Archive for June 20, 2015

In the Company of Wolves   Leave a comment

Title: In the Company of Wolves
Author: Samsom
Summary: Don’t go walking in the woods after dark. It’s good advice.
Rating: R
Challenge: N/C
Characters: Cordelia, Angel, & Drusilla
Disclaimer: Not mine. All characters belong to Whedon, ME, Fox. I’m playing.
Notes: Beta’d by DamnSkippytoo. Ficlet-length darkness.


Don’t go walking in the woods after dark.

It’s just a cautionary warning from a fairy tale, Cordelia thinks. So what if every mother and father in Sunnydale repeats the same warning? Parents do that.

Don’t stray from the path.

She knows that one too. Same story, same bad ending.

She looked it up once, on the internet, because she knew that the woodsman saving Red Riding Hood in the nick of time must have been tacked on. She’s attended too many funerals of friends to believe heroes lurked in bushes waiting to save innocent girls.

But it’s not like she’s some little waif lost in the woods. She’s stranded in the park, that’s all. By a date who turned out to be a creep.

And she’s not wearing red. She’s wearing plum, an autumn color suited to her skin tone, according to the personal shopper her father hired to take her to Rodeo Drive on her last birthday. Her hair is up, not tucked into a hood.

She keeps her eyes on the ribbon of white in front of her, the path that leads to the other side of the park and to Sunnydale proper. She doesn’t look too deeply into the woods that border the path on either side of her, because she’s not afraid of something looking back.

The moon is bright, lighting her way like a lantern, and the stars are like diamonds that she can wish on if she wants to, and her daddy will make those wishes come true.

But try as she does, she can’t keep from seeing out of the corners of her eyes.

Daddy took her to get her eyes checked last summer, and the doctor told her she had excellent peripheral vision. She wishes now that she didn’t. She wants to be vision poor and needing glasses, because then she wouldn’t see the girl in white drifting on the edge of the path, in and out of the woods like a firefly, silent like Cordelia’s nightmares.

A world of silence in the heart of the park, with only the whisper of the trees bending in the breeze.

If she screams, she wonders if it would be silent as well.

Then it disappears again into the black woods only to reappear on the other side of the path closer to Cordelia’s trembling foot falls.

Close enough to hear the slow pounding of her heart, the sluggish push of her blood through her veins.

The firefly stops dancing and pauses, and like a wraith from an Irish legend, it turns slowly and focuses its pale marble face on Cordelia.

If she keeps walking, if she keeps her eyes on the path in front of her and not go into the woods, she won’t need the woodsman to live. She can ignore what’s in the corner of her vision like she ignores the ass-kissing freshman girls in school, like she ignores her mother’s glassy eyes at dinner time.

If she just keeps her eyes ahead of her.

Closer comes the firefly

If she just keeps her eyes in front –

“I know you,” it says.

And Cordelia stops on the path.

“The moon whispers to me,” the firefly tells her, pale hand with veins like ropes under her skin touching Cordelia’s face. “Do you know what it tells me, hmmm?”

Cordelia turns her head slowly.

Not a wolf, not really. A dead girl, seventeen at best, hair wound with ribbons and curls, blue eyes bloodshot red, old dress with tattered edges and cobwebs snarled in the lacing at her breasts.

Her lost mind and vacant eyes can’t hide the cunning or the hunger, though.

She’s the wolf after all, dressed in the skin of a waif.

Sharp white teeth under her blood stained lips, and a sickly smile that keeps edging off her mouth like a lop-sided toupee off a bald man’s head.

The crickets chirping suddenly breaks through the silence of Cordelia’s fear, and she swallows the mouthful of saliva that had gathered in the back of her mouth as she walked along the path.

“We’re the same, it says, you an’ me.” Drifting around Cordelia’s frozen body, hands on her shoulders, colder than snow, squeezing her flesh. “You see pretty things, drink sweet fear,” she whispers in a sotto voice. “But then he comes and makes them unpretty again, takes the fear and makes it small.”

Standing in front of Cordelia again, eyes gazing at her and Cordelia can’t stop from staring back, lost in the void she sees, the nonsensical words like the brushings of a fly against her skin.

“We can play, now that we’re sisters an’ all,” she says, doing a little jig, hunching her back like the wicked witch and pointing into Cordelia’s face. “You can show me the pretty things.” She stops and straightens. “Wouldn’t you like that?”

Then the waif sheds her skin and shows the wolf beneath, hissing through her sharpened fangs.

What big teeth you have

Then it rears back like a snake about to strike and she closes her eyes, ready to swing her fist. Ready to run. Ready to die.

She’ll never know which.

The wolf cries out in the darkness beyond Cordelia’s closed eyes and she opens them to see the waif again.

Angel has no axe, but he’s got his fist tangled in the girl’s ribbons and curls, and he’s holding her still.

“Quiet now, Drusilla,” he whispers quietly. “You don’t want to get me mad, do you?”

“Daddy,” Drusilla wails in a grieving voice. “Grandmother said you were dead, but I knew you weren’t, the stars told me so.” Reaching up, she tries to touch his face but he pulls away from her seeking fingers.

He pushes her away and tells her to leave in a voice sounding like it’s been dragged over gravel and broken glass.

“Take Spike and leave town, Drusilla, don’t make me kill you too.”

She stands like a lost little girl, trembling in her tattered dress, hair hiding her tear-streaked face.

“Daddy,” she whispers entreatingly, her fingers bunching into her dress, tearing the fabric and scoring the skin beneath.

Angel flinches at the name, guilt and revulsion mixing with something darker than the woods around them in his face.

Cordelia watches him.

An urge to hurt, maybe.

She watches his hands tremble.

An urge to turn Drusilla’s weeping into wails.

She watches the swirls of a distant light gathering in his eyes.

And the wails into screams.

He moves suddenly, and takes Cordelia’s arm in a loose grip.

His face is calm, neutral.

Reassuring.

“You’re safe now,” he tells her, and she blinks at the insanity of his words.

He’ll lead her out of the woods, back to the safety of town and people.

She knows this, and trusts in it.

But she also knows, as he leads her away, that she’s still in the company of a wolf.

~End~

Samsom

Posted June 20, 2015 by califi in Complete

What the Heart Wants   Leave a comment

Title: What the Heart Wants                                                        WhattheHeartWants_Final_600x450
Author: Lysa Whitmore
Rating: NC-17
Category: Fluff & Smut
Content: C/A in AtS Season 2, Pre-Pylea
Spoilers: None
Summary: Love doesn’t have to be perfect to be true. The arrival of a new client at the Hyperion causes Cordelia and Angel to explore their mutual attraction. Is this really love or just risky business?
Special Thanks: To Daiana who sent me an email that reminded me that I love to read and write C/A fanfic. Also to Ke’o for volunteering to beta-read this fic.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. This is fanfiction. No infringement intended.
Distribution: Angel’s Archive, Go Team, Just Fic, Darkness & Daylight.


When would this torture end? Cordelia propped her left foot up on a pillow gently letting it sink into the cushion. A bad sprain earned during a fight with a Trawlik demon had forced her to stay at the Hyperion for nearly a week. Still slightly swollen, the ankle was wrapped up in a not-so-stylish Ace Bandage.

Normally, she’d be cool and comfy at home getting Phantom Dennis’ special brand of TLC, calling in her visions on the Angel Investigations hotline, and enjoying her convalescence by planning how to spend her hazard duty bonus.

Stuck here with a broken air conditioner, crutches, and acting as a temporary chaperone for their latest client, a lost Buttercup type from an alternate reality or nearby dimension or space-time continuum, made Cordelia cranky.

Things might have been different if a certain penny-pinching vampire had actually listened to her business plan regarding the rest of the hotel. At a place with over fifty guest rooms it only made sense to prepare a few of them for staff and clients. Barely looking up at her from the newspaper he was perusing, Angel had blandly reminded her, “We’ve got a mission, Cordelia. This is an office, not a bed & breakfast.”

“That’s not what I meant…” Cordelia remembered snatching the newspaper away holding it out of reach, but Angel was too fast and it hadn’t occurred to her that she was still in grabbing distance.

Angel’s instinctive reaction surprised them both. Her little shriek of surprise was short-lived. Arms and legs and newspaper flying, Cordelia somehow ended up sprawled upright across his lap and torso, straddling his powerful thighs, smashed against his chest with the newspaper crushed between them. “Oof!”

What the… he was so not getting away with that. He had an iron grip on her hips and no amount of wiggling would dislodge her. Their cheeks brushed when she pulled back, pushing against his shoulders to steady herself against his stiff frame. Faces inches apart, their eyes clashed, hers bright with anger, and his a hint of triumph.

If he thought superior strength was going to win this argument he was dead wrong. “Pretty sure my job description doesn’t include lap dances for eunuch vampires.”

Angel completely ignored her attempt to poke at that particular vulnerability. His hold on her hips slid to her waist, setting her a little further back on his legs, preparing to help her back to her feet. The rush of fury she had felt was suddenly sideswiped by another emotion, not so much a foreign feeling as a forgotten one. Maybe it was the straddling, or the way his touch gentled, or just the shock of his sudden move that left her tingling.

“I was reading that paper,” Angel sounded lazily amused in contrast to the angry buzz causing her to curl her fingers into his shoulders.

Shock. She was going with shock.

Heart hammering, Cordelia sucked in a deep breath and snapped, “Pretending to read it, you mean. Hah! You’re just trying to get away with not listening to my idea. Like you’re actually interested in…” she snuck a look at the headline on the crinkled page between them, “Fashion Week Fiasco…um, what fiasco?”

Instantly intrigued, she plastered the newspaper against his chest, pushing hard to give her enough room to read the first few lines. Speed-reading her way through the news Cordelia finally reached a point where the rest of the article was still stuck somewhere between them. Angel had relaxed back into the couch cushions, his big hands resting on her thighs, fingers drumming softly as he waited for her to realize she managed to sidetrack herself from her own argument.

“That’s not what I was reading.” The sports section was crushed somewhere between them. “You can have that section if you’ll…” he had started to negotiate for her terms of surrender.

“Give in? No way!” Bounding off his lap Cordelia took the paper with her as she backed out of Angel’s reach holding it in a crumpled mass behind her back. He was on his feet in less than a second stalking forward with a purpose.

Something deeply human kicked in making her want to run like hell. She didn’t, standing her ground and watching Angel loom closer, tall and broad shouldered, and surprisingly sexy in a way that hadn’t really occurred to her in ages. A flock of butterflies somersaulted inside her. “Don’t you dare,” she panted out of sheer panic.

Oh, he dared. In fact, he seemed to be enjoying this. Angel’s hands shot out to her waist preventing her escape, cool fingers brushing across the exposed skin between her cropped shirt and jeans. Saying nothing, he dropped one hand behind her back to grasp her wrist. His hold was firm, but gentle, the glint in his eyes teasing as he plucked the paper from her nerveless fingers with his other hand.

Two seconds seemed like an eternity where neither of them moved. He held on, his hard body close, but not close enough. His eyes darting down to hers as if trying to read her thoughts and dropping further to her lips as if he had actually done so. Cordelia inwardly fought off the sudden urge to crush her mouth to his. Impossibly it seemed that for a moment he had the same idea.

Just as suddenly his eyes hardened, a mask slipping back over his features, dousing the spark she had seen there so quickly that she might have imagined his reaction. He released her wrist and stepped back, sternly censuring, “It won’t happen.”

Before the rational part of her brain kicked in to tell her that Angel was still on-topic and talking about her idea for the Hyperion’s many guest rooms, she backed off another step only to bump into something solid. “Right. Bad idea. Let’s not go there.”

“Good. I’m glad you’re seeing things my way,” Angel fortunately wasn’t watching as she fidgeted and plucked at her revealing top that suddenly felt a size too small. He was ironing out the paper with his hand against the smooth surface of the marbled front counter totally focused on removing the creases. “We’re not exactly rolling in cash at the moment.”

What did money have to do with wanting to kiss him? Oh. The penny dropped a second later as she realized just how far off base she had gone. Kissing her was the last thing on his mind. Not even on the radar. The first time they locked lips, the only time, was when she tried to rid herself of the visions. Angel hadn’t exactly been enthusiastic. Turning him on hadn’t been her intention then or now, but it was kind of upsetting to learn that he was completely unmoved by the thought. Especially since she had been certain that the notion had at least flashed through that thick vampire skull, a tiny blip of an idea that crashed and burned before it could really take off.

It was a moot point. Kissing Angel was a bad idea. Curiosity was one thing. Suicidal tendencies quite another. Better to just put it out of her mind completely. Drop the subject. Forget it. Cordelia might have to concede that point even if it was only to herself.

As for their original argument, she wasn’t quite finished. “We can spruce up a few rooms. Just in case. What if our clients need a safe place to stay for a couple of days? It’s not like we don’t have the space for it.”

“What happened to this being a bad idea?” Angel looked up from the article he was reading on an off-season trade of an L.A. Kings goalie.

Vampires and ice hockey. Go figure.

“Woman’s prerogative. I changed my mind.”

Angel shook his head. “After what…thirty seconds?”

Shrugging nonchalantly, Cordelia let out a soft pfft. “After nearly two hundred fifty years you’re going to tell me that surprises you.”

Hah! Got him on that one. Despite her fairly solid idea Angel refused to let her go forward with her plans. They had limited cash flow and it was more important to get their business established before adding on extras. Cordelia had already scoped out a room for herself even before asking about the others. “For after my visions,” she urged him to let her keep that one. “My clothes, too. Sometimes I need to shower and change before going home.”

“Cordy, you don’t need to justify having your own room,” Angel actually looked surprised as he lowered the paper.

His assurances that he would give her anything she wanted apparently did not apply to decorating guest rooms or sharing a few kisses. Not that she was about to point out her feelings about the latter. That was just a bad idea. One that kept popping back into her head with colorful clarity. One she needed to forget. Pronto.

That whole argument had gotten her one room, which she now had to share with a client because there was no other safe place on the whole planet for her to stay. One runaway princess took a wrong turn with a crappy spell and could no longer locate her home dimension, and somehow Cordelia got stuck with her. It wasn’t like they could afford to put her up at the Ritz, especially considering the possible damage if the rest of that horde of Trawlik demons managed to catch up.

This was torture and it was all Angel’s fault and she didn’t mind one iota that it pissed him off when she found some new way to remind him. He was this close to letting her go home to Phantom Dennis a time or two, but he reminded her that it wasn’t seemly for the princess to be alone at the hotel with him.

“Seemly? Really. Since when are you the poster boy for gentlemanly behavior?” Cordelia rolled her eyes at that one. Snort. “Seemly. How about you stay with Dennis, I’ll take your room and Princess Kalina can stay in mine?”

Already guessing his answer, Cordelia just wanted to see how he’d respond to the suggestion. She didn’t have to wait long.

Angel dismissed the idea almost as soon as she asked it. “Silverlake is too far away. I should be close by in case those demons show up,” he reasoned.

True. Cordelia had to agree. That was one of the reasons she was here too. That and it was impractical travelling back and forth on crutches.

“How about we just share your room like we used to when I stayed at your apartment. It’s hard to sleep with her there. The mattress is too lumpy…we never did get a chance to replace it. She has these bony elbows that keep poking into my ribs. And she hogs my bathroom.”

Angel didn’t say no, but he did point out, “We’re on the same schedule now for the most part.” Meaning it would no longer be as simple as splitting the use of the bed between a daytime and a nighttime sleeper.

Oh. That did put a different spin on it. They’d be there at the same time. Sharing. Which would be totally different than sharing with Her Royal Hoity Toityness. Angel’s bed was roomier and covered in her favorite soft cotton sheets. The pillows were nice, too. The few times he had carried her there after one of her really bad visions made waiting for his return more bearable. She liked his bed. It was comfy compared to her lumpy hotel hand-me-down.

If they shared the bed it wouldn’t be empty like it was for her post-vision naps. To be in Angel’s bed while he was sleeping in it didn’t sound very restful to Cordelia. Oh, she had no doubts that her vampire boss would think anything of it. He had already demonstrated his utter lack of interest in her in any intimate way, and she had nearly forgotten about that insane moment when she almost kissed him.

“Right. As much as being your human blanket warmer appeals,” Cordelia opted for sarcasm, “I think I’ll pass. I don’t think the princess would find it seemly if I slept with you.”

Angel’s mouth twitched at the corner.

To think she had actually been enjoying herself for once when that last vision hit out of nowhere. The PTB really had the worst timing. Angel and Wesley didn’t have time to get her back to the Hyperion. They’d only stopped long enough to call Gunn for backup, yet barely made it in time.

The night sky seemed to swell and then burst with light. An energy blast tossed Cordelia through the air. She landed hard. Dizzy, she heard an echo that sounded like her name. Strong arms scooped her up, carried her the few steps back to the car and set her on her feet. “Angel,” tried to complain that she didn’t need coddling. There was still ringing in her ears…no, screaming…and howling…

Her blurred gaze suddenly came into focus. Over Angel’s shoulder she saw a woman running for her life from a monstrous demon close on her heels. “Go! She needs you.”

Angel hesitated only a fraction of a second. Long enough to brush his fingertips just beneath the reddened scrape across her shoulder. A glimmer of gold lit his gaze just as his human features fell away, skin and bone shifting, fangs flashing in the lamp lit shadows of the back alley street. When he moved it was faster than expected, brandishing strength and sword against the demon whose maneuverability defied his size.

A screech of tires signaled Gunn’s arrival as his truck pulled up next to the Plymouth. “Man, where’d that thing come from?”

Grabbing his axe, Gunn ran into the fray where Angel and Wesley were tag teaming to keep the demon under control. The girl was trapped against the broken wall of an old factory desperately trying to get loose. Her long skirt was hooked on exposed rebar. She tugged, but the material would not rip free. One wrong move or a push from that demon would send her reeling into the jagged metal.

Cordelia paled at the memory of her own experience of being impaled. Adrenalin rushing, she scooted back to the Plymouth’s open trunk and reached for a sword. Angel hadn’t gotten around to that promised training session yet, but it looked like the time had come to just go for it.

Running over to help she timed her moment when the demon was focused on fighting off the guys hacking and slashing at its massive bulk. Cordelia unhooked the woman’s skirt from the rebar and told her, “Run!” She was about to follow when murky smoke began to billow around them.

“Get a move on, Goldilocks!” Cordelia pushed her forward just before the smoke started to harden around one of her ankles. She tugged trying to free herself, but it suddenly tugged back.

Lurching forward onto the ground, sword clattering to the asphalt, the air whooshed from her lungs. A sharp pull on her ankle dragged her closer to the demon’s bulk. Cordelia glanced over her shoulder, intending to look for a way to escape, but her eyes clashed with Angel’s. He had just dodged a blow and caught sight of her vulnerable position.

Fear tightened in her chest. Rescue wasn’t exactly going to be easy. Angel couldn’t get to her directly. The demon was in his way. Gunn and Wesley were too far out of reach. The only way Angel could intervene was to keep fighting. She saw the determination in his eyes and recognized his concern for her, “I’ve got this,” the words came out winded.

With a long stretch her fingertips curled over the sword hilt inching it into her grasp. Twisting her body as she lay on the ground, Cordelia brought the sword down on the tendril continuing to tighten around her ankle. The arcing blade narrowly missed her foot by a couple of inches, but she was free.

Scrambling to her feet came with a struggle. Her ankle was already swelling up like a toy balloon and pain jabbed up her leg with every step. Biting down on her lip, she kept her injury quiet not wanting to distract Angel, Gunn and Wesley from the fight they were finally starting to win.

With some effort, she limped back to the Plymouth where the demon’s prey crouched behind one of the open doors peeking back at her. Rising up to her full, albeit petite height, upon Cordelia’s approach, she looked to be about the same age, if not a year or two older, than her. “Your warriors fight ferociously. It seems they shall win the day. You have the gratitude of Kalina Thornecrown, Princess of Oohlaroona.”

Seriously? Cordelia heard the superiority edging her tweeety little birdlike voice and couldn’t resist a twist on her own introduction, “Queen C. Welcome to Los Angeles.”

The PTB didn’t normally send visions about royalty, but this girl was important in more ways than one. The big show and tell was a bit vague on the details. Cordy leaned against the car to take the weight off her ankle, no longer certain that she could stand on it.

The proud tilt of Kalina’s head accompanied the glimmer of tears in her eyes. Hearing Cordelia’s introduction the princess rushed out from behind the car door and sank into a low curtsy. “Oh, your majesty, I am ever so grateful for the rescue.”

Hmm, that was more like it, but Cordelia decided to set the record straight. Or at least take it down a notch. “Call me Cordelia. We’re equals here.”

The demon was dead. Within seconds of its lifeless body hitting the ground Angel was at her side assessing the damage, his eyes darting between each bruise and scrape until they settled on her left ankle. “Dammit, Cordy, I thought I told you to stay in the car.”

Pfft! Like she was going to let them put their lives on the line alone? “Actually, you didn’t. Although it might have escaped your notice, I’m a woman, not your pet poodle. I don’t respond well to commands.”

Kalina gasped, which called Angel’s attention to her as if he had just realized she was standing there. “Your champion treats you quite familiar, Queen Cordelia. You are right to put him in his place.”

Angel slowly swiveled back to meet her gaze, his brow quirked up, but saying nothing to correct Kalina’s off-base remark. Both Gunn and Wes managed to jog up to them just in time to hear it. Their reaction was in no way as subtle as their laughter echoed into the night.

Letting them have their fun for a few seconds, Cordelia met Angel’s amused eyes and grinned, adding a shrug of her shoulders. Then she got back to business. “No funny bones were broken during the fight, I see. Anything else need patching up?”

“Just you.” The low grunt proved Angel was still pissed about it. Both Wesley and Gunn reacted with concern the moment they realized she had been hurt.

Yeah, her ankle hurt. Not quite enough to pass out from the pain, but it was throbbing now. Cordelia didn’t want to give Angel or the guys an excuse for an I-told-you-so. “Give me a little credit. I did rescue the princess.”

Wesley automatically reached up to straighten his tie as if the royal title pinged an automatic requirement for perfect deportment. His attempt to look gentlemanly might have been more effective without the demon goo dripping down his jacket. “Ahem, Cordelia, perhaps you should make the introductions.”

The goofy grin on Wesley’s face was the first warning sign that things were going to get a little weird around Angel Investigations. Cordelia missed it at the time being focused inwardly on the pain of her injury. Hindsight was a bitch. Had she known that Kalina Thornecrown would turn her life into a living hell she would have gone to visit Aura for a few days and called it Sick Leave, but the vision hinted that the danger might not be over and no matter how crazy things got Cordelia wasn’t about to abandon Angel or the guys.

The PTB wanted this lost Buttercup safe and sound. One demon was dead, but Kalina revealed that it was just the first of a trio of assassins from her world. “Magic brought me to this world, but I had no time to tether myself to the gateway home. It will take time to find my way back again.”

Time, she had said. More like the week of hell.

Cordelia had had it up to here with their royal guest. As a child she had never been into the magical realm of the Disney princesses. She had nothing in common with the poor cinder girl with the evil stepmother and wicked stepsisters. There were no rivals for her family’s affections. The Chase family had one princess who dreamed of real castles and mansions and beautiful things.

Although Cordelia’s desires hadn’t changed much, she wasn’t over-awed by the presence of a real, honest to goodness princess used to being cosseted at every turn. She thought about her own Sunnydale days and cringed at the memory. Kalina was everything a princess should be: beautiful, polite, sweet natured, and properly prim. Worse, the guys hung around her like bees buzzing around a pretty little flower.

Kalina so had the damsel in distress thing aced. Too bad the chair she was sitting in didn’t come with an eject button.

“Is there anything else you need, Princess?” Wesley practically cooed the words at their guest who sat in a very ladylike pose next to Cordelia. Perfect posture, hands delicately folded in her lap, tiny ankles crossed just so and peeking out from the delicate folds of her baby blue gown, Kalina Thornecrown curled her rosy lips into a shy smile.

Not bothering to hide the eye-roll, Cordelia snorted, answering for the princess who lowered her eyelashes, cheeks flushing, seemingly unable to speak. “For the hundredth time, Wes, go back to your research. Kalina isn’t hungry, lonely or in need of a good backrub.”

Sputtering his reaction, Wesley tried straightening his tie and looking manly instead of awkward. His cheeks were a fiery shade of red above the slight stubble of his jaw. He had been burning the midnight oil searching for a safe way to send the princess back to her home dimension. His king-sized crush was no secret to anybody, but then he wasn’t alone in that either.

Gunn kept making excuses to come to the Hyperion. Just checking on things. Seeing if he was needed. He loved it every time Kalina called him her Dark Warrior and recounted the way he handled his axe. The one time Gunn had taken her words as flirtation and responded in kind, she actually fainted causing Cordelia to dribble bottled water over her face.

Fortunately, Gunn wasn’t here just now. He had taken the princess’ reaction as a challenge, getting a little bolder with every visit. Kalina had even managed to stay conscious the last couple of times thanks to Cordelia’s coaching. Men in her dimension were certainly boring if the princess’ weak descriptions were anything to go on. Still, she seemed to expect a certain level of attention from those of the male gender and wasn’t lacking for it.

“I thank you, Wesley,” Princess Kalina’s dulcet tones wiped the scowl from his face, “but I truly have no needs at this time but to learn from dear Cordelia how I might repay her for saving my life.”

Just my rotten luck, thought Cordelia. Royalty in my debt and she hasn’t got a cent to her name.What did the people of Oohlaroona use for money? More importantly, would her favorite shoe store accept it as valid currency for that pair of Manolo Blahniks she had been drooling over?

If there was one guy around here that Cordelia thought would be immune to Kalina’s charms it was Angel. He had known a princess or two in his time and beautiful women weren’t exactly a rarity either, but she had one trait that played to his particular weakness. Long, and luscious honey blond hair flowed to her waist in a way that made her perfect for a role in a shampoo commercial. Leave it to the artist in Angel to notice the way her eyes seemed to pick up the color of her gown. Today it was blue, yesterday violet, and the day before that sea green.

Creepy, much? And where were these clothes mysteriously coming from? It wasn’t like she arrived on Earth with a steamer trunk. Angel seemed to admire her ultra feminine style as if it reminded him of days gone by. His comments were never direct. His appreciation of her beauty might have been aesthetic. Blondes were his thing, after all.

Maybe Angel didn’t gush over Kalina like Wes did, or openly flirt with her like Gunn, but he wasn’t exactly absent, either. He just had sneakier ways of sticking around.

“Geez, Angel, my pillow is fine. Enough with the fluffing already.” Cordelia reached down to slap his hand away from the cushion propping her foot up.

Oh, he was good. No one would even suspect he was ogling the princess while outwardly appearing to be focused on her instead.

With Kalina at her side it was easy to catch Angel staring. Cordelia had purposely dressed for the hot weather wearing shorts and a tank top, but even they seemed to make her feel stifled. So she was happy to tell Angel what he could do about his opinions on the more feminine attire of yesteryear: corsets and crinoline. Not that he’d actually gotten tell her his point of view before she snapped at him.

Dewy perspiration clung to her skin. It was hot. Even Wes in his buttoned up shirt and tie didn’t seem to feel the heat. Bastard, she thought crankily. Kalina looked as cool as a cucumber despite the layers of her dress. And as always Angel seemed unaffected, although he had rolled up his sleeves revealing his powerful forearms, and left the top two buttons of his shirt undone exposing his Adam’s apple and the hollow of his throat.

For an instant she imagined her mouth there, and his cool touch tracing across her heated skin. A little mewl escaped her throat. Oh, God! What are you thinking?

Cordelia snapped up the magazine at her side trying to focus on the article on eyeliner application. It was boring. Couldn’t hold her attention. She flipped the page. This was better. Much better. A male hottie grinned up at her from the page dressed casually in jeans and a sport shirt, but he was blond-haired and grey eyed and despite his obvious charms Cordelia had no interest in letting her mind wander off to a place where he touched her.

“He is desirable,” Kalina murmured while leaning closer.

Surprised by the comment, Cordelia looked again. “I suppose. You think he’s hot? Don’t get me wrong, Kalina, but I thought you seemed a little prim and, uh, proper to care about men.”

Those baby blues were suddenly far wiser than wistful giving Cordelia the impression that the princess was more than just a lost waif. “I know what the heart wants. Yours cannot hide the truth no matter how deeply you choose to bury it.”

Cordelia glanced down at Mr. Pearly Whites again. “Trust me, I am so not hiding anything.” Yes, he was cute. He would no doubt be great fantasy fodder for somebody. Just not her. “Your radar is off, princess.”

A little smirk appeared on Kalina’s face as she leaned closer, her hand reaching out to cover the photo. “You refer to this image. Look again and tell me he is not all you desire.”

Indulging her just because she had nothing better to do, Cordelia pulled the magazine out from behind the cover of her hand revealing the photo from the bottom of the page to the top. As before the jeans were snug in all the right places, but the denim looked tighter, thighs more muscular, and package intriguingly bulgier than before. More differences. The sports shirt was gone and in its place a partially buttoned blue shirt with rolled up sleeves and familiar forearms and oh so broad shoulders and… “No!”

“The love between a vampire and a human may never be perfect, but yours is true. It wells deep, forged in the bonds of your friendship.”

Denial burned through her veins, her heart thudding as the rest of the photo was revealed to her. Angel. There were no shadows in the brown eyes staring back at her from the page. Focused on her he seemed to be staring into her soul reading the secrets she had held inside for so long. The bright smile, as lighthearted as it came for her vampire, left an ache in her heart.

Flipping the magazine closed, Cordelia shoved it away. “That’s not fair, Kalina. You’re wrong. I don’t want…”

“Iced tea?” Angel’s sudden appearance in front of them holding out a glass to each of them had to signal his next subtle attempt at getting close to Kalina. The princess took his offering with thanks and set the glass upon the table at her side.

As usual, Angel made no obvious move toward her, said nothing overtly flirtatious. He had a strategy, Cordelia was certain of it. Just when he was planning to make his move was anyone’s guess, but it was coming. Had to be. Angel might be a vampire, but he was one hundred percent male. And didn’t she know it.

Cordelia eyed the offered beverage jadedly. Fine, she would take it, but not because she was letting him get away with his little ruse to get closer to the beautiful princess. It was just too hot to bother pointing out that Angel was making just as much of an idiot of himself as Wes and Gunn. Besides, the iced tea looked wet and delicious and it wasn’t easy for her to hobble over to the refrigerator to get it for herself.

Reaching up to take it, Cordelia’s fingers brushed across his, something that she normally wouldn’t notice, but that slight touch now charged through her like a streak of lightning. Condensation from the glass dripped down from his finger. A little gasp caught in her throat as the cool liquid splashed against her heated skin. The little driblet coursed down to the crease between her thighs.

Angel jerked his hand away the moment he could, stepping back, his eyes darkening as they bore into hers. His tongue dashed across his lips. Cordelia caught her lower lip between her teeth and tugged hard enough to draw her attention away from his mouth. Unfortunately it only drew his gaze to hers where it lingered on the plump curve of her soft lips. She wasn’t sure what to think about the distinctly male glint in those eyes.

It vanished quickly much to her relief. A flash of anger followed. Then confusion. Cordelia knew all about that as she read the subtle expressions he normally masked from the world.

Sipping at her iced tea, she let it distract her from Angel’s intense stare. The cold glass was still sweating with condensation. Cordelia held it against her neck long enough for a droplet to trickle down between her breasts, icy cold. With a sigh she shut her eyes and moved the glass down to trace the length of her thigh as if it was a cool hand soothing away the heat.

The harsh slam of the office door chased away the images forming in her head. It was no surprise that Angel was no longer standing there when she opened her eyes. Crap. It wasn’t like her to tease him that way. Not like that. Make fun of his dorky behavior, yes, of course. Call him out on his broody creature of the night mentality, well, duh. Remind him he was practically a eunuch… that was just good sense. He had no choice, right?

“Follow your heart, Cordelia,” said Kalina as she took the iced tea glass away setting it down beside her own. “Let there be no doubt. It knows what it wants. The answers you seek are to be found there.”

“You have no idea what you’re doing,” Cordelia huffed as she struggled to get to her feet. She had left her crutches upstairs this morning since her ankle was feeling a bit better than yesterday, but it wasn’t completely healed yet. Hissing quietly so that Wesley wouldn’t overhear, Cordelia told her, “Angel is cursed. We can’t… he can’t… it’s never gonna happen even if I wanted it to. Which I don’t. It’s not like he’s into me. He’s not.”

Kalina rose gracefully from her seated position to help Cordelia limp across the lobby toward Angel’s office. They made it as far as Wesley’s desk before he dragged his attention away from the thick tome he studied. He cautioned her, “I would not go in there just yet, Cordelia,” but his gaze was fixed on the princess, a goofy grin plastered across his face again.

“Mind your own business,” she snapped and took a few shaky and painful steps closer to Angel’s door.

Wesley was just curious enough to be distracted, “What did you say to him?”

Truthfully, “Nothing. I didn’t say anything.”

For some strange reason, Wesley glanced at his watch before suggesting, “Perhaps you should wait just a bit longer before…,” but his attention wandered away as the princess provided a timely distraction by smiling at him. “Ah, your highness… Princess Kalina… how might I be of assistance?”

Cordelia flashed her a grateful look as Wesley’s attention riveted back where she wanted it, away from her. As she gripped the doorknob, she heard Kalina ask, “Tell me my dear Wesley, how might I repay you for your part in saving me from that demon?”

Inside, Cordelia shut the door behind her and moved forward trying her best not to wince each time her weight pressed down on her injury. Angel sat in shadow behind the desk, his face tight with controlled emotion. Anger welled close to the surface. It sounded in the gruff way he spoke, “You shouldn’t be here, Cordy.”

Limping closer, she leaned forward onto the edge of the desk. “We need to talk.”

“I’m not in the mood to talk.” Angel gave her one of those stubborn stares that suggested it would be easier to move mountains.

“Tough. That means you get to listen.”

Apparently he wasn’t much in the mood to listen, either. Angel pushed back from the desk and was on his feet so fast that Cordelia instinctively jumped back. “Ow!” The injured ankle gave way under the stress. She started to fall, but was caught almost immediately by Angel. His strong arms lifted her up, held her close for an instant longer than necessary and then set her down on top of the desk.

With a pissed off I-told-you-so stare, he crouched down to examine her ankle. It was already swelling a bit in reaction. Cordelia could tell by the way it throbbed. “Will I live?”

Angel rose slowly, his cool hands moving along the contours of her legs, hands hooking behind her knees to make room for his body as he leaned close. “That’s a dangerous question considering what you’ve started.”

“Really, I started it?” Maybe he wasn’t completely unmoved by her. Unless it was just a pure male reaction to what she had done. Trying to diffuse the blame, she pointed out, “You brought the iced tea. I was just trying to stay cool.”

Having Angel’s hands on her made it hard to stay focused.

He looked like he wanted to kiss her. Like he was going to kiss her. Cordelia felt like she was about to leap out of her skin. She wanted it and she knew he could see it in her eyes, but he was right. This wasn’t exactly safe territory.

Passion roughened the low timber of his voice mixing with despair. “Cordy,” he moaned her name as if it hurt him to say it.

She didn’t need a vision to tell her where this was going. Angel planned to put a stop to this. To whatever this was or was about to be even before it had a chance to start. It was the smart thing to do. What they should do.

Angel should’ve backed off. Stopped touching her instead of letting his fingers press deeper into her flesh holding on just a little tighter conveying his need and making her tremble for more of his touch.

When he said her name again, Cordelia cut him off, her fingers slicing up to press against his lips. “I thought you weren’t in the mood to talk.”

His hand closed around her tiny wrist dragging hers away, his fingers moving up to tangle with hers. Whatever he was going to say, she couldn’t let him. It was too soon for this to end.

Slinging her free arm around his neck, leaning into him, Cordelia crushed her lips against his. They softened almost instantly parting on a sigh that sounded between them. The gentlest of kisses teased their way across her mouth, tenderly exploring every soft curve.

Cordelia scooted forward toward the edge of the desk, her legs curling around him to pull Angel even closer. As much as she liked holding his hand and the contact it created she needed to touch him. Flexing her fingers until their hold loosened she slid her hand up the ladder of his ribs around to his back pulling him into her.

He was stronger and somehow a little more in control of this kiss making her slow down when she wanted it all at once. She clung to his shoulders when his mouth trailed across her jaw and made a slow descent to the curve of her throat, his blunt teeth gently capturing the spot where her pulse raced fastest. The thin strap of her tank top fell away with the slightest nudge leaving the curve of her shoulder exposed. Angel pressed one soft kiss to the healing scrape marring her golden skin.

His forehead rocked against her shoulder for an instant seemingly saying NO when it was all too clear that the rest of him was saying YES. Cordelia could feel the tension in his shoulders and back as her hands stroked down to the waistband of his pants to pull his shirt out needing to press her palms into his skin.

There was no denying his arousal, the proof of it a hardening bulge between them. It was impossible not to move against it, hips shifting forward, legs curling tighter. Heat flushed her skin. She needed his mouth on her, now. Wanted these clothes off. Had to press her swollen breasts into the hard plane of his chest. Needed him filling up the empty ache inside her. God, “Stop thinking. Just kiss me.”

He did and it was everything. Long, drugging kisses that devoured her mouth, his tongue darting deep, and body echoing the motion. Hips connected, his hand on her ass kept her close, as his clothed cock rocked forward and back setting off sparklers with every slow screw.

Cordelia couldn’t get close enough, her hands scrabbling to hold on for the ride, wanting more, faster. She could feel herself getting wet just from the friction. A cry of protest sounded as his lips lifted away only to morph into a whimper of needy anticipation when he suddenly dragged her tank top down over her right shoulder taking her lacy bra with it.

Admiration and hunger burned in Angel’s gaze as it clashed with hers. He groaned deep, the rumble of it reaching his chest. The intimacy of his cool touch curling around her bare breast and palming its weight nearly brought her to tears. Thumb stroking close to the velvet peak. Why did it feel like she’d wanted this forever?

Cupping his face between her hands she dragged his mouth back to hers. Open, hot and no longer willing to let him set the pace. She sucked at his lips. Darted her tongue around his. Scraped her fingernails across his throat down to the small white buttons of his blue shirt. Panting for air, she came up long enough to try to undo them.

Angel flashed a grin, and let her struggle, obviously enjoying the fact that he had her trembling hard. He used her momentary distraction against her, bending down to sweep his tongue across her breast, sucking the turgid peak into his mouth. “Gah!” Cordelia fell back, grasping desperately onto the open collar of his shirt, her head dipping back, and hair spilling across the mahogany surface of the desk as she arched into him.

The pull of his mouth nearly made her come apart. Her legs tightened around him, her sore ankle flexing just a bit too much to bear. Cordelia let out a yelp of pain. Angel lifted away with lightning speed, eyes hazy with lust, trying to zero in on the reason for her cry. He stepped back, his hand gently supporting her injured ankle.

“You’re hurt. We—”

“My ankle is fine.” Cordelia propped her hands flat on the desk, still leaning a bit, with her breast exposed and draped by lace, her voice husky with desire and a plea to stave off sanity just a little bit longer. “You’re too far away. Touch me. Talk to me. Tell me you want this.”

Angel’s nostrils flared, his tongue snaking across his lips. As he moved forward he trailed his fingers from her injured ankle up the length of her calf and closed around upper leg caressing her inner thigh with his thumb. “I want this. Trust me,” he brushed kisses across her cheek to lips. Almost distractedly, he muttered, “It can’t be much longer.”

Reaching between them, Cordelia daringly palmed his erection, skirting her fingertips down to its tip and back up again. “Seems pretty long already,” she teased as he bucked forward into her grasp and groaned her name. Looking deep into his eyes with her lips a hair above his, she wanted him to know she wasn’t playing games, “I’m not the begging kind.”

His thumb brushed higher, delved beneath the denim crotch of her shorts and the tiny scrap of her silk thong. “We’ll see about that,” he whispered back slicking his thumb across her honeyed folds.

Desire ratcheted back through her veins narrowing down to a pinpoint where Angel rubbed and circled around her clitoris. Cordelia lost her grip on the desk, her leg flailing up and hooking over his shoulder as he leaned in. She squirmed in the direction she wanted his touch to take, closed her eyes, captured her bottom lip between her teeth, and tried not to give him the satisfaction of pleading for more.

“Look at me,” he demanded softly. She complied because she needed to see the raw spark in his eyes, the fervid need ripping at the mask of his control.

The moment their eyes met Angel’s long fingers speared into her slick heat, gently at first, gathering moisture, moving with a slow, easy thrust, in and out of her snug center. She gasped unable to hold the sound of pleasure back from him. He smiled smugly, letting his eyes convey his thoughts. So he thought he could play her like a violin, did he? Oh, god, he was so right.

Each swipe of his thumb teased the swollen little nub making her writhe across the desktop. Like a virtuoso he masterfully strummed inside increasing her need at every stroke, fanning the flames and igniting something utterly wanton within her. She pulled at her top, fingers bunching the material, wishing that she could reach him, but not wanting to chance that he would stop. “Please, don’t stop,” she keened softly and traced patterns across the skin she exposed at her waist, fingers fluttering up to skirt the swell of her breast, plucking at the nipple.

Angel reached out, jerking her closer, her body angling up off the desk. He cupped the back of her head, kissed her hotly, and did something with those magical fingers that made her scream. He swallowed the sound, dashing his tongue across hers, their mouths merging and parting and melding together with the rhythmic movements below. She shifted her leg off his shoulder, pulling him closer, wrapped her arms around his neck and held on as he gently stroked her through her orgasm.

As fantastic as it was Cordelia wanted more. She dropped her hands to his waist, tracing the edge of his leather belt, her fingers moving slowly toward the buckle. “Can we? I want you inside me. More than your fingers.”

The threadbare restraint that Angel held onto showed in his face. Cordelia knew she was pushing it, that this could get dangerous fast. “Hey, it’s not perfect, right?” she hoped to convince both him and herself. Nothing to bliss out about except, “You and me. Here on the desk.”

That brought a smile to his face that made her heart ache with more than just desire. “You’re perfect,” Angel said with utter sincerity. He rapidly set her to rights again, after a quick fondle, lifting her bra and tank top into place. Before doubt could set in, he added, “We’re going to be together. Just not on this desk. Not our first time. With you in my arms it will be perfect for both of us.”

Cordelia shuddered with anticipation. Her fingers were trembling as she re-buttoned Angel’s shirt. “First times imply second times.”

He brushed his lips close to her ear. “Don’t bother counting.”

Sliding off the desk and balancing her weight on one leg, Cordelia held onto him. “Angel, we’re friends, right?”

“You have to ask?”

Nervously, Cordelia tugged at her bottom lip again. “I’m asking. What is this? Before we dive into this all helter skelter I just want to know straight up if this is real. Something more than just friends with benefits.”

Angel looked puzzled at first. The phrase was obviously new to him. He seemed to get it a few seconds later. The proverbial light bulb went off. He looked a little panicky for a second. “I know what I feel, Cordy, and I hope that you feel it, too. That’s real.”

“Vague, much?” Cordelia grinned at him for being an adorable dork, a very hot, adorable dork, but definitely of the dork persuasion. She knew this wasn’t just attraction. The feelings of friendship between them had changed so slowly it had barely registered. He was her friend, and her champion, and her heart was incomplete without him. As sappy as that seemed, Cordelia knew it was true. She had to tell him.

Eagerly, Cordelia looped her arms around his neck, standing on tiptoe to reach him. “Angel, I lo—,” she began only to be interrupted as he loudly cut her off.

“Wait! Hold that thought.”

Hurt and suddenly confused, Cordelia’s heart plummeted. Had she gotten it all wrong? “Oh. You don’t love me that way. But you want me. I get it. That’s okay. Even better. We don’t want to risk any broken curses, do we?”

Angel rubbed a hand over the back of his head and neck while she rambled on. “Not that it seems to be a risk. So friends with benefits it is. I-I can do that.”

Could she, really? It was one thing to ignore her feelings completely. Be with Angel without being with Angel. What was she letting herself in for? It didn’t matter. Something to think about later. Right now, she wanted him on any terms, and who was to say that this wouldn’t be safer for everybody involved.

Angel tilted her chin up forcing her to meet his determined gaze. “Can we put the declarations on hold? Just for tonight. I want to year you say those words again. I do. Right now…the curse…it’s probably not a good idea to talk about the fact that…that feeling…is mutual.”

Inwardly, Cordelia was cheering. She tried not to smile, but the realization that Angel was telling her, without actually saying the words, that he loved her too, tugged at the corners of her mouth and made her heart flutter happily. “Talk can be overrated, but before we go completely silent on the subject I have to point out that you promised me the best sex ever and I plan to hold you to that.”

“Between the two of us I can guarantee it,” Angel answered boldly as he reached down to scoop her up into his arms. “Good news. My backup plan just arrived, so it seems we won’t have to wait.”

Cordelia let out a little hum of excitement as she settled her arms around his shoulders and nuzzled close. Best sex ever. Guaranteed. No waiting. Then she caught up with the rest of what he’d said. “Backup plan?”

After a moment of hesitation, Angel pointed out, “The curse isn’t exactly set in stone. I talked it over with Wes a while ago when I first realized that I was in lo—there was some kind of attraction between us.”

“Wesley is such a dead man. He never said a word to me.” Cordelia wondered how that was even possible. The man could not keep a secret from her if his life depended on it. Except, now, when it was something she really wanted to know.

“Before you plot Wesley’s demise,” Angel suggested that she hear him out, “you might consider thanking him instead.”

“For what—advising you ignore your feelings for me completely?”

Angel paused as they reached the door. “Cordy, he found a spell to protect my soul. We think it works. There was a flashy lightshow involved. Looked legit.”

Stunned, she lifted her hand to his cheek, asking, “Do you feel any different?”

“That’s just it…I don’t. So there is no way to guarantee that the spell is functioning until it is actually tested.”

Cordelia’s lips formed a circle, “Oh. So, um, you’re telling me I need to bring a stake. Could be kinky,” she joked trying not to sound afraid of the possibility that she might need it.

