Scenes 111 – 120
111: The Lounge, Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale
Drusilla enjoyed her homecoming. Full of shock and fear, excitement, it was like a little party full of slayers, dashing men, pretty little kittens, and her sire. All that was lacking was her own darling Spike and Miss Edith.
The soft, scrumptious boy who had brought her back to the mansion rushed to stand in front of her, a willing shield against all harm. How eager he was to please her, so easy to control, to bend to her will.
Few things surprised her. The future whispered its secrets in her ears. Scary secrets out of her control, some wickedly evil, a delight to the demon she had become. Yet also so abhorrent she could not comprehend its existence. How naughty it was to want the bad things. To enjoy them again and again.
Miss Edith knew her secrets. She heard them all, listening so loyally keeping all of the sinful things to herself, never telling, never saying a word. Dru’s personal confessor.
Now she was lost. Stolen away by the bad man. The one who had once risked Angelus’ anger by wanting her to sin against her sire. Such a pretty one all dark and elegant, but he was not her Angel. He left her cold. The sight of him had stirred no passion, no interest.
The misty swirl of time let her peek at his future. She shared it with him, a dark certainty. The time had come. Now. Darkness swirled around her. Gleeful shudders wriggled inside her like a thousand tiny spiders. This was going to be so much fun.
Daddy could stop it all in time. He could save his precious pet, his new little love if he was lucky. Only if he was very, very lucky. Possibilities and little glimpses had come to her so long ago. Stray thoughts. Confusing dreams. Dark visions. Disparate threads now coming together.
Drusilla’s smile smeared across her face, a slash of red lips on pale skin. Within a few moments after her musky young man, Xander, announced her presence and his own return, the Slayer ran into the room holding a pointy stake in her rubber-gloved hand. Not a very friendly start, but that didn’t matter. She would as soon see the walls smeared with Buffy’s blood than let her hold sway over the heart of anyone Dru considered hers.
Not yet. Not now. The time for that would come later. For now Buffy Summers was only a nuisance, a little splinter under her skin. Dru hissed and curled her sharp red nails to form a claw.
“You are so gonna get staked.” Buffy rushed forward only to pull up short as Xander leaped between them.
Holding up a hand, he begged like any loyal minion, “No, don’t. You can’t.” Drusilla’s thoughts strayed to the possibility of making that so just to annoy the Slayer. That might be fun, but he was such a cuddly warm human.
Lagging behind the faster Slayer came Angel’s Cordy. One moment of focus revealed the intimate turn in her sire’s new relationship. A jealous flash burst forth inside her like a hundred darts pricking at her skin, one quickly smothered by delight. So much alike they were, yet unique, like sisters.
“Buffy, wait!” Cordelia reminded her, “Dru saved my life, so less of the staking first and asking no questions thing.”
Countering, “She’s got Xander,” Buffy edged closer.
Standing behind Xander, stroking a hand through his thick dark hair, Drusilla leaned forward to whisper into his ear. “I do.”
A foot connected with a locked connecting door as another Slayer kicked it open bursting into the room. “What the hell is going on?”
Drusilla eyed her warily. An unknown factor. This one scared her. Unpredictable. Backing off, she moved out of harms way urging Xander to make them listen, “Tell them.”
“She needs your help. Can’t you see that she’s hurt?” Xander growled out his anger at the lack of concern. “Put your stakes away.”
“No way,” the dark one moved to block the exit closing off a chance at escape. “Wait—it’s you. You’re the chick who took Cor.”
Angel’s pretty pet confirmed it. “Faith, this is Drusilla.”
“Nice to meet you,” the Slayer’s dimpled smile awarded no trust. “It’s not that I’m not grateful. You saved Cor, so I’ll give you a break. Leave now before I turn your bony ass into a dust pile.”
Drusilla stepped out from behind the wall of Xander’s protection. They thought her vulnerable, in need of it. How quickly they had forgotten. “You will take me to Angel.”
“No,” Buffy pointed toward the door with her ducky yellow rubber glove. “Out. Now. Angel doesn’t want you staked. Doesn’t mean I won’t do it.”
The threat was inconsequential. Drusilla barely heard it as she sensed her sire. He stood on the landing above flanked by two human males and a vaguely familiar little redhead. The girl held her attention for an instant. The little witch was in a whirlwind, her eyes on Dru’s new toy.
Quavering, she asked him, “Are you okay?”
Such latent power. It was hidden deep, soon to emerge. Drusilla stared her way as dark flashes passed across her inner eye. Such hatred. So much pain raging inside. What a surprise to find such potential destruction inside the little mouse.
The rush of it spread through Drusilla who felt its wake distracting her from the grim expression on her sire’s face. To come here when she knew it would be unwelcome meant she would have to face his wrath. She had done only what was necessary to ensure it, enthralling the boy to do her bidding, taking only a little taste when he begged for it so nicely.
No, she would have to face Angel. The thought of it was enough to make her long for the days when no soul held him back. The pain often lingered, but his attention was worth every moment she had to endure his wrath.
With one graceful leap over the balustrade, Angel landed on his feet. Straightening up, he walked forward, nudged Xander out of harms way and put his hand around her throat.
“What are you doing here?” A growl accompanied the demand setting off delicious tingles inside her. Reminding her again of lusty nights of pain and pleasure. How bad she was to think such thoughts. Angel had his little kitten now.
Cordelia’s scent was thick upon him. “Does she please you, my Angel?” Oh, she did. She really did, Dru smiled knowingly. What fun if Cordy would tell her all— because Angel would say nothing.
Glancing toward the wary brunette, Drusilla wondered if she would share. Details, that is. Even Dru did not think she would share Angel though the naughty idea made her titter inside.
“I asked you a question.” He released her none too gently sending her a step back.
Pouting at his lack of acknowledgement, Dru dutifully responded. “There comes a time when every girl needs her Daddy. I’ve come home.”
112: Trinity Baptist Church Ruins & Cemetery, Eastside, Sunnydale
Across town, the clouded sky provided the perfect shroud to cover illicit activities. At the cemetery behind the ruins of Trinity Baptist Church, Mike Mooney’s gang worked to dig out the obelisk from its entrenched location.
“Heave to it, men,” Mike ordered from the top of the crevasse. “We got an hour to get this back to base before Kalesh gets bitchy about it.”
Always giving out orders, the demon priestess was not one to take failure lightly. At least Mike had never discovered if she was the forgiving type. It was only the fancy European types who got away with it like that swanky vampire. Nicky Boy could try his schmoozing and ass-kissing without him around to see it.
That hot blonde of his was much better to look at, but Mike wasn’t born yesterday. He recognized a killer when he saw one. Isobel was definitely not the type he would want to cross paths with on a dark night. Guessing they had that in common, Mike reminded himself that the gang did not call him ‘The Undertaker’ for nothing.
Still, he had more important things to do than think about a nice piece of ass. He was in this for the power and money he would get when Amolon made his way to Earth. After that, women would be falling at his feet. Just the thought of it forced him to reach down to adjust his fly.
“Get your collective asses in gear,” he barked when the heavy obelisk budged only two feet off the ground. “Crank it up a notch.”
They had gotten a break. Someone had already done most of the digging. The obelisk stuck out of the sand like a giant stone dick covered with strange markings. Mike had no idea what any of it meant and honestly did not give a crap. All he knew was that Kalesh wanted it, so she was gonna get it.
Stomping over, he flipped the switch on the automated pulley to a high speed. The metal cord attaching it to the rope work that was already wound about the stone monument pulled taut vibrating with tension. Finally, it began to move. His men scrambled out of the way. Climbing back up the ladders they had used to get down into the trench, they made it up top in time to guide the obelisk onto a flatbed.
“Good work,” Mike pounded the nearest man on the back, his way of showing that he wasn’t going to have to kill anyone tonight for pissing him off. “Get it covered up. I want to be out of here before some cop or that nosey Slayer we’ve heard about turns up.”
The truck’s wheels dug in hard as it pulled away from the edge of the crevasse. Deep tire treads gouged the ground leaving muddy marks on the asphalt of the parking lot.
113: The Factory, Westside, Sunnydale
Taking the opportunity to recover a bit while her sire distracted his blonde inquisitor, Spike kept his head down. So far the bitch had gone easy on him. Toying, really. She got off on giving him pain. Lucky he did not mind roughing it up a bit.
Drusilla’s escape meant he got to stick around to enjoy the fun. Didn’t matter as long as she was out of harm’s way. Instinctively, he knew she would go straight home to Daddy. It made him want to puke at the way Captain Forehead could still get a wobbly-kneed reaction out of her. If the soul was not enough to put her off, nothing would.
“Excellent work, my dear Isobel, but I must take my leave” Spike overheard her sire preparing to go. The two of them were doing the kissy-faced routine again. Refusing to watch, he listened in disgust as they reveled at being one step closer to obtaining their goal.
Isobel had not asked many questions yet. She had been having far too much fun getting him ready. Chaining him up, stripping him down, leaving raw red welts and clawing bloody streaks into his skin, bruising deep. No, the fun was just starting.
“Stay, Nicolau,” the soft plea was seductive. Not at all like the cast-iron bitch Spike knew lay beneath that deceptive exterior. He could hear the pout on her pretty lips. “Don’t you want to watch?”
A chuckle sounded from her sire. He knew her game. “I have seen enough to know this will take a while, even for you. Spike is resilient. He will not be easily persuaded to talk.”
Damn bloody straight.
“Never fear,” Isobel assured him that she would discover the hiding place of the Pure One. That would be easy enough for Spike to avoid revealing since he didn’t know a damn thing about it. But Isobel’s promise to extract Drusilla’s whereabouts left Spike less confident when Isobel purred, “I never fail.”
Looking up, Spike watched through narrowed eyes as Nicolau put on his coat, hat and gloves. Even if the accent was not a dead giveaway, his froo-froo manners were a clear sign that he was not from around these parts. Sunnydale tended to get all sorts, but there was something about this particular vampire that seemed familiar.
“Come, Anton, bring the little miss,” ordered Nicolau. His minion held Drusilla’s doll like it was precious. His master had declared it would bring Drusilla to them. The idea might seem crazy, but Spike knew it to be true. He wondered how well this vampire knew his sire and why it was so important that he find her.
Nicolau took no notice of his scrutiny as if Spike was just a lowly thing, a means to get what he wanted. From the sound of it he wanted Dru—and something else. The only thing he could guess they might be after was the cheerleader. Drusilla’s recent obsession with Angel’s new pet made her the obvious choice.
