Season of Solace. 78

78:     The Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale

Cordelia waited for Angel to end the phone call before asking, “What’s wrong with Buffy’s house?”

Not that she wanted to stay there. She just found it very interesting that Angel would tell Giles she preferred to stay at the mansion without actually asking her preference on the matter. The muscle at his jaw twitched, his hands curling around the steering wheel a little tighter before he glanced in her direction.

Though she was expecting one of his adorable stuttering responses that proved he actually had an inner dork, Angel’s intense gaze foreshadowed what was to come. “I’m not letting you out of my sight tonight.” Cordelia raised an eyebrow as he ground out, “Maybe not until this is over.”

Since she couldn’t face the thought of going back to Bev’s place anytime soon, it was hardly necessary to argue about it. Angel seemed strangely tense and a little growlier than she was used to. The creepy mansion was not exactly the lap of luxury, but Angel would be there. That made all the difference.

Changing the subject, she asked about Faith, having overheard the conversation, or at least his side of it. When he gave her a brief explanation, Cordelia was not sure what she felt, if anything. Faith had taken the blame for Bev’s death.

Numbly, she stared out the window at the rows of houses along Oak Park Street. “Faith was arrested?”

“Apparently, she confessed.” Angel heard the confusion in her voice and tried to keep his steady. “The police took her into custody.”

She said nothing until Angel turned the DeSoto onto the circular driveway leading up to the mansion. “This sucks,” Cordy muttered as the car came to a halt. Her eyes glitterd in the moonlight. “When did I get sucked into hell? I don’t deserve such a crappy life.”

Having no answer for her, Angel had to watch as she scrambled blindly for the car door handle, pushing it open to escape onto the drive. He shared her turmoil, felt helpless against her tears, and that only riled him up again. Pocketing the car keys, Angel followed as she ran barefoot toward the front steps, her hair and long skirt billowing behind her.

Reaching the door, Cordelia pressed her hand against it, leaning into it until her forehead touched its solid surface. Even on the cobblestone drive, she could not hear Angel’s approach, but the weight of his stare fell heavily just the same. It forced her to pull herself together. No way was she going to act like a whining ninny. Her little outburst just then— there would be no repeats.

“You hurt your feet.” She barely noticed the sting of the pebbles cutting into her skin, but it was apparently enough to draw blood.

Cordelia glanced down, but saw nothing except her bare toes peeking out under the gown. “It’s nothing.”

Nevertheless, it was not long before she was seated on the edge of Angel’s bed with the vampire crouching in front of her. With a soft wet cloth, he gently wiped the surface of her foot washing away traces of the factory floor and cleaning the tiny cuts made by the broken cobblestones. Cordelia leaned back, watching as he set the foot down and moved his attention to the other.

The massaging motions of his thumb while rubbing her foot started to seem a lot less like cleaning with every passing second. Angel was not even looking up at her, just attending to his task. The tingles his touch created left her hot and flushed.

“That’s good,” Cordelia almost moaned and pulled her foot out of Angel’s grasp. Quickly correcting, “Um, that’s enough. I’m sure I won’t get gangrene.”

Angel walked over to the open bathroom door. He tossed the washcloth into a small basket hidden behind a cabinet door and then turned to the sink to wash his hands. Suddenly intrigued by such a mundane task, Cordelia walked over to lean against the doorframe, watching him.

She leaned in further when she caught sight of the mirror, noticing his lack of reflection. He stood there drying his hands on a small towel that seemed to be floating in midair in the mirror. Intrigued, having never really paid attention to it before, Cordelia stepped up beside him turning so her bottom rested against the edge of the counter.

Cordelia traced her fingers across his jaw noting the smooth skin beneath her fingertips. “How do you shave without a reflection?”

He caught her roving fingers bringing them to his mouth for a lingering kiss that did more to distract her than her own curiosity. Every little touch seemed to make her simmer and the way he looked at her made Cordy shudder with want. Only it was bad to think about having his hands on her again. Right now was not the time. She felt guilty about how easily he could turn her on even at a time like this.

Angel seemed to be of the same mind. Though he leaned in close, releasing her fingers to let his own travel across her wrist to follow the line of her arm, he did not claim her mouth. “I’ve had years of practice.”

“Was that your sexy voice again?” Cordelia teased and turned back toward the mirror. Only this time, she noticed her own reflection. “Ack! Earlier, when I asked if I looked like I’d been crying, and you actually told me yes, you failed to mention that I also looked like Cruella de Vil.”

Most of the swelling had gone now and there were only a few visible tearstains. “Who?” Angel stood by to hand her the towel as she rinsed her face.

“Never mind,” Cordelia muttered something about puppy killers into the towel, which she tossed into the sink. “I feel crappy and grungy and want to take a shower.”

Angel started to back out of the bathroom. “The towels—,” he pointed toward a cabinet.

“I’ll find them.”

His gaze dropped down to her bosom as it bounced just a tiny bit as she moved toward him. “What about—?”

