Puzzle Pieces


Angel reflects on his jealous response to Cordelia’s sudden dating frenzy.

  • CONTENTS:   Cordelia/Angel in AtS
  • RATING:   NC17
  • LENGTH:   Novella / 19,200 words
  • STATUS:   Completed
  • CHALLENGE CREDIT: Kimmers / Challenge #2 AO’s ‘Lysa Says: Challenge Me’ thread
  • WARNINGS:   Explicit Sexual Content

The gems are just too numerous. Outstanding.

– Helen – / Angel’s Oasis

Puzzle Pieces

Watching as my 11-month old son futilely attempts to pound a square block into a round hole, I am reminded that not so long ago I made a concerted effort to do the same. Only I was playing with lives instead of three dimensional puzzle pieces. No matter what you think you want, there comes a time when you have to accept that some pieces fit and other don’t no matter how hard you try to make them.

Returning to the Hyperion after the ballet came as a reality check. Still lost in a haze of all that had happened I couldn’t get Cordelia out of my head. If my heart had the ability to beat, it would have been pounding in my chest. Every passing second was filled with resonant images, sounds and scents of those timeless minutes inside the prima ballerina’s dressing room.

It wasn’t all about possession. Not just by spirits at any rate. Certainly not on my side. When she asked me to undress her, I thought I’d dropped into the middle of a dream. The kind a guy definitely isn’t supposed to have for his beautiful best friend. Only the fantasy quickly turned real as we went step-by-step through the motions of the clandestine meeting between the ballerina and her lover.

Though the words were theirs, it was my hands caressing Cordelia’s skin, my mouth kissing those lush lips, my tongue teasing her. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that I could fight the urge to follow those ethereal commands if I really wanted to, but I didn’t. The little cross she’d picked up off the dresser scorched my skin as it touched me accidentally, snapping me out of the lustful haze that was fast taking me to a place I wanted to be.

When Cordy suggested we needed to get out of that room, all I could do was agree, but the path to the door came only with effort. One my body really didn’t care to make. I could barely keep my hands from gliding over her curves and doing precisely what she’d begged me to do: undress her.

If we hadn’t reached that door just then, I know I would have done it. I was aroused and ready and wanting her. Naturally, Cordelia noticed.

Reprieve came momentarily in the hall outside, though my burning need to apologize was blown off by my no-nonsense seer. She blamed it all on the magic, but my body wasn’t so quick to forget. I was still thinking about the way Cordelia told me she was only alive when I was inside her.

The ballerina’s words, I know, not Cordy’s. Still, her voice whispering against my lips catapulted me into a silent acknowledgement that it was precisely where I wanted to be. One she quickly turned into a joke as I attempted to explain that going back into that room just to follow-up on her theory was not the safest thing to do.

“My champion, ladies and gentlemen,” she’d announced sardonically to the otherwise empty hall. Cordelia might as well have been telling an audience I was a coward for trying to avoid her kisses. Not that they were really her kisses in Cordelia’s eyes, but the ballerina’s. Going back in was all just part of the mystery to be solved.

I marveled at the wrongness of the idea. Entering that room again could only lead to trouble, but going back was the only way forward. Because finding out the reason for the spell was the only way to break it. For ten seconds, I felt relieved that nothing seemed to be happening as the spell of possession did not immediately overtake us again.

Cordelia ran through the lines she’d spoken as if impatiently reading from a script she’d seen before. “Blah, blah, blah,” she tagged on as if that was exactly what she felt about the whole thing. Then she kissed me, her lips pressing into mine with as much enthusiasm as if it had been the back of her hand.

Then the warm tingle of magic spread through my body, the spirit of that long-ago lover reaching out for his ballerina. I listened to their conversation, eavesdropping on his desire for a future together and her fear of letting go, but heard it only from a distance. My attention was on the woman in my arms.

Just the taste of her in my mouth was enough to make me hard again, Cordelia’s hot wet tongue curling against mine, our lips crushed against one another. Then she was beneath me on the couch, just where I wanted her to be. Just how much of Cordelia was in the kisses so enthusiastically returned did not occur to me at the time. Part of me knew we were simply the ballerina and her lover, but the rest acknowledged that it was us each time my lips came into contact with that golden skin.

My hands moved over the curves I’d gazed upon so many times before with simple admiration, but lately with the surprising urge to map out every fine detail. Watching her from a distance was all I could do contemplating the differences between us and knowing that any action I took might break the bonds of our friendship. Maybe Cordy was right…I’d taken the coward’s way out.

After everything we’ve been through together, losing her trust and winning back her friendship had been the toughest. I took the easy road and played on those feminine fancies by buying more designer clothes than her closet had seen since Sunnydale. It was a cheap trick despite the considerable expense and I never regretted it for a second.

Then I lost her again, this time literally as she was sucked into Pylea by the swirling portal that sent Lorne’s cousin back home. With the possible exceptions of finding Fred, seeing my reflection for the first time in centuries and walking in sunlight, I’ve blocked out the rest of that rescue mission from my mind. At least, I’d like to think I have, but how could I forget the true face of my own demon or the sight of Cordelia wrapped up in another man’s arms.

Just as impossible as forgetting the moment when I thought she said she loved me. I felt like a fool afterward, realizing she meant the Groosalugg. Just the thought that Cordelia might choose to stay in Pylea where she was royalty and beloved by its moronic champion was too much to take. The fear gathering inside me was enough to piss me off and I outright told Cordelia she was coming home with me.

Luckily, she’d already made the decision to do so because otherwise my words might have caused her to dig in her heels and refuse to budge. Cordelia came home to our mission, but I always hoped that some part of her also returned to me.

Discovering where our friendship stood took longer than expected. The worst kind of news awaited our return. Finding Willow Rosenberg sitting in our lobby with tears in her eyes floored me, because I instantly knew their meaning. News of Buffy’s death hit me hard. Maybe we were never meant to be together, but I did love that girl.

Losing her that way woke me up and I started to think about how fragile and utterly precious humanity can be. Specifically, how precious Cordelia is to me. Realizing my feelings for her were already beyond the bounds of our friendship made me more determined than ever to protect it.

Then I got distracted with Darla’s arrival, Holtz’ return and the miracle of my son’s existence. After surviving Cordelia’s initial bursts of anger over the lie I’d told her about my not sleeping with Darla, the reality of a baby in our lives quickly put us back on track. I just had no idea where that track was headed.

All I knew was seeing my son in Cordelia’s arms made me feel like my heart was more tied to her than ever. Puck got it right when Shakespeare wrote him saying, “What fools these mortals be.” It was a truth I’m certain also applies to vampires with souls.

When the opportunity to see the Blinnikov World Ballet in action was too much to resist, I bought tickets with the money Gunn intended for us to use for a concert. To me there was no comparison, but Gunn was not too happy with the switch in plans. Only the fact that he enjoyed the ballet and came away with Fred on his arm served to mend that fence, not that I was aware of the latter bonus at the time.

Cordelia managed to surprise me as well.

While getting ready for the evening Lorne revealed that he was aware of my feelings for her. It hadn’t even taken a song. Apparently, I was wearing those feelings on my sleeve for anyone to see if they looked close enough. First Fred and now Lorne with this talk of Kyerumption, that Pylean word about fate and something about grog or ox dung. The thought rattled me that Cordelia might have guessed, but I’d never seen anything to indicate that she spent time mooning over me the way that I found myself thinking of her.

When she paused in my bedroom doorway looking radiant in her evening gown, I knew that Lorne was probably getting a damn good indication where my feelings were focused. The way she looked, the way she smiled as she fixed my tie and talked of us being a couple of young sophisticates enjoying a night of classical dance, I figured I would have a fellow devotee on my arm that night.

Instead, I had Cordelia drooling on my shoulder as she slept straight through to the intermission. If I hadn’t been so distracted by my discovery that this was the very same ballet troupe I witnessed back in the 1890’s, my attention would have been all on her. Nevertheless, I felt it every time she snuggled against my shoulder seeking her comfort spot as if she belonged there.

During the intermission, our search for the answers to the mystery led us to the prima ballerina’s dressing room and tumbling toward a meeting with fate. If Lorne knew the details, he would say that I missed the shot I was offered, but even I don’t need a soul-reading demon to tell me what I already knew.

That night is etched into my memory forever and it takes only an instant for every minute detail to flood back into my mind’s eye. Her taste, her scent, the beat of her heart, the touch of her hands and the sound of her moans all combined to send me directly to fantasyland. With the constant push of that possessing soul leading me to follow his moves, I played right along soaking up every tiny reaction Cordelia’s body had to offer.

Just the tilt of her throat caused my head to spin with wanting. Possessed or not, I’m a vampire and feeling the gentle pulsing of her vein against my lips went straight to my loins. A little purr escaped her throat as I kissed her there, her hand curling over the nape of my neck and its fingers combing through my hair. Cordelia writhed with growing passion, her lush breasts brushing against my chest as I bent over her. All I knew was a need to touch her there, to feel the weight of her bare flesh in my hands and I made it so.

Peeling the gown from her shoulders, I slowly inched the silky material downward. I actually sucked in a gasp of air and held it as her gorgeous breasts came into view. I kept peeling as if unwrapping a surprise gift, wanting to rip the wrapping away while simultaneously enjoying the anticipation of each new revelation. On some level, I was still the spectator, but it was still my body and I seemed determined to imprint myself on her skin.

Cordelia’s moue of pleasure sounded in my ears as she felt the proof of my need for her. The bulge in my pants was evidence enough as I pressed down against the apex of her thighs still trapped by her gown. I wanted her legs wrapped around me, but I was still caught up in following the direction set out for me leading me back to the beauty of her breasts as I worshipped them with my mouth and hands.

The fact remains that I can never again see Cordelia in any kind of top without visualizing what lies beneath: those soft, full curves that fit my hands, the darker circle around her velveteen nipple and the way that it hardens to a needy point under attention by my tongue.

I could have played there for hours, but I was compelled to continue on the path of discovery.

As I kissed my way down the flat plane of her belly, marveling at the silky softness of Cordelia’s strawberry-scented skin, my hand continued its downward exploration. My fingers brushed lightly over Cordelia’s thin panties feeling the moisture soaking the silk. I lay one firm kiss atop that lacy piece of nothing just before letting my fingers slip inside to slide along her slick folds.

She moaned for more only to let out a cry of alarm almost simultaneously. Reality crashed back into place with the attack of the Tragedy and Comedy-masked minions. In the middle of the fight, I could still hear Cordelia’s words resonating in my ear.

“Oh, thank God,” she cried out in relief at the interruption, pulling up the straps of her gown while hidden behind the curved design of the couch.

Only her comment at the end of the fight of, “You looked really hot doing that,” convinced me that she might have felt something other than the ballerina’s control.

By the time we made it back into the hall, the guilt started to set in. Circumstances forced me to put those concerns on the back burner while I dealt with the cause of this enchantment: Count Kurskov. Only after the destruction of his power center and the ballerina’s final curtsy was I free to consider the impact of everything this night had wrought.

I dropped off Fred, Gunn and Wes at the Hyperion before taking Cordelia home. Had I thought about it, the fact that she didn’t stop in long enough to say goodnight to Connor was a neon-bright clue that going near my bedroom was a no-no. There were not going to be any baby snuggles in my bed tonight and while that had never before caused me to feel jealous, I had other things in mind to keep her occupied there.

