False Claims 43-46

Chapter Forty Three

As her heels started to sink, once again, into the soft ground beneath her, Cordelia wondered what had happened to her life that her Tuesday night concerns were not the midweek pop quiz in biology, but rather how to keep from sinking into someone’s grave while she and the “Scoobies” set up some anti-demon ritual. Life sucked.

“Geez, guys, any day now.” Cordelia didn’t want to rush them but…well; actually she did want to rush them. Even her homework had to be better than this.

Apparently finished drawing the necessary symbols within the large circle he’d made, Giles stood and addressed the group.

“Alright, everyone stand within the circle and repeat the words exactly as I say them.”

Before Giles could quote the first passage of the incantation, he was interrupted by a high pitched shriek. Looking up he encountered a chilling sight as he watched Cordelia being wrapped in the iron embrace of Angelus.

“Watcher.” Angelus’ voice was nothing but a vicious snarl. Ignoring Buffy who had a stake out within seconds of seeing the vampire, his focus was instead reserved solely for Giles. “I thought I’d made myself perfectly clear about Cordelia’s place in your little gang.”

Even with his slayer armed in at the ready Giles felt chills race down his spine at the menace coming from the dark figure in front of him.

“God, do you like get a nickel for every rule you make? I’m gonna need some kind of book if you keep this up. You said to stop with the bait thing. Well, guess what? I’m not bait girl tonight. I’m ‘get rid of a demon ritual’ girl. I’m not the target and everything was going fine until you showed up.”

Sometimes Cordelia thought fate would have nothing to do if it wasn’t mocking her. For the moment she proclaimed the safety of their little group an enormous demon burst through the bushes and rampaged its way towards them.

Pushing Cordelia behind him, Angelus turned toward the creature approaching them and his features rippled to reveal his true face as a low rumble built in his chest and radiated outward in threatening bursts.

Loathe to turn her back on the vampire, Buffy had no choice but to also face the hulking figure baring down on them. However she needn’t have bothered as it came to an abrupt halt, eyes focused on Angelus.

Something almost animal passed between the two non-humans and, as recognition flared in its eyes, the demon, who moments before would have charged a slayer, spun on its heels and fled.

Slayer instincts screaming at her not to let the evil behemoth escape, but knowing that she couldn’t leave her friends at the mercy of Angelus she whirled to confront the vampire only to find empty air that had previously been filled with the vampire and his obsession.

“Damn it!” Giles bit out as he realized the couple was gone. He knew how dangerous it was for Cordelia to be so near the vampire. He worried less about it affecting Angelus as he seemed to have completely given into it, but Cordelia still had a chance.

Cursing himself for letting her come out with them tonight no matter how important it had been to have a fifth person for the spell, he motioned to Buffy to follow the demon.

“Hey!” Xander was livid. Not only had Angelus snuck up on them and taken Cordelia, but now they weren’t even going to go after her?

He wasn’t stupid. He knew that the decisions Cordelia had made recently had been about protecting everyone. Protecting him. And he knew it was killing her. He could see it in her eyes every time their gazes clashed before they could look away and pretend that they hadn’t been searching each other out.

“I think that Cordelia takes precedence over a demon that’s so pathetic he runs away at a little grumbling.”

“Xander, while I appreciate your feelings concerning Cordelia and I share them completely, the demon we just saw didn’t leave because of “a little grumbling” as you’ve so quaintly phrased it, but rather because he recognized Angelus as the dominant force here on the Hellmouth. The vampire was making it clear that his territory was being compromised and so the demon left. Sadly for us the forces of darkness here are far more organized than one might believe. There’s a hierarchy of power and at this time Angelus resides at the top.”

“As for the merits of pursuing the demon over pursuing Cordelia I would choose to chase after the former simply because we may actually stand a chance of overtaking it, whereas Cordelia won’t be found until Angelus is ready to return her.”

“I know it’s difficult for you to hear this, but I have reason to believe that not only will he not hurt her, but that Angelus will return Cordelia relatively soon. We won’t be able to find her and while we spend the night in fruitless searching that demon will be out killing people. The best thing that we can do is to let Buffy do her duty as the slayer while we return to the library to await word from Cordelia.”

