“Are you sure I can’t get you something, Mr. Angel?” Lilah’s secretary was polished and composed but there was a tiny bit of hesitation in her voice. She knew who he was and she was just a little bit afraid. Angel was pleased. At least he still had the intimidation factor.
It made it slightly easier to be here, in this building, on this floor. His old stomping grounds. All that had once been his.
Of course, it had never been who he was.
That’s what Cordelia had always said. It had just taken him awhile to see her point.
“Mr. Angel? There’s Pellegrino. Fresh juice. I could run downstairs to the blood bank. We have a variety of—”
“I’m fine thanks,” he assured her, before she could run through Wolfram and Hart’s extensive menu of blood types. He didn’t need the distraction. Or the temptation. He wasn’t falling into that trap again.
“Well, if you’ll just have a seat, Ms. Morgan will be out shortly.” Angel nodded but remained where he stood. The secretary waited a beat, then returned to her desk.
The sun had just set. Although drapes covered the windows, Angel knew. Even in smog-infested Los Angeles, night had a particular smell. Earthy. Seductive. 250 years and the onset of darkness still called to him.
But not the way it once had.
The needs were different now. Night brought out a more mundane type of hunger. A yearning not for the musky sweetness of blood but for the glow of a woman’s skin in the moonlight.
Tonight the pull was stronger, more powerful than it had been in the years he had been gone. Tonight they would be sleeping underneath the same sky.
Angel had missed L.A. He’d missed her, missed them, but that was a given. Los Angeles was his, it always had been. The first place he’d ever felt at home, the first place he’d ever made himself a home. In this city, in her arms.
He’d been away from home for far too long.
“Is there something wrong Mr. Angel?” This time the secretary looked downright wary.
“Why do you ask?”
The young woman nibbled her lip. “Well, you, um, you just growled.”
Angel frowned and turned away. He slowly let out an unnecessary breath, forcing his hands to unclench. It was important he project a certain image. Lilah was many things, but stupid wasn’t one of them. For this to work, Angel needed for her to continue to believe she was in control.
That’s what it had always been about with Lilah; what was most essential to her. It wasn’t an actual desire to do evil, it wasn’t about pleasing the senior partners. It was about power. That’s why she hadn’t been content to just let sleeping dogs lie. That’s why she’d come up with this latest ploy. Why she’d sent for him
Angel adjusted his position, leaning more casually against the wall and perusing the room, focusing in on the painting directly across from him.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it.” Angel turned back to the secretary. She had a small, if slightly forced smile on her face. He had to give her points for trying. “It’s a Picasso.”
“I know,” he said quietly.
Color flooded her cheeks. “Right. Of course. I forgot this was…you used to be…” She ducked her head, swiveling back to face her computer. Angel briefly wondered what she was going to say. He used to be a lot of things.
Glancing back to the painting, Angel fought to keep his expression blank. It annoyed him, even though it shouldn’t. It certainly wasn’t surprising that Lilah had kept it there. Besides, he owned other paintings, other beautiful priceless works of art, and even if he hadn’t, it shouldn’t matter.
From the minute he’d made that first deal with Wolfram and Hart, in the wake of that awful awful year, Angel had learned that you could have many pretty possessions. It wouldn’t fill the void.
And yet the painting’s presence still rankled something deep inside him. Not just the Picasso either. The entire room bothered him.
Very little about the outer office had changed. He’d been gone two long years. Made sacrifices, waited patiently. And suddenly none of it counted, because this room looked like he never left.
Angel’s painting hung on the wall and the drapes at the window were the ones he’d ordered and the couch was the one he…
“We can’t do it here,” he warned her. His blood was rushing through his veins at an inhuman speed and all she’d done was unbutton her blouse.
“Of course we can. You’re the boss Angel. We could do it at the weekly board meeting if we wanted to.” Cordy had a point. Or maybe she didn’t. The argument was rapidly becoming moot. The shirt was completely off now, and he could see the dusky pink of her nipples through the white lace of the demi-cup bra. His throat went dry.
