Archive for July 25, 2015

The Fine Line. 88-91   1 comment

Dedication: For Kelly’s help and patience.

Chapter 88

Angel’s body hummed with contentment as he stared down at Cordy’s sleeping form. It was the perfect opportunity to capture her on paper. But then he would have to leave her and that wasn’t something he planned to do anytime soon.

He appeased his thought of the perfect sketch by memorializing her contours with his touch. He then palmed his hand over of the small of her back. Finally, she was his, he thought, curling his fingers around her waist.

Cordy murmured as his fingers began to draw patterns along her skin. He watched as she scrunched up her nose and rubbed at her face. Angel lightly massaged along her back and side as he waited for the cloud of sleep to fade from her eyes.

“What? Where?” She blinked and rubbed her face again. “Angel?” Her still hazy eyes met his in question. “Oh. So not a dream, huh?”

He brushed the hair from her face. “And what have you been dreaming, Cordy?”

She glanced quickly around the room and then turned back to him.

“What?” he asked, leaning back to give her some space while he twirled her long hair around his fingers.

Cordelia chewed on her bottom lip. “No, ‘sorry, this was a mistake’?”

Angel sat up, pulling Cordelia with him. “I’m over two hundred years old,” he said, feigning confusion. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes — have a lot to be sorry for.”

Her eyes narrowed.

He pretended to get it. “Oh, you mean, this.” He waved at their naked bodies. “ Uh, no. ‘This’ isn’t anyway near that list.” Angel sighed at her continuing doubtful gaze. “Cordy, I wish you would just trust me.”

He placed his finger over her mouth to stop any denial. “What else am I suppose to think? We made love. I’m here, but you’re scared and on the verge of running away. I guess the real question is— Are you sorry?”

He heard Cordelia’s heart skip. Her gaze stayed on the mattress for more than a second before she finally raised it to him with an unwavering grin. “My dream was just the standard.” She shrugged as she reached for him. “You know — flying, falling, and having wild monkey sex.”

“That’s some dream. Care to relive it?”

“Well, since you woke me up…”

Angel stopped the rest of her retort with a kiss and pulled her under him.


Chapter 89

Cordelia curbed her need to shake the pins and needles out of her arm. Rather, she squeezed her eyes tighter and attempted to string even two coherent thoughts together.

She silenced her groan at the impossibility. Okay, so there was no doubt that making love to Angel, once again, wasn’t a dream. Not only did her skin still tingle at the memory, her body ached wonderfully in places that it hadn’t ever before.

She forced herself to remain still, not wanting to wake Angel and have him claim that she was running away from him again. She really did want to think it was as simple as Angel made it, that he had moved on from Buffy and now wanted her. It was just that there was something niggling about the change in their relationship.

Damn. She couldn’t think in his arms.

“Where are you going?” Angel leaned over her, stilling her planned escape.

In an instant, anger flared in every part of Cordelia’s body. Would he ever give her a moment to think without overwhelming her? She turned to him and the sudden anger faded. His gaze was completely innocent. “Bathroom.” She darted off the bed.

***

Cordy stood at the sink, splashing water on her face. She needed to stop her doubts. Angel obviously didn’t have any and making him think he had to constantly defend himself without reason would be a sure-fire way of losing him. Cordelia froze as she realized that she was worried about losing him. Her groan was barely audible. She had fallen for Angel.

Oh, God. What was she going to do? She whined inwardly as she chewed on her thumbnail. She stared at her reflection as images of sitting with Angel, talking and teasing, and those of making love with him flashed in her mind.

Enjoy herself? She questioned hesitantly as her hand rubbed at the fluttering in her tummy. Just because her life sucked didn’t mean it always had to, right?

Cordelia winced as another image flashed in her mind, the one in which she freaked like a madwoman. Angel had been trying to be gentle and a considerate lover and she accused him of trying to kill her. Her eyes widened in a horrible thought – what if it wasn’t remaining Buffy-doubts he sensed? What if he thought she was scared about him being vampire?

But wouldn’t the fact that she made love to him twice afterwards be enough to cure any of those types of doubts?

She turned to leave the bathroom. “Crap,” she gritted through her teeth as she saw her watch on the sink. “Crap, crap,” she grunted in a whispered mantra. Reassuring Angel would have to wait.

She yelped as she hopped into the shower before it had a chance to get hot.

“Cordy, what’s wrong?” Angel pushed into the bathroom.

Cordelia covered herself with her hands. “Why are you in here?” She realized the silliness of her actions, but her hands wouldn’t move.

“Why are *you* here?” Angel yanked the shower curtain back.

“Shower.” Cordelia turned to yank at the nozzle that claimed ‘H’.

“Why?” Angel remained positioned beside the bathtub.

“Why?” Cordelia repeated and then sputtered as water ran down her throat. “School.” She coughed and then pointed to her watch. “If I hurry I won’t be that late.”

“School?”

Cordelia moved out of the stream of water and narrowed her eyes at Angel, her hands now placed firmly on her hips. She almost didn’t believe it, he sounded like he had never heard of the word. “Uh, yeah, school.” Cordelia said slowly, wondering if Angel had really been awake when she left the bed.

“Right, school.” Angel nodded as he stepped into the bathtub and reached for Cordelia.

Cordelia slapped his hands away. “You here won’t make me get to school quicker.”

“Sure it will.” Angel pushed back her hands and reached around her waist, “Two is always quicker than one.” He plucked the bath scrunchy off the showerhead. He stared at its duck face and then looked at Cordy. “Cute.”

“Give me that.” Cordelia snatched the duck.

“Nope.” Angel took it back. “I like it.”

Her sharp retort turned into a sigh as Angel squeezed soapy water from the duck onto her chest. “Angel, I have to go to school.”

“Do you really?” he chuckled.

Her frown deepened. She had heard the wavering in her voice, but Angel wasn’t supposed to. “Angel.” She tried to make her voice sterner.

“I think you just wanted to jump ahead.”

“Huh?” Cordelia stood back, tilting her head under the spray of water.

“Wild monkey sex in the shower– is chapter four. You seem to be anxious to skip most of chapter two and all of three,” Angel leaned in, bringing her back under the water as he kissed her.

Cordy knew her knees melted, because that is the only reason she could think of that caused her to grasp at Angel’s shoulders. She broke the kiss on a chuckle. “You’re not going to let me go to school, are you?”

“Mmm,” he murmured, kissing her again and then stopping. “If you want.” He straightened and moved to leave the shower.

”Jerk.” Cordelia mumbled, pulling him back until he was up against her chest. “Chapter four, huh?” She circled her arms around his neck then made an exaggerated expression of thought. “If I say yes now, does that mean I’ll miss out on the rest of chapter two and all of three?

“No,” he chuckled. “It just means you’ll have detention with hands-on homework.”

“Oh, well, that might be okay.” Cordelia sighed and then moved to snatch the duck from Angel’s hand. “This is mine.”

“No.” Angel was quicker.

Cordelia laughed leaning completely into his chest, trusting that he would keep her from slipping. “Angel, exactly how many chapters are there?”

“I haven’t decided yet,” Angel said, turning her until her back was pressed up against his chest.

“Angel,” she whined, wanting to feel his lips back on hers.

Angel chuckled as he ignored her plea and draped her hair over one shoulder. Her disappointment was soon forgotten as his lips started to suckle along her neck. The fist that that still held her hair pulled slightly urging her to give him more access.

“Can I tell you a secret, Cordelia?” Angel whispered as his tongue traced along the delicate curves of her ear.

“Mmm hmm,” Cordelia barely acknowledged, closing her eyes at the dual sensations of his lips on her skin and the warm spray of water on her body. She gasped as he bit her ear lope to get her attention.

“Do you want to hear it?”

Cordelia turned her head so she could see his face, wondering what secret his low tone held and why he had to choose that exact moment to tell her.

He stared at her for a moment causing her to tense at his silence, and then he smiled slowly.

She relaxed back in his embrace at the promise of his smile. “Well?” she asked in anticipation.

“This.” Her brow rose at the bath scrunchy he held. Cordelia frowned in question and waited for more of an explanation.

“Do you know what this does to me?” he spoke softly, as he leaned in.

“Lucky does something to you?”


Chapter 90

Angel he held up the bath scrunchy. “You named this thing?”

“Yeah,” she batted Lucky down. “What’s wrong with that?” She spread her stance and angled her fists to her hips.

Angel’s eyes traveled up and down her dripping wet body. He wanted to laugh but decided it would spoil the beauty before him. He did chuckle however, unable to completely ignore the appropriateness of the duck’s name.

“Nothing,” he whispered, pulling her closer. “It’s a very good name,” he nuzzled into her neck. “In fact, it fits in with my secret.”

“Huh?”

Angel smiled down at her upturned expression. “In the morning, I hear you in the shower and I imagine you with this.” He paused, holding her gaze as the hand that held the duck caressed her breast. “I always thought my imagination was good,” his eyes drifted along the curves of her body, “but I was wrong. The reality is so much better.” He paused again, dropping his lips back on her neck.

“That’s your secret?” she murmured, dipping her head. “That you had shower fantasies?” Angel took advantage of the exposed skin. He kissed and nipped along the column of her neck. “Did you happen to give me a real kiss in those fantasies or did you just nibble?”

Angel leaned up at the whine in her voice. “I happen to like nibbling you. But yes, eventually, after I took Lucky and did this,” He whispered, caressing the soapy scrunchy down her body until the netty material settled over the crown of her heat. “I wanted to be Lucky.”

Cordelia turned in his arms. “Get rid of the duck and you can be really lucky.” She mumbled, reaching down to knock the bath scrunchy away.

Angel’s hands slid up to her shoulders. “Does that mean you aren’t going to school today?”

“Shut up and kiss me.”

Angel held her at arms length. “Without the duck?”

“Angel.”

He chuckled at her whine. “I think we should explore the rest of chapters two and three first.”

“Angel.”

He ignored the stamp of her foot and picked her up. “In bed.”


Chapter 91

Angel dropped Cordelia on the bed, pulling off the towel that he had wrapped around her. He leaned down to kiss her only to have her jerk her head away.

“Chapter two and three be damned. It’s my fantasy now.”

Angel’s growl vibrated in his chest as Cordelia kissed him. He rolled them over, allowing Cordelia the dominant position. He wasn’t disappointed as Cordelia’s thorough exploration of his mouth continued to her hands. Angel’s skin prickled with desire at her caresses. Watching her flushed enthusiasm, he concentrated on the sensations she was creating.

Angel reached up to pull her under him, but Cordy shooed his hands away with a flick of a wrist and a quick kiss. “I want to.” She spread her hands on his chest, moving her palms along the expanse of his skin.

Angel’s muscles tightened and twitched as Cordelia’s tongue moistened his nipple. He groaned at the flickering pleasure. He fought not to drag her under him.

He was ready to yell curses as she leaned up, her hips leaving the cradle of his and she rested her weight on her heels.

“Can dish it out but just can’t take it, huh?” Cordelia cocked her head as she brushed his stomach, smiling as the muscles under her fingers jumped.

“Cordy.” Angel’s warning was low in his throat.

“Scary growl.” Cordelia giggled. “Does it mean this?” Cordy’s hand circled around the hardness of Angel’s penis adjusting her body so that its tip brushed against her center. “Or does it mean this?” she lowered her hips.

Angel bit back his loud growl of frustration and tightened his grasp on her hips. “Cordy.”

“What?” she pushed down taking in all of him. “This?”

“Yes,” Angel growled as her tight heat encompassed him. His groan begged for her to move. Angel closed his eyes as Cordelia started to create the friction he needed.

Angel savored every inch of the meeting of their bodies. His ears rang with her guttural gasp when she found the perfect angle. She was everything he needed, soft and strong, innocent and wanton. It was the confirmation that he could never let her go.

He took over then, his repeated thrusts zeroed in on the angle that caused her gasps. He flipped, ensuring his control over Cordelia.

Angel’s eyes closed at the pain Cordelia’s nails caused on his back. He pushed past her sucked in breath and contracting muscles to bury further into her warmth. Her fingernails dug deeper as she called out his name.

Angel’s lips attacked her jugular, suckling at the flesh to bring the blood to the surface. His blunt teeth clasped on the skin as he forced back his instinct to change.

His thrusts became frenzied. He moved faster to calm the fire that met each of his movements and tightened his balls. Cordelia’s name pushed out from his chest into a shout as he collapsed over her body. Her soft caresses kept him still as he gulped in their mingled scents.

***

Angel stared down at Cordelia. This time rather than concentrating on her beauty he smiled at the growling sounds coming from her stomach. He leaned down kissing her awake.

“Whahh?” she grumbled, waving him away.

“Oh, so you don’t want breakfast?” He leaned up to sit on the edge of the bed.

“Breakfast?” She peered around the room. “Is it still morning?”

Angel chuckled. “Lunch?”

“Maybe.” Cordelia shrugged, and then grimaced as she heard her stomach growl. “Okay, yeah. Hey,” she yelped in surprise as Darcy landed on her chest and meowed in her face. “Oh, baby, did we forget about you? Angel,” Cordelia shot a look at Angel.

“Don’t worry.” Angel pushed her back down on the bed. “Stay here, I’ll be back. Come on, Darcy, time for lunch.” He plucked the kitten off of Cordelia and headed out of the bedroom.

***

Cordelia wrapped her arms around the pillow as she curled on the bed to try to keep Angel’s retreating body in her line of sight.

“Damn,” she whispered, as Angel disappeared. If he had been wearing only low-riding sweat pants when she first met him she would’ve bypassed flirting and jumped him. She giggled at the image of her flying over the Bronze’s high tables and bringing him to the ground.

She rolled on her back, still holding the pillow, and reveled in the tingling feelings that encompassed her. Her feeling of well-being dimmed as she remembered her worry that Angel might doubt her ability to accept him as a vampire.

He’d be an idiot if he did after last night and this morning. Still she’d better make sure, she thought, as she got out of the bed.

TBC…

Onlyanne

Posted July 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

The Fine Line. 83-87   1 comment

Chapter 83

The taste of Angel was beyond anything she could imagine. It was rich with power, strength, and overwhelming sensuality.

She tried to settle closer to his lap only to miss and land on the concrete bench. When Angel yanked her back on his lap, she put up her hand to stop his descending mouth.

“What?”

Cordelia waved towards the stone bench. “Not the most comfortable here.” Her tone was more confident than what she was feeling.

Angel held her eyes for a moment before he gracefully uncoiled his body and pulled her up with him. “Inside.”

The intensity of his low command had her leaning away.

Angel loomed over her. “Don’t run from me, Cordelia.”

Cordelia wished that she had worn her boots that gave her an extra couple of inches over the ones that she was wearing. But, she wouldn’t let his overwhelming presence mess with who she was. She fisted her hands on her hips. “What about what I want?”

His eyes flashed. She stood straighter, refusing to give in to the feeling of being bared naked.

Angel’s mouth curled into a half-smile. “And what is it you want, Cordelia?”

Cordelia tried to think of what she wanted — other than his arms back around her. “I want the left over pizza in fridge, I want you to make sure Darcy has enough food, give him his medicine and – then I want you to kiss me again.”

Angel pushed her towards the house – only to abandon her in the living room. Almost before she could blink, he was back. “Done.”

“Darcy’s medicine?”

He lifted his hand to show her the eyed dropper. “He’s upstairs.’

“You can tell that?”

Angel pulled her up the stairs to the master bedroom.


Chapter 84

The doorway kept her steady as she watched Angel wake up the sprawled up kitten on the bed and put him on his lap. With the same gentleness as the previous times he dropped the medicine into Darcy’s eyes.

She picked at the hem of her shirt as she realized that soon his hands would be touching her.

She didn’t remember making a conscious decision to sit next to Angel but she was there and even found herself giggling when Darcy jumped off Angel’s lap. “I think you offended him.” She pointed at the kitten who was now vigorously rubbing his face.

“Well I was designated as the meanie, wasn’t I?” Angel put the dropper on the nightstand and turned to cup Cordelia’s chin. “What was next on your list?” He softly teased as his thumb brushed her lips. “Oh, yeah this.”

The muscles in her stomach flipped and then melted.

Cordelia didn’t know if she shifted closer or if Angel moved towards her. But, her new position enabled her to crawl onto Angel’s lap. Her fingers crept up the sides of his neck trailing her nails along until they reached the back edge of his hairline.

“Angel,” she whispered, needing to break the silence to prove she wasn’t dreaming.

“Hmm.” He nuzzled her neck.

“Nothing. Just want you,” she whispered.

She gasped as she found herself suddenly pressed down into the mattress. Angel molded her flesh as his lips made a path up her cheek. “You want what?”

She closed her eyes so that Angel wouldn’t see her embarrassment.

“Cordelia? What do you want?

She blindly raised her hand, resting her fingers on his lips. “I want you,” she whispered. “But …”

She opened her eyes.

How stupid could she be? Having sex with Angel was a forgone conclusion after everything that happened in the garden.

And if she didn’t, and he called her a tease, it would hurt more than when he called her Queen C.

‘Tease’ was never a label she cared about when she left the various guys she dated groaning with frustration. But with Angel it was different.

“I do. Want you, I mean. It’s just …” She sighed. “ I don’t know what you’ve heard about me …” She paused and shook away the memory of Xander’s cruder insults. “ I’ve never done this before.”

Her need to explain was lost as Angel’s lips covered hers.

Then suddenly he released her. “Do you want me to stop?” His hand traveled up her shirt to softly caress her breast.

Cordelia gasped as his finger teased her nipple. Her eyes squeezed shut as she slowly shook her head and wrapped her hands around his wrist.

“I just thought you should know.” She opened her eyes into his steady gaze. “It’s … no … big deal,” she stuttered.

He gave her a smile that teased her nerves and warmed her to her toes. And then his lips covered hers again.

She squirmed deeper into the mattress, trying to remain grounded as the kiss began to overwhelm her. She was almost grateful when he kneeled up and caged her hips with his thighs.

Cordy licked her lips, as his hooded gaze swept along her body, pinning her as effectually as his legs. “Beautiful.”

Shivers popped up along her skin even before he reached for her shirt.

Then Angel’s lips moistened every expanse of skin exposed as he peeled her blouse off.

Once again, she wiggled into the mattress as his hands and lips unwrapped her as if her clothes hid his most wanted present.

Goosebumps flared over her skin as the cool air swept over her skin and Angel worked his way to her navel. Each swirl of his tongue made her hips jerk. “Angel?”

After he took a broad lick against her belly, he looked up. “Mmm?”

“I …” She shook her head, not finishing.

Angel hadn’t waited. He’d already moved to the V of her thighs. She gasped and tensed, shivers racing up her spine and turning the ache of her belly to need.

