The Dry Dock Ristorante and Oyster Bar’s name sounded more like a sailor’s dive than a five-star restaurant. The Who’s Who in Sunnydale simply called it Arturo’s after its long-term manager who retained just a touch of his native European accent. Outside of the Country Club, which remained members only, this was Sunnydale’s best. Classy, it came complete with penguin-suited waiters, mood music, fantastic service and a glorious view of the beach.
One end of the beach lay cloaked in darkness as it stretched out for half a mile along the coast while this area glowed day or night. The majority of local businesses were on the other side of the marina, but most of them kept early hours.
Lights strung out along the shore shimmered on the ocean’s soft waves as they rolled toward the sand. Cordelia tucked her hand into Angel’s arm as they stood on the edge of the parking area watching the waves. The ocean seemed so big tonight. After staring at the walls of the mansion for days and days the mild ocean breeze and hint of salt sea in the air was invigorating.
She smiled up at Angel only to discover that he was perusing the perimeter with a tactical eye rather than enjoying the view. “See anything worth looking at?”
Angel’s attention immediately snapped back to where it belonged. A slightly guilty, freaked-out look shot her way as if he was scrambling for an explanation. The wind caught an errant strand of her hair blowing it across her cheek. He lifted a hand to trace the outline of her face with his fingertips, his thumb straying close to her rosy lips.
There was a thickness to his voice when he answered. “You.” The dark intensity of his eyes swallowed her up making her forget what she was going to say about him and cheesy excuses.
Because he meant what he said.
It left her glowing and jittery all at the same time. Cordelia threw her arms around him completely forgetting that she was crushing her gown and his suit in the process. She melted into him as Angel’s strong arms wound around her waist to pull her closer.
Maybe it was just the taste of freedom she was getting tonight, but their first official date felt more important than any she had ever been on before.
When their hug finally loosened, Cordelia moved just enough to see his face. It was hard to read his eyes, but whatever else was there she saw love. By now it shouldn’t surprise her, but it did every time. Thrilled her. It was almost scary how loved she felt.
Her hand slipped from his broad shoulder up to Angel’s face, warm palm against his cooler cheek. “Just in case I forget to actually say the words later on—thank you for tonight, Angel.”
His head dipped down, mouth parting to kiss her, only to hover above the perfectly painted curves of her lips. Just when Cordelia was about to close the gap, her already rapid pulse jumping another notch in anticipation, he took a detour down to the soft skin of her throat.
Open mouthed, the rough buds of his tongue rasped against her skin, and the edge of his blunt teeth tugged softly. The sensation jolted low and deep within her. “Oh my God,” she quaked with want as his hands swept along her waist and hips.
Clinging to his shoulders, Cordelia found it difficult to stand. Her legs suddenly felt like jelly and she wanted, oh, how she wanted nothing more than to get totally lost in Angel’s caresses. The anticipation of her after dinner plans buzzed inside her and she did not want to wait.
Angel had other ideas. “Maybe we should go inside.” Reaching up to take her hand, he kissed the center of her palm before threading their fingers together.
A little mewl of frustration made its way to her lips. She nearly suggested they forget all about dinner to drive along the coast and find a secluded spot. Even though he would probably make love to her anywhere she wanted him to, the very public parking lot at Arturo’s was probably pushing it, especially tonight.
Besides, it would not be fair. Remembering what a fuss she’d put up in talking Angel into bringing her here, she tried to let go the images flashing through her head and to ignore the hot throb between her thighs.
“We have a couple of hours before we need to patrol,” Angel started moving toward the restaurant’s front entrance. “There’s plenty of time. We don’t need to rush.”
Speak for yourself.
Cordelia flashed him a look that made his mouth quirk. Oh, he knew exactly how hot he had gotten her. From the sound of his voice, and his slow progression to the door, he was not exactly unaffected, either.
“Let’s not talk about patrol. That’s for later. Right now we’re just a hot young couple on a date.”
Smiling at the notion, Angel paused long enough to adjust his tie and brush the fresh creases out of his lapel. With a snort, Cordelia tugged on his hand. “Okay, GQ, let’s go inside before they cancel our reservations.”
Gravel crunched under the tires as Giles slowly maneuvered the car off the road into an empty hillside lot. Turning the headlights off he sat back in his seat to focus on the view ahead. His eyes slowly adjusted to the streetlights shining on the cloverleaf of merging highways leading from US 101 and Route 17 into Sunnydale.
Would this be the route their quarry would take?
Bound by law, granted freedom’s breath, a momentary respite returning him home to waiting arms at the mouth of hell.
It was Oz who had suggested that the prophecy eluded to a prisoner, one who had either been released or escaped. The Scroll of Septarius remained full of unsolved riddles, but it unerringly seemed to be counting down to the ultimate event that would allow Amolon to gain access to this dimension.
Preventing the demon’s followers from gathering the requisite sacrifices needed to perform the Rites of Tavrok seemed key to stopping him.
Though they now had Karla safely hidden in the mansion it seemed that Kalesh had already performed the mystic rites upon her. Something had certainly been done to the girl. She was no longer herself.
The discovery of the priestess’ identity was important. Nicolau Cibran clearly did not realize that slip would cost him. Now it was left to them to take advantage of it.
The only question was how.
He needed time to think. Opportunities for silence and reflection were rare at the mansion where there were too many interruptions and far too many distractions.
“You shouldn’t be on your own tonight,” Buffy had sounded legitimately concerned for his safety. “Maybe you should stick with me. Spike’s got a car. He can watch the highway.”
They were long past the days when it was necessary to patrol with Buffy whist she honed her skills. Perhaps nostalgia should have forced him to take her up on it, but he had to prioritize things now.
Without knowing he was doing it, Angel had come to the rescue by reminding her, “Buffy, there’s a reason I want you to team up with Spike tonight. The Bus Depot is the most likely transport site. If a fight is going to break out, we should have two strong fighters in the middle of it.”
All Giles had to do was watch the highway and report any suspicious sightings.
Though he didn’t particularly care for Spike to be anywhere near Buffy, he knew she wouldn’t let down her guard. For now, the vampire seemed to be toeing the line. It suited their plans for the moment, and Angel’s reasoning was perfectly sound.
He felt a twinge of guilt at the look on Buffy’s face when he agreed with Angel. It was not his intention to hurt her feelings, but he knew her too well to miss the sharp look in her eye or the brief tightening of her chin. Like Angel, he too had his reasons for going ahead with their plans.
It was still early. Not yet 9pm. He’d left the mansion in order to find some solitude. He had brought his notes and a small reading light in case he needed to refer to any referenced material. For now, he was going to sit here quietly and let his thoughts come to him.
Whatever was going to happen it would take place in the hour surrounding the stroke of twelve, as the prophecy scroll predicted. So far it hadn’t been wrong.