Soulbound – Book 2: Chapter 2
The expected path runs true to plan. Our Champion, Our Seer and the Seer-to-Be will soon join forces for the common good. There is only one variable left in play to wreck havoc upon the course the Powers have laid out for this trio. That exists in the form of a memory crystal currently within our possession. The memories of our Seer-to-Be. As long as the crystal exists, her memories of the time before remain locked away. Safe from one who may unwillingly cause harm. Safe from she who might encourage it. Safe from the curious and well-meaning soul who might seek to undo what she has done.
“What happened to Russell?” Doyle asked Angel.
The vampire had been stoic all afternoon. “He went into the light.”
“And yet you don’t seem to be in a celebrating mood,” the seer noted. Well, Doyle had a plan to fix that.
Angel still questioned the reason that the so-called Powers-that-Be arranged for him to get Doyle’s vision, yet he was unable to save Tina from Russell Winters. The bastard might have gotten what he deserved, but the young actress certainly got the raw end of the deal. She was dead. Angel hadn’t saved her.
“I killed a vampire.” He pointed out to Doyle. “I didn’t help anybody.”
Doyle’s dark eyebrows shot up. “Are you sure about that? Because there is a girl upstairs that’s as happy as can be.”
The Irishman had to be talking about Cordelia. When he awakened earlier, she was still sleeping on the couch. He tucked her in again, watching her shift against the pillow with a smile on her face. Leaning down, he pressed a soft kiss upon her forehead, unable to encroach any further without wanting more.
Upon returning from Angel found his apartment empty. No Doyle. No Cordelia. No note. The devastating discovery that he had not gotten to say goodbye to her had him brooding about it for the last three hours. “Are you saying that Cordelia came back? She’s here?”
“Happy as can be,” Doyle repeated with a confirming nod.
“Aaaaaaah!” The blood-curdling scream instantly captured the attention of Angel and Doyle who jumped to their feet.
Bursting into the office upstairs, Angel saw his mate cowering in one corner of the room with a duster in hand. Stepping carefully around the streaming sunlight coming through the windows, he moved closer looking for the cause of her panic.
Using the fluffy duster as a pointer, Cordelia’s eyes were full of horror. “Ah! Look over there! A cockroach! In the corner. I think it’s a bantam weight.”
Both Doyle and Angel looked contrarily irritated and relieved. This was the reason for the screaming? Before they could say anything, Cordelia had her fisted hands on her hips and was issuing orders.
“Okay, first thing. We need to call an exterminator and a sign painter. We should have a name on the door.”
Whoa. Exterminator, maybe, but sign painter? “Okay. I’m confused,” Angel confessed.
“Pfft! That’s what you get for not being here when Doyle and I came up with the plan.”
Cordelia nodded, her bright eyes full of eager delight. “Doyle filled me in on your little mission. So I was saying, if we were going to help people, maybe a small charge.You know, something to help pay the rent, and my salary. You need somebody to organize things.”
Blinking in consternation, Angel queried, “You want to charge people?”
With an eye-roll, Cordelia huffed, “Well not everybody. But sooner or later we are going to have to help some rich people, right? Right?”
When Angel appeared dumbstruck, Doyle answered. “Possibly, yeah.”
Cordelia went on to suggest that the charges should be made on a case-by-case basis, with her working for a flat fee. “I mean— if you can use me?”
It was impossible to resist that sweet smile of hers, he thought. This wasn’t a decision that Angel could make lightly, not considering everything between them. Cordelia Chase represented far more that just fond memories of a girl from his recent past— that is what she was probably aiming for. She was his soulmate, his lifemate and his demon’s desire.
“Of course this is just temporary,” Cordy stressed, “—until my inevitable stardom takes affect.”
Picking up the box full of office supplies and cleaning products, she smiled at him and walked away. Already getting to work on what would become her space in the office. As he watched, leaning against the doorframe, Angel realized that he never responded to her question about staying. Was it to be automatically assumed? Did her faith in him run that deep, or was it just her annoyingly clever way of getting what she wanted? Either way, he could never tell her no.
Patting Angel on the shoulder, Doyle’s gaze was focused on the beautiful new addition to their lives. “You’ve made a good choice. She’ll provide a connection to the world. She’s got a very humanizing influence.”
The vampire smirked. Doyle’s assumptions about Cordy were obviously not backed up by the 411 from the Powers-that-Be. Cordelia was his connection to the world, but her influence proved anything but humanizing. As he observed her unconsciously graceful moves, Angel could not prevent the innate satisfaction that his mate had wheedled her way back into his life again.
One part of Angel told him that Doyle’s sudden interest in Cordelia was not just for his benefit. Not that he could blame the Irishman for that. With a half smile, Angel pointed out what he knew to be true, “You think she’s a hottie.”
