Title: What the Heart Wants
Author: Lysa Whitmore
Category: Fluff & Smut
Content: C/A in AtS Season 2, Pre-Pylea
Summary: Love doesn’t have to be perfect to be true. The arrival of a new client at the Hyperion causes Cordelia and Angel to explore their mutual attraction. Is this really love or just risky business?
Special Thanks: To Daiana who sent me an email that reminded me that I love to read and write C/A fanfic. Also to Ke’o for volunteering to beta-read this fic.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. This is fanfiction. No infringement intended.
Distribution: Angel’s Archive, Go Team, Just Fic, Darkness & Daylight.
When would this torture end? Cordelia propped her left foot up on a pillow gently letting it sink into the cushion. A bad sprain earned during a fight with a Trawlik demon had forced her to stay at the Hyperion for nearly a week. Still slightly swollen, the ankle was wrapped up in a not-so-stylish Ace Bandage.
Normally, she’d be cool and comfy at home getting Phantom Dennis’ special brand of TLC, calling in her visions on the Angel Investigations hotline, and enjoying her convalescence by planning how to spend her hazard duty bonus.
Stuck here with a broken air conditioner, crutches, and acting as a temporary chaperone for their latest client, a lost Buttercup type from an alternate reality or nearby dimension or space-time continuum, made Cordelia cranky.
Things might have been different if a certain penny-pinching vampire had actually listened to her business plan regarding the rest of the hotel. At a place with over fifty guest rooms it only made sense to prepare a few of them for staff and clients. Barely looking up at her from the newspaper he was perusing, Angel had blandly reminded her, “We’ve got a mission, Cordelia. This is an office, not a bed & breakfast.”
“That’s not what I meant…” Cordelia remembered snatching the newspaper away holding it out of reach, but Angel was too fast and it hadn’t occurred to her that she was still in grabbing distance.
Angel’s instinctive reaction surprised them both. Her little shriek of surprise was short-lived. Arms and legs and newspaper flying, Cordelia somehow ended up sprawled upright across his lap and torso, straddling his powerful thighs, smashed against his chest with the newspaper crushed between them. “Oof!”
What the… he was so not getting away with that. He had an iron grip on her hips and no amount of wiggling would dislodge her. Their cheeks brushed when she pulled back, pushing against his shoulders to steady herself against his stiff frame. Faces inches apart, their eyes clashed, hers bright with anger, and his a hint of triumph.
If he thought superior strength was going to win this argument he was dead wrong. “Pretty sure my job description doesn’t include lap dances for eunuch vampires.”
Angel completely ignored her attempt to poke at that particular vulnerability. His hold on her hips slid to her waist, setting her a little further back on his legs, preparing to help her back to her feet. The rush of fury she had felt was suddenly sideswiped by another emotion, not so much a foreign feeling as a forgotten one. Maybe it was the straddling, or the way his touch gentled, or just the shock of his sudden move that left her tingling.
“I was reading that paper,” Angel sounded lazily amused in contrast to the angry buzz causing her to curl her fingers into his shoulders.
Shock. She was going with shock.
Heart hammering, Cordelia sucked in a deep breath and snapped, “Pretending to read it, you mean. Hah! You’re just trying to get away with not listening to my idea. Like you’re actually interested in…” she snuck a look at the headline on the crinkled page between them, “Fashion Week Fiasco…um, what fiasco?”
Instantly intrigued, she plastered the newspaper against his chest, pushing hard to give her enough room to read the first few lines. Speed-reading her way through the news Cordelia finally reached a point where the rest of the article was still stuck somewhere between them. Angel had relaxed back into the couch cushions, his big hands resting on her thighs, fingers drumming softly as he waited for her to realize she managed to sidetrack herself from her own argument.
“That’s not what I was reading.” The sports section was crushed somewhere between them. “You can have that section if you’ll…” he had started to negotiate for her terms of surrender.
“Give in? No way!” Bounding off his lap Cordelia took the paper with her as she backed out of Angel’s reach holding it in a crumpled mass behind her back. He was on his feet in less than a second stalking forward with a purpose.
Something deeply human kicked in making her want to run like hell. She didn’t, standing her ground and watching Angel loom closer, tall and broad shouldered, and surprisingly sexy in a way that hadn’t really occurred to her in ages. A flock of butterflies somersaulted inside her. “Don’t you dare,” she panted out of sheer panic.
Oh, he dared. In fact, he seemed to be enjoying this. Angel’s hands shot out to her waist preventing her escape, cool fingers brushing across the exposed skin between her cropped shirt and jeans. Saying nothing, he dropped one hand behind her back to grasp her wrist. His hold was firm, but gentle, the glint in his eyes teasing as he plucked the paper from her nerveless fingers with his other hand.
Two seconds seemed like an eternity where neither of them moved. He held on, his hard body close, but not close enough. His eyes darting down to hers as if trying to read her thoughts and dropping further to her lips as if he had actually done so. Cordelia inwardly fought off the sudden urge to crush her mouth to his. Impossibly it seemed that for a moment he had the same idea.
Just as suddenly his eyes hardened, a mask slipping back over his features, dousing the spark she had seen there so quickly that she might have imagined his reaction. He released her wrist and stepped back, sternly censuring, “It won’t happen.”
