Cursed. 4

~**~

He was right. Willy’s was packed. And he’d been so nervous about taking her to the dangerous dive that he had left the weapons he’d confiscated from Giles’ in the convertible outside. Of course, when he moved to retrieve them just as they stepped into the bar, Cordelia had reminded him that they would do no good here? Right?

Right.

Because he was invisible to everyone and everything else in this dimension. And if anything went wrong. Well, it just wouldn’t. He couldn’t think like that. Too much of a distraction.

He had given Cordelia some safe words to tell Willy. Well, safe for her. If the bartender played along, understood that he was dead if he didn’t, then she should be alright. Angel stood by Cordelia as she leaned over the counter and whispered her message into Willy’s ear, her body stretching in the outfit she wore, gaining some glances from the demons that actually went for human women.

He decided at that moment that Hugh Hefner was not his favorite person and deserved no ’thank you’ for such a creation. In fact, the man should be in prison for designing such an outfit. He looked at the Slaimyn demon that was stirring in his seat and growled. The creep downed his drink and started to get up, licking his lips as he watched Cordelia pull away from Willy. Fuck!

“It’s alright,” Willy announced loudly to the bar, his hands in the air as if to calm a crowd.

God, he was such a bad actor. Angel just knew he was going to screw up.

.“No body panic,” Willy continued, drawing more attention. “The Allu Succubus is just here for a moment. After she has what she came for she will be gone. Won’t you?” he looked at her as if he never wanted to see her back again.

Cordelia heard a few demons gasp. Gasp? Demons gasped? And the quiet in the bar turned back to its original dull roar.

Angel’s muscles relaxed as the Slaimyn took his seat, smiled as he saw the demon shake off a quiver.

Willy disappeared behind the bar for a moment and Cordelia wanted to ask Angel what it had meant. Her message to Willy. But she didn’t dare blow whatever cover he had bought her. He had instructed her to pull up her walls as strongly as she could. Turn her fear into desperation. Maybe if they sensed it, they would think she was in desperate need of whatever she had come for.

Willy sat two bottles on the counter. “That’ll by fifty bucks,” he whispered under his breath.

“Fifty dollars?” Cordelia thought about her forgotten purse in her little red car. Crap, she was driving around and didn’t even have her license with her.

“Tell him that I’ll consider the cover he gave you a duty. And the bottles,” Angel was leaning on the counter now, staring at Willy’s face, eager to get back fully to the real world and give him a visit he wouldn’t forget, “a personal favor.”

Cordelia relayed the message and Willy flinched a little, then pushed the bottles toward her.

“Thanks,” she smiled stiffly and tried not to run for the door.

When they were back in the car, she asked, “So what’s an Allu Succubus?”

Angel shrugged as he placed the bottles on the floorboard beneath him, trying to ignore the way his hand shook when he touched them. Christ, he was running on empty. They needed to get to her place. “Have you heard of a Succubus?”

“Yes,” she answered sharply. Not liking that Willy had used a mythical – well, by the reaction at the bar apparently not mythical – creature who killed men or took their strength by having sex with them in their sleep.

“Well, an Allu Succubus is it’s equivalent to demon males. They can take their power, sometimes kill them.”

“Oh.”

“Damn it! The weapons!”

“What?”

“There gone. The bag’s still here. Not that any of these thugs would want books. But….shit….we needed those weapons.”

The air in the car felt thick, their mood deflated. The tension from the visit to Willy’s and the fact they were unarmed weighing heavy on them both.

Silence consumed their fifteen minute drive to her home. Angel was glad really. He hadn’t wanted to risk her life. He had been almost certain that the charade would fool the demons. The crowd that hung there wasn’t the brightest of the dark-side alumni but the thought of what might have happened to her didn’t sit well with him. Suddenly he wished he had taken her advice and just nabbed someone off the street. Better to hurt them than Cordelia. He wouldn’t kill them. At least he didn’t think he would. He had never really tested the theory. Because it was wrong. People would have thought it was wrong. People like Giles and Buffy.

But why should he care? What was wrong was that he had placed Cordelia in danger. All because he was afraid of himself, of what he was. More, of what she would think of him. “I’m sorry,” he finally broke the silence as they pulled into the long drive of her home.