Giles’ voice was suddenly weary as he lost the authority of a watcher and became simply a person who was missing someone he cared for, just like the boy in front of him. “I’m worried about her, too, Xander.”

Hearing the anguish in the older man’s voice did little to still the anger and helplessness warring for supremacy in his eyes Xander brushed past the watcher on his way back towards the library. Pausing for a moment he turned back.

“You know this is wrong, Giles.”

And with that he started forward again, heedless of the dangers of the night.

As Willow began quietly collecting their supplies she heard Giles mutter, “More wrong than you can know.”

Chapter Forty Four

“Stop. Stop! I’m gonna hurl!”

And that stopped the roller coaster as Angelus hastily set the wriggling bundle in his arms back onto her feet.

“What is your damage? You’re upset, I get that. But what’s with the vomit making rush through Sunnydale? You seemed to be doing just fine getting upset in the cemetery. Why’d you have to drag me here?”

Cordelia stopped her tirade briefly to take in her surroundings. “And where the Hell is here?”

It was a tightly controlled voice that answered her angry questions.

“Here is Willy’s. I have a meeting her tonight. And as for why you’re no longer in the cemetery, I think a better question would be what were you doing in the cemetery to begin with? And don’t give me that shit about you not being bait. There’s not a place in this town that you could stand that wouldn’t have all manner of demons panting after you. You certainly don’t have to compound that by spending times in graveyards.”

“This is non-negotiable, Cordelia. I’ve let you stay with your friends for now because I thought we all had a clear understanding of acceptable behavior. If I can’t be assured that the most basic of precautions are being taken, then I can easily arrange for your time with them to end. Do we understand each other?”

Cordelia cast him a considering look. Part of her wanted snap at the big, dumb vampire in front of her. The other, more honest part had to admit that they did nearly get attacked by that demon in the cemetery tonight, so he might have a tiny, minuscule point about the dangers of Sunnydale after dark.

To push or not to push, that was her eternal question. Which, honestly, she almost never bothered asking and just went straight for the pushing. But spending large amounts of time with a homicidal maniac had done more to develop discretion in her than anything else in the entirety of her life.

Taking a deep breath Cordelia began pacing back and forth as she prepared to walk as fine and delicate a line between tact and honesty as her nature could allow.

“Look, you’re obviously an idiot and your rules are arbitrary and obnoxious. However, I understand that I don’t get a lot of say in this right now. I didn’t go to the cemetery tonight to piss you off, I went because you didn’t say I couldn’t help and I figured it would be relatively safe with the slayer and the whole ritual designed to get rid of that particular pest.”

“I think I’ve been pretty clear about how I feel about all your rules. But I’ve done my best to limit myself, and sure, usually that’s because you’re all, “I’m gonna kill this person or maim that person.” And I cave. We both know it. But I still think I’ve done better than either of us expected. So cut me some slack here, alright.”

It seemed that the more Cordelia paced the more she worked herself up and the more agitated she became the less discreet she was. Stalking back in his direction she stopped directly in front of him and reaching out a finger she poked the startled vampire in the chest.

“Frankly, I don’t see how you even have the nerve to complain. This is all your fault if you ask me.”

Having too much fun to point out that nobody had actually asked her he merely cocked an eyebrow in her direction and waited for her to enlighten him as to his culpability in this situation. He wasn’t left waiting long.

“You’re all ‘King of the Hellmouth’ guy. Why do you let the demons run wild? What kind of management technique is that? Can’t you issue evil doing permits or something? ‘Cause if you’d bother to control this crap I wouldn’t be all needing to save the world on a Tuesday night. You know, I’ve got homework. I have quizzes, dammit!”

In the mood she was in Angelus wasn’t certain what she’d do if he laughed in her face, but he was about to find out as he couldn’t restrain his mirth one moment longer.

Cordelia’s response was lightening fast.

“Arrgh!” And she turned with every intention of stomping off into the night.

Laughter still lurking in his voice, Angelus cut thoughts of escape short.

“Now don’t be like that, sweetheart.” Reaching out he caught her arm in a gentle but unyielding grip.

