Double or Nothing. 30a

Now Angel was actually doling out threats to go along with his already frightening behavior. There was something so not right going on in his vampire brain right now.

This was so far beyond what Angel would normally say and do that it was clear to her in this moment that something else was going on. Maybe feelings of love and possessiveness were in the mix, but Angel seemed to be driving on pure instinct.

As Cordelia met his heated stare, she realized that cooperation was her only way out of this. It scared her, the idea of giving in. Not only because of Angelus, but because Angel seemed to be feeding off of some dark force within him.

His demon was at the fore and if it didn’t have an outlet for this aggression, Cordelia knew it would come back to bite her…literally. She wouldn’t put it past him, considering what he’d done to Buffy the other night, only this time forgetting to stop.

Despite that fear, she’d be damned before letting Angel threaten her and get away unscathed. Any perceived weakness on her part would give him a distinct advantage and Cordelia knew that the scent of fear was as much an aphrodisiac as her arousal. The only real way to fight that was to stop quivering in fear and give back as good as she got.

“Threats won’t get you anywhere with me.”

“Was it just a threat? I’d like to think of it as encouragement,” leered Angel in a way that only made him look more appealing. Moving his hands to her breasts, he curled his fingers around them, letting them fill his palms. “Let’s start here, shall we?”

“Angel—”

“Shh!”

“Don’t shush me,” Cordelia snapped at him.

He merely smirked back at her while continuing to fondle her breasts.

Realizing that Angel had no intention of taking her back to her parents house or going anywhere without following through with whatever mad plan was going through his head, she glared furiously. “Get on with it and leave me the hell alone, Angel. If you’re going to do this, don’t fuck around. I don’t want your teasing touches.”

“We’ve already established that you like them,” Angel reminded her. He was tempted to rip her blouse away and bite into those lush globes. His mouth watered at the image in his head even as he fondled her breasts through the soft barrier of her blouse. “Let’s find out what else you like. Unless you have the nerve to tell me.”

Cordelia couldn’t prevent the little moan from escaping her throat at the challenge in his voice. All of the things he was suggesting just made her weak in the knees. She watched him through heavy-lidded eyes as his fingers deftly unbuttoned her silk blouse exposing the rounded beauty of her lace covered breasts. They ached, greedy for his touch, wanting his mouth there even though it was wrong.

Angry at herself for that response, Cordelia clutched his thick wrists as if to pull him away. “If I have to put up with that nasty, wicked tongue of yours just be prepared for the consequences.

A deep chuckle sounded from Angel as her words sparked an idea in his head. “Bet you’ll taste divine on my tongue.”

Staring at him, Cordelia found there was a momentary disconnect between her brain and her mouth as he went on to describe exactly what he’d do, asking Cordelia if she wanted it. The only thought in her head was that he sounded so much like Angelus at his most playful.

Those words coming from Angel’s mouth shocked her senseless. An unwanted shiver of excitement wracked her body as her loins flushed with heat. “Geez, you weren’t kidding about the nasty talk.”

“Excited, sweetheart?” He could sense it, but wanted to hear it from her own mouth.

Denying him that, Cordelia admitted to the one emotion she hoped would prevent this from going any further. “Scared.”

“Now I know you’re lying.”

“I don’t want to cheat on Angelus. Not with you. Not with anybody. I may be pissed at him right now, but that doesn’t change the fact that I love him. Angel, you’re not acting like yourself,” Cordelia told him honestly. “You’ve bitten Buffy, gotten a taste of blood in your mouth and now it’s like you can’t get enough. You’ve picked me as your next victim.”

Angel refuted that accusation with such controlled fury that Cordelia wondered how he managed to do it. The full extent of his emotions showed clearly in his eyes and the tightness of his jaw. Taking his hands off her as if afraid that he would break her in two for daring to suggest what she did, Angel pressed them into the brick wall behind her.

“It’s not cheating,” Angel added to his defense, his jaw clenched. How many times had he run through the scenario in his own head? “I rule the Order and those who belong to the Order also belong to me.”

“Me, me, me,” she mocked him despite her fears. “Is that all you can think of? You may not care about what Angelus thinks, but he’d never bow down to you. He’s your brother not your minion.”

“Angelus is many things, Cordelia, but he’s not really my brother.” Angel pointed out the use of that term had always been an indulgence for her. “His place in the Order is not my whim, but a reality that he does not want to face.”