Before the rational part of her brain kicked in to tell her that Angel was still on-topic and talking about her idea for the Hyperion’s many guest rooms, she backed off another step only to bump into something solid. “Right. Bad idea. Let’s not go there.”
“Good. I’m glad you’re seeing things my way,” Angel fortunately wasn’t watching as she fidgeted and plucked at her revealing top that suddenly felt a size too small. He was ironing out the paper with his hand against the smooth surface of the marbled front counter totally focused on removing the creases. “We’re not exactly rolling in cash at the moment.”
What did money have to do with wanting to kiss him? Oh. The penny dropped a second later as she realized just how far off base she had gone. Kissing her was the last thing on his mind. Not even on the radar. The first time they locked lips, the only time, was when she tried to rid herself of the visions. Angel hadn’t exactly been enthusiastic. Turning him on hadn’t been her intention then or now, but it was kind of upsetting to learn that he was completely unmoved by the thought. Especially since she had been certain that the notion had at least flashed through that thick vampire skull, a tiny blip of an idea that crashed and burned before it could really take off.
It was a moot point. Kissing Angel was a bad idea. Curiosity was one thing. Suicidal tendencies quite another. Better to just put it out of her mind completely. Drop the subject. Forget it. Cordelia might have to concede that point even if it was only to herself.
As for their original argument, she wasn’t quite finished. “We can spruce up a few rooms. Just in case. What if our clients need a safe place to stay for a couple of days? It’s not like we don’t have the space for it.”
“What happened to this being a bad idea?” Angel looked up from the article he was reading on an off-season trade of an L.A. Kings goalie.
Vampires and ice hockey. Go figure.
“Woman’s prerogative. I changed my mind.”
Angel shook his head. “After what…thirty seconds?”
Shrugging nonchalantly, Cordelia let out a soft pfft. “After nearly two hundred fifty years you’re going to tell me that surprises you.”
Hah! Got him on that one. Despite her fairly solid idea Angel refused to let her go forward with her plans. They had limited cash flow and it was more important to get their business established before adding on extras. Cordelia had already scoped out a room for herself even before asking about the others. “For after my visions,” she urged him to let her keep that one. “My clothes, too. Sometimes I need to shower and change before going home.”
“Cordy, you don’t need to justify having your own room,” Angel actually looked surprised as he lowered the paper.
His assurances that he would give her anything she wanted apparently did not apply to decorating guest rooms or sharing a few kisses. Not that she was about to point out her feelings about the latter. That was just a bad idea. One that kept popping back into her head with colorful clarity. One she needed to forget. Pronto.
That whole argument had gotten her one room, which she now had to share with a client because there was no other safe place on the whole planet for her to stay. One runaway princess took a wrong turn with a crappy spell and could no longer locate her home dimension, and somehow Cordelia got stuck with her. It wasn’t like they could afford to put her up at the Ritz, especially considering the possible damage if the rest of that horde of Trawlik demons managed to catch up.
This was torture and it was all Angel’s fault and she didn’t mind one iota that it pissed him off when she found some new way to remind him. He was this close to letting her go home to Phantom Dennis a time or two, but he reminded her that it wasn’t seemly for the princess to be alone at the hotel with him.
“Seemly? Really. Since when are you the poster boy for gentlemanly behavior?” Cordelia rolled her eyes at that one. Snort. “Seemly. How about you stay with Dennis, I’ll take your room and Princess Kalina can stay in mine?”
Already guessing his answer, Cordelia just wanted to see how he’d respond to the suggestion. She didn’t have to wait long.
Angel dismissed the idea almost as soon as she asked it. “Silverlake is too far away. I should be close by in case those demons show up,” he reasoned.
True. Cordelia had to agree. That was one of the reasons she was here too. That and it was impractical travelling back and forth on crutches.
“How about we just share your room like we used to when I stayed at your apartment. It’s hard to sleep with her there. The mattress is too lumpy…we never did get a chance to replace it. She has these bony elbows that keep poking into my ribs. And she hogs my bathroom.”
Angel didn’t say no, but he did point out, “We’re on the same schedule now for the most part.” Meaning it would no longer be as simple as splitting the use of the bed between a daytime and a nighttime sleeper.
Oh. That did put a different spin on it. They’d be there at the same time. Sharing. Which would be totally different than sharing with Her Royal Hoity Toityness. Angel’s bed was roomier and covered in her favorite soft cotton sheets. The pillows were nice, too. The few times he had carried her there after one of her really bad visions made waiting for his return more bearable. She liked his bed. It was comfy compared to her lumpy hotel hand-me-down.
If they shared the bed it wouldn’t be empty like it was for her post-vision naps. To be in Angel’s bed while he was sleeping in it didn’t sound very restful to Cordelia. Oh, she had no doubts that her vampire boss would think anything of it. He had already demonstrated his utter lack of interest in her in any intimate way, and she had nearly forgotten about that insane moment when she almost kissed him.
“Right. As much as being your human blanket warmer appeals,” Cordelia opted for sarcasm, “I think I’ll pass. I don’t think the princess would find it seemly if I slept with you.”
Angel’s mouth twitched at the corner.
To think she had actually been enjoying herself for once when that last vision hit out of nowhere. The PTB really had the worst timing. Angel and Wesley didn’t have time to get her back to the Hyperion. They’d only stopped long enough to call Gunn for backup, yet barely made it in time.
