Threads of Love
Angel seems completely oblivious to Cordelia’s charms when she sets out to seduce him using every flirtatious technique she has gleaned from the pages of Cosmo.
- CONTENTS: C/A in AtS
- RATING: NC17
- LENGTH: Novella / 20,000 words
- STATUS: Completed
- CHALLENGE CREDIT: Impress
- FICPIC CREDIT: Califi
The perfect mix of fun, sexy, and laugh-out-loud humour.
– TeenOfTheEighties –
Threads of Love
Sunlight filtered through the doors flung wide by Cordelia Chase as she limped into the Hyperion Hotel lobby. The dappled beams shined like a halo over the tangled mass of dark chestnut hair poking out at odd angles from her once tidy up-do. Parts remained upswept, still held in place by a stylish clip, while the rest fell in a messy web down to her shoulder.
Silently complaining, she reached down to yank her left shoe off her foot pouting woefully at the broken heel. This was so not the way to start the day. Cordelia could not believe that she had let herself fall victim to such an obvious trap.
Those little demons! Just lying in wait for some unsuspecting woman to come along and tempt her with their innocent eyes and sweet smiles. Definitely demon spawn.
Removing her other shoe, Cordelia straightened her mud-encrusted skirt and padded barefoot around the front counter slinging her purse down on her chair.
Wes will just have to give me the rest of the morning off after this.
She heard voices coming from behind the nearly closed doors to Wesley’s office. It sounded like Gunn and Lorne were in there. No doubt they were discussing the next apocalypse or the wonders of cable television, but too bad. This took priority.
When she explained how those conniving little eight-year olds had conned her into participating in their double dutch jump roping game, Wes would understand. All it took was looking at her to get the point.
How was she supposed to know that Jimmy Choos could survive demon attacks, but not the wily tactics of elementary school brats? The little monsters actually giggled at her as she twisted her ankle, tumbled to the ground tangled in their jump ropes and rolled into a damp patch of dirt, the origins of which she just did not want to think about.
Get ready to shower me with sympathy, fellas, cos I so deserve it.
Cordelia moved toward the door only to stop short of flinging it open as Gunn’s voice sounded out in surprise. Shock resonated as he exclaimed, “Get out! You tellin’ me Angel coulda been gettin’ some in Las Vegas, but he picked some monk retreat in Tibet?”
Angel had recently returned from his three-month vigil to the Himalayas following Buffy Summer’s death. Cordelia knew Gunn had suggested that the vampire go to Las Vegas instead, but Angel had insisted he needed to find a little inner peace and come to terms with his former girlfriend’s passing.
Besides, what could Angel possibly ‘get’ in Las Vegas besides a severe case of debt? It’s not like sex was on the agenda considering Angel would have his own personal Mr. Hyde coming out to play if that ever happened. Nope, Monk City was a far better choice for a eunuch vampire.
“Gunn, there are far more significant matters than Angel’s sex life to consider if Lorne is indeed correct,” Wes pointed out far more rationally. “If Angel’s soul has been secured, we no longer have to be concerned with an appearance of Angelus.”
“I’m with ya on that, bro,” Gunn agreed quickly enough. “That is one dude I don’t ever wanna meet.”
Lorne told him, “Consider yourself lucky that you haven’t, sweetmeat. Flashbacks of Angelus are enough to cause me to shiver in my shoes, but reading Angel won’t give me nightmares anymore. Normally, I wouldn’t breach confidentiality, but the Powers picked this time and place for me to tell you, so here I am.”
Shellshocked, Cordelia stood outside the door to Wes’ office unable to move. Angel’s soul was permanent! Wondering what had happened, she continued to listen in on the conversation, simply too awed by the revelation to barge into the room and demand the details she wanted.
“It amazes me that something good actually came out of the whole Darla debacle,” Wes commented, his use of the vampiress’ name making Cordelia’s head spin with a sudden dizzy rage.
Just the thought of Darla was enough for the anger and hurt to surface again. What she did not understand was how anything to do with Angel’s blonde skank of a sire had to do with securing his soul. Darla had been so intent upon losing her own soul and taking Angel with her that Cordelia didn’t know how it was possible that such a miracle could come of it.
The guys were as surprised by the news as she. Gunn seemed to be channeling her own thoughts on the subject. “Man, I can’t get over Angel not saying anything. To think he’s actually known since then and hasn’t said a word to anyone.”
Yeah. Hasn’t said a word.
Cordelia frowned at the realization as she continued to eavesdrop. This wasn’t a new reading, but one Lorne had made some time ago if she heard right. One Lorne talked him into not long after rejoining them at A.I. Angel had known all this time and told her nothing.
What’s with that?
A thoughtful moue sounded from Wesley’s throat while considering the fact, “Angel has always been rather reticent about that sort of thing.”
“Nothing’s changed,” Gunn complained that Angel wasn’t taking advantage of the new opportunities awaiting him. “If it weren’t for that Slayer girl dying and him going off on some lameass trip to the far side of the world, he’d be here brooding about it. Damn, that boy needs to get out there.”
Cordelia’s eyes narrowed as she gazed through the tiny gap in the door. Even Wesley seemed wary as he responded, “Angel is hardly a boy. Consider that he has taken the time to mourn his loss. He hasn’t been brooding quite like he used to. As a matter of fact, lately he’s been almost…cheerful around the office. What precisely are you suggesting?”
“A guy like him,” Gunn suggested somewhat scornfully, “the girls already crawl all over him. He could be gettin’ it every night. Gotta tell the vamp to get a life.”
Her jaw fell wide open and Cordelia thrust her hands on her hips in a subconsciously defiant move. Since when did Gunn concern himself with Angel’s love life? Who did he think he was kidding? Getting Angel out for anything but a demon brawl would be miracle enough. Gettin’ it? Hah! Except that he was right about members of the female sex fawning all over the sexy vampire.
Enforced celibacy made it necessary for Angel to ignore their come-ons, but that was apparently no longer an issue. So why was it that she felt a sudden wave of nausea at the idea?
“No need to push Angelcakes into things,” cautioned Lorne much to Cordelia’s relief. “The Powers just need you to know; they don’t need you to act as their champion’s matchmaker. I’m fairly certain that’s my job,” he joked.
Pfft! Yeah right.
Rolling her eyes, Cordelia strummed her fingers against her hips as she pondered Gunn and Lorne setting Angel up with blind dates. Blondes, she guessed, eager to get their hooks into all that salty goodness.
Lorne seemed to dislike the idea and Cordelia suddenly felt like hugging the Pylean. “Our resident hero doesn’t need a lineup of lap-dancing Las Vegas showgirls or club-hopping twenty-somethings.”
“Says you,” Gunn returned pointing out that there were other benefits to be had by this new development. “Those twenty-somethings usually come with friends.”
The penny dropped. Cordelia suddenly realized why Gunn was so interested in the idea. He was hoping there might be fringe benefits.
Wesley perked up at the idea, too. “I must say that I tend to agree with Gunn. Now that there is no further danger of Angelus, it would be quite healthy for Angel to explore possibilities.”
