3: Flirting with Danger
Flirting with Danger
Maybe someone up there was answering vampire prayers after all because finally, finally, his own personal fortress of solitude belonged to him again. Angel felt relaxed for the first time in over a week. It was a little strange at first, which surprised him. He had gotten used to having Cordelia in his space causing random acts of havoc as she examined one of his keepsakes from days gone by, borrowed weapons to use as kitchen utensils, or forced him into conversation.
There were still traces of her presence here and there. Every time he thought he had rounded up all of her things there would be one more found in the bathroom, under the bed, or tucked away in his closet. It was not just her belongings. Cordelia’s unique, perfumed, womanly scent lingered in his bed, where it was far more tantalizing than he wanted to admit to himself. Angel did not want to start thinking about the reasons he decided not to change the sheets today like usual.
He walked over to the bookshelf and let his finger trail over the bindings until he found one that appealed to him. Getting comfortable on the couch, he opened the book to its first page and began to read, thankful that it was quiet at last.
Hours later, Angel read the conclusion of the story, just as satisfying an end as when he had read it the first ten times. He sat up, looked around the empty living room and smiled at the fact that he had it all to himself. It had been a while since he read an entire book uninterrupted.
Closing his eyes he leaned back in his chair tuning his senses in to the world around him, enjoying the soft buzz of electricity from the corner lamp, the distant hum of the traffic from the street level above, and myriad other background noises as he turned his focus upon them until they were crystal clear.
Everything was as it should be. All in order. No enemies lurking in the tunnels nearby.
He was hungry, he realized, but paused on his way to the kitchen to return the book to its proper place. When he opened the refrigerator, he saw much to his surprise that there was a fresh container of blood on the top shelf. Someone had stopped by the butcher shop, Cordelia, presumably. Doyle might bring over a six-pack or a bottle of his favorite malt, but not blood.
Angel had tried to be subtle about his diet with Cordelia living there. No drinking blood in front of her. Making sure there were no splatters in the microwave before she heated up her leftover Chinese food. Eating scrambled eggs or lo mein noodles even though the taste was rather bland just so she wouldn’t have to eat alone, and he could feel a little less like a monster.
For all of her irritating habits Cordelia Chase had never pretended he was anything other than a vampire. She did not shy away from it even when humanity was nowhere in sight. Girls like her might get a little jaded after a Sunnydale education, but this surprised him. Whatever the reason for this spontaneous act of kindness—and he wasn’t going to rule out her efforts to finagle that extra set of Egyptian cotton sheets—Angel decided he would thank her for it.
The metal door between their apartments was already closed. He often had to pull it shut after he returned from patrol each night and he found it comforting to imagine that she wanted to be certain he made it home. Bizarre that he would even think that considering the way Cordelia insisted on her own privacy. She always shut that door when she came downstairs from the office, crossing through his place to get to hers. Finding the door open probably meant nothing more than her looking for something she had accidentally left behind at his place. It was incredible just how much stuff she had tucked away in nooks and crannies or under his bed after just a few days.
Angel rapped his knuckles on the door listening to the hollow sound as it echoed briefly. Before it dissipated, he realized why it was much too quiet. Her now familiar heartbeat was absent. She was not at home.
Strangely disappointed, Angel went back to the kitchen to resume his dinner plans. A glance at the wall clock told him that it was 2 a.m. What was she doing out this late? Many possibilities popped into his head. He hoped she was safe. That she was out having fun. Young people needed fun. Reluctantly, he also conceded that it might not just be a matter of what she was doing, but whom she was doing.
An image crystallized in his head: Cordelia at the Bronze. Moving to music with a sensuous beat. Dancing with someone he never officially met, that one-time boyfriend of hers, the singer in Oz’s band, the walking hormone who had a following of pretty girls trailing after him willing to give it up just to say he was the one. That guy reminded him of himself back in the days before Darla ended his life and made him a vampire. Liam. Chasing after every pretty girl in the village and seducing them into lifting their skirts for a quick ride.
The comparison made him tense up. He hoped that cocky little bastard had not been her first. Anger burned like a flash fire, white-hot and raging, and snuffed out just as fast. It was none of his business if Cordelia had taken a lover.
Rethinking that for about a second, he decided that he hated the idea. It certainly felt like his business. Maybe the proximity did it. As long as she was here under his roof, he somehow felt responsible for her safety. That gave him the right to be concerned.
