Mercenary Hearts 4

Rising lithely to his feet, the stranger reached out to help her up. Amusement danced in his dark eyes. Cordelia’s blush of mortification intensified, and she roughly pushed the large pale hand away, her lovely face scrunching into a deep scowl. Jerk!

Climbing to her feet with as much grace as she could manage, Cordy attempted to ignore the tall, black-clad man standing a little too close for her liking and quickly tugged down the skirt that had twisted around her waist like a gauzy rope.

This was all Buffy Summer’s fault, she thought resentfully. If the annoying girl had given her more notice, displaying her panties to the world – well, him and God knows who else, would never have happened.

Then she looked up. Just her luck. Tall, dark and sinfully handsome, from what she could tell in the semi-darkness, anyway. Any other time, Cordy would have appreciated the sight of salty goodness- a rarity in this town, but currently all she wanted to do was cringe and smack the smirk off his chiseled yet full lips.

“Thanks.” Her grudging gratitude caused the smirk to widen into a sizzling smile that made her blink hard before looking away.

“Glad to help,” Angel eyed the young woman with open appreciation. From the top of her glossy head to the tips of her perfect toes, she fitted every one of his fantasies. Her rumpled appearance and flushed cheeks only added to the becoming picture, bringing illicit thoughts to his head.

When he’d turned from snapping the demon’s neck and saw her sprawled out so enticingly, the urge to slide his hands up the legs that seemed to go on forever had been difficult to quash. The need to touch was still strong, so he gave into it, running his fingers innocently along the hot flush of one cheek. Appeased for the moment, he asked, “Are you hurt?”

For a second, Cordy unconsciously leaned into the cool touch. Then her eyes widened in shock. What the hell am I doing? One touch of those fingers and her knees had turned to jelly. Sheesh. With a huff, she knocked his hand away, shook her head and took a step back. Only my dignity, she thought with growing embarrassment, recalling the first words he’d uttered and opened her mouth to rip into him.

Lucky for him, a short, sharp scream caught her attention. Cordy broke eye contact with him, and looked around his large body just in time to see one of the demons attempting to herd her now-alone friend towards the trees.

“OHMIGOD!” she cried, moving forward to push the dark-haired man out of the way. Then she froze as a blond guy appeared out of nowhere and jumped onto the demon’s back. “What the…?! That’s a vampire!” Sheer disbelief colored her tone. Her brow scrunched up in shock and confusion. She watched in horror as the demon still attempted to approach Tara, even as it struggled to dislodge the vampire on its back.

“This is just GREAT! First demons and now vamps are joining in.” She took a second to glare up at the hulking figure still blocking her way, and with an angry huff tried to slip around his unmoving body.

A powerful arm hooked around her waist before Cordy had taken two steps, swinging round and depositing her back to her original spot. “He’s with me,” Angel replied vaguely, keeping hold of her wrist, and again blocking her way.

Cordy tugged at her arm and glared up at him. “With you?”

Shaking her head in growing anger and confusion, the move dislodged the clip that had been holding her hair back. Broken in the tussle with the demon, it released its tenuous grip and the glossy strands fell to surround her flushed face.

Angel’ gaze was instantly drawn to it, his nostrils flaring as the scent of apples enveloped him. A low sound of appreciation escaped his throat and caught her attention.

Did he just…? Cordy could have sworn she’d heard purring – then gasped. For a split second, she was almost certain she’d seen a flash of fang. Jeeze, now she was seeing things. Putting it down to oxygen deprivation to her brain earlier that was affecting her, she shrugged it off and instead narrowed her gaze, tugging again at her captured arm.

“Well, if he’s your friend, shouldn’t you go help him out?” she asked pointedly, and peeked around him again. Even with the vampire on its back, the demon was still making ground towards Tara, who’d belatedly remembered the sword in her hand and was waving it in front of her haphazardly. “We so need to learn how to use those things,” Cordy muttered anxiously, now tugging in earnest.

Angel flicked a look behind him and shrugged, seemingly uninterested. “He can hold his own.” He grabbed her other wrist quickly when she gave up pulling and instead started clawing at his hand.

“Lemme go, you big bully, I want to help her.” The demon roared when a lucky swing of Tara’s sword-nicked its face, causing it to increase its efforts to dislodge the vampire who was reigning punches into the back of its thick skull.

“You’ll be of better help keeping out of it,” Angel shifted to avoid the swift kick she aimed at his shin, a grin stretching his mouth. Feisty! He was really starting to like this little spitfire!

“Your friend will be okay,” he assured her – then cursed under his breath when the blond vampire was abruptly thrown across the clearing. After giving itself a violent shake, the demon turned its attention back onto Tara, who had backed into a tree and was cornered.

