Having not been impressed by the Fates in the first place with anger overlaying her feelings toward them, Cordelia was not about to concede that anything they told her was the truth. Especially after leading her to believe that either Angelus or the real Angel would still be here this morning.
Glaring up at the vampire, Cordelia mocked the idea, “Be a good little vamp, don’t bite humans and always floss between meals.”
“You’re staying,” Angel ignored her sardonic effort and got back to the original topic.
Cordelia half expected the typical Angel retort of ‘Are Too’, but he wasn’t about to be drawn into that little game. He reached down to wind the belt of her robe in his hand and asked, “Which will it be, Cordy? Silk, leather or metal? I’ll leave you the choice.”
“You are so not tying me up,” Cordelia gasped. “Giles! Did you hear that?”
Giles was currently stifling a yawn as he leaned against the countertop. “At least you have a choice.”
“You’re taking his side,” she complained. “What kind of a Watcher are you anyway?”
“One who’s looking out for the good of us all,” Giles replied. “Cordy, the Moirae did tell you that your destiny is with Angel. No matter that you influence him toward the good or evil side of his nature. Do you believe he’ll let you leave anymore easily than the last time? He’s a vampire, Cordelia and you willingly made yourself a part of the Order of Aurelius. No matter that he has memories of this place, it’s still new to him. Angel may need your help.”
“Playing the guilt card?” Cordelia was torn by everything Giles had told her today. He claimed that this new vampire was both Angelus and Angel. Also that New Guy Vamp was indeed someone unique and different. The person Angelus/Angel should have been instead of being divided off into completely separate personalities.
While Cordelia found it hard to think that the vampire in front of her was the one who was meant to be all along, she couldn’t forget the parts making him whole.
He might not be Angelus or Angel, but they were part of him. Not separately existing, but part of him nonetheless. That reality hit hard, making Cordelia realize that she could not abandon him entirely.
“I’ll stay,” she conceded and scrutinized Angel for any sudden sign of triumph that might make her change her mind again. Not a muscle twitched. Then Cordelia added one stipulation, “On the condition that you find another bedroom.”
“The location doesn’t matter, Cordelia,” he responded with resolve. “You’ll be there at my side.”
Cordelia cursed the way her body responded to that husky promise. Damn him for sounding so hot and looking identical to her vampires. The automatic response was not a welcome one considering the circumstances.
“Cordelia is no doubt grieving the loss of her mate, Angel,” Giles pointed out. “Give her some time and distance to mourn her loss.”
“She hasn’t lost anything. She has me,” Angel countered now sounding irritated that the Watcher dared to open his mouth when it came to sleeping with or making love to Cordelia. Not that he’d specifically mentioned sex, but the vampire read between the lines with practiced ease.
Still, Rupert had a point and if making a temporary concession would get him what he wanted, Angel figured he could wait a while. A short while perhaps, but it was longer than he wanted.
Releasing the belt of Cordelia’s robe, he lifted his hand to the nape of her neck and smoothing his thumb across the edge of her jaw. “Agree to remain in the mansion and stay in my bed. In return, I promise not to force the sex issue until you’re ready.”
“And if I’m never ready?”
“That’s something we’ll deal with if it happens,” Angel forced the confident smirk from appearing on his face knowing it would not be taken well. “Time is something I have plenty of, Cordelia.”
Stay here and sleep with him, but there would be no sex? How gullible did he think she was? Cordelia figured he was not giving her much of a choice. She could leave, but he would no doubt follow her, drag her back to the mansion and proceed to tie her to his bed anyway. Maybe the real question was— did she want to leave him when he was the only thing she had left of Angelus?
Just as Cordelia was about to agree to his terms, the phone started ringing. “Oh, God, it’s them.”
Giles reminded her, “I was supposed to call everyone.”
No one seemed to be moving to answer it, so Angel headed that way. Seeing that he intended to pick up the phone, Cordelia rushed past him and blocked his path. “No, not you. It will only hurt and confuse people.”
“Are you planning to let it ring? The answering machine is off,” he remembered. The look on Cordelia’s face suggested that was precisely what she was thinking.
With a sigh, Giles told them, “I’ll take the call. Any bets as to who it is?”
“Buffy,” both Cordelia and Angel sounded out simultaneous groans.
