Splintered 8

Chapter 8

“Wes will be here any minute,” Cordelia argued against the words that had rung so true. Angel was lying and she had the proof right there in her hand. “He just went out for popcorn, but he’ll be back. So you can take your trespassing, stalker ass out of his apartment.”

Waving the note in his face, she pointed out the message left there in black and white. Angel’s eyes flicked over it casually and she could swear that she saw a hint of a smug smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. It was that subtle. She waited for him to say something, but now he seemed to be busy eyeing her with that same slow regard. He certainly didn’t look concerned that Wes might come barreling home at any moment.

“Huh,” Cordy glanced down at the handwriting on the note. Damn, he was good. Had her fooled completely. Without this note, she might not have come inside. “You wrote this.”

Angel plucked it out of her hand, barely glancing at it before setting it aside. “Not a bad forgery, but then I had plenty of time to work on it. I’ve been waiting for you for a while.”

It never occurred to Cordy to convince Wes to cast the un-invite spell on his own apartment. Honestly, she hadn’t thought about him bothering her when she was with Wes or Gunn. Using desperate measures to get to her hadn’t even crossed her mind; though considering his reaction maybe she shouldn’t have been quite so surprised.

“I’ve got nothing to say to you,” she crossed her arms and glared back, “nothing. I don’t care what scenario your twisted brain has come up with. You’re not in control of my life. You don’t own me. So stop trying to handle me like I was your missing pet.”

Cordelia tried not to cringe at her own words as she could almost hear Wes telling her to stop provoking Angel. Every time she opened her mouth, it was like waving a red flag in front of a bull and waiting for him to charge. His eyes would cloud up with a red haze; massive shoulders and jaw tensing just before he would growl at her, issue some order or try to stare her down. Now he barely reacted, as if he let the words bounce off without even hearing a word she said.

Anger growing by leaps and bounds, Cordy tried to suppress the accompanying frisson of fear, but it ran wild right along with her imagination. Too many times lately, his grumpy & broody attitude gave way to downright scary. Acting like some psycho stalker was right up there on the list. “What have you done with Wes?”

“Nothing,” he answered with a too-casual shrug. “I simply arranged a distraction. Right now, he’s already out of town, left hours ago in quite a rush. Chances are he won’t make it back until morning.”

The idea momentarily set her reeling. “Wes knew I was coming over tonight. He would have called me if he couldn’t make it.”

“Guess not,” Angel’s amusement at her expense played subtly across his face. “There’s something so satisfying about sending a Watcher, former or otherwise, on a wild goose chase and seeing him eagerly take the bait.”

Eyeing him with suspicion, she asked, “What bait?”

Angel glowered for an instant. “Just something he couldn’t resist. I have serious doubts that it’s legitimate. Nothing’s ever that easy. Doesn’t matter, really.”

Whatever it was, Angel wasn’t forking over the information and honestly; Cordelia didn’t care as long as it didn’t put Wes in any danger. Asking about that got her a clipped reply, “He’s safe enough.”

“Better be,” Cordelia scowled at him. “What’s up with you? Sending Wes out of town, coming here…”

“It’s time we talked things out face to face,” Angel abruptly cut her off. “This ends the games, Cordy. I’ve put up with more than enough from you. No more playing hard to get. No doors, no locks, no more barriers between us.”

“Put up—,” Cordelia choked on the words as the rest of his sank in. Her escalating fear hit a raw nerve, anger swelling. Stalking over to the apartment door with the intention of flinging it open and demanding that Angel leave, she flipped the locks and tugged on the doorknob.

It opened an inch before Angel’s hand came down hard on its surface, slamming it back into place. “When we leave, it will be together.”

Staring blindly at a random paint chip, Cordelia suppressed a shudder and opted for trying to talk her way out of this situation, whatever it was. Unlike him, her emotions were all over the place, but she wasn’t foolish enough not to guess where he planned to take this confrontation. Her only hope was to keep Angel distracted long enough to figure a way out of it.

Cordelia latched on to one thought that still bothered her. “Wes wouldn’t tell you I was going to be here. How the hell did you find out?”

He crossed his arms, shirt stretching over his broad shoulders, leaning up against the door as if he was just having a casual conversation instead of using his strength to keep it shut. Boasting, “I know everything about you, all of your little habits. That includes your playtime with your pals. Tonight is movie night, right?”

“Like the video tapes weren’t a giveaway,” she huffed, not believing him for a second. Then again, the phone calls, visits and the fact that he was here seemed to confirm his stalker tactics. “Except, um, you got here before I brought them.”

The suspicion that he was exaggerating was the only thing keeping Cordy from really freaking out about the extent of his behavior. No matter how obsessed he had become, she still had a life of her own, sure that he couldn’t be everywhere. Until he commented, “You can’t make a move without me knowing it.”

Okay, so a little freaking out was probably in order. “Hah! If that was true, you’d have been there when I was helping Wes and Gunn with that demon. Y’know, the frog-faced one with the spiny things on its back.”

Cordelia waited for him to explode. Hadn’t he warned her not to go out with the guys on missions? Any second now, Angel was going to get pissed off and that would be all the proof she needed that there were still parts of her life he couldn’t touch.

Any second.

“Aren’t you mad?” she asked him a minute later when all he had done was stare back at her, his face a mask of deadly calm. Oh, yeah, he wasn’t exactly pleased, but he didn’t look like he was going to deny stalking her.

“You can’t hide anything from me,” Angel said, causing her to swallow down her lump of growing discontent. He was too calm, too casual and it irritated the hell out of her.

Her head snapped toward him as he straightened up, her hair flying around her shoulders as Cordelia’s own anger far surpassed any visible hint of emotion from him. “Guess that proves it. I won’t let you bully me into becoming a hermit. Cordelia Chase does whatever she wants.”

“We’ll deal with your defiance later. Unless you’d prefer to do it now?” Angel’s words fluttered across her skin like a soft caress despite the threat they carried. That simple question sparked a flurry of wild ideas. He hadn’t been very specific about his intentions to stop her from putting herself in danger or what might happen as a result if she rebelled against him.

