Double or Nothing. 1

Title: Double or Nothing             DON ficpic
Author: Lysa
Posted: A slight revision done in late 2004
Rating: NC-17
Category: Romance, Smut, Humor, Angst and Intrigue
Content: C/A(us) and some required B/A
Summary: Novel-length fan fiction. Angel discovers a way to secure his soul by giving Angelus a separate existence leading to far-reaching consequences for them and Cordelia Chase.
Spoilers: AU set in BtVS Season 3 with hints of AtS 1&2
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Anywhere…please let me know.
Challenge by Sunscorched: Details to be found at the conclusion of the story. Ficpic by Califi.
Feedback: As always, I am eager for your comments and creative FB.

Chapter 1: The Ultimatum

Swinging wildly back and forth, the library doors creaked on their hinges with the force behind the double-armed push. Giles and the Scoobies stood slack-jawed as they watched Buffy storm off on patrol. Before the doors swung shut, they heard her call out, “Coming, Angel?”

Out of habit, Angel automatically responded, rising from his position on the library steps. He jerked to a halt upon hearing Cordelia’s indelicate snort, his expression darkening as his gaze impacted with hers. Other than Buffy, she was the only one who bothered to make an effort to talk to him since his return from the depths of that hell dimension. Though their friendship, if it could be called such, tended to be strained with growing tension.

“Hurry and maybe you’ll get a treat,” her amusement at his expense came with the added trill of her soft laughter. There was no need for her to ask if his collar felt a little too tight or if the tugging on his short leash was bothering him. Angel had been regaled with Cordelia’s opinion of him as Buffy’s lap-dog one too many times.

The joke had worn thin and now left him prickling with the urge to prove her wrong. Not that he would, Angel counseled himself as he stifled sudden plans to wipe that teasing smile from her mouth. Deep down, his instincts stirred with the need to take that natural tendency to bait him at every turn and use it against her. He wondered how Cordelia would react if he actually let himself respond.

Her inability to hold her tongue and the subconscious way her delectable young body reacted to his presence sometimes made it hard to remember that he was actually in love with someone else. It was just his demon reacting. Just that part of him needing control, bent on taking whatever he wanted.

All too easily, Angel pictured Cordelia beneath him, calling out his name as he proved just how much in control he could be. Guilt flashed like lightning after that, striking instantly. Cordelia was his friend. A self-derisive curse echoed silently in his head, the concept itself still seeming alien to him.

He saw the close bonds of friendship between Buffy, Willow and Xander and a part of him ached for inclusion. For something that would stave off the loneliness that even his relationship with Buffy had not been able to squelch. It might have been different if he was free to be intimate without the threat of Angelus looming so close to the surface.

Now that he knew an unguarded moment of bliss was all it would take to strip away his soul, it was as if his own inner demonic voice continually kept him thinking of new opportunities to break free of it. During his waking hours, Angel’s practiced control usually allowed him to tamp down inappropriately licentious thoughts. That was not the case during the daytime when sleep let his subconscious reign with base images, sensations and emotions.

Angel wondered if Cordelia would be so smug about teasing him knowing the number of times he had taken her in those vivid dreams. If she was even half as responsive as he imagined, there was no doubting Angelus would make an appearance. He knew it with a certainty that scared him despite the fact that the circumstances shouldn’t ever come up.

Maybe Buffy did have him on some kind of leash, because Angel felt a deep need to make things easier for her. Helping Buffy gave him purpose. Both her innocence and determination called to his heart. For the first time in forever, Angel felt he had given his heart and had those feelings returned.

Loving someone, being loved was more than he ever had and Angel knew he needed it. Even considering that Buffy’s very nature stirred other, darker instincts. That was something he could never allow to touch her again. As much as he loved her, Angel’s thoughts of Buffy usually came accompanied with doubt and guilt.

Angel also recognized that Cordelia left him with a craving he could not deny. More and more, her company invigorated his mind as much as it did his fantasies. Though he doubted the cheerleader really understood how much her conversation intrigued him. Rarely alone, their friendship had grown from stolen moments. Cordelia’s forthrightness and sometimes self-centered view of the universe constantly amused him.

