His eyes stared at the back of her head, following the strands of dark hair down her neck and shoulders, going lower until he reached the hem of her midriff top where tanned skin met with her shorts. The pale pink fabric rose up and skimmed the curves of her ass, and he grinned as he traced the soft contours of toned thighs and a trim waist before continuing down a set of long, shapely legs that ended in sock covered feet.
He arched an eyebrow. What the hell was she doing wearing his socks? Most women would steal shirts or sweaters, not socks, but then Cordelia Chase was definitely not most women. He watched her feet bounce up and down, her toes occasionally coming into contact with his thigh, the warm material of his socks tickling his skin.
She laughed when Stan started to sing about blue ridged mountains in Virginia in a high pitched, girly voice. A hand curled round, fingers rattling the packet of jelly bears. “You want?”
Why not? Angelus snagged himself a few and popped a couple into his mouth. It wasn’t the taste of bears rolling round his mouth, but her. Apparently, no-one got their hands on her jelly bears and lived. “Delicious.”
Hazel eyes glanced over at him. “Try eating them with fangs and see if the jelly sticks to them.” The look he gave was way more entertaining than Laurel and Hardy, and she snorted. “Spoil sport.”
“They’re fangs, Cordelia, and the purpose is not for testing the sticky factor of shaped jello.” He paused and she didn’t need to be looking at him to know he was eyeing her throat. “I could demonstrate what they’re for.”
“That’s okay, Angel. I wouldn’t wanna put you out.”
Angelus smiled so helpfully. “It’s no trouble. Really,” he stated as sincere as possible. “I’d be more than happy to show you the purpose of fangs.”
“Ass.” One of her bouncing feet collided with his leg a little harder and he grabbed it, holding it still long enough to pull the sock off, exposing her toes which were unusually free of polish. “Of course you’d be willing to get snack happy with me. What vampire wouldn’t?”
“True,” his grin didn’t fade as she flopped onto her back, giving him a pretty view of her top tightly wrapping her full breasts and a prettier view of her very delectable, very biteable neck. It hurt to know he was denying himself and her all the pleasure a little pain could bring. “You definitely weren’t employed as bait because of your impressive screeching talents.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it. Xander said…” Her face fell into an expression of both hurt and anger, and damn if he couldn’t wait to have that little chat with the kid. “It doesn’t matter what he said.”
Angelus watched her shake it off and a bright smile lit her face as she sat up. Nicely done, he thought and filed away how easily she shoved the whelp out of her head despite bearing the scar he gave. His gaze dropped to the scar in question. It was still quite red and he could clearly see where the stitches had been.
On noticing what he was looking at, she self-consciously placed a hand over it since her top was a tad too short to tug down. He frowned and reached out to pull her hand away. She tried resisting, but a slight squeeze stopped her, and she allowed him to continue. “How far did it go in?”
“All the way.”
It went through her? Taking in the position and size of the scar, he guessed how close she’d been to losing a kidney and possibly having her spine injured. “Show me.” He thought back to when he’d done her tattoo, but couldn’t recall seeing the exit wound, and the angle of it explained it.
“There’s nothing to see, really. It’s fine.” It wasn’t fine, but never mind. It wasn’t like clocks could be turned so she wasn’t made to look a fool.
“Cordelia.” His tone brooked no argument and the hold on her wrist tightened somewhat, leaving her in no doubt he’d see what he wanted one way or another.
“Alright, alright,” she muttered in exasperation, shifting herself 180 degrees; offhandedly realising he had no intention of letting her wrist go. “God, you’re such a bully.” This would teach her not to get involved with a guy who got off on the misery of others. “Satisfied?”
Angelus didn’t reply, merely kept looking at the scar that went in a diagonal line starting just above her kidney and ending an inch or so below her lumbar vertebrae. Fuck, she could have been paralysed. Was he satisfied? Not. One. Little. Bit.
His fingers uncurled from her arm and he traced the raised skin, watching how the muscle twitched in response to the gentle touching of wounded nerves. It could take years for damaged nerves to fully heal and chances were they never would. Did Harris have any idea how close she’d come to a fate worse than death? Probably not. The brat was so high on his own crap to give a damn about his girl.
Well, one kid’s sorrow was another man’s song, and what a song it was.
While she had her back to him, he took the time to check on the tattoo, and saw it was doing fine. It was almost scabbed over completely and that meant she was in for a hellishly itchy time of it for the next week. Angelus slowly moved his finger down, careful to avoid the picture itself, and followed the outline from left to right, his lips quirking higher each time her back flexed.
Knowing she was ticklish was amusing and filed away for future reference, but it didn’t do anything to quash the rage he felt towards the boy. Oh, he was going to have so much fun at Harris’ expense. He doubted subjecting Harris to a few endless hours of torture would get the point across, and figured he was too dumb to comprehend a conversation. Angelus simply decided he had to get creative.
He’d been far too silent for her liking, so Cordelia turned back to face him, and graced him with a look of total boredom. “Are you done?”
Angelus wasn’t fooled by her show. A finger under her chin prevented her from averting her gaze. “I’m not laughing,” he said. “He was the idiot, not you.”
“But I ignored my friends then ditched them. For a guy. A stupid, dumbass guy who found redder pastures. What kind of girl craps on her friends for a guy?”
One of the most important points when seducing a woman like her knew what to say and when to say it. “The kind of girl willing to take a chance,” a slick smile appeared and widened when she shot him a look of disgust. Not one for pretty words was his Cor. “I wouldn’t give you the time of day if you were anything like her.” The distaste on his face and in his voice was unmistakable. “I wouldn’t have complimented your ribs.”