“Security cameras,” he said. Surely she would stop now. She ran her nail over her right nipple in lazy circles. Stretched that long slender neck of hers.
“So,” Cordelia shrugged. She reached behind her back with both hands and he knew if the scrap of lace came off, he was a goner.
“No,” he barked. Cordelia raised an eyebrow and took a step towards him. Angel immediately took a step back and felt his calves bump up against the couch. “I’ll be damned if my security detail sees you like this.” Out came that pouty little frown of hers, and then, suddenly, it abruptly disappeared.
Hands back at her sides, bra still firmly clasped, Cordy took another step over. “You make a good point.”
Angel let out an unnecessary breath of relief. It wasn’t often she took no for answer. And he didn’t have the strength to say it again. He was already erect and every iota of his being was demanding that he push her down on the coffee table. Watch the flush spread from her cheeks to her breasts. Make her shiver when he ground against her clit.
“I am feeling kinda shy right now.” She was so close he could feel her breath against his jaw. Her scent was all around him, weaving a familiar spell. The hair on Angel’s arms rose and he swallowed reflexively. Age-old reactions, a fluttering reminder that part of him would always be predator.
She was feeling shy? Then why don’t you put your shirt back on Angel shouted inside his head. “That’s perfectly natural,” he told her.
“Well, it’s a good thing you’re not as modest as me,” she said. He was momentarily confused and then she smiled. Those glossy pink lips curved slowly up into that crazy dangerous grin that was all woman, all Cordelia.
Angel had always been a sucker for Cordy’s mouth. It took everything he had to not give in right then. He had reasons for why they shouldn’t do this here. Good reasons. He just couldn’t seem to remember any right now. His mind frantically searched for something, anything, to put her off until they got home.
“Cor, it’s been a long day. Uh, long night. Whatever. I’m really tired.”
Cordy leaned up and pressed a quick close-mouthed kiss on his lips. A split second of firm dry pressure, inexplicably soothing and exciting all at once. Angel began mentally calculating how long it would take to close up here and head back to the Hyperion. Hell, who said they had to wait until they got home? It wouldn’t be the first time they’d ended up in the backseat of the Plymouth. “I know you’re tired baby, don’t worry,” she said.
Cordelia traced his bottom lip with her finger then slid her hand to the center of his chest, right over where Angel’s heart would be beating. One gentle shove was all it took to push him onto the couch. “You just let me do all the work,” she said, dropping to her knees.
With quick economy of movement Cordy hooked her hands behind his knees and tugged, scooting his body forward and spreading his legs. Both of their eyes were drawn to the impressive bulge in his pants. Angel glanced up at Cordy’s face, and the desire in her gaze had everything in him throbbing harder and faster. Warm, humid heat was coming off her in waves, pounding against Angel like a pulse; all thoughts of stopping her skittered away.
His surrender must have shown on his face—Cordelia blew him a smug kiss and went to work on his pants. All business, she unbuckled his belt and yanked down his pants and boxers at the same time. For a moment she just kneeled there, examining his erection with nary a glance up at his face. Cordy’s tongue darted out, wetting her bottom lip and Angel struggled to bite back a moan.
He slid his body down, closer, and his hips pivoted up, offering himself, silently begging her to touch him. Need was boiling through him now and his patience was rapidly deteriorating. He shut his eyes against the onslaught.
“Please.” It came out low and unintelligible and sounded more like an order than a plea, but they both knew how much the word cost him. It went against everything he was, to ask rather than take. A measure of what he was willing to do, to be, for her.
He waited, and then suddenly there was the hot wet velvet of her tongue up the length of his cock. There was a split second of relief, before his body began to register the sparks of pleasure licking up his spine, and an all-new torture began.
Cordelia repeated the action, a long slow swipe from base to tip, swirling her tongue around the head. She ran her fingers down his inner thighs, the perfect amount of pressure, somewhere between scratching and tickling, nails leaving thin red trails in their wake.
The ache, that bone-deep ache was building. Every time it caught him by surprise. Desire, churning through and over him, making every inch of his skin tight and itchy. And the knowledge that even when it was sated, it would never really be sated. It would never really be enough.
