22: Family & Friendship
Chapter 22: Family & Friendship
Buffy reached a finger toward the doorbell. After Willow’s little lecture on rudeness, she felt a little guilty about just walking into the mansion. Though apparently, not guilty enough. Just before she pressed the bell, Buffy pulled her finger away and moved her hand to the doorknob. It wasn’t being rude. She had as much right to be here as Cordelia Chase and Buffy already knew that the brunette never knocked. Of course Cor practically lived here.
Closing the door behind her, Buffy listened to see if there was any indication whether someone was downstairs. Music from the stereo suggested she should start in the living room. Turning the corner into the room Buffy stopped short at the sight of Cordelia and Angelus leaning up against the pool table. The vampire had his hand up her tight red shirt and its resting place was all too obvious. Not that it looked to be resting at all.
“Ahem,” Buffy cleared her throat trying to catch the attention of the kissing couple. Thinking irately, Those two are permanently attached at the lips.
Slowly extracting his hand from beneath Cordelia’s clothes, Angelus turned his gaze on the intruder. “Hello, Buff.”
Cordelia turned on her megawatt grin, not looking the least embarrassed at being caught or doing a good job of hiding it. “Hi. Angel will be down in a minute or two. He’s getting spiffed up for your date. You look terrific, by the way. Love the shoes.”
“Thanks,” Buffy had made a special effort to look good tonight and managed to pull off the sexy, but casual look.
“Guess I better run upstairs to get ready,” Cordy headed toward the door.
Buffy’s smile faltered. Get ready? “I thought Angel and I were going out alone.”
“You are,” Cordy assured her. “Every now and then a girl needs her manpire all to herself. Angelus is talking me out on the town.”
Angelus continued to lean against the pool table, now crossing his legs at the ankles and watching the two of them. “Angel was under the impression he was picking you up. What’s the rush? Afraid Joyce will wig out?”
“No,” Buffy answered. “Mom knows I’m dating Angel again. Giles was headed in this direction. He dropped me off.”
“Giles drove you?” Cordelia paused on her way out to the hall and realized Buffy was alone. “He didn’t come in.”
“Why not? He hasn’t been to visit the whole time I’ve been here,” Cordelia was upset at the fact.
Buffy gave her a confused look. “Why would my Watcher visit you to begin with? He isn’t exactly Angelus’ biggest fan.”
“That man is so in trouble,” Cordy mumbled to herself.
“Giles wasn’t being rude,” Buffy defended him. “He had a thing to go to tonight.”
“Like he couldn’t spare five minutes?”
Cordelia didn’t wait for further excuses. She strode off in the direction of the stairs leaving Buffy and Angelus to occupy themselves. Still mumbling to herself by the time she reached the second level, Cordelia barely noticed the fact that Angel was coming from a perpendicular direction down the hall.
“Hold up, Cordy,” he held her arm preventing her from moving up the staircase to the third level. “What’s the problem?”
“Giles.” Angel waited for further explanation. He knew it would come. Cordelia told him, “He dropped Buffy off, but didn’t come in.”
“This place doesn’t exactly hold pleasant memories for him,” Angel reminded her. “Angelus tortured him here at the mansion.”
Cordelia had forgotten about that. “Guess I’ll let him off the hook for a while. Doesn’t mean he can avoid it forever. Sooner or later, I’m gonna have a party and he better haul his British butt over here.”
Angel’s mouth twisted into a smirk. “I’d hate to be in his shoes if he refuses.”
“I am Cordelia Chase. Men tremble and obey.” She was grinning at him, though not entirely joking. “So… whatcha got planned for tonight? Buffy’s dressed up kinda cute for patrol, so my guess is you’re skipping the cemetery tours tonight.”
“Are you really interested or just being nosy?”
Indulgently, Angel described his plans to take Buffy on a scenic moonlit drive along the coast. He expected Cordelia to find fault with his plan, but she was all smiles. “Good choice. The old cruise and schmooze. Classic. Very you, Angel.”
Eyeing her suspiciously, Angel wondered if she was complimenting or insulting him. “I figured we’d find a secluded spot, walk along the beach, and spend some quiet time alone.”
“I love the beach.” Cordelia let out a sigh. Summer seemed far away, but this wasn’t exactly a sunshine activity for Angel. “Moonlight is good. Romantic. The beach is so different at night than it is in the day.”
Angel instantly imagined her on that secluded beach. Nude and glorious like she was in the garden only this time with sand, sunshine and hot summer breezes. “I can picture you there with the sun warming your skin and the wind in your hair.”
“Mmm,” Cordelia looked a little unfocused as she sighed longingly at the idea of the beach. She picked up where Angel left off never noticing that his hand was still on her arm, his thumb moving in slow circles over her skin. “The sounds of the ocean surrounding me and the scent of the coconut oil slicked across my skin.