“My ribs and I thank you,” came the sarcastic reply and her tone softened as her eyes warmed in response to his cheeky wink. “Thank you, Angel. Seriously. Besides, it’s not as if he’s vampire enough for me, is it?”
Angelus mouth split into two rows of pearly white teeth. “My sentiments exactly. Now that we’ve wasted most of Way Out West, what’s say we go out and have fun? I’m sure there’s someplace we can raise hell.”
Cordelia paused for a second. “You don’t mean that literally, right? Cus you tried to do that last year.”
“I did, but as you can see, it didn’t work. Never could understand why. I did the sacrifice, the blood rites. Hell, I nigh on coated the damn thing in blood and nada.”
“Don’t tell me it was virgin female,” she rolled her eyes at the unfairness of demon rituals. “Anyway, I’m glad you screwed up. I’d still be with Xander if you hadn’t. Hellish thought.” She shuddered comically.
He didn’t hear her for the fact he was thinking about Acathla. “Admittedly, it was a crazy idea, but I’d just like to know why it never worked. And it was a male virgin.”
“You found a male virgin?” She got a look and replied with a sheepish grin. “Sorry. It’s gonna bug you until you find out, isn’t it?” She got a slow nod. “Okay, at the sake of my own sanity, whose blood did you use? Yours or his?”
“His. Wasting my hemoglobin on something that may or may not work is not my style.”
“God!” Cordelia scoffed in disgust. “You demons are all the same. Want hell to break loose but won’t spill your own to do it. To think half the human race is terrified of you people.” Her rant finished with a loud, huffy sigh that had him chuckling quietly. “Was the sacrifice needed?”
He gave another nod. “Had to prove I was a warrior.”
“And what better way to prove that than to slaughter some poor schmuck you picked up after club hours. Bet she didn’t put up a fight.” She got another look, “Sorry,” she grinned sheepishly once more, and paused to pop a jelly bear in her mouth. “Continue.”
Angelus rolled his eyes. “In order to prove I was worthy, blood had to be spilt, hence the guy.”
“A male virgin. Sheesh.” She got yet another look of irritation. “Sorry! You have to admit they are a rare species. So, you were the one who wanted to unleash hell yet you used his blood to open sesame?” Her face fell into a confused frown that crinkled her forehead. “Maybe you used the wrong virgin? Maybe you needed a girl.”
“Didn’t matter as long as the cherry was intact.”
“How did you know his was?”
“Good Christian boys would never partake in immoral activities out of the marital bed.” He paused long enough to grin and it was a nasty, wicked grin which showed the predator hiding beneath his relaxed facade. “And…”
Cordelia was quick to put a stop to the sentence. “That description will suffice. Didn’t you torture Giles to get the information?”
“Yep. Don’t think he appreciated my warm welcome. He said I had to do the ritual in a tutu.”
She couldn’t help it. Laughter shook her body and the bed, and it kept going despite receiving a hateful glare. “You’d be so cute in pink and frills.”
“I will bite you, Cordelia.” Didn’t matter if she was sniggering at the mental image of him in a pink, frilly tutu, she was still laughing at him and no-one else. At least it was him she was thinking of while making that sound. “I didn’t get the chance to use plan B since your pal the slayer crashed the party.”
“Something which I’ll be forever glad for.”
Angelus leveled her with an unimpressed stare that did nothing to lessen her giggling. “I wouldn’t worry your pretty head. Hell would never let you in.” It was all too easy to imagine her bombarding Lucifer with incessant questions. Satan would either end up insane or quit the place entirely.
“What?” Cordelia asked when his smile came accompanied with a shake of his head.
“Visualising you in hell and pitying Satan.”
“Ass. So you never got the chance to dig through Giles never ending brain to get the whys and hows, which brings us back to square one. Why didn’t it work when you did everything…” A megawatt light bulb went ping. “You did do it wrong. You used the guy’s blood, but it wasn’t him wanting to open hell.”
His gaze snapped up to meet hers and realisation dawned on him. A girl more than thirty decades his junior had just figured out why Acathla never worked. Wanting to know how she came to the conclusion, “What makes you think that?”
She shrugged. “You had to do all the work by proving you were a warrior, you had to do the ritual, so why wouldn’t it be your blood needed to finish it? It seems pretty logical to me. Think Sherlock Holmes. Eliminate all the impossible, then no matter how improbable, must be the answer. Or something to that effect.”
“Process of elimination,” Angelus surmised. “You are genius. Next time I wanna raise hell, I’m picking your brain.”
Cordelia froze, the fact she’d just helped him unlock the keys to an apocalypse turning her blood to ice. Her heart started to race and her face lost all colour as she looked at him through panicked eyes. There was no point trying to hide her nervousness since his expression told her he could hear every heavy thump inside.
“You’re not going to try it,” there was no question in her voice. “You can’t.”
He chuckled. “I’ve got no plans to suck the world into hell so you can sleep easy. Though it would be interesting to see if you’re right. You up for a wild ride?” Angelus purposely injected a fair amount of seriousness in his tone, just to see what she’d do.
She squeaked. Literally squeaked a squeak that would put Mickey Mouse to shame. She didn’t dare move or breathe until a deep, husky laugh bounced off the walls, and it was only then did she click on to the fact he had absolutely no intention whatsoever of opening hell.
