Title: Immortal Beauty
Summary: Undercover trouble during an investigation leads Cordelia to request a nude sketch from Angel.
Spoilers: AtS Season 1 & 2 Episodes To Shanshu in LA thru Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Anywhere…please let me know.
Notes: Challenge by Manders – Cordy requests a nude sketch (but there has to be a reason). NC-17, Explicit Smut.
Hmm….Cordy requesting sketch…check. Explicit smut…check, check. A reason…hey, I even added a plot. FicPic by Califi. Just for the heck of it, this fic also takes care of a certain challenge of the week posted by Cali. She knows the one. Mwahahahaha!
Thanks/Dedication: To Mandy who stuck to the rules and gave me a little epiphany.
Feedback: Absolutely! Any way, shape or form. FB keeps my muse happy.
Walking around the far end of the Olympic-sized swimming pool, Wesley took one last sweep of the area confirming that nobody was around.
The glistening water of the pool, the lounge chairs and the striped cabanas were all empty. Everyone was inside allowing him a moment of privacy to call in a preliminary report.
Angel picked up the cell phone on the first ring having been pacing across the lobby of the Hyperion for the past hour. There was no suppressing the growl in his voice, “Wes, I expected your call ages ago.”
“First opportunity,” explained Wes, his eyes still maintaining a close watch on his surroundings. “Our cover worked. The mystic glamour has everyone believing I’m a local art patron.”
Having had no doubts that Wesley could pull it off, Angel gave him his due, “Good job.”
“The estate is hardwired with high-tech security devices,” informed Wesley. Not that they expected any less after preliminary research on their target resulted in the discovery that Clayton Vandemere was a reclusive millionaire whose only public interests surrounded fine art. “Manpower is no less impressive. Guards are dispersed throughout the mansion and grounds, nothing unexpected. No immediate evidence of demonic influence.”
Staying behind during this first part of their undercover infiltration of the weekend gathering of artisans and their patrons had Angel on-edge. He preferred to be in the middle of it, especially when they knew so little going in. “What about the woman in Cordelia’s vision?”
Stepping back into the shadow of a marble Poseidon statue, Wesley told him, “Cordy has been sticking to her like glue. Apparently they have similar taste in shoes.”
After a pause, Angel asked, “How is she?”
“Oh, no sign of any trouble at all. Friendly young woman,” Wesley sounded almost chipper as he spoke. Remembering that according to the vision she was supposed to disappear like all the other victims, his voice darkened as he revealed a few specifics, “Cordelia learned that Marnie Mitchell is the girlfriend of one of the artists. She has no previous connection with Vandemere. Never met him before last night.”
Angel frowned into the phone. “Interesting, but I meant Cordelia.”
Letting Cordelia go off on this mission without him immediately by her side was most likely tearing the vampire apart with worry, Wesley realized. He’d barely agreed to the plan in the first place. Ever since the attack by Vocah that gave Cordelia never-ending visions and the pain that accompanied them, Angel had been overprotective. They’d all grown closer since the incident, though it remained a mystery precisely what Wolfram & Hart was up to in arranging the nearly deadly distractions.
“The same,” Wes answered, “determined we stop Vandemere from claiming another victim. Our only problem remains that we have no idea how he is involved in the disappearances of the eleven young women in Cordelia’s vision or how Marnie Mitchell may play into this scenario.”
“Sounds like you’re having as much luck as I am,” Angel commented drolly as he went on to explain that he managed to contact Detective Kate Lockley. “She’s still as angry and bitter as ever and made it perfectly clear to me that I shouldn’t be nosing into police business.”
That didn’t sound positive; Wesley let out a sigh. Not that he had expected otherwise now that the detective blamed Angel for her father’s death and for all of the deaths he had caused in his years as Angelus. “So you didn’t get it.”
“Actually, I did,” Angel countered much to his surprise. “Not that it helps. Kate was willing to confirm that Vandemere has no police record. Only that his name shows up in connection with all of the victims. They all attended a party at his estate within a few days of their disappearances, but the evidence shows that they all made it home after the party ended.”
Based on Cordelia’s vision, they suspected that much already. What they didn’t know was how Vandemere was involved or how the women disappeared. “I’ve arranged for your arrival tonight as planned.”
Wesley felt a tap on his shoulder and nearly dropped the phone, “Yiiiaahh! Cordelia, what are you doing out here?”
