40: The Quinn Residence, 21 Quincy Street, Eastside, Sunnydale
Blue? Angel scowled irritably. Trust Cordy to go with the exact opposite of what he said he liked. This was probably his punishment.
Fortunately, she did not even notice his reaction as she put the red exercise outfit back into the closet giving him time to replace the scowl with a blank expression. His inner conflict had very little to do with her color choice for her exercise gear, however. If only it was that simple.
“So, are you ready for your surprise?” A hint of amusement sounded in her voice. She had called him predictable, but Cordy would never be labeled that way.
There was just something constant and true that drew him into the whirlwind she was creating of his existence. Normally he would have avoided both Cordelia and whatever surprise she concocted like the plague. Then again, Angelus once found plagues rather entertaining, their macabre nature appealing to his own.
Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the unexpected, Angel was intrigued. Sitting on the edge of her bed, he watched her with a growing awareness that his feelings went beyond simple desire. Deep, instinctual hungers had always been there, but his soul ached for closeness. His body stirred at the thought of possessing her.
His fingers unconsciously splayed across the bedspread imagining her lying upon it, her hair spread out over the pillows. Although Cordy’s surprise was a mystery to him, he had no doubt of its innocence compared to the unsuitably lurid direction of his thoughts.
Securing Cordelia’s safety or confronting Drusilla & Spike should be his primary focus, but he found it impossible to shift gears. What started out as unexpected attraction had gone way beyond the point where he could deny it. Not that he could do a damn thing about it. No matter what Cordy had planned for tonight, it could not possibly be more surprising than him imagining her willing and wanton beneath him.
Long waves of silky mahogany hair flowed down her back, the ends curling and teasing each other. Her slim waist flared into softly curving hips. He imagined a stinging remark if he told her that the design of her dress only accentuated the shape of her bottom.
Dangerous territory. Not a damn thing, remember?
Angel knew that he was leering at her ass, but neither the man nor demon within seemed compelled to turn away. The tempting thought of walking up behind her and reaching out to pull flush with those luscious curves was not easily put aside; letting his hands curve around her tiny waist and rove up to fill his palms with her breasts.
Their friendship weighted his thoughts, guilt and lust waging an inner battle. Yet, the forbidden fantasy that his surprise might entail something pleasurable for them both played out in his head. His body responded throbbing heavily against the confines of his clothing brought him to the edge of pain, but Angel welcomed it, feeling alive with it.
Ignoring the urge to adjust himself to a more comfortable position, he watched her fingers slipping down the toned length of her leg to remove one of her high-heeled sandals. It hit the floor tumbling at an odd angle soon followed by its mate. Barefoot toes flexed happily on the carpet.
From head to toe, from any angle, Cordy was a bright, beautiful flame and he the moth that so wanted to be singed by her fire. To be engulfed by it.
When she turned, he held her captive in his gaze, full of hungry intent he could not hide. A little gasp caught in her throat. She tensed, startled, staring back as if sensing a predator had marked her. Angel probably should have looked away, pretended to be interested in the trophies displayed on the vanity next to the jumbled array of beauty products.
He did not, holding steadily and half expecting her to blink or glance away.
“I’m ready.” Angel answered her question, hardly recognizing his distorted voice.
Surprise showed in the little crook of her eyebrow. The soft chuckle that followed restored his senses. Did she find it funny? Rising, Angel managed to stop himself from responding the way he wanted to by pulling her into his arms to kiss away that feminine smirk. Determined to control his desire, he towered above her, jaw tightening. Then faster than she could follow, Angel moved to the door.
“Time to go.” He glanced back over his shoulder and then stepped out into the hall.
Blinking at the swift move, Cordelia laughed at him, “Eager, much?”
Angel froze on the spot, eyes widening a fraction. A resounding yes echoed in his head. That much must have been obvious. Shame rolled over him so fast that it had an immediate effect. Being grateful for the length of his coat was no longer an issue. Not that it seemed to matter to her.
“You really stuck your foot in it with Bev,” the mention of her grandmother at this point confused him, “but there’s no reason to rush out of here.”
It sounded like she had not seen really noticed his response or had already put it out of her mind as something not to be taken seriously. Maybe it was a vampire thing. Or the curse. Or a Buffy thing. Maybe she was just letting him off the hook.
Maybe he just needed to find something to kill because this was getting pathetic. He would welcome the distraction. Considering that he was going to be spending the next few hours on a moonlit hillside showing Cordy a few moves— Tai Chi moves, he figured he’d need it.
Cordelia walked closer, leaning against the doorframe, pointing out, “I still have to get changed.”
Maybe she dismissed the fact that he was staring like any other male would. “I’ll wait outside.”
