“Let me get this straight,” Angel stood in front of Drusilla who was now seated in the lounge surrounded by the rest of the group. “You want my protection.”
How the hell was he supposed to refuse? He owed her for coming through for Cordy. Dru had saved her during that demon attack, gotten her to safety. Any other time Angel would have expected jealousy, but his childe seemed to have an agenda of her own.
Dark bruises and scrapes covered her face and arms. They were healing, but there were many of them. Anger ripped through him. “Against what? Tell me who did this to you.” The rough edge to his voice had the others looking nervous, but he did not care. He wanted answers.
Unfortunately, Drusilla was more evasive than usual. She spoke in riddles describing a wolf and its mate who chased the darkness, played with the sun, and hungered for power. “You do not know them as they know you.”
Whoever was responsible was linked to the attack and to this prophecy. Dru knew far more than she had let on. It had never been easy to tell just how much she understood and what was her own whimsical fantasy. Now she had come here looking for help just when they were trying to create a safe place for everyone.
Xander had led Dru right to them. Though it was likely that she already knew Angel was here, he had let her through the front door. It had already occurred to him that there would be no barrier against vampires. That was one of the spells he had been discussing with Willow and the watchers. Though Cordelia was here, along with the others, the mansion was technically not her home.
Just the thought of her caused Angel to glance her way. Cordelia was pacing in front of the fireplace arguing softly with Faith over the idea of trusting Drusilla. Neither of the slayers wanted the vampiress anywhere near the mansion. It did not matter that she had saved Cordelia’s life—only that she was soulless, evil and prone to enthralling anyone in her path.
Speaking of which, Angel had to make it clear that was not permitted. “Dru, release Xander from the thrall. No mind games.”
Drusilla pouted prettily while Xander plumped her pillows obviously liking the extra attention. The boy paused to tell him, “That’s stupid. I know what I’m doing,” before perching on the arm of her chair.
Reluctantly, Dru agreed to do as Angel commanded. She stared deeply into Xander’s eyes, whispered a few words and sat back to watch. The utter adoration and trust on his face turned to horror as he realized that he was practically offering her his neck. Leaping to his feet in a panic, he quickly backed away.
“Get hold of yourself,” Faith jerked him to a standstill. “You’re fine. It’s not like she kept you around as a snack.”
Angel would not have ruled that out as a possibility. This was Drusilla, after all. She was still a hunter at heart. Getting her to understand that the people living here were not potential meals might be difficult. He considered what he would have to do to get her to convert to his diet of pig blood. Even on a temporary basis that was next to impossible.
When he announced that he was going to offer Dru sanctuary, the expected protests erupted. He was relieved that Cordelia supported his decision, yet understood the fact that she seemed wary about it. The watchers were reserved, but wanted to gain access to what knowledge she might possess about the prophecy. Knowing that she could not be fully trusted, they proposed limits on her freedom to move about the mansion.
There was one other thing that needed to be cleared up. “Where is Spike?” If Dru had been alone when she was attacked, her wayward childe might be doing anything from playing a round of kitten poker to staging a massacre.
Angel managed to pry out the fact that Spike was a prisoner. The news galvanized him into action. He moved toward the door already thinking of weapons and access into the factory. “We should move quickly,” Angel announced his decision. “We’ve got a chance to turn the tables on them. Get some real intel from an insider.”
They looked ready, eager for a fight even though it meant saving Spike of all people. Angel caught Cordelia’s determined gaze. She wanted this, too. Anything that might end this threat. Something that would lead her to finding Bev’s killer.
Instantly, the heated rush that swept through him at the thought of battle cooled. He did not want Cordelia in the middle of it, but it was not safe here at the mansion yet. Their defenses were not fully ready. Dru was in the building. And he would be leaving them to go after someone who might already know to come here.
“I’ll go alone.”
“What if you’re walking into a trap?” Cordelia grabbed his hand holding him in place.
Angel cupped the back of her head, pressed his lips against her forehead despite the gawking audience. “Then you’ll be safe here with the others. If Spike talks, they’ll know to come here. The rest of you need to keep working on those defenses. Get Willow started on those spells.”
