Season of Solace. 176

176: Master Suite, The Mansion, Crawford Street, Central Sunnydale

“Zip me up.”

Walking back into the bathroom having already finished getting dressed, Angel found Cordelia leaning toward the mirror as she applied mascara to her lashes. He stood in silence for a few seconds watching the careful strokes that darkened the soft flares to accentuate her eyes. Just that simple task held him spellbound. Everything about her caused the same reaction, a craving for more, a need for connection.

It was impossible to ignore, not that he tried. Standing behind her, he let his gaze fall to the long strands of silky hair teasing the bare expanse of her back exposed by the open zipper. Stroking his fingers through her hair, he swept it over her shoulder out of the way pausing to clasp the delicate nape of her neck. Rubbing his thumb up and down drew a little moan of pleasure from Cordelia’s throat. That siren song made him lean even closer, noting her familiar scent, and listening to the steady pulse of her blood. The combination was intoxicating.

The open zipper exposed smooth golden skin, so warm to the touch, with only the thin bra strap acting as an obstacle to his explorations. He thought about unsnapping it and sliding both hands inside the dress to palm her breasts, which quickly led to all manner of salacious thoughts popping into his head. Oh, the things he wanted to do to her right then and there would not get them downstairs any time soon.

Taking a short step back, Angel tried a quick mental exercise designed to center his chi. Focus and resolve usually calmed his more volatile instincts, and brought him to a point of self-awareness where he could navigate the stormy sea of emotions trying to break free. Even those few seconds apart felt like hell as if the short distance separating them was still too far. He forced himself to stay put long enough to take focus on the aesthetics of her beauty instead of his stirring lust.

He could almost hear her say, “Like that ever works? Not.”

Angel felt his mouth twitch into a smile however briefly it lasted. No, trying to suppress his feelings was impossible. He was usually in control of his emotions, so careful about what others could see. Although he wanted Cordelia to understand the depth of feeling behind his desire to claim her, he did not want it to scare her in the same way that it sometimes frightened him. He was a vampire, after all, and every possessive urge and crazed obsession was fed by deeply rooted instincts, just as primal as the very human love that bound them together.

Despite his twisted relationships with Darla and Buffy, this was completely new to him. Yes, he had loved Buffy Summers, but those feelings had always been at war with his vampire nature. Angelus’ full-on fixation with Buffy had more to do with payback and possessiveness than love, and with the added desire to cause her pain, suffering, and to eventually bring her to death. With his soul on board, something was still there between them, he had to admit, even if only inwardly. A fondness, regret, lingering pain at the loss of what they both imagined it could be. Or, maybe their doomed relationship was just a festering wound that was never going to heal completely.

The inherent sire bond with Darla still lingered wraith-like in the shadows of his memory. It was there when he awakened a vampire, growing stronger each passing day with the bonding element of her blood. He was her progeny, her beautiful boy whose youth and handsome face were her way of taking a rebellious stab at Aurelius, the ancient master of their clan, and her own sire. Angelus was her prized cock, a stallion whose rutting nature became highly skilled with practice and training because she wanted him to be the best, so certain that he would give her all that she desired for eternity.

Darla was obsessed with her creation, and Angelus had enjoyed the power he held over his sire. There was no love there even in the occasional tender moments, just a right of possession tying them together until the taint of a soul marred the perfect specimen of flesh she had made. Loyalty to his sire kept him at her side until he could no longer act as she desired, and she began to look upon him with disgust.

Despite the rejection, there was still a part of him that needed Darla, a gaping hole left behind that no one else could fill. Yet, knowing the dangerous threat she posed, he had ended her when she threatened Buffy’s life. An act that still disturbed him when he let himself think of his sire despite knowing that he would do it again if necessary.

Examining his feelings, Angel recognized the emptiness inside him, and understood that they stemmed from both the human and demon sides of his nature. Past lovers spurned whichever side of him was unacceptable, but not Cordelia. He could not see her allowing the skirt chasing, disrespectful cad he once was into her heart. Liam might charm his way into her bed given the chance, but he would not have let himself be tied down to any woman unless it gave him an opportunity to escape his cold-hearted father and see something of the world.

As for Angelus, he knew love would never play into it. If his soulless self had captured her that night in the cemetery instead of just making threats, he figured Cordelia would be dead, only after a forced seduction, of course, because Angelus would want to make her beg for it. He remembered contemplating whether or not to turn her. The thought sickened him making him angry with himself for even bringing that memory to the fore yet again.

Snapping out of his thoughts, he stared at the mirror noting that Cordelia was blissfully clueless about the fangs sharpening behind her. Angel quickly focused enough to shift back to fully human form. “Do we have time for that?” Annoyance with himself crept into his voice as he watched her carefully applying her makeup. “It’s not like you need it.

“Pfft! Did Darla and Dru teach you nothing about women?” Cordelia rolled her eyes, not bothering to turn around. She plucked a lipstick from the pile on the counter. “There’s always time.”

Angel zipped the sleeveless purple dress into place. “If you say so.” He stayed right behind her, closer than necessary, his hands on her hips and lower body pressing close into the firm curve of her ass. He kissed her neck, tugged at her earlobe with his teeth, enjoying the casual shimmy of her hips causing friction where he wanted it most. “Christ! Cordy, stop that right now, or…”

Taking his hands off her and clamping his eyes shut tight, Angel counted to ten hoping to take back control of his body from the remnant of his old self that remained a walking hormone. When he came within sight of Cordelia, he was instantly aware of heightened senses, keenly tuned in to everything about her. Lately, within touching distance, a state of perpetual arousal took hold, hungry and demanding, difficult to ignore. Just like now.

He wanted to fall to his knees while reaching beneath the teasing folds of that short purple dress. Let his fingers take hold of the elastic of her flossy thong to slide it down her legs, and trace a path across every inch of satin skin along the way. Dropping the thong at her ankles, and after instructing her to step free and spread her legs wide, he would. . .

Angel forced himself to put away the fantasy and go stand by the door. He would not be playing any of those deliciously sexy games with Cordelia. Not right now, anyway. They had business downstairs, and she had a very important conversation on the books with at least one of the Watchers. He was resolved not to seduce or be seduced by Cordelia until she accepted everything that might result from his claim.

Still leaning against the counter, lipstick in hand, Cordelia glanced over at him, pouting as if he had taken away her favorite new toy. “You’re the one who insisted we get out of bed,” she reminded with a wink. Teasing him with the reminder, “We could still be there, y’know. . . snuggling.”

As much as Angel would have liked to carry out his original plan for last night by curling up in bed with the woman he loved, there were too many important things to settle. “If you ever finish getting ready, we might get back to it a lot sooner.”

“Promises, promises,” she teased and turned back toward the mirror. Smoothing a glossy color across her slightly swollen lower lip, Cordelia drew in a sharp little gasp, as if that small amount of pressure stung reminding him that he had accidentally nipped just a bit too hard.

Suddenly realizing there was a reason she was moving at a snail’s pace this morning, he cursed inwardly knowing that he only had himself to blame. He had been rough with her last night, insatiable, pushing her to the limits of human tolerance. He wanted so much from her and she had only the most superficial notion what that meant.

Feeling guilty about it all, Angel muttered, “Take your time. I’ll head downstairs.”

Scene 177

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