“Shh, hurry, Angel, don’t look like you noticed them! Maybe they’ll just go away!” Cordelia hissed, yanking on the sleeve of his black sweater, pulling his attention back to her and away from Xander and Anya, who were busy ordering drinks from the bartender.
He frowned at his diminished view, then realized he could see them in the reflection of the window behind Cordelia. He smirked a little, letting the chauvinistic satisfaction bloom in his chest when he realized that the whelp was being ordered around by his girlfriend. Anya was gesturing wildly at something behind the bar, and Xander threw his hands up in exasperation as he acquiesced, bowled over by her. Some things never changed.
Cordelia was oblivious to Angel’s thoughts, holding her breath as she gripped the edge of the table with whitened knuckles, darting her eyes nervously over to the bar. She was prepared to turn away at a moment’s notice if they recognized her.
She gasped when Xander turned around, both drinks in hand, and squinted at her. Even though she knew the movement was futile, she shrugged down into the seat and put her hand over her eyes like she was shielding herself from the glare of the sun.
Peeking once, she moaned. “Oh, god, Angel, they’re coming over here! Do something!” she kicked him under the table for good measure.
“What the hell am I supposed to do?” he hissed back, wanting nothing more than to plant a solid kick to her shin in retaliation, but he had to settle for glaring at her before he plastered a smile on his face as Xander and Anya approached their table.
Xander’s mouth was open so wide a hive of wasps could’ve set up shop. He and Anya stopped right in front of them, the condensation from the drinks in his shaky hands dripping on the linen napkins at the edge of the table.
Anya didn’t wait for him to get it together. She spoke up right away, knowing that if it was up to Xander, they’d stand here gawking for hours.
“Well, if it isn’t Xander’s ex-girlfriend,” she said, frowning, then glaring at Cordelia. “Why are you ruining our vacation by being here?”
Geez, and they think I’m the tactless one, Cordelia thought to herself.
“Anya, right?” she said, smiling up at the other woman.
Anya nodded vigorously, her curly hair bouncing. “Yes. I’m Anya. And Xander is mine now!”
Cordy couldn’t help but smile. “I know he is; Willow’s kept me updated. I’m actually here with Angel,” she said calmly gesturing to her companion.
“Hey,” Angel said, smiling tightly.
“Hello again,” Anya said, smiling congenially back at him. She gave him a clinical once over. Still dark and brooding, but very handsome in his own way. Nothing like her Xander, of course, but she had an inkling that he could give bone tingling pleasure to some very lucky woman.
Angel just sat still under her scrutiny, knowing that the ex-demon had to size him up, just as he was doing the same to her. After their perusal was finished, all three turned to stare at the silent Xander, who stood with his mouth still open, his fingers affixed on the entwined hands of Angel and Cordelia.
Anya frowned and poked him in the ribs. “Xander, honey, you’re drooling. Close your mouth.”
He shut it abruptly. Shakily, he said, “Hey, Cordy, how’z it going?”
She smiled at him, actually meant it, even to her own surprise. “Fine, Xander. How are you?”
“Umm, okay, I guess.” He barely made eye contact, then looked away, trying to strike a nonchalant pose by resting all of his weight on one sneaker-clad foot.
The awkward silence resumed after that exchange, and Xander shifted his weight to his other foot, still holding both drinks and dripping on the table.
Finally, Angel took pity on them. “Would you like to join us?” he asked, his smile obviously forced, although his tone was genuine.
Anya smiled brightly. “We would!” she said, nodding vigorously, then backed up so Angel could slide out of his side of the booth they were occupying. He slid in next to Cordelia on the other side, and Xander and Anya took up the bench he’d just vacated. Cordelia tried to glare at Angel for not getting rid of them, but he wouldn’t meet her eyes. He just sat down next to her and threw his arm over her shoulder, putting her neck in the crook of his elbow and dangling his hand precariously close to her breast.
Xander finally seemed to get a grip on himself when they were settled, and slid Anya’s drink over to her. She took a big drink, downing half of her Bahama Mama in a few swallows. Xander didn’t seem to notice.
“So, you two are like, together now?” Xander asked in disbelief.