She awakened a side of himself that Angel had long thought buried. However, that didn’t mean Cordelia wasn’t just as adept at awakening his ire. Her insinuation that running after Buffy like an eager puppy might earn him some attention was proof enough of that.

Stalking past her on his way out, Angel paused long enough to growl out his advice in a low rumble, “Be careful about yanking chains that don’t belong to you, Cordelia, especially mine. You never know what you’ll unleash if you yank too hard.”


Once Angel vanished through the doors, his long leather coat billowing out behind him, Cordelia let out a long sigh as the tension suddenly drained from her body. She had no idea what was really up with Angel tonight, but she had a feeling the vampire seriously needed to get laid. Fortunately, he was well aware of how wrong that would be considering everything Angelus had done right here in Sunnydale. It didn’t hurt to remind him on occasion that he was now officially in the no bone category.

Though, to be perfectly honest, Angel seemed to have iron control over his emotions. Most of the time. It was Buffy that Cordelia actually worried about. Considering the hunk of salty goodness that was her boyfriend, it had to be hard to keep her hands and lips to herself. For some strange reason, the slayer didn’t seem too happy about Cordelia advising her to give Angel some space now that he was back from the hell she had sent him too.

“What’d he say to you, Cor?” asked Xander from across the library. Whether it was just morbid curiosity or a hint of jealousy, Cordelia couldn’t tell. “Dead Boy looked at you like you were his after dinner mint.”

Angel,” emphasizing his name, “doesn’t like anyone to say that he lets Buffy order him around. I can’t help it if he doesn’t like hearing the truth.”

Cordelia watched them all squirm at the subject, each reacting with a different level of discomfort. Looking almost as broody as Angel on one of his better days, Xander frowned and practically pouted at her. Any reminder that despite the forces keeping them apart, Buffy and Angel were still technically together, left him irritated. Willow always took Buffy’s side and quickly reminded her that what the blonde chose to do with her own boyfriend was none of Cordelia’s business.

An appropriately scathing retort was on the tip of Cordelia’s tongue when Giles cut in to remind them all that they were still on research duty. “Perhaps we should return to the task at hand. The sooner we locate the exact circumstances of the upcoming mystic confluence, the sooner you can all head to the Bronze.”


“Don’t get your nose out of joint,” Buffy advised the demon as she leapt off the top of the crypt with a flying kick to its already swollen proboscis.

With a howl the demon retaliated by taking several near swipes with its clawed hands. The Slayer dodged and rolled under the extended arms that threatened to reel her in. She reached into her bag of tricks, which she had dropped when her foe appeared out of the depths of the old Sunnydale Cemetery, and pulled out a short sword. This job required a little more oomph than Mr. Pointy could deliver.

Angel’s stealthy moves allowed him to creep up behind the demon. Fisting his hands together, he jabbed mid-spine causing another cry of pain. Only the beast did not go to the ground as expected despite the use of vampiric strength. As their foe turned to face him, Angel realized with a bit of demonic pleasure that this was really going to be a fight.

It took over ten minutes to bring the demon down and only with their combined efforts, a long fight as compared to their usual patrols. Angel met Buffy’s gaze with a predatory gleam in his dark eyes and then shifted back to his human features. Though he knew it was his demon jockeying for control there were times it just felt so damn good to kill something with his bare hands.

The vampire wasn’t the only one feeling the aftereffects of the fight. Buffy’s insides were still humming with the rush of power at overcoming the demon, rending its body with her weapon and watching it fall to the ground in a dead heap. It was a familiar sensation after a battle, especially one like this that was beyond the usual stakeout. That adrenalin buzz left her feeling needy and wanting more— of something.

“Injuries?” Angel queried stalking close to check for himself.

Buffy eyed the vampire’s muscular body outlined in the dark clothes and leather jacket with equal attention to detail. “Nothing serious.”

Towering above the Slayer’s petite form, Angel deliberately moved into Buffy’s personal space. His vampiric senses were reeling at the scent of her sudden arousal. Far from the first time Angel had noticed the way her body responded after a brawl, his instincts were clamoring for him to take the silent offer. Moving up until he stood only inches away, he drank in the sudden scent of hot, fragrant need.

