Soulbound – Book 2: Chapter 3
Angel charged up the stairs two at a time leaving Cordelia and Doyle to follow. As Cordy made her way up, the seer inquired, “Is this Willow his girlfriend?”
“Duh! Not a blonde.”
Doyle glanced curiously at her own silky hair and found he did not understand why she was so certain Angel was only attracted to blondes. “I guess that would mean no, then.”
“Why, are you interested?” Cordelia was struck by a strange feeling of possessiveness.
“I’m always interested,” he leered playfully as they walked up the steps.
Laughing at his own pitiful self, Doyle decided he would have to work a lot harder than that to get Cordelia to look at him instead of Angel. Talk about your impossible odds. A champion, no less. Angel had that tall, dark and brooding thing going for him— even if the lad had forgotten how to sweet talk a woman. After two weeks— no after two days of knowing Cordelia, she had spilled the works about her history in Sunnydale including her distanced casual relationship with the vampire.
Distant and casual. Who did the girl think she was fooling with that one? You didn’t have to have visions to know there was something between them. Doyle figured on unrequited lust, seeing as how Angel was supposedly involved with this blonde Slayer girl. That was a hoot! A vampire in love with a vampire slayer. Talk about your star-crossed romances.
Was the idea any stranger than a half-demon seer in love with an ex-cheerleading wanna-be-actress turned secretary? With those odds, Doyle figured he stood a chance.
Cordy reached the top of the stairs and walked into the main office. She noticed that the window blinds had been closed. “Willow?”
The redheaded witch extracted herself from Angel’s bear hug to greet her with an overly bright smile. “Hi Cordy!”
“I’m Doyle,” the seer reminded, standing behind the brunette.
“Willow Rosenberg.” She pressed her mouth into another smile.
There was lots of smiling, Cordelia realized. “What’s with all the smiling?”
“C-can’t a girl say hello?”
“Not if she’s hiding something,” countered Cordy. “I’m glad to see you Willow, but you have that look on your face.”
Eep! What look was that? Willow was certain she didn’t have a look on her face, not one that said she was up to something. Now she was frowning. “I don’t know what you mean. I’m here to see Angel.”
“—And you, too!”
“You knew that I would be here?” Cordelia found it interesting that Angel had obviously been in contact with Sunnydale sometime during the last two weeks.
“Uh—,” Willow darted a desperate look at Angel. There went her slippery tongue again.
“So what’s the deal?”
Angel was a little curious himself. They had not talked since that night of the party when Cordy came back into his life. Suddenly fearful, Angel asked, “Is everyone in Sunnydale okay?”
“Gosh, yes.” Willow hadn’t thought about her unannounced visit coming across like that.
“Buffy is— fine. Just fine. Classes are good. She’s really enjoying— her classes.”
Willow doubted that Angel would want to hear that Buffy was also enjoying Riley Finn, the teacher’s assistant in one of those classes. His reason for leaving Sunnydale was to let Buffy and Cordy get on with their lives, but she had the feeling that meant they were supposed to do whatever they wanted as long as it included going home to a convent at night.
Seeing the close presence of the nice looking guy behind Cordelia, she had to wonder what was happening there. Though she wouldn’t mind talking to Angel about her reason for being here in front of the other girl, she had no clue about this Doyle person.
“Uh—,” Willow began nervously as she noted Cordelia’s continued stare. “Angel, can we talk somewhere more private?”
“Good idea,” Doyle chipped in. “We shouldn’t talk about stuff out here. We can all go into Angel’s office.”
Grabbing Doyle by the shirtsleeve, Cordelia pulled him over to the couch next to the office door. “We’ll just wait here. You two go off and have your secret conversations without us.”
Miffed that Angel was not going to let them in on Willow’s news, Cordelia grabbed the little cosmetics bag from her desk. She took out her nail file and imagined herself shaping them into pointy little claws. Catching the look on Doyle’s face, she paused in her efforts and told him, “Just you wait. We’ll find out all about it later.”
“Are you saying that Angel can’t keep a secret?”
“Nope! Willow’s tongue is slipperier than a waterslide,” Cordy explained conspiratorially as she smirked. “You just have to figure out the right questions.”
“What?!” Cordelia had to laugh. “You don’t even know Willow.”
“Not about her,” Doyle waved that off. “About him. Angel will tell us what the redhead had to say before you can get anything from her.”
Cordelia gaped at his audacity. Loving it, she agreed to the bet. Then asked, “What do I win?”
“You must mean— what are you going to be doing for me,” the seer chortled.
“Right back at ya,” Doyle leaned back confident of his triumph.
Thinking hard, Cordelia informed him, “When you lose this bet, you will not only clean my apartment, but paint it.”
The thought horrified him. Doyle had seen Cordy’s place. He might compare it to a pig pen if it wouldn’t insult the pigs. “No way. Think of something else.”
“Those are my stakes.” Cordelia was not going to budge on that one. “Let’s hear yours.”
Doyle jumped off of the couch, pacing as he tried to come up with something that would suit this bet. It had to be equally offensive— or something that would be lots of fun for him. Probably both. Yes, yes that was it! He told her. Now Cordelia was off of the couch, gasping and practically growling at the audacity of the man to expect that for a measly bet.
“You little psycho case! I won’t do it,” she told him. “Can’t make me. I don’t even own that kind of outfit.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of the details,” Doyle grinned having loads of fun right now.
“Then do you concede that you’re gonna lose this bet?”
“So you’ll wear it?” Doyle asked.