“You jackass!” Cordelia hissed, rewarding his evil joke with a punch. “Don’t do that to me! Geez Angel, are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
God, he could be such a jerk sometimes.
She was just too easy. His grin never faltered and nor did the gleam in his eyes. Suddenly, his own light bulb lit up. “Lemme take you shopping,” he spoke in a way that was an offer she couldn’t refuse. “I know a nice place where I can wine and dine you.” Oh yes. Fun was going to be had.
Her jaw dropped. “You want to go shopping? With me?” Was he nuts? Didn’t he know shopping was her profession? Her calling even?
“On the condition you let me pick your clothes.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Surely she misheard.
“I’ll take you shopping if and only if you let me decide and pay for what you’ll wear for me.”
“You’re not confident at all, are you?”
Angelus good humor faded into a small warning that came complete with a squeezing of her ankle, and it was loose enough to let her know he’d do a lot more, a lot worse, if she didn’t adhere to what he wanted. “You don’t dress for anyone else.”
Cordelia’s eyes went to the hand holding her, feeling not the warning, but the thumb now rubbing slow circles around her heel. “No, she said quietly. “I don’t dress for anyone else.”
As if the tension never appeared, he smiled at her, happy he got his own way. “Good, because I’d hate to be the guy trying to take your attention from me.”
When he wanted something, it was obviously best to sit back and enjoy the ride. “Nothing crazy or anything,” she told him. “Oh, and I’m allergic to itchy stuff.”
“I know just the thing. First, I gotta go get cleaned up cus I doubt you wanna be seen with a guy in day old leather pants who goes commando.”
She flinched. “Okay, that is just the grossest thing I’ve ever heard. Pick me up in an hour… Or you could wait while I get changed and we can go together?” He raised his eyebrows in question. “It’d be easier, that’s all. Since your place is closer to the mall, you wouldn’t have to walk only to come back.”
“Sounds good. I’ll wait while you get pretty. Mind if I use the phone?”
“Knock yourself out. Won’t be long.”
Angelus let her foot go and watched her smile before hopping off the bed, and heading towards the bathroom, his gaze going to her feet. “Hey Cor? Can I have my sock back?”
He got a tongue instead of a no.
Angelus waited patiently until he heard the shower be switched on and picked up the phone, then waited until Karl picked up.
“Good evening, sir.”
“I want some reservations made at Havana’s restaurant. One for me and Cordelia, and the other for a Mr. Alexander Harris and Miss. Willow Rosenburg. Make them for around ten thirty.”
“Certainly, sir, will there be anything else, sir?”
“Yes. I need you to contact Mr. Harris with the information he’s won a late supper for him and Miss. Rosenburg. Charge the cheque to my account.”
“Of course, sir. Would you like the private alcove, sir?”
“Always so formal,” Angelus rolled his eyes. “I like the way you think. I want Cordelia to have the works.”
What passed for amusement filled the man’s voice, which was no more than a small lilt in his accent. “Indeed, sir.”
“Expect a bonus this month, Karl.”
“Very good, sir. Will that be all, sir?”
“No, let Marie know to expect Cordelia in an hour or so. Tell her to have blue velvet in a size eight with a 34 D bust and size 35 shoes.” He paused. “And if you tell anyone about this, I’ll…” He was cut off by a clipped tone full of offense.
“Discretion is my business, sir.”
Angelus grinned. If there was one thing nobody ever did, it was insult Karl’s professionalism. “Appreciated.” He hung up and rubbed his hands together gleefully. God, he loved that man.
Wandering to Cordelia’s vanity, he proceeded to rummage through her make-up collection, picking out this and that. If he was going to have her in blue velvet tonight, then minimal make-up was the best choice. A light blue-grey shadow and a slightly tinted lip gloss along with a rose blush and a pretty little hair clip would do the trick.
Anymore or heavier shades and she’d be gaudy with her features overpowered, and he doubted she would want to look like a painted doll, especially in front of the Harris prick.
Not that she was going to know they were there, of course, it’d ruin the whole thing if she knew. She’d get all paranoid and wouldn’t relax for fear something bad was going to happen, and that simply wouldn’t do. He wanted her to be at ease, to be comfortable with him, to allow herself to be openly courted by him. It was going be a lovely night, he decided.
After all, revenge was a dish best served cold, and Harris was long overdue for a shot of cold, harsh reality.
Less than two hours later saw Cordelia twirling in front of a flawless, wall length mirror situated in a huge changing room that held a small table and a glass of wine in the corner. The dress he wanted was a blue so dark, it appeared black, and it fit like a glove. The shoulder straps were thick, the hem reached the floor, and the heart shaped neckline curved over her breasts. The built in bra had her chest up instead of together and it left her with a figure sought after by most of the female population.
Her feet were encased in a pair of shoes that came complete with an easy three inch heel, rounded toe, and a soft shine to the silk material. She didn’t care to guess how much the outfit was going to cost. Yes, her family was financially comfortable, but God, this was probably worth at least three months’ allowance.
She stared at the mirror and saw nothing except a deceitful bitch who was happy letting him have his way as a means to ease her guilt. She’d never been more disgusted at herself. A tear trickled down her face, the sight made worse with the lack of mascara residue, and she cursed the invention of the waterproof stuff. Aside from her knowing all about the bet and being secretly manipulated by Spike, there was no evidence whatsoever that she had any part in the downfall of Angelus.
Angelus. The soulless vampire who had no idea he was being set up by the woman who was half in love with him. The thought made her sick to her stomach.
