Gunn stared out the window at the heavy snowfall, “It’s getting bad out there.”
“Can you get through?” Fred turned to look at Wesley who had his cell phone to his ear and a grim look on his rugged face.
“No luck,” he told her, pocketing the small phone. “Cordelia’s cell is in her bedroom. I think Angel has his with him, but I can’t get a good signal. Either the mountains or the weather are causing interference.”
Mrs. Claymore and Alfred were serving up another round of coffee, trying to provide their guests with some reassurance that there were a few places to find shelter. They kept sending each other concerned looks, which fooled no one.
Pacing along the back of the couch, Lorne was trying to block out the nervous vibes emanating from everyone. His own were giving him a few heebie-jeebies. “They’ve been in a lot worse situations than this storm. Angelcakes isn’t about to let anything happen to the princess.”
“Lorne is right,” Wes agreed, though he’d feel a lot better if the snowmobile made its appearance. “If there is shelter out there, Angel will find it.”
Fred had no doubts that Angel would take care of Cordy or that he would do all he could to get them to safety. After all, heroism was in his job description, but Cordy wasn’t just any damsel in distress and this was no ordinary night.
“Guys, you’re forgetting something else. It’s Christmas Eve and they’re stuck out there in this storm, all alone.”
Steering the snowmobile to a halt outside the one cabin that appeared intact, Angel wasted no time in getting Cordelia inside. He swooped her into his arms and kicked open the door, pausing just long enough to assess the situation before closing it behind them.
Wet and shivering, Cordy’s body temperature was far too low, her heartbeat slower than normal. Angel knew he needed to get her warmed up.
“C-c-cold,” her teeth chattered with the effort as he slid her into a standing position.
Angel pulled her soaked cap off, tossing it to the floor. “I’ll take care of it. Just start getting out of those wet clothes. There’s a blanket on that bunk over there.”
He turned to rummage through the cabinets and the wooden chest at the bottom of the bed, finding another blanket and a single pair of flannel pajamas. Noticing Cordy hadn’t moved from the spot where he’d left her,
Angel darted back over to see what was wrong.
She’d managed to tug off her gloves with her teeth and unzip her jacket, but it took too much effort to do anything else. Falling asleep on her feet, Cordy muttered, “You do it.”
“Stay awake, dammit,” the gruff command startled her out of the haze she’d drifted into. Angel shuffled her over to the bunk, standing her next to it as he peeled away layer after layer of clothing, discarding them on the floor.
Cordelia managed to let out a protest when his cold hands reached behind her back to unfasten her bra. He didn’t bother with a verbal response, simply removing the soaked garment before tugging her matching panties to the floor.
This wasn’t the time for coy protests and while a part of his brain registered the fact that Cordelia was naked in his arms, he was far too concerned about her well-being to be remotely turned on by the situation.
Grabbing the blanket, he covered her up and started to dry her off, rubbing his hands along her arms, torso and legs to get her circulation going. After dressing her in the oversized plaid pajama top and too-large bottoms, he bundled her into the narrow bunk, adding the other blanket on top of her.
Angel stared down at her for a moment, his eyes filled with concern, determination and something more that even Cordelia couldn’t fail to recognize despite her condition.
His fingers dropped down to tuck the damp strands of her hair behind her ear. “Don’t go to sleep,” he reminded her. “I need to get a fire going. It’s still too cold in here for you.”
“Angel,” she called him back to her side before he’d gone more than a few feet away. “What about you?”
“I’m fine, Cordy.”
No he wasn’t. Cordelia could tell he was just as miserable with the cold as she was even though it couldn’t kill him. She watched in silence as he moved about the cabin ripping cabinet doors off their hinges in order to make kindling for the fire.
All of the wood outside was wet from the snow, but there was a small pile of logs sitting by the stone fireplace. Using items from the snowmobile’s emergency kit, Angel had a fire burning in the hearth in short order.
Afterward, he moved Cordy into a temporary position on a chair until he dragged the mattress in front of the fireplace. When he’d deposited her onto it and tucked in the edge of the blankets, he stood back to admire his handiwork. From the depths of the pile, Cordelia followed his every move with her eyes.
Angel shucked off his jacket, hanging it carefully on the back of a chair. He didn’t see Cordelia’s eye-roll as she noticed that her clothes were still in a heap on the floor. Off came his boots and socks, which, like hers, were wringing wet.
