Soulbound – Book 2: Chapter 11
Lower being, you continue to refute our testimony. We Oracles to the Powers that Be must question this logic. Would you defy the true course of destiny yielding to the whims of fate alone thus placing the vampire and his human mate on a path leading into the darkness of their deepest desires? They are neither so deep nor hidden, but their existence alone weaves a dangerous thread for it is not yet time for the future to give way to the present. Thus our Champion will face a crossroads in his life where choices and changes could alter his existence or his destiny. And so she who created their connection now must spin a web of lies.
“An earthquake destroyed the mission back in 1812,” Willow peered at the data on her computer. “Looks like they just built right over it.”
The discovery of the old mission at the construction site of the new Sunnydale Cultural Partnership Center was a lucky find for the university and its anthropology department. Not so great a find for Xander, who had been involved with the construction team and ended up falling in the hole that opened beneath his jackhammer. It was an interesting discussion for Willow who thought the timing of the discovery so close to Thanksgiving was strangely appropriate.
Buffy was not that interested in the conversation and instead focused on the thought of cooking a holiday meal for her other family while her mom was away. Even Riley was leaving on an early morning flight back to Iowa for the holiday. While she mentally reviewed her shopping list, Buffy subconsciously turned toward the window staring out into the darkness.
“What’s out there?” Willow asked. “You’ve got that look on your face.”
With a laugh, Buffy fingered the necklace at her throat. “What look is that?”
Willow told her, “The something-is-out-there look. I think it’s a Slayer thing. You get that look just before we get attacked by vampires or demons or homework-assigning professors.”
Truly looking out the dorm-room window, Buffy revealed that she saw nothing out of the ordinary. “I was just thinking about us cooking a real Thanksgiving meal this year. Just you and me and Giles and Xander. No boxed up frozen food for us— just the best— all fresh and yummy goodness.”
“Oh.” Now Willow understood. “So it’s turkey slayage you were thinking about.”
Willow continued on with her research, intrigued by the history of the mission. Buffy went to take a shower, preparing for her date with Riley Finn. Military Guy was going to be here any minute. He was never late. With a sigh, Willow got up from her desk chair, stretching. She really didn’t want to be here when Riley arrived.
He was a nice guy, but there was something about him she disliked. Maybe it was the fact that he worked for a secret military operation that performed behavioral testing on Sunnydale’s demon population. They had already gotten to Spike— putting a chip into his head that prevented him from hurting humans. Lucky thing, since he came looking for her again, this time planning to follow-through with his idea of biting her.
Still, Willow had to wonder about what the initiative might do to a practicing Wicca.
Shoving some money into the pocket of her skirt, Willow figured she would escape before Buffy’s boyfriend showed up at the door. There was only one thing bothering her about this plan— Slayer instincts. Buffy had been staring out that window for a reason, even if she couldn’t see a problem. She was just too wrapped up in her own plans for Turkey Day and tonight’s sojourn with Riley that she wasn’t interested in finding out.
Willow glanced out the window hoping to see nothing, but it was not nothing that was walking out of the shadow of the trees below their dorm window.
It was Angel.
Slayer senses. Wow! What was Angel doing back in Sunnydale? Willow wondered why he had not called to warn her about the visit. After all, he didn’t have the excuse of not having their number. She had emailed the dorm phone number to Cordelia’s computer just after moving in.
Willow decided to follow the vampire. Surely she could catch up with him. Ask him why he was in town. Too bad Buffy was showering or her friend would be certain to track and find him. Though, all things considered, maybe it was a good idea to see Angel alone. No telling what was going on.
After ten minutes of trailing after him, leading into the center of town, Willow realized that Angel had disappeared. “Vampires! Move so darned fast a girl can’t keep up.”
Giving up, Willow spotted the coffee shop two doors down across the street. “Mmm! Looks like they’re selling coffee at the coffee shop. Yum.”
Waiting for a car to pass, Willow scampered across Main Street and headed down the sidewalk. She was still muttering to herself about Angel’s sneaky getaway when passing the dark alley situated between the curiosity store and the coffee shop.
Grabbed from behind, a hand reached out to cover Willow’s scream. The strong arms of her assailant pulled her deep into the center of the shadowed passage. He flipped her around like a rag doll with his hand still over her mouth. It made Willow a little dizzy, but she held onto the large wrist trying hopelessly to move it away.
Then Willow found her back against the hard surface of the brick wall, its ridges scraping against her sweater. It was dark, but she could sense that her attacker’s strength would be far too much to overcome. And his hand over her mouth prevented the casting of a spell that might save her.
She glared into the darkness, meeting his gaze. Surprise turned to shock which gave way to a smattering of fear. No, no, no! It couldn’t be.
