The cobblestones crackled under the tires as the Plymouth slowly made its way up the winding drive. A small figure darted directly into the path ahead. Standing just outside the range of the headlights she was close enough to make out her familiar silhouette. Angel applied the brakes bringing the car to a halt.
Over the idling rumble of the engine, Buffy’s voice sounded out from the shadows. “What’s he doing here?”
Spike let out a laugh. “Lookee what we got here. Buffy Summers. If you’ve come to beat me to a bloody pulp, you’re a bit late for that,” he called out.
“What did I tell you about not baiting the Slayers?” Angel softly growled a warning, reminding Spike to behave. “Don’t make me regret bringing you here any more than I already do.”
“She’s either the welcoming party—or the solution to your problem. Might as well enjoy it if she plans to have her way with me while I’m weak and helpless.”
Angel did not bother to respond. With that mouth on him, Spike was likely to meet the wrong end of a stake before long and he was not entirely opposed to having a front row seat.
Approaching from the periphery, Buffy walked over to the passenger side, her eyes widening as she got a good look at Spike. Bloody and battered, he was a mass of dark bruises, scrapes and gashes. “Who did this?”
It sounded more like curiosity than genuine concern, but Spike twisted it to his own liking. “Jealous, luv? I’ve been having a little fun with another blonde.”
Ugh. Buffy glared at him in disgust. He was out of his mind, but Spike was not the only one who needed his head examined. “Angel, you better get him outta here.”
Buffy still was not used to Angel having his own opinions. She guessed he had always had them, but he used to let her have her way. That had all changed now that Cordelia was his girlfriend. She did not know who or what was to blame for the changes in his whole personality, whether it was his trip to hell, his permanent soul, or if new girlfriend was just rubbing off on him. God, it hurt just thinking about it. Whatever the cause, she did not like it.
Before choking up, Buffy quipped, “Then he’s your problem. See you inside.” Neither one of them had a chance to respond. She darted straight down the driveway in the direction of the house.
“The chit is gonna spoil your surprise,” said Spike watching her run.
Angel took his foot off the brake and kept going. Surprise was not exactly the right word for it. By the time they stopped in front of the mansion, everyone was filing out the front door except for Buffy who had apparently seen enough. Automatically, he scanned the group for Cordelia finding her leaning casually against the threshold. Cordy hung back watching him from her elevated position at the top of the steps.
One look caught him up in a swift surge of possessiveness. Seeing her waiting there for him, hazel eyes full of love and concern. All of his earlier fantasies flooded back causing a heavy ache in his loins, his cock rubbing against the crease of his pants as it stiffened to thoughts of her touch. Christ, he wanted her.
Holding perfectly still Angel savored the way her skin flushed subtly under his gaze as if she knew the direction of his thoughts. He focused on her lips as they spread into a slow smile imagining their softness, anticipating the kiss he would give her when he got up there. Spike’s arrival necessitated that he temporarily put aside personal indulgences, which he would. Any second now.
Dragging his eyes away from Cordelia’s, he noticed Giles’ mouth seemed to be moving. “Oh, for God’s sake, man, have you not heard a word?”
No, he had not. His grip on the steering wheel tightened as he realized the extent of his distraction. “I…”
“Took a few blows to the head,” Spike pointed a thumb in his direction by way of an explanation. “Let the kitten fix him up with a bit of TLC and he’ll be right as rain.” He sent Cordelia a wink with the one eye that was not swollen shut.
Standing next to the car, Willow glanced from one vampire to the other. “Looks like you need it more.”
“You volunteering, Red?”
She gulped loudly and then squeaked, “No.”
Wesley put a reassuring hand on Willow’s shoulder. He had gotten to know her a little bit better over the past few hours, having been working closely with her on a few mystical defenses for the mansion.
Knowing where Spike fell in the ranks of Clan Aurelius, he addressed his words directly to Angel. “I caution you to reconsider this action,” Wesley beseeched him.
Bringing Drusilla here, a highly unstable vampire, was dangerous enough. Adding Spike to the mix would only add to their problems. Though it appeared the younger vampire was riddled with injuries, it was only a matter of time before they healed. “You know all too well the kind of damage these two can inflict.”
Nudging past him, Drusilla bent over the passenger door to inspect Spike’s wounds. She licked at the blood in between kisses. “Let mummy take care of you. I promise to make it all better.”
Angel ignored them. Informing the watcher, “I’m counting on it.”
Still seated and waiting for his erection to subside, Angel ensured that the flap of his coat covered the evidence of his arousal. He was not certain if Spike had tried to cover for his lapse of concentration or if he was just taking an opportunity to comment on his relationship with Cordelia.
Most of the group seemed surprised that Angel planned to use the other vampires to his advantage. “We can use Spike’s strength and Drusilla’s visions. I’ll take any advantage I can get if it means protecting Cordy and putting a stop to Nicolau’s scheme.”
The name distracted Drusilla from tending to Spike. She hissed, “Nasty man. He has poor Miss Edith.”
“Nicolau,” Wesley rolled the name over on his tongue. “The name sounds familiar.”
