“Damn!” Cordelia hissed as she banged her hand against the antique wardrobe. Dropping her purse to the floor, she sat back on her heels and let it out on a long sigh. Her mister wasn’t there. Her beautiful, expensive mister, filled to the brim with newly blessed holy water, was probably still on the sidewalk outside the Bronze. Where it was absolutely no use to her. “What? Did I inherit a bad luck fairy or something?”
She could kick herself for not bringing a stake. But this purse wasn’t big enough to hold one. And it was the only purse that went with this dress.
Cordy closed her eyes and pressed her fingertips against her left temple. Her head throbbed. And she felt so tired. Like she could curl up into a ball and sleep for a week. Or forever.
But, no. She had to think. To find a way to get out of here before Angel… Well, before he…
Suddenly, the fear she’d managed to repress until now shot to the surface, swamped her in a sea of panic and dread. Slammed against her heart, which tried to pound it’s way out of her chest.
Cordelia’s face crumpled. Her lips trembled. Her skin flushed fever hot, even as a chill made Goosebumps spring up along her arms. A single sob escaped before she could choke it back. And for a moment, a fraction of an instant, giving up seemed so easy. So…tempting.
But she was Cordelia Chase. And Cordelia Chase never gave up. If she did, who would she be then?
So, she took a long, deep breath, and forced the fear back down. She straightened her back, bit her lip to make the trembling stop.
There had to be a way out of here. And she’d find it.
With a sharp, decisive nod, Cordy opened her eyes. As she wiped away the few tears that had managed to escape, she caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye. A glint of light at the bottom of the wardrobe.
“What?” Eyes narrowed, she moved closer. There was something there, snuggled in the corner. It looked like…a necklace?
Curious despite her situation, Cordy lifted the necklace by its silver chain, held it up to the light. Admired the ornate silver pendent, at the center of which rested a brilliant, red crystal. As the pendent swung at the end of its chain, orange flames danced in the heart of the stone.
“Wow,” she breathed. “I like it.”
She held the necklace, a pool of silver and red, in her hand. It felt strange against the skin of her palm. Kind of…warm.
Suddenly, the door crashed open.
Cordy jumped, a startled gasp issuing from her lips. Her hand clenched in a fist around the necklace.
Angel stood in the doorway, a shadow surrounded by shadows. Feral eyes stared at her from a bestial face.
Cordy stopped breathing for a full second. Then, she was breathing too fast, in perfect rhythm with her racing heart.
Slowly, using the wardrobe for support, she rose to her feet.
“Angel,” she whispered.
He didn’t speak. Just took a step into the room. And another. He moved with the grace of a predator. Hungry eyes scoured her body. Her face, her breasts, her hips.
And always, his gaze came to rest on her neck.
Cordy backed away from him. With each step she took, the further away her hopes of escape seemed to get.
He was strength and power. Raw and savage. Timeless. Towering over her like a force of nature.
And every thought she’d had about getting away from him, seemed ridiculous. A stupid, childish fantasy. And, even if she did somehow manage to escape, where could she go? Where could she hide where he wouldn’t find her?
“Please,” she begged, without meaning to. Hating herself for sounding so weak, but unable to stop. “Angel, please.”
To her surprise, Angel’s steps faltered. He paused as something came over his demonic visage. Something vulnerable. Uncertain.
There was a flicker of humanity in his amber eyes.
“Cordy,” he said, his voice quivering.
And, for a second, her heart leaped with hope. Maybe something had happened to him. A spell or something. That was why he was acting this way. But he could snap out of it, right? If he still had his soul…
“Cordy,” he growled. And that flicker of humanity was gone.
In a blur of motion he was across the room, arms wrapping around her like steel bands.
“No,” Cordelia gasped. “Please, no.”
She struggled as he buried his hand in her brunette hair. Wrenched her head to one side. Pressed his lips to her slender neck.
She screamed when his fangs pierced her flesh.
Cordelia’s face froze in a rictus of pain. Her fists pounded at his chest, a vain attempt to push him away. Then, as her legs went limp beneath her, she instinctively clutched at his shirt with her free hand, an attempt to hold herself up.
Cold spread through her body, filled her veins with ice. Surrounded by Angel’s embrace, she couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think.
Her eyes fluttered, her face smoothed until it seemed almost serene.