That was the feeling. With Cordelia, he would never be close enough.
“Ah-hem,” she mock-coughed and then came the warm, slightly damp grip of her hand around the base of his cock. Soon her firm slip-sliding motions had him sucking air in through his teeth. “Thought that would get your attention.”
Then Cordy’s other hand reached for his balls, further insurance that his thoughts wouldn’t stray again. She trailed her fingertips over him lightly, teasing, then made a ring around his scrotum with her thumb and forefinger and gently squeezed. Angel couldn’t help it. He whimpered. The man who had laid siege to hundreds upon hundreds of women. Who had made a study of the whisper-thin line between pleasure and pain. Reduced to this.
Cordelia tilted forward and she wrapped those sinful lips of hers around the head of his penis. The suction, the sight of her, the searing heat…Angel was panting now, using every ounce of control to tamp down the violent bucking of his hips, to not grab her by the hair and force her to swallow all of him.
She must have sensed his tenuous grasp, or maybe she was rewarding him for letting her take the lead. For whatever reason, her mouth widened, sliding down, taking as much of him as she could.
Angel gave an incoherent growl and Cordy’s lips curved around his cock, clearly thrilled with her power. Her light giggle sent vibrations through his groin, echoing throughout his body, until Angel felt it in his toes. Her head began to move, her hand picking up the rhythm at the base of his shaft, pumping him.
He wasn’t going to last long. She knew his body too well. He was trembling now, helpless, at her mercy. The world started to fade away, until all that existed was the throbbing electric heat of her mouth.
“Cor,” he groaned. She ignored his warning, increasing her suction, running her tongue over the seam. Angel’s body jerked and he came with a shout. He felt the sides of her throat convulse around him as she swallowed and after he was done, she continued to work him gently, bringing him back to earth.
Finally Cordy straightened, letting him slide from her mouth with a soft pop. She tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear and then wiped primly at the corner of her mouth.
Rolling her eyes at the dazed look on her husband’s face, Cordelia cast an appraising glance at the leather he lay prone on. “Have I mentioned how much I like this couch?”
Angel stared down at the couch. Why hadn’t he taken it with him when he left? Of course, he knew the answer. He had been desperate. All that had mattered was getting as far away from Los Angeles, as fast as he could. And the last thing he had needed were reminders of what he was leaving. Why he was leaving.
The sudden click of high heels on a hardwood floor brought Angel back to reality. This was certainly not the time for trips down memory lane. He needed to be focused. After all, this latest crisis proved that one should never underestimate Lilah Morgan. The door to his old office opened and she slid out, closing it quickly behind her.
She looked the same. Lilah’s premature death had seen to it that she would never age another day. She still had that self-satisfied smirk. That slinky allure. Like a snake.
That old urge to walk over there and twist her head off? That was still there too.
He stayed where he was. “Are they here?” he asked quietly.
Lilah glanced over at the secretary, who quickly stood up and exited the room. Once she was gone, Lilah moved closer to the vampire.
“Why, Angel, how nice of you to ask, yes, I’m doing quite well. You might even say that death becomes me,” she said.
“Ah, ah, ah,” she tisked, putting the pads of her fingertips up against his lips. “You had your chance to have me kiss anything of yours. I got tired of waiting sometime around your third year in L.A. You just don’t do it for me anymore Angel.” The smug look disappeared when Angel grabbed her by the throat, swinging her around so that she now had her back to the wall.
“I’m not here to play games Lilah.” Fingers tightened reflexively around the cords in her neck.
“You can’t kill me. I’m already dead,” she pointed out.
Angel leaned in. “I can’t kill you, but I can make it hurt.” He searched for it, the flare of panic in her eyes. It wasn’t there. In fact, under the lingering traces of Chanel No. 5 and the hint of coffee on her breath, arousal was blooming in the air between them. She wasn’t afraid. She was getting turned on. Angel snorted in disgust and let her go.
“Right, well, that was fun. Enough about me. How are you?” Lilah seamlessly ignored what had just happened.