The phone rang incessantly. Giles had his hand on it. “I’m going with Willow.”
Picking up the handset, Giles held it to his ear. “Hello? Yes. Yes, it’s me. No I didn’t call. Because circumstances prevented me from doing so. No. No. That can wait. Just as you would expect. There is no need to cause hysteria. We’ll discuss it tonight. Yes. Very well. Goodbye, Xander.”
“Xander,” gasped Cordelia. It hadn’t been Buffy at all. Not even Willow, which she might have expected. “What was Xander doing calling here?”
Giles told her, “As I figured, not calling the group has stirred up some worries. They all attempted to call me at home. When I did not answer, they presumed something had happened and that I was here.”
“Are they all in cahoots or should I expect Buffy, Willow and Oz to make their own calls?” Cordelia asked him feeling invaded and hurt by the interruption rather than reassured. “What are they doing? Trying to settle a bet on which vampire survived the night? Guess nobody wins.”
Angel felt like showing her that she hadn’t lost everything, but was too busy growling over Giles’ next statement.
“As your former boyfriend, Xander was actually thinking about you.” Giles pointed out to Cordelia drawing a frown of displeasure from the vampire. “It’s not as if they aren’t going to know when I get a chance to tell them.”
“I know,” Cordelia sighed sadly. When Angel reached out, she jerked away from his touch turning away from him. She felt his eyes boring into her back, but refused to let the sensation affect her.
Adjusting his glasses, Giles looked over to Angel providing a little more information. “I’d like everyone to gather at the library tonight. Usual time. That will give you two some time to adjust to each other a bit. I’ll try to keep the others out of your hair until then.”
“You’re leaving?” Cordelia gulped nervously. That would leave her alone with him.
“I think we’ve already established that Angel is not an immediate danger to you, Cordelia,” he commented. Then the Watcher gave the vampire a pointed stare. “Isn’t that right?”
Inwardly, Angel smirked at the sight of Rupert Giles defending Cordelia from his lustful intentions, the mere thought of which made the Watcher extremely uncomfortable. “You can leave anytime, Rupert. I’d never hurt Cordelia, but there are some things we will have to work out on our own.”
Giles asked Cordelia if she was okay with him leaving. She nodded, realizing that it was unrealistic to expect the Watcher to hang around the mansion in his pajamas. Still reeling from the reality that hit when she first opened her eyes this morning and the explanation that followed,
Cordelia knew that only time would distance her from the raw feelings that swirled within her seeking some form of escape.
After Giles’ departure, Cordelia and Angel were again in the foyer staring at each other with an uncomfortable silence between them.
Finally, Cordelia dragged her eyes away from his to look at their surroundings. “Geez! What a mess. Maybe I should clean up while you go upstairs.”
“You— cleaning?” A short laugh sounded from the vampire who quickly cleared his throat and shoved his hands in his pants pockets when Cordelia glared at him.
“Because it’s time for bed,” he answered simply. “The sun is shining and I’ve been up all night.”
Cordelia’s eyes widened a little. “Your bedtime. Not mine. I slept all night.”
“Just come upstairs, baby,” Angel tried to make it sound like he was giving her an option. “You can do whatever you want once I’m asleep, but I want you with me until then. We’ll spend some time alone this afternoon and go to tonight’s Scooby Meeting together.”
Get on with it, Cor, she lectured herself. You agreed to this.
Once upstairs, Cordelia hovered around the safe zone of her vanity brushing her hair with an industriousness that went far beyond her usual routine. Her eyes were glued to the mirror, but Cordelia barely noticed the slightly pale reflection staring back at her. She was too focused on the vampire currently undressing behind her. The rustle of clothing sounded while she tried to gauge if it was safe to turn around.
Hypersensitive in her nervous state, her hearing detected the soft thunk of his shoes, the swish of his socks, the pull of his shirt from the waist of his black pants. Cordelia could swear she heard his fingers working on the buttons of that royal blue shirt, opening a wider vee revealing the hard expanse of his chest beneath with each open button. The shirt came off.
Next came the metal clink of his black leather belt followed by a swift sound as Angel removed it from its loops. Cordelia could easily picture how he looked standing there in just his pants with that bare torso completely exposed and his toes digging into the carpet just for the pleasure it gave him. It didn’t take her eyes to know it. She already knew every inch of that body.