“I’m on it,” Willow promised.
Giles suggested that he take one of the slayers along, but Angel refused. This plan was better anyway. He would do this on his own. There would be no one there to hold him back.
Thousand Oaks Drive, Westbound Lane, Central Sunnydale
Though the sounds of the night screamed for attention Angel tuned them out. The roar of the engine, night air whipping across the metal car frame, and voices carried by the wind faded from his notice. Driving as if on automatic pilot, he saw the way forward, but his thoughts were neither on the road nor his destination.
It was not the mission ahead that kept him distracted. The rescue plan was simple: no plan at all. He would deal with the details when he got there. Even then, he was more concerned about what to do with Spike after the rescue. Bringing him back to the mansion when two Slayers were in residence would be like tossing a match into a keg of gunpowder.
With Cordelia’s life still in danger, Angel did not need that kind of distraction. None of them did.
But it was going to happen.
He owed a debt to his childe for saving Cordelia. If it were not for Dru’s involvement, rescuing Spike would be his last concern. After all, it was not that long ago Spike tried to kill him. Letting him get what was coming to him might have been tempting, but that was water under the bridge now. If Drusilla had not acted on visions Angel guessed had to do with his future— and Cordelia’s, he knew Spike would not have been a target.
Spike’s rescue had become his duty. He swore to get it done. He owed Dru. Besides, whoever had him was trying to track down Cordelia through Spike’s relationship with Dru. That was someone Angel wanted to get his hands on. If there was any chance of finding out who was behind all of this, he had to take it.
He wanted answers. Wanted to stop whoever was behind this whole scheme. Ensure Cor’s safety.
Then he could graciously kick his guests out of the mansion. A little time alone with Cordelia was not really too much to ask. For now, privacy was not going to be easy. Having the Scoobies around gave Cordelia an excuse to avoid certain subjects that they needed to discuss. Sometimes he caught her staring at him with some unfathomable look on her face that filled him with dread.
She would blow it all off if he questioned her. Making it seem like he was imagining it all, “Like you don’t have enough to brood about already?” After a patented eye roll, she would just put it down to indigestion. Patting her stomach dramatically, “I wasn’t the one who put Xander in charge of the cooking.”
What the hell was so important to keep secret? Angel knew her well enough to back off for a while, but he worried that she had reservations about him or their future as a couple. Whatever it was the idea of him finding out about it scared her. He could sense that much. Dru had been typically vague. Cryptic messages were the norm for her, but this was the first time that Angel really cared about their ultimate meaning.
Maybe the fear he sensed was just his own and his own doubts were getting in the way. Thinking about Cordy roused powerful feelings. Too many of them. Just like the clamor of the night coming at him all at once without the ability to ignore; because it was not just his soul responding, but his demon, too.
Unlike his relationship with Buffy where his human love tangled with demonic hatred and an obsessive drive to destroy any hint of tender emotion, Angel’s love for Cordy garnered no inner opposition, maybe because the soul was permanently tethered now. Sometimes he and his demon were a little too much in tune. It built into a deep sense of love and lust, passion and possessiveness, and a deep-seated desire to wreck havoc on anyone who threatened her.
The steering column creaked as Angel’s grip tightened. Stepping on the gas, he sped through the Main Street crossroads ignoring the sharp blaring horns and screeching tires. Quick reflexes made maneuvering the Plymouth through the traffic easy. He barely spared a conscious thought for it letting his mind wander back to the moment they had said goodbye.
Even now, the taste of Cordelia’s kiss lingered on his lips, the warm imprint of her hand on his cheek still palpable. Angel recalled the concern clouding her lingering gaze as she had stepped back to let him leave. This was something he had to do. She knew it and let him go without further argument.
Cordelia had waited until he was in the car to say, “Come back in one piece. I don’t do the Florence Nightingale routine.”
Angel had immediately recognized the tone. Saw through it. Sensed the way Cordy tried to hide her fear. This was not the first time he had noticed that she tended to distance herself from anything that might hit too close to home by lashing out with that caustic tongue. Her inner bitch, as she called it, was as much of a shield as it was a source of strength. He was beginning to see that Cordelia cared a lot more about things than she let on.