“I’m not in the mood for small talk,” Angel said, stating the obvious. “I just spent the better part of a day on an airplane.”
Lilah still had that same husky chuckle. “That’s right. How was South America?”
“Hotter than hell.”
She slid to the left, moving around him to the center of the room. “I suppose you would know, wouldn’t you.” When he didn’t take the bait, she continued. “The senior partners weren’t too happy about what you did to the Beunos Aires office.”
Angel turned around slowly. “You were the one who said I could redecorate.”
Lilah shot him a look. “Angel, you blew the place up.”
He shrugged. “Well, you know what they say. Charred goes with everything.”
She was silent for a moment, crossing her arms loosely over her chest. “I don’t get it.” Her tone was more serious now, quieter.
“Well it was a play on words…” Angel explained.
“I don’t get why you’re bothering with all of this,” Lilah corrected. “Not that I don’t appreciate you going along with our plans so docilely. I just don’t understand why you agreed. It’s too late you know.”
“It’s too late,” she enunciated, slow and clear. “She’d gone,” Lilah gestured, spreading her arms wide. “Cordelia is gone and she’s replaced you with a nice, normal man. The kind she’s always dreamed of. The kind that you, can never be.”
Angel remained silent, but the obvious clench of his jaw had her chest puffing up with pride.
“And you know what I find absolutely hilarious?” Lilah asked. “She doesn’t even know that you quit the firm months ago. She doesn’t care enough to find out about what you’re doing because she doesn’t care about you. And hasn’t, judging by how often she’s appeared in the society pages, for quite some time.”
Eyes narrowing, Lilah strolled back towards him, moving in for the kill. Placed a hand on his shoulder, whispering in his ear. “And here you are, back in the place you hate, the place it took you two long years to be free of, and why? For her. To keep her psycho little family intact. To keep HER happy.”
That wasn’t entirely true, but Angel was glad to let her think that. Lilah didn’t need to know the entire truth. “Do we have a deal or not?” he asked, removing her hand from him and forcing her back.
A tiny wrinkle appeared between her eyes as she studied him, trying to figure out if he was playing her. A slight mar on her perfection that left as quickly as it had come.
“Yes Angel, we have a deal. I presume the messenger informed you of the conditions?” She didn’t wait for him to answer. “You help get our two associates into the Hyperion and into the wedding. You do not interfere with their activities in any way. You absolutely do not alert Miss Chase—I’m sorry, I mean the future Mrs. Kittridge—to what they are really doing there.”
“And in return—”
“In return, Wolfram and Hart will make sure that Gunn makes it out of the situation in Paris alive and we will release Wesley from his contract.”
“No more legal wranglings?” Angel clarified. “He’ll be free to go?”
Lilah nodded. “He’ll be free to leave the firm…if that’s what he wants.”
“You know it is,” he said bluntly.
“You know, if you ever come to your senses, there will always be a place for both of you here.” Angel looked pointedly around at the office that used to be his. Lilah shrugged. “Under me, of course,” she said.
They were standing eye to eye. Angel had to fight the urge to shiver.
“Come on now, Angel, admit it. All that power. Fresh O-positive on tap. The clothes. The toys. It wasn’t all bad.”
This time Angel leaned in. “Lilah?” The low seductive rasp of his voice in her ear had Lilah closing her eyes in pleasure.
“Working with you made the hundred years I spent in hell seem like recess.”
Lilah’s eyes snapped open. “Oh all right,” she huffed. “They’re in my office.”
Angel didn’t move. “How’s this supposed to work? Who am I supposed to introduce these people as?”
“Old friends,” she said, heading for the office.
“I ate all my old friends. And just because I vouch for them doesn’t mean Cordelia’s going to let two strangers crash her wedding.”
“Well, that’s just it, Angel.” Lilah turned back to glance at him, hand on the doorknob. “They’re not strangers.”
She turned the knob and the door swung slowly open.
The Harris boy, slumped low in his chair, looking up to see the new arrival. “Xander?” Angel exclaimed.
“Angel!” Xander squeaked.
“Angel?” That breathless voice. The door swung open more. Buffy. Standing up, quickly closing a thick black file and putting it back on the desk.
“Buffy.” Angel nodded. This was starting to make a lot more sense now. Sighing deeply, he walked into the room. Lilah followed behind him and Angel swore he heard her giggle.
“Is it wrong that I’m completely loving this?” Lilah asked gleefully.
The walls of Lilah’s office seemed to quiver from all the tension in the room. All four of them found a seat. Waited, without speaking, to see how this would go.
There must have been a spark of humanity left in Lilah—she buzzed the secretary. Jennifer quickly came in and silently poured four stiff whiskeys.
Xander took a gulp of the amber liquid, relishing the shocking burn as it traveled down his throat. He couldn’t take the quiet anymore. Partly because awkward silences bothered him, and partly because Ms. Morgan was enjoying it way too much for his liking.
He put his drink down on the desk, purposely placing it next to the coaster and relishing the spark of annoyance that flashed in Lilah’s eyes. He turned to the vampire sitting between him and Buffy. Angel was staring at the misplaced glass, lips quirking up into a slight smile. In the face of that disconcerting weirdness, Xander’s gaze traveled over to Buffy She looked pale. He needed to do something.
“So, Angel…” Xander’s mind searched frantically for something to say. “How’s divorced life treating you?” All traces of the vampire’s smile disappeared.
Buffy hurried to cover. “We, uh, we were surprised. When we heard. I mean, it’s…well, the last time I saw you two things were…you’d just bought her a boat, right? What was it called?”
“Vision Girl,” Angel said in a soft voice.
“That’s right, Vision Girl,” Buffy repeated, cringing at how loud and false she sounded.
“A boat? And what, pray tell, does a vampire do with a boat?” Xander couldn’t help it. There was just something about Angel that pushed his buttons. Brought out the 16-year-old boy in him.
Angel stared down into his whiskey. “Moonlight sails,” he said.
As the initial shock began to wear off, Buffy began to feel bad for Angel. He looked different. There was a darkness, an edge about him that hadn’t been there the last time. Buffy certainly hadn’t left L.A. on the best of terms, but still, Angel deserved to be happy. They all deserved to be, had earned the right to be happy. That was the main thing she’d learned in the years since Sunnydale.
They deserved happiness, no matter who they found it with.
Buffy decided a subject change was in order. “We, uh, we’ve been in London.”
“Really?” Angel glanced at her, looking, well, grateful.
“Almost a year now,” she said.
“Yup,” Xander confirmed. “I’m fully schooled in British culture. Soccer is football. Cigarettes are fags. Apartments are flats. The trunk of a car is—”
“Xander!” Buffy interrupted. “I think he gets it. Giles, he’s head of the Watcher’s Council. We’ve started this incredible slayer training program.”
“That’s great,” Angel told her. He seemed genuinely glad for her, and Buffy realized, much to her surprise, she had missed him. She would never be in love with Angel again, but it was long past time for her to learn to like the guy. Be his friend. Maybe something good would come from this horrible deal with Wolfram and Hart after all.
“Excuse me?” Lilah tapped her fingernails on the desk. This was fun, but she had a deposition with a poltergeist in an hour. “Can we begin?”
“Sure, ah, how bout we start with what Angel is doing here?” Xander said.
A horrible thought occurred to Buffy. “Was all of this your idea?” Since Angel had been out of the country, she just assumed he’d had nothing to do with the deal they had made with the law firm.
Angel raised his arms in classic “not my fault” pose. “Don’t look at me. I don’t work here anymore.”
“You don’t?” Buffy asked. That news hadn’t made its way across the pond yet.
“I get it!” Xander said, snapping his fingers. “Angel’s the inside source who’s getting us into Cordy’s.” Lilah nodded slowly and Xander waggled his finger at her. “Pretty funny with all that ‘not a man ALIVE’ talk.”
“I’m so happy you see the humor in this situation Mr. Harris,” Lilah said smoothly. “I thought I was the only one.”