The sound of the changing door opening swiftly changed her thinking and her attention immediately went to Angelus, whose face went from smiling to frowning at the sight of her tears.
She wafted a hand around her face to cool down. “It’s nothing. I’m fine, really. Just a little overwhelmed that’s all.”
His confusion was palpable. “Overwhelmed? Why?”
“You. Me.” Us. “This dress.” Cordelia sniffed and wiped under her eyes just to be sure. “I don’t deserve any of it.” Least of all you.
He scratched his head. “What?”
“I’m bad!” She half yelled, hoping against hope he could read between the lines. “I’m a horrible, horrible person, and here’s you. A vampire with a kink for all things evil and that’s the worst part of it because I’m evil and you,” her finger pointed at him. “Don’t like it when people are evil to you, right? I mean, if someone pisses you off or something.”
Angelus didn’t know what was more amusing. The fact he’d heard more sense from a brick wall or the fact she was now pacing back and forth in a way that had her dress rippling over her body in a very delicious way. “I thought you didn’t have any intentions of pissing me off.”
“I didn’t and it’s not really my fault when you think about it.”
Think about what?
“Then they left, which gave me a way out. Or at least ample stalling time, but did I do anything to stop it? No. I just carried on and let it get way out of hand, and now I’m trapped. Trapped!” She emphasized with her hands. “You trapped me.”
“I trapped you?”
“Yes!” Cordelia’s voice had risen so high in volume and pitch, the bats in Africa could hear her. “You with the mechanical skills and the let’s go shopping, Cordelia, and I’m buying.”
Women. Angelus sighed, not pretending to know what she meant, and walked up to her, calming her down with a soft touch to her face and hands. “You ever amputated someone just to see which limb bled the most?” Ahh, the memories.
She turned green, visibly flinching from the image he painted. “No, and gross.”
“You ever broken a neck and left the body in their lover’s rose petal covered bed?”
“Can’t say I have.”
“Did you massacre your way across half the European continent?” Cordelia shook her head and Angelus smiled. “Then you’re not evil.”
“You’re just saying that.”
“I’m not just saying that. You’re not evil.”
Whining, “But you don’t understand.”
“I don’t understand because you’re not making any sense!” When she said nothing in response, he pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. “Look, Cordelia, what is going on? Be truthful.”
Truthful? Ha. Once over she was never anything but truthful, now she doubted if she’d know truthful if it fell out of the sky and bit her on the ass. “You’re going on and I don’t know how to deal with it.”
“Deal with what? Me? You’ve been dealing with me just fine.” The smirk on his face worked to make her more frustrated.
Risking what dignity she had left, “I like you, Angel,” she confessed and averted her eyes so she didn’t have to see him mock her. “More than like. I know you have alternative eating habits…”
Angelus forced her to look at him. “I like you, too. You want a picture? It’s yours. You want flowers? Yours. You want me to try and kill you? Fine.” He paused to visualise the scenario. “That’d be kinda fun, actually. Getting what you want is a perk of keeping me happy, and you keep me happy.”
Did he have to be so nice? She paused long enough to realise how that sounded. Thinking his ideas of killing her was nice? She knew he had alternative wooing ways, but God, how twisted was she to take it as a compliment? “Stop being like this,” she muttered with a pout. “You’re making me feel like a bitch.”
“Sorry to bear bad news, but you are a bitch.”
Cordelia laughed through her tears. “Flattery will get you nowhere.” Damn him and his big, dumb womanising charm. If he hadn’t been so clever with his words and knew how to deal with a train wreck of a woman, she would have told him everything.
Angelus grinned in total amusement. She was so easy. “C’mere.”
She found herself enveloped by two muscled arms and held against a solid chest, relaxing at the feel of a hand trailing up and down her spine. She sniffled into his collarbone, offhandedly complimenting his cologne. Didn’t take long for her arms to curl round his neck as she fully leaned into him, lapping up all the attention a soulless vampire could possibly bestow on a woman.
The silk of his shirt felt a little rough on her nose, the fabric perfectly skimming taut muscle, and God, it was so damn nice. He smelled so good. Cool spicy maleness combined with leather and wickedness all wrapped up in a tight package of death and destruction. Creamy eyelids fluttered shut as she allowed herself, for one moment, to feel as though she were truly his.
Cordelia totally relaxed into him and soaked up every bit she could manage, breathing him in and out, letting his presence flow through her like warm water, her ears listening to each murmur he made. His voice was always smooth, always deep, always hot. Cognac, she thought. He had a voice like cognac. Her arms curled round and under his, slender fingers dug through the shirt and into his skin, gently squeezing the toned contours she found.
Angelus could not have been more amused if she’d danced a jig, and when she lightly moaned, a tension known only to men replaced the amusement and left him hardening. The moment she felt the erection against her stomach was the same moment her lungs ceased working and she froze, helpless to the sudden hot rush between her thighs. Her walls crunched tight, making her body all too aware of how unfulfilled it was.
He had to move away from her. His eyes went to the small table thoughtfully. No. Couldn’t do it. Had to move away from her. It was just big enough and with some strategic replacing, would be nice and sturdy, but no. He was stronger than this.
Was it him or did her hips just roll?
Shaky, unneeded breath escaped his throat as he waited and waited, but felt nothing bar her light shaking. God, he was imagining things, and the next moment was filled with more than just her shaking.
Confused and far beyond dazed, Cordelia pulled back to look him in the face only to see him silently laughing. She arched an eyebrow. “Angel?”