Just the thought of it forced me to get a grip on my feelings. Cordelia’s obvious relief when we were interrupted was only the first sign. The drive to her apartment was filled with a strained silence, both of us stealing glances at the other and saying nothing despite being caught.

The phrase, ‘No News is Good News’ never applied to Cordelia. If she was quiet, it only meant a storm brewed inside her. There was too much that needed to be said and it couldn’t be done in a moving vehicle.

“Cordy,” I tried to pave the way as I walked her to her door.

I wonder now if she thought I might be asking to come inside for there was a little look of panic in her eyes, a silent plea just before the storm hit and she cut me off. “You know we should probably not talk about…our little adventure. Anything that might have been seen. Anything that might have been…oh, perky.”

A nervous laugh and that brief flash of vulnerability seemed to be proof that Cordelia considered her body’s reactions to me totally out of her control and desire and that she would forget the whole thing if she could. Forget? Not likely. Somehow, that was precisely what I found myself suggesting except that my tongue tangled into knots of nonsense.

“It wasn’t us,” Cordelia stressed to me when my attempt at an apology drew her quick response. “Nothing to forgive. Already forgotten.”

That adamant dismissal caused me to bite back my denial of that opinion. Not us? It was definitely us and I knew Cordelia wasn’t as unmoved by it as she pretended. But I also knew that it was because she had something to protect: our friendship. It was something neither one of us would jeopardize on a whim or fancy. Not again.

So I agreed to Cordelia’s suggestion, biting back my need to talk about my feelings for her and telling her, “It’s forgotten.”

I’ve always been a skillful liar. Cordelia must have believed me because she gave me one of those brilliant smiles that lit up her face and it was all I could do to keep my hands off of her because of it. Reminding myself that best friends did not give each other passionate goodnight kisses on the doorstep, I simply took her key out of her hand and unlocked the door for her handing it back once she stepped across the threshold.

Cordelia took the keys, her hand brushing mine and instantly our eyes connected. I felt electricity shoot through me at that fleeting touch. Turning away, she called out to her ghostly roommate, “Dennis, I’m home,” and I knew the night had come to an end.

“Goodnight, Cordy,” I shoved my hands in my jacket pockets afraid that if I looked at them they would be trembling from the need to pull her back into my arms.

Almost as if she’d already forgotten my presence, Cordelia glanced back over her shoulder as I soaked up one last look at her lithe form in that gown. Curling strands of her hair, fallen loose from its upswept style, teased at her throat, my eyes drawn there as she turned to me.

“Angel,” she didn’t even bother with goodbye. “Get the door?”

Definitely a dismissal, I realized, accepting it as such. Reading between the lines, I figured I was closing the door on something that could never have been more than a dream. Certainly nothing more than a misbegotten fantasy or a momentary thrill due to a century-long spell. It could never mean anything more to us than memory.

So I returned to the Hyperion where I had to deal with Lorne’s all-seeing scrutiny for the two minutes before I encouraged him out the door. My thoughts were focused on Cordelia and I didn’t want to talk about it. I was in danger of falling hard for my best friend if I hadn’t already done so and I needed something to stop me from making an ass of myself in front of her. Something that would keep me grounded.

Then I realized that I was holding my safety net. I had my son to divert me from thoughts I shouldn’t be thinking and Connor cooperatively woke up demanding a bottle. With the baby around, Cordelia was always distracted and that meant she might not notice me trying to avoid her for a while, just until I got myself under control again.

Maybe the idea of using an infant as a crutch should have bothered me, but I was willing to do anything not to ruin what Cordelia and I had salvaged when we built our friendship back up out of the ashes. It was too important to me, a vital piece of the puzzle that was my existence.

Coming downstairs the next afternoon, I fully intended to use my son’s natural appeal to open up to Cordelia. With the baby there between us, surely I could focus on our feelings of friendship rather than the lust that had certainly raised its head last night.

Only Cordelia wasn’t at work, nor Fred or Gunn for that matter. Lorne usually slept in even later than I did, so I didn’t bother to look for the Pylean, especially since he’d still be in the mood to talk about last night. Finally, I found Wes puttering around in the office with a glum look on his face.

“Where is everybody?”

I’d asked out of curiosity, but there must have been a little of that old boss’ tone in my voice because Wes gave me a pointed stare informing me, “I gave them the morning off. They’ll all be in this afternoon sometime.”

Wes explained that Fred and Gunn had gone off to have breakfast and hadn’t been seen since. He told me that with a stony expression that made me wonder if I was missing something, but I really didn’t care if Fred was gorging on stacks of pancakes again today.

I was about to casually inquire after Cordelia, but was still caught up in figuring out a way to ask subtly when Wes gave me the news that ruined my day. “Cordelia is at lunch with her new beau.”

“New what?”

Thinking that I must have gotten lost in translation, Wes rephrased, “New boyfriend. She was on the phone two minutes after I told her she could have the day off arranging to have lunch with him.”

To say that I reacted with jealousy over the news might have been an understatement. “Who the hell is this guy? What happened between last night and this morning? Did you meet him?”

“Cordelia was rather animated about telling me everything, actually,” Wes sounded bored with the idea. “Apparently, she met him at an audition ages ago and by some coincidence ran into him at Starbucks this morning.”

My eyes rolled back in Cordy-fashion and a huff of disregard left my throat. I was too focused on reacting to the ridiculous news to realize that I had picked up a few of her bad habits. “He’s an actor?”

I possibly made it sound like he was pond scum.

“No, actually,” Wes corrected me with a sigh. Talk of romantic interludes was not on his list of things to do today.

Just then Cordelia breezed in wearing a tight knot top and a low-slung filmy skirt that left her tiny waist bare to my view. The cascade of her silken hair flowed around her shoulders as she walked into the lobby, a smile on her beautiful face. Sing-songing her greeting, which told me lunch had gone well, she tossed her purse down on the countertop and immediately held her arms out in my direction.

It took me a couple of seconds to realize she wanted her first dose of baby snuggles for the day. Handing Connor over, I watched as Cordelia kissed his downy head and spoke to him with love in her voice as she told him she missed him last night. I wondered if she’d missed me too, but quickly realized the answer must be no.

Not if she’d been so eager to run off to lunch with Mister Hollywood himself.

Making a concerted effort to reign-in my jealousy, which I put down to remnants of the effects of the spell, even though I knew that wasn’t the case, I tried to take a friendly interest in what Cordelia had been up to. Wes was still hanging out around the front desk looking like he was setting himself up as a referee when I asked, “Where have you been?”

Yes, the question came out a little more demanding than it should have, but I have a right to be concerned when my best friend goes off to parts unknown with a practical stranger. The last time I let that happen, she ended up pregnant with demon spawn. The hell if I was gonna let some creep take advantage of her again.

Cordelia glanced up from taking in a deep breath of fresh baby scent, her nose tucked into Connor’s neck. She’d been making goo-goo sounds and had him gurgling and grinning right along with her until I opened my mouth to start my interrogation. It was in no way just a simple query and we all knew it.

Holding onto the baby, Cordelia continued to look down into his attentive little face and in that soft voice she gets when reminding me to watch my tone around Connor, she answered my question while actually directing her comments to him.

“Aunty Cordy has been to lunch at Locanda Veneta,” she cooed to Connor, but turned for just a second to give me a little smirk as if I was supposed to be impressed. My cluelessness might have been obvious because Cordelia went back to her explanation again, “Just an upmarket little Italian place nobody can get into without reservations… except certain Who’s Who.”

Meaning that her date made the list; I understood that quickly enough. “Who is he?”

Cordelia turned to me after that, no longer speaking to me through Connor. My overly casual voice and the completely fake smile on my face may have thrown her off a bit. I felt like demanding to see a full dossier on the guy, but I kept reminding myself that my best friend apparently wanted to get back to our routine. The date was evidence enough that she’d done as we discussed and already forgotten last night’s spell-induced indiscretions.

“Bartholomew Cummings III,” her eyebrow arched knowing even I would recognize the name of the old Hollywood family. They produced films and had ties back to the beginnings of the film industry.

She included Wes in her eager account of the perfect details of their perfect lunch at the perfect little Italian trattoria. I started to feel a bit angry about her actually enjoying the experience without me until I thought about the fact that I couldn’t have taken her there anyway. Hello! Daylight. Vampire, remember.

“It was a little crowded and noisy,” she explained with a brush of her hand in the air as if that only gave the place atmosphere. The terra-cotta walls and stone floors certainly did, Cordelia described before telling us all about lunch. I tried to look interested in lobster ravioli with saffron sauce, but frankly I could care less about the food.

This was all just a build-up to telling us more about her no-doubt also perfect date. I decided to get it over with. “Tell us about Bart.”

“He goes by Trey,” Cordelia corrected me as if to tell me he had a much classier name than that irritating cartoon character.

What kind of a name was that? Trey Cummings. Well there would certainly be no cummings of any kind around Cordelia. Not once, twice or trey times. Not unless I approved. Which I did not.

Cordelia’s enthusiasm for her date made it clear that this was not a one-time event and she quickly confirmed that by explaining that Trey had arranged dinner for them tomorrow night.

Having convinced myself that Trey Cummings, no matter his Hollywood pedigree or his ability to withstand sunlight, would not lay a finger on my seer unless her desires were perfectly clear in the matter, I took it upon myself to ensure it.

Just conceding that Cordy might have desires that did not include me had me on edge. I could accept that she might not want me in that way if it meant maintaining the status quo, but the thought of her choosing to be with another man set off a possessive streak I wasn’t even aware I had.

I suggested to myself that Cordelia was simply trying to forget what happened last night by arranging this date today. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t going to get in over her head or put herself in danger. It was difficult to separate my feelings of friendship from the desire that was so easily brought to mind.

So I convinced myself that it was all about protecting her. From strangers. From things that go bump in the night. From overeager men who would seek to prey upon someone so beautiful. I guess I even added myself to the list, thinking that this was all about keeping our friendship exactly where it should be.

It certainly wasn’t a protective vibe I felt when I saw her step out of her apartment to greet Trey Hollywood Cummings. He matched her description exactly being tall, tawny-haired, well-built and suited in Armani. Shamefully, I admit that I drooled upon seeing his car. That was forgotten the moment I caught sight of Cordelia in that black mini-dress, her legs looking tanned, toned and impossibly long, feet strapped into high heels.

The elegant beauty who’d graced my arm at the ballet had transformed herself into a sexy siren. Only the fact that I wasn’t alone in my appreciation of her returned my focus where it needed to be: keeping her safe.

They drove across town to a newer restaurant where they were immediately taken inside to their reserved table.

I had followed from a comfortable distance in the Plymouth, but found that getting into the place was even more difficult than finding parking. Then I watched from a carefully chosen spot inside the building as they had their dinner. From my location, I couldn’t hear their conversation, but I could tell from Cordelia’s body language and expressions that her initial excitement over this date had started to wear thin.

That didn’t mean she wasn’t going to give him a chance at fixing the situation or that Trey Hollywood wouldn’t try to recoup his investment in escorting Cordelia out to dinner. As soon as I realized that they were headed out of the restaurant, I took advantage of my natural speed, made it to my car and was ready to follow. After the first five minutes, I could tell that they were headed straight back to Cordelia’s apartment instead of moving onto a club like I figured they might.