Angel smirked at him and tightened his grip on Cordelia, his fingers brushing her breast just faintly, yet Cordelia felt the touch zing all the way to her toes. She bit back a gasp and pinched his thigh under the table as a silent admonishment to behave himself.
“Yep. Cor and I have been together for six months now. Hot, steamy months, right baby doll?” He smiled heatedly at Cordelia, and she nearly forgot to breathe as she saw the hooded passion in his eyes. Then she frowned inside as she saw that it was mixed with laughter.
After a charged moment of staring at each other, Cordelia remembered to answer. “Right, Angel. Six blissful months together.” She turned to Anya. “He’s so . . . demanding,” she sighed happily, rolling her eyes and leaning into him playfully. “I just can’t keep up sometimes. You know that vampire stamina.”
Anya sighed herself. “Sadly, no. I’ve never had a vampire lover. But Xander does quite well, for a human,” she finished, beaming at her boyfriend.
He smiled tightly at her, feeling like he’d just been insulted, but couldn’t quite figure out how.
“So how did you two get here?” he asked, desperately wanting to keep the conversation moving.
Angel smirked at him. “Cordy won this little trip on a radio station contest, and we just couldn’t resist the opportunity to spice up our lives together. There are a lot of things we haven’t taken the time to try yet.” he said. Then he dropped his voice to a whisper, turning to Xander conspiratorially. “She’s a hellcat in bed, this one,” he said with a wink.
Cordelia pinched him hard under the table, then dredged up the Oscar winning actress within, Cordelia turned a thousand-watt smile on him, her eyes seemingly melting into pools of liquid heat as they looked at him.
“Thanks, baby,” she crooned softly, letting herself get lost in the beauty of his eyes. Problem was, once she got lost, she had trouble finding her way back out again.
Xander looked across the table suspiciously. What had happened to Angel’s curse? He was about to ask, but Cordy interrupted him.
“And you? What are you two doing here?”
Anya answered for him. “Xander and I have been together for awhile now, but he’s kind of a prude when it comes to some things. He gives great orgasms, I’ll give him that, but he doesn’t have very much imagination, and I need more.” She paused to take a dainty sip of her drink.
Xander squirmed nervously, and Angel and Cordelia gaped at Anya’s frankness. She continued, oblivious to their disbelief. “I saw the brochure for this cruise and I knew we had to take it. There are so many great seminars. Have you seen the list?” She asked Cordelia.
Cordy nodded mutely.
Anya smiled at her. “We’re signed up for some great ones, like ‘The Delights of Kama Sutra’ and ‘Home Video 101.’ I can’t wait to try that one!” she giggled and smiled at Xander.
Xander’s face had become the color of the ketchup on the table in front of him. “Ahn, honey, we’ve talked about this before. Our sex life shouldn’t be discussed in public, remember?”
“Oh, public schmublic. These are our friends, right? I mean, she even slept with you, so she knows what I’m talking about.”
Cordelia gasped audibly. “I did not sleep with Xander!” Her eyes narrowed and she shot a dirty look at her ex. “What have you been saying about me?” she asked him accusingly.
Xander’s hands went up, palms facing out to ward off her anger. “Nothing, Cordy! I swear. I haven’t said anything to anybody. Anya just assumed!” He turned to his misinformed girlfriend. “Anya, Cordy and I were together in high school. We just made out in the janitor’s closet a lot, but we never slept together.”
She frowned at him. “So that skanky slayer Faith was your first?” she asked, her nose scrunched in distaste.
“You SLEPT with FAITH?” Cordelia asked, shocked.
Xander looked sheepish. “Yeah. It was a moment of weakness, and she was, um. . .persuasive.”
Angel snorted, then took a sip of his drink. “I’ll bet she was,” he commented, and it sounded like he was sympathizing.
Cordelia turned to look at him. “What was that supposed to mean?” she asked suspiciously.
Angel looked puzzled, his handsome face the epitome of confused innocence. “What?”
Cordy wasn’t about to let him get away with a loaded, cryptic comment like that. She decided that she might as well lay it all on the table. “Did YOU sleep with Faith?” she asked, eye brows raised.
Angel laughed nervously. “Me and Faith? Ha! Funny, Cor,” he said, not meeting her eyes. This was not good. Talking about fooling around with other women meant talking about Darla, eventually. He had to avoid that at all costs. Cordelia just wouldn’t understand.