Explore possibilities, my ass. They’re just thinking about getting laid. Let Angel do all the hard work by walking in the door looking…okay, admit it…pretty damn hot and then they reap the benefits by latching on to the cast-offs.
Cordelia restlessly paced in front of the office door. Wes is just as deranged as Gunn. There will be no exploring of any kind, dammit. That would be like taking unfair advantage of the female population of Los Angeles, she reasoned. They needed to mind their own business and let Angel keep it in his pants where it belonged. Even if his soul was no longer in danger, surely he was not ready to explore the dating scene.
That idea was just so wrong in too many ways to count. Angel with a girlfriend who was not Buffy Summers. Shocking! Would he even know how to talk to a girl about something other than demon-slaying? Conceding that he probably did not need words to charm some floozy into his bed, she tried to shake off the icky feeling.
For a second, Cordelia thought she caught Lorne staring at the door, but another peek through the crack that allowed her to overhear the conversation showed he had his back to her. “Did you ever consider that the Princess might make a good match for Angel?”
Cordelia grabbed onto the wall for support, her heart shooting up into her throat at the question. It was something she hadn’t really considered since Sunnydale before she knew Angel was a vampire and long before their friendship really developed. Sure, he was totally hot. Hello! Who wouldn’t be attracted to Angel? Maybe, on one or two occasions, she had let her little fantasies go further than just imagining the way he kissed. Those little indulgences of thought were usually fleeting and quickly buried in the all too real memories of Angelus.
After all, Angel was a no-bone.
Laughing hysterically at the idea of Angel and Cordelia as a couple, her two friends made it seem the suggestion was utterly impossible. Then almost simultaneously, Gunn and Wesley’s laughter died as both scowled darkly at the Pylean.
Finding his breath, Gunn gruffly complained, “That ain’t funny. Don’t bring Barbie into a conversation where we talking about Angel gettin’ laid.”
“Really, Lorne,” Wesley sounded shocked. “That suggestion is unacceptable. Cordelia and Angel have gone through too much to complicate things in that manner. They’re friends. Nothing more will ever come of it.”
“Don’t be so sure about that,” Lorne stood his ground. The two of them were far too involved in their sudden denial to consider he might have a reason to suggest it.
“Office romances can become problematic,” added Wesley as he glanced toward the ceiling thinking of Fred again.
Catching him lost in thought as she peeped through the opening in the door, Cordelia found it all a little hypocritical. Wes felt he could moon over their resident waif when he found anything more than friendship unacceptable between her and Angel. Did they doubt her ability to snag him if she wanted? Maybe she wasn’t a blonde bimbo, but obviously Wes had forgotten what Cordelia Chase was like when she turned on the charm. As for Gunn, he was clueless and might be forgiven.
“You don’t think the vamp would get it in his head to mess with Cordy, do you?” The sudden concern sounding in Gunn’s voice came with a strong brotherly protective vibe. Normally, Cordelia would pretend to be ticked off by it while inwardly basking at his concerned attention. Now, it just sounded like interference. “I might need a little one-on-one time with Angel just to make sure he doesn’t get any ideas.”
Still, Cordelia had to figure the odds of Angel getting ideas about seducing her were as likely as him betting his soul on a game of cards. Not gonna happen.
“Cordelia is certainly capable of fending off any untoward advances from men,” Wes seemed confident. Then considering further, “As for Angel…better the both of us talk to him.”
Now Lorne seemed to change tactics. “Maybe you’re right. Those two together? It’s a terrible idea. Absolutely the worst. Forget I brought it up. Besides, isn’t Cordy still hung up on the Groosalugg?”
Her head shot up at the mention of Groo’s name. When was the last time she had even thought of that big hunk of male? Not in months, she realized almost guiltily. Not really since they’d come back from Pylea and Angel had gone off on his quest.
“Perhaps you’re right,” Wesley commented. “I haven’t heard her mention Groo in quite a while, but that doesn’t mean she’s no longer in love with him. Perhaps it’s best not to mention Lorne’s revelation.”
Staring hard at the door, Cordelia was not happy with the idea of Wes’ subterfuge. It was all one big lie by omission. Just as bad as Angel not telling her about his soul to begin with.
“I’m not worried about Cordy.” Gunn did not think that was an issue. “Angel is another story. One of these days, Angel is gonna wake up and realize there’s a lot more to sex than just spanking the monkey.”
Cordelia figured it was her own fault for eavesdropping, but did he have to put these images in her head? Especially when the eew-factor wore off pretty quickly leaving other sexier images parading through her head.
Wesley drolled, “Angel has probably forgotten more about sex than you’ve ever known.”
“Don’t dis me, dawg,” Gunn harrumphed. “Do I wanna know how you know that?”
Sounding offended, Wes explained, “Research, of course. There are several volumes dedicated to th—”
“No, I don’t wanna know,” Gunn waved him off and went back to his original point. “I say we start strategizing a way for Angel to get out there and get some.”
Cordelia felt like throwing her shoes at the door, barging inside, and telling her so-called friends that they were out of their freaking minds. Instead, she whirled on her bare feet and headed straight for the stairs leading to the second level of the hotel.
Get some? They’re gonna help Angel to get some?
Cordelia stomped all the way up ignoring the twinge in her sore ankle.
Wes actually agreed with Gunn’s idea. Agreed with it!
Reaching the top of the stairs, she paused wondering why Lorne would suggest stuff only to change his mind two seconds later.
Angel and I terrible together? Pfft! Two hotties having sweaty, mind-numbing, body-bending go-all-night wild sex. That’s not terrible.
Outside of room 217 Cordelia paced along the carpeted hallway mumbling under her breath at the notion that Angel was somehow ready to move beyond this broody stage of mourning for his star-crossed lover. If they were so sure about it, maybe it was time to find out.
“If anyone in this office is gonna help Angel get laid,” she mumbled glaring back over her shoulder at the stairs, “It’ll be me. Personally. Assuming I don’t stake him for not telling me about his soul.”
Cordelia put a hand on the doorknob, “Get laid, pfft!”
The door suddenly swung open dragging Cordelia inside along with it. She bumped into Angel’s solid frame and he quickly moved to steady her. “Who’s getting laid?”
Angel’s amused eyes twinkled as he took in her appearance. He let his dark gaze travel from the top of her tangled hair along her mud-enhanced garments to her polished bare toes.
“Laid?” Cordelia’s eyes flashed as she realized she’d awakened him with her pacing and muttering outside his bedroom door. Thinking fast, she commented, “Waylaid. I was waylaid on the sidewalk by two eight-year old demon children.”
“I can see that,” he smirked while shutting the door behind them. It wasn’t often she barged in on him when he was asleep, but Angel figured this might be enough to do it.
Taking her by the elbow, he started to maneuver her into the bathroom. Cordelia had mud streaked on her face and Angel couldn’t imagine her not wanting to clean up immediately. Only she wretched her arm out of his gentle grasp and whirled on him like a mini tornado sucking up all of the good humor he was experiencing at the sight of his beautiful seer in a less that perfectly coifed state.
