Red Velvet Ribbon
Romance ensues when Cordelia, Angel, and the gang go to the mountains for Christmas.
- CONTENTS: Cordelia/Angel in AtS
- CATEGORY: Holiday Fic / Christmas
- RATING: NC17
- LENGTH: Short Story / 13,000 words
- STATUS: Completed
- FICPIC CREDIT: Lisette
- WARNINGS: Explicit Sexual Content
You made all my Christmas dreams come true. *sigh*
– DamnSkippy to Lysa –
Mood Music: ‘It Must Have Been the Mistletoe‘ (Barbara Mandrell) – You Tube
Red Velvet Ribbon
“Gah! I can’t believe we’re leaving it all behind, Rodeo Drive decked out in lights, just to spend Christmas at some rustic mountain hovel,” Cordelia blurted when the cheerful little sing-along Lorne and Fred had going started to drive her stir-crazy.
The silhouette of the cityscape had long since disappeared beyond the faint horizon. Sloping hills became mountainous and with the higher elevations the roadsides were scattered with traces of a recent snowfall. At the wheel, Angel’s enthusiasm for the winter scenery suddenly vanished at the unexpected outburst. Hadn’t they resolved this before leaving L.A.?
He’d expected Cordelia to be the most excited about this getaway, thinking it would be nice for the gang to spend some time away together. She was always after him to relax and have a little fun. Besides, their hodgepodge group was a family of friends. And families, at least the ones he imagined to exist out there somewhere, spent time together during the holidays. When he pointed that out back at the hotel, Cordy had flashed a blindingly brilliant smile and gone right along with the idea.
Despite her protests to the contrary, it was Cordy who put the idea for this trip in his head, though her wistful memories of skiing at a resort in Aspen were a little more than he could manage to reproduce on short notice. He’d been contemplating a number of reasonably cheap options when a routine case had Angel crossing paths with billionaire entrepreneur David Nabitt.
Even now, Angel wasn’t quite certain how the subject came up, but within minutes of the conversation, he’d been given permission to use Nabitt’s Rocky Mountain lodge for the holidays. “I doubt it’s a hovel, Cordy.”
“Hovel, schmovel,” Cordy harrumphed and gestured toward the forested landscape visible through the front windshield. “It’s in the middle of nowhere, the frozen tundra of the backwoods, home to serial killers and creatures with sharp teeth.”
“In that case,” Wesley commented drolly from the back seat, “we should feel quite at home.”
“You’re putting a cloud over my holiday vibe, Princess,” Lorne stretched his mouth into a smile trying to pry her out of her gloom. “Get into the spirit. Spread a little merriment instead of that pretty pout. It’s not every day you get a vacation.”
Cordelia loved the idea of a vacation and there wasn’t anywhere she’d rather be than with these guys over the holidays, but they might as well have gone to Siberia. They just seemed clueless when it came to the important stuff in life. “Do you know how many pre-Christmas sales we’re missing?”
“I think you’ll survive missing a few sales,” Angel assured her. It wasn’t as if Cordy could afford to shop in those fancy stores, anyway. Besides, he liked looking at her no matter what she was wearing.
“Give it up, sugarplum,” Lorne caught his gaze to tell him he wasn’t going to win that argument.
Gunn tapped Cordy on the head, “Cheer up, girl. This could be fun. All that white stuff out there on the ground just waiting for us. Think about it. I’m guessing you can throw a mean snowball.”
“You bet your shiny bald head I can,” Cordelia answered smugly as her mind easily made the jump to aiming a few snowballs in Angel’s direction. When Gunn kept on about the snow and wanting to check out this whole nature thing, she realized that this was the first time he had even been out of the city, not counting Pylea.
She supposed that it would be a new experience for Lorne, too. While he wasn’t too keen on the idea of being so far from civilization as he knew it, he’d packed enough vodka and cranberry & grapefruit juices to float back to L.A. on a Seabreeze high. Even though Fred had the option of going home to her family in Texas, she chose to stick with them. As far as Cordy was concerned, Texas wasn’t much different than some Rocky Mountain log cabin minus the snow. Pfft, whatever. Either way, it didn’t seem like much of an option to her.
Glancing over at Angel, she saw the telltale signs of early brood mode. His profile was a stone mask, mouth drawn into a straight line, his brows crimped together. He gripped the steering wheel almost stubbornly, like he expected the car to spin around and head back to L.A. of its own free will. Causing Angel’s holiday spirit to shrivel up like a dried up fruit cake suddenly made Cordy rethink her outlook on this whole wilderness experience.
“Score one for Cordelia Scrooge,” her mumbles sounded too low for the others to hear, but she saw Angel’s mouth quirk upward before his face became passive again.
Standing in an arc along the snow-covered drive, with the Plymouth idling behind them, they stared awestruck at the rambling structure that was David Nabitt’s little hideaway. A thick layer of snow lined the rooftop as icicles hung in jagged lines along the eaves that were decorated with strings of colorful blinking lights. The mountain lodge was clearly not a hovel or even the rustic log cabin that Cordelia imagined it to be. Nor could it in any way be described as small.
Gunn pointed out the large mechanical dish perched on the rooftop, “Man, I think we even got satellite T.V. So much for roughing it,” he sounded almost disappointed by the notion.
Lorne touched him on the sleeve, “Honey, we’re three hundred miles away from my masseuse. This is still roughing it, but at least I won’t miss Oprah.”
“This is as close to the house as we’re getting,” Angel walked back to the car to shut off the engine. “The snow drifts are covering the rest of the drive. We’ll have to go on foot from here.”
“As in walk up that hill?” Wide-eyed, Cordelia looked at Angel like he was suggesting a mountain climbing event. Pointing down at her feet, she explained, “I can’t. I’ll ruin my shoes.”
Rubbing away the knot of tension at the back of his neck, Angel fought off the urge to tell her it was her own fault if she wore designer pumps rather than the boots he’d insisted she buy for the trip. Wondering if she’d left them back at her apartment on purpose, he asked her where they were.
“They’re clunky,” Cordelia reminded him as she pulled her jacket a little closer. “We were already gonna be squished in the Plymouth, so I packed them.”
The others gave Angel sympathetic smiles, but knew better than to comment on the state of Cordelia’s footwear. He released the tie holding the overstuffed trunk closed, which was packed to overflowing with suitcases and duffel bags. “Which one of these is it? You brought two bags.”
“Lorne brought three,” she pointed out that she wasn’t the only one who packed on the heavy side, adding a smile that melted away Angel’s irritation. “Umm, I think I put them in the big one.”
Gunn moved Cordelia out of the way, tired of waiting for the two of them to stop staring at each other long enough to find her boots. Grabbing his duffel bag and his girlfriend’s small suitcase from the top, he said, “Fred and I will meet y’all up at the house.”
“Technically, it’s a hunting lodge,” Wesley corrected him, snagging his own bag from the boot of the car before trudging after the pair.
Angel barely noticed their departure, still focused on Cordelia and the way she could make even the most irritating circumstance somehow endearing to him. Reminding her, “We’re only here for a week.”
“Pfft! And you wanna try and tell me you didn’t pack half your closet?”
Before Angel could respond to that one, Lorne cut in, staring at his own overstuffed bags in dismay, to ask, “Do you think they have valet?”
“Doubt it, but I’ll bet there’s a Jacuzzi.” Cordelia grinned as she realized this lodge was probably decked out with all the luxuries. “Mmm, just think of all that bubbly, steaming water.”
Momentarily mesmerized, Angel’s vision clouded over, envisioning Cordy emerging like Venus rising from the sea, the water glistening across her golden skin, flushed and rosy. The wafting puffs of thick steam diffused around her as she moved closer. Then, with a reflexive blink that brought him out of his daydream, he realized that Cordelia was still talking, her breath visible in the frosty air. “Too bad I didn’t bring my bikini.”