It was bad enough that Angelus and his brother were identical physically. That had been enough of a challenge. One Cordelia had failed in resisting. Now this new Angel was also the same in form and face making it all too easy to picture him completely. Then the obvious unzipping sound that seemed to cause an electric ripple to travel down her spine heralded the removal of his pants.
Cordelia’s hand shook slightly as she returned the brush to the vanity top. Letting out a shaky breath, she decided to ask for a reprieve, “Would you leave the boxers on?”
A pause behind her suggested contemplation of her request. When the answer came, Cordelia realized she should have suspected the truth all along. “One problem, babe. I’m not wearing any.”
Gripping the edge of the table, Cordelia contemplated what to do next. Should she beg him to wear pajamas to bed? She doubted there were any. Tell him to put on some boxers? Should she refuse to leave her seat until he was under the covers and then stay on top of them herself?
Ridiculous! Who am I? Whiny the Wonder Wimp? It’s not like he has anything you haven’t seen before. Cordelia met her own gaze in the mirror realizing that she did not like the frightened expression staring back at her. Just don’t look at it. No! Him! I meant don’t look at him. Just get your butt off the chair and get into bed.
Standing, Cordelia held her head erect as she walked toward the bed, her chestnut hair shining in long waves down her back. Focusing on herself rather than Ang— the vampire, she unbelted her borrowed robe and flung it carelessly over the back of the chair. Picking up the phone from the center of the bed, she replaced it on its cradle on the bedside table and proceeded to straighten out the bed covers.
“Which side of the bed do you want?” she asked keeping her voice steady, but still not looking in his direction.
Then his hands suddenly curled around her waist pulling her back against him. Oh, God! He was still semi-erect and while he made no overt move to press his erection against her, his arousal was entirely obvious. Cordelia’s heart fluttered at the feeling of recognition flooding her body with warmth. Closing her eyes as she attempted to dispel the feeling, her body reacted to his closeness nonetheless.
Angel answered Cordelia’s query sensing that she was simply trying to hold herself together despite the way she responded to his closeness. “The side I always sleep on,” he told her.
Whipping around to face him, forgetting his naked state, Cordelia poked a finger into his bare chest. “You have never slept in my bed. Maybe you were in it earlier since the Moirae put you there, but you haven’t been anywhere before today.”
He wasn’t about to argue with Cordelia at this point. She was distraught and looking for a fight. Anything to keep them both out of bed. “I was planning some shut-eye before tonight’s big meeting, but if you insist on keeping me up I can think of more interesting ways to occupy our time and it won’t matter which side of the bed we’re on.”
“Hmph! You promised you wouldn’t touch me,” Cordelia shoved her hands on her hips defiantly.
“I promised no such thing,” Angel countered, tucking his hand through one of her angled arms to spread out to cover the small of her back. “Now get into bed before I put you there.”
Cordelia refused to budge. Damn right he was going to have to put her there. No way was she volunteering to climb into bed if he planned to be touchy-feely. Hazel eyes glittered defiantly and the tip of her chin raised just a fraction. Unblinking in her determination to make her point, Cordelia stood her ground and did not budge.
Hot-headed, stubborn little—. Angel’s thoughts trailed off as he felt the demon in him rise to the occasion. Making no attempt to hold back the reaction, the vampire let the primal urges surface within. There was no outward indication except the dark intensity of his eyes, but that was more than enough for Cordelia to see that she was pushing the limits.
A low sound rumbled from the depths of his chest, so soft that it was barely above a breath. After an endless moment, Angel ground out, “Don’t make me move you.”
Angry, Cordelia merely narrowed her gaze refusing to give in to his demand. In the next instant she was lifted up and tossed into the center of the bed. And before she could even untangle her legs from the long silk nightgown, he was next to her, over her and holding her down with nothing more than the heavy weight of his stare.
Cordelia’s arms were raised at an angle, resting on the pillow near her head. He was leaning above her, his weight balanced on his hands which were on either side of her chest. Close, but not touching. Just like his lips coming down toward hers. Close, but not touching.
“What’s next?” Cordelia panted the question as her breathing came too fast to sound calm. “Is this where Neanderthal Vamp ravishes me? Pfft! So not impressed with the technique, Lancelot.”
