Double or Nothing. 8

Chapter 8: Sealing the Deal

Angelus paced across the foyer continuously stealing glances at the front door. This was abominable, he thought, waiting like this for a woman.

His interest in a human, even a luscious specimen like Cordelia Chase, would normally be of short duration. With her, there was just something more. He couldn’t name it, just an irrepressible need that existed. Something he had never felt before.

Whatever it was, Angelus had determined to make Cordelia his own. No matter the trial and humiliation of having to ask Angel permission. Despite the tightrope he had to walk. Even considering the extra effort he put into winning Cordelia’s affections. Surprisingly, over the past few weeks, Angelus found himself more than willing to make the adjustment from his normal pattern of behavior.

He had stuck to the letter of the rules laid down by the Fates as well as Cordelia’s challenge. At first, it was all a well-acted plan. Willow was practically eating out of his hand she was so won over. Her boyfriend, the werewolf, quietly tolerated his presence and enjoyed Angelus’ conversation when he remembered to leave out the stories of maiming and bloodshed.

Unlike Xander, of course, who had seen too much and remained suspicious of everything Angelus said and did around Cordelia.

The vampire had pulled out all the stops and used every bit of his imagination to come up with ways of pleasing Cordelia. Once he had convinced her that the hero tactics were part of his routine, he planned to move into seduction mode. He would do anything and everything to get her into his bed. Only something happened and he wasn’t quite certain when or how it occurred.

One day Cordelia stopped assessing his motives and Angelus forgot about his act. Smiles she sent his way came across genuinely. When he returned from Willy’s Bar with crucial information, he felt triumphant that it aided their cause. Cordelia no longer shied away from his touch and Angelus stopped fooling himself that he would be satisfied just to breach the invisible wall she put up between them.

There was no doubt that he wanted Cordelia and had told her that fact from the first. What worried him was that it now went beyond lust. Angelus realized that he needed her. The emotion now churning in his stomach that clenched the muscles of his shoulders and back until they were tight with tension… it thought it might be fear.

Watching the door and listening for footsteps, Angelus hated that feeling. As Scourge of Europe he had feared nothing. Darla would roll with laughter if she could see him now: afraid that Angel would reject his request for Cordelia or that she would not want to place herself in his care. It took trust, but had he earned that? Angelus was not so certain. He was not prepared to address the reason the fear existed in the first place.

Angelus suddenly stopped his restless pacing at the first sound of the door handle turning. Crossing the threshold Cordelia was followed closely by Angel. The sight of her stunned him. Angelus hadn’t really believed that his twin would bring her to him. The two vampires locked stares for a moment and Angelus realized that Angel was not going to give away one iota of information before he wanted too. Glancing over at Cordelia, her flushed face simply suggested that their discussion had taken place, not necessarily the outcome.

“Cordelia,” her name burst from his lips almost involuntarily as Angelus eagerly stepped forward.

Instantly blocking his path, his double moved in between them. “Not so fast.”

Angelus glowered at the vampire separating him from Cordelia. It was a dangerous place to be and only the fact that this was the only way he could legitimately claim her stopped Angelus from physically moving Angel out of the way. Realizing visible fury might threaten negotiations, he let his anger fade.

“You brought her.”

Equally tight-jawed, Angel responded, “Obviously.”

“Well?” Angelus demanded information. Strangely silent, Cordelia simply reacted to his impatience with a little smirk.

Angel’s impenetrable gaze gave away nothing. “You’ll get your answer.”

Behind the souled vampire, Cordelia piped up. “I’ll go into the kitchen and let you two hash this out.” Not because she didn’t want to hear it, but because she got the feeling that it was going to turn into a big growly argument.

Angel held onto her elbow. “No, Cordy. This concerns you too.” Shifting his hold, he began rubbing the lower curve of her spine, unconsciously easing his own tension by attempting to quell hers.

No matter that it was only his souled double, in Angelus’ eyes another vampire was touching Cordelia. Every instinct screamed that he take what he wanted, to fight for her. Angel kept right on with the touching, although Angelus realized he had the technical right to do so. That hand didn’t stray, either, just started to move slowly up and down. Possibly a bad sign that Angel’s touch was so possessive and in no way was Cordelia complaining about it.

Curling his hands into fists, Angelus clenched them at his side. Thinking, it wouldn’t do to suddenly knock Angel out on the floor. At least not until after he informed him about his decision.

“When you came to me with this request,” Angel declared quite calmly, “my first instinct was to kill you. Except I can’t do that as the deal with the Fates binds us. Even so, there are far too many reasons why I should never let this happen.”