Normally, Spike would not hesitate to give up the girl, but if he knew Angelus, the arrogant bastard had his little piece of fluff tied to his bed. Then again, this was not Angelus, just his bleeding heart soul. He could not imagine Angel letting the chit out of his sight.
Wherever the girl was Angel would be there. That was where Dru would be. Considering what Spike already knew it was a good guess that they would all be holed up in the mansion. Realizing that he knew more than he thought he did, Spike warily eyed Nicolau and Isobel wondering what Dru and her visions had gotten them into this time.
The moment Nicolau left, Isobel turned on her heel to face Spike who now made no pretence of being unconscious. Her cool blue gaze swept across the wounds she had already made admiring her handiwork. Catching her shiver of anticipation, Spike took the opportunity to tell her she was wasting her time.
Smirking, “Torture me all you want,” he figured he might as well tell her it was a waste of time. “You won’t get anything from me.”
“Oh, but I will.” Isobel glanced over at the two remaining minions who controlled the pulley of chains set up to hold him in place. Ordering them to comply, “On his feet,” they did so instantly.
A jerk of the heavy chains yanked him back into a standing position. The excess links rattled as the rest pulled taut. Spike clenched his teeth at the strain on his muscles, but it felt good to move. He stared back at Isobel imagining what he might do when he got loose.
“Got nothing to tell you.”
Isobel reached out to trace a fingernail down the center of his chest pressing just hard enough to leave a thin red trail behind. Her hand opened up continuing its downward path, nails scraping at his thigh, palm skimming close to his loins and getting a reaction. “By the time I’m through you’ll be begging to tell me everything.”
His scarred brow quirked upward, “Best get on with it, then.”
114: The Lounge, Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale
“Let me get this straight,” Angel stood in front of Drusilla who was now seated in the lounge surrounded by the rest of the group. “You want my protection.”
How the hell was he supposed to refuse? He owed her for coming through for Cordy. Dru had saved her during that demon attack, gotten her to safety. Any other time Angel would have expected jealousy, but his childe seemed to have an agenda of her own.
Dark bruises and scrapes covered her face and arms. They were healing, but there were many of them. Anger ripped through him. “Against what? Tell me who did this to you.” The rough edge to his voice had the others looking nervous, but he did not care. He wanted answers.
Unfortunately, Drusilla was more evasive than usual. She spoke in riddles describing a wolf and its mate who chased the darkness, played with the sun, and hungered for power. “You do not know them as they know you.”
Whoever was responsible was linked to the attack and to this prophecy. Dru knew far more than she had let on. It had never been easy to tell just how much she understood and what was her own whimsical fantasy. Now she had come here looking for help just when they were trying to create a safe place for everyone.
Xander had led Dru right to them. Though it was likely that she already knew Angel was here, he had let her through the front door. It had already occurred to him that there would be no barrier against vampires. That was one of the spells he had been discussing with Willow and the watchers. Though Cordelia was here, along with the others, the mansion was technically not her home.
Just the thought of her caused Angel to glance her way. Cordelia was pacing in front of the fireplace arguing softly with Faith over the idea of trusting Drusilla. Neither of the slayers wanted the vampiress anywhere near the mansion. It did not matter that she had saved Cordelia’s life—only that she was soulless, evil and prone to enthralling anyone in her path.
Speaking of which, Angel had to make it clear that was not permitted. “Dru, release Xander from the thrall. No mind games.”
Drusilla pouted prettily while Xander plumped her pillows obviously liking the extra attention. The boy paused to tell him, “That’s stupid. I know what I’m doing,” before perching on the arm of her chair.
Reluctantly, Dru agreed to do as Angel commanded. She stared deeply into Xander’s eyes, whispered a few words and sat back to watch. The utter adoration and trust on his face turned to horror as he realized that he was practically offering her his neck. Leaping to his feet in a panic, he quickly backed away.
“Get hold of yourself,” Faith jerked him to a standstill. “You’re fine. It’s not like she kept you around as a snack.”
Angel would not have ruled that out as a possibility. This was Drusilla, after all. She was still a hunter at heart. Getting her to understand that the people living here were not potential meals might be difficult. He considered what he would have to do to get her to convert to his diet of pig blood. Even on a temporary basis that was next to impossible.
When he announced that he was going to offer Dru sanctuary, the expected protests erupted. He was relieved that Cordelia supported his decision, yet understood the fact that she seemed wary about it. The watchers were reserved, but wanted to gain access to what knowledge she might possess about the prophecy. Knowing that she could not be fully trusted, they proposed limits on her freedom to move about the mansion.
There was one other thing that needed to be cleared up. “Where is Spike?” If Dru had been alone when she was attacked, her wayward childe might be doing anything from playing a round of kitten poker to staging a massacre.
Angel managed to pry out the fact that Spike was a prisoner. The news galvanized him into action. He moved toward the door already thinking of weapons and access into the factory. “We should move quickly,” Angel announced his decision. “We’ve got a chance to turn the tables on them. Get some real intel from an insider.”
They looked ready, eager for a fight even though it meant saving Spike of all people. Angel caught Cordelia’s determined gaze. She wanted this, too. Anything that might end this threat. Something that would lead her to finding Bev’s killer.
Instantly, the heated rush that swept through him at the thought of battle cooled. He did not want Cordelia in the middle of it, but it was not safe here at the mansion yet. Their defenses were not fully ready. Dru was in the building. And he would be leaving them to go after someone who might already know to come here.
“I’ll go alone.”
“What if you’re walking into a trap?” Cordelia grabbed his hand holding him in place.
Angel cupped the back of her head, pressed his lips against her forehead despite the gawking audience. “Then you’ll be safe here with the others. If Spike talks, they’ll know to come here. The rest of you need to keep working on those defenses. Get Willow started on those spells.”
“I’m on it,” Willow promised.
Giles suggested that he take one of the slayers along, but Angel refused. This plan was better anyway. He would do this on his own. There would be no one there to hold him back.
115: Thousand Oaks Drive, Westbound Lane, Central Sunnydale
Though the sounds of the night screamed for attention Angel tuned them out. The roar of the engine, night air whipping across the metal car frame, and voices carried by the wind faded from his notice. Driving as if on automatic pilot, he saw the way forward, but his thoughts were neither on the road nor his destination.
It was not the mission ahead that kept him distracted. The rescue plan was simple: no plan at all. He would deal with the details when he got there. Even then, he was more concerned about what to do with Spike after the rescue. Bringing him back to the mansion when two Slayers were in residence would be like tossing a match into a keg of gunpowder.
With Cordelia’s life still in danger, Angel did not need that kind of distraction. None of them did.
But it was going to happen.
He owed a debt to his childe for saving Cordelia. If it were not for Dru’s involvement, rescuing Spike would be his last concern. After all, it was not that long ago Spike tried to kill him. Letting him get what was coming to him might have been tempting, but that was water under the bridge now. If Drusilla had not acted on visions Angel guessed had to do with his future— and Cordelia’s, he knew Spike would not have been a target.
Spike’s rescue had become his duty. He swore to get it done. He owed Dru. Besides, whoever had him was trying to track down Cordelia through Spike’s relationship with Dru. That was someone Angel wanted to get his hands on. If there was any chance of finding out who was behind all of this, he had to take it.
He wanted answers. Wanted to stop whoever was behind this whole scheme. Ensure Cor’s safety.
Then he could graciously kick his guests out of the mansion. A little time alone with Cordelia was not really too much to ask. For now, privacy was not going to be easy. Having the Scoobies around gave Cordelia an excuse to avoid certain subjects that they needed to discuss. Sometimes he caught her staring at him with some unfathomable look on her face that filled him with dread.
She would blow it all off if he questioned her. Making it seem like he was imagining it all, “Like you don’t have enough to brood about already?” After a patented eye roll, she would just put it down to indigestion. Patting her stomach dramatically, “I wasn’t the one who put Xander in charge of the cooking.”
What the hell was so important to keep secret? Angel knew her well enough to back off for a while, but he worried that she had reservations about him or their future as a couple. Whatever it was the idea of him finding out about it scared her. He could sense that much. Dru had been typically vague. Cryptic messages were the norm for her, but this was the first time that Angel really cared about their ultimate meaning.
Maybe the fear he sensed was just his own and his own doubts were getting in the way. Thinking about Cordy roused powerful feelings. Too many of them. Just like the clamor of the night coming at him all at once without the ability to ignore; because it was not just his soul responding, but his demon, too.
Unlike his relationship with Buffy where his human love tangled with demonic hatred and an obsessive drive to destroy any hint of tender emotion, Angel’s love for Cordy garnered no inner opposition, maybe because the soul was permanently tethered now. Sometimes he and his demon were a little too much in tune. It built into a deep sense of love and lust, passion and possessiveness, and a deep-seated desire to wreck havoc on anyone who threatened her.
The steering column creaked as Angel’s grip tightened. Stepping on the gas, he sped through the Main Street crossroads ignoring the sharp blaring horns and screeching tires. Quick reflexes made maneuvering the Plymouth through the traffic easy. He barely spared a conscious thought for it letting his mind wander back to the moment they had said goodbye.
Even now, the taste of Cordelia’s kiss lingered on his lips, the warm imprint of her hand on his cheek still palpable. Angel recalled the concern clouding her lingering gaze as she had stepped back to let him leave. This was something he had to do. She knew it and let him go without further argument.
Cordelia had waited until he was in the car to say, “Come back in one piece. I don’t do the Florence Nightingale routine.”
Angel had immediately recognized the tone. Saw through it. Sensed the way Cordy tried to hide her fear. This was not the first time he had noticed that she tended to distance herself from anything that might hit too close to home by lashing out with that caustic tongue. Her inner bitch, as she called it, was as much of a shield as it was a source of strength. He was beginning to see that Cordelia cared a lot more about things than she let on.
Despite admitting her feelings for him and being so responsive to his lovemaking, Cordy still put up barriers between them. Those things she kept to herself. Though she gave herself to him so eagerly, trusting in him completely when they were in each other’s arms, there was a point where she held back. He did not fully understand what he was sensing. Only that Drusilla’s vision was at the bottom of it.
There was something more that she left unrevealed. Whatever it was bothered Cordy enough to keep it secret. And that pissed him off. He did not like surprises. It was not like Cor to hold her tongue about anything—or so he thought. Getting to know her was a constant revelation. Every day he discovered new depths, but this propensity for keeping things from him definitely needed to stop.