These days, Cordelia never saw Angel undressed to any degree unless he was injured. Seeing him in his bare feet reminded her of their apartment-sharing days, when it wasn’t uncommon to see him padding around dressed only in his boxers and a robe.
Not that she’d looked too closely or admired him for anything more than aesthetic value at the time. She watched him with lazy interest, the warmth of the fire slowly awakening her limbs and her senses. Angel tugged his shirt loose from the waistband of his pants and was halfway through unbuttoning it when he noticed Cordelia’s eyes on him.
“Enjoying the show?” That teasing note made her toes curl. She couldn’t take credit for looking at him with purely benevolent concern as Angel finished unbuttoning that shirt and peeled it away from his body. The wet snow had blown into the collar of his jacket, soaking his shirt by the time they reached the cabin. A soft suctioning sound accompanied its removal as the material clung to his broad shoulders.
The light of the fire sparkled in her gaze and Cordelia’s grin flashed impishly before she answered his question with one of her own. “What do you think?”
“I think you must be feeling better,” he commented and walked over to crouch down beside her.
Cordelia told him, “Getting there,” and nuzzled her cheek against his palm as he touched her face. “Angel, you’re still frozen. Get under the covers.”
For an instant, Angel looked like he was considering it, but then he shifted away with catlike agility, rising to his feet and using the excuse of, “My pants are wet.”
“Take them off,” was Cordelia’s simple solution.
Considering everything that had happened between them since that mistletoe kiss last night, Angel didn’t think it was a good idea. There was still too much to be said between them before he tempted fate by climbing under the covers with the woman he loved.
Angel’s eyes widened as he realized how naturally that thought had come to him. It was the first time he’d never struggled with a description for his feelings. The idea stirred others that kept him occupied until Cordy’s exasperated voice broke through his romantic epiphany.
“Sheesh! What does a girl have to do these days to get a guy out of his pants?”
A sudden laugh sounded and he flashed a grin her way that no one else knew how to elicit. “Looks like you’re out of luck. That’s the only pair of pajamas in the place.”
“So what? It’s not like I’m planning to take advantage of you,” she pointed out. “I don’t want you to be cold and miserable. You’ll get growly and gloomy and then I’ll be stuck with a broody vampire on Christmas morning.”
Suddenly remembering the date, Angel raked a hand through the short spikes of his wet hair and let out a curse. “Dammit, I’m sorry about this, Cordy. I wanted this to be a special holiday for all of us and I’ve ruined it just about every way I can.”
Scowling with self-directed anger, he turned on his heel and strode across the cabin keeping his back to Cordelia. He was so focused on his own guilty feelings that Angel failed to notice her approach. She’d dumped the blankets aside, risen into a wobbly stance and trudged forward, one hand holding the pajama pants in place.
“Blizzards happen, Angel. Get over it.”
In the blink of an eye, Angel whirled around to face her, still furious at himself and now upset with her for walking over here in her bare feet. “Get back into bed.”
“I will if you will,” she countered arching a delicate brow as she issued the challenge.
Angel’s dark gaze dropped down to the shadowed cleavage showing in the gaping vee of her top. Dragging his eyes back up to hers, he said, “That’s not a good idea.”
“Why, are you afraid I might seduce you?” Shivers of anticipation zipped along her spine as Cordelia realized she was actually baiting him into bed with her. Not that she thought about anything beyond that…honest.
Hot licks of desire stirred inside him. Angel held statue-still as she leaned in closer, her natural wind-kissed scent surrounding him, her renewed warmth seeping into his skin. Concern, determination and a heady measure of curiosity lit Cordelia’s eyes, weakening his resolve to keep his hands to himself.
“Don’t try seduction games with me, Cordy.” Not unless you mean them, he added silently.
“Who, me?” The deep thread to his voice made her insides quiver.
Angel nodded, “I think you’ll find I know how to play them a lot better than you.”
Desire beamed from the depths of his eyes, nearly black, but ringed by a hint of gold. His taut muscles twitched into action as he inched forward. Cordelia stood her ground. “Pfft!”
“Oh, I could seduce you,” he assured her while moving forward, this time leading her backward with every step he took. The power of that heady promise sent Cordelia’s imagination into overdrive, especially when he added, “You’re right, Cordy, we’d be hot together.”
Cordelia nearly tripped over the long pant leg of the pajamas, but he reached out to steady her at the last second. Her heart thudded in her chest, palms sliding along his cool torso as she regained her balance.
