Splintered 3a

***

Perched on the padded arm of a chair, Angel stretched his legs out, crossing them at the ankles and then followed suit by folding his arms across his chest. Still and silent, he kept watch as Wes and Cordy finished up their tasks for the night, each of them gathering their belongings. With nothing else going on around the office and no doubt having plans that did not include him, they’d made the decision to leave a little early.

Not that he’d been involved in that decision. There was still work to be done if they looked for it. Angel tracked Cordelia as she tossed away her empty coffee cup and moved back toward the desk, not even bothering to look his way. He swallowed down his irritation and spoke up, “Cordy, I need the Evans file.”

Immediately upon hearing his voice, she sent him a smile that left him longing for a taste of her lips. Cordelia opened one of the metal drawers, commenting, “Here it is: filed under E.”

Right… E for Evans, just as it should be. That made perfect sense to him. Angel acknowledged his own sense of satisfaction that everything was in its proper place.

Bringing the requested file, Cordelia’s businesslike demeanor fell away as her hips swayed with just that extra little curve in her walk, hazel eyes looking hungry as they swept over his face, her lips parted temptingly. Leaning in close so that her mouth nearly brushed his ear, she dropped the file onto the chair. “Can I get you anything else?” she offered as she took a moment to massage the nape of his neck. “A cup of coffee, a mug of warm blood… me?”

Angel turned to claim her mouth with a kiss, wanting to crush those soft lips beneath his. The sudden move tipped him off balance and sensing that he was falling, he jerked out of his dream, hearing his own shout of surprise. Turning his gaze, he found Wes and Cordy staring at him from the doorway just as they were about to head out. Concern painted Wes’ expression, but Cordelia merely rolled her eyes and snorted at his clumsiness.

That careless reaction left a hard knot in his throat, but Angel tamped down the urge to follow and finish up what he’d started. With a short wave of his hand as he silently bid them goodnight, he headed up the stairs to his room deciding that a hot shower might ease the tense muscles in his neck and shoulders as well as invigorate him.

Twenty minutes later, Angel emerged from the bathroom, barefoot, with a beige cotton towel wrapped snuggly around his hips. He felt good. Like he could take on the world and still have the energy left over to celebrate afterward. No aches, no tension. Ready for anything.

“What took you so long?” Cordelia asked as she leaned back against the closed door. “I’ve been waiting forever.”

Walking toward her, Angel admitted, “I thought you’d gone,” though it shouldn’t have surprised him. She was always there for him.

“Now why would I do that? I thought Wes would never go home,” Cordy said as if she had planned this whole thing. Perhaps she had, considering the fact that she had slipped into something more comfortable while he was in the shower.

God, she was beautiful, the perfect mix of sweet, sassy & sexy, and she was his for the taking. Angel felt his body stir with desire as he let his gaze slowly travel over Cordelia from head to toe. Her hair was swept up into soft curls leaving her graceful throat bare except for a stray tendril that teased her skin. Dressed in red satin that flared to a stop high atop her toned golden thighs, its lace-trimmed slit caused him to swallow reflexively at the hint of skin beneath. The lacy negligee covering her shoulders played peek-a-boo as it swept down to the floor.

“See something you like?” A smiled teased at her lips as she curled a finger and beckoned him forward. “I know I do.”

As her eyes dropped away from his to roam his body, Angel let her look her fill, feeling sexy just because of the way she flushed hotly. He planted his hands flat against the door on either side of her, leaning in to drink in that delicious scent that drifted along her skin. His mouth brushed along the delicate column of her throat, pressing softly against her pulse point. A low sound of want vibrated against his lips in response and she clutched at his still-damp shoulders.

Lifting his head, Angel stared down at Cordelia, her eyes closed, lashes sweeping against the curve of her cheeks, sultry mouth parted to whisper his name. When she opened her eyes, he found his feelings reflected there in the jeweled depths, matching his own. Her words echoed his thoughts, “You’re mine,” as the silkily spoken claim accompanied the slide of her hands down his torso to the edge of the cotton towel.

Cordelia’s eager impatience kept his movements deliberately slow. With one hand still pressed against the door, he brought the other up to the clip holding her hair in place. A click sounded releasing her hair in a rivulet of glossy waves down her back and tumbling over her shoulders. Gathering two handfuls, he purred low at the sensation of it falling through his spread fingers, so soft and silky.