This was about the future, presumably their future together. He did not like the fact that it frightened her enough to hide it.
Faster than he thought possible, she had invaded his soul, seeped deep into his pores, into his very being. It was still early in their relationship. Caught up in the discovery of being in love, it was far too soon to expect Cordy to understand the depths of his need for her. That it was not just human emotion that bound them together.
Being with a vampire meant she was in for more than just nights of energetic sex. It was also about possession: for a night or forever. What Cordy could not know was that it was already too late. Heart and soul, he loved her, but in the shadowy depths where his demonic urges were constantly restrained, Angel fought a losing battle.
He was beginning to understand what it must have been like for his sire who had defied the Master to stay with Angelus. Darla was truly obsessed with her ‘stallion’ sticking with him through his bloody escapades and countless infidelities, giving her childe power over her that was in many ways surprising. Until the gypsy curse changed him. That was too much, even for her.
Comparing his love for Cordelia to Darla’s obsession seemed twisted, but this was far more than infatuation. She was the most human person he knew. No one accepted him for who he was like Cordy did, both the human and demon aspects. She had a healthy respect for the dangerous side of him, but wasn’t about to let it frighten her. Now that the loophole in his curse had been closed, there was nothing to fear from Angelus.
For the first time in ages, Angel was starting to think of himself as one person again and not two disparate halves of a whole. Doing so came with complications. He was listening more to tempting thoughts he might have once pushed out of his mind. The instinct to claim Cordelia by vampiric custom grew stronger with every moment spent together. Just thinking about it twisted him in knots.
Putting his claim on her meant releasing his tight control, letting the demon within him loose long enough to make its mark, trusting himself to do it without getting carried away by lustful whims or sadistic urges.
Reining all that back in was never easy, but doing so when she was in his arms might prove impossible. Oh, the things his demonic side would love to do if there were no restraints. Angel gripped the steering wheel and growled low in his throat. The idea of letting that side of him touch Cordelia in any way repulsed him, but every time he looked at her it was there in his thoughts.
Do it. Just let it happen. You know you will.
Being apart only made it worse. Even now, instead of focusing on the mission ahead, Angel pictured how it might happen. Unable to get Cordelia out of his head, he stopped fighting it. He dreamt up dozens of scenarios all of which ended with his mark visible on her throat.
They were making love…
Eyes closed in ecstasy, Cordelia wrapped her arms around him, holding on to his broad shoulders. Fingernails dug into his flesh as her pleas urged him on. “Make me yours, Angel. I want you forever.” He slid inside her tight heat and tried to give her just that. In full control, he tempered her wild streak slowing things down to let them both savor every second of it.
Nuzzling the smooth column of her neck, he kissed her pulse point tasting the warm skin beneath the velvet of his tongue. Cordelia quivered with her second—no, third, orgasm before Angel made his move. Desire licked low and hard as he kept a steady rhythm, gentle, almost lazy in the way his body thrust into hers.
Angel gazed deep into her trusting eyes. “You’re mine.” An eager purr of agreement sounded he opened his mouth over her throat. Sliding his fangs deep, he marked her as his own.
He was capable of tenderness and gentility, but wondered if it was possible to remain in total control of his instincts. Making love to Cordy was the one thing that seemed to make him lose it. Could he ever maintain that much control? The word ‘impossible’ came to mind. Being honest about it, the odds were not good.
This was not just some deluded fantasy to him. Angel realized he was thinking about it as if it was going to happen. The need to claim her was rooted too deep inside him to ignore.
Cordelia’s cooperation was another issue. The act itself was not painless. By design, it was a sensitive area. Visible scars were not exactly her favorite subject though this one would be her choice. His only hope was to distract her long enough to lessen the sting of his fangs.
Planning ahead, gaining her acceptance, managing to maintain a tight hold on his instincts. Some things were just meant to happen when they happened. Maybe this was one of those things. The only way that particular scenario would play out was if Cordelia knew and fully accepted what the mark would mean.
That meant not only finding the courage to explain what he wanted, but risking her negative response. He did not think she was ready to make that kind of commitment, which suggested he should not do it.
Knowing that did not exactly mean he could stop it from happening. Without getting her consent, Angel knew there would be hell to pay. Yet, the thought of just doing it had considerable appeal. Once it was done, she would learn to accept it.
They were arguing…
As usual, Cordy thought she had the upper hand just because she was doing most of the talking. Pulse racing, fiery-eyed and confident, she was too tempting to resist. They were in the alley behind the Bronze. Some half-drunk punk had not been able to keep his hands off her and ended up on the floor with a mouthful of loose teeth. She had not wanted a scene.
“I was handling it.”
Angel figured the guy had been doing most of the handling. It was not a trust issue. He knew Cordy’s loyalties were with him. This was not just an issue of jealousy. It had to do with the simple fact that another man had touched what was his.
That was just too much for the primitive part of his brain that was obsessed with her every breath. Without thinking about the consequences, he walked her back until she was trapped between him and the brick wall of the Bronze. Cordelia continued to mouth off at him, adding that his caveman behavior was a real turnoff.
She was lying about that one.
He pinned her wrists to the brick. No words. No explanation. No warning. A shake of his head as his features shifted, a flash of fangs and it was done before she had time to take a deep breath. Angel released her wrists, gentling her with his hands as her hot blood filled his mouth. He lapped at the wounds sealing his scent deep into in the flesh, a sign to others that she belonged to him.
Especially overly friendly ex-boyfriends.
A slow smirk slid across his mouth. He could definitely see it happening that way. Cordelia could rile him up inside faster than anyone he knew, but she stoked his lust at the same time. That was a dangerous combination. It took a lot of restraint to hold off on the urge to use his hands when they argued.
Touching her in the middle of a fight would be too much of a temptation. Angel did not want it to happen that way even though the idea gave his demon a thrill. He wanted Cordelia to be completely aware of what that mark meant and willing to accept it.
They were patrolling…
The thrill of the kill coursed through him as Angel stood over the dead body of the Crosathnam mercenary. He would not threaten anyone ever again, much less harm Cordelia. The loud crunch of bone as Angel had twisted its neck was satisfying.
Having Cordy watch as he used his strength and skill to protect her was a turn-on. Angel could tell she felt the same. Flushed with excitement, “You looked so hot doing that,” she lifted her mouth for his kiss.
“You’re mine,” Angel stroked her cheek feeling the heat bloom across her skin. “I’d never let anything hurt you.”
Their bodies crashed together like a pair of magnets. He ate out her mouth, stole her breath until she had no choice but to pull away for air. A long hot stare followed and he could see the want in her eyes, scent her arousal. His cock was like an iron bar tenting his pants. She slid her hand across it and gripped him hard.
It was all they could do to get back to the car. Parked on the far side of the cemetery it was secluded. Not that either of them cared about an audience just then. Their bed was just too far away.
Cordelia climbed into the back seat of the Plymouth and eagerly beckoned to him to follow. “C’mon, Angel,” she dragged him down next to her.
Straddling him, Cordy’s heat centered on his erection giving him a spontaneous little lap dance that fired them up even more. He unbuttoned her blouse in record time, stripping it away, and reaching up to cup her lace-covered breasts in his palms. She shuddered at the sensation of his tongue dipping into her cleavage, and let out a moan of want when he pushed the lace out of the way to toy with a nipple.
They did not bother to get naked. That took too much time and they both wanted this now. He yanked her skirt out of the way while Cordy fumbled with his zipper. Angel let out a low grunt as her soft hand closed around his shaft. He reached down to tug her panties aside.
Slowly taking him in, she muttered, “You’re so big this way.” Angel guided Cordelia’s hips down until he was fully sheathed. He kissed her lips softly, instructed her to ride him and guided her into a rhythm that nearly blew the top off his head.
He was close, so damn close to coming. Angel needed more, needed to fill her to the brim, pour himself inside her. More, he needed to taste her, to mark her to show the world that Cordelia was truly his. She was so beautiful, his completely, riding him to ecstasy with her head thrown back, eyes shut tight as she gripped his shoulders for support. All his.
When his mouth lingered at her throat and the teasing nibbles caught her attention, Cordy showed no surprise, only acceptance. Caressing his face, she nuzzled her neck closer, her hand sliding around to run her fingers through the hair at his nape. “Don’t stop. I want it.”
There was no hesitation on either side, just love and acceptance.
Snapping out of his thoughts, Angel realized that he was getting aroused. Cordelia was not even here and he was ready for her. Lately, he felt like a walking hormone around her. All it took was a glance from across the room. Stolen kisses and touches only teased them both.
Angel felt annoyed that the Scoobies were here during this stage of his relationship with Cordy. He longed for nights where it was just the two of them. He missed their time alone together, even when it was just out on patrol. Remembering that trip to the deli where she’d fed him French fries, it reminded Angel just how different he was with her around.
When this was over, he would have to talk to Cordy about it. Let her know just what she meant to him. He hoped to hell that it did not scare her because her fear was not going to stop it from happening one way or the other. Angel wanted his mark on her, to lay claim to her in a visible and permanent way.
He was in deep and knew it.
Angel wanted to go deeper still. Make fantasy a reality in whatever form it would take to make it happen. Tie her to him in ways she would not really understand or might find shocking.
Hell, it was shocking for him. Angel had never claimed a woman like that. Not even Buffy. Vampires took mates, but rarely human ones. Those relationships tended to be one-sided, the woman being more of a concubine, little more than a slave to the whim of her lover. That certainly was not what Angel envisioned when he thought of claiming Cordelia.
The future was too uncertain. Angel knew that he wanted Cordelia, loved her more than he thought possible, and wanted her by his side. Getting her through this crisis was his primary focus, but the temptation of planning beyond it stirred up new hopes.
Anything resembling a hope for happiness was usually dashed by an influx of guilt. He did not deserve it, but that was not going to stop him from reaching out to hold on to it as long as possible. That meant keeping Cordelia safe, and keeping his mouth shut about wanting to make an official claim.
She was about to bury her grandmother. The last thing Cordy needed right now was a possessive vampire hovering over her every move, fantasizing about blood rights and mating rituals.
Angel did nothing to suppress his angry growl letting it roll around deep in his chest. Thinking about it that way trivialized the powerful emotions he was feeling. There was nothing insignificant or meaningless about wanting to claim Cordelia. It meant everything. If only he could make her understand that.
They were on a moonlit beach…
The moon overhead was nearly full and bright as it hit the water along the dockside. Angel had to shake off the temptation of thinking up another scenario. He had arrived at his destination.