Cordelia tilted her head to watch the vampire speak. His expression was blank so it was impossible to tell if Angel was changing his mind or not. She wanted to say he couldn’t take it back. Not now that she had made up her mind. Strangely, she felt the words caught in her throat.

“Your history is something we don’t need to discuss. We all know what you’ve done in the past,” Angel went on. “Cordelia feels that you have tried to make a change and that you are legitimately joining in rather than playing some kind of game. I do hope that is true.”

“True enough,” Angelus confirmed, his shoulder muscles bunching up with tension. “What’s your answer, Angel? Yes or no? Just tell me. I don’t need to hear about your angsty decision-making process.”

With a harsh laugh, Angel told him, “You’ll hear more than that before I’m through tonight. I realized one thing that turned my original decision in the other direction.”

Cordelia asked curiously, “What was that?”

“Considering my own relationship with Buffy it would be hypocritical of me to stop this when you both want it.”

“Good point,” Cordelia agreed with a widening grin that told Angelus everything he needed to know about her wishes. “Glass houses, y’know.”

From her perspective, it still seemed like a strange prospect that Angel had anything to do with their business, but Angelus obviously felt that his twin’s permission was necessary. Cordelia was all too aware of the cool hand on her back that made her skin feel hot beneath the fabric of her dress. She wished that Angel would hurry up with his speech, lecture or whatever this was so she could go to Angelus. The idea that being near Angelus would quell her sudden nervousness instead of being in a comfort zone with Angel was rather turned around, but the realization kept her smiling.

“Angelus, I have just one demand in return for my agreement to your request,” his double announced.

What demand? Angelus wasn’t certain he would listen to any more demands. Especially if they involved Cordelia.

“You allow that she can come to me if she has questions or issues with you. I don’t want Cordy hurt,” Angel told him with a dangerous gleam. “Not in any way.”

Quick to agree, Angelus snarled at the insinuation he would injure Cordelia, “I’m not going to harm her.”

“Not intentionally,” snapped Angel. His head was filled with images that left him raw and aching. He knew that if Angelus turned loose his full desire on Cordelia, bouts of overzealous sex would probably send her running to Giles with questions no matter that it might cause the Watcher a coronary. Cordy needed someone to talk to that wouldn’t judge her, someone who would understand Angelus’ needs.

“He wouldn’t hurt me,” Cordelia felt certain of it and wondered if Angel was talking physical or emotional pain as well. Angelus had dealt out both in the past, but that seemed to be over. “Not at all.”

“You still have a lot to learn about vampires,” warned Angel as he continued to keep his hand on her. “Cordy, promise me you’ll come to me if things get out of hand. You can tell me anything.”

“Stop trying to frighten me,” she demanded hotly, balling her hands into fists and propping them on her hips. With an exasperated sigh, she fumed, “Angelus isn’t going to hurt me. I won’t need your help to handle him, because I’ll kick his ass myself if he ever tries his vamp tricks on me without my okay.”

Angelus chuckled at her response. Feisty, beautiful Cordelia. All his. Or she would be as soon as Angel officially handed her over. He willed his double to go away so that he could follow through with his need to claim her tonight, but Angel appeared to be planted in place.

“Cordy, you have to know there’s is no changing your mind,” Angel warned her. “Not after you consciously and willingly accept his claim. Angelus won’t let you back out of this decision.”

“He’s right,” Angelus added without a hint of hesitation. “That means you better be damned careful about who flirts with you, because I’ll probably take it seriously. If you can’t handle the fact, Cordelia, I suggest you turn tail and run.”

As soon as he finished talking, Angelus realized he might have made a mistake with being quite so honest. Why the hell did I tell her that? She might do it.

Glancing back and forth at the two vampires, Cordelia remembered that this was not an easy decision on her part, but it was one she had already made. “What’s with the vampire tag team? Angel, this isn’t Father Knows Best. Surely, I don’t have to point out the fact that I can get fatherly lectures at home. I don’t need them from you.”

Angel’s jaw tightened as his twin let out a snort of laughter.

“As for you,” Cordelia whipped her attention over to Angelus, “get over the vampire possessive act right now. I won’t put up with it. There is this little thing called trust that you’ll have to get acquainted with.”

Now it was Angel’s turn to be amused, but it brought down Cordelia’s wrath. “Butt out of my business, Angel. I get the fact that you had to have this— bleh!— property exchange, but I want a real relationship with Angelus, not a carbon copy of your post-slayage bedroom antics with Buffy.”

Gasping aloud as soon as the words left her mouth, Cordelia reeled in shock at what she had said. Even if it was how she felt about the vampire’s interactions with the Slayer, the way they chose to conduct their late night liaisons was not her business. “Angel! I’m—”

There was definitely a growl sounding from Angel’s throat drowning out her attempt at an apology. The space between them vanished as Cordelia found herself yanked up hard against his body causing the pressure points at her breasts and hips to ache in response. Angel’s free hand fisted in her hair holding her still.

