42: Breaking Tensions

DoN_500


Chapter 42: Breaking Tension

 

“No, I’ll not weep:
I have full cause of weeping; but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,
Or ere I’ll weep. O fool, I shall go mad!”

Those words slammed full force into Cordelia’s heart as if meant specifically for her. Standing in the doorway of room 207, she glared at the burly football player whose stilted delivery of the lines to the rest of the class seemed to be the result of reading her mind rather than a passage from King Lear.

“Thank you, Larry,” Mrs. Petersen instructed her student to resume his seat though her gaze was full of concern and focused, like most of her students, entirely upon Cordelia Chase.

The brunette avoided further eye contact with her classmates, returning to her own seat. Answering her teacher’s query about the possibility of needing to go home with a simple shake of her head, Cordelia stemmed off any detailed questioning. The girl’s flushed appearance might be attributed to the emergent nature of the news given her by the tall man in black, the teacher presumed while moving ahead with the lesson plan. It might be forgiven that Cordelia’s attention wandered, her thoughts obviously not on the task at hand.

O fool, I shall go mad. Cordelia thought about that last line with disdain.

Surely she was the fool for kissing Angel that way. Giving in to desires that had no business existing. He left immediately afterward, not giving her time to think about what had happened. The vampire had kissed her until her body quaked with wanting more and then disappeared while her head was still reeling.

Omigod, how I wanted that kiss, Cordelia realized woefully that she had not only accepted that kiss, but reached out to take it.

Willow was dying with curiosity, but unfortunately was at the opposite side of the room from Cordelia whose seat was in the aisle nearest the windows. What in the world had brought Angelus here at this time of day? He actually dragged Cordelia out of class for all of ten minutes on the grounds of a family emergency. What family? There were Cordy’s parents, she supposed, suddenly growing more concerned.

Glancing at Cordelia over her shoulder, Willow tried to gauge the severity of the news given to the other teenager. Whatever it was, Cordelia appeared to be in a state of shock. Not much different than her appearance before Angelus showed up, only now her face was flushed instead of looking mannequin perfect.

There had not been much opportunity to talk to Cordelia during the last two weeks. Willow figured that the brunette was purposefully avoiding the rest of the gang. She obviously didn’t want to talk about Angelus and Angel merging into a single being. What Willow had observed from the few research sessions that Cordelia had deigned to attend suggested that the vampire and the cheerleader had a long, rocky road ahead of them if they were ever to develop the kind of relationship they had before.

Cordelia noticed Willow’s continued attention and did her best to ignore it. Could she guess the reason Angel had come to the school? Hope not. She didn’t want any of the Scoobies to know that she’d given in so easily. Outraged by her behavior, the sudden realization that she might want more frightened Cordelia to the core. Angel’s kisses were compelling and unique despite the recognizable feel of his mouth on hers.

Touching her still tingling lips, Cordelia knew that this attraction had nothing to do with Angel being her mate’s look-alike. There was just something compelling about him. Yes, there was a familiarity, but as much as she tried to push him away, she found herself aching in need. Wanting to be closer.

It’s not right. Cordelia stared out the window blindly watching the breeze as it rustled the leaves of the trees shading the courtyard below. I can’t do this.

The moment the bell rang, Cordelia was out of her seat and striding to the door. She had already blocked out the path to her car in her head planning to avoid all contact with Mr. Snyder who roamed the halls in the afternoons or with well-meaning friends who couldn’t seem to leave her alone.

Speaking of…

“Cordelia?” The redhead blocked her way out of the room having executed a swift move around linebacker Larry to get to the opening before she did.

“Not now, Willow.”

“Cordy,” whined Willow with pleading eyes. “What’s going on? Are you okay?”

“I have to go home,” Cordelia told her distractedly.

Willow let out a concerned gasp. “Did Angelus bring you bad news?”

Cordelia winced visibly at the use of her mate’s name in reference to the Moirae’s champion. She’d gotten used to calling him Angel, but using the formal version of his name was still off-limits as far as Cordelia was concerned. Snapping at the redhead, “No. He came to kiss me good morning.”

As her jaw fell open, Willow wondered if Cordelia was trying to hide the truth from her. Besides, “It’s already afternoon.”

“So what? I’m going home, Willow. I need him,” Cordelia’s hurried words tumbled out of her mouth as she pushed passed the witch.

Willow followed as fast as her shorter legs would carry her. “C-Cordelia, do you think it’s really a good idea to ditch school just to— to…well, you know— with Angelus?”

Coming to a halt in the middle of the hall, Cordelia turned to face Willow whose face was almost as flaming red as her hair. “What?”

“I said—”

“I heard you the first time,” Cordelia’s cool response sounded. “Whatever gave you the idea that I was going home just to have sex? With him?”

Thinking over the brunette’s words, Willow didn’t see how she could be mistaken. “You said so.”

“Did not.”

“You said you needed him,” Willow pointed out.

Cordelia had no recollection of saying those words. “I need to talk to him, just talk. Do you get that?”

Nodding vehemently despite not believing a word of it, Willow babbled, “T.A.L.K. Talking, as in producing an exchange of information, conversation, chatting, speaking, verbal intercour— eep!”

That last word wasn’t quite what Willow intended to come out of her mouth, so she let out an embarrassed peep and clamped it shut.

Stalking over to her locker, Cordelia twisted the dial on the lock and yanked the door open. Tossing her haggard copy of King Lear inside, she pulled out her purse and her brown leather jacket. “Think what you want, Will. I’m going home. That vampire of mi— Angel and I have things to discuss.”

Cordelia felt Willow’s curious eyes on her all the way to the exit. Managing to drive off the school grounds without getting caught by that nosey troll Snyder was akin to a miracle. She tried not to speed, to give herself time to think about what happened and how she was going to tell Angel that it couldn’t happen again.

The idea itself caused her heart to ache, but Cordelia simply wasn’t prepared to let her head in on the secret that her body already understood.

Assuming that staying through the remainder of class and driving home slowly had given Angel plenty of time to get back to the mansion, Cordelia expected to find him inside. Proving her right, the sound of the television cut off abruptly as soon as she shut the door behind her and the clickety-clack of her heels echoed across the foyer floor. Pausing to toss her keys on the table, Cordelia removed her jacket and set it down as well.

Angel was already expectantly looking in the direction of the living room doorway when Cordelia appeared. She lifted her hands and held onto the doorframe as if needing steady support. The move only managed to accentuate the curves beneath the brown cashmere sweater and Angel found her too tempting a picture as his suddenly hot gaze trailed down the length of her perfect form.

“You’re home early,” Angel commented distractedly. She certainly hadn’t waited until after dark to return. “Is school even over for the day?”

“No. I left,” Cordelia admitted without apology. Nor was she about to come right out and tell him that the reason she was here was because of him. No, Angel might get a case of those crazy Willow thoughts. Need him? Who was she kidding? Pfft!

The look on Angel’s face suggested his thoughts were already there and then some. “Come here, Cordelia.”

There were times when Cordelia would swear to the fact that the vampire had a thrall. Something about the sound of his voice just wrapped itself around her and made her want to do the same to him— curling her limbs around that muscular frame. Dragging her gaze away from his, Cordelia’s eyes swept over the living room looking for any excuse to avoid responding to his compelling instruction.