“Your double, your twin, your brother,” Cordelia ranted. “Call him whatever you want because it doesn’t matter anymore now that you’re ruining everything.”

He was nuzzling at her neck again as if the scent of her was irresistible. “Nothing will be ruined, Cordy. Just accept it and I swear that you’ll be happy again. Angelus and I will give you anything. Just accept that you belong to me.”

“Never.” Sheesh! He’s like a broken record. “Claim anybody you want, just not me.”

“Especially you,” he countered quickly. Angel had her back in his arms again, holding her up against his aroused body and stirring her automatic response despite her fury at him. Angel stressed, “Only you. I’d never hurt you Cordelia, but I will have you.”

She stomped on his sore foot the same one she’d jabbed with the four-inch spiked heel. Angel let out a surprised yelp of pain followed by another as she scraped his neck with her nails. “I warned you about playing rough,” he pushed her back up against the wall and kissed her until her breath ran out and twinkling lights flashed behind her eyelids.

While Cordelia sucked in a deep breath of air, Angel told her, “Don’t play games you can’t handle. I know what you’re doing. Trying to make me mad to prove your point.”

Was that what she was doing? “Lunatic, I was trying to escape.”

“That isn’t going to happen.” Irritated by her refusal to acquiesce, Angel decided he’d been talking about it way too much.

Both hands moved up to her breasts, brushing against their silk-covered curves as he listened to the soft gasp caught in her throat. Without bothering to remove her bra, Angel curled the material beneath her breasts one cup at a time to lavish them with attention. Until Cordelia clapped her hands over her breasts shielding them from his hungry gaze.

His partially covered hands removed the obstacle to his interests with a simple flick of the wrists. Angel smirked as if to say that there was nothing she could do to deny him what he wanted. Returning his hands to their resting place, worshipping her feminine beauty for a few moments with his hot gaze, he descended upon them with an almost animalistic need to taste what he was touching. Squeezing softly, Angel laved and caressed them until they seemed to swell under his attention, until her nipples pebbled into mouth-watering targets begging for his mouth, tongue and teeth.

Unbidden, a moan left Cordelia’s throat. Angelus always said I was a noisy lover. Why couldn’t I be the quiet type for once in my life? Determined not to make any more noise, she clamped down on her lips holding them shut. It lasted ten seconds.

“Dammit, Angel, get off me.”

Ignoring her, the vampire continued to nibble and nip at her soft skin with his mouth as his hands wandered down her frame stimulating everything along their path. He was forcing a reaction that Cordelia did not want. She pulled at his hair, but any pain it caused only made him rumble against her flesh.

Damn, he knows how to use that tongue. “Do whatever you want, but you’re not getting any response from me.”

She wasn’t certain, but Cordy thought she heard a chuckle.

At first, Cordelia thought if she closed her eyes, she could think of Angelus and pretend that this was not happening with her mate’s brother. But she could tell, even with her eyes closed that he was different, that he was Angel. She could sense the difference in the way he touched her. There was no pretending and so Cordelia didn’t bother to keep her eyes closed. She opened them up and stared down at the vampire who was making her senses go wild knowing that soon he was going to do things to her that she could only have imagined when she first saw him walking into the Bronze.

Don’t think about it. Cordelia tried to picture herself doing something she hated in order to avoid focusing on her body’s arousal. Homework. That ranks up there. Dirty dishes. Laundry.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, Cordelia knew that she should be screaming like a banshee and fighting him tooth and nail to get away no matter the fact that it was a futile effort. Her distraction technique kept her moderately disassociated with what was going on until Angel rimmed her navel with his cool tongue while holding down the waistband of her skirt. A jolt of pleasure shot down to her groin causing Cordelia to instinctively thrust her hips forward. Her hands automatically latched onto his hair again.

Biting back the exclamation that was rattling around in her brain, Cordelia knew she was not going to be able to stop herself from giving in to the pleasure that he was so adept at creating. The vampire was teasing her and drawing this out just to make his own point, taking from it as much pleasure as he was giving.

Angry that she was enjoying his caresses, Cordelia gave him a dark stare, “Why don’t you just fuck me and get it over with?”

Angel lowered himself to his knees, shifting his hands along both firm thighs. He leered knowing how aroused she was getting. “Anxious? You’ll get fucked when I’m ready.”