“Ah hell,” Angelus chuckled, pulling her back to press a kiss to her forehead. “You kill me.” Without hesitating, he hauled her up and over his shoulder, spinning round fast enough to earn screams of delighted surprise. She held on for dear life as he went round and round and round, making stupid childish airplane noises all the while. His laughter joined hers and he had to admit the impulsive moment was enjoyable.
For her part, all she saw was both the whirling floor and the image of being held up high by an invisible person, and to say it was disconcerting was an understatement. Dizziness crawled over her and she was forced too beg to be put back on the floor, which he happily did.
Her eyes snapped open, and on realising what she was doing, immediately detached herself. She stepped away and turned round to hide her burning face, making a show of fixing the simple low ponytail at the side of her neck. God, she could still feel him there. Could feel him spinning her back to see him.
He set a very exhilarated cheerleader on the floor, keeping hold until she pulled herself together. “You are a crazy…” She didn’t get to finish.
“Flattery will get you a dance after dinner. You ready to go?”
“Dancing?” Cordelia quizzed, her face flushed pink and smiling wide. “I didn’t know you danced.”
His expression was smug. “The Macarena is beyond me, but I can Waltz with the best of them.”
The second they entered Havana’s was a split second before they were personally seen by the manager, who greeted them with a hand ready to be shaken, and a smile wider than the Amazon. To say Cordelia was taken aback by the reaction was an understatement, but she bore it with all the grace and dignity of a queen.
“And you, miss,” the manager addressed her with the same massive smile. “Is this your first visit to our quaint restaurant?”
“It is, but it seems very lovely,” she replied.
The manager clasped his hands together happily. “Oh, it is, Miss, it is. May I recommend the smoked salmon soufflé? It is divine. Why, my very own mother gave the chef her very own recipe. I grew up on it. Absolutely delightful.”
She slowly nodded. “I’m sure it is delightful.” Smoked salmon soufflé wasn’t really her thing, but whatever.
“Yes, well, allow me to show you to your table.” He glanced at Angelus and he instantly became the epitome of manager. “Everything is as you requested, sir.”
“Requested?” Cordelia smacked Angelus arm to get his attention. “What does that mean? What did you request?”
Angelus was only too happy to show her. “Only this…”
Leaving the manager a few steps behind, he led his girl past intrigued eyes, and towards a romantically lit alcove big enough for two. Her eyes grew huge. There was a vase with two perfect calla lilies, two napkins folded into swans, and two chocolates on the starter plates. The chairs were comfortable cushioned without being overly large, the lighting was perfect, and well, everything was perfect.
It wasn’t pretentious or over the top, it was just right.
“The phone call,” Cordelia turned on Angelus in amazement. “This was the phone call you made. You did all this while I was in the shower.”
He wasn’t expecting the soft kiss to his cheek and never before had raspberry gloss felt like ambrosia. Replying with a stroke of his thumb to her full lips, “You’re welcome.”
“I don’t know what to say except thank you, Angel… No.” Cordelia’s happy expression fell into a light frown. “Angelus. Thank you Angelus.”
“Angel is fine, but I appreciate the sentiment. Come, sit.” He pulled a chair out for her and pushed it back in time with her bending knees. Stroking her hair, “Okay?”
She blushed and nodded, then watched him sit opposite. “A bottle of your finest champagne. Charged to the account of Aurelius, thank you.” He was well aware that six tables away sat her ex-boyfriend and his whore, he was well aware they were watching every move made and well aware they were listening to every word spoken.
Two beautiful hazel eyes peeked through darkened lashes. “You didn’t need to do all this, Angel. Not for me. I woulda been happy with a pizza, movie, and a 99 cent bottle of Cola.” She grinned sheepishly. “Probably more so.”
He had to laugh. “I doubt a pizza would fill your belly,” and then felt a swift kick to his shin. “And what a lovely belly it is. Smooth, tanned…”
“Marked from a rusty rebar.”
Angelus added that to his list of compliments. “Marked from a rusty rebar.”
Cordelia blushed. The way he said it made it seem less like a scar and more like something to be proud of. “Do you have any scars?”
“One,” he said to her amazement.
“I thought vampires couldn’t scar. What happened?” It must have been something terrible. “If you don’t mind my asking, of course.”
“Mary O’Donnell broke my heart. Right here,” he looked the picture of a man torn as he gripped his chest.
A packet of sugar was thrown at his head. “Dumbass. Mary O’Donnell, huh? She musta been a piece of work.”
Angelus grinned at the jealousy lilting her voice. “I was nine and she chose Ian Connors over me. Can you believe it?”
“No?!” Cordelia expressed exaggerated shock, her petulant jealousy forgotten. “Really?”
“Yep. Ditched me right in the middle of the village.”
“You must have been crushed. How ever did you cope?”
“I killed him two days after I was turned.”
She would not laugh. She would not laugh. She would not… Oh, what the hell. Her giggles attracted attention from a near-by table. Seeing she was gathering looks, Cordelia schooled herself admirably. “And Mary?”
“Left her to it.”
“Probably the best course of action given the circumstances.” She choked back more giggles with a cough. “So, Liam, huh? Tell me about Liam.”
Angelus reply was interrupted by the manager arriving with the champagne. “Your champagne, sir, miss. I’ve personally seen to it there is extra ice in the ice bucket. My mother always said if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing yourself, and mother is always right. I’ve no doubt you will enjoy your drinks as it’s a bottle of our finest Cristal.”
