Darkness and Daylight

Cordelia / Angel Fanfiction & Art by Lysa Whitmore

SEASON of SOLACE

81:     The Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale


 

Angel stood staring at the closed bathroom door stunned that Cordelia had just beaten him at his own game. In her case, “Later,” sounded more like a promise to drive him crazy with wanting her.

On top of everything he was feeling tonight, it was like lighting a fire inside intended to consume him. He wanted to show her in more than mere words that her desire for him was returned, needed to feel her heart beating against him. All he had to do was go in there.

Listening, he heard her shuffling around behind the door. The cabinet doors opened and closed as she looked for the towels. Rollers on a drawer slid open and then water started to splash in the sink. Knowing the contents of the drawer, he guessed she was after the toothpaste and imagined her standing there thinking about using his toothbrush.

“There’s a new toothbrush in the cabinet behind you,” Angel called out to the door and then decided it was time to give her a little privacy. He heard her gasp, let out a gruff little growl and then move over to the cabinet.

“Are you sure you don’t have x-ray vision?” Cordelia called out letting the cabinet close with a bang.

Letting that one go, Angel figured he had time to change clothes before she returned. He could do with a shower, too, but there were other things that he needed to do if Cordelia was going to stay the night, and every night to come until he was convinced that she was safe from harm. He glanced back at the bed and figured he would have to drag one of the chaise lounges in for himself.

Angel hung his leather coat in the closet and started on the buttons of his shirt. He normally did not wear anything to bed. With Cordelia around, he figured he better opt for boxers or sweats. Not tonight, though. Planning to change into a clean shirt and pants, he knew that he needed to be ready for anything. The demon managed to track Dru for quite some time before finally losing the trail, and Angel still did not know how he had managed to find Cordelia at Bev’s place.

For all they knew, he was aware of Cordelia’s associations and might find his way here. It was a remote possibility, but Angel was not going to take chances. The mansion itself was wide open to attack. Starting tomorrow, he would need help to secure it.

Stripping off his shirt, Angel noticed that the shower had not come on yet. All he heard was muffled cries coming from behind the door accompanied by the soft shifting of the layers of her dress rubbing against each other. Just when he was about to approach the door, it flew open to reveal Cordelia teary-eyed, frustrated and ready to scream. She stalked out of the bathroom heading directly for him while holding up the long skirt of her gown with both hands. 

Stopping arms distance away, she dropped her hold letting it flounce back to the floor. “This dress is evil,” she announced and sniffed away the last of her tears.

“Definitely wicked,” Angel muttered in agreement though he had a feeling she meant something different. “Problems?”

It took a moment for his words to sink in. She had not expected to find him half naked and the experience was a little distracting as her flustered gaze traveled down his bare chest. With a slow blink, she realized Angel knew she was staring.

Turnabout was definitely fair play in her book. “Problems? Oh! Yes. Dress. Evil. I need help.” Cordelia pointed toward the overly snug bodice and Angel’s eyes took their time lingering over the curves. “The top is too tight to pull down,” she told him, “I can’t yank it over my head and I can’t reach all of the buttons.”

If she had a pair of scissors, Cordelia would have cut her way out she so wanted to be rid of the dress. It reminded her of Drusilla and that made her think about Bev. She did not want to think about Bev tonight. This had already turned into the worst day of her life. She could not take one more rotten thing even if it was just a dress with a thousand evil buttons.

“Turn around.” The order rubbed at her frayed nerves making her want to defy that simple request even if it got her what she wanted. Though, that was not all she wanted if the antsy, anxious feelings building up inside her had anything to say about it. An hour of crying under a hot shower might take care of it, or spending it being distracted from reality just by being held in Angel’s arms.

Slowly, Cordelia turned around, glancing at Angel over her shoulder. A gasp escaped as she saw the way he looked at her with that sinful stare and crooked smile. Just that was enough to cause hot licks of fire in her belly. He had not made a move to touch her yet, and when he did, it was only to let the tips of his fingers slide through her hair.

Cordelia eyes fluttered closed at the sensation. All he did was smooth her hair over her shoulder, but the simple touch seemed to ignite something inside her. Having his hands on her right now might not be the wisest idea. She waited for his next touch anticipating the buttons coming undone so she could escape this sudden need to press her palms against his skin, her lips against his throat.

Her hands fluttered nervously at her belly then moved up to gather the hair he had tucked over her shoulder, the repetitive motions somehow so soothing. Angel moved closer. He was right behind her now, just inches away. His hand stroked up her spine, fingertips brushing over the open buttons she’d been able to reach and passing over the rest.

Then his hands were at her shoulders massaging the tension he found there to send shockwaves down to the point between her thighs. “Angel.” It came out on a moan and Cordelia was not certain what she was asking for, whether it was for more or less of his tantalizing touch.

The lightest stroke of his fingertips between the open top buttons of the gown moved to the closed vee. He felt cool against the fiery heat of her skin. There was an unmistakable pop as one button opened and the back of her gown was peeled just the tiniest bit more. Repeatedly, she felt the slide of Angel’s fingers on her spine until he reached the few at the bottom that she had managed to undo on her own.

The slightest hint of a tortured moan escaped Angel’s throat as that last button popped open to reveal the smooth curves of her back from her elegant neck all the way down to the shadowy cleft of her bare bottom. He thought of what they had been through tonight and what she had whispered in his ear. Despite his rampant arousal and the fact that he could scent hers, Angel knew it would be better to ignore it.

Now that he had accomplished his task, conquering the evil buttons, Angel knew that he should stop touching her warm, silken skin. Any gentleman would step away without a lustful thought, but even as a human, gentlemanly behavior had never been a priority. The opposite was more his routine. At the moment, his nerves were too frayed to fight the urge to stay close. He could not move away from her, instead leaning in to kiss the curve of her neck.

“You’re so beautiful.”

Angel curved his hands around her waist pulling her back against him. Warm skin, silk and the nubs of those pearl buttons pressed into his bare chest, but the contact also brought her taut bottom up against his arousal. Her gasp turned into a tempting little moan as he rocked forward in response.

“Did you mean what you said earlier?” Angel’s nose nudged her ear, his words a caress across her cheek.

Cordelia turned in his arms, the dress gaping dangerously low until she looped her arms around his neck. She did not pretend to misunderstand him. “Yes. Are you ever gonna shut up and kiss me?”

With that irreverent form of permission, Angel pressed his lips to hers, planting a slow, hungry kiss across her mouth.   

82: Bev's House, 21 Quincy Street, Eastside, Sunnydale

“Just the necessities.” Buffy handed out the trash bags they were going to use in lieu of suitcases. Those were probably somewhere in the garage and it was not as if Cordelia was going to be staying at Angel’s place long-term. “We’ll do this quick and get out of here. Take just enough for a few days.”

Xander looked doubtful as he stared down at the garbage bag in his hand. “This is Cor we’re talking about, Buff. What’s a necessity to her might fill a U-haul.”

Glancing around Cordelia’s bedroom, Buffy noticed she seemed to have brought a lot of stuff from her parents’ house. Giles had not mentioned any details only that Angel had told him Cordelia was living here now. She had a feeling something was going on other than Cor’s parents just being of town.

Pushing her thoughts aside, Buffy decided it would be better to focus on the task at hand. “The mansion is only a few blocks away. I think we’ll manage.”

“What about Bev’s car?” suggested Willow who was not so thrilled about the idea of hauling Cordelia’s stuff all over Sunnydale by hand. This neighborhood was not exactly the safest even if they did have a Slayer for company.

Xander’s eyes lit up at the thought of driving the convertible. “Oh, Willow, you have such a sexy brain.” He wrapped his arms around her, bouncing at the same time. “I adore your brilliance.”

Though it did not seem very respectful, Buffy could see that the argument against using Cordelia’s dead grandma’s car was already lost. She brushed off Xander’s enthusiasm as his way of dealing with the situation. Besides, actual transportation would get them to the mansion faster. “Okay,” she sighed, “but we’ll need the keys.”

Extracting herself from Xander’s bouncy hug, Willow started moving toward the hall. “I’ll start with the bathroom: toothbrush, hairbrush, hair products, makeup… hmm, I think Xander was right.”

Nodding, Buffy commented that she would grab the clothes. Xander glanced around the room again and grinned wickedly as he caught sight of the dresser. “I’ll start with the panty drawer.”

Buffy grabbed him tossing him out into the hall. She pointed in the direction of the living room. “Keys,” she ordered firmly, which drew a pout from Xander.

Apparently, he was cursed never to get into Cordelia’s panties, even if it did take browsing through her dresser drawer. “What? I picked a necessity,” he argued to no avail. 

83:     Angel's Mansion, Crawford Street, Central Sunnydale

Angel’s kiss lit a warm burn in her belly. Wanting more, her lips tingled beneath the soft weight of his. When the gentle pressure suddenly lifted away mid kiss, the acute loss of sensation sparked a moan. Their eyes met for an instant, his dark, smoldering with emotions she had no time to fathom. 

All Cordelia knew was that being this close felt as vital as breathing because when Angel touched her she could think of nothing else. All her troubles disappeared beyond the fog that clouded her brain and blocked out anything except the sweet solace of sensation.

She brushed her fingertips across his cheek tilting her parted lips toward him, his name whispered across his skin. Eyelashes fluttered closed again. Angel captured her lower lip with a soft suck then darted his tongue teasingly across its plump surface. Widespread hands roved endlessly tracing paths across skin and silk.

Eager to touch him too, Cordelia’s hands left the soft strands of his hair to move across broad shoulders and sweeping between them to the muscular expanse of his bare chest. The motion rubbed the back of her wrists against her sensitive breasts. Their velvety peaks pressed against the cloth of her gown causing her to arch forward. Angel moaned into her mouth as her rounded nails scraped gently over his nipples before her hands moved to a natural resting spot near the top of his belt.

Hips connected, his spread stance making a ready home for hers. There was no mistaking his physical response as his hand swept down her bare spine bringing them closer together. One of her hands slipped down to his hip closer to the hard bulge pressing against her belly, lingering there curiously before skipping back up to the safety of his waist.

Angel’s lips slid down to her pulse point lingering for the space of a few heartbeats. Her eyes blinked open for a single moment of clarity. She wanted to make love with him. This was not just another one of their recent fun, but not going anywhere make-out sessions. Somehow, she knew, even aroused as this, Angel would manage to stop if she asked, but the honest truth was that she wanted more. Right now, she needed it.

Clasping his jaw, Cordelia turned his head for another kiss needing his mouth on hers. The fingers of her other hand came up to trace the shell of his ear and then grasp the nape of his neck. Their lips pressed tight and held for a second, her knees nearly buckling as Angel opened up to her letting her tongue slip inside to taste him.

His strong hands were at her waist, holding her up until Cordelia was steady on her feet. The momentary dizziness had her clutching his shoulders again. They broke apart with only the flickering candlelight blinking in the tiny space between them.

“I want to see you.” Angel’s words sounded as thick as honey and sent a ripple of lust down to the hot, achy place between her thighs. “All of you.”

Cordelia licked at her lips, partly nervous, but mostly missing his kisses. His eyes were full of contradictions. She saw that now. Sinful darkness demanding to be sated, and anger tempered by some steel thread of control. Guilt flashed in those ageless eyes, but something else was there, too. She did not really know if it was love, but there was enough to convince her that Angel’s feelings for her were real.

As Cordelia reached for the loose edge of her bodice, his hands covered hers and gently pulled them to her sides. A shiver of anticipation sent tingles along every direction as Angel’s hands slid along her arms in an up & down motion dragging the silk gown with him as he went. His eyes held hers for another instant before dropping to follow the trail of her gown as it peeled away from her breasts.

Another husky rumble left his throat as she was revealed to him by millimeters, the silk slipping slowly over her curves. His hands slipped up again, his thumbs catching the gown where it had stretched across her distended nipples to tug it down to the point where she could lift her arms out of the sleeves. 

Free of impediments, the gown dropped rapidly to her waist clinging precariously to her hips, now trapped by their close-knit bodies. Watching his every reaction, Cordelia saw him drag his tongue across his lips as her breasts came into view. Curled fingertips traced a line from breast to hip, then turning and spreading out to lay claim to the supple curve of her bottom bringing her body in perfect alignment with his.

The tips of her breasts brushed up against Angel’s chest. She moved to wind her arms around his neck, but he dipped his head so that his mouth once again found the pulse point at her throat, blunt teeth nipping softly. Somewhere in the back of her mind, a little warning bell sounded, but Cordelia pushed those thoughts aside for the moment.

Tilting her head, she gave him better access and was rewarded with a hot trail of kisses down to her collarbone. Eyes closed, she felt herself dipped back, a move that kept their hips locked and her breasts fully exposed to his view. Anticipating Angel’s hands and mouth to squelch some of that achy feeling inside her, she let out an impatient moan, opening her eyes to find his were tinted with gold.

One large hand slipped up to her breast filling his palm, his eyes riveted as he plumped it, thumb circling along its curves and teasing sensitive flesh that puckered under the attention. Cordelia’s fingernails curled into the nape of his neck subconsciously urging him forward until a low sound in his throat caught her attention.

It sounded like encouragement. Arching forward into his hand, Cordelia mewled in protest as he freed her breast, his hand skimming beneath the cascade of her hair to grasp her nape and bring them face to face. Angel planted a hot kiss on her lips before taking a step mere inches back.

A rush of air followed as the silk gown slipped down over the length of her supple legs pooling at her feet. Angel watched its progress, his heavy-lidded gaze slowly dragging back up to linger along her toned golden thighs and the soft brown curls forming a trim triangle at their juncture. The sweet scent of arousal filled the air, her skin hot, flushed with desire.

Inwardly, Angel cursed himself for taking advantage of the situation. Yet he had to touch her, breathe in her scent, press his lips to her skin to taste her. Helpless to do anything else, his emotions were strung tight like a bowstring, and any random interruption might snap his control.

He had been through hell tonight all because he feared the worst, believing that the demon might have taken Cordelia, done things, gone through with the plan to spill her blood. If not the demon, then Drusilla might have been playing at some revenge game. The sight and scent of Bev’s blood that had not quite left his thoughts— and the disgust he felt because on some level he realized he had let himself breathe it in deep.

The relief he had felt at finding Cordelia unharmed played havoc with emotions far more instinctual and much too close to the surface. Angel knew that he should be doing nothing more than safeguarding Cordelia, but he needed the reassurance of her touch and something more real than what he saw with his eyes, what she’d whispered in his ear.

Just how far was too far, he wondered, as he watched Cordy kick the discarded dress away with feigned confidence. He knew her well enough to detect the act. There was no mistaking her sudden shyness as her lashes shadowed her hazel eyes.

“Beautiful,” Angel rumbled ardently, his fingertips just skimming the curve of her bare hip. He could see the effect of that single word as if he had told her something she knew all along, but needed to hear him say it.

Cordelia wound her arms around his neck, standing on her tiptoes, and pressing those magnificent breasts against him as she reached up for a kiss. He could not deny her what he wanted himself. Pressing her lips further open, Angel’s tongue lashed across the smooth inner flesh slipping inside and darting away again drawing hers into the open. Caressing it with his own, the wet slide of their tongues made him think of the warm, wet place between her thighs.

The thought of laying Cordy down on his bed, hair streaming across his pillow as he spread her open to his gaze flashed on instant replay. He could already taste her arousal on the air, and before considering her inexperience, stroked his long fingers between her thighs, both of them reacting to the contact.

Cordelia gasped into his mouth, her first instinct to clench her legs together, but the insistent strum of his fingers slipping along those intimate folds felt glorious. She clutched alternately at his face, his shoulders, and his muscular arms feeling the shallow rhythm of his tongue matching the strokes below.

When Angel’s fingers slipped away, Cordelia sounded out a soft cry of complaint. He clasped her face, staring intently into her eyes. “I want you in my bed, Cordy, but it’s impossible to go all the way.” Somehow, he ha found the sense to remind her of the danger. Stressing, “You know that,” while trying to convince himself to listen, too. His body certainly was not paying attention.

“Don’t stop now. I want it.” Against his lips the soft words were half plea, half demand. She kissed him, lips locking with his as her palms slid down his torso in a v-shaped line toward his belt buckle.

Angel figured she would stop there, but Cordelia was more brazen than most virgins he had encountered. Reaching between them, she cupped him, her fingers finding his shape. After standing so shyly under his appreciative gaze, she now wantonly stroked him with her hand.

A growl of pleasure rumbled from his chest as he let her fingers roam free despite the urge to grasp her hand to form a tighter grip. The friction of his pants and her unskilled fingers teased deliciously against his fully aroused cock. It felt damn good. He wanted more, far more than he should expect despite the eagerness of her response. Definitely more than was safe.

After the events of this hellish night, Angel wanted to give her a taste of oblivion, a moment of blissful peace where only the two of them existed. He held onto a shred of doubt that true bliss was possible no matter her beauty, or the way he felt, his emotions spiraling out of control. On some level, he conceded it as a selfish excuse, but Angel was too overwrought, telling himself that he could keep it together.

Letting his desire for her outweigh the dangers, he could not deny either one of them this brief distraction. Leaning in close, Angel nibbled at her earlobe for a second before the husky promise of his voice sounded in her ear, “I’m going to enjoy making you come apart at the seams.”

Those hazel eyes sparkled as she challenged, “Think you can?”

“Let’s find out.” Angel maneuvered her back toward the bed.

Tossing the coverlet toward the bottom, he lifted her up, placed a quick kiss at the corner of her mouth and gently set Cordelia down in the middle of the bed.

Cordelia’s first instinct was to make a grab for the loose sheet to cover herself. She was not used to being so exposed even if Angel’s every touch and glance, not to mention his words, was enough to convince her he thought she was beautiful. That just showed his newly improved good taste in girlfriends.

Who ever said blondes had more fun never met Cordelia Chase. She did not want to remind Angel of anyone else tonight.

