For a moment, Cordelia’s mind went blank, and it was as hard to think as it was to breathe. All she could do was stare at Angelus, her mouth hanging open. And he stared back, watching her with those ice black eyes.
Feverishly, Cordy tried to get her brain working again. But the fact that he was really there didn’t want to sink in. Not yet. After that night at the Bronze, she’d sort of figured that, well, she’d had her turn. Angelus had treated everyone—Willow, Xander, and poor Giles—but her to one of his little mind games, then seemed to mostly forget about them afterwards. So, the other night was her turn. It was over and done with, and she’d figured she wouldn’t have to go through something like that ever again. Another one-on-one confrontation had never even entered her mind.
Of course, the way her luck had been running lately, she should have known better.
As her brain accepted that, yes, she was about to relive one of the suckiest experiences of her life, she tried to remember the lessons she’d learned that night. That Angelus fed on fear, and the worst thing she could do was give it to him. But suppressing that emotion was hard to do on the spur of the moment, especially when the inspiration for that fear was staring her in the face.
So, she focused on his ‘cat that ate the canary’ smirk. And it was enough to make a little anger spring to life inside her (because that smirk was guaranteed to piss anybody off). It was a weak anger, a frail, sputtering spark barely managing to stay lit as the storm of her panic swirled around it. But she held on to that spark, urging it to grow. Because it was all she had.
“What are you doing here?” she snapped, proud when her voice didn’t shake even a little. She tried to imagine he was one of those annoying, desperate guys who sometimes latched on to her at the Bronze, like they actually thought they had half a chance. “Are you making a habit of skulking around parking lots now?”
Angelus’s smirk grew into a smile. A feral, nasty smile that didn’t reassure her at all.
“Not really,” he answered with a careless shrug. “Actually, I saw you as I was passing by, and just had to stop and say ‘hi’.”
He took a quick, sudden step forward. And, with a startled gasp, Cordelia took a quick step back.
Angelus grinned. There it was! The scent of her fear danced on the air between them, tickled his nose with its heady perfume. He breathed deep, and could taste its sweetness on his tongue.
And her heart. It was racing, fluttering in her chest like a beautiful, frightened bird beating its delicate wings against a cage. And every beat, every flutter, was like a whisper close to his ear.
Cordelia had stepped back so quickly, she slammed into her car. Her hip banged against the edge of the open doorway, her elbow hit the rear passenger window. Quickly, she regained her balance, standing upright once again. And the glare she turned on him was filled with irritation.
Angelus merely smiled, letting her see how unrepentant he was. As her irritation grew, the scent of her anger mixed with her fear, made it richer and deeper.
“Again, what are you doing here?” Cordelia demanded, obviously trying to regain her composure. “Don’t you have a nice, blond Slayer to stalk? Or are you afraid you’d get your ass kicked…again?”
Angelus let the sharp words wash over him like warm honey. She really did have a mouth on her, didn’t she? Listening to her talk, you’d never know how scared she was. Even here, inches away from him, she was trying to fight her fear, to bury it too deep for him to see.
Only, he wasn’t going to let her. Not this time.
Pulling his hands out of his pockets, Angelus glanced down at the packages scattered at her feet. “Looks like you dropped your stuff. Let me help you with that.” And, without further warning, he knelt down.
At Angelus’ unexpected motion, Cordelia barely resisted the urge to yelp in startled surprise. Instead, she tried to back away, to put some distance between them so his face wouldn’t be that close to her knees. But there was nowhere for her to go. Not with the cold metal of her car pressing into her back, the open door blocking one side, and his kneeling form blocking the other. Instead, she was left in the uncomfortable position of looking down at him as he picked up her bags. As he moved, arms stretching to pick up the packages, his hair would brush feather soft against her knee, against her thigh. His fingers would brush, ‘accidentally,’ against her calf. It took all the control she had not to shriek every time some part of him touched her. Not to dance in place, hopping from foot to foot. Because, lord help her, it felt like there were spiders crawling up and down her legs. And she hated spiders.
From now on, Cordy swore, she’d wear longer skirts. Or pants. Pants were good.
Finally, Angelus rose to his feet. And he came up standing way inside her personal bubble, much closer than he’d been before. So close, he blocked out the glow of the security lights, casting her in his shadow.