“Don’t you try to be nice to me, buddy,” Cordelia poked him in the chest with her broken-heeled shoe. “You’re supposed to be my friend.”
She got him right on his breastbone showing in the gap between his hastily donned robe. Angel ignored the urge to rub the sore spot while responding, “I am.”
“Lies,” she huffed tossing the shoes on the carpet where they bounced haphazardly. “All lies.”
Frowning, Angel thought hard. He was obviously on his way to the doghouse about something, but he couldn’t recall anything that might have pissed Cordelia off in the past twelve hours. “I haven’t lied about anything…recently.”
That statement only incensed Cordelia even more. “Hello! Darla.” The amused spark in his brown eyes morphed into a flash of panic as she pressed for the truth. “Isn’t there anything you want to tell me?”
Angel felt a moment of pure terror like none he’d felt since his soul was lost to bliss. The expectant look in Cordelia’s eyes made it seem clear. She knew. Only Angel was mistaken about one thing. She knows I slept with Darla. All that muttering about being laid…that was all about Darla.
“Cordy,” he reached out a hand to graze her arm, not quite holding her, but needing her to feel his sincerity through his touch. “It just happened. I felt nothing. There was only the cold left inside me and I needed something, anything to help me feel again. The darkness was in me and I only knew that I wanted it out.”
“Cryptic as ever, Angel,” Cordelia rolled her eyes as he spouted what sounded like nonsense. “Just tell me… why Darla?”
What possible connection the vampiress could have in securing his soul? How did she make it happen? Those were the questions Cordelia wanted answered, but Angel was on another tangent altogether.
“Darla— it was just meaningless sex,” Angel promised that he had felt nothing at all believing the news would mollify her only to watch as Cordelia’s hazel eyes opened up into wide saucers.
“What! Sex,” Cordelia felt her blood run cold and then hot again with anger. “Sex with Darla? Actual sex. You’re telling me that you had sex with Darla.”
The sudden escalation in her outrage confused the issue. It sounded as if Cordelia knew nothing about it. Angel realized that he’d somehow managed to tell Cordelia the one thing he’d been determined that she never know.
“Wasn’t that the lie you were talking about?”
“No,” she answered so slowly that the single syllable was drawn out extensively, one eyebrow arching dangerously.
Angel tried to speak, but the only sound he could make was the squeak of her name, “Cordy,” emerging as a plea for understanding.
Without pausing, Cordelia ranted on. “I referred to an omission, not telling me what you should’ve told me because that’s my right as your friend. It was something else entirely, even something forgivable. Quite the opposite of this outright, blatant, in-my-face lie about you sleeping with that bitch.”
A curse crudely made its way to his lips, a word rarely released by his own inner monologue, but the utterance of which only made his guilt more apparent.
Hands on her hips, Cordelia toes curled angrily into the carpet. The expression on his face combined with the visible cringing irked her. His lie about sex with Darla went a lot deeper than just getting some, as Gunn might say.
Cordelia could practically see the cogs churning in Angel’s head as he searched for something she would accept as an explanation. “Don’t even try to get out of it,” she snapped at him. “The crap has already hit the fan.”
Asking for a little credit, Angel reminded her, “I’m trying to be honest now.”
“Scoring points a little late in the game, aren’t we?” Cordelia rolled her eyes and huffed at the nerve he had in attempting his patented innocent puppy dog stare. “Try again. Meaningless my ass. To think that I…”
“What?” Angel asked hoping the question would throw her off track while he came up with a reasonable excuse. Only he felt certain an eternity of trying would still leave him empty-handed.
Cordelia bit back the words that would have revealed she had actually contemplated ‘exploring possibilities’ with him. A glance toward the rumpled bed behind them made her angry at herself for thinking about it. “I trusted you, dammit. Again. Even after everything you did. Firing us and being such a jerk. You lied to me!”
“It’s all in the past, Cor. Can’t you just let it go?” Angel’s eyes begged forgiveness as his hands moved along her shoulders. “We’ve come a long way in the last six months or so. Things have been okay between us lately. Haven’t they?”
“Until now,” Cordelia glared hotly and moved away from him. “What is it with you and blondes? Darla, Buffy, Kate and the list goes on. You’re like a super-conducting magnet attracting trouble in the form of clingy blondes.”
Angel wished she would just leave this alone, but after latching onto an argument it was unlikely that Cordelia would let it go. The only thing he could do was ride it out and hope for the best. Considering the subject matter, he wondered if it would take more than just a spontaneous gift of designer wear to mend this particular fence.
“You’re exaggerating. Besides, there was nothing like that between me and Kate,” he assured her.
Plopping down on his bed, Cordelia stretched out her legs in front of her, missing the flinch as her mud-covered skirt contacted his sheets. “So cop lady isn’t the clingy type and apparently not into vampires, unlike certain other blondes.”
“Don’t bring Buffy into this,” warned Angel. He wasn’t about to get into a slanging match with Cordelia just to have the slayer’s name bandied about.
Cornelia stared down at her bare feet long enough to see that the mud had gotten into other places as well before glancing back up. To her, it seemed clear that Angel would never be completely over Buffy Summers. No matter what the guys might think. “It’s been more than three months, Angel. You say you’re alright, but are you? I just don’t see you ready to move beyond it. Certainly not as quickly as you moved beyond Darla.”
Angel crossed his arms over his broad chest, the move stretching the robe across his broad shoulders. The two situations were nothing alike. “I know you’re mad, but I shouldn’t have to explain it to you.”
“Sure you do,” countered Cordelia stubbornly. “Friends share things. Like truth. Like insights into their stupid behaviors.”
With a deep sigh, Angel pointed out, “Darla was my sire. I thought that I could save her, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t a happy time for any of us and I didn’t want to drag you down into the dark with me. Not any of my friends.”
Especially not you.
Cordelia’s anger simmered. “We belonged at your side, helping you.”
Walking over, Angel took hold of her chin tilting her face up to him again when she darted her eyes away. “You wouldn’t want to be there in the dark, Cordelia.”
“We were all there,” Cordelia told him. “None of us missed out on it.”
“Maybe you got a taste of it, but you have no idea how close I came to…,” Angel was unable to finish as Cordelia cut in on him. Just as well. She didn’t need to know how close she came to being the one he went to that night.
“Losing us forever?” Cordelia was oblivious to the angst in his eyes. “Wes, Gunn and I deserve to hear the truth when we ask for it, Angel.”
Angel nodded. “Your friendship is important to me and I won’t risk it again. Not for anything.”
“Just you remember that,” Cordelia leapt off the bed and stormed out leaving Angel behind.
She was already half way across the lobby when Wesley wandered out of his office. There was no sign of Gunn or Lorne within. Looking at her, Wes exclaimed, “My lord, Cordelia. What happened? Were you mugged?”
“Don’t ask,” Cordelia snapped as she stopped in her tracks, turning around to grab her purse from its place on her desk chair. “I’m taking the rest of the morning off.”