So I took a few of the usual shortcuts, picked out a covert parking place for my car and made it to Cordelia’s front door before they got close. Time enough for me to go inside and give Dennis a head’s up. I thought that I’d have time to make it out again after gaining the ghost’s cooperation but Trey must’ve hit every green light in Los Angeles getting back here.

Cordelia and Trey were standing at the door when I took the first step outside. The shock on their faces was probably no less than my own. Thinking fast, I had to come up with some excuse for being there.

Telling Cordelia I’d been following her and her date all evening would not have gone over very well. Yeah. That was me being subtle with understatement. As it was, I could already see the growing suspicion in her eyes once the initial surprise wore off.

“Angel, what are you doing here?” I noticed that Trey’s head quirked a little as if he recognized my name. Had Cordelia been talking about me or just the fact that she worked for Angel Investigations?

“Cordelia’s boss,” he gave me a look that suggested he was sizing up a rival.

Neither Cordelia nor I corrected him. She was still waiting for her answer while I was glaring back at Trey. Natural menace comes in handy now and then. I kept it up until his blue eyes darted away nervously.

“I didn’t expect you two back so early,” I commented smoothly giving myself credit for not stumbling over an explanation. “I just popped in to see if the refrigerator was fully stocked.”

Trey made an attempt at sounding suave and getting in a dig at the same time, “Putting champagne on ice for us?”

“No, I was headed to the butcher shop,” I snapped. At least I didn’t come right out and say I was checking my blood supply, but I knew that Cordelia would think it was a legitimate reason for my presence.

“Perk of the job,” Cordelia quickly explained. “Some people get Christmas bonuses and pension plans. I get Angel’s bl— meat.”

Trey’s jaw clenched and unclenched, trying to find his way to understanding Cordy’s words. “Your boss gives you his meat?” There was a hard emphasis on the last word as if he was trying to read between the lines.

“Every other day,” she rolled her eyes.

“As long as we’re talking steaks and hamburgers,” Trey chuckled as he read a little too much, “I guess that’s okay.”

Cordelia obviously caught onto the ribald turn in the topic. She faced me with a fury as she realized we’d somehow fallen into suggesting I was putting it to my secretary three times a week. Her hand curled into the lapel of my jacket as she pulled a little closer to ensure that I saw the glint of anger in her eyes.

“So you’re Cordelia’s date,” I stated the obvious. Thinking he looked shorter than I did, I straightened my spine and stood as close to Cordelia as possible. “I’m Angel.”

Trey used his full name when introducing himself. We didn’t bother to shake hands. Both of us knew that we hated each other at first sight and that in a few minutes one of us wasn’t going to be standing on Cordelia’s doorstep. “Guess you better get going then, Angel. Butcher shop must be closing soon.”

“It’s open all night,” I informed him refusing to budge an inch away from the door. My shoulders were pretty much blocking either of them from going inside. “I’m not really in a hurry.”

Giving me another suspicious glance, Cordelia slowly released her hold on my lapel and turned back to Trey. “Y’know, it’s a good thing that Angel showed up tonight.”

“It is?” Both Trey and I asked only to glare at each other for doing so.

Letting out a huff, Cordelia dramatically slapped her hand on her forehead. “I can’t believe I forgot to tell you about the Harris-Rosenberg case.”

“The what?” Apparently my skill at lying was exceeded only by hers.

Her eyes popped open, staring hard, “See. I forgot to tell you. They’re coming first thing in the morning.”

“Xander and Willow?”

Cordelia stared at me with growing exasperation and I finally got it. She was trying to give Mister Hollywood the brush off and I wasn’t helping. I remedied that quickly enough. “Sorry, Trey. Looks like you’ll have to go. Business calls. Can’t have you listening in on the case. Confidential investigational material.”

“I understand,” Trey answered as he stared down into Cordelia’s eyes looking a little sad. Not that I was going to feel sorry for him. Good riddance. Especially since Cordy seemed to want him gone too. His blue gaze flicked to me for a second before it returned to her. “Everything you said tonight suddenly makes sense.”

I got the feeling that Trey wasn’t the dumb ox I imagined him to be. Something that Cordelia had said to him had been about me and I burned with curiosity at knowing what it was, though not enough to delay his exit.

“Guess this is it, doll,” Trey commented ruefully as he bent down and stole a kiss from Cordelia knowing it would piss me off.

I heard Cordelia’s in-drawn breath just before he touched her and it was all I could do to suppress the growl that churned in my chest. I wanted to grab Cordelia by the arms and pull her away from the presumptive prick who dared to touch what was mine. Somehow, I managed to control the urge to rip him apart.

That hot, flaming possessive rage licked at my insides. It was only the look of fear that appeared on the man’s face when he lifted his head and saw my expression that finally calmed me down again. Though my face hadn’t shifted, I could tell that he’d seen something in my eyes that scared him. Trey hastily excused himself and made a quick escape to his very nice car.

Only after the car’s taillights disappeared in the distance did Cordelia turn to face me. She was silent for a moment, looking up and down at me as if expecting to find something. Then her finger poked into my chest and she pushed me back into the apartment. I backed up and we both waited for Dennis to close the door before we spoke.

Ladies first. “That was the most lameass excuse for being here, Angel.”

“Sounded good to me.”

“Pfft! It would,” Cordelia tossed her tiny handbag onto the couch and proceeded to remove her shoes one after the other sighing as her toes curled into the carpet. “It was nice that you want to check up on me, but I’m a big girl. I can handle things myself.”

Grateful that she didn’t immediately pick up on the fact that I had been following her or that I was as angry as hell that Trey kissed her, I decided to let her in on a small part of the truth. “I came here to talk to Dennis.”

Cordy pulled off her earrings, dropping them into the palm of her hand, fiddling with them as she contemplated my words. “To Dennis? Since when do you talk to my ghost? You barely spoke to him when you were staying here much less after you moved into the hotel.”

“True, but I wanted to make sure you’d be safe tonight. That he wouldn’t let Trey do anything you didn’t want.” Then I found myself saying, “You’ve had enough of that lately.”

Her lush mouth dropped open into a surprised ‘O’ as I brought up the forbidden subject of night before last. Ignoring it, Cordelia commented, “Dennis always keeps an eye on me.”

“Too close an eye,” I had to laugh at the sudden and irrational flash of jealousy that sprouted at the idea that Dennis could see Cordelia anytime and in any state of dress he desired. My stupidity in being jealous of a ghost wasn’t lost on me. Fortunately, I saw the humor in it too. “What was that you once said about a loofah?”

Cordelia grinned at me and I felt relieved at the thought she might not be mad at me for showing up. “Like I said…Dennis is the best. Next to you.”

Compared to a ghost. It could be worse, I suppose. At least it distracted me from thoughts of erasing Trey’s touch from Cordelia’s lips by kissing her. “How’d it go?”

My casual tone surprised even me. Cordelia dropped the earrings back and forth between her hands several times before answering. “I was bored. He talked about filmmaking and acting and all the things I thought I would love, but Trey went on and on about it. He wasn’t that way at lunch the other day.”

“What did you talk about then?”

“Me,” answered Cordy simply. “My acting career.”

It had been quite a while since she’d even mentioned it much less gone to an audition. I was quick to point out that he may have taken her as a job-seeking actress. Reminding her of Russell Winters, I suggested Trey might have thought to use the old casting couch ploy.

The fact that Cordelia did not immediately bite my head off for suggesting it made me think I’d been right. “I think I confused him when I started talking about Angel Investigations. We didn’t even get to dessert before I knew I wanted to leave.”

“You certainly got back here fast enough,” I commented only to realize that Cordy’s eyes narrowed in response.

“How’d you know?”

“It’s still early,” I shrugged hoping she’d take that as an answer. “Quick dinner.”

Cordelia nodded, “Yeah. Sorry to drag you into it, but I was trying to figure out a way to get rid of him when you opened the door.”

“So you won’t be seeing him again.” Did that sound smug? I hoped not, but I could not stem the tide of triumph that claimed me.


I kept my mouth shut after that knowing that whatever came out would sound too pleased by the notion. I’d be able to relax now and we’d get back into that same old rhythm of our lives. We’d be friends, we’d take care of my son, and we’d train together.

There’d be no more dates with Trey Hollywood.

“I’d better go,” I told her. The longer I stood there looking at her, the harder it was to step away. Finding myself calculating the length of time it would take to get her out of that dress was a definite sign that I had to be out of there.

Reaching out, Cordelia touched my arm, just the gentle pressure of her hand against the sleeve of my jacket. “It’s still early. Stay a while. It’ll only take me a minute to get out of this dress.”

Three seconds, tops, with my help of course.

That wasn’t what Cordelia meant. No doubt she planned to cover that lithe body up in her favorite comfort clothes. She’d have Dennis popping popcorn in the microwave while we curled up on the couch watching a movie that would either make no sense to me or would leave me laughing in all the wrong places.

We hadn’t done that it a while and certainly never alone. The idea tempted me, but I knew that I couldn’t handle that so soon. Not when thoughts of Cordelia and couches brought up…far more than just a few lustful memories.

“Better not,” sounding deeper than usual, my voice was already starting to betray my desires. My hands, of their own accord, wandered up to touch her face. I saw the question in her eyes and only barely managed to redirect my path by pressing my lips to her forehead instead of where I really wanted to place them. “Goodnight, Cordy.”

“Angel,” she sounded out my name on the lush lips I’d wanted to kiss.

I didn’t wait for remonstration. Nor did I look to see if there was anger in those eyes that sometimes said so much.

I left.

Driving back to the hotel, I tried to forget how Cordelia felt in my arms. Suppressing images that filled my head. Willing my body not to respond to the memories of my mouth on her breast and my fingers sliding along the slick folds of her sex. Focusing on tonight’s triumph was my only recourse.

Unfortunately, it was short-lived. No less than two days later, Cordy was at it again. There was another guy. This one she’d struck up a conversation with at the local Dry Cleaners. I couldn’t believe that she was picking up dates there. Someone who didn’t have a housekeeper to take care of his dry cleaning had never been on Cordelia’s ‘To Do’ list.

Even Cordelia admitted it when I casually asked her about her upcoming date. She was vague. Not in a suspicious way, just evasive. As if there was something about the guy she didn’t want me to know.

This was worse than Trey Cummings. Cordelia had no idea who or what Mister Dry Cleaners was all about. He could be a serial killer for all she knew about him. The fact that Cordelia didn’t give me enough information to have him investigated forced my hand.

I had no choice but to protect her from this potential opportunist.

The three times they were supposed to go out together, I managed to arrange for Cordelia to be too busy with work, too grungy from cleaning or too occupied with Connor to be able to go out with Dry Cleaner Dave. Finally, both of them just gave up deciding that it was too much effort.

I had to give the guy credit for persistence. He’d apparently tried to offer to pick her up at the hotel, but Cordelia told him she wanted to keep her work life separate from her personal life. I’d overheard the phone conversation, felt a twinge of guilt at doing so and a modicum of jealousy over the thought that she wanted a personal life that didn’t include me.

Then I got over the guilt.

Things were fine for a few days until I noticed Cordelia spending an awful lot of time with Wesley. Their conversations would stop whenever I approached, even when making an effort to ease up unnoticed. Apparently, Cordelia had grown radar that could detect me at a hundred paces and all I could do was recall that it was my own fault for teaching her to be ultra-aware of her surroundings during our training sessions.