Slowly, her arms fell to her side.
The pendent fell from her numb fingers.
The necklace hit the marble floor. And, as the delicate crystal shattered, there was barely a whisper of sound.
Angel held Cordelia tighter to him. So tight, he could feel her heartbeat as if it were his own.
His fist tightened in her hair. His fangs sank deeper into her flesh.
And he drank. The salty, sweet taste caressed his tongue. Filled his mouth with warmth, and his mind with memories. Filled his body with…her.
He felt her heartbeat slow against his chest. And he kept drinking. Too lost in sensation to notice the pendent lying next to his feet. The sparks that poured from the shattered crystal. Skittered across the floor and danced up his legs.
He drank her in. Her scent, and smile, and laughter, and courage. All of her.
Two rivulets of blood trickled down the soft skin of Cordelia’s back. And were soon joined by the vampire’s tears.
But these weren’t tears of sadness. He felt none of what he’d expected. Not guilt or remorse or shame. What he felt was almost to big for his body to contain. Almost too big for words.
What he felt was…pure bliss.
Angel crashed to the ground.
“Angel!” a young, feminine voice cried. “Oh, my God! Are you okay?”
Gasping for air he didn’t need, Angel pushed himself up onto his hands and knees.
“Angel?” A pair of hands came to rest on his shoulders.
Confused, Angel stared into Buffy’s worried, green eyes.
“Are you okay?” the Slayer repeated. “Because, one minute, you were walking. And, the next, you just, sort of…collapsed.” She frowned. “Do vampires faint?”
Still disoriented, Angel gave his head a hard shake. He didn’t know what happened. One minute, he was walking behind Buffy through the park. The next…
“Angel?” Buffy asked, her concern evident. And, as usual, the thought that he’d done something to make her feel bad filled him with guilt.
As he tried to think of a way to explain what had happened to him—something he didn’t understand himself—he heard a scream.
Sometime before “Birthday”
“Everybody set?” Angel asked, putting on his black leather coat.
“Just about,” Fred said as she fiddled with her latest gadget. All Angel knew was that it started out as a Salad Shooter.
“I’m good to go,” Gunn said. He hoisted his homemade axe.
“Wait! My dagger!” Wesley exclaimed. The boss of Angel Investigations all but skipped back into his office.
“I still don’t see why I can’t go,” Cordelia said. Sighing, she handed Angel a crossbow. “I mean, since this tip came from one of Wes’s sources, I don’t have any vision pain to worry about. Lorne’s here to watch Connor. And, I mean, what have I been training for?”
Angel inspected the crossbow with more care than was necessary. How could he explain it? The sense of unease he’d felt since he rose this afternoon.
The dread that filled him when Wesley told them about the kyops demons that would go out hunting for their first meal as soon as they woke up from hibernation.
The panic that swamped him when Wesley described the kyops. And the long, skewer-like protrusions that shot out from the middle knuckle of each hand.
How could he explain the images that filled his mind? Of blood and pain. And the life fading from a pair of hazel eyes.
How could he explain his certainty that this was one mission Cordy could not go on?
Cordy would have accused him of being overprotective. She would’ve insisted on going despite his misgivings. And nothing short of chaining her up in the basement would have stopped her.
Lying was easier.
“Like I said, I’d feel better if there was someone else here with Lorne and Connor. Just in case.”
“Okay,” Cordy sighed again. “I guess I see where you’re coming from.” But she didn’t look happy about it.
“I’m ready,” Wesley said as he exited his office.
As the Angel Investigations team, sans one, trouped out the door, Angel felt a giant weight lift off of his shoulders. Maybe his fears were unfounded. But the fact that Cordy was staying at the hotel filled him with relief.
This way, he knew she was safe.
Frowning, Angelus studied her face. There were still no signs of life.
Or un-life, he thought, a grin twisting his lips.
The vampire climbed onto the bed. Straddling her hips, he placed his hands on either side of her head.
“Come on, darlin’,” he said, an Irish lilt touching his voice for just a second. “The sun’s set. Time for you to rise and shine.”
Cordelia’s face remained a serene mask. Skin slowly paling beneath her tan. Lips stained red with his blood.
God, she made a beautiful corpse.
Sighing, Angelus sat back. Prepared to wait as long as it took.
He wanted his face to be the first thing she saw when she woke.