“Certainly,” Wes watched her go and then found himself turning to look over his shoulder. Sure enough, Angel was standing at the top of the stairs gazing in the direction of the doors. Maybe sooner rather than later was a good time for that little chat.
“I’m home, Dennis,” Cordelia bellowed to her resident ghostly roommate. The usual tinkling of the glassware that normally greeted her was absent. “Stop staring. Trust me when I say that I’ve had better mornings. Run me a bath, would you? Make it hot.”
Splashing water sounded almost immediately following her request rumbling through the pipes into the bathtub. By the time Cordelia reached the open door, Dennis was already adding bubbles and scented oils to the mix, the containers floating midair.
“Oh God!” Cordelia gasped as she stared into the rapidly fogging mirror. “I look like a reject from skid row. Rat woman. It’s no wonder Angel didn’t take me seriously.”
Pulling out the clips from her hair, she let it tumble down, grabbing her brush and stroking through the thick tresses until the tangles were gone. At least it was still clean, she thought. Grabbing a scrunchie hair band from the counter top, Cordelia tied her hair up in a high doubled-up ponytail.
The taps turned off when the tub was full, bubbles piled high. Cordelia shimmied out of her clothing, kicking it into a pile in the corner where the ghost immediately swept it away. He was back by the time she sunk into the tub, a long sigh sounding on her lips.
“You won’t believe what I found out today,” Cordelia told him as she reached for the loofah floating in front of her.
After Cordelia imparted the entire story to the ghost, Dennis responded by drawing on the foggy mirror. When he was finished, Cordy found herself staring at a heart with the initials C and A written into the center. Gaping, Cordelia determined not to think about that anymore.
“Don’t even suggest it,” she scooped up a handful of bubbles and blew them in the direction of the mirror’s message. “I was crazy for thinking about it in the first place. Angel has that whole blonde fixation. Plus, I’m mad at him right now.”
The mirror steamed over again and the word, “SO,” appeared across its surface.
“What if he isn’t attracted to me?” Cordelia asked and almost immediately detracted the question. “Pfft! What am I saying? I am Cordelia Chase.”
Several candles piled at the corner of the bathtub flamed to life flickering high. A sign that Dennis agreed. “It’s just that I’m supposed to be in love with Groo. He’s back in Pylea. I’m here. Yet, I haven’t thought about him in months.”
The candlelight died leaving a smoky trail behind. Dennis never much liked Cordelia’s stories about Pylea. At least not the ones involving the Groosalugg.
She stared at the dark puffs of smoke, thinking back to Pylea and how quickly she’d let herself get caught up by Groo’s kindness, honesty and innocence. Seeing him fighting Angel and knowing Groo was an undefeated champion, she’d been afraid to face the feelings that battle stirred up inside her.
Leaping between them, Cordelia had attempted to put a stop to it before one or both of them were killed. Then her own traitorous voice had called out claiming to love Groo. For the moment, her heart and mind had believed it, but now Cordelia wondered if it wasn’t all just avoidance. Running into Angel’s arms that night and telling him that she needed him would have been, in Wes’ words, completely unacceptable.
The vampire bought the act if it was one even when Cordelia chose to return with him rather than remain in Pylea as a princess. That might have clued Angel in if he’d chosen to pay attention, but he had his own distractions upon getting home again. Willow had been waiting with the terrible news of Buffy’s death and he’d taken off for the snowy mountains of Tibet.
Maybe three months was just a bump in the road to a vampire at one with eternity, but it was more than enough time for Cordelia to realize that Groo wasn’t important to her in the way that Angel was important. She had a life and a mission here with Angel.
More than that.
The whole eavesdropping experience made it clear that Cordelia didn’t think anyone was good enough for Angel. Unless it was her. She had raced upstairs so angry with him for keeping information from her and then discovering he had lied to her about Darla. Her anger wasn’t all about the lie itself.
“I was jealous, Dennis,” she finally admitted aloud. “Even if it meant nothing, there was something there between them. It saved his soul.”
Cordelia curled her arms around her bent knees hugging them close to her chest. “I wasn’t part of that. Shouldn’t I have been part of that?”
The ghost had nothing to say.
“Geez, just listen to me. I sound like I’m in love with him,” Cordelia rolled her eyes and stared up at the ceiling laughing at her own silly observation.
Only the words didn’t sound so amusing when she thought about it again and stared silently back at the mirror where Dennis was again drawing a heart. Maybe she’d thought about the possibility a few times, but always ruled it out as being the bonds of their friendship. “No, no, no, I can’t be in love with him. He’s a hottie. Yes, I find him attractive. I even fully admit that I don’t want him to have sex with anyone else, but love?”
The more she thought about it, the less weird it sounded. When had her feelings of friendship changed? This morning when Gunn, Wes and Lorne went all matchmaker? No, it had to be before then. Before Pylea when Groo became a convenient way of keeping the line between friendship and something more firmly in place. Even before Darla’s return.
Cordelia admitted to herself that her reaction to the news about Angel sleeping with Darla was all about anger and jealousy. It was the reason she’d asked him the damn question in the first place. She’d been so relieved when he’d answered no.
“Omigod, Dennis! This can’t be true,” Cordelia realized that being in love with her best friend would change everything. Her momentary wild thoughts about not letting anyone except her have him returned with a determination that drowned out the remaining shreds of her anger. Full of wonderment, she whispered acknowledgment of the feelings tucked around her heart like a warm hand, “I’m in love with Angel.”
The candles flamed to life again startling Cordelia who kicked out her legs sending a wave of bubbly water dousing the flickering light. The sudden deluge brought a smile to her face and the bathroom resonated with spurts of giggly delight. “Do you believe it, Dennis? I’m in love with Angel.”
If the ghost could have sounded a sigh, he would have done so. He’d known that for months.
“The guys seem to think Angel is ready for a new relationship,” Cordelia told Dennis as the happiness of discovery turned serious. “I guess there’s only one way to find out.”
Having determined that he had to come out of his room sometime, or else be a bad example to Fred who still kept to her bedroom seventy percent of the time, Angel settled on the couch in the lobby trying to focus on the newspaper. Cordelia had told Wes she was just going to be gone the rest of the morning, which suggested she’d be back.
The fact that they had argued left him unsettled. Though disagreements between them were hardly uncommon and the occasional verbal battle wasn’t even unprecedented, Angel knew this was different.
To top it all off, he had no clue what Cordelia had come to harp about to begin with. He’d just gone off and assumed the worst thinking she’d somehow discovered the fact that he had slept with Darla after assuring her that he hadn’t. Outside of the blonde vampiress herself, there was nobody else who knew they had sex that night. So unless Darla was in communication with Cordelia, which seemed highly unlikely, he would’ve been fine just keeping his mouth shut and playing dumb.
As if he didn’t have enough on his mind worrying that the revelation had damaged his recently renewed friendship with Cordelia, he was paid a little visit by Gunn and Wes. Now sitting alone in the lobby, Angel wondered if the hotel hadn’t been taken over by another paranoia demon. Cordy was after him about his lies while Gunn and Wes seemed to have grown concerned about his treatment of Cordelia.