I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something going on there. Had I missed out on seeing some spark between them? They’d always laughed over their botched kiss back in our Sunnydale days. Now I was catching Cordelia holding Wes’ hand against her face as they talked quietly or putting her arms around him.

She kissed his cheek once and I met Wes’ gaze from across the room. Guess he did not like what he saw there because he separated himself from Cordelia immediately. No sooner had Cordy gone out to pick up sandwiches from the deli across the street than Wes ordered me into his office.

Putting Connor down in the portable bassinet that Cordy kept by her desk, I stepped into Wesley’s office. Dragging the baby into this was not something I wanted to do because I had a feeling things were going to be said in a way that Connor did not need to witness. The kid had already been subjected to my jealous vibes as Lorne called them.

If something was going on between Wes and Cordelia was I really going to try to stop it? They were both important to me. I trusted Wes and I knew that he would never hurt Cordelia. He was human, alive, not evil, intelligent and a whole slew of other qualities that made it impossible to find fault if Cordelia ever made that choice.

What if she did? What if she’d already made it? What if that’s what Wes was planning to tell me?

Now I fully admit that the idea had me just a little deranged. There was a growl in my voice as I approached his desk…formerly my desk, “Get it over with. Say what you have to say.”

“Sit down, Angel.”

“I’d rather stand.” In fact, I was pacing like a caged tiger across the office floor, eyeing my friend with suspicion and using my predatory senses to evaluate his every reaction.

There was no nervousness on his part, which was a good thing. Right? I wasn’t here to frighten him off or to warn him not to touch Cordelia. I just wanted to hear it from him if there was something going on. Then I’d deal with the fallout.

The closer I looked, the more I noticed that Wes appeared quietly determined. “Fine. Just understand that I’m in no mood to deal with lovesick employees at the moment. I need you focused on the mission, not Cordelia.”

“I’m focused,” I assured him. Then I got to the questions that were plaguing me and since he’d used the word, I asked, “Lovesick? Is Cordelia bothering you? She’s been acting a little…”

Wesley sighed deeply and cut me off, “Angel, you’re so caught up in chasing after Cordelia that you’re blind to almost everything around you.”

Chasing after her? “I am not.”

“Be careful,” Wes cautioned me. “You’re too close to her for it to mean nothing. I’m here to caution you against any action that might lead to my needing to stake you.”

He was worried about Angelus, I realized. Guess it was time to tell Wes what Lorne had already revealed to me. “There’s no need for that, Wes. My soul is secure.”

The guarded look he gave me suggested Wesley wasn’t completely convinced. I had to provide more details and when finally he sat back in his chair there was a look of relief on his face. I’d lifted that burden away. Then I had to speak in my own defense as I recalled his accusation of chasing Cordelia.

“I’m not blind,” I told him. “If there is something going on between you two, then just tell me.”

A cold laugh emerged from his chest and there was pity in his eyes. I hated that look and demanded to know what the hell he meant by it.

“I have no designs on Cordelia,” he said though I quickly responded by pointing out the evidence of their touchy-feely behaviors. “I have been going through a rough time since the night of the ballet and Cordelia has been helping me deal with it.”

Frowning, I tried to think of what had happened to Wes that night. Gunn was the one with the flesh wound. I’d heard that Fred had patched him up since Cordelia hadn’t come into the hotel. Then I realized that I had seen Fred and Gunn together quite a lot over the last few days or not seen them because they were out together.

“Is something going on with Fred and Gunn?” I asked for clarification.

“Welcome to my world,” Wes commented sardonically. “Love is in the air at Angel Investigations and I’m choking on it.”

“Fred and Gunn are in love?” I didn’t automatically connect the idea that he was also talking about Cordy and me.

Wes confirmed, “They’ve been dating ever since the ballet.”

I was hit by the sudden realization that Fred and Gunn had somehow managed to bridge the impossible gap between friendship and love. They’d taken a step that I— that Cordelia and I couldn’t take. Not without risking everything. Jealousy twisted my gut into knots as I thought of them easily managing something that was well beyond my reach.

Maybe I was slowly going mad. Everything she did made me want her. I tried to stay away, but that didn’t work because I missed her smile and her nonsensical chatter about the latest Cosmo poll. So did Connor who protested when I decided Cordelia might need a break from the weight of my constant stare.

Much later, I was in the middle of the bed, Connor raised above me, watching as he gurgled and grinned at my vampiric features when her knock sounded on my door. In frozen tableau, I stared at the door waiting for Cordelia to pop her head in, but she waited for me to call out the okay. So I shifted back and lowered Connor so that his back rested against my bent legs.

“Come on in, Cordy.”

She didn’t bother to ask how I knew it was her. I always knew. What I rarely could discern was her reason for coming. At least as long as it took for her to open her mouth because she was never one to beat around the bush when diving straight in managed to get her what she wanted. Tonight the reason was obvious.

This was the first time she’d been in my bedroom since before the night of the ballet. Even now her step seemed tentative as she realized what she’d come for was to be found in the middle of my bed.

I had no illusions that it was me.

Since there was nothing case-wise going on, it was getting close to time for Cordelia to go home. I had deprived her of Connor for the past few hours and she’d finally taken the bait and come looking for her baby snuggles.

“I’m leaving,” Cordelia explained to me. “Can I say goodnight to Connor?”


She looked as if she expected me to climb off of the bed and put him in her arms. I wasn’t feeling that cooperative. All the thinking I’d done about Fred and Gunn made me think that maintaining our status quo relationship was impossible. Things and people changed all of the time.


I felt the mattress springs shift as Cordelia climbed up onto the bed one knee at a time, sitting with her back to me as she faced the baby. Connor’s eyes lit up the moment he saw her.

“There you are,” Cordelia made those cooing noises that always grabbed the baby’s attention. “My sweet baby, Aunty Cordy’s here to get her share of snuggles.”

I’d be only too happy to oblige with the snuggling, though I had a sneaking suspicion that wasn’t the only thing I’d be happy to provide.

As she shifted a little closer, Cordelia put a hand on my stomach and the muscles instantly tensed beneath her touch. She must have felt it too because her hand moved away so fast I might have imagined it being there. Reaching for Connor, she picked up the baby and scooted off of the bed.

It didn’t matter that I knew she liked to rock and walk with Connor at the same time; it just felt like she was evading me. Call it predatory instinct or plain stupidity, I was off the bed and on my feet in a matter of seconds hovering close as she whispered to Connor that she would see him tomorrow.

Placing a kiss on his downy baby hair, Cordelia turned to hand him back to me. She paused catching the look on my face, which must have held a kind of wonderment at the picture they made. Anyone seeing them would never guess that Connor was a motherless child.

“Are you going to take him back or is he coming to the apartment with me tonight?” Cordelia stared at me like I’d grown a third eye until I realized I wasn’t moving. I took Connor holding him in the crook of my left arm.

Seeing that the baby was settled, Cordelia started to move away. Being so close and still feeling that warm rush as I realized just how important she was to my son as well as me, I circled my hand around her upper arm holding her next to me. Cordelia looked a little like a deer caught in the glare of the headlights as she glanced up at me, for good reason, too.

I had every intention of telling her she wasn’t going anywhere. There was no plan after that; I simply didn’t want her to leave.

That was why I needed to let her go, but not before I said, “Goodnight, Cordy.”

“Angel,” she sounded out my name and it felt like a caress against my skin. Palming her face, I pressed a kiss to her forehead and then another against her cheek.

I’d made the mistake of letting her out of my room, allowing Cordelia to escape my attentions. At the last second, I realized the destination of my next kiss and the sight of her lush mouth turned up to mine was almost enough to make me forget myself. It was so easy to let emotions rule your actions and mine were a twisted mess.

Unfortunately, the baby squirmed in my arms caught between us and I had to let her go. Cordelia stepped back with a hasty goodnight and was gone within seconds. The sound of her heart thundering against her ribs made it clear that I’d overstepped the bounds of friendship. Her footsteps in the hall and on the stairs carried her away at a fast pace.

So which was it…fortune or misfortune…a mistake? When it came to Cordelia, I was rapidly starting to lose touch with my own understanding of our relationship. In my head the difference between friends and lovers was always an absolutely defined line.

Then again, I’d never really had friends since my human days and even then they were my roustabout drinking buddies, never female. I suppose that I never really knew the definition of true friendship until Cordelia came along. Doyle, Wesley, Gunn and Fred…I know exactly what category to place them in.

Fred’s a woman. Take her for example. She’s quickly become part of our close-knit family of friends. Her quirky ways and brainy schemes fascinate me. Part of me is completely relieved that she’s fallen for Gunn because it means that Fred has gotten over the crush she developed after I saved her in Pylea.

I’d defend Fred with my life just as I would the others, but comparing my friendship with her to what I have with Cordelia seems…well, I don’t know what it seems. That is half the problem.

I’ve known Cordy longer. We’ve been through so much together. She’s my seer. The pain she feels is real when the visions come and it’s all because of me, but she takes it and goes on. Between the two of us, I sometimes think she’s the real champion to put up with everything that the PTB send her way. I’m just the muscle that makes it happen.

Does she know how much I value her presence in my life, that I’d do anything for her, anything to keep her at my side? Is that why I’ve been so ‘overprotective’ as she calls it? I’m just assuring her safety.

Vampires are known to be possessive of things they’ve claimed. That includes their progeny, mates, pets, minions and belongings. Most vampires don’t have souls or the emotional ties that I do much less true friends. Is it any wonder I have trouble in categorizing where they and especially Cordelia fit in my life?

I’ve known Wesley almost as long as Cordelia. We’ve had such ups and downs in our relationship and our friendship is stronger for it. He sees me for what I am and could be despite everything he knows about my past. He has a strength and determination I never would have suspected upon first glance back in Sunnydale, a resolve to do what is right no matter the consequences.

Because of that, I trust him with my life because I know he’d be willing to take it if the circumstances dictated the need to do so. I love him like the brother I never had. Despite my two-hundred plus years in excess existence, Wes sometimes takes on that older brother air, especially when he’s talking to me about Cordelia. I appreciate his counsel even when I choose to ignore it.

Gunn is the same, the younger counterpart to Wesley. If he wasn’t so caught up in his new relationship with Fred, he’d probably be trying to kick my ass for my recent behavior. He’s as protective of Cordelia as I am. Treats her like a sister and would be watching me like a hawk if he had the ability to read my mind, had a clue of what went on the night of the ballet or was observant enough to notice that I can’t keep my eyes off of her these days.

Not that I can’t be trusted. I’m doing my best to protect her. From me. I’m just not going to let anyone else take advantage of her while I’m at it.

Lovers fall into such a separate category from friends. At least they always have for me as I sit here contemplating the subject. I could draw a line down the center of a blank page and easily put people into columns.

Darla… that’s an easy one. She and the vampires I created all fell into the same category and had nothing to do with friendship.

When it comes to Buffy, I’m ashamed to admit it, but we were never really friends. I watched over her, fought for her, protected her and loved her, but we were never really anything but star-crossed lovers. I know that now. I think I knew it then, but would never have admitted it to myself. I was too caught up in her to see beyond the moment and it led to my own downfall.

Technically, placing Cordelia on that list should be easy. Friend. That’s what she is and always has been to me. Well, except when she was more of an irritating beauty with a penchant for hitting on me back in our early Sunnydale days. How different she is now than then only somehow even more beautiful to me because she no longer hides behind a metaphorical mask.