A gasp of anticipation caught in her throat as she watched Angel toe off his boots. The sight of him trying to look sexy while removing his socks caused Cordelia to bite down on her lower lips to prevent an escaping hysterical giggle. She lowered her lashes, glancing away in order to regain her composure, and when she looked back, Angel’s hands were on his belt, unbuckling and slipping the leather through the loops.

Things were not so funny all of a sudden. Nervous tingles swarmed in her tummy as her eyes locked with the motion of his hands. He deftly unbuttoned his pants, his fingers moving to catch the fastener on the zipper. Her own hands clutched at the sheet as he paused mid-motion, her eyes darting from the obvious bulge that he was about to reveal up to his face and back down to his hands.

Cordelia wanted to see if reality matched what her visual imagination had come up with. What she had been feeling was certainly out of proportion to everything she had seen in the past. As man-sized packages went Angel’s came in extra large. That was almost as terrifying as it was exciting.

Her hair cascaded forward as she lowered her gaze to the edge of the sheet that she had draped over the strategic parts of her body. Suddenly, the mattress dipped with Angel’s weight and Cordelia’s eyes darted up to see him kneeling on the bed, legs spread apart, hands resting on thickly muscled thighs as he sat on his heels watching her.

Blinking twice, “Your pants are still on,” she observed in shock.

“Let’s just take one thing at a time, okay?” suggested Angel tracing a finger over the exposed curve of her knee. His slight touch left her tingling for more. Moving slowly, his finger tripped up to the smooth bronzed skin of her arm joined by the rest of his hand as he reached her shoulder and then sliding up cupped her face.

A sigh escaped her lips, one Cordelia barely noticed as she relaxed into his touch. Her lips felt swollen as she licked at them, eager to feel his mouth against hers. “Kiss me,” she urged leaning forward an inch expecting him to come the rest of the way.

What she got quickly turned from a soft velvety kiss into one that fired up her blood, heart pounding, and breath coming in audible pants in between kisses. She was not sure when she ended up back in his arms, but Cordelia was now straddling one thigh. The forgotten sheet was loosely tangled around her hips and legs while Angel’s hands wandered from her back to the curves of her breasts.

A grunt of pure male satisfaction rumbled against her throat as he filled both hands with her breasts. Pressed one last lingering kiss to her pulse point, Angel moved on to his newest discoveries. Teasing touches and open-mouthed wet kisses made her arch closer, her whole body tingling from the attention. Then Angel nipped at the tempting target of her nipple, drawing it into his mouth for a moment and then pulling back to blow air across its wet surface, and turning to give equal attention to its twin.

Cordelia squirmed against the hard thigh positioned between her legs. The friction was delicious and she remembered how it felt with his fingers rubbing her there where she was so slick and sensitive. She moaned at the loss of the sensation as their bodies shifted and Angel laid her down upon the bed.

Braced on his arms above her, Angel took a moment to enjoy the gorgeous image she made, matching the one he had imagined. Her golden skin flushed with arousal, soft hair spread out across his pillow, beautiful body tangled up in his sheets on his bed. And she was looking at him with that mix of love and lust that went straight to his cock keeping him hard and heavy pressing anxiously against his pants.

Angel dipped his head back to her breasts letting himself enjoy the feel of the warm fleshy globes against his cheek and mouth, the taste of her on his tongue as he rasped it across her skin. He arched into her hands as they came up to clasp him to her, warm fingers spreading through his hair and moving across his shoulders, but he was no longer content with just her mouth or the tempting curves of her breasts. He wanted to bury his face between her thighs and taste her arousal.

Distracted, she never noticed that he reached between them to snag the edge of the sheet and send it floating down to join the rest of the bed covers. He soaked in her scent and every little pant and moan she made as he kissed his way across the golden plain of her taut belly, hands grasping at her tiny waist as he darted his tongue into the dip of her navel.

“Angel,” the sound of his name on her lips made him press his hips hard into the mattress as he flattened his body out between her open thighs. He flicked a short glance at her face to see a hint of panic there upon realizing that she was spread open to him, his broad shoulders now blocking her from shutting her legs. “What are you— oh!”

Cordelia realized what he intended and the thought of it thrilled and scared her at the same time. Considering Angel’s probable experience and what she had gleaned from the glossy pages of Cosmo this was going to be good, very good. That did not stop her from holding her breath in anticipation as she stared into eyes that were no longer a shade of midnight, but tinted with gold and full of lust.

Propped on her elbows, she watched as Angel’s dark head dipped down rubbing his face against her soft curls. Cordelia felt herself blushing, but the light pressure made her throb and she cried out at the wet scrape of his tongue along her most intimate flesh. Hearing his heady moan at the taste of her, her eyes glazed over as she watched him focus on that part of her she only touched when bathing or sometimes in the quiet solitude of her own bed.

She flopped back on the pillow, her hips bucking against his mouth as his lips and tongue worked their magic. Angel’s hands initially framed her hips then slid down to the supple flesh of her thighs holding her open to him as she writhed against the soft cotton sheets, pleasure streaking through her body.

At first, Cordelia could do nothing except react, her focus turned inward. Embarrassment soon melted away under the sensual onslaught. She arched against Angel’s mouth as his gentle licks and soft suckles sought out every intimate fold. Deliberately, his caresses avoided the one spot her instincts told her she wanted him to be and the hard little nub was aching for attention. 

Cordelia rubbed low on her belly, fingers brushing the edge of soft hair inching toward her sweet spot. Sensing what she was after Angel decided not to tease her any longer. He raised his head a fraction of an inch and flicked his tongue across her clit eliciting a soft, “Guh!” and chasing her hand away from territory that was decidedly his at the moment.

Every little moan and cry turned him on more. His stiff cock was trapped between layers of cloth and a mattress that was a poor substitute for the slick tunnel of untried flesh he had found with his tongue. Dipping in, Angel opened his mouth wide, delving deeper and then leaving the honey-filled depths, tongue dripping with it, to focus on her clit again and again. Her throaty pleas filled his ears, her legs splayed open wide.

Glancing up at the extraordinarily sensual picture Cordelia made as her hands caressed the curves of her breasts Angel continued his constant flicking motions and slipped his middle finger into her slick opening.

It startled her for an instant, surprise on her lips, but then Cordelia surrendered to sensation. It felt incredible. Gentle strokes back and forth, shallow and deep, along with that sinful tongue lapping and flicking at her clit brought her to a crest of pleasure that left her riding wave after wave. Her breaths came in gasps with unintelligible cries escaping in between as Angel greedily lapped up the hot spray of her orgasm.

Slipping in a second finger without missing a stroke letting her feel herself stretch each time he plunged forward. “This should be me,” he growled a bit as his body shifted upward only slightly mollified by the fact that Cordelia continued to spasm around his fingers.

Cordelia hissed a vehement, “Yes,” feeling her body humming to his rhythmic strokes. Anxious hands reached out to touch him moving along his shoulders, curling over his nape, fingers threading through his hair. “Please, Angel.”

Crawling his way up her body, Angel rubbed his face along her belly leaving damp spots behind, lapping at them with his tongue as he went along. Finally removing his fingers from her sensitive flesh, he sucked them into his mouth, an ecstatic expression forming as he savored the taste.

He expected to shock her virginal sensibilities with that one, but Angel was not about to deny himself every bit of pleasure he could glean. There might never be another night like this where he lacked the control to avoid temptation altogether, where the nature of events rang a morbid cord that fed his demonic urges and wracked his soul with guilt. All that and yet his heart flooded with emotions in the wake of Cordelia’s admission of lust, knowing that she felt more form him, too.

Neither one of them was sated. The hungry kisses that followed only managed to stir them into a frenzy of escalating need. Angel tried to hold back, to focus on her pleasure alone, but Cordelia’s hand determinedly found its way between them. The brush of her fingers against his erection was enough to cause Angel to rear away up onto his knees growling her name.

“Cordy, no!” The harsh tone of his voice softened at her hurt expression as if he had spurned her first touch. “We can’t do that. I know I’d—”

A determined glint appeared in her eyes now darkened with arousal, “Yes we can. We can do anything we want and tonight I want all of you.”

Scrambling onto her knees, she kissed him before he could say anything to refute her words. Her hands slid down this torso to linger at his waistband close to the half-opened zip. Angel’s hand fisted in her hair as he pressed his lips hard against hers plundering her mouth because it shut her up. Cordelia was saying exactly what he wanted to hear, not what he needed in order to find the strength to say no again.

Breaking away, he pulled back just enough to challenge her, “Take a good look at what you’re asking for.” He reached down to fully unzip his pants. The gasp of anticipation in her throat was the first sign that his mistake would cost him. It was impossible not to soak in every little reaction, to drag his eyes down those gorgeous curves to the damp curls between her thighs and imagine what it would be like to take her.

The tip of her tongue licked sensuously at her lips, an unconscious little move at the sight of his open zipper and the shadowed flesh beneath. Angel’s whole body was taut as he dropped his hands to his side, waiting to see if she would take up his dare or flee into the safety of the bathroom.

Cordelia tugged her moistened lip into her mouth, staring wide-eyed for all of three seconds before flushing hotly, a secretive little smirk appearing. “If it’s just a banana, I’m going to be really disappointed.”   

84:     The Police Station, Westside, Sunnydale

Released?” Puzzled, Wesley peered down at the open logbook searching for any sign of Faith’s name. He requested the desk clerk check again. “She was brought in no more than an hour ago on rather serious charges. Either the American legal system is far more efficient than I imagined or you are making a mistake.” 

The man behind the desk shut the book against further prying eyes. “It’s you that is making the mistake, bub.”

Wesley bristled at the man’s tone. Standing straight, his hands on his lapels, he stared back determinedly. “Perhaps you remember a brunette?”

After a short pause, he nodded, “Maybe I do. Attitude, dimples, leather pants?”

Now they were getting somewhere. “Yes! That’s the one,” Wesley kept looking around the open station from desk to desk trying to catch sight of the officers who took Faith into custody. “Is she in the detention area? I’d like to arrange counsel for her.”

“I already told you she ain’t under arrest,” he barked impatiently. “How many times do I gotta tell you?”

“That is impossible.”

Sighing deeply, the desk clerk buried his face in his hands and rubbed hard. “I’m getting tired of your face. Leave or I’ll let you check out the detention area on a permanent basis.”

Wesley’s eyes widened at the threat. “Oh. There is no need to be rude about a simple inquiry. My… friend was arrested tonight and I won’t leave without some satisfaction as to her whereabouts.”

“What is the problem?” Giles stepped up to the counter next to Wesley. He had been parking the car having decided to allow the younger man the privilege of taking the initiative regarding his Slayer.

However, he had not been willing to let the new Watcher go on his own. No matter that Faith had a new Watcher, Giles still felt a sense of duty and responsibility toward her and— dare he even think it— friendship.

“This…this officer refuses to explain Faith’s whereabouts,” Wesley sputtered angrily.

Giles raised a brow. “Is that so,” he glanced at the desk clerk’s badge, “Officer Ledger? I dare say there is some misunderstanding. It might be prudent if—”

“She. Ain’t. Here.” His face flushed a beefy red color. “You English people got some problem with English? Sheesh. Your little brunette just left. She made a quick statement to one of our detectives and then she left.”

Wesley and Giles exchanged glances. It was the latter who finally spoke up, thanking Officer Ledger for his time. They made a hasty retreat. When they reached the parking lot, Wesley stopped short. “There is something very unorthodox about this whole business.”

“I agree,” Giles nodded, “but if what I think has happened has actually happened then tonight may not have been a complete tragedy.”

Feeling drained, Wesley muttered, “I could really use a cup of tea.”

“Let’s find Faith first,” Giles suggested clapping him on the back. “I think it’s high time to fill you in on a few details about your Slayer.”   

85:     Elsewhere . . .

Moving West on State Street, Xander drove slowly in order to make the trip last a little longer. Chances were that this would be his only opportunity at driving the classic car. Buffy sat next to him and Willow was in the passenger seat. They had stuffed the trash bags with Cordelia’s belongings in the back, not bothering with putting it in the trunk.

“Could you go any slower?” Buffy eyed the speedometer. “I could’ve gotten there and back by now.”

Xander strummed his fingers against the steering wheel. They had come to a stop at a red light. “I was just doing a little thinking, Buffster,” he offered up his most charming smile.

“Uh oh!” Willow gulped ominously. “Xander thinking!” She quickly made a closing zipper motion across her mouth when he gave her the stink eye.

Buffy just stared back waiting for the bomb to drop.

“It’s awful isolated in that mansion,” Xander pointed out. He had been thinking about Cordelia being on her own up there with only a vampire for company. It was one thing for them to team up for patrol or to train together in the basement, but he did not like the idea of her sleeping at the mansion.

“Cor is better off hiding out than being out and about where that crosathnam demon can track her,” Buffy countered even though she did not exactly like the idea either.

Despite Willow’s zipped lips, she offered up, “But it’s not very secure there. We just walked in. The gate was broken. Parts of it are wide open to anyone or any thing who feels like coming for a visit.”

“There’s still the idea of Cordelia staying at my house,” Buffy frowned at the idea. Giles had a point about not putting her mother in any danger.

A car horn honked behind them prompting Xander to notice the green light. He put his foot down on the gas pedal and started the car moving again. “Back to the thoughts I thunk. We should camp out for the next few days. Buffy can patrol the perimeter while the rest of us set up security inside.”

“Camp out, huh?” Buffy mulled over the idea for a few seconds. Picturing Cordelia and Angel living together even for safety’s sake made her stomach churn. “You’re right, Xander. We should stick around just in case something bad should happen.”

Willow’s eyes widened, “Do you really think the demon will track Cordelia down again?”

It took a second for Buffy respond, realizing that her best friend’s idea of bad was a lot different than her own. Her plan to oust Cordelia and keep her own feelings for Angel at bay had gone so wrong. Those two just seemed to be getting closer and there was nothing like a tragedy to spur things along.

Buffy had to trust her instincts. “We’ll be there if he does,” she answered. “So maybe we ought to go home first to get our stuff.”

“Don’t forget to stop by the all night Quick Mart,” Willow reminded them that there was probably no food in the house. “We’ll need goodies.”

Since Xander was already halfway through the intersection of State and Crawford, it looked like he was in agreement. He quipped, “First stop, Revello Drive.”   

86:     Angel's Bedroom, Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale

Don’t be so grumpy,” Cordelia laughed at Angel’s dark scowl. “I didn’t say that it looked like a banana. I haven’t even seen it yet.” 

Stunned, Angel didn’t know whether to laugh or growl at that, but a smile worked its way onto his face, matching hers. His hand came up to her caress her cheek, thumb roving across the curve of her lips and then replacing it with his mouth, gently this time in contrast to the last one, softly smooching, enticing her to open to him.

Cordelia’s hands were stroking up and down the ladder of his ribs momentarily distracted from her task. His free hand slid down the curve of her back clasping her rounded bottom with a large palm and giving it a little squeeze before sliding it back up to join the other. She was addictive and he wanted more from her than he dared to admit.

The longer Angel thought he was in control of his needs, the easier it was for him to go one step further with a kiss here, a caress there, just a little more. So, he gave in to Cordelia’s wishes, seduced by her innocent enthusiasm. Cupping her face, Angel spread teasing kisses across her mouth, cheek, and the curve of her brow before turning his lips to her ear to prompt her, “Touch me.”

“Here?” she ran a fingertip across his collarbone following it up with a kiss to his shoulder. Angel merely shook his head allowing her to play her little game and allowing himself to enjoy the anticipation. The roving fingertip moved downward on a winding path across his pecs to rub his left nipple.

The fact that it hardened under her touch seemed to catch Cordelia’s attention as she flicked her eyes up to his, asking, “What about here?” Then her wet tongue snaked across it, her teeth scraping just enough to elicit a grunt of pleasure. He thought of the ways he wanted to teach her to use that facile tongue and telling her where he liked to be bitten.

Angel’s thoughts moved in the direction of the hand now rubbing a circle around his navel realizing that he could not take the teasing much longer. He wanted her hand on him now. When Cordelia purred in his ear, “Am I getting warmer?” Angel covered her hand with his and led her directly down to his cock.

A sharp gasp sounded from Cordelia’s parted lips, her eyes widening with shock. Then his hand slipped back out of his pants leaving Cordelia’s fingers splayed out across his thick erection. Her cheeks flamed red as her shyness returned, but hearing Angel moan in pleasure at the contact chased her nerves away.

Tentatively, she moved her hand, fingers brushing lightly along his shaft and the soft pouch. Going on instinct, Cordelia glided her fingers up and down taking hold on the third stroke. Angel seemed to like it considering the way his hips bucked in response.

He muttered something against her mouth just before pushing his pants down over his hips. Their eyes clashed for an instant before hers dropped to see what Angel had revealed. Cordelia forgot to breathe for a second, holding her breath in total fascination at the sight of her hand wrapped around him.

It only took a few strokes before Angel completely lost his resolve about stopping at letting her bring him off with her hand. Just when he had come to the conclusion that it would be impersonal enough to avoid any danger was a mystery because there was nothing remotely impersonal about it. He could still taste her orgasm on his tongue, scenting it in the air around them, her arousal so apparent that he had to touch her again.

Capturing her hand, he moved with her for a few strokes showing her the pace and rhythm he liked. Then he wrapped his arms around her, easing them both down on the bed, ridding himself of his pants. Braced above her, Angel settled into the valley of her thighs as her legs parted to him leaving room for Cordelia to continue to stroke his cock.

Angel buried his face into her neck to ply it with hot kisses, his hands sliding from her thighs to breasts, fondling them, his mouth coming into play even as his hips thrust forward with the movements of her hand. Hot, clenching arousal held them captive. Cordelia’s legs curled over his hips instinctively pulling him closer to the source of her need.

Throbbing, the hot sweep of her hand was too much, too fast as Angel felt himself now aching for release. Angel captured her wrist guiding her to let go and taking the other to press her hands up above her head. “I want you too much,” his words had her trembling as his hips crashed forward to press his hard length against her slick folds.