The night sky seemed to swell and then burst with light. An energy blast tossed Cordelia through the air. She landed hard. Dizzy, she heard an echo that sounded like her name. Strong arms scooped her up, carried her the few steps back to the car and set her on her feet. “Angel,” tried to complain that she didn’t need coddling. There was still ringing in her ears…no, screaming…and howling…
Her blurred gaze suddenly came into focus. Over Angel’s shoulder she saw a woman running for her life from a monstrous demon close on her heels. “Go! She needs you.”
Angel hesitated only a fraction of a second. Long enough to brush his fingertips just beneath the reddened scrape across her shoulder. A glimmer of gold lit his gaze just as his human features fell away, skin and bone shifting, fangs flashing in the lamp lit shadows of the back alley street. When he moved it was faster than expected, brandishing strength and sword against the demon whose maneuverability defied his size.
A screech of tires signaled Gunn’s arrival as his truck pulled up next to the Plymouth. “Man, where’d that thing come from?”
Grabbing his axe, Gunn ran into the fray where Angel and Wesley were tag teaming to keep the demon under control. The girl was trapped against the broken wall of an old factory desperately trying to get loose. Her long skirt was hooked on exposed rebar. She tugged, but the material would not rip free. One wrong move or a push from that demon would send her reeling into the jagged metal.
Cordelia paled at the memory of her own experience of being impaled. Adrenalin rushing, she scooted back to the Plymouth’s open trunk and reached for a sword. Angel hadn’t gotten around to that promised training session yet, but it looked like the time had come to just go for it.
Running over to help she timed her moment when the demon was focused on fighting off the guys hacking and slashing at its massive bulk. Cordelia unhooked the woman’s skirt from the rebar and told her, “Run!” She was about to follow when murky smoke began to billow around them.
“Get a move on, Goldilocks!” Cordelia pushed her forward just before the smoke started to harden around one of her ankles. She tugged trying to free herself, but it suddenly tugged back.
Lurching forward onto the ground, sword clattering to the asphalt, the air whooshed from her lungs. A sharp pull on her ankle dragged her closer to the demon’s bulk. Cordelia glanced over her shoulder, intending to look for a way to escape, but her eyes clashed with Angel’s. He had just dodged a blow and caught sight of her vulnerable position.
Fear tightened in her chest. Rescue wasn’t exactly going to be easy. Angel couldn’t get to her directly. The demon was in his way. Gunn and Wesley were too far out of reach. The only way Angel could intervene was to keep fighting. She saw the determination in his eyes and recognized his concern for her, “I’ve got this,” the words came out winded.
With a long stretch her fingertips curled over the sword hilt inching it into her grasp. Twisting her body as she lay on the ground, Cordelia brought the sword down on the tendril continuing to tighten around her ankle. The arcing blade narrowly missed her foot by a couple of inches, but she was free.
Scrambling to her feet came with a struggle. Her ankle was already swelling up like a toy balloon and pain jabbed up her leg with every step. Biting down on her lip, she kept her injury quiet not wanting to distract Angel, Gunn and Wesley from the fight they were finally starting to win.
With some effort, she limped back to the Plymouth where the demon’s prey crouched behind one of the open doors peeking back at her. Rising up to her full, albeit petite height, upon Cordelia’s approach, she looked to be about the same age, if not a year or two older, than her. “Your warriors fight ferociously. It seems they shall win the day. You have the gratitude of Kalina Thornecrown, Princess of Oohlaroona.”
Seriously? Cordelia heard the superiority edging her tweeety little birdlike voice and couldn’t resist a twist on her own introduction, “Queen C. Welcome to Los Angeles.”
The PTB didn’t normally send visions about royalty, but this girl was important in more ways than one. The big show and tell was a bit vague on the details. Cordy leaned against the car to take the weight off her ankle, no longer certain that she could stand on it.
The proud tilt of Kalina’s head accompanied the glimmer of tears in her eyes. Hearing Cordelia’s introduction the princess rushed out from behind the car door and sank into a low curtsy. “Oh, your majesty, I am ever so grateful for the rescue.”
Hmm, that was more like it, but Cordelia decided to set the record straight. Or at least take it down a notch. “Call me Cordelia. We’re equals here.”
The demon was dead. Within seconds of its lifeless body hitting the ground Angel was at her side assessing the damage, his eyes darting between each bruise and scrape until they settled on her left ankle. “Dammit, Cordy, I thought I told you to stay in the car.”
Pfft! Like she was going to let them put their lives on the line alone? “Actually, you didn’t. Although it might have escaped your notice, I’m a woman, not your pet poodle. I don’t respond well to commands.”
Kalina gasped, which called Angel’s attention to her as if he had just realized she was standing there. “Your champion treats you quite familiar, Queen Cordelia. You are right to put him in his place.”
Angel slowly swiveled back to meet her gaze, his brow quirked up, but saying nothing to correct Kalina’s off-base remark. Both Gunn and Wes managed to jog up to them just in time to hear it. Their reaction was in no way as subtle as their laughter echoed into the night.
Letting them have their fun for a few seconds, Cordelia met Angel’s amused eyes and grinned, adding a shrug of her shoulders. Then she got back to business. “No funny bones were broken during the fight, I see. Anything else need patching up?”
“Just you.” The low grunt proved Angel was still pissed about it. Both Wesley and Gunn reacted with concern the moment they realized she had been hurt.