She’d never let anyone else do this — had never wanted to be in such a vulnerable position. She tried to inch further up the bed, but Angel’s firm grasp on her hips kept her in place.

“Relax, baby. I have to taste what has been teasing me,” Angel murmured.

“Teasing?” Cordelia looked at Angel.

“In the most intoxicating definition of the word,” he said, fingers brushing her skin in delicate patterns. “I want all of you.”

The wet roughness of his tongue triggered an onslaught of sparks. Cordelia lay back, no longer feeling vulnerable or doubtfully, but powerful in the knowledge that he wanted her.


Chapter 85

Angel lapped up the tangy sweetness. The reality was even better than the Mecca he had imagined; yet he refused to get lost in the sensation.

He had to think beyond his desire. He had to ensure that Cordy’s body only recognized his as the one that could make her tremble in pleasure. He would be the first and last man to touch her.

Cordy’s gasps hummed in his ears and he groaned as her hips began to undulate. Her hands gripped his hair and he smoothed his palm over belly and pressed down to hold her in place. He concentrated his tongue and blunt teeth on the perfect bud swelling between her legs.

“Angel…I can’t…too much,” she gasped, trying to move away again.

“Yes, you can.” He reached up and linked their fingers. “Just hold on to me.”

“That’s it,” he smiled as her nails pierced his skin and breath caught in her chest.

“Oh, god.” Her voice choked in a burst of air.

Angel calmed her tremors with baby kisses and easy caresses, and finally she settled limply on the bed.

*

Cordelia barely felt Angel’s weight as he edged up her body. She was to intent on the lingering sensual buzz his mouth had left behind.

A whimper escaped as Angel’s lips brushed hers. She gathered enough energy to bring her hands around his back to hold him closer. “Angel?” She whispered.

“Yes, Cordy.”

Cordy’s eyes inched open to see Angel leaning over her. “You still have your clothes on.”

“Yes.” He nuzzled her cheek.

She cupped his chin, bringing his eyes up to meet hers. “That’s a bad thing.”

Angel’s brows dipped in mock concentration. “How bad?”

“Very, very bad,” she smiled, her hands leaving his face to reach for his sweater.

Angel kissed her deeply, finally leaving her with a slight tug on her lower lip.

“Hey.” Her hand reached up to stop his retreating form.

“I thought you wanted me naked.”

“You can’t multi-task?” She whined.

He chuckled, stripping quickly.

Her heavy eyelids lifted. Angel oozed pure masculine sensuality, she thought, following the descending path of dark down on his stomach.

She wetted her lips, but she couldn’t help being nervous. “Angel?”

He didn’t answer but settled his body over her. His solid weight soothed her nerves.

Cordelia caressed the hard lines of muscle on his back. “I hope Mr. Perky came with a how-to- guide.”

Angel chuckled into her throat. “Yep. Table of contents and index, even.”

“Funny guy,” she whispered huskily.

“Told you. Now shush, while I try out chapter one.”


Chapter 86

Angel breathed in her scent as his hand caressed over the feminine swell of her belly. His fingers drank up the silky texture that covered the firm flesh.

Cordy’s chin nudged his lips back to hers. He explored her mouth, sinking further into her welcoming warmth.

But when he edged his hand to her thighs, Cordy instinctively clenched them closed.

“Trust me. Let me have all of you,” he murmured into her neck while his fingers stroked her legs open again.

“I thought that’s what was happening.” Cordy gasped.

Angel was surprised at the sound of his laugher. He rolled onto his back hugging Cordelia to him.

“Hey, are you laughing at me?”

“Never,” he said, smiling assuredly. “It‘s just that you are truly one of a kind.” Then he slid his hand between her legs.

“So warm,” he whispered. “You were made for me.” He trailed his kisses to her lips as he aligned his hips with hers.

Cordy moaned as he nudged inside her. “I’m not so sure,” she winced.

Angel paused. “Just relax.” He hid his frustration with soft words and a coaxing touch.

Cordy lay there for a moment, then let out a huff. “Oh screw it,” she grunted and jerked her hips up forcibly.

“Christ, Cordy,” Angel choked, as her quick action plunged him into molten quicksand. He forced himself to still.

Cordy’s eyes widened with what looked like fear. “Oh no.” She shoved him violently “Get off of me!”

Angel groaned. “Don’t move.” He grabbed her hips.

But she struggled even harder.

“Dammit, Cordelia. STOP. Please.”

Angel let out deep sigh as she finally stilled beneath him. He closed his eyes and concentrated on staying calm.

“Don’t kill me,” she said in a small, terrified voice.

Angel’s eyes snapped open as her words penetrated his brain. He looked down at the young woman that only moments ago wanted him. Now fear seeped from her every pore.

“Kill you?” He brought his hand up to her face, but she flinched.

Angel forced himself to roll off her, though he kept a leg across her thighs. “Cordy?”

“Get off me, Angelus!” She struggled, trying to get out from under him completely.

“What?” Angel stared at her. Then he saw where she was pointing. “Aw, fuck,” he grunted, as he touched his ridged forehead.

“Get OFF!” Cordelia yelled and yanked at his hair in a feeble attempt to get him away from her neck.

“Dammit, Cordy, stop.” He lifted his head only when he was sure that his vampire face receded. “I didn’t lose my soul and I’m not going to kill you, okay?”

“Oh, sure, like I’m going to believe, you, Angelus.” She shoved him, again.

“Actually, I’ve lied more with a soul than without.”

“Huh?”

Angel pulled her up and settled her on his lap, “I’m sorry, Cordy,” he said softly, cupping her face. “I didn’t realize that I changed.”

Cordelia scooted away. “You went ‘grr’ and you expect me to believe that you didn’t go all Angelus on me?”

“I told you that my soul was bound. I wouldn’t lie about that.”

“How do I know that?” she shot back. “You just said that you lied more with a soul than without. That means you could be Angelus — except then you would be telling the truth. Arggh, I’ve always hated riddles.” She stared at him. “Okay, if you’re Angel, why did you try to kill me?”

“I — “

Cordelia’s hand shot up. “You did. Don’t deny it.”

Angel tried to ignore the way Cordelia’s breasts were pushed up in the cradle of her arms. He really wished that he could just ignore her question and take what her body offered — except that her body was no longer offering.

Angel wondered if she would accept his apology if he pointed to his deflating penis to prove his innocence.

An indelicate ‘hmmph’ drove any hope that a simple gesture on his part would solve his current problems. But then he realized that while the scent of her arousal was absent, so now was her fear.

Angel leaned against the headboard, making sure to brush his thigh against Cordelia’s.


Chapter 87

Cordelia licked her lips as her gaze traveled along the body laid before her. She bit her bottom lip as an inner voice shouted ‘stop talking and jump him’ in her brain.

With a deep breath she shoved it aside and focused on his face. Not much better, she admitted, but the hint of his smug smile made it double.

Angel sighed. “Cordy, how much do you know about vampires?”

“They’re bloodsuckers.”

Angel shook his head. “Cordy, you do realize that you’re in bed with a ‘bloodsucker.”

“Pig’s blood, duh.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that I’m a vampire.”

“Yeah, but you have a soul. Big difference.” She rolled her eyes.

Her expression turned into a glare as Angel mumbled something about Buffy and déjà vu.

“Hey!” She slapped his arm. “I’m not Buffy. So don’t you dare compare me to her, especially without a really good explanation as to why.”

Angel rubbed his face. “She didn’t understand either,” he mumbled.

“Understand what? So far you haven’t said anything. Say something that makes sense or I’m kicking you out.”

“Cordelia, have you ever tried to get rid of a vampire.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Have you ever seen a truly pissed off Cordelia Chase?”

*

Angel really wanted to know when the promise of the night turned into another visit to hell. He was sure it was his fault or more accurately, he was sure that’s what Cordelia would say.

He rubbed his face again, trying to remember how the whole horrid situation started in the first place. He sighed. It was his fault, first for losing control and then mentioning Buffy.

“Cordy.” He took another deep breath. “I’m a vamp —” Angel stopped at Cordelia’s snort.

“Fine, we’ve covered that.” He raised his finger to her lips to stop her from making another disgruntled sound. “This face,” he said consciously switching into his demon guise, “- is the face that a vampire wakes up with. It’s what the demon wears. It’s who I am, with or without a soul.”

He paused, ready to yank Cordelia back if she moved. To his surprise, she stayed put.

So Angel switched to his human face and then back to his demon one. “It’s the same, I’m the same.”

Angel waited but Cordelia’s frown of concentration remained the same. “If this is your welcome-to-the-world face, then why can’t I remember seeing it before except when Angelus played rough and tumble on me in the grave yard. He –“

“Cordy, you don’t have to remind me — I was there.” Angel snapped, increasingly irritated that Cordelia was following Buffy’s example and choosing to ignore the very real fact that he was not only a vampire, but also Angelus.

He could accept it with Buffy. He understood that Buffy did it for self-protection and justification for loving him. And he didn’t argue the point, not wanting to break her illusion and create even more barriers in their relationship.

But, the thought that Cordelia was splitting him apart made him want to force her beneath him and use her body until she had no doubt of who and what he was.

“Geez. Angel you’re the one that gives yourself two names. You can’t be mad at me for using them.”

Cordelia pulled his hands from his face. “So, how about trying again, but this time skip the obvious.”

Angel shook his head. He didn’t understand her. “You’re looking for a simple explanation.”

“Well, it can’t be any worse than your attempt at the ‘History of the Vamp Face’. Cordelia reached for the edge of the comforter they were sitting on.

Angel reached out and yanked the cover away. “What are you doing?”

She tried to yank it back. “I’m cold.”

Angel pulled her on his lap then wrapped the cover around both of them.

“Hey.” Cordelia squirmed on his lap. “You’re cold.”

“Keep that up and I’ll be warm soon enough.”

She tried to push away. “You haven’t —“

Angel interrupted her with a hard quick kiss. Her protests couldn’t hide the scent of her renewed arousal.

“Shut up and listen while I warm both of us up. Okay?” He cupped her chin.

Cordelia let out a long-suffering sigh but cuddled even closer.

“So,” she said to encourage him to start talking.

“Shush, I’m feeling.” Angel whispered into the crook of her neck, savoring the lush body flush against his.

“Shouldn’t that be thinking?”

“Nope.” Angel caressed the distinct lines of her toned back with his fingertips. He teased the shivers along her skin.

“Angel.”

He heard the censure in her soft murmur, but smiled because it was accompanied by her own caresses along his back.

“You have seen it before. Bruno.” He said softly.

Angel watched as Cordelia’s incomprehension turned into one of understanding. “In the parking lot when you scared him away.”

“That’s a nice way of putting it, but yeah.” Angel nodded.

Cordelia leaned back to stare at him. “You were trying to scare me?”

“No. Never.” He said seriously. “I went ‘grr’ with Bruno to scare him. I went ‘grr’ while fighting the Phermitica –“

”I didn’t see you — oh wait, I was on the ground.”

“Right, I’m sorry, but then vamping out enabled me to fight hard and dirty enough to win. It was a conscious choice just like with Bruno. But with you,” Angel leaned in to look Cordelia in the eyes, “It was an instinctual reaction to sudden intense pleasure. The sensation literally wiped all thought or control from my brain. I had planned to go slow, but you,” he paused to pierce her with his gaze,” had a different plan.”

“I’m more of the ‘rip the band-aid off’ type of girl.”

“Yes, I know that now.”

He watched as Cordelia scrunched up her nose. “Intense pleasure, huh?”

“Yep.”

“So, then the vamp face was a compliment.”

“Very much so,” Angel said softly as his hands reached up through her hair to cup the back of her head, urging her face closer.

“I’ve got absolutely no problem with compliments,” she whispered in the same soft tone, before meeting Angel’s lips in a kiss.

The initial gentleness of the kiss disappeared as Angel savored her taste. Angel dragged his lips away and settled on the pulse in her throat, sucking hard on the soft skin, swallowing each frantic beat that fluttered underneath.

Cordelia palmed his chin and urged him away.

“Cordelia,” he growled.

She brushed at his smooth forehead. “No intense pleasure, huh?”

Angel didn’t know how to answer her.

“No vamp face. How come?”

“Jesus, Cordy.” He half groaned and chuckled as he moved her hand away and dropped his forehead on hers.

“Well?”

“How about — now I’m fully prepared for any and all intense pleasures.”

“I guess that’ll do.”

Angel shook his head. Was this the same girl who only moments ago, was sure he wanted to kill her.

“What about the growling?”

“I didn’t — “ Angel stopped. “ Okay, I guess, I did. Let’s just call that … encouragement.”

“Cool.” She smiled. “So much sexier than the cheesy adolescent grunts and groans of ‘fuck me, baby, fuck me, baby.”

Angel’s smile turned into a concentrated straight line. “Oh, don’t misunderstand, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

Cordelia stroked the hard lines of his clenched jaw. “Like I said, so much sexier,” she replied in a husky whisper as her tongue darted along his bottom lip. “I think you just may be warm enough now.” She reached down, running her finger along the base of Angel’s hardened cock.

Angel groaned, jerking into her feather-light touch. In a quick move he pushed Cordelia down on the bed and covered her body with his. He braced his weight on his forearms, caging her in, leaning down until he was a hairbreadth away from the desire in her eyes.

“Before we go any further, you need to understand that everything — I mean everything — we do brings me intense pleasure. Except,” he shook his head to silence the emergence of words from her mouth. “When you interrupt me.”

“Geez, Angel, all I was going to say was ‘fuck me, baby, fuck me, baby.”

Pure lust battled with his desire to laugh. “Christ Cordy,” he growled, leaning down to capture her mouth, his lust winning out at her silent demand hidden underneath the teasing.

Chapter 88

Posted July 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

The Fine Line. 79-82   1 comment

Chapter 79

Angel sat as close to Cordelia as he could without exchanging her for Darcy on his lap. And he was very tempted to do just that if only to get Cordelia to stop paying all of her attention to Miss Twittle.

He took a deep breath as he realized the foolishness of such an action and switched his concentration to their phone conversation.

“Oh dear,” Miss Twittle chuckled. “Cordy, where is Darcy now?”

“Oh Angel’s lap. He seems really happy. He’s purring.”

Angel felt a bit less annoyed — at least she did realize that he was next to her. His fingers did double time on the area around Darcy’s big ears. The kitten melted against his hand and purred even louder. Angel smugly looked up at Cordelia, who rolled her eyes at him.

“Honey, tell me the truth.”

Angel narrowed his eyes at the sudden tension in Cordelia’s shoulders. Darcy squirmed at the abrupt stillness of his hand. What the hell was Miss Twittle talking about?

Cordelia tried to clear her throat but still ended up stuttering. “I am.”

Angel wanted to slam the phone down to silence Miss Twittle’s demand for the truth and conversely,to grab it closer to clearly hear what she had to say. He decided to stay still and just listen. Cordelia was becoming comfortable in the mansion.

It was more important that he discern if Miss Twittle’s words would be a threat to Cordy’s growing acceptance of him and their situation rather than her obvious agitation over Miss Twittle’s question.

“Yes, dear. Now tell me the rest — did you even go to school today?”

“Of course, but then … well, Darcy was driving Angel really nuts. He wouldn’t stop crying.” Cordelia’s shoulders relaxed. Angel took a deep breath; relieved that Miss Twittle was so easily handled.

“You’re coddling him.”

“Angel?” Cordelia narrowed her eyes at Angel. ‘Did you just Pfft’, she mouthed.

He returned her question with an innocent gaze.

A soft chuckle sounded through the phone. “No dear, Darcy.”

He maintained his expression and continued to pet Darcy, as Cordelia gave silent ‘Pfft’ and turned back to the phone.

“But — “

“Cordy, Darcy is a cat.”

Angel nodded. That’s what he had been telling her.

“I — “

“Honey, you’re spoiling Darcy. You don’t need to be with him every minute. It’s no wonder that he cried when you went to school.”

“But — “

“No, Cordelia. I’d wager a bet, if I did such an illegal thing, that neither you nor Angel have actually allowed Darcy to explore on his own.”

“But, Miss Twittle, he’s so small he could get lost.”

Angel cringed, remembering the couple of times that Darcy had escaped from him. That wasn’t going to happen again. Angel would rather carry Darcy around even if he looked like one of those flighty Victorian ladies and their equally annoying lap poodles.

“He won’t, not as long as you make sure he can’t get outside. Let him walk around the house on his own four feet. He needs to learn independence.”

“But, he likes to be held and petted,” Cordy said, shooting Angel a questioning look.

Angel nodded, hoping to encourage her just in case Miss Twittle suggested exiling the kitten from their bedroom.

“Of course he does and you should. But kittens can be left to their own devices for a period of time. They’re quite the self-sufficient little creatures.”

“But — “

“No, buts, Cordelia. You have to go to school and to work —“

“Work?”

“Yes, work.” Miss Twittle chuckled. “The store is scheduled to open in a couple of days. I expect you to be there.”

“Of course.” Cordelia nodded.

Angel’s chest constricted. He had forgotten about Cordelia’s misguided notion that she needed to work. Convincing her otherwise wouldn’t be easy. It would probably best if he just made sure that the dress store never re-opened.

“Now, Cordy, I would suggest that perhaps you and Angel go out tonight and enjoy yourselves — leaving Darcy to his own devices. Of course, I do expect you both to keep alert for any dangers.”

Angel felt his chest tighten again. He didn’t want to leave the mansion, or more particularly he didn’t want to leave his position on the sofa next to Cordelia.


Chapter 80

“So,” Cordelia sighed, leaning back on the couch. “We’re supposed to go out.” She stretched her hand out to join in petting Darcy.

“We can do that.” The more Angel thought about the idea the more he could accept it. He wouldn’t necessarily be alone with Cordy but he was sure he would have an easier time distracting her from strangers rather than needy presence of Darcy. “Where?”

Cordy’s brow wrinkled. “Not Starbucks. Harmony works there. Not the Bronze. Who knows who’ll be there? Maybe the mall?” She suggested, straightening up.

“No,” she sighed, her shoulders slumping. “It’s no fun without money and anyway Aura and Josh work at Burger Heaven in the Food Court. Though,” she perked up. “I would love to see them in those stupid hats. But, then we can’t let any body see us. Jeez. Sunnydale is sinking into an even smaller pit by the minute.” She frowned.

“Why can’t anybody see us?” Angel asked.

“Duh, someone sees us ‘out’,” she quoted in the air, “ and it will be around school by first bell. By second I’d be cornered by an angry slayer, and by third, while my pummeled body is being wiped up, you’d have her on your doorstep. And to appease her irrational anger you’d tell her the truth. And that’s so not happening.”

“Even IF that highly imaginative scenario was to occur. Buffy wouldn’t hurt you.” He stopped at her loud snort. “I wouldn’t let her. Anyway, it’s none of her business.”