Rattled by her trembling response, Cordy resorted to an eye roll and a fast, “Duh! Pfft.”

“I miss your smile,” Angel’s words startled her again, these seeming to come out of nowhere. Her down-turned mouth was nowhere near smiling right now. As far as he was concerned, there wasn’t much reason for letting him see it. “Things are so perfect between us sometimes, when you’re in my bed, but you’re here now. It’s not right, you know. Make it right, Cordy. You know you don’t hate me.”

After a long pause, she admitted almost reluctantly, “No, not that.” Hating Angel was not the issue at all considering the drivel he was spouting about being in his bed. Lots of other angry mixed up emotions, yes, definitely, but hate wasn’t one of them. “Ticked off, you bet. I don’t want you following me around like this. The only thing not right around here is your head. My life is mine and you can’t be a part of it anymore.”

Hurt and puzzlement stared back at her as if she’d just wounded him by taking away his favorite toy. Well, she didn’t exactly like it either. When she wasn’t busy avoiding him or being angry about his recent obsessiveness, Cordelia actually missed the big guy. Or at least, missed the friendship they once had together. His psycho act routinely squelched that, but she held out hope that he would snap out of it. “You’ve got me cornered, here. I admit it. You win. Just say what you came to say and then get out.”

Remembering the way Angel had pulled her onto his bed and into his arms that morning, kissing her despite the fact that he was still asleep made her realize he had been dreaming about her then. All that sleeping. Eew! He’d been fantasizing about her, and probably doing who knew what kind of pervy vampire things. Now he thought it was real.

An icky shudder tingled its way down her spine as she wondered just what those fantasies entailed to make Angel so obsessive, so determined to have her back. He was almost possessive about her. These days his demon nature was obvious, especially to her. Vamping out wasn’t necessary. Just the way he looked at her, sinfully dark and deadly serious, made her flush hotly as she admitted the idea wasn’t quite as repulsive as it should be. And that was a problem. A big, honking King Kong-sized problem.

Though Angel spoke to her without a shred of maliciousness, it was there beneath the surface waiting to break free. Plain and simple, he reminded her, “I’m not leaving.”

She didn’t bother to suggest that he let her be the one to leave. Waste of breath since Angel had already said the only way it would happen was together. “Fine. Don’t leave. Make yourself at home since you already have. This is movie night. You can even be in charge of the remote control.”

Cordelia started to move toward the coffee table where she had left the videos, hoping by some insane chance that Angel would actually go along with the idea. She took one step away from the door before he blocked her path. “I’m not here for movies, Cordelia. I want you.”

“Back at the office? I’ll have to think about it.” Not really, but it sounded good at the moment. Cordelia’s deliberate misunderstanding got her nowhere.

There was a look of such raw hunger in his eyes that her breath caught sharply in her throat. Cordelia realized she’d read it right. It wasn’t malice at all driving him to respond to her rebelliousness. If Angel was mad about it that was far from the only thing he felt. What the hell was going on in that thick skull of his right now? Wondering only left her shivering at the direction of her thoughts. Maybe it was best that she didn’t know. Guessing somehow felt a lot safer.

Under way different circumstances, Cordelia realized that she wouldn’t be angry with him for wanting her. Returning those feelings would be all too easy considering the way she felt about him to begin with. It was so hard to push aside friendship and curiosity for hatred despite his actions, especially since it seemed this was more than just Angel relying on his instincts as a vampire. Something out of his control seemed to be driving him along and she made a mental note to talk to Wes about what was really going on. Assuming he made it back to L.A. before Angel managed to do something stupid.

“Come home to me. It’s where you belong. I can keep you safe there,” Angel’s plea suggested that this crazy obsession was just about protecting her, but Cordy knew better. This was all about the part she feared most.

“No one will touch you,” he promised, only to tag on softly, “except me. Lovers belong together. You know how good it is. You need me just as much as I need you. That’s why I’m here, to prove it to you.”

It wasn’t necessary to ask how he intended to prove it. He defined seduction with every hard male line as his body moved, sinuously shifting closer, hands lifting to push against the door, blocking her in. The hard surface of the wood pressed into her back as Cordelia tried to avoid contact. Though he stood close enough that his familiar scent filled her senses, he kept a few inches between them. Teasing her with his closeness, gauging her reactions, and letting his eyes wander down her body.

His words went straight through her, spreading warm tingles of curiosity, but leaving twirling anxious butterflies behind. With a quick swipe of her tongue over her trembling lips, Cordelia reminded him, “We’re not lovers.” Her reaction to him scared her as much as he did. Angel’s sex appeal was potent enough without him really trying, much less laying it on thick. As his closeness played havoc with her senses, she let her anger win out, snorting bluntly, “You’re living in your own delusion.”

Angel trailed a fingertip from her throat, down the swell of her breast to the top button of her blouse. “Is this a delusion? Feels real to me.”

She couldn’t suppress the pleasurable shudder that light touch evoked, but Cordy knew she couldn’t let him take this any further. Whatever Angel had going on in his head; she wanted no part in making it a reality. Knocking his hand away as it lingered along the valley of her cleavage toying with the small button, her unease grew by leaps and bounds.

Dealing with broody, grumpy, pissed off Angel was oh, so different than trying to manage this guy. The last thing she needed was to get tongue-tied over the fact that Psycho Vamp knew how to make her tingle. She’d handled all kinds of crap back in high school from groping guys who were more hormones than brains, but Cordy wasn’t sure it prepared her to deal with this.

“Shouldn’t you be chasing down blondes?” Her acerbic question only earned her a soft caress as Angel’s hand slid up to stroke her cheek before fingering through her hair.

“Not tonight,” Angel answered as his other hand came down between them. “No need to be jealous. You’re the only one that matters. As long as we’re together, you’ll be safe.”

Cordelia licked her lips again not realizing it would draw his attention, and then captured her bottom lip between her teeth for an instant before telling him, “Stop being so melodramatic. Can’t you ‘protect’ me from the other side of the room?”