It startled Angel to realize he hadn’t bothered with an imaginary bikini in that brief little fantasy. Stabbing guilt accompanied the tightness in his loins as his body made its desires perfectly clear. During the few seconds that his thoughts warred with his wishes, his fantasy expanded to let the steamy water encircle them both, his hands reaching out to slide over her slick feminine curves.
“Don’t just stand there like a lump on a log,” Cordelia gruffed as she tugged on the handle of her suitcase, which was buried at the bottom of the pile of luggage, “help me out with that vamp strength of yours. Make yourself useful.”
As Cordelia straightened up and moved back a step to let him get closer to the trunk of the car, Angel simply scooped her up in his arms and headed in the direction of the lodge. Unintelligible protests sounded for a few seconds before Cordelia settled her arm around his shoulder. “Not exactly what I had in mind,” she told him, “but I suppose it will do.”
Her slight weight required no effort, but the sensation of having her in his arms left a heavy impact. It felt right, familiar, and Angel couldn’t stop stealing glances at her all the way up the hill.
Totally unaware of Angel’s inner struggle, Cordelia chattered on about her sudden change of heart in spending the week of Christmas here in the mountains. “Maybe it won’t be so bad. I can deal with a little isolation in a place like this. Wonder what other properties David owns. Heh. Maybe I should rethink that marriage proposal.”
Angel’s sharp grunt disapproval of that idea went ignored as Cordy giggled at the idea of being Mrs. Cordelia Nabitt. “You’d have to give me away,” she suggested, taking her little imaginary wedding ceremony further than Angel found amusing.
Like hell I will. The idea stirred up all kinds of possessive instincts, causing him to pull her more snuggly against his body as he walked the last few feet toward the steps of the lodge.
“David’s a good guy. At the very least, he deserves to be on Santa’s ‘Nice’ list for the holidays. I’d get him a present, except— hello, middle of the wilderness, here. Guess he’ll just have to settle for a thank you smooch when we get back home.”
“It was my idea,” the statement came out of his mouth before he realized just how it sounded. Gruffly, Angel added, “Nabitt doesn’t need any presents from you.”
Fortunately, Cordelia appeared distracted enough to miss the fact that he’d all but admitted that he didn’t want her kissing anyone, but him. “I suppose you think you deserve all the reward. Greedy, much? Keep it up and you’ll make Santa’s eternal ‘Naughty List’,” twinkling merriment accompanied her warning as she poked fun at him.
Focused on the plush curve of her lips, Angel figured his thoughts alone qualified for someone’s ‘Naughty List’.
They’d just reached the top step as the front door opened to reveal a uniformed man with a taut, wire-thin frame and thick grey moustache, not a hair out of place, nor a wrinkle on his starched collar. Providing them a formal greeting, “Welcome to Nabitt Lodge,” he spoke with a hint of an east coast accent.
“Hi, I’m Fred,” she grinned big as she introduced herself. “Winifred. Winifred Burkle. Merry Christmas! Nice place you got here.”
The man’s expression did not change even after he saw the wet trail of snow Fred tracked in with her boots. “This is one of Mr. Nabitt’s getaways, Miss Burkle. I am simply the butler, Albert.”
With a chuckle, Gunn grabbed his hand, shaking it. “That’s cool, Albert the butler. You got a bat cave hidden under the lodge, Al?” he joked.
“Certainly not,” he appeared taken aback, “Mister…”
“Gunn, Charles Gunn,” he said with a 007 suaveness that the butler seemed to find even less amusing than his Batman’s butler joke. Maybe it was just the fact that he tracked more snow across the polished wooden floor. “Wes says this is a hunting lodge. What exactly does Nabitt hunt?”
There were no moose heads or deer racks hanging anywhere in sight. Finally, the starchy butler cracked a bit of a smile. Albert explained that their absent host preferred to do his hunting in the game room rather than the outdoors.
Lorne had literally followed in Angel’s footsteps since nobody appeared overly concerned about the delicate state of his own expensive footwear. Anxious to get in out of the cold, he maneuvered around them and cut in front of Wesley who watched the pair with growing interest. Lost in their own little world, Cordelia and Angel were too busy with each other to notice they had reached the deck and that her shoes were no longer in danger of ruination.
“Your presents are packed in my suitcase,” Cordy told Angel, caught up in watching his changing expressions as his dark brown eyes morphed like a mood ring as he stared back. Then wondering at the meaning of what she saw, guessed that he might have made a major holiday faux pax.
Voice low, scrutinizing the guilty expression for some sign of what he was suddenly trying to hide from her, Cordy tensed at the thought that he might have forgotten. “Tell me you brought our presents.”
Angel gulped and then opened his mouth to speak, but the clearing of a man’s throat caught their attention. “Bride and groom?” the stranger guessed, taking in the sight of Cordelia in his arms.
“Seer and vampire,” corrected Cordy after a startled second, wide-eyed at the man’s assumption, as if it should be obvious. She wriggled in Angel’s arms until he let her slide down to the deck. She put arm’s length between them only to feel the sudden cold chill of the winter wind at her back.
“Ah. We do get all sorts here,” he nodded without more than a shred of surprise. “I believe our last guests claimed to be elves, hobbits and dwarves on a quest to save Middle Earth. Mr. Nabitt’s interests in fantasy role-playing games are spectacle in these parts.”
Lorne removed his hat and trench coat, pausing for dramatic effect, “Then you won’t mind if I make myself comfortable.”
A bushy grey eyebrow twitched upward, but a calm response came as he stepped back, waving the last stragglers inside. “Do come in out of the cold. Mr. Nabitt expressed his wish that you all be made welcome and comfortable for the holidays. We apologize for the skeleton staff as it is just my wife, Mrs. Claymore, who is the housekeeper, and me at the moment.”
The rosy-cheeked housekeeper appeared on cue, a plump woman in her mid-fifties whose expression was full of holiday cheer, humming happily as she moved toward them. She even smelled of cinnamon having come out of the kitchen where the scent of freshly baked cookies wafted on the air. “Come in, come in and warm yourselves by the fire. We’ve had a merry time decorating the lodge for Christmas this year as that dear boy…er, Mr. Nabitt,” she corrected at her husband’s subtle harrumph, “wants you to enjoy every moment of your stay.”
It seemed Mrs. C was as easy-going as her counterpart was stiff and formal, but they made an amusing pair bantering back and forth as they showed them around the lodge. Cordelia had to admit that the place had a lot of rustic charm. The stone fireplace was the focus of the living room, yellow and orange flames flickering in the huge hearth spreading warmth along with its cheerful glow. A Christmas tree held a position of honor in one corner of the room, decked out in lights, colorful ornaments and shiny tinsel, its skirt lining the wooden floor around it.
Six identical packages lay in random fashion, each tied up with a red velvet ribbon. It appeared that their host arranged a little something for each of them. “He is just the nicest man,” Fred smiled at the generosity. After all, she’d never even met Nabitt.
“I saw him first,” quipped Cordelia with a grin. “You’ve got Gunn.”
“Damn straight,” muttered Gunn, snaking his arm around Fred’s shoulders to pull her against his side. Grinning, Fred wrapped her arms around his waist, cheeks dimpling at his feigned jealousy.
Asking with polite subtlety about their room accommodations, the housekeeper led them toward the south wing of the lodge and showed Gunn and Fred to their shared room. She turned toward Angel, who happened to be standing beside Cordelia again, to ask, “You’ll be sharing too, of course.”
“No,” Angel answered succinctly.
Cordy, on the other hand, couldn’t understand why the woman would jump to that conclusion. “Why ‘of course’? There’s nothing ‘of course’ about it. Maybe I’m sharing with Wes or Lorne.”
Chuckling in amusement, Lorne commented, “No offence, Cordelicious, but I prefer to get my beauty sleep. All that snoring would keep me up at night.”
