Double or Nothing. 49

Chapter 49: Mistletoe & Christmas Wishes

“So what’s wrong with that one?” Cordelia eyed the Scotch Pine with a scrutinizing stare.

Angel mumbled something about it looking asymmetrical before moving down the line to examine a Blue Spruce. This was the third Christmas Tree lot they’d been to and Cordelia figured they were fast running out of options. Mister Perfectionist had to find a flawless tree large enough not to be swallowed up by the mansion’s entryway.

Giggling as she trailed behind him while sipping hot cider from a paper cup supplied by the owner of the lot, Cordelia decided she loved the way Angel threw himself into an activity. It reminded her of the way Angelus had so passionately cheered for the Razorbacks in the football game against the Fighting Falcons of Palmdale.

She’d been watching him from the sidelines as she lead her cheerleading squad through their routines and had later been regaled with more details by the Scoobies and Angelus himself.

While the thought of Angelus brought a momentary sigh to her lips, it was followed quickly enough by more amused laughter as Angel argued with the tree merchant over the price of a Douglas Fir. Once the two of them haggled it down by thirty-three dollars, Angel seemed satisfied. Until he added, “That includes delivery, right?”

Cordelia tucked her hand into the crook of Angel’s arm, leaning her head against his shoulder as the negotiations continued. Finally, they left the lot with everyone’s pride still intact and the merchant waving them farewell. “Merry Christmas!”

“That went well,” Angel commented smugly as they strolled along Main Street. Shop windows were decorated for the holidays with fake snow and glistening lights. It was just cold enough to feel the winter breezes and he found the rosy tint to Cordelia’s cheeks and the way her breath was visible as it contacted the air. “Do you like it? I forgot to ask. Just caught up in the moment.”

“I like it,” she answered truthfully. “What’s not to like? It’s the perfect tree. After all, you looked at every tree in Sunnydale.”

Angel frowned, “That’s an exaggeration.”

“So what was that when you were eyeing the tree planted in front of City Hall?”

“Just making comparisons,” he shrugged guiltlessly.

With a humorous snort, Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Tell that to Mayor Wilkins.”

Clearing his throat, Angel changed the subject, suggesting that they head over to the shops to look for decorations. Now that they had a tree, it was necessary to figure out what to do with it.

“We could have a theme tree,” Cordelia suggested. “Pick a color scheme or an idea and go with that.”

Angel wasn’t at all certain about tree decorating protocols. “Maybe you should pick.”

“It’s not that difficult,” she pointed out a display in a store window as they strolled along like any other couple. “Start with the lights. White lights or colored lights?”

Crossing his arms over his broad chest, Angel contemplated the question as if he was weighing the artistic merits and complexities of a masterpiece. Cordelia stood by as he took ten minutes to decide that there could be no decision on the lights until she decided what kind of decorations she wanted.

“We’ll keep it simple,” Cordelia promised. “Ornaments to complement the one you gave me, red bows and popcorn strings.”

Imagining the mess created by making strings of popcorn, Angel raised a brow only to have her tap her foot against the pavement. “No negotiation on the popcorn.”

Holding her hand, Angel walked beside her as they glanced through each shop window. They paused at the sound of a loud, “Ho, ho, ho,” accompanied by the jingle of a bell.

A full-bearded Santa dressed in a cheap red and white suit stood at the corner with a charity bucket hanging from a stand at his side. He was heavy on the bell ringing and the ho-ho-ho-ing. The name of a local charity was written on a sign attached to the tri-legged stand.

Glancing expectantly at Angel, Cordelia nudged him with her elbow. “Get with the spirit. Tis the season and all that. You just haggled your way into free delivery for an overpriced tree, so get with the giving already.”

Not that Angel was against donating to charity. It was just another new concept for him. He pulled out a few folded bills, but couldn’t seem to make it close enough to the bucket to drop them in. “How much of that really gets where it needs to go?”

Santa paused with the bell ringing. “What was that, buddy?”

“Doesn’t seem very safe,” Angel commented on the lack of security. “Anyone could come along and mug you.”

Santa waved off the idea and patted his heavily padded costume. “Are ya gonna make a donation or not?”

Poking Angel in the side, Cordelia told him, “Fork it over.”

“I’m just saying the bucket looks kind of vulnerable.”

Caught between exasperation and amusement, she blurted, “Dork! Just give the fat man the money.”

