It was like the ground was sucked out from under her. Balancing precariously on the edge, Cordelia tried to distance herself from the vampire that surrounded her until he threatened to slide down her throat and wrap around her heart.
“How do you know I’m dying?”
An eyebrow arched cockily. “Because without you I’m dying and if I go I sure as hell am not leaving you behind.” He slid his thumb along her cheekbone, reveling in the feel of her coppery skin. “Come with me Chase.”
“When was the last time you asked me a question?”
The demon was suddenly thrown for a loop. He’d had enough experience with women, but it was safe to say that this Chase woman was a damned enigma.
From the moment she’d dragged him out of he gutter to the day she’d taken the bullet for him, Angelus had not been able to understand her. “Is this a trick question?”
Jerking away from him, she crossed her arms and regarded him with cool inquiry. “Go ahead. Ask me one.”
“Are you PMSing?”
Hazel eyes turned a scathing caramel. “Ask me IF I want to go with you Angelus.”
A smile threatened to tug at the corner of his mouth. “What’s the damned point? You’ll only lie to me.”
“See!” Throwing up her hand, the young woman started to pace. “Ever since this whole mess started I’ve not been given a single choice. Not one. I’m a fairly independent woman. I live my life my way and I’m my own queen. Don’t interrupt.”
She held up a firm hand when he opened his mouth and Angelus held his tongue more in amusement than in agreement. “From the moment I made the sad mistake of saving your fangless ass, I’ve been scratched, dragged, beaten and shot at! I’m a cheerleader for god’s sake not a slayer!”
“Seer then!” She hissed, careful to keep her voice lowered, but let her temper run rampant. “First you parade yourself hopefully under my nose, screaming innuendoes and don’t think I’m a complete idiot. I know a ploy when I see one. This is what you wanted. You LEFT me in that kitchen so you could come up here today and seduce me.”
“I haven’t seduced you yet Hazel.”
“Really?” Her mind wrapped around that concept for a moment and her mind was assaulted with possibilities before she pressed her hands against her temples.
“ARGH! Stop! Just stop and listen to me for a moment…what are you…”
He held her hands in his, stroking her knuckles gently. “As much as I’d like to take credit for this Brighteyes, I’m afraid you’re the seducer in this picture.”
He mouth opened before snapping shut with a frown, her hands forgotten in his, skin tingling pleasantly under his thumbs. “How do you figure that?”
Eyebrows knitting together he seemed to concentrate on tracing patterns on her skin. “Problem is Chase, I’ve been asking you all the questions. You’ve just never given me a damned answer.”
When he lifted his eyes they were tinged with ochre and her heart pitched into her stomach at the sudden stillness in the night. “Frankly, I don’t think you have it in you to give me any answers.”
Hazel eyes averted and her hands trembled in his, colder than his undead ones. “Angelus… we’re…”
She looked up sharply at his bitter laugh. Almost like he couldn’t believe it himself. “Yeah baby I feel bad for you. I think so does everyone else that you’re stuck with a bastard like me.” Then his gaze hardened hands tightening on hers.
“You’re not a bastard Angelus, you’re a cold blooded killer. Pun and all.”
“What is it that scares you more Cordelia? That I killed? Or that I killed for you?”
Dumbfounded with his aim, the young woman stood gaping up into the intelligent face of her adversary. “I don’t care what your reasons were!” She squawked indignantly.
“I don’t want to be responsible for the death of innocents.”
“Was he innocent?”
“You’re not the one to decide vampire.”
His mouth twitched. “Actually, you’re the one that decides.” When her pretty hazel eyes widened he chuckled and slid one finger across her jaw down to her chin sinuously.
“The damned chip in my head is not my leash Hazel.”
“Oh my god!”
“OH MY GOD!”
“It was about intent.” Stepping away from her, he ran a weary hand through his hair. “For the first time in my twisted unlife I didn’t kill because I was hungry. It was because I was saving an innocent. The only innocent that mattered. I’d figured it would be easy. I kill a few things, which is something I do anyway, and the PTB eventually let go.
What’s a few centuries to a demon? But then they threw you into the damned equation and I’ve been beating my head against a wall since then. For you Chase – I’d do anything. But I’ll be damned to hell again before I let you lie to me. So tonight you’ll get your wish. I’m asking the questions. And if you lie to me, I’m going to toss you over my knee and beat the truth out of you.”
Her pretty hazel eyes were wide as she tried to shove herself away. “Are you threatening me?”
“I’m taking your advice.” Cordelia stifled a gasp as she was spun around and pinned back against the railing of the balcony. “Why did you drag me out of the gutter?”
“You were wearing designer leather,” she shot back venomously, struggling under the bulk of his muscle holding her immobile against the railing. How she always ended up here with an agitated, enamored vampire bearing down on her, she wondered.
“Why can’t I ever seem to scare you enough?”