Well, if looks could kill he’d certainly be deader, but that could hardly bother him now that she was here with him. Ignoring her somewhat humorous attempts to break free he tugged the struggling girl behind him as he made his way into Willy’s. Not sparing a glance for the nervous owner behind the bar, Angelus towed the fuming brunette to the back of the room. Sitting with his back towards the wall and the entire establishment within his view, he gave an easy pull on Cordelia’s still entrapped wrist, his arms sliding around her waist as she fell onto his lap.

“Angelus.” She hissed out as she squirmed, trying to find a way out of the predicament in which she now found herself.

Moving his arms lower so that they encircled her hips he pressed her tight against him, ending the gyrating movement of her lower body.

“Cordelia, as much as I’m enjoying this, you might not want to start things you’re not ready to finish.”

The hard length pressing into her backside convinced Cordelia that Angelus was no longer teasing her, and while she didn’t care for the current seating arrangement she certainly didn’t want to make a bad situation worse. Stilling immediately she held herself rigid so as not to rock the large boat currently nestled against her.

“Now there’s no need for both of us to be stiff.” Angelus told the unmoving girl as his arms slid back up her waist, turning her slightly and settling her back against his chest. Rubbing his right hand slowly up and down her back his cheek swept over her silky hair, drawing the sent of her into his lungs as he kept his eyes on the door.

Cordelia could feel her eyelids begin to slide closed as Angelus hands smoothed over her spine stopping every now and then to rub in small circles. She was in a demon bar in the arms of her enemy, and yet she felt almost boneless as she floated in a sea of relaxation. She tried to work up some anxiety. To be a good almost Scooby. But it was almost as if the world outside the arms that held her had ceased to exist. Maybe Giles could find a spell that would reverse this insanity. She’d ask him tomorrow. But tonight…well, she just snuggled closer. No point fighting if there’s no chance you can win, right?

Angelus rested his chin on the top of Cordelia’s head, a satisfied smile settling on his face as he felt her cuddle closer into his chest. She was so soft and warm and she fit in his arms so perfectly that he almost decided to skip his meeting. But patience was the word for the day and his self-control might be seldom used, but it was strong. Although he was loathe to admit it, years of denial gave him an edge over his appetites even without the soul.

Besides, he’d always enjoyed anticipation. It was a fact that something that took hard work to get was more valued. And Cordelia would definitely be valued for years to come. Sometimes he wondered if she knew what was in store for her. He questioned how specific the watcher was with her. But mostly he didn’t care. He wanted her, and that desire was far larger than her need to understand or her acceptance. Those things would come in time, and that was certainly something he had plenty of. She was in his arms now and that would be a far more frequent occurrence in the near future.

And he had to admit that he loved this feeling. Cordelia, being human, thought the bonding process was something foreign, an external force manipulating her emotions, so she fought it. But as a vampire he’d always been a creature of bonds. They defined all of his relationships and there was nothing more natural to him than to succumb

He had a feeling she’d be angry if she new about the hours he’d spent on her balcony while she slept, using the proximity to help cement their connection. Maybe he’d tell her. There were few things more enjoyable then a spitting mad Cordelia.

Except maybe the version nestled into him now, fighting sleep as it tried to overtake her.

Suddenly he saw his servant walk through the door. With a casual motion of his free hand he waved him over.

Unkempt and harried but otherwise unremarkable he approached the table. He waited to sit until the vampire indicated that he could with a nod towards the chair.

“Master.” The man began respectfully.

No matter how many times he heard that title it never grew old. It reminded him of who he was and what he had accomplished. He was the Master of the Order of Aurelius. He alone held control of the Hellmouth. It almost made up for a century of being burdened with a soul. And he owed so much of it to the girl who’d given in to exhaustion and was lying in peaceful repose in his arms.

The tender smile that crossed his face was so at odds with any expression the man had ever seen on his face during his time of service, that he couldn’t help but follow his master’s gaze to its source.

Although her face was only partially exposed her beauty was obvious with even the most cursory glance. And seeing the girl, so tranquil in the arms of the most vicious creature he’d ever met, his glance lingered, quickly turning into a stare.

“Monroe.” The words, ground out and rasping snapped his eyes back to the vampire’s face. Gone was the look of affection he’d bestowed upon the young woman, and in its place was a terrible gaze, hard as nails and cold as ice.