“Yeah, she’s a stiffener alright,” Doyle admitted still soaking in the sight of her. But he had not heard Angel give any confirmation that he was allowing the girl to stay. Hinting, “—But you know, she could use a hand.”
“True.” Angel blamed himself for that one.
Prompting the vampire again, “You know there’s a lot of people in this city that need helping.
“Hmm.” Still distracted by watching Cordy, “So I noticed.”
“You game?” Doyle asked him as the vampire finally started to pay attention.
Angel thought about it for a moment. He was here in L.A., possibly on some predestined path— to what he did not know. Whatever the reason, this crossroads seemed to provide him with a purpose. A calling. Moreover, it brought him Cordelia. Maybe Willow was right all along, he mused while turning his gaze back upon her. Maybe they were simply meant to be together. Maybe this was their second chance.
Too many maybes. One thing, he knew. If he accepted this mission by the Powers-that-Be, if he let Cordelia stay— Angel was never going to let her go again. Come hell or high water, he swore it silently, she’s mine.
Determination sparkled in the dark recesses of his eyes as Angel responded to Doyle’s question. “I’m game.”
Over the next couple of weeks Cordelia had the office of Angel Investigations up and running. The only hitch was the arrival of their business cards, which Cordy personally designed. Nobody seemed to get that it was an angel. You know, standing for — Angel Investigations. Everyone seemed to think in was some kind of lobster.
Doyle’s migrane-producing visions had given them a number of cases, all complimentary of course as their annoying refused to ask anyone for money. “I-I’m not comfortable with asking people who need help to cough up their hard-earned cash to pay us.”
“How do you think we make our hard-earned cash?” Cordy had pointed out. “We are definitely earning it, Broody Boy, but have nothing to show for it.”
Yeah, yeah. She had rent to pay. Angel had heard the argument a dozen times. Well, he had a solution for that one— not that he would actually ask her to move in. That would definitely be crossing the careful line he had set up for himself.
Boss. Secretary. Platonic friendship. No touchy. No feely. Cordelia on that side of the desk. Him on the other.
Unfortunately, Cordelia Chase was one of the most touchy feely people that Angel had ever encountered— as long as she was the one doing the touching and not the other way around. She did it so unconsciously, that the vampire could not in any way blame her for it, but it rattled his nerves. Especially when the touchy feelyness was equally imparted upon Doyle. Those two easily struck up a friendship, both being rather extroverted people persons. For them, it was easy. For the vampire, whom they dragged out clubbing on one or two occasions, it was closer to a nightmare.
Being near Cordelia without being with Cordelia was difficult enough, but witnessing the flirtatious banter between the two coworkers was enough to drag Angel into one of his dark brooding sessions. The jealousy gnawed at him, but he was determined to ignore it.
“I’m here, Angel,” Cordelia was standing in the bedroom doorway. “Where do you want me?”
He had called her downstairs to review one of their case files. It was mid-day and Cordy liked to keep the blinds open, so he chose to stay put, bringing her down to see him. Her arrival came faster than he expected and he was still standing by the phone next to his bed— mostly dressed.
Cordelia pressed a hand against the doorframe, letting her eyes wander slowly. Obviously not caring if he noticed. Dressed in his usual black pants, she saw that his grey shirt was equally dark and dismal. It was hanging open— unbuttoned and revealing the smoothly muscled frame of his torso.
“Didn’t expect you so soon,” he muttered reacting to the hint of arousal in her eyes.
“It’s not like I had to come across town for a meeting, Angel,” Cordy grinned meeting his gaze sharply. “Just downstairs.”
“I’m still getting dressed.”
“Noticed that,” Cordelia ignored the hint to leave and stepped further into the room.
She was still smiling as she walked over to his closet, browsing through the various shirts hanging there. “Geez, vampires must be color blind. All you can see are different shades of black and grey?”
All of the clothes that Cordelia had bought him during their year together were packed away in trunks at the Sunnydale mansion. What was he supposed to say? That he had given up on blue shirts because they were her favorite color?
“Must be you, broody,” she stood inches away trying not to reach out to touch his chest. “I definitely recall other vamps with appropriate use of the other parts of the rainbow in their fashion sense.”
Cordelia found her hands on the open edges of Angel’s shirt. Her hazel eyes darted up to his face where she found him doing his best not to smile. When he did, flashing his teeth at her in this striking grin, Cordy felt herself holding her breath at its power. Angel was smiling? Angel was smiling. At her.
Suddenly, she was grinning back and laughing merrily. Such a silly conversation to be having with her boss. Her partially naked, gorgeous boss. Her partially naked, gorgeous vampire boss. The light died in her eyes at the reminder and Cordelia let go her hold on his shirt, stepping back.
