20: Moonlit Garden
Chapter 20: The Moonlit Garden
The open door swung on its hinges slamming shut under the force of the wind alone. Cordelia ran down the drive careless of the tiny pebbles caught up in the grooves of the old brick. Like a warning against treading off the beaten path, the pebbles dug into her bare feet, but the pain they wrought went ignored. So too did the autumn winds blustering with a sharp sting against her exposed skin, the silk robe providing little protection as it billowed out behind her running figure.
“Angelus!” She called out to the vampire knowing he would hear her cry though still doubting that the sound of her voice alone would stop his own escape into the night.
Reacting instinctively on raw emotion, Angelus mistakenly believed Cordelia rejected his claim upon her. Scorned it. Laughed at the very idea that he would want her as his mate rather than his lover. Such betrayal could garner disdain from any man. From a vampire… Cordelia only hoped she could repair the damage before Angelus unleashed the fullness of his fury upon her or any unlucky creature crossing his path.
The brick gave way to the lawn edging the mansion. With the thick grass beneath her feet, Cordelia followed its course letting the clouded moonlight guide her toward the park. Her dark hair whipped around her, long strands acting as a blindfold. With a cry of frustration, Cordelia swept it out of her face continuing to run at full speed until she reached the bushy overgrowth of the formerly sculpted garden and the park beyond.
Stopping suddenly, Cordelia bent over gripping her knees with her hands, breathing hard. Only for a moment. Just to catch her breath again. Then her eyes were roving across the garden looking for the dark silhouette of the vampire. Seeking fruitlessly, for she knew if he chose to remain hidden from her Angelus would not be seen.
Just ahead, a scallop-edged marble bench shone white against the darkened garden. Focused in a spotlight of moonbeams that filtered through the surrounding trees, the bench provided Cordelia with a better vantage point. The marble felt cold beneath her feet though the mansion provided protection at this angle from the biting wind. Cordelia barely noticed the impact of the elements. Though the trees whispered their secrets with the rustling of their leaves, her ears listened to other tunes.
The sounds of the night echoed around her, but Cordelia found the loudest to be the soft sobs gathering at the back of her throat. Crying? That is so not going to happen. Refusing to let them take over, she swallowed them away, determined to get through to Angelus.
If the vampire wouldn’t show himself, then he would damn well hear what she had to say. The bench made a perfect spot for her oratory.
“I know you’re out there, Angelus,” she called out into the darkness and waited for a few seconds before continuing. Maybe it was just her imagination, but Cordelia could sense his presence. Her body tingled with the knowledge that he was near.
Unless it’s just the wind blowing up my gown.
“Maybe you think it’s your turn to brood in the dark, but I’m here to tell you that you have no reason for it,” Cordelia promised. “My timing sucks. I laughed at the wrong moment remembering one of Angel’s stupid jokes.”
It was closer to an apology than Cordelia normally issued, especially in a case where she considered herself virtually faultless. This was all a misunderstanding followed up by Angelus’ hot-headed reaction. Only the trees rustled their protests to her words. There was no sound or movement from the shadows to prove Angelus was there. No response except her own recognition that the knot in the pit of her stomach was pure fear.
Cordelia decided the silence was killing her. “Stop licking your wounded pride and get your ass over here where I can see you.”
A deep growl sounded from the shadows, a snarl of pure anger.
That got a response. A sigh of relief left her throat with the confirmation that he was still here. She clutched a hand to her stomach feeling the tension inside her. Telling Angelus what you wanted was one thing, but issuing demands to the vampire was quite another.
Still no appearance, but it was progress.
“C’mon,” she peered into the copse of thick bushes, “this is hardly the reaction I’d expect from the Scourge of Europe. If I hurted your widdle feewings come tell me to my face.”