“What for?”

“I shouldn’t have had you do that. Go into Willy’s. It might not have worked. And then…..I’m sorry.”

“Pfft. You needed it. And I was wrong to tell you to drink from someone. I shouldn’t have tempted you like that. I know it doesn’t work like in books and movies, all neat and tied loose ends. I’m sure there are consequences to drinking from a human, and well….I’m sorry.”

He’d just put her life in danger and she was apologizing? And worried about the consequences for him if he drank from someone? He didn’t know what to do with that, the feeling it created. Her concern. And were there consequences for drinking from a human? Hell yeah. Increased power, speed, abilities. He probably could control a victim’s mind after taking his first sip. Leaving them alive, unaware of what had happened. But the word victim echoed in his mind. For that’s what they would be if they had no choice.

****

The house was huge. It’s stone façade and small turret on one end gave it an almost castle-like feel. It was beautiful. But an image of Cordelia roaming the big empty palace, waiting to cross the path of an Ancient, sent a chill through him.. What had it been like for her? Especially as a child? He was surprised she hadn’t spent her first eighteen years in that padded cell she had talked about. The madness of it would drive anyone crazy. Except for her.

He watched her unlock and open the large front door. The house wasn’t completely dark. A sprinkling of light from a lamp here and there illuminated it enough just to see the way. He imagined that she had left them on not out of irresponsibility, but out of purpose. It wouldn’t be a good thing to come home and find an Ancient in your living room. With the lights on there would be no element of surprise to give her away. She would be prepared, able to pretend.

Angel waited for her to lead him to the stairs, but she headed for a hallway stretching toward the back of the mansion instead. Probably a guest room. He’d gotten so comfortable with her he’d just assumed…..yeah. Like the two of them were going to get all cozy in her teenage bedroom. He had to remind himself that he had drug her into helping him. Not by force. But her nature had not allowed her to say no.

Pulling the duffle bag up higher he paused with her outside two double doors. She opened them into a spacious suite with French doors that appeared to lead to a pool area, although the sheer curtains hid some of the view. He thought about what that view would look like when morning came, the burning alarm clock to his skin.

“Well, this is it. My parents let me redo this part of the house when I turned sixteen. I like it better than upstairs.”

Oh, it was her room. But it didn’t look like a teen’s room. Well, to be honest he’d only seen two teen girl’s rooms: Buffy and Willow. But theirs had been cover with posters and knick knacks and all the things collected through years of change in a young life. Cordelia’s room looked, well, like her. Mature. Stylish. The room of a woman. Comfortable enough to feel at home in but beautiful enough to be on the cover of a magazine. Yeah. Just like her.

Angel tossed the bag to the floor and took out the bottles from Willy’s he had placed inside when getting out the car. “Is there a bathroom or something,” he held the bottles in his hands.

“Why, are you going to bathe in it? Please tell me your not going to bathe in it.”

“No! I just thought, ya know. I’d just go get it over with.” He didn’t want to disgust her. Not in this beautiful room, not as she looked at him as if he were….just a man.

“Oh,” she mistook his eagerness to down the blood as quickly as possible. “Not very tasty huh? I guess it would be kind of thick and salty.”

“Actually it’s…..” he broke off and tried desperately to erase the craving as he glanced down at the bottle . “I just don’t want to disgust you…..I mean…..I know it’s disgusting.”

Angel was looking at the bottle like she looked at molten-chocolate cake. Oh, it was for her. He was embarrassed by what she would think of him. “Well, in theory, yeah. It does seem a little gross. But my Dad’s favorite delicacy is Hawaiian style roasted pig. I remember our trip there last summer. We had a luau and we all ate it. I mean, if you think about everything we do to take care of ourselves or feed ourselves, a lot of it is pretty disgusting. And now that I think about it, sitting around a six inch high table while the carcass of a pig is ripped apart, all the while its eyes staring lifeless into the party is a lot more disgusting than you downing a bottle of thick red liquid. Really, if you think about it, it’s not much different than a transfusion, it’s just getting inside differently.” She looked at him. The situation completely rationalized in her own mind.

There it was again, that honesty. She had a knack of looking at a situation and breaking it down to basic fact.