Cordelia’s mouth went dry. Cristal? That champagne went for a thousand dollars a bottle. Ohgodohgod. There was a thousand dollars worth of champagne no more than a foot from her. What in the hell was Angel thinking? Flowers, a private table complete with chocolate, not to mention a full outfit.
He was supposed to be evil and soulless and he was supposed to doing nasty, evil and soulless things to her. For crying out loud the glasses were so chilled, they steamed, and that meant they were pure lead crystal.
“Angel,” she breathed, her hands nervously running over the table top. “It’s too much.”
Angelus gaze sharply snapped to meet hers. He saw past the eye shadow he requested and the dress she allowed him to buy. He saw past what everyone else thought was the be all and end all of Cordelia Chase. He saw a woman who laughed at and with him, he saw a woman who refused to let one bad experience rule her life, and he saw the woman who wasn’t afraid of anything, least of all him.
For God’s sake, she’d nagged and nagged until he promised never to feed after three am just so he’d be home well before sunrise. She’d laughed at jokes she shouldn’t have laughed at, she listened and learned, and hell, she wanted him. Him. Not the soul, a soul wannabe, or anything like that. She wanted him, Angelus, and that was something he’d never experienced except with Darla.
Darla had been his sire and so that was to be expected, but Darla had thrown him out when she discovered he’d been ensouled, but Cordelia? He recalled one night in the Bronze when she’d talked to him only to be brushed aside like she was less than nothing. Angelus cursed the soul he no longer had and mentally vowed to hunt down and methodically kill each Gypsy he could.
If the Gypsies hadn’t cursed him, then Cordelia wouldn’t have been abandoned that night.
“No,” he said, his husky voice belied his nature. “It’s not too much.” Next time, he was going to have flowers carved out of solid crystal and a heart on her plate.
Unaware of his thoughts, Cordelia smiled as she touched his fingers. “We’ll agree to disagree, but since you’re paying, how about giving me a glass?”
“My pleasure.” Angelus took the bottle from the bucket and began twisting the cork. He joined her laughter when the fizzy liquid burst out, coating his hand and the floor in froth. He played the perfect gent, pouring hers first and then his, replacing the bottle back into the ice bucket before picking up his glass in a manner belonging to royalty. If he was the Master of Aurelius like he said, then he was sort of like royalty. Well, in the vampire world anyway.
He held out his glass to her. “What are we drinking to?”
That one was easy. She returned the gesture and clinked her glass against his, the tiny noise serving to widen her smile. “The best bowling duo that ever lived.”
He thought back to the night before, sniggering at the memory at the helpless defeat of Pin Pushers. “We did good, didn’t we?”
“Good?” She asked loudly. “We didn’t do good. We cleaned up. We wiped the floor. We waved bye-bye to their dignity. We were the hankies they wiped their tears with. We…”
“For instance. Daddy was so happy when I told him. You get a free legal consultation and a few hundred business cards to put in your club.”
Angelus innocently glanced towards both Harris and Rosenburg, who sat a few tables behind away and saw them looking their way. Obviously, they weren’t missing a thing. Good. He treated Cordelia to an all-out smile. “I like Will. He seems a very smart man.”
She nodded as she swallowed. “He is. He married mom… Ooh, you haven’t met my mom yet. She’s great. A little unhinged, sure, but great.”
He gave her a slimy smile. “She gave birth to you, so she must be great.”
“That,” she said with a laugh. “Was sick. Smooth, but sick.”
“Sicker than figuring out how to unleash hell?” He saw the horror cross the faces of Xander and Willow, and grinned. Again, he turned his attention back to Cordelia.
“Hell doesn’t have a patch on that comment.” Cordelia took another sip of her champagne. Her thousand dollar champagne. “Tell me about Liam. What were you like?”
Angelus twirled his glass between his fingers, his gaze focused on the plate in front of him. “I was a rogue. A loveable rogue with a mean right hook.” Brown eyes peered through dark lashes, his mouth quirking into an odd sort of smile. “My mornings were with my horses.”
Like all young women when they have something in common with the current beau, she clung onto that piece of info like a lifeline. “Ooh, I love horses,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes. “A Palomino named Keanu. He has the manners of a prince and the lashes of Marilyn Monroe.”
He chuckled. “I had six or seven. Couple of fillies, two stallions, and one gelding after Sprite got the better of him.” A wince of sympathy flashed across his face. “Took a hoof right to the nuts… Poor bastard.”
Even she had the decency to recoil. “No, definitely not pleasant. That was your mornings, now what about your days? I keep seeing you chasing leprechauns for their gold or something.”
Angelus shook his head. “Where your mind goes, I wonder. My days were spent in the taverns and my evenings with a whore or two.” He just had to add, “Often for free, of course.”
Cordelia gave a grave nod. “Of course, cus you’re just so handsome and well built that they simply couldn’t resist.”
“If you’d bothered to look, you’d know for yourself.” She turned red much to his pleasure. “Front of the queue when it came to endowment.”
An elegant brow rose high as disbelief showed brightly on her face. “Uh-huh, that’s why you got named Scourge and not Long John.”
He only just managed to turn his face to the side to avoid splurting champagne all over her. He coughed and patted his chest, gaining attention from both the surrounding tables and their little audience. “You do realise you’re talking cock in a classy joint, right?”
It was her turn to splurt champagne. “Yes,” Cordelia wheezed and wiped her mouth while ignoring what his naughty mouth did to her. “Yes I do, and I’d be grateful if we changed the subject.”