“You might run into Bev again,” she teased. Stopping his progress with her hand pressed to his chest, Cordy added, “With your record, you’ll have her convinced we’re eloping to Las Vegas. I think it’s safer if you stay in here.”
“I’ll keep my back turned,” Angel offered while anticipating her silk dress shifting against her skin as it fell to the floor. He stepped closer so they were both in the doorway facing each other.
Cordy snorted, “You can if you want to, but I’ll be changing in the bathroom down the hall.”
What the hell was he doing? Lusting after Cordy was a bad idea for more reasons than he could count. It was not fair. Not to him, to her or to his memories of Buffy. That was a mess of a situation. Back at the library, Cordy had accused him of using her to make Buffy jealous when that was the last thing on his mind.
Watching Cordy disappear into the bathroom, Angel rubbed at the tense muscles of his neck idly hoping it would ease his tense state overall. It wasn’t working. He only hoped this was not a sign that being near Cordelia was going to keep him in a constant state of semi-arousal.
Angel paced across the room a few times feeling like a caged tiger. Her scent was all around him here in her bedroom flooding his senses, feeding his imagination. If he was only human— but he was not. All of his male instincts were tangled up with the desires of his demon, impossible to separate.
With a growl of self-directed anger, Angel stared into the mirror hanging above the small vanity table. It reflected the objects within the room, but not him. As always, it was as if he was not there, was not real. The pain and suffering he had caused over the years was real enough.
Loving Buffy certainly had not done either of them any favors. Maybe her decision to end it had been the smart thing, after all. Angel figured he should do the same with this before he let himself get obsessed with wanting someone he could not have. Do it before it was too late. The only solution would be to walk away from it. To walk away from Cordelia’s friendship and Buffy’s mission.
Maybe that was the best thing, the safest thing. At least Cordy’s feelings were not mixed up in this. Separating himself from her now might even get Dru to leave Cordelia alone.
Any satisfaction at actually having a plan was pushed aside almost instantly. He did not want to walk out of Cordy’s life. It was a selfish thought, but he would not deny himself the one person who had taught him how to smile again. Whatever it took to keep her safe, he would do. If he had to suppress every lustful urge when he was around her, he would manage it, somehow.
A growl of denial built up inside him. He had lived on his instincts during his time in Acathla’s hell dimension, grown to trust them. Returning to Sunnydale reasserted his conscience, his control, but the instincts were always there. Knowing better of it did not stifle his desires. They were too deep for that.
It was easy to imagine Cordelia’s swift-kneed response if he backed her against the nearest wall and suggested they get naughty. Hell! That was insane. Worse, she would probably just laugh in his face reminding him that Bev was just down the hall.
Angel knew he had to control his lust, somehow. He could not let it control him.
“Are you just polishing that trophy or do you need to be alone with it?” Cordelia appeared in the doorway watching as he held one of her cheerleading awards. He had felt like smashing it against the mirror, but she had caught him with his thumb absently roving along the curves of the gilded figurine.
Angel realized what he was doing and put the trophy down so fast that it nearly toppled over. He scrambled to right it, growling a low curse when the others went tumbling too. Fixing them, he turned sheepishly, “Sorry,” his eyes focused on the floor.
“Perv,” she teased him with a soft laugh.
Not denying it, Angel was grateful that she did not suspect the half of it. His hot gaze licked up the toned length of her body noting the way the stretchy material clung to every curve.
Blue was his new favorite color.
Realizing that he was staring again, Angel turned his attention to the room. As he glanced around, looking for anything he could comment on that didn’t involve the words ‘I want you now’ he saw how sparse it was compared to Buffy’s bedroom.
“Is this it?” Angel knew the government had taken away her car and horse, but he had not imagined her leaving almost everything behind. There were the clothes in the closet, her makeup and the trophies, but he could see nothing else that would have come from home.
Cordelia flashed him a hurt look quickly masked by one of irritation. “It’s what it is. I don’t want your pity. It’s all a temporary thing and I’m dealing with it. Bev is doing her best and so am I.”
Nodding, Angel turned to go. He did not bother to quell the anger that built up at the thought of it. Yes, she was dealing with it, but she had been through so much. Now he had managed to put her in danger.
“Hey, not so fast,” Cordy caught up with him at the end of the hall, capturing his hand to stop him. Though she released him almost immediately, he could still feel the warmth of her hand.
Gesturing toward the kitchen, Cordelia explained, “We have to stop here first. I asked Faith to drop off some stuff. Bev helped too. With your surprise, I mean.”
Like the rest of the house, the kitchen was small. Angel leaned against a counter as Cordy headed for the refrigerator.