Catching her wrist, Angel stopped the backward progress of her escape. “Don’t.”
“Don’t what?” Cordelia licked her suddenly dry lips, blowing out a little huff of air that simply made them fuller. “Don’t remember what happened at the Bronze two years ago? Pretend to forget that I— that you’re a vampire? Angel, I can’t do that.”
“No, I want you to remember that, Cordy,” he surprised her. “Think about it everyday because that’s who I am. A vampire. A demon with a soul.”
“Buffy never had a problem with that, but I-I can’t ignore that part of you the way she always did.” Cordelia knew the blonde separated Angel and Angelus to the point where she had herself convinced they were two different people. It seemed so clear to her that they were the same one.
Angel found himself faltering. It was so confusing not knowing what memories the spell kept intact. He had to be careful. Not confuse her by saying the wrong thing. But he could not let her get too close. Whatever it was that linked them together, he felt it constantly. He wondered if Cordelia felt it too, this constant pull, this eternal longing.
Eternal. The thought bothered him. They had only been apart a few short months, a time frame insignificant compared to the course of his existence, yet it felt like an eternity of separation. Angel had closed himself off from it, gone through the lonliness and aching torment of the withdrawl from her blood. Now that they were together again, he felt that ache all of the time, almost more significantly than when she was not present.
He wanted nothing more than to cup her face in his hands, press his lips to hers and kiss Cordelia into oblivion alongside him.
“This isn’t about Buffy,” Angel reminded. “It has always been about you and me. There has always been something between us, Cordy, and don’t try to deny it.”
Shaking her head, Cordelia indicated that she couldn’t deny what he said. From the first moment she spotted Angel enter the Bronze, Cordelia wanted him, but that was just the reaction of a girl to a guy, albeit a very hot salty goodness kind of a guy. “Angel, I like working here with you. I still get to do auditions and get to help the hopeless every now and then.”
Cordelia took a deep breath. She had to lay it on the line. “Angel, the Powers-that-Be did not choose you as their champion simply because you’re a vampire. I know that. You have lots of qualities that make it easy for any girl to want you— especially if they are blonde or are vampires or slay them for a living.”
She was trying to let him down easy, Angel realized that Cordelia was spurning him. This was what he wanted, after all. Wasn’t it? To save her from heartache. To keep her distant. To keep her human.
Angel loathed the idea.
No, not the human part. Just the idea of making her revisit her old fears about vampires. It seemed that the memory spell had brought her to a place where she never lost that on some subconscious level. Or maybe, it was just him.
“You know I’d never hurt you, Cordy.” Angel took her by the shoulders, stepping closer into her personal sphere. “You do know that.”
“Dumbass!” Cordelia slapped him on the chest, even as she shrugged out of his hold.
Rubbing his bare chest, Angel felt the sting of her not-so-gentle hand. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Cordy suddenly felt like a four-year old caught biting the boy-next-door to make him take notice. “Nothing. Except that I know you’d never hurt me, Angel. Not physically.”
“Good.” He hoped that wasn’t an empty promise.
“Unless you lose the soul again,” she continued keeping her voice light and airy. “That would be another story. I’m likely to be on the list of those corpses Angelus wanted to pile up on Buffy’s doorstep.”
“Nope,” Angel clarified for her. “Vampire candidate number one.”
“Oh, really?” The raised eyebrow suggested she thought he was teasing. “So who was number two?”
Doyle’s voice suddenly bellowed from the top of the stairs. “Is anyone planning to work today?”
Jogging down the stairs, to find Cordelia standing in the area between the kitchen and the bedroom. Angel emerged, buttoning his shirt. After a thoughtful pause, Doyle told them, “We have a mysterious visitor in the lobby. Claims she’s neither helpless nor hopeless, but wants to see Angel. Asked for you by name.”
“Did she say who she was?” Doyle crossed his arms as he waited by the steps, giving him a negative shake of his head. “Nope.”
“Is she a blonde?” Cordelia inquired suspisciously.
“Nope,” grinned Doyle. The girl had some strange fixation on blondes. “Fire engine red is more like it.”
Angel and Cordelia shared a knowing glance before simultaneously voicing, “Willow.”
“Well, if you say so, but I gotta tell you— she wasn’t a Weeping Willow, just determined to see you.”
Thus enters the one responsible for the dangers both past and future, a lower being with a vast potential as yet untapped. A child of light predestined to be embraced by chaos. It might end the world, if her actions at the present do not end it sooner. The witch carries a gift to our Champion that will harbinger the arrival of the most dangerous variable to threaten the stability of the link between him and his Seer-to-Be.
SOULBOUND – BOOK TWO – THE NEXT CONNECTION: CHAPTER LINKS