Yeah, her ankle hurt. Not quite enough to pass out from the pain, but it was throbbing now. Cordelia didn’t want to give Angel or the guys an excuse for an I-told-you-so. “Give me a little credit. I did rescue the princess.”
Wesley automatically reached up to straighten his tie as if the royal title pinged an automatic requirement for perfect deportment. His attempt to look gentlemanly might have been more effective without the demon goo dripping down his jacket. “Ahem, Cordelia, perhaps you should make the introductions.”
The goofy grin on Wesley’s face was the first warning sign that things were going to get a little weird around Angel Investigations. Cordelia missed it at the time being focused inwardly on the pain of her injury. Hindsight was a bitch. Had she known that Kalina Thornecrown would turn her life into a living hell she would have gone to visit Aura for a few days and called it Sick Leave, but the vision hinted that the danger might not be over and no matter how crazy things got Cordelia wasn’t about to abandon Angel or the guys.
The PTB wanted this lost Buttercup safe and sound. One demon was dead, but Kalina revealed that it was just the first of a trio of assassins from her world. “Magic brought me to this world, but I had no time to tether myself to the gateway home. It will take time to find my way back again.”
Time, she had said. More like the week of hell.
Cordelia had had it up to here with their royal guest. As a child she had never been into the magical realm of the Disney princesses. She had nothing in common with the poor cinder girl with the evil stepmother and wicked stepsisters. There were no rivals for her family’s affections. The Chase family had one princess who dreamed of real castles and mansions and beautiful things.
Although Cordelia’s desires hadn’t changed much, she wasn’t over-awed by the presence of a real, honest to goodness princess used to being cosseted at every turn. She thought about her own Sunnydale days and cringed at the memory. Kalina was everything a princess should be: beautiful, polite, sweet natured, and properly prim. Worse, the guys hung around her like bees buzzing around a pretty little flower.
Kalina so had the damsel in distress thing aced. Too bad the chair she was sitting in didn’t come with an eject button.
“Is there anything else you need, Princess?” Wesley practically cooed the words at their guest who sat in a very ladylike pose next to Cordelia. Perfect posture, hands delicately folded in her lap, tiny ankles crossed just so and peeking out from the delicate folds of her baby blue gown, Kalina Thornecrown curled her rosy lips into a shy smile.
Not bothering to hide the eye-roll, Cordelia snorted, answering for the princess who lowered her eyelashes, cheeks flushing, seemingly unable to speak. “For the hundredth time, Wes, go back to your research. Kalina isn’t hungry, lonely or in need of a good backrub.”
Sputtering his reaction, Wesley tried straightening his tie and looking manly instead of awkward. His cheeks were a fiery shade of red above the slight stubble of his jaw. He had been burning the midnight oil searching for a safe way to send the princess back to her home dimension. His king-sized crush was no secret to anybody, but then he wasn’t alone in that either.
Gunn kept making excuses to come to the Hyperion. Just checking on things. Seeing if he was needed. He loved it every time Kalina called him her Dark Warrior and recounted the way he handled his axe. The one time Gunn had taken her words as flirtation and responded in kind, she actually fainted causing Cordelia to dribble bottled water over her face.
Fortunately, Gunn wasn’t here just now. He had taken the princess’ reaction as a challenge, getting a little bolder with every visit. Kalina had even managed to stay conscious the last couple of times thanks to Cordelia’s coaching. Men in her dimension were certainly boring if the princess’ weak descriptions were anything to go on. Still, she seemed to expect a certain level of attention from those of the male gender and wasn’t lacking for it.
“I thank you, Wesley,” Princess Kalina’s dulcet tones wiped the scowl from his face, “but I truly have no needs at this time but to learn from dear Cordelia how I might repay her for saving my life.”
Just my rotten luck, thought Cordelia. Royalty in my debt and she hasn’t got a cent to her name.What did the people of Oohlaroona use for money? More importantly, would her favorite shoe store accept it as valid currency for that pair of Manolo Blahniks she had been drooling over?
If there was one guy around here that Cordelia thought would be immune to Kalina’s charms it was Angel. He had known a princess or two in his time and beautiful women weren’t exactly a rarity either, but she had one trait that played to his particular weakness. Long, and luscious honey blond hair flowed to her waist in a way that made her perfect for a role in a shampoo commercial. Leave it to the artist in Angel to notice the way her eyes seemed to pick up the color of her gown. Today it was blue, yesterday violet, and the day before that sea green.
Creepy, much? And where were these clothes mysteriously coming from? It wasn’t like she arrived on Earth with a steamer trunk. Angel seemed to admire her ultra feminine style as if it reminded him of days gone by. His comments were never direct. His appreciation of her beauty might have been aesthetic. Blondes were his thing, after all.
Maybe Angel didn’t gush over Kalina like Wes did, or openly flirt with her like Gunn, but he wasn’t exactly absent, either. He just had sneakier ways of sticking around.
“Geez, Angel, my pillow is fine. Enough with the fluffing already.” Cordelia reached down to slap his hand away from the cushion propping her foot up.
Oh, he was good. No one would even suspect he was ogling the princess while outwardly appearing to be focused on her instead.
With Kalina at her side it was easy to catch Angel staring. Cordelia had purposely dressed for the hot weather wearing shorts and a tank top, but even they seemed to make her feel stifled. So she was happy to tell Angel what he could do about his opinions on the more feminine attire of yesteryear: corsets and crinoline. Not that he’d actually gotten tell her his point of view before she snapped at him.