Cordelia stared up for an instant into the blazing heat of his eyes just before his mouth descended over her parted lips. Clinging to his arms, Cordelia moaned against the fierce passion of the kiss. Lasting only seconds, his lips devoured hers.

Moments away from starting a bloodbath, Angelus envisioned rending the vampire limb from limb for daring to touch what he wanted. Even she might be punished for the silky moan that poured from her throat. With barely contained fury, he reigned himself in, now glancing daggers at his double.

It was only the fact that until Angel officially turned Cordelia over to him, he had the right to do anything he damn well pleased. Vampire custom called for a token ritual to seal the deal. This had to be it. This had better be it.

Abruptly pulling back, Angel met her startled and confused gaze as his hand cupped her cheek. Somehow she heard him through the staccato pounding of her heartbeat, “Goodbye, Cordy.”

Feeling acutely aware of the loss of his touch, Cordelia could only watch as Angel moved away from her. A silent message passed between the vampires, full of acknowledgment, fading anger and resolve. Cordelia realized that Angel no longer blocked her path toward Angelus. In fact, the other vampire was already approaching. There was a look of smug satisfaction on his face replacing the rage that was there only moments before.

“Your heart is still racing,” Angelus told her as he held out a hand.

Still touching her fingers to her swollen lips, Cordelia tentatively reached out the other for Angelus. “I didn’t expect that.”

“Neither did I,” Angelus admitted, sending his twin a narrowed glance.

Angel already had his hand on the doorknob. The urge to go out and kill something had returned, but he wouldn’t bother feeling sorry for any vamps or demons that crossed his path tonight. Having his head filled with battle tactics and his hands stained with dust and blood would be a welcome diversion from what he knew was going to occupy his thoughts.

“I’m going out,” he informed the pair as he stepped out into the night. “You’ll have the mansion to yourselves until sunrise.”

The front door slammed hard behind him causing Cordelia to jump in response. Angel had kissed her and told her goodbye. She felt the pinprick of tears threatening, but blinked them back without understanding what caused them. “What was that all about?”

“Angel doesn’t like to share his things much less give them away,” Angelus gave her a crooked smile.

“Tough!” Cordelia dropped her hand away from his to tuck the loose waves of her dark chestnut hair behind her ears. Poking a finger toward her breastbone, she protested, “Living, breathing human person here. Not a thing. Not a possession.”

Angelus wanted to roar out the fact than she belonged to him now. Controlling that urge, he suggested smoothly, “Don’t lovers belong to each other?”

“That’s got nothing to do with him,” huffed Cordelia pointing at the closed door.

“It has everything to do with you and me,” Angelus reminded her softly, his eyes as seductive as his words. “Say yes, Cor. Be mine.”

That wasn’t quite how it worked in the vampire world, Angelus thought, realizing that Cordelia had no idea about the formal rituals and customs involved with a vampire forming any kind of relationship with a human. The hazel eyes that were so brightly annoyed flashed impishly at his romantic plea. “Hello, I’m here, aren’t I?.” Almost instantly, Cordelia was back on her tirade, “But Angel is turning into more of a Jekyll and Hyde than he was when you two were one person. What an ass! Kissing me in front of you.”

“You enjoyed it,” Angelus stated drolly, edging a bit closer.

“Duh! It surprised me,” confessed Cordelia. “Angel’s never even tried it before. Not with Miss Slays-a-Lot around. Now he kisses me? Guys aren’t supposed to lock lips with their brother’s girlfriend.”

“Brother?” Angelus latched onto the word as if it stunned him. It even overshadowed the fact that Cordelia referred to herself as his girlfriend. In his own mind, they were already far beyond that pale descriptor.

“What else would you call him?” Cordelia asked him seriously. “Besides your double, mirror image or the Good Twin?”

With a smirk Angelus warned, “Don’t get me started. I could name names all night long. In fact, I could have fun with that.”

“Right now, so could I,” Cordelia felt her lower lip pooch out into a pout. “Why kiss me now?”

Though something inside him wanted to tell Cordelia that she could drop the subject any time, he decided to be honest. Tilting her chin so she looked up at him, Angelus commented, “You’d be surprised at what goes through Angel’s mind. As for why now— it’s the last time he gets to touch you without my permission.”

Cordelia tried to process what Angelus was telling her, but it seemed that Angel had been right about one thing tonight. “Maybe I do have a lot to learn about vampires.”

“I’ll teach you everything you need to know.” Angelus captured her head in a gentle hold, tangling his fingers in her wind-blown tresses.

Chapter 9

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