Cordelia is radiant and good and pure of heart and I’m drawn to that inner beauty as much as I am to her physical form. The more I think about her, the more I want her. She should be mine in every way there is to be mine. I fantasize about taking her, claiming her, loving her until she’s physically dependant upon me for the pleasure I can give her.

Maybe I’m just a little obsessed with the idea.

So to which category does Cordelia belong? She’s never been my lover, but I want her to be. She is my friend and I’ve fought so hard to get that back, I don’t want to chance losing it. I can’t lose it. I won’t lose it.

I just need to keep control. Be supportive. Be the friend that I say I am. Ignore the jealousy that pulls at my reigns whenever she dares to talk to another man. As long as she’s safe, as long as it’s what she wants, I have to try to let her live her life.

Now that her attempted dating stint with Dry Cleaner Dave was over, I thought that I could relax. Not so. As if my goodnight kisses, however close or distant they might have been to her lips, spurred Cordelia into action, she announced the next day that she had a dinner scheduled with yet another guy.

Where were these men coming from? Had they always been around and I never saw their interest in Cordelia or was it because she hadn’t been interested in them that I ignored their presence? This was someone else I’d never met and I figured to do the same with Musician Mike as I did with Dave from the Dry Cleaners. My plotting didn’t get very far. This time intervention came directly from the PTB.

Cordelia had a vision and had to cancel her evening plans thanks to the migraine that lingered even after the mission was complete. Part of me was selfishly grateful to the PTB for their timing, but seeing the woman I— seeing Cordelia in pain quickly squashed my momentary glee that Mike would be making music on his own tonight.

I’d bundled Cordelia into my arms, tucked her into my bed and arranged for Fred to take care of Connor just so Cordy could get some rest. So what if she has her own bedroom here at the hotel, I never consciously thought about it at the time. All I knew was I put her where she belonged.

The next week was all business. Personal business with Holtz and his gang of mercenaries. That was when I learned that Wesley had come across a prophesy involving me killing my son. He didn’t want to believe it, but the nature of his business in dealing with ancient texts, the mystic and occult all suggested that one day I would be responsible. Wesley informed me that if I hadn’t already made him aware of the permanency of my soul, which he verified with Lorne and several other sources after our meeting, he would have been led to desperate measures.

So the threat from Holtz was ended though he was but one of many who sought to capture or destroy my son. Wolfram and Hart, corporate evil itself, remained intact, but I made it clear that Connor is off-limits. They believed me when I threatened their lives because I certainly meant it and they’ve experienced what I’m capable of.

Don’t they know by now not to get to me through my family? Lilah Morgan walks a very thin line and if she ever crosses it again she’ll find that I’m not one to ignore my threats when I make them. She can consider it a promise should she ever again try to manipulate my actions by endangering Cordelia or Connor.

Somehow, we’d all made it through the crisis intact. I went through a period where I was being overprotective when it came to my son to the extent that I even distanced myself from Cordelia. I know that hurt her because I could read it in her eyes and if there is one person in the world I’d trust with him it would be her, but after all that had happened I needed a little one-on-one time with Connor.

So I can say without a doubt that what happened next was my own fault. By the time I learned that Cordelia was dating again, she’d already been out twice with the guy. Worse, this wasn’t some stranger that I could manipulate with scare tactics, or brush off by causing Cordelia to be so late that he would give up. It was someone who knew precisely who she was and whose background even I couldn’t deny was spotless.

Paul Fletcher wouldn’t be working as David Nabbitt’s personal assistant if his record wasn’t as clean a whistle. He was fully aware of Cordelia’s status as a seer, that she worked at Angel Investigations and that I was a vampire. No doubt he had been the one to garner detailed information on me and mine to begin with.

Obviously, short of tossing PA Paul into the trunk of the Plymouth and abandoning him in the middle of the desert, I was at a loss of how to stop this from happening. Wes pointed out to me that maybe I shouldn’t even try. Cordelia deserved to make a choice on her own.

I wondered then if Cordelia even considered that I might be a choice that she could make.

So I tried to let go. To give her some space. I determined that I wasn’t going to follow them around town like I had with Trey Hollywood Cummings. After all, I’d only done that because I didn’t know the guy or if he could be trusted. Not that I trusted any man when it came to behaving himself around Cordelia. From what I’d seen, Paul Fletcher was a gentleman. A rare find in today’s world and despite the jealous churning in my gut, I could understand why Cordelia would be interested.

I honestly tried to be good and be that supportive friend I’d promised myself that I could be, but it didn’t work out as I’d planned. As soon as I saw the flowers adorning her desk the morning after their latest date, I knew it was a bad sign. I didn’t know what Nabbitt’s PA made in the salary department, but it was clear that he could afford the best.

Cordelia seemed overly pleased with PA Paul and gushed over the details of their date. She told me what a relief it was to find someone she could talk to about her real role and the happenings in her life. I listened attentively. Too attentively because I can probably recite the details even now.

When I caught them on the phone during work hours, I growled that personal lives needed to be kept personal. Work hours were for work. So what if it was a dead day with nothing going on. There was filing to be done. She had a whole pile of old cases that had been left in her ‘To Do’ bin during last couple of weeks.

She’d smoothly told Paul that she’d call him right back, hung up the phone and stalked over to where I was leaning up against the front desk watching her. Standing less than a foot away, she glared up at me with her hands on her hips in that stance that tells me I’m in trouble.

“You are not my boss,” Cordy reminded me smugly. “If Wes has a problem with me making a personal phone call he can tell me. YOU on the other hand can mind your own business.”

I wanted to tell her that she was my business, that I didn’t want her cooing over the phone to PA Paul about his choice of restaurant or his manners or his smile or his foo-foo flowers. I was too damn jealous of the fact that the brilliant smile on her face was meant for him.

“You’re right,” I responded stonily. I wasn’t going to let it get to me. Didn’t I want her to be happy? Friends wanted their friends to be happy.

Cordelia looked at me suspiciously. My ready agreement floundered her completely. For once she was at a loss for words. Finally, she changed the subject, asking me, “Are we still training later?”

Not trusting my voice, I simply nodded. Maybe I knew that it wasn’t the best idea, but I wanted to be near her and that was the one legitimate way barring Connor’s presence that I could devise. It took focus and determination to concentrate on what we were supposed to be doing: sparring hand to hand, moving in sync together while we practiced offensive strategies and defensive techniques.

I was deep into thinking about the things I did that were not scheduled as a part of those training sessions: stealing caresses of her sweat-slicked skin, rolling on the mat just to feel my weight pressing her beneath me, drinking in her clean, salty, womanly scent as if it was ambrosia. Just the thought of doing that again today was made me twitch in anticipation of it.

Then Cordelia went on, “Because I think I should just reschedule. Paul and I have a date tonight. Don’t want to be late.”

I stared wordlessly as I realized Cordelia was canceling her alone time with me in order to go out with PA Paul. What was I supposed to do…lock her in the basement and force her to spend time with me? Sounded like a damn good idea.

“We can do it anytime, Cor,” I told her, my mind taking a side trip as it bypassed the training and went straight to thoughts of caressing her golden skin and kissing my way down her belly as I had the night of the ballet.

For a moment, I wondered if the husky tone of my voice had rekindled the memories for her as well because Cordelia’s eyes opened up darkening as they stared deeply into mine. Her tongue swept across her lips just before she commented, “Good, I’ll just let Paul know to expect me on time. That means I’ll be using the phone.”

The little jab was like a knife she kept twisting in my heart. It wasn’t such a dead useless organ as one might think. My misery was equaled only by Wesley’s. He was still moping about Fred while I brooded about Cordelia. She’d be the first to say that our manly bonding over pots of English tea was more like a pity party.

Two weeks went by during which I tempered my resolve to let Cordelia explore this relationship through my frequent rendezvous with the basement punching bag. I can honestly say that I had nothing to do with the natural death of their potentially…nice relationship. Even on the occasions I could tell that PA Paul had his hands on her or that he’d been kissing Cordelia, I had managed to control the urge to rip him apart. After all, he was truly a nice guy and was apparently willing to take things slowly with Cordelia.

I was certain that wouldn’t last. How could any man resist the temptation that was her? Not when it came wrapped up in silks and scented with perfume, accompanied by her smile and that blunt sense of humor.

When Cordelia arrived back at the hotel instead of going home after her date with Paul and I found her at the bottom of the stairs with tears in her eyes, I didn’t know what to do first. Kill him or comfort her. She buried her face in my shoulder, her tears dampening my shirt. My arms wound around her pulling her close as I sought answers to the questions that were rattling around in my head.

“What is it, baby?” I smoothed my hands up and down her bare back, my fingers trailing along her spine. I don’t think either one of us noticed that little term of endearment. She was too busy sniffing away her tears and I was caught up in trying to soothe her.

Cordelia grabbed a handful of my shirt, just holding on. “It’s Paul. He…”

Worst case scenarios popped in, “Was there an accident?” Maybe it was slightly evil of me to hope we would have a funeral to plan.

She shook her head. “No accident.” Cordelia answered in a way that made it sound worse.

“So he’s not dead?”

If there was a hint of disappointment in my voice Cordelia missed it. “No,” she sobbed softly. “I wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore if that was the case.”

Worry? PA Paul had given her reason to worry. I assumed the worst. A growl rose up in my chest and Cordelia lifted her head away from the vibration of it against her ear. Her tear-bright eyes looked as conflicted as I’d ever seen them.

I had to hear it from her lips even if my senses were already giving me answers. “Did he touch you?”

She looked a little confused by the query. “Paul touches me all the time.”

Oh, I already knew the lingering scent of his hands on her skin, but a flash of anger made me lose my senses. I couldn’t open myself up to knowing they’d been intimate, and my imagination combined with her tears to convince me that he had done something without her consent.

There was a tremor in my voice when I tried to speak. “Did he—,” I felt the demon in me clawing for release. “Tell me the truth, Cordelia. I’ll deal with him.”

With a sob, she pushed away from my chest and turned her back on me. “There’s nothing you can do.”

The backless dress that clung to her figure dipped all the way down past her tattoo barely covering the shadowy cleft of her bottom. The red fabric flared out across those rounded curves. When my gaze traveled down the length of her legs I thought about Paul touching her skin and nearly went ballistic.

In many ways Cordelia was still so innocent. Despite her high school flirtations, demonic impregnations, and Pylean crush, I believed her actual sexual experience was limited. As if there was something unawakened within her. Meant for me— even if it was something I could never have.

Now I convinced myself that Paul had done something to hurt her and I was beginning to look forward to crushing his skull with my bare hands. Stepping up behind her I moved in close, a whisper away. “Did he hurt you?”

“No,” she sniffed and wiped away a few stray tears. “I wasn’t expecting him to…”

I didn’t want to hear what was coming. “Force you?”

“Yes, exactly. Paul wanted me to—to—and it was all so sudden. I wasn’t expecting to be asked to do that. At first he didn’t want to take no for an answer, but I refused.”

Relief flooded through me. I couldn’t exactly imagine PA Paul as the S&M type and had to wonder exactly what it was that he wanted her to do that was so upsetting.

Considering the kind of things I read in her Cosmopolitan Magazine one time while I was stuck at her apartment, Cordelia wasn’t at all naive about sex, but there was a big difference between reading about something and actually doing it.

Maybe Paul hadn’t actually tried to rape her. I considered that she might just be afraid of what he wanted or think it was just too kinky. “What’s he into, Cordy? Tell me.” I can tell you that I wasn’t asking just out of friendly concern.