“I do not snore,” Cordy gaped at the suggestion. She looked over at Wes to confirm her rebuttal, but he seemed to find staring at the ceiling a fascinating endeavor. She turned to Angel next, “Do I?”
His hand curled around her shoulder, the buttery-soft texture of her jacket smooth as his thumb moved in a soothing circle to calm her down. Having lived in Cordelia’s apartment, he knew exactly what sorts of sounds she made at night, all of them etched into his memory. “Just a few soft snuffles now and then.”
Her eyes narrowed suspiciously as if she wasn’t sure if that was the truth. “Right, I do not snore,” she emphasized loudly just to ensure the Claymores understood that fact, “and I get my own room. Angel’s my friend. We’re just friends. We work together. Maybe we used to live together, but that was only because his apartment blew up and I let him borrow the couch.”
Shrugging, the housekeeper looked as if Cordelia was protesting a little too much. “I guess I’ll put you over here, then.” The room was next door to the one assigned to Angel.
Confused by Cordelia’s efforts to throw their friendship in his face, Angel wondered if she had sensed that she was arousing far more than just friendly feelings lately. This protest of hers might be intended to tell him to back off. He dropped his hand to his side, feeling crushed and rejected despite the fact that he truly valued his friendship with Cordy and at one time might’ve found Mrs. Claymore’s assumptions amusing.
“Now that the room situation is settled,” he announced crisply, “Gunn, Wes and I will gather the rest of the luggage.”
Angel turned on his heel, moving down the corridor, his dark leather coat billowing out behind him. Gunn and Wes followed without a word. “My, my,” tittered the rosy-cheeked housekeeper. “They do know how to make an exit.”
Cordelia caught Alfred rolling his eyes toward the ceiling. Changing the subject, she asked him whether the lodge had a Jacuzzi. While the butler was busy informing her of the many amenities of Mr. Nabitt’s getaway, Lorne found himself the target of Mrs. Claymore’s curious gaze. Her musical entry earlier told the anagogic demon everything he needed to know about the woman and so he was prepared when she finally decided to speak to him directly.
“Y’know, I used to have kitchen curtains just that shade,” she tittered while gazing at the fabric of his colorful suit.
Wesley dragged the tip of the stripped tree branch to make three straight lines in the snow forming a large triangle. His voice resonated in the air as he outlined the battle strategy. “To the left we have Angel and Cordelia, to the right, Fred and Gunn. Lorne and I will remain here. There will be no crossing the barrier of the dividing line. Each team has thirty minutes to build a fort and mass-produce their weapons.”
“Snowballs,” clarified Cordelia just in case Angel didn’t get it. He reminded her that Ireland wasn’t exactly part of the tropics and that he’d seen a few snowfalls during his nearly two and a half centuries.
The days before Christmas were full of activity unlike any compared to their normal routine. Total cloud-cover provided Angel the freedom to move about outside during hours that he would normally be stranded indoors.
There were no worries to be found here, where new-fallen snow blanketed the earth, and blessedly, no visions called them to fulfill their mission. The season and the wild, natural beauty of their surroundings awakened something basic and childlike within them. For these few days, the crew of Angel Investigations left their troubles behind, the snow becoming their playground.
Snow battles were waged daily and when the cold drove them inside, Alfred and Mrs. Claymore warmed them up with cups of cocoa, hot toddies and, in Angel’s case, a mug of blood heated to precision. His ‘special diet’ didn’t seem to faze them at all.
Gunn and Wes spent hours in Nabitt’s electronic game room, many of the gadgets designed by the billionaire himself or his extensive technical production company. It surprised them to discover that Albert could beat them at just about any game they tried making them all the more determined to get in some practice.
“I often beta new software for the company,” explained the butler, “in an unofficial capacity, naturally.”
“Naturally,” Wes had replied, realizing that when the lodge was otherwise empty, the Claymores had full access to the game room. “We’ll have a rematch tomorrow.”
When Lorne wasn’t bonding with Mrs. C over Oprah’s Christmas special, he relaxed in the hot tub or on the couch in front of the fire, much preferring the warmth to the cold of the outdoors; though the lounge singer did like the way his voice sounded in the crisp mountain air, often gracing them with Christmas jingles on the spur of the moment.
Fred and Cordelia accidentally found their host’s collection of medieval costumes in one of the spare rooms. “We might have been snooping,” admitted Cordy only after they had amused themselves for an hour or two. It looked like Albert wasn’t kidding when he mentioned Nabitt’s role-playing games. There were enough costumes here for a theatrical company.
Angel couldn’t remember being more relaxed. Whatever tension remained about the decision to come to the mountains had disappeared, leaving Cordelia apparently carefree. She seemed happier, healthier and somehow even more beautiful than before. He couldn’t take his eyes off her and stopped fighting the urge to do so.
Sometimes, she caught him staring and with doe-eyed reaction would dart away to another part of the lodge. She’d simply stare back from her new location as if silently daring him to keep looking. Typically, she’d eventually confront him and stand there waiting for him to come up with a reasonable explanation for his odd behavior.
He was starting to sense that he might be crowding her a little when she no longer had to turn around to know he was there. A little sigh of exasperation sounded as Cordy asked, “What do you want, Angel?”
The question was far more complex than it sounded. It was something he couldn’t answer, not yet. Angel wasn’t quite certain what he wanted only that Cordelia was an essential part of it.
Two days before Christmas and Cordelia was getting antsy with excitement. She was sitting in front of the tree arranging and rearranging the colorfully wrapped gifts for the fourth or fifth time since their arrival. It wasn’t just the thought of the presents, but the fact that for the first time in years, she was actually going to enjoy spending time with her family on Christmas Day.
Her over-indulgent parents had given Cordelia anything she’d ever wanted, except themselves. Their holidays usually involved leaving her at the hotel with a babysitter or, when she was older, keeping her occupied with some activity while they went off alone. The Christmas they spent in Aspen was the most memorable simply because Cordelia developed a huge crush on her ski instructor. After that, everything about Aspen seemed a little rosier.
As far as Cordy was concerned, she had a new family. One that depended on each other, stuck together and despite the life-threatening danger, painful visions and lack of luxuries, made her happier than she’d ever been in her life.
The twinkling tree lights provided just enough of a glow to read the nametags on the packages. Picking out one of the small ones marked with her name, she gave it a squeeze. This was one of two presents from Angel and she burned with curiosity to know what was inside. Standing, Cordelia moved closer to the fireplace where the glow of the lazy flames provided a little more light. Holding the package up toward the light only created a dark silhouette, though she had no idea that the same effect outlined her curves through the silk robe wrapped around her.
“What are you doing up so late?” Wearing his usual combination of black on black, Angel stepped out of the shadows of the connecting hallway, his voice drawing a surprised yelp from Cordelia. “I heard rustling sounds and thought I should check it out.”
Keeping the present hidden behind her back, Cordy turned around slowly, trying to come up with a good explanation for having it in her hands. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“You should try to get some rest. We’ve got a big day tomorrow, one last snow battle to fight,” he reminded softly, those dark eyes fathomless as he approached at a slow pace. “We don’t want to break our winning streak.”
Cordelia faked a yawn, “Good idea. We should be in bed. You go ahead, I’ll be right up.”
Maybe she was tired after all, Angel decided. Cordy didn’t even seem to realize what she’d suggested. Or maybe it was just his imagination taking off and putting words in her mouth. It was all too easy to imagine her in his bed, curled up and sleeping in his arms.
She stood there, painted toenails peeking out from beneath her long silk robe, hands behind her back; hazel eyes pools of pure innocence. It didn’t take Angel’s predatory instincts to recognize that Cordy was up to something, especially when the corners of her mouth curled up into that sweet smile that usually got her anything she wanted.