Despite admitting her feelings for him and being so responsive to his lovemaking, Cordy still put up barriers between them. Those things she kept to herself. Though she gave herself to him so eagerly, trusting in him completely when they were in each other’s arms, there was a point where she held back. He did not fully understand what he was sensing. Only that Drusilla’s vision was at the bottom of it.
There was something more that she left unrevealed. Whatever it was bothered Cordy enough to keep it secret. And that pissed him off. He did not like surprises. It was not like Cor to hold her tongue about anything—or so he thought. Getting to know her was a constant revelation. Every day he discovered new depths, but this propensity for keeping things from him definitely needed to stop.
This was about the future, presumably their future together. He did not like the fact that it frightened her enough to hide it.
Faster than he thought possible, she had invaded his soul, seeped deep into his pores, into his very being. It was still early in their relationship. Caught up in the discovery of being in love, it was far too soon to expect Cordy to understand the depths of his need for her. That it was not just human emotion that bound them together.
Being with a vampire meant she was in for more than just nights of energetic sex. It was also about possession: for a night or forever. What Cordy could not know was that it was already too late. Heart and soul, he loved her, but in the shadowy depths where his demonic urges were constantly restrained, Angel fought a losing battle.
He was beginning to understand what it must have been like for his sire who had defied the Master to stay with Angelus. Darla was truly obsessed with her ‘stallion’ sticking with him through his bloody escapades and countless infidelities, giving her childe power over her that was in many ways surprising. Until the gypsy curse changed him. That was too much, even for her.
Comparing his love for Cordelia to Darla’s obsession seemed twisted, but this was far more than infatuation. She was the most human person he knew. No one accepted him for who he was like Cordy did, both the human and demon aspects. She had a healthy respect for the dangerous side of him, but wasn’t about to let it frighten her. Now that the loophole in his curse had been closed, there was nothing to fear from Angelus.
For the first time in ages, Angel was starting to think of himself as one person again and not two disparate halves of a whole. Doing so came with complications. He was listening more to tempting thoughts he might have once pushed out of his mind. The instinct to claim Cordelia by vampiric custom grew stronger with every moment spent together. Just thinking about it twisted him in knots.
Putting his claim on her meant releasing his tight control, letting the demon within him loose long enough to make its mark, trusting himself to do it without getting carried away by lustful whims or sadistic urges.
Reining all that back in was never easy, but doing so when she was in his arms might prove impossible. Oh, the things his demonic side would love to do if there were no restraints. Angel gripped the steering wheel and growled low in his throat. The idea of letting that side of him touch Cordelia in any way repulsed him, but every time he looked at her it was there in his thoughts.
Do it. Just let it happen. You know you will.
Being apart only made it worse. Even now, instead of focusing on the mission ahead, Angel pictured how it might happen. Unable to get Cordelia out of his head, he stopped fighting it. He dreamt up dozens of scenarios all of which ended with his mark visible on her throat.
They were making love…
Eyes closed in ecstasy, Cordelia wrapped her arms around him, holding on to his broad shoulders. Fingernails dug into his flesh as her pleas urged him on. “Make me yours, Angel. I want you forever.” He slid inside her tight heat and tried to give her just that. In full control, he tempered her wild streak slowing things down to let them both savor every second of it.
Nuzzling the smooth column of her neck, he kissed her pulse point tasting the warm skin beneath the velvet of his tongue. Cordelia quivered with her second—no, third, orgasm before Angel made his move. Desire licked low and hard as he kept a steady rhythm, gentle, almost lazy in the way his body thrust into hers.
Angel gazed deep into her trusting eyes. “You’re mine.” An eager purr of agreement sounded he opened his mouth over her throat. Sliding his fangs deep, he marked her as his own.
He was capable of tenderness and gentility, but wondered if it was possible to remain in total control of his instincts. Making love to Cordy was the one thing that seemed to make him lose it. Could he ever maintain that much control? The word ‘impossible’ came to mind. Being honest about it, the odds were not good.
This was not just some deluded fantasy to him. Angel realized he was thinking about it as if it was going to happen. The need to claim her was rooted too deep inside him to ignore.
Cordelia’s cooperation was another issue. The act itself was not painless. By design, it was a sensitive area. Visible scars were not exactly her favorite subject though this one would be her choice. His only hope was to distract her long enough to lessen the sting of his fangs.
Planning ahead, gaining her acceptance, managing to maintain a tight hold on his instincts. Some things were just meant to happen when they happened. Maybe this was one of those things. The only way that particular scenario would play out was if Cordelia knew and fully accepted what the mark would mean.
That meant not only finding the courage to explain what he wanted, but risking her negative response. He did not think she was ready to make that kind of commitment, which suggested he should not do it.
Knowing that did not exactly mean he could stop it from happening. Without getting her consent, Angel knew there would be hell to pay. Yet, the thought of just doing it had considerable appeal. Once it was done, she would learn to accept it.
They were arguing…
As usual, Cordy thought she had the upper hand just because she was doing most of the talking. Pulse racing, fiery-eyed and confident, she was too tempting to resist. They were in the alley behind the Bronze. Some half-drunk punk had not been able to keep his hands off her and ended up on the floor with a mouthful of loose teeth. She had not wanted a scene.
“I was handling it.”
Angel figured the guy had been doing most of the handling. It was not a trust issue. He knew Cordy’s loyalties were with him. This was not just an issue of jealousy. It had to do with the simple fact that another man had touched what was his.
That was just too much for the primitive part of his brain that was obsessed with her every breath. Without thinking about the consequences, he walked her back until she was trapped between him and the brick wall of the Bronze. Cordelia continued to mouth off at him, adding that his caveman behavior was a real turnoff.
She was lying about that one.
He pinned her wrists to the brick. No words. No explanation. No warning. A shake of his head as his features shifted, a flash of fangs and it was done before she had time to take a deep breath. Angel released her wrists, gentling her with his hands as her hot blood filled his mouth. He lapped at the wounds sealing his scent deep into in the flesh, a sign to others that she belonged to him.
Especially overly friendly ex-boyfriends.
A slow smirk slid across his mouth. He could definitely see it happening that way. Cordelia could rile him up inside faster than anyone he knew, but she stoked his lust at the same time. That was a dangerous combination. It took a lot of restraint to hold off on the urge to use his hands when they argued.
Touching her in the middle of a fight would be too much of a temptation. Angel did not want it to happen that way even though the idea gave his demon a thrill. He wanted Cordelia to be completely aware of what that mark meant and willing to accept it.
They were patrolling…
The thrill of the kill coursed through him as Angel stood over the dead body of the Crosathnam mercenary. He would not threaten anyone ever again, much less harm Cordelia. The loud crunch of bone as Angel had twisted its neck was satisfying.
Having Cordy watch as he used his strength and skill to protect her was a turn-on. Angel could tell she felt the same. Flushed with excitement, “You looked so hot doing that,” she lifted her mouth for his kiss.
“You’re mine,” Angel stroked her cheek feeling the heat bloom across her skin. “I’d never let anything hurt you.”
Their bodies crashed together like a pair of magnets. He ate out her mouth, stole her breath until she had no choice but to pull away for air. A long hot stare followed and he could see the want in her eyes, scent her arousal. His cock was like an iron bar tenting his pants. She slid her hand across it and gripped him hard.
It was all they could do to get back to the car. Parked on the far side of the cemetery it was secluded. Not that either of them cared about an audience just then. Their bed was just too far away.
Cordelia climbed into the back seat of the Plymouth and eagerly beckoned to him to follow. “C’mon, Angel,” she dragged him down next to her.
Straddling him, Cordy’s heat centered on his erection giving him a spontaneous little lap dance that fired them up even more. He unbuttoned her blouse in record time, stripping it away, and reaching up to cup her lace-covered breasts in his palms. She shuddered at the sensation of his tongue dipping into her cleavage, and let out a moan of want when he pushed the lace out of the way to toy with a nipple.
They did not bother to get naked. That took too much time and they both wanted this now. He yanked her skirt out of the way while Cordy fumbled with his zipper. Angel let out a low grunt as her soft hand closed around his shaft. He reached down to tug her panties aside.
