Having determined that he had to come out of his room sometime, or else be a bad example to Fred who still kept to her bedroom seventy percent of the time, Angel settled on the couch in the lobby trying to focus on the newspaper.
Cordelia had told Wes she was just going to be gone the rest of the morning, which suggested she’d be back.
The fact that they had argued left him unsettled. Though disagreements between them were hardly uncommon and the occasional verbal battle wasn’t even unprecedented, Angel knew this was different.
To top it all off, he had no clue what Cordelia had come to harp about to begin with. He’d just gone off and assumed the worst thinking she’d somehow discovered the fact that he’d slept with Darla after telling her that he hadn’t. Outside of the blonde vampiress herself, there was nobody else who knew they’d had sex that night.
So unless Darla was in communication with Cordelia, which seemed highly unlikely, he would’ve been fine just keeping his mouth shut and playing dumb.
As if he didn’t have enough on his mind worrying that the revelation had damaged his recently renewed friendship with Cordelia, he was paid a little visit by Gunn and Wes. Now sitting alone in the lobby, Angel wondered if the hotel hadn’t been taken over by another paranoia demon.
Cordy was after him about his lies while Gunn and Wes seemed to have grown concerned about his treatment of Cordelia.
After letting them do most of the talking, having earlier been reminded not to open his mouth in the presence of his friends without careful forethought, Angel realized that neither one knew about the nature of his argument with Cordelia.
Whatever they were trying to say for the first ten minutes or so came out in vague questions and too-subtle hints that only left him baffled.
“What are you getting at?” Angel finally gave up trying to guess.
“Barbie is off limits,” Gunn cut to the chase.
Wes nodded vehemently. “Absolutely. I completely agree with him. Consider Cordelia sacrosanct.”
“You hurt her again and I’ll stake you.” Gunn had his arm around Angel’s shoulder and then gave it a friendly punch. “That said, bro, we gotta work on gettin’ you some.”
Angel had a sneaking suspicion that he’d just caught onto the gist of this convoluted conversation. Avoiding the topic, he switched back to Cordelia just to reassure his friends, “I have no plans to hurt Cordy. Not in any way. We just had an argument, but I’ll fix it…somehow.”
“No doubt,” Wes commented dryly remembering quite well how Angel settled things between them the last time. He recalled being quite put out at how easily Cordelia had accepted Angel’s apology. The vampire certainly hadn’t worked very hard to earn it. “Just remember what we told you.”
I might if I understood any of it, Angel gave them a smile which was apparently enough to convince them of his agreement with whatever they were trying to say. All he could get out of it was that they all agreed Cordelia was a beautiful young woman and that he needed to avoid hurting her.
Gunn and Wes, secure in the fact that they had done well, went off on a Starbucks coffee run. They hadn’t been gone fifteen minutes when Cordelia arrived back at the hotel. Wondering what he was supposed to say,
Angel kept staring at the black print on the newspaper even though it blurred before his unfocused gaze. He heard the clickety clack of Cordelia’s shoes along the lobby floor until she stopped directly in front of him.
“Does making like a lump on a log actually work with some people or do you think I’m that unobservant?” Cordelia tapped her foot expectantly.
“Hi, Cordy,” Angel slowly lowered the newspaper to his lap. “You’re back.”
“Relax, broody boy,” she told him with a smile curving the corners of her lush mouth. “I’ve decided to let you off the hook. I forgive you.”
Angel pulled his gaze up from the long expanse of bare leg flashing beneath the tiny black skirt she wore. Forgiven so soon and without the groveling or gift-buying? He wasn’t certain what happened to change her mind in the last couple of hours, but he wasn’t going to knock it.
“Okay?” Cordelia had anticipated a little more than that. At least a lousy apology, not this quick agreement to her terms for his surrender. Since starting another argument was likely to ruin any attempts at flirtation, Cordelia realized she had better drop the subject. “Yes, okay. Behind us. Completely forgotten.”
“It might help if you stop mentioning it,” Angel pointed out bemused by her behavior as she tucked her hands behind her back and sashayed closer.
Cordelia left out a long sigh, staring into his eyes for a moment before letting them dart away as she nibbled on her lower lip. It drew his gaze to that plump lower lip, which was just her intent.
She wondered, was it just an automatic response or was he thinking of kissing her?