Cordelia snorted again, even louder.

“It’s not.” Angel said firmly.

“Angel, you know nothing about women or Buffy if you believe that. You may no longer be ‘dating’ — “.

“Stop that.” Angel grabbed her upraised fingers.

She tugged at her hands and dropped them to her lap. “Fine. But whatever your delusions, Buffy hasn’t given up her leash,” she continued. “And you can’t tell me that you wouldn’t give up my secret if it was a choice between it and her being angry with you.”

Angel leaned in closer, ignoring Darcy’s irritated squeal as the kitten was driven off his lap. “I told you.” His jaw clenched so that the words came out sharp and low. “There is NO leash.”

“Whatever.” Cordelia’s gaze flickered to the floor.

“Not whatever.” Angel leaned in even closer to block any possible movement on her part. “Buffy has nothing to do with this. THIS is about us — “

“Us?” Cordelia squeaked as her hands fluttered on his chest.

“Yes, us.” Angel pushed her hands away and leaned back against the couch. “And YOUR apparent lack of trust.” He crossed his arms. Turning to look at her, he said, “I thought you trusted me. I don’t know what else I can do for you to prove it.” His seemingly half haphazard wave hovered in the direction of the new TV. He turned his gaze to the far wall.

“I — I do trust you,” she stuttered.

Angel shook his head.

“Angel, I do — it’s just that — I know how you feel about Buffy.”

He jerked away from her approaching hand. “You don’t know anything about me or the way I feel if you think I would betray you.” Angel got up and turned away from her.

Cordelia fidgeted and gathered her breath in the heavy silence. Finally, she jumped up from the couch and moved in front him. “I’m so sorry, Angel.” She reached out again. “I do trust you. I swear. You’ve been wonderful — are wonderful.” She squeezed his arm.

“I thought you had begun to think of me as a friend,” He said softly as he looked at the floor.

“Oh God, I do.” Cordelia reassured him as she wrapped her arms around him.

”You swear,” he whispered into the crook of her neck.

“Definitely.” She nodded into his shoulder.

“Good.” Angel said as he pulled her body flush against his. “Because that’s what I want,” he whispered as he hid his satisfied smile in the depths of her hair.


Chapter 81

Cordelia’s mind rang with caution, but her body rejoiced at the solid feel of him against her. She did trust him, she vowed, pushing aside the doubts that Buffy’s name brought up.

She didn’t necessarily hate Buffy, but her life had seemed a lot easier before the slayer showed up. Sure, Buffy saved her life plenty of times, but her life had never been in danger before then.

Cordelia refused to rub her head at what was beginning to be a ‘chicken or the egg argument’. What was important was that Angel had offered her friendship when she had no one and she couldn’t let her mixed-up feeling about Buffy screw that up.

Hell, Buffy had nothing to do with her being poor.

Settling the important issue in her mind, she trailed her hands over Angel’s shoulder’s to rest them on his chest. “You’ve been great. A real friend.” She repeated, blinking back tears that threatened to fall.

“That’s all I want. For you to trust me.” Angel cupped her chin.

Cordelia leaned in to his touch. “I do.”

“Good.” Angel nudged her back so that their eyes met. “So, trust me now.”

“I — okay.” Cordelia didn’t understand the change in Angel, but didn’t question it. She wanted Angel to believe her and it seemed he now did.

“Go, upstairs and freshen up.”

Cordelia’s shoulders tightened. Tenderness and hotness aside, he’d just ordered her to go upstairs and that just wasn’t who she was.

Except, she reasoned before any words could snap out, her face did feel a bit puffy. And she probably should look in a mirror soon or she’d be really embarrassed and, she sighed, there was the way he touched her. She’d hate to lose the tingling feeling along her skin just to prove a point that would most likely be moot because he was probably right.

However, Cordelia paused in her acceptance of his order. “Angel?”

As if reading her mind, he said, “I have an idea on how we can stay within both Miss Twittle’s instructions and your parameters.”

Cordelia frowned. He didn’t have to say that last part, especially so disapprovingly … She told him that she trusted him. He was acting like such a freak. Maybe she should just go upstairs and stay there.

Again her doubts disappeared as Angel brushed his lips against her forehead. “I believe you. And you’re right. We don’t need to take the chance of unwanted interruptions. Now go.” He pushed her gently towards the stairs.

Cordelia’s mind finally caught up with her. No way was she letting a little sweetness make her into absolute putty. “Where are we going?”

“Pizza. I saw the way you looked at that commercial.” He turned his head towards the glow of the muted TV. “We’ll order out and then leave to pick it up — thereby giving Darcy his independence per Miss Twittle. Then we’ll eat out in the garden — so you don’t have to be seen with me.” His deep gaze flickered on her and then moved to rest on the floor.

A surge of guilt pushed up from her toes. She couldn’t stop herself from running towards him. “There is no way that I’m ashamed to be seen with you.” She bit her lip, searching for the very first thought she had of him. “You’re salty goodness — a hottie.”

He frowned as he brushed her hands away. “I’m a vampire.”

She straightened her shoulders. “Yeah, a really hot one that happens to be MY friend.” She brought her hands up again to his chest. “And your idea sounds great. I’ll just be a minute.”

***

Cordelia slumped on the bed hugging her knees. She peered through her blurry eyes at the envelopes on the dresser. She could no longer pretend that she could ever pay Angel back.

She pressed the palms of her hands against her eyes. Sure he could be bossy, but all in all he was too nice, way too gorgeous, and had done so much for her. It was making the whole thing difficult. She’d almost forgotten that he was a vampire, or rather, that his being a vampire should be an ‘ewwy’ turn off.

She thought back at the hurt look in his eyes, a look she didn’t ever want to see again. So she braced her shoulders and got up, cringing when she saw her reflection in the mirror.

Angel had seen her with drippy eye-makeup. That would also never again, she vowed as she hurried to the bathroom.
***

“Darcy?” Angel looked down at the whining kitten. “Fine,” he said, picking Darcy up. “You’ve got until Cordy comes back downstairs to be coddled. But, just to let you know, if you ruin this for me you’ll be a door decoration.”

Darcy’s dark eyes were rimmed with gold as he stared at Angel. Angel scratched the cat’s head. “You aren’t nearly big enough to pull that threat off. But, don’t worry,” Angel hugged the kitten. “I want what you want — to keep Cordy here.”


Chapter 82

“Don’t you want another piece?” Angel gestured to the pizza box on the stone bench between him and Cordelia.

“I’ve already had — “ Cordelia’s eyes widened as her hand flew up. She coughed loudly in a panicked attempt to disguise her burp. At her failure, her head flew down to the cradle of her hands.

“Stop laughing.” She managed to sneak a glare at Angel. “After all, you did it.”

“Me?” Angel pointed to his chest.

“Yes, it couldn’t have been me. Cordelia Chase does not burp.” She took her head with conviction. “So, therefore, it had to be you.”

Angel’s smile grew wider. “As persuasive as your logic is — it’s just not true. The ‘huge’,” he held his hands out,” – burp was all Cordelia Chase. You know —,” Angel paused and cocked his head at the side door.

Cordelia crossed her arms and raised a brow. “What?” Her reproach belied that delight she felt. She should be mortified and angry that he was teasing her about such an uncouth thing but she was having too much fun watching him smile.

“I hear Darcy scrambling to hide. Maybe you should go in and explain to him that the ungodly noise came from you and not some monster waiting to devour him.”

“So, says a devouring monster,” she automatically retorted.

“Excuse me, a HOT devouring monster, thank you very much,” Angel corrected.

“Yeah, well, whoever said that was truly delusional.”

“Oh NO. You can’t take something like that back. Once labeled a ‘hottie’ by Cordelia Chase it’s permanent.”

“Pfft. She that giveth can take awayths.”

Angel snorted. “That’s not right.”

“It is, too. So, watch it, buster, or you’ll be labeled a ‘non-hottie’ just like that.” She snapped her fingers and then sighed.

“What is it?”

Cordelia looked at the side door and then back to Angel. “Can you really hear Darcy? I haven’t heard a peep out of him since we left to get pizza. It’s been hours. AND I am NOT a worry wort.” She stuck her tongue at Angel’s patronizing look.

“Right, because a NON-worry-wort would’ve told me to get pizza while she waited outside the door — just in case.”

“Yeah, well, it could’ve been necessary. You didn’t have to go all ‘Tarzan’ and drag me away.”

“You would’ve caved after two seconds of his whining. I HAD to drag you away — for his own good. And I had Miss Twittle to think about it. She scares me.” He faked a shiver.

“Hmmph.” She crossed her arms. The she leaned closer to Angel and threw all pretext of joking aside. “Do you really hear him?”

“Cordy, he’s fine.” Angel moved closer and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear.

“I know,” she shrugged. “But, he’s such a little guy. What if something happened to him? I’d never forgive myself.”

“You really do have an amazing heart, don’t you?”

Cordelia squirmed on the stone bench as Angel cupped her chin. She could feel the blush spreading from her toes upward and she nudged Angel’s had away. “Yeah, tell that to the Sunnydale High populace.” She didn’t want to bring up Buffy or the Scoobies again. No matter what Angel said, mention Buffy and he got weird.

“How about I take out a billboard?” Angel said softly as he brushed his thumb along her chin.

Cordelia licked her lips. She couldn’t be sure whether the tingling in her belly was the result of his words or his touch but she did know that he had all the signs of wanting to kiss her.

“Angel?” She cringed as she heard the want in her voice. She shook her head for clarity. “Angel, what do you want from me?”

“You,” he said simply.

Cordelia didn’t have a chance to respond before his lips met hers. She couldn’t stop her tongue from meeting his any more than she could stop her fingers from entangling in the thick hair at the nape of his neck.

“Why?” she whispered.

Angel chuckled, “’ Queen C’ has to ask why?”

She lurched back as if he’d thrown a bucket of cold water on her and stood on shaky legs. It was only after she masked her hurt and anger that she turned towards him.

“Gee, I don’t know Angel.” She made her smile pageant-perfect. “So far, my only appeal to vampires has been as — well — food.” She forced her fake smile into one of question. “Is that it? Were you just tenderizing me?”

Pretending to think, she tapped her forefinger against her chin. “But, maybe that’s not it. After all, you’ve ignored my ‘Queen C’ charms for over a year.” She narrowed her eyes, her anger winning over her attempt to be cutting. “Maybe the ‘curse’ has a loop hole and you want some ‘lovin’ that doesn’t have any strings attached. If that’s the case, find a bimbo, hell I’ll give you a couple of names, but leave me alone.”

Angel yanked her down on the stone bench.

“Let me go.”

“Not until we get a couple of things straight,” he said, staring her down.

Cordelia squirmed. “You can’t force —“

“Don’t kid yourself.”

Cordelia tried to jerk back but his hand didn’t budge.

“All I want is for you to listen. Can you do that?’

Cordelia felt helpless against his strength. She was starting to get scared.

Suddenly his grip changed and he rubbed her back gently.

“Angel?”

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I was just teasing — just like when you called me a devouring monster. That’s all.”

She narrowed her eyes. “So, the kissing was teasing? That’s not very funny.” She tried to stand, but he pulled her back down.

“Not the kiss, Cordy,” Angel said softly, “Calling you Queen C. The kiss was only the beginning of what I want.

The intensity of his gaze stopped her movements.

“You’re not ‘Queen C’ to me. You’re YOU, the real you. Who, insists that I share my meals with you.” He gestured down to the empty container by the bench. “You make me laugh.” He brought his hand up and traced his forefinger along her cheek. “You make me believe that being a vampire doesn’t have to be a life full of guilt and regret.” He tipped her chin up. “That’s why I want you.”

Cordelia wanted so badly to get lost in his words, except there was a tickle of common sense that refused to let her fall completely.

“What about the curse?”

She had to know. No matter what feelings Angel’s kisses brought forth she couldn’t – wouldn’t take the chance of unleashing Angelus.

***

Angel continued to hold Cordelia’s chin as the impact of her question hit him. He should’ve known that Cordy would need assurance.

He gentled his touch and dropped his forehead against hers, deciding that the truth was the only option. “I don’t know why, Cordy, but while hell offered me a hundred years of torture, it also gave me a permanent soul. There is no more ‘Angelus’ — just me.”

Cordelia blinked. “If that was true than you and Buffy —“ Angel tightened his grip around her jaw and forced her eyes to his. “I told you this was about us. Buffy has nothing to with it.”

Cordelia jerked back but Angel held her close. He knew that he could possibly leave bruises. But he couldn’t stand that Cordelia threw Buffy in his face again. So, he stared down the tears welling in her eyes and tightened his grip.

“What everybody — meaning you, Buffy, and the so-called Scoobies – seem to forget,” he said as his eyes held Cordy’s “is that I’ve been what I am for almost 250 years. Angst and futility are NOT what I want. I’m sick of being burdened with the past. I want the promise of the future.”

He heard her gasp. “I’m sorry.” Angel released his grip and brushed his fingertips along her face. “I just want you, only you.” He said, tenderly cupping her face towards his.

“Oh,” Cordelia whispered, feeling extremely uneasy.

“Oh — yes,” Angel repeated his whisper, his fingers leaving a tingling along her cheek. “Only you. Please, Cordy, let me have you,” he murmured against her cheek.

Cordelia whimpered. Her mind was still full of doubts, but her body was already giving in.

Then he kissed her again and she didn’t care anymore.

Chapter 83

Posted July 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

The Fine Line. 73-78   1 comment

Chapter 73

Angel and Darcy stared as Cordelia closed the trap door to the school’s basement. Darcy let out a plaintive meow.

“I know, I don’t like either.” Angel resisted the urge to go after her and drag her back to the mansion.

“She’ll be back.” Angel still stood at the door, acknowledging as Darcy whined again, that he was feeling as abandoned as the cat, except that he was also angry and getting a headache

“Come on.” Angel swiftly turned and headed back to the mansion. “Shh, she can’t hear you,” he coaxed the crying kitten to be quiet.

***

Angel’s head was on fire. Darcy’s high-pitch whines were piercing his eardrums like razor-sharp pins. “Please.” He begged. “Don’t make me kill you.”

Darcy was silent for a moment and blinked his gold rimmed- eyes up at Angel. They stared at each other for a second and then Darcy let out a loud wail.

Angel pulled the kitten up to his face. “I said be quiet.” Angel growled, feeling his eyes go hot.

Darcy’s ears flattened back against his head as he spat and growled. “Crap.” Angel immediately reverted back to his human face but it was too late. Darcy had squirmed out of his arms and disappeared in the sewer.

Angel stood motionless. His only thought was that even if Cordelia didn’t kill him, she definitely wouldn’t ever sleep with him again.

That unacceptable thought forced his voice drop to a cajoling tone. “Darcy, come back. I won’t hurt you I promise. Darcy.”

He listened, but didn’t hear a mew in response. He concentrated harder, searching for a tiny heartbeat and Darcy’s scent. “Darcy,” he called.

He stilled as he heard the fall of debris on the sewer floor. He looked up, his eyes narrowing on the small form tucked in a break in the wall. “Come here, Darcy.” He beckoned to the cringing kitten. “You can’t like it up there. I promise, I won’t hurt you.” He slowly reached out his hand, stopping, when Darcy backed further into the wall.

“If you stay here, you won’t see Cordy again,” Angel said with a sinking feeling in his gut. He wasn’t confident that Cordy would easily accept the loss of Darcy. He sighed. Getting Cordelia a cat had seemed like such a good plan at the time.

“Come on, please.” He moved closer, this time purposely making noise, as his senses fixated on the kitten.

Darcy jumped, but Angel moved quicker. He rolled on the floor clutching Darcy safely to his chest.

Angel sat up. “Shh,” he murmured into fur of the shaking kitten. “I won’t hurt you. It’s just me, Angel. You know me.” Angel’s fingers continuously rubbed at Darcy, trying to sooth the agitated kitten.

Darcy began to calm.

“That’s right.” Angel shoulders dropped in relief. Darcy had stopped shaking, but Angel kept petting him to ensure his compliance. “Good kitty,” Angel encouraged him. Angel smiled as Darcy started to purr.

“Okay, now I want you to see something.” Angel brought Darcy up to face. “It’s okay,” Angel said in the same soothing voice he had been using. “I just sometimes have eyes like you.”

Darcy stopped purring and watched Angel intently. “And I can do this.” Angel growled low in his chest, the ridges along his forehead became more pronounced. “But, it’s still me.” He scratched at Darcy’s head.

Angel was pleased to see that Darcy’s big ears had remained straight. “That’s right. It’s okay.” Darcy reached out a tentative paw and tapped Angel’s nose.

“Oh you want to play?” Angel smiled, running his fingers over the kitten, turning him on his back to tickle his stomach.

“Friends, again?” Angel asked, hugging the kitten back into his chest. “We don’t have to tell Cordy about this, do we?”


Chapter 74

“Hold on.” Angel cradled Darcy closer and made a dash to the shade of the atrium. “We’re home.” Angel couldn’t help another sigh of relief. While Darcy hadn’t gotten upset again, Angel’s headache along with his tension had been building all the way through the tunnels.

Angel paused and Darcy’s ears perked up. “I hear it, too.”

He moved silently towards the noise coming from inside the mansion. “Demon,” he told the cat as if Darcy asked.

“What the … ” Angel stopped in the doorway of the living room. A green ass was bopping in the air in the middle of his living room.

Angel strode over and grabbed the owner by the arm.

“Oh hey!” The green spiny demon yanked the Walkman off and stood. Angel eyed the demon as he nervously tugged at his tool belt.

“Hi, I’m Larry.” The demon dropped his hand as Angel remained motionless and eyed him.

“Erik sent me, said it would be okay to just come on in.” Larry coughed. “You’re supposed to be expecting me.”

Angel stopped listening at the mention of Erik and turned his attention to the gleaming new TV beside the demon. He frowned at the size. When did TVs get so big? “What are you doing?”

“You want cable right?” The demon pulled out a clipboard. “It says cable,” he pointed to the paper.

Angel shrugged. “Just get it done. Where’s Erik?”

“Had to work. Oh, here’s your change. I took my fee out of it.” The demon backed away. “Erik said it was okay.” Larry stepped further back. “Hey, I don’t cheat guys with fangs. Bad for my health.” He shoved a bundle of cash towards Angel. “Hey cute kitty. Lunch?” He coughed again, trying for a smile.

“Just get it done and get out of here.”

Angel slumped on the sofa but got immediately to his feet when he realized that he had a perfect view of Larry’s ass.

“Let’s go upstairs,” he whispered to Darcy.

Darcy’s answering meow erupted into a hiss as a drill sounded throughout the room. “Ow.” Angel shook his hand. Darcy had used all of his claws to push off from Angel’s grip. “Darcy,” Angel called out over the drill to the escaping cat.