“Want a glass?” she asked as he stared at her.

“Sure, thanks,” his voice was quiet and he tried to disguise the emotion that seemed to pour out with it. He was really going to drink blood in front of human. In front of Cordelia. Free of judgment. For once not feeling like a monster for what he had to do to survive.

“Great, I’ll be back in a minute. I’m starving, too. Do want something else while I’m in the kitchen?”

“I don’t do the food thing, don’t need it.”

“Okay,” she slipped off her spiky heels and rubbed her feet before sliding them into a pair of slippers. “God, that feels so much better. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Angel watched as she left. She seemed to have forgotten she still wore that damn outfit. And watching her walk away in it was even more enticing than any other view he’d had of it throughout the evening.

***

Cordelia returned a few minutes later with a wine glass, two bottles of water, napkins, a fork, and a plastic container all balanced on a tray. He couldn’t help but imagine her in one of the old clubs, wearing that outfit, dipping down to deliver drinks to smiling men. Smiling because she was in that outfit. He didn’t like that image. Other men enjoying the view of her in the costume. He wish she would take the damn thing off. Well, he thought that was what he wished anyway.

Rising, Angel went to help her sit down the tray on the little bistro table near the French doors. It was all very domestic. Her handing him the wine glass, him sitting the napkins out and sitting the tray on the floor as she took her container, water, and fork off and laid them on the table. How long had it been since he’d sat down at a small intimate table with anyone? Hell, how long had it been since he’d sat down with anyone like this?

It had been a couple of years before, with the woman he was with now. At a table about the size of the one in front of him, except not near as nice.

Cordelia excused herself and moments later came back out of what appeared to be a massive closet, wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. Okay. He no longer hated Mr. Hefner. After all, now that the evidence was in, it clearly wasn’t Hugh’s fault that the Bunny outfit made her the hottest thing any man would ever see. It was clearly the woman herself. Because even though the little short and tee covered more skin than the crimson number had, she was still just as delectable. Even more so now that he could see her smooth legs out of those tight hose she’d been wearing. He shook himself and made a mental check that he wasn’t actually panting and forced his mind back to the night they had talked.

He thought of that night as she sat down in front of him, one leg tucked under her body. He had had such conflicting impressions of her. As he opened the bottle and poured a glass – the act making him feel more civilized, not nearly like an animal – he had to comment. “So that night,” he began as she popped open the plastic lid, the aroma of Italian spices filling the air. “You remember, a couple of years ago. We were talking at a table about the size of this one. Why did you drop your defenses then?“

“What do you mean?” she stuck her fork in the spaghetti, twisting around to collect a small bite.

“You were you that night. For a while at least. But then you slammed shut,” Christ, she smelled good.

She shrugged and concentrated a little too hard on her food. She was getting ready to reveal something important to him, he could tell. Oh, she was trying to be nonchalant about it, but he knew her now. He could read what was wall and what was her. “I thought you seemed nice. You were easy to talk to,” she took a bite.

Ah, that made some sense. She hadn’t known he was a vampire then. “But you found out I was a vampire eventually.” It was smart that she had kept her distance after that, only flirting with him flippantly as she did with everyone else. He took a drink and felt the rush of energy that first sip gave him.

“Angel,” she let out a breath and looked up at him across the small table as he took another drink, this one much more than a sip. He put the glass down, hoping he didn’t have any blood on his mouth. “I knew you were a vampire the first time I saw you. You think I couldn’t sense that? I mean, the soul confused me a little at first. But, I can see Ancients. Something you can’t even see normally. Not even with all your “vamp senses” on full alert.”

“Jesus,” he whispered. She was truly cursed. Most humans were blind to all that was paranormal in the world. A survival mechanism he guessed. Kept them sane. And those that could see the hidden things in the world were given tools to deal with it. The Slayer, her powers, for example. But Cordelia had no defense to it all. She was wholly human. And had dealt with this knowledge all her life.

“It’s no big deal. I’ve dealt with it long enough that it’s just normal. For me anyway,” she was concentrating on her food again. She wished he’d stop staring at her. It was making her uncomfortable. She didn’t want to seem like a freak to him. Not Angel.

“You are stronger than any person I’ve ever met.”