Mindful that Angel was just trying to make a point despite her tingly response to the bold words, Cordelia reminded him, “I’m just trying to get you warm.”
Deciding that he was just making it worse, stirring up desires that needed to stay under wraps, at least for now, Angel gave in to her stubborn pout. “Then drop the pajama pants and climb back under the covers.”
Realizing she’d won, Cordelia barely held back the urge to howl triumphantly, swivel her arms & hips and chant, ‘Go Cordy! Go Cordy!’ She let the plaid flannel pants slide down her legs to pool at her feet and then stepped out of them.
Angel kept his back to her as he changed into the pajama bottoms, more for her sense of modesty than any he possessed. Unless it was pure male pride on the line considering that it was rather cold in here, though he didn’t think that would make a difference for long. He felt her eyes on him the entire time and there was more than just a hint of arousal in the air by the time he walked back to their makeshift bed in front of the fire.
“I’m not planning to pounce on you,” he promised, staring into her too-wide eyes. “I think we still have a few things to discuss before we decide if that can happen.”
Maybe she wanted the pouncing, Cordelia argued silently amid her own confused thoughts and feelings. She trusted Angel with her life, but changing things meant trusting him with their friendship. His record on that score wasn’t exactly perfect.
Pulling the covers aside, Cordelia scooted over to let Angel slide down next to her on the mattress. Its narrow width made for close quarters. A little anxious excitement jingled its way across her nerves from spine to fingertips. She reached out to touch the muscled expanse of his exposed shoulder, wondering if rubbing would help and whether vampires responded to a little friction.
Just before she opened her mouth to ask, Angel muttered her name and was drawn into the hollow of her throat, “You’re so warm now.” He nuzzled his face there and Cordelia felt certain her temperature jumped another degree or two just from that.
Angel pulled her close, realigning their bodies so that she was practically sprawled on top of him, their legs tangled. “The plan was to share a little body heat, not to treat me like a blanket.”
Her muttered protest might have sounded more sincere if she hadn’t chosen that moment to slip her arm around his waist, nuzzle her face against his cool chest and let her bare foot slide down the length of his leg. “Angel…,” she whispered his name after a minute when he didn’t comment right way.
The fire cracked beside them as the wind blustered outside, the blizzard raging on, but Angel focused on the softly muted sounds of the living woman in his arms. Her body’s natural rhythms were music to his ears, her warmth spreading like wildfire inside him.
Soft curves pressed into him, the slide of her hand across his back, her breath on his bare skin. Angel wanted to frame this moment in his mind, just in case it was the only time it would ever happen.
His hand slipped up and down the soft flannel top following the gentle curve of her back. Whispering into her hair, he placed a kiss there, almost imperceptible as he pleaded for another moment of silence with his soothing touch and his softly uttered, “Shh.”
Cordelia honestly tried being quiet, but it was impossible to do so and remain still at the same time. She shifted a little only to find her breasts pressed up against Angel’s chest and his hard thigh trapped higher between hers. Combined with the way his skin felt beneath her fingertips, the new sensations reminded her of that vivid dream and her body buzzed in response as those lusty images danced across her mind’s eye.
“Angel,” she tried again, needing to talk about this, but her breath caught on a gasp as his other hand moved to clasp her thigh. His hand was warm against her skin, no longer icy from the cold and Cordelia felt his body stir between them, an empty ache forming deep inside her belly.
A deep groan rumbled through his chest as Angel urged her to ignore his body’s hard response and lay quietly. “Pfft! Fat chance of ignoring that.”
Blunt to a fault, Cordelia never failed to point out the obvious. The hand that rubbed her back moved up to her head, the gentle pressure prompting her to lift up to let him see her face. His mouth touched her forehead, the beauty mark on her jaw line and all too briefly the soft surface of her lips. As Angel moved his head back down to the mattress, Cordelia nearly followed in search of another kiss.
This wasn’t just a seduction game. Whatever happened next had consequences that they wouldn’t be able to ignore when they got back to civilization again. Cordelia was conscious of the fact that even if nothing at all happened, things might never be the same again. It was already too late to ignore the stirring of her loins pressed close to his, or the rasp of her nipples against the plaid flannel pajama top as the weight of her breasts crushed them against his chest, or the fiery furnace of need his touch stoked inside her.