Pushing with both hands just above his waist was like trying to move a rock wall. He didn’t even seem to notice, too busy brushing his thumb across her lip, though she fixed that fast enough by opening her mouth to chomp on it. Too bad for fast reflexes. Angel gave her a little growl and grabbed her by the hair at the nape of her neck, holding her in place as his mouth moved in to claim hers.

With a jerk, she braced herself for a kiss that devoured. Cordy slammed her eyes shut and told herself not to respond. What came was something unexpected, so soft and gentle in its brevity that it drew a gasp of surprise from her throat, her lips parting. Her eyelids fluttered open to find him watching expectantly, those brown eyes filled with emotions she’d never seen before.

Crap, it wasn’t fair. Getting sucked into his delusions wasn’t an option. She had to put a stop to this. Angel had conveniently forgotten all the reasons why wanting, touching and taking were bad, bad things for everyone.

“Back off,” Cordelia demanded, glancing down at her blouse and finding that he’d managed to unbutton it all the way down to the point where it tucked into her jeans. Shaking with adrenalin, a combination of anger and fear, she tried to push the tiny buttons back into place. Her own inept fumbling made her stop. Deciding to forget it, she dropped her hands to her side. “I want you out of here. This is Wesley’s place. You need to get a grip.”

A little tug from his right hand reminded her, “I’ve already got one.” Smirking playfully before his head blocked out the light, Angel kissed her again. He took her mouth, marking his territory with a series of soft caresses, tiny nips and the gentle swipe of the tip of his tongue against the seam of her lips.

“Stop,” her lips brushed his as she said it. Angel’s head snapped back, though he didn’t move to release her. Squirming in his arms, Cordy pushed with her hands and arms until he gave her a little space. “Whatever this is, it can’t happen. Youknow that.”

“Don’t say that,” he rubbed his forehead lightly along hers. “We deserve to have some happiness.”

Cordelia huffed, “I deserve a hell of a lot of happiness. But it won’t happen like this. We can’t do this.”

“What are we doing?” Angel teased as he pushed aside the gaping collar of her blouse, exposing the tempting curve of her collarbone. His head dipped, lips moving across her heated skin, the sound of her ragged breathing in his ear.

“Sex,” she blurted it out. “We can’t have sex. You’re cursed. Too much happiness and its hello Angelus.”

As his tongue found a ticklish spot, Cordy shrieked and her hand slapped at his head in automatic reaction. Her squirming intensified, forcing Angel to shift closer and to tug her hands back down to his chest. The reminder didn’t faze him at all. “Forget the curse,” he purred the words into her ear, nipping at her earlobe on his way down to pay homage to her throat.

Realizing that Angel was only half there if he thought the curse was something she’d forget about, Cordelia tugged at his hair. “Are you looking to get staked?”

“I won’t bite you tonight,” he promised in a way that made it sound like he was reminding himself not to do it. When he lifted his head to look down at her, Cordy felt almost certain he thought he’d done it before.

Wide-eyed, she glanced in the direction of the couch where the contents of her purse included a stake and a small perfume spritzer of holy water. The thought of actually using them on Angel was suddenly harder than Cordelia ever thought it would be. If he was Angelus…pfft! Easy decision, but he wasn’t soulless, just sick in the head, caught up in his delusions.

Why did it take going crazy to make him want her? That thought really irritated her. Not that she wanted him before, either. That was beside the point, Cordelia counseled herself. She didn’t know it then. He was supposed to say something first and then she would have told him…just what she was telling him now.

“C.U.R.S.E,” she spelt it out for him while he let his lazy gaze settle on the curve of her mouth. “Get it through that head of yours.”

Whatever was going through Angel’s head, he wasn’t really listening. This was all just a game to him, one he seemed to think she was playing. Because he actually let out a grunt of disbelief at her insistence that he posed a threat. Somehow he’d forgotten about the real danger this living fantasy entailed. Muttering, “You never talk this much,” Angel stopped her mouth beneath the soft pressure of his own.

They tussled against the door, rolling one way and then the other. Though Cordy was trying to get out of his clutches, she knew that Angel was just toying with her. If he wanted to stop her, he’d have her flush against the door with her arms pinned over her head. Every time they changed positions, he kissed her again. No longer soft and teasing, but masterful kisses that left her feeling hot and flushed, gooey inside and weak in the knees.

Between kisses, he assured her there was no need to fear him, though the way he looked at her as he said that word made Cordy realize he didn’t mind the fear at all. “It won’t happen,” Angel muttered as his lips took hers, drawing unbidden mewls from the back of her throat. “For us, it’s not a problem. Never has been. You know that.”

“What? I know squat!” Curse or no curse, just the implication that bliss wouldn’t be an issue caused her already volatile temper to swell. And that wasn’t the only thing, she noticed as his hand swept down to her bottom, pulling her into him. “Why the hell not? You’re feeling pretty damn happy already, if you ask me.”

There was no pretending that bulge pressing against her belly was anything else. She squirmed again, trying to move away, but Angel moaned a deep sound of pleasure at the friction she created. The shuttered gasp she made followed her own involuntary reaction as her hips moved to meet his forward thrust.

“It’s not the sex,” Angel seemed to lose focus for a second; lifting her just a little higher onto her toes, his hand still cupping her ass. “It’s how I feel about you.”

Already unbalanced, she gripped his shoulders, kicking his shin hard, forcing him to release her. Cordelia let out a triumphant, “Hah!” at his painful grunt and at achieving momentary freedom. “You son of a bitch! Don’t kiss me and say I can’t make you happy.”

She pushed past him while he was distracted, only to feel his hand clamp around her wrist just seconds later. Spun around to face him, she was pulled close again, but her wrist released. Angel was inches away, staring down intently. “That’s just it. Except for now, when your nasty little tongue gets into gear, you’re my perfect happiness all in one beautiful package. We’ve already found it together so many times. What makes you think we can’t do it again?”

“Cut the crap. Guh! That’s your delusions talking,” Cordy said, rattled by his tenacious hold on the idea that they were already lovers. “It’s all in your head. I’ve got no idea what I did to make it to the top of your fantasy list, but I don’t want you. Comprende?”

