Mercenary Hearts 3   1 comment

Part 3

Rising lithely to his feet the stranger reached out to help her up. Amusement danced in his dark eyes. Cordelia’s blush of mortification intensified and she roughly pushed the large pale hand away, her lovely face scrunching into a deep scowl. Jerk!

Climbing to her feet with as much grace as she could manage, Cordy attempted to ignore the tall, black-clad man standing a little too close for her liking and quickly tugged down the skirt that had twisted around her waist like a gauzy rope. This was all Buffy Summers fault, she thought resentfully. If the annoying girl had given her more notice, displaying her panties to the world- well, him and God knows who else, would never have happened.

Then she looked up. Just her luck. Tall, dark and sinfully handsome from what she could tell in the semi-darkness, anyway. Any other time, Cordy would have appreciated the sight of salty goodness- a rarity in this town, but at this moment all she wanted to do was cringe and smack the smirk off his chiseled yet full lips. “Thanks.” Her grudging gratitude caused the smirk to widen into a sizzling smile that made her blink hard before looking away.

“Glad to help,” Angel eyed the young woman with open appreciation. From the top of her glossy head to the tips of her perfect toes, she fitted every one of his fantasies. Her rumpled appearance and flushed cheeks only added to the becoming picture, bringing illicit thoughts to his head.

When he’d turned from snapping the demon’s neck and saw her sprawled out so enticingly, the urge to slide his hands up legs that seemed to go on forever had been difficult to quash. The need to touch was still strong, so he gave into it, running his fingers innocently along the hot flush of one cheek. Appeased for the moment, he asked, “Are you hurt?”

For a second, Cordy unconsciously leaned into the touch, then her eyes widened in shock. What the hell am I doing?! One touch of those cool fingers and her knees had turned to jelly. Sheesh. With a huff, she knocked his hand away, shook her head and took a step back. Only my dignity, she thought with growing embarrassment, recalling the first words he’d uttered and opened her mouth to rip into him.

Lucky for him, a short, sharp scream caught her attention. Cordy broke eye contact with him, and looked around his large body just in time to see one of the demons attempting to herd her now-alone friend towards the trees.

“OHMIGOD!” she cried, moving forward to push the dark-haired man out of the way. Then she froze as a blond guy appeared out of nowhere and jumped onto the demon’s back. “What the…?! That’s a vampire! ” Sheer disbelief colored her tone. Her brow scrunched up in shock and confusion. She watched in horror as the demon still attempted to approach Tara even as it struggled to dislodge the vampire on its back.

“This is just GREAT! First demons and now vamps are joining in.” She took a second to glare up at the hulking figure still blocking her way and with an angry huff tried to slip around his unmoving body.

A powerful arm hooked around her waist before Cordy had taken two steps, swinging round and depositing her back to her original spot. “He’s with me,” Angel replied vaguely, keeping hold of her wrist, and again blocking her way.

Cordy tugged at her arm and glared up at him. “With you?” Shaking her head in growing anger and confusion, the move dislodged the clip that had been holding her hair back. Broken in the tussle with the demon, it released its tenuous grip and the glossy strands fell to surround her flushed face.

Angels gaze was instantly drawn to it, his nostrils flaring as the scent of apples enveloped him. A low sound of appreciation escaped his throat and caught her attention.

Did he just…? Cordy could have sworn she’d heard purring- then gasped. For a split second, she was almost certain she’d seen a flash of fang. Jeeze, now she was seeing things. Putting it down to oxygen deprivation to her brain earlier that was affecting her, she shrugged it off and instead narrowed her gaze, tugging again at her captured arm.

“Well, if he’s your friend, shouldn’t you go help him out?” she asked pointedly, and peeked around him again. Even with the vampire on its back, the demon was still making ground towards Tara, who’d belatedly remembered the sword in her hand and was waving it in front of her haphazardly. “We so need to learn how to use those things,” Cordy muttered anxiously, now tugging in earnest.

Angel flicked a look behind him and shrugged, seemingly uninterested. “He can hold his own.” He grabbed her other wrist quickly when she gave up pulling and instead started clawing at his hand.

“Lemme go, you big bully, I want to help her.” The demon roared when a lucky swing of Tara’s sword-nicked it’s face causing it to increase its efforts to dislodge the vampire who was reigning punches into the back of its thick skull.

“You’ll be of better help keeping out of it,” Angel shifted to avoid the swift kick she aimed at his shin, a grin stretching his mouth. Feisty! He was really starting to like this little spitfire! “Your friend’ll be okay,” he assured her- then cursed under his breath when the blond vampire was abruptly thrown across the clearing. After giving itself a violent shake, the demon turned its attention back onto Tara, who had backed into a tree and was cornered.