Okay, that wasn’t the response she had expected. She looked up and Angel was giving her that look again, the one she’d glanced at on the sidewalk when he’d noticed her in her costume. And yeah, now she recognized it for what it was. He wanted her. But not because she was wearing some skimpy Bunny suit. This was something different, deeper. And it scared the hell out of her.

“I’m done,” she looked down at her half-eaten meal. “I guess we should get started,” she motioned to the duffle on the floor next to her bed.

Angel pulled himself out from the moment, saving himself before he drowned in his thoughts and feelings. Research. He was here to do research. To get things back to semi-normal and to find a way to help Cordelia.

“Can you read Latin?” he asked her as he got up, taking the half empty bottle with him.

“Not enough to translate text,” she followed him to the duffle and watched as he opened it with his free hand. Wanting to help even if in a small way, she reached out and took the bottle from him. “Good grief, Angel! This is cold.”

He turned to look at her holding the bottle, as if it contained merely wine and not some animal’s blood. He shrugged and began to dig through the bag again. “It works, that’s all that matters.”

“Well, it can’t be good. Not like this. I’ll be right back.”

She was out the door before he could stop her.

****

Moments later Angel had found the book he was looking for. His back was propped against her massive bedside as he sat on the floor. He looked up when Cordelia reappeared, a large metal thermo mug held with both hands. “Find anything?” she asked.

“Not yet. Just vague references so far,” he commented.

When she got close enough, she handed the mug down to him. He wondered what she had done to the blood but was afraid to comment or ask. She stared at him with anticipation. She wanted him to taste it, and she wanted him to like it. So, he would pretend, even if it was……he took a sip……good. Great in fact. It was warm but not too hot and it tasted really good for animal blood. He could only imagine what it would taste like if it had been human. He mentally shook himself. He shouldn’t be thinking about the taste of warm human blood. It was why he didn’t normally let himself enjoy the blood he did take. The temptation was hard to fight.

“Well?” she asked, her eyebrows arched in a perfectly sculpted way.

“It’s good. Really good.”

She smiled. Really smiled and it almost seemed funny that the only true smile he had been given from her during the evening came because he liked the blood she had warmed for him.

“So, what vague things have you found so far?” she asked as she crossed her ankles and sat beside him on the floor.

“Well,” he looked back at the book, flipping through a few pages. “Here,” he stopped on one, took a sip of his dinner because it was really, really good and continued, “It says that the Ancient Ones, or the Diabolus Bellator -which means either the Devil’s warriors or warrior devils – had freedom to roam between the dimensions in ancient times in order to collect other demons and pull them into the demon Hell.”

“What time period is ancient times?”

“I’m not sure. It doesn’t say but that’s probably where the term Ancient or Ancient Ones comes from. And here,” he turned to the next page, “it says that only the Latro and their Sentinels kept the people safe from any of the Ancients that went rogue. But soon the power that they could exert over humans was too much of a draw and all Ancients went rogue. They were killing and torturing humans faster than the Latro could defeat them….”

“What’s a Latro?”

Hmmmm, he thought for a moment for a way to explain it. “A mercenary. A hired soldier. The best of all soldiers. They were brutal and fierce. They probably didn’t fight because it was the right thing to do, more so that they were paid. In some stories in history they were almost as bad as the armies or demons they fought. Only in it for what it gained them. Usually leaving villages in destitution after the price was paid.”

“And a sentinel? Is that like a guard?”

“Sort of, yeah, a soldier that stands guard, watches for the first attack.”

“What else?” she prompted.

“Well, it goes on and on about the Sentinel and Latro blood lines and that the Sentinel blood line ceased to exist?….or was severed…..but I can’t make out this part,” he indicated the page that had been damaged. Part of it unreadable. On the edge someone, probably Giles, had made a few notations. But because of his writing, also unreadable. Angel drained the rest of the cup and placed it on the floor beside him. He studied the page again, running a hand through his hair in frustration as he held onto the book with the other.

Oh crap! Why hadn’t she thought of it before. “The school has a website!” she exclaimed.

“I don’t think a high school website can help us with this, Cordelia.”

“Duh, of course not. But they have the email addresses of all the faculty members listed.”

“Do you think he’d check it?” catching on to her idea of contacting Giles in their own way.