“Geez, this place is a mess,” Cordelia noticed soda cans, used plates and magazines scattered across the room. Puzzled, she realized that this was the first time she’d ever seen the mansion looking less than immaculate with the exceptions of vampire wrestling and Fate-summoning aftereffects.

Angel suppressed a smile. Took you long enough to notice. “It’s your mess.”

“Mine?” Cordelia dropped her hands from the door frame and clasped them behind her back as she stepped into the room to examine the evidence. Cosmo. Several old copies. Nail polish. Two different shades. A pair of shoes she’d taken off and left here instead of bringing them upstairs. The soda cans and plates from the snacks she’d eaten here instead of sitting down for a real meal with Angel. “That pile of papers is so not mine.”

“It’s today’s newspaper, Cordelia,” he commented wryly.

“Oh.”

“Like I said,” Angel stretched out his legs and propped them on the coffee table, “it’s your mess. I’m not cleaning it up.”

Crossing her arms rebelliously, Cordelia suggested, “My Angel would.”

“As you keep pointing out,” the vampire returned smoothly, “your Angel isn’t here. Any obsessive-compulsive urges to clean are being overruled by my better sense of justice. I’m willing to share household duties, but I’m not going to live with a slob.”

“Then don’t,” she snapped defensively. “The Fates never said you had to stay in Sunnydale. Take a trip. Take a hike. Take a flying leap off the nearest cliff while you’re at it.”

Angel latched onto her wrist as she swept past the couch and before Cordelia could react, she found herself hauled into his lap. With her legs dangling over the side of the couch and his arm supporting her back, she was in a rather vulnerable position, but it provided a perfect view of the glittering amusement in his eyes.

“Are you laughing at me?” Cordelia demanded with a gasp of outrage. Her hand gave a hard slap to his firm pectoral muscle— not that she’d noticed the firmness of any of his body parts. Nope.

“Maybe.” That twitch at the left corner of his mouth gave way to a wide grin that left her motionless under its impact. Cordelia melted under that smile, her stiff posture relaxing. There was just something about that gorgeous smile, its rarity perhaps, which drew her to him.

Managing to ignore the nearly irresistible urge to wrap her arms around his neck and pull him closer, Cordelia reminded herself she had come home with an agenda that did not included more Angel kissage. Squirming in his lap, Cordelia tried to extract herself from the awkward position only managing to turn herself over in the process so that she lay prone.

As one large male hand lightly squeezed her bottom through the barrier of her skirt, Cordelia figured the move was a bad mistake. Especially when the vampire dared to chuckle, “You trying to tell me something?”

Glaring over her shoulder in embarrassment, Cordelia answered, “Not anything along the lines of what you’re thinking.”

Cordelia scrambled to move off of Angel’s lap with a scurried twist of elbows and knees that nearly unmanned him in the process. “Careful,” he lifted her back into a sitting position only this time straddled across the lap she had been trying to escape. Those capable hands were looped casually around her waist, holding her in place yet not forcing her to stay there.

The strange thing was that Cordelia didn’t want to move despite the intimate place on his lap. It felt almost natural being there even with her legs splayed open and her knees hugging close to his hips. Once again there was a silent battle going on in her head where logic warred against emotion, only now she was no longer certain which part was telling her it was okay to enjoy the feel of Angel’s hard body beneath her.

With that one thought, Cordelia’s defenses slammed into place again. The hands that had found their way to his shoulders dropped to wrap around his forearms with just enough pressure to hint that she wanted him to move. He did, but not how she had expected as Angel moved both hands down to palm her rounded bottom pulling her deeper into his lap.

Cordelia’s hazel eyes dilated as he settled her over his thighs. The soft perfume of her awakening arousal subtly scented the air, but the words tumbling from her lush mouth denied what his vampiric senses told him to be true. “Paws off, Angel. I don’t want you touching me like this.”

“Holding you?” Amber flashed in his eyes at his query. Such rejection in light of her responsive kisses earlier today felt like his tenuous grasp on forward progress had come loose. His eyes swept over her body noting the way it responded to his touch and their intimate position. “You’re turned on. Don’t think I can’t tell.”

Bastard. It wasn’t fair that he was so observant and had enhanced senses detecting things no human would easily notice. “Today— you shouldn’t have come to the school.”

“You kissed me because you wanted it, not because I demanded it,” Angel reminded with a vein of tempered fury sounding in his voice. Though the vampire wasn’t certain what would have happened if she’d said no.

“I didn’t want to cause a fuss at school,” Cordelia lied with as much skill as she could muster. “I don’t want your kisses.”

A dark laugh emanated from deep in his chest. “You expect me to believe that?”

“Absolutely,” she answered stubbornly while refusing to follow the urge to look away.

“I could have you melting in my arms inside a minute,” Angel countered smugly. It was no boast, realized Cordelia as she remembered yesterday’s sticky romp with the syrup and the pure need evoked by today’s simple kiss. Only it hadn’t been one kiss, but a series of mind-numbing, soul-stirring caresses.

Cordelia gave him a cold look that wiped out his arrogant air in the space of a single heartbeat. “You have skills— so what? Doesn’t mean I should try them out. It’s too soon for me to go around kissing another man.”

“I’m not just another man, Cordy.”

“Pfft! Manpire,” she corrected with a roll of her eyes.

Angel fumed, “That’s not what I meant and you know it.”

“I just need time,” Cordelia stressed as her heart drummed in a panic. “Maybe after six months or a year—”

“We’ve already wasted enough time,” Angel cut her off. “You can drop the weeping widow act— there’s no need for it.”

She stormed, “It’s not an act,” while shoving her hands against his rock-solid chest in a move of pure anger.

“It’s an unnecessary frame of mind that boils down to denial. You’re lying to yourself and me. I won’t have that,” he caught her hands adeptly twisting them behind her back and pulling her closer.

“Watch out,” her glaring warning came with a reminder, “I bite.”

That vibrating rumble sounded in his chest stimulating her already aching nipples as they pressed up against him. Angel’s mouth curled into that trademark smirk, “So do I.”

Cordelia squirmed under his hold infuriated by the fact that he dared to restrain her.
It took only one of his powerful hands to clutch her wrists in a grip that was just shy of bruising. Her struggles and furious, “Grmph!” resulted only in Angel using his free hand to cup her bottom again.

“Get your hand off my ass,” she fumed squirming even more.

“Then stop struggling,” Angel barked back with a groan now that her movements had awakened more than his fury.

“Oh!” Cordelia felt the hard ridge burgeoning directly beneath her. Instantly stilling, she stared down into his amber-rimmed eyes like a deer sensing the danger of a predator. His name fell from her gasping lips, her body tensing with instantaneous reaction as liquid heat pooled between her parted thighs, “Angel.”

Releasing her wrists, his hand joined its mate in curling around the firm globes of her bottom trapped beneath the thin layer of her skirt now bunched up at her hips. Angel rotated his own hips upward eliciting a lusty moan from the brunette, her response automatic despite her determination. Her hazel eyes fluttered closed at the intensity of the escalating sensations created by that simple friction at her loins.

Angel’s hand shifted to gently knead her upper thigh, his thumb circling closer to the edge of her panties. Lost to sensation, Cordelia’s vocal response filled his ears as her breathy sighs alternated with moans of pleasure. As her head tilted back the exposed column of her throat was too much of a temptation to ignore as the vampire’s mouth moved over her warm, pulsing flesh with a series of wandering kisses.