Opposite of his location moments earlier, one of the marble statues on the other side of the garden hurtled off its pedestal. With powerful force, it landed against another bench breaking it in two, sending the marble head of the statue onto the grassy turf with a heavy thud. Loudly, the irate vampire gnashed his teeth against her caustic challenge. Cordy whirled in that direction, but again there was nothing to be seen except the results of his fury.
Above in the mansion though a shroud of darkness filled Angel’s room, the vampire did not even attempt to sleep. Not now. Not knowing Cordelia had gone to Angelus with every intention of formalizing his claim.
Hearing the commotion outside, Angel leapt out of bed striding over to the window that overlooked the garden. It hadn’t occurred to him that Angelus might act out his obvious pain over this misunderstanding. While the other vampire was certainly pissed off, the idea that he might be might be violent toward Cordelia never even registered.
Thrusting aside the thick blackout drapes covering his window, Angel stared down into the garden. Cordelia immediately drew his gaze as she stood bathed in a wash of moonbeams, the wind blowing tendrils of her hair about her shoulders, catching the edges of her robe.
So beautiful, he felt mesmerized by the sight of her, a part of him longing to be the one she called to. Remembering his concerns, Angel tracked his double from one area to another as he slowly circled Cordelia’s position. Focusing on her voice, Angel could hear her now as she defiantly withstood the elements and demanded that her lover make his presence known.
“Angelus, you can’t just mark me and expect me to play happy families.” Cordelia was still upset that he hadn’t said anything to her. She didn’t blame Angel for telling her, but the news should have come from Angelus and not his brother.
She added vehemently, “Maybe it’s not a vampire thing, but in the Cordelia Chase rulebook claiming works both ways. I want your claim, Angelus, but I want to see your eyes when you tell me that I’m yours.”
They were back to the silence again. Gripping the edges of her robe, Cordelia started to close it around her as she waited for some indication that her words had any kind of impact. Cordy had no intention of going back inside the mansion until this was resolved one way or the other.
Apparently, it was time for something drastic. “Here’s your chance.”
Pulling at her robe, Cordelia shrugged out of it. The wind caught it as she held it aloft like a flag of truce only to carry it away as her hands moved to the lacy edge of her silk gown. She whipped it over her head, dropping it to the ground beside the bench. Her panties followed.
From his vantage point above, Angel’s jaw dropped open. Firstly at her bold move to get Angelus to show and secondly at the stunning beauty of her nude form. He could not have moved from that spot at the window if the mansion was on fire.
“See something you want?” Cordelia turned full circle in the beaming moonlight while trying to ignore the cold air.
You have no idea, sweetheart, Angel answered that question for himself.
Fast and ferocious, Angelus approached out of the shadows directly behind her. “Get your clothes back on. Are you trying to catch your death? This may be California, but it’s November.”
“I can tell. My goosebumps have goosebumps.” Cordelia shivered. “But I’m not going to get dressed until you claim what’s yours.”
Circling the bench, there was no mistaking Angelus was a predator. Bare-chested and wearing only his black leather pants still unbuttoned, the vampire’s hard body accentuated his feral nature. White hot passion sparked within Angelus’ amber eyes setting her instantly aflame with its heat. His passion was a melting pot of emotions, lust and anger amongst them, as he stalked toward her.
Vulnerable in her unclothed state, Cordelia stood defiantly and matched his gaze with fierce determination. The small victory she’d won at bringing Angelus into the open meant nothing now. Whatever happened next, the ball was definitely in his court and he had home advantage.
Angelus rounded the marble bench as if inspecting the wares laid out before him. A flash of anger rose within Cordelia, but she tamped it down refusing to move under the weight of his stare. As he stood behind her, Cordelia realized that it was the sun tattoo that had captured the vampire’s attention.
Unseen, one large hand circled her left ankle with the repeated action following immediately on the right. Cordelia drew in a deep breath of air, surprise at Angelus’ sudden touch causing her to wonder what he planned. His hands moved upward with slow surety along the course of her long legs, over the angle of her hips and forward to curl around the lush curve of her breasts. They paused there long enough for Cordelia to release a soft moan and lift her own hands to cover his.