“Probably not right now. The man is on a date. But I’m sure he’d probably check it in the morning. From what I’ve heard from everyone else he gripes and moans about the “written word being reduced to modems and high-speed cable” but secretly he’s addicted. He can find anything on the net. The weirder the more info. Surely if he’s on it all the time, he checks his mail. It’s worth a try.”

“Alright. It’s worth trying. But I’m still going to finish going through these.”

Cordelia got up and walked across the suite to the desk in the corner, popping on the computer screen and signing on to the internet.

Angel’s hopes at finding anything really useful were dwindling. The text he’d been explaining to Cordelia had been the best one. And it hadn’t told them anything they could use.

“There. Sent,” she said as she got up, leaving the screen on.

“How often and how many do you usually see around?” The thought of not getting any info until tomorrow made him tense. How was he going to keep Cordelia and himself safe until then?

She shrugged and sat back down beside him. “Well, on a good day none. But I’ve only had a few of those.”

“Lately?”

“Ever.”

He thought again about what living as she had must have done to her as a child.

“On a bad day? Four.”

“How many have you seen today?”

“The one that spotted you. That’s it.” she took a deep calming breath. She knew Angel was worried and so was she. “It doesn’t sound like a lot does it? But it seems as if they’re everywhere I turn.”

“It’s enough. Four too many.”

Angel didn’t know why he did it, compulsion, his need, hers, but as he laid the book down, he reached over and took her hand. “How did you deal, Cordelia? As a kid, how did you do it?”

“I don’t know.” God, she loved the feel of his hand, full of both strength and gentleness. “I told you my Gram taught me how to close myself off. But it was hard at first. Some nights I would cry. Not while the monsters were close of course, but I would complain to my mom and dad, before I knew I shouldn’t, that there were monsters in and around the house. They, of course, didn’t believe me. But it’s not their fault. I was so young. A child just scared of the monster in her closet, out her window. How were they supposed to know mine were real?”

“In your closet? As in, they come in the house?” he didn’t want to hear her answer, he really didn’t want to hear her say…….

“Yeah, sometimes.”

“Shit, we’re in for some night.” Angel thought for a moment, absently stroking her hand as he held it, weighing their options. “Does your dad have any weapons, Cordelia?” he assumed the answer would be no, but he had to try.

“He has guns,” at Angel’s hopeful look she hurried to continue, “but he keeps them all at the club.”

They were silent for a moment before Angel let go of her hand and stood. He started pacing, although she was sure he wasn’t completely aware of it. She’d seen him do this outside of Giles’ apartment. When he was in deep thought, he paced.

She watched in silence for a moment. He looked tired. Did vampires get tired? There was so much she didn’t know about what he was. Knowing someone existed and actually “knowing” them were two different things. But she would like to. Know him. Everything about him. What he’d been like as a human. What he was like in the first years after the curse had given him back his soul.

He took his leather coat off and tossed it over the desk chair by the computer and continued his path. Back and forth. Back and forth. A lion in a cage. Needing to run, to fight, to pounce if only he could escape the bars.

God, he was tired. Tired and…yeah…he could admit it….terrified. Not for himself. For some reason his problem had taken a back burner to Cordelia’s. He couldn’t fail her. He stopped and looked at her. She was still on the floor, her arms wrapped around her long legs that were now pulled up against her chest, her chin tilted and resting on her knees. She was looking at him, watching him.

Suddenly the thought of her life, lived alone in a secret she couldn’t share hit him like a bomb in the chest. What would he do if he couldn’t help? What if he found a cure for his current curse but not hers? She’d have no one to protect her then. He couldn’t fight them if he was fully back in the real world. He had to find out how to take her ability to see them away.

But he had promised not to let anyone know about her curse. Hadn’t he?

No. She had asked him not to but he hadn’t agreed. It was a sneaky loophole and she would probably never forgive him, but he needed help.

Turning to the computer, he asked, “Can I read your email? The one you sent Giles?”

“Sure,” she got up and walked to the desk. As she passed him, he got another whiff of her fading perfume and that wonderful natural scent. The one that was hers alone. It smelled like the ocean, fresh air off cresting waves. When she sat in the chair, he bent down close. Not because he could see any better than his super senses already allowed, but he could get enveloped in that smell this close. It surrounded him. She surrounded him. She was everywhere. Inside and out and he loved it, wanted to ……..