When slowing the Plymouth to a stop, the sounds Angel had blocked out rushed to his ears. Reality slammed into him full force. Seagulls squawked overhead. Waves washed along the ragged shoreline, rusted old barges and the warped pylons along the wharf. Hinges creaked on the old warehouse doors. Nothing out of the ordinary immediately drew his attention—until a scream of pure agony echoed through the canyon of metal buildings.
Instant recognition hit: Spike.
With a single motion, Angel bounded from the car leaping over the passenger side door. Vamping out before his feet hit the ground, he felt his facial bones shift, fangs extend, and his body become denser. He crouched low, eyes shifting from ground to building looking for the best path from here to the factory.
The screaming was a good sign. It meant this was not going to be a wasted trip. Spike was still alive to be rescued. More importantly, it meant the one who captured him had not left yet. Drusilla had described vampires, and not the Crosathnam demon that had originally been after them.
It was possible that this cadre of vampires were the ones who had hired the demon in the first place. Either way, one of them was certain to have more information about Cordelia’s part in this prophecy, and Angel was determined to get it.
116: The Factory, Westside, Sunnydale
Spike squinted at his captor through his one good eye, pain spearing him back from the grim hold of unconsciousness. Isobel had removed her stylish leather coat and gloves, claiming not to want to ruin them. It left her wearing only a body-hugging black leather mini dress that clung to every shapely curve and a pair of stilettos. Her beauty was just another weapon in her deadly arsenal making her look soft and vulnerable.
The cold-hearted bitch was watching him, eyeing the landscape of her handiwork across his skin. Bruises, knots and shallow wounds covered his torso. Blurred vision prevented him from getting a clear view, but he saw the spreading smile and the glint of her fangs as she stepped closer.
“Try that again, luv,” Spike’s speech slurred through his swollen lips where a deep split formed. “Don’t think you’ve scratched that itch yet.”
High on causing him pain, forcing his screams and having another master vampire at her mercy, Isobel looked eager for the next round. Chained, beaten and bloody, there was no doubt he was right where she wanted him. Her almost heady laugh cut through the ringing in his ears.
Thought he was amusing, did she? Through the hazy fog clouding his brain, Spike recalled what she had done to him. Gritting his teeth against the urge to howl, he noted the slackened chains and lunged forward.
Even though she never flinched, her eyes widened a fraction, and her smile dimmed just enough to make Spike realize Isobel had thought he was incapable of attacking her. Inches away, he was jerked back into place, his arms stretched out above his head, scuffed boots barely touching the ground. Beavis and Butthead, her two pasty faced minions, grunted as he strained against their strength.
Instead of censuring him for trying to rip out her throat, Isobel seemed impressed. An almost dreamy look lit her gaze. Walking up to him, her high heels clicked on the concrete surface of the factory floor. “Aurelius men have such stamina,” Isobel cooed into his ear, her hand brushing over his shoulder, nails digging in just enough to let him feel it. “Don’t fight me, cousin. I can take away the pain. Cooperate. You know what I want.”
The melodic sound of her voice at times soothed and tempered him between acts of sheer malevolence. His shirt hung in tatters from his shoulders, jeans opened and clinging to his frame, torso littered with torn flesh and smeared blood. Fuck if she was not also turned on by it. Spike could smell her excitement. It kept him sane to know he had that one bit of power over the bitch.
Not that he could do much with it at the moment.
Isobel wanted something beyond the pain: the truth about Dru’s whereabouts. It had something to do with Angelus’ chit, the cheerleader. If it was just a matter of giving up the goods on that feisty little puss, Spike might consider turning tattler.
But she wanted Dru, too.
It only made sense that Peaches would keep his pet close at hand. There was only one place Dru would go during a crisis—straight home to dear old Daddy— and that meant keeping mum about the mansion.
Funny thing was that Isobel never directly asked about him. He half expected her to blabber on about Angelus this or Angel that. Instead, she asked him for details about Cordelia Chase as if she did not even know there was a connection. If that was the case, Spike was not about to enlighten her. The less talking he did, the less likely he was to spit out something she could use against him.
Dulcet tones and soft touches accompanied her plea, “Tell me, Spike. Tell me where to find them.” Isobel nipped at his earlobe. Her hand slipped down to the open fly of his pants, her fingernails combing through the dark wiry hair at his groin and getting a reaction.
“Not bloody likely.” A groan escaped. Head tilted back, a shudder of hatred and lust wracked through him. Fuck if he was not getting a bit turned on by it, too.
A heavy headbutt knocked her back. Isobel stumbled away from him, the shock and pain momentarily frozen on her face giving him a thrill. She lifted a hand to her forehead, gaping at him for having the audacity to fight back. Or maybe it was just the fact that he had not fallen for her seduction scheme.
As expected, the bitch made him pay, another blonde bint who had it in for him. Had a good right hook, this one did. His left eye was already swollen shut and felt like he had been walloped with a tire iron. Not as sharp a jab as the Slayer’s, mind you. Isobel had her own tricks. Liked to play with her nails, claw bloody trails across his skin and let her tongue follow the drops of blood. He had lost a lot. Felt dizzy with it to the point that he had almost forgotten this was torture.
There was something familiar about Isobel and her sire. He could not pinpoint it. He would remember if they had met before. Snotty bastards and their sadistic mates were hard to forget. He considered that she might just remind him of Darla. The notion turned his stomach. As sickening as the idea of staking one’s sire was to a vampire, Spike was not exactly teary-eyed over the fact that Darla was dust.
Her ivory skin was splattered here and there with red. Lifting a coated finger, Isobel dripped the blood across her tongue as he watched, and then closed her lips around it. She savored it rolling her wet tongue around until every drop was gone. “Mmm, you do taste divine, but playtime is over now.”
The hairs raised on the back of his neck as Spike saw her reach for a nail gun that had been left behind on one of the factory shelves. “My aim might be a little off,” she pointed it directly at his chest and then slowly tracked downward inch by inch, “but some targets are more challenging than others.”
His good eye popped open wide. “Oy!” Spike dodged the first shot by swinging his body out of the way. One hit his thigh, another wild shot lodged in his boot next to his big toe. The minions who held his chains pulled hard to get him back into place as he dodged nails. They were laughing hard which unintentionally released some tension on the chains making it easier for him to move.
Vamped out, he roared in pain as a third nail speared a little too close to its intended target. Isobel’s eyes gleamed with satisfaction. “Got you.” She walked close once his chains were pulled taut again. “Tell me about the pain, Spike. Does it hurt?”
She grabbed the end of the long nail protruding from his jeans and pressed it at an angle deeper into his flesh. Snarling, “It tickles a bit,” he refused to tell her it hurt like the devil. Yes, it bloody well hurt. He would like to take a rail spike to her tender bits and see what she thought about it.
Digging it in a little deeper, Isobel growled back in frustration. “Do you play games with your sire? There is no safety word here. No chance to stop the pain unless you tell me what I want to know.”
“No,” the guttural sound emerged from his throat barely recognizable to him. “Finish it. Not gonna tell you squat.”
Yanking out the nail, Isobel plunged it into his abdomen again before hurling it to the floor. “Do you have any idea how angry Kalesh will be if the Pure One continues to elude us? Kalesh is unforgiving. Even the most loyal do not escape her wrath. My sire fears nothing except the power she holds over our future.”
Who the bloody hell was Kalesh? Spike tried to focus through the searing pain. “Bitch, you won’t have a future. Gonna see to that myself,” he muttered almost to himself. A slap across his face caught him off guard when his thoughts wandered, imagining encounters in the dark, and Isobel’s dust blowing away on the wind.
“Pay attention,” demanded Isobel harshly. “There is but one way out of this, Spike. I need answers. We do not require your sire’s capture for our plan to succeed, only the human. Why do you protect Cordelia Chase, and what is she to you?”
Not a flipping thing. He caught himself from saying it managing to twist his words to, “None o’ your business.”
That husky laugh returned as she twirled a finger around the edge of the lower wound where the denim turned dark with blood. Her nails scraped along the fabric covering his thigh, her fingers brushing lightly over his open fly on a down stroke.
A voice came out of the shadows overhead, “Am I interrupting?” a figure standing on a crossbeam that held up the roof. Spike recognized Angel instantly.
Isobel whirled away to search for the intruder while snapping an order to her minions to stand their ground. They held his chains in place, actually tightening their hold a notch. Spike felt his arms and spine stretch painfully, but he felt invigorated. Though unexpected, Angel’s arrival could mean only one thing: his rescue.
“Lost your bloody advantage now, luv!” Spike grinned for an instant before flinching at the sharp twinge from his split lip.
The swarthy vampire to his right overheard. “There is but one of him, idiota. We are three.”
“Basta,” Isobel gestured for silence. “Do not be foolish, Tomas. Can you not hear the confidence in his voice? Be ready.” Her beautiful face twisted form into that of the true vampire: prominent brow ridges, golden eyes, sharp angles and deadly fangs.
Spike lost track of Angel in the rafters. Moving fast, he sprung agilely from the steel beams down to the floor. The others were just as disoriented and called out warnings each time they thought they saw a shadow. Finally, he stepped into the light, a tall, dark imposing figure draped head to toe in black.
While he was sizing up the opposition, Isobel stared at the newcomer, anger visibly melting as recognition struck. An anxious quiver sounded, “A-Angelus?” mixed with anticipation as she took a step toward him. “Unbelievable, it’s really you. Everyone thought you dead it has been so long since your name has been heard.”
“Only everyone who was anybody,” Spike cut in. If Angel’s instincts were not rusted solid, he would realize that Isobel was twittering like a star-struck schoolgirl over meeting Billy Idol face to face.
Angel’s gaze narrowed as it slid from Isobel to him. It looked like Captain Boring was not amused by his little attempt at levity. Hell, he was the one who was captured in order to give Drusilla time to escape, chained and beaten, nearly seduced into telling everything. If he wanted to joke about this sodding rescue attempt, he deserved it.
“You’ve got something that belongs to me.” That was not exactly how Spike would have put it, and tried not to chuckle at Angel’s attempt at playing master. But who was he to complain if it got him out of these chains and back to Drusilla’s side. “Release him now.”
With a nasty little smile, Isobel walked back to Spike’s side. She stepped under his chained arms. “Secure him,” the quiet orders were given to her lackeys. To Spike, she stepped closer, ran a hand along his chest from behind and whispered, “Ruin this for me and I will have your head.”
Isobel was off again to chat it up with Angel pretending to consider his release. Spike knew better. He hoped Angel had half a brain to figure that out.