Cordelia wanted to slap his face silly. She released his hair from her clutches, but kept her hands close, curling along his scalp and neck. Not so much holding him as instinctively preparing in case he tried to bite her again. He’d promised not to hurt her, but she felt certain that did not include making his mark. That didn’t necessarily mean it would be on her neck.

Angel pressed his cheek against the soft curve of her belly. Palming her thighs with both hands, his thumbs pressing down into the muscle and then moving slow circles. A husky tone sounded while asking curiously, “What color are your panties?”

“Blue,” she told him while forcing her thoughts back to laundry detail. A secret smile lifted the corners of her lips accompanied by a small grunt of satisfaction. Angel had no idea what was going on in her head. Couldn’t claim her thoughts, could he?

“Hmm. Silk?” Angel asked at the same time as he noted the smirk appear on Cordy’s face. “What’s on your mind, sweetheart? Thinking about me reaching up and ripping those panties away?”

Glancing down, Cordelia commented, “No. Actually, I was trying to decide if I could get the grass stains out of this skirt. What do you think— dry cleaning?”

“I’m not interested in the skirt,” Angel refused to be distracted by her attempt to throw him off his game. “I asked about your panties.”

Cordelia growled at him in frustration. If she didn’t tell him, Angel would certainly follow through with his idea. Defiantly, she described her panties hoping he would drop the subject, but also knowing that this was just a form of foreplay to the vampire. “Dammit, Angel, it’s a thong, a baby blue silk thong. Satisfied?”

“Far from it.” Glancing up to meet her intent gaze, he moved his hands around to the back of her thighs and slid them up until he was palming both bare cheeks sending a shudder through her body. Cordelia’s skin flushed from her cheekbones down to her chest at the touch of his large hands cupping her ass knowing he felt her response. Angel suggestively raised his eyebrows. “Maybe we should reconsider that spanking.”

Laughter welled at his naughty suggestion and Cordelia practically strangled herself in trying to hold it back. It was clear that he meant something that would result in more pleasure than pain, but the wicked expression and the mischief in his eyes was so rare from Angel that she couldn’t help but respond to it.

“That’s not funny,” Cordy protested despite her other contrary emotions telling her that laughter was so out of place. She couldn’t even claim hysteria to defend herself. So much for not showing any emotion during Angel’s exploration. Gasping, panting, sighing and laughing were not the reactions she wanted to express to him for doing this against her will.

Angel yanked up her skirt to ring her waist and buried his face in the warm crevasse at the apex of her thighs. “I can taste you already. Just the scent of you on the back of my tongue.”

Opening his mouth, he bit down with his rounded teeth on her silk-covered mound eliciting a moan from Cordelia who watched his every move with growing hunger flashing from her eyes. He was teasing her still, letting his thick fingers slide over the damp silk at her crotch.

Her hazel eyes sparkled with passion and anger. “Don’t make me hate you, Angel.”

Angel lifted his gaze back to her, his eyes just as dark and lustful as her own. She could fall into that deep, dark gaze and never get out again. Cordelia clutched at his shoulders as he played with her, moving those fingers beneath the elastic edge and dipping into the hot moisture clinging to her tender flesh. Watching her tremble at his touch, he elated in the equal parts of arousal and rage flooding her features.

Dark determination shadowed his gaze. “You don’t have to love me to be mine.”

Sucking his fingers into his mouth, Angel gloried in her taste, deciding that he wasn’t going to wait a minute more before taking what he wanted from her. Ripping the thong from her body in one rapid motion, he heard Cordelia’s gasp as the elastic snapped against her skin a little too sharply. Angel growled in anticipation, tossing the panties to the ground and then lifting one of her legs over his shoulder.

Cordelia watched for as long as she could keep her eyes open. The sight of his dark head buried between her thighs as his mouth and tongue moved over her was too erotic to be missed despite her fury. Except that she couldn’t seem to focus on the necessary commands to tell her body what she wanted it to do. Her head lolled back against the brick again and Cordelia closed her eyes, focusing only on her pleasure and letting the sounds of Harmony’s stereo wash around her.

His cool lips brushed against her labia, kissing her petaled junction and gently pulling them apart to stroke along her inner lips. Teasing her flesh, Angel expertly tongued her sensitive folds, moving up and down her entrance before dipping his tongue in rhythmic fashion into her heated core. Then his fingers replaced his tongue as two of them entered her with long sure strokes allowing his mouth to move back to the spot she was now begging him to taste.