Even though I was surprised that she would come to me with her sexual hang ups, I was curious to know where she drew the line. Sex with vampires was probably at the top of her list of A Cold Day in Hell activities. It was a line we couldn’t cross if we were going to remain friends, but a part of me wanted to erase that line, completely obliterate it. And if anyone was going to introduce Cordelia to more adventurous sex, I sure as hell didn’t want it to be PA Paul.

“All he thinks about is the office.”

My mind turned instantly to swiping away the items on my desktop, straddling her across my lap in my leather chair, or taking her up against the front counter. Actually, looking at the lobby, I realized there wasn’t a piece of furniture or available space where I couldn’t imagine a sexy scenario.

Office sex seemed pretty tame compared to the other things rolling around in my head. I tried to offer some friendly advice despite wanting to snap Paul’s twig of a neck with my bare hands. “The important thing is that you enjoy being with him.”

“Oh, I do. It’s great to be with someone who knows who I really am.” Cordelia’s usually bright smile wavered. “He’s just asking too much. I can’t do what he wants.”

“Then don’t.”

The sniffles returned and her eyes watered up again. “It’s not that simple. He wants us to be together. I was forced to—”

Call it a moment of insanity. I didn’t wait for her to finish speaking. The notion that Paul had forced her to have sex with him returned full blown. Words wouldn’t suffice. There were other ways to discover the truth of how far things had gone, so I opened my senses up to the discovery.

Two steps covered the distance separating us. Taking her arms in both hands I yanked her back until she connected with my chest. Urgency made me less than gentle causing her to cry out in surprise.

“Forced to do what?” I growled while burying my face in her upswept hair and taking in her scent. My hands moved to places that would contain lasting hints of Paul Fletcher’s touch.

Cordelia trembled against me and demanded I, “Let go,” but I didn’t. I had reason to be irrational. Surely that can be forgiven.

Through the silk of her dress I cupped her breasts noting her braless state, the delicious weight of them in my palms. My hands weren’t the first to touch her there tonight and jealousy jabbed me like a hot poker. Even as her startled moan sounded in her throat, I had my face pressed against it, her skin hot on my lips as I tasted her there all too briefly.

Finding Paul’s scent on her skin enraged me even though I expected it. So my exploration went one step further to discover just how far things had gone—one step too far.

With one hand still palming a breast, my thumb strumming along its peak, I released its twin to move the other down to the juncture of her thighs. Her hand covered mine in an effort to halt my progress, but I continued anyway. The heel of my hand pressed firmly and circled her mound causing her to buck against me. Fresh arousal scented the air, but there were no residual traces of sex or any hints of blood.

I wanted to keep my hand there, to stroke her until her wetness covered my fingers, lift her up against the file cabinet and wind her beautiful legs around my waist, bury myself deep inside her.

Suddenly, Cordelia twisted out of my arms to hiss, “What is your damage? Did someone slip doximal in your blood tonight or have you just gone completely insane?”

It didn’t take a dose of doximal to bring my demon to the surface. I recognized my own possessive streak. I knew that deep down I didn’t like other men touching what was mine. That was pure animal instinct and I couldn’t deny that I didn’t like to share.

Anyone who dared hurt Cordelia was in for a world of pain themselves, but PA Paul had done nothing more harmful than kiss her goodnight. Hasty conclusions and overreactions aside, I figured I had a right to my concerns. She was my responsibility. I wasn’t about to let anyone get away with hurting her. Something had seriously upset her tonight and my actions only made it worse.

“Answer me,” she demanded hotly, her breath coming in heaving huffs of air. “I come to you about Paul and you practically maul me.”

“Just making sure he hadn’t touched you,” I answered slowly realizing that my method of determination wasn’t exactly platonic or very gentlemanly. My hands curled at my sides as I tried to reign in the need to wipe away his kisses by replacing them with my own.

Cordelia crossed her arms and glared at me. I could practically see steam spouting from her ears. “So what if he did. I’m dating him, dumbass.”

“You were crying. You said he forced you. I thought he might ha—”

“That he might have done what you just did?”

She had every right to be furious with me, I realized. Lifting a hand to the nape of my neck, I massaged away the building tension there. I could do nothing about the more obvious tension in my loins. The extent to which I wanted her was all too clear and I didn’t bother to try to hide it.

Cordelia’s gaze dropped momentarily and a strangled gasp caught in her throat before her eyes flashed back up to mine. She looked flushed and confused and edging on angry. My apology came quickly before she could say anything else.

“I’m sorry, Cordy. I shouldn’t have touched you that way. I just reacted.”


Considering what her response might have been, I considered that single syllable a huge break. She could have laid into me with a full array of verbal barbs, but she did not. So I grabbed the opportunity to redirect us back to the reason she came to me in the first place.

“Tell me what really happened tonight.”

“David has business in Malaysia over the next six months,” Cordelia explained after a moment or two. “Paul has to go with him.”

“Oh.” It suddenly clicked that she’d meant that Paul only thought about work, not office sex as I had figured. Got that one wrong. My bad.

Then I realized this also meant that my rival would be gone.

My joy at the thought of sending Paul off to Malaysia was short lived when I connected what Cordelia had been trying to tell me with this new piece of information. “He wants you to go with him, doesn’t he? That’s the decision you’re being forced to make.”

Cordelia nodded.

It felt like dying all over again.

“He’s a nice guy. I like him a lot.” I felt like a failure in the friendship department when I realized how badly I had screwed this up. Not only had I misinterpreted what Cordy was saying, but I treated her like crap instead of being supportive. I’d probably just given her all the reason she needed to take Paul up on his offer.

“Malaysia’s a long way from L.A.” It was a hell of a long way from me and I felt a sense of panic start to build up in my chest. Cordelia having other friends, or finding someone who truly loved her—I suppose that I could live with that if I had to, but being separated on that kind of scale just wasn’t acceptable.

I pulled out my ace in the hole. “What about Connor? Babies change a lot in six months.”

“That’s why I told him I couldn’t go. One of the reasons. My life is here with y— Angel Investigations. I’m your seer. I can’t go world traveling. We have a mission.”

I just stared back in utter relief that she wasn’t telling me that she was leaving tonight. “You’re not happy about staying either.”

Cordelia went on to tell me that while Paul understood the many interruptions in their plans and the delays caused by her involvement with Angel Investigations as my seer, they were both too involved in their lives at work to make a real go of it. He couldn’t stay in LA with her and she couldn’t go to Malaysia with him.

“He shouldn’t have bothered asking. That was never an option. Was it?” A lump gathered in my throat at the thought of her taking off for the far parts of the globe.

Looking cross, Cordelia slapped my chest only to leave her hand there. “No, Broody. If I came back to LA from Pylea, I’m not about to choose Malaysia over you and Connor.”

I wanted to read more into those words than I suspected was there. I said nothing as I trailed my thumb along her cheek wiping away the evidence of her tears. She cared enough for the guy to cry over it so the least I could do was pretend to be sympathetic.

“What if I wanted to go?” Cordelia questioned and my thumb paused on its journey at the edge of her jaw as I realized this was some sort of test.

“Is that a hypothetical question?” I needed to know, barely able to sound out the words in order to make the inquiry.

Cordelia asked me again, a determined glint in her eyes, “What if I wanted to go? Would you let me?”

Nothing could stop her if she really wanted it. I wondered why she bothered with such a question when the answer was so obvious. If I had a choice in the matter there was only one response.


She nibbled on her lush bottom lip as she contemplated my response, her hand still on my chest and mine on her face until finally the corners of her mouth quirked up into a smile.

“Guess I should say goodnight to Connor and head home,” Cordelia told me and I knew that she wasn’t ready to explore the reason for my actions or her smile.

I didn’t want her to go, but after my behavior tonight it was probably for the best. I dropped my hand away and let her wander up the stairs. Following her up there was not the wisest thing to do, so I ignored the urge and simply stood in statue-like form focusing my senses on the floor above. Listening in on the soft soothing sounds of Cordelia as she bade my son a good night and the answering coo of delight that followed her repeating, “I love you.”

Three simple little words. Even the baby understood their worth. Love was a concept I couldn’t seem to grasp when it came tangled up in friendship.

I heard Cordelia descend the stairs behind me and felt the touch of her hand on my shoulder as she stepped down to the floor. She said, “I’m going.”

Wanting the extra clarification, I asked, “Home?”


She paused for a moment glancing back up at me somewhat expectantly. I had no idea why until her expressive brown eyes flashed with disappointment and she muttered a swift goodnight. Could she possibly expect the same goodnight kiss I’d made a habit of giving her of late, even now, tonight, after Paul’s announcement and my inexcusable behavior?

When she started to move away her hand slipped off my shoulder. I caught it, bringing her back to me, threading our fingers together. Then she told me what I didn’t want to hear. “I’d better go.”

“Yes,” I agreed still holding on.

My hand crept up to her cheek and her head turned into my palm, her eyes closing for an instant. I touched my lips to her forehead and then to her cheek and then to the sun-kiss lingering just a hint longer than before.

“Goodnight, Cordy,” I whispered the words right over her mouth. I don’t know how or why I stopped myself from claiming her lips, but I pulled back and let her go.

Cordelia looked a little shaken. I could see it in her eyes that she thought I was going to really kiss her. If she had any idea…though I guess she did after all…know how much I wanted her, she’d make her escape. Guess that’s what she was trying to do when I stopped her from going.

Taking two small steps back, letting her fingers slide from my hand, she responded as she always did with the sound of my name like a honeyed promise on her lips, “Angel.”

My inner voice kept telling me I was ten kinds of a fool for letting her go again when I had her in my arms, her lips open and seeking mine, when I could taste the tangy heat of her arousal in the air. Knowing her body responded to my touch, to my kiss, to my desire. Knowing I wanted her more than any words could ever describe.

This had to stop.

I only seemed to be driving myself insane with wanting Cordelia. I had to know once and for all if there was a chance that our friendship could be more than platonic. Assuming it hadn’t already passed that point long ago without us admitting it. Was it so greedy of me to want to be her friend and her lover? Was it possible to have her and still maintain what we’d created? Would it be better than before or would I only risk everything by asking?

Having been up most of the night weighing every possible permutation, I slept until Connor announced his hunger with a loud cry. I walked into his connecting room, the nursery Cordelia had designed for him and all of my friends had helped to build, and found myself smiling at the memory. Picking Connor up, we moved back to the little kitchenette in my room to prepare his bottle.

After settling my son down, I went to get ready for the rest of the day. Standing in front of my closet after my shower, I stared at the array of black, grey and white clothing and realized everything looked a little glum in comparison to my mood today which was practically cheerful for me.

Today was the day I was going to tell Cordelia about my feelings for her. While that scared the hell out of me, I couldn’t stop myself from grinning like a fool at the idea of being in love with Cordy.

If I was ten kinds of a fool, being a fool in love had to top the list.

So I pulled out a pair of black slacks and the one blue shirt hanging in my closet because I knew she liked me in colors. Don’t ask why I only wear red when I’m evil. Just a habit, I suppose. Now that Angelus is no longer a threat, maybe I’ll have to rethink avoiding his half of the wardrobe. I know Cordelia likes me in leather.