After letting them do most of the talking, having earlier been reminded not to open his mouth in the presence of his friends without careful forethought, Angel realized that neither one knew about the nature of his argument with Cordelia. Whatever they were trying to say for the first ten minutes or so came out in vague questions and too-subtle hints that only left him baffled.
“What are you getting at?” Angel finally gave up trying to guess.
“Barbie is off limits,” Gunn cut to the chase.
Wes nodded vehemently while giving him his sternest look. “Absolutely. I concur completely. Consider Cordelia sacrosanct.”
“You hurt her again and I’ll stake you.” Gunn had his arm around Angel’s shoulder and then gave it a friendly punch. “That said, bro, we gotta work on gettin’ you some.”
Angel had a sneaking suspicion that he’d just caught onto the gist of this convoluted conversation. Avoiding the topic, he switched back to Cordelia just to reassure his friends, “I have no plans to hurt Cordy. Not in any way. We just had an argument, but I’ll fix it. Somehow.”
“No doubt,” Wes commented dryly remembering quite well how Angel settled things between them the last time. He recalled being quite put out at how easily Cordelia had accepted Angel’s apology when it came in the form of designer clothes and a full array of accessories. The vampire certainly hadn’t worked very hard to earn it. “Just remember what we told you.”
I might if I understood any of it.
Angel gave them a smile which was apparently enough to convince them of his agreement with whatever they were trying to say. All he could get out of it was that they all agreed Cordelia was a beautiful young woman and that he needed to avoid hurting her.
Gunn and Wes, secure in the fact that they had done well, went off on a Starbucks coffee run. They hadn’t been gone fifteen minutes when Cordelia arrived back at the hotel. Wondering what he was supposed to say, Angel kept staring at the black print on the newspaper even though it blurred before his unfocused gaze. He heard the clickety clack of Cordelia’s shoes along the lobby floor until she stopped directly in front of him.
“Do you really think making like a lump on a log turns you invisible, or do you think I’m that unobservant?” Cordelia tapped her foot expectantly.
Angel slowly lowered the newspaper to his lap. Poker faced, he simply said. “You’re back.”
“Relax, broody boy,” she said with a smile curving the corners of her lush mouth. “I’ve decided to let you off the hook. I forgive you.”
Angel pulled his gaze up from the long expanse of bare leg flashing beneath the tiny black skirt she wore. Forgiven so soon and without the groveling or gift-buying? He wasn’t certain what happened to change her mind in the last couple of hours, but he wasn’t going to knock it.
“Okay?” Cordelia had anticipated a little more than that. At least a lousy apology, not this quick agreement to her terms for his surrender. Since starting another argument was likely to ruin any attempts at flirtation, Cordelia realized she had better drop the subject. “Yes, okay. Behind us. Completely forgotten.”
“It might help if you stop mentioning it,” Angel pointed out bemused by her behavior as she tucked her hands behind her back and sashayed closer.
Cordelia left out a long sigh, staring into his eyes for a moment before letting them dart away as she nibbled on her lower lip. It drew his gaze to that plump lower lip, which was just her intent.
She wondered if it was just an automatic response or if he was thinking of kissing her?
“I just had the longest, loveliest soak in my tub,” Cordelia purred. “All that hot water sluicing over me and the bubbles piled high. I could’ve stayed there forever.”
Angel dragged his eyes away from her mouth to say, “You needed it. All that mud.”
They laughed over the incident, Cordelia flashing him her megawatt grin and Angel responding with a smile so wide that it had her mesmerized. Just when she was about to say more, he turned back to his newspaper. “Guess I’ll get to work. I’d hate to take you away from your…sports news?”
“Hockey scores,” Angel pointed to the section of the paper where he figured the box indicating the game results would be. Catching the headline from the corner of his eye, he told her, “Kings versus the Dallas Stars.”
“Huh.” Cordelia raised her eyebrows and walked over to her desk. She hoped a quick glance over her shoulder would reveal Angel staring at her swaying hips, but he was completely engrossed in the paper.
He’s so used to ignoring signals that subtlety is lost on him.
Cordelia sucked on the tip of her pen as she stole glances at Angel from across the room. When the phone rang, she perched on the side of her desk knowing that the sound of potential business always grabbed Angel’s attention. Flashing that much leg was not her usual style, but it seemed that she might need to take the obvious route when it came to making Angel realize that she was way more attractive than any blonde Gunn and Wes could come up with.
There was an audible rustle of papers as Cordelia straightened back up, but it was impossible to tell if Angel had been watching her or if he simply straightened out a crease that detracted from his reading.
She waved the Post-It note in the air, but Angel still had his nose in the newspaper. Walking over, Cordelia felt a little irritated by the lack of attention. Any other time she wore this top, Angel’s eyes would be glued to her chest. Not that she’d made a big deal about him looking. It was a guy thing and Angel was most definitely male.
“I have a message for you,” Cordelia told him. “Potential client. Wants you to call him back in five minutes at this number.”
Angel always looked happy about business. “Great!”
“Whoops!” The yellow Post-It note fluttered to the floor before she could hand it to Angel who still had his hands on his paper. Bending over from the waist, she reached for it at the same time he did putting her cleavage at face level. Cordelia wondered if that tactic wasn’t blatant enough to get noticed.
For an instant, Angel was tempted to forget the note and bury his face between the soft pillows formed by her breasts. Her fresh feminine scent was just a hint stronger there, drawing him in. Then recalling his own determination not to do anything that would potentially harm their friendship, Angel reeled his libido back in and focused on picking up the post-it.
“You’re a clutz today, Cor,” Angel laughed sitting back on the couch spreading out and looking completely comfortable. He didn’t so much as glance at the perky way she filled out her tight top. “First the mud-slinging fiasco and now you’re dropping things.”
Cordelia blinked a couple of times as she stared down at his smirking face, “Clutz.”
So much for studying that article on flirting. This was so not what Cosmo had in mind by ‘Baiting Him With Your Body Language’.
Moving, Cordelia attempted to make a fast exit so Angel wouldn’t see her frustration with his apparent blindness. Her foot caught on his ankle as she tried to step over his outstretched legs, unintentionally sending Cordelia tumbling toward the floor. The newspaper and Post-It went flying as Angel grabbed her in a midair catch.
He held her close to his chest after shifting her into a normal hold, his arms around her waist and under her thighs. Never mind the hasty movement of his hands across less acceptable zones, Angel simply sounded concerned, asking, “You okay?”
Cordelia’s heartbeat thundered in her chest having not expected to go flying like that. Not wanting to admit that maybe she was distracted by her own plotting, she commented seriously, “Fine. I was just testing your reflexes.”
Meeting his dark brown gaze, now twinkling with amusement, Cordelia’s mouth gave a reluctant twitch before she broke into a wide grin. Hugging him, she couldn’t hold back her own laughter. Giggling into his ear and cupping his face with her crimson-tipped fingers, told him, “I didn’t think it was possible to exceed your clutz-factor, broody boy. Guess that just proves I’m the best at everything I do.”
