Angel ran his hand over the rumpled sheets and closed his eyes. In his mind, he saw Cordy standing in the kitchen, her teeth chewing on her bottom lip as she sprinkled spices in his blood. He took the blood from her, sipping it as he approached.
The taste-scent exploded on his tongue and as it did, Cordy eased him into the chair and settled onto his lap. She caught his gaze then dipped her finger in the blood, brushing a trail down the slim column of her neck until finally her finger rested on her pulse point. With a tilt of her head, she invited him to taste.
Angel’s hands gripped at the sheet as his anticipation turned into an urgent ache that jerked him out of his fantasy.
He let go of the twisted sheet. The sound of the shower had stopped. Angel tensed as he realized that he had no idea for how long.
He stepped back from the bed, his eyes glancing around the room, half-hoping to see Cordelia in the doorway so he could end his charade of patiently waiting for the ‘right time’. He wanted her now.
A flash of anger swept over him when he saw the doorway was empty. He shook his head, struggling with his need. Patience was the only way that his fantasy could become a possibility.
He moved back towards the bed, pausing at the dresser, noticing for the first time some tattered envelopes.
Angel ran his fingers over his name, obviously written by Cordelia. His anger returned when he saw the money.
She really thought she owed him. He knew she accepted him, the goodnight kiss and the marvel of her warming his blood, had shown him that. When would she realize that she belonged to him? She didn’t have to give him anything except her body, heart, and soul.
Cordelia stood in the middle of the bathroom, toweling her long hair of the excess water. That went better than she had thought. Any unease she may have felt in seeing Angel after her lurid dream was pleasantly absent during breakfast.
Granted, she hadn’t really had any time to dwell on it. She had been too busy trying to cook and get over any icky feelings about Angel’s blood. She was quite proud that she had managed the latter so well. It would’ve been a shame to miss Angel’s expression when she handed it to him. Though, it was kind of sad that he would be so surprised and grateful that someone would do something nice for him.
Cordelia twisted the towel around her hair, wrapping it on top of her head and left the bathroom. She would’ve thought that Buffy would’ve had warmed at least one container for Angel. Then again, she sighed, all they ever seemed to do was stare, kiss, argue, and fight demons. Maybe they never had a meal together.
Cordelia entered the bedroom and then jumped when she saw Angel making the bed.
“What are you doing?” Cordelia rolled her eyes at her own statement of the obvious. “Okay, fine, you’re making the bed. Why?”
“Habit.” Angel fluffed the last pillow and put it at the head of the bed.
“Oh.” Cordelia frowned. Obviously, her pointing out what privacy meant had meant nothing.
“Well, okay, but I need to get dressed.”
Instead of leaving, Angel moved closer.
“Cordy, did you sleep well last night?”
The deep timbre of Angel’s question caused goose bumps to pop up along her arms. “Um, yeah, sure.” She pulled the robe tighter around her body.
Angel reached out and fingered the dark terry-clothed knot at her waist. “This is my robe.”
Cordelia couldn’t have moved if she had tried.
“It was, uh…It was hanging on the door.”
“As long as you’re comfortable.” The end of the robe’s belt slipped through Angel’s fingers. “Are you?”
Cordelia gulped. His intense stare was swallowing her whole. Her mind flashed back to the night when Angelus had tackled her to the ground. His body had completely covered hers. Her struggles had been useless against his strength. She was feeling that helplessness again.
Except this time, it wasn’t accompanied by fear but a purely feminine thrill at Angel’s closeness and the inherent power of him.
The swiftness and intensity of that rush was scarier than the simple fear she had felt that night in the cemetery.
“I asked — are you comfortable, Cordelia.”
Cordelia stepped back and wetted her lips. “Um. Yeah. You’re bed is very comfortable. I like being in your bed.” Cordelia jerked back even further as she heard her words and their possible meaning. “I mean…I mean it’s comfortable.”
“And your dreams?” Angel asked softly as he stepped forward, closing the little distance that Cordelia had gained.
Cordelia couldn’t help the flush of heat that rose from her toes to her cheeks. Was she just imagining the knowing glint in Angel’s stare? Cordelia braced her shoulders.