Entranced by the sight of her surrounded by the fire’s glow, Christmas lights dancing in her eyes as a hint of mischief appeared, Angel stepped close. Whether she realized it or not, she was standing in the perfect spot, directly under the mistletoe. He found that he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to fulfill this one holiday fantasy. Tucking a finger under her chin, he tilted it upward, his mouth coming down to capture hers as it parted slightly with surprise.
Hints of hot chocolate and cinnamon graced her lips. Her warmth drew him closer, hands sliding along the smooth sleeves of her robe and back up to run his fingers through her hair as the soft, explorative kiss deepened on a moan. Cordelia’s arms wound around his neck as she stood on tiptoes, the present in her hand forgotten as sensation took over.
His mouth alternated kisses, soft and gentle, firm and needy, taking and giving. She trembled in response, her body tingling under the skilled touch of his hands as they followed the curve of her spine. Then, just as suddenly as the kiss had begun, Angel lifted his head and stepped away.
Though stunned by their potent embrace, Cordelia was hardly struck silent by the event. “You kissed me,” she blurted as if needing to hear herself say the words for it to be believed.
The desire flaring in his dark eyes belied the simple excuse that followed as Angel pointed toward the ceiling above them. “Mistletoe.” The word sounded foreign as his voice thickened with each syllable.
Cordelia blinked and glanced up at the green sprig dangling from a red velvet ribbon hanging from a beam overhead. “But you kissed me,” her head was still swimming at the notion and seemingly couldn’t make the connection between the presence of the mistletoe and what had just happened between them.
Realizing that she was just as affected by the kiss as he had been, Angel decided he had given them both enough to think about for one night. Cupping her face, he let his thumb trail across the flushed curve of her cheek and smilingly said, “Put your present away and go to bed, Cordy.”
Staring down at the object that had been the target of her curiosity only a minute or two earlier, Cordelia barely recognized it. By the time she lifted her head again, she saw that Angel was already moving into the hallway. His name was on her lips before she knew she’d said it, stopping him in his tracks.
When Angel glanced over his shoulder, dark eyes focused on her, waiting expectantly for her to speak, all Cordelia could manage was a strangled, “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” Angel answered back, “pleasant dreams.”
Angel’s mouth trailed dewdrop kisses tingling across her skin, cool and wet. Tongue dipping into nooks and hollows. His hands slip-sliding over warm curves, cupping and teasing sensitive flesh. Their bodies moved to the rhythmic cadence of her heartbeat. On a husky moan, her legs locked around his. Angel’s head snapped up, amber eyes gleaming. Fingers tangled in the short spikes of his hair. His name fell from her lips, pleading completion. Hungrily, he claimed her lips, no longer languidly exploring the soft curves, but in a needy, carnal kiss. One wantonly returned as they tumbled on toward ecstasy.
Hot and flushed, breathing erratically, her heart racing from exertion, Cordelia woke with a start, sitting straight up in bed. Muted daylight filtered through the shaded windows as she glanced around the room to discover that she was alone. She ran a hand across the top of her already mussed bed-head, realizing now that she’d been dreaming.
“Hooboy,” Cordy grabbed for the nearest pillow and held on tight. All this because of a little mistletoe.
Finally climbing out of bed, she headed to the bathroom to take a piping hot shower. Her body was buzzing with arousal as images danced in her head that had nothing to do with sugar plums and everything to do with making hot, passionate love to Angel. She supposed her ability to receive detailed visions from the Powers That Be also translated to the reason why her everyday dreams had always come with Technicolor and Surround Sound. This one was a doozy. One she had no business dreaming.
So maybe Angel was the epitome of salty goodness, definitely a hottie, but hello, he was still her best friend. A friend with skills. Technically, Angel might be a vampire, a walking corpse, but geez the man could certainly kiss. On the Richter scale, she rated her shaken nerves at a 12 out of a possible 10. The effect had simply carried straight into her dreams where her best friend wore the guise of a lover.
The hair dryer was blowing noisily in her ear as Cordelia came to the decision that she couldn’t ignore the kiss or the dream. She was going to march straight into Angel’s room to demand an explanation. Mistletoe or no mistletoe, that kiss was more than a friendly peck for the holidays. It was all his fault that her head was stuck with images that made her body tingle.
Cordy was half way to the door before she realized that it might be easier to make her point if she had some clothes on. Ten minutes later, she was outside Angel’s door, her hand on the brass knob and without bothering to knock, went right in.
“We have to talk—”
Coming to a sharp halt two steps later as she saw that Angel was nowhere in sight, his bed neat as a pin, Cordelia let out a frustrated, “Grrr.”
A sound outside caught her attention and she raced to the window, throwing aside the curtains and yanking up the Venetian blinds. There he was, hiding in plain sight, trying to look like he was having fun without her. That big stupid grin on his face as he was pelted with snowballs from two different directions clearly meant that he’d been bashed on the head a few too many times.
If that had happened yesterday, Cordelia might have blamed his behavior on a head injury. Maybe Mrs. C had slipped some undetectable aphrodisiac into his blood supply. Well, he’d just better have a damn good excuse for all that touchy-feelyness because he’d burst her personal bubble and now it was hard to think about anything except having his hands and mouth on her again.
Snatching her brown leather jacket from the coat rack, she put it on as she left the lodge, making a beeline for Angel despite the fact that she trudged directly through the forbidden territory of no-man’s-land. Angel called out a warning as their friends took the opportunity to toss a few of their icy weapons in her direction, but Cordelia walked on.
“Get down,” Angel rose to his feet to make a grab at her bare hand. He tugged her behind the four-foot wall of the snow barrier. “I’ve had to hold down the fort without you this afternoon. Grab your gloves and start making snowballs. We’re almost out.”
Cordelia’s jaw tightened as she realized Angel planned to keep right on playing their little war game. She didn’t duck down or bother to put on the gloves tucked into her pocket. “I want an explanation.”
The words hit just after Angel had lobbed off a round of icy ammunition toward Wes who dove for cover behind his strategically designed arc-shaped fortress. Instantly understanding what it was Cordelia wanted to talk about, he forgot all about the snowball fight despite the danger of their exposed position.
He stepped closer keeping his hands at his sides despite the urge to reach out and stroke his fingers across her cheek. “Cordy, we’re on holiday and everything just seems so unreal, somehow. Last night you were standing there in front of the fire and there was mistletoe over your head. It seemed like the right thing to do.”
“You kissed me,” she stressed the smoochage, practically hissing the words at him as a snowball passed directly over their heads. “Nothing unreal about that.”
Balling his hands into fists, he restrained them in his pockets, tempted to take her into his arms again. Only, it seemed all too clear that Cordy was upset about the kiss and would probably think he was making yet another unwanted move. Downplaying the whole event, Angel shrugged, “Just blame it on the mistletoe, holiday tradition.”
Cordelia put her hands on her hips, tapping her clunky booted foot in the snow. “Pfft! Mistletoe kisses are tiny little pecks, Angel. I’m pretty sure having your tongue in my mouth doesn’t qualify.”
On the edge of reminding her that she’d responded eagerly to every caress, Angel let out a soft apology. “It was just a kiss, Cordy. No big deal.”
“It was a helluva big deal,” she countered, angrily poking a finger into his chest, his jacket cushioning the little jab. Her stomach clenched into a tight knot at his easy disregard for the whole event. Oh, God, did he really mean it was just an accident, that they’d been waylaid by a random sprig of mistletoe? “So you’re saying it meant nothing.”
A snowball hit Angel’s shoulder with a hard knock, but the triumphant shout from the one who threw it went ignored. His attention was focused in one place, but Cordelia kept sending him mixed signals. One second, she seemed to be saying that the kiss was a bad thing and shouldn’t have happened. The next moment, it was clearly a big deal that should’ve meant something.
All Angel could settle on was that, in her eyes, last night’s kiss was a helluva big bad deal that should never have happened.
