went down to their normal position, and she could take even, deep breaths. She followed Sage without worrying where he was leading her or what he’d show her. In this garden, nothing mattered but the warmth of the sun, the call of birds, and the scent of fertile earth and flowers.

As her sense of time slipped away, so did her perception of distance, but honestly, they’d been walking for a while with no end in sight to the path.

Sage had moved ahead of her, and she had to increase her pace to keep up with him.

“Say, Sage,” she said with a bit of breath to her voice. “Are we still at the garden center?”

“We’re not at the center of the garden yet,” he answered.

That didn’t answer the question, so she put a hand on his arm to stop him for a minute.

“Where exactly is the center of the garden?” she said.

“Where is the center of anything?” he answered. “Right in the middle.”

“Yeah, but I’m starting to feel we’re in another zip code.”

He studied her for a moment. “Ah, the postal service. Very efficient organization, but they don’t come here. At least not to deliver mail.”

“You don’t get mail?”

“No mail, no internet, no wifi, no cell phone reception, no clocks, no television, no radio,” he said. “We don’t need them. We entertain ourselves.”

She pulled her cell phone from her back pocket and checked for reception. He was right. The thing was dead. Even the camera didn’t work.

“No pictures, either,” he said.

“Why?”

“Enough questions.” He resumed walking, and she followed. What else was she going to do? If she left, she’d miss out on the extra special plants Mrs. Chance had promised would win the garden show for her.

A bit farther along the path, she encountered a truly amazing shrub. It stood nearly as tall as she was and was covered by multi-color leaves. Each one seemed to shimmer individually and fluttered even though there was no breeze. The colors dazzled in every hue of the rainbow.

She stopped in her tracks and pointed at it. “What is that?”

Sage returned to her side and smiled. “It’s a sculpture.”

“But it’s alive.”

“Of course it is,” he said. “Look closer.”

She did. She practically had to put her face into the shrub to discover it wasn’t a plant at all. A metal central trunk spread out into fine branches, and at each axil where a leaf would be rested an insect. No, two insects. They looked like damselflies and had iridescent wings, and each couple was joined together in mating. Thousands of gorgeous tiny creatures having sex. No wonder their wings fluttered. They made the perfect picture of buggy ecstasy.

“Do you understand now?” Sage said.

“Not at all.”

“You will.” This time, he took her hand, and they walked together.

The perfume of the flowers grew thicker, seeming to hang in the air around them. It seeped into her mind and made all sensation more intense than usual. The pressure of this stranger’s fingers around her own came to feel natural, and she could only gaze around her in wonder at the intensity of the colors and the sweetness of the sounds. Warmth spread inside her, starting around her heart and moving downward. Her breasts became sensitive, the nipples stiffening, and down in her sex… Holy shit, she was becoming aroused.

Sage smiled. “You understand now, I think.”

“Do I?”

“Come.” He led her off the main path into a stand of trees. There he stopped and waited, his head cocked to one side. She stood there, too. Maybe whatever would happen next would explain this place.

After a bit, a new sound joined the birds and insects. It came from a distance, but was clearly human. Laughter from a man’s voice, and a woman’s high-pitched squeal of delight. The people appeared in a clearing ahead of where Wendy stood with her guide. Both naked except for shoes, and the man was clearly aroused, his cock standing stiffly out from his body.

“Who are they?” she whispered.

“Friends.”

“Friends of us or each other.”

“Us,” he said. “They’re more than friendly with each other.”

“I see.” She saw a lot. The man was chasing the woman, and she pretended she didn’t want him to catch her. From the expression on her face, she was enjoying the game as thoroughly as he was. She dashed around a rock at the center of the clearing, and as he zigged to get at her, she zagged in the opposite direction. They danced that way for a while, and then the woman made a break to get away. Of course, she ran right across the man’s path and he snagged her, wrapping his arms around her waist.

The chase had ended, obviously, because in the next moment, they were kissing, their limbs twined around each other like ivy climbing a trellis.

Sounds of their heavy breathing echoed around Wendy’s brain, and their rising passion somehow invaded her own body. There was no doubt about where the love play before her would end up. The two of them would couple, and in the magic of this place, she’d experience their pleasure, even from a distance.

After a bit, the woman dropped to her knees in front of the man and gripped his erection in her hand to guide the tip to her mouth. His eyes unfocussed with pleasure, he stared down at her, arranging her hair away from her face so he could watch her eat his cock.

“You understand now, I think,” Sage said.

“I’m beginning to.”