“Angelus, I have waited too long to meet you,” she purred, her hips swayed seductively as she moved toward him. “My sire has told me many tales of your escapades. There are few who can rival your vicious deeds. I have been eager to discover more ever since I met Darla. She claims you are quite the stallion.”
Did she really think he was going to fall for that load of crap? Bollocks. Soft curves and long legs, and a sharp pair of fangs would not distract him. Or would they? Deep down, Peaches was still Angelus: ego incarnate. This new groupie was another piece of blonde fluff, one of his favorite types. Spike silently cursed the bastard. Suddenly, the odds on his rescue were not looking so good.
“You have the advantage,” Angel moved closer though clearly keeping an eye on all three of them. He must have realized that while Isobel was unknown to him, her sire was someone he had known in the past as Angelus. “Who is your sire?”
Spike noticed that she was not so quick with the introductions. Playing coy, Isobel just smiled. “One who will not be pleased if I am harmed. Angelus, please believe we had no idea you were in Sunnydale.”
For once, Soul Boy was not denying his rightful name. As long as Isobel did not sniff out the fact that Angel had something extra on board, it looked like his bluff might work.
“Would knowing have made a difference?” Angel looked like he could not give a crap one way or the other. “I’m here for Spike. Release him.”
Isobel shrugged one shoulder. “Now that you are here I need him no longer. I do not need him to tell me where to find Drusilla. If you are here, then it means she went to you. I presume there are a number of locals who know of your lair.”
Sodding hell! The chit was not stupid. She was putting the pieces together too fast for Spike’s liking. Angel was not too keen on it either if the dark look on his face meant anything. Knowing where to find Drusilla meant they could find Cordelia, too.
Before Isobel could say anything else, Angel wrapped his big hand around her throat dragging her from the ground so that her tiptoes barely touched the concrete. The menacing look on his face was enough to frighten anyone. Isobel looked like she was creaming her panties instead. Choking the bitch could not kill her, but it hurt like hell and made it hard for her to talk.
Angel obviously did not like her knowing where to find his luscious little pet.
The two goons ran up to flank them. Angel hardly twitched in response to their bared fangs. He flung Isobel through the air directly at the one on his left. She screamed in fury, probably at the indignity rather than the pain as they crashed to the floor in a heap.
With a quick extension of his arms, two stakes appeared in Angel’s hands. He whirled to attack the second vampire. Spike was actually impressed even though he had never had much reason to kill his own kind in the past. The nifty armaments almost made Old Broody Pants look cool—not that he would ever admit thinking it.
Though caught off guard, his opponent was quick to parry the first blow dodging the next with equal efficiency. He sensed they had been around for a while. These were not ordinary blokes by any means. They had captured him, after all, reasoned Spike.
Never one to sit on the sidelines, even when chained, Spike urged, “Put some muscle into it, Peaches. That’s the ponce who nearly tried it on with Dru before Blondie over there put a stop to it.”
Angel did not need instructions, but it felt too damn good to finally see Isobel and her goon squad get it where it hurt. This one was fast, but he tried to get too fancy. The bugger tried some jujitsu move that Angel was more than qualified to counter. Angel got him as he flipped through the air and sent him to the concrete flat on his poncey face.
Plunging one stake into his heart, Angel held the other one up defensively as Isobel screeched for her remaining underling to attack. Spike noticed her voice was hoarse from the squeeze put on her throat and wished he had been the one to do it. One big difference, though. Kept squeezing, he would have done.
A cloud of dust exploded around them, billions of tiny bone shards and ashen flesh. Instead of settling slowly to the ground, it billowed through the air when the other guy made a steamroll move in Angel’s direction. A blur of motion tumbled them onto the floor. It knocked him hard against a piece of heavy equipment.
Good job it was his just head getting knocked around. Angel wedged a leg between them hurling him off. Spike’s gaze followed right along watching him crash on top of the table with a heavy thunk. Its wooden legs broke and the table fell sending Dru’s favorite china cup to the concrete floor.
Cringing, he saw it shatter into a hundred pieces. First the doll, now the cup. Dru was going to be in a right rotten mood when she found out about it.
When Spike focused on the fight again, he noticed that the stakes had disappeared back into the devices bound to Angel’s forearms. Now it looked like he wanted to make a point with his fists. Angel actually let him get back to his feet only to make him pay for it. Powerful punches bloodied his face staggering him.
Efficient jabs made Angel’s moves seem practiced as if beating the other vampire to a pulp was something he did day after day. He lowered his fists purposely leaving his guard down to draw his opponent in, taunting him when his movements got clumsy.
Anger turned furious when Angel kicked his legs out from under him. All but daring him, “Want to try that again?”
Isobel circled around them, watching every move. She bent down to pick up one of the broken table legs. Instead of coming up behind Angel, she left her man to his fate—which was going to be being dusted as soon as Angel quit toying around. If Spike did not know better, Peaches was taking out a little bit of revenge against the poor sod.
“He’s magnificent, isn’t he?” Isobel’s husky voice came too close for comfort. She was back beside him. He had lost sight of her momentarily while watching the fight.
Spike tried to shrug, but his arms were pulled tight by the chains binding him. “If you like that sort of thing,” he hesitated answering. Silly bint.
Her answer was almost a purr, “Oh, I do.”
“Just a hint, Issy,” Spike glared irreverently. “If you want to keep that pretty face, I suggest you give him whatever he wants.”
Growling at him, Isobel dragged the jagged edge of the table leg across his cheek. “You?” The trail left a trickle of blood. “The Angelus of legend would leave you to rot. I know there is more to this than just saving your skin.”
Spike ignored the prickling pain and the distraction of the ongoing fight. “Gonna give you a bit of advice. Take ‘Gelus off the ruddy pedestal before it falls on you. He’s got an agenda. Whatever it is has got sod to do with me. There’s only one thing on his mind and she’s leading him around by his—,” he broke off suddenly realizing that he had said too much.
He knew it the moment the words were out of his mouth that Isobel was filling in the blanks. “Drusilla,” she offered up the suggestion even if it was off base. It made sense—if you were part of someone else’s clan, the sire acting on behalf of his childe. “She wants you back.”
“Don’t doubt it.” He was not so sure about that bit. After all, she had cheated on him with a Chaos demon, used him to get back to Sunnydale, and talked about him leaving her like it was some foregone conclusion.
“Angelus would never let his childe rule his actions.” Isobel turned to watch the fight for a moment before concluding, “He’s not just here for you. It’s the girl he wants.”
As she linked Angel to his pretty little pet, Spike’s eyebrows quirked up in surprise at the confidence in her voice. “The girl Dru brought home?” he tried to look bored. “Can’t really say. Had a right hard-on for the Slayer last time I was in town. Sexy little blonde, like you.”
“Nice try,” Isobel purred stroking his injured cheek. Bitch was too close for comfort, both physically and in getting to the truth. The fact that she knew it, too, was clear when she gave a little shudder and smiled. “There’s no need to lie to me, Spike. I’ll just ask him myself when he’s finished with Tomas.”
She was a cold-hearted little bint, he thought, but noticed her eyes stray toward her companion. A hint of regret flashed across her face vanishing just as quickly. “You do that.” Spike had a feeling if Isobel even mentioned Cordelia’s name she was going to get an answer she was not expecting. “Remember what I said, luv. Give the man what he wants. If it’s the girl, you can find another one. Plenty o’ them around Sunnyhell.”
“Not like this one.” Isobel smirked when he did not bother to deny it. “Cordelia Chase is one of five who possess the power to secure our future. You cannot imagine what it will be like. Perhaps Angelus does not know what he wants,” she added cryptically making him wonder what she had up her sleeve.
Spike did not know much about Angel’s chit except that she was a lot easier on his eyes than his ears. “What power?”
There was a moment of hesitation before Isobel admitted that she did not know all of the details. “The girl is to be sacrificed. That is all that matters. I prefer to dwell on the outcome.”
That was motive enough for Angel to dust her if she did not give up the goods. He knew that Angel was not here just to rescue him. Maybe that was his secondary objective, but the first would be to get any bit of information out of Isobel that he could.
“Which is what?”
Isobel turned away from the fight again. After a short pause to look him over, she tucked the broken table leg under her arm to free up her hands. Spike was about to call foul when she headed straight for his fly, but she only zipped it up and then fastened the two remaining buttons on his shirt. That was not going to hide anything. If she wasn’t so close to telling him what the hell was going on, Spike would’ve vamped out and bit her nose off.
It was just a matter of time before Angel had her back in his clutches. He only hoped the soul would not get in the way of ripping this bitch’s heart out.
“My sire and all my kinsmen will receive the power we’ve been promised. That should interest him enough to join us,” Isobel sounded smug about it. “Had I known Angelus was in Sunnydale I would have convinced my sire to approach him.”
It sounded like something that Angelus would have jumped at—except for the fact that he did not play well with others. A shot at real power might be enough to get him to toe the line for a while. But Angel was not exactly interested in the same things as he used to be. “You sayin’ that ‘Gelus gets it, too?”
Lifting the splintered wooden shard to dig into his skin again, Isobel grabbed onto his ear. Whispering into it, “Yes, cousin, and so would you.”
Stunned at her revelation, Spike was confused. He figured she was lying. This was just some trick to get him to talk. Isobel was hinting at a connection between them, Angelus and her sire. He did not know enough about the history of the Aurelius Clan to call her on it. The here and now had always been more his thing.
If he thought she was telling the truth, he might actually consider listening. This had to be her way of making a play to get out of here. Angel was about to cut down her last line of defense. Things were about to get bad for Blondie if she planned to get between Angel and his curvaceous kitten. That was not the safest place to be.
Spike warned her, “He won’t give up the girl.” There was no use denying it now. If he did not say something, Angel was going to in a matter of minutes. Might as well use it to see where the information led. “If he came here for her, then it means she’s on the loose. If it was for me, then he’s already got her.”
“There must be a way to convince him,” Isobel husked conspiratorially. “If Angelus joins us, so must you. I promise you will gain all that you desire.”
First it was torture. The seduction routine followed. Now she was playing on good old-fashioned greed. “Not a bleedin’ chance.” Isobel’s sire had something up his sleeve that involved Dru. And she wouldn’t be so quick to think the former King of Wank over there would hand over his new bed warmer if she knew about the soul.
He decided to put an end to their little game. “Just so there’s no misunderstanding,” Spike added smugly, “if he doesn’t crush your scrawny neck, I will.”
