Soulbound – Book 2: Chapter 6


The Connections Trilogy_Soulbound_2


Chapter 6

“You did terrible things when you were bad, didn’t you?” Marcus wasn’t really asking. He had an enhanced, innately vampiric ability to sense emotions and skim the surface of thoughts floating across the mind’s eye. “And now you’re trying so hard to do good. But Angel, there is nothing either bad or good, but thinking makes it so.”

While the vampire concentrated on his pained expression, Angel was busy trying to pick up the stake that Spike had earlier dropped on the floor managing to capture it between his shoes.

“What do you want, Angel? I think I know, but I’d like to hear it from you. The truth. I’ll know if you’re lying.”

Focusing through the pain of his injuries, Angel paused in thought at the question. What did he want? What did anyone want being faced with the memories he possessed— or the emotional weight bearing down on his shoulders each day?

“I want— forgiveness.”

“Yes,” Marcus sensed. “That’s the truth— and you want to earn it. You’re not the type that takes the easy way out. This is why I like you so much. In the end you won’t feel guilt— or remorse— or anything but pure darkness. In the end— the ring, the past— none of it will mean anything anymore. You’ll be free. I promise.”

Angel could feel the truth of his words. This vampire knew he possessed a soul and Marcus planned to torture it right out of him. There was a growing darkness inside Angel as he suffered through the slicing knives and body-wracking pokers. One he feared would win as his demon soared to the surface in its own defense. Not that Angel planned to let it get that far.

“And I promise,” he began, swinging up his legs in a surprise move to drive the stake between his feet into Marcus’ chest, “— to kill you.”

Catching Angel’s legs mid-motion, Spike censured his grandsire, “Now, now, staking the torturer is strictly prohibited.”

Marcus backhanded Angel across the face, leaving his mouth dripping dark black blood. It was the first time the tall vampire had lost his cool. “Easy, big fella,” Spike tried to calm him, “I still need that ring.”

Glowering, Marcus walked back to the table where his torture devices were spread out. As he moved away, Spike leaned over to Angel’s ear, “Now you’ve made him mad. I wouldn’t want to be in your chains.”

With Spike standing so close, Angel caught a familiar scent. Cordelia! “Where is she, Spike? What have you done? If you’ve so much as touched—”

“You’re not exactly in a position to threaten me, Peaches,” laughed Spike. Turning toward the warehouse entrance, he called out, “Get your cute little ass in here, luv.”

“You brought her here?” Angel forgot his pain as he saw the woman he loved enter the building. Christ! He knew exactly what Marcus’ reaction would be and there was no telling what Spike would do.

Marcus stopped, quickly taking in the sight of the beautiful young woman and noting Angel’s response. This was the one, he realized, the vampire’s mate— a human. The thought did not really surprise him considering the soul; the vampire’s heart was suffused with love. He read it in Angel’s face. Fear. Not for himself. For her.

She approached the trio of vampires at a cautiously slow, steady pace barely sparing a glance at Marcus or Spike. Cordelia’s entire being was focused on Angel. Oh, God! Oh God! Look at him! Hanging from the ceiling, his hands gripped the chains binding his wrists in order to hold himself in place. The toes of his shoes barely touched the floor.

There were bloody gashes on his chest where his shirt lay open baring his pale skin to her view. A long poker pierced his abdomen going through to the other side. A dagger was stuck in one clothed thigh. Other wounds were scattered from place to place. Cordelia did not bother asking Spike for permission to approach Angel, she simply walked up to stand directly in front of the chained vampire.

Reaching out with a trembling hand and with tears in her eyes, Cordelia pressed her palm against the one area of his abdomen still smooth- not poked, sliced or covered in blood. It was difficult to speak since her throat seemed to be closing up, strangling her, keeping the scream in her head from pouring forth. Finally, she managed to whisper his name.

“A-Angel.”

That was when Spike realized that the chit loved Angel, too— despite removing his mark and acting as if she had forgotten that she was his mate. Bloody hell! This was a damned fine mess.

All Spike wanted was the Gem of Amara that he had gone through so much trouble to get before it was stolen by Slutty the Slayer. It was his! Spike figured on a little torture being be good for his stodgy old grandsire. Never had any fun anymore— the vamp had turned into a broody detective. Angelus would have staked himself first if he ever had a choice in the matter of his soul.

Spike hadn’t planned to kill Angel. Not really. Not unless he refused cough up the location of the ring.