“Good.” He pulled her in front of him, her back against him so she could continue to watch the scene unfolding. It felt natural to have Sage wrap his arms around her and even more welcome when he cupped her breasts and massaged them.

The whole experience felt like watching an erotic movie but with a lover nearby to give her pleasure. She and Jeff had never done that, which was a pity, really. She’d thought their sex life good, but he’d never created the sensations she experienced now — the feeling she knew how the other couple felt and she’d have the same sexual release they did.

Bending, Sage pressed his lips to her ear. Not to speak to her but to blow softly into it. That connected to other parts of her body, zinging along nerves made sensitive by everything she’d experienced since entering the garden. As he toyed with her nipples through her clothing, she leaned against him, giving him permission without words to do exactly what he wanted with her.

By now, the other man’s cock had taken on the livid color of near-orgasm, and he eased his lover’s mouth away from it. Obviously a caring partner, he helped her down onto the grass, spread her legs, and placed his face against her pussy to give her the same pleasure she’d done for him.

Wendy sensed when the man’s tongue touched the woman’s clit. The woman let out a little yip and then a long sigh as she dug her fingers into the man’s hair.

God, it was hot to watch, and Wendy’s sex responded by becoming wet. She’d never imagined she could grow so excited from watching someone else. She couldn’t ask Sage to give her an orgasm, even though he was doing a marvelous job with her breasts. She’d have to find some way to wait until she got home and then get out her vibrator. She could cut the rest of their tour short right after those two climaxed.

Sage must have known what she wanted, though, because one hand snaked over her ribs to her belly, popped the snap of her jeans, and pulled the zipper down. Ohmigod, he was actually going to touch her where she most needed it. She almost melted on the spot.

When he slipped his fingers into her panties and went in search of her clit, her knees threatened to buckle.

He held her upright with his other arm. “Watch them.”

Without a voice to answer him, she could only nod.

The woman’s breathing had turned to gasps and then to whimpers rising in pitch. The man must have taken it as his cue his lover was ready, so he rose above her, took his position, and drove his cock into her. The woman’s gasp of pleasure ricocheted through Wendy, and Sage chose that exact moment to run his fingertip over her clit.

The certainty registered in her brain, as if there had been any doubt. She was going to come, and the orgasm would be one of the really good ones. Leaning against Sage for support, she surrendered to the inevitability. Standing her in this beautiful environment and watching two other people fuck, he’d play her body until she joined them in rapture. Already the grunts and moans from the clearing gave evidence of the nearness of their climaxes. With Sage fingering her clit as though he’d done it for years and knew her every nerve ending, she’d climax with them.

As the man’s thrusts grew more frantic, Sage kept up a constant flick, flick, flick of his finger. Her vision blurred around the edges, giving the world a hazy, heated appearance. Her heart hammered in her chest as the storm gathered inside her. Between her thighs, the coil tightened, the tension building. Sweet and hot. So powerful. She let out a groan to let Sage know not to stop. With a soft chuckle into her ear, he continued, but now using a firm circular movement of his finger.

Oh, damn. That was it. She couldn’t take another moment of this. Why wouldn’t the other couple come so they could all find release together?

As if Wendy had willed it, the other woman let out a loud cry, signaling her orgasm, and a heartbeat later the man joined her, stiffening with his last thrusts.

Their passion created a shockwave that built and crested over Wendy. The power of her own orgasm washed through her. When she cried out, the sound echoed through the clearing, mingling with the birdcalls.

When the climax ended, she rested limp in Sage’s arms. Now with both wrapped firmly around her, he cradled her. Reality didn’t return for long seconds, and when she opened her eyes, the other couple was gone as though she might have imagined them. She hadn’t dreamed the effects on her body, though. The memory of the powerful orgasm and the fluttering of her pussy were too real to deny.

“I understand now,” she said, although the recognition of what this place was lived more in her body than her mind. There was a power here, and it connected to the sexuality of the creatures inside its borders. Mrs. Chance had sent her here to collect that power, even if on a tiny scale, and translate it to her work.

“Good,” Sage said. “Come back tomorrow, and we’ll discuss plants.”

“Tomorrow?”

He took her by the shoulders and gently turned her around to face him. “I have other things to do beside play with you, no matter how tempting you might be.”

He was smiling at her again as if she were a child. Maybe she was, compared to his knowledge of this garden. The idea she tempted him warmed her from the inside. She had to leave now, darn it, but she could come back tomorrow.

“Follow the path we used,” he said. “You’ll come to the gate.”

“Tomorrow, then.” She turned to go. After a few yards, she looked over her shoulder to find him watching her as she left.

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