“Hello, Willow,” the vampire shushed her. “It’s just me. I’m going to take my hand away, so don’t scream.”
Willow’s eyes glinted with just a tiny hint of defiance.
“Tell me you won’t scream, Willow, or we’ll be having a very one-sided conversation.”
With a shake of her head, she indicated her cooperation. As his hand dropped away, she released his wrist. “A-Angel?”
Pulling her to a point where the moonlight streamed down in between the buildings, he let her assess that for herself. “Willow—,” he started only to be cut off by her accusation.
“You’re evil again!”
Angelus was back. How could Angelus be back? Cordy was supposed to prevent that— unless something had happened to her.
“I’m not evil.”
“Huh! That’s what they all say.” Willow thought about screaming. She glanced toward the distant end of the alley where the sidewalk appeared. “Y-you’re not here to punish me again. Are you? Because, I haven’t done anything— lately.”
Grinning down at her, Angel promised her that Angelus had not returned. He pulled her into a hug, kissing the top of her head. “I’m not here to punish anyone, Willow. I came to help Buffy.”
Upon being released from his arms, Willow looked relieved and then concerned, “Oh. So, no spanking? Uh— good! That’s a good thing. What’s going on?”
“Doyle had a vision. Buffy’s in danger.”
Her brow furrowed at the news. “Nothing has come up— except talking turkey slayage. For Thanksgiving. Oh— except finding the old mission, but there’s nothing weird about that. So far.”
Angel explained that Doyle’s visions didn’t always come with an exact time and location. This one just revealed Buffy, impending danger and the fact that Angel needed to haul ass to Sunnydale. “I’m just here to watch out for her. Not to barge back into her life. Not to put thoughts into her head that shouldn’t be there. I’m heading back home to L.A. as soon as this is over.
Digesting the information, Willow told him point blank, “Buffy will have a hissy fit when she finds out you came to Sunnydale without talking to her.”
“How will she know?”
After a pause, she realized what he was saying. “Uh— not me?”
“No. Not you, my little witch.” The vampire looked decidedly serious about the matter.
He expected her to acquiesce just because he wanted it that way. With her hands on her narrow hips, Willow defiantly accused him of trying to hide from Buffy. “You’re scared to face her now that you’re living with Cordelia again.”
“Living with her?”
“That’s what Cordy implied in the email she sent me,” Willow revealed. “She wrote something about sleeping in your bed.”
Angel figured that must have made interesting reading. “Did Buffy see it?”
“No! Are you crazy? Buffy would freak! All she remembers is your love for her— alone. She doesn’t know about Cordy being your mate.”
“So are you telling me that Cordy isn’t living with you? That she’s not— you know—”
“— having sex with me?” Angel finished.
“Yeah. Doing that.”
Absently, Angel wondered if Willow had been with a man since Angelus took her virginity at the Sunnydale High School library. She was blushing in the darkness and her heartbeat sped up considerably at the briefest mention of sex. There was even a hint of her arousal on the night air.
“No, Willow,” he responded truthfully. “Cordy stayed at my apartment for two days between moves. I took the sofa. She didn’t tell you about her new place with its resident ghost?”
“Cordy lives with a ghost?”
“Yeah. Name’s Dennis. Long story.”
“Uh— okay. So no s-sex. That’s why I thought something had happened. That you were Angelus again.”
“So how is Cordelia?”
“Fine. Too fine. That’s why I wanted to see you.”
How could his mate be too fine? Giving him a questioning look, Willow waited for him to speak.
“We made a pact to ignore the attraction between us,” he said. “She doesn’t want to be with a demon. Cordelia is— dating.”
The darkness hid his full expression, but not the piercing amber of his eyes. Willow was a little scared by the intensity there. “Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that what you wanted?”
Angel using bad language was never a good sign. Usually, he acted with that Old World charm.
“Then tell her how you feel.”
”It’s not that simple, Willow.”
Pacing a short distance, Angel turned back to her. “You know why not. It’s the reason I asked you to cast that damnable spell in the first place. I don’t want her to be in danger.”
“And she’s not while working for you? I got the impression that you handled some out of the ordinary cases at Angel Investigations.”
“I meant danger from me,” there was a growl in his voice.
“You sound like Doyle,” the vampire admitted. “I’m getting the same lecture from him.”
“I said it first,” Willow reminded him that she had cautioned against this before invoking her magick. “So what is it you want from me, Angel?”
“I want the crystal,” he held out his hand as if she could hand it over in an instant.