So close, Buffy thought, feeling the lustful sting of her Slayer senses that warned her a vampire was near. Staring deep into Angel’s nearly black eyes, her body hummed in response. Despite her relative sexual inexperience, Buffy instinctually recognized her need. Angel was so close, but not close enough. It would never be close enough until she had him deep inside her dampening the triumphal energy coursing through her body and sating this urge to celebrate victory in the basest way imaginable.

Dropping her sword to the ground, Buffy reached for Angel at the same moment he bent down to wrap his arms about her. Their mouths met in a kiss of pure hunger. Lips swiped voraciously across each other, nipping at the tender flesh. Lifting Buffy up to fold her legs around his waist, Angel straightened without ever breaking the kiss. She tightened her hold, pulling away only to draw a panting breath.

Both caught the other’s gaze realizing instantly that this was something dangerous. It could not continue. A look of pain and frustration crept into their eyes. Slowly, Angel let Buffy slip back down to a standing position and he stepped away from her. Their kisses only fed the flame and now both clung to the point of minimal control.

Angel resisted the urge to adjust his hard need as it pressed thick and ready against his pants. Hardly unaware of Angel’s arousal, Buffy replaced her imaginings of her skilled lover with the harsh reality of him losing his soul. There was only one path when it came to making love to Angel and it lead straight to his darker demonic side. Angelus was not something they could ignore. The threat was all too real.

“That was close,” Angel muttered the obvious, perturbed by the fact that he couldn’t seem to control his lust these days. This was the third time he had patrolled alone with Buffy during the past week and each occasion resulted in the same behavior.

Under her breath, Buffy grumbled her confession, “I miss touching you.”

Naturally, the vampire heard her. Angel’s feelings were obvious, “You think I don’t miss it? Buffy, I find this as frustrating as you do. It’s not as if I chose to be cursed.”

Before Angelus’ arrival and long before the night they made love for the first and last time in Angel’s apartment, the vampire had slowly been easing Buffy towards a more intimate relationship. He was all too conscious of her youth and innocence. By the time the week of her seventeenth birthday rolled around there was not much left to explore except the final ultimate act of breaching her virginity.

Apparently, their little love games had been fun and satisfying, but didn’t quite equate to perfect bliss. Not until they made love and Angel forgot all about being a vampire in her arms and felt the light of hope that was pure human happiness. Then his soul was gone and Angelus swept through Sunnydale killing when and where he chose, stalking the Slayer’s friends and generally playing mind games with Buffy in the hope of driving her mad.

“I don’t need reminders!” Buffy snapped peevishly. Then she remembered that she had forgiven Angel for the things his demon had done when the soul was not around. She considered them different people. There was Angel and there was the demon. With his soul intact, there was no thought of any link to evil for Angel was her boyfriend, her lover and her champion.

“Apparently, we both need reminding.”

Pouting, Buffy realized that he was right. “This is impossible. We can’t seem to be good. I want you Angel. There has to be a way around this curse, a way to make your soul permanent.”

Angel ran both hands through his hair in a sight of utter frustration that now included the conversation. “I researched this gypsy curse for years— decades.”

“Recently?” Buffy asked him.

“No,” the vampire admitted, but didn’t really see that it would make a difference. “Coming up empty-handed time after time is maddening. I lost the motivation to keep looking for answers that don’t exist.”

Standing with her hands on her hips, Buffy tapped her booted foot against the ground as she waited for Angel to get the hint. He seemed to see only her irritation without guessing the reason for it. Finally, she waved a hand down the svelte outline of her body.

“Hello, I’m your motivation.” Buffy thought that would have been clear enough. “Find a cure, Angel. Find one fast.”

Irritated by her apparent ultimatum, Angel demanded, “Or what?”

Buffy searched for a quick response, but found none. She could hardly threaten him with holding out on him when that was the problem. Her mouth tightened up into a puckered circle of frustration and her wide blue-green eyes pleaded understanding. “I don’t know, I just want you and can’t have you. Please Angel, there has to be a way.”


Early after sunset the next evening, Angel found himself browsing through some of Rupert Giles’ books tucked away in the caged section of the Sunnydale High School Library. Carrying several of them out to the worktable, he sat down and began to study sections related to Romany magicks.