Now Angel had gone and tried to kill Marcus, pissing the vampire off just when Spike arrived with Cordelia Chase. Now instead of killing Angel, it was perfectly clear that the vampire who designed torture methods for his own personal pleasure was going to focus on the cheerleader. This wouldn’t be pleasant. The glint in Marcus’ eyes suggested that he already had something in mind.

“This is an interesting twist, Spike,” he commended the vampire for his ingenuity. “By capturing Angel’s mate, you provide me with the leverage we need.”

Hearing the words, Cordelia’s brain processed them leaving behind more confusion. Yet another vampire who thought she had a thing with Angel. And this one was making a lot more out of the connection that Spike did, now promoting her from wannabe vampire slut to mate. Her heart ached at the thought— but why?

This was Angel. Her boss. Her friend. Buffy Summer’s vampire boyfriend. Was it former boyfriend? Not likely. Not with the star-crossed lover thing they shared.

Angel knew a moment of panic as Marcus acknowledged Cordelia as his mate. There was no doubt in his mind that the vampire would take advantage of that connection. Looking down into his love’s hazel eyes, Angel saw that there was a war going on in their pooling depths. Confusion vied for victory and seemed to be winning. Between Spike and Marcus commenting on a relationship that she couldn’t remember and the recognition of his own feelings in her eyes, Angel figured that she didn’t know what to think.

“Cordy,” he implored. “Don’t be scared. Spike will look after you— he won’t let anything happen.”

Giving the younger vampire a harsh glare, Angel extracted a silent promise.

What did that matter? “I don’t care about Spike.”

“You should,” warned Marcus now standing behind her. Reaching forward, he threaded a finger through the loose strands of her hair.

Spike caught the vampire’s wrist, his game face in place. “She’s mine.”

“Am not!” Cordelia huffed, never minding the fact that Spike was trying to defend her against the other evil vampire in the room.

“So too!” Spike argued. “Peaches just gave you to me.”

Angel growled, but said nothing to provoke his grandchilde. Spike was the only thing standing between Cordelia and a brutal, painful death.

Marcus yanked his hand away, heading back to his table of torture devices to select the first instrument he would use on the female.

Just as Marcus was returning with a pair of needle-nosed pliers, a van burst through the side of the warehouse, ramming through a stack of barrels and coming to a screeching halt behind Angel. Marcus rolled out of its way to avoid being run over and scampered out of the path of the sunbeams now pouring into one side of the room.

Doyle leaned out of the window from the driver’s side, holding something in his hand. “I have it, Spike. I’ve got the ring. Let Angel and Cordelia go.”

“Give it here, mate.”

“Not until you remove those chains and put Angel in the van,” he negotiated by waving the ring at the vampire.

Spike shrugged, releasing Angel from his chains and hauling him over to the side door. The poker and dagger were still in place, but the vampire figured to let Angel’s mate fix him up. Turning to Doyle, “I did what you wanted, Irish. Now give me my bloody ring!”

Smirking, Doyle tossed it to the other side of the warehouse.

With a hand on her elbow, Spike helped Cordelia climb into the van. “Best to get going, luv. Marcus is pissed. Don’t worry your pretty head about it. I’m not gonna come after you and yours again— not for a while, anyway. Just wanted the ring.”

Watching as the van backed out of the building, Spike turned to face Marcus knowing that this would not be a pleasant conversation— but one helluva fight. The vampire was standing in the shadows, also observing the departure. Then he stepped up to the open hole in the warehouse wall before walking freely into the sun.

“Bloody hell! He’s got my ring!” Spike had figured on Marcus being so addicted to his little torture sessions that he wouldn’t be interested in the Gem of Amarra. Damn! Angel had been right about this too, the blasted know-it-all.

Doyle pulled over at the corner. Now that they were outside, he figured they’d be safe. Moving out of the driver’s seat, he asked Cordelia how Angel was doing. The vampire had removed the dagger and poker, but there were gaping wounds that didn’t seem to stop bleeding.

“We need to get him to a hospital,” there was a growing panic in her gaze.

“I hear you,” Doyle sympathized, “but which one? You see, they all tend to specialize in humans.”

Cordelia’s eyes were pleading. “Do something!”

After a pause, Doyle nodded. Climbing back into the driver’s seat, he told her, “I know a few guys— hey! That’s Marcus. Over on the corner near the pier.”