Isobel looked stunned for an instant. She recovered well, but was unable to hide her angry pout. Taking a step back she pointed her weapon directly at his chest. “You’re in no position to make threats.” Then glancing over her shoulder at the ongoing fight shrugged, “Angelus is rather busy just now. Want to bet he won’t get here before I dust you?”
The crunch of bone sounded as Angel put a sudden stop to the fight. He had signaled Spike to keep the conversation going once Isobel started to talk. Just how long did the chit think it took to take down one of her goons, anyway? It probably took more effort not to kill him. Guess he had heard enough, or at least decided that this was still a rescue mission after all.
“’Bout bloody time,” Spike muttered.
Distracted by the moaning vampire on the ground, Isobel whirled around to see what had happened. “Tomas,” she cringed as he writhed in agony barely able to hold back his screams of pain.
A broken back would not kill the vampire, but it would stop him from running out of here. He would serve as a spare witness if Isobel would not give up the goods on her sire’s plans. Spike had to admit he would not have bothered to keep him around.
Angel met Isobel’s gaze. He made no grand threats. “Come here.”
To Spike’s surprise, she actually obeyed the command without question and dropped the makeshift stake as a show of trust. “I invite you to join us, Angelus. You will gain more than you ever dreamed.”
“That includes you?”
She took the question seriously stepping even closer. “Yes. Nicolau indulges. I play with whomever I choose.”
Meaning she shagged them until they both lost consciousness, Spike interpreted.
If anything, the mention of her sire’s name made Angel’s already stony appearance grow colder. He grasped onto her hand and wrist with a swift move closing around them to twist it behind her. “I’m not interested in your games or your deals.”
“You refuse me?” Isobel gasped indignantly and started to make a serious effort to struggle against his hold, now realizing this was not actually foreplay, but a real threat.
Spike could not believe the chit was still standing. “Just kill the bloody bitch.”
Captain Forehead apparently had his own agenda. He did not even look Spike’s way.
“Isobel, isn’t it? I have a message for, Nico.” Angel already new her name. Knew her sire, too, he realized, well enough to call him by his nick.
Her teeth rattled when he gave her a hard shake. A little rough handling was just what was needed to get her attention. She was a vampire, after all, not quite as breakable as human women. He knew what buttons to press to get her to listen.
Isobel hissed, “Yes, Angelus.”
“Listen carefully. Here’s what you’re going to say…”
117: The Factory, Westside, Sunnydale
“Tell your sire to back off,” Angel’s growl added to the underlying threat. His fangs were inches away, jagged and gleaming white against his bloodied lip.
Simultaneously terrified and turned on, Isobel focused on the red clot and shuddered at the thought of licking that small wound clean, tasting the power of his blood. Her tongue seductively traced the seam of her lips, but he seemed immune to her beauty and all too obvious interest.
The threat was real and she was no different in his eyes than the minions he had already defeated. Suddenly Isobel was afraid. She should lie to him, she considered. Tell him anything. But the truth might also sway his resolve.
“Angelus,” she tugged hard trying to wrest out of his hold. It served only to bruise her delicate ivory skin. Her voice still sounded husky, “We both know what he will say. Nothing will get in the way of his goals, not even you. I do not want you as our enemy. Forget the girl. Join us.”
Anger poured off him in waves, intense emotion and aggression darkening his eyes. He could break her if he tried. The bruising hold was nothing compared to his full strength. Even now, he was in control of his actions, but one wrong move might prove deadly.
Part of her wanted to see how far he would take this, entice him to further violence. Seduce him. He had already proven he was not easily swayed by her charms. Isobel was not the type to give up easily when it came to getting something she wanted.
It would not be easy, she sensed. He was obviously worked up about his human pet, if that was truly what Cordelia Chase was to him. Isobel was not stupid enough to think this was all about Spike. Not with the reputed history between Angelus and the rest of his clan. For now, there was no choice but to listen to Angel’s demands.
The next words out of his mouth confirmed one theory. “Stay away from Cordelia. If I catch you, your sire, or your hired mercenary anywhere near her, Drusilla or anyone else under my protection I will take it very personally. Understand?”
He let her go so suddenly that Isobel stumbled back barely catching her balance. Her hand went to her wrist massaging away the dull pain, but she enjoyed the lingering sensation of Angel’s touch. A glance toward Spike suggested he was waiting for his grandsire to lose his cool. Isobel could feel the tension from there, simmering under the surface.
“It’s you who fails to understand, Angelus,” she refused to call him by the shortened version of his name. It only served to distract Isobel from her plan to convince him to join them.
One thing she would offer truthfully. “The Crosathnam is dead. My sire killed him for his incompetence.”
Angel took a step closer, his voice softening dangerously again, “Will Nico be equally displeased with you?”
“Doesn’t bloody matter,” Spike cut in reminding them of his plans to put a dusty end to Isobel for the torture she had put him through. They both ignored his rants, “Let me loose,” as he struggled against his bonds.
Angel had some reason for allowing her to warn Nicolau. Apparently, the fact that his childe’s uncouth progeny wanted revenge was not high on his list of priorities. The girl was his focus and, as of now, Isobel’s, too, and not just because of the prophecy. Who was to say there could not be a little fun before the final sacrifice? It made her wonder what it was like for Darla back in the days of sharing victims with Angelus.
For Isobel it was exciting to have someone warm and squirming between herself and Nicolau, crying in fear, pleading for freedom, for one last chance at life. “What is she like, your Cordelia Chase? Warm, vivacious, full of life, as beautiful as her photograph?”
His jaw clenched, the muscles working as Angel bit back a reaction, the only outward sign of his anger. All that raw power was just roiling under the surface. She wanted to experience it, but knew her curiosity had gone too far this time.
Hot jealousy stirred inside her as Angel barked, “Get out before I change my mind.”
“Bloody hell. I’ve got a permanent score to settle with Blondie,” Spike’s outrage was evident, but Isobel was more interested with the way Angel reacted to her interest in his pet. There was something more to it than protecting property. She had a notion that Cordelia Chase was everything she described and more.
Isobel was unused to men thinking about anyone else when she was interested in gaining their attention. Nicolau would initially be amused by the news that the great Angelus had turned down her advances. Then he would be angry that she did not persuade him to join them.
The promise of wealth and true power did not sway him to give up the girl as a sacrifice. It had to be more that mere possessiveness. As Isobel scrutinized Angel’s motives, she came to a startling conclusion that left her wide-eyes when the idea hit.
“You have feelings for her.” Having backed away, her footsteps taking her closer to the door, she stopped short realizing that Angel was not merely obsessed with his pet. He was in love with her. That went against everything she knew about Angelus, but she knew the power of love. Warning him, “The outcome will be the same. Cordelia Chase must be sacrificed as prophesized.”
That was a fact as far as Isobel could say. Nicolau might wish to put aside any scores that required settling between their clans and accept Angelus as one of them, but he would never ignore the prophecy. It was the one thing that had driven their kinsmen for hundreds of years. Now that they were on the brink of its fruition, nothing would get in their way. Not Angelus and certainly not his precious pet from Sunnydale.
“Get out, Isobel,” ordered Angel one last time. “You’ve said more than enough. Take the message to your sire and hope he has the sense to leave Sunnydale.”
Defiantly, Isobel raised her chin a notch to vow, “We will prevail with or without you. Nicolau is determined to gain what has been promised when this prophecy is fulfilled.”
“There’s a difference between stupidity and determination. Nico has always confused one for the other.”
Snapping, “Bastard,” she took another step back only to yelp in surprise as a hand wrapped around her ankle.
It was Tomas.
He lay supine on the floor, a mass of bruised and bloodied flesh, broken. Isobel had always had a soft spot for the younger vampire who fulfilled her every whim, often while risking Nicolau’s ire.
“Don’t leave me with them,” he woefully begged to be taken back to the lair failing to understand how completely useless he was to her right now.
Isobel crouched low to take his hand in hers. Whispering a soft promise, “I will take care of you.” She glanced over at Angel who stood cross-armed, legs braced apart, glowering and waiting for her to comply with his demand. Maybe he suspected what she was up to, but he did not make a move to stop her.
Pressing Tomas’ hand across his chest, she firmly gripped his arm. Before he could react Isobel tossed his body onto one of the overturned table legs jutting up from the floor. An explosive burst of dust clouded the air. She had taken care of him as promised.
When it settled Isobel was standing by the door. “Farewell, Angelus. The next time we meet I suggest you give me what I want— or there will be consequences.”
118: The Factory, Westside, Sunnydale
The heavy steel door slammed shut. Every passing second allowed Isobel more time to escape. Spike peered through swollen lids at Angel’s stony stance. Unmoving, he faced the door, time ticking away. He had always liked the chase. Any second now, he would take off after the bitch. Let her know just who he was and why he wasn’t going to let her get away with threatening Drusilla, or his lush little kitten—and not forgetting damaging Spike’s natural good looks.
Spike waited, but Angel made no move toward the door. Instead, he turned toward him, fierce demonic features fading back to a human veneer. “Let’s go.”
“’Bout time,” he grunted. Ignoring the fact that he could barely move despite the loosened bindings, Spike was already envisioning turning the tables on Isobel. “Get me out of these chains, mate. It’s not too late to pick up her trail.”
When Angel matter-of-factly informed him that they were going to do no such thing, Spike thought he had lost his mind. It was not anything Isobel had done to convince him to let her go. No, this was all Angel’s lamebrain idea.
“That little bitch tortured me,” Spike growled the reminder as if the bleeding wounds and bruises were not enough evidence. His arm dropped heavily to his side as Angel released him from one of the manacles biding his wrists. Wincing, he slowly curled his fingers into a fist. “She hurt Dru.”
Angel unshackled his other wrist setting him free. The weighty chains dropped to the floor, but the support they provided was also gone. Wavering on his feet, Spike tried to maintain his balance.
“This isn’t the time for revenge,” warned Angel pulling him back to his feet. “I let her go for a reason.”
Stupidity. Good reason. All he had to do was follow her back to her lair, put a stake through her sire and end this. “Yeah, that got something to do with the Angelus act? Don’t think I didn’t notice you know all about Blondie’s sire.”
Tight-jawed, Angel glared at him, a darkness showing in his eyes that Spike hadn’t seen since before the Slayer sent him on a little trip to hell. He had been soulless then and dangerous enough to scare Spike into a temporary alliance with Buffy Summers.
“Can you walk?”