His thumb now circled atop her silk panties teasing closer to the bundled nerves that kept angling with each movement of her hips to rub against his rigid erection. Errant thoughts caused Angel to wonder if Cordelia’s arousal was meant for him or if it was simply random lust. With her beautiful eyes closed, it was impossible to tell, so Angel issued a gruff demand to see them.

“Look at me.”

The command in his voice kindled a spark of defiance, but Cordelia focused her gaze on his knowing that there was no hiding her arousal. She was clutching at Angel’s shoulders, both hands full of his shirt as her hips rocked against him in counter circles. It was only when Cordelia realized he was no longer guiding her movements that she recognized the extent of her own response.

The hand on her bottom had moved to trail fingers up and down her spine leaving warm tingles spreading across her whole body. His other hand continued to slowly circle her silk-covered mound even as she forced herself to stop shifting against him.

Fiery color swept across her cheeks. “I— you—this shouldn’t have happened. That was all your fault. Let me go, Angel.”

Her body screamed in denial as she demanded it. Wet and throbbing and aching for release, her sudden arousal had built up so quickly that Cordelia wanted to sob with frustration at her own efforts to stop. His tempting mouth was only inches away and her lips burned to taste him. All she needed to do was lean in just a little…except the urge died as her anger flamed again with his next words.

“You’re going nowhere until you hear me out,” Angel growled, equally frustrated as his erection strained against the taut fabric of his pants. “It’s decision time for you, sweetheart. This is your one chance to have a say in what comes next.”

“Don’t you dare threaten me,” Cordelia glowered at him recognizing that Angel was completely serious in the delivery of that warning.

Angel reached up and cupped the nape of her neck. “It’s a plea, not a threat. We’re going to be together, Cordelia, but I’ve been patient long enough. The way I see it, you have two choices: let me into your life willingly or learn to obey my lead without question.”

Apprehension clouded her desire as Cordelia realized there would be no negotiation in this matter. This ultimatum was about giving him everything or forcing him to take what he wanted. The vampire saw nothing in shades of grey in between or a middle ground to give her more time to adjust. There was only now.

“Angel—,” she started to protest.

Cutting short her response, as if knowing the words she was about to speak, Angel pressed his thumb over her parting lips removing it only when he’d had his say. “Let me into that caged heart of yours, Cordelia. Just a little, baby. Enough for me to feel something that means you might give a damn.”

Hadn’t she already done that by kissing him today— let him in? Then, with the more obvious display of lap-dancing lust, she’d given away far too much. More than she should. Tears scorched her eyes, but Cordelia refused to shed them. He wanted more than sex, more than her passion. Angel wanted her love and that knowledge left her screaming inwardly in denial.

“I can’t.”

She waited for the vampire’s howl, the forcible show of his rage, but there was only a wall of dark shadows descending over his visible emotions until there was nothing to be seen except the impenetrable surface of a stony expression. That sliver of fear increased tenfold, as Cordelia waited for a response that did not come. Wondering what he was feeling, she cursed her curiosity and convinced herself that emotions were better left out of the equation.

Not that Angel seemed to have any one way or the other at the moment. None that she could tell by looking, but Cordelia instinctively knew this wasn’t the prelude to a brooding session. It was the projection of total control over anything that remotely resembled a feeling.

The phone started ringing in the background before Cordelia could make a comment.
Ignoring it, she touched her fingers to his chest at the open vee of his shirt and made her query with the soft utterance of his name. “Angel?”

All that came was a silent move as Angel lifted her to her feet and nudged her in the direction of the still ringing telephone. Cordelia grabbed it from its cradle. Pressing the TALK button, she automatically lifted the phone to her ear, but her attention was fully focused on Angel who had backed out of the room. The vampire now regarded her from his distant position in the hallway.

Cordelia met his midnight stare barely containing the urge to follow him beyond the threshold of the living room. She waited, frozen to the spot, sensing he was seconds away from charging back into the room. Her breath caught in her throat, anticipation crowding out her confusion.

Then a voice suddenly sounded in her ear. “Hello! Cordelia? Angelus? Hello!”

Blinking, Cordelia remembered that she was holding the telephone. Recognizing the voice, she gasped, “Mother?”

When she looked up again, Angel was walking away in the direction of the basement stairs.

 


Nearly half an hour passed before Cordelia hung up the phone. Not by choice. Getting her mother off the phone any sooner short of cutting her off would’ve been a miracle. A look of sheer panic fell across Cordelia’s features in response to that call. This was a day of too many surprises, not all of them good.

Crap! This is so not good. Why? Why! Someone please tell me what I’ve done to deserve this? Glancing at the messy room with the realization that Angel was right about one thing— she was turning into a slob. Cordelia knew this would never pass muster considering the news that had just come her way.

Reaching for the soda cans and dirty plates, Cordelia piled everything up and darted toward the kitchen. Skidding across the floor, she nearly dropped everything just as she reached the sink. Stupid heels. Kicking them off, Cordelia realized she was going to have to tell Angel about her mother’s call.

Maybe he’d had time to cool down— or warm up— or whichever thing he needed to do to understand the decision she had made. Better now than never. Not that now was a good time, but Cordelia didn’t see that she had any choice in the matter.

Leaving the kitchen, Cordelia padded down the hall in her bare feet pausing only briefly at the door leading to the basement training room. Even from here she could hear the rhythmic connection of fist to leather as Angel worked out his anger at her on the punching bag. She felt a wave of guilt that he was down there instead of in her arms, but Cordelia knew she’d feel even worse if she gave in so easily to those tempting kisses.

Anger is good, she told herself as she looked down the stairs. At least it’s an emotion. He’s feeling— something.

Taking in a deep breath of resolve, Cordelia walked down the steps pausing half way as she caught sight of the vampire. He’d taken off everything he had on upstairs and replaced it only with a pair of grey sweatpants. Silently, she watched the muscles of his back and powerful arms flex and extend as his fists pounded into the bag. A light sheen covered the pale skin of his warrior body suggesting that Angel hadn’t stopped moving since he got started, for Cordelia knew that it took prolonged activity for a vampire to break a sweat.

It didn’t take much to make the jump to thinking about Angelus and their marathon lovemaking sessions or the times they’d left tenderness behind and simply had hot, sweaty sex. Her body shuddered at the memory, flushing hot and tingling with need. Every erogenous zone she possessed seemed to be shrieking in response to the hard muscled male standing below.

Angel grabbed onto the punching bag stopping its rebounding sway as he caught the sound of Cordelia’s approach. The soft footfalls were accompanied by the rapid rate of her heart, nervous heaving breaths and a hint of honeyed arousal in the air.

“Go back upstairs,” Angel snarled at her without bothering to turn around.

Stepping closer onto the thick blue mat at his feet, Cordelia watched him rest his forehead against the black leather surface. Impatience filled his voice, irritation at her presence here in his personal territory. Even with Angelus, she’d rarely come down to watch him workout since he always claimed it distracted him— in a good way.

“I need to talk to you,” she began. Licking at her lips, she decided there was no use in delaying the news. Better to throw it out there and see how he’d react. “That was my mother on the phone.”

“Yes, I heard that much,” Angel revealed still keeping his back to her. She had no damn clue how lucky it was that Emelia Chase was the one on the other end of the line. If it had been anyone else, Angel was certain he would have reentered that room, tossed the phone into the fish tank and proven Cordelia a liar. “It’s the wrong time of day to be calling you.”

Rolling her eyes, Cordelia should have known Angel would pick up on that. “Snyder called her and wanted to know if my ‘family emergency’ was going to keep me away from school for the rest of the week. Told her next time she sends someone to get me to contact the Principle’s office first.”

“Should’ve thought of that,” a huff emerged from Angel’s throat. “Principle Snyder, I need to see one of your students. She missed out on her morning kiss.”

Cordelia wasn’t about to admit to Angel how romantic she thought it was that he came to school that way and that his kisses had left her wanting more in spite of all her feelings to the contrary. “I don’t suggest you try that. Snyder may be a troll, but his instincts are sharp, hence the calling of my mother.”

“I take it that she covered for you,” Angel presumed. “Did she call to check on you or was there something else?”

Edging closer, Cordelia put a hand on the other side of the large punching bag and stared anxiously at his profile. “She asked— well, it was really more of telling than asking— if she could come over. With my father, of course.”

“Now?”

“That would be easy,” Cordelia tittered uneasily. “I could tell them no. They want to come over for Thanksgiving Dinner.”

Angel lifted his head and looked at her with only the smallest measure of surprise. “I think it’s about time they decided to show up, even if they had to use a holiday as an excuse to see their own daughter.”

“You think it’s an excuse?” Cordelia frowned at his response to the news when she’d been hoping for blatant refusal.

“They’re your parents and no matter what deal Daniel Chase made to save his ass, he’s still your father,” Angel ground out the words. His thoughts flashed to his own— well, Liam’s father, and the fact that the time for second chances was long past. “Your parents screwed up when they decided to distance themselves from you. Maybe it was done to protect you, but it wasn’t right.”

It felt strange hearing that from him, knowing that this vampire had never met her parents; that he was only drawing upon memories that were not his own. “No, it wasn’t, but I used to have a good relationship with them when I was little.”

“I got that hint, Princess,” Angel’s mouth quirked at one corner. “Maybe this is their way of trying to get back into your life again.”

“How do you feel about that?” Cordelia wasn’t certain why it was important to her to know the answer to that question, but she found herself holding her breath waiting for Angel to speak.

Trailing a finger along one long tress of dark chestnut hair that fell in a wave over her shoulder, Angel tugged lightly on the end as he reminded her, “Your family is mine. They come into my protection through your link to the Order of Aurelius. I welcome their visit and their involvement with you as long as they respect your place here with me.”

A sudden realization hit and Cordelia’s hazel eyes nearly popped out of their sockets as she reacted in shock. “Omigod, Angel! No, this is bad.”

Angel watched Cordelia start to pace across the floor mat. “What exactly?” Knowing Cordelia, it could be anything from turkey basting to family feuds.

“They think you’re Angelus,” she rubbed at her temples.

Shrugging, Angel commented, “I am. So what’s the problem?”

“They think you’re my Angelus,” Cordelia panicked. “They’ll expect—”

When Cordelia’s throat closed up against the words, he only nodded in understanding of her fears. Irrational fears, to his mind. “You worry that they think I’m your mate and they’ll expect to see a certain amount of intimacy between us. I see no reason to inform them otherwise.”

Cordelia started to protest when Angel added confidently, “We both know it’s already true in everything but deed.”

Gaping, Cordelia found she couldn’t argue that point right now. No sidetracking. She needed to focus. Thanksgiving was only a few days away— next Thursday to be exact. Her parents would expect the whole shebang, with decorations and holiday fare, not take out from the local Home Town Buffet.

“This is serious,” Cordelia wrapped both hands around one bicep and shook his arm as if forcing him to think sensibly. “Daddy wants to meet Angel and thank him for the money.”

“He can thank me if he must,” Angel didn’t see the problem.

“Yeah, okay. That could work.” Cordelia’s panic suddenly had her thinking of all kinds of scenarios. “We’ll tell him that Angelus is out of town on an important mission. You’ll be Angel, cos that’s what I call you. Daddy won’t know the difference and so he can thank you instead.”

Plainly retorting, Angel looked pissed. “I’m not lying to your father.”

“But my parents know Angelus had a twin,” Cordelia dropped her hands, clutching her arms across her stomach.

Angel was adamant, “Tell them the truth.”

“But—”

“There’s no ‘but’ to it, Cordy,” he countered.

A flare of anger sparked in her eyes just before Cordelia blew her top. “Why can’t you play along? Do me one favor.”

“Because it’s not a game, dammit,” Angel answered turning fully toward her so that they faced off eye to eye. Her sharp little chin was raised defiantly as her hazel eyes blazed with fire. “This is us, Cor. You and me. I’m not meeting your parents only to lie to their faces about who I am or why we’re together.”

“There is no you and me,” Cordelia harped at him. “I already told you—”

Angel inched closer, his gaze turning dark and predatory, and his chest moving with the respirations that somehow kept his anger in check. “Don’t say it. Don’t repeat what will only force me to prove you wrong. Past and future, Cor. They’re one and the same.”

Shaking her head, Cordelia moved back only to have him follow her step for step as she sought a little breathing space. “Stop crowding me!”

Angel didn’t budge and now Cordelia was trapped between the weight machine and the hard wall of his chest. “Your father knows me as Angelus D’Aurelius. That’s what he’ll continue to call me.”

“No,” she pleaded. “Don’t let him think that. I can’t— don’t want to hear that.”

“It’s who I am, Cordelia, whether you want to accept it or not. Your mate is a part of me and I bear his name.” Angel tried not to lean so close sensing that it was making her nervous, but it was difficult enough to keep his hands to himself. “Your loyalty is striking, sweetheart, but it’s me you’re fighting.”

“It’s not! You’re just a body with someone else’s memories,” Cordelia pushed hard at his chest and darted back to the middle of the mat while he gave her a tiny opening.

“They’re the same memories I had before,” Angel argued. “Liam. Angelus. Angel. All the same memories existing before the Fates split me in two.”

Cordelia didn’t deny that he possessed the memories of those three separate parts. The Angel of old existed with all three. “I don’t care about before. I care about what happened when I had them both— those are the memories that count.”

Challenging darkly, “Is that what’s really bothering you? That you never had a chance to finish what you started with Angel? Too bad Willow’s pink potion knocked you out or you might have had a chance to fuck them both.”

Flying across the mat with claws unfurled, Cordelia launched herself at the vampire knocking him against the wall. She got in one good scrape of her nails along his right shoulder before he grasped her waist, lifted her and spun her around so that Cordelia was the one pinned there. “Bastard!”

“Was that harsh?” Angel leaned close enough to feel every inch of her luscious frame mold into his own, her body pliant where her mind was not. “Or was I just too close to the truth?”

Breathing hard, Cordelia tried not to notice the way he held her with such controlled strength. Licking at her suddenly dry lips, she rolled her head against the wall in the form of a negative shake. “I loved Angelus.”

After a pause, Angel let her stand on her feet again, but only because he needed to free up his hands to roam across the soft surface of her sweater. The backs of his fingers wandered over the hills and valleys between her shoulders and hips teasing at the curves beneath the cashmere. His velvet voice returned, “I know that, baby.”

“I loved Angel, too,” Cordelia admitted softly as her breathing slowed from a rapid pant to a series of long sighs, “differently.”

Knowingly, the vampire said what she did not. “You wanted him.”

Looking down at some invisible spot between them, Cordelia’s long lashes shaded her eyes. Then glancing up, she admitted to him, “Wanting was never the problem. I already had a mate. Vampires may not play by the same rulebook, but that means something to me.”

“Angelus knew how you felt,” he surprised her with that noting with some demonic satisfaction that the words brought a twinge of pain, “long before Rup came up with his little Alone Time theory.”

“That’s not true,” she denied vehemently.

“Yes, it is. You’re just surprised he didn’t call you on it any sooner. Cordy, you have to know that Angelus understood the source of your feelings. He never blamed you for it. Though it’s true that he would never willingly  share you,” Angel found it odd to continue to refer to himself in the third person and switched, “as I’ll never share you.”

“I’m not yours to share,” Cordelia commented stubbornly despite the fact that her mouth automatically parted when his hovered near.

Angel bypassed that temptation focusing on her scent. Through the whole discussion, the speedy thread of her pulse and the continuous bombardment of his senses with her scent had him stone hard again. He’d be fooling himself to think he didn’t care that it was thoughts of Angelus or Angel that brought her to that state. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d experienced a case of self-inflicted jealousy when it came right down to it.

“What’s it going to be? What version of the truth are you planning to tell Daniel and Emelia?” His question caused a moment of confusion as Cordelia refocused on their original conversation. Trying to ignore the fact that Angel’s fingers were exploring the curves of her breast even though his gaze never left her eyes, she found that concentrating was difficult.

As long as he was content playing touchy-feely vamp, Cordelia figured it was best not to make the situation more strained than it was by complaining, especially when his touch felt so damn good. Her nipples perked up against her thin bra and soft sweater, not so obviously visible thanks to the dark fabric, but they hadn’t gone unnoticed either. Angel’s thumb swept close a time or two as he was lazily roaming along the full under-curve of her breast.

“The truth is something they won’t understand,” Cordelia fired back with a flash of annoyance, reacting to his touch as well as his words. Her hand left its safe haven on the wall to wrap around his wrist attempting to stall the efforts of his roving fingers.

“Give them some credit,” Angel raised a dark brow at her vehement response. “They accepted the fact that I’m a vampire without too much heartache.”

That wasn’t how Cordelia interpreted it at all. “No, they accepted that my mate was a vampire— not that I share my bed with a stranger.”

Angel’s chest rumbled with discord. “I’m no stranger.”

Swift denial flared and faded under that penetrating gaze. Fact or fantasy, Cordelia wanted those words to be true. That realization blossomed in her eyes, a budding hope that she’d somehow been wrong. Unfurling her hold around his wrist, Cordelia threaded her fingers through his leaving their hands clasped together.

A challenge sounded on her lips underscored by the faintest hint of fear. “Prove it.”

Smothering her protest with a masterful kiss, Angel slanted his lips over hers and proceeded to tantalize her senses until conscious thought lost itself to passion. A moue of want tumbled from her throat with the altering tempo of his lips: firm and demanding, soft and exploring. Cordelia curled her arms around his neck responding with an answering fire.

Her plush mouth bowed beneath his, parting in sensual delight when those protests failed to find focus. Cordelia breathed into his mouth on a sigh; there was so little room between them. Tasting the unique flavors of his tongue as it teased along the inner seam of her lower lip darting across that tender flesh only to move deeper as pure hunger took over.

Cordelia’s fingers dug in to those muscled shoulders feeling her way across his broad back. Touching him felt so familiar, so right, so good, but that was what made those tempting kisses smack of betrayal. No, wanting was never the problem. Resisting the urge to give in— that was quite another issue.

A hand followed the curved course of her spine, as fingers spread out across her buttocks and were joined there by the other hand as it adeptly dealt with the zipper of her skirt. The sound of it caused Cordelia to pull away from the compellingly skillful kisses that left her sensitive lips burning for his cool caress. Through the haze of her own ardor, Cordelia felt Angel’s hands dip beneath the material of her skirt pushing it down over her hips. The soft fabric swept down her legs as gravity pulled it to pool around her feet.

“Angel—,” a husky strain sounded in her voice as Cordelia found the focus to speak.

“Let it happen,” Angel urged as his hands now moved along the bare flesh exposed by her thong panties. His mouth swept across hers lingering just long enough to draw a response leaving her lips pursed and swollen. “It’s going to happen, baby. Just let it.”

Cordelia knew it and accepted it as fact seeing the determination in Angel’s eyes and knowing that somehow she’d pushed him past the point of further reckoning. Though it was too soon by her account, a part of her knew this was meant to happen. The Moirae said as much hinting she belonged to Angel whether by choice or destiny, but she’d be damned if it would happen so submissively.

“Don’t think to master me with that hypno-vamp voice,” Cordelia put her palms flat upon his firm chest and gave an ineffective push that somehow got the hint across. Angel dropped his hands and stepped back, suddenly curious as to what she would say or do next. She kicked the skirt aside and pressed her hands against her hips in a form of defiant surrender. “It’ll take more than words to make me yours.”

“Who needs words?” Angel’s mouth curled into a smile of pure seduction as he took that up as a challenge.

Her breath seemed to catch in her throat as Cordelia was caught up by his powerful unblinking stare. There was passion and that familiar possessive gleam in the look he gave, but the hint of playfulness also glinting beneath the surface made it clear that Angel intended to do more than just take her— he planned to have fun with this too.

A wave of heat suffused her chest as Cordelia recognized his intent. Her thoughts ran wild at the possibilities. Good going, Cor. Don’t just issue an open invitation to a vampire. Double-dog-dare him while you’re at it.

Their eyes locked in silent understanding as Angel held her captive with his predatory gaze. Cordelia stood still and speechless under the weight of his stare trying to guess at whether he would pounce or play before things got down to business. No doubt he would assure them both pleasure; Cordelia was instinctively certain of his skills, but she was just as certain in her belief that he could not touch her heart.

With the slow pace of a panther on the hunt, Angel walked toward Cordelia coming within arms reach, but not touching her. As he circled to the back, she held still, her nerves singing as she sensed his approach behind her. Out of sight, Angel held the power to do as he wished without giving her an opportunity to anticipate his move.

Cordelia closed her eyes. Waiting. She refused to turn around just to satisfy Angel’s sense of power over her. If she turned, it would make him think that she had to see him and follow that hypnotizing gaze.

His fingers trailed along her arms as he stepped close and gently pulled her into the hard frame of his chest. She held herself in ramrod fashion awaiting what came next as she felt the steel of his arousal against the crease of her buttocks. With only the string of her thong and the thin cotton of his sweats separating them, Cordelia felt every hard inch of him. Her hips bucked back against him answered by a countering thrust and the encircling hand that came around to the exposed patch of flat belly between the edge of her cashmere sweater and her silky panties.

Held close, there was only the softest caress against her hair as he drew her scent into his lungs, his mouth pressing a kiss onto her temple and cheek whispering softly across hers. Turning her face at that gentle touch, Cordelia glanced up seeking his mouth with her own.

Those sculpted male lips pressed a brief teasing kiss at the corner of her mouth and pulled back to run a trail of them across her jaw and along her neck. The sweet distraction of his mouth combined with skillful hands stoking the fires of her arousal. Cordelia leaned back against that broad chest as his hands continued to tantalize the smooth skin beneath the edge of her sweater. A moan sounded— one of her own— as Cordelia leaned her head back against his shoulder, reaching up to pull his mouth back to hers.

The hand that was not lazing its way in a circle around the dip of her navel slid down between her thighs cupping her through the silk. He palmed her firmly and held his hand there soaking up her warmth until the slow motion of Cordelia’s hips drew his attention to her rapidly escalating need. Dampness clung to his fingers, the honeyed moisture gathering along her petaled folds as he caressed her through the silk.

His bare foot moved to her instep leading with its slight pressure as Cordelia followed the vampire’s silent cue by spreading her thighs. Given easy access, Angel’s fingers moved beneath the gossamer thin barrier eliciting a sharp cry of need as they came into contact with her hot flesh. She held on to whatever part of him she could reach, her head tilted into the crook of his shoulder as his fingers slid along her slick folds.

The slightly calloused fingers teased her sex even as Angel’s mouth continued to press heated kisses along the curve of her face. Her hips bucked against his fingers wanting more and feeling the means of sating her desire pressing against her from behind. Cordelia bit down on her lip determined not to ask for anything. It was one thing to let Angel take her, but begging him to do so was simply not something she was willing to do.

Coherent thought dissipated into a stream of throaty cries as Cordelia soon came in his arms. Angel’s knowing touch left her shuddering with pleasure. His hand slipped from her panties, meeting the other one at the edge of her sweater to peel it from her still thrumming body. She watched with an almost detached curiosity as the brown cashmere was tossed with unerring accuracy on top of her discarded skirt.

Though she expected the hasty removal of her bra and panties, he straightened her into a standing position again only to trail one hand down her spine stroking the exposed skin of her tattoo. After the brief touch of his mouth on her shoulder, Angel was gone again circling back to the front where he stood in silent observance from a short distance.

Despite the pleasure wrought by his fingers, Cordelia’s desire was inflamed rather than sated. She felt certain he could read that in her eyes and wondered if he also knew how much she wanted to touch him in return. Standing still was driving her nuts and he knew it. Cordelia never liked playing the submissive role— unless she got her turn, but she had no intention of giving this vampire everything she freely gave to her mate.

Just keep telling yourself that, Cor. Keep believing it makes a difference. And stop staring at his mouth like you want to devour him. Censuring herself failed to dampen her desires. Her eyes wandered hotly over Angel’s exposed torso imagining her hands exploring the sculpted angles of his chest and belly, the tempting bulges of his biceps and hidden marvels of his sex.

Angel lifted one hand and crooked a finger in her direction, beckoning her to his side. Amusement instantly appeared on Cordelia’s face her eyebrows arched. “Like that’s supposed to work?”

Again, the vampire said nothing, which only caused a burst of ire to light inside her. Angel was sticking with his Silent Game. The look he returned only stoked the flames even higher and Cordelia took the first step toward him expecting to see triumph appear in those darkened orbs. Instead, there was only desire, pure passion drawing her closer as her body demanded she answer its needs.

Finding herself in front of him, Cordelia swallowed down her own surprise at how quickly she had given in to the teasing waggle of his finger. Answering her own question, she thought wryly, Guess it does work.

When he reached out a hand to touch her, Cordelia took one step back holding him off with her eyes as she moved to echo his own pattern. She started in a slow circle moving around to his back. Lifting one finger, she traced it up one arm to the dense muscle of his shoulder and down the other never pausing in her course to complete the circle.

Cordelia’s wandering finger reached his left wrist and with lightning speed her hand was captured as Angel spun her back into his arms. He settled her hand on his chest tugging it down an inch subtly hinting at the direction he wanted her to go. Her fingers were already slipping downward as his mouth covered hers with soft velvet kisses that tempted her into opening up to him.

Moaning into his mouth as Angel explored the texture of her tongue with his own, Cordelia felt her hand drop to the waistband of his sweats. Her other hand lay flat along his side just holding on as her body leaned in to his larger frame. Then her fingers connected with the edge of his sweats toying with the tie that held them firmly in place around his taut waist.

Sensing her hesitation, Angel lifted his mouth from hers silently waiting to see what she would do. Cordelia recognized the tension in his shoulders instinctively knowing that he was testing her to see how far she planned to participate. To see if she would turn tail and run before things went too far assuming they already hadn’t gone far beyond the point of no return.

Cordelia figured she’d passed it as soon as she came downstairs and wondered now at the reason for her urgency in telling Angel about her parents’ plan to come over for Thanksgiving dinner. It would have been more sensible to wait until the vampire had time to come to terms with their conversation. Except— he had already done so. Angel’s decision on the course of their relationship was perfectly clear.

Clear as crystal.

Winding the string of his sweats around her index finger, Cordelia tugged until it hung loose, but she stepped back choosing to let him follow through with the rest. Though the idea of undressing him sent shivers of want down her spine, Cordelia couldn’t do that. Instead, she stood apart from him eating him up with her hungry eyes as Angel stepped out of the stretchy cotton pants tossing them into the growing pile of their discarded garments.

Suddenly realizing that she was shaking like a leaf, Cordelia wasn’t certain if it was lust or fear that had her quivering. His body was anything but unfamiliar and new to her. She knew every angle on that big manly frame, every sinewy muscle, except in the respect that the vampire within was her bedmate and now lover rather than her mate. He’d held her through the night in those strong arms gently enclosed around her in sleep, their limbs entwined.

Just now, Cordelia could not deny her own arousal. Her earlier orgasm and the way her body reacted to his with this constant ache made it clear that she responded to Angel’s physical being. It was all she could do to hold back from leaping into those powerful arms and whispering her desires into his ear knowing he’d fulfill every one of them.

Would he? She asked herself suddenly even while inching toward him again. It was something Angelus would do without hesitation— give her what she wanted. She would guess that his brother would have been the same given the opportunity, but this was neither Angelus nor Angel despite his memories. Did she really know how he would respond? How he would take her body with his own?

There was no time for contemplation, for Angel had her back in his arms. Cordelia melted against him, her arms curling up around his waist to explore the strength of his back. He wound his big arms around her, holding her close, his kisses no longer quite so gentle, but filled with a thundering passion that sounded in her ears.

His mouth left hers eliciting a gasp of complaint as her swollen lips felt bereft without his touch, but the distraction of Angel’s hands kept her from complaining. Mindful of his Silent Game, Cordelia attempted to follow suit, but it was no use. His teasing lips followed the cord of her throat and the line of her collar bone until coming to the barrier of her bra strap.

A finger hooked beneath it, pulling it aside and letting it fall down her arm. His hand touched her there, one hand sneaking beneath the loose cup of her bra to skim over her breast and its hard nipple. Cordelia bit down on her lip trying to stop herself from crying out as his cool thumb moved over her heated flesh, the nipple almost painfully erect.

“Kiss me,” Cordelia demanded suddenly breaking silence again to direct him down to her aching breast.

Smiling against her ear as he sucked her soft lobe into his mouth, Angel tugged it gently with his teeth completely ignoring her request. She let out a little moue of protest only to find it swallowed up by his lips as they returned to her mouth with a voracious kiss that plundered its depths. Returning those hot, wet kisses, Cordelia barely noticed that he’d pulled down the other strap of her bra.

Pulling his mouth away again, Angel gazed down at the sight exposed by the falling silk. Rapt fascination seemed to hold him in its sway as his curled knuckles brushed gently over her sensitive nipples. Cordelia gasped at that touch while her gaze never left his face which seemed to be in a state of grace like the eye of a storm, marveling at her beauty. Angel’s hands turned over, his long fingers trailing down the outer curves until he held the full weight of her breasts in both hands.

Cordelia saw the hunger welling in the dark pools of his eyes and wondered if her own reflected that self same need; if it was as apparent as the desire showing on that handsome face. He turned those eyes on her even as his tireless fingers kept on stimulating the silken flesh beneath his thumbs as they circled softly. Then his gaze dipped to the vee of her throat above her breastbone and his mouth followed that path to kiss her there.

The kiss acted as the precursor to those that came afterward as Angel’s kisses found their way to the sensitive curves he continued to caress. Somewhere in the midst of the endless stream of stimulation, Cordelia forgot that intimate touches weren’t in her plans for the vampire. Her hands started roaming over the muscular planes of his gorgeous body touching every erogenous zone within reach that she knew gave him pleasure.

As her fingers finally curled around his length, Angel sounded out her name in a moan of broken silence. The sound brought a triumphant gleam to Cordelia’s hazel eyes even before realizing the nature of her caress as if that low cry was a prize to be won. He stood erect and watching her with that unblinking gaze full of passion; his hands now moving along her curves from ribs to hip with the same slow rhythm as her hand moved upon him.

“Angel—.” Sounding out his name on a breathy plea of desire, she realized in that same instant what she was about to ask for: him inside her.

“Hush, baby,” Angel murmured against her mouth. “We’re not there yet.”

A little growl of impatience sounded as Cordelia dropped her hand away from him to wind her arms around his neck. She curled her hands into his hair lifting her mouth to take his. Angel filled hands with her long silken hair, echoing her moves and eating up every spontaneous caress like it was ambrosia.

Cordelia felt her bra come undone and drop away as Angel’s skillful hands divested her of that scrap of silk. Cupping her face, Angel separated them and Cordelia was left panting for breath as she gazed longingly at his lips. Geez, he knew just how to kiss her.

Then she realized they had moved and were now positioned directly in front of the bench press. Cordelia stared at it with a moment’s confusion until a dawning light came over her features and Angel took her hand in his own guiding her down into a supine position there. As he knelt between her thighs at the bottom of the bench, Angel took hold of her calves and tugged her closer.

His molten gaze told her that this pleasure was as much for him as for her and signaled a caution against any protest. Cordelia recognized that possessive gleam in his eyes, though couldn’t care less about addressing it as the tingling heat of pure anticipation curled low in her belly.

Her hands wandered in the space between her breasts and navel trying to stop from reaching down to rip off her own panties. Angel beat her to it, hooking his fingers into the elastic on both sides and— instead giving it a sharp snap. Cordelia let out a surprised yelp at the unexpected sting and automatically curled her legs upward. Glaring at him down the length of her body, she saw a slow smirk appear.

“Take them off,” Cordelia all but commanded, her skin flushed and aching for his touch.

Naturally, the vampire chose to do just the opposite. He left her thong panties in place moving his attention to her legs. With a smooth move, Angel captured her left ankle in his hand lifting it to his mouth and sliding his tongue over the tiny pulse there. Cordelia watched as Angel kissed and caressed his way up the length of her leg, pausing at the sensitive area of her knee before moving on to her inner thigh.

Flopping back on the bench, Cordelia simply couldn’t keep her eyes open anymore as her body put its entire focus on the sensations below. His teasing kisses had Cordelia squirming, her hips moving in anticipation of his intimate attention where she craved it most. Of its own accord, her hand crept down to the edge of her panties where she tucked her fingers beneath so that her fingertips delved into the soft curls covering her mound.

As her fingers went lower, Cordelia forced her eyes open again to stare down at what she couldn’t seem to stop herself from doing. Angel lifted his gaze long enough to let her know her actions only turned him on. While Cordelia’s fingers dipped even lower finding sensitive folds slick with her body’s own natural lubricant, her right leg curled up and around Angel’s back as he bent low to taste the soft inner skin of her thigh. His mouth hovered high near the apex of thigh and groin where the steady beat of her femoral pulse sounded in his ears.

Angel sucked her flesh into his mouth, nipping gently with his rounded teeth, but making no move to hide his interests in that particular spot. With a strangled sound, he turned his head away to focus on the actions of Cordelia’s hand moving steadily beneath the hidden cover of her tiny silk undergarment.

“Don’t stop,” his voiced sounded its deep timbre as she paused under the weight of his gaze. Angel simply moved to pull her panties away, tempted to simply rip them from her, but he’d been patient this long. Cordelia maneuvered her hips and legs accordingly all the while holding her hand in place as she touched her lust-swollen clitoris.

Then his fingers joined hers in exploring her silken folds and his mouth eagerly came down for a taste. Cordelia felt his flat tongue brush over her sex and her sticky fingers before moving back to plunge deeply into her core. She bucked against his fingers as they delved inside sliding back and forth stimulating and searching in unerring fashion for the slight rise of inner flesh that marked her g-spot.

The triple stimulation of their combined fingers and his tongue had Cordelia all but chanting his name and begging him to fuck her brains out. She wasn’t quite that desperate. Not quite. Not yet.

Pulling her hand away, Cordelia rocked her hips against Angel’s face as he moved to latch on to her little nub with his mouth alternating strong sucks with fluttering flicks of his tongue. Her juices coated her folds and his fingers and Angel insatiably lapped up every delicious drop of her tangy essence. Thrashing her head against the cushion of the bench press, Cordelia’s hair flew wildly around her head and shoulders.

So close! So close! But it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. Cordelia grabbed onto the short strands of his hair with two fistfuls and yanked hard moving to sit up as she did so.

The vampire growled in momentary annoyance at the interruption of his task until he saw her barely restrained passion. Then amber lights threaded his eyes; Angel rose up on his knees, his unnecessary breathing coming in rhythmic pants matching her own. Holding each other’s gaze for endless seconds, they pounced upon each other at the same time falling to the mats in a tangle of limbs.

Cordelia opened to his possessive kiss, slanting her mouth to his and parting her lips as his tongue sought entry. He tasted of her and that only made her respond all the more. Pressing up to him as they tumbled, she felt the velvet steel of his tumescent cock rubbing against her belly as it was trapped between them. They rolled to a stop with Angel above her sharing more wild kisses that left Cordelia’s head spinning in their wake.

She wanted his head spinning just the same and knew she could kiss him senseless if she made an effort, her plan to acquiesce rather than participate long forgotten. Cordelia’s passionate kisses left Angel moaning into her mouth and she snatched the opportunity to sweep her hot tongue along the housing of his fangs. Braced above her, Angel’s body shook loose its tentative grip on his human features. Before Cordelia’s widening eyes she watched his fangs extend and the bony ridges appear across his face.

Far from frightened by this change, Cordelia palmed his face moving again to kiss him fangs and all. Angel pulled away pinning her down on the mat, his hands moving from her upper arms down to loosely grasp her wrists. “Do you want me?”

Redundant question, but— hey! Cordelia tried to escape his grasp needing to feel her hands on him. To explore the subtle changes of his body that occurred in the switch to his demonic form. Blazing with desire and a hint of irritation, Cordelia could only sound her answer out with the accompaniment of a throaty moan.

“Want you so much,” she admitted without hesitation.

Angel captured her lush lips with his ravenous mouth. Skillfully, he avoided slicing her lips or tongue with his fangs, but the tiny pinprick marks welled up just the same. He sucked gently on those spots lapping up the tiny traces of blood. Cordelia never noticed, simply responding to the power of his kiss; her hips writhing against him and feeling his hard shaft pressing into her thighs.