“So? Just get us out of here.” What did Cordelia care about that creepy vampire when her own was bleeding in her arms?

“You don’t understand, Cordy,” gasped Doyle as he realized it. “He’s standing in full sunlight. That means Marcus has the ring— he’s got the Gem of Amara.”

Angel stirred in Cordelia’s arms, issuing orders despite the significance of his injuries. “Go after him, Doyle. I have to stop him.”

Glancing in the rearview mirror as he pulled away from the curb, Doyle saw Cordelia hugging empty air. That always got to him— no reflection. “You’re on death’s toast, man. You’re in no shape to be fighting a torture demon.”

Cordelia had to agree, until something Spike had said about Marcus popped into her head. “Doyle— there will be children at the pier. Marcus has a thing for kids.”

As the seer stepped on the gas, Angel attempted to rouse himself enough to sit up straight. The blood loss had left him weak and dizzy. “Can’t let someone like that keep the ring. Not someone like Angelus— someone who would stop at nothing to get what he wants no matter the cost.”

Frowning, Cordelia realized that in Angel’s current condition going up against a vampire who was now supposedly invulnerable would not be of the good. Begging him not to do this would be futile. This was what a champion did, she realized, even if it left the rest of them behind to mourn.

With a grip on the door handle, Angel turned to her, cupping her face with his free hand. He said nothing, merely staring into her eyes with his full of regret, determination and— something more. His thumb brushed across the soft fullness of her lips just before his hand dropped away. The van halted. Angel flung open the door, squinting into the bright sunlight as he spotted his quarry.

There was a cry on Cordelia’s lips as Angel leapt onto the pier running in a straight path for Marcus. Under the direct light of a cloudless California sky, the vampire immediately began to flame. Only his long years of existence gave him the precious seconds to reach the other demon— who was now standing near a group of grade-schoolers— just a small bit of luck that would have had younger vamps exploding under the sun’s harsh rays.

Wrapping his arms around Marcus, still running at full throttle despite his injuries, Angel sent them crashing over the railing. Darting out of the van, Cordelia and Doyle raced to the broken railing seeing nothing, but the bubbling trail left behind. Running back down the pier for the stairs, they descended the beach below.

“Doyle!” Calling out nervously, Cordelia held onto his sleeve while scanning for any sign of Angel. “Where is he? Do you see anything?”

“No.” He answered her knowing that Angel might have been dust before he hit the water. “No, I don’t see— wait— look over there!”

Under the pier, Marcus and Angel emerged from the water. Sheltered here from the sun, Angel fought with every ounce of strength left within him. While Marcus was an expert in torture techniques, he didn’t exactly have the best moves in a brawl. Not that it seemed to matter— he was invulnerable thanks to the power of the ring.

“What were you planning to do?” Marcus grinned at his opponent who was tiring. “Kill me?”

Refusing to give up, Angel snarled, “Well, after all, I promised.”

Continuing to fight, they taunted each other. Finally, Angel told the vampire, “You never cracked me, Marcus. You tried, and you failed.”

Then Angel swung the other vamp around impaling him against one of the protruding wooden boards they had broken during the fight. “Now that’s got to hurt.”

Marcus looked down at his pierced chest in amazement. He felt like laughing. This was great! Nothing could stop him, even this.

Then Angel reached down while Marcus was distracted by his power to withstand what equated to a stake through the heart. Grasping onto the Gem of Amara, Angel pulled the ring off Marcus’ finger. Pain suffused his chest where moments ago there had been only a pleasant tickle. Letting out a scream, Marcus turned to dust, his ashes blowing off into the wind and mixing with the salted waves of the sea.

Glancing at the ring centered in his palm, Angel thought back to the first time he had put it on his finger. Like then, he felt a rush of power. His wounds started to close, healing in seconds. And now, it was time to step into the sunlight for the first time. He was suddenly glad that he told Willow Rosenberg not to open the blinds that day, for it made this even more significant.

Shadowing his eyes from the harsh light, Angel moved forward out of the water until he was standing on the beach. Soaking wet in clothes that were scorched and ripped, Angel felt the radiating warmth of the sunlight on his face for the first time in over two hundred years.

Then he heard them calling out his name.

“Angel!” Cordy’s voice carried across the sands as she waved at him. With her shoes in her hands, she was running behind the Irishman.