“Not necessary.” Angel managed to turn the doorknob, opening the door just enough that the voices from the outer office came through clearly.

“That spell shouldn’t be a problem.” Wesley and Kalina were not alone and the sound of that familiar voice gave Cordelia a rush of confidence that things were going to work out just fine. Willow Rosenberg talked over the plans to return Princess Kalina to her own dimension, safe and sound, and without the risk of running into the other Trawlik demons. “Opening a gateway is easy enough and with the right details we should be able to send her straight home.”

“I have already collected most of the spell components,” Wesley informed her as he held up a long list of items. “One of local specialty shops should have the rest.”

Willow said that she was happy to help out. Just confused. “When Angel called me last night he asked me to bring the Orb of—” Pulling the door open caused its hinges to creak. Willow stopped talking and gaped at the sight of Cordelia being carried out of Angel’s private office.

“Cor. Angel.”

“Hi Willow. Wow, I never thought I’d be so happy to see you!”

Maybe it was the fact that Angel was whispering naughty suggestions in her ear that made Cordelia blush, or the dawning understanding in Willow’s wide eyes that being in Angel’s arms wasn’t just a substitute for her crutches.

“Maybe you can explain…Um, where are you going? I just got here.”

“Just in time, too.” Cordelia told her as they moved past without stopping, “You’re in for a long night. Wes will tell you all about the backup plan. No souled vampire with a curse should be without one,” she quipped, grinning.

Angel called out to Wesley, “We’ll be upstairs.”

 

End

Lysa

Posted June 20, 2015 by califi in Complete

Friends & Neighbors 7   2 comments

A Vampire and a Gentleman

Angel accepted her teasing challenge with a kiss, and another just for good measure, reaching back to flip the ‘OPEN’ sign on the office door to ‘CLOSED’ before sweeping her up into his arms and heading downstairs.

He noted with an angsty twinge that his declaration had not been returned in kind. Cordelia wanted him, but had not revealed her own feelings in return. It scared him a bit, like he was stuck in the dark and needing her light to guide him through these uncharted waters. He knew it was not going to be that easy. Not with Cordelia Chase. It would take more than words to convince her this was not just lust, and that he truly felt more for her than either of them would ever have imagined.

Love. The idea of it shocked him. Not because he felt it, but because it felt so different than before. Angel knew he would have to be patient despite his need to know the depths of Cordelia’s feelings. Hungry for answers, he would instead have to be content with sating himself in her, proving the strength of his words by making love to her. Leaving no doubt that she belonged to him, and that he was hers.

The demon at his core gloried at the notion of staking claim, but Angel pushed those urges out of his head even as Cordelia’s teeth tugged at his ear and her warm lips followed to ease the sting. Another nip at his neck sent a dart of pleasure straight to his groin. He stopped on the stairs long enough to draw her attention finding her gaze full of wicked intent, a smile playing at her lips, as her hand slipped up spreading out across his cheek.

“Don’t drop me,” she laughed and then kissed him wildly.

The warning was necessary. It took every ounce of concentration and supernatural coordination to avoid a spill down the stairs. Having his arms full of Cordelia prevented him from responding in any way that let him take charge of that kiss. Just a little out of control her tongue slid into his mouth, hot and wet, eager to draw him out. Her soft lips swiped across his, a moan echoing between them, looking for just the right angle. Finding it, and then on a sigh, winding her arms around him, she reeled closer, their lips meshing urgently.

Only the need to breathe made her pull back to urge him to, “Hurry!”

It took enormous determination to keep moving despite knowing that it would be all too easy to press her limber body against the stairwell wall, rip her panties away, unzip, and thrust home. Better with the beat of the music in their ears, he thought, reminded of that night she stumbled home too drunk to realize she was seducing him. That was something to save for another day, when she had her full faculties, and was not likely to confuse him with some celebrity fantasy figure. Now he had a far different idea involving his bed, her favorite sheets, and teaching her the benefits of a little patience, assuming that he could manage that particular feat considering his own arousal.

Angel carried her through the open bedroom door kicking it shut with the heel of his shoe. Her eager laughter turned into a squeal when he tossed her onto the bed, a deliberate effort to put a little distance between them just long enough to get it together. The weight of the ring on his finger carried with it more than just a reminder of his curse. It was his hope for a future together as more than just friends and neighbors, and for something that went far beyond the pleasure they would find in each other’s arms over the next few hours.

Looking at Cordelia sprawled across his bed heightened every possessive instinct. Somewhere not too far from the surface, his inner caveman and demon mutually approved the urge to pounce on the bed using his muscular body to press hers into the mattress, preventing any chance at escape, and ensuring his claim. As tempting as it was to do just that, Angel did not want to frighten her. He felt certain that her level of experience with sex was limited, and though her golden skin flushed a darker shade of pink where her blood pulsed faster, and the gleam in her bright eyes warned him that she was equally capable of pouncing first, it seemed like a good idea to try to take it slow.

“Good luck with that,” he could hear Cordelia saying if he suggested it. Maybe he was crazy for even thinking it was possible. Holding a steady gaze he lifted his chin, held out his hand, and watched an alluring smile curl her lips.

Cordelia flexed up to make a slow crawl across the bed rising up to her knees the last few inches. The height of the bed brought them face-to-face, their bodies aligned and the layers of their clothing doing little to disguise his arousal. A hint of trepidation flashed across her expressive face before the stroke of his hand chased the shadow of doubt away. His thumb traced the curves of her cheek and the swell of her lips before following with one of the softest kisses they had shared, the coolness of his mouth warming as he brushed across hers, adding a tiny dash of tongue, that enticed a sigh from her throat.

Listening to the rhythm of her heart, the blood pulsing through her veins, Angel pulled back just a fraction. Her eyes were closed; dark lashes brushing her cheeks, with the pleasure of the kiss still painted across her beautiful face. The delicious scent of her mixed the everyday temptation of Cordelia’s personal fragrances with the more intoxicating allure of arousal.

When she opened her eyes to stare deeply into his Angel knew that his plan to go slowly was likely to crash and burn. The temptations she presented without even knowing it tugged at his control, pushing buttons that she was instinctively capable of finding despite layers of personal barriers. Wanting to convince Cordelia they could aim for something real that had nothing to do with rebounds or playing it safe, he had thought slow seduction might be a key strategy, but this feeling between them was too powerful to be contained or controlled demanding their mutual surrender.

Cordelia’s hands planted on his shoulders, plucking at his collar with nervous excitement. “Are we really doing this?” she asked with a sense of wonder. The rhetorical question did not really require an answer, but Angel had to respond, “Oh, yeah,” confirming it for himself, yet hardly recognizing his voice as it thickened with passion.

He reached up releasing the tortoise shell clip that bound her hair into its stylish knot and watched the silken waves cascade across her shoulders. Filling his hands with it, he threaded his fingers through its mass imagining how it would look spread out across his pillows and Cordelia’s bare skin. Every new revelation ramped his desire up another notch.

Kissing her again, this time with a quick, rousing press of his lips to hers, Angel simultaneously stroked one big hand down her spine, his fingers spreading across the firm curve of her ass, teasing her with a gentle squeeze. It gave her license to touch him, too. Her hands left trails of heat everywhere they touched moving across surfaces covered by clothing. He wanted those hands on his skin, touching him, stimulating, stroking his cock.

With a gruff growl, he grabbed her hands and moved them up the center of his chest, her fingertips bumping on buttons along the way. “Undress me,” he challenged echoing words she had once spoken to him the night before he had gone to Sunnydale.

Cordelia needed no further instruction, eagerly diving into the task, though adrenalin made her fingers tremble. Unbuttoning his shirt was not so simple, the buttons somehow evading capture or refusing to be pushed through their small buttonholes. “Maybe I should just bite them off,” she let out a laugh despite her frustration.

Hearing her say that word sent a jolt of lust directly south. Angel ripped open his shirt sending buttons popping in all directions. “Bite me. Let me feel your teeth.” Her tongue dragged across her upper lip as she stared at the swath of torso revealed through the ripped open shirt.

Both hands curled into the soft fabric of his shirt as she opened it to her hungry gaze. Kisses played alternating turns with nibbles as Cordelia sought out sensitive spots to tease him with her teeth and hands. He wrenched his shirt off letting it drop to the ground.

Wrapping her up in his arms Angel sent them both tumbling down onto the bed rolling onto his back and letting her claim higher ground. She reached down to kiss him while he deftly unbuttoned her blouse, slipping it down her shoulders, and revealing the lace-trimmed black silk bra cupping her breasts. He moaned at the sexy sight bringing his hands up to curve around both soft mounds, reminding himself of their weight as they filled his palms.

Cordelia wiggled into a seated position around his waist, tossed her hair back over her shoulders, and stripped off her blouse, letting it fly across the room as she tossed it away. It landed on a lampshade turning the light a rosy hue. “This could be fun,” she said probably talking about the position, while Angel was busy enjoying her enticing breasts. She ran her hands down Angel’s arms and up to cover his hands as he played with her breasts, strumming his thumbs across her curves and the sensitive nipples that jutted up against the silky barrier. “Mmm, I like it when you touch me. Want me to lose the bra, too?”

Speechless, Angel plumped her right breast and sucked the thin silk and turgid nipple into his mouth all at once. He felt her arch into him, hearing the strangled little sound of pleasure emerging from her throat that made his cock twitch for similar attention. Loving that sound, he wanted more of it. She clutched his shoulders, kneading the muscles with her fingertips, her rounded fingernails lightly pressing into his skin unintentionally teasing. He moaned into her cleavage as he lifted her breasts into a tighter vee against his mouth, slowly rubbing both cheeks against her soft curves.

Cordelia caught her lower lip between her teeth as he licked her there, his wet tongue teasing slowly along the contour of skin and lace, while his thumbs stroked her curves. Looking up just in time to see a determined flash of lust in her eyes, he watched as she impatiently reached behind her back to unfasten her bra shrugging it from her shoulders. He slipped it down her arms, lecherously grinning at the way her breasts bounced free of their confinement.

A wicked glint flashed in her eyes. “Like me?” she asked daringly cupping herself and tweaking her swollen nipples.

He muttered something incoherent and wrapped his hand over hers sucking and laving, nipping and teasing her bare breasts. Cordelia arched toward the pleasurable sensations, her head thrown back, hair a wild river down her back as she offered herself up to his skilful mouth. Although Angel wanted to play with those tempting new toys a while longer, he could not ignore other needs stirring him to action. Rock hard, his cock strained against the zipper of his pants aching for contact and the tight heat of her body. Taking hold of her hips, he moved her down from his waist to his groin settling her over his against his aching erection.

Cordelia let out a little gasp, shifting her hips around to find a more comfortable spot, then reacting to the way it felt when she rubbed against him. Without restricting her movements, his hands ran up and down her taut thighs as they tightened, and up under the short skirt rucked up to her waist, fondling her rounded buttocks. He thrust upward as she skimmed across his bulging erection noting her heat and the wetness dampening her panties. The contact played havoc with his control, but it was the sight of the pink tip of her tongue dragging across her lips that spurred him to action.

Catching her jaw, Angel pulled her down for an inflammatory kiss that left her writhing against him. Breaking away just a fraction of an inch, he stared intently into her eyes. “Do you trust me?”

Her hips stilled allowing Cordelia to focus on his words, thinking not really a priority at the moment. “Angel, of course I…”

With a strong snap of his wrist, he ripped her silky panties away, and in a continuous smooth movement rolled back to his supine position carrying her with him. Cordelia let out a shriek of surprise, blinked, finding herself in an upright position with her legs widely splayed across his chest, knees propped on the pillow on either side of Angel’s head. He glanced up long enough to enjoy the mix of anticipation, wide-eyed wonder and terror in her eyes, and then returned his ardent gaze to the trimmed patch of curls covering her mons.

Angel effortlessly raised her to his mouth opening up to lick the soft pink folds. Her scent had been distracting, but the taste of her creamy arousal was the second best thing to blood and his enjoyment was quite obvious as his hungry mouth ate her out. His tongue traced her sex, licking, lapping, dipping, circling and flicking across her heated flesh in a tireless wave of pleasure.

He soaked up every sensation and response. Cordelia held onto the bedrail like a vice. Head thrown back, eyes scrunched closed, mouth gaping into an O of pleasure, she thrust her pelvis rhythmically as he lapped at her. He gave the tight little nub of her clitoris a twirl with his tongue and propped her higher on her knees spreading her wide to thrust a finger deep into her drenched core. Both of them moaned at the contact. Feeling her tight heat surrounding him made his cock throb.

Half-formed words hitched on Cordelia’s lips, incoherent gibberish with an intent that was all too clear. Angel knew she wanted more. Without missing a beat, he added a second finger to his gentle thrusts and speeding up the tempo. From this angle, he could see everything, and he wanted to taste and touch it all, eager to find what set her off the most.

The roar of her femoral pulse sounded in his ear stirring up other physical needs he had to ignore. Angel turned to the source of the intoxicating sound and nipped softly at her leg. Instinctively, Cordelia reached down to him, her fingers spreading through his hair. Instead of pulling away when he moved back to suck and tug at her clit with his lips and tongue, she clutched the back of his head to hold him there.

Gasping for words she could not seem to form, Cordelia suddenly let out a sharp cry, her body no longer in her control as she came, contracting around his fingers as she tensed and writhed with pleasure. He caught her hot orgasm on his tongue determined to consume each drop of her nectar. Delicious all the more for knowing that he did that to her.

His licks slowed to gentle sweeps of his velvet tongue, and he removed his fingers from her tight sheath to run them across his lips tasting her sweet essence and then sucking them deeply into his mouth as her eyes finally opened to stare down at him. Her mouth curled into a sensual smile, “For such a stoic guy, you have a talented tongue.”

Angel laughed, and then smiled smugly, as he helped her move down to the bed. Lying next to her on his side, he stroked his hand along her thigh, knee to hip, his thumb rubbing along her hip. Her skirt was still a tangled ring around her waist. He unzipped it and slid it away leaving her completely nude.

Mapping out her curves, he flattened his hand across the plane of her belly, skimming upwardly across her ribs to close over one of those tempting breasts plumping the soft mound briefly, and stroking across the duskiness of her areola and its erect little nipple before cupping her neck, and closing the distance between them.

His thumb strummed to the pulse at her throat as he kissed her slowly, with a sensual exploration of her mouth, teasing her with his tongue and providing a taste of her own honeyed essence. He felt her shift closer, her body moving into his, her arms sweeping around him. One hand clutched at his nape, her fingers threading through his hair, and the other sweeping along his spine signaling her impatience. Moving his hand again, this time in reverse, he hooked her knee over his hip bringing her into close contact with his groin.

“Ohhh, yeah, Angel,” she moaned into his mouth. “Please. I want it.”

Rest time was over and her body eager for more. Angel was more than ready to give it to her, although one last barrier remained. He had already shucked off his shoes and socks, and yanked off his belt, all without her even noticing they were gone. The pants he had left on, unzipped, his engorged cock untouched, and now throbbing with the need to be sheathed in that tight channel of slick flesh between her thighs.

Cordelia reached between them fumbling with the button and letting out a deep grunt of triumph when it popped open. Roving lower, she cupped him through his pants. Angel thrust into her hand, wanting her to tighten up her grip, yet knowing it to be a bad idea. He might have supernatural staying power, but this was Cordelia and so all bets were off. He wanted her too badly to predict his ability to hold off. Pulling her hand away from its arousing exploration of the family jewels, he wrested it and then its twin to the mattress on either side of her head. She flashed him an irritated look for spoiling her fun.

“Enough of that. If you’re trying to make me come, I suggest you wait until I’m inside you,” he growled softly, nipping at her neck and jaw teasingly, as he settled his body between her thighs.

Letting her go allowed her to grasp his face with both hands and raise herself up far enough to reach his lips. It was a quick, but passionate kiss that Angel wanted to sink into, but Cordelia pulled just far enough away to say, “Do it now. I want you now.”

Within a couple of seconds, he flicked the zipper down, shoved his pants and boxers out of the way, and taking his rampant erection into a firm grip showed her what she was asking for. Angel’s gaze dropped away from hers to watch as he rubbed the blunt tip up and down her pink slit and pushed into her slowly to let her accommodate to his girth. Despite her cunt being slick with dewy arousal, it took a concentrated effort to fully penetrate her. He thought he might go crazy if he did not start thrusting, but the way she clutched at his shoulders felt a little desperate, her breathing coming in hard pants that rubbed her breasts against his chest, and her eyes reflecting just a hint of panic.

Angel lowered himself down onto his elbows, covering her face and neck in butterfly kisses, whispering words of reassurance in her ears. Her soft hands moved across his broad shoulders, no longer holding on for dear life, but exploring him the way he had earlier traced her curves. Sliding under his arms, hers curved around his back. Fingers following the track of his spine found their way down to his buttocks, where he was nestled between her thighs, clenched tight as he held himself deep inside her.

Cordelia bit her lower lip, closing her eyes, as she rocked her hips into him. A string of expletives sounded off in his head as her body fisted his cock, the sensation an exquisite agony, nearly causing him to lose all control.
Withdrawing a few inches, he thrust forward and back with a measured pace. Gently, at first, as he watched the arousal in her brown eyes turn dark with lust. Enjoying the way she arched into him when he bent down to take her breast into his mouth, laving the dark rose tip, before flicking it back and forth with his tongue.

The soft slide of her hand at his nape turned desperate as he picked up the tempo, her taut body shifting to keep up. Angel dragged his mouth along one collarbone following it up to the tempting cord of her neck, kissing her pulse point before claiming her mouth, their lips clinging as he maintained his relentless rhythm of possession. Moving instinctively, Cordelia responded to the urgency of his thrusts, her words streaming against his mouth, begging him not to stop.

The first flickers of her orgasm seemed to catch her by surprise. Considering that she had fainted the last time he made her come, Angel was unprepared for the wild tigress in his arms. She clung to his shoulders, digging in her nails as if to pin him against her, her legs clamping higher around his back caging him in as she made a final frantic climb to reach the peak.

Angel gritted his teeth and persevered, so close to it himself, but not ready to let it come to an end just yet. He felt her tremor uncontrollably, rhythmic spasms tightening and releasing around his rigid cock, making his eyes slam shut, the impetus to stay connected driving him onward.

Reaching beneath her Angel swung her into an upright position, her thighs open across his more powerful ones. With his knees spread, he raised up enough to gain leverage, encouraging Cordelia to hold on for the ride as he speared into her wet core. He slid his palms down the smooth skin of her back moving down to cup her buttocks in his hands, playfully squeezing, as he flexed his hips in a pace and rhythm that had her practically chanting his name as her body bounced in counter-movements to the thrilling force of his thrusts.

“God, Angel, so good…so good….yes, An-gel, An-gel…oh yeah, yeah…An-gel, yes, yes.” Cordelia head was thrown back so that the long waves of her hair teased his hands, her beautiful face flushed hot with a lusty expression, the rosy color brightening her skin.

Only his supernatural strength held them steady as he pistoned into her, allowing him the distraction of drifting his dark gaze along her exposed throat and down to the delicious bounce of her breasts. Dangerously, he shifted his balanced grip by moving one hand to free up the other. Running his fingertips down the length of her throat and sternum, he splayed his hand across one tempting mound, letting it move freely against him during a couple of thrusts, and feeling the tease of her erect nipple brush against his palm.

Cupping her, he flicked his tongue across the dusky tip, and then sucked it into his mouth just long enough to get a reaction. He released her breast and let his wandering fingers travel down to her waist, where he thumbed across the white scar on her abdomen. Cordelia caught his hand, her fingers threading through his, whisking his touch to its intended target. A couple of talented rubs in the right spot and she came again.

This time her body’s hot squeeze sent him over the edge too. One smooth thrust drove him home as he impaled his cock deep inside her, and then made short hard thrusts repeatedly, grunting out his male aggression. His big hands held her safe, prevented her from falling back when her orgasm left her replete of energy and languidly clinging to his shoulders.

A soft moan left her throat as Angel withdrew to reposition her on the bed. He was still half hard and not even close to being sated. Looking at her stretched out across his bed only fed his appetite for more. As Cordelia lay watching him with a wicked little smile playing at the corners of her lips, he made a slow exploration of her body, letting hands and mouth wander randomly across curves and planes. A kiss to her inner knee, the curve of her hip, a slide of his hand across her flat belly, and letting his tongue rim the concave dip before moving on.

When his attention moved to her breasts, Cordelia’s soft hands moved up his arms, and over his broad shoulders to stroke the back of his neck. She arched toward his nuzzling cheeks, and the gentle use of his fingers to caress her sensitive peaks. Her nipples puckered under his palms as he kissed his way higher. He left no reflection in the depths of her gaze, her eyes dark with renewed arousal.

Slow, deep kisses dragged him back into her arms, his body weighing her down, and the soft contours pressing into his flesh turning him hard as steel. Angel savored her mouth, exploring its shape, and the soft suction of her lips. The trust engendered as she opened up to the quick dart of his tongue, or as he slid inside her pliant mouth meshing their lips for seconds longer. A sharp little moan left her throat at the loss of his lips when Angel lifted away.

Turning her over, he continued his path of exploration, sweeping her hair aside to nibble along the curve of her shoulder. He massaged his way up and down her spine from the nape of her neck to the upper curve of her ass making Cordelia moan into the pillow and plea for more of his sensual touch. Straddling her thighs aligned him perfectly to rove those kneading fingers and roughened hands along her back, but it also let his erection find a natural grove, which kept his gaze engrossed as his hard length slid back and forth along the crease between her firm buttocks.

Lewd thoughts chewed at his raw senses sparking ideas better left for the future. He wanted so much from this woman, and only a part of that involved claiming her body. What he needed was her love, unfettered by the fear of losing him to the curse. He could not force her feelings no matter how much he wanted to hear her admit that what she felt for him went beyond friendship and lust.

Angel lay down on his right side, pulling her back against him, and cradling her head against his shoulder. She trembled in anticipation as his hand curled around her thigh lifting it so that she was splayed wide for him. One easy thrust was all it took to bottom out inside her wet center. They both moaned at the contact. He slid his hand down the silky length of her torso, fingers spreading through the curls covering her sex.

His hips slapped lazily against her buttocks dragging his cock in long sweeps nearly to the tip before pressing deep again. The salaciously slow pace was almost as painful as it was pleasurable as he held off his natural urge to move faster.

Coasting his fingers into the wet crevasse where they were joined, Angel knew precisely how to stroke her, how to stimulate them both. Her pulse pounded in his ear as he softly circled her flesh making her hips dance against his in countermovements. The rhythmic sound, and the visible flutter against her throat, was so damn tempting. He wanted to bite her. That single thought suddenly had his fangs emerging and his body vibrating with need beyond his control.

The image in his head was so detailed he could almost taste her blood as he licked at the mark of his claim. He really wanted that, but not here, and not now when things were so tentative between them, and when her biggest fear was letting Angelus free. He was not Angelus. Not soulless. He was a vampire, apparently one with needs.

The flickering acknowledgement was enough to renew his control, his fangs fading with the return of his human form. Angel already knew that any relationship with Cordelia Chase was going to have its complications and no doubt its challenges too.

“Come for me, kitten,” Angel swirled his fingers over her clitoris and with a loud moan of his name she peaked almost instantly, although afterward she snarled, “Don’t call me kitten.” Her cresting pleasure set him off too, the flex of his hips faster, his release a shout of ecstasy.

Afterward, Cordelia turned toward him blanketing him with her body propping herself up on his chest with one arm, chin in her hand, while tracing patterns across his chest with one finger of the other. His hands rested on her hips, fingers splayed out across her buttocks, just holding her there. “I suppose it would be okay if you had a pet name for me,” she conceded. “I do call you Broody, after all.”

“I’m not feeling very broody at the moment,” Angel admitted. He knew the dangers in forgetting about his past even for a moment, but felt secure enough in the power of the ring to say, “You make me happier than I deserve to be.”

“Not bad for an annoying pain in the ass.”

“You’re not going to let that drop any time soon, are you?”

“Nope.”

Though his dead heart could not beat, it was full of feeling, his chest actually achy with emotion. “I love you, Cordelia.”

Beaming at him with one of her brilliant smiles, Cordelia traced a heart on his chest and dropped down to press a kiss into its center before bouncing back to her previous position. She palmed his face, saying simply, “I love you too, Angel.”


Epilogue: What’s Mine is Yours…Or is It?

Cordelia wandered down from the parking garage entrance through to the living room space they had converted to a training room. It had been her idea to open up the connecting door and turn their apartments into one larger shared space. It was not yet fully decorated, but she was working on it little by little.

As expected, Angel was going through his usual martial arts workout. Hanging back to watch was only partly due to the fact that seeing him flicked some switch inside her that immediately made her thoughts turn to sex. It still surprised her…that instant reaction. Maybe someday she could look at him wearing his white tank tucked into low-slung sweats and just see a sweaty guy instead of a sexy manpire, but not today.

Hanging back to watch his skin glistening as his muscles flexed with controlled movements, she just wanted to try out a few new naughty ideas. Too bad for her that sexy fun was not going likely to be had any time soon once she told Angel the news. This was not going to go well, she predicted with a little shudder.

Finishing his set, Angel crossed the room to greet her. He cupped her neck, his thumb stroking her jawline as if sensing her rising tension. “You’ve been gone all afternoon. I missed you.”

One of these days she would have to teach him that couples did things other than have wild, passionate sex in their bedroom, or the kitchen, or the office, or a number of other places that basically equated to spending time at home or work. It was not exactly his favorite subject, but Cordelia did have other things going on in her life that required some attention.

Honestly, she answered, “I missed you, too,” because it was difficult not to think about him when they were apart even for a few hours. The sentiment was nice, but it would not be enough to distract him from what she needed to say, so Cordelia decided to just charge forward. “A funny thing happened on the way to my audition, which I so would have knocked out of the park…if I had gotten there on time.”

The weekend play had been a personal triumph despite the reviews, and Cordelia had perservered when told the director would not pursue a longer run. Today, she had planned to jump back into the game by auditioning for a commercial.

Angel pulled back a couple of inches, crossing his arms as his eyes narrowed suspiciously. Warily asking, “You were late. What funny thing?”

Drawing in a deep breath, she released it slowly. “First, well—ah…I should probably tell you that I borrowed something of yours.”

He appeared to relax and pointed out this was hardly the first time Cordelia had confiscated his belongings for her own use, either temporarily or on a more permanent basis. Rattling off a list of items, he pointed out that his continued irritation at her tendency to take without asking verged on the inane. “Cordy, we’re living together,” he chuckled trying to see what she held behind her back, obviously imagining it to be some broken priceless treasure. “I don’t care if you borrow my stuff.”

Wow! Angel was taking this far better than expected.

Cordelia flung her arms around him planning to kiss him, but losing her hold on the key ring that jangled on its way to the floor. The sound was unmistakable causing Angel to pull away and stare at the damning evidence.

Angel’s head snapped back up, his question almost a whisper of terror. “You borrowed my car?”

“Uh, yeah. What happened to the whole what’s mine is yours to borrow speech?” It wasn’t like she was driving without a license. Sheesh! Talk about overkill. Still, this was the reaction she had been betting on.

“You took the Plymouth.” The statement made it sound like he owned more than one car.

Hooboy! Cordelia nodded, and pressed a soothing hand against his chest. Explaining in sound bites, she tried to make him see her point of view. “Audition. In a hurry. No time for public transportation.”

Obviously, there was more to it than that, but Angel had already leapt ahead to imagining worse case scenarios. He gulped deeply so that his Adam’s apple bobbed. “What funny thing?”

“Maybe that was a poor choice of words,” she admitted with a little cringe. Fender-bender was probably much more appropriate. “Y’know, the Plymouth doesn’t exactly corner like my Corvette.”

“Cor-de-lia,” he growled out his frustration in monosyllabic tones. He snatched up the keys, pausing on his run toward the garage to warn her that there was more to come, “Don’t move.”

The itty-bitty dent in the silver bumper was tiny, miniscule. It barely registered to the human eye. Of course, it probably looked like a gigantic crater to him. Sensing one of their frequent little spats coming on, where Angel usually tried to complain about the most ridiculous things, like her desperate need to leave work early for that one hour Manolo Blahnik shoe sale, Cordelia decided that she was not going to stand there and wait for Angel to come back and lecture her about what and what not to borrow without his express permission.

By the time Angel got back from the garage and his detailed inspection of his precious convertible, she would be showering away the frustrations of her flubbed audition. And if a certain vampire happened to stalk after her while she was in there, all naked and sudsy, Cordelia felt pretty good about the odds that they would not be arguing about the cost of car repair.

Finis.
Lysa

Posted June 20, 2015 by califi in Complete

Friends & Neighbors 6   1 comment

It’s Where the Heart Is

Petersen’s Fishery, located behind Steward & Westminster was constructed of brick, rusted metal and a tin roof, a perfect place to use as an off-the-beaten-path torture chamber. This section of the wharf was old and deserted with no one around to hear victims scream. Angel was no stranger to torture although he had rarely been on the receiving end. Spike’s plans came as no surprise, nor did his employment of a torture specialist like Marcus to do the dirty work.

He was also prepared for Spike to betray him once they had reached the fishery. Two against one. Better odds to get the ring off his finger. For once, Spike kept his word. They faced off against Marcus, used an item or two from his table of torture devices, and in the end left his dust swirling in the breeze.

“Been a while since we fought on the same side.” Spike kicked his boot across the dust pile for a final bit of fun before getting serious again. Angel saw that he wasn’t joking around anymore. “So we have a deal. I stay out of L.A., and you leave me be.”

Warning him that it was not quite that easy, “If you’re planning on staying in Sunnydale, Buffy will be there to keep an eye on you.”

Spike hesitated a moment before wagging his tongue lasciviously, “Maybe I plan to keep an eye on her too.”

“Don’t.”

The simple response was a multi-layered warning. It did not matter if he had ended things with Buffy. Spike was never going to be a better option, not that he liked Riley Finn any better, but at least he had humanity going for him. Spike was just trouble, especially when left to his own devices. Still, he knew Buffy could handle it.

For once, she was not his priority. “There’s no deal until I get Cordelia and Doyle back.”

“Deal’s a deal, Pea—,” Spike broke off as Angel’s cell phone started to ring. “Oy! That’s you.”

Angel pulled out the small black phone and flipped it open. The last thing he needed now was someone calling about a case. Cordelia rarely ever forwarded the office phone to his number, frequently accusing him of letting all of his calls go to the endless pit of voice mails he could not figure out how to answer.

“Hello?”

Cordelia sounded surprised to hear his voice. “Angel! Angel, are you okay? Still in Sunnydale? I have to—”

“What the bloody hell!” Spike obviously heard her too. He yanked his own cell phone out and started punching in numbers.

“—warn you. Sorry to interrupt the apocalypse, but I have the 411 on your old pal, Spike,” Cordelia huffed the words as if she was almost out of breath like she had been running. “Watch out for him. He’s—”

Behind him, Spike was giving Manny the Pig hell. “I’ll rip out your lying tongue! Drive around the bloody block and keep—”

“—looking for that ring Buffy gave you.” Cordelia went on barely allowing Angel to keep up. “Buffy did give you the ring, right?”

Angel had a second to acknowledge it, “Yeah.”

“Go invulnerability! You must be kicking some Big Bad ass.”

“Cordelia, are you okay? You sound—”

She rushed to say, “Oh, I’m fine. We’re both fine now. You just need to watch your back. Spike will probably come after you. Y’know, if you’re going to be there for a while.”

“It’s over. Sunnydale is safe for the moment,” he told her.

There was a pause where Angel thought he was supposed to say more, but before he could get out the words she asked, “Are you going to come back?”

What kind of question was that?

She had to ask?

While he was stunned at the question and half distracted by Spike reaming out his henchman over the phone for losing Cordelia and Doyle, he realized that she might have had a legitimate reason to think he might not want to return to L.A. She obviously thought he was still in love with Buffy despite the kiss they shared and the way they had grown closer over the past few months.

The phone was no place for explanations. All he could do was say, “I’m here.”

“Where?”

“Home. Well,” he corrected himself, “here in town. Spike and I—”

Cordelia’s annoyance was clear. “You’re with Spike?”

“Yeah. You’re okay?” Angel asked again needing to know that she was not injured or abused in any way. “He didn’t…”

“Toss me into a gross van with no air conditioning? Spike totally did that,” Cordelia made a noise that told him she found it icky. Hardly the worst of what he had imagined her going through. “Don’t beat him up too much before I get there.”

Angel fought off a smile as he watched Spike pacing in front of him while muttering about incompetent morons and cheeky cheerleaders. “What about Doyle?”

“He probably wouldn’t mind getting in a punch or two,” she said, and he could practically hear the smile over the phone. “We’re at his place. Smells like bong water, but it is safe for now. We kind of rescued ourselves.”

That was his fault for not being there, Angel realized with a stab of guilt.

“Doyle is surprisingly good at getting out of restraints,” Cordelia added with a laugh. “I’ll tell you all about it later if it’s okay to come back.”

Angel explained that Spike would be leaving shortly, but did not get into the details of their deal. He wanted him out of his sight so that he could check on Cordelia and Doyle for himself, and verify with his own eyes that they were unhurt. He had missed seeing them everyday. They were his friends and he wanted them safe.

More than that…

He wanted her.

His throat tightened up as he told her, “See you at home,” because he was not completely certain he could put up with a conversation. Not when all he wanted was to take her to bed and keep her there replete with pleasure to the point that she would never want to leave him.

“Guess that’s my cue to get going,” Spike told him as soon as he ended the call. “One little problem there. My ride is parked a couple blocks away from your building. Got in through your sewer entrance last night. Don’t s’pose you’d give me a lift?”

The sun was still shining outside. Although the shadowy box canyon of buildings along the wharf prevented Spike from burning to a crisp between the car and the fishery entry, it had not been a comfortable ride from the office being bundled up under a blanket.

Angel did not want to subject himself to any more of Spike’s tales about Sunnydale or his run-ins with the Slayer or her posse of do-gooders. “We part ways here.” He strode over to the Plymouth and let the top roll back to full convertible mode. “The sun is still up. I’m going to enjoy it.”

Standing just inside the shadowy entry of the doorway, Spike seethed a bit. “Love to rub it in, don’t you? Our deal stands. Ride off into the sunset if you want, but don’t get too happy. Whatever you’ve got going with the Cheerleader, don’t screw it up, or make me regret giving you that ring.”

“Our deal stands. Stay out of my business and I will stay out of yours. Cordelia is off-limits.”

Spike scoffed at those words twisting them back at him, “Take your own advice on that one. Don’t get careless with that ruddy soul of yours. Lose it and she’ll be your first victim.”

The thought sickened Angel mainly because Spike was not wrong. The ring was the source of powerful magic, but could it really protect his soul? As much as he did not want those doubts to surface, he could not deny that they existed.

“Take care of my ring.”

Angel took hold of the rusty stair rail jumping over it in an easy leap to stand directly in front of Spike. “The ring is no longer your business. This city is mine,” he bit out the words. “Don’t ever threaten it or my people again. Next time there won’t be any deals. I want you back on the road at sundown.”



The Truth is Out There

Hugging him tight, Cordelia was reluctant to let go. “G’night, Doyle. See you tomorrow.” She closed and then locked the door behind him while wishing that he had stayed longer uncertain that she wanted to be alone with Angel.

A bizarre feeling tickled at her nerves leaving an odd jumpiness that felt foreign. Being with him usually made her feel safe. It did not help that she could sense him watching her from across the room.

This was not exactly how she had expected things to go. For one, Angel was actually here instead of Sunnydale. Did that mean the old zing wasn’t there with Buffy or that he was actually coming home to L.A. without strings attached? He certainly hadn’t thought about her or their pre-apocalypse makeout. Not if the lack of contact over the past week was a clue.

No phone calls.Not one.

Not even to say he wasn’t a big pile of dust.

The big jerk.


Annoyed at the thought of being ignored even if the world might have been in jeopardy, Cordelia turned around to glare his way. He was looking back just as she suspected, Mr Poker Face with the impenetrable stare. Was he just pissed off that Spike had trashed his apartment while searching for the Gem of Amarra? Maybe he blamed her because she had insisted on trying to confront their burglar, managing to get herself and Doyle kidnapped in the process.

That one was probably on his ‘To Do List’ of lectures.

Unless it was more personal and he realized she had slept in his room last night. Gulping at the idea, she tried to remember if she had put the borrowed shirt into the hamper or left it on the floor. Crap! It was pathetic enough missing him so much that she crawled into his bed, but for him to find out about it after his romantic rendezvous at the Hellmouth made her queasy.

With a little strategic planning, she might be able to fix things before he noticed. “Guess we should get stared on the cleanup, huh?”

Moving fast, she intended to pass him in the doorway, but Angel’s big hand wrapped around her upper arm to hold her there. “It can wait. Are you sure you’re okay? Your heart is racing.”

Cordelia wanted to die on the spot. Not fair using the vampire senses! “I’m just excited,” she said, which was definitely true. Telling him that it was because he was touching her was not on the cards. Opting for a different truth, “You’ve got that nifty new ring. No more Florence Nightingale duties for me. Now I won’t have to worry about you coming home after a fight looking like hamburger meat.”

“That’s not all it can do.” Angel started to tell her, but Cordelia interrupted, a big grin on her face.

“Oh, I think it’s great! You can walk outside without the sun sending you up in flames,” Cordelia was genuinely thrilled. There were so many things he could do when he was not limited to lurking shadows. He might actually like the beach. “Doyle and I were talking about going to the beach. Now you can come, too.”

Frowning, Angel quickly let go of her arm as if he could not bear to touch her any longer. She stayed close for a moment until he said, “Good thing Doyle was here when Spike showed up,” strangely sounding ticked off about it.

Doyle’s presence was not exactly unusual. “He’s always here.”

“Is he?”

“Sure.” What was so surprising about that? “Hello, Doyle works here, too. Besides, his cable TV is still on the fritz and ours works just fine.”

Grabbing his wrist, she pulled him into her living room to show off their new television and doing a little dance. “Go Cordy, go Cordy! Movie night is on. Doyle and I have been working out a few kinks over who gets control over the remote.”

“As long as those are the only kinks,” Angel quipped back in a way that wasn’t quite as amusing as it should be.

The television was still on in mute mode. “Bikini babes and speedos,” Cordelia let out a laugh remembering that awkward moment with Doyle as she grabbed the remote to turn it off.

There was a hint of a growl in his voice as he asked, “Has Doyle said anything to you…?”

Okay, so she had a few angry vibes of her own to shake off. Jumping in with, “About being a demon?” She had almost forgotten to be mad at him for not telling her. “Thanks for the heads-up. Not! I love finding out that the people in my life lie to my face about who they are. You included!”

Looking like she had backed him into an unexpected corner, Angel came out fighting. He growled out, “That was different. I wasn’t keeping anything from you, Cordelia.”

Huh. That was so not true. “Buffy had to tell me that you were a vampire. You were keeping that little secret all to yourself. Guess that goes for your demon friends, too.”

“Doyle is only half demon,” Angel snapped back with a little more truth that had not been previously revealed. He took another step forward, riled up, his irritation showing in the way he crowded her forcing her to step back more than once just to get some breathing room.

Poking him in the chest with a finger, she goaded him on. “You knew all along. That is so unfair. Just like you keeping the truth from me.”

Angel countered quickly, “You didn’t even know vampires existed when we first met. The truth wasn’t even on your radar.”

Well, admitting silently, for a while she had thought those goons at the Bronze were gangbangers. “Finding out that way hurt.”

As she pushed futilely against the wall of his chest, Angel growled quietly, “Harris helped you get over it pretty fast as I recall.”

Cordelia gaped at him for a second for daring to bring Xander into this.

“Crushing on a vampire who was already in love with someone else—I wasn’t sticking around to get caught in the middle of that mess.”

“Face it, Cordelia,” he cupped her jaw tilting it up, “you ran from the truth as fast as you could even though you wanted me.”

She swiped at his hand noting the way he chuckled at her ineffectual attempt at dislodging him. When that did not work, she squirmed and pushed some more, failing to budge him an inch. His thumb swept across her lower lip as he stared down at her with a growing hunger in his gaze that left her trembling and weak at the knees.

God, he was right. So right. “Smug much?”

Angel gently released her jaw, but kept her close as his big hands closed around her waist. “If you say so. All I remember is you flirting every chance you could get…”

Cutting in, she huffed, “Obviously, your memory is faulty.”

“…trembling in my arms whenever I rescued you from the latest danger you’d managed to get into…”

Whoa! That was total exaggeration. Plus, there was a medical explanation for that. “Adrenalin rush.”

“…or the way you let me catch a glimpse inside that icy bitch exterior to see the real you. Beautiful, vulnerable, surprising and always tempting.”

“Oh? In what way? Not as a late night snack, I hope,” she tried not to think of how she hoped he was tempted. Or that he had also fantasized about her, which would be totally shocking consider his all-consuming true love for you-know-who.

Angel dipped his head low to nuzzle the smooth skin of her throat, his cool lips brushing against her pulse. The sensation made her sigh and lean into him, her hands sliding up his arms to cling to his broad shoulders. “Every way.”

“So you’ve though about…”

“Being inside you, tasting you,” he moaned the words against her ear before hissing his confession, “yes.”

Melting on the spot, her body softened, creaming at the sensual images he was stirring up. She licked at her lips wanting more. Needing his kiss no matter how much she was angry. It occurred to her that she did not have to wait, that she could just kiss him, but he jerked her away from him all of a sudden.

Angel ground out the words looking entirely pissed off at her. “I’m a vampire, Cordelia. You were smart to run. The things I could have done to you Angelus would have done far worse.”

Hooboy! Anytime a conversation touched on Angelus and what his soulless self did or might have done it sent Angel into a tailspin of doom and gloom. Warding that off she pressed a finger against his lips to stop him from going there. “Oh, no you don’t. This is a no brooding zone.”

Irritated, Angel pulled her hand away, but held it close to his chest. Softly, he added, “You started it.”

“Did I? Well, I just wanted to know why you never told me about Doyle. You’re supposed to be my friend.”

He didn’t answer right away, his attention caught by the abrasions on her wrist where the rope had rubbed it raw, busy sweeping his thumb across the sore flesh in a way that made her want more. When he looked up again she felt the impact of his gaze as physically as his caress, dark and intent, touching her deeply. A jealous tone laced his words seeming to come out of left field, “Why are you so interested in Doyle’s secrets?”

“He’s my friend, too. His secrets are my secrets. That’s how it works.”

“That’s all?”

Cordelia squirmed to get away suddenly feeling like the Inquisition had come along. “You practically ran him off tonight. It wasn’t his fault Spike broke into the apartment. Now he’s all alone after our kidnapping trauma.”

“If he needs some comfort he can go home to his mother.”

What? Huh? “Doyle has a mother?”

Angel’s mouth twisted into a reluctant smile, “You’ll like his mother.”

Cordelia mentally added one more thing to her list of things she had been left out of the loop on. “Just call this Betrayal City because I have totally been living in it. Nobody tells me anything. Alone together for a week and he doesn’t even mention that he has family living in town.”

“Alone together?” Somehow Angel latched onto those particular words managing to look sick to his stomach as if she had added something spicy to his blood supply. “Have you…has something…,” he fumbled around for a while until he finally spat out, “Has he been staying here?”

“Once or twice,” she shrugged considering it was no big deal. “Just for an all-night marathon or two. Once I get started, I’m like the Energizer Bunny. We were planning our next play date when Spike showed up.”

Angel looked murderous for a second before he backed away into his own apartment, almost tripping over the toppled lamp and doing a good impression of one of the Three Stooges. He grabbed the lamp and set it upright so fast it caused the shade to shake wildly. Standing there with his back to her, he said nothing else, just visibly holding his anger in until he had it under control.

“That ring doesn’t have any creepy side-effects, does it, like turning you into a raving madman? Because you’re scaring me.” She warned him to tone it down. Although it was clear what had set him off, she wanted him to tell her straight up. “What’s wrong about me spending time with Doyle?”

He gave her a look that suggested she was crazy, but he stayed silent, digging in his heels and waiting for her to finish. As if he was waiting for the last straw to break.

“There’s no need to be such an ass about it,” Cordelia tried to ward it off by being inclusive. “You can join in, too. That was the plan.”

Angel’s stare intensified.

“Doyle’s choices are a little skeezy,” she warned, “but don’t worry about it. You’ll get your turn to be in charge if you think you can handle it.”

Stalking back to where she stood, Angel gave the impression that he could handle just about anything, even if it included a confusing array of buttons. “Cordelia,” she shivered when his fingers slipped up to trace the curve of her collarbone, “you should know by now that I don’t like to share.”

“Pfft! No surprise there.” Cordelia teased him, “Sometime if you’re really good, I’ll let you have the remote all to yourself.”

“Ah…remote?”

Confused, Cordelia spoke slowly, as if redirecting him back to the discussion. “As in TV remote, dumbass. For our movie night marathons.”

Angel seemed clueless as if they had been having two separate conversations. Though, knowing his tendency to be way behind the times about anything involving entertainment, the world of high fashion, or new technology, it shouldn’t surprise her one bit. So, what was he talking about? Not movie night. Backing up the whole thing in her head, Cordelia reviewed the highlights.

All-night marathon? Check.
Inviting Angel to join in? Check. Check.
Taking turns being in charge. There would be power trips. Check.
Angel not wanting to share…
Oh ho, hell no, he so did not go there!

Realizing this was not about rights to the remote, Cordelia tried not to freak out at the direction she believed his thoughts had taken. “Let me get this straight. Somewhere in that dark swirling space between your ears you’ve been imagining that Doyle and I have spent the entire week in bed making with the wild monkey love.”

Angel grunted, “Not necessarily in bed,” just as she suspected pretty certain that he was far from limiting sex to between the sheets. Well, back in the day when he could do that kind of thing.