A derisive laugh left his throat. Try explaining that to Cordelia. Neighborly concern taken about ten steps too far would not be appreciated and would most likely result in her giving him a tongue-lashing, and not the kind he was likely to enjoy. The errant thought caught him by surprise, but he blotted out the world by closing his eyes and let the images take over. Cordelia’s mouth closing around his cock, warm, velvet tongue sliding slowly down his length as she closed over him, dragging back up, cheeks hollowing, sucking hard, her fingers gripping, moving with a rhythm that would drive him mad with the urge to thrust back.
Angel pressed a hand to his forehead, threaded his fingers through his gelled hair, and followed through to his nape where the tension started to knot. This was crazy. What was he thinking?
The blood when he gulped it down did not quench his thirst or the hunger for something much more physical. It seemed to make it worse, taking his body captive, making his loins heavy with unwanted arousal at the thought of Cordelia with a lover.
Not just any lover.
That settled it. Time to get out of here for a few hours. Stalk something. Find something to kill. That would take his mind off the idea of Cordelia out on the dance floor with some stranger, finding a dark corner of the club, or the back of a parked car, a motel. He did not think she would rush into something, but he really didn’t know her that well yet or her taste in men, except that she had always found him attractive.
That much he knew with certainty.
Deep down even though he did not want to admit it he was glad that had not changed. She might say that her schoolgirl crush was a thing of the past, but there was no denying that he did not even have to lay a hand on her to arouse her. The other day she had been so damned tempting trying to hide it from him even though it did not take vampire senses to detect the fact that he was not the only one who was turned on.
Angel grabbed his black duster and swung into it as he moved toward the back door. The corridor outside led to the basement level of the parking garage, but he changed his mind about the car almost as soon as he was there. It was already getting late and this excursion might take him out past sunrise. In addition to the metal hatch in the floor of his living room, there was also a parking garage service entrance to the sewer system tunnels that stretched out beneath the city.
Just as he reached the door the distinctive clack of high heels on cement signaled Cordelia’s arrival. Her slurred singing was interrupted by her own laughter. He did not recognize the song, but even from this distance, it was clear she had been at a club and had been drinking.
She was alone and could not seem to walk in a straight line. That or she was still dancing to whatever tune she was humming. Angel thought about how easy it would be for someone to pull her into the shadows and take what they wanted. He did not like seeing her vulnerable this way. As she stumbled down the corridor toward her apartment door, Angel followed planning to ensure that she made it home safely even if it was only these last few yards.
The keys in her hand jangled and fell from her grasp. “Oh, shhhit!” she cursed staring down at them as if trying to decide if there was more than one set of keys on the ground.
Moving forward to help Angel saw Cordelia whip around faster than he thought her capable in her current state, a can of mace in her hand. “Back off, sleazeball!” A human assailant would have had a face full of the pepper-spray. Angel had only a fraction of a second to dodge the mace cloud, pull them both out of its reach, and rip the offending can out of her grasp.
Plastered between him and the wall, Cordelia’s eyes widened as she recognized Angel. “Hey, you. Did you get him? He was big and blurry.”
“Yeah, sure,” Angel answered, amused by her assumption that he had come to her rescue. “Kicked his ass. He won’t be back.”
“Good.” She flung her arms around his neck and squeezed, head nuzzling against his shoulder and her breasts pressing deliciously into his chest for all of a few seconds. Long enough to feel her warmth seeping through his shirt. “Doyle bought me mace. Don’t leave home without it.” For some reason that made her laugh. “Cheaper than jewelry, I suppose.” Then she was pushing him away, creating space between them so she could squeeze out, away from the wall.
Angel put his hands in the pocket of the duster and stood watching as Cordelia rummaged through her purse. A little whine sounded. “My keys. I can’t find my keys. That bastard stole my keys!”
Scooping them off the ground Angel held them out to her. “Hey, those are mine! You rescued my keys, too. For a vampire you’re…you’re…umm…what was I saying?” Her beautiful face scrunched up as she tried to snag them and missed.
Barely able to stand up straight there was no way Cordelia could navigate a key into a lock. He took her hand in his threading his fingers through hers. “Come on. Let’s get you inside.”
A soft, drunken smile curled the corners of her mouth as she rested her head on his arm, looking at him through heavy-lidded, hazy eyes. “Are you walking me home? That’s sweet. Jude Law would walk me home.”
Angel’s brow scrunched up at the man’s name. Who the hell was Jude Law? The name was vaguely familiar.