Doyle was grinning ear to ear. Hugging the vampire, he pounded his back as if to make certain his friend was really there and not a vision. “You made it man!”

Smiling, Angel couldn’t find the words to thank Doyle for showing up just in time to save them— to save Cordelia from Marcus’ wrath and Spike’s stupid quest for the ring.

“I can’t believe it! Angel!” Arriving in a whirlwind, Cordelia opened her arms around both men hugging them and squealing in delight, having dropped her shoes to the sand. Doyle stepped away as Cordy started to jump around like she was on a dangerous pogo stick. “Angel, this is great! You’re alive— or still undead— or whatever! You’re here.”

Flinging herself into Angel’s welcoming arms, Cordelia hugged him tight. She stayed there for a moment, with her cheek on his chest, just reassured by the feel of his strong arms. Angel’s cheek was nuzzling the top of her head, perhaps signaling that she was not the only one in need of comfort.

“Your wounds!” Cordelia pulled back looking for signs of his injuries. Running her hands over his back, arms and chest, she finally realized that they were gone. “Angel, this ring is amazing. Think of all the good you can do if you’re not hampered by daylight.”

“I haven’t thought that far ahead,” Angel admitted. He wasn’t past thinking about the feel of her in his arms.

His hands moved down from her shoulders to the small of her waist, pulling her into him. Needing to have her close. As she felt his body’s reaction to her nearness, Cordelia darted her eyes back to his face. Angel was looking at her in a way she’d never seen before— with an intensity that almost scared her.

Touching her face, Angel smiled softly. His voice was almost a whisper, as she spoke the words from his heart. “You’re beautiful in daylight. There is such a glow about your skin when it’s kissed by the sunshine.”

Cordelia’s mouth dropped open at Angel’s romantic turn of phrase. No, surely she wasn’t hearing this. Was the vampire delirious? Did he think she was Buffy? Even as the thought came to her, she dismissed it. With his injuries gone, Cordy was certain any confusion had also been washed away.

“Well Angel looks like a drowned rat,” Doyle pointed out reminding them both of his existence. “I suggest we get back to the van before someone has it towed.”

Questioning, Angel asked him, “Where did you get that van, anyway?”

“Manny the Pig,” Doyle confirmed. “Spike’s instructions included permission to borrow the Pig’s little love shack on wheels.”

Eew!

Cordelia scrunched up her nose, realizing why the white van’s interior décor appeared so gauche. The seer headed back up the beach toward the stairs leaving Angel and Cordelia to follow. Bending down, Cordy picked up her tennis shoes with one hand and then held out the other for Angel. As he placed his hand in hers, Cordelia stared down at the silver ring with its bright gem.

“Without this, you would still be in danger,” she felt a swell of relief filling her chest. “I almost lost you today.”

Angel watched as Cordelia pressed a grateful kiss onto the ring, and then turned his hand over to do the same to his palm. Before lifting her lips away, the vampire had yanked her back into his arms. Cupping her face with both hands, he bent down to kiss her mouth. The sound of her gasp drowned in the wake of Angel’s tongue sweeping close, brushing against her lips, darting into her center— pressing close for more.

Her shoes were on the sand again as Cordelia grasped her fingers around the loose fabric of Angel’s shirt holding on tight. Mmm! His kisses felt so good, so right, and so familiar. She pushed herself closer into the circle of his arms as they moved around to bring her hips flush with his, raising her to her bare tiptoes to do so. Her breasts swelled against his chest, the nipples hard and tingly as she crushed them against his sculpted torso.

How long they kissed was anyone’s guess— except Doyle’s. He’d been timing them on his watch from his spot at the bottom of the steps. Five long torturous minutes of playing the voyeur was enough to make him want to puke. If those two didn’t break it up soon, they would be enacting a risqué version of the beach scene in ‘From Here to Eternity’.

Doyle’s heart was flooded with mixed emotions. Too many to spell out. He simply felt them all, realizing that this was not a scene he could quit. The Powers that Be had called him to be Angel’s seer and that meant Cordelia would be here by his side. Something deep down inside had told him the girl was always meant for their champion. It almost made sense in the cosmic scheme of things. Not that he knew the cosmic scheme— Doyle just had a better picture of it than most. Or thought he did.


SOULBOUND – BOOK TWO – THE NEXT CONNECTION: CHAPTER LINKS

Book Two Chapter 5                    Book Two Home                    Book Two Chapter 7


 

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