“Would you stop that?” Angel smacked the side of the demon’s head.

“Wha…” The demon looked up. “Almost done.” He turned on the drill again to finish the small hole in the wall. “After this. I just got to do the connection and then I’ll be gone.”

Angel rubbed harshly at his face and then sighed. “Darcy.” He shook his head as his eyes wandered around the room hoping to see him.

He closed his eyes, but instead of a small heartbeat, he heard off-tune humming. “Would you shut up?” Angel growled at the demon.

“Geez-Louise. Fine. I’m done.” The demon shook his head as he gathered his tools. “Erik warned me that you were a hard case.”

Angel waited until the door was closed before he concentrated on sensing Darcy. He moved to the weapons cabinet and peered behind it. Two wide black eyes rimmed with gold looked up at him.

“How did you fit behind there?” Angel shook his head at the small kitten and the even smaller space that he was positioned in. He pulled the weapons cabinet from the wall. “Darcy,” he said softly and then yelled as the kitten took off for the stairs. Angel reached out to catch him but Darcy dodged his questing hand and tumbled through the banister tines onto the floor.

“Crap.” Angel ran down the stairs, but Darcy was already up on his feet and scrambling back behind the weapon’s cabinet.

Angel leaned down on the floor. “Darcy, come on, the noisy demon left. Please.” Angel lay straight out, his hand reaching towards the two gold eyes.

Angel knocked his forehead on the floor. “Please,” he begged. He stilled. Darcy was inching out. “That’s it,” he whispered. Angel willed the kitten closer as he kept his body motionless.

Darcy’s head reached out and sniffed at Angel.

“It’s me.” Angel slowly brought his hand up to clutch him.

Angel sat up, sitting cross-legged, and pulled Darcy on his lap. Angel had a moment of relief before Darcy started crying. “No, no, no.” He whispered. “Hey.” Angel switched into his vampire guise. “We can play.” Darcy ignored the change and continued to whine.

“No.” Angel rubbed at his temple.


Chapter 75

Cordelia skimmed through her history book. It was useless. She couldn’t focus on the words. She looked up at the other students in the study hall. They were either studying or gossiping. She tuned out the voices of Harmony and Aura. Their bitchy debate as to whether more cute college guys came to the Starbucks or the Burger Heaven had lost its appeal early on.

All she could think about was how she woke up that morning, or rather where she woke up. It was the second time she woke up with Angel’s arms around her. And it had felt wonderful. So much so that it was scary.

She rubbed her lips, remembering the feel of his finger shushing her. What would his lips have felt like? She reluctantly dropped her hand. She couldn’t think like that.

Just then, her purse vibrated against her leg. Cordelia reached for her buzzing phone.

“Cordy.”

“Angel?” Cordelia hurried to the corner of the room and shot a look around to see if any was listening.

“You have to come home now.”

Cordelia frowned at the phone. Angel almost sounded panicky. “Is that Darcy?” she asked hearing a high whine in the background.

“Ah – yeah.”

“Angel?” Cordelia stared at the phone as if it could give her the meaning behind Angel’s sarcasm or the following silence. She brought the phone back to her ear as Darcy’s cries echoed through the phone. “Angel, take the phone away from Darcy and talk to me,” she whispered harshly.

“He’s been doing that since you left.”

“All the time?”

“Except when he was howling.”

“Have you picked him up?” Cordelia didn’t bother to stop the rolling of her eyes.

“Don’t even.”

Cordelia involuntary took a step back. Angel had obviously heard the bite in her tone and he wasn’t amused. Her thought was verified by his sharp answer.

“I haven’t let him down. I pet him. I play with him. But he keeps crying. He wants you home.”

“I can’t just keep leaving school.” Cordelia straightened. He couldn’t order her around. But still, Cordelia frowned as she heard Darcy whining in the background. Maybe she *should* go.

“Cordelia, that story about the n.a.i.l.i.n.g. wasn’t just a story.”

Cordelia gasped. “You’re losing it and if you touch Darcy in any other way than nice – you’re dust.”

“Then you’d better come home.”

“How? Walk?”

“The sewers.”

“Alone? No way.” Cordelia shook her head as if Angel could see her opinion on that suggestion.

“Be in the basement in ten minutes.” Angel declared.

Cordelia stared at the phone. He’d ordered her around AND hung up on her. So wrong, she grumbled as she went to pick up her books and think of another excuse to leave school early.

***

Cordelia waved over her shoulder at the school nurse. “Thanks, bye,” she said, as she hurried out of infirmary.

“Great,” she muttered. She crumbled the white piece of paper the nurse had given her. The cramp excuse was no longer an option, not unless she wanted the nurse to personally escort her to a gynecologist.

“Where are you off to, young lady?”

Cordelia jerked to a stop. “It’s your business, how?” She eyed the large security guard standing before her.

“Perhaps you should come with me.”

“Hey.” Cordelia narrowed her eyes at the beefy hand that clutched her arm. “Let me go. I’ve been excused.”

“Well, I’ll walk you to your car, then.”

“That’s okay.” Cordelia tugged at her arm.

“What’s happening here?”

Cordelia looked up to see Principal Snyder. She had never been so happy to see the troll. The security guard gave her the creeps. “Miss Chase, why are you out of class?”

“I’ve been excused by Nurse Creighton.” With a hard tug, she freed herself from the security guard. “And this Steven Segal wannabe grabbed me. I have a note.” She shoved the crumpled paper at the principal.

She rubbed her abused arm as Snyder dissected the note. Finally, he looked up at her. “On your way then.” Cordelia cut short her sigh and took off. She smiled as Snyder started lecturing the security guard on the proper behavior of school employees.

***

“You can stop now,” Angel told the crying kitten as he yanked open the trap door. “Here.” Angel held the cat out before Cordelia had a chance to cross the threshold.

She ignored his outstretched hands and the kitten. “Big baby.” She fisted her hands on her hips.

“Cordelia,” Angel said slowly with a hard glare.

She rolled her eyes and took Darcy. “Oh sweetie, what are we going to do with you?” She said, nuzzling the now-purring kitten.

Angel was tempted to suggest the nailing thing again. But, now that Cordelia was next to him, and with Darcy finally quiet, his headache had miraculously disappeared.

He turned his attention to Cordelia. The kitten was curled up under her neck. She was scolding him in light murmurs. Right. Darcy would definitely get that he was a ‘bad kitty’ when she said it like that.

Angel frowned as he noticed that the she was rubbing at her arm. He stepped closer and reached out to move her hand away. “What happened?” he asked sharply as he brushed his thumb over the red marks on her skin.

“Hmm.” Cordelia looked up at Angel and then at her arm. “Oh, nothing. Just a Neanderthal-type security guard.”

“He hurt you.” Angel didn’t even bother to tame his growl.

“No.” Cordelia shook her head and shrugged it off. “Come on.” She took Angel’s hand in hers. “Let’s go home.”

Angel wanted to ask more about the security guard. Or just go back into the school and pummel the guard for touching her. But, he looked down to where their hands met. She was holding his hand and she’d said, ‘Let’s go home’. Pummeling could wait.


Chapter 78

Barney stood motionless and waited for the principal to stop lecturing him. He wasn’t listening, though. Every time a word came out of the man’s mouth, Barney heard the snap of his neck being broken.

Finally, Snyder stopped with a firm nod. Barney’s narrowed eyes watched as he retreated to his office. If he lost Cordelia the annoying man would pay.

After a few minutes of fruitless searching, Barney slammed his fist into the wall. Cordelia was not in the locker room or anywhere else. He stared at the exit door off to the side of the gym. He’d lost her.

He rubbed his gun and thought seriously about finding Snyder and blowing the back of his head off. He took a deep breath. His patience was reaching its limits but he could wait until tomorrow.

***

Angel looked down at his abandoned hand and then frowned up at Darcy. Cordy had unceremoniously dropped it to hug the kitten. His annoyance at Darcy was back.

“Angel, you can’t still be mad at him.” She cupped Darcy and brought him up to Angel’s face. His eyes flickered from the kitten to her. Cordelia’s expression labeled him the biggest ass if he had the nerve to say yes.

“No,” Angel sighed, petting Darcy’s head. He was rewarded with a smile from Cordy and a purr from Darcy.

Angel’s hand followed the kitten back to Cordy’s chest. He gingerly brought his other arm around her shoulders nudging her closer. “What?” he said at her questioning look. “You’re not the only one that gets to pet him.” His eyes returned to the kitten as he continued to stroke Darcy but his other senses concentrated on Cordy walking next to him.

***

“Wha – the – Oh, my God.” Angel took Darcy in his arms as Cordelia suddenly forgot the kitten’s presence. “What’s that?” She pointed to the TV. As soon as she said it, she realized the stupidity of her question. Of course it was a TV. A really nice TV; a really big TV. But what the hell was it doing in the middle of the living room? “Angel?” Her raised brows ordered him to explain.

“It was on Miss Twittle’s list.” He shrugged.

Cordelia’s mind was spinning. Making Miss Twittle happy was make-believe. Yet there was honest-to-God TV sitting there. She felt a burst of guilt that Angel took her lie to the extreme. “You shouldn’t have.” She shook her head.

Angel shrugged. “Buying one seemed a lot easier than explaining to Miss Twittle why I hadn’t.”

The guilt overwhelmed her. “I’m sorry for all the trouble that I caused you,” she said softly.

Angel moved closer and cupped her cheek. “There’s nothing to be sorry for,” he whispered against her cheek.

Cordelia cringed. Should she lean into Angel or should she go running? Her mind would’ve still debated the question except that Darcy gave her another option. She blinked as the kitten nudged her chin.

“What?” Darcy jumped down and scrambled to his bowl in the kitchen. “Did you feed him?” All questions or thoughts about her attraction to Angel disappeared.

“Yes, he’s fine.”

Cordelia squirmed away from his embrace. “I don’t think so. You said he was crying. We should call Miss Twittle.”

“Miss Twittle?”

Cordelia nodded, ignoring Angel’s confused expression. Honestly, she was happy to see him less than unflappable. It gave her a weird sort of confidence. “Yeah, she’s our cat expert.”

“We don’t –”

Cordelia hmmphed in satisfaction as Angel stopped his words at her hand up in his face.

Chapter 79

Posted July 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

The Fine Line. 70-72   1 comment

Chapter 70

Angel stopped outside the entrance to the school basement. He eyed the kitten. “You have an important job. Do you think you’re up to it?” Angel was satisfied at the kitten’s responding purrs.

“Ready?” Angel cocked a brow at the kitten’s loud mew.

“Okay, but now you have to be quiet for awhile.” Angel gently tucked the kitten under his coat.

***
Cordelia squirmed at her desk. She shot a look around the room trying to catch whoever was causing her spine to tingle. She frowned unable to see who had been staring at her.

She lowered her head to concentrate on her history book. She jerked up. She felt it again. Cordelia widened her eyes at the glimpse of black leather through the classroom door’s window.

Cordelia’s hand shot up in the air.

“Miss Chase?” The teacher acknowledged her.

“Can I please be excused?”

“All right, but make it quick. Your assignment needs to be completed before the end of class.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

***

“Angel,” Cordelia whispered, looking up and down the hallway. Where was he? She knew she didn’t imagine seeing him. She headed for the storage closet.

“Angel, are you in here?” she whispered, opening the door. He better be or she’d feel like the biggest idiot. She glanced over her shoulder, hoping that no one came out of the classrooms.

“Cordy.”

Cordelia felt herself being pulled into the room.

“Angel, what are you doing here?” Cordelia crossed her arms as she faced him.

“I needed your help.”

Her stomach dropped as she reached out to grasp his arm. “Is something wrong?”

“No, not really, but…” Angel reached into his coat and brought out the kitten.

Cordelia’s eyes widened, her hand automatically reaching out to pet it. “It’s a kitten.” She looked up at Angel.

“I know. Weird coincidence isn’t. Do you think that Miss Twittle planted him in the sewer so you could get your cat?”

Cordelia chuckled. “No. I think she’d be a lot more straightforward.” She cupped the kitten bringing it close to her chest. Cordelia smiled as the kitten curled up tight under her neck. “Oh, it’s purring. ‘Him’ It’s a boy kitty?”

Angel nodded. “I think he likes you.”

Cordelia picked the kitten up, cradling him to her face. “You poor baby, you’re so skinny. Angel, look,” she held out the kitten, “his eyes are all watery.”

Angel nodded. “I didn’t know what to do. Should I have left him?” Cordelia hugged the kitten back into her chest. “In the sewer, all alone? No way.”

He refused to smile at Cordelia’s instinctive move to protect the kitten. “Well, what do we do with him? I guess we could just put him on the street. Cats are natural born hunters – he could fend for himself.”

Angel kept his face impassive at Cordelia’s outraged expression.

“He’s a baby, not a tiger,” she whispered harshly as she gently rubbed around the kitten’s oversized ears. “Shh, baby, don’t listen to him. Angel’s just being stupid.”

Angel stuffed his hands in his pockets. “So, what are we going to do with him?”

Cordelia chewed on her lip. “Here.” She put the kitten in Angel’s arms. “Go wait for me in the basement. And do not,” She glared at him. “Let him loose.”

“Where are you going?”

“To get excused from the rest of my classes.” Cordelia quickly left the storage room.

“You did well.” Angel scratched the kitten’s head.

***

Cordelia took the kitten back from Angel as soon as she entered the basement.

“Any problems?”

“Nope, told Mr. Baker I had cramps. It works every time. How are you doing, sweetie?” Cordelia rubbed at the kitten. “Angel, get my phone from my purse.”

“Who do you need to call?”

“Miss Twittle, of course.”

***

Angel walked along side Cordelia, holding the phone to her ear and listening to the conversation between her and Miss Twittle.

“Cordelia, if nothing is wrong, shouldn’t you be in class?”

“Yes -“

“Cordelia, school is very important.”

“I know, but Miss Twittle, Angel found a little kitten. I think he’s sick. I don’t know -“

“A kitten? I’ll be there in half hour. Try to get him to drink some water. Not milk. That’s a myth. It doesn’t have the proper nutrients. And keep him warm.”

***

“Hello, Angel.” Miss Twittle walked into the mansion carrying several bags from Pet Smart. “Could you please go out to my car? There are some more things that you will need in the back seat.”

“Um.” Angel stared at her car parked under the sun.

“I’ll go.” Cordelia rushed up and handed the kitten to Angel. “I’ve been hogging the little guy.”

Miss Twittle nodded. “May I?” She held her hands out for the kitten.

“Oh, you poor little thing.” Miss Twittle gently examined the kitten’s ears and paws, paying extra attention to his eyes.

“Miss Twittle, what did you get?” Cordelia placed the plastic bags next to the ones that Miss Twittle had already placed down.

“Oh, just some things that you are going to need.” She waved away Cordy’s question. “Dear, this little one needs to go to the vet.”

Cordelia hurried over to the kitten. “Is he going to be okay?”

Angel frowned slightly as he waited for Miss Twittle to answer. He was suddenly worried that he had been wrong about the kitten’s health.

Miss Twittle smiled as the kitten scrambled back into Cordelia’s arms. “I think he’ll be fine once we get some food in him and checked out.” Miss Twittle reached out to scratch at the kitten’s head. “He likes you, Cordy. He knows that you rescued him.”

“Angel found him.”

Miss Twittle turned her smile on Angel. “I’m sure he knows that too. Have you both thought of a name, yet?”

“We – no. Angel, we can keep him, can’t we?”

Angel quickly nodded. “Of course.”


Chapter 71

Angel stood in the doorway of the kitchen watching Cordelia. She was sitting cross-legged on the sofa, the kitten curled up in her lap. “You were such a big piggy. But you feel better, don’t you, sweetie,” she gently trailed her finger along his fur.

“You can’t call a male cat – ‘sweetie’.” Angel sat down close to her and reached out to rub the kitten’s head.

“Hmmph,” she raised her brow. “You’re called Angel. Not a name screaming of testosterone, buddy.”

Angel chose to ignore her statement. “Seriously, what are you going to name him?”

“Actually, I was thinking of Angel?”

“Doesn’t that lack testosterone?” he asked dryly.

“Yeah.” She gave him a teasing smile. “But see?” She patted the kitten’s side. “He likes black just like you.”

Angel couldn’t get annoyed at her light-hearted teasing. It proved that she felt comfortable in his presence. “He’s a black cat, Cordy.”

“At least he has an excuse.” She smiled up at Angel and then looked back down at the kitten. “Blackie?”

“Cordy.” Angel shook his head.

“I know. I know,” Cordy sighed. “How about Darcy?”

The kitten stretched, blinking up at Cordelia as he meowed. Darcy scrambled up Cordy’s shirt, curling up under her neck, his little body vibrating with loud purrs.

“Hey.” Cordelia giggled. “That’ tickles.”

“I think we have a name.” Angel smiled. “Speaking of which, how did Mr. Edwards like your essay?”

Cordelia turned slowly to face Angel. “No detention. Here take him.”

Angel cupped Darcy and brought him to his chest. “Come on, Darcy, let Cordy move.”

“Where are you going?” Angel called after Cordelia.

“To get his medicine. The vet said he needed it twice a day for ten days. And you get the duty.”

“Me?”

“Yep.” Cordelia handed Angel the bottle and eyedropper. “I don’t want him to think I’m a big meanie.”

***

Cordelia hugged her knees and watched Angel put the drops of medicine in Darcy’s eyes. It was amazing. Angel’s hands overwhelmed the kitten, but he was so gentle with Darcy. The kitty barely squirmed in protest as Angel continued to murmur that everything would be okay.

“Good boy,” Cordelia scratched Darcy’s head. “You’re so brave.” When Angel was done she picked the kitten up.

“I think its time to go to bed.”

“You’re going to let him sleep with you?” Angel stood.

“Sure, I don’t what him to get scared about being alone.”

***

“I’ll be out in a minute, Darcy.” Cordelia called through the bathroom door.

Angel picked up the crying kitten. “You don’t like being left alone, either, uh? Come with me. She’ll come to us.” Angel brought Darcy up to eye level. “I should warn you though, she’s mine. If you help me get what I want, I’ll share – but if not,” Angel stopped as Darcy smacked him on the nose. “Sure, you’re too scrawny to be a decent sized snack, but there is always kitty poker.”

Angel cocked a brow as Darcy scrambled from his arms to the bed. “Okay, you’re not impressed.” He reached out as Darcy ran back and ducked under his hand to be petted. “Back in the day, I’d just nail you to a door.”

“Angel, don’t tell him that.” Cordelia stood in the doorway. “You’ll scare him.”

“Does he look scared?” Angel jerked his head at the kitten splayed against his knee.

