Armed with a stack of magazines and bearing a large bag of assorted tacos, Cordelia knocked on Fred’s door.
A little girl talk, even if it was with a lunatic physicist, looked like a good thing at a time like this. One-sided conversations with her corporeally-challenged roomie were not quite the same.
Half an hour later, Cordelia looked woefully at Fred who was chowing down on the last taco. They were both sitting cross-legged on the bed, napkins spread out as a makeshift picnic blanket between them.
Though still eating, Fred was able to listen to Cordelia’s story and continue to work on her latest theory about time-shifting. Just call her good at multitasking.
“Have I lost it or is Angel totally blind?” Cordelia was still edging toward blind. She’d been vampire bait too many times to think it was some supernatural ability to avoid noticing when a sexy woman can barely keep her hands to herself.
“Gosh,” Fred considered the possibilities and answered with that Texas twang that usually made Cordelia smile, “I really don’t think the answer lies with either choice. Never knew you before, but you certainly don’t seem to be missing anything. What with you being a Princess and his seer and just look at you. Angel certainly isn’t blind when it comes to you Cordelia.”
Cordelia harrumphed. “How would you know, Fred? You spend more time with your dry erase board than you do with us.”
“I’ve been watching,” Fred assured her that even a small percentage of her time was enough to hazard a theory. “Just look at the way Angel fought for you in Pylea. He’s so heroic. Handsome man fighting for the hand of the Princess.”
The dreamy expression on her face was enough to make Cordelia want to gag… or choke the other woman’s scrawny little neck. “Pfft! Don’t be ridiculous, Fred. He may be your big fat hero, but Angel was just doing his thing.”
“Lorne told me that Angel threatened him into finding a way into Pylea just to get you back. That he would’ve moved heaven and earth to find you,” Fred revealed in a conspiratorial whisper even though they’d shut the bedroom door.
Fred nodded and then decided Cordelia would be better off knowing the absolute truth considering what she’d said about her reaction to Angel and Darla. “Actually, Lorne said he’d move both drgplyx and myzldrf, which are only accessible by trans-dimensional portals and would actually require the power equivalent of a blackhole to actually move any distance at all, but I figured you’d understand it a little better if I explained it that way.”
Smiling, Cordelia could only say, “Er, yeah.”
“I just know this is all about Moira.”
“Moira? Who the hell is Moira?” Cordelia sat up a little straighter on the bed. “Was she that blond floosy who hired Angel to investigate her haunted bed last week?”
Looking puzzled, Fred watched as Cordelia’s golden skin flushed in reaction. Before the Texan could explain, Cordelia had already started to calm down. “No, that was Milly Walters. I remember because I filed her case under ‘F’.”
“For floosy,” Fred giggled. From what she’d heard during the time she had been here at Angel Investigations, Cordelia’s filing system was uniquely her own. “Moira’s not a person, Cordy. Moira is…just Moira.”
“More of what?”
“It’s a Pylean word meaning the gut physical attraction between two larger than life souls,” Fred explained. “You and Angel.”
Rolling her eyes in reaction, Cordelia commented, “The only thing I’ve attracted from Angel are requests to pick up his weekly blood supply and a demand for an inventory of his precious weapons. Just to make sure I didn’t lose any of them when I stored them in the basement.”
Fred knew that she was hardly the expert in personal relationships, but all of these flirtation games seemed like they were getting Cordelia nowhere. “Why don’t you tell Angel how you feel?”
Walk up to Angel, put her arms around him and simply say that she loved him? Not a chance. That vampire was going to be the first to do the kiss and tell thing assuming he even had feelings like that. Until she was certain of that possibility, she would just continue going by the book.
Even if she had to flirt with him until she was old enough to need one of those motorized scooters to get around the office.
“I’m not ready for that, Fred,” she admitted. “Until then, I have my resources and I have you to help me.”
“Me?” Fred looked a little nervous at the prospect. Trying again to convince Cordelia, she pointed out, “The straight-forward approach is often the most successful. Not that I’ve applied that theory very often. Not in the last five years, certainly. Mostly, I’m talking about the laws of physics. Except that it’s sometimes necessary to work problems backwards or take a round about method in order to reach a solution.”
Holding up her hand, Cordelia finally caught Fred’s attention. “Thanks, but let’s stick to the experts for advice.”
“Experts? There are experts for seducing vampires?” Fred wanted to know.