“Buddy,” Santa leaned close to give Angel some advice, “better do as your girlfriend tells you or you won’t hear the end of it. Trust me. Mrs. Claus gives me an earful.”

“I bet she does,” Cordelia commented while thinking the man wasn’t exactly the kind of Santa you’d find at the local mall taking pictures with the kiddies. Still, the way he seemed to rile up Angel made up for his brashness by far. The expression on Angel’s face was enough to keep her grinning. “Enough with the scowling, Scroogie.”

Flashing her a silent promise to get back at her for that one later, Angel dumped the money in the bucket. He watched as the padded man winked at Cordelia. Indulgently playing along, she tugged at the fake beard, “Am I on your naughty or nice list, Santa?”

“Someone’s definitely gonna get what they want for Christmas,” the bell ringer said with a deep sigh as he eyed Cordelia from head to toe. “Just wish it was me.”

Cordelia was still laughing as Angel grabbed her hand and dragged her through the door of the nearest shop just to get them out of Santa’s line of vision. “Better stop flirting with Santa. I’d hate to have to put him in the hospital before his big night,” he muttered only half joking.

“Flirting? Eew!” Cordelia scrunched up her nose. “Was not…much.”

A raised brow was all she got in response prompting her to add, “Gotta stay on Santa’s good side. Now I know I’ll get what I want for Christmas.”

“He was talking about me,” Angel pointed out needlessly. He saw the mischievous glint in Cordelia’s eyes and new she was milking the situation for every irritating ounce of amusement she could get. “He meant you. That having you would give me what I want for Christmas.”

Not that she needed the interpretation. Leering Santa was scary enough without him putting ideas in Cordelia’s head. “So if I showed up in a red bow Christmas morning, you think you’d like your present?”

A far-away look appeared suggesting he was already imagining it, but then he said with all seriousness, “I’d love it, but what I want doesn’t come with a bow.”

Her heart thudded a little faster as Cordelia realized he meant her love. Angel had used that word sparingly ever since their fight. He was right, though. Love wasn’t something she could put in a box and decorate with shiny wrapping paper and tie up neatly with a bow, but it was a gift. Something she thought she’d lost completely.

Suddenly, Cordelia wanted to hear him say those words again. Just as a reminder that it was true. That he loved her. “Tell me, Angel. What do you wan—”

“Trains!” Angel cut her off, a silly boyish grin lighting his features as he glanced over her shoulder. Grabbing her by the hand, he pulled her along to a store display where miniature trains chugged through a sleepy ceramic village.

“You want little trains?” muttered Cordelia. That was so not what she expected him to say. Unless he was simply trying to avoid the conversation. She wasn’t sure that she wanted to let him get away with that, but Angel was so engrossed in following the path of the train as it wound around the base of a decorated tree that she could only watch in wonder.

Angel practically giggled with delight, a sound that left Cordelia gaping as he pointed out, “Look at the little caboose.”

“Boys and their toys,” sighed the elderly shopkeeper as she appeared by Cordelia’s side. “I must admit that display gets them every time. Even the serious ones. Turns them into giddy children just like that.”

The woman snapped her fingers, which seemed to draw Angel’s attention away from the train. He glanced over at his mate who watched him with amused wonderment, “Don’t you think this would look great in the foyer, Cordy?”

“Will that be cash or charge, deary?” The woman headed to the checkout counter with a knowing smile on her face.

Cordelia pulled Angel up off of the floor and held out her hand for the credit card she hadn’t expected would get much use tonight. “You are a walking contradiction, Angel D’Aurelius. Haggling miserly Scrooge you. Dorkula shopaholic you.”

“Don’t forget about…,” Angel cupped the nape of Cordelia’s neck, pulling her close to whisper in her ear mindful of the overly interested third party a short distance away.

As they parted, Cordelia glanced at the old woman to assure that she hadn’t heard a thing. By the time she turned around, Angel was holding out their Platinum Master Card. Snatching the credit card out of his hand, she rolled her eyes, “Egomaniac.”

Teasing each other came all too naturally. Caught up in rules of their own making, it added a little thrill to stave off some of the frustration. Though it didn’t show on her face, Cordelia’s instantaneous response sounded clear in the way her breath held for a moment of time releasing on a deep sigh and the flutter of her normally steady heartbeat as it escalated into a rapid cadence.

“Someone’s got a lot to make up for,” Cordelia muttered to herself as she reached the counter.