Giles’ jaw tightened up, realizing the reason for such familiarity. He had questions for Angel, but this was not the most appropriate venue for them. “I suggest we continue this elsewhere. Faith, please escort Spike to his room and make certain he remains there.”
“It’s B’s turn. I’m supposed to be a vampire slayer, not a vampire sitter.”
Emerging slowly from the car, Spike joked through the pain, “Come closer. I’ll show you where to sit.”
Without a blink, Faith jabbed her elbow into his ribs. Spike grunted, doubling over and spitting blood. Just as fast, Drusilla backhanded Faith sending her reeling a step before regaining her balance. The Slayer lifted a hand to her lower lip dragging a hand across it, coming away with blood smeared across her knuckle and forefinger.
Through the white rage that flared up inside her, she heard Cordelia call out, “Faith, stop playing around and come inside.”
“Aw, c’mon, Cor. I was just getting warmed up.” Faith smirked and considered giving Drusilla something to think about. She took a step closer.
“That’s enough!” Angel leapt over the side of the car and put himself between the two females. “This isn’t the time for insults or tempers. Faith, can you deal with this? No violence unless it’s warranted?”
She pressed her lips together, clearly not okay with it. Every instinct she had urged her to slip her stake from the waistband of her jeans and plunge it deep into Spike’s chest. She would save something special for Dru, the crazy freak. “Yeah, I can deal.”
“Dru, take care of Spike,” Angel ordered firmly reminding her of the fact that she had promised to behave. “I’ll send Xander up with some blood.”
Xander choked, “What? Why me? I’m not letting that thing near my neck.”
Behind him, Cordelia snorted, “Blood from the fridge, doofus.”
“Oh.” That sounded better to Xander. The idea of handling the container of pig blood was gross, but at least he was not going to be Spike’s midnight snack.
“We’ll need more,” Cordy caught Angel’s gaze reminding him that their supply was going to run out with three vampires in the house. “What about some O-neg takeout from Willy’s? Wouldn’t the real thing help with those wounds?”
Wesley looked impressed. “Excellent suggestion, Miss Chase.”
“Geez, how many times do I have to tell you to call me Cordelia?” She rolled her eyes at him and missed seeing the flush creep up his thin neck. “Or even Cor or Cordy, like my friends do.”
Clearing his throat, Angel gave Wesley a hard stare. He could not blame the watcher for being attracted to Cordy. She was beautiful, annoyingly charming, and could twist a man up in knots without even trying. But she was definitely taken and Angel had already discovered that he was the jealous type.
“That’s very kind of you… Cordy.”
Spike chuckled as he advised, “Better watch it, ponce,” and then winced in pain as Faith grabbed his arm to lead him toward the stairs.
“Three flights of stairs,” she smirked. “Four if you count these. Gonna make it or do you need me or mummy dearest to carry you?”
“Sod off,” Spike snagged his arm away. “I’ll do it.” He stared down at the first step and willed his legs to hold steady. “Bloody nerve you got, Slayer. Makes me feel all unwanted.”
He looked up at Cordelia as he said it, playing for a little sympathy. She liked vamps. One in particular. There was not a whiff of fear about her. And it would not hurt to get on the chit’s good side considering she was Angel’s little bed warmer.
Cordelia crossed her arms as she watched his approach. “Of course you’re unwanted, Spike, but come in anyway. Try not to bleed on the furniture.”
One by one, Drusilla, Spike and Faith filed past her followed by Xander who wrapped his hands around his own throat as if to say this was going to kill him. Cordy reached out to muss his hair. He yelped and jogged a couple of steps until he was out of her reach. Willow yawned, “Oz can take me to the butcher shop in the morning. He’s back from his gig in Braeswood.”
Scrunching her nose at the neighboring hometown of their rivals from Fondren High, Cordy huffed, “Like those blockheads have any taste in music—or anything else that matters.”
“History? Science?” asked Wesley in passing as he followed along behind Willow. He, too, paused long enough to get an answer.
“Duh, fashion taste.” Emphasis on stuff that matters, Cordelia decided to take it easy on him. He was kind of cute for a stuffy British guy. She flashed a little smile that made his jaw drop open a little. “Fondren’s cheerleading outfits are the essence of fugly.”
A heavy sigh sounded. Blocked from entering, Giles tapped on Wesley’s shoulder. “Do go in. Unfortunate designs in cheerleader fashion are not our chief concern.”
Cordelia frowned as she realized they were no longer her concern, either. She had to step down from her position as head cheerleader because of her father’s little financial fiasco. Now thanks to this stupid prophecy it was dangerous to go anywhere including school.
She put that thought out of her mind as her attention turned to Angel. “Are you planning to stay out there all night?” Below, leaning casually against the side of the car, Angel had waited until the others went back inside. Cordelia remained where she was, a sultry smile curving across her lips.
“Just picking my moment.” He pushed away from the car and walked toward her, too slowly for Cordelia’s liking. She had been waiting all of this time to hold him, show him that she missed him. Now the anticipation of it made her shiver.
The shadows shifted revealing more of his face as he came closer. A gasp caught in her throat. “You look— are you okay?”
