Chapter 33: Master of the Order
Things were quiet up there, Angel decided as he glanced toward the third floor while pausing at the steps. Unusually quiet considering the level of noise last night.
He’d come home from Rupert Giles’ house to find clothes strewn across the foyer. A sure sign that Angelus and Cordelia were making up their differences.
They probably fucked themselves unconscious. Angel let out a gruff sound and jogged down the stairs heading for the basement training room.
Last night he had to fight back the urge to tear up the stairs, kick down the bedroom door and take what he wanted, Angel managed to stay calm. He was quite proud of the fact that he didn’t do something stupid like rip off Angelus’ head. That would only issue his personal death warrant. There were other ways to get what he wanted. It was just going to take some planning and a little patience.
By the time Angel finished his workout, his brother and Cordelia finally emerged from their chambers. Angelus gave him a hard stare, saying nothing. Cordelia still looked a little wary, but actually greeted him, even if the words were a little stilted.
“Good morning, Angel.”
“It’s afternoon, sweetheart,” he pointed out. Angels’ mouth twisted in wry humor as he raised a dark eyebrow. “Your little morning romp has confused your timetable.”
A flash of heat flooded her skin as Cordelia realized just how he knew said romping had occurred. Then she realized that there was nothing here to be ashamed of when it was her own mate that kept her in bed. Or rather she’d kept him in bed. Giving him a cat-that-ate-the-cream smile, Cordelia agreed, “You’re right. Guess it did.”
Angelus gritted his teeth, but told his brother, “We’re making omelets. Want one?”
“Sure,” Angel nodded. “I’ll have a quick shower and be down in a few minutes.”
Looking at the two vampires, Cordelia was not blind to the tension between them. It was all Angelus could do to restrain himself from knocking Angel on his ass. Angel on the other hand appeared almost cocky eating up the tense atmosphere like it was candy.
The first omelet was in the pan when Angel returned to the kitchen. He noticed that the laughter in Cordelia’s eyes snuffed out as her gaze settled on him. That pissed him off, but he figured it was better than pity. She was back to looking almost angry, but Angel wasn’t certain that the emotion was directed at him.
“I see you picked up your own clothes for once,” he commented while leaning up against the kitchen island. Angel sure as hell wasn’t going to do it again. “Getting to be a habit, you two.”
“Hope you didn’t trip and break anything like your head,” Cordelia narrowed her gaze just enough to suggest that she might have found that funny.
Angel held up his hands in mock surrender. “I’m here in peace, Cordy. You heard old Rup last night. This is all just some uncontrollable side effect of the Moirae’s spell. I may want you, sweetheart, but it was wrong to act on those feelings.”
“Do you expect the innocent act to work on me?” Angelus barked at his brother from the other side of the counter where he stood near the stove. “I perfected that tone.”
“Maybe you did, but I mean it, bro,” assured Angel, “and I can prove it.”
Cordelia and Angelus exchanged a suspicious glance at each other neither one truly believing what they were hearing from the vampire. Crossing her arms, Cordelia met Angel’s potent gaze and dared him. “Go ahead. Prove it.”
Before Angel could speak again, the eggs started to sizzle causing Angelus to turn back to attend to the omelet before it burned. Setting it aside, he faced his brother demanding a truthful response uncertain as to whether Angel was even capable of giving him one. “Let’s have it, then.”
Reaching into his pants pocket, Angel pulled out a ring and held it out to Angelus. “This is yours. The Watcher tells me that the Order of Aurelius is yours to lead. So I am giving you the Master’s ring.”
“You never wore it,” Angelus pointed out.
With a shrug, Angel commented, “My choice. Never wanted to show it off. Figured you might.”
“As a reminder to you?” Angelus placed the ring on his finger. He couldn’t help but acknowledge his own surprise that his brother was coming forward with this. “You could have kept this to yourself.”
“Giles would’ve told you,” Cordelia suggested.
“Not if I threatened him,” Angel pointed out.
Gasping, Cordelia asked, “Did you?”
Rolling his eyes at the questions, Angel denied it wholeheartedly. “Threaten Rup? Of course not.”
Angelus figured that Angel had to be serious about his offer of peace. “You realize what you’re giving up by handing over this ring.”
Cordelia felt Angel’s gaze settle on her again, glancing back at him to confirm it. “It means you have no right to touch me.”
“Not against your will,” Angel nodded while adding the clarification.
Blinking in consternation, Cordelia couldn’t understand why he would make such a radical change regarding his determination to have her. The unsettled feeling in her stomach came as an unwelcome realization that it only took seconds to remember the way she had kissed him.
Angelus knew the fine print all too well. He knew the vampire traditions and the rules that Angel probably thought he could bend to get away with what he was plotting. This gesture was anything but spontaneous, but it was one that Angelus could not refuse.
“Just don’t expect me to bow down to you,” Angel pointed out.
“I can do with out the kowtowing routine,” nodded Angelus in agreement, “as long as you remember to keep your hands off my mate.”
“Sure, if that’s what she wants.”
Snapping at him, Cordelia let Angel have it. “Of course it’s what I want. Angelus is my mate. You are his brother. I know you have feelings for me and I do love you, but not in any way that would ever change what I feel for Angelus.”
The poker face was firmly in place as Angel replied, “This isn’t easy for me, Cordy. You have no idea what I feel, wanting you, loving you, being the one who can’t have you, can’t touch you.”
Tears filled her eyes as Cordelia saw the love shining through the otherwise passive features. No matter that the effects of the Moirae deal had his demon instincts going wild Cordelia realized that his feelings for her were genuine. No matter what she wanted, their relationship was never going to fit back into that safe, easy friendship they had developed.
Angelus fumed at his brother’s declaration. “Get used to it, Angel. It was worse for me when I was trapped inside that head of yours and you were too stupid to do what I wanted.”
Cordelia wasn’t quite sure about what her mate meant by that, but she didn’t want the tension to keep building. If the vampires started fighting again, who knew if they would stop this time.
“Angel, you may have given your brother reign over the Order, but you have a long way to go to prove you mean what you say,” Cordelia told him. “Fortunately, I have something you can do to start making amends for being such a dumbass.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“You can clean up the living room you helped trash,” she gave him a determined look while tagging on, “after breakfast of course.”
“You’re not going to make this easy, are you?” Angel was now leaning directly across the island from her watching the fire in her eyes as she all but dared him to refuse.
The barest smile of satisfaction curled Cordelia’s lips. “Is that what you think? Maybe I’ll make you do it before breakfast.”
Angel knew she was going to fight him every step of the way and that was exactly where he wanted her. For now. “In your own delectable words, sweetheart— bite me.”