There was no way he could know about the dream she had of him. “Fine, good, great.” She pushed at Angel’s chest, silently begging him to just leave.
“That’s good.” Angel titled Cordelia’s chin. “Now, why don’t you get dressed? We’ve a dinner guest tonight.” He tapped her nose before he left.
Cordelia rubbed her nose and stared after him. His flip-flop changes in mood could drive her crazy, if she let them. Cordelia took a determined breath. She just wouldn’t let them.
Angel hid his sketchpad when he heard the bedroom door close. By the time Cordelia’s footsteps were on the stairs, his eyes were focused on the book in his hands.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Cordelia tugged on his book.
“It’s not obvious?” Angel raised a brow, silently taking in her appearance.
“Hey, I’m talking to you.” Cordelia smacked harder at the book.
“And I answered.” Angel caught the book before it fell.
“No, you didn’t. My question WAS why are you just sitting here reading. Miss Twittle is coming. There’s no time to read.”
Angel exaggerated the placement of the book on the side table. “Not until 6 o’clock. We have plenty of time.”
“So, says you.” Cordelia huffed. “We’ve got things to do.”
“Cordelia.” Angel drew her name out, “All I have to do is put the sauce on by 4 o’clock. The pasta can wait until she gets here.”
“Uh? No way,” Cordelia snapped. “Miss Twittle has a time fetish. We need to be ready to feed her on the dot. We can’t be diddle-dawdling around watching water boil.”
“Cordelia, I’m not making the pasta now.” Angel’s eyes met her glare, holding it until she huffed and started to pace.
Angel started to pick his book up but froze as her movements caught his attention. His narrow gaze focused on her quick, jerky strides. Each step gave him an excellent view of her swaying curves.
Before Cordelia had come down the stairs, he had been concentrating on drawing her expressions and sleeping form, but now he needed to capture her in motion. She was too beautiful for him to trust that every aspect of her would stay permanently etched in his mind.
“Fine, Mr. Expert.” Cordelia came to a sudden halt in front of him. “But you’re going to be the one doing all the small talk. I’m done with the lies.”
Angel suddenly stood. “It will be fine,” he said, closing the distance between them.
Cordelia pushed at his chest. “Right, you can say that, because you are such the entertainer.”
Angel raised his brows.
“Fine. Whatever.” She sighed. “But, if you won’t cook, you can clean. Miss Twittle’s a clean freak. I can’t tell you how many times I had to dust and sweep the store, even when it didn’t need it.”
“Are you saying the mansion’s dirty?” Angel crossed his arms.
She marched to the large wooden cabinet in the corner and took a swipe at the inlaid carvings on the doors. “Hah.” She held up her finger triumphantly.
“And that means what exactly?”
She scowled at her dust-free finger. “That you’re as much of a freak as she is.” She turned to look back at the cabinet.
“What’s in here?” Cordelia opened the door. “Oh, no way.” She glared at Angel. “These have to go, Buster.”
“They’re just weapons.”
“Uhuh,” Cordelia grabbed a long pole with a sharp curved blade attached to the top. “And this is?”
“It’s a scythe. And give it to me before you hurt yourself.” He took the weapon away.
“So what are you now, the Grim Reaper?” Cordelia crossed her arms against her chest.
He grunted and shoved the weapon back in the cabinet.
“Angel, Miss Twittle has a great flare of the dramatic. Ands she seems to have made me the center of her drama.”
“No.” Angel said dryly. “How could that be?”
“Don’t give me that.” She arched a brow at Angel. ” You’re just as much to blame as me, if not more and don’t you forget it.”
Angel grasped her hand, stopping her accusing finger from poking his chest again. “I haven’t.”
She glared at his fist. “Let me go,” she said, tugging her hand away.
“Cordy.” Angel held on.
“Angel.” She narrowed her eyes. And then she sighed, moving her hand and his so that they rested on his chest. “She’ll open things. She’ll open the fridge; probably look under the beds, too. After all, she conned you into inviting her to dinner just so she could snoop and make sure I was safe. Geez. You don’t really think her coming over was your idea, do you.”
“I thought it was all my fault.”
“It is,” she said, dropping her hand. “If you hadn’t fallen into her trap so easily, we wouldn’t be in this mess. But that’s beside the point, no time for blame.” She patted his arm.