Angel’s tongue continued to tease her for a few moments denying her the direct contact. Instead, he lapped around her tight bundle of nerves pushing against the outside of its little hood moving in an upside down U. Up and over and down in a pattern that drove her wild repeated several times with the continued stroke of his fingers.

Cordelia’s hips lurched upward as his fingers circled slowly inside her core finding her g-spot, lightly pressing down until she screamed out his name. Only then did he flatten his tongue against her clitoris, rolling it in circles with the same pace as his fingers circled against that slightly raised spot inside. Flexing her leg to pull him closer, Cordelia came apart at the seams, her juices flowing onto his lapping tongue.

Angel didn’t stop there, voracious and unstoppable in his need to take in every drop of her essence. Writhing against his mouth, Cordelia continued to whimper his name in pleasure as he eked out yet another mini orgasm building onto the last. Her hands continued to clutch him closer as her body focused entirely upon itself.

Slowly, her senses returned along with a strong feeling of betrayal. Even if it wasn’t her choice, how could she respond that way? Then Cordelia felt the bones of his face shifting against her skin. Angel’s fingers kept up a slow steady rhythm even though his tongue left her clit. His mouth trailed kisses across the silken flesh of her inner thigh. He lapped at her femoral pulse, scented the blood beneath the surface as his fangs traced atop her skin.

Sensing what the vampire was planning, Cordelia grabbed his ears and tugged hard. “No biting, dammit.”

He actually growled in protest, his dark ochre eyes staring up at her. “For now.”

A reprieve, Cordelia realized that he did not intend to allow it to remain a long one. Settling her leg back on the ground, Angel smoothly rose to his feet and morphed back into his human features. Lifting one finger to her lips, Angel directed, “Taste yourself.”

Glaring at him angrily, Cordelia took his wrist in both hands and sucked his index finger into her mouth tasting the tangy substance that was her own unique flavor. She let her teeth rasp along his thick finger, wiggling her tongue around his digit and sucked it deep and hard watching the dark fire in his eyes.

Seeing him relax for an instant, she chomped down hard. “Owww!”

While Angel jerked his finger back completely surprised by her action, Cordelia took the opportunity to dash toward the front porch. It was the first time that he hadn’t been holding her in some way or blocking her in. If she could get inside the house, he couldn’t follow her. The vampire’s surprise gave her a few seconds head start, but it wasn’t enough.

He caught her by the wrist hauling her up against him, fury darkening his features, but to Cordelia’s surprise his they remained human. The amber lights faded from his eyes leaving them mysteriously intent. “A-Angel?”

Threading his fingers through her hair, smoothing the riot of long waves, Angel held back the urge to toss her to the ground. “Don’t run, sweetheart.”

Cordelia tried to pull away from his touch, but Angel caught her jaw, lifting her face up for a heated kiss. Then he stopped, easing away from her lips.

“Don’t call me that…sweetheart…I don’t want to hear it anymore,” Cordelia told him as she pushed at his chest.

To her surprise, Angel released her leaving her standing in front of him as he spoke the other words she didn’t want to hear. “I love you.”

“Hah! You almost raped me.” Cordelia jabbed a finger at his chest. “That’s not love.”

The word angered him, but Angel couldn’t deny that was exactly where he’d been headed despite the fact that Cordelia responded to his touch. It was for just that reason he stopped. He’d forced her to react, made her come despite professing not to want him.

He could tell her that his vampire senses revealed more of her true feelings than she would ever admit to. There was no doubt in his mind that Cordelia wanted him and Angel felt certain that judgment was not clouded. He’d known that fact even before Angelus came into his own existence. Now, despite the fact that Cordelia was his brother’s mate, she continued to want him.

“Hate me now, sweetheart?” Angel asked ignoring the fact that she didn’t want him to call her that anymore.

Cordelia stared at him. Breathing hard, she spouted the word, “YES!”

“Good.”

“Good? What’s so good about it, Angel?” Confusion set in as Cordelia wavered on her feet.

“Because your hatred is far better than nothing.”

Cordelia felt tears gathering and stinging at her eyes. “It wasn’t nothing, you stupid vampire. My friendship isn’t nothing. My feelings aren’t nothing.