The delicate lace of her ruby red negligee felt rough in comparison. Angel grasped the material, pushing it off her shoulders. It draped along her back, caught by her arms as she toyed with the edge of his towel, her fingertips teasing. “Drop it.”

“The towel?” Catching her lip between her teeth, Cordy unsuccessfully fought off a smile. She knew what he was talking about. Angel’s hands curled tighter around her shoulders as she dropped those playful fingers to the evident outline below.

A sharp hiss at the sensation sucked air into his lungs. He let it out as a low grunt of approval. Friction from the cotton fibers combined with the rubbing pressure of her hand. Angel wiped her gleeful smirk away with one intense closed-mouth kiss that left her lips swollen, parted and panting for more. Then he backed one step away, the action possessing a dual purpose: Cordelia’s hands dropped to her sides causing the unwanted barrier of her lace negligee to pool around her feet, and it allowed her a little room to admire the view as he jerked the towel away from his hips.

Teasing each other and talking weren’t top priorities after that. Cordelia stepped forward into his arms. He yanked her even closer, hot need driving him to claim her mouth yet again, to have more of her. Those soft, pliable lips opened eagerly under his and their frantic kisses deepened. Angel’s hands moved down her back, slipping over silk to cup the firm roundness of her bottom. Holding her against him for a moment, he felt his body tightening in response as hers pulsed with life so close to his.

Their eyes locked for a moment, smoldering and intense. Angel wanted to sink into her, to possess her in every way imaginable. He pulled her up higher until her legs locked around his waist and trailed kissed across the underside of her jaw and the soft scented place behind her ear.

They tumbled onto the bed in a tangle of limbs. Arching beneath the sensual slide of his hands, Cordelia reacted to his every touch. A mewl of pleasure sounded as he began to kiss his way across her collarbone. His fingers hooked beneath the spaghetti-thin straps of her red satin slip only to slide out again as he changed his mind about stripping her quite so soon.

Everywhere she touched left trails of fire along his skin. Angel’s body hummed with building pleasure as he stroked and kissed his way from her throat to the warm depths of her cleavage, his hands curving around her breasts. Opening his mouth, he closed it over one of her nipples poking up against the silk, drawing a little gasp from her throat. Teasing it with his blunt teeth, he flicked his tongue across it. Her hand dropped away from his shoulder to cup her other breast, her hand over his, silently pleading for the same attention there.

Arched above her, his hips and knees planted between her thighs, Angel lurched into Cordelia’s hand as she reached between them, and the simple brush of her fingertips galvanized him into action again. He wanted her badly and he wasn’t going to wait much longer. Sitting back on his knees, he released her breasts and slid his hands along her tiny waist, over the curve of her hips, down and back up the silky course of her firm thighs.

Cordelia moaned wantonly as Angel pushed the short skirt of her slip around her waist and the sound made him want to hear more. Anticipating it would happen when he finally got to taste her, Angel moved to the edge of her panties, now damp with creamy arousal. As he rubbed his thumb across the dark red silk, she arched against his hand and reached out for him again.

“No more teasing,” Cordelia pulled at him with her arms and legs until he fell forward, bracing himself above her, grinning at her enthusiasm.

Drawn to her mouth again, Angel kissed her thoroughly while somehow finding the little red bows holding her panties in place. Instead of ripping them away as he might have done, he slowly slipped the bows out of their knots, like opening a precious package especially wrapped just for him. And she was… all for him.

Their eyes met as he sank into her tight heat and Angel was certain he’d never felt better, gloved inside her. Cordelia’s loving gaze gave way to an expression of ecstasy as he brought them closer and closer. She was everything he wanted, he knew, as he rocked deep, her hands and words urging him on.

Then the sudden intrusion of a voice that had no business there sounded beside them, Darla. “You want more than that, Angelus. Take her. Take her for real.”

Angel whipped his head toward the source of the voice, but there was only empty space. Confusion hit, along with a mixture of arousal, frustration and deep-boned tiredness. The realization that he was hugging a pillow and that Cordelia was not in his bed only made him angry. First at himself for being so damned ridiculous about wanting such an obstinate, sharp-tongued, irritating woman and then at her for seeing him only as some sexless creature.