“What happened?” Wes’ voice called out from the door. Concern sounded, “Vision?”
Gunn was thrilled at the possibility of a little demon bashing. “Alright!”
“No vision,” Cordelia told him to reign in his enthusiasm for something that resulted in mind-splitting migraines. Then noticing what they brought back with them, “Ooh! Starbucks.”
Wes had a to-go tray with five Grande coffee cups. “We took a chance that you’d be back.”
“So what’s with this?” Gunn pointed a finger at them making Cordelia realize she was still in Angel’s arms.
With one last laugh, Cordelia slid to her feet enjoying every millimeter of hard torso and thigh that brushed against her. She ventured a peek from beneath her eyelashes only to find Angel focused on the mess on the floor. His strong hands were on her hips, but only to move her out of his way as the vampire squatted down to gather up the newspaper and stray Post-It note.
“It wasn’t a vision,” Angel told Gunn as he held up the yellow square of paper, “but we may have a client.”
Back to business, Cordelia let out a tiny huff walking across to take her coffee from Wesley.
Watching her footing, she headed back to her desk where she tossed the plastic coffee lid into the trash can and sat down in her chair. Crossing her legs, she bobbed her foot up and down noting that the action and the position of her mini skirt against her supple golden thighs was certain to draw male attention.
Only it seemed to be just Wes and Gunn who were incapable of keeping their eyes in their heads. Angel was too busy concentrating on the numbers she’d written down on the note.
Glancing at the whipped cream topping her coffee, Cordelia decided to find out if Cosmo was right about the benefits of calling attention to your mouth. She took a hasty sip, smearing foamy coffee across her upper lip just as Angel held out the note for her perusal.
“Is that a one or a seven?”
Blinking, Cordelia glanced forward to confirm, “A seven, I think.”
Angel rubbed the back of his neck as he looked down at the note again. “Guess I’ll try it both ways. Cor, you’ve got coffee…,” he motioned with his hand across his firm male mouth making her wonder how they would feel beneath hers.
Cordelia’s eyes followed the path of that finger and watched as his tongue swiped along his upper lip. “Here?”
She licked slowly at her lip letting the pink tip slide across its plump surface. “Did I get it?”
Having picked up the phone on her desk, Angel looked distracted. Not by her soft lips, Cordelia realized, but by thoughts of a prospective client. He gave her mouth a quick glance, “No, you didn’t get it all.”
“I can’t go around the office all day with coffee on my face,” Cordelia complained with just enough of a hint in her voice that Angel dropped the phone into its cradle long enough play the chivalrous hero.
“Let me take care of it,” his voice sending anticipatory shivers down her spine.
How would he do it? Use that slightly calloused male thumb to wipe her lips clean? Kiss the evidence away with those lips she suddenly ached to taste? Maybe just a long cool swipe of his tongue over her mouth tasting her and the creamy coffee at the same time.
With a confident move of pure efficiency, Angel snatched a tissue from the box of Kleenex on her desk and dabbed twice. “All gone.”
Then he was back at the phone again dialing up the numbers she had scribbled down. Maybe if she wrote ‘kiss me’ on a Post-It and stuck it to her own forehead, Angel might just get the hint. Unfortunately, Cordelia was determined not to brashly force the issue into the fore. That might prove disastrous. She wanted to be certain that there was a chance for something more than friendship before she revealed her love to him.
Sure Angel loves me, but can he LOVE me, love me? What’s not to love? Extreme want might be acceptable.
Unfortunately, the rest of the day and most of the evening were tied up with Angel Investigations’ new client.
As were the next three days & evenings following.
Flirtation took a back seat to work though Cordelia grabbed every opportunity that came along to touch him. She wasn’t happy unless she had her hands on him, a fact that Angel seemed totally oblivious about. If anyone was being seduced around this office, Cordelia was convinced she was seducing herself.
Tonight signaled the end of their contract with their new client. They had finally tracked down the metaphysical source of his problem and vanquished it. For once, they were triumphant and there was no demon goo to muck up her appearance.
“We did it,” Cordelia gave Wes and Gunn a quick celebratory hug, and then wound her arms around Angel’s neck. Naturally, he hugged right back, but Cordelia leaned close needing to feel his strength against and surrounding her. Mmm, he felt good.
Angel let go the moment Cordelia’s warm breath emerged as a sigh against his throat. The temptation to smooth his hands up and down her back pressing her even closer came as something he found difficult to resist, but he was determined to do so. Cordelia’s natural tendency to touch seemed ever more pronounced the past few days, but Angel was certain that it was just him imagining it. Focusing on every little move, every heartbeat and breath, only served to drive him mad with desire.
It made Angel all the more determined to ignore what he thought his imagination was stirring up. Feelings for Cordelia Chase that went beyond the bonds of their friendship were forbidden. He needed to do something to fight these emotions that threatened the one thing in his life that truly meant everything to him.
As his hands dropped away, Cordelia pulled back just a little, her eyes sparkling with the knowledge that it was time to turn up the volume on her little seduction game. Her hands curled over his shoulders, lightly running down the length of his arms and back up again. That little move had him staring down, his eyes dark and intent.
“Don’t look so glum now that the case is over,” Cordelia told him. “Tonight, I’m on search and rescue, broody boy. My mission is to save you from a dull night.”
Angel’s left eyebrow quirked upward just a fraction until she named a popular dinner club, “I say we all go celebrate at the Starlight Terrace. Wes, go get Fred.”
Wesley was strangely quiet. Normally, he would jump at a chance to bring Fred anywhere that got her out of her room for more than an hour at a time. His silence did not go unnoticed by Cordelia who realized that none of the guys seemed to have an opinion on her suggestion to celebrate.
Finally, having moved to a safe distance, Angel revealed, “Tonight isn’t such a good night.”
“Why not?” Cordelia gaped at him. “I was just joking about you being broody, Angel. That’s no excuse not to have a little fun.”
Gunn assured her, “Oh, he will.”
“Angel? Have fun how?” Cordelia’s eyes narrowed as they focused on him.
“It’s really just work,” shrugged Angel trying to downplay the fact that he knew Gunn was trying to set him up with Anne. “We’re patrolling around the East Hills Teen Shelter. Gunn asked me along to check things out.”
“So this is about Miss I Help the Homeless,” Cordelia plastered a bright smile on her face knowing exactly what, or rather who, Angel would be checking out. “I haven’t seen Anne in forever. Why don’t we all go patrolling and then we can head to the club afterwards.”
Angel let Gunn do the fast talking. He was already feeling tongue-tied and wasn’t at all certain that this was a good idea to begin with. Thoughts of dating, other than the fact that he hadn’t done that in a while, seemed almost like he’d be cheating on Cordelia. Ridiculous idea, but there it was. Angel couldn’t get it out of his head and that made him all the more determined to go through with it.
Seeing that Gunn had all the bases covered, Cordelia decided that it was best to pull back and let her vampire take care of their friend’s matchmaking ploy with his own social ineptitude. Waggling her fingers in a wave of goodbye, she told them. “Have fun at the shelter. Watch out for stray zombies.”