Did Cordelia know how close she was to ravishment? She was so fucking close and smelled so damned good. There was no hint of her earlier fear, just the natural scent of her skin, hair, blood and liquid arousal. Maybe it was not her choice to react the way she did to his presence, but Angel knew she felt it.
“That name may apply to certain aspects, Cor,” he told her leaning in so that his tumescent penis pressed against her from hip to thigh, “but it’s not the name you should be using.”
Lancelot? What was— oh? Cordelia felt heat bloom in her chest spreading up to her cheeks. She wondered if Queen Guinevere realized her knight might have been named for something other than the big lance used for his jousting contests.
“Egomaniac,” Cordelia grumbled glaring upward.
Not to be sidetracked, Angel decided he was fed up with her game of denial. “Tell me who I am, Cordelia. Use my name. I want to hear it on your lips.”
“Clarence.” She smirked defiantly, otherwise holding still beneath him.
“Try again, sweetheart.”
“Not what I want to hear.”
Angel’s mouth twitched at one corner. A deep timbre sounded in his voice as he said, “You are incorrigible, but you’re not going to win this one. If it’s not going to be my name on your lips, it will simply be my lips on yours.”
With infinitesimal slowness, Angel moved closer to claiming her mouth with his own. Cordelia watched him lean in, torn between remaining obstinate just for the sake of it while wanting to avoid the intimate touch of his mouth. Hesitating just a fraction too long, Cordelia prepared to speak her mind only to provide an open invitation to his kiss.
Though vivid memory provided knowledge of Cordelia in all her intimate glory, there was no substitute for experiencing the real thing. Angel had kissed Cordelia twice already, both times close-mouthed and far too brief. She moaned a protest, a soft disgruntled moue, into his mouth as his cool lips pressed down upon hers shaping them to meet his own.
His tongue flicked across Cordelia’s lower lip tasting the delicate flesh of her inner lip and darting gently to tease the tip of her tongue as it moved responsively against his. Lowering himself to the mattress, Angel turned her body to fit to his running a hand down her spine to the curves of her buttocks. His soft kisses continued to coax a response until finally Cordelia’s arms settled around his shoulders and her hands dug into his hair.
From there the kiss became heated with the thrust and parry of their tongues and the heady moans of their desire sounding from their throats. Angel took her tongue into his mouth sucking gently feeling her entire body react. Pulling back, he pressed a series of butterfly kisses along her jaw down to her throat.
“Want you so much, baby,” he confessed the obvious as he moved his mouth to her ear.
A soft shudder of pleasure left a wave of tingles behind along with an aching need that centered deep within her. Cordelia splayed her hands across his muscular back holding him to her aching breasts and feeling their pebbled tips crushed against him. With a shaky sigh, she sounded out his name uncertain of what she was asking for, “Angel.”
“Say it again.” His topaz gaze held hers for a moment before he attended to the other side of her neck providing it equal attention with those tender caresses.
“Angel,” Cordelia repeated, her heavy-lidded eyes staring down at the hard male body wrapped in her embrace.
In the back of her mind, Cordelia knew Angel was making a point. At the same time he was kissing her again knowing exactly how she liked it, exactly how to make her respond. He kissed with a combination of power and gentility drawing her response like a moth to a flame.
Murmuring against her soft swollen lips, “My full name, Cordelia. Acknowledge me.”
Cordelia’s eyes snapped open meeting his with a last hint of defiance. Saying it meant accepting reality and she wasn’t certain she was ready for that. Whispering her answer, Cordelia told him, “No.”
“You will, sweetheart,” Angel cupped her face with one hand to caress her cheek with his thumb. “I promise you that you will. Even if it’s not today.”
Silent, Cordelia had already used up the last vestige of her defiance. So she was very fortunate when the vampire suddenly backed off and settled them both on the bed. Left with feelings of surprise and confusion, Cordelia asked, “You’re going to sleep now?”
A wave of relief warred with her arousal as he commented, “I promised you no sex until you were ready. Are you trying to tell me that you are?”
“That’s what I thought,” Angel told her. It was a frustrating as hell realization, but it was one he was willing to admit. He remained almost painfully erect. “Just hold still for a while.”
Pfft! Easy for him to say. Cordelia watched in amazement over the next ten minutes as Angel’s body slowly shut down. She knew precisely when he fell asleep despite the fact that there were no outward signs.