“Pfft! Angel may be a vamp, but he’s all man,” a smile curled at Cordelia’s lips and for a moment both women were lost in a private little daydream. Snapping out of it, Cordelia pulled the stack of Cosmopolitan magazines over onto her lap.
“That means everything I need can be found right here.”
Down in the laundry room, Angel sat in a chair reading while waiting for the last load to finish drying. He had a book in his hand, but his thoughts were elsewhere. The same place his thoughts always seemed to be lately.
Focused on Cordelia.
The more he tried to avoid thoughts of her, the more she filled them. Every fantasy he had involved her touch, her kiss, her scent, her sex, her beauty. Fighting against the urge to satisfy his body’s cravings kept him frustrated and squeaky clean. Soon, Cordelia would no doubt demand to know why their water bill had skyrocketed.
Cordelia was far more than a fantasy. She was his family, his friend and meant too much to him to risk changing that even with the happiness clause being history. She was so full of life and in the end he was still the vampire who brought her suffering. As his seer, Cordelia endured excruciating pain to bring him the visions sent by the Powers that Be.
He’d take that pain if he could, but as it was impossible to do so all Angel could do was to promise himself not to cause her any more pain. Certainly none that came at his own hand through his selfishness and the base desires that gnawed at his being. It wasn’t his demon reacting, Angel knew, just the part of him that was a man recognizing the woman he wanted.
Just as the dryer cycle ended, Cordelia popped into the room. Angel tossed his book down on the chair beside him and stood up. Having her come in when the direction of his thoughts had taken him straight back to the daydream where he had her in his bed and writing beneath him clearly distracted him.
Awkwardly, he said hello asking why she was there.
“I’m just here to commune with your equipment,” quipped Cordelia before laughing at his strange expression. “Hope you don’t mind, but I snuck down earlier and threw a couple of little things in the wash. The laundry room at my apartment is closed for repairs.”
Warily, Angel asked as he recovered his equilibrium and went about folding clothes from the dryer, “I’m not going to end up with pink boxers again, am I?”
“That was an accident,” Cordelia huffed defensively. “How was I to know my red blouse would bleed all over your clothes? Besides, who’d see them anyway.”
“You never know,” he responded cryptically, reaching in to pull out the next item.
Cordelia realized that Angel continued to remain silent on the issue of his soul. It bothered her that everyone continued to keep her in the dark about it. As if telling her would set something in motion none of them could control.
Maybe hearing about it had done just that.
Asking him, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Maybe I’ll get…lucky,” Angel tried to joke only to realize that he was holding a lacy strapless lavender bra.
Snatching the bra away, Cordelia held it up against her. Get lucky? “Maybe you will. You like? I’m gonna wear it tonight with my new dress.”
A little bug-eyed as he stared unavoidably at the lavender lace cupping the curves of Cordelia’s breasts over her cream-colored shirt, Angel managed to ask her, “You’re going out?”
His distracted tone sounded almost bored. Cordelia yanked the bra away reminding him, “You promised to take us all out to dinner tonight.”
Turning back to the dryer, Angel said, “Guess I did.”
“Senility has finally set in,” Cordelia sighed dramatically. Wiggling her fingers as she held her hand out, she told him, “There’s one more thing of mine in the dryer.”
Considering the nature of the first item, Angel decided to play it safe. Stepping back, he motioned for her to fish through the clothes to find it herself. Cordelia bent over practically sticking her head into the opening as she waded through his clothes. The effort caused her bottom to stick out at a tempting angle, which he promptly turned his eyes away from.
“Find it?” Angel asked when he sensed Cordelia standing up again.
Cordelia nodded and looked ready to move away when Angel felt something drop onto his shoe. With an airy laugh, Cordelia shrugged her apology, adding, “Oops!”
He knew what he’d find before his downward glance confirmed it. Since it was his shoe and as Cordelia wasn’t budging, Angel bent over to pick up the flossy matching lavender thong. Lifting it on a finger, he held them out to her while doing his utmost to maintain a straight face.
The glint in her eyes warned him that choosing to say nothing would be as damning as stroking the panties across his cheek. Denial of all interest was the only possible way to go.
“Women’s underthings have certainly changed since back in the day.” Angel let out a tone of disapproval. “It used to be about titillation. Now it’s all about leaving nothing to the imagination.”
“Titilation?” Cordelia gaped openly at the blasé tone and the use of the old-fashioned word that somehow made her shiver.
Angel suddenly seemed to get lost in a world of examples, “Like unbuttoning rows of tiny round pearls down a woman’s back.”