When he banged up against her clit, Cordelia saw stars, a cry escaping from her throat. Angel’s name was on her lips again, wanting more, telling him not to stop. Releasing her wrists, he reached between them to rub the swollen little nub and slide two fingers inside planning to bring her off again while trying his damndest to ignore what he really wanted.

Free of his hold, Cordelia clasped his face, staring up into eyes full of conflict, “I want you, too. Now, Angel, please. Now, now,” she muttered in between kisses to the rhythm of his fingers. The gentle thrusts were shallow, fingers curling inside her, rubbing places that left her quaking inside.

Angel’s mouth was a distraction all of its own, but she noticed the few seconds of time where his fingers left her body, moaning a protest in response. She opened her eyes, preparing to tell him to keep going. Then her gaze fell down to Angel’s rampant erection, now fisted in his hand and shiny with her own wetness.

Releasing his hold, Angel spread Cordelia’s thighs gazing hotly at the sight of her, his eyes glazed and body taut with need. Every instinct demanded he take her, make her his, bury himself to the hilt deep inside her. One hand dropped down to rub a thumb along her slick folds, the other moving back to his cock stroking the blunt tip up and down her swollen crevasse bumping her clit and then dipping inside, trying to stop, but desperate to feel the tight squeeze of her body around him.

Once there, he wrapped his hands around the top of her thighs thrusting slowly forward, watching the sensuous expression on Cordelia’s face alter to reveal a hint of fear. Angel was riveted by it unable to tear his gaze away from hers and heard himself muttering something he hoped was soothing as he thrust deep, taking her virginity.

Cordelia cried out once, her arms wrapping around Angel’s shoulders when he lowered the angle of his body. One hand caged her jaw, turning her to meet his kiss as he held his hips still, allowing her to adjust to the intrusion, but fighting against his own desire to take her fast and hard.

Her pliant lips melted under his, their kiss escalating quickly into a fiery clash of pure need. When Cordelia’s hips made a slow circle, her tight heat clenching him, Angel took it as a sign to move withdrawing his length until only the tip remained and then thrusting forward. For her sake he tried to take it cautiously, starting slowly, but the traces of discomfort masking her face soon vanished.

Cordelia swamped Angel’s senses. The feel of her body relaxing beneath him and the trust she showed each time she tilted her throat toward his kisses awakened his possessive streak. Every thrust inside her stirred it further. Cordy was his now and although his demonic senses were attuned to the hint of blood that mixed with her arousal he did not have to fight an overwhelming urge to stem his need to taste it.

Right now the only thing that mattered was the incredible feeling building up in his loins and the hot clench of Cordelia’s body around him each time he buried himself to the hilt. The sounds of her escalating pleasure filled the air and Angel delighted in every lusty little mewl she made.

The hands clutching at his shoulders moved to stroke his back as her hips rocked up to meet his. Flexing his body, Angel kept up with the delicious rhythm and moved to brace himself freeing his hands to caress the silky skin that was now shiny with perspiration. Cupping her breasts, he toyed with the velvety peaks with his mouth and fingers.

Cordelia was so caught up in sensation that her eyes were shut tight, head tilted back against the pillows as her body arched against his. The momentary pain she had felt was nothing compared to the sparks of pleasure that came with each stroke. An urgency built within her that made her push that much harder against him. The bang of his body against her clit made her hiss at the sweet throb. She could feel him inside her seemingly harder than before.

When he called her name it took her a moment to find the will to open her eyes. “Look at me,” she heard him plead for it. The raw edge to his voice told her that Angel was about to lose control and she wanted to see that half expecting him to morph into vampire form. “Look at me, Cordy.”

Dark with passion, his eyes were again tinted with streaks of gold, a hint of bony ridges showing across his brow. Cordelia planted a hand on his cheek, lifting her mouth to his, opening to let his tongue stroke hers. Licks of fire spread out deep inside her, liquid heat pouring around Angel’s hard cock as his thrusts sent her hips crashing into the mattress.

She reached a pinnacle of pleasure screaming his name as Angel reached down between them to gently rub her clit with his thumb. Her knees flexed up higher grasping at him as he fucked her with an untiring intensity. Sliding her hands down his back, Cordelia filled her hands with his buttocks feeling the hard muscles flexing beneath her grasp as she climaxed around him.

Angel felt her orgasm take over as Cordy keened in pleasure, her body tensing and contracting around him. She looked so beautiful stretched out beneath him, flushed skin, rosy lips parted and damp from their kisses, dark hair cascading across his pillows, her nipples dark and erect against the paler globes of her gorgeous breasts.

Amongst the random sounds of her pleasure, he felt her lips move against his cheek as she muttered, “Love you.”

Suddenly he clasped her hips, thrusting faster and harder before, and letting her words fill up the empty places inside of him to sooth away the anger and fear he had felt at the possibility of losing her. His climax was almost silent compared to hers, but no less intense as he poured his heart and need inside her.   

87:     Angel's Bedroom, Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale

Anyone human would be relaxed, sated. Instead, Angel remained on edge, angry for giving in to desire. The curse and the consequences of making love to Cordelia weighed heavily on his mind. He had been a damned fool to risk his soul though the selfish part of him that let it happen coveted every moment. 


Guilty thoughts filled his head as he lay spooned against Cordelia waiting for the inevitable to happen. Fear of the consequences had him mentally lashing out at those who were far out of reach. Damned gypsies. Even though the blame lay closer to home with himself.


Cordy slept soundly making adorable little snuffling sounds now and then as she dreamt. With her body curled naturally into his, the smooth silk of her back and bottom warmed him. Tugging at the sheet until it draped over her legs, Angel paused to trace the feminine curve of her hip. His finger pads followed the dip of her waist spreading out across her soft belly and brushing up against the curls between her thighs.

Applying gentle pressure, he drew her closer into his lower body unable to resist the sensation of her lusciously ripe bottom against his loins. Even now, wracked by guilt and fear, his body had a mind of its own, stirring heavily against her. The thought of making Cordelia his again was far too tempting.


So beautiful.


Closing his eyes, feeling the deep pulse beneath his hand, Angel listened to her body’s rhythms. Drinking in the intoxicating aroma that was Cordy covered in his scent, he felt headily possessive.


Mine.


The fleeting fantasy of waking her up preceded images of her response. Given the chance, Angel knew he would find it hard to let her out of his bed. Once was not nearly enough, but it would have to be. 


When Cordy had drifted off in his arms, he had chosen not to awaken her. Keeping her up all night long was a tempting prospect, but one he could not afford to risk. It was all too easy to imagine her shuddering with pleasure as he took her time and again, hearing her call out his name until she was hoarse with it, and saying what he wanted to hear.


She loves me.


Possessive thoughts mixed with soft, tender feelings, enticing darker desires, and dreams of a future he had no right, no hope to consider. None of it mattered now. He had made love to Cordy under the illusion that he could control his own feelings, that he would limit himself to bringing her pleasure without seeking his own.


Now we’ll both pay for it.


As would countless others when Angelus was free of the fetters of his soul. It was inevitable and now there was nothing he could do except wait.


Angel tried to remember exactly how long it had taken the last time. Of course, back then he had been ignorant of the danger, lost in the hazy afterglow of his feelings for Buffy. It was not instantaneous. There was no doubt in Angel’s mind that while he was with Cordy he had forgotten all about his past mistakes, about Bev’s tragic death, and anything else that detracted from his own feelings.


She was vulnerable, needing comfort, not to get laid. The hard sound in his head softened as he put a different twist on his actions. Made love to. The memory of it felt so intense, incredible.


Selfish bastard.


The circumstances held no comparisons, but how could the outcome be different? Desperation churned at the thought that he might lose his soul and Cordelia in the process. Then he considered there was something to be done. He knew that he should be putting some distance between them just to give her a chance at escape. Better yet, he should look for a stake and take care of things before his soul was gone and he was incapable of stopping himself.


But what if there was a chance…? It did not seem likely that the curse would allow him to make love to Cordelia without the damned ‘happiness clause’ kicking in. One look at her flooded him with emotions that he could not compartmentalize, mentally boxing away for safekeeping as he did with so many other things.


After a moment’s hesitation, Angel let the words take focus in his mind, and the feelings they engendered resonate within him.


Love you, too.


He dared not say them aloud. Doing so might be the one thing to push him over the edge. Just thinking them was terrifying enough. 


After a butterfly kiss against her silky shoulder, Angel nuzzled his cheek against the warmth there before reluctantly pulling away. Lacing his fingers behind his head against the pillow, he stared at the cracks in the ceiling as he waited for the ticking time bomb within him to explode.


Silently damning gypsies everywhere for their method of vengeance, he counted off the seconds. Angel could not understand what was taking so long. Despite his ideas about leaving, he knew any attempt to put some distance between himself and Cordy would be futile. He could not imagine Angelus not tracking Cordy down.


Angel also knew that he was too selfish to stake himself. As long as there was a chance he would not lose his soul, he had to take it. He would not give Cordelia up that way. Life had not been fair to her and he wanted to be the one to make it better. The longer he waited without any change, he began to consider the notion that perhaps the tragic events of the night and his own fears about what might happen had prevented perfect happiness.


That seemed ridiculous. Cordelia’s warmth seeped into his skin as she lay curled up beside him sleeping blissfully. One glance was enough to remind him of every kiss, every touch, the way her hot sheath clenched around him, and the joy he had felt when Cordy said she loved him. God, she loved him.

It made him want to show her once again how much he felt for her, to tempt fate again. If he had somehow managed to avoid losing his soul this time, the next would be even more dangerous. His restraint only went so far. Now that he had had a taste of her, and taken her innocence, he doubted his ability to resist by stopping at kisses.


Silently, Angel cursed his weakness. Remembering her soft pleas, he knew that he’d had the opportunity to put a stop to it before things went too far, but he’d fallen for the fiery gleam burning in her eyes matching his own. Saw in her what he needed.


The excuses did not matter. Right now Angel had Cordelia’s safety to consider. He waited until he figured too much time had passed. Nothing was going to happen. At least not anything related to him. Her attacker was still out there, however. It was a tracker by nature and there was no telling if it might find a way to locate Cordelia here at the mansion.


Angel decided he needed to stop focusing on himself and start thinking about securing the mansion. Unfortunately, that meant leaving Cordelia alone for a while. She was sleeping soundly ignorant of his fears.


When he moved to get off the bed, Cordelia shifted as if sensing his loss. She grabbed his pillow hugging it to her chest, letting out a soft little laugh in her sleep that made him wonder what she was dreaming about. Angel stood there watching her for a few minutes until he dragged himself away.


He was nearly dressed, just buttoning up a clean black shirt when a sound caught his attention. It came from downstairs. The sounds were coming from the foyer, footsteps and muffled voices. Feeling violently protective, he took one last look at Cordelia before slipping out into the hall and shutting the bedroom door securely behind him. 

88:     The Avalon, Regency St. Luxury Apts, Southside, Sunnydale

Observing his arrival, Nicolau’s favorite childe gasped eagerly, “You have returned early from the gathering, my prince.” 

Unlike his minions whose Galician ancestry was similar to his own, all of pale olive-hued complexion, and dark nearly black hair, Isobel was fair by contrast. Once, she had been a courtier’s unmarriageable daughter, an independent wild child who caused scandal at every turn. Nicolau found her vibrant beauty and passionate nature irresistible.

Curiosity overshadowed self-preservation when she discovered his true nature. Finding him with fangs bared over the throat of a busty chambermaid, she waited and watched from the shadows as he fed. Nude, he had planned to couple with the wench, but seeing Isobel’s excitement rather than revulsion changed his mind. He had enjoyed her games of seduction, but had resisted the urge to feed from her. Too many willing subjects were available to waste her on that particular need.

Nicolau had dismissed the maid, after a short time, leaving her woozy, but alive. Blood clung to his lips. He licked it away as he approached Isobel. Stray drops trickled into his short black beard layering it with red. “Your heart flutters like a dove. Do I frighten you, Lady Isobel?”

Stepping closer, her bare hands explored his shoulders, the shape of his chest, lingering there for a moment in the soft patch of hair before trailing down his cool skin to the hard shaft that announced his arousal. Her skilled fingers teased his sensitive flesh tracing his ridges and finally curling around his girth and drawing a low moan from his throat.

Perhaps she meant to placate the beast within him, taming him with pleasure. “What are you?” If so, Nicolau indulged her curiosity, ever patient, enjoying the stroke of her fisted hand. “You warm to my touch. Are you not a man as any other?”

“More than a man, a vampire. I am the shadows in your room at night. The chill in the air.” Nicolau had always had a bit of a flair for the dramatic. Part of him wanted the fear she did not seem to possess, expecting a different reaction. “I hunger for blood. It gives me strength, longevity, powers beyond your comprehension.”

He widened his stance giving her better access to his aching jewels as her actions sped up. “Grip me harder,” he ordered only to have her wontonly comply.

Isobel’s attention dipped down to his erection as it swelled to a fuller, firmer state in her hand. Suitably impressed, she peeked up at him with a little smirk only to find that he had reached the limits of his patience. He curled a hand around her throat, tilting her chin up with one nudge of his thumb, and kissed her until the blood trapped in his beard smeared across her face.

“Please,” the soft sound brushed against his lips when he allowed her a breath.

It was not a plea for mercy, he recognized, as she clung to him. The unmistakable scent of arousal clung to her heated skin. Nicolau swept her up in his powerful arms to carry her to bed. Easily, he dealt with her voluminous skirts and white shift draping them over her legs as she parted them. The cage like pannier was less easily positioned, but it was no more a barrier than the ivory stockings tied above her knees with small silk bows.

Like the ladies of the times, Isobel wore no other undergarment. Her sweet little muff of blond curls framed a swollen pink slit already wet with her juices. Resisting the urge to plunge his tongue deep inside, he merely licked his lips anticipating the many things he was going to do before tasting her.

Nicolau slid his hand from her bare thigh along one silk-covered calf down to her delicate ankle. Lifting her foot, he began to unlace the bindings of her leather shoe, planning to enjoy every moment. He had no idea if this would end with their coupling, or if he would be forced to make her take her discovery to the grave. 

Dark thoughts were distant ones as she beckoned him. “Do not undress me yet. I want you now.” 

Kneeling on the bed, he reached beneath the layers of clothing to palm her ass, sliding around to close his big hands over her hips, and positioning the tip of his cock at her entrance. Before thrusting forward, he stared down holding her gaze to ask, “What do you think of me, little dove?” The mask of his humanity slipped away becoming rigid and angular, white teeth sharpening into jagged fangs.

“Must you talk so much?” Isobel hardly blinked at his shifting features having seen them already. Her complaint accompanied a pout as she flexed her hips as if trying to screw herself onto his cock.

With a laugh, Nicolau gave her what she wanted, something that would become habitual between them. If he had one weakness, it was Isobel. They were lovers for nearly a year before her father announced that his assignment in Galicia had come to an end. Isobel refused to go with him, and though he might have agreed to continue their relationship at the status quo, she wanted more.

As always, he let her have her way. Nicolau had defied clan tradition not only by siring an outsider, but transforming her into a childe of the blood. Those who might balk at his actions would have no power over her. Only the Master of Solaris could prevent Isobel from taking her rightful place in the hierarchy of the clan, and being so focused on his worship of Amolon and the power promised to them, the master cared little for politics.

A hundred and fifty years later, Isobel was still viewed as an outsider. The nature of his people made them wary, but she was treated with deference. Obeyed, when she asked for it. They adored her beauty, but knew her charm could turn deadly. She was just as likely to kill out of sheer annoyance, as she was to seduce you into her bed.

Nicolau could never get enough. The sire bond between them was unbreakable, and the feelings that warmed his heart seemed exponentially stronger. As a vampire, Isobel was wilder and as uncontrollable as ever, but admittedly, he liked that. When their interests clashed, she bent to his will, but often defiantly found a way to remind him of the power she possessed over him.

Isobel never needed to make an effort to look seductive. A man need only look at her to want a taste of her lips, or to feel his cock harden with need. Being a vampire made it worse with his enhanced libido. Some days it was difficult to do anything except get lost in her arms, keeping their bodies connected through touch or sex.

Looking at her now, Nicolau could see more questions forming on her rosy lips. Kalesh’s direct involvement signaled that the day of the ritual was finally near. Isobel wanted the details having earlier voiced her complaint at being excluded from the meeting.

Her mouth was a soft circle of temptingly pink lips, her deep blue eyes wide and alert as she wisely chose to let her curiosity slide. Nicolau was in no mood for answering dozens of questions. Kalesh’s cavern gathering had left him irritated rather than inspired.

Allowing himself a momentary distraction, he paused long enough to kiss her with cool, sedate control. With a seductress’ skills, Isobel attempted to distract him with the flick of her tongue along his lips and by deliberately pressing her hand between them to cup his sex through the thin barrier of his tailored pants. Hardening fast at the delicious friction, Nicolau determinedly grasped a handful of golden tresses pulling her away when she might have succeeded at making him forget his duty.

Now was not the time to get lost in passion. “We will continue later.” The promise of it burned in his eyes as Nicolau gently kissed the corner of her mouth.

Isobel’s pretty pout vanished. She knew well enough that only matters of the greatest importance would cause him to put a stop to their mutual pleasure. She was far too intelligent and confident of her own role to doubt that.

“Nico, tell me of your troubles. I will bathe in the blood of any who oppose you or the House of Solaris.”

Her temperament suited him perfectly. When the situation called for her to play his lady, her decorum was normally above reproach, although her natural curiosity combined with her demon instincts in a way that made it hard for her to fit in with those who practiced patience and restraint. His Isobel was a vicious, blood-thirsty killer and she knew how to suck the marrow out of a man in any number of ways.

When the time was right he planned to hold her to her sanguine promise. “Come along, my dove,” he clasped Isobel’s wrist to guide her across the room. “Let us take a dip in the Jacuzzi. I have had an appalling evening.”