Dewy perspiration clung to her skin. It was hot. Even Wes in his buttoned up shirt and tie didn’t seem to feel the heat. Bastard, she thought crankily. Kalina looked as cool as a cucumber despite the layers of her dress. And as always Angel seemed unaffected, although he had rolled up his sleeves revealing his powerful forearms, and left the top two buttons of his shirt undone exposing his Adam’s apple and the hollow of his throat.
For an instant she imagined her mouth there, and his cool touch tracing across her heated skin. A little mewl escaped her throat. Oh, God! What are you thinking?
Cordelia snapped up the magazine at her side trying to focus on the article on eyeliner application. It was boring. Couldn’t hold her attention. She flipped the page. This was better. Much better. A male hottie grinned up at her from the page dressed casually in jeans and a sport shirt, but he was blond-haired and grey eyed and despite his obvious charms Cordelia had no interest in letting her mind wander off to a place where he touched her.
“He is desirable,” Kalina murmured while leaning closer.
Surprised by the comment, Cordelia looked again. “I suppose. You think he’s hot? Don’t get me wrong, Kalina, but I thought you seemed a little prim and, uh, proper to care about men.”
Those baby blues were suddenly far wiser than wistful giving Cordelia the impression that the princess was more than just a lost waif. “I know what the heart wants. Yours cannot hide the truth no matter how deeply you choose to bury it.”
Cordelia glanced down at Mr. Pearly Whites again. “Trust me, I am so not hiding anything.” Yes, he was cute. He would no doubt be great fantasy fodder for somebody. Just not her. “Your radar is off, princess.”
A little smirk appeared on Kalina’s face as she leaned closer, her hand reaching out to cover the photo. “You refer to this image. Look again and tell me he is not all you desire.”
Indulging her just because she had nothing better to do, Cordelia pulled the magazine out from behind the cover of her hand revealing the photo from the bottom of the page to the top. As before the jeans were snug in all the right places, but the denim looked tighter, thighs more muscular, and package intriguingly bulgier than before. More differences. The sports shirt was gone and in its place a partially buttoned blue shirt with rolled up sleeves and familiar forearms and oh so broad shoulders and… “No!”
“The love between a vampire and a human may never be perfect, but yours is true. It wells deep, forged in the bonds of your friendship.”
Denial burned through her veins, her heart thudding as the rest of the photo was revealed to her. Angel. There were no shadows in the brown eyes staring back at her from the page. Focused on her he seemed to be staring into her soul reading the secrets she had held inside for so long. The bright smile, as lighthearted as it came for her vampire, left an ache in her heart.
Flipping the magazine closed, Cordelia shoved it away. “That’s not fair, Kalina. You’re wrong. I don’t want…”
“Iced tea?” Angel’s sudden appearance in front of them holding out a glass to each of them had to signal his next subtle attempt at getting close to Kalina. The princess took his offering with thanks and set the glass upon the table at her side.
As usual, Angel made no obvious move toward her, said nothing overtly flirtatious. He had a strategy, Cordelia was certain of it. Just when he was planning to make his move was anyone’s guess, but it was coming. Had to be. Angel might be a vampire, but he was one hundred percent male. And didn’t she know it.
Cordelia eyed the offered beverage jadedly. Fine, she would take it, but not because she was letting him get away with his little ruse to get closer to the beautiful princess. It was just too hot to bother pointing out that Angel was making just as much of an idiot of himself as Wes and Gunn. Besides, the iced tea looked wet and delicious and it wasn’t easy for her to hobble over to the refrigerator to get it for herself.
Reaching up to take it, Cordelia’s fingers brushed across his, something that she normally wouldn’t notice, but that slight touch now charged through her like a streak of lightning. Condensation from the glass dripped down from his finger. A little gasp caught in her throat as the cool liquid splashed against her heated skin. The little driblet coursed down to the crease between her thighs.
Angel jerked his hand away the moment he could, stepping back, his eyes darkening as they bore into hers. His tongue dashed across his lips. Cordelia caught her lower lip between her teeth and tugged hard enough to draw her attention away from his mouth. Unfortunately it only drew his gaze to hers where it lingered on the plump curve of her soft lips. She wasn’t sure what to think about the distinctly male glint in those eyes.
It vanished quickly much to her relief. A flash of anger followed. Then confusion. Cordelia knew all about that as she read the subtle expressions he normally masked from the world.
Sipping at her iced tea, she let it distract her from Angel’s intense stare. The cold glass was still sweating with condensation. Cordelia held it against her neck long enough for a droplet to trickle down between her breasts, icy cold. With a sigh she shut her eyes and moved the glass down to trace the length of her thigh as if it was a cool hand soothing away the heat.
The harsh slam of the office door chased away the images forming in her head. It was no surprise that Angel was no longer standing there when she opened her eyes. Crap. It wasn’t like her to tease him that way. Not like that. Make fun of his dorky behavior, yes, of course. Call him out on his broody creature of the night mentality, well, duh. Remind him he was practically a eunuch… that was just good sense. He had no choice, right?
“Follow your heart, Cordelia,” said Kalina as she took the iced tea glass away setting it down beside her own. “Let there be no doubt. It knows what it wants. The answers you seek are to be found there.”