He glanced around to see how it was possible that she snuck up on him. Cordelia was grinning, “Just practicing a few stealthy techniques.” She rolled her eyes and then held up the high-heeled shoes she had removed.
“Wes, put Cordelia on,” Angel’s voice sounded in his ear as he still had the cell phone in his hand.
Cordelia grabbed the phone away before Wes could even make a move, “Angel, hi! This is so great. My bedroom is to die for and the bathroom has a sunken tub and the food is like…well, I guess you wouldn’t be interested in the food, but it’s wow.”
“I thought you were focused on figuring out why Marnie Mitchell is in danger?” It certainly didn’t sound that way.
“Oh, I am,” Cordelia assured him. “That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy myself a little. Clay told me to make myself right at home.”
What was she doing talking to Vandemere or calling him Clay for that matter? As far as her undercover identity was concerned, Cordelia was supposed to be Wesley’s assistant, not spending time with their potentially dangerous host. “Be careful.”
With a laugh, Cordelia told him, “He’s a little heavy on the leering, but he has great taste.”
“You’re supposed to be gathering information,” Angel reminded her, raging inwardly at the idea that their target was leering at his seer, “not smooth-talking Vandemere.”
“He came to me, not the other way around. Marnie and I have been bonding. If you thought I knew anything about fashion, you should hear her talk. She’s not really into art— other than her boyfriend,” Cordelia added with a snort trying to assure him that she was doing her job.
Angel tried to redirect her back to the fact that she’d been involving herself in the more dangerous part of the case, direct contact with Vandemere. He heard her soft ‘pfft’ over the phone. “Don’t talk to him again, Cordy. Not unless I’m with you.”
“Sheesh! Overprotective much, Angel? Kinda hard to avoid the host of the party and even harder to make sure you’re there,” she pointed out. “What do you want me to do…hold the cell phone up so you can hear the conversation?”
Standing next to her, Wes gave her an exasperated look. “Will you finish up, please, Cordelia. We’ll be missed.”
“Mister Bow Tie is harassing me to get off the phone,” Cordelia said as she wiggled her feet back into her high-heeled sandals one by one. “See you soon.”
“Sooner than you think,” Angel commented grimly, ending the call.
Cordelia stared down at the phone now buzzing with a dial tone. Glancing at Wesley, she asked him, “You don’t think Angel would do anything silly, do you? Like find a way to come across town in broad daylight.”
Angel stood in the middle of a large foyer, his leather jacket still warm from the sun as it had acted like a blanket of protection all the way across town. Determined not to wait a minute more, Angel had called upon Charles Gunn to drive him across town and deliver the rest of his clothing and supplies. While Gunn wasn’t too keen on pretending to be the vampire’s lackey, he offered to help out where he could.
“Getting me here is enough,” Angel thanked him as they stood in the shadows of the columned entryway.
Now inside, he was immediately greeted by members of Vandemere’s staff who had already informed him of the newcomer’s presence. A minute later, the man himself appeared, tall and trim with longish golden-brown hair and a short beard. From the research, Angel knew him to be in his mid-forties, but he looked younger. He carried a confident air about him, as if nothing could touch him. Suited in expensive, yet casual clothes, Clay Vandemere still maintained a formidable presence.
His hand was cupped around the elbow of the beautiful young woman walking next to him, Cordelia, wearing one of those short little pieces of nothing that left her legs long and bare to his view. As Angel’s eyes swept over Cordelia and saw the way that their target touched her, he fought to maintain the mask of his human features. The demon in him shouted in rage that Vandemere had his hand on her, that once again Cordelia had defied him and put herself in danger and for some reason that Wesley was nowhere in sight to protect her.
Cordelia caught the dark glint in Angel’s eyes as he met her gaze. Keeping her smile as sunny as possible, she kept to the game. This was not a moment to get trapped in lessons that included the words ‘I told you so’. Grabbing the lead, Cordelia decided to make introductions before Angel skipped the whole investigation and ripped off Clay Vandemere’s head. Not that he would, but the look in his eyes wasn’t exactly the friendliest at the moment.
“Mr. Wyndam-Pryce showed me some of your work,” Vandemere commented as he took in the fact that the artist appeared to be short on manners. Dealing with any number of eccentric artists, he would normally brush off the fact as being something unworthy of his attention, but he’d seen the flash of gold in those dark eyes. “I have been looking forward to meeting you and seeing more. My instincts tell me you’ll be an interesting guest, Angel.”