Willow pressed her back into the wall again. Oh, no! It was happening now. What the Oracles had forewarned. Their Champion was looking to reverse the memory spell that kept everyone but the two of them ignorant of the year Angel, Cordelia and Buffy had been together. The higher beings spoke of serious consequences if she revealed the truth. They swore her to secrecy.
Oh, God! She was going to have to lie to Angel. Had anyone ever successfully lied to a vampire? Someone who could detect the changing rhythms of your heart and lungs? She doubted it.
There was only one thing to do, Willow decided. She would tell him the truth. Not the whole truth, but something like it.
“I don’t have the crystal, Angel.”
“What?!” Shock hit him dead center at the words.
“It’s lost to me. Gone forever. Out of my hands.”
Stalking up to her, Angel gripped her slight shoulders. She let out a cry of pain causing him to decrease the pressure, but only a little. “Careless witch! I told you to guard that crystal with your life.”
“I’m sorry, but there is nothing I can do to get it back.”
“There better be,” Angel barely comprehended that he was threatening her. His inner demon surged forth. “Are you looking for punishment, Willow? Do you understand what you’ve done wrong?”
“Y-yes!” She was getting scared again. Her heart was a lump in her throat.
“Which question were you answering?” Angel asked. “Punishment or understanding?”
“Yes, I understand what I’ve done,” cried Willow now shaking like a leaf in the autumn wind. “I can’t take it back. I can’t take back the spell.”
“Find a way.”
Her eyes were wide with fear. “Angel, I can’t— not without the crystal.”
“Then perhaps you do need to be punished.”
“N-no. Please! No, Angel.” Willow begged to be released, her voice coming in soft gasps.
Scenting her arousal, Angel glared down at the little redhead pressed up against the wall. “Are you certain that’s what you want? I don’t think so. I think you remember that day in the library— just like I do. Did you like getting spanked? Or just the fact that I made you come?”
Willow looked from left to right noting that the vampire’s hands were up against the wall, his arms blocking her path. Somewhere inside her head a part of her was telling her to scream. Another part was searching frantically for a spell that would ward him off. There too, in a tiny much darker corner of her mind, she reeled in pleasure at the memory.
It was only when the shuddering gasp of longing escaped her throat that Angel told her, “I don’t punish my women that way, Willow. My style is different without a soul. That’s not to say that having my hand on your bare ass wouldn’t be fun.”
This was Angel talking, she reminded herself with continued shock.
“Spanking can be foreplay, not a punishment.” Angel watched her eyes dilate to their fullest in the dark and the sweet scent of her arousal wouldn’t even require vampire senses to detect. “It’s a prelude to pleasure.”
Her fingers wrapped around the flat line of his belt, but Angel grasped her wrists and dropped them back to her side. “You don’t deserve that pleasure, little witch. Be glad that I have my soul, because without it—”
He ran his fingers along the rapid pulse in her slender throat. “Without it, I’d make you pay for this. Cordelia is everything to me. Everything, Willow. I want her back, but that won’t happen unless you can find the damn crystal.”
Willow let out a tiny sound. “Eep!”
Trying to calm himself, Angel knew that his fury had driven him too far. He didn’t want to hurt Willow, but something about her always seemed to lead him down a darker path. It was the magicks, he figured. He scented the darkness within her and simply reacted to it. Maybe it was the fact that she had cast the spell to return his soul.
With his hands still on the wall on either side of her, Angel bent his head down so that his forehead rested upon hers. “I’ve scared you again. Seem to make that a habit.”
“Oh, hell.” Angel cursed himself for doing this to her. It was no worse than what Angelus had done, except that he tortured her mentally rather than physically. God, how would he make this up to her? He still depended upon her friendship. She was the only one who knew about the spell.
“Let me say that I’m sorry,” he pleaded her consent. “Let me show you that it’s not all about pain and fear.”
“W-what are you going to do?” She gazed downward, not wanting to look into his eyes.
Angel gently placed his fingers along her jaw, tilting her face upward. “Just a kiss. Just one kiss to show my regrets.”
She couldn’t speak. Couldn’t manage a single word— not even a stutter. But her tongue brushed against her lower lip in unconscious wonder at the thought of kissing Angel. The sight of her parted lips was all the consent he needed and the vampire lowered his mouth to hers.
Almost instantly, Willow was seeing stars. It might have been the shock of it all, but she found herself reaching up to wrap her arms around his shoulders. Golly, he was so big and muscular. Placing his hands under her arms, Angel lifted her higher so that he didn’t have to bend down low and her legs automatically moved to surround his waist.