“Giles, I’m—,” Cordelia Chase broke off her greeting as she caught sight of the vampire. Angel looked up as soon as he heard her enter through the double doors of the library and found it interesting that the cheerleader was here alone.

“He left an hour ago,” Angel revealed leaving out the part about the Watcher hastily disappearing almost as soon as he showed up to do some research. Obviously, Rupert Giles still had some trust issues when it came to being alone with the vampire who tortured him and murdered his lover. Soul or no soul, Angel knew it was never going to be forgotten. “Something about an evening appointment.”

The brunette looked almost disappointed, shifting her balance from one leg to the other. “Oh, okay. Damn.”

Dropping a bookmark in the large tome, Angel closed the binding and pushed the book away in order to turn his attention to the teenager. “Did you need something? Maybe I could help.”

Cordelia’s smile looked genuine enough, lighting up her face with a glow and bringing a sparkle to her eyes. There was just something about it that made his mind wander, considering ulterior motives. After all, once upon a time, she would have leapt at the chance to get him alone like this.

Without being obvious about it, Angel let his eyes soak up the sight of Cordelia in the knitted top that hugged her breasts and the short skirt that left her long supple legs bare to his view. She looked soft and firm in all the right places, her curves making his hands itch to touch her. Though Angel knew it wasn’t right to stare at someone he considered a friend, he told himself that it was only natural to wonder if things would be different if he had taken her up on one of her early flirtations.

Buffy was far from his first sexual experience after being cursed. Just the first lover who engendered feelings of such depth. Discovering that he loved Buffy Summers had been a shock. For Angel had never been in love before, not really. Not during his human life and certainly not during his time as Angelus. That moment of bliss, the utter contentment he had experienced from being in her arms was a feeling Angel wanted again and again. His body craved it. He felt the loss of his lover’s touch and this enforced celibacy was infuriating.

Looking at Cordelia Chase, he found himself thinking things that were definitely off limits. If it had been Cordelia instead of Buffy in his bed would the results have been the same? She roused such base thoughts inside him that he wondered if it would be possible to forget his demon nature. Lately, he’d noticed it more and more. Cordelia possessed an innate ability to bring his demon to the fore unlike any other.

Only the Slayer herself stirred such a response. Angel hated to admit the root cause of those reactions. Part of him wanted Cordelia. Right now for instance, if he decided to do it, Angel could have her. Not because she was easy, but because there was still a part of her that was attracted to him despite the fact that he was a vampire. Angel wondered what it would be like to take her whenever and wherever he wanted.

Here. Now. The possibilities of what he could do were endless.

“Was that a growl?” Cordelia asked, placing her burgundy and gold pom-poms on the table. Completely unaware that her breasts jiggled with a delicious bounce when she hopped up on the edge of the table, Cordelia missed his eye-popping expression. He covered it up by rubbing a hand over his face, momentarily blocking the view of her perfectly formed breasts stretching the tight knit sweater of her cheerleader uniform. “It’s not my fault if Giles left you to do all the research.”

Suddenly feeling a little muddled, Angel wondered if Buffy had been talking about her ultimatum. Cordelia was the last person Buffy would make into her confidant, but somehow it wouldn’t surprise him. Buffy was just as frustrated as him by the curse that forced them into a celibate relationship. Though he’d long since gained control over his lustful instincts, lately it was all he could think about.

Angel’s eyes dropped as Cordelia crossed her legs, casually swinging her right foot back and forth, feminine muscle flexing beneath smooth golden skin. “Research?” he asked absently.

“I see a mountain of books,” waving a hand at the large pile on the table, “hence I assume that research is the objective. I doubt that this is your idea of reading for pleasure.”

Angel muttered something incomprehensible and then admitted, “Pleasure? Only in a round about way.”

Cordelia glanced around the library and realized that it was indeed empty except for the two of them. “No Scoobies. Huh. Where is everybody? Since when do they miss a chance for a research party?”

“It’s a private party,” Angel leaned back against his chair as she uncrossed her legs to nudge him with the end of her tennis shoe.

“Is that your way of trying to get rid of me?” Thin brows arched high until Cordelia realized Angel was referring to Xander and Willow. “Ah. Your fan club couldn’t come tonight.”