“Liar,” his short retort accompanied a smug gleam and Cordelia knew he wasn’t completely wrong. Obviously, he was deranged enough not to know reality from his delusions, but that wasn’t what scared her the most. He brought that to light with pinpoint accuracy, “That’s not what you felt the other night when you were tucked away in your bed wearing my shirt, moaning my name in your sleep.”

Knowing that he’d been watching her sleep wasn’t half as disturbing as thinking of what he’d seen when she woke up. Hot color rushed into her cheeks as Cordy remembered giving in to her own aching needs, her fingertips dipping between her thighs to rub along slick and sensitive flesh. It hadn’t been Keanu or Brad or Jude filling her head, but Angel.

So maybe Angel wasn’t the only one with issues. He scared the hell out of her lately, but Cordelia scared herself even more. She couldn’t admit that truth to him, because it would only feed into his obsessions. He was all soft seductiveness at the moment. No matter what excuses Angel made up in his fantasies, Cordelia knew the threat of his curse was all too real.

The front door was now a couple of yards behind them. If it had only been inches, that would make no difference. Despite all her struggles, Angel thought this was all part of some seductive game on her part. Short of kneeing him in the groin she was running out of options. Pursuit was an innate response for a vampire. He’d simply break down the bathroom door if she managed to make it that far. Nor did she particularly want to give him the thrill of chasing her around the couch or the kitchen table.

Making a stand right here was the only thing she could do, but the unexpectancy of his gentle touches and restrained strength made it hard to fight him. Clinging to her anger was the only way to make sense of this, because if she gave into those tempting kisses, she’d be lost and then so would he. “You know I’ll hate you for this.”

“No you won’t,” he whispered with complete certainty. Then Angel reached down to the hem of his sweater, peeling it over his head, letting it fall from his fingers to puddle on the floor.

It was far from the first time that she had seen him this way. Despite her fear of Angelus, she was more afraid of her involuntary reaction to Angel. Desire sparked inside her, leaving her tingling with want. Cordelia tried to look through jaded eyes, remembering that torso riddled with bullet holes, bruises and deep gashes.

Smooth, pale skin stretched tight over his muscles, scar-free and beautiful. Those broad shoulders, so powerful, along with the sculpted strength of his arms drew her gaze. Until it dropped to his chest with its thickly muscled pecs and the small, brown nipples that for some reason left her mouth watering. The urge to reach out and rub them with her fingers surprised her and Cordelia gulped, wiping her hands on her jeans.

The ladder of his ribs trailed down to his taut waist where his skin disappeared beneath the leather belt and black pants. His dark clothes did nothing to hide his arousal and Cordy’s eyes suddenly snapped back to his face, wide and staring. Hooboy! Talk about fantasy material. This was so not what she needed right now. A part of her recognized that Angel might actually have a chance of seducing her. No matter that the thought of Angelus was enough to play tug of war with those forbidden desires.

One last time, Cordelia tried to make him see reason, “This isn’t a game and I’m not playing with you. Let me go before it’s too late. This isn’t the way it should happen between us.”

“Let me handle what happens,” Angel stepped closer whispering into her ear just what he wanted, but she refused to let her tears fall.

No, Cordy figured he had gone to too much trouble to corner her here in Wesley’s apartment. Now her only concern was making it out alive. Because if Angel truly made love to her as he intended, soft seduction his routine, she had no doubt the curse would kick in. No matter how mixed up things were between them now, the feelings that existed were still real, at least on her part. At least they used to be, back when she thought of him as her best friend.

There was only one thing to do at a time like this, Cordelia realized resolutely as he moved to kiss her again: give him a taste of reality. Maybe, just maybe, he’d come to his senses. To Angel’s surprise, she reached up, grabbed him by the ears and kissed him roughly.

All of her anger went into that kiss and she was determined to make him see that she wasn’t going to give in. Breaking it off, she pushed hard at his naked chest and demanded, “Is that what you want, dammit?”

All she got was confusion and him muttering comparisons to his dream girl again. “That’s not what I planned for tonight, but then you know I love it when you’re playful. Take this off,” he flicked his fingers over the loose collar of her blouse. “It’s blocking the view.”

Cordelia grabbed the loose sides of her shirt, clutching it closed over her exposed cleavage and apricot silk bra. Playful? He had to be kidding. Clearly not, she gulped, noting his anticipatory daze. Angel was testing her compliance, expecting her to follow along with his every whim like his Bimbo Cordy did in his dreams. Turning around, she peeked over her shoulder watching him watch her as if he expected her to begin a sexy striptease.

Somehow, she managed to make her fingers follow instructions. When she turned back around, every button was in its proper place and closed right up to her neck. Letting her anger roll around in her mouth, she smirked obstinately, “The view is none of your business.”

Before the last word died on her breath, Angel ripped the blouse away, sending buttons popping and curling the material down over her shoulders to hold her in place. “Are you sure you want it a little rough this time? Sounds fun; mostly for me.” Anger burning in his eyes over her disobedience cleared almost instantly. What was left was just a naughty sparkle that played havoc with her imagination. His voice gentled again with a warning, “Don’t provoke me again unless you’re ready for it.”

She watched numbly as his anger faded away entirely and he slipped the ruined top from her arms to toss it away, smoothing his hands up and down the area where the pulled material left red marks. When his gaze dropped down to the swell of her breasts, Cordy knew he was back to thinking romantic nonsense. His curled knuckles skirted the edge of her bra, teasing her skin, and then moved to bump across the traitorous peak of one nipple.

A soft sound escaped at the sensations he created. Cordelia closed her eyes for an instant, arching her back in search of his touch as it left her. Then he reached down to grasp her wrists and her eyes snapped open again. As Angel pressed her palms to his chest, she jerked her hands away as if scalded. “Forget it. I’m not touching you.”

“You kissed me a minute ago,” he reminded her that her logic was a little twisted. But he didn’t give her time to argue about it. Talking was far overrated, anyway.

“I liked that blouse,” Cordelia complained just before he smothered her words by covering her mouth with his own. Hungry, eating kisses followed, no longer softly teasing.

She backed away and he followed, keeping their bodies in check with the gentle lead of his hand. Feeling the edge of a doorframe against her back, she glanced quickly over her shoulder and saw the bed’s comforter down-turned and in order, making it clear he’d intended this from the start. Sneering, Cordelia quipped, “I supposed you managed fresh sheets, too.”

Angel sounded out a little growl of frustration, touching her jaw with his fingertips and turning her face back toward him. She batted his hand away. “It’s not even me you want,” her contempt failed to distract him as if he was already lost in his dreams.

Capturing her wrist, he raised it to his mouth, pressing a kiss into the center of her palm. Then Angel moved her hand to his chest again and began lowering it down the length of his torso, pressing her palm against his skin until it moved over his belt and the soft material of his pants. Cordelia gasped his name as he pushed her hand into contact with his erection.

“Tell me again I don’t want you,” Angel let out a low sound as he led her touch down the length of him, curling her fingers under his balls for an instant before she shook her hand out of his loosening grasp.

Stubbornly, she pushed past him into the room, the only direction he would allow her to go, and told him again that it was the fantasy he really wanted, not her. A low grunt was the only reply, acknowledgement, denial and disbelief all in one single incoherent syllable. Cordelia knew she wasn’t going to get anywhere and now his wandering hands were making it hard to think about the fact that she didn’t want him, either.

He cradled her closer, hands along her shoulder blades, deftly unfastening the hooks of her bra, but making no move to remove it just yet. Simply mapping out the smooth contours of her back as her head lolled back in response to the random smooches along her throat and the underside of her jaw. From behind, his hands moved outward, curving around to her ribs, his thumbs broaching the loose barrier of her bra to edge along the curve of her breasts.

Cordelia shuddered at the intense jolt of pleasure that shot straight through her. Reaching out, she held onto his waist as he bent her low, his mouth targeting the tempting shadows of her cleavage. Tingles spread across her skin like a spider’s web as his tongue dipped in and out just to taste her there.

“Oh,” Cordelia’s own moan startled her out of the hazy pleasure that momentarily grabbed her. Her eyes popped open to see the ceiling from her strange viewpoint, but it allowed her to focus on the situation rather than what Angel was doing with his mouth. Geez, he hadn’t even taken off her bra and she was panting for more.

“Stop that.” Panicking, she squirmed and elbowed her way out of his grasp. Only Angel wasn’t expecting it and Cordy fell out of his arms to the floor. They stared at each other for a moment, gaping in reaction. The shocked expression on his face nearly made her giggle until she recalled that none of this was funny. Only it was in a twisted kind of way.

Before all of this happened, if anyone had warned her that one day Angel would be making good on plans to seduce her, she would have laughed until she made herself sick with it. This wasn’t funny at all. Whatever snapped inside Angel to make him so psycho had also focused all of his energy and desires on her. Part of her liked the attention. She admitted that much to herself, but that wasn’t any excuse for letting herself give into it considering what would happen.

The dark, demonic side of him that scared her edged ever closer to the surface. Accepting that it existed was one thing, but having it focused on her was quite another. Running would only let loose his temper. Giving in would risk allowing Angel a moment of bliss. Now looking up at him from her sprawled position on the carpeted floor, Cordelia knew the only way to get out of this with Angel’s soul intact would be to keep him on the edge. Dread pooled in the pit of her stomach and she took one final peek toward the living room. There was no way out of this.

“Can’t you take a hint,” Cordelia glared heatedly. “I don’t want your kisses.”

He crouched down next to her, hand reaching out to grasp her face even though she was already looking his way. It gave him control, but he couldn’t squelch the irate flare in her eyes. Angel’s mouth crashed down on hers, almost bruising in intensity at first, only to soften at the first frightened sound that escaped from her throat. His mouth tugged at her lower lip, pulling it between his before his tongue darted out almost teasingly, touching hers and then sliding along.

Cordelia clutched his shoulders as they kissed, trying desperately to fight the temptation to give in. Her fingers curled into the short strands of his hair, planning to rip it out by the roots if it would put an end to their kiss. But her fingers loosened, and her mouth opened to his and she was just as greedy about tasting him. They were both on their knees, kissing frantically when she felt him dip two fingers into the waistband of her jeans. A jolt of energy shocked her into reacting as he thumbed open the metal button.

Dragging her mouth from his, she opened it over his jaw, clamping down as hard as she could before he forced her away. Angel was on his feet in an instant, “You bitch!”

She wiped the blood away from her mouth, feeling rather pleased with herself that he’d actually called her a bitch. “That’s right. If you think I’m gonna just lay back and take it nicely, you’ve been dreaming about the wrong woman.”

When his hand dropped down from his jaw, she saw the angry red mark she’d left on his skin. She was so focused on his face that Cordy almost missed his fingers closing in until they trailed along the curve of her face. His thumb swept up a tiny drop she’d missed, spreading it across her bottom lip as his gaze lingered there.

“This is the second time you’ve bitten me,” Angel reminded her, a thick, sensual thread lacing his voice. “Next time, just go for the throat.”

Scooping her up into his arms while Cordelia stared stunned that he was more turned on than angry, Angel carried her toward the bed. “That was me being pissed off, not foreplay.”

Angel dumped her onto the bed, her bra straps sliding down, apricot silk clinging precariously as she bounced to a halt. “Is there a difference?” he asked with a twist of his mouth and then started to remove the rest of his clothes.

Grabbing a pillow, Cordy clutched it to her chest, clamping her eyes shut as she decided not to look. Considering her reaction to his bare chest, it might not be a good idea to look at anything else. The metallic chink of his belt hit the floor and she quickly realized that her imagination filled in quite a few blanks despite her refusal to watch. Two solid thunks, one right after the other, had to be his shoes. Then the unmistakable rip of the zipper in his pants followed and the soft whisper of material sliding across skin.

For a moment after that all Cordy could hear was her heart pounding in her ears. There had to be a way to handle this. Buck nekkid Angel wasn’t so different from anyone else. She’d just cut him down to size by making a snide comment. Only she opened her eyes before saying it and the words just got trapped in her throat as they came out. That brief sensation beneath her hand as he’d forced her to touch him told only half the story.

“Oh, crap!” Cordelia trembled in reaction, sensing she was in serious trouble. Just the sight of him made her clench in unwanted reaction, hot need curling deep in her belly leaving her aching, moisture gathering between her thighs.

Unfettered by clothing, his bulky mass was streamlined. Pale skin stretched over sinewed muscle. Her gaze followed his taut waist, darted into the tempting dip of his navel and then traveled leisurely down a thin line of hair leading to a dark thatch nestled around the jutting flesh below. A hot flush suffused her cheeks as Cordelia wondered how it would feel in her hand.

Nervously, she darted her tongue across her lips leaving an unintentional shine. It captured Angel’s attention as he moved closer with leonine grace. The thought of him covering her body with his, using his bulk to pin her to the bed, and taking her, wasn’t repulsive at all. Only he wanted a fantasy that she couldn’t give him. Cordy wanted more than that, but mostly, she wanted to live to see the dawn.

Anger was her only weapon against his perfect happiness; only she was fighting her own arousal, too. Pulling herself to her knees, Cordy held the pillow to her breasts, her bra stuck between them. Then grabbing hold with both hands, she bashed him with the pillow. “Leave,” she demanded, hitting him again, “me,” and aimed for a third try, “alone.”

He snatched it from her hand, knocked her off balance and had her on her back all within the space of a few seconds. Cordelia’s hair splayed out in silken waves across the sheets, her arms arced above her as Angel loomed overhead. He held the pillow aloft as if considering whether to keep playing, but then tossed it back toward the headboard. Reaching down, he tucked a finger beneath her bra and tugged it away.

Cordelia yelped, her hands flying up to cover her exposed breasts. They tingled at the added attention, the velvet tips pointing their erect posture into her palms. It might seem silly considering where Cordy knew this was headed, but Angel had never seen her this way before. Not for real. She met his amused gaze, shifting as he moved along side.

Silence settled between them. Cordy waited for him to leap on top of her, pry her hands away and have at it. But he simply sat back, tight buttocks resting on his heels, knees spread without regard for the view he provided. She jerked as Angel dropped his hand to her thigh, following the seam of her jeans downward. Then he tugged off her shoe, followed by the other.

Peeling off one sock, Angel rubbed his thumb along the tiny pulse behind her ankle. The other sock was half off when Cordy maneuvered her leg, kicking out with her foot and connecting mid-chest. Caught unbalanced, Angel fell backward, toppling over, landing on the carpeted floor with a heavy thunk and a loud curse.

Cordy was on her knees, sock dragging behind her, hands still cupped over both breasts and peering cautiously over the edge of the bed when Angel bounded to his feet. Jaw clenched, he yanked her off the bed to stand beside him. “What the hell was that for?”

“Guess I gotcha,” Cordelia shrugged. “You’re getting slow. Has to be that cellulite I saw when your ass was flying over your head.”

“Maybe you should point it out,” Angel suggested smoothly. “Only your hands seem to be rather full at the moment. Overflowing, in fact.”

Cordy noted the way his eyes lingered along her half-hidden curves. A deep chuckle sounded from Angel, startling her, the sound unsettling in its rarity. So much for keeping him angry and on the edge. All she seemed to be doing was stimulating his funny bone, amongst other things.

Angel took the opportunity to lean in, kissing her cheek and nuzzling his face against hers. “You’ve forgotten one thing,” he purred the words into her ear. “Now I can do this.”

With a swift tug on her zipper, his hands slid over bare hips, pushing both jeans and panties into a pile around her feet. Angel swallowed her complaints with his mouth, trapping her hands between them as he pulled her into his arms. With her feet caught up in her clothing while stubbornly continuing to cover her breasts, she couldn’t move.

But he could. Angel captured her head in both hands, his mouth devouring hers. Eking out responses that Cordelia didn’t know she had in her. Softness abating, intermixed with something needier, demanding she give into it. Those strong hands stroked her finding places that made her arch into him and mewl softly for more.

Cordelia looped her arms around his neck, kissing Angel back with an intensity that rivaled her fear. Forgetting all about her nudity, she moaned at the sensation of her breasts pressing against him. She could feel herself giving into it, wanting those firm strokes and tender caresses. Needing his hands on her. Feeling him hard and ready, pressing against her bare belly; just wanting to touch him as he was touching her.

They couldn’t do it like this, Cordelia snapped back from the edge of losing all control, remembering suddenly where all that touching and kissing would lead, but it was already happening. All this felt too damn good. He had a talent for kissing away all resistance. Any longer and she’d be lost, just like their friendship was lost.

“Just do it now,” her urgency was fed by fear. Yes, now. Get it over with before she caved in completely and started saying things she’d regret. Things that might be dangerous for them both. Cordy still had a few verbal reserves left and hoped she had enough resilience to hang on.

“Don’t be so impatient,” Angel murmured against her mouth as he lifted her back to the bed. He discarded her jeans and clinging sock before settling down in the cradle of her thighs, his weight shifting above her. “I want to see you.”

“You’ve seen enough,” she bellowed back. “Sheesh! Any other guy on the planet would be finished by now.”

Angel didn’t answer. He busily occupied his mouth by scattering kisses across her skin. Random spots, different sensations. Teasing her with his touch. Fingertips barely grazing her breasts and wandering off to the plane of her belly, the curve of her hip, the skin along her inner thigh.

The flat of her palms smoothed along the sinewed muscles of his back, fingernails curling over the dark tattoo that marked him. A fine sheen broke out across her skin as Cordelia writhed to the mounting pleasure Angel created. The grinding force of his hips pressing his hard length against her drove them both wild.

He cupped her breasts, his calloused fingers roving over them. A growl rumbled at the back of his throat as he plumped them together, looking as giddy as a two year old with a new toy. Cordy’s hands hovered, her head spinning as he dipped his tongue between them again, the wet sensation sliding along her skin. A pinch followed, her nipples captured and released. Tongue fluttering across one before his open mouth closed over the full curve of the other breast, gently biting.