“You have no idea what you’re doing,” Cordelia huffed as she struggled to get to her feet. She had left her crutches upstairs this morning since her ankle was feeling a bit better than yesterday, but it wasn’t completely healed yet. Hissing quietly so that Wesley wouldn’t overhear, Cordelia told her, “Angel is cursed. We can’t… he can’t… it’s never gonna happen even if I wanted it to. Which I don’t. It’s not like he’s into me. He’s not.”
Kalina rose gracefully from her seated position to help Cordelia limp across the lobby toward Angel’s office. They made it as far as Wesley’s desk before he dragged his attention away from the thick tome he studied. He cautioned her, “I would not go in there just yet, Cordelia,” but his gaze was fixed on the princess, a goofy grin plastered across his face again.
“Mind your own business,” she snapped and took a few shaky and painful steps closer to Angel’s door.
Wesley was just curious enough to be distracted, “What did you say to him?”
Truthfully, “Nothing. I didn’t say anything.”
For some strange reason, Wesley glanced at his watch before suggesting, “Perhaps you should wait just a bit longer before…,” but his attention wandered away as the princess provided a timely distraction by smiling at him. “Ah, your highness… Princess Kalina… how might I be of assistance?”
Cordelia flashed her a grateful look as Wesley’s attention riveted back where she wanted it, away from her. As she gripped the doorknob, she heard Kalina ask, “Tell me my dear Wesley, how might I repay you for your part in saving me from that demon?”
Inside, Cordelia shut the door behind her and moved forward trying her best not to wince each time her weight pressed down on her injury. Angel sat in shadow behind the desk, his face tight with controlled emotion. Anger welled close to the surface. It sounded in the gruff way he spoke, “You shouldn’t be here, Cordy.”
Limping closer, she leaned forward onto the edge of the desk. “We need to talk.”
“I’m not in the mood to talk.” Angel gave her one of those stubborn stares that suggested it would be easier to move mountains.
“Tough. That means you get to listen.”
Apparently he wasn’t much in the mood to listen, either. Angel pushed back from the desk and was on his feet so fast that Cordelia instinctively jumped back. “Ow!” The injured ankle gave way under the stress. She started to fall, but was caught almost immediately by Angel. His strong arms lifted her up, held her close for an instant longer than necessary and then set her down on top of the desk.
With a pissed off I-told-you-so stare, he crouched down to examine her ankle. It was already swelling a bit in reaction. Cordelia could tell by the way it throbbed. “Will I live?”
Angel rose slowly, his cool hands moving along the contours of her legs, hands hooking behind her knees to make room for his body as he leaned close. “That’s a dangerous question considering what you’ve started.”
“Really, I started it?” Maybe he wasn’t completely unmoved by her. Unless it was just a pure male reaction to what she had done. Trying to diffuse the blame, she pointed out, “You brought the iced tea. I was just trying to stay cool.”
Having Angel’s hands on her made it hard to stay focused.
He looked like he wanted to kiss her. Like he was going to kiss her. Cordelia felt like she was about to leap out of her skin. She wanted it and she knew he could see it in her eyes, but he was right. This wasn’t exactly safe territory.
Passion roughened the low timber of his voice mixing with despair. “Cordy,” he moaned her name as if it hurt him to say it.
She didn’t need a vision to tell her where this was going. Angel planned to put a stop to this. To whatever this was or was about to be even before it had a chance to start. It was the smart thing to do. What they should do.
Angel should’ve backed off. Stopped touching her instead of letting his fingers press deeper into her flesh holding on just a little tighter conveying his need and making her tremble for more of his touch.
When he said her name again, Cordelia cut him off, her fingers slicing up to press against his lips. “I thought you weren’t in the mood to talk.”
His hand closed around her tiny wrist dragging hers away, his fingers moving up to tangle with hers. Whatever he was going to say, she couldn’t let him. It was too soon for this to end.
Slinging her free arm around his neck, leaning into him, Cordelia crushed her lips against his. They softened almost instantly parting on a sigh that sounded between them. The gentlest of kisses teased their way across her mouth, tenderly exploring every soft curve.
Cordelia scooted forward toward the edge of the desk, her legs curling around him to pull Angel even closer. As much as she liked holding his hand and the contact it created she needed to touch him. Flexing her fingers until their hold loosened she slid her hand up the ladder of his ribs around to his back pulling him into her.
He was stronger and somehow a little more in control of this kiss making her slow down when she wanted it all at once. She clung to his shoulders when his mouth trailed across her jaw and made a slow descent to the curve of her throat, his blunt teeth gently capturing the spot where her pulse raced fastest. The thin strap of her tank top fell away with the slightest nudge leaving the curve of her shoulder exposed. Angel pressed one soft kiss to the healing scrape marring her golden skin.
His forehead rocked against her shoulder for an instant seemingly saying NO when it was all too clear that the rest of him was saying YES. Cordelia could feel the tension in his shoulders and back as her hands stroked down to the waistband of his pants to pull his shirt out needing to press her palms into his skin.
There was no denying his arousal, the proof of it a hardening bulge between them. It was impossible not to move against it, hips shifting forward, legs curling tighter. Heat flushed her skin. She needed his mouth on her, now. Wanted these clothes off. Had to press her swollen breasts into the hard plane of his chest. Needed him filling up the empty ache inside her. God, “Stop thinking. Just kiss me.”