And the answers were already there in his eyes. Just like they’d always been, but no honest words would make it past her throat while his large frame leaned against hers, the coolness of his body burning every inch of her.
“Damn you Angelus, get off me!”
“Why did you talk to me Chase? Why did you stay with me?”
“I didn’t have a choice.”
“Didn’t you?” His eyes narrowed and she realized that he wasn’t playing anymore. The anger and clarity was potent in his low gravel tone. Hard and taunting.
“Why did you ask Giles to unchain the demon? Why did you fucking bother to bring me blood every damned morning? Why didn’t you let me bleed?”
“I tried!” She struggled to break free, eyes spitting with anger. She hated how he always seemed to corner her.
Wrenching answers out of her when all she wanted was to be left alone. “Don’t you think I tried!”
“No more lies Cordelia Chase!” His fingers tightened and for the first time she saw the man, her struggles ceasing.
“This fine little web is spun by you. You pulled the fucking strings. You did the seducing. These wide hazel eyes. Your sunshine tainted smile. I had their pity, but the only thing I got from you was understanding. YOU understood the demon! Wake up and smell the brimstone woman! You saved me.”
An enticing curl fell over her forehead as he shook her, hating himself for wanting to hear the truth from her mouth. “Why did you take my bullet Hazel?”
With his breath whispering against her mouth, Cordelia squeezed her eyes shut, willing him to leave her alone, but dreading the distance she’d already put between them. “What do you want to hear?”
“What you’re afraid to tell me.”
“You’re a demon.”
“I was a demon when you fished the bullet out of my chest. I was demon five minutes ago when you kissed me back like you could never stop. I was still the damned demon when you looked into my eyes lied to me that you feel nothing!”
She flinched at the memory. “Seems like ages ago.”
“Stop the damn dance Chase, my right hand’s itching.”
The flash of anger was instantaneous. “Don’t you dare!”
“Then be honest for a second! For fuck’s sake you owe me that much at least!”
She let out an exasperated sigh and tipped her head back, gaze sliding over the stars smiling down at her condescendingly. Yeah, laugh it up, she glared at them before dragging her eyes back to his. “I saved your life in the alley because I had nothing to lose that night. I saved your life because the alternative didn’t occur to me. I saved your stupid life because seeing the Scourge of Europe wallowing in the mud was so achingly familiar to what I was feeling that I just thought if could put you back on your feet…”
she trailed off, remembered the last drink she ordered at the bar before leaving. Her last martini. “I didn’t know it was visiony things then.”
“It wasn’t the visiony thing then and sure as hell isn’t the visiony thing now.” At the bewildered confusion in her pretty eyes, the demon shook his head, his mouth twisted into a lamenting snarl.
“You think this shit happens in a flash? Like two poles of a damned magnet? You cultivated this. I only wanted you Chase. You needed me.” The grumble was filled with regret.
“I don’t need you.”
A muscle tightened in his jaw. “You know I’d thought I would revel in hearing the words from your mouth. Willingly telling me everything your eyes scream the moment they meet mine, but I can see right now that your mouth won’t obey anything but your pride. So let’s strip you first.”
“What!?” Her eyes widened and he allowed exactly one breath before it was stolen from her.
Cordelia Chase had to physically bite down the need to scream her head off. Dangling over the trellis, her ankle still in the demon’s grasp she struggled and swayed like a pendulum with its tongue in between its teeth. “Angelusss!” She hissed. “Pull me up!”
“Say the words Chase.”
“You shit-faced ignoramus, when I get my hands on you!”
He shook her slightly and the woman gasped, her very nice silk gown nearly sliding all the way off until she caught it with both hands, her pretty hazel eyes wide. His mouth widened into a sickeningly sweet grin. “You do realize I can see everything anyway.”
“Pull me up!”
“Listen Chase, you have a few minutes before the blood starts pooling in your brain and you pass out, after which I will throw you over my shoulder and carry you off for a night of unadulterated passion and although I know I can have you begging in two shakes, let it not be said that any woman goes unwillingly into my den. I am Angelus. Just realized that you don’t respond to coaxing. So.”
He gave her another shake and the woman yelped nearly losing her hold on her skimpy clothing. “What’ll it be?”
“I HATE YOAAHHH!” Her hiss turned into a startled yelp when she dropped a few inches, her heart pounding into her throat. Oh dear god he was crazy! Batty and completely out of it! What the hell had she gotten herself into?
A life time of this foreplay and she’d be a basket case in six months. She whined before looking up into his face. He was taking heinous pleasure at her predicament. “FINE!”
Squeezing her eyes shut, the helpless tears building behind her eyelids she realized there was very little point in keeping something from him that he already knew. Dammit, hadn’t she been through enough?
Did she really need to be subjected to this humiliation of admitting her feeling for a dead thing that loved to look up her skirt at every given moment by possibly pitching her over balconies? For fun.