Abruptly recalling just why he was there he began his report.

“The watcher’s phone calls have all been fairly normal. Both from his office and his home it’s mostly standard local calls. The only ones of note are 7 from the slayer and 3 to the Watcher’s Council. The ones from the slayer were all about odd goings on, demons that she later killed. The ones to the Council were also fairly routine. Most of his dealings with them are in the form of written reports, and the calls all centered on research into adversaries that the slayer was facing.”

“Is that all?” Angelus asked in a much calmer manner.

Assuming the Master appreciated a job well done Monroe was quick to nod his affirmative. “Yes Master, that’s everything.”

With a smooth movement that was a blur to the human eye Angelus pulled a knife from it’s leather sheath on his belt and sent it flying through the air only to have it bury itself with a nauseating sucking sound into Monroe’s throat.

Pulling the still sleeping Cordelia closer to his chest he rose from his seat. Rounding the table he bent over his still gurgling servant, staring into his wild eyes.

“She’s mine. Nobody touches her; no one soils her with their sordid stares. And I’m sure you would have learned your lesson if you weren’t about to die.”

Walking towards the door he turned to Willy.

“Send me the bill for cleaning up the mess.”

And then he was gone

Chapter Forty Five

“Cordelia. Cordelia, wake up, baby.”

Brushing a kiss across her forehead he found he couldn’t stop and let his lips trail down her cheek until he reached her lips. Slightly parted in her sleep he took advantage of the opening and swept his tongue inside to taste her. It had been far too long.

Walking home with her warm body curled against him had stretched his control to the limit. He knew there was no way she was disappearing behind her protective barrier without feeding the beast she’d raised within him.

Releasing her lips he noticed that her eyes had finally opened. Still dazed from sleep and the drugging passion of their kiss she graced him with a look he’d never seen on her face before. It was the closest thing to love he’d ever gotten from her. Of course she usually only had two expressions with him, one of anger and one of annoyance. This was definitely a step in the right direction.

Coming more fully awake Cordelia realized in whose arms she was and just who she’d been kissing. The annoyance of which Angelus had just been thinking settled heavily on her face, turning down the lips that had just been pressed against those of the vampire who was still holding her tightly to him.

Pressing against Angelus’ chest, Cordelia tried to put some space between them so that she could wiggle her way back to her feet.

Although he was ready to set her down, her desire to escape brought out Angelus’ contrary streak and he held her tighter to his body. He could feel her force herself to relax as she got the point he was conveying. When she was completely pliant in his arms one more he released her legs, sliding her body down the length of his.

As he swallowed his groan at the feel of her supple form pressed against him he saw her reach for her dainty purse slung carelessly across her shoulder. Knowing that she was about to retrieve her keys he stayed her hand.

“Not yet.”

And before she could react she was back in his arms, crushed in his embrace as his lips crashed into hers, forcing her mouth to open as his tongue plunged it hungrily. His hands slid down her back to cup her bottom, pulling her hips into his while pushing his hips into hers.

Cordelia could feel his rigid shaft straining against her through the thin cotton of her pleated skirt. Overwhelmed with the sudden need to touch him she slid her hands inside his jacket, running them slowly over his ribs. As she reached his nipples she paused, the pressed lightly with her palms, rubbing gentle circles over them.

For all of her inexperience, Cordelia knew she’d done something right as his hips jerked roughly against hers momentarily lifting her feet off the ground. Running on nothing but the feelings bursting through every nerve ending in her body, the only thought she could hold was that she needed his cool skin under her fevered touch.

Abandoning his hardened peaks she slid her hands over the smooth silk of his shirt and down towards it’s end. Grasping the material she drew it upwards allowing her hands to slip underneath.

As soon as flesh met flesh Cordelia felt the earth spin and suddenly she was once again trapped by the vampire against the front of her house. But this time was different. This time it wasn’t fear that made her breath catch. It was desire. It was an all consuming lust that robbed her of thought as it bent her to its will.

Suddenly the firm shaft that had been pressed against her was gone and replace with his long, knowing fingers. Cordelia groaned. They’d done this dance before and it always ended in frustration as she was left teetering on the edge of oblivion only to be interrupted before she had a chance to fall over. With the hunger that was building in her belly and slowly seeping through the rest of her she didn’t know how she’d stand to walk away once again, longing for something she didn’t quite understand but that she knew, instinctively, had been almost within reach.