The sarcastic bite to Cordelia’s words elicited a brief grin. “Fortunately, I didn’t invite them.”

The vampire had never been in Xander’s good graces even before Angelus entered the picture. As for Willow, despite the fact that she had cast the spell that returned his soul, there were certain moments where she saw nothing but her dead fish every time she looked at him. The two of them had made the transition back into Buffy’s life much more difficult.

Even Oz, who had more reason to be a little empathetic considering his status as a werewolf, seemed standoffish, but that may have been his normally stoic behavior. Giles had the only legitimate personal vendetta against him considering that Angelus had tortured him and killed his girlfriend, Jenny Calendar. That was the real reason he left the library so quickly after Angel’s arrival. He didn’t trust himself not to try to stake the vampire.

“So you came here looking for Giles?” Angel questioned curiously.

Cordelia blinked away her surprise. “Duh! Who else would I normally see in the library?”

“You want me to name them?”

The cheerleader didn’t want to say that she had gotten into the habit of looking in on the librarian after Jenny’s death. He had taken it so hard and worked so many hours beyond what he did for the school that she had taken it upon herself to cheer him up, especially when Buffy skipped town after the whole Acathla thing when she had to send Angel to hell to save the world. It was an easy thing to stop by and check on him after practice.

“What do you want me to say, Angel?” prompted Cordelia defensively, a hint of red flushing her cheeks and throat. “Maybe I’m having a hot affair with Giles. I sneak in here so we can do it behind the stacks.”

The corners of the vampire’s mouth quirked upward. “I guess you already know what they say about cheerleaders.”

Playfully gasping in outrage, Cordelia countered with, “How would you know, Mister Culturally Deprived? Have you ever bothered to come to one of our night games? No, you have to be all solitary and mysterious or pretend to be Buffy’s shadow on some creepy graveyard patrol.”

Besides the Slayer herself, Cordelia was the only member of the Scooby Gang who freely accepted Angel back into the fold. She’d given him a one-time tongue-lashing about him keeping his undead body parts away from Buffy in order to avoid certain unmentionable happiness clauses. More than anyone else, she seemed to recognize his guilt over Jenny Calendar’s death and accepted it as being punishment enough.

Angel had noted at the time that she never even blamed him for the wicked things his soulless self had promised the night he tackled her in the cemetery. None of the things he had threatened her with would normally be so easily forgotten.

As the memory surfaced, Angel’s smile dropped away. Asking seriously this time, “Why are you here?” he knew there was more to it than Cordelia just popping in for a visit. While he felt certain there was nothing sexual going on between the Watcher and cheerleader, he suddenly needed to know what it was, feeling an irrational wave of possessiveness rise within him.

Trying to keep it light, Cordelia rolled her eyes toward the ceiling, “I told you, I’m…”

“The truth, dammit,” he growled with such foul force that Cordelia jerked in sudden response. “As if he could handle your saucy temptations.”

Wide-eyed, Cordelia let out an outraged gasp, “My what?”

“Never mind. Ignore me. I’m sorry, Cordy,” Angel pleaded understanding. The need to tell her what was going on suddenly became unavoidable. “This thing with Buffy has me so damn frustrated I can’t even think straight.”

Understanding suddenly dawned as Cordelia realized why a vampire who could no longer have sex might feel frustrated. Some of the demonology books she had read were actually rather informative. Sex Ed of the demon world. It was the one research topic Cordelia found interesting enough to actually study.

Vampires had a very strong sex drive. Unlike living humans, it was not directly tied to their reproductive methods. Through blood rites, they drained their victims and made them into not-so-little fledglings. Sex was an emotional outlet, an intimate form of showing domination or submission in ways that could be either tender or brutal. A way to fill the long days of eternity with pleasure instead of boredom.

As intriguing as that might be in theory, Cordelia couldn’t seem to get past the fact that the man of her dreams wasn’t a man at all, but a creature of the night. Though definitely a hottie, Angel was technically a walking corpse. That creeped her out just a little and the thought that Buffy had actually done it with the undead. Eew!

Still, there was something undeniably attractive about Angel that surpassed his male beauty. He left her curious to know more about him. Even about Angelus. There was just something magnetic that kept her coming back, eager for information.