“Here we are,” he said as he held out the bags, a satisfied smirk curving his lips. And, if she’d had any doubts about how ‘accidental’ those touches had been, they were swept away by that smirk.
For a moment, Cordy couldn’t say anything. She was too busy trying to breathe. And trying not to lose her temper. At the moment, there was nothing she wanted more than to slap that smirk right off of his face. In fact, she had to ball her hands into fists to keep from doing something she’d regret.
Angelus just stood there, watching the expressions cross her face like it was the best show in town. And waiting patiently.
“Thank you,” Cordy managed to say through gritted teeth.
“Don’t mention it,” he said, with a modest bow of his head.
Rolling her eyes, Cordy reached for her bags.
“No,” he said, holding them just out of her reach. “Allow me.” And he moved towards the car, so close, his large, powerful body brushed against her entire right side.
Heart leaping into her throat—again!—Cordy all but skipped out of his way, shivering as goose bumps sprang up on her arms.
She stood behind him, watching him carelessly toss her bags into the back seat. With his back turned, his attention somewhere else, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to run away. To turn and just run, screaming, towards the mall. Only, she’d bet he knew exactly what she was thinking. That, the first step she took to get away, he’d be on her.
And why did vampires have to be so fast anyway? Did somebody think they didn’t have enough advantages, with the super strength and razor sharp teeth, or what?
Looking around the parking lot, the fact that there were other people around didn’t seem as reassuring anymore. If she shouted for help, anyone who tried to come to her rescue would probably go from Good Samaritan to corpse in five seconds flat. And she probably wouldn’t be far behind on the corpse part.
His arms now free of bags, Angelus turned back to face her. Eyebrows raised, he held out his hand.
Cordy stared at it like it was a snake, ready to bite. “What?” she asked.
“Uh, the keys,” he said, like it was obvious.
And, even though she had a dark suspicion what he meant, she asked, “And you want my keys why?”
“I know I let you drive last time,” he said, shrugging. “But I usually don’t like to go anywhere in a car unless I’m in the driver’s seat.”
“Go anywhere?” Cordy asked, because she really didn’t like where this was going.
With an impatient sigh, Angelus snatched the keys out of her hand. Then, he moved, with catlike grace, to stand behind her. “In you go,” he said, sounding polite, almost cheerful. Placing his hand at the small of her back, he gave her a little push.
Cordy took a stumbling step forward, then stopped dead in her tracks. With wide eyes, she stared at the gift she’d begged for for over a year. Suddenly, her car—which, moments ago, equaled armor, escape, safety—looked like nothing more than a trap. An expensive, candy-apple red trap.
Unconsciously, she lifted her head, eyed the scattering of shoppers scurrying to and fro. Her mouth dropped open as she had second thoughts about screaming. Maybe…
“I don’t think you really want to do that,” Angelus said, his voice dangerous and dark. And close. She could feel his cool breath on the back of her neck. A shiver raced up her spine, made her scalp tingle.
“Get in,” he said, sounding neither cheerful nor polite. The hand returned to the small of her back. While it didn’t push this time, there was the slightest pressure, urging her forward.
Cordelia snapped her mouth shut, swallowed so hard it actually made her throat hurt. Then, taking a deep breath, she got into the car.
Of course, she had to climb over the gearshift to get to the passenger seat, which she tried to do with some kind of grace. Then, she felt Angelus’s ‘helpful’ hands on her naked legs, and grace was abandoned in favor of speed. As she flopped (there was no other word for it, damn it!) into the seat, she glared at the source of all of her problems. Well, current problems.
Seemingly unaware of her glare of death, Angelus climbed in behind her. Settling into the driver’s seat of her car like he belonged there, he slammed the door shut. As on edge as she was, it was no surprise she jumped a mile high.
As the situation she was in began to sink in—to really sink in—Cordelia felt her old pal panic trying to bubble to the surface. Really, she was seconds away from dissolving into a puddle of hysteria, and wouldn’t he just love that.
To put it off for a little while, she snapped, “So, you mind telling me where we’re going?”
“For a drive,” he said, as he started the car. Smiling, he glanced in her direction. “Buckle up.”
Huffily, Cordy pulled the seatbelt across her chest. As she snapped it into place, she imagined a cage door slamming shut.