Overhearing, the shopkeeper commented with a wink, “Don’t you worry, deary. Let your husband enjoy his new toy. I’ll just make sure you get a little something out of it too.”

Cordelia was too caught up by the woman’s assumption to wonder what she meant. Ten minutes later the train set was boxed and bagged. They were on their way out of the store, loaded down with their packages, when the shopkeeper called out, “Just a minute, young man.”

Angel’s automatic response of, “Yes, ma’am?” had Cordelia stifling a giggle. Mister Contradiction strikes again. Gentleman Vampire was definitely something Sunnydale didn’t see a lot.

The blue-haired lady commented, “I don’t climb up on ladders to hang mistletoe just for my health, you know. It’s Christmas, after all, and an old woman likes to live a little vicariously through you young people.”

Glancing upward, Cordelia and Angel saw they were standing directly under a large sprig of mistletoe. While the thought of following through with the suggestion was tempting, both of them remembered how their kiss had gotten a little out of hand earlier.

Cordelia offered up her cheek. “Safe enough?”

The peck that followed was fast and unsatisfying. Apparently for the shopkeeper as well. “You call that a kiss? In my day, a young man wouldn’t let an opportunity like this go to waste.”

An almost imperceptible growl sounded as Angel suppressed the urge to tell the old woman to mind her own business. Only the fact that she seemed genuinely full of holiday spirit and good will made him back down. Then it might not really be her that stirred his irritation. It was the fact that he felt he needed to control his desire to kiss Cordelia that really pissed him off.

She was staring up at him expectantly, looking like she was torn between telling him to control his baser urges and acting out a few of her own. Then her luscious mouth curled up into a tempting smile, “Kiss me.”

“It’s technically within the rules,” Angel agreed readily enough. They’d kept it in after realizing neither one of them wanted to forgo their morning kisses.

Their rationale was simple even if it did mirror a growing list of excuses.

Surely, there were countless ways of kissing without getting into crossing the line set by their intimacy rules. Families and friends kissed to express random feelings and close ties. Couples did it all of the time without it leading anywhere, so why not them?

“Rules, schmules,” Cordelia returned. “It’s mistletoe. You don’t need rules for that.”

“You two sure talk a lot,” the shopkeeper piped up in complaint. Any other time and her customers would be all over themselves. “It’s a tradition.”

Cordelia smirked, “Gonna let an old lady pick on you, champ?”

“We’re doing the holiday tradition thing. I suppose tha— come here, Cordy.” His voice dropped down to a husky octave as Angel gave into the need to taste that beautiful smile. The teasing sparkle left her eyes replaced by an eager need equal to his own.

Angel met her in the middle, barely a second passing before he planted his lips over hers in a fiery kiss that melted her insides. Loaded down with their packages, their hands were tied up unable to hold each other, but their bodies crowded close. What started with the claiming of her mouth slowed to an immeasurable pace, their lips gliding softly together teasing and tasting.

Moaning softly, Cordelia’s tongue slid like a bare whisper across his before darting in retreat. Then clinging one moment more, they separated, opening their eyes to look at the other. Soft smiles played over their faces, enjoyment of their little foray into the land of mistletoe kisses apparent.

“Cordy, I—”

“Angel, I—”

“What?” Both asked in simultaneous response to their broken statements.

It had been on the tip of Angel’s tongue to tell Cordelia that he loved her. Those words were in his head and constantly in his heart. Holding back these past couple of weeks came in attempt not to create any undue pressure by voicing his feelings. It amazed him that three small words could have such a strong hold over their lives and that something so utterly simple could be so complex.

“I think I like mistletoe,” he told her feeling the need to say something, even as silly and obvious as that.

“Dork! Let’s go home. My arms are gonna fall off from carrying your choo-choo train parts,” Cordelia gave an exaggerated moan. “Besides, they’re bringing the tree in an hour or so. We need to be there.”

They spent the rest of the evening decorating their very first Christmas tree. Cordelia loved the fact that Angel kept suggesting there would be other future Christmases. It brushed away her doubts until the happy feelings nestled inside were focused only on him. When they finally tumbled into bed, neither bothered to seek out the edges of the mattress. As they curled up in each other’s arms, Cordelia felt certain that any dreams tonight would be full of Christmas sugarplums, mistletoe kisses and Angel.

***

She followed Angel along the misty path, a trail of overgrown weeds and clinging vines shadowed by the cloak of a moonlit night. The limbs of trees bared for winter snagged at her clothing holding her back and forcing Cordelia to fight past them just to keep up with the vampire’s forward progress. He led her through the dreamscape, a silent guide, a familiar face against the threat of the unknown.