This is what he had on his mind while he was in Sunnydale? “And this deranged thinking includes me issuing an invite to join the fun?” There was only one threesome she had ever dreamed up, and impossibly, it included both Angel and his alter ego. What should have been more of a nightmare with Angelus involved had only been hotter for it. Insane, duh, but it was not like she could control her dreams. Maybe Angel was not the only crazy one.

“How can you possibly be jealous of Doyle?”

Angel did not bother to answer. Nor did he deny what was driving this insane idea along. He just looked at her like he wanted to devour her whole.

“I don’t understand.” Cordelia felt genuinely confused.

Reaching up, he cupped her face in both hands, his fingers threading through the silken strands of her hair. Raw passion thickening his words as he leaned in close, he said, “I want you.”

A shaky intake of breath preceded words that sounded far steadier than her nerves. “Just like that.” It physically hurt to deny herself the pleasure of giving into that confession, especially when the distance between them was rapidly vanishing. “Not so fast, horn-dog. I’m not here just for your convenience.”

“Don’t pretend this desire is something new. You feel it too.”

“What I feel isn’t up for debate. You’re cursed. End of discussion.”

The intense scrutiny of his dark gaze made her feel like he was reading her every thought. Testing out her words for hidden promises. His heated stare fell to her lips, and he inched closer, almost close enough to kiss. An ache centered at her mouth, and she wanted nothing more than to move into that tiny space still keeping them apart.

“What happened back in Sunnydale?” She whispered the words just as he lowered his mouth to hers, kissing her with just enough pressure to shut her up. Leaving that initial tenderness behind he repeated the mind-numbing move. “Did Bu—,” barely a breath between and he made her forget how to do anything except kiss him back.

Angel fastened his mouth across hers for a series of delicious, searing, hungry kisses. With her head spinning, heart pounding, hands trembling, and knees shaking, she was totally out of control within seconds. Unable to get close enough. Writhing closer, a moan escaped her throat at the hard, insistent press of his arousal revealing the truth of his words, and making the hot, empty space inside her ache to be filled. Sliding her hands up the wide frame of his shoulders to clasp his face, she kissed him this time, excitement making her bolder, leading her to slide her tongue into his mouth, tasting him.

Without a hint of warning, he pulled back suddenly leaving her chasing his mouth, hers feeling bruised by the intensity of their kisses. His hands gently pushed her away leaving her to fall back against the nearest wall for support. Confused. Panting for enough air to say something, anything that did not sound like she was begging for more.

When her eyes opened he was standing several feet away, his hands balled up tight, straining for control. “You want me, too, Cordelia. You want more than just our friendship. Think about it,” he challenged before striding into his bedroom and forcefully slamming the door shut behind him.


Plan A for Angel

The concrete cracked as Angel drove his fist into the wall. Sharp pain was only a temporary distraction from the frustration building inside him. He ignored the bleeding knuckles as he wrenched off his leather jacket tossing it on the bed. The entire room was in disarray, and he was in no mood to put things in order.

All he could think about was Cordelia and the romantic plans he had dreamed up about this reunion. Idiot! What possessed him to believe that things would go accordingly? Spike’s kidnapping scheme to get the Amarran gem denied him the hero’s welcome that might have greeted him and everything that was supposed to fall into place in picture-perfect fashion.

Beautiful Cordelia. He wanted more than just her body. He wanted all of her.

Cordelia’s sparkling eyes, that gorgeous smile on her face letting him know she cared, the hug that conveyed just how much she missed him during their week apart, and curving her body into his, in that subtle, natural way that proved she was into him—all missing from their hasty rehash of Manny the Pig’s treatment, Spike trashing the apartment, and his dispatching of Marcus the Torturer.

Instead of revealing the ultimate benefit the ring might provide, he held off on talking about it, wanting to share it just with Cordelia at first. The news of this miraculous cure would be between them for now. Because it meant their relationship did not have to spin on its wheels anymore, fraught with sexual tension. There would be no more need to suppress his desires. He could be the one to claim her and all her pent up passion.

Even that idea was turned topsy-turvy. Doyle accompanied her home. Having taken a big risk, he was the one who freed them, allowing them to escape Manny the Pig’s van. Cordelia made a big deal about it in her usual touchy-feely way. Hugs and squeezes, pats on the back, handholding and ego stroking included.

Angel was forced to congratulate Doyle on using what little brawn he possessed to save the day. Being relieved that they were both safe was quite oxymoronic. He was irritated by his friend’s presence and felt strangely left out of their little survivors club, which was ridiculous, but it changed nothing.

Doyle was supposed to be out of the picture, off at some poker game or at his favorite pub. He sure as hell was not supposed to have spent the whole week trying to get into Cordelia’s pants, or at the very least her good graces. Smugly, he now knew there was nothing intimate going on. Ninety-nine percent certain of it, anyway.

Jealousy twisted his gut. He did not want that feeling. Probably unfounded, it seared at his insides anyway. If he thought Doyle really stood a chance, he might let him have it. If happiness were something Cordelia could find with his friend, then he would support it all the way. Well, as much as he could without actually crushing Doyle into a pile of bone shards. But they were not really suited. They might have a spark of something going on, but she did not lust after Doyle the way she wanted him.

Angel knew Cordelia felt just as much passion for him. Every kiss and touch, and moan had given her feelings away. So, he might have followed through with his original plan. Tracing her tempting curves. Starting a slow, gentle seduction. Nothing like that wild, reckless romp in the other room. Not their first time.

Closing his eyes, he could still feel her touch, the warmth of her hands exploring the breadth of his back, the curl of her nails into his shoulders as he took their kiss even deeper. The urgent need to get closer. Wanting to rip away the clothes that kept them from being skin to skin.

He never got around to telling her about the ring. Even after she slapped him with that comment about the curse. The perfect opportunity blown because Spike had implanted that one shred of doubt in his head. That had not stopped him from kissing her. Red-hot kisses, too much, too fast. Not in the soft romantic way he had planned. He needed to slow it down. Find a way to tell her everything.

Yet, he had to make sure that there were no excuses this time. No one else to blame for this magnetic attraction between them, especially fictional characters in a historical romance novel.

Cordelia had never admitted that she wanted him. He had argued like he never had before, telling her things he had kept close to his chest, filing them away for the stuff of fantasies. Reminding her that he was not just a man, but instead a vampire with a few demonic needs to go along with everything else.

She had been turned on instead of terrified.

Exactly what he hoped, precisely what he feared, because she wanted him on every level and that might just be enough to push him over the edge if the ring did not protect him or that loophole in the curse wasn’t as defunct as the Watcher thought it to be.

Truth was that he did not want to take things slowly, not really.

As if his own clothes offended him now, he started removing them. First the shirt, opening it button by button as if to calm himself down. Toeing off the shoes. Unbuckling his belt and unfastening his pants with the slow descent of the zipper trying to ignore the fact that he was still rock hard, but it was impossible. Angel swiped his thumb down his ridged penis torturing himself with the teasing rub.

Kicking away the rest of his clothes, he stalked into the bathroom and turned the shower on full blast. The cold water was an icy irritant. One more thing he didn’t need right now. Angel turned the knob the other direction so the water became steaming hot filling the shower stall in a cloud of vapor. Stepping inside, he let the water beat mercilessly at the tension tightening his muscles.

He pressed his hands against the tile, standing there with his eyes shut tight, willing his body to return to a quiet state. Impossible when the mantra repeating in his head was her name. Not when the real source of tension was positioned farther south where the hot water trickled down to his groin, the heat chasing away the cold from his flesh.

Angel growled away the urge to touch himself. He did not want that right now. Not without her. Flashbacks of Cordelia, gorgeously naked and aroused, wet all over, touching him with those healing hands, made him realize the shower might not have been the best way to ease his tension. Before, he had been badly injured, incapable of responding sexually, although he was certain he could have managed if he had tried. Right now, she would get a far different reaction.

Different.

Kissing her lush mouth, the water pelting their skin. Those soft hands soaping up the hard lines of his aroused body, neck to nuts, letting her soapy grasp slide along his hard length, fisting him tight, moving up and down at an agonizingly slow pace. He wouldn’t idly stand by certain that his hands would be roaming around her softer curves, busy circling bubbles around her luscious breasts.

They would never make it back to the bed. Not if they took the time to dry off. The sheets would be wet and he would have to fix that. Or else she would complain about getting tangles in her damp hair. Better if they stayed right there in the shower where it was warm. He’d turn her around, press her up against the tile, and listen to her gasp his name as he took her deep and hard.

Thrusting away from the tiled wall, Angel tried to ignore the random images scrolling in his head of the rest of that scene. It was not happening. Not tonight at any rate. How many years had he practiced suppressing his urges, and studying methods of control? One hint of a reprieve and all he could think about was sex… and Cordelia.

Angel picked up the soap and quickly dispensed with the rest of his shower. Other than a perfunctory cleaning, which provided more temptations, he left his aching shaft untouched. A personal torture he would survive. After all, he was a vampire, and a case of blue balls was not going to kill him no matter how excruciating.

He dried off, wrapped a towel around his waist, and found his favorite hair gel on the floor where Spike had no doubt rifled through the medicine cabinet behind the mirror he had no need to use. Right now it was steamed up giving the illusion that there might be something to see. Defiantly, he wiped the steam away staring into the reflection of the bathroom interior, a harsh reminder that he was not human despite the benefits provided by the Gem of Amarra.

Despite their mutual desire, Angel wondered if he had the right to press Cordelia into a sexual relationship. The passion was certainly there, but they had their friendship and the mission to consider. Was he moving too fast? No, he had given her time to think. He had let her go when all he really wanted was to carry her off to bed and prove that there was nothing remotely eunuch-like about him.

Angel smirked smugly at the idea.


Mind Games

Think about it.

He wanted her to think about it.

That was not a challenge. It was torture.

Thinking was only going to make this frustration even worse. Angel had demanded a confession wanting her to fess up that she was just as hot for him, or else . . . well, she wasn’t certain about the consequences. It was true that he could turn her on and rev her up faster than she could say Corvette.

The last thing she wanted on her mind was S.E.X with Angel. Being laid by her own resident hottie in a go-all-night marathon…. Want? Duh! Sure. How about having free reign at Tiffany’s for a day? She wanted that, too. Countless little blue boxes all for her…score! At least the jewelry did not come with an evil alter ego.

Fair? Not!

Maybe it was just bad karma. Every negative thing from her past seemed to be hanging over her head claiming it was payback time. Getting what she wanted had caused some people hurt feelings, something that had never caused her a second thought until now. Winning had been more about the win itself than needing the prize, but this wasn’t some random award, a higher status to be won, or about putting someone unworthy of her attention in their place.

This was Angel. He actually meant something to her, more than just in a magnetic attraction kind of way. That news frightened her, and not just because of the curse. Feelings, real feelings could be tangled up with all of the other crap that life threw at you. Taking that kind of step was not a casual fling. A person like her could get hurt if the other formerly obsessed with Blondes person did not feel the same way.

Think about it.

Why was he doing this when they had a good thing going with Angel Investigations and the whole getting to be friends and neighbors thing? Angel was a bastard for winding her up this way and making her want him just as much as he wanted her. He did. She knew that much. It was the why he wanted her so much that confused her. Attraction was not the issue here. There were equal parts of irritation. Angel made no bones about telling her to her face that she pissed him off.

It did not seem to matter. He wanted her anyway and did not try to hide the fact.

Just look at the way he was jealous.

Of Doyle!

Bizarre, but at least it showed that he had feelings, even if they were of the slightly crazy, possessive vampire kind. This would not matter so much without feelings being involved. Without them, there would be no worries about perfect happiness or a moment of bliss or something like love getting in the way of what was certain to be fantastic sex.

Cordelia had no idea about the extent of Angel’s feelings. Something mixed up with friendship and lust and no doubt related to whatever the blasted Buffy angst had done his ego. Living together made it impossible to avoid getting close. Maybe the old crush did have some lingering effects because it was so easy to overlook that he could be a penny-pinching jerk, a clueless dork, or an overbearing watchdog. Not exactly attractive qualities in a guy.

Yet, Angel was really easy on the eyes, and possibly the best kisser ever. Maybe they could avoid the whole loophole of the curse thingy by sticking to mind-numbing makeouts several times a day. Just kisses. Endless kisses.

Think about it.

Cordelia slowly licked her lips imagaining Angel’s mouth on hers.

Yeah, she could so go there for the second or two it would take to start craving his touch. Those capable hands on her body stroking her to madness, being taken by him gently and slowly, or fast and hard, she wanted it all. The things she wanted to do to him did not stop with kisses, although it might be fun to explore his body inch by inch just with her mouth.

Forcing herself to stop thinking about it, Cordelia knew one thing with certainty. No matter what Angel really felt about her, she knew that he would never willingly put her in harms way.

~*~

The entire apartment sparkled. With the exception of a few missing items that were broken beyond repair, and now discarded, thanks to Spike’s disastrous little search, it looked like everything was back in its proper place again. Angel closed his eyes as he sank into the old leather chair taking solace in the familiar comfort now that his self-assigned task was done.

Cleaning up had been necessary, and it had given him a good excuse to stay in rather than go out on patrol. He wanted to be there just in case Cordelia decided to throw caution to the winds. Of course, she was smarter than that. No matter that he knew her desire was as great as his own, she was not ready to admit it.

True, he still needed to explain that loving him might not be a suicidal act. Experiencing Angelus up close and personal as she had on more than one occasion was enough to make anyone want to play it safe.

What if she said no? He knew that she wanted him, but did she want him enough to trust his belief that the Gem of Amarra could keep his soul safe? Even though he had read and re-read the passages in the references Giles provided detailing the powers imbued upon the ring, and felt confident that it should enhance the safety of his soul, it was not exactly created for that purpose. He could offer no ironclad guarantees.

Fast or slow, whatever pace Cordelia wanted to take was fine with him, as long as it meant they kept on moving forward. He spent the rest of the night listening to the sounds of her heartbeat. Near dawn, she was out of bed, and for a moment or two, he knew that she was standing just beyond the doorway that joined their apartments.

Angel bolted out of his chair, eyes fixed upon the closed door, willing it to open because it would mean that Cordelia was tired of waiting, too. The door remained closed. A minute later Angel heard her shower running, which led to salacious thoughts of joining her there, and picking up where yesterday’s fantasy left off.

Realizing that he needed to get away, to think about how he was going to handle it if Cordelia rejected the idea of moving their relationship beyond just being friends and neighbors, Angel headed for the roof.

~*~

The morning had dragged by slowly. No phone calls, no customers, not even Doyle’s friendly banter. He might have a reason to think she would need some space after the big reveal of his half-demon status. Maybe it was just as well that he was in avoidance mode because she did not want to have to deal with him right now.

Angel was more than enough to handle and boy howdy she had thought about handling him a time or two since last night. All alone in her bed she had tossed and turned unable to sleep, her mind hashing over the whirlwind events of the day. So much had happened, but it was Angel’s hot kisses that kept her on the edge causing her to feel like she was going to spontaneously combust.

There was no denying the attraction on either side. Angel knew way too much about her former crush. No doubt his vampire senses had given away subtle details about her body’s uncontrollable reactions even when she knew that having feelings for him was futile. Or when she thought those feelings were buried forever.

Why did he have to go and ruin things by kissing her? They were doing just fine for the most part except for a stupid argument or two. Usually his fault. They had a mission, a business together. He was her boss, friend, and neighbor. Now that she knew he wanted her, too, it was going to be impossible to ignore what happened.

Because that was the only thing they could do and keep everything else in their lives going smoothly. Ignore it.

Yeah, right. Like ignoring it would make these cravings for him go away. Not.

Knowing that he wanted her made it worse.

Angel had practically given her a whole speech on the extent of his desire for her. Broody, monosyllabic Angel made it utterly clear that he wanted her in his bed, and that he had fantasies of his own. Once or twice last night she had nearly ignored the inner voice reminding her that Angel couldn’t act on those fantasies without risking his soul and her life. Angry, she had flopped back into bed trying her best to ignore the salty sting in her eyes.

Since she had not been able to sleep, Cordelia showered and dressed for a day at the office in a silky red top and modest miniskirt that hit mid-thigh, adding sandals that tacked on a couple of inches to her height. Makeup took a little extra time thanks to the dark circles under her eyes. Fortunately, a little concealer went a long way.

It wasn’t that she was trying to impress Angel, she thought, twisting her hair up into a knot and adding a tortoise shell clip that gave her a sexy, yet professional look. Pleased with the effect, Cordelia decided it was her brand of armor.

Last night was not just going away.

The idea was scary exciting. She wanted more. She wanted everything. Including the whole perfect happiness scenario that came with every fairy tale ever written. Well, that wasn’t happening. Not with Angel. Not that it could happen without him, either, she suspected, frowning at her reflection in bathroom mirror.

Reacting with a soft, “Pfft!” Cordelia decided that depressing thought had no business popping into her head. There had to be a way to get around the curse. Have a little fun without…y’know…causing Angel’s soul to go poof. Even though Cordelia suspected that she had feelings that went deeper than just wanting recreational sex, it seemed stupid to imagine anything else was in the cards.

Before heading up to the office, Cordelia stopped to pick up the stack of old issues of Cosmopolitan Magazine she had piled up in a corner of the room. Although she was certain there was no article on ‘Getting Off Without Losing Your Soul’ to conveniently leave on Angel’s desk, there might be something helpful. Cosmo had never led her astray yet.

Finally, a call came through, the phone ringing a couple of times before Cordelia dragged her attention back to reality. She grabbed the receiver and cheerfully delivered her opening lines. “Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless. Cordelia Chase speaking.”

Actual business. A potential client! This could mean anything from being able to buy a working paper shredder to a new pair of shoes. Taking notes, she paused to tell the old woman, “Yes, we do charge more than the local plumber, but we’ll be happy to adjust your bill if it turns out to be rusty pipes instead of something demony.”

She jotted down the name and address, and was going over a few more details when she caught a glimpse of movement from the corner of her eye. Angel. Here. Now. Awareness tingled along her spine feeling more than seeing his approach. Her insides suddenly felt like they were under attack from a swarm of butterflies fluttering wildly.

Trying to finish her conversation with their new client, Cordelia struggled stay focused, “So, ah, what was that address. I did? Oh, right. It’s right here. Got it.”

Angel was right there. Behind her. Standing so close all she had to do was lean back a little and she would be in his arms. His fingers brushed across her elbow as he came into view, and that gentle touch was all it took. A hot ache centered between her thighs instantly craving his hands caressing more intimate places.

She turned to face him, pulling the phone cord across her body and dragging the phone to the edge of the desk, ignorant of her actions. The client was still yammering in her ear sounding muffled and far away.

Her hungry eyes devoured every inch of his solid frame. He was big and gorgeous, and inexplicably wearing a blue shirt instead of his usual black, white or gray, along with the denims that hugged his muscular thighs and bulged so invitingly. After her lingering perusal, Cordelia dragged her eyes back up to note the confident gleam in his dark gaze.

Panting breaths sounded as she tried to speak. The client had asked a question, needed an answer. “No worries, Mrs…ah…” What was that name again? Periwinkle? Parramore? Pattycake?

Too close, he was way too close for her sanity. Cordelia made the mistake of putting a hand on him to push him back, a futile move when he obviously had every intention of breaching her personal bubble. Her hand slipped down from his abdomen to the waistband of his jeans, fingers curling around an empty belt loop pulling him in even as he leaned forward.

His long fingers spread out across her lower back caressing up and down by inches as he slowly moved closer, teasing her with the time he took to press against her. The kiss was fleeting when it came, the briefest touch of his lips against the corner of her mouth. His cheek brushed hers as he whispered into her ear. “Good morning.”

Feeling deprived of the mouth-crushing, red-hot kiss she actually wanted, Cordelia flashed him an annoyed look and pointed toward the phone. Hello, client! This time when she pushed him away, he let her do it. Although he did not actually go anywhere just moving down to the edge of the desk where he sat to stretch out his long legs.

After letting the client drone on for a few more seconds in order to pull herself together, she ended the call with a quick promise, “We’ll be there tonight.”

Hanging up the phone brought her a step closer to Angel who asked, “Something I need to take care of now?” reminding her that he did not have to wait until the sun went down.

Cordelia handed him the note. “Not really. It could be a ghost, a demon, or just rusty pipes, but the noises only happen at night.”

After glancing at the information, Angel put the purple sticky note back on Cordelia’s desk. “Good. That means we have all day.”

With Angel, that normally might mean having all day for Spring-cleaning, or another lecture on the appropriate use of his Asian throwing knives. Not this time, she figured. That little kiss was just a teaser, a tiny temptation telling her he had no intention letting her off without declaring that her feelings for him involved more than just her love of a paycheck.

Wanting Angel was easy. Knowing that he wanted her too both thrilled and frightened her, but she suspected it went deeper than that for both of them, and that scared her. “All day for what?”

“Us.”

Cordelia’s heartbeat skipped at the suggestive promise of that one little word. Simple. Well, it should be simple, but for them it was anything but, and that reminded her why wanting Angel was never really an option. Those Cosmo tips were just another way to hold on to the fantasy.

“Coercing me into confessing that I like to make out with you isn’t going to change a damn thing,” she pleaded for reason. Crossing her arms, she held on tight as if trying to support her own decision to demand details. “Tell me you’re not just feeling sorry for yourself because you left Buffy behind in Sunnydale. Again.”

Annoyance flashed in his eyes as he straightened up from his spot at the end of the desk. For a moment, she felt like prey trapped in a very tight corner as he edged closer. How wrong was it that dangerous vibe just turned her on? Maybe that was why she baited him to begin with.

“Buffy and I are done,” Angel told her with a controlled edge to his voice. “It’s finished. Over.”

“Oh. Really?” Strangely, she felt like she should console him for his loss instead of jumping for joy and dancing around the desk at the news. She wanted details, the 411. “That’s… unexpected.”

His eyes never left hers as he said, “So was this.” Angel swung his arm up to desk level dropping the object he had been carrying.

The sound of the hardback book slapping down on the wood surface startled her. Recognizing the cover art of ‘Private Dick: The Lady Wore Red’, the third volume of the series, and the one she was currently reading, she knew that Angel was not planning to change the subject with an Angel Investigations Book Club discussion.

No, he was going for something a little more direct. “I found this in my bed.”

Cordelia knew precisely how that book ended up in Angel’s bed. There had to be a way to get out of admitting how lonely she felt without him being there. Enough to climb into his bed, snuggle down, and read a chapter of ‘Private Dick’. Just what she would have done if Angel had shown up then and there was not something she had considered at the time. Oversleeping the next morning, she never had time to tidy up before Doyle had arrived eager to begin their movie marathon. Then there was the whole thing with Spike.

Searching for any kind of explanation that kept her pride intact, Cordelia came up with an elaborate explanation about Spike dropping the book there when he was rifling through Angel’s belongings. He so could have done it. Only not, and she suspected the sleep-rumpled beddings accompanied other evidence of her presence. She opted for something closer to the truth. “You were gone for a week and I-I missed… your sheets.”

Angel cracked a rare smile. “Just my sheets?”

“They’re pretty awesome sheets,” she reminded with a cheeky shrug. Then laughed, “I should demand visitation rights.”

His mouth twitched in amusement, but his eyes remained darkly intent. “Only under my complete supervision,” he answered, sending an array of sensual images flashing through her head of the two of them tangled in his soft sheets.

Of course he could just be talking about the peanut butter incident. Cordelia confessed, “I like to eat in bed.”

He leaned closer to whisper a sexually-charged promise, “So do I,” and then gently tugged on the soft skin of her earlobe teasing her with his words and his touch.

Turning her so that her back was to the desk, Angel’s fingers skimmed down her arms, taking both hands and pressing them flat against its wooden surface preventing her from pushing him away again. Though she was not sure that was what she wanted to do because it felt so good to have his body against hers, and his mouth against her skin.

Cordelia’s head lolled back at the sensation of his soft lips and blunt teeth nibbling a sexy path down her throat. Utterly trusting him not to bite despite the urges he had hinted at on more than one occasion. His mouth lifted away causing her to moan its loss. She opened her eyes to find him staring down at her intently. It reminded her of last night, when she wanted to forget about everything else except the passion he stirred within her, only to deny that she felt anything more, just before he walked away.

She knew he was thinking about it too, and he confirmed it by with a determined command, “Tell me what you want. Did you think about what I said last night?” Words thick with desire, his body was taut against hers, and aroused.

How easy it would be to simply admit to such desire. Wanting him in every way it was possible to have him and still hold on to her dreams. No matter what had happened to get him to admit to his attraction for her, and for her to do the same, there was still that one thing that made it impossible for them to be together.

Closing her eyes for a moment, she blocked out the intensity of his dark gaze, not willing to let it sway her any further. Not until she found the courage to say what needed to be said.

Cordelia’s lashed fluttered open, her gaze focusing in on his, as her tongue swept across her suddenly dry lips. “I thought about it. All night.”

His thumb brushed across her bottom lip as his hand slipped across her skin barely touching, smooth fingertips leading a trail of tingling fire down the open vee of her blouse to pluck at the top button. It easily popped open exposing a flash of lace and a hint of curved cleavage. A hard sound rumbled from Angel’s throat. He lowered his mouth to the vee of exposed skin, pressing his lips there, and darting his wet tongue into the soft hollow, drawing out an unsteady sigh from Cordelia before continuing his exploration.

With one hand free, and the other still trapped against the desk, Cordelia reached out to him, fingers following the contour of his bicep and broad shoulder, up to the space where his collar met skin. Skimming along his neck she cupped the back of his head, spreading her fingers through his short hair. “Angel, you’re driving me crazy.”

She could feel his smile against her breast. “That’s the idea,” he knew exactly what kind of response he elicited each time his lips touched her skin. Each butterfly kiss softly stimulated kindling heat beneath the cool touch of his smooth lips. Making her want to do things to him that could end up being very bad for her health. “Cordelia, tell me what you want.”

Moving her hand to his jaw, she answered, “More than I should. All of you. Everything. Please, Angel, I can’t think when you touch me.”

She counseled herself to be strong. To fight the temptation, but it was next to impossible when her body eagerly betrayed her at every turn. Her breasts swelled to his caress as he rubbed through the silk blouse and underlying lace bra, palming her all too briefly, and making her moan at the loss of his touch there.

No thinking required here, she decided, as his big hands gathered her hips pulling her even closer into his tall frame letting her feel the physical proof of his desire pressing boldy between them. Angel moved in with deadly accuracy to fuse his mouth across hers. No more teasing, just his mouth slowly rubbing across the pout of her lips, claiming territory, stoking a fiery need inside her. His tongue dashed across the seam of her lips, opening her up, delving inside where it was hot and wet.

Cordelia clung to his broad shoulders, shamelessly savoring each kiss, her pulse thrumming and an achy need forming low in her belly. Restless in his arms, she broke free of his mouth, her hands grasping his face or fisting up in the collar of his shirt, peppering him with hot and sweet ravenous little smooches. Panting out a frustrated sigh, she clutched at his back, tucking her head under his chin. “Stop! Angel, we need to stop. We can’t let this get too serious.”

Pulling back, Angel stared down at her with raw determination. “Don’t you feel it, Cordelia? Too late to back out now.”

“Kinda hard to avoid feeling it,” she muttered as her thoughts took a sexy little twist. Knowing what he meant, Cordelia knew the decision was not simple. “Wanting you is dangerous, Angel. You’ve got a curse, and we both know it could end badly.”

“What if I told you I had a way around that, and that the loophole wasn’t an issue for us?”

Cordelia flinched, hurt by the suggestion. Bitterly telling him, “If this is just about getting laid for the first time in a year, you can think again.”

To his credit, he looked horrified at the concerns that had been running through her head, now out in the open for his consideration. Anger took over just as quickly, tightening his jaw, and turning the mouth that had been so soft against her skin into a hard line of fury. “Is that really what you think is going on here— that I’m using you as some kind of substitute for Buffy? I’m not.”

Arguing back, “Good, because I have no intention of being your Rebound Girl!”

Angel stalked away from her stopping only because he was blocked by the front door. For a moment, Cordelia thought he might open it and keep on going. She might have questions, but leaving was not the way to handle this. This friction between them, the desire they faced, was not going to vanish just because it was inconvenient. Hurrying over, she put her hand on his shoulder, prepared to tell him that her hangups had more to do with the curse than his ex.

“Don’t touch me if you don’t want the consequences,” he growled at the touch of her hand. Facing her, he was full of restrained passion, his body taut with as he reigned himself in. “Cordelia, we’ve been working up to this for a long time now. You’re the only one I want, and you’d better get used to the idea that I want to kiss you.”

“I’m a big fan of the kisses,” she admitted refusing to back away. Especially now that some of her doubts about his feelings were starting to fade.

Angel cupped the back of her neck, and pulled her forward, those hungry eyes staring down at her mouth. Just inches from her lips, he lifted his gaze to meet hers. “I want to do more than kiss you, Cordelia. You have no idea what I want to do to you right now.”

A lusty shudder passed through her at the raw need in his voice. “I’ve got a pretty good imagination,” the words sounded breathy even to her. “It’s not that I don’t trust you to play it safe, because I’ve got a feeling you can be creative that way,” she felt a little thrill pass through her at the thought, before a more realistic one set in. “The curse doesn’t come with an off switch, and when it comes to you, I want it all. That’s what scares me.”

The hand at the nape of her neck began a slow massage as if Angel picked up on the tension gathering there. He asked huskily, “You want me too?” as if before he had only been trying to convince them both that it was true and only now believed it.

“Duh!”

Angel explained about the ring’s magic and his belief that the Gem of Amarra could protect his soul in spite of the curse. That it could counteract its power and keep his soul intact. The seed of hope he planted bloomed fast with each new piece of evidence he offered. He sounded so certain. “Knowing about the curse’s effects nullifies the loophole. Even so, the ring will ensure I remain whole. My soul is safe.”

Knowing he would never risk letting Angelus loose on the world again, Cordelia took him at his word instead of launching an all-out inquiry. Excitement bubbled up as she realized there was no longer any reason to hold back her feelings, or to avoid taking their relationship to an intimate level.

At the same time, she was legitimately confused. “Why didn’t you tell me this last night?”

“I wanted you to have time to think about it. To—”

Interrupting, she quipped, “Thinking is overrated,” before tilting her head up for a kiss he kept just out of reach.

Angel placated her by rubbing his thumb across her lips, silently promising more even as he kept on going, “To realize that this isn’t just short-term attraction between us. I love you, Cordelia.”

Stunned, Cordelia stared into the deep well of his eyes finding only the honest truth reflected back at her. “Since when?” Vividly remembering his words back in the shower, she reminded, “You called me the biggest pain-in- the-ass you know.”

“Honestly, that just makes me love you more,” Angel confessed as he finally closed the distance between them covering her mouth in a long, drugging kiss that made it difficult to remember anything except her need for more of the same.

The butterflies were back. “Good. Can we get to the part where I find out exactly what you want to do to me? Because I have a few ideas of my own.”

A Vampire and a Gentleman

Posted June 20, 2015 by califi in Complete

Friends & Neighbors 5   1 comment

There And Back Again

Six days in Sunnydale felt like an eternity. Time moved at a snail’s pace from which there was no escape. Now it was over. The Hellmouth was secure. Threat averted. Mission accomplished. Not that it had been easy.

Keeping his head in the game was next to impossible. Before he left L.A., he faced the first hurdle: Cordelia. All he really wanted to do was hang up the phone and finish what he started before the interruption. Kissing her. Slow, hungry, hot, sweet kisses that made him crave the taste of her mouth, the warmth of her plush lips, and the sensation of her silken skin beneath his touch.

Rational thought won over his baser instincts. There had always been an undercurrent between them pulling at something deep inside. It annoyed him. Got in the way of other feelings, and other people. Slammed into him whenever she was in danger. Sizzled when they touched. And it occasionally scared the hell out of him when the demonic side of his nature clawed at his insides urging him to respond to her mouthy, stubborn streak with more than a stern look.

Whatever the hell “it” was, Angel could not easily explain or define it. Maybe he was channeling his irritation with Cordelia’s infuriating sense of neighborliness into something enjoyable. A way of exacting control when she clearly had him wrapped around her little finger.

Getting involved with Cordy was not a good idea at all. Yet, as insane as it seemed, he wanted her. Everything she had to give. Even that tart acerbic tongue had its uses. Part of him enjoyed the sting. Something hidden away beneath her defensive barbs, warm and sweet, had yet to be fully discovered, but he caught glimpses of its power over him. Felt it in the way his unbeating heart ached at the glory of her smile.

Angel gulped away the thickness in his throat. No use thinking about it. Simple sexual gratification was not on the cards for them. Their friend-colleague-boss-secretary-neighbor relationship was already knotted up with mixed emotions. Getting physically close could get dangerous. Whatever was happening between them was better evaluated from a distance. No matter his annoyance with the interruption, Buffy’s phone call was a vivid reminder to Angel that he could not have everything he wanted.

Distracted by Cordelia’s rapid retreat and the definitive slamming of their adjoining apartment door, he had heard only about a third of the one-sided conversation with Buffy. Fortunately, the highlights were simple enough to process: trouble in Sunnydale. The imperative, “Come now,” seemingly gave him no choice but to comply even though a sense of obligation committed him to it anyway.

Instead of heading straight for the car, Angel had stopped in front of the connecting door rapping his knuckles on it. Over the noise of the music blaring from inside her apartment, he called out, “Cordelia, open up.”

He knocked again a little more forcefully when the stereo volume went up a notch instead. Wanting to explain about the call, he had tried one last time to tell her what was happening, although it was an easy guess that she would read more into Buffy’s demand for his presence than was actually there. Not to mention the fact that it wasn’t that hard to read between the lines that insultingly suggested he was using her as a substitute for Buffy.

Deciding that Cordelia was going to ignore him completely, Angel had muttered a rarely used expletive and turned away. The metallic scrape of the door moving along its track jerked him to a halt. “Let me guess,” she said with a sardonic tone lacing her words, “someone has unleashed the next apocalypse and Buffy wants you there as backup.”

Angel approached her cautiously as if a faster pace might frighten her off. “Pretty much.”

“Thought so.” Cordelia crossed her arms and leaned against the doorframe. Although her voice remained steady and her words succinct, he could read the turmoil in her eyes.

“I should go.”

He could see the ‘hands off’ vibe practically steaming from her. Bristling, she surprised him with, “Maybe I should come too.”

Startled, Angel’s response snapped back a little more forcefully than he would have made it. “No! You’re staying here.”

Cordelia snorted a cynical little sound suggesting that she knew what his response would be all along, although Angel doubted she understood why. “You’re safer here,” he clarified his thinking. Knowing her penchant for needling him about Buffy, she might imagine this to be some sort of clandestine meeting.

“What about you? You haven’t even fully recovered from your demon-killing spree.” Reaching out to him, her fingers slid downward across his torso to the site of his worst wound, now completely closed over, but still sore. The warmth of her hand seeped through his shirt to his skin.

Capturing her hand, he wanted nothing more than to show her something else that needed soothing, but it would only start something he intended to take his time finishing. “Don’t worry about it. I know what I’m doing.”

“Pfft! Just as long as you remember the one thing you’re not supposed to do— no boffing Buffy,” she added coolly.

He did not move a muscle, nor say a word. Let her think what she wanted about his plans for Buffy. Maybe if he let her believe he was eager to get back to Sunnydale to Buffy’s waiting arms it would be for the best. Was she jealous? He tried to find a sliver of jealous rage in her expression, but Cordelia looked like she was handing out matter-of-fact advice.

Angel wasn’t sure what pissed him off more, the idea that Cordelia thought she could hand out orders about his relationship with Buffy—whether or not he ever had any intention of sleeping with her—or that she seemed to be doing it more out of self-preservation than jealousy. Maybe she didn’t want him with the same intensity? The idea came and went just as quickly. No, she was into him. Very into him if her enthusiastic kisses hinted at her feelings.

“Doyle and I can hold down the fort until you get back,” she practically shooed him toward the door.

Leaving Cordelia alone in Doyle’s company for an unspecified period normally would not have bothered him. Ever since their conversation in the sewer, Angel was not entirely certain that Doyle had given up on his plan to ask Cordelia out on a date. Any sparks of jealous rage were all on him, though he put on his best poker face at the mention of their friend’s name.

Realizing that he still held her hand captive, he let go, and stepped toward the door leading out of her apartment into the garage. He kept walking toward the Plymouth and did not look back until he heard the door close shut, not with a bang, but with a soft click and a turn of the lock. As if she was resolved to let him go because it was Buffy who asked for his help, and there had never before been a reason to doubt his response.

The drive to Sunnydale had gone by almost on autopilot.

Twenty miles from town he saw the first road sign. The closer he got the guiltier he felt. Only he was not sure if it was because kissing Cordelia meant that he had cheated on Buffy, or if the accusations about using her as a substitute were somehow justified.

He was there to fight the Good Fight. Support the team. Be there for Buffy.

But his head was not fully in the game.

He kept thinking about Cordelia and asking himself if he was just reading things wrong when it came to her responses. Was her attraction actually to her fantasy version of Detective Broderick rather than him? No, it was real. Denial might be healthier for them both, safer for her— for everyone. He knew his desire was real and he could feel her response to him.

Still, such temptation was dangerous, and she was not wrong about Buffy. He still felt something: lingering love, tenderness, and remorse. A combination of a thousand emotions that still had a raw edge when his thoughts drifted toward Sunnydale. He had ended things between them for a reason, but it never really felt over.

Cordelia might have been justified to guess that it was Buffy calling. That he would jump at the chance to see her again. This was not an excuse, but an obligation.

The guilt he expected to feel upon seeing Buffy again faded quickly as he was introduced to a newcomer to the group, a man named Riley Finn. He did not need to be told that they were lovers because his senses revealed the news almost instantly. It was clear from the expression on Finn’s face that he was sizing up a rival. The nervous tremor to Buffy’s voice suggested she expected the tension might escalate to violence.

Angel definitely felt something, but it was not anger. Surprise, yes. He had wanted Buffy to move on with her life, but had not fully considered coming face to face with his replacement. Slow warmth spread across his chest as the idea sunk in and he recognized what he was feeling. Relief. It chased away the shadow of guilt looming ever-presently in his thoughts.

Buffy seemed confused by his indifference, but there was no time for a heart-to-heart talk. Not while Sunnydale was in danger. In the end, talking was not really necessary. It never had been between them. Before he left town, she asked him to go out on one last patrol. She kissed him and he let it happen just to see where it would go. His lack of enthusiasm must have shown because Buffy backed away pretty quickly. Surprise and disappointment showed on her face, but there was a hint of resolve showing, too, as if she was also testing things out.

“I-I shouldn’t have…” she started to say but let the night air swallow her words.

They were at the end of their patrol route. “I think we’re done here,” Angel said to her, but this time it felt like he meant it. “Time I headed home.”

Reaching into his pocket he pulled out the keys to the Plymouth, which was parked in front of Giles’ house, but stopped when he heard Buffy call out to him, “Angel, wait. I almost forgot!”

He stopped in his tracks and waited doing his best to ignore the phantom sound of Cordelia’s laughter in his head as she referred to him as Buffy’s lap dog. Fetch. Kill. Sit. Wait. She was not exactly wrong about it either, which made it sting even more.

Catching up to him again, Buffy reached into her own pants pocket pulling out something small enough to have tucked away in her hand. The Claddagh ring, he guessed with a small pang of regret as Buffy continued on with her explanation.

“I was going to have Oz bring this to you on his trip to L.A., but things went wacko here at Hellmouth Central. Wow, I guess I should’ve given this to you when you first got here, but I had hidden it from Spike and—”

“Spike! He’s back?”

Buffy cringed. “Ah, yeah, long story. He has this whole takeover Sunnydale thing going on. No big. Nothing I can’t handle. It’s just that we found something important. Something that could change everything…for you.”

Resting in her palm was an ancient golden ring fashioned around a large emerald stone. He knew it for what it was almost instantly. “The Gem of Amarra.” No wonder Spike wanted it. Buffy was right. Its reputed powers could potentially make him virtually invulnerable, impervious to sunlight and a laundry list of other things.

“Giles wants to talk to you before you go. Books and stuff…” Buffy trailed off with a sigh.

Angel doubted those references would tell him what he really wanted to know. He suspected the gem’s abilities might also secure his soul, or at least counteract the curse by acting as a balancing force. It did not sound like the kind of theory he could test out without risking that everything could go wrong. That put a lid on his excitement pretty quickly.

The ring felt warm to the touch, its mystical energy attuned to his vampire nature. Angel slid it into place on the middle finger of his right hand. The invisible energy spread out in a wave of tingling sensations until it suffused him with the kind of warmth he had not felt in over two hundred and fifty years. Even if half of the legend was true he worried that possessing the ring might cause problems.

Spike’s interest in it was probably going to be one of many hurdles ahead, but it might just be worth it.

Now he was driving home from Sunnydale. Apocalypse averted. Old relationships ended. Loophole resolved.

So he hoped.

Could the ring truly nullify the curse? Surely, one of those books would shed some light on the subject. It was not just a matter of wanting to be rid of it because obviously the ever-present threat of Angelus meant that the world was a safer place without the darkest part of his demon nature on the loose. There would be nothing to stop him from making a fresh start with Cordelia—unless Doyle finally made that move he had been planning for months.

Angel gripped the steering wheel a little tighter and pressed his foot down on the gas.

Some undercurrent of attraction had always been there, privately acknowledged, but never something he planned to act upon until sheer proximity changed things. Over the past few weeks, he had given in to desires he thought fully under his control.

Countless erotic scenes filled his head, starting with an exploration of her beautiful body. There was not an inch he could not imagine teasing with his mouth, kissing, sucking, nibbling every line and curve he had committed to memory. He salivated at the thought of his tongue on her sex, tasting, delving into the juicy center, flicking at the sensitive nub, stroking her into a rapturous frenzy.

God, he wanted to see that. If she could get so damned worked up over the way he organized his clothes closet, he knew that sex with Cordelia would be electrifying. Truthfully, everything she did confirmed that assessment. All it took was one look from her and he was transfixed by lascivious thoughts. Much of his free time had been spent considering how to broach the idea of letting their friendship turn intimate and determining ways in which he could provide her pleasure while limiting his own, ensuring that his soul would remain intact.

Cordelia’s beautiful body seemed to be made just for him fitting with his like an interlocking puzzle piece. The way she responded to his touch, matching his desire, made him painfully aware that they both wanted more than kisses. Prolonging the chase used to be part of the game, but trying to suppress his needs was downright painful.

Neither one of them had much luck with romance. Truthfully, he was not really certain he wanted to risk getting involved again so soon. Cordelia seemed to be over Xander, but she had not been with anyone since they had met again. He could tell. That was not to say that every male she met wasn’t wrapped around her little finger. One glimpse of that radiant smile was enough. Everyone from Doyle to Dr Folger was half in love with her.

The thought spawned a wave of possessiveness. Cordelia was a friend, a colleague, and neighbor. Not his lover. There was no claim of ownership involved, and she would probably hand him his ass if he ever brought up the subject, especially when it was going to be necessary to keep things casual.

Until he figured out if the ring truly offered his soul protection, he could not risk falling in love with her. What he felt now was just an undeniable hunger that tangled up their friendship with lustful cravings. Desire should not have to be so complicated. Want. Take. Have. Keep. But this was Cordelia Chase and that made everything just a little more complex.

From the first, she had been something of a thorn in his side, a temptation for his darker desires, testing out his methods of control. Her spoiled, egotistical outlook on life had always reminded Angel of his youth back in Ireland. Her existence had turned topsy-turvy, and she lost everything that she held dear in that former life. Now they were here in Los Angeles where the Powers that Be had brought them back together. Somehow, he doubted that improving his sex life had anything to do with it.

Until he knew more about the Gem of Amarra’s affects on the curse, he could not risk unleashing Angelus upon the world again. Especially because Cordelia would be the first to come face-to-face with the monster he was if he should lose his soul again. That was something he could not do, but he wanted her anyway, and he intended to make certain that she knew it.



Home Sweet Home Invasion

Six days alone with Cordelia and still Doyle had not managed to make his move. There was no telling just how long the current trouble in Sunnydale would keep Angel away. It was downright depressing. Maybe his chances were miniscule, but he was not going to count himself out just yet. There might be a bit of red tape and a secret or two to reveal, but he was fairly certain that not being a broody vampire with ex-girlfriend issues was a plus in his favor. Not to mention the whole lack of a curse.

He just had to wait for the right moment.

There were no visions this week. Doyle supposed the PTB knew their champion was dealing with the trouble at the Hellmouth. That did not mean the office was closed for business. Cordelia took one case that Angel would no doubt have frowned upon, but managed to keep them working for a few days. She promptly used the check to pay for some new office décor, a manicure, and a fancy television that now shared Dr Folger’s cable service. It was a safe bet that Angel would frown upon that, too.

Doyle did not mind at all. He quite liked hanging out at Cordelia’s place, getting comfy on the couch, letting her snuggle up all friendly-like as they watched TV. It was something he could get used to if given the opportunity. He knew that to be as likely as a snowball’s chance in hell, but he would take it.

Aiming the remote at the television, he clicked until he found something of interest. Beautiful beach babes in scanty red swimsuits. If he squinted just right that one in the blue bikini looked just like Cordelia.

“Leer much?” Cordelia snorted as she snatched the remote out of his hand, but lingered a moment to admit that, “Baywatch just makes me realize how much I miss the beach. I’m already starting to loose my tan.” Frowning, she looked down at her arms finding fault with the golden skin that Doyle found so intriguing.

Thinking that he could handle the beach if she loved it so much, Doyle suggested, “We should go. Tomorrow, maybe.”

“You’re just as pale as Angel,” she gave him a quick once-over. “Have you ever been to the beach?”

“There’s always a first time.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes at him. “Yergh! I think I just scarred my brain imagining you in a speedo.”

Offended, but half-joking about it, he huffed, “Just because I don’t run around in the altogether like a certain neighbor of yours doesn’t mean I wouldn’t measure up.”