“I’m paid to be here,” Angel got into character, his own instincts warning him that the man before him was talking in subtext. “Wyndam-Pryce keeps my wallet flush and gives me anything I want so long as he gets to play show and tell with my work.”
As the hand clutching Cordelia’s elbow started to move to a more intimate position along her lower back, Angel reached out and slowly tugged her toward him. She gave him a look of surprise, but Angel was too focused on staring directly at their host and making his point, a smirk twisting his handsome mouth at one corner as he added, “Anything.”
The too bright smile on Cordelia’s face wavered a bit as she felt Angel’s large hand close around her ribs, sweep along her waist and spread out over the rounded curve of her bottom. Plastered against his side, Cordelia felt her heart leap up in her throat as his iron grip held her in place. She was too busy counting up the number of ways to turn Angel into a dust pile to notice Vandemere’s reaction.
“Then I assume you will not require separate accommodations,” Vandemere nodded without blinking an eye. “My assistant will show you to Cordelia’s room shortly, but as your host, I must ensure you have everything you need during your stay.”
With a brief nod, Angel thanked him. The sooner they got to that room, the better off they would be. A storm of hurricane proportions was building up inch by inch in the tense woman in his arms and he wanted them out of hearing range before she let it blow. He’d just reacted and now it was all he could do not to squeeze the lush curves beneath his hand.
“You are a sketch artist with the eye of a master. The detail is superb,” Vandemere was quite free with the compliments. Then he quickly got to what he assumed would be the interesting part of this conversation, “I suppose that your only other medium is flesh— and blood. That is usually the way with vampires.”
Cordelia’s eyes snapped back to their host, wide with shock. She grabbed a handful of Angel’s jacket, promising, “I didn’t tell him.”
Vandemere laughed as he watched their reactions. Panic settled across that beautiful face as Cordelia nibbled on her lower lip realizing she should have kept her mouth shut and let Angel do the talking. There was a first time for everything.
“Do not fear that I will alert the other guests. May I say that I admire the bravado of your daytime arrival. The cloak of darkness would have been safer, but not seen as suspicious by this crowd. As long as you maintain your decorum amongst them, there will be no difficulty,” Vandemere assured smoothly.
“There aren’t many who can identify my kind by sight alone,” Angel commented, the danger signals glaring by this point. Their host was no ordinary human, but what he was Angel had no idea.
With a brief flash of a smile, “Money buys many connections in this community. I hear quite a lot and have learned to trust my instincts.”
“Well, I’m not here to snack on your guests, Vandemere,” Angel hoped to end this discussion soon. This required a little time for regrouping.
“I am delighted to hear that,” came the amused response. “However, I would be happy to arrange provision of a supply of fresh blood…unless you already have one,” his gaze drifted back to Cordelia. “I don’t see any obvious marks on that lovely skin.”
Cordelia snapped, “There are none,” and felt Angel’s hand tighten in response.
Telling another male that he let his property go unmarked did not produce a calming effect for the vampire. Even if Cordelia didn’t actually belong to him in the way that Vandemere suggested. Angel quickly explained, his emotions masked firmly behind a practiced poker-face, “Cordelia is unmarked because I choose to enjoy the perfection of her skin. I like her warm and willing.”
Angel felt her gaze burning into him. He’d guess she was pretty damn hot right now. Mount Vesuvius was going to blow no matter her professed acting skills. He hoped she realized he was trying to convince Vandemere that she was off limits to protect her, not that his words contained hidden truths.”
Barely maintaining her hold on her tongue, Cordelia kept repeating a mantra to hold off the urge to tell both of them exactly what was running through her head. Any other time, she wouldn’t hesitate, but there was a mission at stake.
“She is indeed lovely,” Vandemere’s blue eyes wandered down her frame despite the possessive hold of the vampire. Then joking, “Keeps your drawing pencil sharp, does she?”
Angel heard Cordelia’s soft, “Eew!” close to his ear.
“Your Cordelia will make a lovely model for my next commission. I have a yen to see her on canvas,” Vandemere tapped his finger to his chin thoughtfully.
Reminding him, “I don’t paint,” Angel closed that subject.
Or thought he did.
Clay Vandemere stepped within arms reach of the vampire and the beautiful woman he had claimed to be his. Ignoring the dark glare and possessive tone, he chuckled as his hand lifted to curl a finger along one of Cordelia’s silky chestnut tresses. “My dear Angel, I plan to paint her myself.”