Being here at this juncture no longer scared her. The fear remained at bay as she darted amongst the shadows waiting for the whispering to begin. It always came to her from a distance, a barely perceptible voice sounding out its harsh truths and bating her with suggestions.

“Yes,” she answered its initial call. “He’s coming. Don’t you see?”

The mist closed in as the whispers grew louder. Angel disappeared from her view. This always happened. Always. Cordelia knew that if she did not hurry, Angel would be gone and there would be no finding him in the shroud of gloom that penetrated the dream.

That was the strange thing. Even here and now, Cordelia knew she was dreaming, that this was something beyond reality. Unfortunately, it locked her in its grip and would not allow escape. It held her, binding her close until the moment drew near. Until the mist started to clear. Until she caught a glimpse of what lay beyond.

“He won’t leave,” Cordelia called out in defiance when the whispered voice told her otherwise. “Angel said so.”

Cordelia broke away from the tangled vines that kept tripping her forward progress. Clear, she started running, endlessly running. The mist surrounded her, blinding her, but she would not stop. Until she ran full bore into a chain link fence.

What lay beyond remained in shadow except for the outline of Angel’s familiar figure standing just beyond the barrier. Fading away, he vanished leaving Cordelia isolated with only the fence to hold onto.

Gripping onto its metal chains, Cordelia forced herself take stock of her surroundings knowing that she had never been this far, this close to discovering the reason for her nightmares. A metal sign hung from the fence directly next to her. As she awakened, minus her usual ear-piercing scream, Cordelia simply looked puzzled.

It wasn’t a cryptic sign with a symbolic glyph or any hidden meaning that she could discern. Cordelia repeated the message on the sign several times so as not to forget. Melmon Realty and Development 555-0157. Melmon Realty and Development 555-0157. Melmon Realty and Development 555-0157.

Glaring at the clock on the bedside table, she noted it flashed the same hour and minute as it did every time she awakened from the throws of her nightmare. Cordelia turned her attention to Angel who remained sleeping. Her nightmare had to be less traumatic than usual despite the accursed whispering and fear that accompanied it. Otherwise, he’d be awake and doing his best to chase the aftereffects away.

Maybe it was just only dream, Cordelia figured. Maybe she was just being paranoid, but this sign…was it just a sign or a sign of something more?

Slipping out of bed, Cordelia snuck downstairs to the kitchen where she pulled out the phonebook. Thumbing through, she muttered as she searched for information. Despite already having the phone number, Cordelia wanted more details. “Would that be listed under Melmon, under Realty or under Development?”

After ten minutes of searching, Cordelia came to the conclusion that Melmon R&D was not a company based out of Sunnydale. Picking up the telephone, she dialed information. “Los Angeles? Um, thanks,” she told the operator after receiving the familiar area code.

It was real. A company she’d never heard of before, listed on a sign in her dream was actually real.

“That is bizarre,” Cordelia shuddered as she made her way back upstairs. “Really, really creepy, as a matter of fact. Especially since I’m now talking to myself like a deranged lunatic. Just great!”

Shutting up, she walked back into the bedroom finding that Angel hadn’t budged from his spot in the center of the bed. Cordelia rolled back into the crook of his shoulder resting her head on his chest and wrapping her arm around his waist.

If the realty company was real, did that mean the rest of her dream had a basis in reality?

Sleep evaded Cordelia the remainder of the night. She lay awake thinking about the whispered warnings and watching Angel as he slept soundly. Even after his promises of a future and their fun evening together, Cordelia saw the possibilities slipping away.

There was one thing she could say to fix that. One thing that would keep him at her side. Only Cordelia couldn’t say it aloud. Not when he could hear it and not when the Moirae or the Powers that Be might use her as a crutch to get to him. Or to use him to cause her more pain.

Part of her rebelled against that way of thinking, but it felt like truth. One she could not deny. Still, in the quiet of the night with Angel lost in sleep, Cordelia whispered what she could not otherwise speak. “Angel, I love you.”

***

Angel awakened a minute before the clock radio alarmed, just as he did every day, his body now accustomed to the timing. Normally, he would simply soak up the image of the sleeping beauty in his bed and wonder at the fact that he could love someone so much. Then he’d kiss her awake just before the radio sounded its daily tune.