Just as her fingers brushed against his skin, Angelus pulled his hands back to her hips, his thumbs moving over the firm curves of her bottom. Then his mouth came down on her skin just over the tattoo, pressing across its surface followed quickly by the hoarse rumble of his voice, “Mine.”
Cordelia shuddered under the sound of that word, its impact felt so deep inside that she thought it might be her soul crying out in joy…or madness. If it was insanity to give yourself freely to a vampire’s claim, then Cordelia accepted it as part and parcel of the deal.
Then his hands and mouth were gone from her skin and silence echoed its weighty call into the night. Cordelia spun around to reassure herself that the vampire was still there and found him watching her. Barely restrained, Angelus’ muscles tensed at the stinging pinpricks that acted as a precursor of intense pain should he not heed its warning.
Just the thought of claiming Cordelia the way he wanted to set off the damned mystical reaction. Focusing, Angelus willed away the primal urge to sink his fangs into Cordelia’s neck. Shaking his head, he shifted back to his human visage.
“A-Angelus?” Concern and more than a hint of fear sounded in her voice as Cordelia inched toward the edge of the bench, as close as she could get without leaving her perch.
A trace of amber remained in his stare hinting at the tight control over his emotions. Sensing her reaction, Angelus bit back his fury. Fear had no business between them and the vampire felt like howling in protest that it had reared its ugly head.
“You’re mine, Cordelia,” he stressed with soft, dangerous tones. “In my mind, that has been true since the moment I laid eyes on you. As for being my mate, that takes more than just the word, more than just the mark. It takes your consent and that’s what I planned to ask you.” Before Soul Boy opened his big mouth.
“Was I a sure thing? Tattoo first and ask questions later?” That hint of defiance was back again as Cordelia placed her hands on her hips and posed with an arched brow. The fact that she did so without a second thought to her nude state only aroused him further.
Angelus leapt onto the bench in one smooth motion, raising his hand to her cheek. Admitting, “Beyond the tint of the paint, the mark is a sign of protection, possession and belonging. The protection it offers exists for the rest of your life no matter your decision. It shows that you are beloved by a vampire of the Order of Aurelius. Should you allow it, the mark will be the proof of my claim and you will officially be mine.”
There was that word again, Cordelia thought. Officially.
She needed to know what he thought that meant. Applying her question with the only reference she had, Cordelia asked him , “So tell me, Angelus, is this a better or worse, sickness and health, richer or poorer, forsaking all others, until death do you part kind of thing?”
Out of breath by the time she finished, Cordelia waited for his answer, but Angelus looked surprised by her query. Finally, he explained, “There is no ceremony other than the one we make for ourselves, Cor. Here and now. In this moment.”
“And the rest of it?”
“Vampires don’t cling to the same human principles,” Angelus told her honestly. “Being a mate has many implications, but it all boils down to two things: family and forever.”
Cordelia frowned, hesitating before she reminded him, “I can’t give you forever.”
Angelus didn’t want to think that far ahead. “We’ll improvise. Since when did you always follow the damn rules, Cordelia Chase? Bend them a little.”
No sooner had that impish light appeared in her eyes than Cordelia clasped his shoulders, pulling herself into his hard frame. Angelus wound his arms around her, meeting her chilled lips kiss for kiss. They bloomed with heat beneath his own. Her fingers tangled in his hair, gripping tight.
Holding her to him as Cordelia nipped at his lower lip with her teeth, Angelus let out a lustful moan of surprise, opening his mouth to admit her demanding tongue. It swept inside for a taste and then disappeared back into its warm cavern leading him to follow. Clutching her bottom, he squeezed the taut flesh cupping her close to him. The heavy length of his arousal tucked tight against her lower belly with the barrier of his pants between them.