Having brought a few of his most loyal followers with him, Nicolau had tasked them with turning their temporary domicile into something loosely resembling the comforts of home. Considering that these were the most luxurious apartments available within the city limits, the series of connecting suites felt cramped and bare compared to his palatial estate.

Nicolau and Isobel discussed the events of the gathering finally deciding that it was time to come up with a solution. When called to join the master vampires the minions eagerly obeyed though they discovered quickly that it was not an invitation to join them in the bubbling waters. If they were disappointed that this was a strategy session and not a prelude to something sexual, they did not show it.

Besides, one never knew where Nicolau’s generosity ended and Isobel’s frolicking would turn deadly. That was how they had been turned, after all. Learning obedience, knowing when to speak and when to act was all a part of the game. Those who learned the meaning of loyalty and survived long enough were promised their fair share of a reward upon Amolon’s arrival to this world.

Arranging for his minions to follow up on the crosathnam demon’s information, Nicolau described the vampiress. His orders were simple, “Find her.”

“What if the human is already dead?” After all, humans were usually good for a quick bite.

Instead of being angry at the suggestion, Nicolau calmly pointed out that the situation was not ideal for the Varstrae’s captor to catch a meal. “The demon was doing battle with the Slayer. She would not have placed herself in such danger simply for prey.”

Isobel agreed. “Perhaps this girl is special, a human minion, or a pet perhaps.”

There were a number of theories, but it was decided that there was still plenty of moonlight left to begin gathering information. Their enthusiam reignited his. The thought of capturing Amolon’s Pure One invigorated Nicolau mentally and physically. He pulled Isobel across his lap guiding her hand down to his erection. He watched her sink below the water, the strands of her blond hair floating to the surface as she took him into her mouth.

Nicolau closed his eyes, his head tilting back at the pleasure he was receiving. It was almost an afterthought when he waved his minions away, “Go now. Return when you have news.”   

89: Giles' Place, 523 Oak Park Street, South Central Sunnydale

“Faith will turn up when she’s ready,” Giles assured Wesley as they emerged from the car. Having had no luck in locating her at either her rented room or at the library, the two men decided to return to Giles’ apartment.

Wesley was not looking forward to another night on the couch. Events had moved rather quickly and they had never gotten around to arranging his accommodation. He had considered renting a room at the Downtowner to be near his charge— until he had gotten a look at the place. It was quite puzzling that the old motel with its apartment rentals was not located in the downtown section of Sunnydale.

Still affected by jet lag, Wesley felt a bit bleary eyed, but he was alert enough to notice the dark figure seated on the front stoop, leaning up against the door. “Good Lord! There’s our missing Slayer.”

Inquiring after her health, “Faith, are you well enough to stand?” Giles hurried over to her side with Wesley following close behind.

She cracked a smile, hard to do with a split lip. “I got here, didn’t I? It just looks like I was run over by a Mack truck.” A grimace appeared as Faith leveraged her way to her feet by pressing against the stone step and the wooden doorframe.

While Giles fumbled with his keys trying to get them inside before they disturbed his neighbors, Wesley continued to watch Faith. The brief glimpse of pain he had caught vanished behind a determined mask as she met his gaze, holding it with equal intensity. Realizing that he had never finished introducing himself before the police interrupted, Wesley made another attempt.

“I’m your new Watcher, Miss Le—”

“Faith,” she cut him off. Never one to stand on ceremony, she had no intention of being formal. “You’re Wesley, right?”

After a pause where he considered whether or not it was appropriate for a Slayer and Watcher to address each other so informally, Wesley nodded curtly. “We have been searching for you all over town.”

“Then you should’ve looked here first,” Faith snapped back. She followed Giles inside as soon as he opened the door.

Wesley opened his mouth to retort only to close it again when Giles commented, “We were both concerned about you. It will take a while for your injuries to heal.”

“It’s nothing,” Faith shrugged it off moving past him to lean against the back of the couch. “A hot shower and I’ll be fine.”

Slayers possessed amazing healing abilities, Wesley knew. He could already tell that the swelling along her mouth and jaw had lessened during the past couple of hours. Although, he winced inwardly, the dark bruises were still evident. “Perhaps you should take—”

Faith cut him off again, addressing Giles as she asked, “Where is Cordelia? If you two have been trailing me, I’m guessing she’s okay.”

Put out by the rather rude interruption, Wesley decided to allow it to slide. After all, her concern for her friend was obvious even if she tried to sound rather blasé about it. Perhaps it was just the fact that having a stranger present, Faith was not willing to reveal her true feelings on the matter. After all, she did claim to have killed the girl’s grandmother albeit accidentally.

“Angel found her,” Giles explained which seemed to come as no surprise at all to Faith. “Apparently, Drusilla had taken her. I am afraid that I don’t know any details. Only that she is safe.”

Faith seemed to relax, her shoulders dropping a notch. Asking, “Where?” to which Giles explained simply, “The mansion.”

Wesley did not find that answer half as comforting as the two of them did. Was he the only one who saw something wrong with a young woman staying alone with Angelus at his own lair? Soul or not, he was still a vampire.

There would be plenty of time to explore his own interests in studying Angelus’ transformation into an ally of those who fought the Good Fight. For now, Wesley was curious to discover the reason why Faith was released from police custody. Giles had hinted that there was conspiracy afoot.

Indeed there was. Wesley never had a great love of politics back home much less in small town America. There were members of the Watchers Council possessing political connections necessary to the success of their mission, but Wesley never aspired to those ranks as his talents seemed focused elsewhere. He found it quite interesting to learn that the path of a Slayer and a politician could lead to such intrigue.

“Mayor Wilkins knows all about Slayers and vampires,” Faith told him. “I think he knew who I was even before we met.”

A cursory glance at Sunnydale’s municipal structure had listed the mayor’s name and his status as a seemingly uncorrupt figure, a smiling, kind-hearted man who showed great interest in creating a safe, caring environment for its citizens. That in itself should have been a red flag.

Faith went on to tell him that the mayor had befriended her. “I fell for his shtick hook, line and sinker.”

There was no doubting that it made her angry. She did not react well to having a vulnerability exposed. Having read Faith’s file thoroughly Wesley understood why she might be led astray by a seemingly kind man whose only intention was a fatherly interest in her wellbeing. That she might think he was safeguarding her secret rather than planning to exploit it.

Fortunately, it sounded as if Faith had cottoned on to his act and brought up her concerns with Giles. There was something the mayor was planning, something big that would affect the whole town. He had not revealed it yet, but Faith was certain that he would if she continued to maintain his trust.

“I’m supposed to keep an eye on B,” Faith’s explanation merely confused him. Who the devil was Bea? The kidnapped girl was Cordelia Chase and the dead woman Beverly. He rattled off a mental list of names only to feel his cheeks flush when Faith caught the confused glaze in his eyes. “B as in B for Buffy.”

Wesley darted a glance toward Giles who was wearily rubbing at his temple. “We haven’t told Buffy about any of this,” he said to Wesley’s surprise, “just to keep up appearances. I’m not certain how well she would deal with keeping such a secret from the others. Knowing would only endanger them. We’ll fill them in when the time is right.”

“Naturally I will say nothing,” Wesley assured them, “but what makes you so certain that the mayor is evil?”

Faith’s jaw tightened as she stared back. There were many reasons. The kind of undead, demonic company he kept, for instance. Only one example was really needed to make her point. “He wanted Bev dead.”

According to what Giles had told him, Mrs. Quinn had no connection to any Slayer activities with the exception of being the grandmother of Cordelia Chase who was described to him as being a friend of the Slayers. Wesley pushed his empty cup and saucer away as he leaned forward to ask, “Why?”

“Something about his plans for the bingo parlor,” Faith shrugged as if she did not get it either. “Or maybe the fact that there were a few seniors in town who wanted Bev to run for mayor. It had nothing to do with Cor. Wilkins wanted me to kill her as proof of my loyalty.”

Horrified, Wesley glanced back at Giles who was slowly sipping at his tea, lost in thought. The casual comment and the fact that Faith had already confessed were rather damning. There was only one conclusion that Wesley could make regarding Faith’s quick release from police custody and the lack of charges. “The policemen who arrested you are involved in a cover-up.”

“As dirty as they come,” nodded Faith pushing away from the table. “There’s just one problem. I didn’t actually do it.”

“You didn’t?” Wesley perked up at the news feeling rather relieved that his Slayer wasn’t guilty of manslaughter. “Your friend will be relieved to hear that.”

A glum expression appeared as Faith slowly rose from her chair. “Cordelia can’t know the truth, Wes. Not until this mess with the mayor is done.”

Wesley barely noted the abbreviation of his name. He hung on to every word as Faith described what happened. The demon had wrested the dagger away delivering a killing blow to Bev Quinn when she got in the middle of the fight. Nevertheless, Faith considered herself to be fully responsible. “If I didn’t accept that dagger from the mayor, Bev might still be alive. The truth doesn’t change the fact that she’s dead.”

The last few words came out with a shout as Faith whirled around and sent a ceramic lamp crashing into the nearest wall. Then she went to the wall kicking it, punching at it with wild fury, fists coming away with fresh wounds and her long hair flying free around her shoulders. She stopped suddenly, standing completely still with her head dipped and her bloodied hands still curled into fists at her side.

Wesley gaped at the sight uncertain what to say or do. An uneasy silence settled around them until a single sob brashly broke the quiet and then faded into a long sigh.  

90:     Angel's Mansion, Crawford Street, Central Sunnydale

Moonlight streamed across the foyer from the open front door. Angel wondered if he was going to have to deal with an attack or less innocuous intruders. Was this just another daring group of teens planning to spend a night at the ‘haunted’ mansion? Stealthily, he moved amid the shadows.

From the dark corridor on the landing above Angel noted that the heavy circular table normally located at the center of the room now had a spot in the corner. Trash bags and rolled up sleeping bags were piled up inside the door indicating this was not the sign of a demon attack. Now he had to add one more theory to his list, this one far more likely.

Angel executed a leap over the balustrade landing with catlike ease on his feet. More annoying than regular intruders, he realized just who he was dealing with, recognizing the muffled voices emanating from outside. Killing them was out of the question— though their timing might merit a broken neck or two. Getting rid of them was less likely than making bloodstains disappear.

The sound of a car idling and the sound of the trunk being closed alerted him to their means of arrival. They had taken the Plymouth. From the looks of things, they had not only brought Cordelia’s belongings, but were planning to move in, too.

The engine turned off. Footsteps shuffled around on the cobblestones. “Whose car is that?” Buffy asked as she spotted the Desoto that Angel had left up front.

“Ooh!” Xander was there, of course, “I dunno,” a vein of interest sounding while Willow honed in on a more specific query.

“Angel has a car?” She made it sound like they expected him to get around town by camel. Not that he had bothered to keep a car of his own in a very long time, but that was beside the point. They had never seen him with a car had they?

Small town Sunnydale had made one seem unnecessary. Though it was nice to drive the convertible around town when taking Cordelia from place to place, he realized.

Now Buffy sounded doubtful, “I dunno. There’s a lot I don’t know, lately,” Angel caught her mumble.

A wave of guilt rolled over him again. Now there was even more she did not know. Though he felt the need to warn them of the potential dangers, Angel knew Cordy would have his hide if he hinted at the fact that they had had sex. Buffy’s presence might actually put a damper on any random blissful thoughts running around in his head, so he decided to rethink chasing the gang off.

Xander walked straight past him as he stood in the shadows. He carried in a trash bag and dumped it on top of the pile. “Angel has a cool car and lives in a bonafide mansion. Something is seriously wrong with my karma. What’s he got, huh?”

“A refrigerator full of blood,” Willow quipped as she strolled in behind him.

“And fangs,” Xander nodded apparently no longer feeling quite so jealous. “Let’s not forget those.”

They still had not noticed him when Buffy entered immediately making eye contact as he lurked nearby. “Hi Angel, we brought Cordelia’s stuff.”

Xander and Willow turned, gaping. Managing only an “Eep!” and an “Uhh!” they waited as Angel and Buffy moved in their direction.

“Sleeping bags?” Angel asked as he glanced down at the pile.

Buffy stole a glance at the other two. “Those are for us. I—we figured we could help out with the guard duty. The mansion is so big and open and all.”

“The grounds are unsecured,” Willow pointed out. “The gate is wide open and there are big ol’ gaps in the fire-damaged areas.”

Conceding that it actually sounded reasonable, Angel put up no argument. He originally thought it best that the others wait until the morning in order to give Cordy time to rest and adjust. Security was still an issue. While Angel doubted that Angelus was going to make an appearance, it certainly did not hurt to have a Slayer around just in case. 

Willow was right, too. The place was not exactly easily defended. The mansion's north wing was a burned out husk with easy access to the habitable sections.

“You can stay,” Angel told them gruffly. Before anyone could ask, he added, “You can handle things down here.” Instructing Buffy to take the first patrol outside on the perimeter of the mansion, he told Xander and Willow to set up their supplies there in the foyer where they could keep an eye on the front entrance.

He fended off questions about Cordelia answering briefly that she was sleeping. It had been a long night, he explained and they needed to keep things quiet. They were solemn, commenting on Bev’s death and mentioning that Giles and the new guy were going to the police station to see Faith.

Angel considered going back upstairs, but decided to head down the hall to his study for a while. Still confused about the curse not kicking in, he had a lot to think about regarding his relationship with Cordelia. Was it worth risking her life knowing that he had little control when it came to wanting her? Maybe it was better to end it now.   

91:     Upstairs . . .

Cordelia awakened with a start. Jerking into a sitting position she stared into the shadows completely disoriented for the first few seconds. In bed and naked she flashed back to the factory for an instant before recalling that Angel had already rescued her from Drusilla’s wacky tea party.

This was post-amazing sex nakedness. Reaching across the bed, she realized he was not there. “Angel?” she queried the shadows, but got no answer. He was not lurking in a corner somewhere.

While she did not exactly want to wake up with Angel hovering over her like a crazed stalker, he had promised not to leave her alone.

Cordelia stepped out of bed dragging the top sheet along with her. Wrapping it loosely around her nude body, she stood next to the bed, cheeks flushed as she remembered what they’d done there. Yup, that was definitely not a dream.

Kinda hard not to think about Angel, Angel’s kisses, Angel’s touches, Angel’s—hooboy! Definitely hard not to think about that. He’d been so patient with her, so gentle in a way she doubted a vampire could be capable. Cordelia knew he’d held back so much of himself and his own desires for her sake. There at the end was different, though.

The memory of him calling out her name, voice hoarse, his body taut as he drove deep inside her again and again made her tingle. Catching her bottom lip with her teeth, she nibbled softly at the plump flesh. Her body felt deliciously sore. Though she’d heard and read that virgins rarely enjoyed their first time, Cordelia was glad to be the exception.

If that had anything to do with Angel having oodles of experience, Cordelia wasn’t going to dwell on it. She couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like when they did it again. That is if there even was a next time.

“Or even lots of next times,” Cordelia felt a rush of anticipation at the prospect of being with Angel again.

Sounding out a soft squee, Cordelia padded toward the closet, the sheet flapping loosely. Standing before the open closet as she perused the contents, she let the sheet pool to the floor at her feet. Her fingers trailed across the shirts stopping at one made of black silk. She slipped it over her head, humming off-key while she rolled up the sleeves.

It was not until she reached the bedroom door that Cordelia considered Angel had left for a reason. Maybe it was something she’d said. After all, she had admitted that she loved him. Maybe he did not really feel the same way. Her heart sank a little at the prospect before she considered Angel said a lot without ever saying a word. It was not that he did not feel the same way.

Then again, he was not here by her side, was he? Cordelia knew without a doubt that he was off brooding somewhere about making love to her.

He had been protecting her tonight. They were caught up in a whirlwind of events that neither of them could have avoided or planned. Cordelia’s euphoria quickly vanished. He had felt sorry for her after Bev’s death and now he felt guilty about it. Well, if it was just comfort sex, Angel would be in need of some after she kicked his ass.

Cordelia turned the knob, jerked open the door and started down the hall. The hell if she was going to let Angel get away with feeling broody about having sex. Grabbing onto the banister, she quickly went downstairs only to come to a dead stop as she heard the noises coming from the center of the foyer. Rattling snores emanated from a large lump on the floor.

Recognizing the copper mop of hair poking out of the other sleeping bag, Cordelia guessed the noisy one to be Xander. They were surrounded by duffel bags, an ice chest and several large trash bags.

“Weird,” Cordelia mouthed as she stared down at them. It was not exactly difficult to guess why they were here. That reason started with a B and ended in a why-can’t-she-mind-her-own-business.

Maybe Angel was not off brooding about comfort sex. There was a third sleeping bag spread out on the floor and a light shining from the end of the hall where Angel’s study was located. Cordelia wondered if they were in there together. It did not take a big leap of the imagination that Buffy would try to corner him there.

Though she did not really think he was the kiss and tell kind of guy, Cordelia didn’t like the idea of having Angel’s ex in the house tonight. She didn’t feel up to giving Buffy an explanation for her presence in Angel’s bed or her current apparel— not that showing up in Drusilla’s gown wouldn’t have been a conversation sparker.

She was 90-percent sure that the three Musketeers were here to protect her from the bad guys, trying to be helpful and condoling with her over Bev’s death. It was the 10-percent none-of-the-above category that made her irritable. Was it too much to ask for a night alone with her boyfriend away from the insanity that was the Scoobies?

With a sigh, she left the sleeping watchdogs behind heading down the hall toward the study. It was eerily quiet. There were no voices coming from within. And the door was slightly ajar so she would have heard if Buffy and Angel were in there talking.

Cordelia was not certain if the quiet was a good thing. Licking at her lips, she took in a deep breath and pushed at the door with her fingertips. It creaked lightly as it opened.

Angel was sitting on the couch, a closed book in his hand as he stared into the small fire burning in the hearth. He looked up at the noise from the door meeting her gaze with a soft smile that melted her worries away. Up out of his seat in a smooth motion, he walked over to meet her raising his hand to her cheek, eyes dropping down to her lips.