But even those thoughts were lost as the hand slipped past her silk panties to spear her with one, then two fingers. Angelus pulled her in closer to him, anchoring her with his right hand while his left whipped her into a mindless frenzy. Feeling his lips against her ear her mind could barely process the words that fell, heavy from his lips.

“Tonight you cum for me, Cordelia.”

Before he’d even finished declaring his intent his thumb began to slowly circle her clit; teasing the sensitive area while avoiding direct contact with the throbbing nub. As her hips thrust forward to force the contact she so desperately needed he simply forced them back with his own hips, holding her in place while his fingers deftly prolonged her torture.

Leaning down he gently bit his way down her neck with his blunt teeth, stopping only when he reached the scar he’d placed on her and drawing the twin marks into his mouth. His voice was rough with passion as he pulled his mouth away and whispered, “Don’t make me threaten you tonight.”

Jolted fleetingly out of her haze of pleasure Cordelia comprehended Angelus’ meaning. To far gone for a battle and knowing that she never really had a choice she tilted her head to the side and willingly drown herself back in the pool of pleasure he was creating within her.

Angelus’ demonic visage surged forward at what he was fairly sure she didn’t understand to be an act of submission. But whether or not she realized the meaning of her behavior it roared through his brain like a wild fire, setting all that it touched ablaze. Within mere seconds of her offering his fangs where buried deep in her flesh as her blood surged past his lips and bathed his tongue in an endless flow of flavors and emotions.

The same instant that his penetrating teeth pierced her skin his thumb hit its final target as the rough pad scraped over her engorged clitoris, causing the girl so snugly surrounding his surging fingers to stiffen, then throw back her head as shudders rocked her down to her toes and the scream trying to burst from her chest, caught in her throat.

Feeling her shiver convulsively Angelus forced himself to pull away from her throat keeping his arm firmly around her until her muscles stopped quivering and he felt that she could stand on her own. Reaching into her purse he extracted her keys, unlocked her door and opened it for her.

Cordelia was still reeling from the unbelievable pleasure echoing through her from her orgasm. Dazed as she made her way to her door she was confused when she could no longer move forward. Searching bewilderedly for what had stopped her she became aware of Angelus’ hand wrapped around her arm, preventing her from entering her house.

Raising her eyes to his she saw his smile, filled with self-satisfaction, and she would have said something scathing in the face of such arrogance if she could have put two words together.

“I’ll see you Friday at 8:00, Moonbeam.”

Cordelia stared at him, her mind still befuddled by the mass of sensations she’d experienced and the loss of blood.

“Friday night, Cordelia. Say it.”

Blinking in an attempt to catch up with the conversation she was able to do what he asked.

“Friday night.”

“Good girl, now go call Giles. I’m sure he’s waiting for you.”

Chapter Forty Six

The park was really quite lovely this time of night. There weren’t a lot of lights in Sunnydale, so the stars were bright in the crisp night air. Cordelia hadn’t been out in a park at night in years except when she was trying to lure demons out, and that was hardly conducive to enjoying the scenery.

But tonight she actually felt safe. Odd since she was here with the epitome of that which goes bump in the night. And yet, here she sat, pleasantly full after an amazing picnic dinner provided by the guy who doesn’t eat, and warm from the glass of wine that she’d tried to explain she was too young for. Of course she’d given up when she realized that if he didn’t follow all the laws about not murdering people he was hardly going to bother with the legal drinking age.

She also found herself once again wrapped in his coat. She’d never tell the possessive vampire, but she was starting to enjoy being ensconced in the folds of the heavy duster. It smelled like him, and she found that strangely comforting. She knew it was the bond. She hoped it was the bond. Sometimes she just wondered if she wasn’t a freak. The more she dwelled on that train of thought the stiffer she became.

Angelus sighed as he saw Cordelia’s posture grow more and more rigid. Tucking his finger beneath her chin he turned her face towards him.

“You know, the point of tonight was not to make you miserable.”