“Ew! We’re definitely changing the channel.” Clicking the remote a couple of times, she stopped at the sound of a familiar scene. “Ooh! This is the one where Rachel—”

“No you don’t, princess. Let’s look for something else.” He reached for the remote again only to have Cordelia snatch it close to her chest as if she was protecting it.

“Who doesn’t like the awesomeness that is ‘Friends’?”

Sensing that he had made a critical error, Doyle tried to backtrack, but it was too late. He was getting an earful about the gloriousness of her favorite show. “I’m better with movies,” he defended himself against the waving remote by holding up his hands. “Café scenes aren’t really my thing.”

“Too bad it’s not Thursday. We could watch ‘Cheers’. You might get the whole friends at a bar concept.”

Right now Doyle wouldn’t mind being at a bar. He was about to suggest that they head down to his favorite pub when he thought he heard something. “What was that?”

Still in defensive mode, Cordelia did not notice the distraction. She was nattering on about who was friends or siblings with whom, and which characters were most likely to have secret crushes. Doyle tried to focus through the sound to pick up the clatter again. If he was in demon form it would be easier, but that was not going to happen, not with Cordelia standing right there giving him an earful.

The television blared louder as a commercial came on. Doyle made a move for the remote, which Cordelia took as a challenge for a spontaneous game of keep-away. She darted to the other side of the antique wood chest that served as a temporary coffee table holding the remote behind her back. “We’re watching ‘Friends’.”

Doyle needed silence. “Mute it,” he made a slashing motion with his hand.

Trust Cordelia to take it personally. “Hey! Was that some Irish way of telling me to shut up?”

“Only if it works,” he muttered. Wrestling the remote away, Doyle pressed the mute button, while explaining in a hushed voice, “I heard something next door,”

The instant smile brightening her beautiful face revealed her assumption that Angel had returned. Doyle moved in front of the closed connecting door blocking her from opening it. He grabbed her by the shoulders. “Wait. Just listen.”

With the television now in silent mode, and Cordelia momentarily stunned into silence herself, the noise in the other apartment quickly became apparent. Clattering in the kitchen. Breaking glass. Serial curses. Not enough to identify anyone. Some random burglar had picked the wrong place to rob.

With their ears pressed up against the door, Cordelia whispered, “Maybe we should call 911.”

“Right,” Doyle let the sarcasm roll off his tongue thickening his brogue accent. “Let’s bring the police down to a vampire lair.”

Whispering again, “It’s not like Angel has a coffin in the bedroom or dead bodies in the closet.”

“There’s the weapons cabinet,” Doyle reminded, which was unfortunately over there and not on this side of the door where they could arm themselves against the intruder.

Cordelia pointed toward her bedroom motioning that he follow her in there. “There’s blood in the fridge, too. Try explaining that one to Detective Buttinski,” suggesting that Kate Lockley might jump at the chance to see the place. “I knew I should’ve cleaned that thing out yesterday.” She hit the flat of her hand against her head.

Doyle laughed louder than he should have. “You. Cleaning?” He couldn’t help but sound a little skeptical about the idea. Wondering what she was up to he watched with interest as she knelt on the floor next to her bed. For a moment, he thought she was planning to crawl under it, and imagined taking refuge there with her keeping her safe from the big bad burglar next door.

“I clean,” came the scornful remark from somewhere underneath the bed ruffle seconds before a mostly empty cereal bowl and spoon appeared only to be shoved aside.

Maybe it was a good indication that Angel had not spent any time in here, he thought with a smile, while also admiring the curves exaggerated by her current position. The vampire would have sniffed out that bowl faster that you could say moldy Cheerios.

Despite the tempting idea of cuddling close under the bed, he had to point out that they still had a ready means of escape. “We could just leave by the main door.”

Cordelia scooted out from beneath the bed holding an armed crossbow and a handful of bolts. “Pfft! Who said anything about leaving?”

“You keep that thing under your bed?”

“I’m not putting it under my pillow.”

Doyle slid the door connecting the apartments wide open, not sure he liked the idea of Cordelia leading the way in, but more worried at what they were going to find. He took a chance while her attention was focused on the noises now coming from Angel’s bedroom by shifting into his true form to sniff the air. Just as he thought! His sharper senses told him everything he needed to know.

The interloper was a vampire. Someone he did not recognize.

He tried to be as quiet as he could, telling Cordelia that this was a bad idea. “Let’s get back to your place.” Once across the threshold the vampire would not be able to get through. Keeping Cordelia safe was as much a priority as keeping his own neck intact. This was no ordinary burglar and though Doyle figured he could hold his own in a bar fight, any vampire who dared to rummage through the lair of a master vampire with Angel’s reputation was not likely to be put off by him.

An angry expletive sounded, “Bollocks!” accompanied by a crash of furniture against the floor. “If I was a ring, where would I be?”

Cordelia let out a gasp of recognition and moving forward even faster away from Doyle’s outreaching hand. He just lost any chance of getting her to safety. Fear punched him in the gut. It ran spidery-like down his nerves, a sense that he might lose her— on his watch. Bad enough that anything could happen, but for it to happen while Angel was away and unable to swoop in to save the day… Doyle knew he did not like those odds.

If that meant getting his game face on in front of Cordelia, he was just going to have to do it no matter the consequences.

Doyle crept up behind her as Cordelia took careful aim at the vampire rummaging through Angel’s sock drawer. Several other drawers from the chest were completely pulled out, lying broken on the floor along with scattered clothing and other tossed items.

Looking at him from behind, Doyle noted the slicked back blond hair and swath of leather figuring he thought he was quite the badass. Most of them did, after all. He quipped in a Cockney accent, “Well, this has been fun,” making it sound like the opposite as he tossed the last pair of socks over his shoulder, “but it’s getting old real fast.”

One last time, Doyle tried pulling Cordelia back to safety, but she elbowed him in the side to free herself. The soft “oof” was enough to cause the burglar’s head to twitch. He turned slowly, a grin on his angled face, “Time to make things more interesting.”

“Spike!” Cordelia said the name as a warning aiming the crossbow with a far steadier hand than Doyle would have done. Seeing that face, hearing that name, he now knew exactly how dangerous this had become.

The smirk on the bastard’s face as he said her name “Cordelia, you look smashing!” suggested that her presence had just turned his bad luck good. All irreverent charm with that glint in his blue eyes, he sounded like a casual visitor instead of a threat. “I had no idea you were playing house with Peaches. What a surprise.”

“We weren’t expecting visitors.” Cordelia was not a fool. She kept the crossbow trained on Spike, but Doyle noticed that she sounded more irritated than scared. Maybe it was all an act. If it was, he hoped he was not the only one tricked by it. “What are you doing messing with Angel’s stuff? I hope you have the cash to pay for all of this.”

Grinning, Spike stepped closer stopping only when she fingered the trigger. Doyle couldn’t move. He eyed the space around them looking for some sort of weapon. The closest was the broken stand of a floor lamp, but that did not seem like much good against a vampire, especially this one.

Spike had not so much as looked his way focusing his attention entirely on Cordelia. “Just looking for what’s mine, luv,” The tone was soft, but came with an underlying threat beneath the smooth words. “I want the ring. Tell me where he’s got it hidden and I’ll let you two live.”

Cordelia sounded just as confused as he was on this one. “Ring?”

Since it was important to talk a good game, Doyle told him that he was making empty threats. “You’re the one with the crossbow pointed at your heart.”

That icy blue gaze turned in his direction assessing and dismissing him in seconds. “What is it with you good guys running in packs?” Apparently unconcerned with any potential threat from his direction, Spike sneered a bit and asked Cordelia, “Who’s this one, then?”

Feeling rather ticked off at the dismissal, Doyle cut in before any introductions were made. “More than meets the eye, blondie.”

He went from laughing, “Ooooh…the Mick’s got spine!” to serious, “Maybe I’ll snap it in two,” in the blink of an eye.

Cordelia came to his defense, nudging the crossbow up another notch. “Do you want me to use this?”

Deadly serious, he answered coldly, “You’ll be dead before the arrow leaves the bow.”

Despite the threat, Cordelia didn’t budge. “Angel is already going to be pissed off about this mess, Spike. Touch either one of us and—”

“Nice try, cheerleader, but Angel isn’t here.” Spike sniffed the air, his vampire senses providing details that she would not comprehend. “Hasn’t been for at least a week. Missing him, luv? Your sweet scent is everywhere.”

Getting personal now, was he? Doyle gulped down a lump forming in his throat as he realized what Spike was implying. “She lives next door.”

Naturally, Cordelia looked a little embarrassed by the vampire’s suggestion. “I might have—”

Spike cut her off eager to rub Doyle’s nose in the truth by telling him he had better rethink the facts. “Don’t be so sure about that, Dolt. Look around. Somebody’s been sleeping in Angel’s bed. Quite recently.”

The bedspread was rumpled as if hastily made. Not what he would have expected from Angel who kept the rest of his place as tidy as a pin. Still, Spike could easily have messed it up when exploring the room.

Any second now Cordelia was going to rip into Spike with some scathing remark to set the record straight. He turned to find her staring back with wide-eyed guilt written on her flushed face. No, no, no! Where were the denials, rebuff, and acidic retorts? Doyle’s stomach churned as he realized there would not be any. She had not said a word to make Spike take it back because it would be a lie.

Doyle’s jaw fell slack as he gaped at her, his mind spinning at the notion that he was far to late. He had missed that minuscule chance after all. But when? Nobody told him the status quo had changed. A deep ache bloomed in his chest as he asked, “You two have. . .”

The quick “No!” stung even though it was what he wanted to hear.

Spiked tutted, “Pesky curse, remember? That’s a real shame.”

“Like you care! Not that it’s any of your business.”

“Pet, as much as I don’t like the big ponce all souled up, I really hate it when Angelus decides to drag the whole bloody world into hell right along with him. Maybe it’s best you stay out of Angel’s bed.”

Was he ever going to stop talking about it? Doyle did not want to think about Cordelia being in Angel’s bed for any reason, whether or not the vampire was there, too. Especially, if he was there, but that would be insane on their part. Angel couldn’t…should not…well, it was wrong, not to mention unfair.

Spike seemed to be making a pretty big leap. He had to know if there was something going on. Six days had passed since Angel left for Sunnydale and Cordelia had not breathed a word about getting intimate.

He began with her name, “Cor—,” only to be cut off faster than a racehorse reaches the finish line.

“Geez, okay! He kissed me. I liked it.”

For a second Doyle thought she might turn the crossbow on him. He held up his hands in surrender pushing the hurt of it aside to say, “Cordelia, I’m sorry. He’s been trying to do the right thing. Staying away. Ever since you moved in next door.”

“Convenient little set up,” commented Spike reminding them both that he hadn’t gone anywhere. “Slayer know he keeps you within snogging distance?”

“Buffy’s a little busy,” she snapped.

That statement only brought more laughter. “You don’t know how true that is.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Ringside seats might be fun.” Whatever the inside joke Spike finally let it go. “Speaking of rings, I am bloody tired of searching this place. You two should take over.”

Doyle was not sure what to do except play along and hope they could escape behind the safety of the protective barrier between apartments. Although he was not sure that was even an option now that he had literally pointed out the door. His frustration at his own stupid mistake made him bark the question, “What ring?”

Vamping out, Spike threateningly stepped closer. Doyle tensed for a fight, but Cordelia stepped in between them. “Hey! We need details. What does this ring look like? Angel gave Buffy a ring once,” she sounded a little sour over the memory. “She stopped wearing it. Or lost it. Maybe Angel took it back.”

Now she was just buying them time, Doyle suddenly realized, as she backed them both up in the direction of her apartment door. Genius girl! Only Spike caught on. He snatched the crossbow out of her grasp and tossing it on the couch before he shoved her up against the closest wall pinning her there with his hips and hands.

“Get off me!”

Cursing, Doyle launched himself at Spike only to crumple to the ground after a powerful backhand stopped his forward momentum. “Don’t move an inch,” Spike flashed his fangs in warning as he closed that strong hand around Cordelia’s delicate neck, tilting her forward.

Not one to sit back and take it, Cordelia writhed and pushed against the immovable vampire, until reaching her last resort. Her knee angled up sharply, but Spike was ready for that move. “Don’t piss me off.”

“Likewise!”

“Then listen carefully, both of you. Find my bloody ring!”

Still on the floor, Doyle stretched his arm out toward the broken lamp stand. Spike moved back to stomp on his hand, dragging Cordelia along with him, his fingers digging in to the sensitive skin at her throat. Both of them cried out in pain. With a sudden release of his hand, Spike sent Cordelia flying on top of Doyle just as he was trying to pull himself to his feet. They tumbled to the floor in a heap.

Spike crouched down next to them looking quite pleased with his work. Although Doyle wanted to wipe that smirk of his face, he knew the attempt would most likely get them killed. “At least tell us what to look for.”

The smirk faded a bit as if it was finally sinking in that they knew nothing about the ring he wanted. He took Cordelia by the hand, helping her back to her feet, gently brushing her tousled hair back into place. Doyle rose up behind her feeling his lips tighten up as he fought to hold back the urge to tell Spike to keep his hands to himself. He was surprised that she let him get that close, but decided she was just playing it safe.

“It’s not Buffy’s ring,” Cordelia ruled that out.

Even Doyle knew about that one. The Claddagh ring Angel had given Buffy Summers as a token of his love. A vision had skimmed over those events before their first meeting. The ring was gold, but could hold no special significance to anyone else. Whatever Spike was looking for had to be something worth the risk of coming here, and potentially facing Angel himself to get it.

“C’mon, pet,” Spike softened his words, his fingers slowly tracing circles along her shoulder. “Don’t play coy. Magic ring. Emerald stone wrapped in gold. Lets Angel walk around in the sunlight.”

Cordelia gasped, her fingers curling into the lapels of Spike’s leather duster. “There’s a ring that can do that?”

“Don’t you know?”

“No.”

Thinking about it, Doyle realized that he knew what Spike was after. “The Gem of Amarra! I thought that was just a legend. It renders the wearer unkillable if he’s a vampire,” he told Cordelia.

Taking a step away from Cordelia, brushing out the wrinkles on his lapels, Spike gave him a nod. “Not as dumb as you look. That’s the one.”

Cordelia crossed her arms, saying, “Now we know why you want it. What makes you think Angel has the ring?”

“Makes sense. The slayer stole it,” he revealed with a sneer, telling them that he organized a dig for the ancient object after discovering its whereabouts in Sunnydale. Planning to get it back, he had spied on the Scooby Gang only to lose track of it. “That fool watcher wanted it destroyed, but she wouldn’t do it. Had to give it to your big strapping hero.”

Looking distracted over the news, Cordelia’s teeth tugged on her lower lip. “Angel could totally use that ring. I have patched him up so many times we ought to own stock in the bandage company.”

Doyle stressed the point, “But he doesn’t have it.”

Cordelia’s worried look transitioned into a smile. “Well, he might have it now. Angel’s in Sunnydale right now. With her,” she added for Spike’s benefit just to watch the reaction.

“Good time for a handoff,” agreed Doyle twisting the figurative knife a bit further.

Clearly upset by the realization that he had come to L.A. looking for a ring that had never left Sunnydale, Spike let out a frustrated shout, paced toward the nearest breakable object and hurled it at the wall. “Bloody hell!” He stalked back toward them, asking questions for which they had no answers. “What about the whole letting the werewolf bring it to L.A. plan?”

“Oh, probably just the latest apocalypse at the Hellmouth,” Cordelia explained with a shrug.

Spike grunted. “Another one?”

“Angel isn’t here. The ring isn’t here. You shouldn’t be here,” Doyle waved toward the back staircase leading to the underground parking area.

“Have I outstayed my welcome?” He clasped both hands over his dead heart. “That hurts.”

Cordelia took a step back as he moved closer, bumping into Doyle behind her, but Spike kept coming, crowding them together against the doorjamb. “Wh-what are you going to do?”

“Make sure Angel doesn’t have a choice about giving me that ring.”

“He’ll be invulnerable. You won’t be able to hurt him.”

“Sunlight, stakes, not even fire will kill him, but I will still win, still get what I want,” Spike revealed. “Only one thing opens him up to a world of hurt, a vulnerability no other vampire has to fear.”

Doyle’s voice cracked as he realized what Spike was getting at. “His soul.”

“Exactly, mate. He’s got namby-pamby feelings he can’t just switch off. Friends he cares about. A woman he wants.” Spike’s hands tightened as they closed over their shoulders. “Let’s just say it’s a bad day to be you.”


Family Reunion

Tires screeched to a halt leaving a burning rubber track on the old cement of the underground parking garage. Angel recognized Spike’s DeSoto the moment he saw it. The bastard was still here. Having tried calling both Cordelia and Doyle from his cell phone after leaving Sunnydale, he expected the worst.

Possessing the Gem of Amarra could be considered a blessing, but the power it rendered was going to make him a target. Spike was just going to be the first in a never-ending line of vampires who wanted its magic. Now he realized that such a threat was not just going to affect him, but his friends, too.

Angel did not bother with subtlety—or using his keys.

A powerful kick knocked the steel door off its hinges. He stepped into his apartment and leaped down the stairs. “Spike!” He could tell that neither of his friends was present, which meant the other vampire was playing a dangerous game.

“Took you long enough,” Spike said by way of a greeting as he slowly rose from his stretched out position on the couch. “My crew back in Sunnydale told me you left over an hour ago. They’re a useless bunch for the most part. Coulda saved me the trip.”

Beyond beating Spike to a bloody pulp, he didn’t really have a plan. Angel crossed the room in a flash throwing the other vampire across the room. Heat coursed through his veins, a rush of added power. The uppercut Spike threw barely registered. Angel slammed his head into a concrete pillar and held him there.

Fangs bared, he growled closely, “You’ve got five seconds to tell me what you’ve done to Cordelia and Doyle.”

“Right to the point, then. I see you’ve got my ring.”

“Where are they?”

“Let me go and I’ll tell you.”

Angel released his hold, but didn’t step back, crowding Spike against the wall as he awaited an answer. “Well?”

“I’m getting to it. Impatient bastard.”

He wanted the truth. Now.

Giving him some room, Angel moved aside hoping that it would put Spike into a cooperative mood. Instead, the second he gave him an inch Spike dashed across the room jumping onto the coffee table, and then the couch, his black boots leaving dark scuffmarks in his wake. “Maybe we’ll have a little fun, first,” he said, reaching for one of the swords hanging on a wall display.

Impatience weighted him down for a moment as Angel anticipated the attack. “Try it,” he growled encouraging Spike to make the charge.

Brandishing the sword from atop the coffee table again, Spike suddenly launched it like a spear toward Angel who did not bother to move out of the way. Half expecting it to bounce off him, he felt the sharp steel pierce his skin sliding deep into his gut. It almost tickled. Angel heard Spike let out a shout of surprise, but it sounded far away, as he stared down in shock at the blood seeping from the wound.

Wasn’t he supposed to be invulnerable?

Angel closed his hand over the hilt pulling swiftly to get the blade out. By the time he reached down to check it the wound was already closed. Much faster than normal vampire healing, he realized amazed at the speed of his recovery, and without the need for blood.

So, that was how it worked.

“Just testing the ring, mate,” Spike jumped back down to the floor, his tone casual. “Not what I expected, but it does the trick.”

“I asked you a question. Where are they?”

Spike got to the point. “Give me the ring and I’ll give you Cordelia, and the other one. Bonus deal. Two for one.”

Thinking of what might have been done to them, Angel imagined wrapping his hand around Spike’s neck and squeezing until it cracked under the pressure. “If you’ve hurt….”

“Don’t be daft. She’s fine. They’re both fine. Hardly a scratch or bruise between them.”

He would judge that for himself as soon as he found them. “Answer the question.”

“All I want is my ring.”

“Might as well go home, Spike. The Gem of Amarra stays with me. There’s a reason Buffy wanted me to have it.”

Spike scoffed, “Right. To piss me off!” He eyed the ring on Angel’s hand as if planning to forcibly remove it.

“You know what it can do,” Angel said by way of a warning squaring off against another futile attack.

All it did was wind Spike up again. “Which is why I want my bloody ring! That little bitch stole it from me,” he seethed at the injustice of the slayer taking what was his. “This is bollocks!”

“Because you want it or because she gave it to me?”

“Peaches, giving you the Gem of Amarra is the slayer’s biggest cock up yet. Think about it.”

Angel didn’t want to think about anything except getting his friends back, but if putting up with Spike’s jealous little gripe session was going to get his point across he would do it. “Spike, you’re not in any position to talk to about screwing things up. You are so caught up in your latest power play with Buffy you can’t see that it is just dragging you down. I hear Drusilla left you.”

“Don’t go there. Leave her out of this.”

“Like you left Cordelia out of it?”

Angel watched as Spike growled and paced across the carpet, a bundle of energy set to explode. Part of him wanted to keep prodding. To give him another excuse to beat him down.

“Get it through your thick skull. The next time your soul goes poof Angelus will have the ring. No one on this side of hell could stop you. Not even the Slayer.”

Contradicting everything the Watcher had predicted about the power of the ring, the idea rankled him. After all, the combined resources on the Gem of Amarra said nothing about protecting vampires from curses. Was the theory so far-fetched? A hint of doubt started to creep in despite the hours Angel had spent pouring over tomes in the Watcher’s special collection.

Despite Giles’ theories on the ring’s potential, Angel remembered that the original plan had been to destroy the ring rather than give it to him. If anyone besides Buffy had a right to want Angelus permanently restrained, it would be her Watcher.

“Look at what I’m trying to accomplish here, at the good I can do with the ring. Angelus won’t be a threat. The gem’s power can secure my soul.”

“Part of me prefers you without the sappy soul. Decades of terror and revolution and blood. No one to stop us. Until you toyed with the wrong girl and ended up cursed by gypsies.”

“What’s your point?”

“That you should go back to being a good little monk and keep it in your pants. Magic is magic. Miracle cures aren’t on the menu. That gem won’t save your soul.”

Angel held onto that one hope. “It will.”

“You’re as much of a selfish bastard as ever. What happens when those Cordelicious kisses go too far?” Spike prodded him along. Waggling his eyebrows, he smirked saying, “If anyone was made for a good shag…”

Angel rammed his fist into Spike’s face before he finished the sentence.

Staggering back, Spike leaned up against the wall to recover. “Not wrong am I?” He paused to stare at Angel who glared back at him thinking that torturing the messenger might be just as satisfying as a kill. After all, he still had to get Cordelia & Doyle’s location out of him.

He was about to bring up the subject again when Spike finally asked, “What about Buffy?”

It was a serious question, Angel noted, but one that left him confused. He had already put a ‘closed’ sign on that chapter. Buffy had nothing to do with the here and now.

“She’s done this for you, given you a way to secure your soul—even if it is a bunch of guff. Tried to make it safe for you to get it together with her.” Spike sneered looking like he was ready to rip Angel apart over the idea.

There was a time Angel might have held that over his head. Not anymore. “Buffy and I are finished.” He had priorities and they did not involve fighting over a girl who could handle the unwanted attentions of a vampire. If Spike had a crazy idea that Buffy could ever want another vampire lover, Angel figured he would put that idea out of his head. “She’s got a boyfriend. A human one.”

“That tosser! There’s something off about him.”

Angel could not disagree, but it was not really his business anymore. Still, it didn’t hurt to use it as an excuse to get Spike out of town. “Maybe you should check into it. Right after you tell me where you’ve stashed Cordelia and Doyle.”

“Somewhere in the city limits. They’re a bit tied up at the moment,” Spike joked as he plonked down in Angel’s favorite chair. “Manny the Pig has them in his van. Driving around in circles. Waiting for orders.”

“So this is your plan…trusting a guy named Manny the Pig with my friends? With Cordelia!” Angel reached down to grab a fist full of cotton and leather and hauled Spike out of his chair with a sharp yank.

Managing to shrug, Spike admitted, “He seemed keen to take on the job. Something about the Dolt owing him.”

“Call him,” ordered Angel trying to rein his anger back in. Struggling with it, he glared hostilely, voice clipping coldly, “Get them back here now.”

Spike reached down into the pocket of his leather duster and pulled out a cell phone. Flipping it open, he waited to be released. He looked down at the alphanumeric keypad, staring at it blindly for a moment, making Angel think that he might have forgotten the number of the soon-to-be-dead Manny the Pig.

After a long pause, Spike glared at him almost accusingly as if doubting the truth. “You’re really done with the Slayer? No more Scooby Gang patrols…long lost lover reunions… bleeding heart Valentines… puppies nailed to the door… soul-stealing shags?”

“We’ve moved on. It’s over. Barring another apocalypse I have no plans to go back to Sunnydale.”

Spike closed the flip phone. “You want your friends. You want the ring. Seems you want a lot and I get nothing in return.”

Impatiently, Angel let out a frustrated growl. “What do you want?”

“What say you and me make a deal?”

Wondering if he was going to regret it, Angel responded cautiously, “I’m listening.”

“Before we get to the negotiations there is one little catch. Might need to take care of it before we bring home your hot little bed warmer and pal.”

Angel couldn’t really blame Spike for jumping to the conclusion that Cordelia was his lover, but he did not have to make it sound so crude. He opted for giving him a hard stare instead of breaking his jaw. It might be hard for him to explain this little catch or to make that call to Manny the Pig if he could no longer talk.

“Marcus is in town.”

No further explanation was required. Angel knew Spike referred to a vampire who specialized in the skill of torture. Their paths had never crossed, but Marcus’ reputation as an expert at drawing out secrets, at keeping his victims alive for lengthy periods of interrogation, or simply for the pleasure of the torture itself, was well known to supernatural circles.

Normally, the heads-up would be useful information, but Angel had a feeling this was all part of Spike’s plan. “You brought him here.”

Spike did not deny it. “I might have told him he could torture you into telling me where you stashed the Gem of Amarra.”

“You’d get the ring and he’d…”

“Get to torture you. It’s his thing.”



Ties that Bind

Old sweat and other unidentifiable smells permeated the air in the old van. It was completely disgusting and she was pretty sure the fake fur rug lining the floor was the cause. Their brawny captor was not exactly a paragon of cleanliness either. Cordelia had to put up with his beefy hands copping a feel every time he stopped the van to check on their bindings.

The last time he took the duct tape off their mouths telling them that screaming would not bring them any help. They were stopping for a while somewhere out of the way. Doyle made a plea for their release. He seemed to know the creep from somewhere, but that just made things worse.

“I’m not supposed to rough you up,” he balled up his ham-sized fist to hold it close to Doyle’s face. “You still owe me for your losses at the Orbit Room. Don’t think I won’t take my pound of flesh from you or your pretty little friend if either of you tries any shit.”

Cordelia shuddered at the thought of what he might do. When the van door shut behind him, she went back to tugging on her bindings. Her arms were bound behind her with rope that was thin, but strong. Her efforts to loosen the rope only left a raw abrasion across her skin.

“Maybe we had better sit quietly,” Doyle suggested from his equally tied up position on the other side of the van. “Manny is not exactly a prince among thieves. He’ll hurt you—or worse—just to get back at me no matter the deal with Spike.”

She did not need to hear the details about why he was involved in some dealings with such a shady character. It was part of his old life. The one he was trying to avoid even if it did not seem to want to let him go. Even so, Cordelia did not like getting dragged into the middle of these things. Doyle and Manny apparently had issues and they were not the only ones. Angel and Spike’s conflicts would probably fill a book.

“This whole damsel in distress thing is wearing thin.” She was not sure how much more of this she could take. A trickle of sweat rolled down her back, clothes sticky against her skin. For a moment, she wondered if she might be contributing to the grossness. “I am so ready to be rescued from this disgusting van.”

Doyle let out a sardonic laugh, “We’re a bit short of heroes at the moment,” sounding just as frustrated over the situation. “Angel doesn’t even know we’re here. He could still be fighting off trouble at the Hellmouth.”

There were a few other ideas rolling around her head about what Angel might be doing back in Sunnydale. Just how long was this apocalypse going to last anyway? “Spike should’ve just gone back to Sunnydale. This whole captive thing is a waste of time.”

“It’s a question of when, not if, Angel will get here,” Doyle assured her. “Don’t doubt that.”

Cordelia shook her head. “You don’t understand. He’s there with her. What if he doesn’t come back?”

“He’ll come back,” said Doyle with a lot more confidence than she felt. He had never seen Angel around Buffy before. “There’s the mission to consider. And you. He’s got feelings—”

Vexed at the soothing tone intended to calm her down, Cordelia cut him off, “Angel called me an annoying pain in the ass. He hates that I live next door. He’s probably still mad at me.”

“Princess, you may frustrate the hell out of him in more ways than he’ll ever admit, but staying mad at you is impossible.”

“Think so?” The thought cheered her up a bit.

Doyle shifted forward as much as his bindings would allow. “You’re always fighting about something. Has he ever held a grudge?”

That just made her smile and stare back incredulously. “Hello, this is Angel we’re talking about. I can’t even eat peanut butter in front of him without getting that judge-y stare.”

“Point taken,” he nodded, “but he does care. You know that.”

Not the way she wanted, if in fact she actually wanted to go there, to a place where she knew just how much he felt, but without being able to do anything about it. Those kinds of feelings were off limits. Dangerous.

“Sure. It’s just nice to hear it once in a while. Y’know?”

It was her own stupid fault if she had lied to Angel’s face before he left. Told him it was just the story that had gotten her hot and bothered when in fact she had somehow been working her way up to it for weeks—or years. Living near Angel, patching him up, getting closer as friends, and the whole naked thing, might just be putting thoughts in her head that really didn’t belong there. Kissing him was a mistake. He might want her, but that did not mean it was anything more than physical combustion between two hotties.

Doyle hung his head low, closed his eyes, and stayed quiet for a while until the only sounds around them were the van’s squeaky chassis as it rolled over a pothole. “Sometimes,” he began without really looking at her, “it’s better to keep things under wraps for a while. Test out the waters. Wait for the right time to reveal things.”

Ugh! Cordelia did not like that idea at all. That was too much like covering up the truth. But… “Okay, so what if I held out on telling him about the play. Every time I fail at an audition, he gets this smug look as if he knows he owns me. He takes me for granted.”

Looking at her like she was crazy, Doyle countered, “No he doesn’t. Trust me. He is terrified that you’re going to leave. He….” Breaking off, he closed his mouth into a tight line as if realizing he had said too much. Their conversations about Angel were fairly open, but Doyle usually walked a tight rope when it came to revealing what might be something private.

The notion that Angel would be terrified over anything drew a scoff of disbelief from her throat. More likely, he wanted to keep the status quo going at the office. Things were going great so far. The office was all set up and nicely organized. She had already started a nifty filing system that helped her remember each case. More clients were coming in week to week. Thanks to her billing methods, they were actually starting to be paid something. Though Angel might handle the heavy stuff when it came to Doyle’s visions, she was totally there for patching up duties.

Hell, yes, Angel should be terrified, she decided. Try finding someone else to fill her shoes.

But it was not her duties as an Angel Investigations associate that she wanted him to care about. It was their friendship, which had gotten so much closer over the past few months. Maybe the kisses were just a sign that they both needed to get laid. That might be off-limits for Angel, but not her. Yet, the thought of getting intimate with another guy left her completely cold.

It was wrong to let him go off to Sunnydale thinking she didn’t care. That was her bad. If he actually felt a tiny spark of desire that was not the result of a cursed vampire getting turned on by reading a sexy scene, she needed to hear it directly from him.

“Even when Angel bottles up his feelings I know there’s something going on behind the broody silent mode. I don’t like secrets,” she said as much to herself as to Doyle who was doing a fairly good job of trying out that patented broody treatment. “If someone has feelings about someone else they should just say so.”

Doyle choked out the question, “Really? Just like that.”

“Simple. Real. That’s the truth.”

“Okay, then. Cordelia, I think—”

Oh, no. She did not want him sticking up for Angel again. Before he could say anything else, she cut him off. “Look, Doyle. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the effort, but if I wanted relationship advice I would get it from someone a lot more Rikki Lake and a lot less Phil Donohue.”

For a second, Doyle looked like he was going to argue, but she sent him a stare that shut him up again. He let out a long sigh, gave her an odd smile, and said, “You’re right. This isn’t the time or place for this conversation. We’ve got to get out of here.”

“Love to, but hello! Just a little tied up right now.”

“Close your eyes.”

They narrowed instead. “Why?”

Doyle stalled on the question finally coming up with, “Because I asked.”

How was closing her eyes going to help them escape?

“Just do it,” Doyle hissed reminding her of Angel for a moment.

“Ooookay. Dramatic much?”

Following orders, Cordelia shut her eyes tight. Now she was curious. He was up to something scuffling around on the other side of the van and probably trying to free himself from the rope binding his wrists without looking like a dweeb.

It was not like Doyle had vamp strength or anything. Angel could probably rip out of these ropes like they were paper chains. If he were here, they never would have been captured in the first place. Angel would have kicked Spike’s boney ass all the way back to Sunnydale, but that’s where Angel was—Sunnydale.

Not that she was bitter about it.

Much.

Fine. She would keep her eyes closed and her mouth shut. Let Doyle try to be the hero just this once.

A hand suddenly closed over her mouth preventing her from screaming. She couldn’t turn her head to see what was going on. Struggling did not help.

Cordelia stilled at the sound of Doyle’s voice next to her ear. “I said keep your eyes closed. Wishful thinking, I suppose.” Something sharp brushed against her wrist rending the rope to the point that she was able to pull free. She reached up to move his hand away from her mouth, but Doyle’s skin felt almost leathery. He held her there long enough to warn her, “Don’t scream, Princess. This is the only truth I can give you.”

As soon as he released her, Cordelia swerved around to look at Doyle. Her eyes widened in surprise, but she felt no need to scream at the sight of Doyle with bright red eyes and green leathery skin with odd blue spikes. There was just a sense that it explained a few things. “I guess this is what you’ve been hiding from me. Now the whole ‘some demons are good’ conversation makes total sense.”

Using his spiked hands to cut across the rope tying her ankles together, he waited until she was free to answer. Sounding shameful about it, Doyle admitted, “I wasn’t sure you could handle it. You’d see me differently.”

“I work for a vampire, dumbass! Pretty sure I can handle anything.”

Despite his demonic appearance, she could still see her friend Doyle when he smiled. “Maybe you can.”

“Duh! Now let’s get out of here.”

Doyle moved closer to the van door grateful for the fact that Manny could not see them from the driver’s seat. “The next time he stops we’ll make a run for it.”

“Good plan.” Cordelia scooted up next to him noting the way he quickly shifted back to his human appearance when she kept on looking. “You’re not hiding anything else, are you?”

The quick denial, “No, no, not at all,” seemed almost too hasty, but the van started to slow down making escape the priority.

Cordelia grabbed the door handle to help Doyle pull it open. “Run!”

It’s Where the Heart Is

Posted June 20, 2015 by califi in Complete

Friends & Neighbors 4   1 comment

Ancient Boring Guy

The rickety sound of the elevator making its descent from the office level drew Angel’s attention. He glanced at his watch. Closing time. Right on the dot. Cordelia usually headed on a beeline for the door into her own place, but not tonight.

“Angel? Angel! Come look at this. You’ve got to see it!” There was excitement lacing her voice, not fear, so he did not break any limbs getting out of his chair. In ran Cordelia a couple of seconds later waving a check in the air.

Beaming at him, she held it up close. Angel recognized the name of their most recent client. “It’s a check.”

“Our client finally paid up. Look at the zeroes. Nice, right? And we so deserve every penny.”

Angel hated the idea of charging people money for something he considered to be a form of penance. That was why he let Cordelia handle the billing. When she tried to discuss setting up a menu of billing information he wanted to stay as far away from the subject as he could.

“Should we charge more or less for demon slaying than vampires?”
“There are usually more vampires…”
“Should we do a head count and charge by that, or rate the demons on a scale of nastiness?”

 

“You’ve been asking for a new computer,” Angel thought that might placate her, but the check was just part of the reason she was here.

“We need to celebrate. I’ll call Doyle. He says he has something going on tonight, but I’ve never known him to say no to his favorite pub.” Grabbing his right hand, she took a step back trying to drag him along too.

Angel was not budging. He couldn’t. Not tonight. The pub would be packed with people. He was still a little on edge from last night. Healing from injuries he had received from a brawl he had no business starting. They were nothing more than a few insignificant aches now, but it seemed like enough of an excuse. When he told her that his plans were already set for the night, that he wanted to stay in, Cordelia called him a stick-in-the-mud and dropped her hold on his hand taking the warmth of her touch with her.

“Fine. Doyle is busy. You’re busy. I’ll just have to go find some fun of my own.”

Not that club again. Sooner or later she was going to meet up with a real version of this Jude guy and for some reason he wanted to make sure it was later rather than sooner. “Stay in tonight,” he urged before really thinking the idea through. “We could make you dinner and then do something afterward.”

Still absently fiddling with the check, Cordelia’s almond eyes narrowed marginally, challenging him to come up with a real idea. Jokingly asking, “Something like what— play Monopoly?”

“Board games? I don’t actually have any of those,” Angel pointed out a little glumly not exactly missing the sarcasm. Vampires generally played other kinds of games with their companions, none of which would be appropriate here. With Buffy, their hours together usually involved patrol, slaying, and kissing. That was out. He was suddenly struck with the idea that he had no idea what he could do to convince Cordelia to stick around for the evening.

“We could talk.”

Cordelia’s brow arched sharply. “Talk. You? Right. Like all of the other times when I do all the talking and you try to make sense of everything I say?”

“Um…”

Taking no mercy she stepped closer to say, “Face it Angel. You’ve been alone way too much down here in the dark. You don’t like to talk to people. All you do is read and brood, brood and read. You’re like some boring ancient guy stuck in a century without television or movies.”

Television. He did not have one of those, either.

“How did people exist back then?” Cordelia shuddered. “Maybe we should invest in cable. I’d keep the TV at my place, though. We could have a Movie Night once a week,” she brightened instantly, a smile spreading across her face.

The idea of sitting on the couch watching movies with Cordelia appealed far more than he was willing to admit to himself. It sounded so normal, a word he did not associate with himself.

“Doyle could come! We’d have to stock some of his favorite beer,” she added making Angel feel guilty that it had not even occurred to him to include their friend and co-worker in this Movie Night scenario. He figured she was just being inclusive, inviting friends over for a night of fun, and not avoiding alone time with him.

Angel swallowed down the idea like a bitter pill. Tonight was supposed to be about keeping Cordelia safe. She did not need to go back to that club. Being here allowed him to relax and forget about the fact that wherever she went there would always be men or demons wanting to take advantage. Although Cordelia was not the type to believe every line thrown her way and could probably talk her way out of many situations, he was not ready to admit to himself why he was being so over-protective.

Not even noticing that he had not even agreed to the Movie Night plan, Cordelia animatedly carried on with it. “I’ll make some phone calls tomorrow and get things set up. Doyle should be by sometime in the afternoon, so we can talk to him about it then.”

“Sure.”

“Geez! Get a grip on your enthusiasm.” Finally noticing that he was underwhelmed by the notion, Cordelia rolled her eyes and pushed a hand against his shoulder. “The excitement might cause a stroke or something.”

Vampires don’t suffer strokes. “Cordelia, it’s fine. I like the idea. Really.”

After staring at him for a moment, her face hiding none of the incredulity or irritation she felt, Cordelia walked away heading toward their adjoining apartment door. Angel moved so fast he blocked the door by the time she reached it. “So you’re going out. To that club again?” He asked aloud this time wanting confirmation, but also thinking that he might tag along despite his healing injuries. Not to dance, of course. He would just watch over her from a shadowy corner of the club away from everyone else. In a way that was not at all creepy.

“I thought you wanted me here.” Those words seemed to take on a new meaning even though she meant them innocently enough.

Angel’s thoughts immediately shifted back to the other night when she came home from the club and the extent to which he had let his desires take him. It was fortunate that Cordelia could not remember what happened, but he could not erase the memory of her passionate response. Impaired by the alcohol in her system she did not even recognize him. Although it felt like she had taken a stake to his ego, he could only be relieved by the fact.

Or just yesterday, when he stripped off her clothing in the shower using any excuse his muddled mind could come up with to keep her next to him, and stealing opportunities to touch her beautiful body. Nothing obvious that might earn a well-deserved slap or accusations of copping a feel. He would never treat Cordelia in such a tawdry way, but he ached to explore every inch of her with his hands and his mouth.

Perhaps it was a very good thing that his body had been too drained of blood to function in any sexual capacity. He had been spared making any excuses for getting hard and enticing them both with something they couldn’t have. Angel berated himself for even considering it, but he was selfish enough that he still wanted her company.

When the only words he could think up in response echoed hers, “I want you here,” sounded quite lecherous in his own head, Angel opted for stony silence letting her come to her own conclusions.

“Don’t wimp out on me now. You did offer to have dinner with me. Unless this is another one of those times where I slave over a hot stove only to have you sit there and watch me eat.”

That would be one more thing he had not really thought through, but he did have one thing to say. “You don’t cook.”

Growing up in the Chase household never required the know-how. “True, but I can order takeout with the best of them. And I even learned how to boil water the other day,” she joked managing to bring a smile to his face. “Tell you what, Broody. We can both have something liquidy. Soup for me. Blood for you.”

“Cordelia. . .”

Stopping him before he could remind her that he was not comfortable consuming blood in front of her, she let out a soft pfft. Putting the same emphasis on his name as he had hers, “Angel . . .don’t be a dumbass. I know that you’re a vampire. It’s okay, really.”

Reluctantly, Angel agreed. He could probably tolerate the soup, but that would just be an unnecessary pretense that Cordelia did not seem to need. He felt as if a weight had suddenly been lifted off his shoulders. Self-torment was a daily doctrine and this easy acceptance gave him one less thing to worry about. Before he could think about it, his hands were out of his pockets, fingers sliding through the soft waves of her hair as he cradled her, tilting her face up, staring down at the temptation of her lips.

“You’re blocking the door, Angel,” her mouth formed words that seemed so out of place when he was thinking about rubbing his lips across hers until they opened beneath his. Angel changed his plans as reason set in, softly pressing his cool lips against her forehead.

A tiny sigh escaped Cordelia’s throat as he let her go and they maneuvered around in the doorway to stand on opposite sides. “What was that for?”

Lost for words, Angel shrugged and tried not to look like an idiot as he said, “Being you.”

Cordelia’s beautiful smile made him smile too. Her radiance was irresistible.


Old Friends, Taboo Toys & Books

Curled up on the couch wearing her comfy grey cotton pajama shorts, matching loose top over a white tank, and an oversized pair of white socks, Cordelia was speaking to Aura Albright, one of her friends from Sunnydale. It had been a while since they saw each other. Not since Cordelia left for Los Angeles. Aura had remained behind to go to Sunnydale University, but had already dropped out after landing in a snazzy public relations job.

“Thanks for letting me know about the party this weekend,” Cordelia was glad to hear about her friend’s good fortune, but she could not go back to Sunnydale. Not yet. Maybe after her acting career took off and people no longer looked at her like that poor Chase girl whose father thought he was somebody, and had everything, until the IRS took it all away.

“I’m busy. I’m in a play,” she cheered herself up a little by exaggerating the truth. “Well, it’s really a workshop for a play. In my acting class, but we have big plans.”

Cordelia would have told her more, but the town rumor mill had not stopped working since she was gone. One of the Scoobies must have told someone who told someone else who told Aura that Cordelia was working with Buffy Summer’s former boyfriend at a local detective agency. “Oh! Yes, I’m helping Angel out. He’d be so lost without me.”

Listening to Aura recount her memories of the mysterious hottie who provided them with some occasional eye candy at the Bronze, Cordelia’s nerves were on edge. Fiddling with the hairclip that kept her ponytail flipped into place, she so wanted to avoid talking about Angel. The rumor mill worked in reverse, too, and there was no way she was going to share the fact that she was now living with him. Well, next door to him, but still.

“Yes, definitely,” she agreed when Aura asked her if he was still just as hot. That she could be honest about. “Same salty goodness.” Oh, geez. She had forgotten the way the other Cordettes had talked about Angel’s first appearance at the Bronze. Aura’s reminder brought a flash of heat to her cheeks. “What! No, I am not boning my boss.”

There was barely a pause on the other end of the line. “Why not?”

Oh, only a million reasons.

Finally managing to get off the subject of why she was not taking advantage of the opportunity to seduce her former crush without having to admit that her sex life was pretty much non-existent, she was grateful that Aura didn’t notice that she directed the conversation back to the subject of the party. They chatted over the details for another fifteen minutes before winding it down.

“Have a blast at the party!” Cordelia was sincere about it. “Call me with all of the details. Great. Say hi to the girls, oh, and to your brother Reg, of course. Bye!”

Although it was great to hear Aura’s voice, the whole conversation felt a bit bizarre to Cordelia. She wished that she had something exciting to talk about like getting a spot in a new commercial, or having a hot, rich boyfriend with a cool car and gorgeous mansion. Normally, she would have eagerly spilled everything about meeting up with Angel again. They would have giggled together over the naked Angel rescue when she broke Dr Folger’s lamp. It was certain that Aura would want details described inch by impressive inch. While such a talk might not have been out of place between two girls who had shared secrets about their every male fantasy since they discovered boys were more than just irritating pigtail pullers, Cordelia was not ready to share this one.

Thinking about Angel that way was forbidden fruit. Taboo. Maybe that’s why lately she could not seem to stop thinking about him in all of his pale, naked glory, or the way he became aroused when she kept staring. Maybe he could pretend it was nothing, just a natural reaction, something he had experienced thousands of times over the past two centuries, but Cordelia knew he wasn’t completely unmoved by her. They could not or at the very least should not do anything about it, but it gave her a rush to know she could affect him too.

She had also finished looking through the rest of Darla’s trunk last night. Knowing that Angel was aware of its contents made her wonder just what he was planning to say when they got to that last layer hidden beneath the box of letters. Separated from the delicate silks and satins by a cedar divider were a coiled set of chains, manacles both of metal and fur-lined leather, a number of other bondage toys, including a riding crop, and one very detailed antique dildo.

Cosmo was very educational when it came to things like this. Cordelia was not especially shocked that vampires like Darla and Angelus would get off on bondage. She wondered which one got to wield the whip or if they just took turns. Pain was something she never thought about in connection to sex, and the whole S&M idea usually left her cold. That was before she thought about Angel being more than just a eunuch, which made the thought of just about anything exciting even if it was somewhat kinky.

Cordelia slipped her hand into a mink mitten surprised to find that the ultra-soft fur was on the outside while the inside was made of soft, pliable leather. She picked up the dildo examining it with detached curiosity in much the same way she had looked at all of the other toys. Made of a light-colored wood it was polished smooth and covered by clear lacquer making it gleam in the light against the dark mink. This was no teeny-weenie toy and its impressive size and shape looked more familiar than she wanted to admit to herself.

Following along with a very naughty impulse, Cordelia moved the wooden phallus over to her ungloved hand to test its girth and length with her bare fingers. Wide-eyed and holding her breath, she slid her grasp up and down the shaft and finding it all too easy to picture herself doing that to Angel. The idea shocked her. She covered up the smooth phallus with the mitten intending to block it from view only to realize suddenly there was a reason the fur was on the outside.

Creeped out and turned on by the idea of trailing that soft fur across Angel’s most sensitive skin she dropped the sex toy, flung off the mitten, and sounded out a moan as she slammed the trunk shut. A cold shower did not help. She tried turning on some music and dancing, but for some reason that just made her think about Angel. Finally, she had given up and gone to bed only to toss and turn trying not to give in to the desire to touch herself because it wouldn’t just be random horniness.

It was one thing for a stray thought or two to pass through her head. She did not have control of that most of the time. Stroking herself into an orgasm would not change anything. Angel was still cursed, and still in love with Buffy, even if a part of him was attracted to her. She did it anyway. Slipping both hands under the covers she trailed them across the peaks and valleys of her breasts, sensitive to the soft friction of the cotton tank top she wore in lieu of pajamas. Up and down letting the light touching tease her nipples into a painfully erect state. The edge of the tank top tweaked them as she pulled it down exposing her breasts, pushing the sheet away.

As she cupped them, her breasts overfilled her hands. Just right for Angel’s big hands. Considering the number of times she caught him staring, he definitely liked what he saw. She wanted his mouth there, but not just there. Though she hadn’t actually experienced anyone going down on her Cordelia had a very active imagination, and it was easy to picture Angel’s hands on her body sliding her panties down, his head dipping between her legs, his mouth and tongue and fingers working their flesh magic.

Cordelia’s fingers dipped beneath the lacy edge of her panties trailing through the soft curls to the moist folds below, her hips shifting against the Egyptian cotton sheets she had finally convinced Angel to give to her, the ones they had shared when they were on his bed. Oh! She was so wet and her fingers slipped easily across her heated skin naturally gravitating to the spot that always drove her wild.

Various toys in Angel’s hands flitted through her mind, but they vanished quickly. It was him she wanted. Now. The steady rhythm of her fingers brought his image into sharp focus behind her tightly clenched eyes. She felt sensitive everywhere, hot despite the slow twirl of the ceiling fan over her bed. When Angel’s name repeatedly fell from her lips it was without conscious decision, not because she knew that he was out on patrol.

Her climax came faster and more intensely than ever before, her fingers still sliding across her sensitive sex, hips rocking into them. As awesome as it was it still left her wanting more. There was also that little twinge of guilt threatening to burst the bubble of her little afterglow. Fortunately, she fell asleep before she could think about it too much.

Today was another story. Cordelia had never had to worry about being quiet before. There was never anyone around to hear her. Although she figured that Angel was still out on patrol last night when things got a little steamy that might be different next time. Not that there would be a next time when it was his name on her lips.

God! Cordelia could not believe that she had let herself go there. Using Angel as her sexy male bedtime fantasy was not of the good. Oh, it felt like all kinds of good, but it was not fair to either of them or good for her sanity. Having shot straight up in bed this morning upon waking, she decided to get rid of any lingering evidence of her little hands-on time. Vampire super-senses might not be able to tell who had her hot and bothered last night, but she had no doubts that he would know what happened.

So her loofah got an extra sudsy workout during her steamy morning shower. The bed linen was tossed into the washer, dried, and returned long before Angel woke up. Half a can of lemon zesty air freshener might have been overkill, but after spritzing it around her apartment and the office, Cordelia felt much better about having to face Angel whenever he decided to emerge for the day.

“A little bright in here,” Angel had commented as he moved toward her desk holding his hand up to block the light as it streamed in through the open venetian blinds.

Cordelia noted with satisfaction that Angel was forced to stand ten feet away. Sounding a little snippy, “Not all of us are allergic to sunshine.”

Expectantly, he asked, “Are you going to close the blinds?” Standing at the edge of the shadowed doorway, he couldn’t come any closer.

“No. I have been stuck here all morning making phone calls. I like the light.”

Angel leaned casually against the doorframe garbed in a thin dark grey sweater that hugged his chest and also wearing the jeans that fit him like a glove. Geez, he was hot. It made her want to squirm against her chair to ease the ache between her legs. Trying to ignore the rush of heat that surged inside her, Cordelia flipped through her Rolodex looking for the next number she needed, but Angel wasn’t getting the hint to let her get on with her task.

“Do we have a new case?” he asked.

There wasn’t one. Doyle had not had a vision in the past couple of days and no new clients had come in. “I’m just trying to set up something with my acting class. You never know when fame and fortune will find me and drag me off into the lifestyle I deserve.”

“Oh.” He sounded disappointed.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Don’t sound so gloomy. I’m sure some random demon will start disemboweling the local bowling league any time now. Things will pick up soon. This is Los Angeles.”

She picked up the phone receiver and punched in the numbers, her eyes still on Angel as he faded back into the shadows leading into his office. That’s it, Angel, she silently encouraged his retreat.

My desk: bright and sunny space.

Your desk: dark and somber cave.

Be a good vampire and brood a little.

Just until I can get my head on straight.

The voice on the other end of the line drew her out of her thoughts and she responded with a smile, “Hi! This is Cordelia Chase.”

Between phone calls and errands, Cordelia managed to avoid Angel the rest of the day. He was not around when she closed up the office and went downstairs. Dinner consisted of an apple because she really did not feel like making the effort to heat something up just for herself.

Dressed in her comfy grey shorty pajamas and a pair of oversized socks, her hair twisted up into a ponytail, she curled up on the couch with the latest issue of Cosmo. She had already read it twice, but there was always some new tidbid to discover.

The phone rang. It was Aura.

Although it was great talking to her Cordelia felt crappy about the way she had exaggerated her success as an actress. Lying to a friend was just as bad as avoiding one, she decided. That was not like her. Angel had no idea why she had pushed him away all day, thank goodness for that. He had just given her the space she wanted.

Deciding that things were as back to normal as they could be and that there wouldn’t be a repeat of last night’s foray into fantasyland, Cordelia headed over to Angel’s place to say goodnight. She was not really sleepy, but it had been hours since she had seen him and it seemed wrong to go any longer without making sure he knew that she was not avoiding him. Well, at least not any more.

Sliding open the connecting door, she poked her head through and looked around for any sign of him. “Angel?”

After a moment’s silence, Angel’s voice emanated from the living room. “In here, Cordelia.”

“Hi.”

“Hi,” he said back looking somewhat bemused.

Seated in his favorite black leather chair Angel had a book in his hand. “Oh, you’re reading again. I suppose that’s one step up from sitting here in the dark.”

Angel looked more amused than insulted. Teasing her, “You should try it sometime.”

“Sitting in the dark?” The quick comeback tripped easily off her tongue. Kudos for the effort, big guy, but you’re dealing with Cordelia Chase.

His mouth pressed into a smile. “Reading.” The deep timber of his voice rumbled sensuously making her think of things that had nothing to do with books.

Indignantly huffing, “I read.”

Maybe it was it the book that had him in such a good mood because he had every right to be pissed off at her for avoiding him all day. Stepping closer, Cordelia grabbed the book, not bothering to save his place, checking out the book jacket for details. “Hey, this was written this century! I thought you were all classic novels and demon lore.”

Angel rattled off the names of his favorite authors, a mix of writers both classic and modern. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you with a book,” he confessed as if it said something horrible about her character.

Immediately taking offense whether or not he meant it that way, Cordelia felt the need to defend herself against it. “My reading interests are just different from yours.” She waved his book in the air. “This is a detective story. Are you looking for tips?” His bookcase was on the adjacent wall. Pointing at a row on the top shelf, she curled her lip, “Stephen King? Hello, my life is already a horror novel.”

Cordelia told him she preferred, “Real people and places and the good things in life. Things that don’t remind me that I grew up on a Hellmouth.” Hollywood biographies and unauthorized tell-alls were probably her favorites, fashion and design books, too. Cosmo might not be a book, but it was a must-read. Lately, she had been trying to get her life on track with some self-improvement books.

“I do have one guilty pleasure, though,” she admitted even though she wasn’t quite sure why she felt the need to share it with Angel. “Historical romances. Pure escapist stuff. They’re my catnip.”

“We’re not talking historical romance as in Tristan and Isolde,” guessed Angel who looked like he was enjoying the way she squirmed. “Paperbacks. Buxom women on the covers. Hot sex and dubious plots.”

Cordelia’s insides melted a little as the words ‘hot sex’ sounded on Angel’s lips. “Uh, so you’ve read them?”

“No. Just common knowledge.” Angel was just making conversation, which was something of a novelty. “I just prefer books that are historically accurate, especially if I’m familiar with the location or era.”

No subject being off limits she asked point blank, “So what about the sex?”

Angel stared at her for a few seconds before finally blinking. “I prefer that to be accurate, too.”

Snorting in response, Cordelia told him, “Okay, Mr. Kama Sutra. I just thought that with you being practically a eunuch these days that the sexy stuff might be a nice diversion from missing out on the real thing.”

“Tell you what, kitten,” Angel teased her with the pet name, playing off her earlier catnip comment, “bring me one of your trashy romance novels. I’ll pick a book for you. Give it a chance, and I will do the same. Afterward, we compare notes.”

He got out of the chair and walked up to her so that his height gave him an advantage as he issued his challenge. “Fine, but they’re not trashy. What about this book?” She tapped on the cover. “I’ll just read this old thing. My grandmother was a kid when this was published. Geez, maybe I should make some coffee just in case I need a caffeine boost.”

Angel plucked the novel out of her hands. “Trust me, you won’t fall asleep, but this is part of a long series. You should start at the beginning.”

This was not exactly planned as the start of the Angel Investigations Book Club, but Cordelia had no idea how she managed to end up in a Read-Off challenge. She so wanted him to eat his words about romance novels having dubious plots. There was plenty of plot. There just happened to be plenty of sex, too. Let Angel critique it all he wanted. She would even read his boring old detective novel just to prove that her books were not just pulp fiction.

Pulling out one of her unpacked suitcases from the closet, Cordelia opened it up. It was full of dog-eared books, old magazines, and a few newer acquisitions. She rummaged through it leaving books scattered across her floor. Finally, she decided on one that took place long before Angel’s time. He could not get too fussy about historical content and might relax enough to enjoy the good parts.



Judge That, Mr. Kama Sutra

“You’re sure you can handle this?” Cordelia teased still hiding the book behind her back. “As romances go it’s pretty hot stuff.”

A mischievous sparkle hinted that she had selected something extreme. Just like her to twist the knife in a little deeper when she thought she could get away with it. Considering the Kama Sutra comment, Cordelia obviously had formed some idea about his sexual exploits as Angelus though he doubted that touched the surface.

Reading about sex was not likely to shock his sensibilities. “Let me be the judge of that.” Angel promised not to blush and took the thick paperback she offered.

Touching a finger to his chest she said, “Don’t forget to tell me if everything is accurate.” Ignoring the urge to capture her hand, pull her close and show rather than tell, Angel stuck with clarifying their deal. “Only if you tell me the truth, too. All of it.”

“Since when do I cut corners when it comes to the truth? I think it I say it. That’s my way.”

“Don’t I know it,” he muttered and handed over the first book in the ‘Private Dick’ series.

Even though she had already seen the title, Cordelia giggled again and asked him if he was sure it was just a detective story and not a series written for Penthouse or Playboy. “It sounds so skeezy.”

Having expected that she would go back to her own place to read, Angel was surprised when she plopped down on his couch scooting around to make herself comfortable. At first, he was thrown by the notion that she would be a distraction during the time he needed to focus on the critique of the book, but this was hardly heavy stuff. Fine. With Cordelia here he would get to witness each little reaction firsthand. There were so many things her body could tell him that she would not no matter her penchant for speaking her mind.

Angel headed for his favorite leather chair, which was conveniently positioned perpendicularly to the couch. It afforded him the perfect angle to observe Cordelia. He could not imagine that the romance novel was going to hold his interest, but watching her every breath, listening to the pace of her heartbeat tripping in response to the ongoing storyline seemed far more fascinating.

Suddenly, Cordelia’s brown eyes darted up to his, narrowing as she realized that he had not yet opened the book. “Go on.”

He lifted the paperback so that he could check out the cover. Angel noted the title with aplomb. He did not scare easily and he wasn’t about to let ‘The Prince’s Love Slave’ prevent him from going through with this challenge. He would conquer this like any demon he faced, he decided, decisively, and without mercy.

The cover art was quite well done considering the subject matter, he critiqued with an artist’s eye, noting that the heroine was a beautiful buxom brunette wrapped in the arms of a ruggedly handsome dark-haired hero. He wondered if Cordelia chose this book for a reason or at random. The summary indicated it took place in the late 10th century long before his time.

Opening to the prologue he began to read. Unlike the majority of the books he preferred, this one was told primarily from the heroine’s perspective. Caecilia, the daughter of an Irish Chieftain, lived a pampered life protected from the harsh realities of her time. Her caustic tongue often got her in trouble with her parents who planned an arranged marriage for her with the son of their enemy. She was to be the price of peace between their warring clans. It was a daughter’s duty, one she faced willingly, but before their marriage could take place Caecilia’s entire world fell apart.

The perspective on early Irish clans and the social structures piqued Angel’s interest. Having read the summary on the back cover, he knew what was coming next. Betrayal. Her future husband’s greed exceeded his desire for peace. He would not settle for a dowry that included a portion of her father’s lands when he could have it all. Caecilia was ripped away from her sheltered life, sold into slavery, and taken to the Moorish coast of Northern Africa.

The merchant trader who purchased her believed Caecilia to be worth far more than the price he paid. She was examined carefully and determined to be as virginal as was claimed. The merchant was in awe of her beauty, which he thoroughly inspected. Tresses of dark silk fell to her waist. Flawless skin. Bright eyes. Possessed of the sensuous ripe curves a man could enjoy he counted her amongst the most beautiful women he had ever seen.

Distracted by the heroine’s description, Angel’s gaze drifted away from the book toward the couch. Cordelia had scooted down into a supine position holding the hardback novel up to read it. Both legs were bent up, her feet planted on the couch cushion. It was only natural to follow the smooth course of those golden legs, which led him to the edge of her shorts where her thigh met the curve of her bottom, teasing him with a flash of skin. The loose grey top over her snug cotton tank top hid nothing. He knew the curves of her breasts, but the thought of exposing them to the exploration of his hands and mouth made him lick at the seam of his lips.

Caught somewhere between admiration and leering Angel dragged his attention back to the book in his hands. Suddenly, Caecilia was no longer a faceless beauty in his mind’s eye. Every description seemed to fit Cordelia. The dialogue on the page now came to him minus the feminine Irish brogue sounding more familiar even down to the attitude she frequently reserved for him.

The transition was not a conscious one. It happened as he read the story. Caecilia’s independent nature and her forthrightness rankled everyone around her, but nevertheless she was irresistible. The merchant was patient with her always conscious of keeping his prized possession safe for he intended her to be a gift to the Caliph, an act which might secure him more wealth if he was awarded certain trade contracts. Though Angel doubted any man could easily resist having such a woman under his complete control he did not think such a cold bastard would know what to do with her even if he had more immediate and personal plans for her luscious body.

Quite easily, Angel envisioned crushing the bastard’s windpipe, slowly depriving him of air, and finally hearing his neck snap beneath his fingers.

“What’s wrong?” Cordelia sat up making Angel realize that he must have made some kind of audible reaction. He gave her a blank stare declaring that nothing was wrong. “You growled.” He denied it. “I know a growl when I hear one. That was definitely of the growly variety.”

Angel could not really explain it and chose not to try. His stony silence was enough to amuse Cordelia who tried to guess what part he had been reading. Why would he ever imagine reading would be a quiet experience when she was involved? “Shouldn’t you be reading your own book?”

The soft pfft Cordelia released told him his harsh tone did not scare her. Ignoring him after that she set her book down and reached up to remove the hair clip that kept her ponytail twisted into place. It must’ve been digging into her scalp in that supine position, and so the move was meant to make her more comfortable, not tantalize him with the sight of her shaking out her long lustrous hair until it fell loosely across her shoulders.

When Cordelia’s attention drifted back to ‘Private Dick’, he decided to get through the next chapter of his own.
Almost immediately Caecilia was swathed in local clothing, covered head to toe, and taken from the merchant vessel. Before arriving at the grand hall of the palace where she was to be presented to the Caliph the merchant warned her against speaking her mind so freely to the caliph else she find herself parted from her tongue or life. Things worked differently in this part of the world.

Angel understood the warning. Restraint wasn’t an easy thing when it came to Cordelia. The insensitive, often hurtful comments she made were rarely intended to rile him up. Tact was something foreign to her. He struggled to keep his reactions hidden by maintaining a blank expression, curtailing the harsh verbal retorts that sprang to mind, and most of all resisting the urge to make his response physical.

Just today, she had been snippy with him when he came to the office. Standoffish. Buttoned up both in attitude and choice of clothing. Completely businesslike as she went about making her phone calls even if those calls had nothing to do with Angel Investigations.

For whatever reason she had needed some space. He gave it to her even though he was not happy about the fact that she cut him off that way literally blocking him from getting closer with a very effective shield of daylight. It was a harsh reminder that certain barriers would always exist, but it was difficult to look at Cordelia, bathed by a halo of sunshine, and resist the urge to be burned.

Ten minutes in his office was all it took before he slung on his duster and headed down to the tunnels. He was pissed off at Cordelia, but more so himself, for the direction his thoughts had taken him. Blaming the demon in him would be easy, but Angel could not do that when it was the hurt of her remarks clouding his heart that set it off.

A perfectly clear image burst forth in crystal clarity, a large truck pulling up on the street outside blocking the light streaming into the window. Before she could react, Angel used the shade to his advantage pulling Cordelia into his arms and carrying her into his office. Being such a pain in the ass deserved a like punishment; he let his imagination go for it. Papers scattered as he bent her over his desk as she screeched in complaint. Yanking her skirt up and panties down, his bare hand repeatedly connecting with her firm rounded flesh making her skin hot and rosy with a few firm smacks. Just a little pain to make her take notice of the fact that he did not like to be pushed away.

His fantasy of revenge turned him on more than he wanted to admit to himself because he was certain it would not end there. Before the idea could go any further a rush of contrary emotions assaulted Angel. The lust pricking at his skin making his body stir played right along with his little vengeance scenario. He railed against it, but there was a part of him eager to explore the thought of her fighting him tooth and nail to gain the upper hand, until finally she gentled to his touch giving him what he really wanted, her warm, willing kisses.

Angel felt disgusted by this lack of control. Increasingly over the past few weeks, he noted that Cordelia was in his thoughts in ways that had nothing to do with her being a friend or his secretary. Methods of shutting her up were no longer flashes of verbal or physical restraint, but often involved his mouth closing over hers giving her barbed tongue something else to deal with.

The page blurred for a moment until he forced thoughts of kissing Cordelia out of his head. It was wrong. The demon side of him did not care. Far darker fantasies crept in now and then. Needs. Having Cordelia living here made it impossible to suppress them all. Over time, he hoped it might get easier to ignore his inner demon, but it just seemed to be getting worse.

The Prince’s Love Slave’ was not helping the situation. Now that he had superimposed Cordelia over Caecilia as the book’s heroine he began to feel far more invested in the character’s outcome. She was about to be gifted to a man three times her age. Angel did not like the situation at all and wondered what Cordelia saw in this book that she kept it around. Examining the cover art again he noted that the hero holding Caecilia in his arms looked nothing like the description of the fat old caliph.

False advertising? A poor representation of the hero? Maybe Cordelia had a secret penchant for older men with love handles. So far, he had found the novel more annoying than sexy.

As expected, Cordelia seemed to be enjoying ‘Private Dick’ despite her prediction that she would find it boring. Little gasps, sighs and harrumphs sounded every now and then suggesting that she was getting caught up in the mystery. Shifting positions again she lay prone with a throw pillow tucked beneath her unwittingly exposing her throat and propping up her breasts. Light and shadows caressed the curvaceous display. His eyes lingered there as he let his senses drink her in. Light arousal clung to her skin proving that she was not unmoved by the subtle scenes describing the detective’s skill in bed.

He knew that scent from the night she returned from the club more than a little drunk. When she convinced him to dance, he couldn’t keep his hands off her. The friction between their writhing bodies was a poor substitute for the real thing, but Cordelia’s delicious arousal stayed with him after he had left her that night. Although Angel felt grateful that she could not remember what happened between them feeling that he had taken advantage of her inebriated state there was no such impediment now— except the curse.

Desire and anger coiled up inside him making him tense up just as his cock stiffened against the jeans. He wore nothing beneath them so the sensation of skin on denim felt good. Resisting the urge to adjust himself knowing that Cordelia might notice, Angel let his attention return to the paperback hoping his lack of interest would cool things off.

For his part in a recent victory against desert brigands, one of the caliph’s sons, Prince Malik, had earned much respect and deserved to name his own reward. Eyeing the bounty of gifts being presented to the caliph that day, the prince seemed to be drawn to her. Though her handler explained what was happening Caecilia did not like her worth being compared to inanimate objects. She was telling him just that when the prince stepped up to take a look at her.

She went quiet upon his approach, as still as a stone statue. Covered by silks the only visible part of her body he could see was her eyes sparkling with defiance looking straight into his rather than being lowered to the floor. When he spoke to her in his native tongue the tone of his voice was almost soothing as if he was trying to gently tame a wild horse. Oddly, she found this prince of a foreign land quite beautiful in form and features. Different than her clansmen, but pleasing to the eye even if he was strangely garbed.

There was no chance of finding her way home again. That much Caecilia understood. Her world was lost to her. All she could do was follow the advice given. Be submissive. Hold her tongue. Learn quickly.

The prince made a comment that amused the crowd. Raucous laughter filled the grand chamber. Angel had the sudden feeling that Malik was going to regret that barb. Sure enough, just as he walked away to examine the next beautiful object in the treasures presented for his selection, an intricately carved ivory box full of gems, the rage that had been bubbling inside Caecilia finally boiled over. It was not that she actually wanted to belong to the prince, but it was humiliating to be overlooked for a few shiny rocks.

Though she had no idea what he said that made the crowd laugh, it was not complimentary. Nor did she stop to think about it. Screaming like a shrew Caecilia ripped the veil covering her head and tossed it at Prince Malik’s feet. The merchant begged for her silence. The crowd gasped in horror and them fell awestruck as they saw what had been hidden from their view.

One look from the prince and Caecilia stopped screaming. He seemed to be amused, but his gaze held a warning that she took to heart. Remembering her lessons on submissive behavior and the warnings not to look those above her station in the eye, she forced her gaze down to the floor where the caliph’s son now stood upon the silken veil.

Angel considered that the prince might order a flogging under such circumstances, but not for Caecilia. There was no question in his mind that Malik would choose her as his reward. The only question was how many pages would it take to get them into bed together. That was the whole point of the book, and yet still there was no sex. He was starting to think he had the wrong idea about these romances.

It did not take long. When Prince Malik claimed his prize just a few pages later, Angel tried to be critical about it. He would have touched her differently. Been more patient. Lasted longer. Despite wanting to find fault with the scene just to prove his point, Cordelia was right about the intensity. Maybe it was just that way because he kept imagining her in the heroine’s place. How was he supposed to answer when she asked if he thought the book was as hot as advertized? The book made him think of her. It gave him an excuse to assume the role of lover. Not that he needed another excuse.

A sudden cry of frustration sounded from Cordelia. “Again with the no goodnight kiss!” Flinging her book onto the couch, she pushed herself into a seated position and then to her feet striding away to stand with her back to him.

The wise thing to do would be to wait it out. Ignore Cordelia’s outburst and get on with the book in his hand. Shutting her out when she had something to say was next to impossible. Besides, he wanted to know what was going on to get her so riled up. “Detective Broderick not living up to your expectations?”

She tossed him a glare over one shoulder, but didn’t turn around. “For a detective he can’t see a good thing even when she’s standing right in front of him.”

Angel knew that she was talking about the novel, but her words seemed to have an echo that called something else to mind. “Maybe he can.” The relationship between Lance Broderick and his secretary Primrose Carson was more of a subplot weaving throughout the entire series than the main theme of the book. He did not want to give away too many details.

“Obviously not. He broods more than you do, always thinking about the case and about that last one that went so wrong. Can’t he take just a minute to notice that she’s not like that blonde bimbo who comes to visit him at the office?”

“That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?” Angel’s mouth twisted wryly. “You’d be calling him something else if he actually kissed Prim while he still had a girlfriend. Besides, the book is written from Broderick’s perspective. What makes you think she wants that kind of attention?”

Wanting to see her reaction up close and no longer willing to let her keep her back to him Angel silently moved behind her. Cordelia startled at his touch as his fingers swept up from her wrist to gently close over her upper arm. As soon as she turned he let his hand drop to his side and waited for her to answer his question.

For a moment, she looked like a deer caught in the headlights of an approaching car. Wide-eyed. Unable to do anything to escape. Cordelia’s face scrunched into an adorable confused expression that gave way to a look of abject horror. “Please tell me this book isn’t just a big tease. They do get together, right?”

“A little cliché chasing the secretary around the desk.” He tried to joke about it only for his laugh to come out sounding awkward. “What about building up a sense of anticipation?”

“Screw anticipation! One little kiss isn’t too much to ask for. It’s not like I thought they were going to go at it right there in the office.”

Angel suppressed a groan at that particular image having let that fantasy play out in his head just today. First on the desk, then up against the filing cabinet, and the door. “Where in the office?” he asked because he needed to know if they were even on the same wavelength.

“That couch he likes so much.” Cordelia’s quick answer proved that she had been thinking about it after all.

Good choice. Detective Broderick spent more time on that couch than he did behind his desk. He often lay there for hours thinking over the details of his case, or slept there overnight when it was too late to head home. Quite convenient for so many things like screwing his beautiful secretary— or letting Cordelia screw him, but keeping it at maddeningly slow pace, with his hands on her hips controlling their rhythm, sliding her up and down the length of his cock, and watching the ecstasy written across her face.

Damn, he was getting hard again, his cock tightening, becoming engorged. The snug jeans did nothing to hide the outline of his erection. If Cordelia needed evidence of Broderick’s attraction to his secretary, he knew she wasn’t going to find anything as obvious as that. Sticking his hands in his pockets was just going to call attention to the bulging denim, but frankly, Angel was feeling too on edge to care if Cordelia got an eyeful. It would not be the first time.

“What made you think he might kiss her?” Cordelia was not far enough into the book for that kind of thing. As far as he recalled, during the first half of the story, the delectable and efficient Miss Carson seemed as prim as her name implied.

“He’s a man. Isn’t that reason enough?” A deep sigh sounded as she moved over to pick up ‘Private Dick’ off the couch where it had landed haphazardly bending a few pages in the process. Cordelia tried to iron them out with her hand and let out a little mewl of frustration when the thick paper stock would not flatten out.

Angel reached over to take her hand stopping her from the futile attempt to make the creases in the first edition classic detective novel go away. His fingers slid across her palm with the thumb brushing across the back of her hand. He started to press tiny circles into her flesh. Cordelia made no move to stop him when he took her other hand in his for the same treatment. At the same time he pressed both thumbs down on her wrists holding there for few seconds.

Eyes half closed she murmured softly, “What are you doing? I’m pretty sure that vampires don’t need to check for pulses.”

“Acupressure. You’re all wound up.” Truthfully, so was he. The rhythmic movements of his fingers against her skin were supposed to induce relaxation, but she was right about one thing. He could feel her pulse racing, a soft staccato tap against his thumbs, which started circling over the pulse points.

A cautionary sigh escaped in the form of his name as his touch changed from soothing to stimulating. Cordelia stepped closer rather than pulling away, breathing irregularly, and looking simultaneously confused and aroused by his caress. Angel felt just as muddled, his nerves on a knife-edge. Torn between desire and the fear of where it might lead. He only had to let go. Nothing had happened yet that he could not take back. No harm, no foul.

Curiosity kindled a craving he could not resist. Leaning down, he grazed his mouth across the pout of her lips thinking maybe one taste would be enough to stop this hunger. He ate the little sound she made when he went back for seconds. With a quick release of her wrists Angel buried his hands in her hair grabbing onto fistfuls at first holding her there until she yielded to his increasingly intense kisses.

Excitement left her trembling hard and the sensation ramped up his own another notch. Thin layers of cotton fabric separated him from her skin as his hands raked down her ribs to curve around her hips. Cordelia clutched at his shoulders for support, and pressed herself up on the balls of her feet to get even closer. Palming her ass he gave the firm globes a teasing squeeze before pulling her hard against him, moaning into her mouth at the contact.

Her tongue, hot and wet, darted in teasingly. Letting her take the lead for a minute did nothing to slow things down. Ravenous, she used all the weapons at her disposal, instinct and passion guiding her actions more than experience. His were not the only cravings that needed sating.

The waist of her tank top rode up just enough to expose a patch of silken skin. Pushing underneath it he cupped her breast, his fingers curving around it, enjoying the weight of it in his palm. He brushed his thumb up to crest across its velvet peak. A wanton little cry emerged from the back of her throat as Cordelia arched into his touch causing a deeper echo from him.

There were too many layers between them. Touching her like this was not enough. He had to have his mouth on her, every gorgeous inch. Reciprocation would not be wise. No, that could get dangerous, but he did not want to think of what he could not have. It did not matter what started this only that he was going to find a way to make it happen, at least for her.

“These clothes,” he growled at the barrier they caused bunching the cotton material up to pull it away from her shoulder exposing tempting curves he needed to explore. Bending his head down he followed the natural path laid out for him making her arch and wriggle into his touch as his hand continued to fondle her breast.

The button popped open on his jeans as Cordelia’s roving hands moved with purpose. Her fingers brushed over the bulge that for the past few minutes had been pressing insistently against her abdomen. Angel’s head dropped low onto her shoulder as he held steady trying not to thrust against the fingertips sliding over the hard outline of flesh pressed up against the denim.

Reluctantly releasing his claim on her breast Angel dragged her hand away from his zipper. “I need this to be about you. Understand?”

Cordelia mewled a protest, but got it. “Undress me,” she challenged boldly. Lifting her arms up above her head she didn’t have to wait long for Angel to peel off the loose grey pajama top she wore over the white tank top. A long pause followed as he stared at the shape of her breasts beneath the thin cotton, their pointed tips and dusky areolas teasing him. Hooking a finger beneath the stretchy strap, he tugged down to expose her to his view and let out a husky moan just before he followed suit with the other letting her top fall to her waist.

With the back of his fingers he traced along the outer curves of her breasts and teased the taut velvet nipples by circling each with a hard knuckle. Before giving into the urge to take her into his mouth he knew that he needed to say something first. Talking was the last thing he wanted right now, but he had started this and allowing it to continue necessitated some ground rules.

Angel did not get any further than moaning her name when the ringing telephone interrupted them. His head jerked toward the shrill sound knowing that it signaled an end to everything that was about to happen between them. A furious curse went off in his head though outwardly he remained silent.

Backing away slowly, Cordelia did not bother hiding her frustration as she pulled up the straps of her tank top. “Noooooo. Not now! Anyone but her.”

The irony of the timing was not lost on him.

The phone rang again. It was an old rotary model rather than a modern push-button phone and had no answering machine attached.

There were only a handful of people with the number to his private line. All but one of them was in Sunnydale, and it seemed that Cordelia had already calculated the odds of who was on the other end of the line. “Aren’t you going to answer it? Buffy’s usually good for coming up with a timely apocalypse or just a excuse to brood for a few days.”

Cordelia’s prodding made him want to forget all about the damn phone and remind her that she wasn’t the only one feeling frustrated by the untimely call.

“Maybe it’s Doyle.” He would kill him later, but it could be something important like a vision. If he were lucky it would just be news of a bar brawl. The phone rang again. Angel moved toward it, but kept an eye on Cordelia who was not going to take that bet.

She had already picked up her grey pajama top and her copy of ‘Private Dick’ before the fourth ring. “Doyle would’ve hung up and called me by now.”

The phone receiver was already in his hand when Angel charged after her. Stretching the cord to its full length, he managed to grasp her wrist before she could dash past him. “Not so fast.” A gentle tug was all it took to reel her closer. He let go waiting a fraction of a second to see if she would fight this or try to run again. Brushing his fingers across her cheek he leaned in to slowly settle his lips onto hers holding them there until he felt Cordelia start to respond.

Angel pulled back only because he had no choice. His voice was rough with want as he said, “Leave the door open,” having every intention of following just as soon as he verified that the world wasn’t about to end.

Proudly defiant to the last, Cordelia paused in the doorway long enough to tell him, “Keep the book. We’ll just call our little challenge a draw. Detective Broody…ah, Broderick…made me hot. Taking it out on you like that, using somebody as a substitute, fictional or real, is just wrong.”

“Cordelia,” he ground out her name.

Just before disappearing into her apartment, she tagged on, “That goes for you too.”

Frustration mixed with anger as he watched her slide the heavy metal door shut and clicking the bolt into place.

Was that supposed to mean she thought he was just using her because he was worked up about ‘The Prince’s Love Slave’? Kissing her had nothing to do with the damn book. Okay, yes it put ideas into his head. Intensely hot, smolderingly sexy ideas that he had no business dreaming up much less daring to make happen.

God, she infuriated him. He wanted to rip that door off its hinges and—

“Angel . . . Angel . . . are you there?”

Staring down at the source of the voice and recognizing it instantly, Angel realized he had to be the unluckiest person he knew. Doyle had not had a vision to be dealt with, or a bar brawl, which he could easily dismiss for now. Cordelia had jumped to exactly the right conclusion. It could not be put off any longer.

Lifting the receiver to his ear, he spoke slowly, trying to control the emotions raging through him.

“Buffy, it’s me.”

There And Back Again

Posted June 20, 2015 by califi in Complete

Friends & Neighbors 3   1 comment

Healing Hands

Aluminum cans scattered across the concrete floor jerking Cordelia out of her dreams. The red carpet, glittering flashes from paparazzi cameras, and her Vera Wang gown vanished instantly. Instead, she was curled up in Angel’s favorite leather chair wearing her shorty PJs and blue robe, staring blindly at the weaponry decorating the wall. The incongruity between dream and reality left her head spinning.

Thump! Something heavy crashed down displacing another wave of cans. Blurred vision narrowed to pinpoint clarity as Cordelia snapped back to reality.

Bounding out of her chair, she cried out, “Angel!” The tray of gauze, paper tape and Kerlix bandages stationed on her lap went flying to the floor. Having just finished restocking and organizing her new Vampire First Aid Kit, she did not appreciate seeing its contents spread across the living room.

“Argh! Angel, you scared the crap out of me!” Now she was probably going to catch hell for leaving the bag of crushed Diet Dr Pepper cans in his stairwell. Hindsight suggested that its placement might not have been the greatest idea, but the staircase was the shortest route up to Dr Folger’s recycle bin.

Gearing up for yet another argument, Cordelia tightened her robe, tucked her loose hair behind her ears, propped her hands on her hips, and waited for him to charge in like he was going to face off against his worst enemy. She was ready for it. If the last few nights were any indication, Angel would be in the kind of dark mood that made her want to head straight for her favorite beachside resort and stay away for the duration.

Mr Bad Attitude had no excuse as far as she could tell. There had been no angst-filled calls from Sunnydale to set this off. It was not even his usual brood mode. Normally she would just let him rot in his dark cave of broodiness for a while, but even that option was out since he was staying out more than in. Sometimes it was as if he was trying to scare her off by reminding her that he was a vampire and not just the guy living next door.

No big deal.

If he thought she was going to back down, he was oh so wrong. It was invigorating to watch Angel get worked up over some of the silliest things like a few borrowed items. Pfft! And certain music was meant to be played with the volume up. It’s not like she was always telling him what not to do.

Whatever he got up to out there in the dark was not any of her business—until recently. A little bandage here or there had turned into major patching up sessions night after night.

Now the whole Florence Nightingale thing was starting to feel routine.

Just the other night, out of sheer boredom, or maybe a little unrestrained curiosity, Cordelia had been reading the letters in Darla’s trunk when Angel caught her red-handed. Just how long had he been watching her? Sir Lurks-a-Lot was a little too good at sneaking up unnoticed.

Standing in the open doorway between their apartments, Angel had cautioned her against what she might find there. Too late. The letter in her hand was by far the most sensual, intimate thing she had ever read. Most of the others ranged from sweet tokens of love and affection to desperate offers of financial support in exchange for Darla’s attentions. All taking on the tone of the eras they were written.

Cordelia flushed hot, more from excitement than embarrassment, having read this particular letter twice already, and now caught in the midst of her third go. It wasn’t like the others, which were written by men with no notion that their words could offer no real temptation to a vampire. This was from a lover who knew the way her body reacted to his touch, understood her desires, and possessed the skill to convey his own in a way that fired up Cordelia’s visual imagination.

“This one’s yours,” Cordelia had confessed while dropping the letter like it had scorched her skin. It fluttered down to the bright orange couch already littered with velum.

Maybe it was the bruised throat that made Angel’s words take on that husky tone. “You found it stimulating.” He wasn’t asking. He knew.

Cordelia wondered how many telltale signs her body was giving away. Despite the fact that it looked like somebody had repeatedly bashed his face with a meat tenderizer, her body still responded as if his hand had stroked a path straight between her thighs. Wanting to die a thousand deaths right on the spot, “That is so none of your business.”

“Debatable.” He looked rather smug.

Technically, it was his letter, so he might have a point, but Cordelia was not about to let him know that she was conceding it. His injuries were the perfect excuse to change the subject, an opportunity that Cordelia jumped at. Walking over to check his injuries, her eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Did Doyle take you bar hopping?”

His suggestive comments certainly hinted that a drink or two had loosened up his tongue a little.

“Just the one bar,” he confirmed only to grimace as he straightened up.

Adding a couple of cracked ribs to the tally, Cordelia wondered how many other hidden wounds she was going to find. “I take it Doyle made it out in one piece.”

Angel assured her, “He wasn’t even involved in the fight. There was this girl…”

Uh huh. Cordelia stopped him there. “Don’t tell me. Her muscle-builder boyfriend didn’t like the way she fawned all over you.”

“Something like that.” Angel hesitated before adding, “I had to hold back. Didn’t want to kill the guy.”

“So you let him beat you up first. Genius plan.”

Angel’s hand closed around her wrist guiding her forward into his personal space. He leaned in even closer, his uninsured cheek brushing against hers as he spoke, “Well, it worked.”

Cordelia pointed out that he could have just knocked the guy out. There had to be plenty of ways to get out of the bar without resorting to a fight. She stripped off his jacket and shirt while reminding him that she might not be around the next time he needed patching up. “Rehearsals are going to start soon.”

They had barely spoken the next day. Cordelia kept busy with her usual errands and phone calls. Doyle came in briefly, still hung-over from the bar the night before, and decided he was better off just heading back home again. Although she had wanted more details about what happened, especially about Angel and that flirtatious floozy, Cordelia let him go without pushing him for answers to her questions.

Maybe his cracked ribs hadn’t healed properly because Angel was snappish the few times he managed to put in an appearance. She was glad when he decided to leave her to her filing. Not so happy about his return in the middle of the night.

The room was dark except for a sliver of light stretching across the floor as it stole into her apartment through the open door. She had left it open wanting to catch him upon his return so they could talk about why he was being such an asshole lately. At two o’clock, she had given up and crawled into bed.

Sometime later, he was standing there in the shadows of her bedroom doorway. All he said was her name.

“Go away,” she groaned, turning her back and shoving the pillow over her head. “I’m sleeping.”

Despite not looking, she could tell that Angel was still there, holding himself motionless, staying utterly silent for a long time. Now alert beneath the cover of her pillow she questioned her senses. Surely he must have given up and have left the room, but something told her that he was just waiting for the right moment to try again.

Peeking out from under the pillow to note that Angel’s silhouette was outlined in the doorway, she snapped, “If you’re here to apologize it can wait until morning.”

He practically growled the word, “No,” causing Cordelia to toss her pillow at his head and tell him to get out of her bedroom. Angel easily batted the pillow away before stalking toward her bed. It was then that she noticed his limp and the scent of singed leather.

His name sounded on a gasp, “Angel…?”

He reached forward, one big hand closing over the edge of her comforter, and with a swift yank tossed it to the end of her bed. “Get up. I need you.”

Cordelia was under no illusion that he meant that in any romantic way. Certainly not with that tone. He was injured again and needed patching up. What did he do before she was around to take care of these things?

Scooting across to the edge of the bed, Cordelia swung her bare legs over the side as she sat up. All she wore was an oversized Sunnydale University jersey that had been given to her by a former boyfriend, and some panties. The shirt exposed one shoulder that peeked out from under her tussled hair. Any thought about looking for her robe was forgotten the moment she clicked the light switch and saw Angel.

Bruises and gashes were the theme of the night. His injuries were worse than after the bar fight and there were more of them. Angel was sketchy on the details, but got the basics across. A few vampires had taken up residence in an old tenement a few blocks away. “They were reluctant to leave.”

Every night seemed to get a little worse. Angel would go out early, stay out late, and come back looking like he had been in several street brawls. Tonight she had stayed up to confront him about it, but fell asleep before his return. Now, after the noisy entry she was still waiting.

Angel did not rush in as expected. There was no cry of outrage coming from the back staircase where he had tripped over her bag of recyclable soda cans. He usually had no trouble seeing in the dark. Nor was he a total clutz. An opportunity to educate her about the proper placement of trash bags would normally be right up there with his favorite lecture about not leaving wet towels on the furniture.

Gearing up for yet another spat, she propped her hands on her hips and tapped her foot as she waited.

And waited.

Until, scarily, she realized that Angel was not coming. Swamped by an icky sense of dread, Cordelia called out his name again with no response. That wasn’t a good sign. He wasn’t like Xander who might try to scare her to death by playing games and jumping out at her from a dark corner.

Running for the stairs, she called out, “You better be o—Oh!” Cordelia stopped short, her plea forgotten at the sight of him sprawled face down on the bloody concrete floor.

Multiple gashes ripped into his leather coat were congealed with dark blood. What she could see of his face included a swollen jaw covered in dark bruises, a split lip, and a jagged cut over his forehead and eyelid. The knuckles of both hands looked like red pulp.

Barefoot, she stood on the cold cement for about five seconds taking it all in. Tears stung her eyes. Anger laced her words, but it was fear driving them. “Out for a stroll my ass!”

Angel had been injured before, too many times to count, but this was different. Whatever he had gotten into tonight was worse than the past three nights combined. Horrified, her vision blurred into a red haze. There was only one place to direct her anger. He might be in no condition to take part in any arguments, but unconscious or not he was still going to hear it from her.

Crouching down, Cordelia tried to shake him awake. He lay there as still as the grave with skin almost grey he was so pale. Cold to the touch, more so than usual, she brushed her fingers across his cheek, then slapped gently and then more firmly. “C’mon, open your eyes. Talk to me. Tell me how to fix this.”

Reacting to her touch, Angel turned his cheek toward her hand. “A little help here, Angel,” she instructed while trying to roll him over to check his other injuries. “Now I know what they mean by dead weight. Sheesh! You weigh a ton”

A shout of pain from Angel as he rolled over pierced right through her already shot nerves. Not the screaming type, that impenetrable mask of stoicism usually bottled up any pain he felt. Oh, he could grimace with the best of them, but it was not like him to show it this way.

That terrified her. “Say something! What did this to you?”

A grunt of pain was about all he could manage. His shirt was in tatters, ripped to pieces by claws sharp enough to rend the flesh beneath. Unfastening the few remaining buttons, she pulled the material away from his chest cringing at the way the layered blood made it cling to his skin.

“You’re a mess…covered in wounds…” Most seemed superficial, but there was a nasty one gouged into his side. It oozed blood that dripped in thick globs down his abdomen. There was no sign that the gash was getting to the point that it would start to close up.

Even the superficial wounds still looked fresh. Angel had lost too much blood. The eyes that stared up at her were glassy, unfocused. He sounded confused. “You’re here.”

Taking off her robe, Cordelia pressed it hard against the abdominal wound hoping to staunch the flow of blood enough to buy some time. “Where else would I be at this time of night…morning…whatever. In bed, maybe.”

“Bed,” Angel repeated the word on a growl as she pushed a little harder on the wound.

“That’s where you should be, Dazed and Confused. The sun’s almost up.” She could see the hint of predawn light coming from the top of the stairs where Angel had failed to shut the door. The idiot had barely made it home in time— or at all.

Vampires did not exactly bleed out the same way as humans, but she knew that if she did not stop the constant ooze it would get to the point where he needed more blood than they could easily gather to heal him. Getting into fights night after night already made her question his intelligence, but he did not even seem to know who she was right now.

His big hands darted up to grab her shoulders dragging her closer instead of pushing her away. Even the pain written on his face could not hide the need. His eyes were tawny with it. Though his face looked human enough, Cordelia would not have been surprised by a show of fangs.

Now draped across his muscular torso, Cordelia was about to complain that he was getting blood all over her, but got distracted by the way he was staring at her mouth. He was hungry, and not just for blood. Maybe it was the pain that confused him making him want something more. Maybe it was just the fact that he was a vampire.

Knowing that she had never seen him look at her that way Cordelia started to wonder if he even knew she was the woman in his arms. Bloody fingertips skirted along her cheek. He said nothing. Before Cordelia could remind him that she was just there for her Florence Nightingale routine, Angel fused his lips to hers in a kiss that sought more than just comfort.

What? Hey! Oh…

Even half unconscious Angel knew how to make her head spin. Cordelia got over the initial shock and just went with the sensations. Flushed and shaky, she opened up to his needy caress. Long, cool kisses brushed across her seemingly fiery lips, the contact between them barely broken except to renew the kiss again. Each one more intoxicating than the last.

The dart of his tongue into her mouth brought with it the taste of blood from his split lip. The coppery flavor slid across her taste buds as if charged by an electric current, unexpectedly sudden and shocking. It was not enough to put a stop to their latest kiss, which was getting a little out of control.

Cordelia was afraid to admit how much she wanted more, but Angel was not even fully aware of what he was doing. He was badly hurt and in pain and obviously had her confused with someone who allowed him kissing privileges.

Maybe someone specific.

Like a certain slayer ex-girlfriend.

The errant thought acted like a bucket of cold water splashed over her. “That’s enough, Mr Grabby Hands. Buffy is not here.”

Pulling away from his kiss only gave him better access to her throat. He was already making himself quite at home there when she invoked his ex’s name. “Buffy?” He paused long enough to make her wonder if he was just confused or asking Buffy’s permission for something.

Angel nuzzled closer. “So warm,” he muttered absently. Adding, “Feels good,” almost as if he was talking to himself.

Cordelia was in full agreement about the good sensations finding it difficult to insist that he stop. Softly, his lips grazed over the wild throb of her pulse, mouth opening to drag his blunt teeth across it. The rough stubble from his jaw grazed her skin as he raised his mouth toward her ear.

Coming across as a sexy declaration, “I want to sink my fangs inside you,” his confession unfurled a lick of heat low in her belly.

Being turned on by that particular image spurred Cordelia into action. If she was dreaming up a certain vampire fantasy, the fangs might be fun. Considering the pleasure found in a few kisses, she had no doubt that if anyone could actually make getting bitten feel sexy instead of painful, it would be him. Either way, she was not going to find out.

“Oh, no you don’t, big guy.” Simultaneously, Cordelia yanked on his hair and pushed down a little harder on his abdominal injury until Angel jerked them both into a sitting position.

Sprawled across his lap, she noted the golden irises, and the utter lack of recognition in them. The blood loss was definitely having its effects. “Let me go, Angel. We need to get some blood in you pronto.”

Angel’s tongue dragged across his lips as his fingertips trailed up to her neck again. “Down boy. That wasn’t an invitation.” Using her free hand she pushed his away, an act that left him looking more rejected than dangerous.

His behavior was getting worse. Only one thing would fix that and help him heal. Blood. A lot of it. There had been a full container in the fridge last night. Angel drank some of it last night after his little tussle with that nest of vampires. She figured he had more before going out today and that would not leave much.

Still, it was a start. Cordelia tried to get up, but Angel, despite being much weaker than usual, still managed to hold her to him as if he thought she might suddenly disappear. His words reflected that. “Don’t go. You’re not leaving me.”

Anger toughened her resolve. As much as she wanted to believe his passion was meant for her, it was obvious that he was not completely in his own right mind. It was a miracle that he had been able to make it home at all. “Buffy’s not here. You’re the one who left her back in Sunnydale. I’m here. Me.”

“Buffy?”

That name on his lips just made her see red. “Gah! I swear if you’re dreaming up some slayer fantasy right now I will stake you myself.”

Extracting herself from Angel’s arms, Cordelia pulled away, scrambled to her feet and waded through the aluminum cans on route to the kitchen. A glance revealed that she was covered in blood. It smeared across her skin wherever he had touched her. A thicker layer stained her pajama top and shorts.

Despite the grossness, her nipples remained sensitive peaks against the sticky cloth and she felt achy at the loss of his touch. What in hell was wrong with her? None of this should be a turn on.

Well…

There was the way he kissed. Those big hands and the insistent way he held her against him. The way his open palm spread across her breast, claiming territory, caressing softly. His painful moans turning to pleasure at her touch.

Hot.

Then there was the part where he thought she was someone else. Angel was having slayer separation issues and using her as a convenient substitute. Hot? Not.

Cordelia found the container of blood to be only one third full. Nowhere near enough considering Angel’s blood loss. She brought it to him cold knowing that there had already been too many delays. He needed it now.

Watching Angel ravenously gulp down the blood, she was more relieved than disgusted, something she had not really considered until after the fact. He had never let her see him eat before purposely keeping that part of him closed off from her despite their friendship and the fact that they had lived out of the same kitchen for a while.

“Good to the last drop?” she quipped as he turned it bottom side up letting the last of it slide down his throat.

Holding the empty plastic container to his chest as if it was a lifeline, or hoping that it might magically refill, Angel closed his eyes as he leaned back into Cordelia’s supportive arms. Almost immediately, she noticed a difference. He was still a bloody mess and wracked with pain. She could see the strain of it on his face easing slightly, but his shoulders remained tense. Anyone else would be screaming.

She scooted around on the cleaner side of the floor. There was no longer a grey undertone to his pale white skin. When he looked at her with those soulful brown eyes, she could tell that he was truly seeing her now. He was no longer lost in his instinctual drive to fulfill his need for blood. Though he was a long way from all right, she knew that he was out of danger.

“I should call Doyle,” she told him, already starting to move again.

His hand closed over her wrist to stop her. “Cordelia.” The sound of her name on his lips made her shudder with want, the memory of his kisses still so vivid. She did not want him to read the desire in her eyes, or to remember the way she enthusiastically responded to his kisses.

“Cordelia,” he said again with a softer tone laced in confusion. There were gaps in his memory. She could tell from the questions he asked. The way he paused, turning his thoughts inward as he tried to fill the holes.

A little braver at the hint of faulty memory, she finally turned her gaze to his finding him frowning. Assessing her bloodied state with one raking glance, he let out a strangled protest. “Did I…”

No way was she going to talk about kissing him when he obviously thought she was Buffy. Interrupting was one way to stall the unwanted conversation, but she supposed they would have to hash it out sometime. Feeling angry about it might be ridiculous, but that was the way of it. Fine. If he wanted to embarrass them both she would just as soon get it over with.

“Did you what?” she snapped.

Angel looked utterly confused as he finished, “…fall down the stairs?”

Tensed up for a completely different topic, Cordelia took a moment to give him a response. “So much for that catlike grace of yours.”

He added with a serious tone, “There were these cans,” as if he had faced a mortal enemy and its remains were now littered across the floor.

Three seconds of holding her breath did not prevent her laughter from breaking free. Poor Angel just sounded so lost. “You had a run-in with my new home security system. Works like a charm.”

Angel still seemed to be working out what was so funny, which only confused Cordelia. Did he remember kissing her or not? Forgetting that it was a subject she had wanted to avoid only minutes before, she decided that she wanted to know the truth.

Just before she could ask him about it, Angel chose that moment to look at his wound. Lifting the robe away caused a restrained growl of pain. Blood started to seep from its deep center.

“Keep holding pressure,” Cordelia pushed his hand and the robe back into place over the gouge. “I still need to call Doyle about making a blood run. You’ll need a lot more to heal properly.”

This time he did not stop her. Cordelia darted across the room to the old rotary phone. Dialing Doyle’s phone number from memory, she waited impatiently for him to pick up. Four rings later and his familiar Irish brogue sounded in her ear. Not to complain about the interruption of his sleep, but to verify that Angel had returned.

“Cutting it a bit close this time,” Doyle must have realized the time. “The sun is up. You haven’t been pacing the floor all night long have you?”

Choosing to ignore Doyle’s correct assumption that she had waited up for Angel to get home, she focused on her concerns. “He barely made it back in time. He’s a mess.”

Doyle groaned, “Not again. “

“Worse.”

There was silence from Doyle’s end of the line until finally he said, “You still haven’t told him the full story about that play of yours.”

Was he blaming this on her? Cordelia could not believe that he was that ignorant of the way Angel’s moods went. “These dark and broody sessions have got nothing to do with me.”

“Pull the other one, princess.”

Cordelia wanted to reach through the phone and wring Doyle’s scrawny neck. “One of these days I will share the very painful saga that is Buffy and Angel, but now is not the time. Listen closely…”

Instructing Doyle to haul his skinny butt out of bed, get dressed, and to head over to the ‘special’ blood supplier, Cordelia listened closely for any indication that he was moving at the desired pace.

Halfway through a yawn, her intentions became clear, as did the reason behind them. “Human blood. Not the all-night butcher.” Doyle added an expletive.

“Pants, Doyle, now!” Cordelia told him to get going. Slamming the receiver down, she grumbled, “You’d think I was asking for a personal donation.”

“Eighty proof sounds pretty good right now,” joked Angel doing a pretty good impression of holding up the living room wall.

Cordelia wondered just how much of her conversation with Doyle he had overheard. Hopefully, he was too preoccupied with his injuries to notice that she had mentioned talking to the Irishman about the angsty situation with Buffy.

“Hey, you’re on your feet! Great sign that you won’t be crumbling to dust this time.” Grabbing his elbow, she swung his arm over her shoulder. “C’mon, let’s get you into the shower.”

Angel limped with every step toward his bedroom. The effort must have made a shower seem more daunting a task. Grimacing, he suggested, “Maybe I should just lie down.”

“And get blood all over your precious sheets? I think not.”

They managed to make it to the bathroom before Cordelia collapsed under Angel’s weight. Even though he was trying to walk on his own, one of his legs was injured to the extent that he could not put his full weight on it. However bad the injury, it was hidden beneath the cover of his black duster.

“Whatever did this,” Cordelia scrambled to get a better hold, “did you at least kill it?”

“Them,” he corrected with a groan as she gingerly pulled the duster off and let it drop to the bathroom’s tile floor. As usual, Angel was not exactly forthcoming with the details, but answered with an affirmative nod.

Through the tatters is his shirt she could see that the demons had come at him from all angles, baring their claws and digging deep. “We’re you saving some damsel in distress or just picking a fight?”

The sting of tears made it difficult to continue, her hands bunching up the material. Blinking them away did not make them any less noticeable to Angel. He palmed her face, staring down into her overly bright eyes, and brushed his thumb along her blood-smeared cheek as if trying to wipe away the evidence. “Does it matter?”

Cordelia yanked at his shirt a little harder than intended. The sudden move forced Angel to drop his hold on her practically knocking him off his feet. “Why would I care if my vampire boss gets ripped apart just for the hell of it? Apart from the paycheck, you also happen to be my friend, dumbass!”

Because she was extremely pissed off at the idea that she might not care, she decided to play the card that Doyle had handed her. “Guess it’s a good thing my contract for the play is signed and sealed. The next time you decide to take stupid chances without any backup I won’t have to worry about cleaning up the mess.”

Angel did not flinch. He did not get visibly angry. He just went quiet, withdrawing his emotions, holding them back from her.

Cordelia hated when he did that. It frustrated her when he kept his thoughts and opinions to himself, refusing to talk, keeping her away from his feelings. She never understood why people like Angel could not talk their way through things, but instead bottled them up like state secrets.

Doyle wanted her to tell Angel the truth about the play and the plans for her job at Angel Investigations. No way was she going to make it that easy on him. If he wanted to know the truth he could ask her directly. Conversations went two ways and she was tired of having to interpret his part of them.

That did not mean she was totally against lecturing him while he was in broody, silent mode. No, that was kind of convenient. With businesslike efficiency, Cordelia stripped him down. The torn shirt joined the coat on the floor. While she unbuckled his belt, she reminded him that he was supposed to be working for the Powers That Be.

“What if Doyle has a vision? You’re in no shape to put an end to the next apocalypse!”

Cordelia reached for the button on his black pants only to have his hand close over hers. Irritated that her task and her lecture were interrupted, she glared up to find Angel looking somewhat amused despite his pain. “Shoes,” he drew her attention to the fact that he would not be able to step out of his pants while they were still on.

There was no way he was taking care of that task on his own. “Oh! Shoes. Got ’em.”

One came off easily enough. She tossed it and his sock into a corner. Removing the other was a challenge since Angel had to stand on his bad leg. Using the towel bar as a temporary crutch they managed to free him of his remaining footwear. “Getting you out of your pants should be easy after that!”

Down on her knees, she maneuvered into an upright position to have another go at the pants only to be stopped yet again. “Um, Cordelia, maybe I should handle things from here.”

“Pfft! You can’t stand up on your own,” she started ticking off a list of reasons why that wasn’t going to happen, “you can’t reach those gouges on your back, and it’s not like I haven’t already seen everything you’ve got.”

Everything, her mind echoed images permanently imprinted on her retina. The experience of seeing him naked and aroused was no little thing. Nope. Not little at all.

Considering the amount of blood loss, Cordelia doubted there would be any embarrassing displays today. “Just keep your erection issues to yourself, ” she teased.

“I don’t have…issues.” Angel denied swiftly as he pulled her up off the floor sounding outraged by the notion.

Cordelia simply snorted and got back to the task of taking off Angel’s pants, easily accomplished now that he was distracted. She was more concerned about the nasty gash across his thigh than his currently flaccid penis.

The walk-in shower was not that big, certainly not like the modern types that were large enough to hold a small party. Cordelia was more of a bubble bath girl. She turned on the water as hot as she could tolerate knowing that was how he liked it. Steam quickly built up on the clear glass.

“Get in if you can. I’ll grab towels and stuff,” Cordelia told him before darting out of the room.

Gathering a pile of clean washcloths and towels from the cedar chest of drawers where Angel kept his towels and sheets neatly organized, she made her next stop the living room. It took a minute to collect her first aid supplies, although she tossed them haphazardly into the tray instead of making any attempt at arranging it.

“You need to clean out those wounds,” Cordelia called out instructions to him. “Most demons don’t get monthly manicures, so who knows what gross stuff they had under their claws.”

Back in the bathroom, she found that Angel had just managed to make it into the shower stall, his limp slowing him down. He was just standing there with the door open, the spray of the water beating against his skin and spritzing out across the bathroom floor.

Only upon seeing him completely stripped down and standing under the water did Cordelia saw the true extent of his injuries. Suddenly, his nudity did not seem like an issue. She walked right in behind him pajamas and all. Reaching out to him was automatic. Her fingers traced the smooth edge of one particularly long wound across his back. “You look like they were carving you up for a late-night snack.”

“Cordelia, I’ll be fine,” he groaned under the full spray of the water as it sluiced over his body. It had to hurt almost as much as it felt good. “This isn’t the first time I’ve been injured.”

“We’ll, it’s the first time you’ve come home to me looking like you’ve been playing with the wrong end of a chainsaw,” Cordelia snapped back incensed that he was taking crazy, unnecessary risks.

Thinking about the likelihood that he would do this again when the odds were not in his favor, even though the outcome meant nothing more than another notch on his victory belt, made her sick—and so angry she felt shaky.

Reaching over, she slammed the shower door, shutting them both inside. His long fingers closed around her upper arm to pull her back under the water with him. Angel’s expression was stony, as if she was not the only one with the right to be mad. He said nothing as his hands a lifted to her face, the pads of his thumbs rubbing in circles where her skin was covered in bloody smears. Moving up to her temples he gently massaged at the tension there before his fingers combed through her hair.

Cordelia’s eyes shuttered closed for an instant. His touch felt so good making her want to melt into it, but being touched distracted from her true purpose here, helping him recover. “I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be the one cleaning you up,” she said just before his lips brushed her forehead.

As if he did not have the energy to argue his point in greater detail, Angel simply said, “Let me.” Cordelia felt a tug on the edge of her pajama top causing an automatic reaction as she stopped the upward motion. Was he still out of his gourd? This did not seem like the greatest idea.

Keeping her query light, she asked, “Whatcha doing?”

Angel pulled a trick from her book and had plenty of reasons at hand. “You’re covered in my blood, you’ll need to do this anyway, and you’re already here.” Being a rational kind of person, Angel made it sound ridiculous to waste water and time. Until he added one last thought, “Seems fair.”

Deciding that she had to be officially insane, too, Cordelia reached down to strip off her top eliciting a groan from Angel that had nothing to do with the pain of his injuries. Though the water was warm, her nipples peaked into pebbles aching for attention. She wanted to drag his hands up to her breasts, wanting them on her bare skin, but they were down on her hips plucking at the waistband of her pajama shorts as if testing her resolve—or his own.

Angel gave her a choice, “On or off?”

This was just about showering, Cordelia reminded herself, acknowledging a strange sense of disappointment at the fact that something more exciting wasn’t in the cards. Although Angel said nothing to sway her decision, there was something deep and needful in his gaze, something that went beyond it being his turn for a cheap thrill. They could manage this without completely stripping her down, but he seemed to want it and she was not about to deny him anything.

Swallowing down her nerves, she answered, “Off.” Because, truthfully, being skin to skin with Angel even under this clinical guise was too tempting to ignore. Cordelia only hoped that her voice was not as ragged as her breathing.

Angel wasted no time accomplishing the task, his hands sliding beneath the waistband of her cotton pajama shorts pushing them down over her hips and taking her lacy panties with them. The sensation of his fingers skimming across her skin made her catch her bottom lip between her teeth stopping what would have been an all too revealing moan.

The barest touch and she was practically purring! It freaked her out a little, this idea that she wanted more, a lot more of something that was completely off limits. Hello, curse! Even so, Angel was carved up like a holiday turkey.

Her sodden garments hit the shower floor with a splash. Cordelia kicked them into a corner of the shower stall. “So, um . . .”

Angel did not bother to hide the fact that he was staring, but that intractable mask was back in place preventing her from figuring out what he was thinking. He still had his hands on her though probably more for balance than illicit touching. Did he like what he was looking at or had he seen so many women that he was indifferent to her nudity?

When he spoke, it was matter-of-factly. “We should get started. The hot water will only last so long. “

That was all he had to say? Really!

Cordelia was not self-conscious about her body. On a scale of one to ten, she was a knockout, and knew it. Back in high school, her inability to attract Angel left her wondering about his good taste. After all, his preference for blonde slayers was his flaw, not hers.

Still, she expected some kind of red-blooded male response. A little leering would not have gone unappreciated. Oh, she would’ve called him on it. No doubt about that. As far as she could tell from his stone-faced expression, she might as well have been wearing a muumuu. Maybe that morning he came to her rescue in his birthday suit, and he ended up with a hard-on, was really more about being turned on by her blood than by her after all.

Confused, Cordelia felt the sting of rejection despite not having offered Angel anything, although she certainly was not about to let him know he had hurt her feelings. If he wanted this to be business as usual, she could deal with that too. “Fine,” she agreed curtly. “Turn around. This is not a peep show. I’m using the soap first, and then I’ll make a start on your back.”

Laying down a few ground rules might not change much, but it made her feel like she was in charge. Angel followed instructions and turned around, but the tiny shower stall did not make it easy to avoid touching. By the time Cordelia was halfway finished with her super fast shower, she had bumped and nudged and slid into Angel more times than she could count.

Her efforts to avoid contact only made it worse causing them both to lose balance. The soap went flying. She fell back nearly banging head on the shower wall, but was grabbed at the last second by Angel who normally would have prevented the fall completely had his reflexes been normal. The move smashed her into his right side, fortunately the one without the gaping wound.

“Don’t you dare fall down,” Cordelia ordered as soon as she could gather her wits enough to extract herself from his arms. He looked ready to collapse.

Somehow, they made it through the task of washing off the blood. “What exactly were these demons doing that put them on your radar?” She aimed to keep talking, distracting him from the painful experience of cleaning out the wounds.

Angel let out a yelp when she pressed across cloth against one particularly nasty open wound. “What the hell?”

“Hydrogen peroxide.” Cordelia told him he was being a big baby. “You’re standing there with a big hole in your gut and you can’t take a little sting for a couple of seconds.”

He pressed his hands into the tile wall in front of him making his muscles ripple and wounds pull against his slowly healing skin. At least the abdominal wound had stopped oozing now looking more like a small crater. “It hurts.”

“Suck it up, tough guy. I’m just getting started.”

For a second it looked like he was going to rip the bottle out of her hand, but he seemed to think better of it. “Stop complaining,” she nudged him to turn so that she could get to the wound on his thigh. “Let me finish before Doyle shows up.”

“Doyle? That’s right. You told him to go buy blood.” Angel still seemed to be fuzzy on the details of even that conversation and it had happened after he drank the first batch. “He’s coming here now?”

Cordelia rolled her eyes and continued to dab away at the last wound. “Duh! You need blood. You need rest. By tonight this will all be forgotten.”

“Not likely,” he scoffed.

Cordelia supposed that it would be difficult to forget a couple of nasty demons ripping you to shreds, but she doubted that Angel had really learned any lessons. He seemed more concerned at being caught even though there was nothing illicit going on.

“You realize Doyle is going to show up and find us in here.”

Freezing, she dated a glance at the shower door. The glass was completely steamed over. Safe enough if Doyle happened to be stupid enough to barge in. Getting caught playing shower buddies with Angel would probably upset Doyle, who seemed to have strong opinions about co-workers getting intimate, and this certainly seemed to fall into that category. For some strange reason, he kept pressing her about her thoughts on the subject.

Not that there was anything truly intimate going on around here. Still sensitive about Angel’s lack of interest, she snapped, “At least Doyle would appreciate the view.” The flash of irritation on Angel’s face gave her a satisfied rush.

Concluding suddenly, “You’re mad at me,” Angel said confounded.

Cordelia snorted. “Wow! It’s finally sinking in. You go off on some random demon-killing spree, get yourself filleted, barely crawl back home before the sun turns you into a crispy critter, and you don’t think I have a right to be a little pissed off?”

After a short pause, Angel limped forward, which automatically backed her into a corner. It didn’t help that he had to press his hands into the wall on either side of her to hold himself up. He seemed to be gearing up for a new fight and Cordelia started preparing her counter-arguments, something about bosses being responsible for employees and paychecks, or friendly concern over a neighbor taking insane risks.

Having effectively boxed her in, he calmly rebuffed her angry tirade. “That’s not why you’re mad at me now.”

“Miss Multitasker, that’s me,” she smirked. “I can be mad at you on several levels simultaneously.”

“You think I don’t appreciate what you do for me,” Angel started out slowly, dark eyes narrowing to assess her response. “That I take it for granted?” Brow scrunching in distress over the idea he seemed to be ticked off that she might even consider that to be true.

Waiting it out, Cordelia waged an internal battle forcing herself to stay silent long enough to hear him out. In an unconsciously defensive move that hid her breasts from view, she crossed her arms over her chest, and glanced away.

“Or is this just about here and now? Did you think something else was going to happen?”

Cordelia’s breath hitched and her head whipped back around to stare at him in crazy-eyed reaction. Could he make it sound any more pathetic? Total denial was the only way to go. “No, dumbass! Even if I had some deranged idea that you might find me attractive—which I don’t—from the looks of things you wouldn’t have the stamina.”

Hah! She was pretty sure he cringed a little. Not done yet, she added, “You’re in love with Buffy. I have zero interest in playing out some shower fantasy with my boss, especially considering that you’re still hung up on someone else.”

Trying to get a little breathing room, she pushed at his chest too angry to care that her hands pressed against his closing wounds. She made a move toward the door, but was stopped by Angel’s hand sliding across the flat plane of her abdomen. A sound emerged from his throat, a mix of frustration, exhaustion, and something she could not quite define.

When he touched her it was difficult to think, and though she would die before admitting it, this whole thing dredged up a few fantasies of her own involving soapy hands sliding over her skin, and wild, hot sex. Naked shower time with an injured Angel did not exactly fit that particular scenario, but it was as close as she might ever get. Being reminded that she would not get the starring role in any fantasy of his was a mood-killer.

Angel seemed to be struggling to find something to say, words evading him as he let his gaze follow the flow of water as it cascaded down her body, sluicing over her shoulders, creating rivulets down the peaks and valleys of her breasts to the triangle delta at her thighs.

Choose wisely, she cautioned silently, not wanting to hear anything to shatter the notion that he approved.

“Seeing you like this,” Angel finally managed to get it together, “with the water flowing over your golden skin,” tracing one runaway drop with a fingertip, “you’re like Venus rising from the sea, perfection in every line and curve. I shouldn’t have to tell you that.”

Flushing with pleasure at the description, Cordelia could not believe that Angel had said that. True, she wanted him to acknowledge that he thought she was hot, not necessarily get so poetic about it. “Says who? Stating the obvious does not mean that it is unwelcome. I like compliments.”

Angel palmed her face and pressed a kiss to her forehead with his usual display of affection. Before lifting his lips away completely, he asked softly, “Are you going to let me finish?”

He pulled back enough for her to see the determination in his eyes. This had to be where the ‘but’ came into the conversation. Expecting him to say, “You’re hot, but….” Cordelia warily instructed him to, “Go ahead.”

“You’re the biggest pain in the ass I know,” Angel said dead serious and while he might be taking her advice by stating something else he found obvious, it was not what she expected.

Jerking away from his touch, Cordelia swiveled around to turn off the water. She had no idea what she expected Angel to say, but it was not anything like that. Maybe something about the curse. Or even something about his long lost one true slayer obsession. Having waited up all night worrying about him and getting ready to patch him up should be worth a little gratitude.

Pain in the ass? Urgh! He did not know the half of it.

“But I need you,” Angel’s confession cut through her plans for payback. Her surprised gaze swept back up to find his steadfast. His big hands slid up her arms to hold her shoulders, thumbs nervously tracing the delicate lines of her collarbones. “Don’t go, Cordelia. I want you to stay.”

Skipping over the unlikely fantasy version of that conversation, Cordelia was confused. “But the towels are out there.”

“Not what I meant.”

“I’ve still got some patching up to do,” she tried again. “I’m not going back to my place until you’re tucked in, but, ah, I don’t think it’s a good idea to…stay…here. Do you?”

The image of spooning with Angel popped into her head making her smile. She hoped that Angel did not think she was flirting. “Don’t answer that question,” she cut him off. “Just tell me what you’re trying to say.”

“Angel Investigations was your idea, Cordelia. It won’t be the same if you’re not here. Don’t leave.”

Oh. Doyle had been right all along. So much for that five dollar bet. Letting Angel think the worst had run its course. That little piece of misinformation had dragged out too far. Now it was time to set the record straight.

“You’ve got the wrong idea,” she assured him. “I’m not quitting, just using a few weekends to get some real acting credits. The play has a finite run. I’m not going anywhere.”

Angel looked like he had just been handed a cure for vampirism. “Don’t get too happy about it,” she laughed her warning. “I can still dream about that Red Carpet moment. Fame and fortune may take me away from all of this in six months or a year, but that does not mean it will take me away from you. I did promise to help.”

And it was so true that Angel would be screwed if she just decided to quit after getting a big break. Like either one of the guys could handle the office. Pfft! Would there even be an office? Doyle might just call in his visions from the local bar, while Angel went out night after night picking fights with the local demon population.

That whole idea was disturbing since it sounded a lot like the last few nights. Cordelia shook off the bad vibes and got back to business by watching Angel limp out of the shower stall. “Do you need help toweling off?”

Curtly, he answered, “No.”

Either he was still in serious pain or he was not satisfied with her plans to continue hoping for a big break into stardom. He liked having a dependable Girl Friday at his disposal.

Cordelia handed him a towel after wrapping up in one herself, and took a third for her hair. “I’ll be back in a jiff to finish patching you up.”

Deciding against rushing back to the apartment for clothes, Cordelia dried off, dropped her wet towels on Angel’s bedroom floor, and started rifling through the drawer containing his boxers. Opting for some soft blue ones, she stepped into them. Sliding them over her hips made her flash back to the shower when Angel’s big masculine hands slipped across the curves of her hips and buttocks as he undressed her.

Don’t go there! Yanking open the closet, she quickly selected one of Angel’s white silk shirts. It engulfed her, but it would certainly work in lieu of running all the way over to her place, next door. The last thing she needed was for Doyle to catch her coming from Angel’s bedroom wearing only a towel.

Rolling up the sleeves to get them out of the way, Cordelia started buttoning up the rest as she turned back toward the bathroom. Angel was standing against the doorframe, mostly dry, wearing the towel slung low around his hips. “Oh! That was fast. I thought you’d still be at it.”

How long had he been standing there watching her? “You’re obviously feeling a little better.”

“The shower helped.”

Moving over to assist him onto the bed, Cordelia noticed him staring at her with some sort of possessive gleam in his eyes. Honestly, the vampire was like a broken record repeating the same irritating message: don’t touch my stuff. “I swear I will return your shirt in pristine condition. Our dry cleaners are the best.”

“They had better be considering what they charge.”

“You try finding someone who doesn’t charge extra for demon goo removal!” A perfect example of just one of the many ways that she kept things running smoothly around these parts, she thought smugly. Captain Tight-with-a-Buck demanded that she keep on top of every penny, which was necessary considering that her salary came out of whatever was left.

Climbing onto the bed behind him, Cordelia pulled her first aid supplies closer, chatting away as she tended to his wounds. A little antibiotic ointment, a few steri-strips, gauze and paper tape started to make Angel look like a patchwork quilt. He was quiet as she worked, which should have helped her to focus, but instead failed to distract her from remembering those fleeting touches in the shower.

Statue-still as he sat on the edge of the bed, wrapped in the towel, hands planted firmly on his knees as hers skimmed across his skin, Angel made a noise, or said something that she missed. Snapping out of her thoughts, Cordelia asked, “What?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“It’s okay to tell me if it hurts,” she encouraged, curling her fingers around his uninjured shoulder. “Be growly. You seem super-sensitive tonight. Unless you’re still worried that I’ll get something on your shirt.”

Denying it more firmly, Angel repeated, “I didn’t say anything.”

“Thinking it then.”

“Not even close.”

Taping 4×4 gauze over the wound on his right side, she stopped long enough to wait for him to elaborate, but he remained silent . Cordelia stretched one leg out alongside his, leaning forward again, only this time resting her chin on his shoulder.

Stretching out her hand to him, she said nothing until Angel threaded his fingers through hers. “What happened tonight?”

When Doyle arrived five minutes later, Cordelia was still listening to Angel as if he was just like any other guy telling his girl about his day at the office. With her focus entirely on Angel it took Doyle commenting, “Now don’t you two look all cozy,” to make her realize that he was there.

Doyle did not have to say anything about her wet hair or attire to make her fully cognizant of the fact that he noticed. That topic was not up for discussion. “You took your sweet time getting here.”

Once Doyle verified that Angel was going to be okay, he held up the blue cooler he carried. “Fresh from the blood bank. You want it straight from the bag?”

“Warm it up,” instructed Cordelia before Angel could respond. “That’s how he likes to drink it when he thinks nobody’s around.”

Doyle headed off to the kitchen giving time for Cordelia to reposition Angel to start working on the wounds across his torso. She was fighting with a mangled length of paper tape when Doyle reappeared with a steaming mug. “Not sure if this is body temperature, but it should be close enough.”

“Thanks.”

Cordelia watched Angel set the mug beside the bed instead of drinking it. “Hey! Drink up.”

“Finish this first. I’ll drink it later.”

Uh, no. “Drink it now,” she handed it back to him. Telling Doyle with a snort, “He’s shy about some things,” and rolled her eyes.

Doyle yawned widely. “You two have fun playing nurse. I’m going to try to catch some more shut-eye.”

Hopping off the bed to give Angel time to finish the mug of blood, Cordelia ran over to Doyle before he could walk out. Wrapping her arms around him for a long hug, she kissed his cheek with gratitude. “Thanks for doing this.”

With his face already close to hers, Doyle whispered, “Call me later.”

The fresh human blood worked wonders rapidly healing Angel to the extent that by the time Cordelia got around to the last wound all that was left of the deep gash was a raised red mark on his muscular thigh. She spread some ointment along the ridge of flesh despite that it was probably going to be gone within minutes. “All done. The sun is up. You should try to get some sleep.”

Angel turned down her offer of a second mug before bedtime. “I have had enough for now.”

“The good stuff does tend to go to your head.”

After gathering her supplies, Cordelia took his discarded towel, averting her gaze as Angel slipped under the covers. Knowing that he would probably get out of bed the minute he remembered her towels were on the floor or the state they had left the bathroom, she gathered everything up and tossed it on top of the hamper.

Angel tracked her every movement until she came back to get her stuff and then asked its quiet intensity, “What did Doyle say to you before he left?”

Were those jealous vibes for real, or was that just the blood talking? Cordelia decided to keep her response low-key. “Vampire hearing not working yet? We’ll probably meet up for lunch if there’s nothing else going on.”

“You’re going out?”

Nodding, she added a shrug. “Need a hand with anything else?”

For a moment, it seemed that he was going to ask for something. Instead, he sent her on her way. “Not tonight.”

Ancient Boring Guy

Posted June 20, 2015 by califi in Complete

Friends & Neighbors 2   1 comment

Flirting with Danger

Maybe someone up there was answering vampire prayers after all because finally, finally, his own personal fortress of solitude belonged to him again. Angel felt relaxed for the first time in over a week. It was a little strange at first, which surprised him. He had gotten used to having Cordelia in his space causing random acts of havoc as she examined one of his keepsakes from days gone by, borrowed weapons to use as kitchen utensils, or forced him into conversation.

There were still traces of her presence here and there. Every time he thought he had rounded up all of her things there would be one more found in the bathroom, under the bed, or tucked away in his closet. It was not just her belongings. Cordelia’s unique, perfumed, womanly scent lingered in his bed, where it was far more tantalizing than he wanted to admit to himself. Angel did not want to start thinking about the reasons he decided not to change the sheets today like usual.

He walked over to the bookshelf and let his finger trail over the bindings until he found one that appealed to him. Getting comfortable on the couch, he opened the book to its first page and began to read, thankful that it was quiet at last.

Quiet.

Hours later, Angel read the conclusion of the story, just as satisfying an end as when he had read it the first ten times. He sat up, looked around the empty living room and smiled at the fact that he had it all to himself. It had been a while since he read an entire book uninterrupted.

Closing his eyes he leaned back in his chair tuning his senses in to the world around him, enjoying the soft buzz of electricity from the corner lamp, the distant hum of the traffic from the street level above, and myriad other background noises as he turned his focus upon them until they were crystal clear. Everything was as it should be. All in order. No enemies lurking in the tunnels nearby.

He was hungry, he realized, but paused on his way to the kitchen to return the book to its proper place. When he opened the refrigerator, he saw much to his surprise that there was a fresh container of blood on the top shelf. Someone had stopped by the butcher shop…Cordelia, presumably. Doyle might bring over a six-pack or a bottle of his favorite malt, but not blood.

Angel had tried to be subtle about his diet with Cordelia living there. No drinking blood in front of her. Making sure there were no splatters in the microwave before she heated up her leftover Chinese food. Eating scrambled eggs or lo mein noodles even though the taste was rather bland just so she wouldn’t have to eat alone, and he could feel a little less like a monster.

For all of her irritating habits Cordelia Chase had never pretended he was anything other than a vampire. She did not shy away from it even when humanity was nowhere in sight. Girls like her might get a little jaded after a Sunnydale education, but this surprised him. Whatever the reason for this spontaneous act of kindness—and he wasn’t going to rule out her efforts to finagle that extra set of Egyptian cotton sheets—Angel decided he would thank her for it.

The metal door between their apartments was already closed. He often had to pull it shut after he returned from patrol each night and he found it comforting to imagine that she wanted to be certain he made it home. Bizarre that he would even think that considering the way Cordelia insisted on her own privacy. She always shut that door when she came downstairs from the office, crossing through his place to get to hers. Finding the door open probably meant nothing more than her looking for something she had accidentally left behind at his place. It was incredible just how much stuff she had tucked away in nooks and crannies or under his bed after just a few days.

Angel rapped his knuckles on the door listening to the hollow sound as it echoed briefly. Before it dissipated, he realized why it was much too quiet. Her now familiar heartbeat was absent. She was not at home.

Strangely disappointed, Angel went back to the kitchen to resume his dinner plans. A glance at the wall clock told him that it was 2 a.m. What was she doing out this late? Many possibilities popped into his head. He hoped she was safe. That she was out having fun. Young people needed fun. Reluctantly, he also conceded that it might not just be a matter of what she was doing, but whom she was doing.

An image crystallized in his head: Cordelia at the Bronze. Moving to music with a sensuous beat. Dancing with someone he never officially met, that one-time boyfriend of hers, the singer in Oz’s band, the walking hormone who had a following of pretty girls trailing after him willing to give it up just to say he was the one. That guy reminded him of himself back in the days before Darla ended his life and made him a vampire. Liam. Chasing after every pretty girl in the village and seducing them into lifting their skirts for a quick ride.

The comparison made him tense up. He hoped that cocky little bastard had not been her first. Anger burned like a flash fire, white-hot and raging, and snuffed out just as fast. It was none of his business if Cordelia had taken a lover.

Rethinking that for about a second, he decided that he hated the idea. It certainly felt like his business. Maybe the proximity did it. As long as she was here under his roof, he somehow felt responsible for her safety. That gave him the right to be concerned.

Didn’t it?

A derisive laugh left his throat. Try explaining that to Cordelia. Neighborly concern taken about ten steps too far would not be appreciated and would most likely result in her giving him a tongue-lashing, and not the kind he was likely to enjoy. The errant thought caught him by surprise, but he blotted out the world by closing his eyes and let the images take over. Cordelia’s mouth closing around his cock, warm, velvet tongue sliding slowly down his length as she closed over him, dragging back up, cheeks hollowing, sucking hard, her fingers gripping, moving with a rhythm that would drive him mad with the urge to thrust back.

Neighborly concern.

Right.

Angel pressed a hand to his forehead, threaded his fingers through his gelled hair, and followed through to his nape where the tension started to knot. This was crazy. What was he thinking?

The blood when he gulped it down did not quench his thirst or the hunger for something much more physical. It seemed to make it worse, taking his body captive, making his loins heavy with unwanted arousal at the thought of Cordelia with a lover.

Not just any lover.

That settled it. Time to get out of here for a few hours. Stalk something. Find something to kill. That would take his mind off the idea of Cordelia out on the dance floor with some stranger, finding a dark corner of the club, or the back of a parked car, a motel. He did not think she would rush into something, but he really didn’t know her that well yet or her taste in men, except that she had always found him attractive.

That much he knew with certainty.

Deep down even though he did not want to admit it he was glad that had not changed. She might say that her schoolgirl crush was a thing of the past, but there was no denying that he did not even have to lay a hand on her to arouse her. The other day she had been so damned tempting trying to hide it from him even though it did not take vampire senses to detect the fact that he was not the only one who was turned on.

Angel grabbed his black duster and swung into it as he moved toward the back door. The corridor outside led to the basement level of the parking garage, but he changed his mind about the car almost as soon as he was there. It was already getting late and this excursion might take him out past sunrise. In addition to the metal hatch in the floor of his living room, there was also a parking garage service entrance to the sewer system tunnels that stretched out beneath the city.

Just as he reached the door the distinctive clack of high heels on cement signaled Cordelia’s arrival. Her slurred singing was interrupted by her own laughter. He did not recognize the song, but even from this distance, it was clear she had been at a club and had been drinking.

She was alone and could not seem to walk in a straight line. That or she was still dancing to whatever tune she was humming. Angel thought about how easy it would be for someone to pull her into the shadows and take what they wanted. He did not like seeing her vulnerable this way. As she stumbled down the corridor toward her apartment door, Angel followed planning to ensure that she made it home safely even if it was only these last few yards.

The keys in her hand jangled and fell from her grasp. “Oh, shhhit!” she cursed staring down at them as if trying to decide if there was more than one set of keys on the ground.

Moving forward to help Angel saw Cordelia whip around faster than he thought her capable in her current state, a can of mace in her hand. “Back off, sleazeball!” A human assailant would have had a face full of the pepper-spray. Angel had only a fraction of a second to dodge the mace cloud, pull them both out of its reach, and rip the offending can out of her grasp.

Plastered between him and the wall, Cordelia’s eyes widened as she recognized Angel. “Hey, you. Did you get him? He was big and blurry.”

“Yeah, sure,” Angel answered, amused by her assumption that he had come to her rescue. “Kicked his ass. He won’t be back.”

“Good.” She flung her arms around his neck and squeezed, head nuzzling against his shoulder and her breasts pressing deliciously into his chest for all of a few seconds. Long enough to feel her warmth seeping through his shirt. “Doyle bought me mace. Don’t leave home without it.” For some reason that made her laugh. “Cheaper than jewelry, I suppose.” Then she was pushing him away, creating space between them so she could squeeze out, away from the wall.

Angel put his hands in the pocket of the duster and stood watching as Cordelia rummaged through her purse. A little whine sounded. “My keys. I can’t find my keys. That bastard stole my keys!”

Scooping them off the ground Angel held them out to her. “Hey, those are mine! You rescued my keys, too. For a vampire you’re…you’re…umm…what was I saying?” Her beautiful face scrunched up as she tried to snag them and missed.

Barely able to stand up straight there was no way Cordelia could navigate a key into a lock. He took her hand in his threading his fingers through hers. “Come on. Let’s get you inside.”

A soft, drunken smile curled the corners of her mouth as she rested her head on his arm, looking at him through heavy-lidded, hazy eyes. “Are you walking me home? That’s sweet. Jude Law would walk me home.”

Angel’s brow scrunched up at the man’s name. Who the hell was Jude Law? The name was vaguely familiar.

“I am not being sweet,” he denied gruffly. Mad at himself for enjoying the contact of her soft skin and her for putting such trust in him, he pulled away, only to have to catch her when she stumbled forward, inadvertently bringing her back into his arms. “You’re drunk and I just want to get you inside out of harm’s way.”

The words poured from her lips like smooth burgundy. “So take me inside.” It was the alcohol talking, Angel reminded himself, as her warm breath puffed against his throat. He swallowed hard making his Adam’s apple bob reflexively.

Hell, she was tempting without even trying to be. He had to get used to that. Learn to ignore it. Cordelia was here for the duration, or until she had a breakthrough in her acting career, or an obnoxiously wealthy bachelor promised her a life of luxury. Angel shoved the key into the lock thinking about how he found her at Russell Winters’ mansion and what kind of existence she might have accepted just to achieve the life she aspired to. It pleased him that Winters was dust and could no longer put Cordelia or anyone else in harm’s way.

Angel opened the door, stepped across the threshold and left Cordelia braced against the doorframe. He kept his back to her while she stumbled inside and shut the door. Goal met. She was home safe. There was still plenty of time to patrol. He should go.

Deciding to do just that, he offered up some advice and a reprieve. “Drink some water. Get some sleep. You can come in late tomorr—”

The stereo came on full blast even before Angel could finish talking. He swerved around hardly believing that Cordelia could find the button to turn on the device. “It’s late. You sh—”

“Come dance with me,” she tossed her head back and laughed. Cordelia swayed in time to the music matching the beat. “Oh, riiiiight. I forgot. Mr Two Left Feet.”

Angel frowned at the remark brusquely sounding out in his defense, “I can dance.”

Twirling around him in a circle that sent her long hair flying around her, Cordelia snorted and giggled. “Since when did you ever dance with Buffy at the Bronze? Ooh! Dizzy. That was a rush.” She swayed to a halt behind him, both hands grasping the loose folds of his coat, her cheek pressed against his back as she steadied herself. “Vampires have natural rhythm. You’re stealthy. Light on your feet. Y’know, the way you move in a fight . . . it’s so . . . ah . . .kind of a turn on.”

He stood frozen to the spot as he tried to interpret Cordelia’s words. Was she admitting that he turned her on, or that vampires in general . . .?

“Except of course the blood and guts and demon goo part. That is sooooo not sexy,” Cordelia shuddered against him and added a disgusted, “bleh!”

Cordelia started tugging on his coat, pulling it off his shoulders. “A little help here, big guy.”

“Cor—I was heading out to patrol.” That was an excuse. A good one, he thought. “Someone might need me.”

“Yeah, she’s standing right here, dumbass.” The snarky tone melted away into a soft plea, “Just one dance.”

Oh, no. He was not going to fall for that sweet, doe-eyed routine. Angel pulled his duster back into place and strode over to the stereo. He jammed the power button sending the room into silence. He expected an angry screech, but she smirked as she joined him. “I can push buttons, too.”

Yeah. His.

The music was on again. Loud. Pounding. Base. Rhythmic. Bringing to mind something he did not equate with dancing, not unless it was done skin to skin.

“C’mon, Angel. I’m celebrating…ah, something…whatever. Pretend just for a few minutes that you’re not such an old fuddy-duddy.”

Maybe it was the demon in him that rose to the challenge, or just the man at his core being who took offence at her words, but he was not thinking about consequences when he pulled her close and started to move. Cordelia went wide-eyed, surprised because even in her drunken haze she had not really expected him to take her up on it. Angel felt the shudder pass through her as their bodies connected, and then she grinned, a triumphal gleam in her too-bright eyes.

Just because he kept away from crowds, ignored the temptation of grinding bodies and heated arousal did not mean he never watched humans get caught up in a dance. He’d never really felt it before, not exactly like this. Cordelia pissed him off so much. With her tempting curves and her sweet lips and that scent that was driving him closer and closer to the edge. This was not his kind of music. At this point, he wasn’t sure he cared. If she wanted to dance, he would show her how.

Out of sync at first they moved in an awkward rhythm contrary to the beat. A herky-jerky routine Cordelia was laughing through as she critiqued his style. She slipped free of his hold sliding both hands up his chest until she curled her fingers around the back of his neck. Her touch branded as it fired up something equally hot inside him.

From the moment she swayed into him, breasts teasing across his chest, her skirt grazing across pants, he needed no further direction. Need held him tight in its grip, a desire to prove something— even if he was not certain what that was. Tomorrow he could go back to keeping his distance. Right now, he had no choice but to respond to this insane whim.

Angel forgot about the music. All he could hear was the rhythmic pulse of her blood roaring through her veins. The softer sound of her breathing came laced with sensuous little tones every time they touched making it difficult to ignore her soft, full lips. His head dipped down, mouth hovering, teasing them both with the notion of a kiss, and not just a sweet, friendly peck on the lips. Resisting the urge, he sensed it would be dangerous, too inflammatory to allow. Not that any of this was very wise. The urge to crush her mouth beneath his, to plunder hers softly, roughly, was a craving he had to ignore.

If he couldn’t taste, he had to touch, but the tease of his fingertips wandering places they shouldn’t failed to sate the desire for more. Cordelia might be just drunk enough not to care that he was the one turning her on. Leaning into his touch, she moaned softly as his thumbs skirted the curves of her breasts, telltale arousal evidenced in her response, arching into him for more. Wanting to palm her breasts, imagining their full weight in his hands, exposing them to his view, to his mouth, Angel’s heavy groan signaled his determination to let go just enough to enjoy it.

Insane though it might be he needed Cordelia to know he was still capable of feeling and not some emotionless eunuch. This wasn’t the time for it. Not when she was still so buzzed she would probably never remember it in the morning.

Didn’t matter, he convinced himself, riding the edge of lust like a tightrope. Now was all that mattered.

Moving together, they swayed to the pulse of the music. His hands skimmed her waist, roving down to narrow the space between them without restricting her movements. Innocence dance moves edged toward erotic in the wanton way her body followed the to and fro of his, soft curves brushing against hard angles.

Desire coiled through him, but Angel still had a shred of self-control. Not much. Just enough to remember that Cordelia was not entirely in her own right mind, and that taking this further might cause him to lose his.

Closer.

Cordelia nuzzled his neck, kissed the sensitive spot where his neck met his jaw, her lips hot against his skin. He felt a growl rise up in his chest wanting her teeth on him, too.

Angel could not seem to get close enough despite the contact. Sweeping his hands beneath her skirt, he filled both palms with her luscious round cheeks noting the lacy fringe of tiny panties brushing against his fingers. With a swift turn toward the closest wall, he pressed her up against it. A jolt of lust unfurled itself as her legs came up to encircle his hips pressing her against the thick bulge in his trousers.

This was beyond dangerous. The rational part of his brain acknowledged that much, but he wanted to fulfill the throaty plea Cordelia made against his cheek, “I want—” Words failed her as Angel’s hips thrust forward, his head nuzzled between her neck and shoulder as he rubbed his erection against the hot core of her body. Her panties were damp with arousal as she ground against his hard rod.

Wet for him, he acknowledged smugly, wanting a taste, and so much more. Angel imagined her tightness as he moved inside her, their bodies naked, sweaty, coming together again and again. Fuck, his thoughts echoed in complaint lecturing himself not to think about it, but it was precisely the right word.

This was Cordelia. Cordelia. Insanity. What was he doing? Yet, he could not stop now, not without giving her something, and maybe getting a smidgen of pleasure too. What was so wrong with that? She clutched his body close. Hot breath on his skin as her voice turned throaty with incoherent pleas.

The music had changed long ago. Another song blared from the stereo, but they moved to their own beat as Angel kept up an untiring momentum of grinds and thrusts, teasing rubs and hard bangs riding Cordelia with a frenetic rhythm that kept her on the edge, building up until she begged him for release.

Cordelia might have gone out tonight planning to have fun, hoping to get laid, but she’d come home to a cursed vampire who suddenly felt the need to fill the lonely, empty place inside him with the girl next door. There was no illusion of love. Cordelia did not love him. Not any more than he loved her. Sure, he cared. The thought that someone else might be here in his place made him lick at her salty skin and drag his blunt teeth against her throat feeling more possessive than he thought possible.

That idea alone should have forced this to a halt, but he could not stop now. He wanted to see what she looked like when she was not in complete control, which was ironic because he needed to maintain his. This was just a dance and he was giving it to her.

“Come on,” Angel panted against her ear enjoying the passionate way she moved against him. Any second now he was going to lose it. “That’s it, Cordy. Come for me.”

Flushed skin, eyes clenched closed, mouth open, her heartbeat drumming in his ear. God, she was beautiful, so damned beautiful and she deserved much more than this, something she probably would not even remember in the morning. Though he wanted to reach down between them to slip his fingers inside her tight heat and stroke the sensitive little nub that would bring her instant relief, it was safer this way, fewer temptations.

Cordelia’s fingernails curled into his shoulders. Lusty little mewls sounded in his ear, her breath hot against it. He wanted to watch as she came, pulling back just enough to see her clench her eyes closed, her mouth forming a soft O as her body tensed with cresting pleasure. A short, piercing scream emerged as her orgasm hit hard— just before she passed out in Angel’s arms.

Nearing his own release, he bucked against her twice before realizing something was wrong. “Cordelia?” Slack against him, she nearly caused him to lose his balance. Sliding a hand under her ass, he held her up securing her safely against him.

Leaning into her for a moment, he closed his eyes, feeling the insistent pressure of his stiff cock and the painful ache in his balls. An expletive jerked from his throat as he realized that he was not going to get relief anytime soon. He groaned out of frustration, and let out a gruff, self-derisive laugh. No doubt, he deserved this for taking advantage of a drunken friend because his ego got in the way.

Dancing? Not exactly the waltz. Responding to her challenge was not supposed turn out this way.

That music was dangerous. Someone should check it for subliminal messages.

Blaming the music was the easy way out. Guilt was already rearing its ugly, but familiar head. He had no explanation for his own behavior. Yes, he was lonely, and apparently more than a little jealous of the idea that she could sate her desires with any stranger she wanted. That did not change the fact that Cordelia was off limits.

She was here to make a difference, to help him with his mission, and needed him to provide her with a job and a salary. He was her boss. Her friend. He had no idea how to get out of this one. Stolen moments of pleasure were something he could not afford, especially if it endangered people that he cared about.

Gently, he pulled back so that he could scoop her up into his arms. Carrying her through to the bedroom, Angel lay her down on top of the coverlet. He watched her breathe noting the rise and fall of her chest to be easy and without distress. The least he could do was cover her with a blanket, but he realized that she was still wearing her snug little black dress and sexy shoes.

Since he was already going to catch hell in the morning, Angel decided that he could not just leave her like that. At the very least, he should take off her shoes. They were strappy little high-heeled sandals, black like her dress. The little buckle was pretty straightforward, though small for his fingers to manipulate. He slid her shoe off, placing it carefully on the bed, and gently laid her foot down before reaching for the other. Her legs were smooth as silk as his fingers drifted down her calf toward her ankle, and he tried not to notice because he felt guilty enough about what he had already done that anything more when she was completely out of it would be unconscionable.

Angel carried her shoes back over to her closet. Considering that their business had not been up and running that long Cordelia’s wardrobe had expanded significantly. It was not difficult to guess why she could not afford a better apartment. There were only two other dresses, one of which he had seen the night they met at that party, and again when he rescued her from Russell Winters. She would not want to ruin this dress by sleeping in it all night, but he couldn’t risk taking anything else off. He doubted there were any layers underneath besides those lacy panties.

He wanted to hook his fingers into the edge of her panties and slide them down the length of her legs. Pocket them. Save them for hard times. Like now. He was still hard and they would be soft and silky rubbing up and down his engorged length, as he pretended she was the one fisting him tight, spreading her scent across his skin.

He had already been to hell and back. Denying himself even a few perverse pleasures was not going to change a damn thing. Still, he ignored the urgings of his body and thought about Cordelia instead. She deserved a friend at a time like this, and he was being a lecherous ass. Although he had not wanted her here in this apartment, he hoped this did not drive her completely out of his life because she seemed to be the one bright light in it at the moment.

Cordelia normally had a very strong sense of self-preservation, and this might be enough to cause her to run screaming. Even worse, she might make a phone call to Sunnydale. Imagining the content of that conversation made Angel go cold and suddenly the erection problem no longer seemed to be an issue.

Taking a folded throw blanket from a nearby chair, Angel gently covered Cordelia up. She stirred at his touch, muttering softly, her eyelids heavy. “Still here?”

“Yes.”

A little smile played across her mouth, her eyes drifting closed, and her words barely audible as natural sleep started to pull her into its waiting arms, “Kiss me goodnight, Jude.”

What?

Hit by a jealous burst, Angel decided he did not like this Jude Law person. Not one bit. He definitely didn’t like the idea Cordelia wanted his kisses. Not after tonight. Angel pressed his hands into the bed on either side of her, leaned close, watched her drift to sleep, and resisted the urge to wake her with the kind of kiss her dreamboat Jude could never muster if he lived to be one hundred.

Several minutes passed as he thought about it and the consequences of such an action, and his plan to avoid any such entanglements again. Determined to start now, Angel left immediately securing her door on the way out.


All About Jude

“Don’t get all huffy about it,” Cordelia did not see why Angel was making such a big deal about such a little thing. “Neighbors borrow stuff all of the time.”

Geez, he was in a mood today. If anyone had the right to be grumpy, it would be her. Hangovers sucked. This was not the first time since coming to L.A. that Cordelia had more to drink than she should. Hollywood parties did not exactly require the use of her fake I.D. and getting buzzed made it easier to forget that she was there on her own. There was never a shortage of men to dance with and it was fun, sexy, exhilarating.

Even with her senses a little fuzzy, Cordelia could read them like a book. Most of them thought they had hit the jackpot. Couldn’t blame them for that, hello, but they were wrong. Besides, she most definitely had a type and they all failed to make the cut even if they could dance. No stranger to getting out of unwanted entanglements, anyone who stepped a little too far into her personal bubble was likely to regret it.

Something was different about last night. There was lots of dancing. Drinking. Having of fun. Cordelia couldn’t quite remember anything after getting off the bus. The rest was pretty hazy. Music. Dancing. Hot dreams. Sexy lover. Waking up this morning still wearing her black dress from the night before Cordelia had no idea how she had gotten into bed.

“We discussed that you should ask.”

“No we didn’t. You told me to ask. I decided not to wake a sleeping vampire. Which one makes more sense to you?”

Angel had no response, which meant he did not want to admit that he was wrong. It was not like she borrowed his favorite coat or his broadsword.

“I found this beautiful old trunk collecting dust in the corner of the basement. You obviously don’t need it, so I thought I would put it to good use until I can get some more furniture. It looks antique, very classy.”

Angel walked around the trunk and sat down on Dr Folger’s tangerine colored couch. Comfortable enough, if verging on the tacky side, it was bright and cheerful. Cordelia could work with that.

“That trunk is an antique. Probably older than I am.”

“Wow! That’s really old.”

Angel’s look soured. “Thanks, Cordelia.”

Kneeling down on the living room rug, Cordelia ran her hands across the smooth wooden surface reassessing the wooden trunk. Now that she had cleaned away the cobwebs and rubbed it with orange oil, it looked almost new. “Antiques can be good investments. You’ve got a lot of stuff for someone who lived on the streets—according to what Doyle told me.”

“Not so much on the streets as living off them. Rats, stray cats, anything not human,” he confessed in a tone suggesting he did not want to say much more about it. “I kept a place here in the city for decades until moving to Sunnydale.”

“Oh. I was hoping for long-term storage. Y’know, a few Ming vases or Van Goghs gathering dust you might have forgotten about.”

Angel’s blackened mood seemed to fade away. Mildly amused by her hopeful tone, he asked, “What else did Doyle tell you?”

“Nothing I didn’t already know; that first vision from the Powers That Be. How he got you involved with the mission.”

Weirdly, Angel looked almost relieved, as if he expected Doyle would reveal something new. Cordelia put that on her mental list of things to ask the next time Doyle cornered her for one of his little chats. He was sweet and attentive in that goofy way that reminded her of Xander when they first started dating.

“About the trunk . . .” Cordelia redirected the conversation back to where she wanted it. She had hoped that he might let her keep it, but realizing that it was probably worth something she suggested that she try to get it appraised. “We could use new filing cabinets for the office and some other necessities. Maybe a video camera so we cou—”

“It belonged to Darla,” he cut in now staring at the trunk as if it brought back memories he would rather leave buried.

“Darla? Oh, her. The one who . . .”

“Made me a vampire.”

“Okay, then,” Cordelia wanted to change the subject before Broody McBroodsalot sank into another gloomy depression. Bringing up former blonde girlfriends probably wasn’t the safest of subjects and she had mentioned two in the last couple of minutes. “Let’s just forget about this old thing.”

Angel readily agreed. “Probably for the best.” He did not want her to sell it, which made her wonder if it was just another example of his need to hoard everything he ever owned or if the reason had to do with its former owner.

“So…” Cordelia started getting curious and forgot about her reason for trying to drop the subject. The trunk was not empty. It had taken quite an effort to drag it from the back of his apartment into hers. “What’s inside?”

He sat back, his arms stretched out on either side of him along the back of the couch, one ankle hooked over his knee, looking more relaxed than she might have expected. Sounding resigned, he nodded a go-ahead. “Open it.” Either he knew exactly what was in there or he figured she was going to find out eventually.

Moving around to his side of the couch she knelt down next to him to open the box. “I thought it was locked.” It had a small knob that turned and sank into the surface of the chest like a puzzle box. The lid opened smoothly revealing layers upon layers of items organized in a style that could only be recognized by someone who had been in Angel’s closet. The trunk and its contents might have belonged to Darla, but he had been through it on more than one occasion.

Now she felt like an intruder delving through private stuff, but he had given his permission. Curiosity won over. There was a box of letters tied up in worn red ribbons their color quite faded. The letters had no envelopes, but were written on delicate folded paper once closed by wax seals. “Love letters from Angelus?”

Evading a straight answer, Angel told her, “Darla had quite a taste for collecting suitors.”

Cordelia glanced up at him trying to figure out what he was trying to hide. One scenario came to mind. “They weren’t just would-be-lovers,” she guessed and dropped the letters back in the box. “They became her victims. These are trophies.”

A hint of fear crossed Angel’s face as his guard slipped and a sinking feeling bottomed out inside her. Though he said nothing, she managed to get the gist of it all the same. “Oh. Her lovers. Your victims.”

He did not deny it. “I— Angelus didn’t like it when other men thought they could have what was mine—his.”

Turning at an angle, she placed a hand on his knee urging him to remember, “The past is the past, Angel. You don’t have to talk about yourself in the third person.”

A pained expression settled into a frown. “Sometimes it’s better that way.”

“I guess that explains it, though,” Cordelia let out a deep sigh, now propping her chin in her hand as she leaned against the couch.

Suspicious, Angel asked, “What?”

“Why you won’t let me borrow your stuff. You’re the possessive type. You don’t like people touching what’s yours.”

A grunt of acknowledgement sounded. “Not without permission.”

Cordelia drummed her fingers against her cheek as she thought about what he said. “So that applies to grappling hooks, too, I suppose.”

“That one?” Angel pointed toward the corner of the room where she was temporarily using his smallest hook as a hanger for her Boston fern.

Geez, he did not miss a thing.

This time he looked more amused than angry, so she turned back trunk to continue exploring its contents. The center section seemed to be clothing wrapped up in protective fabrics and tied up with silk bows. A dozen jewel tone and pastel scarves lined the first package. Layers of beautiful things made Cordelia sigh at the memory of her walk-in-closet with its built-in-shoe racks and the never-ending shopping sprees that kept it full of designer dresses and shoes.

Letting her fingers slide over the folds of a silk dress admiring the intricate stitching and beadwork, Cordelia begrudgingly admitted that Darla had good taste. “Back in the day I bet this was spectacular, but I’m glad that I was born now instead of then. I just don’t see myself as a corset girl. Too much trouble getting in and out of them.”

Dead silence fell between them as Cordelia realized what she had said and one thought popped up.That’s what your lover is for. It was far too easy to imagine Angel standing behind her, his deft fingers working the stays, his actions pulling her against the hard length of his body.

Except Angel was probably thinking about Darla, about their torrid past, and not about her at all, which made that little fantasy shrivel up like a dried prune in the hot sun. Fine. She should not be thinking about that stuff anyway, not with Angel playing a role. That was all kinds of wrong despite the fact that it made her hot to think about having his hands on her.

Muttering to herself, “Jude is so not around when I need him,” she covered up the dress and tied the little bow with fingers that were suddenly shaky.

“Jude!”

“What? Oh.” Cordelia had no intention of discussing her fantasy life with her boss, friend and neighbor though he might be, especially since Angel kept creeping back into it.

“You mentioned him last night,” Angel reminded causing Cordelia to rack her brain for any memory of having a conversation with him after getting home from the club.

The night was a blur for the most part. “I did—mention Jude Law? Forget whatever I said. Um, what did I say?”

Angel squirmed in his seat before answering. “Something about him walking you home.”

“Oh, hahahaha! I thought I might have said something about jumping his bones.” Cordelia clapped a hand over her mouth, eyes wide as she stared up at Angel whose expression was growing thunderous each passing second. She was giggling behind her hand because Angel clearly had no clue who was starring in her little fantasies, or that they were fantasies at all.

He planted both feet on the ground next to her, leaning forward so that his elbows rested against his knees, and steepled his fingers across his mouth as if to hold back whatever he was going to say. Then asked her anyway, “When do I get to meet this new boyfriend of yours?”

Lowering her hand, Cordelia decided she did not like his tone. “Let’s say never! Cut that crap out right now. I am not Darla and you’re not my—well, whatever—father, big brother, or boyfr—.”

Angel launched himself to his feet now towering over her. “No, I’m not. I’m your friend,” he barked the words with such intensity it seemed to startle both of them. “Los Angeles isn’t Sunnydale. The underbelly of this city is pervasive. Demons. Men. They are all tangled up in a dangerous web, and you have already been caught up in it once. Next time you might not get so lucky.”

“What exactly are you saying, Angel, that I should bring home every guy I want to date for the Angel stamp of approval? Pfft! Or better yet, just hole up in my apartment, in the dark, like you? Never go out? Live like a nun? You can get that craptastic idea out of your head right now.”

Just as she made a move to stand up, Angel’s big hand closed around her arm tugging her to her feet so fast that she crashed into him. Spitting with anger, Cordelia squirmed until he gave her some breathing room, enough so that the rise and fall of her chest no longer heaved into his. Given an inch she shoved her hands into the space between them and pushed hard at his chest, but she might has well have been trying to move a wall.

“Stop that,” Angel grabbed her hands and held them behind her. His voice softened as he chastened her, “You’ll hurt yourself.”

“You’re the one hurting me, dumbass.” Cordelia felt him let go the instant the accusation was out of her mouth. She blew off the apology the instant he said sorry. He was not sorry. She knew it. Not unless she ended up with a bruise and then he would probably brood about it for a week.

Cordelia walked away from, stretched her arms as if testing their freedom, and paced back again to stop at the edge of the open trunk. “This is ridiculous! We are arguing about a relationship that does not even exist. Jude is an actor.”

Genuinely confused, with a right to be, Angel brought up her acting class. “Someone you met there? You said that you go clubbing with the group. He was there last night dancing with you.”

“Not exactly.” Embarrassed about the whole argument, Cordelia confessed that there was not much she could remember about last night, but she could guarantee that Jude Law was not involved. “He’s a famous actor, not my date, or my boyfriend. We’ve never met. He’s handsome and has gorgeous eyes and that adorable British accent. What’s not to like?”

She felt certain that Jude Law had just dropped off her fantasy roster. How could she ever look at a picture of him again without thinking about the awkwardness of this conversation? “Don’t you dare make fun of me!” She checked to see if he was doing that subtle smirk thing that meant he was probably inwardly laughing his ass off.

“I’m not.” For a moment she thought that was all the response she was going to get until Angel added gruffly, “Fantasies are all I’ve got at the moment, Cordelia. I would never laugh about yours.”

“Oh. I didn’t think about your lack of a love life, but you’re right. Yours is much more depressing. There has to be a way around that whole curse thingy, a loophole to the loophole. You’ll figure it out someday,” Cordelia consolingly patted his shoulder.

“Thanks.”

“No problem,” she shrugged deciding that they needed to put this topic behind them. “Jude is forgotten. Erased. You have never heard the name. Got it?”

Angel said nothing, but his mouth quirked just a bit.


Green-Eyed Monster

“This is the tiny problem in the sewer?” Angel hardly needed to call Doyle’s attention to the humongous demon protruding through the damaged ceiling. Broken bricks littered the floor having fallen from the opening above where its king-sized leathery underbelly lay exposed.

Doyle tried to equate what he was seeing with the images from his vision. “My sense of scale might have been off a bit. It really didn’t look that b—”

Bricks and mortar pulverized instantly as three gigantic tentacles burst through from different points on the tunnel walls sending them into defensive mode. Doyle screeched and plastered his thin body against the closest wall while keeping a tight grip on the beer he was still carrying around. This was supposed to be a quick little mission, just a good excuse to stretch his legs and have a little half-demon to vampire chat with Angel about their favorite Girl Friday.

“I’ll keep it busy,” Angel called out as he dodged the closest tentacle with athletic ease. Executing a roll under another before bounding back to his feet, he ordered, “Head back to my place. Grab my sword.”

Doyle was all for getting out of there, but . . . “Easier said than done.” He was trapped between two writhing seven-foot long tentacles and did not exactly have the skill to leapfrog over the things much less with the same pizzazz. “Next time remind me not to tag along.”

“Fine by me,” Angel let out a low grunt and took a stab at the beast with a dagger, the only weapon he thought necessary after Doyle’s faulty description. The creature seemed to sense the danger and moved the tentacle out of the way. “Fewer lectures.”

“Friendly advice,” Doyle corrected as he crouched low hoping to sneak past, but the beast still had him pinned back as if it knew his position exactly.

Vampiric speed and dexterity allowed Angel to keep up with the beast’s movements using slicing arcs rather than stabs. Even with Angel’s strength behind the blows, they did only superficial damage cutting through the tough, leathery skin to the flesh below enraging it into letting out a high-pitched wail that stopped them both in their tracks.

The vision headaches seemed more like a tickle compared to the painful shriek. Instinctively, Doyle lifted his hands to cover his ears trying to block out the sound that pierced through them like shards of glass. Angel was equally incapacitated, hands clapped across his ears, his balance suddenly unsteady as he stutter-stepped back.

“Could you kill that thing a little more quietly?” he quipped despite feeling drained of energy. “Blasted thing made me drop my beer.”

Angel sent him a wry stare before jumping back into the fight this time without the dagger that had dropped to the ground. Well, it seemed this might take a while and since he was trapped and Angel obviously wasn’t going anywhere this was just as good a time as any to finish that little chat. “Cordelia called me this morn—”

At the mention of her name Angel paused mid bob and weave to question, “Why?”

“To talk. Friends do that sort of thing,” Doyle quirked his brow meaningfully. “Occasionally we gripe about the boss. Behind you!” Just before the sneaky tentacle could knock him over the head Angel jerked out of the way. “That was a close one.”

Angel tried something different by pounding at the tentacle with his fists, but it only seemed to swat back at him as if the heavy punches were an annoyance. So Doyle got back to telling him about the phone call putting his own dramatic twist on the news. “Y’see, our girl needed to share her tale of woe.”

“What tale of woe?” Angel stopped mid punch as he realized Cordelia had been upset about something. “The auditions,” he grasped onto the idea. Mixed emotions were evident as he concluded, “They turned her down.” Angel’s smug expression suggested that was the outcome he wanted, but it faded quickly as worry took over along with confusion as to why he was the last to know. “She could’ve told me.”

“Sorry to disappoint you,” he delivered the bad news while Angel went back to bobbing and weaving around the tentacle that was trying to grab onto him, “but her auditions are today. By the way she’s pissed off that you forgot to wish her luck.”

That date had been circled on her calendar in red ink. “That explains it.” The proverbial light bulb flickered on as Angel elbowed the creature as it closed in. “There was a note on the fridge. ‘Make plans for tonight.’”

Doyle groaned. “So go on. Tell me.” Sucking in a deep breath, he held it waiting for Angel to describe the fancy candlelight dinner or night on the town he set up. “What’s the plan?”

Throwing another elbow kept the tentacle momentarily at bay. “Tackle the weapons cabinet. Clean and sharpen. Get organized. Good plan.” Or so he had thought.

Snorting at the idea, Doyle nearly stepped into the demon’s path. He leapt back to the safety of the wall. “What happened to offering a girl dinner before asking her to polish your sword?”

The crass joke lacing the question was automatic as was Angel’s defensive response, “I find it relaxing,” which completely avoided the point.

After listening to Cordelia’s complaints this morning Doyle felt sideswiped by the notion that Angel’s behavior was something more than just protective concern. Cordelia felt smothered by it and complained accordingly. He listened because it was hard to get a word in edgewise.

Angel looked like he had no clue. “What’s wrong with the weapons cabinet?”

“Nothing if your girl happens to be a Slayer.”

“My g—”

Taking instant advantage over the distracted vampire the demon sideswiped Angel with enough force to send him flying. Doyle ducked out of the way as he crashed into the brick wall sliding down onto the damp, sticky floor. His leather coat provided a bit of protection, but there were scrapes across his cheek and hands where the broken brick dug into his flesh.

Doyle crouched down beside him. “That looked painful. What I have to say won’t feel any better.” The tight-jawed glare made him gulp, but he pressed on. “Cordelia needs some normal in her life, just like you need a little normal in yours.”

The gruff response, “I know that,” only suggested that Angel was on the wrong track. “I want her to have that. It’s just . . .”

The demon made its presence known again with another roar, this one lower-pitched, and more annoying than painful. Angel picked up the broken beer bottle by the neck and launched it at the tentacle blocking the tunnel leading back to his place. The beast curled the tentacle up in an effort to remove the glass shards.

Taking the opening he was given, Doyle slipped through to the other side. “I get it, Angel. You’re a vampire. You’ve got this whole possessive side that doesn’t like to let go.”

“It’s your fault,” Angel said just before leaping dexterously onto a moving tentacle trying to squeeze the beast into submission. The bulk of its body was out of reach, but it obviously was not going down without a fight.

Taken aback at the gruff accusation, Doyle held up his hands gesturing his innocence, “And what did I do might I ask? I’m not the broody medieval guy with the nanny complex.”

Even though Angel was being whipped back and forth as the demon tried to shake him loose, he still heard him quoting Cordelia’s morning phone call. “She said that?” He plopped to the ground face first only to be grabbed by the leg and held aloft. Blood dripped across his forehead.

Flinching at the sight, Doyle stepped up to help, but was smacked down the moment he made a move. The huge grey tentacle tracked him as he scrambled back to his feet swaying back and forth in the same direction. “I think I should go get that sword.”

Before he could make a move Angel had already flexed his body up to pry himself loose. He fell, but landed in a panther-like crouch on all fours quickly rebounding to his feet. Striding over, Angel batted the tentacle out of the way, grabbed Doyle by the leather collar of his jacket and dragged him back into the middle of the tunnel. They seemed to be at the one point where neither tentacle could reach them.

“The sword can wait,” snapped Angel who released his hold yet stood so close that Doyle had to crane his neck up. Quite intimidating from that angle it gave him a pretty good idea how those goons felt when Angel got them off his case.

“Don’t kill the messenger.”

“Cordelia has never had a problem telling me anything. Why start now?”

“Telling you wasn’t exactly her idea. I thought it might earn me a few points if I got you to lighten up on the whole overprotective routine.”

“Points?”

“Oh, you know . . .”

Angel looked like he knew exactly what Doyle was hinting at, but growled, “No,” just so he could make him say the words.

“So that I could get in her good graces before asking her out,” Doyle clarified with a grin.

Completely ignoring the thrashing demon behind him Angel stared down at Doyle with such intensity that he wondered if the vampire had suddenly changed targets. There was a war raging behind that brooding forehead. The tight-lipped expression had nothing to do with his natural stoicism or with the apparently false impression that Angel was just looking out for Cordelia like any caring boss, family friend or overprotective big brother. No, it looked a lot more like jealous rage.

Recoiling back a bit from the nasty aura, Doyle was taken aback. “What’s this now? We had this conversation. You told me to ask her out.” Flummoxed, he tried to recall Angel’s exact words that day.

“Did you?”

“Well, no. I was working up to it.” The news did not seem to ease any tension. Maybe there was more going on than met the eye. “Just how long has this been going on? First you don’t want her living anywhere near you and now you’re acting like you’ve got some kind of claim.” Doyle’s eyes widened. “Do you? I thought you didn’t mind if I—”

Pressing a hand against Doyle’s chest he pushed him back an inch until he was crowded up against the brick wall. “Shut up, Doyle.” It was a warning, not a plea for silence. “You’re the one who moved her into my place. Blame yourself if I feel…protective. Cordelia is not my mate, my girlfriend, or my pet, and there’s no official claim to stop you.”

Doyle took the fact that his head was still attached to his shoulders as a good sign. “So this friendly chat is your way of giving me the green light?”

Proceed with caution was more like it. “Interpret it any way you want. But just for the record . . .I mind.”

“Mind what?” Cordelia asked as she approached from the far end of the tunnel with Angel’s broadsword slung over one shoulder. “I’m the one who minds having to carry this thing all the way down here. It’s super heavy.”

The moment Angel released him Doyle straightened up and brushed off his jacket. “Good timing. I’d ask how you knew we needed it, but—,” the deafening roar of the demon cut him off.

“Yeah, these tunnels echo,” Cordelia cringed at the noise. Angel was instantly at her side shielding her from the swiping tentacle that honed in on the newcomer. He took the sword, stared down at her for a moment silently questioning, Doyle knew, whether or not their echoing voices had given away the content of the conversation.

With the right weapon in hand Angel dealt with the demon in a matter of moments. Evading the thrashing tentacles, he made his way to a spot on the floor directly beneath the creature’s chest. Fast and true, he thrust the sword directly into its heart. Its death knell accompanied the uneven thump of its lifeless tentacles hitting the walls and floor.

“Well that’s some carcass for City Public Service to deal with.” Doyle imagined the trouble they would have getting rid of it. Someone had to be assigned to that sort of thing otherwise there would be a whole lot more enlightened people out there when it came to demon kind.

Cordelia laughed and hugged him tight. Something Doyle reminded himself was usually reserved for the big guy. “You’re a funny guy.”

Doyle noticed that Angel wasn’t exactly amused by the way Cordelia kept her hands on him, even it if was just to wipe off the brick dust.

“I couldn’t wait to tell you!” Cordelia beamed happily as she told him about her audition. “I did it. I’m in.”

No matter that there was a dead carcass in the background and an undead vampire looking on, Doyle grabbed her into a hug and swung her around. “That’s fantastic, princess. I knew you’d do well.”

“I did!” A delighted squeal sounded, but before Doyle could get too comfortable about having her in his arms Cordelia practically bounded out of them as Angel walked up beside them. She stopped short of hugging him too, confusion written on her face, and the excitement dimming in her eyes.

Hands resting on the leather lapels of his jacket, Cordelia reminded Angel, “My audition was today. I’ve got the part. The director said I was perfect. Isn’t that great?”

As if all of his energy had drained away during the fight, Angel’s words sounded lifelessly hollow. “Yes. Great. Congratulations.” Cordelia’s smile faded completely making Doyle want to beat some sense into the vampire. He could be a cold hearted bastard at times.

Angel handed Cordelia the broadsword. Her arms sagged under the weight. “I’ve done my part here tonight. You two can clean up.”

“Not exactly the way I planned to celebrate,” Cordelia called out after Angel who kept walking down the tunnel without a backward glance. “Go figure. Guess I can always count on Broody for a good buzz kill.”

Thinking about Angel’s response, Doyle realized there was more to it. “You didn’t tell him that this was just a short term run, did you? Four weekend matinees, I think you said. He probably thinks you plan to quit.”

Cordelia did not deny it. “This could be my lucky break. Fame and fortune could be right around the corner.”

Doyle wanted her move toward the center of the tunnel stepping gingerly over a tentacle and avoiding the congealing pool of blood. She picked up the dagger that Angel had dropped during the melee. “So when are you planning to tell him that his favorite Girl Friday isn’t handing in her letter of resignation just yet?”

“We’ll see,” she laughed conspiratorially. “Maybe I can convince him to give me a raise to stay?”

“That’s not exactly fair play,” Doyle thought he might be rubbing off a bit.

Cordelia only rolled her eyes. “Be serious. Pfft! Like we can afford that right now.”

“What’s this for?” Doyle asked as she handed over the dagger.

Nodding in the direction of the dead demon, Cordelia let out a long sigh. “Welcome to the Angel Investigations Clean Up Crew. Demon Dismemberment 101 brought to you courtesy of the high school at the Hellmouth.”

Healing Hands

Posted June 20, 2015 by califi in Complete

Friends & Neighbors   Leave a comment

Lysa ficpic
Title: Friends & Neighbors
Author: Lysa Whitmore
Email:
lysawhitmore@aol.com
Rating:
R to NC-17
Category:
Smutty Fluffy Dramedy
Content:
C/A and C/A/D Friendship
Summary:
Cordelia’s new apartment is a little too close for Angel’s sanity.
Timeline:
Some events from the AtS Season 1 episode Room w/a Vu take place before In the Dark.
Disclaimer:
These characters are not mine. I just invited them over for a bit of naughty fun.
Distribution: Darkness & Daylight, Angel’s Archive, Go Team, Just Fic.
Feedback:
Comments and ConCrit welcome. Feedback is good for my muse.


The Road to Hell.

Suffocating dread closed in at Doyle’s news. Angel bolted out of his chair as if to escape it, denial warding off the rush of panic. Not this. Not Cordelia. Yet each syllable carried the sting of truth. A slow rage bubbled up as he waited for a punch line that never came. It rippled across his face for an instant, eyes turning tawny and his fangs itching for release as he teetered on the cusp of change instinctively wanting to kill the messenger.

Reining it back in Angel’s words cracked like thunder, “You found Cordelia an apartment in this building?”

Doyle shrank away from the imposing figure looming a little too close for comfort. Letting out a shaky chortle, “Whoa there! Dial it down a notch, boyo,” he pleaded with Angel to calm down and keep an open mind. “I thought you’d be pleased.”

Incensed was more like it.

A little crazed at the notion, maybe.

Floored that Doyle would think moving Cordelia in on a permanent basis was a good idea. All Angel could do was let out a frustrated growl. It wasn’t as if it was a large apartment complex where she would live ten floors away. There was only one possible space in the building.

Jabbing a finger toward the old sliding storage door that served to separate his converted basement apartment from the adjacent one, he asked anyway, “Next door?”

Not waiting for a response, Angel strode straight into the kitchen, opened the fridge and stared down at the fresh pint of blood on the top shelf looking like a man who needed something harder to drink. No doubt a sign that this nightmare of an idea wasn’t going to get any easier. The fridge jolted at the force he used slamming it shut. Better the door than Doyle’s head, he supposed, pressing his hands flat against the cool surface and pausing for the precious seconds he needed to find some control.

The urge to knock some sense into his friend was more than just a fleeting feeling, but he managed to contain it.

“Getting Cordelia her own place was the whole point of sending you two apartment hunting,” Angel reminded through gritted teeth slowly simmering down to the point that he could talk about it. She had been driving him insane ever since she showed up, suitcases in hand, expecting sanctuary from the bug invasion at her place across town.

Steamrolled into letting her stay Angel figured he could handle the presence of one nineteen-year old woman in his domain. Assuming that it had to be much simpler than living with Darla and Drusilla, he hadn’t bothered to try to say no— even if he could have gotten a word in edgewise to protest. He predicted there would be none of their bickering, jealousy, feminine wiles or the added complication of sex.

Easy.

A couple days of chaos, he had figured quite wrongly, and it would be over.

What the hell had he been thinking? This was Cordelia Chase!

The truth was he had forgotten what it was like not to live alone, much less with a human. She was distracting in ways that shattered his routine. The private time spent in the dark shadows of his room alone with his thoughts contemplating past sins and a multitude of regret was something he needed. Cordelia called it brooding as if she did not understand the merits of quiet introspection. Ultimately, it was peaceful, calming, something that kept him centered.

He was vampire enough to admit that he had baggage. No matter that Cordelia thought he could snap out of it and just live a little, as she put it, that wasn’t something he was ready or willing to let go. The past haunted him constantly, but that was at the core of this curse that gave him a soul. He cared and the memory of what he had done was not easily erased. Yes, he brooded. About death, life, the hopelessness of love, and all of the things now lost to him forever.

Yet it was impossible to think straight with Cordelia interrupting the steady course of his daily routine. It wasn’t that she was an incessant chatterbox, but she was insatiably curious often bluntly asking questions that stirred up subjects he would prefer to ignore. When confronted with his silence or curt responses she usually got the hint and quickly diverted to another more Cordelia-centric topic about fame, fortune or fashion. Half the time he had no idea who or what she was talking about.

Maybe more than half…

Admittedly, he enjoyed watching her wax on about things that piqued her interest because it was impossible not to relish the warmth of her smile or sparkling eyes, but that too was a distraction he could not afford. Not to mention that in its own twisted way spending time with Cordelia felt like a betrayal of Buffy.

Angel needed his apartment back to its gloomy, solitary, silent state. Now it seemed like that was going to be impossible. Calmer now, yet still unhappy, he wanted some answers. “Doyle, I thought I made myself clear on the matter.”

“Clear as mud. Apartment, you said. Fine, said I. Trust me, that was the agreed upon plan and I was all for it,” Doyle claimed pulling out a chair from the kitchen table and taking a seat. Angel did not join him. “Give me a little credit for looking out for our girl. I just want to see her safe.”

A gruff sound merged from Angel’s throat. “Here? With me.”

“Next door,” Doyle emphasized guilelessly as if that changed anything. “World of difference.”

Angel thought the seer’s first priority would be to get Cordelia as far away as possible. Doyle was half in love with her despite their short acquaintance and for some odd reason assumed that Angel’s feelings leaned in her direction, too. Crazy. A loud-mouthed, annoying, pain-in-the-ass hid behind that bright smile. Well, yes, she was beautiful, certainly on the surface. Tempting even for someone practiced at avoiding such distractions. If you could only turn the volume down, or possibly keep her tied up, his thoughts twisted darkly.

He had known countless beautiful women, intensely, all too briefly. None stirred him up the way Cordelia could with just a few snarky words. Those kinds of feelings were forbidden now, dangerous. Besides, the heartache of leaving Buffy still felt like a fresh wound. Doyle tried to encourage him to live in the present, but he understood now, after some convincing, that Cordelia was just a friend from Sunnydale.

Only a month had gone by since Angel met Cordelia again and his world was already topsy-turvy. He had come to Los Angeles to find himself, leaving behind Sunnydale and everything that reminded him of Buffy Summers. Yet here she was in his city, Queen C herself, and having fallen far off the pedestal she reigned just a short time ago.

There was something different about her. Not just her circumstances. Hope. Something she never needed before because she had it all. Though she was focused on her ‘inevitable stardom’ there was more to it, a deeper need to stay connected to something real during the pursuit of those the unrealized dreams. He felt it, too. Knew that need to be a raw wound easily exploited.

Cordelia wasn’t just a random pretty girl on her own in the big city or blissfully unaware of the monster lurking beneath the surface. This one knew him. Trusted him in spite of it. He wanted her safe, too, but moving in on a permanent basis was not the way to do it. “You haven’t really thought this through, Doyle.”

“Oh, I have. Apparently, you’re the lesser evil. I have to agree with that. You have had plenty of chances to take advantage, which makes you stupid, and me grateful, but you are a decent guy for a vampire. This way you’ll be around to keep her safe, and she’ll have her own bed,” quipped Doyle clearly remembering that neither Angel nor Cordelia used the couch.

The arrangement seemed like a sensible plan at the time. Alternating intervals had been Cordelia’s idea. Since she talked him into letting her have the bed in the first place, Angel readily agreed to her concession. He slept during the day. She slept at night. No conflict. “I’ll go halfsies,” she had said making it sound like she was the one sacrificing for the common good. Yet her intoxicating scent lingered on the sheets sometimes still warm from where she had curled up for the night.

“Look Angel,” said Doyle before he could really get into the list of reasons why having Cordelia living next door was a bad idea. “You should have seen some of the places we went. Far worse than that dump she was at before. Trust me. You would not want her living in there. Degenerates living next door. Filthy. Dangerous.”

Frowning, Angel could not argue against that. “L.A. is a big place. There has to be somewhere other than here. Somewhere decent— in a nearby zip code.”

“Apparently not.” The apartments they had looked at were unsuitable, too expensive, or too far off the local bus route. Doyle added, “Until we get more paying clients Cordelia says she can’t afford a car. Unless of course you want to loan her yours during the daytime.”

Angel did not dignify that with a response, especially considering the twinking amusement brightening Doyle’s eyes. Deciding not to argue a lost cause, he took a seat across the table. “Where is she?”

“Finalizing arrangements with that dentist Folger in the next office over. We ran into him on his lunch break. When Cordelia told him that she had been having a difficult time finding an apartment, he was eager to sublet the place downstairs. Doesn’t use it for anything.”

That was why things were normally so quiet. Angel liked it quiet.

The squeaking elevator alerted them to Cordelia’s arrival. “Hi guys! Did you tell him the news, Doyle?”

“Oh, we covered the basics.”

Angel tried not to scowl in response to her beaming smile. She was obviously happy about the plan practically dancing toward them from across the room.

“This is great! I’ll be right here in the building. No getting up early to go to work. With all the bus money I’ll save I can go to a real salon again instead of the local Supercuts.”

A reason for celebration, no doubt, Angel assumed, feeling the need to hole up in his office upstairs just to get away from the gleeful explanation of how quality hair products made all the difference. He sank down onto the edge of the table stretching his legs out in front of him, crossing his arms, and waited out the whirlwind storm that was Cordelia’s thrill ride around the kitchen.

She twirled back around to face him, took a look at his hair, and snorted a laugh. “Pfft! Like I’m telling you something you don’t already know. We have been sharing a bathroom. You might be tight with a buck when it comes to office supplies, but I guess that helps pay for the hair gel.”

Doyle’s chuckle was met with a dark stare that shut him up. Angel didn’t feel sorry about it considering that it was his friend’s fault Cordelia Chase was about to become his neighbor.

“As apartments go, it’s definitely a fixer-upper. Look at the, ah, great things you have done with this place,” she eyed the double-handed axe decorating the wall rather skeptically. “This is so exciting! I can’t wait to move in.”

Cordelia’s smile was infectious. Damn it, he did not want to smile back, but felt his mouth twitching upward at the corners. This was not a happy moment. Not. Happy. Damn it. So, why in hell was he smiling back? Uh, oh. He recognized that particular look. That same smile got her a job, had him crushing bags of whole coffee beans because they didn’t come pre-ground, and suckered him into letting her stay here in the first place.

No. He let the word sound out in his head. Imagined himself putting his foot down. Drawing a proverbial line in the sand with one little syllable. No.

“Why are you two just sitting there? My stuff isn’t going to carry itself.”



Paint, Ink and Eye Candy.

Back in the sixties or fifties or some other long forgotten decade the owners of the street level businesses upstairs had restructured the old storage spaces within the brick building into apartments. In a perfect world, Cordelia Chase would never think twice about moving into a partially furnished basement sublet with no windows, an entry adjoining a parking garage, and a broody vampire living next door.

Still….

Better the vampire you know, she thought, trying to stay focused on the positive like her newest Self-Help book had suggested. Besides, she could not afford to be choosy. The modeling money she had made when she first arrived in L.A. was pretty much gone and since her talent agent—for some bizarre reason that was totally his loss— was no longer taking her calls, she needed other options until she could find the resources to jumpstart her acting career. This new job as an associate of Angel Investigations came along at just the right time even if she did have to create it herself.

Today was Saturday, an official day off where she could devote some time to fixing up the apartment. Cordelia glanced around the living room to confirm that the furniture was completely covered. An interior designer might be totally out of the question, but she could certainly afford a new coat of paint in a color that did not resemble a dingy shade of cement grey.

Having called Doyle to give him a list of supplies to gather, he warned her about the potential for interruptions. “My visions don’t exactly schedule themselves Monday through Friday.”

“Let’s hope no one needs saving until tomorrow,” she quipped. “But if they do or if a paying customer happens to come by I will totally put my plans on hold.”

“Very generous of you.”

“I know, right?”

Now that the living room was ready, she moved into the bedroom to clear out the mess. Cardboard boxes of dental supplies haphazardly covered the top of the mattress. They were light enough to move out of the way without help. She carried them through the sliding door connecting her apartment to Angel’s and piled them up on the kitchen table planning to get him to haul them up the freight elevator.

Cordelia paused at the door on the way back noting that it was kind of an eyesore. Made of rusty old metal it had been left in place rather than walled over. Totally ugly, but convenient, Cordelia was happy it was there. Angel’s apartment had a stairway that led up to the office. She could easily use it instead of going all the way around the building to get to work.

The bed would not budge, so she opted for moving the nightstand out of the way. Much easier, except—, “Oh no!” The lamp on top teetered dangerously. She moved quickly, but missed it crashing into the lampshade. It buckled between her and the wall as the ceramic shell shattered against the dove grey cement. “Ack! Ow!”

“What happened?” Angel’s sudden arrival startled her nearly as much as the fall.

Just what she needed—a witness to this fiasco. Not! Guessing that his bedroom must be on the opposite side of the wall from hers, Cordelia figured he heard her cry out and had charged over for the chivalrous rescue, albeit a late one.

Face planted on the floor, one foot trapped between the bed frame and the mattress, and ass in the air, she had to look ridiculous. “Oh, just doing a little yoga,” she quipped from her awkward position. Yanking her tennis shoe free, Cordelia managed to scramble back to her feet before bothering to look in Angel’s direction.

Concern cracked his voice, “You’re bleeding.” He was at her side almost instantly checking for the source.

Cordelia turned at his touch, preparing to comment that it was not a big deal when she realized that he was not wearing a stitch of clothing. “You’re naked,” she yelped, almost comically trying to look anywhere but down.
She made an intense study of his Adam’s apple while Angel’s hands set her to rights, his fingers plucking at the tiny bits of ceramic caught in her hair and her denim overalls.