She turned her face toward his kiss, but it did not come. Angel rubbed his thumb softly across her mouth and then dropped his hand away. “Close the door, Cordy. Come in.”   

92:     The Study, Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale

 “When did they get here?” Cordelia thumbed in the direction of the Scoobies now blocked from view by the closed study door. Considering the serious lack of screaming, “My guess it was after we...,” she grinned and waggled her eyebrows.

A bare hint of a smile tugged at Angel’s mouth, his dark gaze drifting along the black shirt she had taken from his closet lingering in the places it clung to her curves. He reached over to take her hand in his. Just the slide of skin on skin as their fingers threaded together gave Cordelia a warm fuzzy feeling.

Angel led her back to the couch where he drew her down next to him, their hands still connected. His silence struck her disturbingly, chasing away her contentment. 

She tucked her legs up as she angled toward him ignoring the slipping edge of the shirt. “You’re kind of broody for a guy who just got some,” she joked hoping that it was not the sudden appearance of a certain Slayer that made him look so morose.

“Buffy’s here,” Cordelia added sharply bristling at the thought that his ex would put a dampener on the one good thing that had happened tonight. “No one else turns you into such a moodmeister.”

Common sense told her that if Xander and Willow were around, Buffy had to be here, too. “Didn’t you tell them to wait until tomorrow?” She had caught one end of his conversation with Giles.

After a short pause, Angel explained that Buffy thought it was better that they secure the mansion against intrusion starting tonight. Even he looked a little skeptical when he said it. Buffy was taking another turn outside patrolling the grounds around the mansion. Xander & Willow were currently, “Guarding the front door.”

“Blocking it, you mean,” she sniggered. “The bad guys might trip over them in the dark.”

Angel raised a brow, “I think the resonant snoring might tip them off first.”

“Guard dogs they’re not,” Cordelia laughed at the idea. She was grateful that they cared enough to be there even if their timing sucked.

“We could exchange them for a couple of Great Danes,” suggested Angel, which made her laugh again. Only a few weeks ago, he did not seem capable of a smile, much less cracking a joke. She squeezed his hand.

Angel seemed to be holding onto hers like a lifeline. Any traces of humor quickly vanished. He was back to serious mode leaving Cordelia to wonder if he was just as overwhelmed as her by their lovemaking. After feeling so lost, so devastated, he had somehow managed to make her feel so safe. She nuzzled her cheek against his shoulder then lifted her lips to his jaw.

A little sound left his throat as if he’d been holding a breath in for a long time. His eyes closed when she shifted to press another soft kiss against the corner of his mouth. Abruptly, he demanded she stop, “No,” and jerked his head away.

Stunned, Cordelia gaped for a few seconds. “What is it…morning breath?” Lifting her other hand, she exhaled into it and then took a deep sniff noticing nothing. Because if it was not, there had better be a good explanation.

“We can’t do this, Cordy.”

Stiffening, Cordelia stared at his profile as he focused his gaze on their still joined hands. His words hit hard and there was no room for misinterpretation. They had breakup smeared all over them. Cordy put two and two together and came up with the only scenario that made sense. Buffy was out there. Angel had obviously been thinking about what they’d done and realized he wasn’t over Buffy.

All Cordelia could think of was that she’d actually admitted her feelings of love to Angel. They had had sex: hot, spine-tingling sex. Now he was trying to break up with her? Hell no. No one broke up with Cordelia Chase. It was totally the other way around.

“You’re right, Angel,” she shook her hand out of his grasp to pat his thigh. “This was a huge mistake. After all that’s happened tonight— sex was probably not a good idea, but thanks for being such a peach.”

Unfolding her legs, she got off the couch and padded across the shag rug toward the fireplace. She stretched her arms above her head, rolling her spine until it reached a pleasant pull and felt his eyes burning into her. The tail of the shirt slid up her thighs just under the curve of her bare bottom.

The springs of the couch signaled Angel’s approach though she heard nothing else to give him away. Not until he was right behind her. Close enough that her body felt an electric charge just before his hands reached out to touch her. Concern filled his voice overshadowing any anger he felt at her comment.

“Did I…hurt you?” Angel could barely ask, his voice low and damning. He’d been vigorous, amazing and attentive giving her pleasure in a way she hadn’t known her body to be capable. Cordelia’s greatest hurt was that she thought they’d been making love.

Apparently, it was just sex. Comfort sex meant to help her forget. Even worse, it might’ve been pity sex. The fact that Angel never said he loved her proved it in Cordelia’s mind.

Yes, he thought she was a hottie, but who wouldn’t? And if it had not been for Drusilla putting those crazy ideas in her head, she was sure she never would have considered doing it with a vampire. But then, Angel was not just any vampire.

“No, it’s not like you bit me,” Cordelia might’ve preferred something more visible to remind her that it never paid to let people know you cared. She tried not to let her anger show when she turned around to face him. Telling him, “I’m just a little sore in a few unmentionable places.”

Angel was visibly relieved. “It won’t always be that way.”

“Not that you’ll ever know,” she snapped, slapping his hands away. So much for trying to control her anger. “Tell me, Angel, do virgins really turn you on or do you just get off on damsels in distress?”

She poked him in the chest when he didn’t move a muscle. “I suppose it’s really just a Buffy thing. Let’s get one thing straight—I’m nobody’s substitute.”

“Just a goddamn minute,” Angel snatched her wrist as she stormed past him. He pulled her hard against him, his eyes dark with hurt and fury. “Buffy’s got nothing to do with this.”

Cordelia slapped his chest hard, but he trapped her hand there against that wall of muscle and the thin layer of his shirt. “Hey! Let go, Brutus.” 

“Not until you hear me out.” He growled when she continued to struggle. “Just listen. We can’t do—”

“Lalalalalala,” she sang loudly to cover up the sound of his words not caring a bit that it was childish. When Angel stopped and stared, “I don’t have to listen to you and I won’t,” she smirked triumphantly getting back to the song. “Row, row, ro—”

Trying to reason with her was impossible. Cordelia could not see any other way of looking at Angel’s reaction. She did not want to hear whatever it was he had to say on the matter. Unfortunately, her tactic did not seem to be chasing him off. Angel’s look of confusion changed to frustration and then to anger.

Catching a brief glimpse of it, Cordelia barely had time to catch a breath before Angel’s mouth crashed down on hers. The hold on her wrists tightened. Her arms were pushed down and behind her, wrists grasped in one hand as Angel brought the other up to still her movements. His angular lips stifled the annoying song, capturing her mouth, coming back again when Cordelia opened up to protest.

Then her hands were free as Angel released her wrists, his hand stretching across the curve of her bottom to pull her closer. She reached up to clasp his head, her fingers threading through the short strands of hair, angry that he would try to kiss her into submission. So she gave back just as much as she was getting until they were both moaning and panting.

Angel lifted her, pushed her back against the ornate tile surrounding the fireplace. A soft grunt emerged from her lips at the contact. Surprised eyes opened up to scan his face as she followed his guiding hands to wrap her legs around his waist. Thickly, “Don’t you see?” He pressed his aroused body into hers, moaning at the contact. Lips against her ear, he said, “I want you.”

A river of lustful shivers washed over her skin leaving her tingly and aroused. She was rethinking her pity sex theory and desperately wanting his mouth back on hers when Angel added, “But it’s wrong, Cordy. I can’t take advantage of you this way.”

“Wait, no—,” she uttered her confusion as he guided her back to her feet. “What do you mean ‘take advantage’? I wanted it, too.”

“That doesn’t matter,” his voice was harsh, chiding her in a way that suggested she should know better.

Cordelia was still breathing hard; her mouth, breasts and loins still aching with a needy throb already missing the contact. Nothing changed except that she knew he wanted her. Even that, she had already felt certain. No matter his lousy reasons for it, Angel hadn’t altered his decision. “You really want to break up with me?”

There was hesitation there. Cordelia watched Angel’s head dip low, his hands now in his pockets. When he looked up again, eyes gleaming in determination, Angel answered simply, “Yes.”

After everything else that had happened to her tonight Cordelia felt devastated, but she was not about to let him see that. Holding her head high, fighting off the tears that threatened to show, she brushed past him pausing at the door. “Fine, it’s over.”

He looked stunned, hit by a ton of bricks at her quick agreement. “I-I want us to stay—”

“Friends,” she let out a harsh pfft, “Do you really think that’s possible now?”

Angel did not bother to answer. He knew just as well as she did that they had gone too far to get back to just being friends. Maybe that was his problem, theorized Cordelia. He’d found that he couldn’t be ‘just friends’ with Buffy and now wanted their intimacy back.

“You’re such a bastard, Angel.” Well, he could not have both of them. Cordelia Chase was not going to play second fiddle to Buffy Summers. “Just because you can now have sex anytime you want, or with anyone you want, doesn’t mean you can play games with me. I was wrong when I said I loved you. I don’t even know who you are.”

Flinging open the door, Cordelia turned to make her grand exit. A scream left her throat in ear-piercing intensity as the shadows leapt out at her. She reached out toward Angel who was suddenly by her side, but he saw as she did that there was no demon. Xander and Willow fell forward from their leaning positions tumbling to the floor. The sudden shift of the door had knocked them off-balance. Not so the Slayer. She was still standing, her eyes opened wide as she stared at them, face pasty pale in the shadows.

“We—,” Xander panicked looking to Willow for help.

Her mouth dropped open, but quick thinking kicked in. “We heard shouting.”

Buffy didn’t bother with an excuse. Her mouth was pressed into a thin line, her jaw tight, stunned gaze traveling slowly from Cordelia to Angel and back again.

“Lurk much?” Cordelia glared back. Practically growling, “You’re just in time for the good news. Angel is on the market again. I highly recommend the pity sex. It gets a five-star rating.”

Shoving her way past Buffy, she headed down the hall refusing to look back. The sound of Buffy’s voice saying Angel’s name was enough to cause her temper to flare. Blood roared in her ears drowning out their conversation.  

93:     The Study, Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale

The last thing Angel wanted right now was company. He certainly did not need any opinions on whether or not he had done the right thing. Buffy should understand. She had been there. Felt the brunt of what could happen when he lost his soul.

“Angel, she’s telling the truth, isn’t she?” asked Buffy in spite of the audience. Her two friends had not budged from their positions on the floor. “I heard her say—”

“Get out,” he could not hold back the growl in his voice. “Go patrol. Do something. Just don’t talk to me right now.”

An audible gulp sounded, “Going now,” as Willow and Xander scrambled to their feet.

“Buff, we should just go. Maybe…maybe I should take Cor to my house,” Xander suggested. “The demon would never find her there.”

“The hell you will,” Angel whirled around to face him. “It’s too dangerous. What just happened changes nothing. As long as Cordelia is in danger, she’s staying with me.”

“But…,” Willow’s protest fell silent under his fierce glare.

When Buffy signaled for her friends to leave them alone together, Angel watched them disappear down the hall. They seemed reluctant to go, worried as if they did not trust him.

The silence grew until it was thick in the air. Angel sensed Buffy’s desire to talk about what she had overheard. It was not her business, but it was clear that neither of them was going to get past this without a confrontation. Fine, he decided. The sooner it happened, the faster he would be able to get outside to begin his patrol of the grounds.

Buffy’s attempt at sounding nonchalant failed. “So, you’ve been dating Cordelia,” her voice smacked of betrayal. “I knew something was going on.”

Angel did not see the need to respond to facts she claimed to know though he did feel sorry for hurting her feelings. That was something he had never planned. A demonic surge of satisfaction burst even as his thoughts denied any pleasure at such an injury. He fought against it closing himself off from enjoying a spark of revenge.

“I-I heard what she said about the curse being broken,” Buffy said it again this time with a little awe. “What happened, Angel? How long have you known?”

Angel stared dumbfounded. It took him a moment to catch up. She overheard that he and Cordy had sex jumping to the conclusion that because he was still himself and not Angelus that the curse was gone. “Broken? Tonight is not the kind of night for pure bliss. Her grandmother just died.”

“Hence the pity sex,” Buffy nodded as if that was making sense.

Angel could not deny that Cordelia might come to that conclusion no matter how far it was from the truth. Maybe it was for the best. It gave him an excuse to protect her from himself. Even if she hated him.

Not bothering to correct Buffy’s assumption, Angel tried to focus on what needed to be done next. He was standing quietly, thoughts turned inward, body tense as Buffy returned to the issue of his curse. Angel half listened as she went on about Angelus and the gypsies. She was like a little blonde terrier nipping at his heels.

“Cordelia said—,” Buffy broke off and rephrased. “I heard Cordelia say that you could have sex anytime you wanted. With anyone. Y’know, as if the curse was gone.”

Angel had heard the words when Cordelia said them, but brushed it off as believing it meant he could have sex with someone he did not love. Buffy had heard it differently. He suddenly remembered something Cordy said when they were making love. It was when he was trying to hold back. She encouraged him to continue. He had listened, of course, being a selfish bastard, not really wanting to stop.

“It can’t be.” Angel realized that Cordelia knew something he did not. She had been so sure that it was safe for them. There had been no fear of Angelus, no thought of danger.

The image of Drusilla saying something to Cordelia filled his head, the blush that flushed her cheeks afterward. Was it possible that Dru had known something and shared it with Cordy? He did not feel any different than usual, but that had to be it. The secret smiles and teasing all added up to the fact that Dru knew something had changed about his curse. Something that suggested it was safe for him to make love to Cordelia. Ironically, he had just broken up with her. Not to mention pissing her off in the process.

“What is it?” Buffy was caught between looking nervous and hopeful.

Angel’s head snapped up. He stared unseeingly as another image came to him. It was that of himself and Drusilla back at Trinity Church. ‘The nasty soul is here to stay,’ she had told him before telling him that it stank of his love for Buffy. At the time, he had been too concerned about Cordelia’s safety to think about what she had said.

Stunned at the realization, Angel’s jaw dropped. “My soul— it’s secured. Drusilla had a vision. She told me weeks ago, but I didn’t get it.”

“No more Angelus?”

He lifted both hands to his chest as if seeking out a difference in the way he felt. “I don’t understand, but it has to be true.”

“Oh my God,” her eyes sparkled with tears. “This is wonderful. Angel, I can’t believe it. Don’t you see what this means? This could change everything.”

Angel hoped that was the case. That it was not too late to start over. “Yes it does,” his fingertips traced the curve of her face, fully acknowledging her meaning, and feeling a hint of regret, “but not between us.”

With a soft-spoken apology, Angel left the study to go after Cordelia.   

94:     The Factory, Westside, Sunnydale

This was not one of Dru’s good days. Moments of clarity were rare when she retreated into her own little world. Spike had learned long ago not to rock the boat. It was better to play along. 

Having waited her out, Spike finally had the satisfaction of seeing Drusilla emerge from the bedchamber. She ignored him completely and set about making a fresh pot of tea for herself and Miss Edith. The goggle-eyed dolly was certainly getting more attention than he was tonight.

Spike glared at the porcelain-faced doll. If Miss Edith was real or could talk, he had a feeling she would know a lot about what went on in Drusilla’s head. Whatever Dru was up to when it came to Angel and his hot little pet was still a mystery. He only hoped it did not come back to bite him on the ass.

Lucky for them both that Drusilla seemed to be protecting the girl instead of her usual reaction to Angel’s playthings. Jealousy never worked out well for her. The evil sod usually left her begging for the slightest touch. Spike would either be ignored or have her frustrations taken out on him. Not that he minded the latter.

He could even deal with the fact that Dru went a bit goofy in the head now and then. It was just a matter of waiting it out, playing along and making the most of the good days. Hell, at least it was not boring.

“Come to tea,” ordered Drusilla once she laid everything out and was seated at the table. Her hands were primly folded in her lap as she waited. “Miss Edith has something to tell you.”

The curly-cued doll sat at her usual spot with arms outstretched as if expecting a hug. Spike imagined ripping dolly’s head off and throwing her into the incinerator. Grinning at the thought, he crossed the room and lifted a leg over the seat of the chair before sitting down. “And what does dear Miss Edith have to say to Spike?”

“Napkin!” Drusilla scolded him forcing Spike to grab the white cloth and toss it into his lap. He was rewarded with a smile. “Good boy.”

Spike held back his growl. He was really going to have to go kill something if he managed to survive Dru’s little tea party. Still, he said, “Whatever you want, luv,” and meant it.

Leaning closer, Drusilla whispered, “Miss Edith is scared.”

Spike actually glanced at the doll before it kicked in that Drusilla was sharing her own feelings in a roundabout way. “Scared? Did Angel—”

“No, no!” The quick answer cut him off. “Angel wouldn’t hurt Miss Edith. She likes Daddy…most of the time.”

If it was not Angel barging in with accusations and threats, “Then what the bl—” He broke off at the sight of Dru’s eyes widening at his harsh tone. This was not one of those times when it would be easy to get information out of his afflicted sire.

Deciding to take a more indirect route, Spike addressed the doll instead. “No one will ever hurt you— or my Dru— while I’m around. Got it?”

“Spike is strong,” Drusilla nodded. Puffed up a bit at that compliment, Spike sat back, picked up his tea and took a large swallow. Only to spit some of it out when Dru translated, “But Miss Edith thinks Daddy is stronger.”

“Oy! That’s a matter of opinion— and wrong,” Spike barked. “Miss Edith can keep her blasted ideas to herself,” and muttered, “bloody doll.”

Worrying her lip with her teeth, Drusilla reminded him, “Be good. It scares Miss Edith when you are loud. She is afraid the bad men will find her.”

Still glaring at the porcelain doll, Spike took a moment to catch up with what Dru was telling him. “Bad men?” He realized Drusilla had seen something in a vision and this was her way of conveying something that frightened her. Looking right at her, he asked, “Who did you see, luv? What bad men? I’ll kick their arses and drain them before I let anyone touch a hair on your head.”

“What about Miss Edith’s hair, Spike?”

“Oh, bollocks.”   