Then muttering under her breath, “And if you lie to me about what you do tonight I’ll personally kick your ass back to the Himalayas.”
“I thought you’d forgiven me,” Angel commented quietly as he stepped closer feeling the need to say goodbye.
Damn vampire hearing!
Cordelia realized he overheard her threat. “You’ve used up your Get Out of Jail Free card, buster.”
Cordelia caught her lower lip between her teeth, nibbling on it as her gaze darted up to Angel’s dark, penetrating eyes and down again to his tempting mouth. The urge to kiss him goodnight caused her heart to flutter in her chest. Damn, she wanted to curl her fingers in the lapels of his jacket, pull him close and devour those lips like he was hot fudge on her ice cream sundae.
“Wes can give you a ride home,” Angel suggested as his fingers grazed her elbow.
He looked sheepishly guilty about something. Enough that it made Cordelia’s eyes dart away in anger at his determination to let Gunn fix him up yet another blonde who, let’s face it, had a lot more in common with him having a mission all her own, than Cordelia wanted to admit.
“Actually, I think I’ll do a little catching up with Fred,” she commented airily. “Wes probably wants to catalogue the details of our triumph in his journal anyway.”
“That would be a smashing idea,” Wesley cut in. “I’d like to record everything while the details are still fresh in my mind. I can give you a ride back to your apartment when I’m done.”
“See,” Cordelia told Angel brushing her hands together. “One loose end all tied up.”
Angel wasn’t oblivious to the neat little smile that stretched too tightly across her beautiful face. She was pissed at him. Again. “Dammit, Cordy, you’re not a loose end. I’m not tying you up.”
Snorting, Cordelia’s little smile turned devlish, “I’d like to see you try.”
“C’mon, dawg,” Gunn urged. “Will you stop messin’ around with Cordy. We got to be at the shelter in fifteen minutes.”
Armed with a stack of magazines and bearing a large bag of assorted tacos, Cordelia knocked on Fred’s door. A little girl talk, even if it was with a lunatic physicist, looked like a good thing at a time like this. One-sided conversations with her corporeally-challenged roomie were not quite the same.
Half an hour later, Cordelia looked woefully at Fred who was chowing down on the last taco. They were both sitting cross-legged on the bed, napkins spread out as a makeshift picnic blanket between them. Though still eating, Fred was able to listen to Cordelia’s story and continue to work on her latest theory about time-shifting. Just call her good at multitasking.
“Have I lost it or is Angel totally blind?” Cordelia was still edging toward blind. She’d been vampire bait too many times to think it was some supernatural ability to avoid noticing when a sexy woman can barely keep her hands to herself.
“Gosh,” Fred considered the possibilities and answered with that Texas twang that usually made Cordelia smile, “I really don’t think the answer lies with either choice. Never knew you before, but you certainly don’t seem to be missing anything. What with you being a Princess and his seer and just look at you. Angel certainly isn’t blind when it comes to you Cordelia.”
Cordelia harrumphed. “How would you know, Fred? You spend more time with your dry erase board than you do with us.”
“I’ve been watching,” Fred assured her that even a small percentage of her time was enough to hazard a theory. “Just look at the way Angel fought for you in Pylea. He’s so heroic. The handsome guy fighting for the hand of the Princess.”
The dreamy expression on her face was enough to make Cordelia want to gag… or choke the other woman’s scrawny little neck. “Pfft! Don’t be ridiculous, Fred. He may be your big fat hero, but Angel was just doing his thing.”
“Lorne told me that Angel threatened him into finding a way into Pylea just to get you back. That he would’ve moved heaven and earth to find you,” Fred revealed in a conspiratorial whisper even though they’d shut the bedroom door.
This was the first she had heard of it. “Oh?”
Fred nodded and then decided Cordelia would be better off knowing the absolute truth considering what she’d said about her reaction to Angel and Darla. “Actually, Lorne said he’d move both drgplyx and myzldrf, which are only accessible by trans-dimensional portals and would actually require the power equivalent of a blackhole to actually move any distance at all, but I figured you’d understand it a little better if I explained it that way.”
Smiling, Cordelia could only say, “Er, yeah.”
“I just know this is all about Moira.”
“Moira? Who the hell is Moira?” Cordelia sat up a little straighter on the bed. “Was she that blond floosy who hired Angel to investigate her haunted bed last week?”
Looking puzzled, Fred watched as Cordelia’s golden skin flushed in reaction. Before the Texan could explain, Cordelia had already started to calm down. “No, that was Milly Walters. I remember because I filed her case under ‘F’.”
“For floozy,” Fred giggled. From what she’d heard during the time she had been here at Angel Investigations, Cordelia’s filing system was uniquely her own. “Moira’s not a person, Cordy. Moira is…just Moira.”
“More of what?”
“It’s a Pylean word meaning the gut physical attraction between two larger than life souls,” Fred explained. “You and Angel.”
Rolling her eyes in reaction, Cordelia commented, “The only thing I’ve attracted from Angel are requests to pick up his weekly blood supply and a demand for an inventory of his precious weapons. Just to make sure I didn’t lose any of them when I stored them in the basement.”
Fred knew that she was hardly the expert in personal relationships, but all of these flirtation games seemed like they were getting Cordelia nowhere. “Why don’t you tell Angel how you feel?”
Walk up to Angel, put her arms around him and simply say that she loved him? Not a chance. That vampire was going to be the first to do the kiss and tell thing assuming he even had feelings like that. Until she was certain of that possibility, she would just continue going by the book. Even if she had to flirt with him until she was old enough to need one of those motorized scooters to get around the office.
“I’m not ready for that, Fred,” she admitted. “Until then, I have my resources and I have you to help me.”
“Me?” Fred looked a little nervous at the prospect. Trying again to convince Cordelia, she pointed out, “The straight-forward approach is often the most successful. Not that I’ve applied that theory very often. Not in the last five years, certainly. Mostly, I’m talking about the laws of physics. Except that it’s sometimes necessary to work problems backwards or take a round about method in order to reach a solution.”
Holding up her hand, Cordelia finally caught Fred’s attention. “Thanks, but let’s stick to the experts for advice.”
“Experts? There are experts for seducing vampires?” Fred wanted to know.
“Pfft! Angel may be a vamp, but he’s all man.” A smile curled at Cordelia’s lips and for a moment both women were lost in a private little daydream. Snapping out of it, Cordelia pulled the stack of Cosmopolitan magazines onto her lap. “That means everything I need can be found right here.”
Down in the laundry room, Angel sat in a chair reading while waiting for the last load to finish drying. He had a book in his hand, but his thoughts were elsewhere. The same place his thoughts always seemed to be lately: focused on Cordelia.
The more he tried to avoid thoughts of her, the more she filled them. Every fantasy he had involved her touch, her kiss, her scent, her sex, her beauty. Fighting against the urge to satisfy his body’s cravings kept him frustrated and squeaky clean. Soon, Cordelia would no doubt demand to know why their water bill had skyrocketed.