Cordelia giggled. “Actually, he looks pretty comfortable.” She sat on the bed next them.

“Anyway, you’re the one who scared him. Leaving him alone like that. Cruel Cordy.”

“I was just in – oh nevermind. Come here, sweetie.” She plucked Darcy up and settled him by her pillow. “I’m back now. Go away, Angel. We’re going to bed. Good night.”

Angel slowly got up. “Good night.”

***

“Hey.” Cordelia sat up as Darcy fell from the bed and scrambled to the door. “Why are you crying now?”

“Cordy?” Angel opened the door wider. “What’s wrong with him?” Angel leaned down to pick the kitten up.

“I — hey, he’s stopped crying. Good, now give him back.”

“Why was he crying?”

“Don’t look at me like that, I’m not the one that threatened to n-a-i-l him to a door. He’s probably having a nightmare.”

“Cordy, he’s a cat.” Angel shook his head.

“That doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand.” Cordelia reached out, taking the kitten from Angel and settling him back on her pillow. “Good night.”

Angel got up from the bed. “Good night.”

Darcy scrambled off the bed and beat Angel to the door. Angel scooped him up. “I think he wants to go with me.”

“What? How come? You gave him a nightmare.”

“Cordy, I’m sure he likes you just as much as me.” Angel smirked. “Well, almost anyway. Good night.”

Angel closed the door before the flying pillow could hit him.

He looked down at Darcy. “That’s not what I had in mind, but it was kind of fun.”

Darcy started whining and squirming in his arms.

“I heard that.” Cordelia came through the door. “You ARE scaring him.” She quickly took Darcy back. “See, he’s fine now.” She headed into the bedroom and lay down on the bed.

“Oh, Darcy, now what?” Cordy said over the kitten’s crying.

Angel stood in the doorway, thinking as he studied the whining little cat. Maybe Darcy really had understood what Angel wanted.

Darcy quieted as Angel came to sit next to Cordelia. “What’s wrong with him, Angel?”

“I think it’s us.” Angel shrugged, petting Darcy. “He cries when one of leaves. We’re going to have to sleep together.”

“Wh.a..?” Cordy stuttered.

Angel kept his face impassive. “He’ll cry, otherwise.”

“Then he’ll cry.” She said, shaking her head. “We’re not sleeping together.”

“Cordy – “

“No way. Just go. We’ll keep the doors open. He can go back and forth.” Cordelia titled her head towards Darcy. “You’re just going to have to deal.”

Angel shrugged. “All right.”

***

Cordelia buried her head under the pillow but Darcy’s howls were still reaching her ears.

“Darcy.” She jumped to her feet and went to the door.

Cordelia wasn’t surprised to see Angel already in the hallway standing over the stubborn kitten, who was sitting there yowling his head off.

Angel looked at her. “I can’t sleep like this.”

“I know.” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “You win,” she said to Darcy as she scooped him up. She then looked at Angel. “You just stay on your side of the bed.” She climbed between the sheets.

“I don’t believe it. He’s actually purring,” Cordelia grumbled as she squirmed to get comfortable in the bed.

“He’s happy.”

“Yeah,” Cordelia leaned over and stared into Darcy’s eyes. “If you weren’t so darn cute —” Darcy reached out and tapped her on the nose. “Oh. Would you look at him?” She shot to Angel. “He has no shame.”

“He’s just doing what he’s got to do. You can’t blame him for that,” Angel said, as he got in on the other side of the bed.

“Hmmph.” She curled up away from Angel. “This is so wrong,” she said, as she pulled the covers up to ears.

Angel raised his brows at her mumbled whisper. No, he thought as he settled closer to her body – this was so right.

***

Angel’s jaw began to ache. His incisors dug into his lip as the counted the upraised swirls in the ceiling. He closed his eyes and concentrated on her squirming. Patience, he reminded himself as he clenched his jaw tighter.

Finally, Cordelia’s breath settled into a gentle rhythm. Angel turned on his side, tugging softly at the covers, baring Cordelia’s back. Her long john t-shirt hid her flesh but did nothing to hide the sweet lines of her body. He was cautious, not wanting to disturb her or the kitten curled up next to her. But he couldn’t help touching her ponytail. He wetted his lips as his fingers stroked her, like he’d stroked the kitten. Her hair was pure silk.

He wanted – no needed – to grab her, tease her until she was underneath him writhing in passion.

He took a breath. She had to come to him. That would be the only way he’d be completely satisfied.

Yet, he couldn’t stop from touching her.

Angel slowly reached around her and grazed her cheek. His hand stilled as Cordelia sleepily brushed him away. Once her movements stilled, he repeated the action. He smiled as she turned away from his hand and snuggled closer to his body. He closed his eyes as he wrapped his arm around her and gently tugged her to his side.


Chapter 72

Barney smacked the shovel over the freshly strewn dirt. Then he stuck it in the tightly packed earth and leaned on the handle to kneel down. “Darlin’, I’ll miss you. I do wish our last moments had been more pleasurable. But, I blame it on that ‘Angel’ and his interference. Had he not hid my new rose from my sight, I wouldn’t have been so distracted.” Barney lumbered to his feet. “I will make him pay. I promise.” Barney tossed a bouquet of red roses on the makeshift grave.

He backed away, his eyes roaming to take in the multiple rows of drying and decaying bouquets. He bunched his fist. He prided himself on his ability to lavish attention on each of his flowers. He hated that he had failed this one. His darlin’ should’ve have seen his face and felt his touch as she wilted back to the earth. She shouldn’t have been alone. He promised that once Cordelia Chase was his, he would punish her supposed ‘guardian angel’ for the neglect.

Barney plodded up the wooden steps, hoping that his last flower knew of his intentions and would forgive him once he had his revenge. He sighed loudly as he pulled up the stairs when he reached the basement. Then he dragged the large metal shelving over the trap door. Turning off the overhead light, he went up a second set of stairs to the bare kitchen.

He popped open a can of beer and looked around. He ached with loneliness. He sighed again. He had wished to vent his frustrations with his dearly departed. Grumbling, he leaned his large frame against the worn counter. His search of the school had told him nothing of value.

Barney crushed the empty can in between his hands. He would find her. Soon he wouldn’t be alone. Tomorrow he would start his new job and then she would come to him.

***

In the dream, Angel’s skin was immersed in heat and a steady rhythm beat within his chest. The scent of spice and wildflowers circled around him causing his blood to flow. He didn’t want to wake and lose the sensations.

Except, Angel thought with waking realization, it wasn’t a dream. Cordelia was no longer just next to him. Sometime during the night she had reached into his space. Her luscious body covered his, softer and smoother than the velvet quilt ever could be. He frowned as he noticed that his leg was dangling off the edge of the bed.

He ignored the hows of that and concentrated on the body in his arms. He cursed his sweat pants and her pajamas. The combined materials blocked the feel of her leg on his thighs. His hands itched to rip them off. Yet, if he moved, then his fingers would have to leave the smooth curve of her lower back. He breathed in deeply and brushed his cheek against the brown silk that rested in the crook of his shoulder.

It was as close too heaven as he would ever be. He inched his fingers upward, traveling along Cordy’s back. ‘Mine’ he wanted to brand on the sweetness.

He froze as she shifted in his arms. Flashpoints of fire spread along his arm where her hand found rest.

He reached over with his other hand to brush away her hair. He wanted to see her face when he woke her with pleasure. There could be no dispute that she came to him in her sleep. It was close enough to his self-imposed rules. It had to be. His reaching hand paused as Darcy caught his attention. The kitten was diagonally laid out on his back with all four legs splayed out increasing his tiny size triple-fold.

Angel wasn’t sure how the kitten was able to push them both to the edge of the bed. But that had to be the how and why Cordelia was on top of him and his leg half way off the bed. A soft chuckle vibrated in Angel’s chest causing his shoulders to shake. Then he froze. “Damn,” he muttered as Cordelia stirred.

“Angel?” She blinked and then leaned up from his chest. He grasped her shoulders stopping her movement and drew his thumb over her lips. “Shh. You’ll wake him. And before you start, you’re on ‘my’ side. He took yours.” Angel said softly as he nodded for her to look.

He ignored her embarrassed glare and urged again. Finally, she looked and then started to giggle. Her giggles burgeoned into laughter as she hid her face in Angel’s chest. “He looks so cute,” she gasped into Angel’s t-shirt.

Darcy, waking, gracefully rolled to his feet and sat on his haunches. He eyed the couple and then proceeded to lick his paw.

“You woke him,” Angel whispered, taking the opportunity to nuzzle at the soft patch of skin behind her ear.

Still chuckling, Cordelia moved to sit up. Angel kept his arms around her and this time she didn’t struggle.

“Angel,” she said, leaning back into him. “Look at him.” She jerked her head to the yawning kitten. “One minute he is, like huge,” Cordelia brought her hands up and stretched them out, “and now he that tiny thing. What a goofball. You’re a goofball and a bed hog,” she leaned forward until she was eye level with Darcy.

Cordelia shook her head at the cat’s meow. “No shame. Well, I’m getting up.” Cordelia scooted towards her edge of the bed. She rolled her eyes at the motionless cat. “Anytime Darcy.” She waved her hand at him then shrugged as Darcy continued to groom himself. “Angel, take him downstairs and get him his medicine and breakfast. I have to get ready for school.”

“I don’t know, Cordy.” Angel brushed his fingers along her ponytail. “I like his idea of staying in bed.”

“Pfft.” Cordelia swung her feet toward the side. “That’s because you both don’t need a diploma.”

Angel scooped Darcy out of her path and cradled the kitten in the crook of his arm. Petting Darcy, Angel watched Cordelia leave the bedroom. “That was a very good plan that you had last night,” he whispered into Darcy’s big ears.

“Meow.”

“Do you really understand or are you just hungry?”

Chapter 73

Posted July 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

The Fine Line. 67-69   1 comment

Chapter 67

Cordelia’s eyes snapped open. “Wha…t?”

“You fell asleep.”

Her head jerked up at Angel’s low voice. “Oh.” She blinked taking in her position. She was neatly tucked into his side and feeling entirely too comfortable.

“Entertaining is tiring work.”

“Hmmph.” Cordelia grunted at his sardonic tone. “It is when you’re dealing with Miss Twittle,” she countered as she tried to scoot out from underneath his arm.

But Angel refused the hint. His arm stayed glued to her shoulders while his long legs remained outstretched on the coffee table.

She took a deep breath. “Hey, big guy,” she said lightly as she gave his leg a pat. “Let me up.”

“I’m comfortable.” His tone was teasing but the darkness of his gaze caused her belly to knot into a tight ball.

Cordelia braced her shoulders and pushed off the sofa. “Pfft, big baby,” she chided, deciding to take it as a joke and ignore the rest.

The air seemed to freeze. She turned to look down at Angel. He was still in the same relaxed position, but any signs of playfulness were gone. Cordelia forced herself not to run as his black stare captured hers.

Then just has suddenly as it had come, the coldness was gone. Angel slid fluidly to his feet. His hands reached out to cup her shoulders. “So, you want to go to bed,” he murmured, looking down into her eyes.

Cordelia fretted on her bottom lip. The warmth in his brown eyes made her wonder if she had imagined the whole weirdness. “You don’t want me sleeping on you all night, do you?” She joked.

“Come on,” he said, smiling as he gently led her to the stairway.

Her heart jumped as she tried NOT to take his words as an invitation.

Angel placed her hand on the curve of the banister. He then covered it, preventing her from going up the stairs. “Cordy, do you want a cat?”

Cordelia stopped in mid-step and pivoted to face him. “Did you just say a cat?”

To her disbelief, Angel nodded. “Miss Twittle said that they make good companions.”

Cordelia knew her mouth was gaping but she couldn’t seem to close it.

“Don’t you like them?”

He was serious. She took a deep breath. “Yeah, I like them. I guess. I never had one.” Cordelia paused, thinking back. “When I was little I found a kitten by the stables but my mom wouldn’t let me keep it. She said it would scratch up all of the furniture. It was really cute.”

Cordelia eyes wandered to Angel’s couch. It was already pretty ruined a cat couldn’t do any worse to it.

“So, do you want one?”

“What?” Cordelia shook her head, bringing her attention back to Angel. “No.”

“Why not?”

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Don’t be silly, I can’t take a cat to live with me in a motel.”

“You don’t live in a motel, Cordelia.”

She shivered as the earlier coldness crept up her spine. She wetted her lips. “Um, sure not now.” Cordelia cleared her throat. “But, it’s only for a little while until we can tell Miss Twittle that Damien isn’t a danger. I won’t be here long enough for a pet.”

Angel didn’t respond, nor did the chill in the air disappear. “Um, Angel.” She tugged at her hand until it was free. “I’m going to bed.” She ran up the steps. “Good night,” she mumbled, continuing to move, not wanting to face his darkened gaze again.


Chapter 68

Angel paced as he gulped down the blood. Infuriating girl. His body cried just to take her and end all the games

He flung himself on the wooden bench against the basement wall. His fists clenched and unclenched he forced his body to calm. He had to think.

Memories of Cordelia sleeping in his arms flooded his mind. The warmth of her breath, the lure of wildflowers, and the gentle beating of her heart against his chest were as potent in memory as in reality. His body slowly calmed.

Angel rested his arms on his knees. That pleasure would not happen again if he acted rashly.

He took a deep breath and stood. He had to have patience.

Shaking his head, he reached down to grab another container of blood from the cooler. A cat? It had been a nonsensical notion to keep her in his presence.

Angel paused, bringing the container down from his lips.He hadn’t noticed at the time but Cordy’s expression had been wistful when she had described finding the kitten.

Thinking about her expression, he absently tossed the empty container aside. The he smiled. He just may have found the perfect way to bind Cordy to him even more.

Angel cocked his head up to the ceiling. Cordelia’s preparations for bed were over. He’d wait a little longer before he went upstairs to her.

***

“Geez, Angel, what lit a fire under your butt?” Cordy whined, as Angel snatched her cereal bowl away.

“You were done.”

“I had milk left.”

“You’re going to be late for school.” Angel finished rinsing the bowl and turned towards her.

“What are you a truant officer now?” Cordelia didn’t budge from her stool.

“Cordelia, you’re already facing detention. Do you really want to get in more trouble?” Angel said sternly, crossing his arms against his chest.

“Ugh,” Cordelia got up. “You know, maybe you should sleep in from now on. The early hours are turning you into Principal Snyder,” she shot over her shoulder as she left the kitchen.

“Don’t forget your essay.” Angel called after her.

“I won’t, Mr. Grump,” she yelled back.

Angel smiled and gathered up Cordy’s bagged lunch and went into the living room to wait for her.

#

“You will remember to call what’s his name about my tires won’t you.” Cordelia stood outside the entrance to the school’s basement.

“Go.” Angel pushed the lunch bag into her hand. “You’ll be late.”

“Angel -“

“Go.” Angel opened the trapdoor and pushed her towards it. “Education is important.” He smiled as Cordelia grumbled low under her breath and went into the school.

Suddenly, he frowned as stared at the door. His palm rubbed tight circles on the middle of his chest. He didn’t like her out of his sight. Still frowning he dropped his hand and turned back into the sewers.


Chapter 69

Cordelia flipped her ponytail over her shoulder and patted down her mini-skirt. She nodded at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. There were no signs of her sewer-travels on her unless you counted her boots. She scrunched up her nose and started scraping the sludge off with a damp towel.

That was better, she thought, dumping the towel into the trash. Then she hurried off to the library.

“Again?” Xander sat on the library table.

“Seems so,” Willow answered as she sat next to him.

“Giles, what’s going on?” Buffy demanded.

Giles’ glasses were in one hand, the other rubbing his forehead. “I do not believe it’s demonic.”

“Giles.” Buffy brought her fists on her hips. “Everybody’s lockers have been broken into – not to mention the school’s office – again. “If its not demonic, then what is it? Maybe I should call Angel.”

Cordelia stopped halfway through the library doors and turned around. Sure enough, all the lockers were smashed. Great. Hers would never get fixed. Her attention was drawn back to the voices in the library.

“That won’t be necessary, Buffy. The school’s administration has labeled it as vandalism. There will be security guards patrolling the school and its grounds, both day and night. And I can see no evidence to contradict their conclusions.”

“Are you sure?”

Cordelia rolled her eyes at Buffy’s question. It was pretty obvious that she wanted a reason to call Angel.

“Yes.”

Cordelia nodded. Yea, Giles. It was clear by his firm answer that he read through Buffy’s question and wasn’t going to help her.

***

“Hello, Erik.” Angel leaned over the makeshift cubicle wall.

“Angel.” The Bandox demon stumbled to his feet. “What are you doing here?” Erik looked around Angel, pulling him in his office area. “Did anyone see you?” He took another look out into the hallway.

Angel ignored Erik’s nervousness and sat down, swinging his feet up on Erik’s desk. “You still going to Willie’s for Monday Poker night?”

Erik scurried closer to Angel. “You know I don’t talk about that stuff at work.”

Angel’s hard gaze followed Erik’s fidgeting. “Make an exception.”

“Okay. Okay.” Erik wrung his hands. “Yeah. Why? Since when are you interested?”

Angel refused to rub the tension in his shoulders. “I take it you have your stash ready?” he asked sharply.

Erik nodded. “Why?”

“I want to see them.”

“They’re at home.”

“I’ll wait.”

“I can’t leave work.”

“I’ll wait.” Angel repeated, picking up a paperweight and tossing it back and forth between his hands.

“Okay. Okay. Meet me in the parking garage in twenty minutes.

***

Angel tightened his fists. His headache was getting worse the longer he stayed in the stuffy garage. A low growl vibrated in his chest. He needed to get to Cordelia.

He leaned away from the cement post just as Erik’s car pulled into the parking space.

“You’re late.”

“They didn’t want to come.” Angel eyed the various scratches on his hands.

“I still don’t know why you wanted to see them.” Erik pulled out a squirming, mewing cardboard box.

Angel ignored him, looked in the box, and studied the kittens. He had no idea, which Cordelia would like best. He frowned at the all black one. It looked smaller and more lethargic than the rest. He listened as he held the kitten in his palm but its heartbeat was strong. Angel decided that all it needed was care and attention. And he was pretty positive that Cordy would be willing to give it to the kitten. “I’ll take him.” Angel cocked his head at the loud-purr that rumbled through the kitten. It seemed that he knew he was being saved from kitty poker.

“Hey, I spent over an hour trying to catch him. I had to climb in a dumpster.” Erik reached out to take the kitten back.

“I said I’d take him,” he growled.

Erik quickly dropped his hand. “Okay. Okay.”

Angel nodded. “Have someone drop off a television at the mansion today.” He palmed a large diamond.