“I am not being sweet,” he denied gruffly. Mad at himself for enjoying the contact of her soft skin and her for putting such trust in him, he pulled away, only to have to catch her when she stumbled forward, inadvertently bringing her back into his arms. “You’re drunk and I just want to get you inside out of harm’s way.”
The words poured from her lips like smooth burgundy. “So take me.” It was the alcohol talking, Angel reminded himself why those words came across so suggestively, her warm breath puffing against his throat. He swallowed hard making his Adam’s apple bob reflexively.
Hell, she was tempting without even trying to be. He had to get used to that. Learn to ignore it. Cordelia was here for the duration, or until she had a breakthrough in her acting career, or an obnoxiously wealthy bachelor promising her a life of luxury came along. Angel shoved the key into the lock thinking about how he found her at Russell Winters’ mansion and what kind of existence she might have accepted just to achieve the life she aspired to have. It pleased him that Winters was dust and could no longer put Cordelia or anyone else in harm’s way.
Angel opened the door, stepped across the threshold and left Cordelia braced against the doorframe. He kept his back to her while she stumbled inside and shut the door. Goal met. She was home safe. There was still plenty of time to patrol. He should go.
Deciding to do just that, he offered up some advice and a reprieve. “Drink some water. Get some sleep. You can come in late tomorr—”
The stereo came on full blast even before Angel could finish talking. He swerved around hardly believing that Cordelia could find the button to turn on the device. “It’s late. You sh—”
“Come dance with me,” she tossed her head back and laughed. Cordelia swayed in time to the music matching the beat. “Oh, riiiiight. I forgot. Mr Two Left Feet.”
Angel frowned at the remark brusquely sounding out in his defense, “I can dance.”
Twirling around him in a circle that sent her long hair flying around her, Cordelia snorted and giggled. “Since when did you ever dance with Buffy at the Bronze? Ooh! Dizzy. That was a rush.” She swayed to a halt behind him, both hands grasping the loose folds of his coat, her cheek pressed against his back as she steadied herself. “Vampires have natural rhythm. You’re stealthy. Light on your feet. Y’know, the way you move in a fight . . . it’s so . . . ah . . . kind of a turn on.”
He stood frozen to the spot as he tried to interpret Cordelia’s words. Was she admitting that he turned her on, or that vampires in general . . .?
“Except of course the blood and guts and demon goo part. That is sooooo not sexy,” Cordelia shuddered against him and added a disgusted, “bleh!”
Cordelia started tugging on his coat, pulling it off his shoulders. “A little help here, big guy.”
“Cor—I was heading out to patrol.” That was an excuse to leave. A good one, he thought. “Someone might need me.”
“Yeah, she’s standing right here, dumbass.” The snarky tone melted away into a soft plea, “Just one dance.”
Oh, no. He was not going to fall for that sweet, doe-eyed routine. Angel pulled his duster back into place and strode over to the stereo. He jammed the power button sending the room into silence. He expected an angry screech, but she smirked as she joined him. “I can push buttons, too.”
The music was on again. Loud. Pounding. Base. Rhythmic. Bringing to mind something he did not equate with dancing, not unless it was done skin to skin.
“C’mon, Angel. I’m celebrating…ah, something…whatever. Pretend just for a few minutes that you’re not such an old fuddy-duddy.”
Maybe it was the demon in him that rose to the challenge, or just the man at his core being who took offence at her words, but he was not thinking about consequences when he pulled her close and started to move. Cordelia went wide-eyed, surprised because even in her drunken haze she had not really expected him to take her up on it. Angel felt the shudder pass through her as their bodies connected, and then she grinned, a triumphal gleam in her too-bright eyes.
Just because he kept away from crowds, ignored the temptation of grinding bodies and heated arousal did not mean he never watched humans get caught up in a dance. He’d never really felt it before, not exactly like this. Cordelia pissed him off so much. With her tempting curves and her sweet lips and that scent that was driving him closer and closer to the edge. This was not his kind of music. At this point, he wasn’t sure he cared. If she wanted to dance, he would show her how.
Out of sync at first they moved in an awkward rhythm contrary to the beat. A herky-jerky routine Cordelia was laughing through as she critiqued his style. She slipped free of his hold sliding both hands up his chest until she curled her fingers around the back of his neck. Her touch branded as it fired up something equally hot inside him.
From the moment she swayed into him, breasts teasing across his chest, her skirt grazing across the front of his pants, he needed no further direction. Need held him tight in its grip, a desire to prove something— even if he was not certain what that was. Tomorrow he could go back to keeping his distance. Right now, he had no choice but to respond to this insane whim.