95:     Angel's Bedroom, Crawford Street Mansion

The door clicked closed loudly enough that Cordelia heard it. Whirling angrily mid pace, she turned to face Angel who stepped gingerly into the room. Not bothering to mask the hurt and betrayal she felt, Cordelia let the venom drip into her voice.

“What are you doing here?” 

It stung remembering the bliss they had shared just a few short hours ago. They had been connected in more ways than one. Angel could only hope to salvage their relationship before this misunderstanding ruined everything. Especially now that his soul was secure— if indeed Buffy’s interpretation of Cordy’s words was right.

“It’s my bedroom,” he reminded softly unable to resist the challenging comeback despite that it might rile her up even more. Angel watched the light flare in her eyes, skin flushed with anger and something leapt within him.

“Fine. Then you can have it,” Cordelia snapped making a move toward the door only to stop short when Angel refused to budge.

The urge to bend her to his will swept strongly through his system. Nerves itched for action. His senses remained keenly aware of her erratic pulse, the way her breathing shifted her breasts against the thin black shirt that also belonged to him, and the lingering scent of their lovemaking.

Angel knew better than to attempt it. He had a very slim chance of getting out of here with the family jewels intact and the knowledge that she would turn on him with every bit of fury she possessed knotted him up with anticipation. He had a feeling he would enjoy fighting and making up with Cordy, but there was too much at stake to risk bold moves.

This required caution and a gentle hand. 

“Stop making like the Rock of Gibraltar,” Cordelia tried to physically shove him aside, “and get out of my way.”

With a sigh, Angel offered a truce, “I’m not here to fight. We were friends first and I know we can work—”

“Friends are supposed to knock. That way they can be told to get lost.” Glaring hotly, she shoved her hands on her hips and impatiently tapped her bare foot on the rug. When he still refused to move or respond, Cordelia pointed to the door. “Get out, Angel. I don’t want you here.”

He’d never answered her question, Cordelia realized. Was he here to rub it in, to tell her the pity sex was great, but he could handle just being friends? If he was going to say anything that had the B-word in it, Angel was going to discover what it was like to fit in a dustpan. The bastard! What a nerve actually trying to break up with a Chase.

Standing there like a brick wall all broad shouldered and lean muscled, Angel was not exactly in a hurry to respond to her demand. He looked to be three seconds away from biting back. Cordelia was ready. Bring it on!

Her eyes narrowed in determination when Angel barked, “Too bad. I’m not going anywhere and neither are you.”

When he stepped forward using his height to loom over her, Cordelia shivered in anticipation. She hated this, dreaded what it would mean, but would not back away from it either. His kisses downstairs proved there was a healthy dose of desire in them, but that did not change the fact that Angel had been planning to break up with her without giving her a chance first.

If he thought he could fix this with kisses, he definitely had another thing coming. Cordelia’s head tipped craned back on her neck to meet his gaze. “Back for more? Not gonna happen, buddy.”

She brushed up against his chest as she stood tiptoed to make her point catching his eyes dropping to her cleavage and whatever else the gaping shirt revealed. “Hope you’ve got a good memory because this body— you won’t be seeing it naked anytime soon.”

Snatching the loose sheet from the floor, Cordelia wrapped herself up in it, feeling smug at the dark scowl and growing impatience that appeared on his face. As if he was imagining ripping the sheet away. A part of her wanted him to do it. To cover her with kisses making her forget all about the fact that he was going to give up on her love for him; to bring her back to that place where nothing existed except the two of them.

They could go there now. Cordelia knew it. And it wouldn’t be pity sex this time. Soreness aside, she knew it would be even better than their first try because she could see the want burning in his eyes, felt the flames licking inside her.

The sound of her name on his lips made her shudder causing a rush of damp heat between her thighs. “No,” she gasped out her determination to ignore it letting a renewal of her anger replace that unbidden desire.

“Listen to me! Please, Cordy,” Angel urged when she tightened the sheet turned her back to him. “At least tell me if it’s true. Is my soul secure?”

Cordelia opened her mouth only to pause her autopilot scurrilous response when his question sank in. “You didn’t know?” Peeking over her shoulder while gauging his response, she saw the stunned look on his face realizing that he had been clueless about the fact.

“But I—,” the wheels were churning now and whether or not Angel knew it, he had just dug himself an even deeper hole. “You’re telling me that we had sex— pity sex though it was— when you still thought you could lose your soul? That’s insane.”

The claim was not even defensible from Angel’s standpoint. He had the same poor excuses he had given himself only a short time ago. None of them came close to being legitimate. The fact was that he had let his desire for Cordy outweigh any danger he thought existed.

“I might’ve been upset tonight,” facing him again Cordelia rattled on, “but not stupid. There was no risk of Angelus popping up when we blissed out. How could you not know? I thought Drusilla told you.”

Angel brow furrowed as he realized his childe had obviously shared the news with Cordy. “She told me, but somehow I didn't get it. I had no idea,” he admitted, stunned.

“I told you, too,” she reminded him, thinking back to a point where Angel actually tried to slow down, “that we could do anything, everything.”

That had sounded more like wishful thinking, just being caught up by their desire. Shifting his feet, Angel reached up to rub a hand along his neck to ease the tense muscles. “Tonight seemed—I wasn’t really thinking.”

“Not with your brain,” Cordelia’s wry mutter followed. “Dru’s tea party wasn’t just a little get together. She told me that your soul has been permanent since you were in that hell dimension.”

Angel looked a little lost. Asking, “How?” drew a shrug.

“How am I supposed to know?” Cordelia said she was not given details and was not even sure that Drusilla had them. It was something she had gotten with one of her visions. “You came back different than before. Can’t you tell?”

“No. I don’t feel any different.” Although, that wasn't exactly the full truth, either. It might frighten her to reveal that his demon aspect crawled to the surface far more frequently than before. 

He could not remember most of the time he had spent in Acathla’s realm. Angel’s memories of that time were sketchy at best like a fading dream. He had no idea what he’d done there to secure his soul, a trial or test. Or was it something Willow did when she ensouled him?

Cordelia was not sure she wanted to hear it. “How it happened doesn't matter if you’re going to give up on us so easily.” They had managed just fine when both of them thought he could lose his soul, but he chose now to break up with her.

“Cordy—”

“Don’t Cordy me,” she warned him that the fight was not over. “Even Xander had a longer track record.”

He had been trying to find a way to steer the conversation toward clearing this mess up, but the mention of her ex-boyfriend’s name incensed him. “Don’t,” he tried to hold back the low growl that accompanied the warning, “compare me to him.”

That one was too easy. Cordelia smoothly responded, “Afraid you might come up short?”

Angel wasn’t exactly slow either. “Not likely.”

Licking her lips, Cordelia glance downward, smirked and let her eyes trail up his torso. She watched with glee as Angel’s brow furrowed darkly. “I guess that’s for me to know, isn’t it.”

Jaw clenching, Angel seemed to be holding back a verbal response. He circled her position as if looking for a better angle to pounce. Cordelia did not turn. She held steady trying to ignore the tingling awareness of his presence. Passing by her one more time, Angel stopped behind her.

Instinct kicked in and Cordelia bolted for the door. Though she heard nothing, his hand slammed against its flat surface as he moved in to reach past her shoulder. Damn vampire speed.

Yanking at the tangled sheet, Cordelia turned pressing her back against the door. “Get out of my way.”

Angel held steady, his raised arm half-blocking her in. “We’re not finished here.” 

“Aren’t we?” Cordelia felt the first sting of tears. She did not want to let him see her cry. “Out! I need out.”

He did not stop her when she swept past him again because it put her back in the center of the room. Though she would not face him, Angel sought a final assurance that his soul was now permanent. “You believe Dru was telling the truth.”

Deception was not exactly Dru’s game. Angel knew the answer to that even as he awaited Cordelia’s confirmation. If there were doubt, everything he said to her in the study would still hold true. They could never be lovers. As for friendship, he wanted to hold on to anything he could get, but as Cordy hinted, the temptation would be far too great.

Cordelia could not answer. She hoped Drusilla was being truthful about his soul. But the vampiress had tortured Angel in the past, planning to let Spike kill him in order to cure her illness. That reminder did not exactly make Cordelia feel better about it.

Was it truth or a lie? Cordelia thought back to their encounter at Trinity Church. Her mind instantly filled with rich, colorful images of blood, pain and death; the sounds of the dying; helpless victims crying out in need for a savior— and Angel. She was there entwined in his arms, at his side as— something that was not quite clear to her.

The anger drained from her voice. “Are Dru’s visions ever wrong?” She turned to find him directly behind her again though it came as no surprise.

“No,” Angel answered adding an addendum, “but it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what they mean.”

The future scared her.

Lost in her thoughts, she heard Angel as if from a distance, but did not miss the hope that filled his words. “Cordy, this changes everything. Don’t you see? The threat of unleashing Angelus was just too much to ignore. I knew if we made love again that I—”

Cordelia jumped on the idea that he had been thinking about her that way. Pressing a palm against his chest, she asked for the truth. “So it wasn’t just pity sex?”

“Did it feel that way?” Angel had wanted to comfort her, but that was just a part of it.

Slowly, Cordelia admitted, “No.” It had felt incredible. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after all. She stared up at the desperate look on Angel’s face.

“It’s not over between us,” Angel lifted his hands to touch her hovering them at her shoulders for a moment before trailing his fingertips down to her elbows. He had never been so close to begging for something in his entire existence. Urging her to answer him, “You know that. So…”

“So we have a problem.” Her lips pursed, eyebrows scrunched thoughtfully.

Warily silent, Angel dropped his hands to his side. Was that a no? It sounded like a no.

“Our little secret is out in the open.” Her sudden smile was a flash of sunlight on the darkest night, brilliantly intense and teasing.

Swamped by relief, Angel smiled back. “That’s a good thing. I won’t have to stop myself from touching you.” This time he grabbed a handful of sheet and dragged her close rubbing his forehead against hers before pressing his lips there.

“Buffy didn’t stake you.” She snuggled against his chest looping her arms around his waist. “That’s another good thing. Xander’s probably waiting for it to sink in before he goes ballistic.”

Strangely enough, Angel realized that if Buffy had not brought up the subject of his soul, he and Cordelia might not have resolved this. He would still be downstairs brooding and she would be up here ripping holes in his favorite sheets. Still, he wished the Scoobies would just go home for the rest of the night.

“I told them to wait until tomorrow to bring your things over,” Angel grumbled, “but Buffy has her own way of handling situations.”

“Yeah,” Cordelia muttered sourly. Then her head came up off its comfortable spot on Angel’s chest. “Wait— you said they brought my stuff? I didn’t see any suitcases.”

Angel stepped back looking a little evasive. “Uh…no.”

Remembering the scene in the foyer with Xander and Willow snoring away in their respective sleeping bags, Cordelia recalled that there were a couple of old duffel bags, a pink backpack with stuffed pig poking out from a pocket, a cooler and several large trash bags. A sharp gasp sounded. Hazel eyes widened in horror as Cordelia realized what they’d done.

“Trash bags?” Cordelia gaped numbly. “They put my clothes in…,” she couldn’t even say the words again nearly hyperventilating over the idea.

Making a move for the door with murder in her eyes, Cordelia stopped short as Angel called out. “Cordy—”

Anger flared again, snapping, “My grandma dies and suddenly I’m a bag lady. Cordelia Chase does not live out of a trash bag!”

Angel recognized that Cordelia was not just angry about this fashion disaster. This was the first time she had even mentioned Bev’s death to him. He caught her just as her legs buckled beneath her letting her fall into him. Angel eased them down to the floor, wrapped his arms around her and held on as Cordelia tried to stifle her tears.

“My parents…,” the words faltered. Cordelia swallowed thickly, then forced herself to speak before she lost her nerve. “Bev didn’t want me to be alone like this. Now she’s dead because of me. If I hadn’t moved in…”

Threading his fingers through her hair, Angel whispered soothing assurances. He had one observation to share. “She loved you, Cordy.”

A teardrop spread its moisture across his shirt, the salty scent of her sorrow in the air as Cordelia admitted. “I never actually told her…”

“I think she knew.”

Cordelia shifted again to look into his eyes wanting to read the truth of his words there. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Angel answered palming her face with both hands, thumbs chasing down her tears. “And Cordy— you’re not alone.” 

96:     The Foyer, Angel's Mansion, Crawford Street

Every faint sound from upstairs drew their attention. Anxiously, they listened for a hint of an argument, a sign that the insanity that they had just witness was never going to repeat itself. Only the faint sound of mumbling broke the silence, and that was theirs. There was no screaming, or shouting, no breaking furniture, or even, unthinkably, the rhythmic squeaking of a mattress.

Except that wasn’t quite as unthinkable as one might think…or, um, not think, Willow admitted to herself considering what she’d seen through the keyhole of Angel’s study.

Obviously, that had not been a first-time smooch session. Cordelia and Angel had been dating right under Buffy’s nose. Willow saw that her friend’s lips were drawn into a thin line, her face pale as she focused her attention above. Every now and then, they could hear something that sounded like a voice, but the old mansion’s thick walls muffled almost everything much to her frustration.

Willow was not the only frustrated eavesdropper. Scowling in the direction of the stairs, Xander muttered under his breath, “What are they still doing up there?”

Her green eyes flitted in that direction. “Umm…”

That was an interesting question. If Cordelia’s attitude were any indicator, she would guess that they were arguing. Angel had looked kinda determined to make her take back what she had said about them breaking up. He was not exactly the type to sit around to talk things over.

Nope, Angel was definitely an action-oriented kind of guy. Speaking of action, now that Willow knew that Cordelia & Angel were an item, it made perfect sense to her. The little looks, Angel’s reaction when she had been hurt or kidnapped, the way Cordelia could get him to do anything, all added up. Two plus two definitely equaled four.

“What do you think?” snapped Buffy now glassy-eyed with tears. “Your girlfriend’s got her claws into Angel. He felt sorry for her, that’s all.”

“Hah! Dead Boy couldn’t wait to take advantage of Cor’s misery,” Xander countered just as quickly. “Her grandma just died for cripes sake.”

Shrinking back as Buffy and Xander stood in a furious face-off, Willow suddenly recalled that old saying— about the rock and the hard place and being stuck in between. Ground zero was not exactly a comfy place to be.

Buffy huffed, “Like that would stop her?” cheeks blotching with patches of red.

“Don’t blame Cordelia if your undead boyfriend can’t keep his hands to himself,” he protested. “She’s not like that. You don’t know what it takes for a guy to get into her panties.”

Making a face, Willow let out an, “Eew,” which went unnoticed by both of her friends. The subject of Xander trying to get into Cordelia’s panties was too much information. Not that he had succeeded since she had admitted to being a virgin.

Hee!

A random spurt of silly satisfaction hit Willow at the thought that she had been one up on her childhood nemesis. Of course that meant they now had something in common in a very weird sort of way, her first time being with wolfy Oz and Cor’s with vampy Angel. Although that meant Cor had the exact same thing in common with Buffy, and so Willow figured it would not be a good idea to point that out.

“This is Cordelia Chase we’re talking about,” Buffy planted her hands on her hips, “self-proclaimed Boy Slayer. Maybe she got knocked down a peg or two after you two started dating, but you don’t get to be Head Bitch of Sunnydale High without knowing how to twist guys around your little finger.”

Xander actually looked insulted by that. The hurt pout appeared and then disappeared quickly. “You’re not being fair. Buffy, you know what he’s like: evil at the core. I’d think you’d be glad to be rid of the bastard.”

“Do you really want him back, Buffy?” Willow finally cut in. Her query forced a pause in the argument, both of them staring first at her and then at each other.

Finally dropping her gaze to the floor, Buffy seemed undecided. Then her head snapped toward the staircase as if she had heard something they could not. “I—I don’t know,” shrugging almost imperceptibly.

Willow’s eyes widened as they followed Buffy’s gaze. Were Cordelia and Angel still arguing? It seemed awfully quiet up there to her. If Slayer hearing was any better than normal humans, she wondered exactly what Buffy could detect.

“When Angel came back from hell you said—”

“I didn’t know about his soul being safe,” Buffy cut her off. “I didn’t know. Somehow, he just seemed different, but I thought it was me. We couldn’t…I couldn’t do that to myself again. All of this time we could have been together, but I—I pushed him away.”

Inching closer, Willow tried to reach out to her, but Buffy deliberately stalked out of touching distance. She hated to see her friend heartbroken, but Angel had seemed pretty certain that he was not going to pick up where they left off. If Buffy had given him a chance when he returned to Sunnydale, Angel would have jumped at it.

It was only natural that she looked at this a little more objectively than either one of her friends. “Technically, Cordelia and Angel are your exes. Think about it for a minute. They’re not your current girlfriend or boyfriend. Can’t they date anyone they want?”

Buffy gaped “No!” as if Angel was supposed to go dateless for the rest of his very long existence.

“Not each other,” Xander glared toward the upstairs again. “It’s too quiet. Maybe he got fed up with her yelling and—” He stopped, eyes widening, and then took off across the foyer.

Dashing after him, Willow caught up with him half a step after Buffy who grabbed his arm and whirled him around. Demanding, “Where are you going?”

A wild guess told Willow that Xander was afraid for Cordelia. After the protective vibes Angel had been giving off lately, that was one thing they didn’t need to worry about. Besides, she was pretty certain, “Angel wouldn’t bite Cordelia.”

“Maybe not,” he agreed a little too quickly to suggest that she was right, “but Cor tends to keep on arguing until she gets…”

Willow and Buffy shared a shrug. “What?”

“Um,” Xander looked rather uncomfortable admitting it. “It’s kind of a turn-on. For a vampire, it’s probably like waving a red flag in front of a bull.”

“Oh, like the study. I could only see a tiny bit through the keyhole, but wow they were…,” Willow gulped at the devastation on Buffy’s face. She chirped, “Or not. It’s not at all like that. Maybe it was just something in my eye. I didn’t mean to suggest that— hey, where are you going? The stairs— no…”

This time it was Xander holding Buffy back. “Don’t let it get to you, Buffster. It’s Angel’s fault.” From his tone, it was clear that he blamed Angel for everything. “What was he doing that with Cordelia if he didn’t know about his soul?”