“It’s not enough, Cordy,” he told her. “I want more. Love me or hate me, but I will claim you. Take tonight. Take tomorrow night if you must. Settle whatever it takes with your parents, but come home.”

“How generous of you to give me time to think about how you plan to BITE ME!”

She was shouting at him, but Angel held on to his temper. Cordelia hadn’t really ever seen his temper before and he was certain that she didn’t want to. With a clarity of purpose, Angel coolly voiced his agreement. “You’re right. We should just do it now,” he told her while vamping out.

With a surprisingly silent move, Xander appeared out of the darkness swinging a baseball bat at Angel’s head.

“I don’t think so, Dead Boy.”

It connected with a hard thunk and despite the teen using his full strength only managed to stagger the vampire.

Willow yelped as Angel vamped out in a furious response. She urged Xander to try it again before the vampire could recover his full senses. “Hit him harder, Xander.”

The bat swung hard connecting again with Angel’s skull toppling him to the ground. A cry of outrage sounded as Cordelia turned her fury on her two friends. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Rescuing you?” Willow didn’t sound so certain, but she was too busy staring at the brunette’s tantalizing exposed curves to provide a more coherent answer.

Xander’s attention remained fully focused on the now semi-conscious vampire. “I’m gonna take care this bastard once and for all.”

Lowering the baseball bat, he tossed it aside pulling a stake from his back pocket. Seeing his determination, Cordelia threw herself across Angel’s supine body and turned her angry gaze back on her ex-boyfriend. “Get away from him!”

“Cor, he was attacking you. Forcing you to…to—,” Xander couldn’t even say it. Looking at the state of her clothing, it was all too clear.

“Just put down the stake,” Cordelia ordered as she continued to protect Angel by covering his body with her own. “I don’t want him dead.”

“He’s already dead,” Xander reminded. “Vampire, remember? Except you should know that considering you seem to be into necrophilia.”

“Eww! Gross much?”

“I speak the truth,” Xander shrugged trying not to focus on the fact that her lush breasts were propped over Angel’s face and pert bottom peeking out from beneath her scrunched up skirt. “Stop protecting him Cordelia. You saw Buffy’s throat last night. He’s a killer again, soul or no soul. If not for being the Slayer, Buffy would have died from that bite.”

“Angel hasn’t bitten me,” Cordelia snapped at him. At this point, she wasn’t about to admit that he planned to.

Xander moved to pull her off of the vampire. Having overheard her arguing with the vampire, he knew the intent had been there. “He just threatened to do it. I’m not gonna give him another chance. I’m staking the bastard.”

“No!” Cordelia gripped hard onto Angel’s chest denying Xander the opportunity to get close enough to stake him. Despite the fact that she had just proclaimed her hatred to Angel, she found herself saying, “H-He loves me, Xander. I don’t want him hurt. Staking him will kill Angelus too.”

Thinking back to a quip he’d made the first day the two vampires strolled into the library together, Xander’s mouth curled into a dark smile. “Two vamps, one stake. I like that. Now get off him.”

“Move, Cordelia,” Angel’s voice sounded below her with that deep predatory tone she knew to be dangerous. He was fully conscious again and obviously pissed at being attacked. His hands were moving up the outline of her body preparing to put her aside in order to protect them both from the boy’s ire.

“Don’t,” she begged him. “Please. It’s just Xander and Willow.”

“The Slayer’s minions,” Angel commented snidely as he lifted Cordelia along with him into a standing position.

Willow grumbled. “Am not! Why does everyone think I’m minion material?”

No one bothered to answer. Xander was too intent upon following through with his plan despite the fact that the master vampire was now fully recovered. He held out his free hand toward Cordelia encouraging her leave Angel’s side. “Cor, why don’t you come over here?”

“Don’t try it, Harris,” warned Angel as he pulled Cordelia behind him. “If there is one thing that will piss off a vampire more than trying to stake him, it is touching what belongs to him. Lay one finger on Cordy and I’ll kill you.”

Xander kept his stake at the ready, but dropped his other hand realizing Angel was in no way kidding about killing him. “You’ve lost it, Dead Boy. I don’t pretend to know what’s going on in your warped brain, but it’s not something Cordelia should be messed up in. Certainly not with you.”

“Mind your own fucking business, boy,” Angel glared menacingly. “You’re walking a fine line between punishment and torture right now. Don’t push it.”