“This should cover it.” Erik snatched the jewel. Angel grabbed his hand, enclosing the diamond and Erik’s hand in his fist. “I expect change.”

“Sure thing, Angel. You know I’d never cheat you. No way.” Erik assured him. “What kind of TV?”

Angel shrugged impatiently. “I don’t -” Angel paused. If he chose wrong he never hear the end of it from Miss Twittle. “Check the ‘Consumer Digest for the best.”

Erik nodded as he pocketed the diamond. “What size?”

“Regular,” he said as he moved away.

“Regular size.” Erik shook his head. “Hey it may take more than a day.”

“Just get it done,” Angel shot over his shoulder.

Chapter 70

Posted July 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

The Fine Line. 63-66   1 comment

Chapter 63

Cordelia swung around as Angel came into the kitchen. “It’s about time.”

Angel moved around Cordy to get to the stove, ducking the tomato sauce spitting from the pot. He twisted the burner off and shook his head as he turned back to Cordelia. “It was on low when I left.”

Cordelia huffed. “It was taking too long.”

“It’s suppose to simmer,” Angel said, crossing his arms.

“Oh, who cares?” Cordelia shot back. “Look what it did,” she whined, jerking at her dress to show him the red stains that spotted it. “It’s ruined.”

“Cordelia.”

Cordelia’s eyes widened at Miss Twittle’s soft admonishment. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t see you there.”

Miss Twittle moved into the kitchen. “Cordelia, you were screeching in a very unlady-like manner.”

“I – but-my dress….”

“…Is not ruined, dear. I just need some club soda. Angel?”

Angel looked up at Miss Twittle’s questioning gaze.

“Club Soda?” she repeated.

“I don’t have any.” Angel stepped back at Miss Twittle’s disapproving intake of breath.

“It’s okay.” Cordelia patted Miss Twittle’s arm. “It’s on the list.”

Miss Twittle pursed her lips. “Angel, perhaps after dinner I should take a look at your list,” she said, before directing her attention back to Cordelia.

Angel nodded, not having a clue what they were talking about. But, the negative shake of Cordelia’s head told him to remain silent.

He watched as the older woman started to fuss over Cordy. She had grabbed a dishtowel, dampening it, and patting it gently on the stains.

“Miss Twittle.” Cordelia tried to wave away Miss Twittle’s ministrations. “I over-reacted. You don’t have to….”

“Dear, why do I think you’ll just rub it and make it worse?”

Cordelia stared at the floor. “Because, I would,” she said in a small voice.

“That’s why I’m here, dear,” Miss Twittle gave Cordelia a quick smile.

Angel leaned back on the counter his arms firmly crossed against his chest and narrowed his gaze on Miss Twittle. She was there because he wanted her as an ally, not to take care of Cordelia. That was his role and his alone.

“Dinner will be ready soon,” he said, irritated that he hadn’t listened to Cordy earlier. Had he, Miss Twittle would’ve been fed–and away from Cordelia–by 6:30.

“Wonderful.”

Angel forced himself to smile at Miss Twittle.

“Miss Twittle.” Cordelia urged to her one of the stools around the marble island. “I hope you don’t mind, but we decided to eat in here. It’s so much more comfortable than the dining room.”

Angel tensed as Cordelia appeared at his elbow. “Geez, don’t be such a grump. It was my dress that was messed up not your ‘special’ sauce,” she whispered.

Angel stared down at her.

“It wasn’t, was it?” Cordelia gnawed at her lip.

“No,” he sighed softly. He reminded himself that Miss Twittle’s attentions to Cordelia were harmless and not an attempt to encroach on what was his. He could remain polite.


Chapter 64

Angel tried to pour some more wine into Miss Twittle’s glass.

She shook her head. “No thank you. I’m driving. That was delicious, Angel.” She patted her lips politely with her napkin. “However, I do think Cordy needs some more soda,” she said, getting up and waving Angel back to his seat. “I’ll get it.”

Angel didn’t miss the panicked look that Cordelia directed at him as Miss Twittle opened the refrigerator. “Don’t worry,” he mouthed.

“Here you go.” Miss Twittle poured the soda in her glass.

“Angel, I’m glad to see that you’ve taken the effort to make sure that Cordelia has the proper nutrition.” She nodded towards the refrigerator.

Angel felt unusually warm as Cordelia smiled at him. Her smile held much more than simple relief or gratitude but appreciation that he had not only listened to her warnings but had believed her.

“Now, perhaps you could show me your list.” Miss Twittle arched her brow as she sat back down.

Angel shot her a questioning look.

“You know, the list,” Cordelia said quickly, “of the things we still need to get. You know like club soda and stuff,” she nodded encouragingly towards him.

“Oh,” Angel nodded. “That list.”

“Well?” Miss Twittle asked.

Angel inwardly cringed at the click-click-click sounding on the marble top. He pressed his palms flat on the table to stop them from ripping Miss Twittle’s fingers off one by one. “It’s in my head.”

Miss Twittle’s’ tapping came to a sudden halt. “That is not a very efficient place for it.”

Angel’s palms slipped down to the table to grip the edge tightly.

“Oh, it is,” Cordelia swiftly reassured Miss Twittle. “Angel has a great memory. And don’t worry,” Cordelia patted Miss Twittle’s arm. “I’ll be with him at the store.”

Miss Twittle sighed. “Very well. I’ll trust your judgment on what you need to be comfortable.”

Angel decided it was time to change the subject. “Cordy, Miss Twittle knows the history of this house.”

“You do?” Cordelia asked, focusing her gaze on Miss Twittle.

“She says that the former owners fled to avoid prison,” Angel added.

Cordelia looked towards him and then back at Miss Twittle. “Really? Prison? That seems too much like Law and Order for Sunnydale.”

Miss Twittle nodded. “The Richardsons did come from New York City. Their quick flight from Sunnydale was quite the scandal at the time,” she continued. “It seems that Bart and Stella Richardson had made a living at pushing the boundaries of the law.”

“Really?” Cordelia rested her chin on her fist.

“Yes, it seemed that not once did they pay taxes on their illegal lifestyle.”

“Oh,” Cordelia said.

Angel glanced as Cordelia straightened then stood. He furrowed his brow as she quickly picked up the dirty dishes and took them to the sink.

“Is not paying taxes so bad?” Cordelia asked Miss Twittle over her shoulder.

“Of course. It’s comparable to treason. The Richardsons took advantage of the benefits of living in the United States, but refused to do their duty as citizens. They stole from every hard working person in this country.”

“Oh.”

Angel didn’t like the way Cordelia’s shoulders slumped, or the way the plate she held slipped through her fingers to land with a clank in the sink.

“Cordy?” He stood. But she moved away before he could reach her.

“Bundt cake?” Cordelia offered the dessert.

Angel knew that the smile she wore was manufactured.

Miss Twittle glanced at her watch. “Oh, no, the time. It’s 9:00 p.m. I need to leave. Cordelia has school tomorrow.” Miss Twittle held out her hand towards Cordelia. “Walk me to the door?”

Angel tensed. Something Miss Twittle had said had upset Cordelia. He didn’t want to leave her alone with the older woman, not when he didn’t know what was wrong.

“I’ll be happy to escort you to your car.”

“Cordy can do it. Angel, I had a lovely time. Thank you for the satisfying company and dinner.”

Angel stood motionless as they walked out the door. He wasn’t reassured by Cordelia’s shrug. What if Miss Twittle upset her again? What if she was using the opportunity to convince Cordy that she shouldn’t stay with him?

Was the lack of a television or club soda that important to her? He couldn’t take the chance. Angel moved towards the door, opening it slightly, so he could see and hear their conversation. And act if necessary.


Chapter 65

Cordelia felt uncomfortable as Miss Twittle clasped her hands.

“Dear, my asking you to walk me to my car was a subterfuge.”

Cordelia wrinkled her brow.

Miss Twittle nodded. “I know deceit is not in my nature. But, I needed to talk to you alone – it’s a concern about Angel.”

Cordelia stepped back. “Miss Twittle, I assure you. Angel has been great. I’m safe here.”

Miss Twittle held up her hand. “Dear, I’m not doubting Angel’s precautions or his intentions. My concern is well…”

Cordelia cocked her head at Miss Twittle’s hesitation. “Miss Twittle?” Her eyes widen as a flicker of discomfort crossed Miss Twittle’s face.

Then Miss Twittle’s shoulder’s braced and she took a deep breath. “Cordelia, in my experience, young couples that face danger together,” Miss Twittle paused.

Cordelia fidgeted, wishing that she had a clue about what Miss Twittle found so hard to say.

Miss Twittle took another deep breath. “They develop feelings for each other that are centered in the danger and act on those feelings without thinking about the consequences or even if the feelings are real –”

“Miss Twittle –” Cordelia interrupted, suddenly realizing that Miss Twittle was worried that she and Angel were going to become a flash in the pan soap opera couple.

Miss Twittle held up her hand again. “Please let me finish.”

Cordelia shifted her weight and nodded, deciding that it would go quicker if she stayed quiet.

Miss Twittle nodded in return. “I just want you to be aware that for every action there is a consequence. You are an intelligent young woman but Angel is very attractive and seems to be your savior in your time of need. But, you must be careful that you don’t confuse your gratitude and his chivalry for love. It is very rare that such relationships stand the test of time without the danger. Luke and Laura, of course, were an exception — theirs was a true love. But –”

“Miss Twittle.” Cordelia had to stop her. “Angel and I aren’t confused as to why we are together. It’s a necessity because of Damien that’s all. I promise.”

Miss Twittle studied her for moment. Cordelia refused to fidget. She just kept nodding hoping that Miss Twittle would accept her words and stop.

Finally, Miss Twittle nodded. “I will trust your judgment.”

Cordelia refused to let out a loud sigh, and just smiled. “Well, then I will say good night,” Miss Twittle, said.

Cordelia watched her as she went to her car. She was over the top odd, but Cordelia couldn’t help but appreciate that Miss Twittle cared. Cordy just didn’t understand why. “Miss Twittle?”

“Yes, dear?”

“You didn’t like me when I first started working for you, so why do you care so much now?” Cordelia asked.

Miss Twittle walked back to her. “Because one should always help a person in need and,” Miss Twittle lifted Cordelia’s chin, “You’re much more than your first impression. There is a lovely heart hidden within you, isn’t there, Cordy?”

“I… I don’t know.” Cordelia scrunched up her forehead. “But thank you.”

“I do know and you’re welcome.” Miss Twittle smiled.

Cordelia surprised herself and impulsively wrapped Miss Twittle in a tight hug. “Thank you,” she said again. Cordelia suddenly straightened. She was squishing the shoulders pads in Miss Twittle’s suite. “I’m sorry.”

“That’s quite all right, dear. Good night. Call me tomorrow.” Miss Twittle patted Cordelia’s cheek.

Cordelia waved. Once the red taillights disappeared, her shoulders slumped. Miss Twittle was right — she wasn’t deceitful by nature. Nausea overwhelmed Cordelia. She, on the other hand, was such a fraud.


Chapter 66

Angel mechanically cleaned the kitchen but his thoughts were on the two women outside. He had left the doorway when it became clear that Miss Twittle’s need to talk wasn’t a threat, but rather a need for more melodrama.

***

Angel wiped the kitchen again. He was getting impatient. Miss Twittle’s flare for the dramatic was keeping Cordelia from him.

Finally, he heard the door open. He folded the dishtowel over the edge of the sink and went into the living room.

He studied Cordelia as she wandered into the room. He frowned at Cordy’s dejected demeanor. It wasn’t the reaction the he’d expected.

He took a step forward. “That went well, I thought.”

“Yeah, great.” Cordelia hugged her body as she moved to the couch.

“Cordelia?” He sat down next to her.

Cordelia wrapped her arms around her knees. “Miss Twittle is actually very sweet,” she sighed, her eyes downcast.

Angel was still puzzled by her demeanor, but waited for Cordelia to say more.

She looked up at Angel. “I bet liars are right up there with tax evaders on her top ten list of evil.”

“Cordelia, she didn’t suspect anything.” Angel paused. “Or did she say something to you?” Angel shouldn’t have been so quick to stop eavesdropping.

Cordelia sighed again, shaking her head.

“Then what’s wrong?”

Angel didn’t like the way she rolled her eyes at him. “You mean other than the fact that I’m a big fact liar?” she grunted.

The tension that had begun to build up in Angel’s shoulders eased. Cordelia was just feeling guilty. “Cordy, I know you’re tired of lying, but –” Angel stopped as Cordelia grunted again and shook her head.

“You heard what she said.”

The tension was coming back. “Um…no,” he quickly lied.

“You were in the kitchen. You had to have heard her.”

Angel furrowed his brow. He thought back to the many conversations that had occurred during dinner. “About the Richardsons?” It was after that conversation that Cordelia had become inexplicitly upset.

“Do you think they’re horrible and treason-worthy?” She stood, agitated.

“Why does their story upset you so much?” Then it hit him. “Your parents.” He gazed at Cordelia. “That’s why they left.”

Cordelia slumped back on the couch. “She’ll hate me.”

Angel cupped Cordelia’s chin, bringing her face within inches of his. “Miss Twittle has many odd notions, but she isn’t stupid.” Angel took a breath. “She cares about you. You have to know that by now.”

“What about you?”

Angel stared at the white teeth that worried her bottom lip. “Me?”

“I lied to you, too.”

Angel shook his head, amazed that she was concerned that her parent’s actions would affect his feelings about her. “Cordy, paying taxes isn’t really something I’ve concerned myself with over the years. And as a sin – it doesn’t quite rate with what I’ve done. Though, parents abandoning a child-“

“No.” Cordelia put up her hand. “They did give me a choice.”

“They did?”

She took a deep breath and leaned back into the couch. “They did. They woke me up to tell me they were selling everything, running and waiting for the lawyers to figure it all out.” She edged closer to him. “I wanted to stay. I still kick myself every day for that decision.” She took another deep breath.

“My goal now is to leave Sunnydale, but then -” Cordelia shook her head. “All I could think about was how I couldn’t leave.” Cordelia looked up at Angel. “I wanted to graduate with my class.” She shrugged. “It’s kind of silly when you think that my friends aren’t really the best type to have. But I’ve known most of them, even Willow and Xander, since kindergarten. I saw them more than I saw my parents.”

She shook her head and then she let out a small chuckle. “It’s really stupid, considering I had no idea what no money meant.”

Angel cupped her chin, bringing her gaze to his. “You aren’t stupid. You just care more than you let on. That’s a wonderful quality.”

“You think?”

“Yep.” Angel nodded at her unsure smile. “I know.” He pulled her against his side and draped his arm around her shoulders. She was still tense. “You know you were right,” he cocked his head towards her.

“About what?”

He put his feet up on the coffee table. “It’s perfect here.”

“I told you so,” she giggled, imitating his actions.

Angel smiled as her body relaxed against him.

“So, you think the night went well,” she asked him.

Angel nodded. “But, if I’m wrong, I’ll tell Miss Twittle I’m a vampire.”

“Wha-” Cordelia jerked back.

Angel pulled her to him again. “You have to admit that would get her mind off your parents,” he deadpanned.

“You.” Cordelia slapped his chest. “When did you get a sense of humor ” She arched a single brow.

Angel puffed out his chest. “I’ve always been funny. I was voted the funniest-“

“At the Funniest Vampire Pageant?”

Angel narrowed his eyes. “At my village’s fair. I was quite the rambunctious youth.”

“Ah.” Cordelia’s scoff clearly stated her opinion. “‘Rambunctious I can believe, its the funny that I’m having some difficulty with.” She lightly punched his chest.

“Whatever.” Angel pulled her fist down to his lap and wrapped his hand over it.

Cordelia’s feet settled on the floor as she scooted away and faced him. “You did not just say whatever – it’s so unvampy-like.”

Angel exaggerated the roll of his eyes as he pulled her back to his side. “Just goes to show you that vampires are misjudged.”

“Pfft,” Cordelia spit out in laughter.

Angel breathed in the scent that wrapped around him and relished the feel of her body. He moved subtly, inching her closer.

Cordelia yawned. “Nice fire,” she said, blinking at the flickering flames.

“Would you believe that Miss Twittle made me promise that I had the chimney swept before I rented the place?”

Cordelia titled her head up to meet his eyes. “Did you?”

“Actually, I think I may have pushed Spike up it, but it seemed to have worked out anyway.”

Cordelia laughed. “Geez. No wonder Spike was so irritating. You were a mean sire.”

Angel snuggled her closer. “Grand.”

“Even worse.” Cordelia rested her head on his chest. “Meanie.”

“But, you like the fire.” He cuddled her closer.

“Um, hmm. Thank you, Angel.” She said softly, as closed her eyes and relaxed further into him.

“You’re welcome.” Angel’s fingers brushed at the brown silk of her hair. The night hadn’t ended with her in his bed. But, he had solidified her trust. Soon, she would not only admit that she wanted him, but that she also needed him.

Angel wetted his lips as his thumb brushed her cheek. Then he would have her in all the ways he could imagine.

Chapter 67

Posted July 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

The Fine Line. 59-62   1 comment

Chapter 59

Cordelia searched the depths of Angel’s closet and tried to concentrate on choosing a shirt.

She rubbed her arms, thankful for the space that separated her from Angel. The intensity of his stare had made her skin tingle.

Her thoughts were suddenly diverted at the glimpse of color amidst the black and she reached out, holding the long sleeve shirt up to the single bulb that lit the closet. She fingered the brushed silk and studied its deep lavender color.

“Where did this come from?” Cordelia popped out of the closet and held up the shirt. “It’s not flashy enough be a left-over from the evil season.”

She held the shirt up against Angel’s chest. “Not fair. With your pale skin, you should only look good in winter colors, but …” Cordelia grabbed his wrist, studying it for a moment before speaking again. “Ahh, that explains it.”

Angel stared at the underside of his wrist trying to see whatever Cordelia had seen.

“Under the paleness,” she said, trailing a nail down his forearm, “You’ve got an olive tone.” Cordelia stepped back, tapping her forefinger against her chin. “Go, grr.”

Angel was sure that he had never experienced an odder conversation.

“Do it.” Cordelia poked his chest.

“Stop that.” Angel growled, grabbing her hand.

“Good.” Cordelia pulled her hand away.

Angel shifted on his feet, not believing that he actually turned on her demand.

“Whoa.” Cordelia studied him like an artist studied her creation. “When you go ‘grr’ you’re definitely a winter. The gold in your eyes need rich pure colors.” Cordelia shrugged. “Who knew that Angelus really did know fashion?”

“Uh.” Angel’s human face slipped back into place as he grabbed at her wrist, pulling her back towards him. “What?”