***

Three days of fighting off dreams and yearning for sleep brought Angel more torment. Everything slightly out of the norm acted as an irritant; even the way Cordy and Wes seemingly tiptoed around him lately pissed him off.

Watching his seer noticeably reach deep whenever he snapped at her, and bite back comments that she’d normally have made without thought should have amused him, but her efforts to keep the peace only wound him up tighter. Especially when he’d later overhear her bitching to Wes and also the small disputes that were frequently erupting between them.

Even now, Angel could hear Cordy and Wes bickering before even leaving his rooms. Sometimes, having preternatural hearing was definitely a disadvantage; especially when you had a seer whose voice he was positive could break glass.

Every muscle and bone in his body ached, only the pain behind his eyes greater. He was exhausted even though he’d slept for a solid 12 hours and was not in the mood for the racket that had jerked him awake. For several seconds, he stood on the landing above, rubbing the back of his neck and silently watching them argue until Cordy’s voice rose to a pitch that felt as if it would burst his eardrums at any minute.

“Hey! What the hell is going on here?” His aggravated and unusually loud interruption instantly put a stop to it, both guilty parties turning to stare up at him.

After a moment of stunned silence, Cordy began speaking; thankfully a few decibels lower. “We were just discussing whether or not we should offer to pay Gunn,” she explained, briefly glancing at, and then away from Wes to look back at him.

Staring back steadily, Angel unblinkingly held her heated gaze until her eyes dropped uncomfortably. “No you weren’t,” he disagreed with a shake of his head.

Wes studied his highly polished loafers for a moment before lifting his abashed eyes and following Angel’s trek down the stairs, absently noting the tired slump of broad shoulders, and a face paler than it normally was. “Well, our discussions tend to go about three minutes, then its strictly name-calling and hair pulling,” he finally remarked, sending a scathing look Cordy’s way.

With a scowl, she pulled her arms tight across her chest. Angel failed to ignore the way her actions pushed her full breasts up and almost out the top of her blouse, his eyes tracing the curves. Nor did he miss, “Ebenezer here doesn’t want to share the wealth,” as she retorted snottily.

Instantly Wes’ back went perfectly straight in offence. “I didn’t say that. I merely said Gunn might be insulted by the offer. He’s a proud sort of fellow.” Wes explained his reasons, which he thought were in a calm and rational manner. Cordy obviously disagreed.

She shrugged, folding her arms even tighter against her chest and turned to face the vampire, who was now standing several feet away. So intent on her argument, Cordy didn’t notice that the tense pose of her folded arms had exposed the beginnings of the blue lace half-cup bra under the love-cut halter top she wore, or the involuntary stare of Angel as he unconsciously moved closer.

“He’s been doing for us. He should pull in a check.” Her face was set with familiar determination. The kind that usually meant Cordy would not back down until she was heard and appeased.

Feeling a twinge of annoyance both at her passionate defense of Gunn, plus her assumption that she’d get her own way, Angel’s thoughts pinned on the defense for a moment. Was something going on that he didn’t know about? He’d seen the easy relationship they seemed to already have. Had he missed something more… intimate?

Hot rage and possessiveness flared, causing Angel to scowl back at her and then pivot away rapidly before he invaded her space and inhaled her scent for evidence he hoped wouldn’t be there. “I’ll think about asking him, alright?” he muttered, moving further away and around the counter until it separated them.

Shifting paperwork around on the front desk countertop, he hoped she’d get the hint and drop it for now. Being dragged from his dreams and away from a Cordy so apart from the acerbic creature facing him soured his mood completely.

Cordy stood there looking at him askance. What was his problem? And what was that ‘look’ about? For a moment, she thought he was going to snarl at her. Not of the good. She recalled Wes’ words less than a week ago and managed to shrug off the hurt feelings, instead resorting to her usual way of dealing by pretending he wasn’t being an ass.

But things had to be said where Gunn was concerned, and with her usual bluntness, the words in her head poured out. “No thinking. Pay. That’s an order,” Cordy demanded, and then winced and snapped her mouth shut, deliberately averting her gaze from Wes, who hovered in her periphery vision.