His surprise was in the refrigerator? That was about as far from what Angel had been imagining as possible. Smiling wryly, he watched as she pulled out a metal thermos, several small triangle-shaped sandwiches in individual plastic wrap and a number of small containers.
“I knew I wouldn’t get to eat before the meeting, so I thought I’d ask Bev to fix something,” Cordelia explained.
“She made a lot.” Angel noted that there was no way Cordy was going to able to eat all of that. Then he remembered that Bev assumed he was human and that she had fixed this for both of them.
“Yeah, it’ll do.” Cordy told him, “Faith wanted to borrow my red leather pants, so I asked her to go to Willy’s in exchange,” she indicated the thermos.
Red leather pants? Angel’s mouth watered at the thought of Cordy in leather. He only hoped that Faith would return them soon. Though the Slayer was attractive, it was his own willful brunette he wanted to see wearing them.
“I told Bev that you needed a special supplement to your diet,” she explained.
Stunned, Angel pushed aside the images of Cordy in red leather finally realizing the nature of the deal she made with Faith. Glancing down at the silver thermos, he asked her, “Blood?”
“Duh! What else would it be?” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Bev thinks it’s a stinky protein drink, so I doubt she checked it out. Besides, I wanted you to have one thing I knew you would like. The rest of this is just for fun.”
The thought of the food was not that appealing. It was the sparkling enthusiasm in her eyes that captured Angel’s attention. Whatever she intended was designed to be a friendly gesture. She had obviously gone to a lot of trouble. So Angel figured that if he let himself enjoy whatever it was she had in mind, that would not be so selfish.
Angel leaned in for a closer look only to pull back when Cordelia started opening cupboard after cupboard looking for something. She brushed past him to reach the cabinet door beside his head, her breast sliding against his arm as she stood on tiptoes to look inside. Cordy’s gaze met his, but only to share her impatience.
The cupboard door clapped closed. Then declaring defeat, Cordy called out to her grandmother who clearly knew what she was after. Yelling over the noise of the television, “Bev, where is it?”
“Somewhere in the hall closet,” an answer came straight away and just as loudly.
Cordelia disappeared after a brief, “Be right back.”
He was about to take a look at the items on the counter again when Cordy called out, “Angel, grab a couple of plastic forks and spoons out of that drawer. There are some napkins on the counter.”
It was not often that he was asked to do anything so mundane. She just casually expected him to follow along with her request as if he was a regular guy instead of a vampire, although it was clear that she was not ignoring the fact considering she had a thermos full of blood sitting on her countertop.
Wondering which drawer she was talking about, Angel searched until he found the one he was looking for. A bag of plastic tableware was in the same drawer as an organizer holding the stainless steel variety. He pulled out the requested items to add them to the pile on the counter.
A noisy clatter caught his attention. His head whipped in that direction. He was on the verge of running into the hall when Cordy’s triumphant shout sounded, “Got it!” followed by the closet door shutting.
Reappearing, she placed a small picnic basket on the countertop. “We’re taking it to go.”
Kingman’s Bluff Cemetery, Westside, Sunnydale
Lifting his arm that was draped over his eyes, Spike glanced toward the source of the noise he had been hearing.
Over in the corner, a young girl was tied to an exposed pipe by a long black scarf. Her tawny blond hair hung straight to her shoulders. Big brown eyes welled up with tears, red cheeks already stained with them. Her bottom lip poked into a permanent pout, quivering woefully.
“Looks like a tasty li’l bit,” Spike admitted. He was feeling hungry, but Dru’s touch was too good. It had been much too long since he had her attention.
Drusilla traced the fading edge of a bruise now greenish against his pale skin. “My Angel beat you badly. Naughty Daddy.”
His mouth tightened up. Spike shifted against the mattress as he made an effort to point out, “He didn’t get away unscathed. Gave as good as I got.”
What had started out as a little fight for old time’s sake had turned into a bloody battle. Fists flying. Power. Bloody punches. Feral growls. Unleashed rage. Pain. Sharp, dull, throbbing pain. The taste of fear in the air. He’d enjoyed every second of it even if he did come out worse for wear. It had been too long since he had seen Angelus fight that way for something he wanted, soul or none.
Keeping the curvy brunette safe was obviously important to him. They had looked to be a right lovey-dovey pair, the two of them cozied up together in the moonlight. The fear he had sensed during the fight had been for her. He wondered what that meant to the Slayer.
It might be interesting to find out if Buffy knew about their little tête-à-tête in the graveyard. Spike figured he would think about that later. Right now, he did not want to move away from Drusilla’s touch.
“Shall I rub away the pain?” Dru asked while massaging his temples.
Spike moaned a little, trying not to smile. “Go ahead, luv. It hurts everywhere.”