The baritone deepened in her ear as Cordelia caught a breath and held it. His words sounded like silk rasping across her skin as she pictured his nimble fingers moving to undress her.
“Unlacing corsets that propped and nipped in such a way that these hands,” he held them up as if to show her, “could span her waist and caress her curves, peeling away the layers hiding her skin from my touch.”
Peel me, the crazy little thought popped into her head and the effort that it took just to keep the simple request from falling from her mouth nearly killed her. As it was, Cordelia blinked away the images forming in her head wondering if Angel had any idea just how seductive he sounded.
At that moment, Angel was sounding off a number of curses as he realized he’d just dragged Cordelia straight into one of his fantasies. It didn’t take much effort to know that she was not unaffected by his words since the scent of her arousal came to him.
He breathed deep, his dark eyes raking across her body in search of other signs that proved Cordelia wanted him.
He licked his lips in response to finding them too many to count.
Dammit, Angel forced his gaze back to Cordelia’s eyes even if they were dilated and shining with sudden arousal. It was the surprise accompanying her intoxicating scent that gave him the strength to ignore the stirrings of his own body.
This had to be an automatic female response rather than one specific to him.
Returning to their conversation, he lifted his broad shoulders into an unimpressed shrug, “These days it’s all Wonder Bras and dental floss panties.”
Snapping out of her daze, Cordelia waved the lavender lace between them. “I’ll have you know I don’t need a Wonder Bra or a corset, for that matter, propping anything I own.”
Silence seemed the most appropriate response, so Angel shoved his fists in his pants pockets, rocked back on his heels and waited out the storm.
“Who the hell has been talking to you about Wonder Bras?” Cordelia demanded to know. It had better have been Buffy and not whatever blonde bimbo Gunn was trying to foist off on him.
“Actually, it was Gunn,” he confessed readily not at all feeling guilty about shifting some of the blame.
Cordelia wasn’t certain whether she was relieved by the news or angry that Gunn was preparing Angel for the wonders of modern female undergarments. No doubt in telling him to be wary of hidden props or giving pointers on front-closure devices.
“Since he’s so interested in women’s underwear, tell Gunn I think he’d look great in my pink thong,” Cordelia fumed before storming out of the laundry room.
Her fury only left him smiling in its wake.
“Earth to Angel,” Cordelia curled a hand around his arm to draw him out of the deep thoughts that seemed to be pulling him away from reality.
Gunn and Wes continued to lavish attention on Fred who wore a burgundy dress and looked nothing like the burlap-garbed fugitive she had been only a few months ago. Cordelia was especially proud of the way her friend had turned out having managed to drag her shopping and to the hair salon.
“It’s good to see Fred out of her room,” he commented knowing that he was staring in that direction. It was just that Cordelia had been over there too just a minute ago cooing over the other brunette.
Truthfully, Angel had been far too busy looking at the zipper that ran down the back of Cordelia’s little black dress and imagining pulling it slowly down until that fabric pooled at her feet. He already knew what he’d find beneath that silk.
Her satiny skin would be all but bared to his hungry view, creamy and golden with a small band of lavender lace at her back and a tiny triangle with its connecting string enhancing the taut globes of her rounded bare bottom.
Tendrils from her upswept hair kissed the back of Cordelia’s slender throat while the design of her dress left her shoulders bare. The combined temptation of them both made him want to trace her bare skin with his mouth and let his hands wander over her curves.
Looking back at Fred, Cordelia was sufficiently distracted not to noticed the faraway look in Angel’s eye had nothing to do with Pylea or rescued physicists. “Yeah, I think she’s finally coming out of her shell. Not to mention the fact that she looks gorgeous tonight.”
Angel grunted an agreement.
That was a hint dunderhead, Cordelia let out a sigh that finally drew Angel’s attention down to her. So tell me, big guy. How do I look?
Apparently vampires possessed no mental telepathy, Cordelia reasoned, because Angel was certainly not mind-reading tonight. He glanced at her bare shoulders with a frown on his face. “Should you be wearing a coat? It’ll be cooler when we come out of the club.”
“Big brother strikes again,” Cordelia grumbled as she left his side to snatch her coat from the cloak closet. Walking back over, she smirked, “Satisfied?”
He was still reeling from the big brother comment, but managed a nod.
Then Cordelia decided to try out alluring lure number twelve. “Before we go…smell me.”
“What?” Angel figured he’d done enough of that down in the laundry room.
Cordelia rolled her eyes impatiently. “Smell me. I’m trying out a new perfume. Use those vamp senses. Okay or too overpowering?”