When Buffy sank down onto one of the bottom steps, Willow followed along. She was close enough to hear the softly whispered, “It’s not his fault. It’s mine.” Her golden hair shrouded her face in shadows as Buffy’s head dipped low. “I did this. I made them patrol together.”

“It’s no one’s fault,” Willow assured her though she could recall that Buffy was up to something when she assigned Cordy and Angel to team up. Guess they teamed up a little more than Buffy intended.

“Nobody can control who they love,” she commented randomly. “I mean, I suppose they’re in love. I’m sure it wasn’t just pity sex, but if it was maybe Angel was just trying to be nice and make her feel better.” Then she paused for half a breath. “Of course, they might just be doing it because they’re both kind of hot, but— you don’t want to hear that, do you?”

Willow came out of her own little thoughtful fog to find Buffy and Xander glaring at her again. Oops! It was back to that rocky hard spot again. “Am I babbling? I think I might be babbling.”

“Trying to be nice?” Icy shivers crept along her spine at Buffy’s cold tone.

“Anyone else would send a Hallmark card,” Xander sneered, “but no— Dead Boy has to get creative with the move making.”

Feeling awkward and sorry for them both, Willow focused on the positives. Even they would not be able to deny the truth. “Gotta look on the bright side. No more Angelus.” Trying to sound perky about it did not seem to be making any headway with either of them.

After a long pause, Xander finally let out a grunt of agreement. “Not gonna miss that guy.”

Willow gave herself points for progress. Now for a little extra credit, “I suppose this lets Cordelia off the hook, too.”

“What hook?” Buffy asked, her eyes narrowing.

“The prophecy hook. Kinda hard to be a virgin sacrifice when you’re not a virgin,” Willow explained her logic.

Buffy unfolded her petite frame from her sitting position to walk back toward the center of the room. Clasping her crossed arms in a self-hugging motion, she sent Willow a rueful look. “Can we not talk about this anymore tonight? It’s late. We’ve got a lot to deal with tomorrow.”

When Buffy’s gaze strayed back upstairs, Willow suggested, “Maybe we should go home.”

“No way,” Xander headed back to his sleeping bag and sat down on top of it as if staking his spot for the night. “I’m not going anywhere until Cordelia comes down here and tells me she’s okay with this.”

Despite pointing out that neither Angel nor Cordelia were likely to come out of the bedroom anytime soon, Willow could not change their mind. “We’re still here for a reason,” Buffy reminded them. “There’s a demon out there who’s got no idea that Cordelia isn’t as ‘pure’ as she was a few hours ago. It may come after her again.”

According to Giles’ research, crosathnam demons were primarily nocturnal. While they could move around in the daytime, it affected their natural tracking abilities. “Whether I like it or not, I’ve got to stick around,” added Buffy somewhat bitterly.

She was still the Slayer. One of them, Willow corrected herself. With Faith in jail for murdering Cordelia’s grandmother, things were going to get even stickier around here. There were trials and publicity and jail sentences and lethal injection in their future unless Faith managed to escape or Giles and the Watcher’s Council pulled off a miracle.

Willow shuddered at the thought, but it made her consider the fact that Angel and Cordelia being in love was hardly their biggest problem. Though telling Buffy and Xander to mind their own business was definitely hers. Honestly, Willow was not that concerned about Xander. He might be a little jealous over the fact that his ex had moved on, but he did not seem to be crushed by it.

As long as Xander did not do anything stupid— like confronting Angel, then he would be okay. It was Buffy she worried about the most.

Buffy put on a brave face that did not fool anyone. Willow only hoped they would not have a repeat of the last time Buffy lost Angel. She had abandoned Sunnydale leaving her family, her friends and her role as the Slayer behind her. Willow found it hard to imagine what she had gone through after killing Angel to save the world from being sucked into hell.

They had talked about it when Xander was not around. She knew that Buffy thought of Angel as a soul mate; tied to her in some cosmic way whether or not they could be together. She had given him up when he returned to Sunnydale because it was too dangerous and had confided to Willow that she could not make it through a repeat of the tragedy that was their love.

Now that Buffy did not have to worry about Angelus, Willow wondered if she was simply going to accept Angel’s new relationship without a fight.

97:     Upstairs . . .

A whisper, “I can’t believe she’s gone,” gave way to Cordelia’s tears. Stubbornly, she had held them back determined not to cry. The effort left her breathless, a broken sob cracking the air. Warm droplets clung to her lashes sparking a trail along her cheeks. One by one, they soaked into Angel’s shirt as she melted into his embrace.

Crying in front of others was not her thing. It left her way too vulnerable, and open to judgment. Also, it was hell even on smudge proof makeup. That did not matter when her tears were for Bev and Angel’s arms were a comforting band of steel as he pulled her closer, his hands soothing and gentle.

With Angel, somehow her tears did not seem wrong. That surprised. Yet Cordelia did not question it.

Feelings swamped her with a reality she did not want to face rushing in despite her determination to stay strong. Cordelia had only known about Bev for a short time. They had just started to understand each other. Now she was lost forever. Cordy knew where the fault lay. She had seen it happen, knew who was to blame.

Nothing in Cordelia’s experience prepared her for this. No loss compared. Maybe Angel trying to dump her for her own good qualified— the dumbass. Xander’s betrayal, the loss of the family fortune, her injury, even the totally bogus loss of the homecoming crown seemed trivial now.

Memories flashed, bittersweet pangs immediately following.

Bev’s face was completely clear in her mind. Her bright smile was capable of chasing away gloomy doubts. The twinkle in her eyes seemed both wise and mischievous when she had teased Cordelia about Angel’s hotness. Her style had been a lesson on how to avoid looking like a low-budget hag when deprived of designer labels. The way she had lectured Angel about ‘protecting’ her. How she fought for what was important to her by going up against the mayor.

Now she was gone. Dead. Nothing could bring her back. Cordelia felt cheated. Robbed of something precious. Other girls got to think about prom dresses, but she would be picking out funeral wear instead. More than just the clothes, there were arrangements for the services, too.

Wondering what Bev would want, Cordelia felt panicky. Angel’s assurances that she was not alone, that she had friends to help calmed her a little. After all, Giles knew about funerals. When Angel winced at the comment, she raised her head from his chest and wiped at her moist cheeks with the edge of the sheet before dropping it to her lap.

“I feel responsible for what happened tonight,” he admitted steering the subject away from the Watcher’s experience with funeral arrangements. “If I’d been there—”

“We both know who’s to blame.”

A bubble of anger welled until Cordelia let it go. This was depressing. She did not want to think about this right now even if she accepted that it was not going to go away. Not everything about tonight was worthy of tears. She turned her thoughts to Angel. There were still a few things to clear up between them.

“About us,” she laid her palm against his chest, “we’re not breaking up.” It was a statement, not a question.

Angel’s eyes dropped to her mouth watching her tongue dart across her lips. His fingers tightened subtly as their movement stalled along her back and thigh. The compassionate concern shifted almost instantly. A possessive streak intensifying his gaze, he confirmed, “No, we’re not.”

Caught up in the weight of that stare, Cordelia held her breath, mouth dropping open as she recognized the hot streak of want that slammed into her. Just a look and her heart started pounding. “Good,” she muttered sliding one arm around his neck to lean in for a kiss, a soft peck to claim her territory.

Angel palmed the back of her head preventing her retreat as his fingers threaded through her hair. His mouth brushed across hers coming back to stroke her lips again, and then lifted away only long enough to pull her onto his lap. Cordelia’s legs splayed across his powerful thighs riding up against an insistent bulge.

It made her aware that she wore nothing under the shirt seconds before his big hands slipped underneath to cup her bare bottom. They curved over both cheeks, squeezing and releasing, kneading her warm flesh. Eyes open, transfixed by the look on his face, her mouth formed an open circle for a throaty, “Ohhh.”

She clasped his shoulders. Held on tight. Watched his eyes turn black with want. Cordelia melted under that smoldering gaze. Her hips shifted, a little gasp sounding when she bumped up against that hard ridge just right, the contact igniting a slow burn flickered in her belly.

He licked his lips, guiding her movements in a way that set off pleasure sparks for both of them. Riding him, grinding against him— it felt so damn good. She caught her bottom lip between her teeth and concentrated on that feeling. Angel kissed the soft spot beneath her jaw, nibbled tenderly at her earlobe only to let out a guilty moan against her ear, “I’m sorry.”

Cordelia stilled her movements to ask, “Sorry for what, breaking up with me? Hell yes you should be sorry.”

Saying he meant something else, Angel commented, “I thought we’d decided to forget that.”

“Forget it?” Cordelia traced her finger across his chest in the shape of a large C. Grinning at him. “I’d say there was some serious groveling to be done first.”

The tension in his shoulders got tighter. “I don’t grovel to anyone.” Angel’s voice darkened giving her goosebumps. She had seen far too much of the groveling type when she was with Xander anyway.

“Just don’t think you can seduce me into a case of selective amnesia,” Cordelia pressed her bottom back toward his hands secretly delighting as they tightened their hold again.

Arching under his touch, Cordelia felt another wave of desire shudder through her. Angel gave her ass one last squeeze before sweeping his cool hands upward along her curving spine. “I can’t look at you and not want you,” his voice dipped down to a sexy octave. Cursing softly, “The timing is off. We shouldn’t—”

“Shouldn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t…pfft!” Cordelia looped her arms around his neck. “I think we can,” she leaned in to press her breasts against his hard chest enjoying the way the sensitive peaks rasped against the shirt. Grinning, placed a teasing little kiss on his chin. Adding, “We should,” as she shimmied her hips, “and I’ll bet we will.”

“Cordy,” he chided chasing after her mouth with his own, his laughter swallowed up by a moan as her back arched, head tilted to let his lips graze her throat. Just a touch, a soft kiss was enough to leave her craving his mouth.

When Angel clasped her head with both hands and brought his lips to hers, she knew she would have her way. Nothing else mattered right now except being with him again. Taking back what was hers and nearly lost because her vampire had a bad case of chivalry. She had lost too much tonight already.

Cordelia kissed him hard, her mouth eager against his. A smile formed on his firm lips for an instant before Angel opened up to her eager exploration. Letting her taste him before taking over again, eating out her mouth, devouring her.

The wet rasp of his tongue left her shuddering, aroused to an almost frantic state. God, she wanted more. It incensed her to think that Angel nearly walked away from their relationship, that she had almost thrown it away to save what was left of her shredded pride. Pulling away long enough ask, “How could you think about giving this up?” Cordelia muttered the accusatory question almost breathlessly.

For an instant, Angel stared back lust-glazed, his tongue swiping across his lips. Looking like he wanted to answer, but closer to stealing her breath away again, a hint of topaz appeared in his eyes. Cutting him off at the first syllable, Cordelia curled her fingers around his big biceps pulling closer. “Shut up and kiss me.”

Then they were falling. Angel rolled back taking her with him. She landed on top, clinging to his broad shoulders when he reversed their positions. Legs butterflied, her hands dropped down to pluck nervously at the buttons of her shirt, suddenly ultra aware of what they were about to do, yet also feeling a triumphal thrill that Angel wanted her as much as she wanted him.

Braced above her, Angel’s eyes roaming over her face, lingering at her mouth and throat before slowly drifting down toward the spread of her firm thighs to where his knees were planted on the floor between them. Her eyes were all over him, too. Every sexy inch. The stretch of his dark pants across those powerful thighs and his obvious arousal. His shirt half open where she had somehow unbuttoned it to get at his smooth chest. That handsome face showing hints of his true nature.

One problem: he was too damn far away. Scrambling for a handhold, Cordelia grunted exultantly when she grasped two fistfuls of shirt and tugged hard. The already tangled sheet twisted beneath them as Angel followed her to the floor. The impact stole her breath away again, but having Angel’s weight on top of her felt delicious. Even when he shifted easing away so as not to crush her, she felt his solid strength.

Angel’s head dipped blocking out the dim light an instant before he captured her mouth, their lips meshing feverishly. She clasped him close suddenly fearful that he would stop. When he kissed her, it was all she needed, just him and that mouth, and the hands that coasted along her skin as if they knew every curve. There was something else too, knowledge new to her but vital— she needed him inside her again.

Recognition that she wanted him like that now was enough to make her forget all about the interlopers on the lower level. It was just the two of them there on the floor, Angel struggling to pop the buttons on her shirt without ripping it open and her laughing gleefully at his efforts as her wandering hands reached down to squeeze his ass.

“You don’t play fair,” Angel nipped gently at her exposed shoulder. Pushing the half-open shirt aside, he slid a hand upward filling his palm with her breast. He plumped it, ran his thumb close to the hardened peak, muttered “Cordy” against her skin before taking her into his mouth.

Cordelia arched toward him melting hotly at the wet sensation, “Seems fair to me.” She was quivering at his touch, clasping him to her. Now she wanted to feel him skin to skin. Her hand trembled as it moved between them connecting with the solid shape of his arousal.

He bucked against her hand, growling softly at her anxious motions spurring her on. Spreading kisses along her throat as she cupped and squeezed. He nibbled her neck as she rubbed, stroking him with her fingers, trailing his own hand down to press his long fingers through the soft fur at the apex of her thighs, touching her there, spreading her wetness, fingers thrusting shallowly where it was still a little sore, but felt too good to care.

Her eyes slammed closed, hand stalling its eager actions as she writhed beneath him, her hair thrashing around her shoulders as pleasure closed in. Cordelia let out a shriek as she came feeling the waves vibrate through her. Then his fingers were gone. A zip ripped the air even as she moaned in protest.

Before the sound died on her lips, he was there, the blunt tip pressing thickly along her slick sex. Into her. Filling her with an insistent thrust. It was insane how good it felt this time. Cordelia curled her nails into his shoulders, her eyes shut tight, cheek pressed into his neck. She felt her body clench him as his hips shifted back nearly pulling out only to slam back down.

His dark head shook in denial, “I’ll never give this up,” Angel gritted his teeth as he answered her earlier question. Lifting himself up to free his hands, he stroked them up the curves of her hips, waist and higher to fondle her breasts, bending down to flick his tongue across one velvet peak. “Now that I can have you, Cordy, you’re mine.” Ardently emphasizing it again, “Mine.”

Angel gathered her close again, kissing her, nuzzling his face at her neck as his steadily thrusting hips banged rhythmically into hers trying to be gentle. Sensing him holding back Cordelia knew she needed more than that right now. Something primal rose up inside her demanding release. “Show me.”

Only knowing that she wanted more, Cordelia shifted her legs higher. Scraping teeth across his shoulder, she licked and nibbled her way up to his neck knowing it was dangerous territory, how sensitive he was there. Lashing her tongue over one particular spot made him moan, shudder, pivot harder.

Their pelvic bones connected, curls tangling between them, her clit nudged with each heavy stroke. “Cordy,” he growled a warning. A hand tangled in her hair yanking back to see her sly unrepentant grin. Amusement flashed for an instant before something wickedly hot made his eyes go dark. “You want it like this?” Angel banged into her.

Cordelia keened with pleasure at the change of pace, the way her body tried to slide along the floor, the strength he used to hold her there. She thrust her hips up to meet his. Her hands darted everywhere clutching his shoulders, clasping his neck, dipping down the back of his loose pants to palm the flexing muscles of his ass as his hips worked back and forth.

“Yes,” she hissed confirmation knowing she was close, that he could take her over the edge.

Angel’s hand moved from her hip, slipping between them, his fingers sliding down the wet crevasse where they merged until his thumb brushed against her swollen nub. Lightning flashed behind her closed eyes at the rough little rubs that followed until it rolled through her. “Good, yes, Angel, so—,” her words broke apart into an unintelligible cry as she came.

Her whole body flushed, skin salty and damp with hair tangled and clinging to her cheeks, Angel changed the pace again, drew her orgasm out until it seemed like it went on for ages. Cordelia felt the hard column of his sex moving within her as her body spasmed joyously around it. She opened her eyes to marvel at his gorgeous face damp with sweat, eyes piercing hers deeply.

“Beautiful,” Angel captured her mouth for a kiss. His hands moved up her torso to trail down her arms enclosing her wrists. The light grasp pushed her arms above her head, her wrists now locked together in one handhold.

Her body tensed, eyes uncertain. Angel’s other hand dropped back to move her leg so that it draped over his shoulder. She felt him slip in even deeper, her eyes widening, mouth curling expectantly. Waiting until she relaxed, Angel flexed his hips forward again.

Staring down sinfully, his mouth hovered above hers. Voice dark and throaty in a way that made her melt, “Do you like what I do to you?” Angel stroked inside shallowly and then gave it to her deep. He knew the answer, Cordelia figured, but just wanted to hear her say it.

“What do you think?” Eyes flashing stubbornly, she licked her lips, and tried not to gurgle in pleasure at the way he made her feel.

“I think I’d give you anything you want,” Angel said with certainty managing to surprise her.

Cordelia could not help but smile happily at his admission. She only wished that her hands were free to wind around his neck as he kissed her. Soft kisses full of feeling. “Then I think,” she paused to suck softly on his upper lip, “we’ll be,” and kissed the corner of his mouth, “doing this,” and moaning as his tongue swept across the plump curve of hers, “a lot.” 

The almost lazy, controlled thrusts came earnestly now rousing her again to a fever pitch. “Angel,” Cordelia panted his name reveling in sensation at the wet slap of their bodies, the deep penetration, the sight of his hard sinewy body as it worked hers.

Suddenly, he moaned hoarsely, his thrusts shorter, uneven, almost frantic. She knew he was going to come and the thought thrilled her. Before Cordelia could think about her words, she was telling him, “Do it. Let it go, c’mon, Angel,” and crashing her hips against his with as much energy as she could muster.

“Cordy,” he shouted coming hard, filling her up with his essence. Another little burst of pleasure washed through her, not as wild as before, but enough to cause her to squeal in his ear as he collapsed forward. Cordelia reveled in the full body contact.