Cordelia never imagined such sensations. This was too much. It had to stop. She was so close to telling him how good it felt, that she wanted more. It was already hard to keep still, impossible really. Her thighs clutched his hips, legs shifting anxiously along the length of his.

“Dammit, Angel,” she gritted her teeth, forcing herself to yank him away from her sensitive breasts. Those deep brown eyes were filled up with too many emotions. Lust was far from the only feeling gleaming in their eternal depths. Desperate to make him end this, to forget those romantic delusions running through his head, she pushed at his face, making him lift his upper body. “Get it over with. I’m the victim, here, not your girlfriend.”

Angel buried his face against her belly, shaking his head in denial as if filtering out the words he didn’t want to hear. She had her hand on the nape of his neck, fingers unconsciously soothing. “Please listen to me, Angel, please.”

Whatever plea he heard, it wasn’t the one intended. His hands gripped her hips as he started to kiss his way across the slight curve of her belly. When Angel flicked his tongue into her navel, Cordelia curled into it, the sensation connecting to the empty ache inside her. He moved her further up the bed, pushing her thighs up and open, sending her a sharp look when Cordelia started to protest.

She did anyway. Knowing what he intended, Cordy panicked, her heart racing in response. It was far too intimate. Something lovers did. Not to mention the fact that there was little hope of not enjoying it, because she had a feeling he knew what he was doing. Just his hands massaging her inner thighs, his mouth coming down and dropping a kiss so close to where she wanted it was enough to make her squirm in need.

“Go ahead,” she dared him, trying anything to keep this from being about them. Letting her own feelings get tangled up in this would be devastating, even if she managed to keep him from losing his soul. He wanted his fantasy and someday might actually come to his senses. She didn’t want to be stuck with feelings that weren’t returned. “It won’t be your name I’ll be screaming.”

That caught his attention. He bit down on her thigh, just hard enough for her to yelp out his name. “You were saying?”

“Bastard!” Cordy swatted at his head and flopped back on the bed, her fingertips slithering down to rub at the sore spot only to hold on when the flat of his tongue stroked along her slick folds. Her hips jerked at that first sensation, her breath a gasp on the air.

Pushing with her feet, she scrambled back on the bed until she bumped into the headboard. “Dammit, I don’t want you making love to me. Either stop now or just give it to me.”

Angel rose up to his knees, his body tense, his sex still thick and hard. It bobbed heavily with his movement as if calling her attention. She ached inside, wet with want despite herself. It angered her that she couldn’t resist him, blaming Angel’s licentious history because she didn’t want to admit there might be other reasons.

“What is it, Cordelia?” All gentility vanished suddenly from his voice, replaced by an earthy ruthlessness that crawled along her skin. “You should have told me you wanted to be fucked. The front door would have been good enough for that.”

The crudity of that word ripped at her heart. He would never say that to her. Only he did. She’d driven him to it and the fact should have pleased her. That was her goal, after all. Make him angry. Keep him on the edge. A tear escaped, clinging to her eyelashes before falling down to her cheek.

“Too late for tears,” Angel took hold of her legs, pulling her closer. Stroking his length, catching her gaze there, he growled, “This is what you want, isn’t it? I’m going to give it to you, Cordy. Just tell me one more time.”

“Yes, yes, just take what you want,” she cried out, yielding nothing.

Those words jarred a memory and Angel muttered, “Darla said to—.” He broke off staring at Cordelia with a look of fear, but it couldn’t squelch his lust. That burned even hotter as his dreams came flooding back.

The sound of Darla’s name on his lips lit a fire inside Cordelia. “I don’t care what you think that dead bitch told you. She doesn’t exist.” Launching herself at Angel, she pummeled his chest until he took her wrists and twisted her arms behind her back, holding her steady. “It’s all an illusion, a dream, you psychotic bastard.”

Angel switched holds so that he freed up one hand. He trailed his fingers along the outline of her body where it pressed tightly to his from thigh to chest and then skipped up to tangle in her hair, tightly fisting it in his grasp. “Darla is a dead bitch,” he rasped along her throat before nibbling at the cord of her neck. “But she’s as real as you.”

With his teeth at her throat, Cordelia stopped squirming, freezing into position. The idea had been to keep him on the edge, not plummet over it. “Okay, okay, I believe you.”

“Liar,” he said, lapping his tongue over the little red marks on her skin. Cordelia moaned wantonly against his mouth as his wolfish kiss demanded her response. Angel released her wrists, moving his hand along the firm curves of her bottom, squeezing one cheek before sliding up her back. “I can taste your fear, feel you trembling, but you want this, too.”

“No I don’t,” Cordy pushed her palms against his chest, but her denial sounded half-hearted even to her. She ached, wanting him. Her traitorous body aligned with his as Angel lowered her down to the silk sheets. Then she kissed him before he could do it to her, one hand curled over his shoulder and the other with fingers spread along his jaw.

Angel’s hand curved along her thigh, fitting it higher along his hip, positioning to take her. He tucked his forehead into the nook of her neck, breathing in her scent as he sought entry below. “Tell me you want me.” Something in that sounded like a sob muffled his plea for truth, but she heard it all the same.

Though her heart was breaking when she answered, Cordelia closed her eyes against the hot sting of her tears. “Not in a million years,” the hoarse lie trembled on her lips and she wound her arms & legs around him as he thrust home.

***

She wouldn’t say that. Not his Cordy. She wouldn’t. Not Cordy. Not her. Not in a million years. Angel knew she wanted him, wanted what he could give her again and again. He thrust into her, a pounding rhythm that gave her what she claimed to want with no feelings required. Far be it from him to deny her.

They’d shared pleasure before. Countless times, though it was never this intense, this real. Had it all been dreaming like she claimed? No, that would make this unthinkable. She was playing a new game, that’s all, and if she wanted rough this time, he would give her anything she wanted. Her heat scorched him as he thrust deep, her body fisting him even tighter than he’d imagined.

All his senses were swimming. Conscious thought ebbed away as Angel let his instincts take over. Their bodies parted and merged, banging almost desperately together, but edging them closer to a spiraling peak now imperative to reach.

