Soulbound – Book 2: Chapter 10
Trust Doyle to screw up something so simple. Finding a gorgeous, furnished and rent-controlled apartment in Los Angeles— anyone could do that if they had the right contacts. No, Doyle had to find one haunted by ghosts, one of which was a violent and murderous poltergeist. That was just the sort of place Angel would have picked out for Cordelia himself— not!
Even the vampire was more than a little miffed, Cordelia noted, when they arrived to find her hanging from the ceiling by her neck. Angel was like this Dark Avenger— a vampire version of a medieval White Knight when he got that protective vibe. Hmm! Angel, the Dark Avenger— she’d have to remember that. Cordy had been rolling a few advertising ideas around in her head hoping to find a way to increase their clientele. But first, she had other priorities, starting with cleaning up this haunted apartment.
“Hey, Dennis!” Cordelia called out to her ghostly roommate. “I’m sorry about your mom and all. She was really a bitch! Glad that she’s gone, but I’m hoping we can get along.”
There was no answer of course, not a verbal one, but Cordelia saw the movement of broken shards of glass being collected into a pile on the floor. “Kewl! My last roomy liked to clean, too. That’s Angel— tall, dark and vampy. You’ve seen him.”
Dennis moved the broken pieces of the lamp into a garbage can, floating them across the air with his invisible ghostly hands.
“Well, I was at his place just for a couple of days before coming here,” Cordelia chatted to the resident ghost that was the benevolent victim of his own mother’s crazed jealousy. “He’s like a growling bear when someone encroaches on his territory. Can’t even get a little peanut butter on the bed without him going off. Not like he was gonna sleep there, anyway.”
Too bad. The thought crept in without permission. Angel— naked and smothered in peanut butter? A snack before bedtime, anyone? Giggling, Cordelia shared the image with Dennis who caused the glass shards to tinkle in some kind of response to the description.
Was that laughter? Cordelia wondered how long it would take to interpret her silent specter’s signals.
“I know— it’s a silly fantasy, but it’s safer than the ones that make me want to rip off Angel’s clothes to have my wild, wicked way with him.”
Cordy defended herself to the ghost who seemed to be listening. “I didn’t even know that I had a wicked way! Not until Mr. Dark and Broody came along.”
“It’s unfair, Dennis. He’s a vampire, you know, not exactly boyfriend material— unless you happen to be blond or a Slayer. Someone who shops at Fangs-R-Us should not even be in my fantasies overshadowing Keanu, Jude and Brad— but lately he invades my dreams too.”
Cordelia continued to chat with Dennis, the ghost, only afterwards realizing the fact that she had used him to quell herself of the bottled-up emotions that were stirring inside her. She had cut herself off from her Sunnydale friends— even by telephone— not wanting to have to tell them what her life was like as a down-on-her-luck actress living in an ugly and bug infested hole in the wall. Talking to Aura or the other Cordettes about her vampire fantasies would not be a good idea, but now she did have something positive to tell them in the form of her great new apartment.
Perking up, Cordy decided to make a few calls when the dust settled. Now that things were looking up, it was time to step out and have a little fun. The middle of the night hours that often accompanied work at Angel Investigations had seriously cut into her social life. Other than Angel and Doyle, she had no real contact with the male population of Los Angeles in weeks.
No wonder Angel was starting to look so good. Not that he wasn’t a hottie, but Cordelia wasn’t forgetting the fact that he was a vampire. Angel himself had warned her against it.
“I’ll call Aura when we get done,” she told Dennis. “She’s one of my rich friends from Sunnydale. She’s gonna flip when she hears that celebrities are practically living on our doorstep. I mean, geez— Steve Paymer is Dave Paymer’s brother.”
Dennis had no opinion on that.
“This apartment is so great! I’ve gotta thank Doyle. Suppose I’ll have to let him live.”
The Irish seer was a cutie, she thought. Cordelia had noticed that. She always noticed the way he looked at her or flirted. It’s just that Doyle acted like he was hiding something and Cordelia wouldn’t put up with a guy who couldn’t tell her the truth. She knew that he liked her, but so far couldn’t find the guts to say so.
Now that Angel and she had developed their Platonic Protocol for Office Interaction between Vampire Bosses and Human Secretarial Assistants, it would be possible to give Doyle a little more attention. He was a sweetie— in his clownish, badly dressed, irritating and dirty-minded kind of way. Cordy decided to open herself to the possibility that Doyle might be someone she could go out with for a little fun.
She was going to give him the incredibly good news the next morning when the office door opened admitting a curly-headed blonde. Cordelia’s smile brightened at the thought of a new client. The woman even looked like she might not be a charity case. Before Cordelia could give her an official greeting, the blonde’s gaze shifted to Doyle who was sitting on the edge of the desk.