And she’d thought Drusilla had been psychotic. “Pull me up, I’ll tell you.”
“Tell me now.”
“Dammit Fang! Do you really want me to say this while I’m about to pass out and in a position to break my neck if you lose your grip!”
“I’m bordering on lunacy. No one said vampires were logical creatures. I could drop you and meet you in hell.”
“Oh god! I LOVE YOU! Okay! Now please…”
“God complex thing aside baby, I do have a name…”
She stared up at his self-satisfied smirk and wished he would just let her fall. Death was better than this.
“Angelus?” She tried to hold his gaze as best as she could with the blood pounding in her ears. She was very close to actually making good on his threat.
“I love you. I love you enough to want to die for you, you arrogant, self-serving, half-wit –”
And she was in his arms, her nose buried into his chest; she wrapped her arms around him, clinging to him almost like he’d dropped her. But then she wasn’t really sure he hadn’t.
Still muttering curses and shaking and delirious with the rush of blood to her head, Cordelia let the tears slide. His satisfied laughter melted into soft soothing whispers, his hands sliding over hair and back, holding her through it.
“Easy baby, let it go. I’ve got you. It’s okay to cry.”
She struggled, tried to push him away, but he held her. “No. No I’ll never be able to stop then!”
“Then I’ll just have to stay with you forever Chase.” And then he felt her body racking with soft muted sobs and felt his shoulder getting wet from her tears. But Angelus could care less.
Giles had been right. It couldn’t be harder to stay together than it was to stay apart.
She’d thought she had no tears. She thought she’d cried them all. And she thought she won’t feel because she wouldn’t allow herself to feel something so deep. She’d been scared of feeling love for anyone again.
And if anyone had seen closely as she’d walked down the roads, void of any real human contact, they would see the emptiness in her eyes. The dark space where love should have been. The gaping whole in her soul.
But she never would have pegged Angelus to fill that gap for her. But he was here.
And for the first time since the day she’d found her parents gone – Cordelia Chase let go.
For a moment he really feared she wouldn’t stop. But then his shirt wasn’t getting wetter and the woman had stopped shaking. Her arms were still wrapped around him like a vice and Angelus realized couldn’t believe something so unnatural could ever feel so damn good.
He’d seen his soul’s relationship with the slayer and he’d seen vampires and humans falling in and out of love. Why did it feel like this sharp-tongued child could give him the world?
“You realize that you’ve ruined perfectly good Armani silk.”
She smiled against his shoulder. “If I wasn’t broke, I’d buy you ten more.”
“You’re not broke with me around Hazel.”
He smile widened into a grin. “You do know how to woo a woman’s heart.”
“Sexiest vampire alive. Well. Almost alive.”
Tipping her head back she looked up into his black eyes, the odd calmness to the vampire laced with the prospect of the coming future. It made her shiver with anticipation and a hint of fear.
“I hear LA is really nice this time of the year,” he purred, softening her for the possible smooching she knew he was plotting.
“You’re welcome to come with.” Her eyes dropped to his mouth and it stretched into a full-blown Angelus-patented smirk.
“That’s better. I’m sick of this town anyway. Not enough nightlife.” He nodded sagely and bent his head to finally taste her without resistance.
Or so he thought.
“Before nightlife, there’s something we need out in the clear.” Putting one finger over his lips to delay her loss of coherency she could foretell in his eyes, Cordelia spoke.
“I’m so not a plaything. If I’m to accept this role as your beautiful seer and seducer, then I expect to play heroine. Not a sidekick.”
Angelus rolled his eyes. “Damn you mortal seers are demanding.”
When he bent down for his kiss she pulled back again, this time though, he saw the impish twinkle in her eyes. “And! I want new clothes.” He raised a humoring eyebrow as she pondered the options.
“And shoes! And a penthouse suite in a big hotel!”
Grabbing her wrist he dragged her against him, his nose sliding along hers, eyes holding hers captive. “For you Chase, I’ll buy the whole damned hotel.”
“Can you do that?”
Grinning at the adorably greedy awe in her big hazel eyes, he pressed a hard kiss on her mouth. “Let’s go.”
She blinked before grinning widely, the happiness reaching her eyes for the first time in weeks. “Let me get my bag.”
“Leave it,” he took her hand. “Just grab your shoes.”
She blinked at his illogical trail of thought. “My shoes?”
“Don’t then,” he shrugged noncommittally as he pulled her toward the railing. “Have I ever told you about my fetish for bare feet? I remember this child I ate once; she—”
“Shoes!” She squeaked. “Shoes are good. I love shoes. Yes. See me wear shoes!”
Angelus grinned at as the brunette ran all the way to the door; tiptoed inside, grabbed her shoes, tiptoed back and ran into his arms.
When they disappeared over the railing, Harmony rolled over in her bed and grunted. “About time.”