The hungry hazel eyes boring down on him nearly broke the last remnant of Angel’s control. As it was, his hand strayed beneath her top, trailing along her supple thigh, over the firm curve of her bottom to start in on the rhythmic stroke of her spine, this time without the barrier of fabric between them. “You know how much I want you, Cordy,” the words husky in his throat, “but that’s only part of it. I want all of you.”
Cordelia dragged the tip of her tongue across her lips, nervous as understanding hit with a shockwave that caused her heart to skip a beat. “I know you love me, Angel. I love you, too, but are we in love?”
The idea was new to her, but the feelings were not. It had taken their mistletoe kiss, her dream and Angel’s surprising confession of desire to make her realize that her feelings had been changing for some time, too.
“I hope so,” his answer seemed to catch in his throat. “Take a chance on me, Cordy. Take a chance on us.”
Tears shimmered in her eyes, catching on her lashes, splashing down onto his chest and trailing a salty path. Angel wondered if he’d said the wrong thing. He moved his hands out from their warm recesses to palm her face. Shifting upward, Angel moved Cordelia so that she straddled his lap, giving him easier access to wipe away the last vestiges of her tears.
Tilting her chin with his finger, Angel saw Cordy actually smiling a gleeful, cat-that-ate-the-cream expression. Before he could mutter his confusion over the tears, she wrapped her arms around him, hugging tight. When she pulled back, Cordy curled her fingers around the nape of his neck, thumb resting across his still, but sensitive pulse point.
“I take chances with you everyday,” Cordelia reminded him, her grin now a softer smile full of warmth and optimism, adding lazily, “so I suppose I could get used to kissing you.”
“Think so?” he smiled just before touching his lips to hers.
“Know so,” she muttered against his mouth meeting him kiss for kiss.
Those tiny tasty kisses melted under the rising heat of mutual desire becoming long and languorous, turning feverish with need. A purr at her throat as she caught her breath, then he was back to claim her lips again. Angel felt the roar of his lust prime his body to full arousal, tempering it with his most tender emotions and managing to find a balance.
He wanted to make love to her slowly, tenderly. Cordelia didn’t make it easy. She had a tendency to pounce and try to take what she wanted. Impatient, caught up in the sensations running rampant as he touched her, Cordy writhed against him, trying to get closer.
Angel’s hands gripped her hips, holding them steady when her squirming brought her hot core up against the bulge of his erection. She moaned a little protest, sitting back to catch her breath again and let her hands wander over the sculpted muscles of his chest. When her fingers moved into a teasing circle around the tiny nub of his nipple, she felt his hands slipping up beneath her pajama top along her slim waist and higher until his fingertips slid across the curves of her breasts.
Arching her back at the pleasurable sensation, Cordelia closed her eyes and let out a soft moan that grew deeper as he caressed her. Sliding over her skin, he cupped her breasts in his palms, testing their fullness and then brushing his thumbs across her taut nipples leaving them burning for his cool relief.
Through the flannel shirt, Cordy held his hands against her flesh, needing his touch there, aware of the dark sparkle in his eyes that suggested she could always ask for more. Dropping her hands to grasp the edge of her pajama top, she whipped it over her head and waited with bated breath for Angel’s reaction to having her naked in his arms.
Confidently aware of her beauty, it wasn’t a confirmation of it that Cordelia wanted. It was the fact that there was more than just hot lust burning in his gaze as his eyes held hers. There was love to be found there, too, as those eyes left hers to wander over the curves she had exposed to them. Still cupping her breasts, he hadn’t moved from that position, and for a moment his gaze seemed intent on the way his pale hands looked against her golden skin.
Then his fingers trailed down the indentation of her waist, thumbs closing in on one another and then spreading apart again as his hands moved across the curve of her hips and down to her thighs. There, his thumbs circled along silken flesh as his eyes settled on the trimmed curls guarding her feminine secrets.
Slowly, Angel’s gaze slipped upward again, his hands following around to her back and shifting their bodies so that she lay supine, leaving him free to explore every inch of her golden flesh. As Cordy reached out for him, he paused to whisper his feelings in her ear and that she was beautiful and loved more than he could say.
Further still, that he planned to have her screaming his name before the night was over. Cordelia’s body clenched in wanton need at the hot promise, but she grasped his face to tell him, “You’ll be screaming mine.” He smothered her giggles with a kiss that left them tumbling off the mattress and onto the blankets they had strewn onto the floor.