She’d showered since then, he reasoned. Such a harmless little request would be safe enough. After all, she’d just referred to him as her big brother. The favor was obviously just that…not some obtrusively sneaky ploy to drive him insane.
Despite the fact that Angel could have told her his opinion without moving an inch, the subtle tilt of her chin exposing the soft curve of her throat had him closing the distance between them. Cupping her neck, Angel gently pulled Cordelia closer and bent his head until his face brushed her throat. A soft gasp sounded in his ear and Angel heard the quickening tempo of her racing pulse.
He could sense every spot Cordelia had dabbed with that perfume. Very nice, subtle and blending in with her natural scents making him want to press his lips against those hot spots. Realizing that, Angel jerked back letting her go so swiftly that she almost stumbled out of his embrace.
“So?” she demanded a response.
“Ever heard a vampire sneeze? I think I may be allergic,” Angel told her determined that she not subject him to that intoxicating scent. “Maybe you should wash it off before we go.”
“I will not,” Cordelia refused. “You are so exaggerating that. Vampires aren’t allergic to perfume.”
Angel shrugged, “You wanted an opinion. Maybe you’d better sit on the other side of the table at dinner.”
“So it’s me you’re allergic to?” That insinuation bought him silence all the way to the Starlight Terrace.
At the restaurant, Angel held out the chair next to him for Fred trying to put some distance between himself and Cordelia, but she had already plopped herself down between Wes and Gunn.
“Guess you’re stuck with me,” Cordelia sank into the chair looking like she wanted to stick her tongue out at him. “Good thing you don’t have to breathe. Cos maybe then my perfume won’t cause you to choke since you’re sitting so close.”
Fred’s enthusiasm for the evening and the club bubbled over and soon Cordelia and Angel were completely distracted by it. “My first real restaurant since Pylea. Taco Haven doesn’t count.”
Throughout dinner, they all talked about reintroducing Fred to the realities of life in L.A. Wes and Gunn talked about taking her to a carnival. Fred quickly suggested that they go at night so Cordelia and Angel could come too never noticing that she paired them up in saying so.
After Fred finished off her own dessert and the remaining half of Cordelia’s raspberry ganache, she saw the seer longingly eyeing the dance floor. “I think Cordy wants to dance.”
Cordelia couldn’t deny it. “This music is too good to resist,” she grinned putting her hand down on Angel’s thigh. “Dance with me?”
Before Angel could respond, Wes raised a voluntary hand, “I’ll dance with you.”
Gunn gave Wes a nod of approval for fast thinking. “Barbie, you know the vamp doesn’t dance.”
“Not to this song,” Angel agreed and hunkered down in his chair thankful that Wes was going to be the one to dance with Cordelia and not some random man out there on the dance floor.
“Gee, thanks, Wes,” Cordelia stood up and managed to bump Angel’s shoulder with her hip before heading away from the table.
Angel attempted to ignore the sight of Cordelia moving rhythmically to the beat of the music, but Fred and Gunn were too busy talking about it to hold any other conversation. They laughed merrily at the sight of Wesley moving around her and dancing enthusiastically if not with any skill or talent.
Cordelia threw her whole body into it and her love of the music showed in the energy bounding off of her.
They returned to the table, Cordelia holding Wes’ hand and pulling him behind her. “I think I need someone with a little more energy. Wes is running out of steam.”
“I am not,” Wesley adjusted his glasses.
Laughing, Cordelia held out her hand for Gunn who took it enthusiastically. “Think you can keep up?”
“Just try me.”
Angel watched them scurry back to the dance floor. The warm sheen on Cordelia’s skin heightened her scent. She pulsed with life, adrenalin coursing through her veins. He had to be content to sit and watch. Touching her now might prove too much for his resolve.
“I think Cordelia is disappointed that Angel won’t dance with her,” Fred commented to Wesley though she said it entirely for the vampire’s benefit.
Angel didn’t so much as stir, his eyes focused on the pair on the dance floor. Even he could tell that Cordelia and Gunn moved well together. Unlike Wes, Gunn possessed a natural rhythm that kept him moving in sync with Cordelia as they danced.
Angel wondered absently why he wasn’t feeling jealous. Considering all of the inappropriate feelings he’d had about Cordelia, he expected to want to rip Gunn apart considering some of the moves he was making out there.
The rational part of Angel’s brain registered that they were dance moves not flagrant attempts at touching Cordelia. Besides that, Gunn treated her like a sister. Somehow that was apparently how Cordelia seemed to think he also felt about her.