“P-Punishment?” It was Willow who asked the question. Agape, she glanced from the vampire over to Cordelia who hadn’t bothered to stay behind the vampire, though she did take the opportunity to fix her bra and straighten her skirt.

“Don’t think I won’t include you, Willow,” his dark promise made her shiver in her shoes. “Why do I get the idea that you had something to do with planning this interruption? Xander couldn’t rub two brain cells together if he had them.”

Eep! Willow let out a tiny sound as her mind wandered off to a place where it wasn’t quite so scary. Unfortunately, the vampire expected an answer. As he growled out her name, Willow responded with a lurch. “I-I knew Cordelia was going to be here.”

“So you decided to hop over to Harmony’s for a visit?” Cordelia snorted. “Pfft! How did you know Angel was going to be here when I didn’t?”

Angel queried curiously, “Was it magick or intuition that brought you here?”

“Angelus told me you never came home last night,” Willow revealed. “I-I got the impression from Cordelia that things happened between you to set off the fight.”

“They did,” he confirmed with a smirk. Then countered his admission with a deep sigh, “Almost. The only thing you need to know is that Cordelia is mine. I have no plans to kill her, so you can take your nosy busy-body asses back to Angelus and tell him I don’t appreciate having his little friends follow me.”

“Oh, it wasn’t Angelus,” Willow quickly explained, not wanting the other vampire to get into any trouble. Before thinking about the further consequences, she revealed, “It was Giles.”

“The Watcher,” Angel stared off into the distance as if he was picturing in his head all of the things he would do to Rupert Giles for causing interference with his plans for the night.

“W-We were supposed to keep an eye on you,” Willow further detailed. “Only we did not expect you to roam around town during the day. You got a head start on us.”

Angel laughed at her. “Don’t let me catch you at it again, witch. I’ll let you go this time.”

“What about Xander?”

There was a pause as if the vampire was weighing his options. Cordelia whacked him on the arm. “He’s leaving with Willow and so am I.”

“Escape while you can, sweetheart. We can play this game a little longer,” Angel told her with a soft expression filled with promise, lust and determination.

“It’s not a game, Angel,” Cordelia answered back letting herself be drawn closer to his body as he curled a hand around her waist. Glancing over her shoulder at Willow, Cordelia instructed her to pick up her purse and take out her keys. “Go wait by my car. I’ll be there in a minute.”

She needed to get Willow and Xander away from Angel before the vampire decided changed his mind about letting them go. Despite the fact that he could make her want him and apparently had enough power over her to make her forget he was threatening her while doing it, Cordelia realized they were all still at risk.

“A-Are you sure you want us to leave?”

Cordelia gave her a hard stare. “Yes, Willow. Geez! Buzz off for a second, will ya?”
Willow wasn’t certain that it was a smart idea, but she grabbed Xander’s shirtsleeve and forced him to follow her. “C’mon, Xander.”

As soon as they were gone, Angel asked her, “What makes you think I won’t just carry you off?”

“Because I asked you not too?” Cordelia wasn’t clear on the theory herself. “Angel, this can’t happen. Not now. It’s not a game and I’m not the door prize. Don’t you see that?”

Touching her tenderly now, Angel reigned in any lasting urge to rip their clothes off, wrap her legs around his waist and take her up against the wall. Brushing the back of his fingers against her cheek, he turned them over palming her face and slanting his mouth over hers for a slow, passionate kiss. A moan left Cordelia’s throat at the feelings it stirred within her.

In the back of her mind, she admitted those feelings were nothing akin to hatred.
As her arms wrapped around his neck to pull him close and that soft moan turned into a needy cry, Angel pulled her away from him. Stepping back, he left her devoid of his touch and the welcome hardness of his body. Left her wanting and frightened of her reaction more so than she had been to the threat of his fangs.

“This is more of a game than you know, Cordelia. I’m playing to win,” Angel told her somewhat cryptically. “Maybe this wasn’t the time for us, sweetheart, but soon it will be. I promise you. Next time, there won’t be interruptions.”

As she watched the vampire disappear into the shadows, Cordelia still felt the soft pressure of his lips upon hers, his tender kisses more lasting than any other. Lifting her hand there, she marveled at the reaction he could eke out of her while still terrifying her to the core. Thank God that Angel had been willing to leave it at that.