He did and it was everything. Long, drugging kisses that devoured her mouth, his tongue darting deep, and body echoing the motion. Hips connected, his hand on her ass kept her close, as his clothed cock rocked forward and back setting off sparklers with every slow screw.
Cordelia couldn’t get close enough, her hands scrabbling to hold on for the ride, wanting more, faster. She could feel herself getting wet just from the friction. A cry of protest sounded as his lips lifted away only to morph into a whimper of needy anticipation when he suddenly dragged her tank top down over her right shoulder taking her lacy bra with it.
Admiration and hunger burned in Angel’s gaze as it clashed with hers. He groaned deep, the rumble of it reaching his chest. The intimacy of his cool touch curling around her bare breast and palming its weight nearly brought her to tears. Thumb stroking close to the velvet peak. Why did it feel like she’d wanted this forever?
Cupping his face between her hands she dragged his mouth back to hers. Open, hot and no longer willing to let him set the pace. She sucked at his lips. Darted her tongue around his. Scraped her fingernails across his throat down to the small white buttons of his blue shirt. Panting for air, she came up long enough to try to undo them.
Angel flashed a grin, and let her struggle, obviously enjoying the fact that he had her trembling hard. He used her momentary distraction against her, bending down to sweep his tongue across her breast, sucking the turgid peak into his mouth. “Gah!” Cordelia fell back, grasping desperately onto the open collar of his shirt, her head dipping back, and hair spilling across the mahogany surface of the desk as she arched into him.
The pull of his mouth nearly made her come apart. Her legs tightened around him, her sore ankle flexing just a bit too much to bear. Cordelia let out a yelp of pain. Angel lifted away with lightning speed, eyes hazy with lust, trying to zero in on the reason for her cry. He stepped back, his hand gently supporting her injured ankle.
“You’re hurt. We—”
“My ankle is fine.” Cordelia propped her hands flat on the desk, still leaning a bit, with her breast exposed and draped by lace, her voice husky with desire and a plea to stave off sanity just a little bit longer. “You’re too far away. Touch me. Talk to me. Tell me you want this.”
Angel’s nostrils flared, his tongue snaking across his lips. As he moved forward he trailed his fingers from her injured ankle up the length of her calf and closed around upper leg caressing her inner thigh with his thumb. “I want this. Trust me,” he brushed kisses across her cheek to lips. Almost distractedly, he muttered, “It can’t be much longer.”
Reaching between them, Cordelia daringly palmed his erection, skirting her fingertips down to its tip and back up again. “Seems pretty long already,” she teased as he bucked forward into her grasp and groaned her name. Looking deep into his eyes with her lips a hair above his, she wanted him to know she wasn’t playing games, “I’m not the begging kind.”
His thumb brushed higher, delved beneath the denim crotch of her shorts and the tiny scrap of her silk thong. “We’ll see about that,” he whispered back slicking his thumb across her honeyed folds.
Desire ratcheted back through her veins narrowing down to a pinpoint where Angel rubbed and circled around her clitoris. Cordelia lost her grip on the desk, her leg flailing up and hooking over his shoulder as he leaned in. She squirmed in the direction she wanted his touch to take, closed her eyes, captured her bottom lip between her teeth, and tried not to give him the satisfaction of pleading for more.
“Look at me,” he demanded softly. She complied because she needed to see the raw spark in his eyes, the fervid need ripping at the mask of his control.
The moment their eyes met Angel’s long fingers speared into her slick heat, gently at first, gathering moisture, moving with a slow, easy thrust, in and out of her snug center. She gasped unable to hold the sound of pleasure back from him. He smiled smugly, letting his eyes convey his thoughts. So he thought he could play her like a violin, did he? Oh, god, he was so right.
Each swipe of his thumb teased the swollen little nub making her writhe across the desktop. Like a virtuoso he masterfully strummed inside increasing her need at every stroke, fanning the flames and igniting something utterly wanton within her. She pulled at her top, fingers bunching the material, wishing that she could reach him, but not wanting to chance that he would stop. “Please, don’t stop,” she keened softly and traced patterns across the skin she exposed at her waist, fingers fluttering up to skirt the swell of her breast, plucking at the nipple.
Angel reached out, jerking her closer, her body angling up off the desk. He cupped the back of her head, kissed her hotly, and did something with those magical fingers that made her scream. He swallowed the sound, dashing his tongue across hers, their mouths merging and parting and melding together with the rhythmic movements below. She shifted her leg off his shoulder, pulling him closer, wrapped her arms around his neck and held on as he gently stroked her through her orgasm.
As fantastic as it was Cordelia wanted more. She dropped her hands to his waist, tracing the edge of his leather belt, her fingers moving slowly toward the buckle. “Can we? I want you inside me. More than your fingers.”
The threadbare restraint that Angel held onto showed in his face. Cordelia knew she was pushing it, that this could get dangerous fast. “Hey, it’s not perfect, right?” she hoped to convince both him and herself. Nothing to bliss out about except, “You and me. Here on the desk.”
That brought a smile to his face that made her heart ache with more than just desire. “You’re perfect,” Angel said with utter sincerity. He rapidly set her to rights again, after a quick fondle, lifting her bra and tank top into place. Before doubt could set in, he added, “We’re going to be together. Just not on this desk. Not our first time. With you in my arms it will be perfect for both of us.”