Doyle jumped off the desk, whirling around to face the newcomer. “Harry! Uhm— where you been?”
So Doyle knew this woman?
Steeping into the room, purse on her shoulder and a large manila envelope in her hands, Harry gave a little shrug. “Around— Kiribati, Togo, Uzbekistan. A few spots that were a little less touristy.”
Still listening, Cordelia finally realized that this Harry person used a different name when she called out to the Irishman. Piping in, she questioned Doyle, “Who’s Francis?”
With a wry smirk, he pointed his thumb at his chest. “That would be me. Allen Francis Doyle.”
Then he realized the impact of Harry’s arrival. Doyle would have to tell Cordy the truth, at least this small part of the truth.
“Cordelia,” he introduced her, “this is Harry— my wife.”
What was it about men who kept secrets? Doyle was such a deadman— again. He could not even stay in her good graces for more than twenty-four hours without needing a swift kick in the butt. Cordelia took it as a sign that the idea of dating Doyle was not meant to be. Even after the whole weird thing that followed with Harry wanting a divorce so she could marry Richard Straley, an Ano-movic demon.
Eew! Marry a demon? Cordy shuddered at the thought.
Doyle was lucky to escape the bachelor party that his soon-to-be ex-wife invited him to. The supposedly peaceful restaurant-owning family held tightly to their demon heritage which demanded that the groom consume the ex-husband’s brain. Angel’s suspicions at the invitation were well-founded and he accompanied Doyle to the party in order to assess the situation. It was a lucky thing that he had done so and even luckier that Harry was a demonologist sufficiently knowledgeable about ancient demon languages.
Doyle got to keep his brain.
Though he swore off attending bachelor parties where he was an ex-relation of anybody, Doyle was now ready to have some real fun. Three days after the incident with Harry’s now former Hun Bun, he wanted to get out of the office.
Pacing impatiently in front of Angel’s desk in the back office, Doyle waited for the vampire to get the hint. He was sitting there with his feet up on the desk— reading again. What was so interesting about something he had probably read a hundred times in the past? “So that’s it then? That’s your exciting plan for the evening— a book?”
Glancing up, Angel parried, “I get enough excitement.”
“Yeah,” scoffed the seer. “Of the evil-fighting variety. How about a little off-duty fun?”
Pushing Angel’s feet off of the desk, Doyle sat down on the edge. “Two beautiful words: Sports Bar!”
Sending Doyle a look that suggested he was wasting his time, Angel turned to put his feet up on the other corner of the desk.
Doyle released a cry of frustration. “Come on! You know they have trivia games on the Internet now? You can challenge against drunks around the world. Anything, please! I just can’t sit around here while—”
His voice dropped off as Cordelia entered the office wearing a strapless black sheath that clung to her in places that left him gaping.
“—While I steal into the night with my incredibly-more-wealthy-than-you prince?” With a wink, Cordelia added, “Makes your life seem a tad drab, doesn’t it?”
Forgetting all about his book, Angel set it down on the desk rising to his feet as he soaked in the sight of her. Beautiful, breathtakingly so— from the wavy chestnut hair clinging to the bare skin of her shoulders down to her strappy high-heeled shoes. Entranced, it took a moment before Angel realized what her words and dress implied.
“You’re going out?”
“Duh!” Cordelia rolled her eyes. Sometimes the vampire could be so oblivious. “I just said that.”
Doyle glanced from Cordy to Angel. Uh oh! He sensed that this surprise date had not been previously approved by the vampire. Not that Cordelia would know to expect that. No doubt Angel would have asked Detective Lockley to run an entire background check on the guy before allowing him within a ten-foot radius of his woman.
It still came as a strange surprise to Doyle whenever he thought of it. Cordelia was really Angel’s mate— she just couldn’t remember it. Despite the fact that she cemented his soul in place leaving no worries about the appearance of Angelus in the face of bliss, Angel was determined to let Cordy have a life where his only role included friendship. Though he had said nothing about it at the time, Doyle realized that this would mean the vampire accepted the possibility that Cordelia would date, mate, and marry another.
Angel’s posture suggested otherwise. Later, he’d have to point out to the vamp that he needed to curtail his intensely possessive instincts because his expression hid nothing. “Who is he?”
“Some rich guy, she said.” Doyle clapped a hand on Angel’s shoulder trying to beat a little sense into his head before Cordelia noticed. Turning to her, he continued, “Cordy, just because he has money doesn’t mean that he can make you happy.”
Offended that he would think that, Cordelia huffed, “I’ll have you know that Pierce has a lot more than just money. He has a house in Montecito, he has a Mercedes CLK320 and a place in the hills with a lap pool.”
