Chapter 28: Homecoming
“Stubborn vamps,” Cordelia muttered under her breath as she screeched her car to a halt on the circular drive in front of the Chase family residence. “Can’t treat me like property and get away with it. Possessive much? Pfft!”
Slamming the car door, she jabbed at the button for the electronic car lock as if pushing the button would send a thousand jolts of electricity straight at Angelus and Angel. That might get their attention. A sinister smirk crossed her face.
“He spanked me! Angelus actually spanked me.” Cordelia fumed as she stalked up the brick stairs to the front door shoving her key in the lock. “Couldn’t wait for the private punishment session. Nooooo. Had to do it in front of Angel. Make sure Master Vamp saw who was really in charge.”
Letting herself inside, Cordelia was too caught up in her own thoughts to notice that the house alarm was turned off as was the automatic lighting system. The hall light brightened the flared staircase leading to the second floor landing. Another beamed white light from the direction of the kitchen. Closer scrutiny might have caught the sliver of a golden glow peeking from beneath the door to the study, but Cordelia noticed nothing.
Just for good measure, she gave the front door a hard slam enjoying the satisfyingly loud sound that it made. Almost as satisfying as jabbing Angel in the foot with her four-inch spiked heel. If only she had done the same to Angelus before she stormed out of the mansion, it might have been a perfect exit.
“Home sweet home,” she sighed miserably and puffed air at a stray strand of hair still sticky from whipped cream residue. Tossing the car keys down on the marble-topped table by the door, Cordelia realized suddenly that there was already a set of keys placed there.
Whirling around, Cordelia saw the study door open and her father emerge from its restricted confines. Responding to the noise, he appeared prepared for battle as he held a letter opener in his left hand. Appearing at the railing above, her mother let out a startled gasp realizing that the person standing in the foyer was her daughter.
Omigod! They’re here early. They weren’t supposed to come until Monday. This is so not good.
Plastering a wide smile on her face, Cordelia greeted them. “You’re home! That’s so great. How was Europe?”
Moving with slow, deliberate steps, Emelia Chase let her fingers trail along the wood spindles of the balustrade as she descended the stairs. Ignoring the question posed to them, her expression altered from surprise to scrutiny as her green eyes swept over Cordelia from head to toe. “It’s a little late for Halloween, darling. Even then, I doubt that outfit would be acceptable at the Country Club’s Autumn Costume Ball.”
Outfit? Oh, fuck!
“Language, Cordelia!” Daniel Chase snapped at the filth that poured from his little girl’s mouth.
I said that aloud? Oh, shit! I said that aloud. Thoughts again poured forth as words from her slack-jawed mouth.
“Yes, you did,” her father looked red-faced with anger. “Is this what you’ve become in the few months we’ve been away— a foul-mouthed slut?”
“Daniel!” Even her mother appeared shocked at the accusation. She held a hand to her chest as if she might faint from the words alone. “I’m certain that Cordelia has some kind of explanation for this… this… costume. As for her language, I’d say she gets that from you.”
Sputtering, Daniel lowered the letter opener. He wasn’t used to his cultured daughter spouting such expletives. Cordelia normally had her own turn of phrase, but it had never been so foul-tongued. Defending himself, he grumbled, “Does not, dammit.”
Emelia rolled her eyes at her husband. “See what I mean?”
“Y-You didn’t tell me you were coming home early,” Cordelia pointed out. She would have been certain to be ready. “I thought Monday.”
“There was no answer here at the house,” Emelia commented. “I couldn’t remember your cell number, darling, so it was just impossible to call you directly. There was no one here to answer the phone. Where is Rosaria?”
At the mention of the housekeeper’s name, Cordelia nibbled at her lower lip before answering. “Rosaria? Umm. Her sister was having a baby, so I gave her a vacation. For the next three months.”
Instead of being upset, Cordelia’s parents met each other’s gaze and seemed to let out simultaneous sighs. Weird much?
“How delightful for Rosaria,” cooed Emelia as if her housekeeper’s niece or nephew was the best thing since the invention of sunless tanning lotion. Making her steady approach, she was now standing directly in front of Cordelia. Her keen intellect was too sharp to be fooled by such generosity. “How convenient for you, too. Harmony’s mother tells me you haven’t been over in the past couple of months. From the state of the empty refrigerator, I’d say you haven’t been here either.”
Cordelia suddenly felt that her leather corset was a little too tight. It seemed to pinch at her sides making breathing difficult. Confirming, “I haven’t been here.”
“We gathered that much,” Daniel Chase told her as he tossed the letter opener onto the table next to the keys.