Slowly taking him in, she muttered, “You’re so big this way.” Angel guided Cordelia’s hips down until he was fully sheathed. He kissed her lips softly, instructed her to ride him and guided her into a rhythm that nearly blew the top off his head.
He was close, so damn close to coming. Angel needed more, needed to fill her to the brim, pour himself inside her. More, he needed to taste her, to mark her to show the world that Cordelia was truly his. She was so beautiful, his completely, riding him to ecstasy with her head thrown back, eyes shut tight as she gripped his shoulders for support. All his.
When his mouth lingered at her throat and the teasing nibbles caught her attention, Cordy showed no surprise, only acceptance. Caressing his face, she nuzzled her neck closer, her hand sliding around to run her fingers through the hair at his nape. “Don’t stop. I want it.”
There was no hesitation on either side, just love and acceptance.
Snapping out of his thoughts, Angel realized that he was getting aroused. Cordelia was not even here and he was ready for her. Lately, he felt like a walking hormone around her. All it took was a glance from across the room. Stolen kisses and touches only teased them both.
Angel felt annoyed that the Scoobies were here during this stage of his relationship with Cordy. He longed for nights where it was just the two of them. He missed their time alone together, even when it was just out on patrol. Remembering that trip to the deli where she’d fed him French fries, it reminded Angel just how different he was with her around.
When this was over, he would have to talk to Cordy about it. Let her know just what she meant to him. He hoped to hell that it did not scare her because her fear was not going to stop it from happening one way or the other. Angel wanted his mark on her, to lay claim to her in a visible and permanent way.
He was in deep and knew it.
Angel wanted to go deeper still. Make fantasy a reality in whatever form it would take to make it happen. Tie her to him in ways she would not really understand or might find shocking.
Hell, it was shocking for him. Angel had never claimed a woman like that. Not even Buffy. Vampires took mates, but rarely human ones. Those relationships tended to be one-sided, the woman being more of a concubine, little more than a slave to the whim of her lover. That certainly was not what Angel envisioned when he thought of claiming Cordelia.
The future was too uncertain. Angel knew that he wanted Cordelia, loved her more than he thought possible, and wanted her by his side. Getting her through this crisis was his primary focus, but the temptation of planning beyond it stirred up new hopes.
Anything resembling a hope for happiness was usually dashed by an influx of guilt. He did not deserve it, but that was not going to stop him from reaching out to hold on to it as long as possible. That meant keeping Cordelia safe, and keeping his mouth shut about wanting to make an official claim.
She was about to bury her grandmother. The last thing Cordy needed right now was a possessive vampire hovering over her every move, fantasizing about blood rights and mating rituals.
Angel did nothing to suppress his angry growl letting it roll around deep in his chest. Thinking about it that way trivialized the powerful emotions he was feeling. There was nothing insignificant or meaningless about wanting to claim Cordelia. It meant everything. If only he could make her understand that.
They were on a moonlit beach…
The moon overhead was nearly full and bright as it hit the water along the dockside. Angel had to shake off the temptation of thinking up another scenario. He had arrived at his destination.
When slowing the Plymouth to a stop, the sounds Angel had blocked out rushed to his ears. Reality slammed into him full force. Seagulls squawked overhead. Waves washed along the ragged shoreline, rusted old barges and the warped pylons along the wharf. Hinges creaked on the old warehouse doors. Nothing out of the ordinary immediately drew his attention—until a scream of pure agony echoed through the canyon of metal buildings.
Instant recognition hit: Spike.
With a single motion, Angel bounded from the car leaping over the passenger side door. Vamping out before his feet hit the ground, he felt his facial bones shift, fangs extend, and his body become denser. He crouched low, eyes shifting from ground to building looking for the best path from here to the factory.
The screaming was a good sign. It meant this was not going to be a wasted trip. Spike was still alive to be rescued. More importantly, it meant the one who captured him had not left yet. Drusilla had described vampires, and not the Crosathnam demon that had originally been after them.
It was possible that this cadre of vampires were the ones who had hired the demon in the first place. Either way, one of them was certain to have more information about Cordelia’s part in this prophecy, and Angel was determined to get it.