“You did! You slept with Faith!” Her mouth was open in shock, her eyes filled with something that looked suspiciously like hurt and betrayal. “Geez, what the hell is it with you and Slayers? When did this happen?”
“I didn’t sleep with her, okay? We just kinda fooled around. It was when we were trying to defeat the Mayor and Buffy wanted me to pretend like I’d lost my soul and was with Faith instead of her.” He wrapped his arm more tightly around her, rubbing the tips of his fingers against her collar bone to soothe her.
He placed a kiss on her temple, then said low into her ear, “Besides, baby doll, you know there’s no one I’m more hot for than you.”
Xander gaped at them, hanging on every word, like he had front row seats at the latest blockbuster movie.
His sexy voice made her body thrum, and she nearly forgot what they were talking about. She felt obligated to maintain the pretense, so she flashed him a coy, secret smile, reaching a hand up to rub his chest lightly.
“I guess I can forgive that, Angel, since we weren’t together then,” she conceded.
Angel breathed a sigh of relief. He already had one big secret from her, his little indiscretion with Darla, and the last thing he needed was for her to find out about it. He knew she would totally freak out, feel like he’d betrayed her by chancing his soul like that. To have her censure him for something he already regretted fiercely, especially now that he was in love with her, well, it would hurt like a bitch.
Wait a second, did he just say that he was in love with her? In love with Cordelia?
He turned to stare at her as the big secret, veiled in the corner of his heart, was suddenly bathed in sunlight and he realized what a fool he’d been.
Anya didn’t give him time to absorb his reflective discovery.
“Well, anyway,” she said, obviously bored by a conversation that didn’t concern her, “Xander needed some pointers so I thought this cruise would give us some help. What are you two signed up for?”
“Signed up for?” Cordy asked, her mind still foggy from Angel’s light and distracting touches. She was stunned that he would affect her like this. Angel was her friend, not her boyfriend. Friends weren’t supposed to make you want to drag them back to your stateroom and kiss them senseless.
“Yes. What classes are you going to?” Anya asked again.
“I don’t think we’ve signed up for any yet,” Cordelia asked, finding the thread of the conversation once again. “At least, I haven’t seen anything.”
Her attention was diverted almost immediately when Angel reached his free hand under the table and began to rub her thigh, lightly squeezing and caressing her. She squirmed as Anya gasped with shock, the ex-demon setting her drink down on the table and putting one palm over her heart.
“You have to know! When you boarded the ship, they gave you a folder with the ship’s logo on it. You haven’t looked at your itinerary yet?” Anya asked, incredulous. “That’s so important! You could have already missed your first class!”
The vampire and his seer just stared at her across the table, still both hazy, caught up in their almost non-existent flirting and not quite into the conversation. What folder?
“Go!” Anya motioned with her hands. “Quickly! Check your itinerary! You could be having orgasms at this very moment instead of talking to us!”
At the mention of sex, both Cordelia and Angel squirmed, their minds flooded with the idea of making love to each other.
God, this is getting out of hand, Cordelia thought, then forced a bright smile and turned to Angel.
“Well, what are we waiting for? Anya’s right. We need to find out what’s on our itinerary. Let’s go!” she said, shoving him towards the opening at his end of the booth. He scooted out, then held his hand out to help her up. She steadfastly ignored it, wanting to put a lid on her quavering insides.
“I’m sure we’ll see you around later,” Cordelia said with an impressive level of false cheerfulness as she got to her feet. “What’s your first class?” she asked Anya.
“We’re signed up for a sensual massage class at 9 p.m. tonight,” she said excitedly. “It’ll be great foreplay, right, honey?” she smiled at her beleaguered boyfriend again.
He just nodded mutely and sipped his drink.
“Well, then, bye,” Cordy said lamely, and she walked away, Angel hurrying to catch up, leaving Xander and Anya staring at them as they left.
Anya shook her head sadly. “They’re so confused,” she sighed. “Obviously some unresolved sexual tension there. You would think, with two centuries of experience at pleasing women, he’d have her so relaxed all the time, but she’s so tense. They need to work through those issues.”
Xander tried to ignore her but look interested at the same time.
Her look turned thoughtful. “Maybe we should sign them up for the Kama Sutra class with us, Xan,” she mused.
