Red Velvet Ribbon. 3

Angel’s mouth trailed dewdrop kisses tingling across her skin, cool and wet. Tongue dipping into nooks and hollows. His hands slip-sliding over warm curves, cupping and teasing sensitive flesh. Their bodies moved to the rhythmic cadence of her heartbeat.

On a husky moan, her legs locked around his. Angel’s head snapped up, amber eyes gleaming. Fingers tangled in the short spikes of his hair. His name fell from her lips, pleading completion. Hungrily, he claimed her lips, no longer languidly exploring the soft curves, but in a needy, carnal kiss. One wantonly returned as they tumbled on toward ecstasy.

Hot and flushed, breathing erratically, her heart racing from exertion, Cordelia woke with a start, sitting straight up in bed. Muted daylight filtered through the shaded windows as she glanced around the room to discover that she was alone.

She ran a hand across the top of her already mussed bed-head, realizing now that she’d been dreaming.

“Hooboy,” Cordy grabbed for the nearest pillow and held on tight. All this because of a little mistletoe.

Finally climbing out of bed, she headed to the bathroom to take a piping hot shower. Her body was buzzing with arousal as images danced in her head that had nothing to do with sugar plums and everything to do with making hot, passionate love to Angel.

She supposed her ability to receive detailed visions from the Powers That Be also translated to the reason why her everyday dreams had always come with Technicolor and Surround Sound. This one was a doozy.

One she had no business dreaming.

So maybe Angel was the epitome of salty goodness, definitely a hottie, but hello, he was still her best friend. A friend with skills. Technically, Angel might be a vampire, a walking corpse, but geez the man could certainly kiss. On the Richter scale, she rated her shaken nerves at a 12 out of a possible 10. The effect had simply carried straight into her dreams where her best friend wore the guise of a lover.

The hair dryer was blowing noisily in her ear as Cordelia came to the decision that she couldn’t ignore the kiss or the dream. She was going to march straight into Angel’s room to demand an explanation. Mistletoe or no mistletoe, that kiss was more than a friendly peck for the holidays.

It was all his fault that her head was stuck with images that made her body tingle.

Cordy was half way to the door before she realized that it might be easier to make her point if she had some clothes on. Ten minutes later, she was outside Angel’s door, her hand on the brass knob and without bothering to knock, went right in. “We have to talk—.”

Coming to a sharp halt two steps later as she saw that Angel was nowhere in sight, his bed neat as a pin, Cordelia let out a frustrated, “Grrr.”

A sound outside caught her attention and she raced to the window, throwing aside the curtains and yanking up the Venetian blinds. There he was, hiding in plain sight, trying to look like he was having fun without her.

That big stupid grin on his face as he was pelted with snowballs from two different directions clearly meant that he’d been bashed on the head a few too many times.

If that had happened yesterday, Cordelia might have blamed his behavior on a head injury. Maybe Mrs. C had slipped some undetectable aphrodisiac into his blood supply. Well, he’d just better have a damn good excuse for all that touchy-feelyness because he’d burst her personal bubble and now it was hard to think about anything except having his hands and mouth on her again.

Snatching her brown leather jacket from the coat rack, she put it on as she left the lodge, making a beeline for Angel despite the fact that she trudged directly through the forbidden territory of no-man’s-land. Angel called out a warning as their friends took the opportunity to toss a few of their icy weapons in her direction, but Cordelia walked on.

“Get down,” Angel rose to his feet to make a grab at her bare hand. He tugged her behind the four-foot wall of the snow barrier. “I’ve had to hold down the fort without you this afternoon. Grab your gloves and start making snowballs. We’re almost out.”

Cordelia’s jaw tightened as she realized Angel planned to keep right on playing their little war game. She didn’t duck down or bother to put on the gloves tucked into her pocket. “I want an explanation.”

The words hit just after Angel had lobbed off a round of icy ammunition toward Wes who dove for cover behind his strategically designed arc-shaped fortress. Instantly understanding what it was Cordelia wanted to talk about, he forgot all about the snowball fight despite the danger of their exposed position.

He stepped closer keeping his hands at his sides despite the urge to reach out and stroke his fingers across her cheek. “Cordy, we’re on holiday and everything just seems so unreal, somehow. Last night you were standing there in front of the fire and there was mistletoe over your head. It seemed like the right thing to do.”

“You kissed me,” she stressed the smoochage, practically hissing the words at him as a snowball passed directly over their heads. “Nothing unreal about that.”

Balling his hands into fists, he restrained them in his pockets, tempted to take her into his arms again. Only, it seemed all too clear that Cordy was upset about the kiss and would probably think he was making yet another unwanted move. Downplaying the whole event, Angel shrugged, “Just blame it on the mistletoe, holiday tradition.”