“Things are a little too breezy under this dress,” Cordelia cut in. “So I hope you don’t mind if I rifle through your drawers. There has to be something I can wear to bed.” Not that she imagined being able to sleep for the next… maybe, ever.

Cordelia was thinking along the lines of grabbing one of Angel’s shirts, or a t-shirt and some boxer shorts. That is if he owned any. They had not actually gotten to the point that she knew those details. Boxers, briefs, or—

“Hey, buster, eyes in,” Cordelia poked at his chest as she forced him to move out of the bathroom. Just because she had implied she was not wearing any panties did not mean Angel had to be such a guy about it and try out the old x-ray vision routine.

He did not go far. Angel cupped her chin in his hand before planting a soft smooch on her lips when she least expected it. “Take what you want,” he dropped his hand, but did not move away. “There’s a bathrobe behind the door. I’ll just go check—”

“No, don’t,” Cordelia hastily grasped his wrist to stop him from leaving. “Wait here. It’s stupid, but I’ve got these creepy slasher movie thoughts going on in my head.”

Angel pointed out the lack of windows in the bathroom. “There’s no way anyone can get in there. You’re safe.”

“I know,” she shrugged. “I told you it was stupid.”

“It’s not. You’ve been through a lot tonight,” Angel took her in his arms again for a moment trying to sooth her frazzled nerves while hoping that having her there would serve to quiet his own.

Ever since he had found her safe at the factory, it was all Angel could do not to imprint himself on every inch of her. She had been threatened, and taken from him— even if it turned out that his own childe had managed to steal her from harm’s way. Cordelia was bereft, in need of some tenderness and understanding, comfort that he badly wanted to be able to provide.

Each touch demanded more. He wanted to protect her, cherish her and show her that she was not alone in this evil world, but those tender feelings were in a tug of war with the possessive, sexual urges tethered within. The last thing she needed right now was to be touched by the deep-rooted instincts that ate at his soul.

Unwilling to reveal his inner struggles, and wanting to shield her from it, too, Angel took a step back, forcing himself to let go of her warm body. A little sound emerged from her throat in protest. Angel summoned up a promise from the depths of his heart. “I’m here for you, Cordy.”

“Then why are you so far away?”

Angel did not have much of an answer to that. Telling her that he was getting aroused by the scent of her tears and traces of spattered blood on her skin would probably not make her feel at ease around him. He wanted her to trust him, needed her to feel safe.

Confused, she reached out a hand to reel him back into her space. The simple action made him sweat a little. Touching her hand made him think of other touchable parts draped in soft pink chiffon. He wanted to rip it away. Enjoy the sound of it tearing as he revealed those temptingly soft curves and hidden valleys. From there it was all too easy to imagine what else he wanted that had nothing to do with his promise in her hospital room to keep her safe.

Kiss. Taste. Possess.

What he wanted was dangerous and he knew it, but could not stop his desire any more than he could have prevented that meteor from falling from the sky. Angel let her hand slide across his palm, enjoying the gentle squeeze as she threaded her fingers with his.

“Want to know something crazy?” she asked erasing the distance between them. Angel already felt like he had gone a little mad after the events of the night, and needed some distraction from the lustful turn of his thoughts. He gave his assent with a nod.

Standing on her bare tiptoes, her soft lips brushing against the edge of his jaw, Cordelia whispered a startling confession into his ear. “You make me so horny, Angel. I want you so much.”

That was his Cordelia without a doubt, giving nothing less than the unvarnished truth no matter how inappropriate. Those same desires pulsed straight to his groin, causing him to breathe raggedly in some kind of reflexive way. Somehow, he managed to speak, in spite of the croak in his throat, “That’s not crazy. I want you, too.”

The soft lips he wanted to kiss formed a circle of surprise, as if she never expected him to say it. “Oh. That’s good.” A brilliant smile lit her face for a moment before some stray thought got in the way. “Too bad our timing really sucks, huh?”

The words echoed: horny, want you, sucks.

Angel nearly lost it as the image flashed through his head in colorful detail of Cordelia on her knees at his feet, one warm hand on his bare thigh, the other gently squeezing his balls as she enthusiastically sucked him off. Just as quickly, he tried to scrub the image away, reminding himself that she was a virgin and he was cursed.

Raking his hand across his mouth only brought Cordelia’s scent where he could taste it. He stared at her intensely, his jaw muscle twitching, saying nothing in response to her rhetorical question that was not all too obvious.

Backing toward the bathroom door, Cordelia kept watching him, staring boldly into his eyes, and making him wonder at her thoughts. As if the minx knew something that he did not and was teasing him with it. That was a dangerous tactic, but he liked it even if it pissed him off.

One step away, Angel pressed his hands into the doorframe instead of taking hold of her. Gazing down at her from his taller vantage point, he focused first on the mouth he wanted to plunder. Watching as the pink tip of her tongue scraped along the seam of it, he subconsciously mimicked the action, licking his lips. Jesus, he wanted to tangle his fingers in her hair, fisting it tight in his grasp, and drag her to her toes.

Before he could act on the impulse, Cordelia flashed him another grin, saying, “Later,” just as she shut the door in his face.

Scene 79

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