Feeling him, Cordelia let out a moan that sounded suspiciously like a soft growl. Wrapping one leg around his, raising herself up just enough to grind against him, the answering rumble in his chest encouraged her to go on. “Want you now,” she panted against his mouth.
Angelus lifted Cordelia up, her arms and legs gripping him tight. His face buried in the crook of her shoulder as he drank in the scent of wind-kissed skin and strawberry shampoo. “Got to taste you, baby.” Licking her neck, Angelus sucked her tender skin into his mouth pulling hard against the soft flesh. Cordelia cried out at the sensation as a spark seemed to shoot straight to her aching core.
Her nails dug into his shoulders, leaving scratches and half-moon shapes behind as her need quickly built to a frantic level. “Angelus, Angelus!”
Reaching between them, Cordelia lowered the zipper of his leather pants freeing his straining erection into her hand. Angelus grunted instructions, “Harder.”
She gripped him tighter eliciting a moan, watching his eyes shift into deeper shades of amber. Cordelia pressed her face against his ear, murmuring, “Love you,” just as she guided him inside her. The cool air made him feel like a bar of ice sliding into her sudden inferno, melting them together . A gutteral cry left her throat as he stretched her, Angelus controlling her descent until he penetrated to the hilt, the dark curls of their sex curling together.
He held her there long enough to give her time to adjust to the intrusion of his sex, but the inner muscles that gloved him contracted around his cock stripping his resolve. Cordelia held tightly to him, her hips in motion, but unable to more than move an inch or two as she held herself up on his shoulders. A little cry of frustration sounded, “Ngnh!”
Bracing himself on the long part of the bench, Angelus used his strength to aid Cordelia’s movements, giving her leverage and thrusting his own hips to meet hers. “Better, baby?”
She didn’t answer, simply stared into his eyes with a hunger that held him captive. Cordelia marveled at his strength as he held her aloft, balancing their bodies as he fucked her. So hard, filling her. So wet, surrounding him. So close, so close. Tucking her head against Angelus’ shoulder, Cordelia’s fingers curled along his back, the nails digging deeper into his skin with each hard thrust.
Though his hands were occupied by necessity, Angelus used his mouth to kiss every inch of skin he could reach, using his rounded teeth to bite gently where his fangs could not. Then Cordelia shuddered against him, edging close to her orgasm. Feeling the nip of his teeth, Cordelia possessed a sudden clarity of mind. Locking her gaze upon Angelus, her voice intense with purpose, she claimed what was hers. “Mine.”
Before Angelus could respond with the words of love that fell upon his lips, Cordelia opened her mouth over the skin where his neck and shoulder met biting down on his flesh. Angelus howled with combined pain and ecstasy at the sensation. Her hard chomp actually drew blood. Thrusting to the hilt, he came powerfully pouring himself into the font of her womb. Cordelia shuddered around him, screaming his name as she flew apart in his arms.
Riding out the waves, Cordelia felt drawn to his eyes again. Needing to see that she had done the right thing. Angelus was back in his true face, the rigged brow sloping over now dark ochre eyes. Held safely in his arms, with her legs still entwined around his waist, Cordelia cupped his face, her thumbs moving across the sharper cheek bones.
“Don’t jump to crazy conclusions again,” she admonished him softly.
Angelus’ mouth curled into a grin. “Don’t listen to Angel’s dumb jokes and maybe I won’t.”
“It was dumb,” Cordelia agreed, not bothering with details. Master? Pfft! “You should’ve heard the one about the Tabasco sauce.”
That was enough talk about Angel, the vampire decided as he covered her mouth with his own. Finally, reluctantly, he lifted her off of his shaft despite the fact that he was still hard within her. Cordelia murmured a protest, but settled her feet back on the bench while still holding onto Angelus until she was certain of her balance.
“My legs feel like jello,” Cordy laughed at her wobbly state. “See what you’ve done to me?”