That conclusion rankled something inside him. Suddenly, his hands came out of his pockets and curled around her upper arms to close the distance between them to a hairsbreadth. “It meant something, Cordy, I’m sure of that.”
“But you just said—,” he cut her off with the sweep of his thumb across her mouth.
Shaking his head, Angel told her, “Forget what I said. Just remember this…”
Cordelia’s eyes widened and then closed within a moment, her body leaning into his, fingers curling into the supple leather of his jacket, face gently upturned for the kiss she knew was coming. For all her protests about last night, she wanted more.
Totally self-involved, they had no sense of the on-going battle around them until a random snowball hit Cordy mid-back, causing her to cry out and fall forward against Angel’s chest. The sudden shift in body position had them tumbling to the ground into the snow. It took a moment to figure out what had happened and then the bell-tone sound of Fred’s voice rang out from across the field.
“Charles! That wasn’t fair,” they heard her shout in protest. “He was gonna kiss her.”
Cordelia lay half on top of Angel, one leg trapped between his, her left side caught in the snow. Listening, their gazes held steady.
“You know what they say,” Gunn answered back with a chuckle, “all’s fair in love and snowball fights.”
A trace of awkward nerves suddenly hit at the thought of their audience waiting for them to emerge from behind their snow fort. Both reluctantly realized the moment had passed. Shifting them into a sitting position, Angel slid his palm around her nape as his thumb subconsciously circled the pulse of her throat. He wasn’t quite ready to let her go.
“Spend the rest of the afternoon with me,” he said though he knew it was Christmas Eve and their plans for today had already been mapped out in minute detail by Wes and Fred.
“Just the two of us?” Cordelia glanced over her shoulder, but the barrier of the wall of snow kept the others hidden from her view. Her heart thumped with excitement and a hint of fear. She wasn’t quite sure what Angel intended by suggesting they spend some time alone together, but Cordy couldn’t deny that she wanted to find out.
Angel nodded, “Unless you want Mrs. Claymore to tag along as a chaperone,” he joked.
“Oh, then I’ll have to ask her,” Angel suddenly looked puzzled and Cordelia realized he was trying to figure out how to fit his plans around Mrs. C’s busy baking schedule.
Rolling her eyes, Cordelia snorted, “Dork, I meant okay to us.”
Powerfully, the vibrations thrummed between her thighs, as Cordelia wrapped her arms around Angel and held on for the ride. Her chin perched on his shoulder, body up as close to his as their clothing would allow as the snowmobile raced across the open fields. The sound of her joyful laughter echoed in the air as Angel maneuvered the vehicle with more luck than skill.
Through fields dotted with evergreens, across the sloping hills, past a series of old log cabins and along the course of a burbling brook, they continued until reaching the mountain’s edge. Deep in the valley below, the lights of a small town began to show as nightfall neared. The clouds clung close to the mountain, heavy with snow yet to fall.
While the effects of the wind had kept Cordelia from asking him questions when the snowmobile was in motion, now that they’d paused to stretch their legs, she needed to know if Angel was feeling just as mixed up about their kiss as she was. Sliding her gloved hand along his sleeve, she opened with, “Y’know, normally, a guy who brings a girl to a scenic overlook isn’t really here to admire the view, and the transportation usually has a back seat.”
A wry smile curled one corner of his mouth. “Thanks for the advice. I’ll keep that in mind.”
“It is pretty,” she said, just in case it was the view was the reason they’d come this far.
“Beautiful,” Angel said with his eyes on her wind-kissed cheeks. “I mean you. I don’t tell you that often enough.”
Grinning at the way he seemed to eat her up with his eyes despite the fact that she had to look tousled, Cordy cheekily agreed with him. “That can be your New Year’s resolution.”
“I’m not waiting until the New Year for resolutions,” he told her with a serious gleam in his fathomless eyes. Taking her hand in his, Angel felt her whole body react to his slight touch as if it pulsed along with her heartbeat. Pure fear, he recognized, as the rush of adrenalin accompanied the intense reaction. Cursing his similar response and the nervous twisting of his gut, he plunged ahead with what he had to say.
“That kiss last night was far from meaningless to me,” he admitted. “Maybe I didn’t plan it going that far, but I don’t regret it happening. My feelings for you have been so mixed up lately that it’s driving me crazy wanting you this way. I want more for us, Cordy. It’s time for things to change.”
Inching forward, Cordelia’s head was spinning at his words. Relief flooded her as she realized she wasn’t the only one who’d been thinking non-friendship-y things, lately. It wasn’t just a drive-by mistletoe hit, though she had to admit that the kiss brought it to the point that she couldn’t shrug those feelings off as random reactions. Not to mention the dream that brought a million curious impulses screaming to life.
“God, Angel, I don’t know if I want things to change between us,” she said honestly, her breath billowing in the frosty air between them. When his face drooped into an expression that made Cordelia feel like she’d carelessly crushed his heart with the heel of her clunky boots, she added hastily, “Relationships are tricky. They end badly. I don’t want to wake up one day and have you walk away from me.”
Protesting that scenario, he swore vehemently, “I would never do that,” only to see her eyebrow arch meaningfully. Then realizing he’d already done that in a manner of speaking when he’d kicked her out of his life by firing her along with Wes and Gunn, he tagged on softly, “Never again.”
Trying to be practical about it, she thought about the reasons he’d given for leaving Buffy, though the brevity of that conversation had forced her to fill in a few blanks here and there. What he’d done when Darla was resurrected broke her heart, and back then her feelings were just a shadow of what they were now and what they’d become if she allowed it.
“Never is a long time and I like being your friend.”
“You’d like being my lover,” his boastful assurance would have made her laugh if it had come from anyone else. A confident smirk quirked Angel’s mouth at the corner as he reached out, gently tugging the strands of hair peeking from her wool cap. He knew without a doubt that he could show her what pleasure was all about, exceeding anything in her relatively inexperienced past.
Wondering aloud while Cordy simply gaped at his bold statement, “Is that what this is about? Are you afraid that it might not be good between us?”
A loud snort followed she answered, “Hell no, we’d be way hot together,” especially if her dreams had anything to say about it.
Bemused, Angel sought understanding, wracking his brain for a single acceptable explanation for Cordelia’s hesitancy. The attraction was mutual and she’d admitted they’d be good in bed together. More than good, he thought. Leaving her would never be an option; he needed her more than he could ever admit and the whole Darla debacle had proven it to him.
“You know the curse isn’t an issue anymore,” he reminded her of Willow’s surprise announcement the last time he was in Sunnydale. Only afterward did Angel realize the redhead was hinting that things could be different between him and Buffy.
When he’d thought about things being different, it hadn’t been the Slayer who was on his mind. Back then he’d just filed that errant thought away, ignoring it. That all changed recently. He was finished with putting his emotions aside and needed Cordy to understand what she meant to him.
“I know,” nodded Cordelia as the snow started to drift down from the heavens above them, thick flakes collecting on her hat. She was shivering, not just from the cold, but the weather became an immediate concern.
Angel wrapped his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close to shelter her from the wind that had suddenly picked up. Lifting his head to look around, he realized that a storm had suddenly closed in on them and that the snowfall grew heavier with each passing moment. Gripped by frustration that he had to put a temporary halt to this talk when it desperately needed finishing, a silent curse echoed in his head.
“We’ve got to head back,” Angel said, reluctantly putting her at arms length. “Cordy, this conversation isn’t over.”
Back on the snowmobile, they raced against the weather, but couldn’t outrun it. The storm turned into a blizzard and while Angel’s instincts kept them on track, he knew that Cordelia couldn’t withstand the exposure. She hugged her body close to his for shelter from the wind, trying to conserve her body heat. He had none to give.