Today, he found Cordelia awake and staring into his eyes. There was no time to say good morning or to question the reason she looked a little glazy-eyed. She pounced on his lips like a hungry tigress, hot desperation driving her to claim something for herself before he vanished. The deep kiss shook them both for all its swiftness being charged with emotion.

Then Cordelia jerked back toward her side of the bed with an apology on her lips. “Sorry, Angel, I—”

He hauled her back into his arms, “Hush, baby. Kisses are still within the rules.”

Both of them knew that kiss had surpassed any rule of theirs. Cordelia muttered as his mouth explored the sensitive spot beneath her ear, “Part of the bargain.”

“Practice for the mistletoe,” she sensed him grinning as his mouth moved up to meet her pliant lips. They all but melted under him as her body curled into his. Their little morning ritual turned steamy as kiss followed kiss. Angel’s voice kept them grounded as they couldn’t seem to find a way to bring it to an end. “They’re just kisses, Cor.”

Moaning wantonly, Cordelia leaned in as his mouth moved back to her neck following a path across her collar bone and back up the cord of her throat to his mark. He bit down softly on the skin just holding it between his teeth for a second before swiping his tongue across the redness he’d left behind.

Skin to skin, their bodies pressed tightly together. Her breasts in contact with the smooth planes of his chest. His hard thighs holding one of hers trapped between them. Their loins responding to the closeness. Cordelia wet and aching. Angel’s solid length stirring beneath her. She could feel him beneath the thin barrier of her silk nightgown and the cotton boxers that he wore to bed.

That still left the rest of him naked to her touch, the thought did not escape her. Not that touching was within their rules, she reminded herself. Surely touching this way was only incidental, but their kisses were allowed. As long as they kept to the kisses, things wouldn’t get out of hand.

“Just kisses.” Cordelia sighed against his mouth tasting him with a growing hunger. Yesterday, she’d been content to lie in his arms after they woke up. Just feeling his arms around her and staying there every possible moment until Angel reminded her that she’d be late for school.

Today was different.

Angel buried his hands in Cordelia’s silky hair, holding her steady as he drank in her kisses like they were the only thing that could sustain him. Finally, Cordelia broke away, staring down with those hot hazel eyes. Her arousal just as potent as his own. Angel moved a hand down the curve of her spine, giving himself a moment to enjoy the sensation of her slight weight against him, of her body pressing down against his erection.

She took his distraction as an opportunity to ply kisses along his neck knowing how sensitive that area was for him. Following his actions, Cordelia let her mouth wander over the cords of his neck and opened up to nip at his flesh. Licking at the temporary mark she’d left behind, Cordelia jolted in pleasure at the purr rumbling deep in his chest. His hands covered her buttocks cupping both cheeks and increasing the contact between them as his hips lifted toward her.

“Just a few kisses,” she whispered into his ear before continuing a path of butterfly caresses across his cool skin. The fact that her hands were in play, touching his shoulders and the solid muscles of his chest or that her thumbs stimulated his small male nipples was never acknowledged by her conscious mind.

It was only when her mouth opened up to circle her tongue over that dark patch of skin and its sensitive center that Cordelia raised her head in answer to Angel’s low moan. His hand was back in her hair again, fingers tangled and holding her gaze to his. Then his other hand moved from its place on her rounded bottom before both dropped down on her shoulders.

She almost panicked thinking that Angel was going to push her away and put an end to this. Not so soon. Tomorrow morning was too far away. His hands only guided her southward. “Kiss me, Cordy.”

It was more than a kiss he wanted, Angel acknowledged silently. This was something she hadn’t done for him. Not since Angelus. There was always a chance that Cordelia would tell him where to get off…that usually meant the shower with the cold water turned full blast. Even the little indulgences they’d allowed themselves this morning broke their own rules much less what he was asking.

Cordelia said nothing as her breath caught in her throat. She licked at her lips, their surface slightly swollen and sensitive from their lengthy smooching session. Lowering her mouth to his chest again, she placed a trail of wet kisses as she scooted down his body. Reaching his navel, Cordelia stayed there toying with its concave center while her hands worked to divest Angel of his boxers.

Even as Cordelia used every skill she had learned to pleasure him, the fact that they were breaking the rules niggled at her. Though the hungry look in Angel’s eyes as she watched him watching her quickly snuffed out her doubts. After all, some people didn’t consider this sex. Maybe it was just a fancy form of kissing after all.

Riiiiiight!