With shaking fingers, Cordelia buttoned her blouse as she walked toward the front of the house where her Corvette was parked on Harmony’s front driveway. Climbing into the driver’s seat, she noted that Xander and Willow were already in place. As Willow handed her the keys, Cordelia turned on the ignition and sped away from the curb.

“What were you playing at back there, Cordy?” Xander demanded an explanation.

“It wasn’t a game, dorkhead,” she glanced daggers at him via the rearview mirror. She was getting really tired of that word. “Look, I appreciate the rescue. Really. No kidding. But if you ever come at either Angel or Angelus with a stake again, you’ll find it lodged up your ass. Got it?”

Xander gulped hard at that visual. She wasn’t kidding. “Got it.”

“Cor, we were worried about you,” Willow explained.

Gripping the steering wheel a little tighter, Cordelia asked, “Have you been following me? Do I have Stalk Me. written on my forehead?”

“Umm. No. I told Angel the truth. We were actually supposed to trail him,” she answered sheepishly. “Considering what you told me today, I guessed he would be following you.”

“You’ve been spying on Angel?” Cordelia glanced at Willow who sat in the passenger seat as if she might want to fling herself from the car if any more questions were asked of her. “At Giles’ insistence?”

“Yep.” Xander was quick to admit it. “Actually, we just started today. This was our first stake-out except that Dead Boy got an early start. We planned to follow him from the mansion, but he’d been out all day— stalking you.”

Willow finally noticed the direction Cordelia was driving. “We’re not going to Giles?”

Glancing at the redhead, it seemed that Willow was certain Cordelia would head right on over to the Watcher’s house. “I have enough problems without letting Giles add to them. He’ll be all about what I had to do with Buffy and Angel breaking up. Next thing you know, it’ll be my fault that he bit her.”

“You did have something to do with the breakup,” Xander pointed out. “Fang Boy thinks he’s in love with you, remember? For all we know, it’s vampire tradition to drain your current girlfriend before stealing your brother’s.”

Slamming on the brakes, Cordelia left dark tire treads along the road. “Get out! Both of you. Get out and walk back to whatever rock you crawled out from under.”

While Willow unbuckled her seatbelt, she asked Cordy, “You gonna tell Angelus what happened tonight?”

Cordelia had already made that decision. Despite Angel’s behavior, it had nothing to do with her mate’s own abominable response to what happened last night. Angelus didn’t trust her. She wasn’t going back to the mansion any time soon and now she’d make sure that neither one of them could follow her.

Xander’s last comments were the final straw. “I’m saying nothing to Angelus. You see, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to leave Sunnydale for a while. My parents are going out of the country soon and I’m leaving with them.”

“Is that a good idea?” Willow asked while biting down on her tongue to stop herself from saying too much. Managing to curtail spouting information that wasn’t any of her business to tell, she did have to ask, “What about graduation? What about Angelus? That’ll leave him alone in the mansion with Angel and I don’t think they’re gonna take it very well if you go away.”

“Tough.”

Hedging, Willow was torn between running to tell Giles about Angel’s aggressive moves on Cordelia and going to warn Angelus about his mate’s plans. “Leaving isn’t going to make it any better. There is something going on and if it gets any worse, the vamps are gonna take the brunt of it out on each other.”

It was nearly impossible to harden her heart against them. They brought this on, not her. If Angelus had listened to her, they could have talked to Angel together. As a couple. As a family. Noooo. He had to run off and use his brother as a punching bag.

“I don’t want to start a war between Angel and Angelus,” admitted Cordelia, “but I’m not putting myself in the middle of their squabbles.”

In Willow’s opinion, this had already gone beyond the squabbling stage. Cordelia was already firmly ensconced in the middle of it. Like Helen of Troy, Cordelia was caught between two men who loved her. Two vampires, anyway. Except that Cor was not about to choose sides, she was escaping to leave the battle behind her.

“You couldn’t be more in the middle than you already are,” Xander grumbled on his way out of the car following behind Willow.

“That war you mentioned,” Willow told Cordelia with her hand on the car door. “It’s already started. When you change your mind about running away, call me.”

Cordelia barely waited for Willow to slam the car door. She pressed her foot down on the gas pedal and sped toward home. Her parents’ house. It seemed strange to call it that again. But then, she wouldn’t have to call it that much longer.

Watch out Europe, you’re about to get a taste of Queen C.

Chapter 31

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