Avoiding the subject was only making him more curious. Spike took a tentative step forward testing out the strength of his legs. “What makes you think he’ll give a rat’s ass about your threats? Not ex—,” toppling forward he let out a shout as his legs gave out.
A strong arm stretched out catching him mid chest and holding him up. Angel let out a grunt of irritation. “This is one reason we’re not going after Isobel. You’re too weak to fight.”
Bollocks. “Just gathering my strength.”
“But it’s not the main reason,” Angel said ignoring his attempt at bravado. “I made a promise to Dru tonight.”
Spike nodded knowingly. “She’s at the mansion.” He had figured as much. Ran straight home to Daddy. “Let’s get on with it, then. You gonna give us our old room back? Good memories in that room.”
Coming to a halt, Angel let out a harsh laugh. “You’re not going anywhere near the mansion. I’ll set you up at my old apartment. You can stay there until you’re healed up.”
He gave Angel a weak shove. “The hell I am.”
“Dru’s safest at the mansion,” Angel knew exactly what he was protesting about.
It was not that he did not want Drusilla to be protected. It was the idea that she would be with Angel again. Even if her sire was all soulful at the moment and enraptured with the cheerleader, there was still that basic urge to be around him.
Spike didn’t want Dru doing anything that was going to get her staked. This wasn’t just a matter of protecting Drusilla. “You’ve got your girl stashed there, too. Well, don’t worry. I won’t hurt your little pet. Just let me see Dru.”
Hands on his chest, Spike tried to look sincere about it. Other than the obvious, he had no interest in Cordelia Chase. That was something he could put aside in order to ensure Dru’s safety. ‘Gelus could have his pet and he could have Dru. Simple. He started toward the door on his own hating that he walked like an old man in need of a crutch. No way was he letting Angel keep him from Dru.
Spike stopped dead in his tracks when Angel announced, “Buffy and Faith are staying there.”
“Quite the harem you’ve got,” Spike snorted. “No wonder you don’t want me horning in.”
Angel glowered at him and moved ahead to open the door. “That’s right, Spike. Now you know.” His voice smacked of sarcasm. “Now will you shut up and get moving?”
Spike kept on going. By the time they reached the Plymouth, he had worn Angel down by convincing him that in his current state he could not possibly be a threat to anyone at the mansion. With two Slayers around to keep an eye on things, there would be nothing he could do. Besides, he could be trusted. No, really. He had kept his mouth shut when Isobel was trying to pry the truth out of him.
Hell, he might even offer to help. After all, it would be one way of getting revenge on Isobel and her mysterious sire.
“Fine,” Angel sighed resignedly as he opened the driver’s side door. “You can stay—conditionally. No matter how tempted you are to go for his throat, Xander Harris is off limits. The same goes for the watchers. Don’t bait the Slayers into a fight and try to keep Dru from doing something stupid.”
Smirking inwardly, Spike slid into the passenger seat and shut the door. Looking at the convertible, he commented, “Nice ride. You forgot to say what happens if I take a shine to Cordelia.”
Angel revved the engine. Though he said it with a smile, “Don’t,” his eyes glittered with deadly earnest.
119: The Lounge, Angel’s Mansion on Crawford Street
“Go fish,” Xander smirked from behind his cards drawing a glare from Faith. He gave her a shrug. “Hey! It’s not my fault that I have no sevens.”
There were other games Faith would rather be playing that did not involve cards or Xander Harris for that matter. Buffy was out patrolling the grounds while she got stuck babysitting Vampirella. She glanced at Drusilla who pressed her own cards to close her chest as if anyone would really bother to cheat.
“Your turn,” Faith sighed with boredom.
Drusilla took a peek at her cards then turned her dark brown eyes upon her as if boring deep into her soul. “I will have your fives, Slayer— both of them.”
Having forgotten what cards she possessed, Faith fingered through the handful of playing cards finding the five of hearts and the five of spades. She frowned. Two fives. Go figure.
While handing them over, the click of Cordelia’s heels approached across the parquet floor. “You do realize you’re playing card games with a seer. Dru gets visions, hello!”
Faith tossed the rest of her cards face down on the table. “Screw this.” The fact that Drusilla won all three games suddenly made sense. Glaring accusingly at Xander, she barked, “You knew about that, didn’t you?”
Xander kept his mouth shut and shrugged earning him a smile and a pinched cheek as Dru leaned close. Jumping out of her chair, Faith warned her, “Keep your mitts off the goods. Angel told you to lay off.”
“Yeah,” Xander agreed and leaned as far away as he could get while still seated. “No pinching.”
A snort sounded from Cordelia. “At least it was your cheek this time.”
Keeping Drusilla occupied while Angel was away had been a challenge. At first, Faith had been amused over Xander’s enthrallment and his reaction once it wore off. What was it with that boy that kept Dru coming back for more? She was toying with him, but not in an obvious vampire-victim way.
“I can’t believe you three are playing cards,” Cordy’s irritation cut clearly through her thoughts. Mulling over Xander Harris was like trying to solve one of the mysteries of the universe, unfathomable, but potentially worth exploring. “Angel is out risking his life to save Spike.”
Faith inwardly agreed. She would much rather be kicking some ass alongside Angel than playing babysitter. “Stop pacing and just chill, Cor. It’s not like he was gonna let any of us tag along.”
She understood what was bugging Cordelia. Not doing anything was getting to her. Willow was with Wesley and Giles planning some hocus-pocus defenses. They’d refused any extra help. Buffy was patrolling, which was a good thing because it meant she was out of their hair for the moment, but someone had to stick around to keep an eye on Dru.
Rising gracefully from her chair, Drusilla moved to Cordelia’s side and draped an arm around her shoulder. Faith watched every little move, ready for anything, but there was no sign of nervousness on her friend’s face. She simply accepted the comforting gesture as it was intended. “Do not fear for Angel, my sweet. He will return to us.”
The way she said it made it seem like there was going to be one big family reunion. Faith really did not like the sound of that.
120: Angel’s Mansion, Crawford Street, Central Sunnydale
The cobblestones crackled under the tires as the Plymouth slowly made its way up the winding drive. A small figure darted directly into the path ahead. Standing just outside the range of the headlights she was close enough to make out her familiar silhouette. Angel applied the brakes bringing the car to a halt.
Over the idling rumble of the engine, Buffy’s voice sounded out from the shadows. “What’s he doing here?”
Spike let out a laugh. “Lookee what we got here. Buffy Summers. If you’ve come to beat me to a bloody pulp, you’re a bit late for that,” he called out.
“What did I tell you about not baiting the Slayers?” Angel softly growled a warning, reminding Spike to behave. “Don’t make me regret bringing you here any more than I already do.”
“She’s either the welcoming party—or the solution to your problem. Might as well enjoy it if she plans to have her way with me while I’m weak and helpless.”
Angel did not bother to respond. With that mouth on him, Spike was likely to meet the wrong end of a stake before long and he was not entirely opposed to having a front row seat.
Approaching from the periphery, Buffy walked over to the passenger side, her eyes widening as she got a good look at Spike. Bloody and battered, he was a mass of dark bruises, scrapes and gashes. “Who did this?”
It sounded more like curiosity than genuine concern, but Spike twisted it to his own liking. “Jealous, luv? I’ve been having a little fun with another blonde.”
Ugh. Buffy glared at him in disgust. He was out of his mind, but Spike was not the only one who needed his head examined. “Angel, you better get him outta here.”
Buffy still was not used to Angel having his own opinions. She guessed he had always had them, but he used to let her have her way. That had all changed now that Cordelia was his girlfriend. She did not know who or what was to blame for the changes in his whole personality, whether it was his trip to hell, his permanent soul, or if new girlfriend was just rubbing off on him. God, it hurt just thinking about it. Whatever the cause, she did not like it.
Before choking up, Buffy quipped, “Then he’s your problem. See you inside.” Neither one of them had a chance to respond. She darted straight down the driveway in the direction of the house.
“The chit is gonna spoil your surprise,” said Spike watching her run.
Angel took his foot off the brake and kept going. Surprise was not exactly the right word for it. By the time they stopped in front of the mansion, everyone was filing out the front door except for Buffy who had apparently seen enough. Automatically, he scanned the group for Cordelia finding her leaning casually against the threshold. Cordy hung back watching him from her elevated position at the top of the steps.
One look caught him up in a swift surge of possessiveness. Seeing her waiting there for him, those brown eyes full of love and concern. All of his earlier fantasies flooded back causing a heavy ache in his loins, his cock rubbing against the crease of his pants as it stiffened to thoughts of her touch. Christ, he wanted her.
Holding perfectly still Angel savored the way her skin flushed subtly under his gaze as if she knew the direction of his thoughts. He focused on her lips as they spread into a slow smile imagining their softness, anticipating the kiss he would give her when he got up there. Spike’s arrival necessitated that he temporarily put aside personal indulgences, which he would. Any second now.
Dragging his eyes away from Cordelia’s, he noticed Giles’ mouth seemed to be moving. “Oh, for God’s sake, man, have you not heard a word?”
No, he had not. His grip on the steering wheel tightened as he realized the extent of his distraction. “I…”
“Took a few blows to the head,” Spike pointed a thumb in his direction by way of an explanation. “Let the kitten fix him up with a bit of TLC and he’ll be right as rain.” He sent Cordelia a wink with the one eye that was not swollen shut.
Standing next to the car, Willow glanced from one vampire to the other. “Looks like you need it more.”
“You volunteering, Red?”
She gulped loudly and then squeaked, “No.”
Wesley put a reassuring hand on Willow’s shoulder. He had gotten to know her a little bit better over the past few hours, having been working closely with her on a few mystical defenses for the mansion.
Knowing where Spike fell in the ranks of Clan Aurelius, he addressed his words directly to Angel. “I caution you to reconsider this action,” Wesley beseeched him.
Bringing Drusilla here, a highly unstable vampire, was dangerous enough. Adding Spike to the mix would only add to their problems. Though it appeared the younger vampire was riddled with injuries, it was only a matter of time before they healed. “You know all too well the kind of damage these two can inflict.”
Nudging past him, Drusilla bent over the passenger door to inspect Spike’s wounds. She licked at the blood in between kisses. “Let mummy take care of you. I promise to make it all better.”
Angel ignored them. Informing the watcher, “I’m counting on it.”
Still seated and waiting for his erection to subside, Angel ensured that the flap of his coat covered the evidence of his arousal. He was not certain if Spike had tried to cover for his lapse of concentration or if he was just taking an opportunity to comment on his relationship with Cordelia.