“I just had the longest, loveliest soak in my tub,” Cordelia commented. “All that hot water sluicing over me and the bubbles piled high. I could’ve stayed there forever.”
Angel dragged his eyes away from her mouth to say, “You needed it considering the fact that you looked more like a mud wrestler than my seer.”
They laughed over the incident, Cordelia flashing him her megawatt grin and Angel responding with a smile so wide that it had her mesmerized. Just when she was about to say more, he turned back to his newspaper. “Guess I’ll get to work. I’d hate to take you away from your…sports news?”
“Hockey scores,” Angel pointed to the section of the paper where he figured the box indicating the game results would be. Catching the headline from the corner of his eye, he told her, “Kings versus the Dallas Stars.”
“Huh,” Cordelia raised her eyebrows and walked over to her desk. She hoped a quick glance over her shoulder would reveal Angel staring at her swaying hips, but he was completely engrossed in the paper.
He’s so used to ignoring signals that subtlety is lost on him. Cordelia sucked on the tip of her pen as she stole glances at Angel from across the room.
When the phone rang, she perched on the side of her desk knowing that the sound of potential business always grabbed Angel’s attention. Flashing that much leg was not her usual style, but it seemed that she might need to take the obvious route when it came to making Angel realize that she was way more attractive than any blonde Gunn and Wes could come up with.
There was an audible rustle of papers as Cordelia straightened back up, but it was impossible to tell if Angel had been watching her or if he simply straightened out a crease that detracted from his reading.
She waved the post-it note in the air, but Angel still had his nose in the newspaper. Walking over, Cordelia felt a little irritated by the lack of attention. Any other time she wore this top, Angel’s eyes would be glued to her chest. Not that she’d made a big deal about him looking. It was a guy thing and Angel was most definitely male.
“I have a message for you,” Cordelia told him. “Potential client. Wants you to call him back in five minutes at this number.”
Angel always looked happy about business. “Great!”
“Whoops!” The yellow post-it note fluttered to the floor before she could hand it to Angel who still had his hands on his paper. Bending over from the waist, she reached for it at the same time he did putting her cleavage at face level. Cordelia wondered if that tactic wasn’t blatant enough to get noticed.
For an instant, Angel was tempted to forget the note and bury his face between the soft pillows formed by her breasts. Her fresh womanly scent was just a little stronger there, drawing him in. Then recalling his own determination not to do anything that would potentially harm their friendship, Angel reeled his libido back in and focused on picking up the post-it.
“You’re a clutz today, Cor,” Angel laughed sitting back on the couch spreading out and looking completely comfortable. He didn’t so much as glance at the perky way she filled out her tight top. “First the mud-slinging fiasco and now you’re dropping things.”
Cordelia blinked a couple of times as she stared down at his smirking face, “Clutz.”
So much for studying that article on flirting. This was so not what Cosmo had in mind by ‘Baiting Him With Your Body Language’.
Moving, Cordelia attempted to make a fast exit so Angel wouldn’t see her frustration with his apparent blindness. Her foot caught on his ankle as she tried to step over his outstretched legs, unintentionally sending Cordelia tumbling toward the floor. The newspaper and post-it went flying as Angel grabbed her in a midair catch.
He held her close to his chest after shifting her into a normal hold, his arms around her waist and under her thighs. Never mind the hasty movement of his hands across less acceptable zones, Angel simply sounded concerned, asking, “You okay?”
Cordelia’s heartbeat thundered in her chest having not expected to go flying like that. Not wanting to admit that maybe she was distracted by her own plotting, she commented seriously, “Fine. I was just testing your reflexes.”
Meeting his dark brown gaze, now twinkling with amusement, Cordelia’s mouth gave a reluctant twitch before she broke into a wide grin. Hugging him, she couldn’t hold back her own laughter. Giggling into his ear and cupping his face with her crimson-tipped fingers, told him, “I didn’t think it was possible to exceed your clutz-factor, broody boy. Guess that just proves I’m the best at everything I do.”
“What happened?” Wes’ voice called out from the door. Concern sounded, “Vision?”
Gunn was thrilled at the possibility of a little demon bashing. “Alright!”
“No vision,” Cordelia told him to reign in his enthusiasm for something that resulted in mind-splitting migraines. Then noticing what they brought back with them, “Ooh! Starbucks.”
Wes had a to-go tray with five Grande coffee cups. “We took a chance that you’d be back.”