Big brother? Pfft, Angel rolled his eyes at the thought. Then he started to think that might be how Cordelia wanted him to treat her. Certainly, she wouldn’t want to know that he lusted after his best friend.
No doubt, in her words, that would simply be… eew.
After the third song, a ballad began and the lights over the dance floor shifted to the level of soft candlelight. Gunn and Cordelia were still out there laughing their way through a debate about the latest blockbuster movie.
“You just wanna jump his bones,” Gunn challenged her as their talk turned to the star of the movie.
Cordelia slapped him on the shoulder, “How shallow do you think I am? I’d jump his bones and admire his acting.”
Gunn scoffed, “Right.”
Naming his favorite singer, Cordelia came back with, “And if you thought you had a chance? What about her?”
“Unlike your lame actor, my girl can sing,” Gunn returned and then felt a tap on his shoulder. He started to warn off the interloper, “Buzz o— Angel?”
“Do you mind if I jump in on all of the boning, acting and singing going on to dance with Cordelia?” he grinned at the two of them having listened in as he crossed the floor to their position.
Still holding onto Cordelia, Gunn seriously thought about saying no. Then realizing Angel had been on good behavior ever since their little chat about respecting Cordy, he decided this was just the vamp taking a turn during a song he could actually move to.
Glancing at Angel who moved in expectantly, Cordelia commented, “He can act, can’t you, broody boy? Can’t sing worth a damn. As for the rest, well eunuch vamps can’t bone anyone.”
Gunn decided to escape that conversation before it happened. Nope. No worries at all about those two. Lorne must’ve had a few too many Seabreezes before coming into the office that morning.
“I’m not a eunuch,” Angel growled low under his breath.
“Will I contaminate you if I get too close?” Cordelia kept talking. “Those new allergies might get worse. You don’t have to dance with me. Don’t feel obligated just because Wes and Gunn know how to have fun and you’re al—”
“Just shut up for once and dance with me. I’m here, aren’t I?” He pulled her closer, his hand between her shoulder blades pressing her forward.
Realizing that she was snapping at Angel about being in his arms when that was exactly where she wanted to be, Cordelia put her hand in his sliding the other around his neck. “This song is still kinda snappy. Think you can keep the pace?”
“I lead, you follow,” Angel reminded as he maneuvered her around the floor.
With a little huff of frustration, she asked, “Going anywhere in particular or just in circles?”
“That isn—” he broke off as Cordelia suddenly cried out.
“Oh no!” Cordelia felt it coming, the flash of light and pain that signaled the coming of a vision. Within seconds, she found herself lost in the images, scents and sounds that would herald their next mission.
Already there, Angel whisked her up into his arms and over to an open space at the edge of the dance floor. Writhing with the shock of the vision, Cordelia slowly came out of it finding that she was cradled in Angel’s protective hold as he gazed down at her in concern.
The club’s manager inquiring after Cordelia’s condition joined curious onlookers in standing around the couple. Wesley quickly intervened having rushed across the room with Gunn and Fred close behind. “She’ll be fine. It’s just a common seizure disorder. Please just give us a little space.”
Left alone, Cordelia was finally able to impart the details of her vision. “Big ugly demon. Four claws on each hand. Three beady eyes. Has a taste for Mexican food.”
“He’s down in the Barrio?” Gunn inquired.
“No,” Cordelia groaned painfully as little flashbacks popped up like aftershocks. “He’ll be at Taco Haven in about forty minutes; looks like the owner has been doing a little demon worshipping on the side to increase business.”
Fred gasped, “I knew those tacos were extra tasty.”
Cordelia was still unsteady on her feet, so Angel effortlessly lifted her into his arms again carrying her across the room toward the club exit. For once, she didn’t protest the move simply tucking her head against his shoulder and holding on. “I’d rather be dancing,” she muttered.
“I’ll get you home first before we go after the demon,” Angel told her wanting her to be safe.
“We don’t have time,” Cordelia reminded him. “My apartment is too far out of the way.”
After a pause, Angel said, “I meant the hotel.”
Lifting her head, Cordelia focused on his profile and imagined him carrying her up to his room and setting her down on his bed. It always seemed to be his bed and not the one she used on the rare occasions she stayed at the hotel rather than heading back to the apartment.
Despite the herd of elephants tromping in her head, Cordelia found that realization gave her a spark of hope.
“To your room?”
“Yeah,” Angel answered automatically never considering that there was any other option.