“Maybe not,” Angel muttered under his breath and moved so fast, Cordy blinked in shock before shouting worriedly, “Tara! Run!” She breathed a sigh of relief and an ‘ewwe’ when Tall, Dark and Unfairly Yummy appeared behind the demon and removed its head effortlessly with a sword pulled from beneath his long leather duster.

After rescuing the gorgeous, sassy brunette, Angel kept her in his sights. He’d been impressed with how she’d defended herself. Not bad for a human. No match for the demons, but quick on her feet and flexible…boy was she flexible!

He had salivated at the thought of how that could be useful in other ways. Forcing his thoughts out of the gutter, Angel concentrated on the fight at hand, taking care not to hurt the humans who kept getting in his way.

The chaos continued, fast and furious for several more minutes, then after a lucky punch from the demon he’d been fighting had knocked him to the ground, it had taken off, along with two remaining demons – one injured by a bolt sticking out of its scaly shoulder. He dusted himself off as Spike snapped the neck of one and the Slayer and two male youths finished off the other.

With intense irritation, the vampires watched their marks scatter.

Now their second confrontation and only three killed between them, thanks to the Slayer’s sidekicks interfering the flow. What the hell were they doing there? He wondered with a dark frown…the Slayer, yeah – both vampires had been aware that a Slayer resided at this particular hell mouth, and had hoped to avoid confrontation for obvious reasons.

Slayer blood gave off a different scent to normal humans. Potency and power. With vampires’ preternatural sense of smell, it wasn’t hard to miss. Especially for the ones with a few centuries under their belt. Fresh out of the grave, blood was simply blood. The young often missed it- to their misfortune.

But in all his long unlife, he’d never heard of a Slayer actively working in the field with humans in tow. Although she’d managed to kill another two of the demons, which narrowed down the numbers he and Spike had to deal with – but with the reckless help from the humans? Weren’t Slayers supposed to keep a low profile? What was the world coming to, Angel wondered, shaking his dark head in disgust.

Several days earlier, after finding Spike who’d been shoved down a derelict elevator shaft at the New York Warehouse, the fall knocking him out cold, Angel had pulled him out, and then both had impatiently waited until the cover of darkness to continue their pursuit. Already aware of the demons’ planned destination, due to overhearing their discussion earlier, it hadn’t taken them long to catch up.

What they hadn’t expected was the sound of fighting- and the sight that met their stunned eyes. Slayers, depending on their experience, would have picked up on them regardless. But vamping out hadn’t helped, judging by the wary eyes of the others now aiming their way. Just fucking great.

Angel walked over to retrieve his sword, but before he could grab it, a booted foot appeared in his line of vision and slammed down on the bloodied blade. He sighed silently and rose to his full height, backing up and leaving the weapon where it was. Equally wary brown eyes lifted to connect with the cold green of the Slayer.

“Who the hell are you- and, more importantly- why are you helping us?”


Spike appeared next to his partner in a blur of movement that made the humans jolt in nervous surprise. Buffy remained steady, more used to their unnatural speed, but her eyes flicked from one to the other vampire warily.

“Who said we were helping?” Spike drawled, “You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He added with a casual shrug and pulled out a crabby pack of cigarettes, shook one out and lit it with a heavy silver lighter.

They faced off in the now eerily quiet clearing. Buffy headed her group, who now congregated slightly behind her.

Angel eyed the crossbow that the red-headed youth, who didn’t smell quite so human at closer quarters, had now leveled towards them – also taking note of the stake that had appeared abruptly in the Slayer’s hand. “We’ve been after that particular clan for a while.” He briefly explained that they’d been tracking the demons from New York a few days before.

“Good thing we showed up.”

Buffy’s back immediately went up at his scathing tone. “We could have taken them without your help,” she responded coldly, even though inwardly she knew that was debatable, but they didn’t have to know that. At the same time, it hit Buffy that these two were the reason her vampy tinglies had set off earlier.

Angel looked at her expressionlessly for a long moment before glancing around him pointedly. “She would have been dead by now.” He gestured to Cordy, who scowled and folded her arms tight, but kept her mouth shut because, unfortunately, it was true. “Those two whelps were having trouble taking them on,” Angel indicated Xander and Oz with a jerk of his dark head.

“Little cutie over there was left alone,” Spike added, and winked casually at Tara, who found herself blushing like a pre-teen. She ducked her fair head and looked at the soft grass beneath her shoes.

Angel raked a hand through his dark, spiky hair, unconsciously drawing Cordy’s eyes. Her gaze then dropped to get a longer look at his face. Although cold and expressionless, she could see clearly an edge of violence in those almost black eyes. No revision on her initial thoughts; he was gorgeous …pity! A small, disappointed sight left her.

Watching him beating the crap out of one of the demons earlier had been quite a turn on, she grudgingly admitted; for such a powerfully built guy, he moved with an almost feline grace that drew her eye. But it had been one hell of a shock seeing his handsome face change when the demon had got in a lucky punch. Just my luck, she thought. The only decent male around for ages, and he had to be not only full of himself, but a vampire to boot.