Cordelia put her hands on her hips, tapping her clunky booted foot in the snow. “Pfft! Mistletoe kisses are tiny little pecks, Angel. I’m pretty sure having your tongue in my mouth doesn’t qualify.”

On the edge of reminding her that she’d responded eagerly to every caress, Angel let out a soft apology. “It was just a kiss, Cordy. No big deal.”

“It was a helluva big deal,” she countered, angrily poking a finger into his chest, his jacket cushioning the little jab. Her stomach clenched into a tight knot at his easy disregard for the whole event. Oh, God, did he really mean it was just an accident, that they’d been waylaid by a random sprig of mistletoe? “So you’re saying it meant nothing.”

A snowball hit Angel’s shoulder with a hard knock, but the triumphant shout from the one who threw it went ignored. His attention was focused in one place, but Cordelia kept sending him mixed signals. One second, she seemed to be saying that the kiss was a bad thing and shouldn’t have happened. The next moment, it was clearly a big deal that should’ve meant something.

All Angel could settle on was that, in her eyes, last night’s kiss was a helluva big bad deal that should never have happened.

That conclusion rankled something inside him. Suddenly, his hands came out of his pockets and curled around her upper arms to close the distance between them to a hairsbreadth. “It meant something, Cordy, I’m sure of that.”

“But you just said—,” he cut her off with the sweep of his thumb across her mouth.

Shaking his head, Angel told her, “Forget what I said. Just remember this…”

Cordelia’s eyes widened and then closed within a moment, her body leaning into his, fingers curling into the supple leather of his jacket, face gently upturned for the kiss she knew was coming. For all her protests about last night, she wanted more.

Totally self-involved, they had no sense of the on-going battle around them until a random snowball hit Cordy mid-back, causing her to cry out and fall forward against Angel’s chest. The sudden shift in body position had them tumbling to the ground into the snow. It took a moment to figure out what had happened and then the bell-tone sound of Fred’s voice rang out from across the field.

“Charles! That wasn’t fair,” they heard her shout in protest. “He was gonna kiss her.”

Cordelia lay half on top of Angel, one leg trapped between his, her left side caught in the snow. Listening, their gazes held steady.

“You know what they say,” Gunn answered back with a chuckle, “all’s fair in love and snowball fights.”

A trace of awkward nerves suddenly hit at the thought of their audience waiting for them to emerge from behind their snow fort. Both reluctantly realized the moment had passed. Shifting them into a sitting position, Angel slid his palm around her nape as his thumb subconsciously circled the pulse of her throat. He wasn’t quite ready to let her go.

“Spend the rest of the afternoon with me,” he said though he knew it was Christmas Eve and their plans for today had already been mapped out in minute detail by Wes and Fred.

“Just the two of us?” Cordelia glanced over her shoulder, but the barrier of the wall of snow kept the others hidden from her view. Her heart thumped with excitement and a hint of fear. She wasn’t quite sure what Angel intended by suggesting they spend some time alone together, but Cordy couldn’t deny that she wanted to find out.

Angel nodded, “Unless you want Mrs. Claymore to tag along as a chaperone,” he joked.

“Okay.”

“Oh, then I’ll have to ask her,” Angel suddenly looked puzzled and Cordelia realized he was trying to figure out how to fit his plans around Mrs. C’s busy baking schedule.

Rolling her eyes, Cordelia snorted, “Dork, I meant okay to us.”


Powerfully, the vibrations thrummed between her thighs, as Cordelia wrapped her arms around Angel and held on for the ride. Her chin perched on his shoulder, body up as close to his as their clothing would allow as the snowmobile raced across the open fields.

The sound of her joyful laughter echoed in the air as Angel maneuvered the vehicle with more luck than skill.

Through fields dotted with evergreens, across the sloping hills, past a series of old log cabins and along the course of a burbling brook, they continued until reaching the mountain’s edge. Deep in the valley below, the lights of a small town began to show as nightfall neared.

The clouds clung close to the mountain, heavy with snow yet to fall.

While the effects of the wind had kept Cordelia from asking him questions when the snowmobile was in motion, now that they’d paused to stretch their legs, she needed to know if Angel was feeling just as mixed up about their kiss as she was.

Sliding her gloved hand along his sleeve, she opened with, “Y’know, normally, a guy who brings a girl to a scenic overlook isn’t really here to admire the view, and the transportation usually has a back seat.”

A wry smile curled one corner of his mouth. “Thanks for the advice. I’ll keep that in mind.”

“It is pretty,” she said, just in case it was the view was the reason they’d come this far.

“Beautiful,” Angel said with his eyes on her wind-kissed cheeks. “I mean you. I don’t tell you that often enough.”

Grinning at the way he seemed to eat her up with his eyes despite the fact that she had to look tousled, Cordy cheekily agreed with him. “That can be your New Year’s resolution.”

“I’m not waiting until the New Year for resolutions,” he told her with a serious gleam in his fathomless eyes. Taking her hand in his, Angel felt her whole body react to his slight touch as if it pulsed along with her heartbeat. Pure fear, he recognized, as the rush of adrenalin accompanied the intense reaction. Cursing his similar response and the nervous twisting of his gut, he plunged ahead with what he had to say.

“That kiss last night was far from meaningless to me,” he admitted. “Maybe I didn’t plan it going that far, but I don’t regret it happening. My feelings for you have been so mixed up lately that it’s driving me crazy wanting you this way. I want more for us, Cordy. It’s time for things to change.”

Inching forward, Cordelia’s head was spinning at his words. Relief flooded her as she realized she wasn’t the only one who’d been thinking non-friendship-y things, lately. It wasn’t just a drive-by mistletoe hit, though she had to admit that the kiss brought it to the point that she couldn’t shrug those feelings off as random reactions.

Not to mention the dream that brought a million curious impulses screaming to life.

“God, Angel, I don’t know if I want things to change between us,” she said honestly, her breath billowing in the frosty air between them. When his face drooped into an expression that made Cordelia feel like she’d carelessly crushed his heart with the heel of her clunky boots, she added hastily, “Relationships are tricky. They end badly. I don’t want to wake up one day and have you walk away from me.”

Protesting that scenario, he swore vehemently, “I would never do that,” only to see her eyebrow arch meaningfully. Then realizing he’d already done that in a manner of speaking when he’d kicked her out of his life by firing her along with Wes and Gunn, he tagged on softly, “Never again.”

Trying to be practical about it, she thought about the reasons he’d given for leaving Buffy, though the brevity of that conversation had forced her to fill in a few blanks here and there. What he’d done when Darla was resurrected broke her heart, and back then her feelings were just a shadow of what they were now and what they’d become if she allowed it.

“Never is a long time and I like being your friend.”

“You’d like being my lover,” his boastful assurance would have made her laugh if it had come from anyone else. A confident smirk quirked Angel’s mouth at the corner as he reached out, gently tugging the strands of hair peeking from her wool cap. He knew without a doubt that he could show her what pleasure was all about, exceeding anything in her relatively inexperienced past.

Wondering aloud while Cordy simply gaped at his bold statement, “Is that what this is about? Are you afraid that it might not be good between us?”

A loud snort followed she answered, “Hell no, we’d be way hot together,” especially if her dreams had anything to say about it.

Bemused, Angel sought understanding, wracking his brain for a single acceptable explanation for Cordelia’s hesitancy. The attraction was mutual and she’d admitted they’d be good in bed together. More than good, he thought. Leaving her would never be an option; he needed her more than he could ever admit and the whole Darla debacle had proven it to him.

“You know the curse isn’t an issue anymore,” he reminded her of Willow’s surprise announcement the last time he was in Sunnydale. Only afterward did Angel realize the redhead was hinting that things could be different between him and Buffy.

When he’d thought about things being different, it hadn’t been the Slayer who was on his mind. Back then he’d just filed that errant thought away, ignoring it. That all changed recently. He was finished with putting his emotions aside and needed Cordy to understand what she meant to him.

“I know,” nodded Cordelia as the snow started to drift down from the heavens above them, thick flakes collecting on her hat. She was shivering, not just from the cold, but the weather became an immediate concern.

Angel wrapped his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close to shelter her from the wind that had suddenly picked up. Lifting his head to look around, he realized that a storm had suddenly closed in on them and that the snowfall grew heavier with each passing moment.

Gripped by frustration that he had to put a temporary halt to this talk when it desperately needed finishing, a silent curse echoed in his head.

“We’ve got to head back,” Angel said, reluctantly putting her at arms length. “Cordy, this conversation isn’t over.”

Back on the snowmobile, they raced against the weather, but couldn’t outrun it. The storm turned into a blizzard and while Angel’s instincts kept them on track, he knew that Cordelia couldn’t withstand the exposure. She hugged her body close to his for shelter from the wind, trying to conserve her body heat. He had none to give.

Remembering the log cabins they had passed at one point along their journey to the mountain’s edge, Angel maneuvered the snowmobile in that direction. They’d looked abandoned, half of them burned out from a fire that had claimed a few of the trees surrounding them.

As long as one had a roof, it didn’t matter what else they found there.

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