Remembering the log cabins they had passed at one point along their journey to the mountain’s edge, Angel maneuvered the snowmobile in that direction. They’d looked abandoned, half of them burned out from a fire that had claimed a few of the trees surrounding them. As long as one had a roof, it didn’t matter what else they found there.
Gunn stared out the window at the heavy snowfall, “It’s getting bad out there.”
“Can you get through?” Fred turned to look at Wesley who had his cell phone to his ear and a grim look on his rugged face.
“No luck,” he told her, pocketing the small phone. “Cordelia’s cell is in her bedroom. I think Angel has his with him, but I can’t get a good signal. Either the mountains or the weather are causing interference.”
Mrs. Claymore and Alfred were serving up another round of coffee, trying to provide their guests with some reassurance that there were a few places to find shelter. They kept sending each other concerned looks, which fooled no one.
Pacing along the back of the couch, Lorne was trying to block out the nervous vibes emanating from everyone. His own were giving him a few heebie-jeebies. “They’ve been in a lot worse situations than this storm. Angelcakes isn’t about to let anything happen to the princess.”
“Lorne is right,” Wes agreed, though he’d feel a lot better if the snowmobile made its appearance. “If there is shelter out there, Angel will find it.”
Fred had no doubts that Angel would take care of Cordy or that he would do all he could to get them to safety. After all, heroism was in his job description, but Cordy wasn’t just any damsel in distress and this was no ordinary night. “Guys, you’re forgetting something else. It’s Christmas Eve and they’re stuck out there in this storm, all alone.”
Steering the snowmobile to a halt outside the one cabin that appeared intact, Angel wasted no time in getting Cordelia inside. He swooped her into his arms and kicked open the door, pausing just long enough to assess the situation before closing it behind them.
Wet and shivering, Cordy’s body temperature was far too low, her heartbeat slower than normal. Angel knew he needed to get her warmed up.
“C-c-cold,” her teeth chattered with the effort as he slid her into a standing position.
Angel pulled her soaked cap off, tossing it to the floor. “I’ll take care of it. Just start getting out of those wet clothes. There’s a blanket on that bunk over there.”
He turned to rummage through the cabinets and the wooden chest at the bottom of the bed, finding another blanket and a single pair of flannel pajamas. Noticing Cordy hadn’t moved from the spot where he’d left her, Angel darted back over to see what was wrong.
She’d managed to tug off her gloves with her teeth and unzip her jacket, but it took too much effort to do anything else. Falling asleep on her feet, Cordy muttered, “You do it.”
“Stay awake, dammit,” the gruff command startled her out of the haze she’d drifted into. Angel shuffled her over to the bunk, standing her next to it as he peeled away layer after layer of clothing, discarding them on the floor.
Cordelia managed to let out a protest when his cold hands reached behind her back to unfasten her bra. He didn’t bother with a verbal response, simply removing the soaked garment before tugging her matching panties to the floor. This wasn’t the time for coy protests and while a part of his brain registered the fact that Cordelia was naked in his arms, he was far too concerned about her well-being to be remotely turned on by the situation.
Grabbing the blanket, he covered her up and started to dry her off, rubbing his hands along her arms, torso and legs to get her circulation going. After dressing her in the oversized plaid pajama top and too-large bottoms, he bundled her into the narrow bunk, adding the other blanket on top of her. Angel stared down at her for a moment, his eyes filled with concern, determination and something more that even Cordelia couldn’t fail to recognize despite her condition.
His fingers dropped down to tuck the damp strands of her hair behind her ear. “Don’t go to sleep,” he reminded her. “I need to get a fire going. It’s still too cold in here for you.”
“Angel,” she called him back to her side before he’d gone more than a few feet away. “What about you?”
“I’m fine, Cordy.”
No he wasn’t. Cordelia could tell he was just as miserable with the cold as she was even though it couldn’t kill him. She watched in silence as he moved about the cabin ripping cabinet doors off their hinges in order to make kindling for the fire. All of the wood outside was wet from the snow, but there was a small pile of logs sitting by the stone fireplace. Using items from the snowmobile’s emergency kit, Angel had a fire burning in the hearth in short order.
Afterward, he moved Cordy into a temporary position on a chair until he dragged the mattress in front of the fireplace. When he’d deposited her onto it and tucked in the edge of the blankets, he stood back to admire his handiwork. From the depths of the pile, Cordelia followed his every move with her eyes.
Angel shucked off his jacket, hanging it carefully on the back of a chair. He didn’t see Cordelia’s eye-roll as she noticed that her clothes were still in a heap on the floor. Off came his boots and socks, which, like hers, were wringing wet. These days, Cordelia never saw Angel undressed to any degree unless he was injured. Seeing him in his bare feet reminded her of their apartment-sharing days, when it wasn’t uncommon to see him padding around dressed only in his boxers and a robe.
Not that she’d looked too closely or admired him for anything more than aesthetic value at the time. She watched him with lazy interest, the warmth of the fire slowly awakening her limbs and her senses. Angel tugged his shirt loose from the waistband of his pants and was halfway through unbuttoning it when he noticed Cordelia’s eyes on him.
“Enjoying the show?” That teasing note made her toes curl. She couldn’t take credit for looking at him with purely benevolent concern as Angel finished unbuttoning that shirt and peeled it away from his body. The wet snow had blown into the collar of his jacket, soaking his shirt by the time they reached the cabin. A soft suctioning sound accompanied its removal as the material clung to his broad shoulders.
The light of the fire sparkled in her gaze and Cordelia’s grin flashed impishly before she answered his question with one of her own. “What do you think?”
“I think you must be feeling better,” he commented and walked over to crouch down beside her.
Cordelia told him, “Getting there,” and nuzzled her cheek against his palm as he touched her face. “Angel, you’re still frozen. Get under the covers.”
For an instant, Angel looked like he was considering it, but then he shifted away with catlike agility, rising to his feet and using the excuse of, “My pants are wet.”
“Take them off,” was Cordelia’s simple solution.
Considering everything that had happened between them since that mistletoe kiss last night, Angel didn’t think it was a good idea. There was still too much to be said between them before he tempted fate by climbing under the covers with the woman he loved.
Angel’s eyes widened as he realized how naturally that thought had come to him. It was the first time he’d never struggled with a description for his feelings. The idea stirred others that kept him occupied until Cordy’s exasperated voice broke through his romantic epiphany. “Sheesh! What does a girl have to do these days to get a guy out of his pants?”
A sudden laugh sounded and he flashed a grin her way that no one else knew how to elicit. “Looks like you’re out of luck. That’s the only pair of pajamas in the place.”
“So what? It’s not like I’m planning to take advantage of you,” she pointed out. “I don’t want you to be cold and miserable. You’ll get growly and gloomy and then I’ll be stuck with a broody vampire on Christmas morning.”
Suddenly remembering the date, Angel raked a hand through the short spikes of his wet hair and let out a curse. “Dammit, I’m sorry about this, Cordy. I wanted this to be a special holiday for all of us and I’ve ruined it just about every way I can.”
Scowling with self-directed anger, he turned on his heel and strode across the cabin keeping his back to Cordelia. He was so focused on his own guilty feelings that Angel failed to notice her approach. She’d dumped the blankets aside, risen into a wobbly stance and trudged forward, one hand holding the pajama pants in place. “Blizzards happen, Angel. Get over it.”
In the blink of an eye, Angel whirled around to face her, still furious at himself and now upset with her for walking over here in her bare feet. “Get back into bed.”
“I will if you will,” she countered arching a delicate brow as she issued the challenge.
Angel’s dark gaze dropped down to the shadowed cleavage showing in the gaping vee of her top. Dragging his eyes back up to hers, he said, “That’s not a good idea.”
“Why, are you afraid I might seduce you?” Shivers of anticipation zipped along her spine as Cordelia realized she was actually baiting him into bed with her. Not that she thought about anything beyond that…honest.