Pressed and dressed, Connor and I headed downstairs only to hear the buzz of conversation in the lobby. Everyone was there except Lorne whom I figured was still asleep in his room on the upper level. Gunn stood with his arm around Fred’s slim shoulder. Wes and Cordelia were standing side by side facing a young couple. The woman looked a little familiar, her café a lait skin, dark eyes and thick curling black hair reminded me of someone I’d seen before.

“Oh my God! Cordelia Chase, is there something you’ve forgotten to tell me?” I knew I recognized the voice and all I could think of was that she was one of Cordy’s friends from Sunnydale.

Cordelia obviously didn’t notice the direction of her friend’s line of sight. “What are you talking about, Aura?”

I recognized the name: Aura. She had kept in touch with Cordelia by phone over the last couple of years. She’d gone to Sunnydale University for a year before getting a job in public relations.

“I’m talking about Salty Junior over there,” she nodded this way. I could only hope that she was referring to the baby.

Slowly, Cordelia glanced over her shoulder sending me a too wide smile with her cheeks flushing beneath her tan. “That’s Connor, Angel’s son.”

I’m not sure why Aura would automatically assume Cordelia was Connor’s mother, not without seeing them together, but it was clear that she’d made that leap within seconds of seeing me with the baby. As I approached, I noticed the man standing next to Aura bore a strong familial resemblance guessing him to be Aura’s brother. He stood silently watching as Cordelia automatically reached out for the baby when I stepped up beside them.

Ignoring her friends for the moment, Cordelia made her usual greeting to Connor who gurgled back and grabbed onto her hair. Wesley noticed my interest in their little gathering and realized he might need to make introductions.

“Angel, you’re just in time to meet Aura and Reginald Albright,” Wes told me with a smile. I hadn’t seen that silly grin on his face in weeks. “Aura is one o—”

“The Cordettes,” I nodded trying to be friendly. “I remember.”

“That was a while ago,” Aura hinted that she was no longer into Cordelia worship even though they remained friends.

“I was going to say one of Cordelia’s friends from Sunnydale, but it seems you do remember,” Wes clarified sounding slightly put out that I’d interrupted him.

With a genuine smile, the man held out his hand, “Call me Reg. Aura and I came to invite everyone to lunch at Chez Renard.”

I shook the hand and thanked him for the offer. Obviously, I wasn’t going anywhere. Cordelia apparently told her friend Aura only so much when it came to her life here at Angel Investigations. “That’s kind of you, but Connor and I have some father-son things we need to do today.”

Reg nodded in understanding, but his outspoken sister had apparently studied blunt speak at the School of Cordelia. “They don’t let you bring babies there anyway. It’s kind of like the anti-smoking law. Chez Renard is a no-crying zone.”

Cordelia sent me a small smile hiding it as she nuzzled Connor’s head. Her friend went on to tell me that she was here in LA to attend her brother’s gallery opening which was scheduled to take place tonight. She thought Cordelia could go as Reg’s date. I wasn’t certain if Aura thought she was taking pity on Reg or Cordelia by arranging that.

That certainly wasn’t how I’d planned the day. I was only slightly mollified when Reg invited all of us to attend the opening. This way, I’d at least get to keep an eye on them.

“Guess this means I’ll be renting a tux again,” Gunn frowned at the idea. Fred laughed beside him. I heard her tease him about the way he looked reminding him that he was gorgeous.

Aura looked like she might agree as she eyed him. Then she glanced back at me, “I don’t think you’ve changed a bit since Sunnydale except for the new attachment.”

She nodded toward Connor who was now sleeping on Cordelia’s shoulder. Curiosity sparkled in her dark brown gaze and I knew it wouldn’t be long before she would find a way to ask Cordy for the details. If she only got half the truth in return it would still be a hell of a story.

Then that gaze slipped from me over to Wes who hadn’t really taken his eyes off the stunning young woman except for the brief period of the introductions. “Are you sure you’re the same Wesley Wyndam-Pryce that Cor pointed out at the prom? That boy was geeky, freaky and too wimpy lookin’ to be you.”

Gunn was laughing as Wes appeared to cringe under the intense scrutiny of Aura’s stare. I supposed that the former watcher had made quite a transformation from his Sunnydale days maturing into a stubble-jawed rogue demon hunter as well as being the competent head of Angel Investigations.

“You’re going to be my date tonight, sugar,” Aura slid her hand around Wes’ arm.

“I-I am?”

“Mmm. Definitely.”

Wes looked like he’d swallowed a lemon. Some of the stories Cordelia had told us about Aura and her other Sunnydale friends was enough to frighten any male into sudden surrender.

“Very well,” Wes agreed as if accepting a challenge to a chess tournament. “I’ll pick you up at eight.”

“Seven-thirty,” corrected Aura as she tugged on his arm and pulled him toward the door. “I want to be there for the big meet and greet. Reg is gonna be famous after tonight and I want to see and be seen by everyone.”

Gunn and Fred headed out the door behind them. “Yo, Wes, we’ll follow you in my truck.”

I noticed that Reg patiently waited as Cordelia handed me the baby. As soon as his sister was out of earshot, he commented, “Don’t feel pressured to go out with me tonight because of Aura. Especially if you two…,” he waved a finger between us as if we were supposed to automatically fill in the blanks with our choice of continuation.

I knew what I wanted to say, but was caught up in the thought that I must’ve been looking a little territorial. Guess it just comes naturally.

“Oh, no,” Cordelia was quick to point out. “There’s nothing. No pressure.”

Wait a second. What did she mean by nothing? I didn’t care if there was an audience in the room or if Connor might hear a word or two that he shouldn’t, “What the hell do you mean by nothing?”

“Nothing,” Cordy shrugged.

That was my answer. The ‘nothing’ was nothing.

“How can there possibly be anything when there’s nothing there to be pressured about?” Cordelia’s logic completely confused me. “If I thought it was something then I might be tempted so say that it wasn’t just nothing, but I can’t. So he’s free, I’m free. We’re all really free to do whatever we want.”

“If that’s what you want,” I answered back rather stonily.

Cordelia hesitated for a moment’s pause before adding, “You’ll be there tonight won’t you?”

“Count on it.”

“I’ll see you then,” she told me taking one last look at the two of us before turning back toward the door where Reg was now waiting for her. Cordelia smiled as she realized both Connor and I were wearing her favorite color, “Blue?”

I shrugged. “Blue.”

“Fred and I have shopping this afternoon,” Cordelia explained and I remembered the big deal they made about getting ready for the ballet. “We’ll probably leave from my apartment.”

I knew I wouldn’t see her again until tonight when she was the official date of the guest of honor. Maybe Cordelia hadn’t set this date up like she had the others, but she was still on the rebound after her sudden breakup with PA Paul. I wasn’t about to let Reginald Albright’s high class charm and Sunnydale roots get in my way tonight.

Frankly, I didn’t know what would happen.

“C’mon, Connor, it looks like we’ll have to beg Lorne for a favor again. He told me how much he loved watching you the night of the ballet and would hardly let me forget that he got to baby sit you. Bet he’ll jump at the chance to watch you while we’re at the gallery.”

Even though I had taken the stance that Cordelia was doing this as a favor to her friend, I hated seeing her on Reg’s arm that night. She looked radiant in her red gown, her hair upswept like it had been on the night of the ballet with tendrils of it falling gently around her face and neck. I was used to watching Cordelia from afar, but seeing her paired up with someone she knew of such long standing and whose dark good looks complimented her own appearance, I was drowning in a pool of jealousy again.

By now it had become habit and this time I wasn’t relegated to watching from some distant corner of the room. I was an invited guest and had the freedom to roam the gallery wherever I wanted. At first, I simply followed them from a distance, but then I needed to get closer just to hear what was being said. I know…I have super senses and can detect conversations from a distance away, but it’s easier to intimidate your rival if you get up close and personal.

So I critiqued his art with the skill of any professional critic present at the gallery wowing Reg and the crowd around us with my knowledge of art. It was lucky for me that he was a good painter because if I’d said anything negative at that moment Cordelia’s stare would have turned deadly.

I fully admit that I didn’t leave them alone all evening. When they turned a corner, I was there. Whey they mingled with other guests, I was there. When Cordelia came out of the ladies room…yes, I was there waiting to catch her alone.

She caught me instead, grabbing me by the sleeve and dragging me through a door marked ‘Private’. It led to a long corridor with what looked to be offices that were all shut down for the evening.

“What is your problem, Angel?” Cordelia demanded of me while looking gorgeous in her state of fury. “You’re making an ass of yourself.”

Denying it, “I am not.”

“Are too.”

“I was just imparting a little wisdom,” I crossed my arms over my chest as she rolled her eyes and walked away from me further down the corridor.

Finally, she turned and stared back at me. “Since when is following me around like a lost puppy a wise thing?”

Lost puppy?

It had been some time since Cordelia had referred to me as a lapdog, but I never liked hearing it then and I certainly didn’t like the comparisons now. I stalked down the corridor and backed her up against the wall pinning my hands on either side of her head leaving her breathless at my sudden move.

“You’re right, Cordy,” I told her much to her surprise. “I’ve been running after you for weeks and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of watching you go off on dates with men who don’t know what they’ve got, tired of scenting them on your skin after you’ve kissed them goodnight, tired of fouling up your dates and behaving like an idiot as I track you around town.”

“Around town? Not just the museum,” Cordelia’s eyes got a little larger as the truth came out.

“You have no idea of the things I’ve done to keep you from going out at night,” I said mocking my own behavior. “What I’ve done to bring you back to me.”

Blinking at the enormity of what I was admitting, Cordelia seemed to keep repeating what I’d just explained. “You kept me from going out?”


I expected the lecturing to begin right after the screaming ended, but to my surprise I could have heard a pin drop in the hall. The soft sound of Cordelia’s breathing was accompanied by her staccato heartbeat tripping along a little faster than normal. My eyes closed listening to the sound and memorizing it.

“Why?” she finally asked in that soft voice she usually reserves for Connor.

“You want to hear the excuses?” I asked with a self-derisive smirk. “I assure you that I’ve accumulated many.”

The arching of her eyebrow was answer enough.

My hands left the wall to cup her face as I pressed my cool lips against the warm skin of her forehead. I followed with another on the curve of her cheek and felt the butterfly touch of her eyelashes against my skin. Her hands curled under my elbows moving along the back of my sleeves as I continued with my habitual path to place a kiss over the beauty mark on her cheek.

“Angel,” she sounded out my name turning her face to align itself under my mouth.

“I’m so in love with you, Cordy. I can’t stand not being able to touch you the way I want to,” I admitted caressing her face and throat with the backs of my fingers. “I’m tired of waiting in the wings as you parade around town with other men hoping my turn will come.”

I didn’t wait for her response. I just kissed her. From the first touch of her lips under mine, I was lost. Any hope I had of regaining my composure, if I ever had it at all, vanished as I claimed her mouth and felt Cordelia’s unbridled response. Her hands gripped my hair as she held me. We rolled against the wall each trying to gain some kind of control over the direction of that kiss, but it had taken on a life of its own and only Cordelia’s need to breathe forced a pause.

“I love you,” I couldn’t seem to stop saying it as I nibbled my way up her throat to the sensitive spot behind her ear. She moaned at the contact pressing her breasts into my chest and I think I growled at the feel of those lush mounds against me.

Then she was laughing, a deep throaty laugh that brought a smile to her face and made me wonder what the hell was so funny. “What is it?” I asked as I met Cordy’s mischievous gaze.