“So…what thing with Buffy?” As if she didn’t already know, the wry thought popped into her head.

Angel pushed out of his chair and flexed his shoulders to ease the growing tension. “I’m not talking to you about it, Cordy. This isn’t a subject I should be sharing with a teenager.”

“You shared a lot more than that with her,” Cordelia drolly pointed out the other girl was even younger. “Just tell me what is bothering you. I’m sure it’s nothing I haven’t heard before. Those rumors about cheerleaders, some of them are true. If I haven’t done it, I’m sure someone has told me about it.”

So it was a big stretch of the truth, but if it got Angel talking that was a-okay with Cordelia. It wasn’t as if the vampire was going to spread rumors amongst the Scooby Gang or find out that she was a lot less experienced with sex than her reputation indicated.

For a minute, Angel simply gave Cordelia a defiant stare. “I’m looking for a way to make my soul permanent.”

“So you can sleep with Buffy,” she cut straight to the point without even batting an eyelash. Pretending there was some other reason for it wouldn’t change that rather annoying fact. Being supportive seemed the right way to go. “Any luck so far?”

“No,” the growl was back in his voice again, frustration showing as his eyes actually made a subtle change from near black to dark amber.

Subconsciously, Angel shifted his stance placing himself directly in front of her with his hip touching one bare knee. Cordelia automatically opened her knees a little wider not even noticing that she accommodated the vampire as he moved up to the edge of the table where she sat. “You should ask Giles for help.”

Letting out a gruff laugh, it seemed clear to Angel that Giles would sooner to send him back to hell than help him with this project. “Ask the Watcher to find a way to make my soul permanent. Do you honestly imagine Rupert Giles assisting in any research designed to allow his protégé to have sex with a vampire, especially me?”

Cordelia freely admitted, “Giles would sooner stake you.”

“We agree on that.”

Leaning back on her elbows, Cordelia put a little distance between herself and Angel who seemed to have edged into her personal space. “What if you don’t find a way?”

“Eternal frustration,” Angel almost moaned. He didn’t know how Cordelia managed to get him to talk about things like this, but she seemed to have a knack for wheedling information out of people.

“That’s why you’re so grumpy. You’re not thinking with your head,” she commented. “I know guys when they get like this. Instant stupidity. Can’t think beyond what’s in their pants.”

Angel glanced down noticing for the first time the position they managed to get into. He was standing between Cordelia’s legs with the flap of her cheerleader mini-skirt barely covering her red panties as she reclined before him. As his gaze traveled up past the generous mounds of her firm breasts, he caught the tiny flutter of her pulse which brought his other senses into play.

Her tantalizing scent toyed with his sense of better judgment. Breathing deeply, he savored the unique mix that made up Cordelia. Sweet breath, the coppery tint of her blood, the slight saltiness of her soft skin from her recent workout at cheerleading practice, traces of her delicate fruity shampoo and body wash were savored on his tongue and the back of his throat. One thing more proved that Cordelia was not as unmoved by this conversation as she pretended to be.

The slightly musky hint of feminine arousal caught his attention. For a moment, it was all Angel could do to keep his hands still. He imagined himself sliding his hands along those silken legs to pull the red cotton panties off. Then he could see her, then he could taste her on his tongue, then he could bury himself inside her slick heat.

Lifting his heavy gaze to Cordelia’s beautiful face, Angel realized that her mouth was moving. She was saying something to him and he hadn’t heard a word.

“…other things?”

“What?” Angel missed the point.

Cordelia rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “Come on, Angel! It wasn’t that shocking a suggestion.”

“No, I— uh, didn’t hear you.”

“Right. So much for vamp super-senses.” Cordelia pursed her lips, “Are we dealing with the instant stupidity factor?”

Shoving his hands in his pockets to hide the appearance of his burgeoning erection, Angel denied it, “Absolutely not.”

Cordelia looked doubtful. “What I asked was whether you had considered doing other things.”

“Other things?”

Fidgeting a bit, Cordelia felt her leg move along Angel’s thigh and suddenly realized the way they were positioned seemed overly intimate. She sat up immediately only to find that the move brought even closer. The vampire appeared to notice nothing and he did not voluntarily step back. Cordy shrugged it off as her imagination getting away with her, but answering that question when she was physically up close and personal seemed more than a little wrong.