Xander spewed a colorful spray of his Sex on the Beach across the table as the images flooded his brain. It was an overload to imagine practicing sexual positions with Anya right next to Cordelia and Angel doing the same exact thing.
He gulped. “I think maybe we’d better let them work this out on their own, Ahn,” he said, trying not to retch.
“Maybe you’re right,” she sighed, and went back to her drink.
The trip back to the stateroom was a silent one. Cordelia was still trying to calm her rapidly beating heart. Angel hadn’t done much, only kissed her on the forehead and touched her thigh, arm, and shoulder lightly. But damn, what sensations those few brushes caused. She already knew that she had a weakness where he was concerned lately. Ever since he’d come back to work with them, he’d been different. She’d seen flashes of insecurity in him that hadn’t been there before, and all she’d wanted to do, despite the pain and hurt she felt at his abandonment, was to grab him and cradle his head against her chest. She wanted to soothe him, reassure him, let him know that she cared about him and would always be his friend. The problem was, she now thought she might want to be more than his friend. And that was scarier than everything else put together.
And what about the payback he’d wrangled out of this? What would he demand she do in repayment for dragging him on this cruise? She shuddered, then pushed it from her mind. She couldn’t think about it now, or she’d work herself into a nervous frenzy. Better to deal with one problem at a time.
Beside her, Angel was still trying to sort through the flood of feelings he’d experienced when he realized he was falling in love with his seer. Before now, he had acknowledged an attraction to her and a deep friendship, but love had not been on his mind at all. Lately, nearly all of his dreams had been featuring her, usually in some skimpy outfit (or none at all), and he’d know that he was in for some trouble where she was concerned. But until today, until their carefully orchestrated plan had been derailed by Xander and Anya, he hadn’t realized the true depth of his feelings for her. Now that he recognized them within himself, it was difficult to keep from grabbing her and kissing her senseless.
A mortifying thought struck him in the middle of his musings.
What would she do when she found out about Darla?
A few minutes later found them back in the lush gaudiness of their stateroom. Angel went over to the bed and burrowed down into the cushions, crossing his feet at the ankles and linking his arms over his chest. He watched quietly as Cordelia went looking for the folder she’d stowed away as they boarded the ship. She came over to him and stood next to the bed, just holding the folder and staring at him. Finally, he reached out and took her hand, pulling her up next to him. She gave him a small smile, tucked her hair behind her ear, and wiggled in next to him.
“Okay, so I guess this is what we need, right?” she asked.
He nodded. “Looks like what Anya was talking about. And the kid who checked us in at the pier said it was a list of our activities on the ship for this week.”
“Well, here goes nothing,” Cordelia said, her pulse racing with apprehension. She opened the folder carefully and began to rifle through the contents. She found a map of the ship, a room service menu, and a list of the shows that were going on at the theaters here on board. There was also a list of all the restaurants and stores, as well as the ships vast array of amenities, including a casino, five pools, a sauna, a spa, a gym, and an internet café. Buried under all of that, she found their itinerary.
“Here it is,” she said, pulling it out from the back of the folder. It was on bright fuchsia paper, just so they wouldn’t miss it. “Okay, it says check in on Saturday from 9 am. to 9 p.m..”
“Done that already,” he commented.
“Nuh-uh, really?” She shot back sarcastically. “Then, it says we have our first class tonight, 9 p.m.” And then she was silent.
“Well, what’s the class?”
She gasped, and he poked her with his elbow. “What?”
“They’re all bad, Angel!” she said, looking up at him with incredulity. “Every class is . . . really personal! And the other stuff they’ve signed us up for!”
“Cordy,” he said sternly when she pulled the itinerary out of his grasp as he reached for it. “What class do we have tonight?”
“It’s not that bad, I guess,” she stalled. “Hey!” she brightened. “Maybe we won’t have to go! I can pretend I’m sick or something.”
“This is the last time I’m going to ask before I take that itinerary from you by force,” he threatened emptily. Both of them knew he’d never do anything of the sort. “What’s our class tonight?”
She just looked up at him, then laughed nervously before answering. “Yoga for lovers.”
Angel’s eyes widened at the possibilities for this evening. Anything that got him closer to Cordelia was fine by him.