Hot licks of desire stirred inside him. Angel held statue-still as she leaned in closer, her natural wind-kissed scent surrounding him, her renewed warmth seeping into his skin. Concern, determination and a heady measure of curiosity lit Cordelia’s eyes, weakening his resolve to keep his hands to himself.
“Don’t try seduction games with me, Cordy.” Not unless you mean them, he added silently.
“Who, me?” The deep thread to his voice made her insides quiver.
Angel nodded, “I think you’ll find I know how to play them a lot better than you.”
Desire beamed from the depths of his eyes, nearly black, but ringed by a hint of gold. His taut muscles twitched into action as he inched forward. Cordelia stood her ground. “Pfft!”
“Oh, I could seduce you,” he assured her while moving forward, this time leading her backward with every step he took. The power of that heady promise sent Cordelia’s imagination into overdrive, especially when he added, “You’re right, Cordy, we’d be hot together.”
Cordelia nearly tripped over the long pant leg of the pajamas, but he reached out to steady her at the last second. Her heart thudded in her chest, palms sliding along his cool torso as she regained her balance. Mindful that Angel was just trying to make a point despite her tingly response to the bold words, Cordelia reminded him, “I’m just trying to get you warm.”
Deciding that he was just making it worse, stirring up desires that needed to stay under wraps, at least for now, Angel gave in to her stubborn pout. “Then drop the pajama pants and climb back under the covers.”
Realizing she’d won, Cordelia barely held back the urge to howl triumphantly, swivel her arms & hips and chant, ‘Go Cordy! Go Cordy!’ She let the plaid flannel pants slide down her legs to pool at her feet and then stepped out of them.
Angel kept his back to her as he changed into the pajama bottoms, more for her sense of modesty than any he possessed. Unless it was pure male pride on the line considering that it was rather cold in here, though he didn’t think that would make a difference for long. He felt her eyes on him the entire time and there was more than just a hint of arousal in the air by the time he walked back to their makeshift bed in front of the fire.
“I’m not planning to pounce on you,” he promised, staring into her too-wide eyes. “I think we still have a few things to discuss before we decide if that can happen.”
Maybe she wanted the pouncing, Cordelia argued silently amid her own confused thoughts and feelings. She trusted Angel with her life, but changing things meant trusting him with their friendship. His record on that score wasn’t exactly perfect.
Pulling the covers aside, Cordelia scooted over to let Angel slide down next to her on the mattress. Its narrow width made for close quarters. A little anxious excitement jingled its way across her nerves from spine to fingertips. She reached out to touch the muscled expanse of his exposed shoulder, wondering if rubbing would help and whether vampires responded to a little friction.
Just before she opened her mouth to ask, Angel muttered her name and was drawn into the hollow of her throat, “You’re so warm now.” He nuzzled his face there and Cordelia felt certain her temperature jumped another degree or two just from that.
Angel pulled her close, realigning their bodies so that she was practically sprawled on top of him, their legs tangled. “The plan was to share a little body heat, not to treat me like a blanket.”
Her muttered protest might have sounded more sincere if she hadn’t chosen that moment to slip her arm around his waist, nuzzle her face against his cool chest and let her bare foot slide down the length of his leg. “Angel…,” she whispered his name after a minute when he didn’t comment right way.
The fire cracked beside them as the wind blustered outside, the blizzard raging on, but Angel focused on the softly muted sounds of the living woman in his arms. Her body’s natural rhythms were music to his ears, her warmth spreading like wildfire inside him. Soft curves pressed into him, the slide of her hand across his back, her breath on his bare skin. Angel wanted to frame this moment in his mind, just in case it was the only time it would ever happen.
His hand slipped up and down the soft flannel top following the gentle curve of her back. Whispering into her hair, he placed a kiss there, almost imperceptible as he pleaded for another moment of silence with his soothing touch and his softly uttered, “Shh.”
Cordelia honestly tried being quiet, but it was impossible to do so and remain still at the same time. She shifted a little only to find her breasts pressed up against Angel’s chest and his hard thigh trapped higher between hers. Combined with the way his skin felt beneath her fingertips, the new sensations reminded her of that vivid dream and her body buzzed in response as those lusty images danced across her mind’s eye.
“Angel,” she tried again, needing to talk about this, but her breath caught on a gasp as his other hand moved to clasp her thigh. His hand was warm against her skin, no longer icy from the cold and Cordelia felt his body stir between them, an empty ache forming deep inside her belly.
A deep groan rumbled through his chest as Angel urged her to ignore his body’s hard response and lay quietly. “Pfft! Fat chance of ignoring that.”
Blunt to a fault, Cordelia never failed to point out the obvious. The hand that rubbed her back moved up to her head, the gentle pressure prompting her to lift up to let him see her face. His mouth touched her forehead, the beauty mark on her jaw line and all too briefly the soft surface of her lips. As Angel moved his head back down to the mattress, Cordelia nearly followed in search of another kiss.
This wasn’t just a seduction game. Whatever happened next had consequences that they wouldn’t be able to ignore when they got back to civilization again. Cordelia was conscious of the fact that even if nothing at all happened, things might never be the same again. It was already too late to ignore the stirring of her loins pressed close to his, or the rasp of her nipples against the plaid flannel pajama top as the weight of her breasts crushed them against his chest, or the fiery furnace of need his touch stoked inside her.
The hungry hazel eyes boring down on him nearly broke the last remnant of Angel’s control. As it was, his hand strayed beneath her top, trailing along her supple thigh, over the firm curve of her bottom to start in on the rhythmic stroke of her spine, this time without the barrier of fabric between them. “You know how much I want you, Cordy,” the words husky in his throat, “but that’s only part of it. I want all of you.”
Cordelia dragged the tip of her tongue across her lips, nervous as understanding hit with a shockwave that caused her heart to skip a beat. “I know you love me, Angel. I love you, too, but are we in love?”
The idea was new to her, but the feelings were not. It had taken their mistletoe kiss, her dream and Angel’s surprising confession of desire to make her realize that her feelings had been changing for some time, too.
“I hope so,” his answer seemed to catch in his throat. “Take a chance on me, Cordy. Take a chance on us.”
Tears shimmered in her eyes, catching on her lashes, splashing down onto his chest and trailing a salty path. Angel wondered if he’d said the wrong thing. He moved his hands out from their warm recesses to palm her face. Shifting upward, Angel moved Cordelia so that she straddled his lap, giving him easier access to wipe away the last vestiges of her tears.
Tilting her chin with his finger, Angel saw Cordy actually smiling a gleeful, cat-that-ate-the-cream expression. Before he could mutter his confusion over the tears, she wrapped her arms around him, hugging tight. When she pulled back, Cordy curled her fingers around the nape of his neck, thumb resting across his still, but sensitive pulse point.
“I take chances with you everyday,” Cordelia reminded him, her grin now a softer smile full of warmth and optimism, adding lazily, “so I suppose I could get used to kissing you.”
“Think so?” he smiled just before touching his lips to hers.
“Know so,” she muttered against his mouth meeting him kiss for kiss.
Those tiny tasty kisses melted under the rising heat of mutual desire becoming long and languorous, turning feverish with need. A purr at her throat as she caught her breath, then he was back to claim her lips again. Angel felt the roar of his lust prime his body to full arousal, tempering it with his most tender emotions and managing to find a balance.
He wanted to make love to her slowly, tenderly. Cordelia didn’t make it easy. She had a tendency to pounce and try to take what she wanted. Impatient, caught up in the sensations running rampant as he touched her, Cordy writhed against him, trying to get closer.
Angel’s hands gripped her hips, holding them steady when her squirming brought her hot core up against the bulge of his erection. She moaned a little protest, sitting back to catch her breath again and let her hands wander over the sculpted muscles of his chest. When her fingers moved into a teasing circle around the tiny nub of his nipple, she felt his hands slipping up beneath her pajama top along her slim waist and higher until his fingertips slid across the curves of her breasts.