“Maybe not,” Angel muttered under his breath and moved so fast, Cordy blinked in shock before shouting worriedly, “Tara! Run!” She breathed a sigh of relief and an ‘ewe’ when Tall, Dark and Unfairly Yummy appeared behind the demon and removed its head effortlessly with a sword pulled from beneath his long leather duster.

After rescuing the gorgeous sassy brunette, Angel kept her in his sights. He’d been impressed with how she’d defended herself. Not bad for a human. No match for the demons, but quick on her feet and flexible…boy was she flexible! He had salivated at the thought of how that could come in handy in other ways. He’d had to force his thoughts out of the gutter and concentrate on the fight at hand, taking care not to hurt the humans that kept getting in his way.

The chaos continued, fast and furious for several more minutes, then after a lucky punch from the demon he’d been fighting had knocked him to the ground, it had taken off, along with two remaining demons- one injured by a bolt sticking out of it’s scaly shoulder. He dusted himself off as Spike snapped the neck of one and the Slayer and two male youths finished off the other.

With intense irritation, the vampires watched their marks scatter. Now their second confrontation and only three killed between them thanks to the Slayer and the humans interfering. What the hell they were doing there? He wondered with a dark frown…the Slayer, yeah- both vampires had been aware that a Slayer resided at this particular hellmouth, and had hoped to avoid confrontation for obvious reasons.

But in all his long unlife, he’d never heard of a Slayer that actively worked in the field with humans in tow. Although the Slayer had managed to kill another two of demons, which narrowed down the marks he and Spike had to deal with – but with the reckless help from the humans? Weren’t Slayers supposed to keep a low profile? What was the world coming to, Angel wondered shaking his dark head in disgust.

Several days earlier, after finding Spike who’d been shoved down a derelict elevator shaft at the New York Warehouse, the fall knocking him out cold, Angel had pulled him out, and then both had impatiently waited until the cover of darkness to continue their pursuit. Already aware of the demons’ planned destination, it hadn’t taken them long to catch up. They needed a Hellmouth for a particular ritual the vampires were contracted to avert, so it was expected the demons would make for Sunnydale, the nearest one in these parts.

What they hadn’t expected was the sound of fighting- and the sight that met their stunned eyes. So much for their decision to keep a low profile! Vamping out hadn’t helped either, judging by the wary eyes now aimed their way right now. Just fucking great.

Angel walked over to retrieve his sword, but before he could reach down and grab it, a booted foot appeared in his line of vision and slammed down on the bloodied blade. He sighed silently and rose to his full height, backing up and leaving the weapon where it was. Equally wary brown eyes lifted to connect with the cold blue of the Slayer.

“Who the hell are you- and, more importantly- why are you helping us?”

***

Spike appeared next to his partner in a blur of movement that made the humans jolt in nervous surprise. Buffy remained steady, used to their unnatural speed, but her eyes flicked from one to the other vampire warily.

“Who said we were helping?” Spike drawled “You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He added with a casual shrug and pulled out a crabby pack of cigarettes, shook one out and lit it with a heavy silver lighter.

They faced off each other in the now eerily quiet clearing. Buffy headed her group, who now congregated slightly behind her.

Angel eyed the crossbow that the redheaded youth, who didn’t smell quite so human at closer quarters, had now leveled towards them- also taking note of the stake that had appeared abruptly in the Slayer’s hand. “We’ve been tracking that particular clan for a while,” he finally replied. Then went on to briefly explain that they’d been hunting the demons who’d escaped them and fled New York a few days before. They’d been following their trail for several nights when they came upon their fight.

“Good thing we showed up,” he finished, almost insultingly.

Buffy’s back immediately went up at his scathing tone. “We could have taken them without your help,” she responded coldly, even though inwardly she knew that was debatable, but they didn’t have to know that. At the same time, it hit Buffy that these two were the reason her vampy tinglies had set off earlier.

Angel looked at her expressionlessly for a long moment before glancing around him pointedly. “She would have been dead or worse by now.” He gestured to Cordy, who scowled and folded her arms tight, but kept her mouth shut because, unfortunately, it was true. “Those two whelps were having trouble taking them on, too.” Angel indicated Xander and Oz with a jerk of his dark head.

“Little cutie over there was left alone,” Spike added, and winked casually at Tara who found herself blushing like a schoolgirl. She ducked her fair head and looked at the soft grass beneath her shoes.

Buffy swallowed the guilt as she belatedly recalled that Tara had been separated from the rest of them in the midst of battle. The vamps had a point, but no way was she going to admit it to them. Instead she folded her arms and attempted to stare them both down.

Angel raked a hand through his spiky dark hair, unconsciously drawing Cordy’s eyes, which then dropped to get a longer look at his face. Although hard and pretty expressionless, she could see clearly an edge of violence in those almost black eyes. No revision on her initial thoughts; he was sinfully handsome …pity! A small, disappointed sight left her.