Angel released her hands. She felt him softening within her, slipping wetly from her body and trembled at the sensation. Panting happily, a smile tugging at her mouth, she palmed his face. “God, that was amazing.”

“You’re amazing,” he corrected smooching the tip of her nose and then moving down for a lingering open-mouthed kiss.

“Mmm,” Cordelia had to agree to that. “I was pretty sensational. Just think about how it will be after some practice.”

Propped on his side next to her, Angel traced a finger around her navel before reaching over to clasp her waist in a lightly possessive hold. He stared down at her with eyes that held the secrets of the universe. She flushed under his stark gaze realizing he was still half-dressed.

They had not even taken the time to get naked. She snorted at the thought. “Too bad it’s over,” she exaggerated a woeful sigh propping herself in a similar position on her side. “Now I suppose that we’ll have to go downstairs and face the Scooby Inquisition.”

A chuckle sounded next to her ear, a sound that was far more sexy than funny. Angel moved with a speed that left her dizzy, scooping her into his arms. “Who said we were finished?”  

98:     Willy's Place, Midtown, Central Sunnydale

Closing time was an hour away. Only the stragglers remained finishing off their games of chance, downing the last of their drinks before heading out the door. Willy wiped off the bar. Only one customer of any note remained, one of his regulars, a particularly ugly bastard who liked bourbon almost as much as he hated his harpy of a mother. 

Always a good listener, Willy did not mind hearing about the demon’s family woes. It made him feel better about his own solitary existence. The bar was his home as well as his main source of income. A little barbering on the side brought in a few extra bucks. Not to mention the tidy sum he made by keeping his ear to the ground.

There was something nasty brewing in Sunnydale. Not that the concept was anything new. Just a different sort of nasty that made it seem like something really bad was about to happen. Willy had not quite figured it out. No one was talking, but that was just a matter of time. The bar had been full for the past few nights. Lots of visitors in town, and none looking particularly touristy. His ‘I Survived a Night on the Hellmouth’ t-shirts were usually a big hit, but had not drawn any interest from the closed-mouthed demons.

Tiny had to put two or three of them down permanently when a nasty fight broke out. A couple of fledgling vamps and two newcomers decided to use the pool table as a spot for a bloodletting. Some dumb kid had followed them in, gotten past Tiny when he was on a break. They obviously did not care how hard it was to get blood out of felt.

Still annoyed, Willy was mentally tallying up the cost of tonight’s repairs when the bar door opened. Some guy stepped through with a sneer on his lean, angular face looking more like he belonged in some ritzy city club than a demon dive bar in Sunnydale. Oh, shit! He looked like trouble, all suave and sinister at the same time.

Willy’s hackles went up. Despite his clientele, he usually felt pretty safe in his own place, providing a service for the locals, but he felt a shudder as the stranger’s cold black gaze settled on him. Even if he was not in game face, this was obviously a vampire, one who had seen some time in this world, and not a human who had taken a very wrong turn.

Breaking the tense silence, he greeted the vampire with a simple nod. “I’m Willy. First drink is on the house,” he said sensing that he should keep him on his good side.

A grunt sounded from his regular at the bar, who knew that freebies were not the norm. Willy flashed him an annoyed stare before turning back to the slowly approaching figure. Styled up in some fancy retro black-on-black suit, he was a little too starched up. Willy felt his skin crawl with gooseflesh with each step the vampire took closing the distance between them.

Most of the local vampires had gone to ground over an hour ago. Dawn was coming up anytime now and the sun was not exactly good for their complexion. Then, it occurred to him that might be the problem.

“You lookin’ for a room?”

Willy did not run a hotel. He knew better than to point that out, but was already going to offer the couch in the back room just to keep things civil. The lanky vampire stared for a moment, and then glanced down at the demon at the end of the bar curling his lip as if to flash a fang. A hiss sounded, ochre eyes flared from his otherwise human face striking fear into the pitiful creature, who scrambled off of the bar stool taking his leave.

Making a mental note that his customer had been chased off before he could pay his tab, Willy forgot he was supposed to be nice, and asked with an irritated whine, “What do you want?”

When he spoke, it was with a thickly foreign accent. One Willy had never heard before. “Information.”

Somehow, Willy was not surprised. “That’s comes in spades, but it ain’t cheap.”

The vampire reached into his pocket, pulled out a large roll of currency dropping it onto the bar top with a sneer. Willy’s eyes widened into round saucers. “Whoa, that’s a lot of dough.” He snatched it out of sight before anyone else could see.

“Tonight, I have killed many unworthy opponents seeking information on local matters.” The revelation came with a cool veneer as if murdering a few unsuspecting victims was the norm. “You have been named as one who may have the answers I require.”

“M—m—me?” Stuttering nervously in front of a vampire was never good. It gave them a thrill, confirmation of their intimidation power. They could taste fear itself. “G-getting a little close to daylight for you vamps, ain’t it? Maybe you should come back tonight.”

Gulping down a swig of Scotch, Willy ignored the burn and tried to focus on what he was saying. He silently cursed the fact that he had let Tiny off an hour early once the bulk of the customers had gone home, and edged toward the register where he stashed a stake he kept for emergencies.

“That need not concern you, human,” he gestured in an elegantly European way. “My master desires to find someone of particular importance. I suggest that you reveal all you know.” 

99:     The Avalon, Regency Street Luxury Apartments

Hues of yellow, pink and orange appeared on the horizon signaling the night’s end. Nicolau felt the dawn’s arrival even before the light peeped through the closed slats of the Venetian blinds. His beloved Isobel lay beside him, half draped across his chest, content and exhausted from hours of energetic sex. 

Although tired, he could not let himself sleep without knowing the identity of the one who had stolen their sacrifice. It was not a simple matter of choosing another human to replace her. The powerful magicks involved to identify her had brought down a rain of fire from the heavens. Without her presence, the Rites of Tavrok would fail to open the portal, and the House of Solaris would never achieve the greatness it deserved.

Anger swelled within him. For centuries, the vampires of his clan had followed the path laid out for them by the Master of Solaris, worshipping a demon god when their kindred eschewed such religion. Their link to Amolon promised a power no others possessed. Even now, the demon’s power reached across the dimensional barrier to grant the clan’s master vampires a taste of that power.

Through the centuries, it gave them an edge and a means for survival. However, even the strongest of their minions remained as vulnerable any other to the power of the sun. Anton, voluntarily turned to vampirism over a century ago, had still not returned from his assigned task. Multitalented, he was possessed of a cool head and a thick cock that made him quite useful to both Nico and Isobel on a number of levels.

Their sire bond provided a connection allowing him to sense Anton’s general wellbeing, but it was impossible to tell if he had run afoul of trouble that might prevent his return. With every passing moment, the morning light brightened. Soon it would be impossible to track the human and her vampire captor. No doubt, the dark-haired vampiress would have gone underground by now, or found some dark refuge in which to hide from the deadly rays of the sun.

The others minions he had sent out had returned within the past hour safe and sound. Their discoveries were interesting, but useless. Stories about Slayers filled his ears, but there were none to point directly to the missing sacrifice. One had procured a name for the girl, Cordelia Chase. Knowing it might prove useful, but time was of the essence. 

“Anton will return,” Isobel stirred against him trying to reassure him. Propping her chin on her hand as it rested on his chest, she said, “If he fails to bring good news we can torture him until you feel better.”

Mischief glittered in her eyes, but Nicolau knew his lover would happily make it a reality if he so desired it. “Save your enthusiasm for our prey’s captor. I will discover the truth about her involvement one way or another.”

Nicolau had no doubt that he would find the elusive Cordelia Chase. It only angered him that he was inconvenienced into conducting this search. He was already looking forward to making her captor pay for involving him in such a menial chore, especially if she was whom he suspected. The description of her dark beauty matched that of his memory, stirring his insatiable lust, but also trepidation. He did not care to admit that he could feel fear, even to himself, causing anger to bloom inside him.

A knock sounded. Finally, Anton had returned. Rising from the bed careless of his nude state, he issued a clipped order. “Enter.”

The anger he felt remained, but the only hint of it was his stone cold mask of irritation. Anton ignored it with his usual aplomb. “I have news, master.”

“Dragging in at the crack of dawn will not save you from my wrath.” He fully considered taking out his anger upon no matter what information he gathered, or better yet, letting Isobel turn her vicious skills upon Anton’s pale flesh while he watched the action. “Tell me something I want to hear.”

Head bowed, Anton approached and then kneeled before him. “Forgive the delay, Sire. It could not be avoided. You will be pleased.”

Isobel elevated herself onto her elbow, the sheet draping loosely across her hip, leaving her beautiful rose-tipped breasts bare. Pleasing Nicolau was her greatest joy, no matter the form it took. Disappointing their sire often meant facing her wrath as well as his. “Do tell, Anton. Where do we find our missing Varstrae?”

Keeping his eyes on the floor, Anton admitted that he did not have a location. “I have a name,” he hastened to tell his master. “One I think you will recognize.”  

100:     Angel's Bedroom, Crawford Street Mansion

The quiet stillness of contentment faded layer by layer. Flashing images of blood, the taste of fear, familiar faces passing in an array of light. Cordelia fitfully stirred in her sleep, a sense of danger compelling her to awaken. Hazel eyes darted open wide and scared, a look of panic echoing her inner fears.

Calling out, “Angel,” on a frightened gasp she found him already there beside her. He lay on his side watching her.

Silently, he folded his arms around her slender form, spooning close, wrapping her in a protective cocoon. Cordelia’s eyes shuttered closed again at the touch of his lips to her cheek. He knew as well as she that the demons chasing her in her dreams were all too real. They could not be forgotten with the dawning of a new day.

Snuggling closer, Cordelia slowly realized they were both naked. Angel’s body felt warm as if he had drawn on her natural heat all night. He felt so good against her, his solid muscle, iron strength, gentle hands, and something else thickening insistently along the curve of her bottom.

Again?

Cordelia caught her lower lip between her teeth and did not know whether to giggle or groan. He was insatiable, her vampire, but she was still a little sore. A soft moan sounded in her ear when she shifted back. His hand trailed down the center of her torso to palm the flat plane of her belly holding her still.

After a moment where Angel seemed to get it together, he asked her softly, “Bad dreams?”

“Yes.”

She waited for the questions to come. Ready to rattle off a quick explanation and a curt, “I’m fine,” Cordelia discovered that it wasn’t quite that easy to lie to him. “I’m scared,” the truth came out instead. “They killed Bev. They want to sacrifice me to their demon god. My life sucks— except for you.”

Angel kissed her shoulder and then rested his chin there as he held her. Just letting her talk. Ignoring the fact that he was still hard. Providing quiet support despite the fact that his libido did not seem to have an off switch. They had made love almost all night. Little cat naps were essential to her, but Cordelia doubted he’d slept.

“I’ve been watching over you,” Angel admitted when she asked. Keeping tabs on the door more like it. Wondering if the Scoobies would come barging in at any moment. God! They were probably still down there.

Cordelia flushed at the embarrassing thought, but a part of her reveled over the idea that Angel belonged to her now. No more hiding their relationship. Buffy would just have to suck it up. Xander, too. She dreaded the thought of facing them, but knew it could not be avoided. Better to get it done quick like ripping off a Band-Aid really fast. It would sting, but the pain would be over faster that way. 

“I better get up,” Cordelia really didn’t feel like moving. It felt so good being held by Angel. He was not making a big deal about his morning wood as if sensing she had reached her limit for their first night together. Though she had to admit that despite being sore, it made her hot knowing how much she turned him on.

He had shown her that repeatedly last night. With his hands exploring her sensitive curves, fingers circling, tweaking and expertly rubbing spots that left her shuddering with pleasure. Or the way his mouth and that talented tongue said so much without saying a word. God! The time he had spent with his head between her thighs.

Just the thought of it made her lick her lips remembering the taste of their passion. Angel’s kisses had robbed her of any thought beyond the desire to let him take her. It thrilled her and scared her the way he made her feel. How he filled her up, each time better than the last.

Leaving his bed felt so wrong. Cordelia crawled to the edge. His fingertips smoothed down the length of her leg barely touching her until his hand wrapped around her ankle holding her there. On her hands and knees, she glanced over her shoulder to find him staring with lazy lust darkening his eyes.

“Forget something?”

Cordelia boldly let her gaze drop to the bulging sheet wrapped loosely around his hips. Then flicking her eyes up to meet his smiled saucily, “No, I don’t think so.”

Shifting upward, Angel tugged her back into his lap so quickly that Cordelia let out a short squeal. Her long hair flew wildly around her shoulders landing in a tangled nest of silky strands over her shoulders. Coasting his hand along her spine, he fisted it in the hair at her nape.

Her hands fluttered to a stop at his broad shoulders seeking balance. Angel tilted her head back exposing the long cord of her neck, pressed his mouth there. She felt the blunt scrape of his teeth along a tender patch of skin. That spot just turned him on in ways that were all too obvious. Strangely, after the first flash of panic last night she had not worried about him biting her.

Now he loosened his grip, sliding it around to tilt her chin, to bring her mouth to his. Soft and tender, the soothing press of his lips asked for nothing. It was over all too soon. Little more than a peck that left her mouth tingling. “Good morning,” Angel’s voice rumbled huskily in his throat.

Just an inch or two away, Cordelia murmured, “Morning,” with a little whisper of surprise. That was not quite what she expected. He leaned back on his hands to watch her as she straddled his lap. Aroused, but content to let her go as if sensing that she needed some space.

Indirect light filtered into the ever-brightening room. Cordelia enjoyed staring back at Angel and watching the light play across the pale expanse of his chest. The heavy muscles of his arms stretched as he leaned back. His belly was taut but for that tasty bit that pooched out just enough to sink her teeth into. She’d learned a lot about what Angel liked, but had a feeling it only scratched the surface.

His eyes were eating her up, too, Cordelia noted, blushing at the open appreciation. “You’re staring.”

Angel pointed out, “So are you.”

Cordelia grinned, snatching the sheet around her. “Now that we’ve established that we’re both hot, I think I’d better get moving. There’s stuff I need to do today. To begin with I need to take a long, hot shower. I wouldn’t want to offend any super-sensitive noses.”

Moving off the bed dragging the sheet with her gained Cordelia a long look at Angel stretched out on the bed. Mmm, Salty Goodness! All mine. A little smirk quirked the corners of her mouth into a smile. She continued to back step toward the bathroom, almost reluctant to turn away from the sight of him.

“You know we could try to conserve water,” Angel casually hopped off the bed. He took two strides forward until Cordelia let out a strangled gasping giggle. It ended in a little snort. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” Cordelia snorted again, turning her head away and reddening from head to toe.

Standing with a hand on one hip, Angel scrubbed the other across the nape of his neck. He was so casual about his nudity. As if modesty was something he had never learned or simply forgotten. Considering that she had been staring at his body when the giggles started, she managed to hit a raw nerve.

“You’re not going to say that I’m fat again, are you?” Well it wasn’t exactly his belly that had her attention.

Cordelia closed her mouth and shook her head. Then burst into giggles again when Angel took another step forward. “Sorry! Honest. I-I was looking at— it.”

Speechless, Angel’s gaze dropped in a southerly direction. There was nothing worth giggling about as far as he could tell. Women did not laugh when they looked at his penis. At least no one had until now. His worries over Cordy thinking he was fat were forgotten quickly.

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” Angel emphasized the last word as she did. He stepped closer forcing Cordelia to lift her gaze upward just because of his proximity.

“Not that I could tell,” Cordelia giggled even harder when realizing that Angel did not exactly get the joke. “It’s just—”

Angel barked worriedly, “What?”

“When you move around like that,” Cordelia walked her fingers across the space in between them, “it bobs. Y’know, like it’s waving around saying, ‘Hellooooo, Cordy’.” She quickly stifled the errant snort that escaped by lifting the corner of the sheet to her mouth.

The tension in Angel’s face vanished.

“That’s fun.” Cordelia wondered if it was evil of her to have Angel and sex on the brain when she should be thinking about serious stuff. Like going with Giles to see Bev’s body, she thought, instantly sobering up. “I’m gonna go shower now.”

Having had his plan for a little water conservation cut short, he tried again with, “I'm good with soap—” only to be cut off.

“No! No,” she softened her response on the next try. “Shower sharing is a little, um, personal.”

Confused by the mixed signals, Angel started to worry that he had moved too fast. He had taken advantage of her vulnerable situation again. No matter that Cordelia had been more than eager to make love last night, it wasn’t necessarily the best choice. Now he was pushing for more than she could handle. The curse reverberating in his head must have been apparent.

Cordelia stepped forward to lay her hand along his face. “I want to,” she told him, “just not now. I can’t ignore what I’ve got to do today. If I’m going down to the Police Station, I’ve got to get showered and dressed. It’ll be faster if we behave ourselves.”

Looking mollified, Angel took her hand in his sliding it over to press a kiss into her palm. “Go ahead. I’ll use one of the other rooms.”

“Okay.” 

Angel started to turn away, but stopped to say, “I’m sorry I can’t go with you today. I want to help you through this.”

The tears she thought she had locked away seemed to swell up again. Blinking them away again, Cordelia let him know that she’d prefer him there to Giles. “You’d be a crispy critter if I let you tag along, so no thanks. Besides, it’s not like we’re joined at the hip. Mister Melty Face won’t want me as a sacrifice. I’m not a virgin anymore.”

“Cordy, the Crosathnam doesn’t know that.”

“He was pretty quick about sensing my ‘purity’ the first time I saw him,” she sourly reminded him. Those snoopy demon senses were way too sensitive.

Angel hated the thought of letting her out of his sight. Cordelia was not exactly thrilled with the idea, either. It meant that Buffy & Co. would have to take her over to Giles’ place. Her thoughts switched direction. “I suppose they’re still down there wondering what we’ve been doing.”  

The Next Scenes          Map of Sunnydale          Scene-by-Scene Guide


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