“You wore black leather and deep red. Angelus obviously knew that it would look good both in vamp and human mode. Hey, Angelus isn’t gay, is he? I mean, those great colors, not to mention you and Spike …”

“I – you – Spi –?”

Cordelia narrowed her eyes. “Is there something I should know? Or, more to the point, is there something Buffy should know?”

Angel choked.

Cordelia started to laugh. “Oh, calm down. I was just joking. And here. Put this on.” She pushed the lavender shirt towards him. “You won’t be going ‘grr’ on Miss Twittle, so we don’t have to worry about red shirts looking better.”

Angel grabbed the shirt. “Don’t you have flowers to arrange?” he snapped.


Chapter 60

Cordelia watched as Angel came down the stairs.

“You look great.” She bit her tongue, surprised that the compliment came out of her mouth after he had been such a jerk about changing.

She huffed and changed the subject. “It’s almost six. Should we stand outside and wait or should we wait near the door, or…?”

Angel grabbed her arm. “Everything looks great. Everything.”

Cordelia glanced up at him. She frowned; confused by the certainty of his tone and the needy way he touched her.

Then she saw the contrition in his dark eyes. Probably he was sorry for being an ass earlier.

Nice to know. But she was already over it. “I know.” She patted his cheek. “So are we waiting in or out?”

Angel brought his hand up to his cheek as he stared at Cordy’s back. His mind was playing a game of leapfrog – gratefulness that she still didn’t think he was a jerk and smugness that she said he looked good.

“Angel.”

“Oh, um.” Angel gulped.

Cordy shook her head. “Your stuttering is pretty uninformative.”

Angel narrowed his eyes at her. “Uninformative? How about – you stay here. And I’ll go check the sauce.” He smirked, before disappearing into the kitchen.

Cordelia stomped her foot. “Hey, ” she called after him. ” I said WE, not ME.”

“Great,” she grumbled as she paced at the front door.

Her stomach dropped at the loud melodic chiming that pierced the room. She prepared a big smile as she swung the door wide.

“Miss Twittle,” she greeted the older woman. “You shouldn’t have.” Cordelia took the Bundt cake from her hands. “Thank you.”

“Of course I should’ve, dear,” Miss Twittle said.

Cordelia fidgeted under the older woman’s inspection. She couldn’t help the sigh of relief at Miss Twittle’s approving nod. She cringed, however, at Miss Twittle’s continuation of her lecture.

“One must never come empty handed to another’s house for dinner. Surely your mother taught you that.”

“Of course,” Cordelia admitted. “It’s just that you’ve done so much for me – us-already.” Cordelia held up the Bundt cake. “This was unnecessary. I mean you’ve already gone beyond the expected.”

“That’s yet to be seen, dear.”

Miss Twittle put an arm around her in a half hug. “But that’s neither here or there. Still, it’s no reason to forget your manners.”

Cordelia straightened at the slight reprimand and took a quick step away. “I’m so sorry, please come in.” She led Miss Twittle into the mansion.

“Thank you, dear.”

“I’ll just put this in the kitchen,” Cordelia said.

She slipped into the kitchen. “Put this somewhere” She shoved the bundt cake toward Angel.

Angel continued to stir the sauce. “I’m kind of in the middle of something.”

Cordelia narrowed her eyes. “Take it.”

Angel took the cake from her hands.

“Thanks.” Cordelia darted out the door. “You owe me,” she said over her shoulder.

***

“Miss Twittle,” Cordelia called out, tensing again, as she saw the older woman by the weapons cabinet. She hadn’t checked it after Angel said he would move the weapons.

“Cordelia.” Miss Twittle beckoned her over.

“I’ll kill him,” Cordelia mumbled. “Coming,” she said, not at all liking Miss Twittle’s expression.

Cordelia crossed the room, trying to think of an excuse for the Grim Reaper’s favorite and its friends in the cabinet.

“This is empty.”

“Yeah,” Cordelia said, not really sure what else to say.

“Yeah? Cordelia, Yeah is a comment of one with out the benefit of an education. Is that you?”

“Um…. No. Yes, I mean, Miss Twittle.” Cordelia barely stopped her eyes from crossing. She was going to kill Angel for leaving her to deal with the before dinner entertaining.

“I’ve noticed,” Miss Twittle looked around, “that there’s no television. I’d thought this was an entertainment center. If it’s not in here, where is it?”

“Oh, um, Angel doesn’t have a TV.”

Miss Twittle’s face paled. “He…No Television?”

“He just rented the place.” Cordelia said quickly to defend Angel.

Miss Twittle frowned. “Yes, I see can that maybe a television wouldn’t be his very first priority, but he’s been here for several days.” Her gaze narrowed on Cordelia. “Honey, if you don’t think this is the place for you to stay then just tell me now. Fluffy, remember?”

“What? No, it’s fine. He has a list of things that we still need to get – a TV is on it. It’s just that with finding a safe place, getting it fit with utilities, convincing me and you that he’s a good guy, and cooking dinner tonight, he hasn’t had much time.”

Cordelia watched as Miss Twittle considered her words. She couldn’t help but thinking that Miss Twittle was sweet but insane. And she hadn’t realized that she had been holding her breath, until Miss Twittle finally nodded. “Would you like something to drink? Angel bought a bottle of wine.”

“Wine?” Miss Twittle raised a brow.

“Not for me, of course,” Cordelia said immediately. “For dinner. For you — and Angel’s over 21, but not me. I get soda,” Cordelia continued, resisting the urge to kick the couch, then herself, and then Angel.

“Well then, yes, a glass of wine would be appreciated. Though, I don’t think it would be proper for you to carry an alcoholic beverage.”

“Of course.” Cordelia turned on her heel towards the kitchen.


Chapter 61

She stood behind Angel. “Get your butt out there, now.”

“Sauce.” Angel lifted the wooden spoon again.

“Don’t give me that excuse. And you should be careful. This,” she glared grabbing the utensil, “could be used as a weapon. Especially if you don’t get Miss Twittle a glass of wine.”

“And you can’t, why?”

“I’m too young.” Cordelia huffed. “Now, go. I’ll stir the stupid sauce. Oh, and you’re getting me a TV.” Cordelia ignored Angel’s puzzled look. “Don’t ask, just repeat after me, ‘I, Angel, have been too busy making the mansion habitable and protecting Cordy, but next on the list is getting a TV. Got it?”

“Go,” she ordered at Angel’s refusal to move. “And I told you so. The first thing she did was look in the weapon’s cabinet. Maybe if you pretend to be over-the-top charming you can stop her from looking under the beds until after dinner.”

Cordelia sighed as he finally moved to where the wine bottle stood.

Angel poured two glasses. “I can’t believe you’re letting her intimidate you.” He grabbed the two full wine glasses before he left.

Cordelia barely stopped herself from throwing the wooden spoon at Angel’s back. With a huff she turned back towards the stove, jabbing it into the simmering sauce.

***

“Miss Twittle, I’m sorry that I couldn’t welcome you sooner.” Angel held out a glass of wine.

She pursed her lips at the glass. “Angel, you are aware of Cordelia’s age.”

Angel paused, trying to think of the evolving age rules that came as the decades and centuries past and remembered that you had to be twenty-one to drink now. “I can assure you, that Cordelia hasn’t had any alcohol here.”

Miss Twittle nodded. “I wouldn’t expect anything else.” She circled the room. “I was surprised when I heard the address. West Haven has been condemned for twenty years.”

“So, I heard.” Angel took a sip of his wine, thinking of how to appease her worries. “The structure of this house is solid and I’d hoped that the reputation and the inhabitable conditions of West Hell would make it difficult for Damien to find us, if he happened to come Sunnydale.”

“West Hell?” Miss Twittle turned towards Angel. “So you heard the nickname. You’ve done very well, Angel. People avoid this section of town. I fear that most of the populace believes the outlandish rumors of it being haunted.”

Angel nodded. “The realtor was very surprised that I agreed to rent this place even once she assured me that it wouldn’t sink into the ground like most of the other houses.”

Miss Twittle turned to face him. “Which realtor?”

“I don’t remember the name,” Angel said quickly.

“Well, it doesn’t matter. I just hope that you didn’t let your anxiousness put you in a position to be hoodwinked. This area of Sunnydale has been laid to waste for decades. If you paid anywhere near the market price for rentals then the wool was pulled over your eyes.”

“I made a good deal. The realtor was too surprised to haggle.”

“Very good.”

“I’ve tried to make this place as habitable for Cordelia as possible,” Angel said quickly. He stood straighter when Miss Twittle arched a brow. “Of course, it doesn’t have all the amenities, but I had to act quickly and Cordy’s safety had to be my first concern.”

“Of course. But you can’t allow her comfort to suffer. I’ll agree that she is safe here, but her comfort…. Are you thinking about that?” Miss Twittle questioned with a tilt of her head.

Angel was beginning to understand Cordelia’s ramblings about a TV. He found it unbelievable that Miss Twittle would seriously want Cordelia to leave the safety of the mansion just because it didn’t have a TV, but from the frown on her face, it seemed she would. Angel couldn’t let that happen.

He needed her on his side. “I was thinking that tomorrow while Cordy was at school, I’d surprise her with a television. What do you think, Miss Twittle?”

“That would be an excellent idea.” Miss Twittle’s frown disappeared.

Angel swallowed his sigh of relief.

“I would be happy to give you my recommendations as to styles, brands and price. I realize that you don’t have the luxury of researching a Consumer Digest.”

“I would appreciate that. What do you recomm-” Angel stopped when she raised her hand.

“What if Cordy overhears? You can’t ruin her surprise. Is there some where that we can talk in private?”

“The garden.”

“Garden? Is that where all these lovely daffodils came from?”

“Yes.” Angel nodded. “It’s Cordy’s favorite place.” He led Miss Twittle to the side door.


Chapter 62

“Oh.” Miss Twittle sighed as she looked at the garden. “This is lovely.”

Angel nodded. “Cordy is ready to believe the rumors of West Hell because she can’t understand why anyone who planted this garden would leave.”

“Oh, the Richardsons left–it was that or prison. Besides they didn’t plant this garden. The Fredricks were the original owners. Amelia Fredrick was the president of the Garden Club until she died. The Richardsons bought the estate then.”

“You seem to know quite a bit about West Haven.”

“Anyone with any civic pride knows Amelia Fredrick. She designed the Sunnydale Botanical Gardens, as well as, the garden in front of City Hall.”

Angel’s brows rose. “Sunnydale has a Botanical Garden?”

“Not anymore.” Miss Twittle’s disapproval was apparent. “In what can only be described as an act of environmental terrorism, it became the Sunnydale Mall fifteen years ago.”

Angel nodded satisfied as to why he had never seen any signs of such a garden.

“As for the Richardsons.” Miss Twittle coughed. “I’ve worked at the Dress Store since I was younger than Cordelia. And while the clientele has varied over the years, their need to gossip has been consistent. And the Richardsons activities while here garnered quite a bit of it.”

Angel waited as Miss Twittle momentarily frowned and then continued.

“Bart and Stella Richardson were nouveau riche — truly without class. The first thing they did was put tacky lions at the door. I must say they look better pulverized. Though, I don’t condone vandalism.” Miss Twittle pursed her lips. “I’m pleasantly surprised that Stella didn’t turn the garden into an unseemly spectacle.”

She glanced around the garden and then the door leading into the house. “Angel, have you thought about getting Cordelia a cat? I find they are the most excellent companions.” Miss Twittle paused as she looked around again.

“An indoor-outdoor cat could be possible — but you really should make sure that there are no wandering stray dogs or other predators. It takes a lot of thought when you decide to take on a pet. I would be happy to advise you on that as well.”

“Uh — Okay.” Angel cupped the back of his neck to make sure his head wasn’t spinning at the bizarre change in subject.

Suddenly, he straightened and focused on the door. He stepped closer as Cordelia’s squeal and curse reached his ears from the kitchen.

“Angel?”

Angel turned back to Miss Twittle. “I’m sorry, but I think that -“

“ANGEL, GET IN HERE.” Cordelia’s yell could be heard in the garden.

“-Cordelia needs me.” He finished, going into the house.

Chapter 63

Posted July 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

The Fine Line. 56-58   1 comment

Chapter 56

Angel ran his hand over the rumpled sheets and closed his eyes. In his mind, he saw Cordy standing in the kitchen, her teeth chewing on her bottom lip as she sprinkled spices in his blood. He took the blood from her, sipping it as he approached.

The taste-scent exploded on his tongue and as it did, Cordy eased him into the chair and settled onto his lap. She caught his gaze then dipped her finger in the blood, brushing a trail down the slim column of her neck until finally her finger rested on her pulse point. With a tilt of her head, she invited him to taste.

Angel’s hands gripped at the sheet as his anticipation turned into an urgent ache that jerked him out of his fantasy.

He let go of the twisted sheet. The sound of the shower had stopped. Angel tensed as he realized that he had no idea for how long.

He stepped back from the bed, his eyes glancing around the room, half-hoping to see Cordelia in the doorway so he could end his charade of patiently waiting for the ‘right time’. He wanted her now.

A flash of anger swept over him when he saw the doorway was empty. He shook his head, struggling with his need. Patience was the only way that his fantasy could become a possibility.

He moved back towards the bed, pausing at the dresser, noticing for the first time some tattered envelopes.

Angel ran his fingers over his name, obviously written by Cordelia. His anger returned when he saw the money.

She really thought she owed him. He knew she accepted him, the goodnight kiss and the marvel of her warming his blood, had shown him that. When would she realize that she belonged to him? She didn’t have to give him anything except her body, heart, and soul.

***

Cordelia stood in the middle of the bathroom, toweling her long hair of the excess water. That went better than she had thought. Any unease she may have felt in seeing Angel after her lurid dream was pleasantly absent during breakfast.

Granted, she hadn’t really had any time to dwell on it. She had been too busy trying to cook and get over any icky feelings about Angel’s blood. She was quite proud that she had managed the latter so well. It would’ve been a shame to miss Angel’s expression when she handed it to him. Though, it was kind of sad that he would be so surprised and grateful that someone would do something nice for him.

Cordelia twisted the towel around her hair, wrapping it on top of her head and left the bathroom. She would’ve thought that Buffy would’ve had warmed at least one container for Angel. Then again, she sighed, all they ever seemed to do was stare, kiss, argue, and fight demons. Maybe they never had a meal together.

Cordelia entered the bedroom and then jumped when she saw Angel making the bed.

“What are you doing?” Cordelia rolled her eyes at her own statement of the obvious. “Okay, fine, you’re making the bed. Why?”

“Habit.” Angel fluffed the last pillow and put it at the head of the bed.

“Oh.” Cordelia frowned. Obviously, her pointing out what privacy meant had meant nothing.

“Well, okay, but I need to get dressed.”

Instead of leaving, Angel moved closer.

“Cordy, did you sleep well last night?”

The deep timbre of Angel’s question caused goose bumps to pop up along her arms. “Um, yeah, sure.” She pulled the robe tighter around her body.

Angel reached out and fingered the dark terry-clothed knot at her waist. “This is my robe.”

Cordelia couldn’t have moved if she had tried.

“It was, uh…It was hanging on the door.”

“As long as you’re comfortable.” The end of the robe’s belt slipped through Angel’s fingers. “Are you?”

Cordelia gulped. His intense stare was swallowing her whole. Her mind flashed back to the night when Angelus had tackled her to the ground. His body had completely covered hers. Her struggles had been useless against his strength. She was feeling that helplessness again.

Except this time, it wasn’t accompanied by fear but a purely feminine thrill at Angel’s closeness and the inherent power of him.

The swiftness and intensity of that rush was scarier than the simple fear she had felt that night in the cemetery.

“I asked — are you comfortable, Cordelia.”

Cordelia stepped back and wetted her lips. “Um. Yeah. You’re bed is very comfortable. I like being in your bed.” Cordelia jerked back even further as she heard her words and their possible meaning. “I mean…I mean it’s comfortable.”

“And your dreams?” Angel asked softly as he stepped forward, closing the little distance that Cordelia had gained.

Cordelia couldn’t help the flush of heat that rose from her toes to her cheeks. Was she just imagining the knowing glint in Angel’s stare? Cordelia braced her shoulders.

There was no way he could know about the dream she had of him. “Fine, good, great.” She pushed at Angel’s chest, silently begging him to just leave.

“That’s good.” Angel titled Cordelia’s chin. “Now, why don’t you get dressed? We’ve a dinner guest tonight.” He tapped her nose before he left.

Cordelia rubbed her nose and stared after him. His flip-flop changes in mood could drive her crazy, if she let them. Cordelia took a determined breath. She just wouldn’t let them.


Chapter 57

Angel hid his sketchpad when he heard the bedroom door close. By the time Cordelia’s footsteps were on the stairs, his eyes were focused on the book in his hands.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Cordelia tugged on his book.

“It’s not obvious?” Angel raised a brow, silently taking in her appearance.

“Hey, I’m talking to you.” Cordelia smacked harder at the book.

“And I answered.” Angel caught the book before it fell.

“No, you didn’t. My question WAS why are you just sitting here reading. Miss Twittle is coming. There’s no time to read.”

Angel exaggerated the placement of the book on the side table. “Not until 6 o’clock. We have plenty of time.”

“So, says you.” Cordelia huffed. “We’ve got things to do.”

“Cordelia.” Angel drew her name out, “All I have to do is put the sauce on by 4 o’clock. The pasta can wait until she gets here.”

“Uh? No way,” Cordelia snapped. “Miss Twittle has a time fetish. We need to be ready to feed her on the dot. We can’t be diddle-dawdling around watching water boil.”

“Cordelia, I’m not making the pasta now.” Angel’s eyes met her glare, holding it until she huffed and started to pace.

Angel started to pick his book up but froze as her movements caught his attention. His narrow gaze focused on her quick, jerky strides. Each step gave him an excellent view of her swaying curves.

Before Cordelia had come down the stairs, he had been concentrating on drawing her expressions and sleeping form, but now he needed to capture her in motion. She was too beautiful for him to trust that every aspect of her would stay permanently etched in his mind.

“Fine, Mr. Expert.” Cordelia came to a sudden halt in front of him. “But you’re going to be the one doing all the small talk. I’m done with the lies.”

Angel suddenly stood. “It will be fine,” he said, closing the distance between them.

Cordelia pushed at his chest. “Right, you can say that, because you are such the entertainer.”

Angel raised his brows.

“Fine. Whatever.” She sighed. “But, if you won’t cook, you can clean. Miss Twittle’s a clean freak. I can’t tell you how many times I had to dust and sweep the store, even when it didn’t need it.”

“Are you saying the mansion’s dirty?” Angel crossed his arms.

She marched to the large wooden cabinet in the corner and took a swipe at the inlaid carvings on the doors. “Hah.” She held up her finger triumphantly.

“And that means what exactly?”