Watching him beating the crap out of one of demons earlier had been quite a turn on she grudgingly admitted; for such a powerfully built guy, he moved with an almost feline grace that drew her eye. But it had been one hell of a shock seeing his handsome face change when the demon had got in a lucky punch. Just her luck, she thought. The only decent male around for ages and he had to be not only full of himself, but a vampire to boot.

Oblivious to the brunette’s thoughts, Angel pinned the Slayer with hard eyes. “I get why you’re here, Slayer, but bringing along humans? You’re either new to the gig or just plain stupid,” he chastised coldly.

A collective gasp echoed, and then Xander stepped forward, his youthful face twisted in defensive anger. “Back off, Dead Boy, it’s none of your business how we do things around here.”

Buffy remained silent as the familiar guilt surged to the surface. Their human frailty wasn’t lost on her and it was a worry that still plagued on and off. But she knew from past experience exactly what they’d say or do if she told them not to accompany her on patrol. They’d done it before, and if she’d hadn’t have come across them when she had, Willow would have been dead- or undead after they’d been attacked by a small group of vampires. Better they were with her rather than worry they’d follow regardless of her demands.

Quashing her emotions on the subject for now, Buffy hardened her own gaze. It was so easy for these two interlopers to say that- not that she could understand why they’d helped- or why she was still standing there listening instead of staking their asses. Why the hell would these vampires have even the remotest feelings about anything but the kill- of humans?

“How I work is none of your business, Fangy,” Buffy fiddled with the stake even as she eyed the two vampires with mistrust. “What I wanna know is why you helped us?” she lifted a hand when Spike opened his mouth to reply, “Yeah, I get that you were after those demons, but why not us- me? I *am* your natural enemy,” she reminded them unnecessarily.

“We’re here to do a job, nothing more.” Spike raised his hands in mock surrender and took a step back, his expression now reflecting boredom. “Now, if you’ve finished, luv, we’ll be on our way.” He half turned away, wanting to put as much distance as he could between them. The girl and what she stood for brought bad memories and even worse regrets back to the surface. The terrified face of the last Slayer he’d killed still haunted him. What had once become some kind of personal quest back in the day now sickened him. He needed to leave now.

But Buffy wasn’t finished by a long shot. She’d seen what was under those human veneers. Would have sensed it even if she hadn’t – she hoped so, anyway. They weren’t acting like any vamps she’d ever come across and that made them more dangerous in her book. An unknown quality was never a good thing. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get out of Sunnydale and not look back,” she finally warned.

Spike turned back and looked at her with a lift of a dark brow, but didn’t bother to reply this time, his expression unreadable. Angel, equally poker-faced replied instead. “Once we finish what we came here to-”

“This is my territory,” Buffy butted in abruptly and took a step forward. “I can deal with them. Go back where you came from or I’ll deal with you now.” It wasn’t a threat and both vampires seemed to turn into stone. The tension on both sides racked up and Buffy swallowed thickly.

And then the dark haired vampire relaxed and let a slight smile touch his mouth. Buffy’s breath hitched. “We don’t want trouble, but …” Cool confidence oozed from him as he shrugged offhandedly, unspoken words hung in the air between them, and it gave her pause for thought.

Right now, each and every one of them sported bruises. She could see no other choice but to retreat. She’d seen them fight. It had taken three of them to kill one of those uber-strong demons. Granted she was the only one with supernatural strength, but still, the two vamps had taken out three demons with relative ease.

More powerful than the average vamp, these two – especially the dark haired one. She’d bet her life on it that his large, imposing body was finely honed with muscle. The brutal yet efficient methods they’d used told of years- maybe centuries of fighting skills. Hell, just looking into those deep brown eyes that seemed to hold a lifetime…

The last vampire she’d come across with that look in his eyes had been Luke, – and he hadn’t shown as much skill as the ones facing her now. Buffy had beat him – but by the skin of her teeth. It had taken several days to recover from the injuries he’d inflicted on her

Unlikely she’d walk away Scot-free. Yes, Buffy, decided grimly. Retreat was the best option- for now. She took a step back and lowered her stake slowly.

The vampires widened the gap a little more, and after eyeing the contemplative Slayer briefly, Angel flicked his dark gaze over Cordelia, from head to toe. This one was worth hanging around for… even without the business that brought him here. He admired her sass…amongst other things. It probably wasn’t the time or place, but dayyamn, she’s sweet! He let a slight, sensual smile touch his firm mouth. “Maybe see you around.”

The pure male appreciation in that look had Cordy tingling right down to her toes, but she rolled her eyes and shoved aside the accompanying shiver that ran along her spine under his hot appraisal. “Not if my stake sees you first, vampire.” She jolted when a soft, deep chuckle floated through the air even as they stepped back and then seemingly melted into the darkness.

TBC…

Califi

Posted August 11, 2017 by califi in TBC

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