“What the freakin’ hell did you think you were playing at?” Cordelia stormed up to Angel the moment the door to their room closed behind the servants who carried up his bags.
Their room, the thought resonated in her head. It was their room, not hers just because Mister Big Mouth Vamp had to go all Super-Psycho just because she was talking to the potential bad guy.
Rubbing the tension at the nape of his neck, Angel tried to get out of this without appearing to whine and beg forgiveness. Not that he was anywhere near feeling sorry for the fact that he’d tried to make it clear that Cordelia was off-limits to their host. If anything, his spontaneous strategy only seemed to draw more interest.
Now Clay Vandemere was adamant about painting Cordelia and only after Angel’s assurance that he would consider allowing it did he allow them to head upstairs.
“Drop it, Cordy,” Angel told her, stance wide, hands on his hips and making his body appear even larger engulfing hers as she approached like an angry whirlwind.
“I’m not dropping anything,” she snapped, “until you tell me where that lamebrain act came from. Clay was behaving like a gentleman until you came along and turned him into Mister Male Chauvinist Pig.”
Nostrils flaring, Angel made an attempt to put a damper on his own temper. After all, if Cordelia had stuck with the girl instead of letting Clay Vandemere put his hands on her, this would have been a non-issue.
“Think about it. Your own vision showed you that he’s the one behind these disappearances. So it stands to reason that he puts on a performance for the public. You just caught a glimpse of the man behind the façade.”
Raking both hands through her hair, Cordelia tucked it behind her ears. She swiped her tongue across her lips, glared at Angel and then poked him in the chest hard enough to make sure she had his full attention. “He’s a creep. I get that. For the record, I’m not some simpering twit who’s going to drool all over him because he’s kind of a hottie and has money to burn.”
The description startled Angel for a moment. She thought Vandemere was a hottie? Maybe it was the beard. Shaking off the flash of jealousy distracting him, Angel got back to the point of his whole charade. He didn’t care if his words cut too close to the truth that he hadn’t fully admitted to himself yet as he said, “I don’t want him near you, Cordelia. You saw how he looked at you.”
“What— like a man looks at a woman?” Cordelia questioned hotly, anger glittering in her hazel eyes. “Maybe it’s escaped your notice, but guys actually find me attractive. Just because you’re a eunuch doesn’t mean the rest of the male population has to be.”
Angel dropped his hands to his sides, balling them up into tight fists as the urge to grab hold of her hit him. Not notice? A eunuch? If she had any clue just how often and how much he did notice, he was certain Cordelia wouldn’t be screaming in his face and all but daring him to show her just how wrong she was about that eunuch comment.
Jaw tight, Angel ground out the words, “I’m not a eunuch.”
“Pfft!” Cordelia crossed her arms, turned her head to one side and refused to look at him.
“You were there when Wes found the loophole that made my soul permanent,” Angel reminded her taking one step closer so that his towering form brushed against her. “Don’t yank that chain, Cordelia, unless you want it wrapped around you.”
The sound of her own pulse thundered in her ears as Cordelia slowly peeked up at him from the corners of her eyes. Teeth clamped down on her lower lip as she realized maybe, just maybe she’d pushed him just a little too far bruising his male ego in the process.
“That still doesn’t give you the right to paw me,” she took it down a notch, “even for show.”
Dammit, now he had to say it, “I’m sorry, Cordy.”
“You should be,” Cordelia told him not leaving well enough alone. “Personally, I think some serious groveling is in order here.”
Amazed that she’d actually suggest it, he could only question her sanity for doing so, “Groveling? You’re crazy if you think I’m crawling and begging to gain forgiveness for something that was your fault in the first place.”
“My fault! I’m to blame for that testosterone challenge in the lobby?” Her voice gave off a shriek as her temper flared again. “That was all you, buddy. And don’t talk to me about yanking your chains, Angel, because after that act, I think you need to take a hard look in the mirror.”
Angel’s jaw snapped shut again just as his hands moved with incalculable speed to pull her hard against his chest. One moved up to bury itself in her hair, tilting her head back and her face toward him. “Vampires don’t have reflections,” he reminded her, closing in on the soft circle formed by her mouth.
A short gasp was all Cordelia had time for, her eyes wide saucers as Angel closed in on her lips. Just as the distance between them vanished to naught but a sliver of light, a knock sounded at their door followed quickly by the turning of the handle. In the space of a second, Cordelia was left standing alone with Angel on the far side of the room leaning up against the wall and taking great interest in a crack on the ceiling.