Cordelia shuddered with anticipation. Her fingers were trembling as she re-buttoned Angel’s shirt. “First times imply second times.”
He brushed his lips close to her ear. “Don’t bother counting.”
Sliding off the desk and balancing her weight on one leg, Cordelia held onto him. “Angel, we’re friends, right?”
“You have to ask?”
Nervously, Cordelia tugged at her bottom lip again. “I’m asking. What is this? Before we dive into this all helter skelter I just want to know straight up if this is real. Something more than just friends with benefits.”
Angel looked puzzled at first. The phrase was obviously new to him. He seemed to get it a few seconds later. The proverbial light bulb went off. He looked a little panicky for a second. “I know what I feel, Cordy, and I hope that you feel it, too. That’s real.”
“Vague, much?” Cordelia grinned at him for being an adorable dork, a very hot, adorable dork, but definitely of the dork persuasion. She knew this wasn’t just attraction. The feelings of friendship between them had changed so slowly it had barely registered. He was her friend, and her champion, and her heart was incomplete without him. As sappy as that seemed, Cordelia knew it was true. She had to tell him.
Eagerly, Cordelia looped her arms around his neck, standing on tiptoe to reach him. “Angel, I lo—,” she began only to be interrupted as he loudly cut her off.
“Wait! Hold that thought.”
Hurt and suddenly confused, Cordelia’s heart plummeted. Had she gotten it all wrong? “Oh. You don’t love me that way. But you want me. I get it. That’s okay. Even better. We don’t want to risk any broken curses, do we?”
Angel rubbed a hand over the back of his head and neck while she rambled on. “Not that it seems to be a risk. So friends with benefits it is. I-I can do that.”
Could she, really? It was one thing to ignore her feelings completely. Be with Angel without being with Angel. What was she letting herself in for? It didn’t matter. Something to think about later. Right now, she wanted him on any terms, and who was to say that this wouldn’t be safer for everybody involved.
Angel tilted her chin up forcing her to meet his determined gaze. “Can we put the declarations on hold? Just for tonight. I want to year you say those words again. I do. Right now…the curse…it’s probably not a good idea to talk about the fact that…that feeling…is mutual.”
Inwardly, Cordelia was cheering. She tried not to smile, but the realization that Angel was telling her, without actually saying the words, that he loved her too, tugged at the corners of her mouth and made her heart flutter happily. “Talk can be overrated, but before we go completely silent on the subject I have to point out that you promised me the best sex ever and I plan to hold you to that.”
“Between the two of us I can guarantee it,” Angel answered boldly as he reached down to scoop her up into his arms. “Good news. My backup plan just arrived, so it seems we won’t have to wait.”
Cordelia let out a little hum of excitement as she settled her arms around his shoulders and nuzzled close. Best sex ever. Guaranteed. No waiting. Then she caught up with the rest of what he’d said. “Backup plan?”
After a moment of hesitation, Angel pointed out, “The curse isn’t exactly set in stone. I talked it over with Wes a while ago when I first realized that I was in lo—there was some kind of attraction between us.”
“Wesley is such a dead man. He never said a word to me.” Cordelia wondered how that was even possible. The man could not keep a secret from her if his life depended on it. Except, now, when it was something she really wanted to know.
“Before you plot Wesley’s demise,” Angel suggested that she hear him out, “you might consider thanking him instead.”
“For what—advising you ignore your feelings for me completely?”
Angel paused as they reached the door. “Cordy, he found a spell to protect my soul. We think it works. There was a flashy lightshow involved. Looked legit.”
Stunned, she lifted her hand to his cheek, asking, “Do you feel any different?”
“That’s just it…I don’t. So there is no way to guarantee that the spell is functioning until it is actually tested.”
Cordelia’s lips formed a circle, “Oh. So, um, you’re telling me I need to bring a stake. Could be kinky,” she joked trying not to sound afraid of the possibility that she might need it.
“Not necessary.” Angel managed to turn the doorknob, opening the door just enough that the voices from the outer office came through clearly.
“That spell shouldn’t be a problem.” Wesley and Kalina were not alone and the sound of that familiar voice gave Cordelia a rush of confidence that things were going to work out just fine. Willow Rosenberg talked over the plans to return Princess Kalina to her own dimension, safe and sound, and without the risk of running into the other Trawlik demons. “Opening a gateway is easy enough and with the right details we should be able to send her straight home.”
“I have already collected most of the spell components,” Wesley informed her as he held up a long list of items. “One of local specialty shops should have the rest.”
Willow said that she was happy to help out. Just confused. “When Angel called me last night he asked me to bring the Orb of—” Pulling the door open caused its hinges to creak. Willow stopped talking and gaped at the sight of Cordelia being carried out of Angel’s private office.
“Hi Willow. Wow, I never thought I’d be so happy to see you!”
Maybe it was the fact that Angel was whispering naughty suggestions in her ear that made Cordelia blush, or the dawning understanding in Willow’s wide eyes that being in Angel’s arms wasn’t just a substitute for her crutches.
“Maybe you can explain…Um, where are you going? I just got here.”
“Just in time, too.” Cordelia told her as they moved past without stopping, “You’re in for a long night. Wes will tell you all about the backup plan. No souled vampire with a curse should be without one,” she quipped, grinning.
Angel called out to Wesley, “We’ll be upstairs.”