Angel pinned the Slayer with cold, hard eyes. “I get why you’re here, Slayer, but bringing along humans? You’re either new to the gig or just plain stupid,” he chastised coldly.

A collective gasp echoed, and then Xander stepped forward, his youthful face twisted in defensive anger. “Back off, Dead Boy, it’s none of your business how we do things around here.”

Buffy swallowed the guilt as she belatedly recalled that Tara had been separated from the rest of them in the midst of battle. The vamps had a point, but no way was she going to admit it to them. Instead, she folded her arms and attempted to stare them both down.

Their human frailty wasn’t lost on her, and it was a worry that still plagued on and off. But she knew from experience exactly what they’d say or do if she asked them not to accompany her on patrol. They’d done it before, and if she’d not have come across them when she had, Willow would have been dead – or undead after they’d been attacked by a small group of vampires. Better they were with her rather than worry they’d follow regardless of her demands.

Quashing her emotions on the subject for now, Buffy hardened her own gaze. It was so easy for these two interlopers to say that – not that she could understand why they’d helped- or why she was still standing there listening instead of staking their asses. Why the hell would these vampires have even the remotest feelings about anything but the kill – of humans?

“How I work is none of your business, bloodsucker,” Buffy fiddled with the stake even as she eyed the two vampires with mistrust. “What I wanna know is why you helped us?” she lifted a hand when Spike opened his mouth to reply, “Yeah, I get that you were after those demons, but why not turn on us – especially me? I’m your natural enemy,” she reminded them unnecessarily.

“We’re here to do a job, luv. Nothing more.” Spike could see no reason to tell her that they were contracted out. They’d found long ago that Mercenaries weren’t well-liked. Plus, it wasn’t any of Slayer’s damned business. He raised his hands in mock surrender and took a step back, his expression now reflecting boredom. “Now, if you’ve finished prattling, we’ll be on our way.”

He half turned, wanting to put as much distance as he could between them. The girl and what she stood for brought bad memories and even worse regrets back to the surface. The terrified face of the last Slayer he’d killed still haunted him. What had once become some kind of personal quest back in the day now sickened him. He needed to leave.

But Buffy wasn’t finished by a long shot. She’d seen what was under those human veneers. Would have sensed it even if she hadn’t. They weren’t acting like any vamps she’d ever come across, and that made them more dangerous in her book. An unknown quality was never a good thing. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get out of Sunnydale and not look back,” she finally warned.

Spike turned back and looked at her with a lift of a dark brow. He didn’t bother to reply this time; his expression unreadable. Angel, equally poker-faced, replied instead. “Once we finish what we came here to-”

“This is my territory,” Buffy butted in abruptly and took a step forward. “I can deal with them. Go back where you came from, or I’ll deal with you now.” It wasn’t a threat, and both vampires seemed to turn into stone. The tension on both sides racked up and Buffy swallowed thickly.

And then the dark-haired vampire relaxed and let a slight smile touch his mouth. Buffy’s breath hitched. “We don’t want trouble, but …” Cool confidence oozed from him as he shrugged offhandedly, unspoken words hung in the air between them, and it gave her pause for thought.

Currently, each one of them sported bruises. She could see no other choice but to retreat. She’d seen them fight. It had taken three of them to kill one of those Uber-strong demons. Granted, she was the only one with supernatural strength, but still, the two vamps had taken out three demons with relative ease.

More powerful than the average vamp, these two – especially the dark-haired one. She’d bet her life on it that his large, imposing body was finely honed with muscle. The brutal yet efficient methods they’d used told of years – maybe centuries, of fighting skills. Hell, just looking into those deep brown eyes that seemed to hold a lifetime…

The last vampire she’d come across with that look in his eyes had been Luke, and he hadn’t shown half as much skill as the ones facing her now. Buffy had beaten him. But by the skin of her teeth. It had taken several days to recover from the injuries he’d inflicted on her.

Unlikely she’d walk away Scot-free. Yes, Buffy decided grimly. Retreat was the best option. For now. She took a step back and slowly lowered her stake.

The vampires widened the gap between them, and after briefly eyeing the contemplative Slayer, Angel flicked his dark gaze over Cordelia from head to toe. This one was worth hanging around for. Even without the business that brought them here. He admired her sass…among other things.

It probably wasn’t the time or place, but dayyamn, she’s sweet! He let a slight, sensual smile touch his mouth. “Maybe see you around.”

The pure male appreciation in that look had Cordy tingling right down to her toes, but she rolled her eyes and shoved aside the accompanying shiver that ran along her spine under his hot appraisal. “Not if my stake sees you first.” Her face flushed with irritation when a soft, deep chuckle floated through the air even as they stepped back and then seemingly melted into the darkness.

Back / Part 5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *