17: Mind Games
Think about it.
He wanted her to think about it.
That was not a challenge. It was torture.
Thinking was only going to make this frustration even worse. Angel had demanded a confession wanting her to fess up that she was just as hot for him, or else . . . well, she wasn’t certain about the consequences. It was true that he could turn her on and rev her up faster than she could say Corvette.
The last thing she wanted on her mind was S.E.X with Angel. Being laid by her own resident hottie in a go-all-night marathon…. Want? Duh! Sure. How about having free reign at Tiffany’s for a day? She wanted that, too. Countless little blue boxes all for her…score! At least the jewelry did not come with an evil alter ego.
Maybe it was just bad karma. Every negative thing from her past seemed to be hanging over her head claiming it was payback time. Getting what she wanted had caused some people hurt feelings, something that had never caused her a second thought until now. Winning had been more about the win itself than needing the prize, but this wasn’t some random award, a higher status to be won, or about putting someone unworthy of her attention in their place.
This was Angel. He actually meant something to her, more than just in a magnetic attraction kind of way. That news frightened her, and not just because of the curse. Feelings, real feelings could be tangled up with all of the other crap that life threw at you. Taking that kind of step was not a casual fling. A person like her could get hurt if the other formerly obsessed with Blondes person did not feel the same way.
Think about it.
Why was he doing this when they had a good thing going with Angel Investigations and the whole getting to be friends and neighbors thing? Angel was a bastard for winding her up this way and making her want him just as much as he wanted her. He did. She knew that much. It was the why he wanted her so much that confused her. Attraction was not the issue here. There were equal parts of irritation. Angel made no bones about telling her to her face that she pissed him off.
It did not seem to matter. He wanted her anyway and did not try to hide the fact.
Just look at the way he was jealous.
Bizarre, but at least it showed that he had feelings, even if they were of the slightly crazy, possessive vampire kind. This would not matter so much without feelings being involved. Without them, there would be no worries about perfect happiness or a moment of bliss or something like love getting in the way of what was certain to be fantastic sex.
Cordelia had no idea about the extent of Angel’s feelings. Something mixed up with friendship and lust and no doubt related to whatever the blasted Buffy angst had done to his ego. Living together made it impossible to avoid getting close. Maybe the old crush did have some lingering effects because it was so easy to overlook that he could be a penny-pinching jerk, a clueless dork, or an overbearing watchdog. Not exactly attractive qualities in a guy.
Yet, Angel was really easy on the eyes, and possibly the best kisser ever. Maybe they could avoid the whole loophole of the curse thingy by sticking to mind-numbing makeouts several times a day. Just kisses. Endless kisses.
Think about it.
Cordelia slowly licked her lips imagaining Angel’s mouth on hers.
Yeah, she could so go there for the second or two it would take to start craving his touch. Those capable hands on her body stroking her to madness, being taken by him gently and slowly, or fast and hard, she wanted it all. The things she wanted to do to him did not stop with kisses, although it might be fun to explore his body inch by inch just with her mouth.
Forcing herself to stop thinking about it, Cordelia knew one thing with certainty. No matter what Angel really felt about her, she knew that he would never willingly put her in harms way.
The entire apartment sparkled. With the exception of a few missing items that were broken beyond repair, and now discarded, thanks to Spike’s disastrous little search, it looked like everything was back in its proper place again. Angel closed his eyes as he sank into the old leather chair taking solace in the familiar comfort now that his self-assigned task was done.
Cleaning up had been necessary, and it had given him a good excuse to stay in rather than go out on patrol. He wanted to be there just in case Cordelia decided to throw caution to the winds. Of course, she was smarter than that. No matter that he knew her desire was as great as his own, she was not ready to admit it.
True, he still needed to explain that loving him might not be a suicidal act. Experiencing Angelus up close and personal as she had on more than one occasion was enough to make anyone want to play it safe.
What if she said no? He knew that she wanted him, but did she want him enough to trust his belief that the Gem of Amarra could keep his soul safe? Even though he had read and re-read the passages in the references Giles provided detailing the powers imbued upon the ring, and felt confident that it should enhance the safety of his soul, it was not exactly created for that purpose. He could offer no ironclad guarantees.
Fast or slow, whatever pace Cordelia wanted to take was fine with him, as long as it meant they kept on moving forward. He spent the rest of the night listening to the sounds of her heartbeat. Near dawn, she was out of bed, and for a moment or two, he knew that she was standing just beyond the doorway that joined their apartments.
Angel bolted out of his chair, eyes fixed upon the closed door, willing it to open because it would mean that Cordelia was tired of waiting, too. The door remained closed. A minute later Angel heard her shower running, which led to salacious thoughts of joining her there, and picking up where yesterday’s fantasy left off.
Realizing that he needed to get away, to think about how he was going to handle it if Cordelia rejected the idea of moving their relationship beyond just being friends and neighbors, Angel headed for the roof.
The morning had dragged by slowly. No phone calls, no customers, not even Doyle’s friendly banter. He might have a reason to think she would need some space after the big reveal of his half-demon status. Maybe it was just as well that he was in avoidance mode because she did not want to have to deal with him right now.
Angel was more than enough to handle and boy howdy she had thought about handling him a time or two since last night. All alone in her bed she had tossed and turned unable to sleep, her mind hashing over the whirlwind events of the day. So much had happened, but it was Angel’s hot kisses that kept her on the edge causing her to feel like she was going to spontaneously combust.
There was no denying the attraction on either side. Angel knew way too much about her former crush. No doubt his vampire senses had given away subtle details about her body’s uncontrollable reactions even when she knew that having feelings for him was futile. Or when she thought those feelings were buried forever.
Why did he have to go and ruin things by kissing her? They were doing just fine for the most part except for a stupid argument or two. Usually his fault. They had a mission, a business together. He was her boss, friend, and neighbor. Now that she knew he wanted her, too, it was going to be impossible to ignore what happened.
Because that was the only thing they could do and keep everything else in their lives going smoothly. Ignore it.
Yeah, right. Like ignoring it would make these cravings for him go away. Not.
Knowing that he wanted her made it worse.
Angel had practically given her a whole speech on the extent of his desire for her. Broody, monosyllabic Angel made it utterly clear that he wanted her in his bed, and that he had fantasies of his own. Once or twice last night she had nearly ignored the inner voice reminding her that Angel couldn’t act on those fantasies without risking his soul and her life. Angry, she had flopped back into bed trying her best to ignore the salty sting in her eyes.
Since she had not been able to sleep, Cordelia showered and dressed for a day at the office in a silky red top and modest miniskirt that hit mid-thigh, adding sandals that tacked on a couple of inches to her height. Makeup took a little extra time thanks to the dark circles under her eyes. Fortunately, a little concealer went a long way.
It wasn’t that she was trying to impress Angel, she thought, twisting her hair up into a knot and adding a tortoise shell clip that gave her a sexy, yet professional look. Pleased with the effect, Cordelia decided it was her brand of armor.
Last night was not just going away.
The idea was scary exciting. She wanted more. She wanted everything. Including the whole perfect happiness scenario that came with every fairy tale ever written. Well, that wasn’t happening. Not with Angel. Not that it could happen without him, either, she suspected, frowning at her reflection in bathroom mirror.
Reacting with a soft, “Pfft!” Cordelia decided that depressing thought had no business popping into her head. There had to be a way to get around the curse. Have a little fun without…y’know…causing Angel’s soul to go poof. Even though Cordelia suspected that she had feelings that went deeper than just wanting recreational sex, it seemed stupid to imagine anything else was in the cards.
Before heading up to the office, Cordelia stopped to pick up the stack of old issues of Cosmopolitan Magazine she had piled up in a corner of the room. Although she was certain there was no article on ‘Getting Off Without Losing Your Soul’ to conveniently leave on Angel’s desk, there might be something helpful. Cosmo had never led her astray yet.
Finally, a call came through, the phone ringing a couple of times before Cordelia dragged her attention back to reality. She grabbed the receiver and cheerfully delivered her opening lines. “Angel Investigations, we help the helpless. Cordelia Chase speaking.”
Actual business. A potential client! This could mean anything from being able to buy a working paper shredder to a new pair of shoes. Taking notes, she paused to tell the old woman, “Yes, we do charge more than the local plumber, but we’ll be happy to adjust your bill if it turns out to be rusty pipes instead of something demony.”
She jotted down the name and address, and was going over a few more details when she caught a glimpse of movement from the corner of her eye. Angel. Here. Now. Awareness tingled along her spine feeling more than seeing his approach. Her insides suddenly felt like they were under attack from a swarm of butterflies fluttering wildly.
Trying to finish her conversation with their new client, Cordelia struggled stay focused, “So, ah, what was that address. I did? Oh, right. It’s right here. Got it.”
Angel was right there. Behind her. Standing so close all she had to do was lean back a little and she would be in his arms. His fingers brushed across her elbow as he came into view, and that gentle touch was all it took. A hot ache centered between her thighs instantly craving his hands caressing more intimate places.
She turned to face him, pulling the phone cord across her body and dragging the phone to the edge of the desk, ignorant of her actions. The client was still yammering in her ear sounding muffled and far away.
Her hungry eyes devoured every inch of his solid frame. He was big and gorgeous, and inexplicably wearing a blue shirt instead of his usual black, white or gray, along with the denims that hugged his muscular thighs and bulged so invitingly. After her lingering perusal, Cordelia dragged her eyes back up to note the confident gleam in his dark gaze.
Panting breaths sounded as she tried to speak. The client had asked a question, needed an answer. “No worries, Mrs…ah…ah…um” What was that name again? Periwinkle? Parramore? Pattycake?
Too close, he was way too close for her sanity. Cordelia made the mistake of putting a hand on him to push him back, a futile move when he obviously had every intention of breaching her personal bubble. Her hand slipped down from his abdomen to the waistband of his jeans, fingers curling around an empty belt loop pulling him in even as he leaned forward.
His long fingers spread out across her lower back caressing up and down by inches as he slowly moved closer, teasing her with the time he took to press against her. The kiss was fleeting when it came, the briefest touch of his lips against the corner of her mouth. His cheek brushed hers as he whispered into her ear. “Good morning.”
Feeling deprived of the mouth-crushing, red-hot kiss she actually wanted, Cordelia flashed him an annoyed look and pointed toward the phone. Hello, client! This time when she pushed him away, he let her do it. Although he did not actually go anywhere just moving down to the edge of the desk where he sat to stretch out his long legs.
After letting the client drone on for a few more seconds in order to pull herself together, she ended the call with a quick promise, “We’ll be there tonight.”
Hanging up the phone brought her a step closer to Angel who asked, “Something I need to take care of now?” reminding her that he did not have to wait until the sun went down.
Cordelia handed him the note. “Not really. It could be a ghost, a demon, or just rusty pipes, but the noises only happen at night.”
After glancing at the information, Angel put the purple sticky note back on Cordelia’s desk. “Good. That means we have all day.”
With Angel, that normally might mean having all day for Spring-cleaning, or another lecture on the appropriate use of his Asian throwing knives. Not this time, she figured. That little kiss was just a teaser, a tiny temptation telling her he had no intention letting her off without declaring that her feelings for him involved more than just her love of a paycheck.
Wanting Angel was easy. Knowing that he wanted her too both thrilled and frightened her, but she suspected it went deeper than that for both of them, and that scared her. “All day for what?”
Cordelia’s heartbeat skipped at the suggestive promise of that one little word. Simple. Well, it should be simple, but for them it was anything but, and that reminded her why wanting Angel was never really an option. Those Cosmo tips were just another way to hold on to the fantasy.
“Coercing me into confessing that I like to make out with you isn’t going to change a damn thing,” she pleaded for reason. Crossing her arms, she held on tight as if trying to support her own decision to demand details. “Tell me you’re not just feeling sorry for yourself because you left Buffy behind in Sunnydale. Again.”
Annoyance flashed in his eyes as he straightened up from his spot at the end of the desk. For a moment, she felt like prey trapped in a very tight corner as he edged closer. How wrong was it that dangerous vibe just turned her on? Maybe that was why she baited him to begin with.
“Buffy and I are done,” Angel told her with a controlled edge to his voice. “It’s finished. Over.”
“Oh. Really?” Strangely, she felt like she should console him for his loss instead of jumping for joy and dancing around the desk at the news. She wanted details, the 411. “That’s… unexpected.”
His eyes never left hers as he said, “So was this.” Angel swung his arm up to desk level dropping the object he had been carrying.
The sound of the hardback book slapping down on the wood surface startled her. Recognizing the cover art of Private Dick: The Lady Wore Red, the third volume of the series, and the one she was currently reading, she knew that Angel was not planning to change the subject with an Angel Investigations Book Club discussion.
No, he was going for something a little more direct. “I found this in my bed.”
Cordelia knew precisely how that book ended up in Angel’s bed. There had to be a way to get out of admitting how lonely she felt without him being there. Enough to climb into his bed, snuggle down, and read a chapter of Private Dick. Just what she would have done if Angel had shown up then and there was not something she had considered at the time. Oversleeping the next morning, she never had time to tidy up before Doyle had arrived eager to begin their movie marathon. Then there was the whole thing with Spike.
Searching for any kind of explanation that kept her pride intact, Cordelia came up with an elaborate explanation about Spike dropping the book there when he was rifling through Angel’s belongings. He so could have done it. Only not, and she suspected the sleep-rumpled beddings accompanied other evidence of her presence. Opting for something closer to the truth, she said, “You were gone for a week and I-I missed… your sheets.”
Angel cracked a rare smile. “Just my sheets?”
“They’re pretty awesome sheets,” she reminded with a cheeky shrug. Then laughed, “I should demand visitation rights.”
His mouth twitched in amusement, but his eyes remained darkly intent. “Only under my complete supervision,” he answered, sending an array of sensual images flashing through her head of the two of them tangled in his soft sheets.
Of course he could just be talking about the peanut butter incident. Cordelia confessed, “I like to eat in bed.”
He leaned closer to whisper a sexually-charged promise, “So do I,” and then gently tugged on the soft skin of her earlobe teasing her with his words and his touch.
Turning her so that her back was to the desk, Angel’s fingers skimmed down her arms, taking both hands and pressing them flat against its wooden surface preventing her from pushing him away again. Though she was not sure that was what she wanted to do because it felt so good to have his body against hers, and his mouth against her skin.
Cordelia’s head lolled back at the sensation of his soft lips and blunt teeth nibbling a sexy path down her throat. Utterly trusting him not to bite despite the urges he had hinted at on more than one occasion. His mouth lifted away causing her to moan its loss. She opened her eyes to find him staring down at her intently. It reminded her of last night, when she wanted to forget about everything else except the passion he stirred within her, only to deny that she felt anything more, just before he walked away.
She knew he was thinking about it too, and he confirmed it by with a determined command, “Tell me what you want. Did you think about what I said last night?” Words thick with desire, his body was taut against hers, and aroused.
How easy it would be to simply admit to such desire. Wanting him in every way it was possible to have him and still hold on to her dreams. No matter what had happened to get him to admit to his attraction for her, and for her to do the same, there was still that one thing that made it impossible for them to be together.
Closing her eyes for a moment, she blocked out the intensity of his dark gaze, not willing to let it sway her any further. Not until she found the courage to say what needed to be said.
Cordelia’s lashed fluttered open, her gaze focusing in on his, as her tongue swept across her suddenly dry lips. “I thought about it. All night.”
His thumb brushed across her bottom lip as his hand slipped across her skin barely touching, smooth fingertips leading a trail of tingling fire down the open vee of her blouse to pluck at the top button. It easily popped open exposing a flash of lace and a hint of curved cleavage. A hard sound rumbled from Angel’s throat. He lowered his mouth to the vee of exposed skin, pressing his lips there, and darting his wet tongue into the soft hollow, drawing out an unsteady sigh from Cordelia before continuing his exploration.
With one hand free, and the other still trapped against the desk, Cordelia reached out to him, fingers following the contour of his bicep and broad shoulder, up to the space where his collar met skin. Skimming along his neck she cupped the back of his head, spreading her fingers through his short hair. “Angel, you’re driving me crazy.”
She could feel his smile against her breast. “That’s the idea,” he knew exactly what kind of response he elicited each time his lips touched her skin. Each butterfly kiss softly stimulated kindling heat beneath the cool touch of his smooth lips. Making her want to do things to him that could end up being very bad for her health. “Cordelia, tell me what you want.”
Moving her hand to his jaw, she answered, “More than I should. All of you. Everything. Please, Angel, I can’t think when you touch me.”
She counseled herself to be strong. To fight the temptation, but it was next to impossible when her body eagerly betrayed her at every turn. Her breasts swelled to his caress as he rubbed through the silk blouse and underlying lace bra, palming her all too briefly, and making her moan at the loss of his touch there.
No thinking required here, she decided, as his big hands gathered her hips pulling her even closer into his tall frame letting her feel the physical proof of his desire pressing boldy between them. Angel moved in with deadly accuracy to fuse his mouth across hers. No more teasing, just his mouth slowly rubbing across the pout of her lips, claiming territory, stoking a fiery need inside her. His tongue dashed across the seam of her lips, opening her up, delving inside where it was hot and wet.
Cordelia clung to his broad shoulders, shamelessly savoring each kiss, her pulse thrumming and an achy need forming low in her belly. Restless in his arms, she broke free of his mouth, her hands grasping his face or fisting up in the collar of his shirt, peppering him with hot and sweet ravenous little smooches. Panting out a frustrated sigh, she clutched at his back, tucking her head under his chin. “Stop! Angel, we need to stop. We can’t let this get too serious.”
Pulling back, Angel stared down at her with raw determination. “Don’t you feel it, Cordelia? Too late to back out now.”
“Kinda hard to avoid feeling it,” she muttered as her thoughts took a sexy little twist. Knowing what he meant, Cordelia knew the decision was not simple. “Wanting you is dangerous, Angel. You’ve got a curse, and we both know it could end badly.”
“What if I told you I had a way around that, and that the loophole wasn’t an issue for us?”
Cordelia flinched, hurt by the suggestion. Bitterly telling him, “If this is just about getting laid for the first time in a year, you can think again.”
To his credit, he looked horrified at the concerns that had been running through her head, now out in the open for his consideration. Anger took over just as quickly, tightening his jaw, and turning the mouth that had been so soft against her skin into a hard line of fury. “Is that really what you think is going on here— that I’m using you as some kind of substitute for Buffy? I’m not.”
Arguing back, “Good, because I have no intention of being your Rebound Girl!”
Angel stalked away from her stopping only because he was blocked by the front door. For a moment, Cordelia thought he might open it and keep on going. She might have questions, but leaving was not the way to handle this. This friction between them, the desire they faced, was not going to vanish just because it was inconvenient. Hurrying over, she put her hand on his shoulder, prepared to tell him that her hangups had more to do with the curse than his ex.
“Don’t touch me if you don’t want the consequences,” he growled at the touch of her hand. Facing her, he was full of restrained passion, his body taut with as he reigned himself in. “Cordelia, we’ve been working up to this for a long time now. You’re the only one I want, and you’d better get used to the idea that I want to kiss you.”
“I’m a big fan of the kisses,” she admitted refusing to back away. Especially now that some of her doubts about his feelings were starting to fade.
Angel cupped the back of her neck, and pulled her forward, those hungry eyes staring down at her mouth. Just inches from her lips, he lifted his gaze to meet hers. “I want to do more than kiss you, Cordelia. You have no idea what I want to do to you right now.”
A lusty shudder passed through her at the raw need in his voice. “I’ve got a pretty good imagination,” the words sounded breathy even to her. “It’s not that I don’t trust you to play it safe, because I’ve got a feeling you can be creative that way,” she felt a little thrill pass through her at the thought, before a more realistic one set in. “The curse doesn’t come with an off switch, and when it comes to you, I want it all. That’s what scares me.”
The hand at the nape of her neck began a slow massage as if Angel picked up on the tension gathering there. He asked huskily, “You want me too?” as if before he had only been trying to convince them both that it was true and only now believed it.
Angel explained about the ring’s magic and his belief that the Gem of Amarra could protect his soul in spite of the curse. That it could counteract its power and keep his soul intact. The seed of hope he planted bloomed fast with each new piece of evidence he offered. He sounded so certain. “Knowing about the curse’s effects nullifies the loophole. Even so, the ring will ensure I remain whole. My soul is safe.”
Knowing he would never risk letting Angelus loose on the world again, Cordelia took him at his word instead of launching an all-out inquiry. Excitement bubbled up as she realized there was no longer any reason to hold back her feelings, or to avoid taking their relationship to an intimate level.
At the same time, she was legitimately confused. “Why didn’t you tell me this last night?”
“I wanted you to have time to think about it. To—”
Interrupting, she quipped, “Thinking is overrated,” before tilting her head up for a kiss he kept just out of reach.
Angel placated her by rubbing his thumb across her lips, silently promising more even as he kept on going, “To realize that this isn’t just short-term attraction between us. I love you, Cordelia.”
Stunned, Cordelia stared into the deep well of his eyes finding only the honest truth reflected back at her. “Since when?” Vividly remembering his words back in the shower, she reminded, “You called me the biggest pain-in- the-ass you know.”
“Honestly, that just makes me love you more,” Angel confessed as he finally closed the distance between them covering her mouth in a long, drugging kiss that made it difficult to remember anything except her need for more of the same.
The butterflies were back. “Good. Can we get to the part where I find out exactly what you want to do to me? Because I have a few ideas of my own.”