“We’re both idiots,” Cordelia chuckled at the realization. “I’ve loved you for so long I can’t remember not feeling it.”


She pressed a finger up against my lips, but I wrapped my arm around her hauling her up against me and used my other hand to bring her hips into closer contact with mine. I think she got the message.

“I want you too,” she revealed with a promise in her voice. “Let me say something first.”

Her finger dropped away trusting that I would allow it. Listening didn’t mean that my hands couldn’t wander over her curves.

“After the ballet, I was afraid that you’d figure out that I had more control over myself than it seemed at first. Maybe it was her words and the suggestion of how to act, but it was me kissing you,” Cordelia sounded as if she thought she was the only one to recognize that.

“Me too,” I said. “We were following their script, but I let it happen. I wanted you then, Cordy. I thought you were relieved when it stopped.”

“I was. I thought you didn’t want me. You tried to convince me that going back was a bad idea,” she countered in confusion.

“Why the dating frenzy?” I figured I had a right to know even if my body was shouting at me to shut up and pick up where we left off that night of the ballet.

Cordelia nibbled at her lip until I couldn’t stand it and leaned in to capture that same lip between my teeth and suck it gently into my mouth before letting go again. She let out a deep little breath and looked at me as if she’d momentarily forgotten the question.

“At first it was just to throw you off track so you wouldn’t think I was crazy in love with you.”

“That worked,” I admitted. “I didn’t want to ruin our friendship, but I couldn’t stand seeing you with men like Trey Hollywood.”

She giggled as I used my dartboard name for Bartholomew Cummings the third. “I actually liked Paul a lot, but he told me the same thing Trey did.”

“What was that?”

“That I was in love with you.”

Remembering some vague comment made by her producer friend, I guessed I had been right that she’d talked about me at dinner. Only I hadn’t been imagining such a pleasant outcome to the conversation. As for PA Paul, his insightfulness did not come as a shock at all; David Nabbitt only hired the best.

“That’s why I came back to the hotel. I was going to tell you…only you were an ass!”

“Yeah,” I agreed darkly. “I’d probably do it again. Never forget you’re in love with a vampire, Cordelia. I may have a soul. I may love you as no other man could ever love you, but there are things about me…instincts…that go too deep to change.”

Cordelia trembled at my words, but I could tell it wasn’t in fear. Raking her fingers through my hair, she grabbed onto the top of my ear and leaned in close, “Tell me you want me. Tell me you want me now.”

My lips crashed down onto hers for another blinding kiss. I think I’m addicted to her mouth and her skin and her curves. “Now, yes. Can’t stop touching you, Cor.”

“Yes, touch me,” she panted wantonly as my hands slid over her breasts.

“Baby, you’re mine, every inch of you,” I claimed with words what I knew I’d soon claim with my body.

She reached down between us cupping the hard bulge beneath my zipper. I trapped her hand there as I pushed her back up against the wall, but only for a few seconds of pleasure. Taking her wrist, I pulled her after me as I went further down the corridor glancing in room after room until I found one that met my needs.

It had a couch. Beyond that, I didn’t look at the décor.

We stumbled into the room, the door slamming shut behind us, eager smiles and eyes glittering with anticipation. Cordelia walked to the other side of the room with a sashay in her hips and I noted the way that the slit in the back of her dress went up to mid thigh.

Cordelia turned back to me, any trace of shyness or doubt gone from her face as she ran a hand from her throat down low on her flat belly. “I want you to undress me.”

They echoed the ballerina’s words, but this time I knew they were for me.

I approached her from across the room as stealthy as a panther on the hunt. “Is that what you want?”

“Please,” the need in her voice drowned out any last thoughts of saying no. For a few milliseconds I actually contemplated waiting until we could get home to my bed.

Just to confirm it, just to hear myself asking that question again, I cupped her face and looked deep into Cordelia’s eyes as I queried, “You want me to make love to you right here?”

“You know I do,” her answer swiftly ended any attempts at teasing ourselves with the memory of that night.

Only now, I needed to fulfill that first request. I undressed Cordelia by layers taking the time to kiss every inch I uncovered. She wrestled me for her bra until I stopped long enough to remove everything except my pants. I would have continued if Cordy hadn’t put her hand on my belt raising herself up on her knees and asking, “Let me?”

Unbuckled and unzipped, I watched as her crimson-tipped fingers dipped into the opening of my pants. My sharp hiss sounded as her hand brushed against my cock. I pushed the pants further down as she fisted me, her fingers tight and eagerly pumping my flesh. She licked at her lips, seemingly caught up in fascination at the way I fit into her hand. Though I wanted her mouth on me, this first time I wanted to be inside her as I came and I knew I wouldn’t last if she went down on me.

That didn’t mean I couldn’t finish what I started in that prima ballerina’s dressing room several weeks ago. Distracting Cordelia with a kiss, I removed her hand from my shaft long enough to discard the rest of my clothes. She tossed her red bra on the floor and would have shimmied out of those thong panties if I hadn’t stopped her in time to save them for myself.

I left her standing next to the couch, my hands mapping her curves as I made my way to the floor. I stayed at her breasts far longer than I should, leaving Cordelia’s nipples red, erect and shining in my wake. Her fingers dug into my scalp as I used my teeth on the skin just below her navel. Ringing my tongue into that concave little dip drew a cry from her throat and her hips bucked forward in surprised response.

Then I touched her through her panties finding them and her inner thighs already slick. Rubbing my face against the silky scrap of material covering her mound, I let my hands slide up the length of her legs from her ankles to cup the perfect curves of her firm bottom. Then I pulled at the elastic of her thong letting it snap once against her skin just to hear the responsive catch in her breathing.

Hooking a finger inside, I pulled the panties down to the floor leaving Cordy dressed in only her high-heeled red shoes and the lacy garter holding up her sheer silk stockings. The little triangle of brown curls at the apex of her thighs drew me in and I pressed a kiss to its center before rising to my feet.

Taking Cordelia back into my arms, I drew her close exploring the warm cavern of her mouth with my tongue and teasing her with my lips. Gently, I eased her down upon the couch and took a moment to gaze on her beauty. Looking at her was the biggest turn-on I’d ever had knowing that she was my friend, that she loved me and that soon I’d be making her come.

Cordelia pulled me down on top of her and for a few seconds my weight crushed her into the couch. “Anxious, baby?” I nibbled at her earlobe before moving on to that tempting throat and pressing my lips to her thrumming pulse.

“Yes,” Cordy admitting sounding a little frantic with her arousal as she clasped my shoulders. “Please, Angel” she begged, her voice as husky as the raw words that followed, “Please I want you inside me now.”


“Oh God,” she gasped aloud as I let my fingers explore the curves of her sensitive breasts again, my mouth teasing her as I continued my path south. I was too far gone to do them justice now. Later, I promised myself.

I kissed the little red spot that remained beneath her navel and lifted her garter with my teeth snapping it against her skin. Bending one long limb against the back of the couch, I lifted the other over my shoulder. Though I’m certain I could have stayed there all night devouring her body’s natural nectar, I wanted her too much to take my time.

Cordelia could have days and weeks of me worshipping her with my mouth if she wanted it, but right now I just needed to taste her, to watch her fly apart under my tongue and fingers. So my teasing touches ended as I slipped two fingers inside her tight core gathering the slick fluid and easing my entrance, lowering my mouth to her.

“Angel!” Her hips bucked against my face thrusting in time with my fingers. “Yes, yes. So good. Soooo…”

When I sucked the swollen nub of her clit into my mouth, she practically came up off the couch. I knew she was a screamer. Before the last tremor of her climax ended, I was on my knees, cock fisted in my hand, easing myself into her slick entrance. She was so hot and tight surrounding me.

“Cordy,” I needed her mouth on mine again. Addicted, remember? Capturing it, I swirled my tongue along hers as I continued slow thrusts of my hips penetrating deeper into the core of her sex.

I heard a little whimper leave her throat, knew that I was stretching her and tried to swallow her momentary discomfort as her body adjusted to my size. Her eyes were full of love and trust when I paused long enough to gaze into them. “I love you,” I told her again for the sake of reassurance and simply because I decided I liked saying it.

“I love you back,” Cordelia grinned that brilliant smile that lights up her face and everything around her.

I think I lost it at the sound of those words on her lips and the need to bury myself inside her took over. I’d like to think I was still in control, but all I remember are the sensations as my cock stroked her insides, as she clenched tight around me, the feel of her hands palming my ass and her needy cries of encouragement as I fucked us both into a state of oblivion.

Cordelia’s name was a little more than a guttural growl from the depths of my chest as I let my orgasm follow hers. I gathered her up in my arms pulling her on top of me as I sat back on my knees. Still hard inside her, I felt her body slide down my shaft until I was buried to the hilt.

Her hand rubbed over the damp skin of her abdomen, the sensation of me being so deep making her gasp in wonder. We kissed, slowly, gently and my hands swept up to palm her breasts. She moaned into my mouth and her hips began a natural sway rocking against me.

I dropped a hand between us using my thumb to circle her clit as she lifted up and dropped back down. Her languorous pace was killing me, but now that I’d come once I knew that I could give her anything she wanted. My free hand traced her spine moving up and down with the same rhythm she used to ride me.

The hands clutching at my shoulders moved up to palm my face as Cordelia leaned in to kiss me again. Then she wound her arms around me, pressing her breasts tight into my chest and whispered in my ear, “I’m only alive when you’re inside me.”

To say that the control I thought had returned vanished might be an understatement of the fact. All I knew was that I took the rest of the night to make it up to her. It wasn’t until the wee hours of the morning that we finally left the gallery both of us tired and satisfied and totally in love.

The party was long over and the place virtually shut down except for the night guard who gave us an odd look, but let us go without question. I figure it was a pretty easy guess as to what we’d been up to considering our state of dishevelment.

Looking back on it all, I have to wonder at the state of my own fear in taking the leap of faith I needed in claiming Cordelia as my own. We claimed each other that night at the gallery and I learned it was more than just possible to be her lover as well as her friend. It was essential to my being.

I’d been trying futilely for weeks and probably the months before to keep my relationship with Cordelia at the status quo because her friendship fit into my life like a vital piece of the puzzle that is my existence. I simply didn’t realize that there was another way. That it didn’t have to be one or the other: a friend or a lover. We could make something new, something better, a new piece of the puzzle that made it complete.

Now watching as my 11-month-old son futilely attempts to pound a square block into a round hole, I am reminded that not so long ago I made a concerted effort to do the same. Some things couldn’t be forced. They just had to be accepted.

Plucking the block from Connor’s hand I moved it over to the appropriate square. Protesting loudly, he called out to Cordelia as she lay sideways on our makeshift picnic blanket in the middle of the lobby floor, “Mama!”

Cordelia smiled indulgently commenting to me, “You know he’s supposed to learn to do that for himself.”

It had taken me almost two hundred fifty years to understand the lesson about puzzle pieces, so I figured our son could use a little help. Letting go of the block, it slipped into place.

A perfect fit.

The End.

What are your thoughts about ‘Puzzle Pieces‘?
Kudos and Critiques are Appreciated.

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The Challenge by Kimmers:

  • A version of ‘See Jane Date’.
  • Angel is jealous when Cordy starts dating and sets out to ruin her dates.
  • Include: Baby Connor.
  • Other pairings: Fred/Gunn, Wes/?
  • Required Quote: “Baby, you’re mine.”

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