Softly, tenderly he kissed the bowed curve of her upper lip, and then gave equal attention to the fuller bottom lip. Each press of his lips on hers sent tiny shock waves down to her groin. Then she yielded to the gentle whisper of his mouth and soon was drowning in the sensation of his kiss. This wasn’t just one kiss, but a series of highly pleasurable caresses all performed by the slightest movements of his sensuous mouth and tongue.
Sometime later, when Willow descended from the heaven his kiss created, the vampire moved one hand down to her leg and extracted her from his waist. Her aroused body shifted down his hard torso until she reached the ground. The brick wall supported her tiny frame as she languidly leaned against it for support.
Willow looked up at Angel with half-closed eyes. To think that he could do all that with just a kiss. One part of her was ready to ask if there was still an opening in his Blonde, Brunette and Redhead Collection. The rest fell back to Earth with the stark realization that this kiss was no different than the spanking. Ultimately, he still wanted to get his way.
Straightening her spine, Willow’s stared turned dark. “You’re forgiven, Angel. In this whole scheme, I think that makes us even.”
“Maybe so,” Angel shrugged while regretting that once again, he had let his sexually-charged vampire instincts interfere.
“Just one more thing,” Willow formed the words on kiss-swollen lips. “Don’t ever touch me again.”
Wryly, Angel agreed. Pointing out, “I seem to have that effect, lately. Cordy told me the same thing.”
“Get the hint?” Willow arched a thin red brow. “Maybe the spell was a good thing, after all. You’re a vampire, Angel, but you have a soul. That should tell you something.”
“Though even I sometimes forget it, I am the demon Willow. It’s the soul that lets me—”
Breaking off, Angel caught Buffy’s familiar scent on the wind. Signaling for silence, he grasped Willow’s wrist taking her with him to the edge of the alley. Across the street near the bakery, Buffy was standing close to a young man. They were speaking, their eyes connecting in ways that suggested intimacy.
“W-who is that?” Angel asked the question despite his suspicions.
Willow gulped loudly. “Riley— her boyfriend.”
“So I’ve been replaced here, too.” Angel was looking a little dangerous again.
Tugging on his jacket to gain the vampire’s attention again, Willow purported, “Your plan actually worked, Angel. You’ve succeeded. Buffy has moved beyond her obsession for you. She’s trying to get on with her life— if you’ll let her.”
“My plan succeeded?” Big fucking deal. “My mate and my lover are involved with other men. Do you have any idea what that feels like?”
“You mean jealousy?” Willow knew that emotion all too well. “It’s the feeling that made me cast that first spell on Cordelia— the one that made her ignore her fear of vampires. The one that gave Angelus an opening. I was jealous of Cordy and Xander. So mad I could spit! But— hey, I knew magic. That’s what she got— a taste of my anger.”
Gruff laughter sounded from his throat as he realized the irony. A taste of anger. A hint of darkness, just enough to make her give herself to a soulless creature of the night. To let him claim her as his mate. Though it wasn’t Willow’s intention to do so, her actions certainly brought him to this dark and dreary place in his life. After the light, laughter and happiness of immersing himself in the depths of their love, this place was gloomier and lonelier than ever.
He was so close to what he wanted. In L.A., Cordelia was within touching distance every day. Now Buffy stood close to that milk-faced farm boy— he could tell just by looking at his face despite the regimented quality of his stance. He saw a hint of trouble behind that sweet smile he sent her way.
That really, really pissed him off.
“You’re growling again,” Willow hit him on the arm. “Stop that. She’ll hear you.”
Angel turned to face her. “Just find me the damned crystal, Willow.”
He stalked back down the alley, pausing to send a trash can flying with a kick. Angel made a powerful leap over the back wall and was gone. Willow collapsed back against the brick wall, feeling drained of energy. Shrinking down under her own slight weight on legs that would no longer support her, Willow found herself on the ground.
She had done it! The scary part was over. Not the threats or the kissing. No, she survived that. It was lying to Angel that did her in. She hadn’t given in to her need to tell Angel the truth about the crystal— or where to find it.
Buffy and Riley came crashing into the alley. “Willow! I heard a noise and saw you falling.”
“Are you okay?” Riley asked as he helped her to stand.
“Y-yes, I’m fine.”
“What happened?” Buffy held onto her hand, her face a picture of concern for her friend.
More lies, Willow thought with a sigh. Here we go!
“I came for coffee. Thought I heard a noise in the alley.”
“What was it? Something— evil? Were you attacked?”
Shaking her head, Willow explained, “No. It was just a kitty. A big, nasty growly kitty. It ran away.”
And so the web of lies is spun. The secret protected. Our Champion now approaches the crossroads, one path leading to the Chosen One and the other to our potential Seer-to-Be.
SOULBOUND – BOOK TWO – THE NEXT CONNECTION: CHAPTER LINKS