Angel let out a deep breath. “Fine. I’ll lock it.”
Cordelia fisted her hands on her hips. “Oh, like that wouldn’t make her suspicious. Angel, it would be one thing if this was a cabinet full of things that went boom and pow, Miss Twittle seems to like those. But, I’m not so sure about her reaction to sharp and pointy things.” Cordelia waved back to the weapons in the cabinet.
“She’ll probably compare it to some horror movie. Then this becomes a cabinet of death smack in the middle of a haunted mansion. Not the look we’re going for here.” Cordelia tapped her foot.
Angel reached out and cupped her shoulders. “It will be okay.”
“You keep saying that.”
Angel sighed at her stubborn tone and stance. “Cordy, I’ll move the weapons to the basement. Now, tell me what else you think we’ll need to do make this work.”
The catch in her voice caught him unawares. Angel titled her chin up, surprised by the uncertainty and hopeful trust he saw in her eyes. “Anything,” he said soothingly, meaning it with every part of him.
Cordelia gave him a soft smile. “How about flowers. I can bring some in – if that’s okay?”
Angel stepped back amazed that she bothered with asking his permission.
“It’s not okay?” Cordelia fretted on her bottom lip.
Angel smiled. “Of course it is.”
“Good.” Cordelia nodded, then scrunched up her brows. “Do you have any vases?”
“I don’t know about vases, but,” he paused, thinking, “there is a room off the hall.” He jerked his head towards the doorway near the stairwell. “It has a bunch of furniture and things in it – left over from the former owners.”
Angel smiled at Cordelia’s widening eyes.
“Stuff? There is a room with stuff? It’ll be like free-shopping.” She clapped her hands with anticipatory glee. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“I didn’t – ” Angel paused, realizing that Cordelia was already half way out of the room. He shook his head as he grasped an armful of weapons and headed towards the basement.
Angel carried her finds into the living room and patiently held the marble coffee table while Cordelia decided where it should be placed.
Angel stared at its final placement. “That’s where I first put it.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “No it’s not, Mr. Whiney.” She pointed to a spot on the floor that was an inch to the left. “That’s where you put it. It looks better where it is. Trust me.” Cordelia took a step back, examining the results of their work.
“This is perfect. Thank you.” A satisfied smile settled on her face. “Oh,” she said, turning towards Angel. “You’ll get those vases I picked out, right?”
Angel looked around the living room. Cordelia had been right – the addition of the bright daffodils and the throw rugs she’d had him bring in made the room cozier.
“Angel, would you look?”
Angel’s gaze turned away from the flowers. “What?”
“Miss Twittle will expect us to dress for dinner. But, she also believes that we are hiding out. So, I need the perfect outfit that says ‘dressy yet a bit thrown together because I’m being stalked, but also comfortable because I’m safe for the time being.’ So, what do you think?”
Angel frowned, trying to follow what she’d said.
“Angel. Pay attention. Geez. How do I look?”
Angel stuffed his hands into his pockets. Now that he’d finally figured out what she’d said, he wasn’t sure Cordelia wanted to hear his true thoughts.
“You don’t think this does it, do you.” She smoothed away non-existent wrinkles. “That’s why you haven’t said anything.” Cordelia’s gaze jerked up to him. “I’ll go change.”
Angel reached out to catch her before she darted towards the stairs. “You look … fine.”
“Really. Are you sure?”
Angel’s gaze lingered over the green turtleneck dress and the chain belt that hung low on her hips. It wasn’t daring or suggestive, but the way it hugged her body fired his imagination.
“It’s the perfect … combination of … thrown together and … lovely.” Angel waited till she looked at him. “True beauty under pressure,” he whispered as he leaned closer, holding Cordelia’s startled gaze.
Angel felt her tense for a moment. And then she smiled. “I knew it was the right outfit.”
Then she frowned. “That’s what you are wearing?”
“Yeah.” Angel looked down at his black sweater.
“You’ve got to have something less thrown together and more lovely.” Angel was too entranced by the sparkle in her eyes to wonder what was wrong with his sweater. He shrugged and let her pull him towards the stairs.