“Um—you know.”

Since when had Cordelia not been able to say exactly what she was thinking? Angel took pity on her. “Yeah, I know. I’ve been around for a while, remember? It’s not an option. Buffy and I can’t do the things we did before I knew about the clause to this curse. There is no guarantee we would stop.”

“I get that,” Cordelia gripped the edge of the table.

“Cordy, Unless you’re planning to help me research this problem I think I’ll just take it from here.”

Help with research when the end of the world was not at stake? No way! “Not that I wouldn’t jump at the chance of finding a way to get rid of Angelus, but I suddenly have unexpected homework tonight.”

“Uh huh.” That was what he figured she would say.

“Do you mind?” Cordelia asked as she nibbled on her lower lip.

Angel actually thought it would get done a lot faster without her around to distract him. Her steady heartbeat sounded in his ears like a beacon calling him back to the pulse at her throat. So close. The scent of her intoxicating. He could feel her warmth from here just a few inches away.

His voice belied his thoughts as the demon within kept clamoring for fulfillment of its needs. “No, it’s fine.”

Flashing the vampire a grin, Cordelia thanked him for understanding. Planning to leave, she put her hands on his chest to move him out of her space, but Angel didn’t budge. “Move, dumbass! If I’m going to leave you to your research, you need to let me off the table.”

“There’s enough room,” Angel lazily surveyed the scant distance between them. “Go ahead.”

Grmph! Stubborn vamp. As Cordelia scooted forward, she squeezed herself into the space between the table and the vampire until she found her entire body pressed flush against his. Every hard inch of it.

“Angel— move!” She tried to wiggle through, but only felt his large erection pressing up against her. Cordelia froze in place, partially in shock at the sensation and partly in anger that he was taking his Buffy-induced sexual frustration out on her.

“I should,” Angel agreed that moving was probably a good idea, but he couldn’t seem to will his body into action when her lush form was pressed up against him. Then both hands came out of his pockets and brushed along her small waist up to the sides of her breasts where his thumbs encroached upon their curves. “Stay still, Cordy. Just for a minute.”

“You are officially out of your mind.” Cordelia’s anger escalated, also accompanied by a sliver of fear. The eyes staring back at her were those of a predator. Not at all like the ‘Care Bear with Fangs’ that she jokingly called him. No, he was gazing down with the same darkly sensual expression that Angelus wore the night he almost got lucky enough to kill her.

“You don’t need a permanent soul,” Cordelia futilely pushed against his upper arms. “What you need is a cold shower.”

Her words were almost as effective. Angel dropped his hands away from her body and stepped back to a distance that kept her out of arms reach. What the hell was he doing? This was Cordelia Chase, his friend, not the fantasy version that invaded his dreams at night or crept into his head first thing after awakening.

Angel hated the fact that there was only one outlet for this self-imposed celibacy and it included a few too many fantasies that involved this beautiful and willful brunette. He was in love with Buffy! That was why he was here at this damnable library doing research on his curse, hopeless cause though it might be. Not only had he come on to Cordelia, possibly endangering their budding friendship, he had frightened her.

Apologizing profusely, Angel begged her to forget his course, inexplicable behavior. To his surprise, Cordy relaxed almost immediately. He had a way of looking so guilty that it couldn’t be anything but legitimate. “Hello, I’m not a substitute for Little-Miss-Likes-to-Fight. We’ll just blame this on the obvious lack of blood flow to your already dead brain cells.”

“Good idea. Okay.” No arguments.

Picking up her pom-poms from the table, Cordelia wished him luck with his research. “You know, Angel? It’s too bad someone just can’t separate the good you from the bad you. Then you could just lock Angelus up and throw away the key.”

As Cordelia flounced out of the library her words repeated in Angel’s head. Separate the good from the evil? The simplistic notion provided him with the sudden clarity that he did not need to do any research at all. The answer to his problems was right there all along. Why the hell hadn’t he thought of this before?

No motivation, Angel reminded himself sardonically.

There was a very real solution to making his soul permanent. For the first time in decades, Angel realized he possessed the key to his own cure. Until now, he hadn’t been willing to pay the price it would require.

Chapter 2

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