Cordelia wanted this bet. Her apartment was in desperate need of a face lift and she needed cheap labor. How cheap could you get except Doyle? “Okay. If I lose, I will wear the outfit, but only— only if I can tell people anything I want about why I’m wearing it.”
Frankly, Doyle didn’t care what she said as long as he didn’t have to be blindfolded. This was going to be hilarious. If she didn’t kill him after it was over.
They were still snipping over each other when Angel and Willow emerged from the inner office. The redhead’s ivory skin was flushed as the vampire’s gaze left hers. “What the hell is going on out here?”
“Nothing,” Cordy supplied with a smile of pure innocence.
“Uh, huh.” It was clear he did not believe it for a minute.
Doyle grabbed the opening while his opponent was batting her eyelashes at their vampire boss. “So, how’d it go in there?”
“Fine,” Willow answered despite the fact that he directed his question at Angel. “We did what I came to do and I got what I needed.”
With a narrowed glance in the redhead’s direction, Cordelia asked interestedly, “What was that again?”
A short pause followed she got even redder. “Let’s just say I won’t ever look at Angel’s hand the same way again.”
“What?!” That sounded like— no. What a ridiculous thought. Damn Doyle for not letting her look through the glass window between the offices. No, he had to distract her with his stupid bet.
Over six months had passed since Cordelia last saw the little redhead. What in the world had she been up to with Angel during that time? Certainly Willow had not traveled all the way from Sunnydale just to— to do something with Angel’s hand that left her flushed a bright red hue.
The idea that— no, no, no! Don’t even think it, Cordy. She trudged over to the couch and sat down again, staring blankly ahead. This was Willow and Angel she was imagining— and that left her feeling kinda queasy.
“Something wrong, Cordelia?” Angel saw the color leave her cheeks.
She couldn’t even respond. Doyle didn’t know what gutter Cordelia was visiting, but his own mind was quite happily situated there. Somehow, he doubted that his boss would— well, at least not in the office, he conceded. Not where they could see it. If Cordelia had bothered to remind him about the clear window between the offices, they could have seen it. Geez, he could read lips fairly well— not that what they were apparently doing in there required any reading.
“Look, man,” Doyle began, his Irish brogue thicker than usual. “Whatever you and the little redhead were up to in the office, we really don’t need to hear about it, okay?”
Angel crossed his arms over his broad chest. “Up to?”
Then Doyle noticed the ring on the vampire’s hand. “Angel! Do you know what that ring is? I can’t believe it.”
Cordelia blinked away the images in her head. “Ring? Since when do you go all Versace about accessorizing?”
While Angel fiddled with the ring on his finger, Doyle pointed out to Cordelia, “Since the accessory is priceless and renders its wearer 100% unkillable if he’s a vampire.”
“It’s the Ring of Amara,” Angel explained. “Apparently, Spike dug up half of Sunnydale in order to find it. He got a fist full of Buffy and left it behind. She wanted to be sure it was in good hands.”
Doyle was still rocking from the discovery. “You’re invulnerable, man. Don’t you get it? Why aren’t you jumping up and down with happiness? That won’t bother you now. Not anything, actually. Not stakes, not fire, and the best thing is— not even sunlight.”
With a look that registered as awe, but was weighted by some immeasurable fear, Cordy gazed down at the ancient object. “So Buffy sent it to you.”
That carried with it untold meaning, but Cordelia also realized that Buffy had not come to give it to the vampire. “Why did you come, Willow?”
The witch pressed her lips together tightly, merely shrugging in response. Angel was the one to tell her that Buffy asked her to make the trip. She borrowed Giles’ car and drove here by herself. The reason for the privacy was simply because Willow had to discuss a few things including the disposition of some of his stuff at the Sunnydale mansion.
“I decided to leave it there,” Angel told them before Cordelia could ask.
Doyle slowly approached Cordelia who was still sitting on the couch. Tapping her on the shoulder, he cleared his throat. “Looks like we have to discuss a few things ourselves.”
“What?!” Cordy realized that he was referring to the bet. In horrification, she knew that it had been Angel rather than Willow to reveal the truth to them. “That is so wrong, Doyle. You knew about the ring. That’s an unfair advantage.”
Walking away from her, Doyle called over his shoulder as he headed downstairs to grab a celebratory beer. “I’ll expect you for a fitting, say tomorrow?”
Speeding after him, Cordelia followed him downstairs trying to figure out how she could get out of this bet. Left behind, Willow and Angel looked at each other and smiled. The redhead asked, “Did they really deserve that? Honestly Angel— vampire hearing and all. That’s definitely taking advantage.”
Angel pointed out, “Shouldn’t make bets if they can’t stand losing. Besides, you played along, too.”
“Um— yeah. Guess I did,” Willow had to admit. “You have to fess up— you wanted to have Cordy lose the bet. You fixed it so Doyle would win.”
“Look at it this way, Willow,” he told her, “if Cordy won, Doyle would have me at Cordelia’s apartment with a duster and cans of paint. On the other hand, with Doyle winning, the view around the office is going to improve significantly, plus I get free entertainment.”
Giggling at the thought, Willow warned, “Just don’t get caught in the crossfire. I doubt even the Ring of Amara will keep you safe from Cordelia’s tongue-lashing if she ever finds out that you cheated.”
There would be fireworks, he knew. The thought merely brought a wider smile to Angel’s handsome face. Rolling her eyes, Willow walked over to the window blinds taking hold of the cord, prepared to let the sunlight shine directly over the vampire.
“Are you ready?”
SOULBOUND – BOOK TWO – THE NEXT CONNECTION: CHAPTER LINKS