“C-Coconut oil?” Angel gulped hard. Why’d she have to go and put that image in his head? All he saw was her nude body stretched out on the sands as his hands rubbed over her sun-kissed skin spreading scented oil across every curvaceous inch. “Yeah. P-Protection. That’s important. I-I mean for your skin of course. Not for, well, other things. Slathered everywhere.”
“Relax. You don’t need sunscreen at night, dumbass,” Cordelia pointed out with a laugh. “Just be sure to take your shoes off when you’re on the beach, roll up your pant legs and hold her hand.”
The vampire snapped out of his daydream, sounding irritated. “Cordy, I think I can handle a walk on the beach without your advice.”
After a long pause where he watched Cordelia staring at him with this knowing look in her eyes, Angel queried, “Why my shoes?”
Cordelia tried not to laugh at his oblivious expression. “It’s a beach, you dork. Gotta feel the sand between your toes. Let the waves run over your feet.”
Glancing down at his clothes, Angel wasn’t certain pant rolling and barefoot walks were exactly what he had in mind. Besides, now that he thought about it, they might get sand in the Plymouth.
“Maybe I’m not dressed for the beach.”
“Silly vamp,” Cordelia was really laughing at him now, silent laughter that mocked him with such sweet condescension that Angel couldn’t find fault with it. Her pearly grin and sparkling eyes mesmerized him. Until she added, “You look… fine.”
Angel noticed her smile reverse itself into a frown. “What?”
“It’s just—,” Cordelia let out a discontented sigh. “Oh, nothing.”
“What?” He asked more urgently.
“You should let me dress you.”
“Do what?” Now she had him thinking of her undressing him causing his body to react with anticipation at the idea alone.
Cordelia clarified, “Pick out your clothes. Obviously you are completely without any imagination. I don’t understand it. Angelus isn’t afraid to wear colors.”
Quick to deny her comments, Angel countered defensively, “I wear colors.”
“Black is not a color. It is a non-color.”
Slightly irritated now that Cordelia was suggesting he couldn’t even dress himself much less take his own girlfriend on a walk on the beach without her advice, Angel ground his teeth together. After a moment he asked irately, “Is there anything else wrong with me?”
Cordelia turned a serious eye on the vampire. She lifted a hand up to smooth his hair on one side tucking an errant strand that poked out above his ear. “Do you really want me to go there?”
Glowering, Angel responded, “Not the hair.”
“You’re so easy,” Cordelia giggled merrily, putting her arms around his neck to hug him. Angel felt the soft press of her lips against his cheek. Then she pulled back after only a few seconds leaving Angel devoid of the sudden warmth that spread over him at the contact. “Have fun tonight, Care Bear.”
Despite the fact that he growled in her ear at her use of that annoying endearment, Cordelia sent him another smile before turning to head up the staircase. After two steps, she realized Angel’s fingers were wrapped around her upper arm preventing her from leaving. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry to release it.
“Last time I checked, that arm belonged to me,” she quipped.
Wrong. Mine. All of you.
Fighting against the urge to yank Cordelia fully into his embrace, Angel uncurled his fingers dropping his hand to his side. He didn’t trust himself to touch her in so simple a way. Not when he wanted more. Especially knowing he had the entitlement to take more. Pursuit of those awakened desires would be wrong in too many ways to count.
Wrong, but almost irresistible. Cordy wasn’t helping matters. Besides the fact that all it took to make him want her was the hint of her scent or the sound of her voice, he seemed to be fantasizing about her both day and night. Just the idea of the things they would do together made it difficult to keep his hands to himself. Especially when in her own unconscious and casual way, Cordelia constantly touched him all the while remaining cluelessly unaware of his inner struggle.
“Cordy,” her name sounded out as a warning on his lips. If the warning was intended for her or himself, Angel wasn’t certain. All he knew was that he could not let her go up those stairs without making it perfectly clear that friendly hugs and kisses were out of place between them.
Instead of moving away, Cordelia reacted to the sound of his voice like a magnet and returned to stand beside him. Lights danced within her hazel gaze, still echoing that inner laughter at their conversation about his clothes and hair. Merriment showed on her lips, the corners twitching into a curling smile tempting Angel into wiping it away with his mouth.
Just a taste, Angel found the thought milling madly in his brain. That’s all I want. Just one more taste of those lips.
Cordelia murmured her query as she met Angel’s gaze, “Hmm?”
As if the old echo of Angelus’ voice in his head came through, Angel mocked himself, Who do you think you’re kidding? Just one taste? As if you’d stop there. One taste would never be enough.
Softly with that deep timber to his voice that gave her shivers, Angel slowly sounded out his annoyance. “I’m not your Care Bear.”
Having wondered what was causing his sudden tension, Cordelia laughed aloud in response. Being called a Care Bear was apparently too cuddly a sound for a vampire, even one with a soul. Cordy figured if Angel went around calling her by a pet name then she could certainly have one for him. Telling him, “Fair is fair, big brother, I’ll call you whatever I want.”