Angel, who’d turned to open the filing cabinet stiffened instantly. “How about we pretend that you work for me? My decision goes around here. It’s about time you started paying attention and listening.” He flicked an angry glance over his shoulder, his voice turning nasty.

Cordy fidgeted on the spot, anger warring with discomfort. Looking out of the corner of her eye, she saw that Wes had now turned away slightly; his averted face a picture of absorbed interest as he gazed ahead towards the far wall facing him, pretending not to have heard a thing. Lately, he’d been doing that a lot, she’d noted, obviously attempting to ignore Angel’s snappish behavior but the very rare sight of Wes shoving his hands into his pants pockets spoke volumes.

Taking a shaky breath, Cordy stared daggers into the vampire’s back before replying, “Lately, I wonder why I do; you are really unpleasant when y—”

“Then why don’t we pretend that you don’t,” Angel harshly cut in before she could finish, and her hazel eyes widened in shock. He’d never spoken to her like that in all the time she’d known him and, God, it hurt. As the shock wore off, the content of his words sunk in, and her eyes narrowed into slits of anger.

“You know what? That sounds like a great idea,” she finally replied brightly, a fake plastic smile stretching her mouth. Adding, “Gee, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, seeing as my boss is a total asswipe.”

Angel swiveled round abruptly, shock warring with anger. His mouth opened to say… what, he wasn’t that sure, but Cordy had already moved over to her desk and was now stuffing various items that were scattered across the worn surface into her purse with jerky movements.

Then he took an unneeded breath and turned back to the filing cabinet. She’d get over it, he decided. Best thing to do right now was let her have her temper tantrum and make her dramatic exit. She’d be back. He was sure of it.

Slinging the strap over her head, Cordy straightened her purse and finally lifted stormy eyes. The bastard wasn’t even looking. Her resolve that had almost crumbled as she closed her bag re-asserted itself and with a derisory flick of her eyes at the black-clad back facing her way, she turned towards Wes, who now stood almost wringing his hands, his eyes shooting from one to another anxiously, then took a hesitant step towards to his noticeably upset friend.

“Cordelia…” clearing his suddenly clogged throat, Wes tried again. “Why don’t we have a nice cup of tea and talk about this rationally?” Watching her face set into cold composure, he sighed helplessly, glancing back Angel silently willing him to turn around, but by the tense set of his shoulders, that wasn’t going to be anytime soon.

“Wes, can you be a sweetie and clear the rest of my desk for me?” Cordy walked towards the main entrance, her head turned to throw a strained smile towards him, almost tripping up the three steps on the way. “If you could bring my stuff over to my apartment, I won’t have to darken his door again.”

As her hand reached out towards the heavy door, she staggered, hands lifting towards her temples, and before Wes could blink, her head jerked backwards, her body following and she hit the floor with a loud thud. By the time Wes had come out of his shock at the suddenness of the vision and ran forward, Angel was there kneeling next to her and pulling her thrashing body into his.

A curse sounded in Angel’s head as she hit the marble floor. He’d missed it. The subtle change in her breathing. That unique slowing of her heartbeat. Too wrapped up in himself. Normally, he was keenly aware of her state of being and sensed when to react.

The convulsing slowly settled into deep trembling, and Angel cradled her close to his chest, which ached for her as Cordelia’s loud cries were replaced by soft whimpers. Smoothing over the back of her head, he threaded fingers through the tangled strands of her hair. The hand that had firmly pinned her hips against his relaxed and kneaded the taut muscles still quivering under his gentle touch. Then she stiffened and pulled out of his arms.

As the images and pain had lanced through her mind, Cordy had been oblivious to everything around her, feeling nothing of the impact of the floor against her head and back. As the details imprinted, the pain slowly filtered away until she was left with a sickly ache that seemed to surround her skull and radiate down to her neck and shoulders. Oblivious to everything around her as the vision hit, Cordelia gradually became aware of her surroundings: hard muscle, gentle hands, soothing her. A familiar touch registered instantly, and recognition had her tensing and rearing away from him.

Lurching away, she shuffled on her butt, putting more distance between them until her back came up against an unexpected obstruction and she looked up in surprise, yelping aloud as pain lanced through her head at the sudden movement.