Angel forgot about the music. All he could hear was the rhythmic pulse of her blood roaring through her veins. The softer sound of her breathing came laced with sensuous little tones every time they touched making it difficult to ignore her soft, full lips. His head dipped down, mouth hovering, teasing them both with the notion of a kiss, and not just a sweet, friendly peck on the lips. Resisting the urge, he knew it would be dangerous, too inflammatory to allow. Not that any of this was wise. The urge to crush her mouth beneath his, to plunder hers softly, roughly, was a craving he had to ignore.
If he couldn’t taste, he had to touch, but the tease of his fingertips wandering places they shouldn’t failed to sate the desire for more. Cordelia might be just drunk enough not to care that he was the one turning her on. Leaning into his touch, she moaned softly as his thumbs skirted the curves of her breasts, telltale arousal evidenced in her response, arching into him for more. Wanting to palm her breasts, imagining their full weight in his hands, exposing them to his view, to his mouth, Angel’s heavy groan signaled his determination to let go just enough to enjoy it.
Insane though it might be he needed Cordelia to know he was still capable of feeling and not some emotionless eunuch. This wasn’t the time for it. Not when she was still so buzzed she would probably never remember it in the morning.
Didn’t matter, he convinced himself, riding the edge of lust like a tightrope. Now was all that mattered. Moving together, they swayed to the pulse of the music. His hands skimmed her waist, roving down to narrow the space between them without restricting her movements. Innocent dance moves edged toward erotic in the wanton way her body followed the to and fro of his, soft curves brushing against hard angles.
Desire coiled through him, but Angel still had a shred of self-control. Not much. Just enough to remember that Cordelia was not entirely in her own right mind, and that taking this further might cause him to lose his.
Cordelia nuzzled his neck, kissed the sensitive spot where his neck met his jaw, her lips hot against his skin. He felt a growl rise up in his chest wanting her teeth on him, too.
Angel could not seem to get close enough despite the contact. Sweeping his hands beneath her skirt, he filled both palms with her luscious round cheeks noting the lacy fringe of tiny panties brushing against his fingers. With a swift turn toward the closest wall, he pressed her up against it. A jolt of lust unfurled itself as her legs came up to encircle his hips pressing her against the thick bulge in his trousers.
This was beyond dangerous. The rational part of his brain acknowledged that much, but he wanted to fulfill the throaty plea Cordelia made against his cheek, “I want—” Words failed her as Angel’s hips thrust forward, his head nuzzled between her neck and shoulder as he rubbed his erection against the hot core of her body. Her panties were damp with arousal as she ground against his hard rod.
So wet, just for him, he acknowledged smugly, wanting a taste, and so much more. Angel imagined her tightness as he moved inside her, their bodies naked, sweaty, coming together again and again. Fuck, his thoughts echoed in complaint lecturing himself not to think about it, but it was precisely the right word.
This was Cordelia. Cordelia. Insanity. What was he doing? Yet, he could not stop now, not without giving her something, and maybe getting a smidgeon of pleasure too. What was so wrong with that? She clutched his body close. Hot breath on his skin as her voice turned throaty with incoherent pleas.
The music had changed long ago. Another song blared from the stereo, but they moved to their own beat as Angel kept up an untiring momentum of grinds and thrusts, teasing rubs and hard bangs riding Cordelia with a frenetic rhythm that kept her on the edge, building up until she begged him for release.
Cordelia might have gone out tonight planning to have fun, hoping to get laid, but she’d come home to a cursed vampire who suddenly felt the need to fill the lonely, empty place inside him with the girl next door. There was no illusion of love. Cordelia did not love him. Not any more than he loved her. Sure, he cared. The thought that someone else might be here in his place made him lick at her salty skin and drag his blunt teeth against her throat feeling more possessive than he thought possible.
That idea alone should have forced this to a halt, but he could not stop now. He wanted to see what she looked like when she was not in complete control, which was ironic because he needed to maintain his. This was just a dance and he was giving it to her.
“Come on,” Angel panted against her ear enjoying the passionate way she moved against him. Any second now he was going to lose it. “That’s it, Cordy. Come for me.”
Flushed skin, eyes clenched closed, mouth open, her heartbeat drumming in his ear. God, she was beautiful, so damned beautiful, and she deserved so much more than this, something she probably would not even remember in the morning. Though he wanted to reach down between them to slip his fingers inside her tight heat and stroke the sensitive little nub that would bring her instant relief, it was safer this way, fewer temptations.