Didn’t matter. She wouldn’t stop now. Couldn’t stop until she’d kissed and tasted every inch of him.

Angel’s dark eyes were glued to Cordelia as he soaked up every image. The way her tongue undulated and flicked across the engorged tip of his cock. Her fingers curling around its base sweeping up and down the shaft in an alternately tight and teasing grip. Those plush lips opening up to take in what she could. Her cheeks hollowing. The sweep of her lashes on her cheeks when her eyes closed and the excitement glinting in those hazel orbs as her gaze lifted in response to his throaty cries of encouragement.

Despite his intentions to keep his hands off, Angel found himself with them tangled in her hair again. Enjoying the feel of it as the rest of his senses focused only on what Cordelia was doing to him. When her hands pushed at his thighs to spread them apart allowing her to settle between them, Angel dropped one hand down curling his thumb around the base of his cock and his fingers around the tightening sac below.

Taking this as a hint, Cordelia released him from her mouth, nibbled her way down the underside of his shaft and swept her tongue across the deep folds stretched over his balls. Angel’s threw his head back against his pillow, closing his eyes and letting out a low moan of pleasure as she continued to gently use her teeth and lips on his flesh. The danger of nipping him too sharply excited the vampire just as much as the pleasure of her tongue.

Cordelia moved her mouth over as Angel’s hand jerked in sudden reaction. She sucked his thumb into her mouth fully enclosing it and wrapping her hot wet tongue around its length. Biting down as she passed the last knuckle, Cordelia pressed her teeth into the fleshy part of his hand for just an instant before releasing him.

The surprised gasp followed quickly by a growl of pleasure caused Cordelia to giggle. She peeked up mischievously, her pink tongue showing between her teeth as she smiled. Wordlessly, Angel guided her back to him. This needed to end soon. Any longer and he was going to forget all about their pact and make up for the last ten days of being without her.

As if she knew what he was thinking, Cordelia left the games and teasing behind to put a serious effort into making him come. Her own body thrummed with the idea of bringing him pleasure. She loved to hear her name on his lips and the throaty growls that welled up from his chest; the way his hard male body tensed up under her.

It built up inside him, a wave of inescapable pressure as Cordelia’s mouth sucked at the top half of his shaft while her fingers worked the bottom. She cupped his balls, her fingers gently rolling them as they pulled up tight against his body. Suddenly, he was calling out her name and watching through his half-lidded hazy gaze as Cordelia swallowed every drop she could catch.

Cordelia let out a shaky sigh, licking away the last traces of his salty sex and placing a kiss on the tip of his cock as it slowly returned to its relaxed state. Licking at her lips, she was about to comment that she would definitely be late to school today when Angel moved with a swiftness that left her a little dizzy.

Sitting up, Angel brought her to her knees and pulled her nightgown over her head in a matter of seconds. Tossing the green silk to the floor, his hot gaze washed over her long enough for Cordelia to let out a surprised gasp. Then his lips crashed down onto hers as his arms pulled her close. Angel sucked her lower lip into his mouth, his teeth tugging on it just before his tongue swept out to enter her.

There was desperation in that kiss. Cordelia could taste it. Just as he could taste the proof of their indiscretion as his tongue teased her own. Desperation in their loss of control. Desperation in their need for more. A need echoing between them in the way she held him and the soft cry muted by his mouth as he plundered hers.

Breaking away, Angel palmed her face with both hands, staring darkly into her eyes. Passion and love meeting up with the undeniable force of desire. Emotions driving both of them into a state of silence because speaking would only bring an end to this one way or the other.

Angel lay back on the bed and pulled Cordelia up his body in the same move so that she straddled his head. His determined gaze met her surprised one for an instant as he saw her grab onto the wooden headboard. “It’s just kisses, Cordelia,” Angel said before she could caution him against any further breach of their agreement.

“Kisses,” she managed to mutter in agreement. Did he expect her to disagree? It was fortunate that her brain had short-circuited a while back because Cordelia was not thinking about consequences. It was all pure emotional reaction. Something tucked into the deep vestibule of her heart made her let go her fears of culpability.

He moved her knees further apart bringing her closer and lifting his face to press a kiss against the moist silk of her panties. Angel opened his mouth and clamped his teeth over her mound only to feel her grind herself against his chin as she moaned at the contact. His fingers toyed with the edges of her panties, flitting along the elastic and teasing over the silk.