“Here it is,” she clicked on the icon and pulled up the message. “See, when you want to send one you just click on compose, then click down here on the large blank square. You type what you want in your message and you put in the address here,” she pointed to a section of screen and gave him a quick verbal lesson on sending, saving, and receiving mail, and then clicked back to the original message sent to Giles. Of course the message was just as he thought. It was all about Angel. Nothing about herself.

Now to get her out of the room. He was going to betray her and it would hurt when she found out. He pretended to read the email even though he already had and then stood up away from the chair. “Good, let’s hope he answers us soon.”

Cordelia, still sitting in the chair, closed her eyes and leaned her head to the side, massaging her neck? God, she was tired. She felt the heavy weight of Angel’s hands land softly on her shoulder’s, his fingers moving in a gentle message.

She was exhausted. His betrayal could wait. He would send the message as soon as she fell asleep.

“What time is it?” she asked in a sleepy voice that made Angel want to carry her to the massive bed, tuck her in, and join her.

Yeah, that’s just what she needed. Another demon complicating her life.

“One-thirty.” His hands grew a little surer when she made a sound of approval deep in her throat.

She took a deep, relaxing breath and raised her hands to cover his, “Thanks,” she breathed and turned around. Giving him a signal to stop. Even though he hadn’t wanted to.

God, his hands felt good. Too good. She had to remember why he was with her. Had to tell herself that if not for the curse it would be Buffy’s company he would be keeping tonight. Chaste as it would have to be.. No one wanted an Angelus occurrence. She wished she could help him with that. Even if it would be Buffy that benefited from it. But it would set Angel free. He would never have to worry about his own personal Mr. Hyde again.

Sighing, she turned around and stood when Angel’s hands finally dropped away from her shoulders.

He wished she hadn’t stopped him. He liked touching her. Like the sound of pleasure she made when his hands had worked the knots out of her shoulders. Wanted to hear that sound of approval again. And many more like it as he touched her in other places. But this wasn’t right. She was in danger. And the feelings he felt for her weren’t love. Were they? They were just getting to know one another. Besides, love didn’t feel like this. Of course, he’d never been in love before. But wasn’t it supposed to be full of quiet and contentment? A peace at knowing your place was set in the world?

He did feel something for her though. There was no mistaking that. But what he felt was neither peaceful or quiet. It burned through him, made him restless and edgy. As if there was a fire inside of him that wanted to reach out and consume her. Take her over completely.

And she was standing in front of him, smelling of ocean, wearing clothes that brushed softly across her skin, giving her comfort. Comfort he should be giving that skin.

He was staring at her again. She should move. She knew she should move. But that look in his eyes was paralyzing her. Drawing her in. Why did she trust him so much? They barely knew one another. Yet he seemed like the only being in the world that could ever understand her. Accept her for who she was. Was that friendship? Was it more?

He had to be strong. Adding another complication to their situation was wrong. But for some reason he knew that if he leaned down at that very moment, he could kiss her. And she would not stop him. But he had to resist temptation. Keep his iron will in place. He had to keep….God, she was wetting her lips. Not really an invitation. She looked more as if she wanted to say something. But ……Ah, fuck iron will.

Angel leaned down, his hand reaching around to cup the back of her neck. Their lips met in the space between them and …oh God, she was sweet. Sweeter than wine or warm blood, and that ocean smell, it enveloped him, crashed over him. She made some sound, a sigh maybe, her head relaxing against his hand and he pulled her closer, glad that he had taken off the heavy coat. Now he could feel more of her. His free hand moved to the center of her back and drew her in, fit her perfectly against him.

The kiss was slow. Deep.

Oh….he was good. And, was that a growl? God, that was sexy as hell. She had to get closer. She ran her hands up his chest slowly, glad he took that leather off earlier. He was granite. Pure strength. Circling her arms around his neck, she tilted her head a little more, giving him complete access, not caring that he might hear the little sounds of pleasure that kept escaping her throat.