Fighting the urge to jerk her head away she couldn’t help asking, “So what exactly was the point?”

“Well, mainly to make me happy. But that doesn’t mean that it’s about making you unhappy.”

Cordelia looked at him with a deep sadness shadowing her eyes.

“If it’s not about making me unhappy then why am I always unhappy because of you?”

Cordelia was caught of guard by the tender sympathy reflected in his eyes as he gazed down at her. Catching her shoulders in an inescapable caress he pulled her down until her head was resting in his lap. Looking down in her face her he began to run his right hand through her dark, silky hair.

“Honestly, when it comes down to your happiness or mine, mine will always come first, Cordelia. But that doesn’t mean that I want you to be unhappy. I’ll secure your happiness whenever I can. Don’t you know how important you are to me? Your happiness is second only to my own. I’ve put you above all others.”

Looking at her beautiful face with its complete lack of comprehension Angelus tried to explain that, for a demon he’d made every allowance possible for her.

“You may not appreciate this, but I’m being very patient with you. I’m giving you time to acclimate; to get used to me, to our relationship. I find it beyond admirable that I haven’t dragged you home and chained you to our bed.”

“Our bed?” Cordelia thought. She knew that in his own way Angelus was trying to comfort her, but every word that fell from his lips increased her fear exponentially. She wanted to stem the explanation, to tell him to stop, but before she could open her mouth she was distracted by his left hand which lifted to softly run a finger down the side of her face in a calming movement that she supposed he thought would make these revelations easier to hear.

“You know, it’s not easy. My body, it calls for you all the time. Each minute of the day I’m emptier than the minute before because you’re not with me, not there to touch, to hold. Every instinct I have screams at me for letting you out of my sight, out of my reach.”

Pushing her fear of the answer aside for the moment Cordelia couldn’t help but indulge the natural curiosity that was a much larger part of her than the fright.

“Then why do you bother? I mean, I’m certainly not trying to rush the whole sexual captivity thing, but you’re always saying that you do whatever you want.”

Angelus smiled at her. He could tell she was scared. He could taste the fear that hovered around her. And yet she relegated it to the background so she could investigate every part of the issue, even knowing that she probably wouldn’t like what she heard. He loved that part of her; that part that made her bright and inquisitive. It shown from her beautiful hazel eyes and made her a worthy companion for him.

“You’re right. I do what I want, when I want. But if the reward for waiting is greater than the immediate pleasure than I just might want that more. I have an eternity ahead of me. Believe me; I can afford to wait for some things.”

Lifting his hands and letting the glossy strands slip through his fingers, his eyes darkened with emotions that seemed frightening in their intensity.

“You still don’t understand, do you Cordelia. You’re not a momentary delight and you’re definitely not a cheap lay. You’re a long term investment. I love you.”

Angelus hadn’t said that since that weekend she spent with Buffy. In light of the things he was saying tonight it filled her with more dread now than it had then.

“You don’t love me. How can you love me, you don’t even know me?”

Angelus just smiled at the question and turned his attention back to the fingers now tracing the curves of her cheek.

“Your favorite color’s orange, which you’ll never admit that because you think it makes you look hideous, but you keep a bright orange stuffed kitten under your pillow that your father won for you at a carnival when you were 7. You get up at 5:00 every Saturday morning because you like to watch Roadrunner cartoons and you always eat cinnamon toast while it’s on. You tell your dates to bring roses but you really love tulips. When you went with your parents to New York last year you were all supposed to see Les Mis, but they got called to a party so you sold your ticket and went to see the Lion King instead and you cried when the father died, just like you did in the movie theater.”

Cordelia began to shake her head as much as his hand in her hair would allow. She tried to sit up, move away, but Angelus wasn’t ready to let her go.

“How?” She chocked out, needing to know how he knew these things about her, but more afraid of this answer than any before. It wasn’t that these things were secret, but they were private. Things that very few people knew. Why would they share them with Angelus?

His brown eyes lit with sparks of topaz as his stare bore through her.

“Does it matter? Did you really think I’d allow you to have secrets from me; that there’d be a part of you I didn’t know?”

“Besides, those are the things about you that lie at the surface. They’re there for anyone to know, but there are ways I know you that no one else ever will, Cordelia.”