“It’s nothing. A few scrapes.
Cordelia’s eyes narrowed as they traveled head to toe looking for any sign of further injury. She suspected the reason he had walked so slowly had less to do with teasing her than because he was in pain. “Just how bad are these scrapes, buster?”
She crossed her arms, glaring at him as she waited for the truth.
“They’ll heal, Cordy. Vampire,” he pointed at his chest, which earned him one raised brow.
“Don’t try to play tough with me. I know I said I wasn’t Florence Nightingale, but I’m not about to let my boyfriend walk around with festering wounds.” Making her point, she raised the second eyebrow and silently dared him to defy her.
Stepping closer, Angel felt his mouth twitch as he fought a smile. “I have to talk to the Watchers about what I discovered tonight. You should be there, too. Afterward, we can discuss what’ll make me feel better.”
Cordelia quietly stared at him just long enough to make him wonder if he had said the wrong thing. Maybe that had not sounded as sexy as it did in his head.
“If—if you want to,” he added, now worried that he made her uncomfortable.
Cordy took a step back. She shrugged one shoulder. Sounding far too indifferent for Angel’s liking, she said, “Maybe.”
Wanting to fix whatever he did wrong, Angel made a move toward her only to run into an invisible barrier. “What the—?”
“Guess it works on you, too,” Cordelia’s curiosity was almost satisfied. When Willow had finished casting the spell, she had informed her that it would only work if a human lived in residence at the mansion, and was not just visiting.
“Hello,” she recalled herself saying, “last time I checked you guys were human, too, with the possible exception of Buffy.”
“Don’t you mean Faith, too, because they’re both Slayers?”
Willow obviously missed her point. “No.”
She supposed that Spike getting through the barrier after her say so qualified him as test subject number two, the first being Drusilla after Willow first cast the spell. Now there was just Angel who was staring at her in a way that suggested he knew why she was suddenly freaking out. Apparently staying in your boyfriend’s mansion and rescuing your worldly belongings from plastic trash bags was not enough to qualify as actually living there.
Part of you had to believe that it was home.
“Are you going to invite me in?” His open hand pressed against the invisible energy barrier.
Two short steps brought her back to the threshold. Cordelia raised her hand and threaded her slender fingers through his. It made her vulnerable to any move he made, potentially allowing him to yank her outside, but he still couldn’t cross without her express consent.
“Welcome home, Angel. Come in.”
The moment the barrier vanished, he pulled her forward into his arms, their hands still connected. With an arm around her waist, he twirled them around once so they were back outside away from prying eyes. Angel had his back against the wall, leaning at a slight angle. Slipping his hand from her hip to shoulder blade, he brought them into full contact their bodies perfectly aligned.
Cordelia sighed against his lips, her warm breath coffee flavored. He kissed her, a soft sweep of his mouth across hers, and again as she opened up to the dip of his tongue, tasting, teasing its soft center enticing her to chase him.
She grasped his shoulders, held on, and squirmed against him because she could not get close enough. Wanting to touch his skin, even if it was just a few seconds of contact, she maneuvered her hand down his chest. She paused at the hard nub of his nipple, rubbing over it twice and eliciting a low groan from Angel who was kissing his way across her jaw toward the chord of her throat.
He rubbed his mouth against her pulse, and then opened up to drag his tongue and teeth across that spot. Her free hand cupped the nape of his neck. The other continued to tug the hem of his shirt out of his pants, skittering underneath to flatten her palm against him.
Tempted, her fingertips slipped downward reaching below his waistband just to touch the little curve of soft belly on his otherwise hard frame. Angel’s hips lurched forward crashing into hers. He felt so good. She wanted to be with him now, upstairs in their bed. Naked. Skin on skin. Just their hands, and mouths, and whatever he was doing that set her on fire.
“Where’d they go?” Willow called out their names, sounding closer and closer, acting like a bucket of ice water.
Angel pulled his head away from Cordy’s throat, dark eyes darting to the doorway. He was not about to move just yet even though common sense told him they needed to stop. Deep inside he felt the urge to keep going, let Willow get an eyeful so she would go away. Moving his hands to cup Cordelia’s face, he gave her one final quick kiss and set her back on her feet.
When Willow popped her head outside to look around, she found them standing two feet apart. Cordelia was no longer wore any lipgloss. Her formerly perfect hair was now in soft disarray. Clothes wrinkled. Standing with his back to her, Angel’s attention was at his waist—or somewhere below it.
Gaping as she realized what she had just interrupted, Willow felt heat flood her cheeks. She darted away so fast that Cordelia started to laugh, her grin spreading wide. “I guess we should go in.”
Angel finished tucking his shirt in and folded his leather coat closed before turning around. Growling softly in frustration he willed his body to relax again. He looked over at Cordy who was still smiling, hazel eyes twinkling, her mouth slightly swollen and the soft skin of her neck reddened. Maybe the interruption was a good thing considering where he might have taken it. He was not certain that tonight was the best time for added complications.
“Let’s go inside. I know who’s behind all of this,” Angel told her as he reached out to take her hand. “What’s more, I know why.”