Wes, who’d stood watching helplessly, had relaxed as Cordy slowly emerged from the vision. He’d remained frozen to the spot until her back hit his shins. Moving to the side he apologized quietly then squatted down to rest a concerned hand on her shoulder. “What did you see?” he asked gently, ignoring Angel’s immediate low growl of discontent at his immediate his questioning for the time-being while she haltingly described the vision.

Briefly, Cordy lifted her eyes as she spoke, and her gaze collided with Angel’s who was still on his haunches directly in her line of vision. Although unreadable, there was something there that caused her body to clench in response. Her voice caught mid-sentence even as her startled gaze averted from his.

As soon as she finished speaking, Angel scooped her up effortlessly, ignoring her breathless insistence that she was perfectly able to get up on her own. Silently he strode over to one of the couches and gently deposited her, lingering for a few seconds before failing to capture her gaze. Slowly, he stepped away.

Wes appeared at his side with a glass of water and two white pills, handing them to her. “How long have we got?” he asked once Cordy had popped the pills into her mouth and gulped down half the glass of water. Wiping the back of her hand across her mouth, she took a deep breath before looking directly at him.

“About an hour, but its halfway across town, so you should go now.” She rubbed a shaky hand over her face. “Time for you to do a little work, huh?” Her glance flickered briefly towards Angel’s, whose mouth tightened into a thin line as he caught her gaze and held it. Her whole body jolted at the pure anger reflected in the dark depths.

She shivered, dragging her eyes away and looked down at her lap, only half hearing Wes suggesting they make a move. Before he’d even finished, Angel had already turned away and headed towards the weapons cabinet. No, she definitely wasn’t anything like the compliant lover from his dreams, he thought angrily; but her acid jibes stirred up a few ideas about ways to keep that delectable mouth busy. As he reached for his sword, a surge of adrenalin pumped through him; it was actually good to have something to do besides sleep. But her comment still stung.

Reaching back in he grabbed a crossbow, picking up his leather jacket on the way back and handing the weapon to Wes, who thanked him and checked it out before focusing back on Cordy, who still kept her eyes trained firmly on the twisting fingers in her lap. After assuring her they shouldn’t be long both turned and left.

It wasn’t until the heavy door swung shut behind them that Cordy realized Angel hadn’t said one single word since the vision struck. Leaning back against the high arm of the couch tiredly, she winced as her head connected with one of the throw cushions. She reached back and tentatively checked her skull, frowning when her fingers found a small lump. “Ouch.” The frown deepened as the obvious cause hit.

That had to be a first. The one and only time she’d hit the floor at the start of a vision with Angel present. Thoughts of accompanying bruises made her grimace. Great. Well, at least her face had escaped injury, which she had to be thankful for. Taking another sip of water, she closed her eyes and let out a heavy breath, her mind going over the past hour

Angel was tired, which seemed lately, the order of the day, and a total ass. But this time he’d crossed the line. Actually threatening her like that. Even the memory of it still hurt. Then he had the nerve to act all offended when the last place she wanted to be was in his arms. What the hell was wrong with him lately? She’d been telling the truth when admitting to Wes that she was fed up. The visions took enough of a toll on her without having the added stress of being in a workplace that was anything but comfortable.

Something was going on in his head and Cordy really didn’t want to be around to find out where it was heading. That last look…she shivered again at the very thought. There was a distinct lack of control and recklessness in his gaze, and to say she was glad Wes had been there was an understatement. On top of all the incidents over the past few weeks, that last expression set off something she’d never thought she’d ever feel around Angel: fear.

It had only lasted a split second. Normally, Angel was the epitome of self-control. The worst of it? That lack of control called out to something primal within her, a feeling that seemed to have come out of nowhere, though she suspected that it had been around for years. Cordy raked her hands tentatively through her hair, wincing as the pad of a finger pressed against the sore spot on her scalp. She had a feeling that lump would be one of many if determined to put distance between herself and Angel.

With her growing attraction and his increasingly intimate crowding of her space, it signaled something dangerous. Then there was the irritation that seemed to be centered on her too. She needed him out of her space and to be away from him. If more visions came and Angel wasn’t around to catch her, better lumps on her head than somehow running the risk of Angelus somewhere down the line.

Her mind made up, Cordy rose to her feet and walked determinedly towards the exit, refusing to look back even once.

Chapter 4

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