“I still don’t get it,” Buffy said. “What’s the cover story?”
“That’s just it.” Lilah leaned forward, resting her elbows on the desk. “There is no story. Essentially, you’ll be telling the truth. Angel came back to see his family. On the way home, completely to his surprise, he ran into his two old friends, Xander and—”
Xander made a face. “I don’t know if I would call Angel and I—” He shut up when Buffy smacked him.
“His two friends Xander and Buffy,” Lilah went on. “Being polite—”
“Oh, yeah, cause that’s something he’s known for!” Xander spit out.
Lilah made a face. “Being polite, Angel invited his old buddies to join him at the wedding. It’s simple. It’s truthful. It’ll work like a charm.”
“As long as we neglect to mention that we’re setting up cameras and microphones that lead straight back here” Buffy added.
“Well I’d certainly keep that under wraps if I were you,” Lilah advised. “Your Cordelia isn’t particularly fond of our employees. I’m sure Angel can vouch for that.”
“Exactly,” Angel confirmed. “If Cordy finds out, she’ll kick all of us out.”
“Something I for one wouldn’t mind,” Xander said under his breath.
“Don’t forget Mr. Harris, we have a deal,” Lilah cautioned. “There will be consequences for not fulfilling your part of the bargain. Remember? Our money and research for your…services, in certain select situations.”
Xander groaned. “I never agreed to become an indentured servant for Satan Incorporated. Couldn’t we just pay you back in installments? Except for that minor incident with Columbia House, I have pretty good credit.”
All three of them turned to stare when Angel barked out a laugh. Xander stuck his finger in his ear and wiggled, making sure there was nothing wrong with his hearing.
Lilah cleared her throat. “Back to the matter at hand. Today’s Thursday. I want you to have ample time so you should probably head over to the hotel tomorrow afternoon. You’ll spend the night there before the wedding on Saturday.”
She checked her watch and stood up, clearly expecting the rest of them to do the same. Xander remained where he was. “Yes Mr. Harris?” Lilah asked impatiently. She picked up the black file folder and placed it in the open wall safe behind her, quickly entering the combination and locking it up.
“Wait a second.” Xander tapped his finger on his chin, thinking. “Something’s not right here.”
Angel snorted. “Well yeah, you’re wearing a black shirt with brown shoes. That’s not right.”
“Oh, you’ve gone and gotten yourself a playful side,” Xander gushed with obvious sarcasm. “I don’t like it,” he deadpanned. “But what I also don’t like is your role in all of this.”
“Xander what are you getting at?” Buffy asked, face scrunching up in confusion.
“Well, Angel, you said you quit the firm, right?”
“Yes,” Angel said.
“So why do this?” Xander’s arms started to flare about. “Why help Lilah? Why ruin Cordelia’s wedding? What I wanna know is, what’s in it for you.”
“Well,” Angel stalled. He didn’t even consider telling the two of them about Lilah’s little blackmail scheme, let alone his real motive for doing all of this.
“Holy crap, I just realized,” Xander said. “It’s written all over your face. You’re doing this for the oldest reason in the book!” Angel paled, wondering how an idiot like Xander could have possibly known.
“Revenge!” Xander shouted. “You must be doing this for revenge!”
Angel let out a sigh of relief. One day Xander would learn that revenge was actually the SECOND oldest reason for doing things.
“Of course you want revenge,” Xander continued, on a roll. “Who wouldn’t? You married her for the body and forgot about the acid tongue that came along with it. And now you want revenge for every single miserable day you spent with her.” Standing up, finally, he reached over and patted Angel on the back. “Hey it makes total sense to me.”
Angel shrugged off the offending hand and turned his steely gaze on Lilah. “I’ll have a car pick them up at one.” Lilah nodded, pleased, and Angel turned on his heel and walked out of the office.
“Uh, okay, bye, it was so great seeing you again,” Xander muttered to the empty space where Angel had stood. Buffy sighed and took his hand, pulling him toward the door.
“I really don’t like that guy,” Xander whined.
“I know, sweetie,” Buffy said. “He doesn’t like you either.”