“If you’re sure…” Angelus checked on the two spies, merrily noting the pallor of one face as it looked at the dark haired boy. Oh yeah, she knew Harris look of lust wasn’t for her and though she had the wolf, she still wanted that extra slice of pie which told her she was worth something, to ease her own insecurities and immaturity. And the whelp, well, only one word fit his expression, and it was that of loss.
Lost hope, lost lady, lost what he deemed unimportant. Xander had lost out on something sweet and he knew it. God, misery was so beautiful sometimes.
“Oh yes,” her voice brought him back from self congratulating thoughts. “A subject change is highly welcome. How’s the weather been lately?” Cordelia asked casually as though they hadn’t just been discussing his genital size.
He grinned wickedly. “The weather has been pretty hot, wouldn’t you agree?”
Her face told him she was not impressed. “Do you have to twist everything I say?”
“No fun if I don’t. So the weather isn’t hot?”
If this was how he wanted to play, fine. She’d play. Might not win, but she’d give it a damn good go. “There have been some cool spots that kinda ruined the moment.”
Ah, mental games. His favourite. “Cool can be good. Refreshing.”
“Is that so?”
Angelus leaned forward, purposely making the intimacy much louder than his voice, and he smirked inwardly when something broke inside a set of green eyes. That smirk appeared when she leaned in, ready to listen to whatever male gibberish he was about to come out with. “No sticky, sweaty hands pawing you in a dark closet. No hot, gasping breaths in your ear. No hot-blooded teenage dickwad who’ll cave at the first sign of an easy lay.”
Determined not to let a heavy conversation ruin their evening, “And,” Cordelia continued with a smile of her own. “No need to remove the sheets in a heat wave… Lucky ass.”
He chuckled. “Definitely a bonus. I told you about Liam, now what about Cordelia Chase?”
“Ah,” she said. “I spend my mornings…”
“Waking up next to me.” His gaze caught hold of two wide, shocked green irises surrounded by shoulder length red hair. Christ, he was having so much fun and he didn’t even need to resort to violence to get his kicks.
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “I used to spend my mornings having a quick workout before school, my days were spent in school, and my evenings either studying or Bronzing it with the girls.”
“Say the word and a quick workout is all yours.”
“You do quick?” Her tongue clacked in disappointment.
Angelus eyes burned. Challenging, daring her to finish that sentence.
“Shameful. Really shameful.”
“A word of advice, baby. Watch that smart mouth of yours. It’s gonna get you into trouble one of these days.”
“Trouble isn’t so bad, so long as it’s good trouble.”
He grinned. “I get that. Personally, I prefer the bad kind.”
Cordelia’s crinkling nose played hell on his senses. “Thought you said I wasn’t bad?”
“No, I said you weren’t evil.”
“So I’m the bad kind?”
“Very, very bad.”
The purr in his voice, the look in his eyes, the inviting smirk all served to make her squirm, and squirm she did. She was bad trouble and he preferred bad trouble. She didn’t get a chance to say anything in response as three men in white shirts arrived at their table, the sound of violins coming soon after. Stunned, Cordelia stared at Angelus as though she’d never seen him before.
He sat back, fully enjoying how his evening was turning out so well. Two birds and one rock. Perfect. “Yes,” he repeated. “Very bad indeed. I believe I promised you a dance.” She watched, speechless, as he rose out of his seat and held out a hand for her to take. “You Tango?”
Cordelia grinned. Could she Tango? “Bet your ass I can Tango.”
Most of the restaurant had fallen silent when the first notes of the Tango hit the air, now there was a silence that came complete with romance brought on by intrigue and a young couple about to entertain them. A few feminine giggles were heard, but were quickly muffled by hands over mouths as their eyes followed the pretty brunette being led to the small floor by her handsome young man, the band close behind.
They watched him take the lead with no resistance, watched him gently curl his fingers round hers, and watched him stare down at her with the deepest of love in his eyes. Sighs came from around when she sweetly blushed and shyly averted her gaze. They had no way of knowing the handsome young man they admired so much was a soulless vampire who had manipulated an unknowing woman into hammering out a wicked piece of vengeance on her ex.
Angelus paused before starting the dance and Cordelia frowned in confusion as he knelt at her feet, gasping in utter shock as he tore a long slit up her left leg, exposing a fair bit of her left thigh. Didn’t take much to understand why, and she laughed gaily.
Since they’d never danced together before, it took a few moments for them to find their feet, but when they did, it was with style. She had a good background in all things dance and that came through with each step she took. He, on the other hand, had an unnatural grace and strength that came from being a vampire. He was able to guide and mould her body with ease, holding her perfectly steady at every dip and turn.
They moved with an intimate intensity only found in passionate lovers. His fingers traced her spine, her teeth bit her lip. His eyes smoldered with heat, her chest heavily rose and fell. The audience was captivated, and two people in particular had no choice but to see what gave nobody pain but themselves.
Angelus danced Cordelia back to their table, his eyes glancing to the flowers in the vase, getting the message across with a sly wink. Securing him arm at the base of her spine and minding the table top, he dipped her at the correct angle for her to trap a lily between her teeth. He lifted her back up and wiggled his eyebrows, then leaned in to take the flower from her.
They paused for a single second. It was the closest thing to a kiss they’d experienced to date. No, he thought, closer. “Ambrosia,” he whispered just before his lips touched hers and stole the lily. Raspberry gloss tinted his mouth with a soft shine, leaving his cock with a burning ache. It was over all too soon for his liking, but any longer, and he’d be sucking her lungs through her mouth.
Now for the finale.