“You’re so wet,” Angel let the silk rasp across his tongue enjoying its texture and her taste. She shuddered at the sensation, her body already humming with need as he continued to tease her.

Hooking two fingers beneath the elastic, Angel moved their curled knuckles along her hot cleft and circled the hooded nub. “Gah! Geez, Angel.”

Vocal as always, Cordelia couldn’t stop the little stream of cries that sounded. They only got louder as Angel yanked aside the silk panties and replaced his fingers with his mouth. She squirmed against him in a manner that would have smothered any other man as he lapped at the tangy fluid clinging to her soft pink folds. His nose nudged her clit as his tongue delved in a shallow dip inside her; Cordelia gripped onto the headboard even tighter, throwing her head back until the cascade of her hair fell against her bare bottom.

Sucking softly at her soft flesh, Angel purred at the taste that was pure Cordelia. He loved to hear every response that tumbled from her lips, every little moan, every soft cry, and the grumbled demands that came when he teased her. Looking at her was something else he needed and the multitasking it took to concentrate on it all made him grateful for his own experience.

Cordelia saw Angel’s gaze travel from her face to her breasts. Their tips were swollen standing erect and begging for attention. When her hands left the headboard to cup both firm mounds, squeezing softly and tracing the edges of her thumbs over the nipples, Angel sounded out a moan that rippled across her flesh.

His tongue delved deep piercing her core over and over feeling the pull of her flesh and the hot fluid that dripped down his throat with every stroke. Moving up to latch onto the sensitive bud at the apex of her sex, Angel buried three fingers inside her moving them in long rhythmic strokes as he alternated sharp sucks and fast flicks of his tongue against her.

Dropping her hands from her breasts, Cordelia reached down between her legs and grabbed onto his hair. Instinct driving her to keep Angel exactly where he was, she held him against her as her hips moved in tiny circles. His name fell from her lips along with any number of other sentiments as Cordelia felt herself coming apart.

Angel continued his ministrations, lapping up every drop of her honeyed essence and slowing his movement to a softer rhythm as he felt Cordelia’s heart rate drop closer to its normal pattern. A long sigh left her throat as her body relaxed above him. He place one last kiss on the soft curls of her sex before shifting her over his shoulders and down onto the bed beside him.

Trying to ignore the fact that he was rock hard again, Angel concentrated on Cordelia trying to interpret the post-orgasmic expression in her eyes.

“Angel, I—,” she looked stunned and satisfied at the same time.

He didn’t want to talk right now. Words always got them into trouble.

“Don’t say anything,” he placed a finger over her lips. The move drew a frown to her face which Angel instantly lamented, but he didn’t want to hear anything that might make them regret what just happened.

Cordelia needed to say something despite the dangers and the reason for her fears he knew nothing about. She moved her lips beneath the soft pressure of his finger, “But—.”

If she was going to blame him for starting this or take the blame for enticing him into it, Angel did not want to give her a change to say it. So he played down the impact their spontaneous lovemaking all the while wondering what she was thinking.

Murmuring as his cheek rubbed against the top of her head, “They were just kisses, Cordy.”

No longer able to see his expression as he tucked her against his shoulder, Cordelia felt a little crestfallen by those words. While the statement technically let them both off the hook for the detour from their celibate path toward a closer relationship, it left her confused. It sounded like Angel hadn’t sensed that being with him meant far more to her than just the simple pleasure they had given each other.

Just kisses? Pfft!

“I have school.” The mention of it had become their little safety net. A reminder that things needed to stop before they got out of hand. Too late for that today. As she flipped over to climb out of bed, Cordelia wondered what excuse they would come up with tomorrow?

If there was a tomorrow. For Cordelia clearly recalled the last words of her unseen nemesis from the nightmares whispering of fear turning to certainty and of love turning to hate. During her long night’s vigil, she came to a number of conclusions.

These were no mere nightmares, but something more. That sign was not just a cryptic message, but a clue. Cordelia would bet anything that the Moirae’s sticky fingers of fate were all over this setting out the path ahead for their Champion.

It was a path that led to Los Angeles.

Cordelia decided the voices were a warning. They whispered what might happen if Angel followed the path laid out for him. Something dark and deadly awaited him. Something she could not name. Only that facing it now would result in everlasting anguish, pure despair for the vampire and she would be the source that fed into it.

No matter how fast she followed, Cordelia realized it would be too late. She knew that if there was to be any kind of future with Angel, this was something she had to stop.

Chapter 50

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