With lightning speed, Angel’s hands shot up on either side of her shoulders, trapping her against the barrier of the wall. Inches from her face, Angel leaned in even closer demanding an answer, “Are you purposely provoking me? Try again.”
“A-Angel,” a quiver sounded in her voice though she wasn’t certain why it came out as if she was afraid of responding.
“Still trying to play Master?” She snorted at the thought of these little domination games that came so naturally to vampires. Just another vamp thing. Then Cordelia noticed the all too serious gleam in his eyes that left her wondering if it was really a game at all.
The pulse in her throat leapt under Angel’s close proximity, its quickening rhythm locking his gaze there. Cordelia felt the hard press of the wall against her back as she leaned into it, instinctively moving away even if she went nowhere. Completely blocked in, she felt imprisoned by the muscular cage of his arms despite the fact that he wasn’t even touching her.
“Trust me,” Angel’s throaty promise made her shake in her shoes, “if I ever decide to master you, there won’t be trying, playing or any doubts as to what I’m doing.”
Angel was so close, leaning into her with that hard body. Just bare inches away and with that predatory look in his eyes. Her heart pounded in her chest upon realizing that his dark head was descending toward her throat.
No doubts? What about what he was doing right now? Cordelia sounded out a furious whisper, “Personal bubble! You’re in it.”
“Quiet,” Angel’s simple command only amplified her irritation. There was a raging fire in his eyes that dared her to say something more. If she didn’t shut up, Angel knew he’d end up breaching her personal bubble in ways she could never imagine.
The vampire noticed that while Cordelia’s mouth shut, it wasn’t due to obedience, but anger. Fine. That was perfectly fine with him. Anything but that playful naive trust. Unable to resist the urge, Angel leaned in again, scenting her skin and hair, his mouth hovering close to her lips, but not touching.
Blood rushed to every erogenous zone she possessed. A tiny moue sounded from her throat in reaction to her sudden response eliciting an answering groan from Angel as his eyes bore directly into hers drilling deep.
He knew it, Cordelia realized. Of course he knew it. It didn’t even take a vampire to notice her physical reaction. It was all she could do to keep her hands plastered to the wall. They itched to touch him. Her body ached to be crushed against Angel’s muscular chest with her hips pressed into the hard bulge at his groin.
A furtive glance proved her instincts were right. Angel was aroused, erect and all for her. Cordelia knew exactly what lay beyond the dark barrier of his pants and her body leapt at the though of reaching out to touch him there. The realization that she still had these kinds of desires for Angel was accompanied by the sensation of sharp stabbing betrayal. She had no right to react this way, not when she loved Angelus.
How was it even possible to love someone so much and be attracted to his brother? There had to be an explanation. Some reason. Some excuse for it. They were twins. Doubles. The same in their physical form. That had to be it.
Apparently, her body didn’t know the difference. Well, Cordelia certainly knew the difference. What’s more, so did Angel.
The longer they stood there, the closer their bodies seemed to get and the rumbling in Angel’s chest grew louder. Straightening up from the wall, Cordelia poked a finger at him. “Stop that. I’m not wearing a sign that says Scratch and Sniff.”
Angel’s gaze dropped to the finger digging into his chest and followed the path of her arm back up to her face. “Vampire thing,” he used one of Cordelia’s own phrases as a convenient if pitiful excuse to explain away his behavior. “I-I told you before, it’s sometimes difficult to separate myself from you when your scent is covered in mine.”
“Angelus and I were together in the living room.” Cordelia recalled what he’d told her about the fact that his double’s scent matched his own. Every time Angelus touched her, kissed her, made love to her, it was also Angel’s scent covering her skin.
The thought made her shudder causing her breasts to brush up against him. Angel covering my skin.
“Mm hunh,” Angel muttered distractedly as one hand tangled in her hair fingering through its long waves like a comb. “Doing what?”
Cordelia realized Angel could tell that Angelus had been kissing her. Touching her. Not that it was his business, but she found herself answering, “Playing pool.”
A huff of dark laughter sounded as the hand combing through her hair settled on her shoulder. His thumb moved back and forth across the skin at the edge of her collar. “Playing pool or just using the pool table?”
Cordelia suddenly saw the pool table in a new light. She let out a soft husky laugh at the idea Angel had put in her head. “No details, remember? I promised.”
“You also said you weren’t a tease. I’m not your brother, Cordelia. Remember that,” Angel told her with such intensity that she reacted with a start.
“You’re my friend,” Cordelia tried to ignore her hurt feelings at his sudden anger over her choice of words. Unless he was angry about her body’s automatic response to him. Angry that she would react that way to anyone except Angelus. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”
Angel heard the plea in her voice and watched her lips tremble only inches from his own. “Friends? We’ve never been friends, sweetheart.”
Abruptly turning on his heel, Angel left Cordelia standing up against the wall as he headed toward the living room. He didn’t see the tears gathering in her eyes.