He needed to be closer but he couldn’t press her against himself any harder without hurting her. Eyeing the wall next to him, he turned her, walked her back until she could go no further. That was better. He closed his eyes again, letting the wall do the work of his hands, holding her in place. He pressed against her, letting his hands slide down her sides, feeling the curves of her waist just above her hips. The feminine arcs he’d been staring at all night in that damn Bunny suit. Christ, he was hard as a rock. His cock pressed so tight and stiff against the zipper of his pants that it was borderline painful.

His lips left her mouth and kissed the soft spot behind her ear. She breathed deeply, dragging in all the oxygen he had denied her with his kiss. Good, he liked her like this, breathless because of him. He kissed a trail down her neck until he reached the tender spot between her neck and shoulder blade. This area was treated with not soft little kisses, but a long, cool lick. He smiled to himself when her hands reached up and tangled in his hair. This was passion. No shy little school girl afraid to touch him, but a woman, burning up as hot and fast as he was. This was Cordelia.

His mouth dove down again, and he was rewarded with a sweet little moan as he sucked and kissed, working the tender spot on her neck until she was moving against him in a rhythm that matched his own movements.

She was burning up. She just knew she would burn alive. Her skin was on fire, the cool touches of Angel’s mouth fanning the flames instead of soothing them. But this was wrong. Something was …. No, her mind screamed. “No,” it came out a whisper.

Angel didn’t hear it. At least he told himself he hadn’t. It was in his mind. He just expected her to say no. But even though her body was burning up as fast as his was, she had stopped moving. And then her hands slipped from his hair, crept down to his chest, pushing against him weakly, as if the act took great effort. “Angel, no,” she breathed again. “No,” her voice and hands much stronger this time.

He could barely tear himself away from her, but her last no had been laced with fear. He pulled his head up but kept her body firmly pinned in place.

“I can’t do this, Angel.” She kept her hands on his chest, a little barrier erected between them. Another one of her goddamned walls. “We can’t, Angel. I …. I.”

She wanted to tell him how much she wanted him, but what good would that do? She could never have him. Not that way. No one could unless they wanted to party with Angelus afterward. She pushed him again, a signal more than a real physical push and felt bereft when the cool of the room replaced his body on hers. He stepped back, staring at her with …..hurt? A little anger maybe? Well, good grief! He couldn’t be mad at her. He had been the one to kiss her, not the other way around. He should be thanking her for keeping a level head.

“Surely you felt that,” he finally said in confusion. “I know you felt it too.”

Had she felt it? Did he mean the earth-shattering kiss? The magnetic pull? She thought of her first and only time, the dark backseat, and Ricky’s clumsy hands. Then she thought of the kiss that she had just shared with Angel and wondered how she could ever have thought of sex as something unimportant. Maybe it hadn’t been her fault that things had felt so cold with Ricky. So quick and painful. Because she didn’t feel cold. Not with Angel. And what had passed between them had only been a kiss.

Her face flushed.

She suddenly felt too crowded, his eyes on her, his questions. What was he doing, torturing her? Of course she felt it, the whole blazing fireball. But he didn’t have to rub it in her face. She scooted out of the few inches of space that separated them. She didn’t want to talk about Angelus. It wasn’t like he didn’t know what would happen to him. Or maybe he hadn’t been intending to take it much further. A quick make-out session while they waited for answers, for their lives to go back to the way they were.

“I’m going to take a shower,” she tried desperately to get her traitorous breathing under control. Tried desperately not to feel hurt that he would play with her emotions.

Angel watched as she hurried to the bathroom, firmly locking the door.

He’d felt it.

True passion.

The kind that consumed. Made you not merely want someone but need them, require them to exist. And she’d…..gone to take a shower. He closed his eyes and buried his head in his hands. How could he be so stupid? Were his senses really that off? He’d thought he’d sensed a desperate desire in her. One that matched his own. But now he could sense fear. Maybe that was all it had been. The desperation of her situation taking her over, until she had realized who – or what – she was with.

He scrubbed his tired face with his hands, ran them through his hair. Well, he’d wanted to get her out of the room hadn’t he? Nothing like a vampire grinding you against a wall, scaring the shit out of you to get the job done. Mission accomplished.

Angel stepped over to the desk and sat down, clicked compose, and began his act of treason.

FIVE

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