He spun them round so when it was time for the full body split, she’d see them. “Ready?”
Cordelia gave a small nod and hoped against hope she didn’t slip a disc or something. God, she hadn’t danced like this since her father’s dinner part a year ago. “Just hold tight.”
“I can safely say that won’t be a problem.” His right arm locked round her waist and he brought her right hand to his cheek, smiling when her fingers grazed his jaw and mouth as she executed one of the most erotic moves known to mankind. Her left leg slowly bent at the knee, ran up his torso, and she hooked her ankle over his shoulder. As if that wasn’t enough, she leaned back, showing complete trust in her partner and his capability to look after her.
It was a fantastically difficult position to hold, but she smiled through the discomfort, and after a moment, the whole place erupted. Applause came from every table, barring one, and every corner.
That was the very instant she opened her eyes in time to see Xander Harris leaving his table at a very fast pace with Willow Rosenburg hot on his cheating heels.
His pants were folded and neatly lying over the back of her dresser chair, his shirt and jacket on top, his boots placed under her bed while he flopped lazily onto the mattress. One hand cushioned his head, the other tapped against his naked stomach, the boxer shorts he wore rode up tight in places that should have had her immediate attention, but didn’t. His eyes tracked the quiet babe in the blue dress as she dropped her earrings into the jewelry box.
The rest of dinner had gone swimmingly, with nice chit chat and laughter, one or two toasts to the greatest dancers and bowling team ever. Yet when they left, it was in an eerie, uncharacteristic silence that left him with the knowledge she’d played the part of romanced woman to the max.
It was frankly unnerving. He liked her much better when she was talking his ear off. “I don’t know why,” Angelus spoke up with thought in his voice. “But I’m getting the feeling I’m in trouble and not the bad kind.” Or the good kind, as it were.
Cordelia didn’t say anything, merely unclasped her necklace and placed it onto a small hanger in the box. “Oh?” She said at length. “Can’t imagine why.” Her ring was slipped off and dropped into the ring drawer.
He sat up, draping his arms on his knees. “I don’t like guessing games.”
She glared at him with hellfire in her eyes. “And I don’t like being used or manipulated.” How ironic it was she was the manipulating one in this farce of a thing they had. “I’m not stupid, Angel. I know you got them there, don’t know how, but you did, and you used me to make a statement.”
Angelus studied her for a minute. “Course I got them there. You think they’d get into Havana’s on their charms alone?” He sighed when she didn’t laugh at his comment. “I did this for you.”
Her voice was laced with something more than disbelief. “Me?”
“Yes, you. You didn’t really think Harris would get off after hurting you.” Off her blank look, “Oh come on, Cordelia. He drove a rebar straight through your gut. Not personally, I grant, but as good as. What kind of boyfriend would I be if he got away without a scratch?”
“Colour me dumb, but I don’t get it.”
“He almost killed you. You take the high ground and live by the old saying living well is the best revenge. I don’t.”
“No, you live by the old saying piss me off and I’ll rip your head off. So that poses the question of what you were hoping to do. Corner him and actually rip his head off?”
“Honestly?” Angelus asked and she nodded. “No, but a few nasty hours did cross my mind, and still does if the truth be told. Then there I was. Sitting with you, seeing what he did, how it’s healing, and it got me thinking. Humans physically heal.” Most of the time.
Cordelia blinked. “We do,” was all she could think of.
“Right and if I didn’t kill the prick quick, the chances of a slayeresque rescue would be pretty high. My time would be wasted, he’d be pampered by hot nurses, and it’d all be for nothing. With me so far?”
Not really. “Uh-huh.”
“Since basic English is beyond his comprehension, I doubted a chat would go well, thus my decision to get creative.”
She blinked again. “Creative how?”
Angelus beamed, the pride at his little plan evident. “I wined and dined you while sticking it to your ex at the same time. Cool, huh?” He paused. “I should write a book on vengeance.”
“Yeah,” Cordelia dryly stated. “I’ll watch this space. Let me get this straight. You took me to dinner, bought me an entire outfit, danced the Tango, and somehow arranged to get them there to what? Witness me dallying with the town psycho? Way to say you lucked out on this one.”
“If I told you, you woulda been all uncomfortable and not flirty, and that wasn’t the reaction I was going for.”
“So what was?”
He rolled his eyes. She could be so damned dense when she wanted to be. “Think about it, Cor. I wanted to shove it down his throat you’re mine and in doing that, made Glinda aware of how she’d never really measure up. Having you look like a frightened bunny wouldn’t give the right image. They’d probably attempt a dramatic rescue and our dinner woulda been ruined in more ways than one.”
Angelus glanced at her. “Plus, the look on your face when you saw em was priceless.”
She could imagine. “Was that what tonight was about? Getting one up on Xander?” The thought cut her deeper than she’d ever admit.
“No. It was an opportunity for a little romance. Just cus I’m a soulless bastard doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the simple pleasures in life.”
Quick to reassure him, “That’s not what I meant, Angel.” Cordelia took a deep breath. “All I meant was…”
He gave her an easy grin. “I know whatcha meant. Your female mind got insecure about my motives and it hurt to think you weren’t the focus.”
Her face burned a brilliant shade of red as he nailed her exact feelings. The asshole was too good at this. “So what? It’s wrong to want to be the main attraction in my guy’s head?”
He didn’t just chuckle, he laughed out loud. “Oh honey, you kill me.” Angelus had a talent of being able to go from relaxed and cheerful to deadly serious in an instant. “You have absolutely no worries about being anything but first.”