Looking at him like this with his eyes shut blocked out the signs she normally read that told her who she was seeing. Like this, she might easily mistake him for Angel or Angelus. Her body obviously responded like it didn’t know the difference, but then it never had. Physical compatibility wasn’t an issue, but considering this vampire had the depth of experience that he did including personal knowledge of her that came as no surprise.
Both, but neither, Cordelia thought over the words. Her fingers reached up to softly touch his face. Could the Moirae be any more cryptic?
Just how much of her mate remained within him, she wondered. Was it possible that Giles was right about Angel being a true hybrid of both vampires? Did that make this vampire someone she needed to love or was he really just a stranger? The way he alternately called her baby or sweetheart dredged up memories of Angelus and Angel using those endearments. This new guy clearly didn’t think twice about it and simply called her by those names as naturally as he called her Cordelia.
The heavy weight of Angel’s arm was wrapped around her waist and his dark head pillowed against her breast as he slept. He felt so good. So familiar. Cordelia hated the feeling because in her mind it smacked of betrayal.
Adeptly extracting herself from the vampire’s embrace, Cordelia edged off the bed and trekked into the bathroom. She couldn’t stay with him like that. Not without thinking of Angelus. Not without thinking of Angel. Not without acutely feeling their loss despite the fact that this vampire was here and in her bed.
Cordelia stripped off her nightgown leaving it in a heap on the floor. Turning on the water, she stepped into the shower hoping to wash away her guilt. If only it was that easy. Methodically, she washed her hair and scrubbed herself with a loofah. Then she found herself standing there with nothing to do but get out and get on with whatever needed to be done.
The hot spray of the shower had cooled slightly, but the beads of water spraying her suddenly seemed to pelt her skin eliciting the release of emotions she had bottled up since awakening that morning. Angelus! Angel! She’d never know them individually again. There was nothing to mourn. Not even dust.
Out in the bedroom, Angel awakened with a start, his acute vampire senses hearing the muffled sounds of sobbing emanating from the bathroom. Instantly aware that it had to be Cordelia, he leapt out of bed striding toward the closed door. Pausing for a moment, he wondered if he should let her have some time alone. It took only the next shaky cry to have him discard that notion.
Angel let the door swing open, walking in and seeing the steam clouding the shower stall. It obscured his view of Cordelia and he could not tell from here just how bad things were based upon the sound of her sobs. He knew the cause for her tears just as he figured they would eventually come. She had been crying a bit when Rupert Giles showed up, but it wasn’t really the catharsis she needed.
He couldn’t stand her crying alone feeling the need to be there to comfort her. So without further delay, Angel opened the shower door and stepped inside. She let out a gasp staring at him in shock and perhaps confusing his reason for being there. At least until she looked in his eyes and saw only concern written across his handsome features.
Cordelia hesitated a moment before stepping forward into his space, the warm water now sluicing over them both. He wrapped her up in the safe comfort of his arms and held her quaking body as the tears continued to fall. Standing there for an untold amount of time, Angel waited for a sense that Cordelia was through the worst of it.
Turning off the water, he led her out of the shower. Cordelia still appeared to be in a state of shock. Speechless and staring. Never a good sign with her, he knew. With efficient and gentle moves, Angel toweled her off and bundled her in her own terry cloth bathrobe. Taking his time fluffing her hair so she wouldn’t get cold, he even combed out the tangles. Cordelia mutely watched as he dried himself off tossing the towel onto the top of the hamper.
“C’mon, let’s get you back to bed.” Angel felt her arms come up around his shoulders as he lifted her into his arms. While there was a distinct possibility that Cordelia was clinging to him simply out of a need for comfort, he wondered if there was an inkling of acceptance.
Gently depositing her in the bed, Angel climbed in behind her tucking the covers around them both. Soft sniffles replaced the alternating sobs and periods of dead silence. He spooned his body against her pulling Cordelia into the safe harbor of his arms. She stiffened against him, making Angel realize comfort was not so simple when you were the reason for the angst and pain. Worse, the idea that you could be jealous of yourself.
“I can’t bring them back to you,” Angel spoke quietly with his head resting on the pillow next to hers, “but I promise that I will do my best to love and protect you. I don’t know what the Moirae have in store for me, but I want you by my side. Always.”