Despite the fact that his own body protested its removal from Cordelia’s tight heat, Angelus carefully tucked himself back into his pants and zipped up. Stepping off of the bench he was about to swing her down beside him when he noticed the red tint of color against the white marble. “What happened to your feet?”
For a moment, Cordelia was unsure. Then she recalled the sharp stones scattered across the brick driveway. “Pebbles. Must’ve cut me. I didn’t even notice.”
A low growl of discontent sounded from Angelus’ chest as he examined the scrapes. Cordelia’s hand weaved through his hair as his head bent over unable to resist the urge to keep touching him. Then her fingers wandered down to the spot on his shoulder that she’d bitten. Already, it showed signs of healing, which made her frown for some unknown reason.
Noticing, Angelus smirked at her expression. “You want to mark me, baby?”
“It doesn’t seem fair,” Cordelia pouted holding her crossed arms closer into her chest as the cool wind breached the barrier of warmth that had generated inside her. “It’s already fading.”
“Design a tattoo,” he suggested, adding after a pause, “or you can keep biting me.”
Wryly, “Liked it that much, did you?”
“Hello, vampire,” he responded in true Cordy fashion eliciting a laugh of delight. He joined in her amusement for a moment before his voice dropped low. “Hell, yeah, I liked it. When I get you upstairs, we’ll talk about the other places I like to be bitten.”
“Oh, really?” Cordelia could imagine a few already and her curiosity left her flushed and anxious to get inside.
Angelus stepped away to pick up her robe from its spot on the grass, returning to wrap her up in its thin layer of protection against the cold. After tossing her the discarded nightie and panties, Angelus swept her up in his strong arms and headed toward the front of the mansion.
On the second floor, Angel watched until the pair disappeared from view. He let the curtains drop into place once again suspending the room in darkness. Strangely, the fact that he had watched their interlude in its entirety didn’t bother the vampire at all. It was the fact that in his mind he had taken those visuals and been the one claiming Cordelia. Just more fodder for the fantasies that plagued him day and night.
“You know that you can put me down anytime,” Cordelia told Angelus as he kicked the door shut behind them. “My feet are fine. I’m not exactly an invalid.”
Angelus only seemed to hold her closer, “I like you in my arms.”
“Mmm.” Cordelia liked being there. Effortlessly, he carried her up the stairs, turning as they reached the landing. Angelus was about to head up the steps to their floor when she asked, “Should we stop and tell Angel everything is okay?”
Pausing, Angelus pointed out, “He already knows.”
Cordy frowned. “How’s that…vampire telepathy?”
“I’m certain he heard us,” Angelus explained with a chuckle. “You’re not exactly quiet when you come, baby.”
Blushing, Cordelia cupped a hand over his mouth. “Shh!”
He continued laughing until Cordelia squirmed her way out of his arms and slid to the carpeted floor of the landing. She started to stalk down Angel’s hallway only to have Angelus latch onto her wrist holding her back. Chuckling at the look of red-cheeked fury on her face, he asked, “Where the hell are you going?”
“To tell Angel to keep his ears to himself. To say…I don’t know…that it wasn’t us. It was…stray cats.”
Laughing, the vampire revealed, “Those cats can pronounce my name rather well.”
Blinking in surprise, Cordelia honestly couldn’t remember. “I said your name?”
“At the top of your lungs,” Angelus’ smirk reappeared. “Several times, in fact.”
Reeling her back into the sphere of his embrace, Angelus settled his arms around her waist. “There’s a hot shower upstairs with your name on it. After you’re properly dried and fluffed, I’m going to toss and tumble you into that huge bed of ours.”
“And then what?” Cordelia’s eyes sparkled at the idea.
He stepped back toward the steps waggling a finger in her direction. “You’ll have to come upstairs to find out.”
“Toss and tumble,” murmured Cordelia under her breath as she followed him up the staircase. “You just wait, vampire. We’ll see who gets tumbled first.”