She scowled at her dust-free finger. “That you’re as much of a freak as she is.” She turned to look back at the cabinet.

“What’s in here?” Cordelia opened the door. “Oh, no way.” She glared at Angel. “These have to go, Buster.”

“They’re just weapons.”

“Uhuh,” Cordelia grabbed a long pole with a sharp curved blade attached to the top. “And this is?”

“It’s a scythe. And give it to me before you hurt yourself.” He took the weapon away.

“So what are you now, the Grim Reaper?” Cordelia crossed her arms against her chest.

He grunted and shoved the weapon back in the cabinet.

“Angel, Miss Twittle has a great flare of the dramatic. Ands she seems to have made me the center of her drama.”

“No.” Angel said dryly. “How could that be?”

“Don’t give me that.” She arched a brow at Angel. ” You’re just as much to blame as me, if not more and don’t you forget it.”

Angel grasped her hand, stopping her accusing finger from poking his chest again. “I haven’t.”

She glared at his fist. “Let me go,” she said, tugging her hand away.

“Cordy.” Angel held on.

“Angel.” She narrowed her eyes. And then she sighed, moving her hand and his so that they rested on his chest. “She’ll open things. She’ll open the fridge; probably look under the beds, too. After all, she conned you into inviting her to dinner just so she could snoop and make sure I was safe. Geez. You don’t really think her coming over was your idea, do you.”

“I thought it was all my fault.”

“It is,” she said, dropping her hand. “If you hadn’t fallen into her trap so easily, we wouldn’t be in this mess. But that’s beside the point, no time for blame.” She patted his arm.

Angel let out a deep breath. “Fine. I’ll lock it.”

Cordelia fisted her hands on her hips. “Oh, like that wouldn’t make her suspicious. Angel, it would be one thing if this was a cabinet full of things that went boom and pow, Miss Twittle seems to like those. But, I’m not so sure about her reaction to sharp and pointy things.” Cordelia waved back to the weapons in the cabinet.

“She’ll probably compare it to some horror movie. Then this becomes a cabinet of death smack in the middle of a haunted mansion. Not the look we’re going for here.” Cordelia tapped her foot.

Angel reached out and cupped her shoulders. “It will be okay.”

“You keep saying that.”

Angel sighed at her stubborn tone and stance. “Cordy, I’ll move the weapons to the basement. Now, tell me what else you think we’ll need to do make this work.”

“Really?”

The catch in her voice caught him unawares. Angel titled her chin up, surprised by the uncertainty and hopeful trust he saw in her eyes. “Anything,” he said soothingly, meaning it with every part of him.

Cordelia gave him a soft smile. “How about flowers. I can bring some in – if that’s okay?”

Angel stepped back amazed that she bothered with asking his permission.

“It’s not okay?” Cordelia fretted on her bottom lip.

Angel smiled. “Of course it is.”

“Good.” Cordelia nodded, then scrunched up her brows. “Do you have any vases?”

“I don’t know about vases, but,” he paused, thinking, “there is a room off the hall.” He jerked his head towards the doorway near the stairwell. “It has a bunch of furniture and things in it – left over from the former owners.”

Angel smiled at Cordelia’s widening eyes.

“Stuff? There is a room with stuff? It’ll be like free-shopping.” She clapped her hands with anticipatory glee. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“I didn’t – ” Angel paused, realizing that Cordelia was already half way out of the room. He shook his head as he grasped an armful of weapons and headed towards the basement.


Chapter 58

Angel carried her finds into the living room and patiently held the marble coffee table while Cordelia decided where it should be placed.

Angel stared at its final placement. “That’s where I first put it.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “No it’s not, Mr. Whiney.” She pointed to a spot on the floor that was an inch to the left. “That’s where you put it. It looks better where it is. Trust me.” Cordelia took a step back, examining the results of their work.

“This is perfect. Thank you.” A satisfied smile settled on her face. “Oh,” she said, turning towards Angel. “You’ll get those vases I picked out, right?”

***

Angel looked around the living room. Cordelia had been right – the addition of the bright daffodils and the throw rugs she’d had him bring in made the room cozier.

“Angel, would you look?”

Angel’s gaze turned away from the flowers. “What?”

“Miss Twittle will expect us to dress for dinner. But, she also believes that we are hiding out. So, I need the perfect outfit that says ‘dressy yet a bit thrown together because I’m being stalked, but also comfortable because I’m safe for the time being.’ So, what do you think?”

Angel frowned, trying to follow what she’d said.

“Angel. Pay attention. Geez. How do I look?”

Angel stuffed his hands into his pockets. Now that he’d finally figured out what she’d said, he wasn’t sure Cordelia wanted to hear his true thoughts.

“You don’t think this does it, do you.” She smoothed away non-existent wrinkles. “That’s why you haven’t said anything.” Cordelia’s gaze jerked up to him. “I’ll go change.”

Angel reached out to catch her before she darted towards the stairs. “You look … fine.”

“Really. Are you sure?”

Angel’s gaze lingered over the green turtleneck dress and the chain belt that hung low on her hips. It wasn’t daring or suggestive, but the way it hugged her body fired his imagination.

“It’s the perfect … combination of … thrown together and … lovely.” Angel waited till she looked at him. “True beauty under pressure,” he whispered as he leaned closer, holding Cordelia’s startled gaze.

Angel felt her tense for a moment. And then she smiled. “I knew it was the right outfit.”

Then she frowned. “That’s what you are wearing?”

“Yeah.” Angel looked down at his black sweater.

“You’ve got to have something less thrown together and more lovely.” Angel was too entranced by the sparkle in her eyes to wonder what was wrong with his sweater. He shrugged and let her pull him towards the stairs.

Chapter 59

Posted July 25, 2015 by califi in TBC

The Fine Line. 52-55   1 comment

Chapter 52

Cordelia sat on the bed brushing her hair. Her hands moved mechanically as her thoughts focused on the tingling in her belly.

Darn. She couldn’t deny her attraction to Angel, no matter what her common sense dictated.

She was so confused. She’d seen a new side of Angel and she liked it. A lot. Sure he hadn’t been Mr. Gabby-talk, but his stories had been entertaining and the unexpected smiles changed Angel from broodily sexy to gorgeously adorable in seconds.

Okay, so it had been naïve of her to limit him to Buffy’s lapdog; after all he had lived a long time. But Geez, she shouldn’t be blamed for not knowing.

Angel hadn’t given anybody a hint that he had hidden layers. Buffy never told anyone, not even Xander or Willow, that Angel had a sense of humor. So, unless Buffy was keeping it a secret, which was highly doubtful, then she didn’t know and if she didn’t know there was no way Cordelia could’ve been expected to.

She wished she had known. Maybe then the warm fuzzies wouldn’t be so much of a surprise.

She had barely resisted the urge to hug him.

But she had resisted. And she’d have patted herself on the back for admirable restraint – if she hadn’t blown the whole act by giving him a goodnight kiss.

Cordelia threw the brush on the bed

“You’re an idiot, Cor,” she grumbled as she fumbled with the quilt.

“Arggh.” She flipped the blanket over her head. It was just that before, Angel’s hotness had only been able to produce the occasional tantalizing dream, but those could be pushed aside just like her fantasizes of Keanu or Brad.

But, she was pretty damn sure that any new fantasies would be impossible to ignore in the morning.

“I know he’s a vampire with a girlfriend, whose ex-factor is debatable.” She groaned, facing her denial and voicing her truth. “But, God, I want to be the one to make Angel smile and laugh. I’m so screwed.” She pffted out loud. Unfortunately, the admission hadn’t helped her state of mind.

“Whatever and stop it.” Cordelia dragged the quilt down. “Cor, you’re a realist, not a clueless romantic, forget that Angel is all that and a chocolate sundae, and just remember he’s not yours. You can’t have him, and don’t want him.You’re Cordelia Chase. You can do it.” She told herself as she tucked the pillow under her head.

***

Angel’s shoulders dipped as he released a small measure of the tension that had turned his muscles into stone. It hadn’t been until Cordelia’s breathing had slowed into the recognizable rhythm of sleep, that he had been able to give up even the slightest bit of his control.

He had come up the stairs, standing close to the bedroom door to wait for Cordelia to fall asleep. He hadn’t expected his sudden surge of need to break down the door and take her, but then he hadn’t expected to hear her mumbled arguments that he wasn’t hers and that she didn’t want him.

But he was able to overcome the pull of his instincts. While her ramblings were an admission, he also realized, that she wasn’t yet ready to accept the reality of the situation. Cordelia needed more time to understand that she belonged with him and to him.

Angel knew that it would test his restraint but he would give her time because now he knew that best way to hurry it along. She wanted to be the one to make him smile and laugh. He could do that. After all, in the short time that she had lived with him, she had already done it.

“Gottcha. Even if you are Cordelia Chase.” Angel slowly grinned. He would use her desire and her ability to his advantage. His hand reached for the doorknob, if he played tomorrow night exactly right, there would be no question in Cordelia’s mind who she belonged to.

Angel slipped into the bedroom and sat in the leather armchair placed near the closet, still too far from Cordelia but closer that he had been. He settled down as comfortably as his growing erection allowed. He ignored it and concentrated on Cordelia’s pattern of breathing.

His chest started to mimic her slow breaths. The rhythm and the scent of wild flowers brought him peace and while it didn’t release the pressure of his groin, it allowed his thoughts and desires to drift into sleep.


Chapter 53

Angel jerked awake.

The scent that lapped around him stimulated every nerve.

It was more than just Cordelia. It was deeper and richer.

He stared at the body curled into the covers. She still slept, but her eyelids flickered as if in a dream.

He knew that scent. Arousal. His body began to feel alive as his borrowed blood and dead organs heated and vibrated.

He shut down the growl that was rising in his throat and he stood looking again at Cordelia. The quilt was gathered around her hips, his sweats pushed down to show the soft swell of her belly. His sweater had slipped off her shoulder leaving a glimpse of the white t-shirt underneath.

She was sleeping in his clothes again. He reveled in the look of her body enclosed in his larger clothes, covering her thoroughly and drenching each thread with her scent, as well as covering her with his.

Angel took a deep steadying breath. He wanted to touch and taste the golden flesh hidden underneath. He wanted her scent not to be just on his clothes but soaked into his skin.

He stared down at her, vibrating with tension. Then he whirled and left the room.

***

Cordelia jolted up in bed. Her eyes narrowed as she peered around the room. She could’ve sworn she heard something. Seeing nothing, she leaned back on the bed and closed her eyes, hoping that she could recapture her dream.

Then she jerked back up as she remembered its details. It wasn’t Brad or Keanu who been doing viciously delicious things to her body. It was Angel.

Great just what she needed. She sighed as she swung her feet to the floor. Maybe a shower would help.

Cordelia’s bare feet padded softly across the room. She shivered, looking over her shoulder and into the shadows, half expecting to see Angel there.

But there was nothing. No one.

Cordelia shrugged and her frown reappeared. Was that the shower? Angel always let her go first.

Cordelia contemplated banging on the bathroom door, but decided against it, remembering how Angel had answered the door the last time she interrupted him in the shower.

She shifted on her feet as she chewed on her thumb. What was she supposed to do now? Her stomach growled. Breakfast it was.

***

Angel braced against the shower wall his gaze centered on the duck bobbing around the drain. He no longer burned with lust, but his shoulders were still tense.

The meaning of Cordelia’s scent was unmistakable. The question was, who had she been dreaming of.

Angel ripped open the shower curtain, driven by a deep, dark need to get his answer.


Chapter 54

Cordelia stood in front of the stove studying the neat row of ingredients on the counter – cinnamon, a small bottle of vanilla, eggs, milk, and bread. A bowl stood beside them, filled with batter. Next to it, a stack of bread rested on a plate.

The smell of smoke had her turning. “Crap!” She grabbed the pan off the burner and stared down at the scorched toast at the center.

Cordelia grabbed the spatula and tried desperately to separate the bread from the pan.

“Arggh.” She tossed the utensil on the counter. It was no use. The bread was permanently stuck to the pan.

She shoved the pan, bread, and all, under running water, waving away the billowing smoke. Then she tossed the pan into the trash.

She looked over her shoulder, checking to make sure that Angel wasn’t anywhere in sight. Then she shoved the eggs back in the refrigerator.

Fruit Loops sounded better than French toast, anyway.

Cordelia stalled in closing the refrigerator. She leaned down, hesitating a moment before taking out of one of Angel’s containers of blood.

She choked down her ick as the red liquid swished up against the see-through container. Throwing up would ruin her idea so she swallowed gamely as she took off the top.

She bit her lip as she stuck her finger in the blood, only to jerk it right back out. Oh shoot. Did she just contaminate it?

She looked around worriedly, but still no Angel. She knew how she would feel if she saw him jabbing his finger in her food. At least, her food wouldn’t be so congealed and cold.

She glanced over her shoulder at the microwave, then down at the container. What the heck, she thought. Couldn’t hurt.

She shoved it in, closed the door, and added 10 seconds to the timer. As it heated, she poured her Fruit Loops. When the appliance dinged she pulled out the container.

The blood was still too cold, so she put it in for another 10 seconds and took the opportunity to add milk to her cereal. She repeated the 10-second process several more times, frustration growing as her cereal grew progressively soggier, while the blood remained stubbornly chilled.

At least it had started to thin, along with any concerns that her finger would contaminate it. She heated it again, this time for 20 seconds. Then she ate a spoonful of cereal and watched the mug spin in the microwave.

When the timer hit zero, she popped the door open, dipped her finger into the mug, and dribbled a few drops on the underside of her wrist.

It was warmer, but it still didn’t seem right. But then again, she wasn’t exactly sure how the testing on the wrist thing was supposed to work.

She pushed the mug back into the microwave for another 10 seconds as she rubbed her wrist on her sweat pants.


Chapter 55

Angel stood stock still in the doorway of the kitchen. Any thoughts he may have had of shaking an answer out of Cordelia were long gone now.

His panicked disbelief battled with a surge of lust as she dripped a small portion of his blood on her wrist. “Cordy, what are you doing?”

She jumped at least six-inches then shot him an innocent smile. “Oh, Hi.”

“That’s my blood

“I didn’t put my finger in it; that would be rude and gross. Eww. I’m ….I just…Oh, okay, maybe I did, but it doesn’t hurt it, does it?” Cordelia braced her shoulders. “I made breakfast.”

Angel’s first instinct was to reassure her, but his shock won out. “You’re warming my blood.”

“Yeah, so… Okay, I did — Hold on.” The microwave beeped. Angel shoved his hands into his pockets, shifting his weight on his feet as he waited for her to explain.

“I think –” She tested the blood on her wrist. “I think it’s finally okay.” She titled her head up at him. “Sorry, I have been touching it. I washed my hands. Does it ruin it? I can start over if this is ruined.”

Angel couldn’t think of any response except to tell her it was okay.

“Good. Here.” Cordelia pushed the mug to him.

He tentatively moved to take it when suddenly she jerked it and her hand back. “I almost forgot.” She turned, taking the mug with her. “I was going to make French toast, but it didn’t work quite like I planned,” she shot over her shoulder, as she sprinkled cinnamon in the blood along with a splash of vanilla. She stirred in her additions with her finger. “I guess I could’ve done this with the whole egg, milk, and bread combination, but really I wasn’t having much luck with the French toast thing. Here.” She turned back and handed him the mug.

Angel took it, his eyes focused on the clumps of cinnamon that refused to be mixed. He wasn’t sure what to say.

“Well?” Cordelia asked with an expectant smile as she brought her bowl of Fruit Loops to the marble island and gestured him to sit.

“Um, it’s different,” Angel, said diplomatically. He brought the mug to his lips and pretended to drink.

“Well?” Cordelia asked again.

Damn her. He braced his shoulders and took a big swallow.

“It’s…uh, good.” Her answering smile made the peculiar taste of the blood worthwhile.

“Good.” Cordelia scooped up a spoonful of Fruit Loops. “Geez. These are all soggy.” She scrunched her nose as she batted the colored pieces of cereal. “Angel, I did every thing you told me to, so why couldn’t I make French toast?”

Angel licked his lips, surprised at the depth the cinnamon and vanilla added to the blood’s flavor. In a weird way it tasted like he imagined Cordelia did, spicy and feminine. Then again, it could’ve just been the finger she’d poked in it. His mind was still reeling with that sight.

Angel cleared his throat and placed the mug on the marble island. “What did you do?”

“I did exactly what you did.”

Angel smiled at her indignant huff.

“Why don’t you just tell me?”

“I got all the ingredients.” Cordelia waved around to the spices, bread, and the milk.

“Where’s the butter?”

“Butter?” Cordelia wrinkled her brow. “What butter?

“To coat the pan, so that the bread won’t stick to the pan.”

“You didn’t tell me about the butter.” Cordelia said accusingly.

Angel couldn’t help his smile. She wanted so much to blame her failure on him. And as weird as it was he wanted to take it.

“I didn’t,” he said, hanging his head. “I used it before you came in the kitchen.”

“Hmmph.” Angel saw the approval at his apology in her nod.

“That’s okay, I forgive you.” She patted his shoulder.

Angel shook his head. It was ridiculous. Her touch not only assured him that she forgave his perceived neglect, but it also seemed to forgive all of his past sins.

“Hey, you like your blood, don’t you?”

Angel took the last swallow. “It was better than I could’ve ever imagined.”

“Then why do you look so weird?”

“Weird?”

“Yeah, you have a funny look on your face.”

“Oh.” Angel resisted the urge to feel his features to figure out what she saw. Instead, he schooled his expression to one, he hoped, of normality.

“It’s just that no ones ever made my blood before.” Angel shook his head. “I’ve never met anyone like you.”

“Well, duh.” Cordelia put her empty bowl in the sink.

“I think I’m going to have to keep you.” Angel tried to make it a joke, but couldn’t hide the dark edge in his voice any more than he’d been able to hide his smile earlier.

Cordy’s back stiffened. “Uh?”

“For your cooking ability,” he deadpanned, grateful that her shoulders had relaxed.

When she turned, she had that “as if” look on her face that drove Angel to distraction and urged him to kiss it off her face.

“Don’t count on it, Bucko. I may be able to handle the microwave, but using the stove may have scarred me for life.”

Angel immediately got to his feet as she passed him. “Where are you going?”

“To shower. You’d better have left some hot water.” She said over her shoulder before leaving.

Angel dropped his hand that had been reaching out to stop her and stilled his feet from following her. He concentrated on tracking her movements as she left.

He finally moved when he heard the bathroom door close. He looked around the kitchen, his gaze settling on his mug. Angel clenched his fist. Cordelia was too far away. This time he didn’t resist his feet’s need to move.

Chapter 56

Posted July 25, 2015 by califi in TBC