Cordelia made only incoherent attempts at reminding him this wasn’t her choice. Mostly, it was just husky little grunts and moans as she rocked against him with equal intensity. Something feral broke free from within her, a fiery passion Angel never anticipated, even in his dreams rousing him in ways that left those dreams in shadow.

He watched her hips writhing, rocking, those sensual contortions taking him in. Angel reeled as his cock pulsed, throbbing, sliding slickly as she contracted around him. Her body sang in biorhythmic tunes as he pushed the limits of her pleasure. Warm breath panted in his ear, each intake brushing her pebble-tipped nipples into his chest. He covered her sweat-slicked body with his own, flexing his hips to send hers crashing back into the mattress with those deep, rapid thrusts.

Fingernails trailed darts of pleasure down his back as Cordelia urged him on. He buried his face into the soft cascade of hair clinging to her throat, her damp skin causing stray tendrils to stick here and there. The pounding pulse close to his ear left his mouth watering. His hands slid along her torso, pressing her shoulders back so that her grasp fell away. Clasping his fingers through hers, he held her down, seeking out that heady beat once again, this time with his mouth.

Angel pressed his lips to the hot-spot of her pulse point. The urge to bite rose up so swiftly, he felt the familiar ripple against his skin as bone started to shift. She must have sensed it coming, calling out his name as he lingered there at her neck for a moment longer than necessary. When his mouth descended to her throat again, it was just a kiss he left behind, suppressing the demon rising within and lifting up to quell the fear rising in her passion-hazed eyes.

“I’d never hurt you,” he promised thickly. The whispered mantra of it sounded on his lips as he released her hands. “Never, never.” His touch instantly gentled, the pace of their joining altering into a rhythm no longer pounding, but still primal.

Her body gripped him tight, instinctively holding him inside just a fraction longer with each thrust. Angel watched in wonder as Cordelia came, pleasure lighting her face as he moved deep inside her, something else he hadn’t got quite right in his dreams. With a loud moan of his name, her arms and legs snuggly held him as she rode out her orgasm, urging him on again.

On the edge, he grunted at the intensity of the pressure building as his balls pulled tighter with each thrust. Cordelia locked down tight around him, panting and grasping blindly for purchase as she continued to thrust her hips a little more furiously than before, sensing he needed it. There was just one other thing he needed and the terrified look in her eyes told him that she knew what it was.

“Tell me,” Angel demanded she say it. She always said it. That was as far as his current state would allow him to reason.

Reaching up, Cordy yanked his head down so that her mouth pressed against his ear. Her voice came out raw and unsteady, their bodies still moving together. She said only one word, his name, before clamping her teeth down on the straining muscle at his throat. The sudden sensation sparked his release and he came hard thrusting his seed deep inside her.

How long they lay there in silence was anybody’s guess. Both were too caught up in their own thoughts to speak. Angel nuzzled against her, soaking in her warmth. She released a soft gasp as he slipped out of her body and draped himself across her in a completely possessive way. The drumming beat of her heart sounded in his ear as he rested his cheek against her breast. Its steady pace sped up rather than slowing down and he immediately understood the reason for it.

“Relax,” he muttered, smoothing his hand along the curve of her hip. “Nothing happened.”

Her soft pfft caused a smile to tug at his lips. Angel lifted up so that he lay on his side, reaching up to capture her face as she’d turned it away from him. A deep flush brightened the lustrous glow of her skin. Shyly, she crossed her arms and curled one leg just enough to cover herself. When he let his fingers continue along their path and settle open-palmed against her belly, Cordy finally put voice to her thoughts, “Why not?”

“I don’t know,” he answered quite honestly, his confusion clouding his brain even as he leaned in closer. Adding, “Told you not to worry.”

“Easy for you to say,” Cordelia griped softly, looking uncertainly at him as if not knowing what would happen next. Then her eyes dropped down to the crumpled sheet at the foot of the bed and Angel could tell she was trying to figure out how to pull it up without exposing herself again.

“Don’t hide yourself from me. I want to see you.”

Angel felt his body clench in hot arousal as Cordelia shifted toward him, lowering her arms, but then cupping her breasts momentarily before releasing them. His hand, still on her belly, slid upward passing over hers and curved around one full velvet-tipped mound. “Beautiful,” he whispered against her mouth as he let go to shift his hold, arms reeling her in for a series of soft, wet kisses.

A soft sigh sounded against his lips and when Cordy’s arms wrapped around him again, Angel could feel her relax into him. Perhaps he’d caught her off-guard, but this time, she’d dropped her playfully aggressive game. Their lazy kisses and soft caresses stoked the fire still smoldering within. When his renewed arousal stirred against her thigh, it was only natural for her to shift beneath him, to open herself up to the need building between them.

One smooth thrust brought them together, but this was different than before. Far more intimate in its gentility than the rabid passion that drove them both to that first climax. Angel reeled at her touch as her palms stroked down his back. The way she kissed him now felt so warm, so full of the softer emotions she’d hidden from him before. His body expressed what he could not find in words to say.

No warning came. Angel clenched in sudden pain, still in the midst of making love to her when it happened. He pushed away, stumbling from the bed, his arousal fading as he clutched his chest. A bright glow burst from within, surrounding him in its blinding light.

“Oh my God!” Cordelia stared in horror as she watched him collapse to the floor. The look on her face devastated Angel, but then it dawned on him that she had every right to be afraid. He felt it too as pain frayed every nerve, almost missing her whispered, “I gave in. I let it happen.”

Struggling to his feet, he waved Cordy off as she reached out despite the danger, flinching from her touch. “Get away from me,” he growled, afraid for her more than he was for himself.

Angel fought it with everything he had not knowing whether will alone would stall the change. All he knew was that when it happened, he needed to be as far away from Cordelia as possible. Snatching his scattered clothing from the floor at his feet, Angel leapt out the bedroom window onto the fire escape, still naked, and disappeared into the night.

***

Left behind, Cordelia stared at the open window, listening to the blurred sound of distant traffic. Drained of energy, stunned by all that had happened, trembling in shock, she curled up in the center of the bed, tugged the sheet up to her chin and forcibly held back her tears.

Chapter 9

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