“I can feel you fear. Not smell it, not taste the residue on my tongue, I can feel it inside me like an echo of your scream. Your heartbeat; I hear it no matter where I am, no matter where you are. And sometimes, when it’s quiet and everything’s still, I draw air into my lungs because you need to breathe.”

“I know you Cordelia because I’m a part of you. How can you doubt that I want your happiness?”

Cordelia hoped that he could feel her fear and that he was chocking on it right now like she was.

“You’re lying! You don’t love me; you don’t care about me at all. You’re going to kill everyone I know, everyone I love. How will that possibly make me happy?”

Angelus knew she wouldn’t understand, that it would just take time for her to see that he was right. But he truly did love her, so he’d explain it to her if that’s what she needed.

“Baby, I do want you to be happy. You could love me Cordelia. But you fight. You fight against the bond like no one I’ve ever seen. And I know why you do it, but I just can’t figure out how.”

He paused a moment and pondered, again, what had become an increasingly difficult puzzle to solve. Shaking off the moment he returned his attention to the girl on his lap.

“It doesn’t matter. Your strength, it calls to me. The more you push me away, the more I need you. And Cordelia, I need all of you. There’s our problem.”

“You think I don’t know you, Cordelia Chase, but I do. You’re a survivor, and while even the tiniest sliver of hope remains, you’ll fight. With everything in you you’ll fight me. So I have to strip you of that hope. I have to tear it from you bit by bit.”

“You give pieces of yourself to those you love and in return they give you the hope of something better; mentors, lovers, friends. That’s why they have to die, Cordelia. Their hope takes you away from me.”

“I admit that I hate them all for the part of your heart that they hold, but I won’t kill them out of hatred, and I won’t kill them to make you unhappy. I’ll kill them because I’ll never let you go, and so the only happiness you’ll ever find will be with me, and can’t you see that they’re keeping us apart?”

“I have to kill them to set you free, Cordelia. Free to be happy with me.”

The sympathy was back in his dark gaze and it was all the harder to see as the chilling words kept pouring forth.

“I can make it quick for them, Cordelia. I can make sure that they don’t suffer. Not because I don’t want them to; I do. Especially your parents. But more than that, I want you to settle in quickly.”

“The bond will help. Even though you fight it admirably, eventually you’ll give in. Your body has, now I just need your heart. It belongs to me, Cordelia and I intend to have it all.”

Despite the horror coursing through her body, Cordelia found her voice. “I’ll hate you.”

“Actually, you won’t. Remember, I know you. Your greatest fear is being alone. When there’s no one left for you and no possibility of anyone new, all you’ll have is me or nothing. By then the bond and your own fears will force you to choose me.”

“I know you think that’s not true, that you’d never choose someone who’d desolated everything you know, but you’d be surprised what you’ll cling to when the choice is that or nothing. Like I’d be willing to bet that you wouldn’t want to be shot to death. But if it was a choice between being shot or being turned you’d take the bullet in a heartbeat.”

“Sometimes it’s not about what you choose, but what you avoid.”

“You’re scaring me.” Her words were even softer than before and held a vulnerability that few people ever got to see in this girl.

The hand in her hair tightened as the feather-light touches continued.

“You should be scared. This is going to be hard. Harder than anything you’ve ever been through. You’ll hurt in ways you’ve never imagined, but like steel, you’ll be tempered by the fire, not burned. This will make you stronger because it makes us stronger and there’s nothing about you that isn’t about us anymore.”

Silent tears began to slip from Cordelia’s eyes. “Stop please.”

Angelus gave her a sad, almost pitying look.

“It doesn’t stop, baby. This never stops. I never stop.”

Sobs began to wrack Cordelia’s body as she realized he really wasn’t ever going to stop. And as her weeping became almost hysterical, Angelus pulled her up and onto his lap, wrapping his arms securely around her as he whispered nonsensical words of solace into her ear. And as she buried her face in his neck and clung to his shoulders she allowed his soothing words to wash over her.

Because no matter what she knew about the bond, or Angelus’ plans; no matter how scared she was or how much she fought; she could no longer deny the fact that she felt safest in his arms. An epiphany which made the tears fall all the harder.

Chapter 47

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