Cordelia’s fingernails curled into his shoulders. Lusty little mewls sounded in his ear, her breath hot against it. He wanted to watch as she came, pulling back just enough to see her clench her eyes closed, her mouth forming a soft O as her body tensed with cresting pleasure. A short, piercing scream emerged as her orgasm hit hard— just before she passed out in Angel’s arms.
Nearing his own release, he bucked against her twice before realizing something was wrong. “Cordelia?” Slack against him, she nearly caused him to lose his balance. Sliding a hand under her ass, he held her up securing her safely against him.
Leaning into her for a moment, he closed his eyes, feeling the insistent pressure of his stiff cock and the painful ache in his balls. An expletive jerked from his throat as he realized that he was not going to get relief anytime soon. He groaned out of frustration, and let out a gruff, self-derisive laugh. No doubt, he deserved this for taking advantage of a drunken friend because his ego got in the way.
Dancing? Not exactly the waltz. Responding to her challenge was not supposed turn out this way.
That music was dangerous. Someone should check it for subliminal messages.
Blaming the music was the easy way out. Guilt was already rearing its ugly, but familiar head. He had no explanation for his own behavior. Yes, he was lonely, and apparently more than a little jealous of the idea that she could sate her desires with any stranger she wanted. That did not change the fact that Cordelia was off limits.
She was here to make a difference, to help him with his mission, and needed him to provide her with a job and a salary. He was her boss. Her friend. He had no idea how to get out of this one. Stolen moments of pleasure were something he could not afford, especially if it endangered people that he cared about.
Gently, he pulled back so that he could scoop her up into his arms. Carrying her through to the bedroom, Angel lay her down on top of the coverlet. He watched her breathe noting the rise and fall of her chest to be easy and without distress. The least he could do was cover her with a blanket, but he realized that she was still wearing her snug little black dress and sexy shoes.
Since he was already going to catch hell in the morning, Angel decided that he could not just leave her like that. At the very least, he should take off her shoes. They were strappy little high-heeled sandals, black like her dress. The little buckle was pretty straightforward, though small for his fingers to manipulate. He slid her shoe off, placing it carefully on the bed, and gently laid her foot down before reaching for the other. Her legs were smooth as silk as his fingers drifted down her calf toward her ankle, and he tried not to notice because he felt guilty enough about what he had already done that anything more when she was completely out of it would be unconscionable.
Angel carried her shoes back over to her closet. Considering that their business had not been up and running that long Cordelia’s wardrobe had expanded significantly. It was not difficult to guess why she could not afford a better apartment. There were only two other dresses, one of which he had seen the night they met at that party, and again when he rescued her from Russell Winters. She would not want to ruin this dress by sleeping in it all night, but he couldn’t risk taking anything else off. He doubted there were any layers underneath besides those lacy panties.
He wanted to hook his fingers into the edge of her panties and slide them down the length of her legs. Pocket them. Save them for hard times. Like now. He was still hard and they would be soft and silky rubbing up and down his engorged length, as he pretended she was the one fisting him tight, spreading her scent across his skin.
He had already been to hell and back. Denying himself even a few perverse pleasures was not going to change a damn thing. Still, he ignored the urgings of his body and thought about Cordelia instead. She deserved a friend at a time like this, and he was being a lecherous ass. Although he had not wanted her here in this apartment, he hoped this did not drive her completely out of his life because she seemed to be the one bright light in it at the moment.
Cordelia normally had a very strong sense of self-preservation, and this might be enough to cause her to run screaming. Even worse, she might make a phone call to Sunnydale. Imagining the content of that conversation made Angel go cold and suddenly the erection problem no longer seemed to be an issue.
Taking a folded throw blanket from a nearby chair, Angel gently covered Cordelia up. She stirred at his touch, muttering softly, her eyelids heavy. “Still here?”
A little smile played across her mouth, her eyes drifting closed, and her words barely audible as natural sleep started to pull her into its waiting arms, “Kiss me goodnight, Jude.”
Hit by a jealous burst, Angel decided he did not like this Jude Law person. Not one bit. He definitely didn’t like the idea Cordelia wanted his kisses. Not after tonight. Angel pressed his hands into the bed on either side of her, leaned close, watched her drift to sleep, and resisted the urge to wake her with the kind of kiss her dreamboat Jude could never muster if he lived to be one hundred.
Several minutes passed as he thought about it and the consequences of such an action, and his plan to avoid any such entanglements again. Determined to start now, Angel left immediately securing her door on the way out.