Most of the group seemed surprised that Angel planned to use the other vampires to his advantage. “We can use Spike’s strength and Drusilla’s visions. I’ll take any advantage I can get if it means protecting Cordy and putting a stop to Nicolau’s scheme.”
The name distracted Drusilla from tending to Spike. She hissed, “Nasty man. He has poor Miss Edith.”
“Nicolau,” Wesley rolled the name over on his tongue. “The name sounds familiar.”
Giles’ jaw tightened up, realizing the reason for such familiarity. He had questions for Angel, but this was not the most appropriate venue for them. “I suggest we continue this elsewhere. Faith, please escort Spike to his room and make certain he remains there.”
“It’s B’s turn. I’m supposed to be a vampire slayer, not a vampire sitter.”
Emerging slowly from the car, Spike joked through the pain, “Come closer. I’ll show you where to sit.”
Without a blink, Faith jabbed her elbow into his ribs. Spike grunted, doubling over and spitting blood. Just as fast, Drusilla backhanded Faith sending her reeling a step before regaining her balance. The Slayer lifted a hand to her lower lip dragging a hand across it, coming away with blood smeared across her knuckle and forefinger.
Through the white rage that flared up inside her, she heard Cordelia call out, “Faith, stop playing around and come inside.”
“Aw, c’mon, Cor. I was just getting warmed up.” Faith smirked and considered giving Drusilla something to think about. She took a step closer.
“That’s enough!” Angel leapt over the side of the car and put himself between the two females. “This isn’t the time for insults or tempers. Faith, can you deal with this? No violence unless it’s warranted?”
She pressed her lips together, clearly not okay with it. Every instinct she had urged her to slip her stake from the waistband of her jeans and plunge it deep into Spike’s chest. She would save something special for Dru, the crazy freak. “Yeah, I can deal.”
“Dru, take care of Spike,” Angel ordered firmly reminding her of the fact that she had promised to behave. “I’ll send Xander up with some blood.”
Xander choked, “What? Why me? I’m not letting that thing near my neck.”
Behind him, Cordelia snorted, “Blood from the fridge, doofus.”
“Oh.” That sounded better to Xander. The idea of handling the container of pig blood was gross, but at least he was not going to be Spike’s midnight snack.
“We’ll need more,” Cordy caught Angel’s gaze reminding him that their supply was going to run out with three vampires in the house. “What about some O-neg takeout from Willy’s? Wouldn’t the real thing help with those wounds?”
Wesley looked impressed. “Excellent suggestion, Miss Chase.”
“Geez, how many times do I have to tell you to call me Cordelia?” She rolled her eyes at him and missed seeing the flush creep up his thin neck. “Or even Cor or Cordy, like my friends do.”
Clearing his throat, Angel gave Wesley a hard stare. He could not blame the watcher for being attracted to Cordy. She was beautiful, annoyingly charming, and could twist a man up in knots without even trying. But she was definitely taken and Angel had already discovered that he was the jealous type.
“That’s very kind of you… Cordy.”
Spike chuckled as he advised, “Better watch it, ponce,” and then winced in pain as Faith grabbed his arm to lead him toward the stairs.
“Three flights of stairs,” she smirked. “Four if you count these. Gonna make it or do you need me or mummy dearest to carry you?”
“Sod off,” Spike snagged his arm away. “I’ll do it.” He stared down at the first step and willed his legs to hold steady. “Bloody nerve you got, Slayer. Makes me feel all unwanted.”
He looked up at Cordelia as he said it, playing for a little sympathy. She liked vamps. One in particular. There was not a whiff of fear about her. And it would not hurt to get on the chit’s good side considering she was Angel’s little bed warmer.
Cordelia crossed her arms as she watched his approach. “Of course you’re unwanted, Spike, but come in anyway. Try not to bleed on the furniture.”
One by one, Drusilla, Spike and Faith filed past her followed by Xander who wrapped his hands around his own throat as if to say this was going to kill him. Cordy reached out to muss his hair. He yelped and jogged a couple of steps until he was out of her reach. Willow yawned, “Oz can take me to the butcher shop in the morning. He’s back from his gig in Braeswood.”
Scrunching her nose at the neighboring hometown of their rivals from Fondren High, Cordy huffed, “Like those blockheads have any taste in music—or anything else that matters.”
“History? Science?” asked Wesley in passing as he followed along behind Willow. He, too, paused long enough to get an answer.
“Duh, fashion taste.” Emphasis on stuff that matters, Cordelia decided to take it easy on him. He was kind of cute for a stuffy British guy. She flashed a little smile that made his jaw drop open a little. “Fondren’s cheerleading outfits are the essence of fugly.”
A heavy sigh sounded. Blocked from entering, Giles tapped on Wesley’s shoulder. “Do go in. Unfortunate designs in cheerleader fashion are not our chief concern.”
Cordelia frowned as she realized they were no longer her concern, either. She had to step down from her position as head cheerleader because of her father’s little financial fiasco. Now thanks to this stupid prophecy it was dangerous to go anywhere including school.
She put that thought out of her mind as her attention turned to Angel. “Are you planning to stay out there all night?” Below, leaning casually against the side of the car, Angel had waited until the others went back inside. Cordelia remained where she was, a sultry smile curving across her lips.
“Just picking my moment.” He pushed away from the car and walked toward her, too slowly for Cordelia’s liking. She had been waiting all of this time to hold him, show him that she missed him. Now the anticipation of it made her shiver.
The shadows shifted revealing more of his face as he came closer. A gasp caught in her throat. “You look— are you okay?”
“It’s nothing. A few scrapes.
Cordelia’s eyes narrowed as they traveled head to toe looking for any sign of further injury. She suspected the reason he had walked so slowly had less to do with teasing her than because he was in pain. “Just how bad are these scrapes, buster?”
She crossed her arms, glaring at him as she waited for the truth.
“They’ll heal, Cordy. Vampire,” he pointed at his chest, which earned him one raised brow.
“Don’t try to play tough with me. I know I said I wasn’t Florence Nightingale, but I’m not about to let my boyfriend walk around with festering wounds.” Making her point, she raised the second eyebrow and silently dared him to defy her.
Stepping closer, Angel felt his mouth twitch as he fought a smile. “I have to talk to the Watchers about what I discovered tonight. You should be there, too. Afterward, we can discuss what’ll make me feel better.”
Cordelia quietly stared at him just long enough to make him wonder if he had said the wrong thing. Maybe that had not sounded as sexy as it did in his head.
“If—if you want to,” he added, now worried that he made her uncomfortable.
Cordy took a step back. She shrugged one shoulder. Sounding far too indifferent for Angel’s liking, she said, “Maybe.”
Wanting to fix whatever he did wrong, Angel made a move toward her only to run into an invisible barrier. “What the—?”
“Guess it works on you, too,” Cordelia’s curiosity was almost satisfied. When Willow had finished casting the spell, she had informed her that it would only work if a human lived in residence at the mansion, and was not just visiting.
“Hello,” she recalled herself saying, “last time I checked you guys were human, too, with the possible exception of Buffy.”
“Don’t you mean Faith, too, because they’re both Slayers?”
Willow obviously missed her point. “No.”
She supposed that Spike getting through the barrier after her say so qualified him as test subject number two, the first being Drusilla after Willow first cast the spell. Now there was just Angel who was staring at her in a way that suggested he knew why she was suddenly freaking out. Apparently staying in your boyfriend’s mansion and rescuing your worldly belongings from plastic trash bags was not enough to qualify as actually living there.
Part of you had to believe that it was home.
“Are you going to invite me in?” His open hand pressed against the invisible energy barrier.
Two short steps brought her back to the threshold. Cordelia raised her hand and threaded her slender fingers through his. It made her vulnerable to any move he made, potentially allowing him to yank her outside, but he still couldn’t cross without her express consent.
“Welcome home, Angel. Come in.”
The moment the barrier vanished, he pulled her forward into his arms, their hands still connected. With an arm around her waist, he twirled them around once so they were back outside away from prying eyes. Angel had his back against the wall, leaning at a slight angle. Slipping his hand from her hip to shoulder blade, he brought them into full contact their bodies perfectly aligned.
Cordelia sighed against his lips, her warm breath coffee flavored. He kissed her, a soft sweep of his mouth across hers, and again as she opened up to the dip of his tongue, tasting, teasing its soft center enticing her to chase him.
She grasped his shoulders, held on, and squirmed against him because she could not get close enough. Wanting to touch his skin, even if it was just a few seconds of contact, she maneuvered her hand down his chest. She paused at the hard nub of his nipple, rubbing over it twice and eliciting a low groan from Angel who was kissing his way across her jaw toward the chord of her throat.
He rubbed his mouth against her pulse, and then opened up to drag his tongue and teeth across that spot. Her free hand cupped the nape of his neck. The other continued to tug the hem of his shirt out of his pants, skittering underneath to flatten her palm against him.
Tempted, her fingertips slipped downward reaching below his waistband just to touch the little curve of soft belly on his otherwise hard frame. Angel’s hips lurched forward crashing into hers. He felt so good. She wanted to be with him now, upstairs in their bed. Naked. Skin on skin. Just their hands, and mouths, and whatever he was doing that set her on fire.
“Where’d they go?” Willow called out their names, sounding closer and closer, acting like a bucket of ice water.
Angel pulled his head away from Cordy’s throat, dark eyes darting to the doorway. He was not about to move just yet even though common sense told him they needed to stop. Deep inside he felt the urge to keep going, let Willow get an eyeful so she would go away. Moving his hands to cup Cordelia’s face, he gave her one final quick kiss and set her back on her feet.
When Willow popped her head outside to look around, she found them standing two feet apart. Cordelia was no longer wore any lipgloss. Her formerly perfect hair was now in soft disarray. Clothes wrinkled. Standing with his back to her, Angel’s attention was at his waist—or somewhere below it.
Gaping as she realized what she had just interrupted, Willow felt heat flood her cheeks. She darted away so fast that Cordelia started to laugh, her grin spreading wide. “I guess we should go in.”
Angel finished tucking his shirt in and folded his leather coat closed before turning around. Growling softly in frustration he willed his body to relax again. He looked over at Cordy who was still smiling, eyes twinkling, her mouth slightly swollen and the soft skin of her neck reddened. Maybe the interruption was a good thing considering where he might have taken it. He was not certain that tonight was the best time for added complications.
“Let’s go inside. I know who’s behind all of this,” Angel told her as he reached out to take her hand. “What’s more, I know why.”