“So what’s with this?” Gunn pointed a finger at them making Cordelia realize she was still in Angel’s arms.
With one last laugh, Cordelia slid to her feet enjoying every millimeter of hard torso and thigh that brushed against her. She ventured a peek from beneath her eyelashes only to find Angel focused on the mess on the floor. His strong hands were on her hips, but only to move her out of his way as the vampire squatted down to gather up the newspaper and stray post-it note.
“It wasn’t a vision,” Angel told Gunn as he held up the yellow square of paper, “but we may have a client.”
Back to business, Cordelia let out a tiny huff walking across to take her coffee from Wesley.
Watching her footing, she headed back to her desk where she tossed the plastic coffee lid into the trash can and sat down in her chair. Crossing her legs, she bobbed her foot up and down noting that the action and the position of her mini skirt against her supple golden thighs was certain to draw male attention.
Only it seemed to be just Wes and Gunn who were incapable of keeping their eyes in their heads. Angel was too busy concentrating on the numbers she’d written down on the post-it note.
Glancing at the whipped cream topping her coffee, Cordelia decided to find out if Cosmo was right about the benefits of calling attention to your mouth. She took a hasty sip, smearing foamy coffee across her upper lip just as Angel held out the note for her perusal.
“Is that a one or a seven?”
Blinking, Cordelia glanced forward to confirm, “A seven, I think.”
Angel rubbed the back of his neck as he looked down at the note again. “Guess I’ll try it both ways. Cor, you’ve got coffee…,” he motioned with his hand across his firm male mouth.
Cordelia’s eyes followed the path of that finger and watched as his tongue swiped along his upper lip. Thoughts of kissing those lips weren’t far behind as she managed to find her voice, “Here?”
She licked slowly at her lip, letting the pink tip slide across its plump surface. “Did I get it?”
Having picked up the phone on her desk, Angel looked distracted. Not by her mouth, Cordelia realized, but by thoughts of a prospective client. He gave her lips a quick glance, “No, you didn’t get it all.”
“I can’t go around the office all day with coffee on my face,” Cordelia complained with just enough of a hint in her voice that Angel dropped the phone into its cradle long enough play the chivalrous hero.
“Let me take care of it,” his voice sending anticipatory shivers down her spine.
How would he do it? Use that slightly calloused male thumb to wipe her lips clean? Kiss the evidence away with those lips she suddenly ached to taste? Maybe just a long cool swipe of his tongue over her mouth tasting her and the creamy coffee at the same time.
With a confident move of pure efficiency, Angel snatched a tissue from the box of Kleenex on her desk and dabbed twice. “All gone.”
Then he was back at the phone again dialing up the numbers she had scribbled down on the yellow post-it. Maybe if she wrote ‘Kiss Me’ on a post-it and stuck it to her own forehead, Angel might just get the hint.
Unfortunately, Cordelia was determined not to brashly force the issue into the fore. That might prove disastrous. She wanted to be certain that there was a chance for something more than friendship before she revealed her love to him.
Sure Angel loves me, but can he LOVE me, love me? What’s not to love? Extreme want might be acceptable. Unfortunately, the rest of the day and most of the evening were tied up with Angel Investigations’ new client.
As were the next three days & evenings following.
Flirtation took a back seat to work though Cordelia grabbed every opportunity that came along to touch him. She wasn’t happy unless she had her hands on him, a fact that Angel seemed totally oblivious about.
If anyone was being seduced around this office, Cordelia was convinced she was seducing herself.
Tonight signaled the end of their contract with their new client. They’d finally tracked down the metaphysical source of his problem and vanquished it. For once, they were triumphant and there was no demon goo involved to muck up her appearance.
“We did it,” Cordelia gave Wes and Gunn a quick celebratory hug and then wound her arms around Angel’s neck. Naturally, he hugged right back, but Cordelia leaned close needing to feel his strength against and surrounding her. Mmm, he felt good.
Angel let go the moment Cordelia’s warm breath emerged as a sigh against his throat. The temptation to smooth his hands up and down her back pressing her even closer came as something he found difficult to resist, but he was determined to do so.
Cordelia’s natural tendency to touch seemed ever more pronounced the past few days, but Angel was certain that it was just him imagining it. Focusing on every little move, every heartbeat and breath, only served to drive him mad with wanting.