Wesley entered quickly, shutting the door behind him. Noting Angel’s presence and immediately picking up the tense vibes, he had no doubt they’d been arguing. As he approached, the sound of their raised voices had been audible, but indecipherable. No doubt it had something to do with Cordelia spending more time with Vandemere than Angel thought safe and the fact that Angel had somehow arranged to get here in broad daylight.
“So you made it,” Wes said by way of an opening hoping the tension would dissipate.
Angel nodded without explaining the details. He was slowly forcing himself to calm down. Cordelia had him so stirred up he’d almost kissed her. Dammit, what the hell was he thinking? That was the problem, Angel realized, thinking had nothing to do with it.
Moving forward, Wesley noticed that Angel’s suitcases were lined up at his feet. This was potentially interesting. “Why are these not in your room?”
It was Cordelia who answered, her fake smile showing again. “This is Angel’s room.”
A furrow appeared on Wesley’s brow, “But this is your room.”
“Try explaining that to Don Juan the Artiste over there,” Cordelia nodded her head in Angel’s direction.
Pushing away from the wall, Angel stalked over to join them. “I thought it necessary to tell Vandemere that Cordelia wasn’t up for grabs.”
“Says Mister Grabby Hands himself,” she muttered and drew a wide-eyed look from the Englishman.
“So you’re saying that you informed our host that you two are sleeping together,” Wes deduced while attempting not to let his imagination run away with him. Since they had recently moved offices from Cordelia’s apartment to the Hyperion, he had hoped the building tension between the vampire and seer would cool off a little. That hadn’t happened and now Wes saw that it was reaching a boiling point. “Strangely, I have to tell you that I’m glad you made that inference.”
Cordelia’s nose crinkled in reaction. “Huh?” Even Angel raised a brow.
“I’ve garnered a little more information from our outside sources on the women who have disappeared,” Wesley explained. “All of them were the girlfriends of the artisans who have come here as guests.”
“So what?” Cordelia shrugged, not getting the connection. “You’re saying that Clay is the jealous type. There’s plenty of that to go around.”
Angel ignored the verbal barb to comment, “Maybe he covets what he can’t have as his own.” Then making a leap, “He paints them. Captures them on canvas.”
“He wants to paint me,” Cordelia’s hand crept up to her throat, remembering the way Clay commented on her unmarked skin.
Conceding that there could be a connection, Wesley pointed out, “That still doesn’t explain the cause of the disappearances.”
“Pack up,” Angel ordered decisively having never taken his eyes off of her. “You’re going home tonight. We’ll handle this.”
Turning on him and completely ignoring Wesley’s presence, Cordelia laid into him again. “Don’t pull the macho protective stuff with me, Angel. I’m part of this team— Vision Girl, not just your secretary and certainly not someone who’s going to run at the first sign that it’s getting dangerous.”
Then her voice softened, “I’ve come a long way since Sunnydale and I’m not going to let you endanger this mission because you think I can’t take care of myself.”
“Cordy…,” Angel couldn’t deny any of it and found that his words were suffocated by the truth.
After seconds of silence that felt like eons, Wesley cleared his throat. Addressing Angel, he put on a practical expression before saying, “I assume you’ll be sleeping on the couch.”
After that, it seemed like a non-issue to Wesley who informed them both that it might be a good idea for Cordelia to sit for Vandemere’s painting. This might be the only way they would gain access to the evidence that would prove him guilty of a connection to the disappearances. Angel was dead-set against the idea. No way was he going to let that happen. Just to prove her point, Cordelia took the opposite argument, even though the idea gave her the creeps.
“Two against one,” she quipped sticking out her tongue at Angel when the urge hit.
“Fine,” he ground out. “Just keep in mind that when you do this, he won’t have you wearing anything except your skin.”
Cordelia’s spine stiffened at the thought of those leering blue eyes, but she wasn’t about to back down now. “You don’t know that.”
A harsh laugh sounded from the vampire’s throat. “After the way he went on about your flawless silky golden skin? Bet on it.”
Just as Cordelia was trying to recall if Clay had used those words, Wesley decided he had heard more than enough. He didn’t like the idea any more than Angel, but if he had his way, things wouldn’t get that far.
“This is a good time to snoop around a bit. Vandemere is supposed to be otherwise occupied until suppertime. Cordy, you might want to get back to Ms Mitchell.”