“Since you put it that way—”
A knock sounded on the office door causing Cordy to smirk at Doyle and Angel. “If I’m not back in the morning, you can just clear out my desk. I’ll be moving on up.”
She swiveled and walked into the outer office to greet her date, leaving a fuming vampire and a concerned seer behind. Angel’s gaze narrowed at the feminine curves of her back and buttocks draped by the black gown. “Moving on up?” He muttered in an undertone that only Doyle could hear. “Not back in the morning?”
Gulping at the low growl that rose from the vampire’s chest, Doyle figured this Pierce guy had better keep his wealthy hands to himself. Angel was already stalking out to the front office to confront Cordelia’s date.
Doyle followed, noting that Pierce looked exactly like he expected— a tall, dark-haired human version of Angel, well-dressed in his expensive suit and tie. Lucky bastard getting to take Cordelia on a date— assuming that he somehow managed to get out of the room alive. Seeming to sense that her boss was putting his protective mode into overdrive, Cordelia quickly attempted to shuffle Pierce toward the door.
Angel’s voice stopped the couple. “What’s your hurry? You didn’t even introduce us.”
“Angel, Doyle, Pierce. Hurriedly, Cordelia made it quick, pointing to each of them in turn before adding, “Bye!”
Pierce was not unaware of the tension in the air, Doyle realized, as if sensing Angel’s predatory nature.
So this was Cordelia’s boss. She had mentioned him a time or two, along with the other one— Doyle— at their first meeting. One of his friends knew one of her friends who had introduced them at a party last night. With Cordelia’s hand on his arm, he attempted to remove her from the room, but found that her imposing boss wanted an interrogation.
“You work, Pierce?” The question sounded casual, but it was only the first.
“I trade— futures and options market.”
“Good. Good,” the looming figure commented. “Out to dinner?”
With a cultured nod, Pierce gave the name of the exclusive restaurant. “Le Petite Renard.”
Noting Cordelia’s irritation with Angel, Doyle tried to break up the tension saying, “Nice spot, but I heard the duck is dry.”
That did not side-track the vampire. Angel turned his gaze on Cordelia holding her there in his eyes. This wound him up so tight that he didn’t know what he would do next. “So, what time will you be home?”
Angel forgot for a second that she had her own apartment.
“Late.” Hazel eyes sparkled mischievously, “Don’t wait up.”
Turning to Pierce, she touched a hand to his jacketed chest. “Don’t mind him—.”
The vampire watched their exit with restrained fury. He was mad as hell— at himself. This was what he wanted. Cordy having a life, going out, having fun. When Doyle tried to calm him down, Angel sent him a look so intense that the seer retreated to other side of Cordelia’s desk.
The hell dimension Buffy exiled him to was a lot easier to endure than this. Angel paced to the end of the room and back again, pausing as he reached the carefully arranged coffee pot and mugs. Picking up Cordelia’s favorite mug, he glared at it before throwing it across the front office. It smashed to smithereens taking a window pane with it.
“Happy now?” Doyle dared to ask.
“Tell me that you had nothing to do with this,” Angel practically snarled at him. “Tell me you didn’t put this idea in her head.”
Quirking an eyebrow, Doyle wondered, “What idea? Going on a date? If I planned it that way, Angel, it would be me taking her out instead of Mr. Money Bags.”
“I told you to forget it.”
No demons for Cordy. Got that in one, fangs. “Pierce looks human. He’s loaded, has a great car, and looks good in a suit.”
Angel glowered at him in silence.
“What more do you want for her, Angel?” Doyle already knew the answer. He wasn’t certain that the vampire did. “Lie to me if it’s necessary. Not to yourself. Not to her. It will eat away at your insides until you’ve nothing left.”
“Don’t tell me not to brood about it,” Angel slumped down onto the couch.
“Then decide what it is you really want, man! Take a stand and don’t look back. You thought you did that once, but the PTB had other things in mind. Get a clue, Angel. Running from it will never solve a thing.”
Angel’s mouth was pressed into a tight line. It stayed that way for some seconds until he told Doyle, “I’m not running. That wasn’t what I was doing by leaving Sunnydale.”
“Cordelia and Buffy—”
Doyle let out a sudden cry, clutching his head in pain as a vision came full force echoing the name of the Chosen One. In an instant, Angel was on his feet looking to Doyle for answers.
“It’s Cordy, isn’t it?” Angel vamped out at the thought of her in danger.
“No,” Doyle gasped as the vision faded leaving only the painful headache behind. “No, Angel. The vision wasn’t about Cordelia. It— it was Buffy. She’s in trouble. She needs you back in Sunnydale.”
SOULBOUND – BOOK TWO – THE NEXT CONNECTION: CHAPTER LINKS