It made Angel all the more determined to ignore what he thought his imagination was stirring up. Feelings for Cordelia Chase that went beyond the bonds of their friendship were forbidden. He needed to do something to fight these emotions that threatened the one thing in his life that truly meant everything to him.
As his hands dropped away, Cordelia pulled back just a little, her eyes sparkling with the knowledge that it was time to turn up the volume on her little seduction game. Her hands curled over his shoulders, lightly running down the length of his arms and back up again. That little move had him staring down, his eyes dark and intent.
“Don’t look so glum now that the case is over,” Cordelia told him. “Tonight, I’m on search and rescue, broody boy. My mission is to save you from a dull night.”
Angel’s left eyebrow quirked upward just a fraction until she named a popular dinner club, “I say we all go celebrate at the Starlight Terrace. Wes, go get Fred.”
Wesley was strangely quiet. Normally, he’d jump at a chance to bring Fred anywhere that got her out of her room for more than an hour at a time. His silence did not go unnoticed by Cordelia who realized that none of the guys seemed to have an opinion on her suggestion to celebrate.
Finally, having moved to a safe distance, Angel revealed, “Tonight isn’t such a good night.”
“Why not?” Cordelia gaped at him. “I was just joking about you being broody, Angel. That’s no excuse not to have a little fun.”
Gunn assured her, “Oh, he will.”
“Angel… have fun?” Cordelia’s eyes narrowed as they turned on the vampire. “How?”
“It’s really just work,” shrugged Angel trying to downplay the fact that he knew Gunn was trying to set him up. “We’re patrolling around the East Hills Teen Shelter. Gunn asked me along to check things out.”
“So this is about Miss I Help the Homeless,” Cordelia plastered a bright smile on her face knowing exactly what, or rather who, Angel would be checking out. “I haven’t seen Anne in… forever. Why don’t we all go patrolling and then we can head to the club afterwards.”
Angel let Gunn do the fast talking. He was already feeling tongue-tied and wasn’t at all certain that this was a good idea to begin with. Thoughts of dating, other than the fact that he hadn’t done that in a while, seemed almost like he’d be cheating on Cordelia.
Ridiculous idea, but there it was. Angel couldn’t get it out of his head and that made him all the more determined to go through with it.
Seeing that Gunn had all the bases covered, Cordelia decided that it was best to pull back and let her vampire take care of their friend’s matchmaking ploy with his own social ineptitude. Waggling her fingers in a wave of goodbye, she told them. “Have fun at the shelter. Watch out for stray Zombies.”
Then muttering under her breath, “And if you lie to me about what you do tonight I’ll personally kick your ass back to the Himalayas.”
“I thought you’d forgiven me,” Angel commented quietly as he stepped closer feeling the need to say goodbye.
Damn vampire hearing, Cordelia realized he overheard her threat. “You’ve used up your Get Out of Jail Free card, buster.”
Cordelia caught her lower lip between her teeth, nibbling on it as her gaze darted up to Angel’s dark, penetrating eyes and down again to his tempting mouth. The urge to kiss him goodnight caused her heart to flutter in her chest.
Damn, she wanted to curl her fingers in the lapels of his jacket, pull him close and devour those lips like he was hot fudge on her ice cream sundae.
“Wes can give you a ride home,” Angel suggested as his fingers grazed her elbow.
He looked sheepishly guilty about something. Enough that it made Cordelia’s eyes dart away in anger at his determination to let Gunn fix him up with the very blonde Anne who, let’s face it, had a lot more in common with the vampire having a mission all her own, than Cordelia wanted to admit.
“Actually, I think I’ll do a little catching up with Fred,” she commented airily. “Wes probably wants to catalogue the details of our triumph in his journal anyway.”
“That would be a smashing idea,” Wesley cut in. “I’d like to record everything while the details are still fresh in my mind. I can give you a ride back to your apartment when I’m done.”
“See,” Cordelia told Angel brushing her hands together. “One loose end all tied up.”
Angel wasn’t oblivious to the neat little smile that stretched too tightly across her beautiful face. She was pissed at him. Again. “Dammit, Cordy, you’re not a loose end. I’m not tying you up.”
Snorting, Cordelia’s little smile turned devlish, “I’d like to see you try.”
“C’mon, dawg,” Gunn urged. “Will you stop messin’ around with Cordy. We got to be at the shelter in fifteen minutes.”