Angel’s mouth trailed dewdrop kisses tingling across her skin, cool and wet. Tongue dipping into nooks and hollows. Every touch eked out a moan, a little whimper of her need. Each tiny lick, each kiss spreading streaks of fire and pooling moist heat below along the juncture of her thighs.
Her busy, frantic hands clutched at broad shoulders, nails leaving half-moon marks behind. Wanting to rid him of the loose flannel pants, her reach was too short until she managed to toe them off much to Angel’s amusement. He rose up to his knees, pushing the pants out of the way, giving Cordelia an eye-full in the bargain, finding her hungry stare darting between his face and his rampant erection, full of lustful delight and playful curiosity.
“Touch me,” he encouraged as her eyes flashed up to his again, voice deepening in anticipation of having Cordelia’s warm hand wrapped around him. Tentative, her shy caress grew bolder at his reaction, his hips moving, buttocks flexing as he countered the movements of her hand, eyes half-closed, watching her.
When her touch became too much, he gruffly said, “Enough,” urging her to release him. Cordy slowly uncurled her hold, fingers sliding down across the sensitive surface of the heavy sacs beneath before dropping back down to the floor. She caught her lower lip between her teeth, trying to hold back her husky laugh at the surprise in his eyes.
With a speed that left her winded, Angel scooped her up onto the mattress again. Then he made it perfectly clear that it was his turn to do the touching, his hands slip-sliding over warm curves, cupping and teasing sensitive flesh. Leaving her arching and moaning for more, which he gave as his dark head dipped between her thighs, fingers opening her to his intimate kiss.
Then his name was a mantra on her lips. Fingers tangled in the short spikes of his hair as Cordelia’s hips writhed beneath the talented onslaught of his tongue. Rising up, the taste of her pleasure still in his mouth, Angel entered her slowly, the tight core of her body hot, slick and welcoming.
Cordelia held him close, a gasp sounding as they became one, Angel fully inside her. Tender kisses, soft reassurances followed as he held himself above her. Their bodies moved to the rhythmic cadence of her heartbeat following instinctive needs and a conscious desire to reach that elusive place.
On a husky moan, her legs locked around his. Angel’s head snapped up, amber eyes gleaming. 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. There in the dark cabin, with the fire’s glow shimmering across their sweat-slicked skin, Angel and Cordelia found it together, one following the other over the edge of oblivion.
Lying in a heap of arms and legs, they rolled over until Angel’s full weight was no longer directly on top. Cordelia panted softly, her cheek and palm against his chest. He held her tenderly, his hands soothing as his own body sank into the mattress, warm and sated.
Then he heard her catch her breath to say, “Mmm, definitely way, way hot,” before her face lifted to place a tired kiss on the corner of his mouth.
Angel stroked her cheek with his thumb, a lazy smirk on his mouth. Teasing, “I don’t know. We may have to try that out a few more times to get the hang of it.”
Agreeing quickly enough with that idea, Cordelia wondered if he meant tonight. She figured she just needed to shut her eyes for a second or two. With a soft sigh of contentment on her lips, she lowered her head to his chest again and muttered, “Merry Christmas, Angel.”
Echoing the holiday sentiment, he promised to find a way to get Cordelia back to the lodge while it was still Christmas. “You have presents waiting.”
Though the reminder brought a smile to her lips, Cordelia knew she wouldn’t have traded this whole experience for a hundred presents wrapped in red velvet ribbon. As for leaving their soft nest in front of the fireplace anytime soon, “Hello, there’s still a blizzard out there.”
“The wind has already died down,” Angel listened to the air currents shifting around their log refuge. “We could make a run for it.”
Cordelia snuggled a little deeper into his arms, her gaze on the slow fire burning in the hearth. She thought of Wes, Gunn, Fred and Lorne back at the lodge, probably worrying about them. “I don’t want to move,” she sighed deeply. “I might wake up on Christmas morning and find that this was all one really hot dream.”
“Then I suggest you take full advantage of me while you have the chance,” he gave her two seconds to think about that before shifting Cordelia length-wise across his frame. Those roving hands traced a path up to her face with a reverent caress as his mouth met hers.
Between soft satin kisses, Cordelia told him, “Remind me to thank Mrs. C for hanging that mistletoe,” figuring that none of this might have happened if Angel hadn’t been a little carried away with that kiss.
Angel’s lips were still pressed against the shell of her ear when he realized he would have to confess that he’d hung it there himself. “Cordy, about the mistletoe…”