Arching her back at the pleasurable sensation, Cordelia closed her eyes and let out a soft moan that grew deeper as he caressed her. Sliding over her skin, he cupped her breasts in his palms, testing their fullness and then brushing his thumbs across her taut nipples leaving them burning for his cool relief.
Through the flannel shirt, Cordy held his hands against her flesh, needing his touch there, aware of the dark sparkle in his eyes that suggested she could always ask for more. Dropping her hands to grasp the edge of her pajama top, she whipped it over her head and waited with bated breath for Angel’s reaction to having her naked in his arms.
Confidently aware of her beauty, it wasn’t a confirmation of it that Cordelia wanted. It was the fact that there was more than just hot lust burning in his gaze as his eyes held hers. There was love to be found there, too, as those eyes left hers to wander over the curves she had exposed to them. Still cupping her breasts, he hadn’t moved from that position, and for a moment his gaze seemed intent on the way his pale hands looked against her golden skin.
Then his fingers trailed down the indentation of her waist, thumbs closing in on one another and then spreading apart again as his hands moved across the curve of her hips and down to her thighs. There, his thumbs circled along silken flesh as his eyes settled on the trimmed curls guarding her feminine secrets.
Slowly, Angel’s gaze slipped upward again, his hands following around to her back and shifting their bodies so that she lay supine, leaving him free to explore every inch of her golden flesh. As Cordy reached out for him, he paused to whisper his feelings in her ear and that she was beautiful and loved more than he could say.
Further still, that he planned to have her screaming his name before the night was over. Cordelia’s body clenched in wanton need at the hot promise, but she grasped his face to tell him, “You’ll be screaming mine.” He smothered her giggles with a kiss that left them tumbling off the mattress and onto the blankets they had strewn onto the floor.
Angel’s mouth trailed dewdrop kisses tingling across her skin, cool and wet. Tongue dipping into nooks and hollows. Every touch eked out a moan, a little whimper of her need. Each tiny lick, each kiss spreading streaks of fire and pooling moist heat below along the juncture of her thighs.
Her busy, frantic hands clutched at broad shoulders, nails leaving half-moon marks behind. Wanting to rid him of the loose flannel pants, her reach was too short until she managed to toe them off much to Angel’s amusement. He rose up to his knees, pushing the pants out of the way, giving Cordelia an eyeful in the bargain, finding her hungry stare darting between his face and his rampant erection, full of lustful delight and playful curiosity.
“Touch me,” he encouraged as her eyes flashed up to his again, voice deepening in anticipation of having Cordelia’s warm hand wrapped around him. Tentative, her shy caress grew bolder at his reaction, his hips moving, buttocks flexing as he countered the movements of her hand, eyes half-closed, watching her.
When her touch became too much, he gruffly said, “Enough,” urging her to release him. Cordy slowly uncurled her hold, fingers sliding down across the sensitive surface of the heavy sacs beneath before dropping back down to the floor. She caught her lower lip between her teeth, trying to hold back her husky laugh at the surprise in his eyes.
With a speed that left her winded, Angel scooped her up onto the mattress again. Then he made it perfectly clear that it was his turn to do the touching, his hands slip-sliding over warm curves, cupping and teasing sensitive flesh. Leaving her arching and moaning for more, which he gave as his dark head dipped between her thighs, fingers opening her to his intimate kiss.
Then his name was a mantra on her lips. Fingers tangled in the short spikes of his hair as Cordelia’s hips writhed beneath the talented onslaught of his tongue. Rising up, the taste of her pleasure still in his mouth, Angel entered her slowly, the tight core of her body hot, slick and welcoming.
Cordelia held him close, a gasp sounding as they became one, Angel fully inside her. Tender kisses, soft reassurances followed as he held himself above her. Their bodies moved to the rhythmic cadence of her heartbeat following instinctive needs and a conscious desire to reach that elusive place.
On a husky moan, her legs locked around his. Angel’s head snapped up, amber eyes gleaming. His name fell from her lips, pleading completion. Hungrily, he claimed her lips, no longer languidly exploring the soft curves, but in a needy, carnal kiss. One wantonly returned as they tumbled on toward ecstasy. There in the dark cabin, with the fire’s glow shimmering across their sweat-slicked skin, Angel and Cordelia found it together, one following the other over the edge of oblivion.
Lying in a heap of arms and legs, they rolled over until Angel’s full weight was no longer directly on top. Cordelia panted softly, her cheek and palm against his chest. He held her tenderly, his hands soothing as his own body sank into the mattress, warm and sated. Then he heard her catch her breath to say, “Mmm, definitely way, way hot,” before her face lifted to place a tired kiss on the corner of his mouth.
Angel stroked her cheek with his thumb, a lazy smirk on his mouth. Teasing, “I don’t know. We may have to try that out a few more times to get the hang of it.”
Agreeing quickly enough with that idea, Cordelia wondered if he meant tonight. She figured she just needed to shut her eyes for a second or two. With a soft sigh of contentment on her lips, she lowered her head to his chest again and muttered, “Merry Christmas, Angel.”
Echoing the holiday sentiment, he promised to find a way to get Cordelia back to the lodge while it was still Christmas. “You have presents waiting.”
Though the reminder brought a smile to her lips, Cordelia knew she wouldn’t have traded this whole experience for a hundred presents wrapped in red velvet ribbon. As for leaving their soft nest in front of the fireplace anytime soon, “Hello, there’s still a blizzard out there.”
“The wind has already died down,” Angel listened to the air currents shifting around their log refuge. “We could make a run for it.”
Cordelia snuggled a little deeper into his arms, her gaze on the slow fire burning in the hearth. She thought of Wes, Gunn, Fred and Lorne back at the lodge, probably worrying about them. “I don’t want to move,” she sighed deeply. “I might wake up on Christmas morning and find that this was all one really hot dream.”
“Then I suggest you take full advantage of me while you have the chance,” he gave her two seconds to think about that before shifting Cordelia length-wise across his frame. Those roving hands traced a path up to her face with a reverent caress as his mouth met hers.
Between soft satin kisses, Cordelia told him, “Remind me to thank Mrs. C for hanging that mistletoe,” figuring that none of this might have happened if Angel hadn’t been a little carried away with that kiss.
Angel’s lips were still pressed against the shell of her ear when he realized he would have to confess that he’d hung it there himself. “Cordy, about the mistletoe…”
Mood Music: ‘It Must’ve Been The Mistletoe’
(Barbara Mandrell Version – You Tube – Outside Link )
It must have been the mistletoe,
the lazy fire, the fallen snow,
the magic in the frosty air,
that feeling everywhere.
It must have been the pretty lights
that glistened in the silent night;
Or maybe just the stars so bright
that shined above you.
Our first Christmas…
more than we’ve been dreaming of;
Old St. Nicholas had his fingers crossed
that we would fall in love.
It could have been the holiday,
the midnight ride upon a sleigh,
the countryside all dressed in white,
that crazy snowball fight.
It could have been the steeple bell
that wrapped us up within its spell.
It only took one kiss to know
it must have been the mistletoe.
Our first Christmas…
more than we’ve been dreaming of;
Old St. Nicholas must have known that kiss
would lead to all of this.
It must have been the mistletoe,
the lazy fire, the fallen snow
the magic in the frosty air,
that made me love you.
On Christmas Eve,
a wish came true,
the night I fell in love with you;
It only took one kiss to know
It must have been the mistletoe,
the lazy fire, the fallen snow,
the magic in the frosty air,
that feeling everywhere.
It must have been the mistletoe
the lazy fire, the fallen snow,
the magic in the frosty air,
that made me love you.
It must have been the mistletoe,
The lazy fire, the fallen snow,
The magic in the frosty air,
That feeling everywhere.