Releasing her wrists, Angel lifted his torso rising above her in his bent-kneed position and gazing down like a dark god. Cordelia gazed lustfully at his gorgeous body, her hungry eyes dropping down to his rampant erection. A soft grunt sounded from her throat, pure need, as she reached out with her hands grasping air and silently calling him closer. Taking her calves in hand, he pushed her legs open wider settling them around his hips bringing his body back down toward her.

Nudging her with his broad tip, Angel entered her with a steady thrust of his hips. He spoke to her in husky tones, telling her how tightly she surrounded him and speaking of things that made her body hum in tandem with each slow stroke of his thick cock. That even pace rapidly changed as Cordelia responded by running her nails down his back to graze his flexing buttocks and demanding more.

Her mouth moved over his skin now warm to her touch pressing heated kisses where she could reach and sounding out frenzied cries of desperation as his pacing rhythm increased. Cordelia nipped at his earlobe then kept her gasping mouth close to tell him how he filled her and that he made her feel so hot.

Then words failed them as Angel’s hard thrusts brought them both to a point where conscious thought was swallowed by a tide of instinct. Cordelia clasped him closely, her flat palms rubbing along his arching back, her hips rising to meet the unyielding rhythm of his loins as their bodies merged and retreated.

Cordelia sensed it coming, a distant tsunami gathering its power signaling an orgasm of such intensity she cried out at its approach. Then her tongue tangled with Angel’s as the vampire in her arms tasted the pinnacle of her need, the muscles of his broad shoulders bunching under her touch as his own release neared.

Screaming his name, Cordelia turned her face into his shoulder unconsciously baring her throat even as his mouth moved to latch on to the thrumming pulse point of her jugular vein. Instinct alone guided his fangs to the spot as they sank into her tender flesh. A cry of pain sounded in Angel’s ears, but its nature signaled an answering sound like none Cordelia had ever heard.

It pulsed through her body and that instantaneous pain was swept away by pleasure as the dual sensations of his lapping tongue and thrusting shaft pushed her over the edge. She clung to him riding out the waves of pleasure as Angel continued to surge within her, his thrusting cock stimulating her clitoris as his heavy sac slapped against the sensitive folds stretched around him.

His climax followed close behind hers as Angel continued to draw small amounts of her endorphin rich blood into his mouth. Swallowing it down, his rumbled purrs were sounding in her ears as Cordelia felt him tense above her with his powerful release. Opening her eyes, she watched his head rear back, his shoulders and the muscles of his neck straining as he thrust deeply pouring his male essence into the font of her womb.

Cordelia slowly came down from that pinnacle as she saw a wave of relaxation come over Angel. A blissful expression appeared on his face even as she recognized for the first time that there was now a dull pain at the side of her throat.

Speechless and still reeling with pleasure, Cordelia held tight as Angel rolled them onto their sides. He tucked her hair behind her ear giving him a better view of her throat, which she had no doubt now bore his mark. His permanent claim.

There was a cat-that-ate-the-cream expression on his handsome face, totally smug about the fact he had bitten her. Cordelia silently admitted that Angelus had been right all along when telling her that her pleasure would be exponentially multiplied if that claim was done correctly. She could only assume the vampire got A-plus marks for making his mark considering her reaction.

Lying in his arms, still communicating with those eyes, a hint of betrayal flashed in their hazel depths. Thoughts of Angelus only compounded the feeling and when Angel suddenly leaned in to kiss away what he probably thought was discomfort, Cordelia released a scream of fury.

“Why did you do it?” Cordelia demanded. There was no need to be specific. Angel knew precisely to what she referred. “I never gave you permission to do that.”

Angel sucked in a sharp breath. His plan to take her up to their bedroom to continue making love to her suddenly seemed like a distant possibility. “You bared your throat to me. That was permission enough.”

“No, it wasn’t!” Cordelia pushed at his shoulders, rolling away and scrambling to her feet so fast she felt a little dizzy. “Hello! Blood loss.”

The vampire rose to his feet in one elegant motion, prowling toward her with all the confidence in the world. “Doesn’t matter that it wasn’t planned. It— just happened. Now you’re mine in every way that counts.”

Snapping back, “I’ll never be yours.”

“You’ll always be mine,” Angel tilted her chin up with his curled index finger. “It’s about time you realized that.”

This wasn’t the time to tell Cordelia that claiming her was a totally spontaneous act. That he hadn’t planned to claim her just now. He had wanted it to be her decision, not something he forced on her or convinced her to accept. It was too late for saying sorry because this was something Angel couldn’t take back. Not that he wanted to.

“It means nothing,” Cordelia stormed at him completely ignoring the fact that they were both naked. “Nothing! It’s just a wound. It will heal.”

Angel pointed out with a dangerously soft tone, “My mark will always be there.”

“Pfft! I can have it removed,” Cordelia threatened with a smirk.

Stepping closer, Angel’s chest rumbled with sound and his hands clenched at his side. “I’d think twice before doing that.”

Not to be put off by that warning, Cordelia crossed her arms in front of her— a move which only called attention to her lush breasts— and threw down her trump card. “If it was Angelus here instead of you, he would never have bitten me without asking.”

His top lip curled into a silent snarl before barking back, “You’re forgetting who the real Angelus was, sweetheart. In his pure form without the Moirae’s leash or the ties to Angel’s soul, do you really think that vampire would have stopped with only a claim?”

That’s not my point, Cordelia wanted to say, but was too caught up in the dark images circling in her head. A reminder of her meeting in the graveyard with Angelus where he had held her on the ground and pressed his body close to hers telling her all the wild and wicked things he planned to do before turning her into a vampire.

“That wasn’t my Angelus,” she countered in defense of her mate. “He loved me and I loved him more I can say.”

“Just who was it that you loved?” Angel’s question confused her into staring blankly.

“Huh?”

“I asked who was it you were in love with,” Angel repeated before adding, “Angelus? It wasn’t really him, was it? Not the demon in his purely unfettered soulless form. From the moment he returned to Sunnydale courtesy of the Fates, he was already leashed, already touched by the effects of the link between him and the soul.”

Cordelia eyed Angel warily, suddenly afraid of where he was taking this point. She kept up her defiant cross-armed stance in spite of the cooler basement air wafting across her skin.

The vampire asked her, “Was it Angel with his bleeding heart so full of the Slayer that he couldn’t see the treasure he could have had in you— until it was too late? Positioned on his moral high ground until he heard his demon nature calling?”

Opening her mouth to defend the Angel of old, she clamped it shut again. He did have a point on that one, she conceded. Comprehension slowly settled in as she started to realize what he was getting at. It wasn’t until the Moirae started messing around with Angelus and Angel— until their personalities began to change— that her own feelings for them deepened into love.

“You don’t want them as they were, Cordelia. You want the middle ground between the demon’s darkness and the light of the soul. The essence of them both,” stressed Angel as his hand crept up to her neck, his thumb stroking softly near the raw flesh of his mark. “That’s what the Moirae have given you, Cordelia. What I give you.”

Cordelia’s chest ached with too much feeling. Pinpricks of unshed tears glistened in her eyes.

“Sweetheart, in my eyes and the eyes of the world, you are now my mate,” Angel’s voice carried the depths of his own emotions. “You own my heart if you will have it.”


CHAPTER LINKS

DoN Chapter 41          DoN Home          DoN Chapter 43


 

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