“Are you involved with someone? In some kind of trouble?” Emelia actually managed to look teary-eyed as she made her queries. “Talk to us, darling. Is there something we should know?”
Sucking in a deep breath, Cordelia found that the interrogation was too much on top of her already frayed nerves. “There are a lot of things you should know, Mother. If you could bother to remember my cell phone number or let me know which hotel you were staying at, I might be able to tell you what’s going on in my life.”
“Well—,” Emelia gasped.
“Yes, there is someone,” Cordelia freely admitted. She had no reason to hide the news from them no matter the circumstances of her relationship with Angelus. They were going to learn about it one way or the other. Better to know now than when the vampire came storming up to the house to bring her back to the mansion. Not that she was going to go until she was ready. “I love him. I’ve been living with him the past couple of months.”
When his wife fell silent at the news, Daniel Chase decided it was his turn to get his point across. “Cordelia, you have always been more mature than other girls your age simply because you have experienced more of the world. That does not mean that you are old enough for a relationship that involves living with a guy who likes you to dress up like a tramp.”
“Actually, it was my idea,” Cordelia quipped.
Raging, her father pointed toward the stairs, “Get up to your room, wash that…stuff out of your hair and change into something decent.”
“Fine.” Cordelia stormed past her parents and headed up the stairs only to stop half way up. Turning back to her father, she wanted to make sure he knew she was doing this because it was something already planned and not because he was trying to play master of the house.
As she opened her mouth to speak, Emelia cut in with, “If you’ve been living with this man…”
“Angelus,” Cordelia supplied his name at the obvious pause.
“…then why are you home tonight? You weren’t expecting us to arrive until Monday.”
Gripping onto the handrail, Cordelia wallowed in the irony that was her mother’s sudden interest in her life. “We had a fight.”
Emelia walked to the end of the staircase looking up with seemingly genuine concern as she asked, “Why?”
Because he spanked me after I kissed his brother. Oh, yeah. That’ll go over real well. Not.
“You wanna know? It’s because I love him too much. Too much to let myself betray his trust. Too much to be treated like his possession. Too much to do as I’m told and not as I see fit.”
A furrowed line appeared between Emelia Chase’s eyebrows. She glanced behind her at her husband, silently urging him to speak. Daniel came forward, taking his wife’s hand and giving it a squeeze. Cordelia noticed that it reeked of conspiracy. Though her parents had always been passionate people— toward each other— hand-holding was not one of their usual little signals.
“Come back down, Cordelia,” her father sounded almost nervous. “Your mother and I have something to tell you. It might as well be now.”
Daniel Chase rarely showed any emotion that might be construed as weak. Some might call him overly confident, but he was never so obviously edgy. Now Cordelia started to feel that way as if her father projected his anxious state to encompass her. She returned down the stairs at a slow pace, sensing that her own shocking news might be eclipsed.
“What is it, Daddy?”
“Your mother and I won’t be back in Sunnydale very long. We have a flight booked at the end of the week.”
“Oh.” This was the news? The only surprising thing was that they were staying an entire week before jetting off again.
Emelia explained, “We’ll be gone indefinitely, so it was necessary to come back to Sunnydale to tie up a few loose ends. We aren’t really planning to return.”
“Am I one of the loose ends?” Cordelia had to ask the question. “I hardly see you as it is, even when you are in town.”
Gasping at the misunderstanding, Emelia Chase rushed to correct it. “Darling, no! I assure you that you’ll see us every day.”
“You’re coming with us,” Daniel informed her. Especially after seeing what you’ve been up to.
Cordelia’s head was spinning. Her parents were planning to leave Sunnydale for an unspecified period and wanted her with them? “What’s the deal? I have school.”
Daniel and Emelia exchanged looks again. “Things are much better for your father’s business in Europe right now,” her mother explained with a hasty smile. “As far as school goes, it’s not as if you really need to bother. There are oodles of handsome, rich and eligible young men. They’ll be falling all over themselves to catch you.”
“I’m already caught,” Cordelia responded dryly. “I’m not interested in some Prep School loser who calls me Ducks and insists on drinking tea every half an hour.”
“Not all European men are like your cousin Cecil, darling,” promised her mother.
“Thank goodness for that! If I ever wanted to jump into another gene pool it was when we visited that branch of the family.” Dearest Cecil had invited himself along on their trip to Tuscany the last time Cordelia had accompanied her parents to Europe. What a horrid shock considering she thought they were going to St. Croix. No one suffered like she did that summer.
Shuddering at the memory, Cordelia told them, “I’m not interested in meeting any men, European or otherwise. As for getting out of Sunnydale for a while… I’ll think about it.”