The slightest touch was making her tremble and she was pretty certain that Angel was not going to buy the idea that it was just adrenalin from the fall. “Um, I think I’ll live. Maybe you should, ah…”

“Found it,” Angel’s hand curled around her left arm and pulled her forward just enough to see the oozing scrape across her shoulder. A tiny wound half hidden by the dislodged strap was smeared red with blood. He scooped the strap back into place covering up the silk camisole she was wearing underneath before his thumb closed over her superficial wound. “A little pressure should do the trick.”

Cordelia’s instinct was to reach out for support and when she caught herself doing so she jerked her hands back to her sides. No telling what she might accidentally touch. Those oh, so broad shoulders were safely out of the way, as was his smooth chest with the nice pecs, but the long bare plane of his taut abdomen was well within touching distance. Her eyes followed the tempting trail of her thoughts slipping across hard angles and smooth skin until she found a tantalizing trail of hair leading down from his navel to a thicker patch below.

Catching her lower lip between her teeth, Cordelia bit back the urge to say something, but her mind was reeling at the notion that Angel was even more gorgeous head to toe than anything her high school fantasies had dreamt up. Even that part of him was impressive while at rest, not that she was an expert in that department, but Angel was more than just an average guy.

The weight of his stare raised the hairs on the back of her neck. Of course he had noticed her looking. Before she lifted her gaze back to his, it seemed that his loins were stirring to life, looking fuller, longer, and harder than a moment ago. Cordelia hastily swiped her tongue across her lips, suddenly dry-mouthed at the thought of coming up with a decent explanation for staring.

Angel did not look panicky at all. If anything the glint in his nearly black eyes suggested he was amused as well as aroused by the way she had checked him out. He certainly had nothing to be embarrassed about. Nor did he make any effort to hide the fact that he was getting hard. Guess he had gotten over the shy stage a long time ago. She remembered how he had come to his door dripping wet and wearing only a towel when she needed a place to stay.

Realizing that it was not her fault he charged in buck naked, she decided that she did not need an explanation for her actions. “Not that I mind the eye candy, but you should probably put that thing away.” A quip was the plan, but her words came out a little breathlessly. Her cheeks flamed. Cordelia tried to look away, but his hand caught her jaw gently tilting her face up.

The amusement in his eyes faded as his words took on a serious tone. “Relax. You’re safe.”

After a millisecond of disappointment, Cordelia realized that it would be stupid to want something to happen. “Glad to hear it,” she quipped trying to sound just as nonchalant about his nudity.

Angel’s thumb crested back and forth across the curve of her shoulder now smeared with a thin layer of blood. He seemed surprised that he had done more than try to stop the bleeding. The movement had the opposite effect causing the wound to weep more profusely despite its small size. His expression darkened with all too obvious desires and something she was not sure she wanted to acknowledge.

Her nervousness vanished as her instincts kicked into gear. This was not something to ignore, especially since their relationship already had its complications. Trust had its limits and she just wanted to know where things stood. “So…” she tried keeping her tone light. “Are you turned on because of me or the blood?”

Lifting his hand away from her skin, Angel moved it between them so close to her face that for an instant she imagined he planned to smear the blood across her lips or maybe his own. Freak. Yet, her lips tingled with anticipation parting on a gasp of fear as he drew closer. Instinctively she lifted her hands to hold him off. His skin was cold against her palms and the instant she pressed them against his chest, he jerked back, staring with a mystified, almost accusing look on his face as if he had just realized what he was doing and blamed her.

He stood far enough back that she got a good look, and despite the slightly creepy feeling that he wanted both her and her blood, Cordelia’s body buzzed in response. Her nipples tightened into aching points against the silk cami, fortunately hidden by the thicker layer of denim, as she watched Angel slowly drag his tongue across his bloodied thumb.

“Guess that answers that. Waste not, want not?”

There was a hard, clipped tone as he answered, “I’m a vampire, Cordelia. What do you think?”

It seemed like he was deliberately trying to scare her. Sex and blood were kind of a matched set, she supposed, gulping at the idea, and suddenly feeling like this was a test she was supposed to pass. Spine straight, her chin tilted up a notch, “My apartment. My rules. There is a reason those things are called privates.”

Grabbing one of the folded sheets piled up on the bare mattress, she tossed it his way, and Angel showed mercy by covering up his now rampant erection. He cupped it there for a second letting out a restrained low moan at the sensation as the soft sheet and the pressure of his hand made contact. Getting it together, he explained, “I thought you were hurt. Clothing didn’t seem like a priority.”

“Don’t you sleep in boxers?” Cordelia was legitimately confounded. She had seen him in boxers, which had totally, or so she thought at the time, answered the Boxers, Briefs or Commando question that had been a hot topic amongst the Cordettes. Now he had thrown a new iron into the fire, so to speak. Even though she should be shooing him out of the room to get dressed this was one little tidbit that suddenly required an answer.

For first time he actually looked a little embarrassed, which only made her press him for a response. “Wait.” Her eyes narrowed as she reviewed the scenario, “If you sleep in the raw that means…” she let out a strangled little gasp, “you’ve been totally naked in the same bed I’ve slept in every night?”

Angel obviously did not feel the need to defend his sleeping habits. He pounced on her last question with a quick retort, “You’ve got a bed of your own now. You don’t need to worry about what I’m doing in mine.”

A rush of forbidden images flashed in her head making her cheeks feel hot. Fighting against the breath caught in her throat, she managed a soft denial. “Pfft! I’ve got to clean and paint first before I can actually move in. Duh!” Cordelia rolled her eyes and made a face at his ridiculous suggestion. It would be at least a day or two before the bedroom would be ready.

In that infuriatingly silent way of his Angel said nothing leaving her to wonder what was going on in that head. She couldn’t tell if he was ticked off that she was going to have to take another turn or two in his bed, if he was just busy willing his erection to go away, or if it was simple amusement over her embarrassing attempt at trying to save Dr Folger’s lamp.

Strands of hair had escaped its ponytail causing her to blow it away from her face. The denim overalls were part of her specially purchased apartment renovation wear. Their upturned cuffs were askew, one lodged halfway up her slender calf. More self-conscious about her appearance than the fact that Angel was standing there wearing a folded sheet, Cordelia wondered what he was thinking.

I’ve seen more graceful moves from a drunken hobo.Buffy would never wear that.

Hmmm, shopping at Sears now, I see.

“Um, I didn’t mean to wake you,” she apologized pushing all things Sunnydale out of her head. “Not until I was ready for some help. Since you’re here you might as well put all that manly vampire strength to good use.”

There was that look again telling her that she was missing something obvious. “Oh, I’m not forgetting the fact that you’re still mostly naked, but the bed is right there. This won’t take long.”

Maybe it wasn’t the best time to use the words naked and bed in the same sentence when your very sexy, cursed vampire boss was only wearing a folded sheet across his sizable man parts. Cordelia tried not to think about that juxtaposition of ideas, but it was impossible not to do so.

Still, she had work to do and the only way to get it done was with Angel’s help. “Before you get back into bed I—”

Wryly, Angel cut in, “Oh, I think I’m up for the duration.”

Curious eyes dropped down to where his hand held the sheet in place. Up, he had said. “Yeah, I noticed. Maybe a cold shower will help with that little problem.” Adding with a quirked brow, “Not that it’s little.”

Angel chuckled a grim sound.

Even though she realized what he meant, Cordelia refused to be embarrassed about it. He didn’t seem to think much of it, which she figured was possibly just a vampire thing, but even way back in his human days a man that gorgeous would have to be pretty comfortable in his own skin. “Whatever. I need the bed moved for my painting project.”

Cordelia slid her hand along the rounded brass bed frame curling her fingers around it. “I tried to handle it myself, but I . . .” As if she had suddenly forgotten how to speak the words seemed to elude her as Angel moved closer and dropped the sheet back on the bare mattress freeing up both hands for the task of moving the heavy bed away from the wall.

A frisson of excitement shot through her at having him standing within touching distance. Incapable of turning her eyes away again Cordelia’s gaze drifted down his smooth torso, across the angles of his chest and down the plane of his abdomen. Her lashes lowered with the direction of her curiosity finding him still semi-erect, no longer rock hard.

Thoughts of returning him to that state painted a vivid picture as she wondered what he would feel like in her hand. Big, smooth and cool? A shaky sigh emerged unbidden from her throat catching his attention. Angel’s gaze grew more intense. He knew how her body was reacting to this. There was no hiding from those keen vampire senses.

When Angel’s hand closed over hers removing it from the brass railing it felt like a live wire had touched her. Jumping back, she gasped, “What are you doing?”

“Moving you out of the way,” Angel answered roughly as if he was not completely unaffected either.

Her frazzled brain wondered why, and then in the space of a blink Cordelia remembered that she had assigned him a task. “Right.”

Turning around only gave her a completely new view of his back and buttocks. Eye candy from every angle! Angel was the poster boy for hotness, except that there was nothing at all boyish about the way he looked and that was so much more appealing. Also just wrong. Hello, he was a vampire—a cursed one. Not to mention her boss, the notion of which, being honest with herself, did not really set off the same kind of warning bells as thoughts of Angelus.

The muscles in his shoulders and back rippled as he pulled at the bed frame making his tattoo dance across his pale skin. Someone once mentioned that Angel had a tattoo, probably Buffy, or maybe it was from the research the Watchers Council sent to Giles. One time when Angel was injured, Cordelia had caught a quick glimpse as he took off his shirt, but she had been too concerned about the ugly gouge in his chest to focus on it.

“What kind of bird is that?”

The bed thumped on the floor as Angel dropped it in place. For a moment he neither turned around nor gave her an answer. “It’s not a bird, exactly. It’s a griffin.”

Cordelia stepped closer to examine it, her fingers itching to trace the dark lines across his pale skin, somehow resisting that temptation. A mixture of eagle and lion features the creature’s claws framed the letter A.

Close enough that her warm breath brushed across his right shoulder blade when she responded, “Kind of a strange choice . . . a mythological beast on a vampire. Did you wander drunk into a tattoo parlor one night?”

The inked creature disappeared as Angel turned to face her. Not even thinking about his lack of clothing at this point, Cordelia craned her neck up to meet his dark gaze. He seemed reluctant to talk about it. There was so much about his past that she would never want to ask about, but this piqued her interest enough to momentarily forget that she was standing so close to a naked vampire.

“Tattoos aren’t always just for show. This one is personal.” Teasing a little, “The A is kind of a giveaway.”

Angel’s nostrils flared either in annoyance or amusement, but she was not quite sure. She did not know him well enough yet to read him like a book. With him, a scowl had twelve different meanings.

Finally, he unclenched his jaw to tell her, “A griffin’s symbolism represents a duality between vengeance and salvation. It seemed fitting.”

“Because you need saving or retribution?” Maybe all the glooming and dooming was not just about Buffy. He did have lots to brood about. Centuries worth, if she guessed it right. “Because of Angelus.”

Angel’s lids dropped down to shadow his eyes. He hesitated, but she waited out the silence, willing him to open up to her. Correcting her, his voice went deeper, darker than before. “No. Because of everything I have done as Angelus. All of the pain I’ve caused. You have no idea…”

Her hand cupped his cheek, and finally he looked into her eyes as she told him with all seriousness, ignoring his nudity, and focused only on the distress in his voice. “I know enough. This is your chance to—”

“What the devil!” Doyle’s arrival in the doorway was heralded by his shocked response to the sight before him. Snapping at Angel, “I am beginning to think you have an aversion to clothing.”

When Cordelia whirled around to face the seer, color brightening her cheeks and feeling a lot like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar, she griped, “Helloooooo, knuckles are for knocking. I do have a front door.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to rethink moving into that commune two streets over?” Doyle asked only half joking. “The naked chanting can’t be much different than this. You’re already half way there.”

Angel had already wrapped the sheet around his hips by the time he stepped out from behind Cordelia. “Naked chanting?” His brow quirked upward at the idea as he added, “Must have its benefits.”

Cordelia could not help but laugh over the whole situation even as Doyle ranted on about not wanting to make a habit of coming over to find random acts of nakedness. He started unpacking the brown paper bag he carried onto the bed, all items that he had been sent out to purchase. Removing a pair of men’s jeans and a blue work shirt, he handed them to Angel. “Here ya go, then. You might want to put these on sooner rather than later.”

Angel had stepped into the jeans and carefully zipped them up before pulling the sheet away. Before he could ask why Doyle was buying him clothing, Cordelia noticed the jeans fit perfectly. “Good. They fit.”

He put his arms into the shirtsleeves as Cordelia held it up for him. There was something unfathomable in his gaze when he glanced her way just before he shrugged the shirt into place. He left the buttons undone as they talked, not bothering to mess with them, and she ignored the urge to take up the task herself. That smooth patch of torso still showing was a distraction.

“Hope you don’t mind that I took a quick peek at your closet,” Cordelia said to Angel while walking over to make sure that Doyle had gotten everything else on her list. “Just to see if you had anything suitable. You’ve got some sweatpants that could’ve worked, but I thought these would be better.”

His closet provided a very interesting look into his psyche, all that black and dark grey. The tailored pants with designer labels, way in the back, ignored, but not discarded, flashes of velvet, red silk and butter-soft leather. Angel was either a hoarder, prepared to be wardrobe-ready in case of future soul loss, or secretly liked the more vibrant colors and textures his evil half seemed to prefer.

Angel did not look surprised that she had snooped. “I take it I am being conscripted to paint your apartment.”
Duh. Where else was she going to find cheap labor? Blood and demon goo had to be difficult enough to get out of his clothes. No need to add paint to the list.

“Doyle, too.” He was already dressed for it wearing similar jeans and a disgustingly tacky print shirt. Trying not to shudder at the sight, Cordelia started to explain that Angel had come to her rescue when she was moving the furniture around. “Dr. Folger’s lamp is like in a million tiny pieces. Do we have superglue?”

“Don’t worry about the lamp,” Angel interrupted them. “Clean up that wound while I finished getting dressed.”

The mention of a wound was enough to distract Doyle from assessing the irreparable damage to the ceramic lamp. Cordelia waved off his concern. “Oh, it’s nothing. Angel charged in here when I crashed into the wall.”

“All naked like,” Doyle commented sourly.

Now she could laugh about it, repeating his words only minus the adorable Irish accent, “All naked like. C’mon, you can help me finish covering up the furniture with these sheets.”

Angel had been headed out the bedroom door toward his own apartment when Cordelia’s words stopped him in his tracks. He was back at her side closely examining the sheet he had been using as a cover. Slowly, his gaze drifted in the direction of the living room. Marching those big, bare feet across the carpet, he braced his hands on the doorframe, looking as incredulous as if he had spotted one of those mythical griffins lounging on the sofa.

Stepping into the middle of the room, he turned back so that his focus fell directly on her. Enunciating every syllable, Angel sounded pretty pissed off, “Come in here, Cordelia.”

Curious as to what he was ticked off about, Cordelia let it slide that he didn’t say please. Surveying her earlier work, she saw nothing wrong. The furniture was properly covered.

“These are my sheets.”

Her eyes widened into saucers. “Oh, yes. True. I forgot to tell Doyle to bring drop cloths. I would have used my own sheets, but I left them behind in my old apartment. Who knows how many creepy crawlers touched them.”

Angel grabbed the edge of a top sheet holding it out for her inspection. “Egyptian cotton. 900 thread count,” he emphasized.

Fingering the soft blue fabric, Cordelia admitted to herself that it slipped her mind that Angel was picky about his sheets. “We don’t want to get paint on Dr Folger’s couch, do we?” Hello, she was just trying to save the furniture.

Angel stormed around the room gathering his sheets until the wild bundle reached his chin. He made brief eye contact with Doyle who responded with a nod and said, “I suppose I’ll just be off to pick up some proper drop cloths.”

“Good.” Angel headed back to his apartment at a fast pace.

Doyle shook his head, a smile on his face. “I’ll be back in a jiff. Try to keep your clothes on this time.”

“Wait a sec!” Cordelia grabbed the empty paper bag he thrust in her direction. “Just one little thing before you go.”

She was about to ask him to help Angel haul the boxes of dental supplies up to Dr Folger’s main storage area when the vampire’s voice called out to her again, “Cordelia, get your ass in here.”

Having let him off lightly for the first summons, Cordelia was not about to let him off so easily a second time in as many minutes. Shoving the crumpled bag back at Doyle, she stormed through the open connecting door into Angel’s apartment. She found him in the kitchen. “If anyone’s ass is going to get mentioned here, I don’t think it should be mine. What’s wrong now? I let you take your precious sheets.”

He nodded toward the piled up boxes on the table. “So? I was just about to ask you and Doyle to move them to the upstairs storage.”

Angel gritted his teeth. “Did it occur to you to ask first?”

“Why?”

“You rifled through my closet, used my kitchen table, and stole my sheets,” Angel groused.

“Fine. Be a jerk about it. No need to go territorial on me. I was just trying to get things started so you could get some sleep. Don’t you like the jeans?”

Angel’s eyes narrowed. “Sure,” he conceded that point albeit very begrudgingly.

What wasn’t to like when they cupped and grabbed and clung in all the right places, she thought smugly. Uh… “Right. That’s because they fit. Thanks to me checking on your size first. Plus, I’ve got stuff in the closet, too, so it’s not like I wasn’t already given permission to be there.”

His death grip on the sheets loosened a bit.

“Your kitchen table is closer to the freight elevator than mine. The boxes aren’t heavy, so they won’t scuff anything.”

The scowl seemed fractionally less scowly.

“What about the sheets?” Angel held the billowing pile up only to reel them back in as they threatened to fall out of his grasp. “First it was the peanut butter. . .”

Cordelia pressed her lips together to stop herself from grinning, but failed miserably. After the first laugh she couldn’t seem to stop. She kept on laughing until it hurt. “Oh…snort…Angel you are so…bwah ha…such a dork . . . snarffle. . .ha!” Panting breathlessly, she promised that she was not part of a plot to ruin his beloved sheets.

Grabbing the loose edge of one sheet, still bundled up in his arms as he glowered silently, she gently swatted his chin. “They are kind of awesome.” Nuzzling her cheek against it, she suddenly realized that she would have to buy new sheets for herself and the ones she could afford were not going to be anywhere near as nice as these. “Angel, I don’t suppose I could borrow one of your extra sets for my bed?” He turned on his heel and swiftly walked away.

“Hey, it was just a simple question! Oh, come on . . .”

Flirting with Danger

Posted June 20, 2015 by califi in Complete

Baywatch Angel 8.   1 comment

Part 8

“Where are we going?” Cordelia asked, when instead of heading for the leisure centre exit, Angel took the back staircase that led up to the roof.

“The roof,” the vampire replied, stating the obvious.

“Well, I know *that*, but why? I thought we were going back to the Hotel.”

“We are,” Angel said, as he shouldered the door open and carried her out onto the rooftop. “It’s quicker this way though.”

“Which way?” Cordelia asked puzzled, and then his meaning dawned. “Oh no, no way José,” she said, emphatically shaking her head.

“You wanted to be Jane.”

“Tarzan had a rope!”

Angel laughed at her wide-eyed horror. “I won’t let you fall,” he promised as he set her back down on her feet. “You trust me, don’t you?”

The seer promptly thumped him on the shoulder in retaliation. “That’s cheating,” she accused, her mouth settling into a dramatic pout. “You’re not supposed to use the ‘don’t you trust me’ line this early on in a relationship.”

In response, Angel palmed the back of her head in his hand and tugged her towards him, planting a sound kiss on her pursed lips. Stepping back slightly, he leaned in close, deliberately invading her personal space as he trailed a forefinger back and forth along the neckline of her top.

“I like to break the rules,” he informed her.

Oh, I am in so much trouble! Cordelia thought, as her traitorous body reacted to his low seductive tone, automatically softening in readiness for what was to come. She squeezed her thighs together, trying to quell the throbbing ache at her centre – unfortunately without much notable success. Angel smiled knowingly and she flushed to the roots of her hair, embarrassed that her arousal was so transparent to him.

His finger continued with its journey across her skin then, brushing over her collarbone and shoulder as he circled around her in an almost predatory fashion. He eventually came to a standstill directly behind her, and her breath caught in her throat as he sensually ran the back of his finger down the length of her arm, barely even touching her, but making her acutely aware of his presence nevertheless.

Her heart thumping wildly in her chest, Cordelia waited for him to make his next move, which he did by hooking his arm around her middle and drawing her back against him, his free hand holding onto her hip. Her bottom settled snugly into the cradle of his strong thighs, and she gasped when she felt his erection straining hard against the crotch of his pants. The vampire seemed wholly unconcerned by her shock though, and bent to murmur a series of instructions in her ear as if nothing was amiss.

“Just relax and let me do most of the work, okay?” he said softly. “We’ll need to take a bit of run up each time, but I’ll take care of the rest. And, whatever you do, don’t look down – try to keep your gaze focused on where we’re going instead.”

Cordelia’s heartbeat accelerated in alarm, a wave of panic washing over her. “I need to hold on,” she blurted, her voice a little shrill.

“Just cross you arms over,” the vampire calmly instructed, his level tone helping to soothe her mounting anxiety.

The seer did as directed and found that this enabled her to take a proper grasp of the arm that was banded like steel around her midriff. With one hand clasping his bent elbow and the other clutching at his wrist, she relaxed back into his hold.

“Don’t drop me,” she said, her voice trembling with nerves.

“Don’t worry, no chance of that,” Angel assured her with confidence. “We’re going that way first, okay?” he said, pointing out their destination with his free hand.

“Okay.”

“I need you to run with me until we’re about a metre from the edge, and then I’m going to jump. Got that?”

Cordelia nodded. “Yes.”

“All right then, on three. One… Two… Three…”

Oh God! I’m so gonna die! Cordelia thought as the edge came closer and closer…

And then, all of a sudden, she was flying, the wind gently ruffling her hair as they sailed effortlessly across the gap between the two buildings. The concrete roof of the adjacent apartment block rushed up to meet them, but she felt no fear, only wild exhilaration. She was laughing in delight when they finally touched down on solid ground again.

“Whoa! That was so cool!” she exclaimed, twisting round in his arms and giving him an excited hug.

Twirling away from him with an almost childlike enthusiasm, she hurried over to the edge to look down on the bright lights of the city. They stretched as far as the eye could see, twinkling like multi-coloured fairy lights on a Christmas tree. Angel smiled at her girlish wonder and followed at a more sedate pace. Slipping his arms around her waist from behind, he pressed a gentle kiss to her temple, inhaling the citrus-sweet smell of her hair.

“Glad you enjoyed it,” he said in her ear.

He dropped his face into the crook of her neck then, and Cordelia leaned back into him, curling her hand around the nape of his neck as his cool lips latched onto her throbbing pulse point. She closed her eyes, sighing contentedly when he placed a stream of wet, nibbling kisses up the column of her throat.

“Time we moved on, I think,” he murmured, when he finally lifted his mouth from her silky skin. “I want you in my bed, but I’m in danger of ravishing you on this rooftop if we carry on like this.”

Images of the latter scenario flooded Cordelia’s brain, making legs go weak at the knees and her breath quicken with want. Her shyness had all but disappeared now, leaving behind an urgent need to be at one with the man she had come to love beyond anything else.

Angel chuckled in her ear. “Maybe some other time,” he said, somehow reading her mind. “Somewhere comfortable – like my bed – is more suitable for what I have in mind for tonight though. I plan to worship every inch of your body, and discover all those secret places that are guaranteed to have you writhing in ecstasy.”

The seer twisted around in his arms and looped her arms around his neck, her eyes soft as melted caramel. “Take me to bed and lose me forever then,” she said boldly, despite the butterflies in her stomach.

“It’s a line from a movie,” she added off his quizzical look.

“Sounds like a good movie.”

“Oh yeah – Tom Cruise in a uniform – what more could a girl ask for?”

Angel touched his forehead to hers so that their noses rubbed together in a tender Eskimo kiss. “Me in her bed,” he suggested roguishly.

“Well, there is that I suppose,” Cordelia replied in a deliberately offhand manner, “Although, I hafta say, it’s a close call.”

“You’re pushing your luck, girl,” Angel growled in mock anger, causing her to break out in delighted laughter.

Her mirth was infectious and the vampire found himself laughing along with her. “Come on,” he said, turning her around in his arms. “Time to go.”

They arrived back at the Hyperion five minutes later, and Cordelia found herself being tugged towards the doorway that led down into the upper wings, almost before her feet touched the ground.

“Eager, aren’t we?” she teased as they descended the small wooden staircase to the topmost floor.

Angel didn’t reply, but when they reached the lushly decorated landing, he grabbed her upper arms and pushed her up against the wall, his dark eyes glittering with what could only be described as pure, predatory lust. Tunnelling his fingers through her hair, he kissed her roughly, his demanding tongue seeking out every nook and cranny in her mouth, while he forcibly separated her legs with his knee and pressed his inflamed groin into the vee of her thighs.

“I’ve waited long enough,” he gruffly informed her, when he finally released her from the dizzying embrace.

Incapable of speech, Cordelia just nodded, her fingers rising to touch her swollen, passion-ravaged lips, as he took her by the hand and towed her along the corridor and down several flights of stairs.

Jesus man, slow it down for god’s sake! This is only her second time remember? Angel sharply rebuked himself, striving to get his unleashed ardour back under control.

It was extremely difficult; the months of waiting for the right opportunity to take their relationship to the next level – not to mention the interrupted lovemaking session earlier – had only served to heighten his desire for her, not diminish it. By the time they reached his room though, he had regained some semblance of self-control, his concern for his seer’s well-being helping to kick his rampant hormones into partial touch.

Shutting and bolting the door behind them, he led her through into the bedroom area, where he turned on a couple of lamps, lighting the room with a muted yellow glow. Crossing to stand in front of a nervous Cordelia, he reached down and took her hands in his. Seeking to reassure her, he lifted their entwined fingers to his lips and brushed a gentle kiss across the backs of her knuckles.

“I’m sorry,” he said with a self-deprecating smile. “I kind of lost it there for a moment. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“You didn’t, not really, it was just… intense.”

“That’s one way of describing it, I suppose,” the vampire replied as he stepped closer and slipped an arm around her waist.

He bent to kiss her then, his free hand rising to cradle the side of her face as his lips moved slowly and sweetly over hers. The loving tenderness in this embrace was a direct contrast to the wanton possessiveness of the one a few minutes before.

As she surrendered herself to his kiss, Cordelia’s hands rose to clutch at his back, her fingers tracing his vertebrae through the material of his t-shirt. After a while, their embrace began to heat up and she was filled with the desire to feel his cool skin under her burning fingertips. Pulling away, she insistently began to push up his t-shirt, intent on achieving her goal.

Angel quickly got the message and crossed his arms over his chest, removing the offending garment and tossing it aside. Cordelia’s warm hands and mouth were immediately upon him, her gentle fingers stroking up and down his back, while her soft lips trailed wet kisses across the tanned expanse of his torso, branding him as her own.
Angel closed his eyes, his hands rising to tangle in her hair as she circled the tip of her tongue around his flat, male nipples. Allowing her to be in control for now, he surreptitiously started to back her over towards the bed, preparing to take back the upper hand once they got there.

Oblivious, Cordelia continued with her ardent exploration of his body, her fingers massaging at the base of his spine, while her tongue dipped into the hollow of his throat to taste the salty tang of his skin. Having been unaware of her boyfriend’s sneaky manoeuvres, she jumped in surprise when the backs of her thighs bumped against the edge of the mattress.

Grinning at her astonishment, Angel curled his fingers into the hem of the turquoise vest top and, rather surprisingly, she obediently raised her arms so that he could remove it over her head. After first toeing off his boots and socks, he waited patiently while she sat down on the bed, and then knelt down on the floor in front of her. Lifting first one leg and then the other, he removed her sneakers in turn, pausing to kiss the inside of her bare ankles before he set each foot back down again.

Next, he hooked his hands into the waistband of her sweatpants and – with a soft instruction to ‘lift up’ – stripped them from her lower body, leaving her clad in just her underwear. Her matching bra and panties set was plain – pale blue cotton with a thin lace trim, pretty, rather than sexy. Noticing the focus of his gaze, Cordelia shifted uncomfortably, an embarrassed flush colouring her cheeks.

“I – umm – wasn’t really expecting this, or else I might have worn something a little more…” she trailed off, waving her hand at her rather functional undergarments to illustrate her point.

Angel grinned. “Right, so you came to the pool, dressed in *that* bikini, and you didn’t expect this to be the result.”

“Well, I…” Cordelia was at a loss for words. “I guess I didn’t think that far,” she eventually confessed. “I mean, all I could think about was those Buffy clones fluttering their eyelashes at you, and I…”

“Buffy clones?” One of Angel’s eyebrows quirked up at that.

“Yeah – you know, blond, petite – well, I guess some of them had boobs, but… what’s so funny?”

“You’re so wonderfully blunt sometimes,” he said, through his laughter.

“Oh,” Cordelia giggled when she realised what she’d said. “You think it’s funny?” she asked, surprised at his open mirth. “I thought you’d be mad.”

Rising up on his knees, Angel ran his hands up and down the soft skin of her outer thighs and kissed her forehead. “Why would I be?”

“Cus it’s well… you know – Buffy,” the seer said as if that explained everything.

“Cordy, I loved Buffy, I don’t deny that, but I’m not going jump down your throat just because you inferred that she’s flat-chested, for god’s sake.”

“You would have done before,” Cordelia pointed out.

Angel sighed, she wasn’t wholly wrong there. “That was then,” he said. “It’s different now. Besides, you’re right – she isn’t as blessed in that area as you are.”

“You think they’re too big?” Cordelia worriedly glanced down at her voluptuous chest, suddenly filled with an irrational sense of inadequacy.

“Well now, let’s see.” The vampire cupped her firm round breasts in his hands, testing their weight and feel by gently bouncing them in his palms.

“Nope, they seem like the perfect size to me,” he concluded with a sly wink, his thumbs lightly teasing her semi-erect nipples through the cotton of her bra.

The seer blushed furiously and batted his hands away. “Angel!”

“Well, you did ask,” he said, getting up off the floor.

He climbed up onto the bed, and Cordelia immediately scooted back up the mattress away from him, thwarting his first attempt to ensnare her. Undeterred and intent on capturing his prey, the vampire promptly followed her on all fours, forcing her to retreat again. When she reached the head of the bed, the seer could no longer evade his grasp however, and she squealed in protest as his hands closed like traps around her ankles.

Angel grinned and hauled her towards him, enjoying her playful teasing. Although there was obviously a serious side to the act, he firmly believed that sex should be fun, and was glad that his new girlfriend seemed to be of the same opinion. Still holding on to her slender ankles, he separated her legs and lowered his body down over hers. Immediately afterwards, his mouth descended to capture her parted lips in a slow, sensual kiss – the drugging embrace full of the promise of greater pleasures to come.

Cordelia moaned into his mouth, her breasts growing full and heavy as hot, clenching desire blossomed low in her belly. The delicious heaviness of his bodyweight pressed her deep into the mattress and it felt like absolute heaven. Wanting to crawl inside his skin, she hooked one of her legs around his waist and pushed her hips up into his, digging her heel into his buttocks to gain extra leverage.

A low tortured groan escaped Angel’s throat at her actions and he ripped his lips from hers. Palming her bottom in his hand, he held her tightly against him while he rhythmically thrust his throbbing erection into the cradle of her thighs, his need for release threatening to consume him whole. Although it was extremely hard to ignore the insistent demands of his body, he knew he had to stop before his self-control deserted him. Cordelia was so much more to him than a casual conquest, and he did not intend to treat her as such.

So, with a great deal of effort, he pulled away from her silken embrace and rolled over onto his back. Closing his eyes, he pressed the back of his hand against his forehead and focused his attention on subduing his out of control arousal, drawing in deep unneeded breaths to aid his efforts.

Cordelia’s soft worried “Angel?” eventually brought him back to his senses, and he turned his head to look at her, fixing an apologetic gaze on her anxious face.

“I’m sorry baby. I’ve just wanted this for so long and what with the unfortunate interruption earlier… I’m gonna have to do something to take the edge off, or I’m in danger of forgetting myself in the heat of the moment. And you need me to take this slow.”

“It’s all right, I want you to. I mean, we can…”

“No Cordy – you haven’t had sex in two years, not to mention the fact that it’s only your second time. I may be a caveman about some things, but wham, bam, thank-you ma’am, is not my style.”

Cordelia looked down, her fingers playing nervously with the comforter. “So what…?”

“You think you’re ready to see your first buck-naked man yet?” Angel asked, catching her off guard with his question.

The seer shyly raised her gaze to his, her eyes wide and round like saucers. Her colour was high and shiny beads of sweat dampened the dark tendrils of hair that framed her lovely face. Swallowing hard, she nodded, her cheeks flushing a deeper shade of pink.

Before she could change her mind, Angel sat up and shrugged off his sweatpants and boxers, then lay back down on the bed. Bending his outer leg at the knee, he placed his foot flat against the mattress and turned his nude body slightly towards her, drawing her gaze down to his erect penis, which rose proudly from the cradle of thighs.

“You’re beautiful,” she eventually said, her voice soft and breathy in tone.

Angel smiled, glad that she’d lost her earlier self-consciousness. He didn’t want to do anything that would make her uncomfortable, but couldn’t deny that he was hoping to coax her into helping out with his current predicament. Unaware, Cordelia stepped right into his carefully laid honey trap.

“Can I touch you?” she asked, inching a little closer.

When he nodded in acquiesce, she reached out and tentatively ran her forefinger down the front of his hard length. Then, moving her hand around to the sensitive underside, lightly stroked from root to tip with the pads of her fingers, causing his hips to buck up off the mattress in reaction.

“It feels… is it an it or a he?” she asked curiously.

The vampire couldn’t care less, just long as she didn’t stop touching him. “Whatever you want,” he said from between clenched teeth.

“He,” she decided. “I mean, he’s definitely male, isn’t he?” she added with a naughty giggle.

Despite the fact that her tantalising touch was absolute torture, Angel laughed and shook his head, charmed by her saucy playfulness. “You’re incorrigible.”

Cordelia snuggled closer and rested her warm cheek against his chest, her hand still lightly stroking up and down his twitching erection. “Is this what you meant by taking the edge off?”

“I think you’ve got the general idea, yes,” Angel said, the strain of holding out evident in his strangled tone.

“Am I doing it right? I mean Xander liked… humph!”

The seer was cut off as the vampire’s hand clamped over her mouth. “That’s the last time that *boy* gets mentioned in our bed,” he said fiercely.

“Okay, keep your hair on. Geez! Possessive much?”

“Get used to it.”

Cordelia ignored that. “Well, am I?” she demanded impatiently. “Doing it right, I mean.”

“You don’t have to be so tentative; it’s okay to be a little firmer.”

Angel reached down and closed his hand over hers, guiding her movements for a while, showing her how to touch him the way he liked. She quickly caught on and he let his hand fall away, leaving her to tease and arouse him as she saw fit. Spurred on by his low moans of pleasure, Cordelia gradually gained in confidence, her ministrations growing bolder as she sensed him surrender to her rhythmic touch.

While she pumped his smooth hard flesh between her fingers at a firm, but steady pace, Angel fisted his fingers into the comforter, his arousal rapidly starting to spiral out of control. His borrowed blood was rushing like wildfire through his veins, his sex painfully erect, and he was slowly starting to lose all sense of self.

“That’s it baby, like that. Feels so good,” he began to chant, mindlessly tossing his head from side to side on the pillow as his focus narrowed to the exquisite pleasure of her hand on his rigid flesh.

It wasn’t long before his body tightened in readiness for blissful release, and he gasped, arching his neck back at the intensity of the sensation. His engorged sex pulsed once in her hand, and then he came with a long drawn-out groan of completion.

“So that’s how I get you completely at my mercy,” he dimly heard his seer murmur as he slowly came back down from his high.

“Useful to know,” she added, when he eventually opened his dazed eyes to look at her. She smiled at him, a warm twinkle sparkling in her eyes and her expression filled with smug satisfaction.

“It works both ways,” he warned, grabbing some tissues to clean himself off.

“Oh, it does, does it?” she asked archly.

“I can almost guarantee it.”

“My, my – confident, aren’t we?”

“Let’s test my theory out, shall we?” the vampire suggested, rolling her underneath him in one smooth, unbroken move.

Skipping the preliminaries, he bent to kiss her neck and confidently slid his hand beneath the waistband of her panties. His fingers teased the damp curls guarding the entrance to her body, while his middle digit circled her moist outer lips, gathering up her creamy arousal and making her whimper with pleasure.

“You like that, huh?” he whispered in her ear. “How about this?”

His thumb brushed lightly over her clitoris, and Cordelia let out a helpless moan, instinctively squeezing her thighs around his probing hand. “Oh yes, feels so good!”

Angel’s skilful fingers played her like a lute until her body was thrumming with ecstasy. As the sizzling sensations coursed, unrestrained, through her quaking body, her heart started to pound like a bass drum in her ears, while her breath heaved in harsh pants. Then, out of the blue, the vampire removed his hand, leaving her suddenly bereft of erotic stimulation.

“Don’t stop!” she wailed in protest, beyond anything other than incredible pleasure he was affording her.

“Yep – definitely at my mercy,” he remarked blandly, making her want to scream in frustration.

“I don’t think I like you anymore,” she complained, her bottom lip jutting out into a sulky pout.

“Sorry babe, but I beg to differ. I have strong evidence to the contrary you see. To start with there’s this…”
The vampire paused in his narrative and reached behind her back to unhook her bra. Slipping the straps off her shoulders, he exposed the soft mounds of her breasts to his openly lustful gaze. “They seem quite happy to see me,” he remarked, reaching out to tweak her pebbled nipples between his thumb and forefingers, making her breath catch in her throat.

“And then of course, a woman smells a certain way when she likes a man, probably something to do with the way her body reacts when she’s sexually aroused, don’t you think? You, my gorgeous seer, are saturating the air with that heavenly female scent right now, so I’m guessing those panties of yours are anything but dry. Let’s see, shall we?”

Aroused beyond belief, Cordelia bit her lip as Angel hunkered down between her legs and deliberately sniffed the air. His left hand curled around her upper thigh to hold her still, and then he slipped his other hand into the elasticated edge of her panties, rubbing the damp material between his fingers and thumb.

“Feels kind of wet to me,” he murmured. Then, without warning, he tugged sharply on the thin cotton and tore the undergarment from her, leaving her naked and exposed beneath him.

“You look wet too,” he continued, his voice thick with heady desire. “Soaking actually – all pink and glistening. Why is that do you reckon? Could it be that you were lying, and you do like me after all?”

Cordelia wanted to resist, but it was too hard, what with his face between her legs and his mouth mere centimetres from where she wanted it the most. She vividly recalled the wondrous feel of his tongue moving against her slick folds and she was suddenly desperate for him to finish off what he had started at the pool.

“Please…” she moaned beseechingly.

“Please what?”

Cordelia hesitated, her inexperience showing as she wavered over voicing her desires.

“Tell me what you want, baby,” Angel softly urged, lightly stroking her inner thigh with his fingertips.

“Your mouth – on me – like before,” she gasped out, her back arching and hips undulating against the mattress as her body involuntarily signalled its need for sensual satisfaction.

“You liked that, did you?”

“Yes! It was just… I’ve never… I mean no one else… So good…”

In her rising delirium, she wasn’t really making sense, but one thing, in particular, stood out to the listening vampire from the midst of all her garbled rambling.

“I’m the first?” he asked, the very idea filling him with pure masculine delight. “To go down on you, I mean.”

“Yes! – Angel please! Don’t make me wait anymore,” the seer pleaded breathlessly, agitatedly twisting the comforter around her fingers to stop herself from appeasing the throbbing at the juncture of her thighs with her own touch.

“I’m also the last,” the vampire told her possessively, and then finally gave her what she wanted.

Humming with pleasure, he ran his tongue lazily over the soft pink folds of her womanhood, the sweet and sour tang of her arousal shooting sensation straight to his reawakened groin. With her delicious womanly flavour no longer diluted by the water of the pool, his sensitive taste buds were enjoying a palatable feast and his tongue devoured the gourmet meal on offer with relish.

Bending one of her legs back up towards her chest, he opened her up a little more, his mouth seeking out the small nodule hidden near the top of her sex, while his fingers lightly stroked the moist outer lips down below. As his lips closed around her swollen nub, Cordelia stiffened, a fountain of gibberish pouring forth from her lips as her pleasure started to spiral toward its conclusion, her body determined not to let anything stand in the way of its dogged pursuit of orgasm.

Sensing she was nearing completion, Angel sucked relentlessly on her throbbing clitoris and pushed two fingers up into her wet heat. Her vaginal walls fluttered in mild protest at the invasion, but eventually relaxed enough to permit further exploration. With the accuracy of a heat-seeking missile, the vampire’s fingers quickly found what they were looking for, and the seer exploded in ecstasy as he pressed firmly against the spot that was guaranteed to launch her like a rocket into space.

As her inner walls contracted hard around his fingers, Angel lifted his head from between her legs to look up at her. The seer’s eyes were closed, her long dark lashes lying flat against her flushed cheeks and her golden skin dewy with sweat. Lost in the ecstasy of release, she was veritably writhing on the bed, soft cries tumbling voraciously from her lips as she unconsciously stroked the sensitive tips of her breasts with her fingers.

The vampire had never seen anything more erotically beautiful in his life and the effect on hardening sex was instantaneous. He was standing fully to attention in no time, desperate to feel those hot walls rippling around his throbbing length, as he thrust deep and hard into the well of her femininity. Retracting his fingers from her body, he rose from between her trembling legs and positioned himself atop of her, his hands either side of her head and the tip of his erection nestling against the quivering entrance to her body.

“You’re gorgeous when you come,” he told her hoarsely, when her eyes finally opened to look at him. “I want to see it again, only this time I’m going to be inside you when it happens.”

Cordelia’s left hand rose to clutch at his muscular bicep, while her fingers lightly stroked his face. She had climaxed, but there was an ache inside her that was not yet satisfied, and her body still clamoured for more.

“Yes,” she breathlessly agreed. “Oh yes!”

Easily balancing on one arm, Angel reached down between her legs and deftly swiped two fingers across her distended clitoris, quickly building her arousal back up to boiling point. Finally satisfied that she was ready, he shifted his weight so that he was once again supporting himself on both hands, and then slowly pushed an inch or so inside her.

“Ready?” he softly asked, looking down into her hazel eyes, which were large and filled with desire.

Cordelia wound her legs around his lower back in response, the move causing him to sink a little deeper inside her. “Want to feel all of you,” she said, hooking her arms under his shoulders and attempting to pull him down on top of her.

Not complying straight away, Angel cupped a hand under her upper thigh and penetrated her fully in one smooth thrust. Her fingernails dug into his shoulders in reaction, and he let loose with a low groan of pleasure. He had been right in his imaginings; she was wonderfully tight inside, her inner muscles gripping him with a band of steel, even though they accepted rather than repelled his body’s invasion of hers.

Dropping down to rest on his elbows, he blanketed her with his big, strong body, keeping the majority of his weight shifted forward onto his arms so not to crush her slighter form. Cordelia moaned her approval, arching her neck and baring her throat to him as she pressed her soft breasts firmly against the hard wall of his chest. Their bodies rocked gently together to begin with, their movements slow and shallow as they savoured the sensation of finally being one.

“God Cordy, you feel so fantastic. I never want to leave,” Angel murmured against her skin as he nuzzled affectionately at her neck.

Cordelia turned her head and touched her mouth to his temple. “I love you,” she murmured into his hair.

“Love you too baby,” the vampire whispered back. “God so much.”

He closed his mouth over hers in a fiery, passionate kiss, and their coupling increased in both depth and tempo, their shared ardour shifting up a gear. Soft feminine cries and deep male groans filled the air with their harmonious chorus, and the mattress springs started to creak in protest as the headboard rattled against the wall.

Panting and whimpering, Cordelia clung to Angel as he thrust into her at an ever-increasing pace. His hard length stretched her inner walls to just the right side of uncomfortable, causing a delicious friction that had her eyes rolling into the back of her head and her senses singing with joy.

Lost in the warm, tight heaven of his seer’s body, the vampire thrust into her with wild abandonment, releasing soft grunts of pleasure at the bottom of each stroke. Adrenaline flooded his veins as Cordelia’s gasps and moans filled his ears with their sweet sound, both sensations pushing him towards the finish line with no chance of reprieve. Sensing he wasn’t going to last much longer, Angel deliberately shifted the angle of his entry, so that his pubic bone pressed firmly against her clitoris with each downward thrust.

“Oh God! So close!” Cordelia cried out loudly, when this immediately pushed her closer to the edge.

“Yeah, that’s it baby, come for me,” the vampire murmured in encouragement, driving hard into her grasping depths as he peppered her face with fervent kisses.

A few more strokes and the incoherent seer tumbled over the edge with an impassioned scream of his name, her sweat-slickened body arching in exultation as she clawed at his back, her fingernails scoring his flesh. “Angel! Yes! Oh God!”

As her inner muscles began to contract rhythmically around his painfully engorged sex, Angel finally lost it, pouring himself into her with a strangled groan of triumph. His sex pulsed hard as he repeatedly bathed her insides with his cool seed, his body shuddering in violent orgasm. Completely spent, he eventually collapsed atop of her, crushing her under his boneless weight.

Her breath still leaving her lungs in harsh, almost painful, gasps, Cordelia didn’t protest, simply curled herself tighter around him, her trembling legs still crossed across his lower back and her hands running soothingly up and down his spine. She tucked her face into the crook of his neck, her salty tears dampening his skin as her shattered emotions finally overwhelmed her.

Angel pulled back to look down into her tear-filled eyes. “I love you,” he told her with honest emotion, tenderly brushing her hair off her cheeks.

“I love you too,” Cordelia softly returned, and then drew his face down to seal that heartfelt declaration with a loving kiss.

TBC…

Becjane

Posted June 20, 2015 by califi in TBC