Cordelia was far more than a fantasy. She was his family, his friend and meant too much to him to risk changing that even with the happiness clause being history. She was so full of life and in the end he was still the vampire who brought her suffering. As his seer, Cordelia endured excruciating pain to bring him the visions sent by the Powers that Be.
He’d take that pain if he could, but as it was impossible to do so all Angel could do was to promise himself not to cause her any more pain. Certainly none that came at his own hand through his selfishness and the base desires that gnawed at his being. It wasn’t his demon reacting, Angel knew, just the part of him that was a man recognizing the woman he wanted.
Just as the dryer cycle ended, Cordelia popped into the room. Angel tossed his book down on the chair beside him and stood up. Having her come in when the direction of his thoughts had taken him straight back to the daydream where he had her in his bed and writhing beneath him clearly distracted him.
Awkwardly, he said hello asking why she was there.
“I’m just here to commune with your equipment,” quipped Cordelia before laughing at his strange expression. “Hope you don’t mind, but I snuck down earlier and threw a couple of little things in the wash. The laundry room at my apartment is closed for repairs.”
Warily, Angel asked as he recovered his equilibrium and went about folding clothes from the dryer, “I’m not going to end up with pink boxers again, am I?”
“That was an accident,” Cordelia huffed defensively. “How was I to know my red blouse would bleed all over your clothes? Besides, who’d see them anyway.”
“You never know,” he responded cryptically, reaching in to pull out the next item.
Cordelia realized that Angel continued to remain silent on the issue of his soul. It bothered her that everyone continued to keep her in the dark about it. As if telling her would set something in motion none of them could control. Maybe hearing about it had done just that.
Asking him, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Maybe I’ll get lucky,” Angel tried to joke only to realize that he was holding a lacy strapless lavender bra.
Snatching the bra away, Cordelia held it up against her. Get lucky? “Maybe you will. You like? I’m gonna wear it tonight with my new dress.”
A little bug-eyed as he stared unavoidably at the lavender lace cupping the curves of Cordelia’s breasts over her cream-colored shirt, Angel managed a squawk, “You’re going out?”
His distracted tone sounded almost bored. Cordelia yanked the bra away reminding him, “You promised to take us all out to dinner tonight.”
Turning back to the dryer, Angel said, “Guess I did.”
“Senility has finally set in,” Cordelia sighed dramatically. Wiggling her fingers as she held her hand out, she told him, “There’s one more thing of mine in the dryer.”
Considering the nature of the first item, Angel decided to play it safe. Stepping back, he motioned for her to fish through the clothes to find it herself. Cordelia bent over practically sticking her head into the opening as she waded through his clothes. The effort caused her bottom to stick out at a tempting angle, which he promptly turned his eyes away from.
“Find it?” Angel asked when he sensed Cordelia standing up again.
Cordelia nodded and looked ready to move away when Angel felt something drop onto his shoe. With an airy laugh, Cordelia shrugged her apology, adding, “Oops!”
He knew what he’d find before his downward glance confirmed it. Since it was his shoe and as Cordelia wasn’t budging, Angel bent over to pick up the flossy matching lavender thong. Lifting it on a finger, he held them out to her while doing his utmost to maintain a straight face.
The glint in her eyes warned him that choosing to say nothing would be as damning as stroking the panties across his cheek. Denial of all interest was the only possible way to go.
“Women’s underthings have certainly changed since back in the day.” Angel let out a tone of disapproval. “It used to be about titillation. Now it’s all about leaving nothing to the imagination.”
“Titilation?” Cordelia gaped openly at the blasé tone and use of the old-fashioned word that somehow made her shiver.
Angel suddenly seemed to get lost in a world of examples, “Like unbuttoning rows of tiny round pearls down a woman’s back.”
The baritone deepened in her ear as Cordelia caught a breath and held it. His words sounded like silk rasping across her skin as she pictured his nimble fingers moving to undress her.
“Unlacing corsets that propped and nipped in such a way that these hands,” he held them up as if to show her, “could span her waist and caress her curves, peeling away the layers hiding her skin from my touch.”
Peel me, the crazy little thought popped into her head and the effort that it took just to keep the simple request from falling from her mouth nearly killed her. As it was, Cordelia blinked away the images forming in her head wondering if Angel had any idea just how seductive he sounded.
At that moment, Angel was sounding off a number of curses as he realized he’d just dragged Cordelia straight into one of his fantasies. It didn’t take much effort to know that she was not unaffected by his words since the scent of her arousal came to him. He breathed deep, his dark eyes raking across her body in search of other signs that proved Cordelia wanted him.
He licked his lips in response to finding them too many to count.
Dammit, Angel forced his gaze back to Cordelia’s eyes even if they were dilated and shining with sudden arousal. It was the surprise accompanying her intoxicating scent that gave him the strength to ignore the stirrings of his own body.
This had to be an automatic female response rather than one specific to him.
Returning to their conversation, he lifted his broad shoulders into an unimpressed shrug, “These days it’s all Wonder Bras and dental floss panties.”
Snapping out of her daze, Cordelia waved the lavender lace between them. “I’ll have you know I don’t need a Wonder Bra or a corset, for that matter, propping anything I own.”
Silence seemed the most appropriate response, so Angel shoved his fists in his pants pockets, rocked back on his heels and waited out the storm.
“Who the hell has been talking to you about Wonder Bras?” Cordelia demanded to know. It had better have been Buffy and not whatever blonde bimbo Gunn was trying to foist off on him.
“Actually, it was Gunn,” he confessed readily not at all feeling guilty about shifting some of the blame.
Cordelia wasn’t certain whether she was relieved by the news or angry that Gunn was preparing Angel for the wonders of modern female undergarments. No doubt in telling him to be wary of hidden props or giving pointers on front-closure devices.
“Since he’s so interested in women’s underwear, tell Gunn I think he’d look great in my pink thong,” Cordelia fumed before storming out of the laundry room.
Her fury only left him smiling in its wake.
“Earth to Angel,” Cordelia curled a hand around his arm to draw him out of the deep thoughts that seemed to be pulling him away from reality.
Gunn and Wes continued to lavish attention on Fred who wore a burgundy dress and looked nothing like the burlap-garbed fugitive she had been only a few months ago. Cordelia was especially proud of the way her friend had turned out having managed to drag her shopping and to the hair salon.
“It’s good to see Fred out of her room,” he commented knowing that he was staring in that direction. It was just that Cordelia had been over there too just a minute ago cooing over the other brunette.
Truthfully, Angel had been far too busy looking at the zipper that ran down the back of Cordelia’s little black dress and imagining pulling it slowly down until that fabric pooled at her feet. He already knew what he’d find beneath that silk. Her satiny skin would be all but bared to his hungry view, creamy and golden with a small band of lavender lace at her back and a tiny triangle with its connecting string enhancing the taut globes of her rounded bare bottom.
Tendrils from her upswept hair kissed the back of Cordelia’s slender throat while the design of her dress left her shoulders bare. The combined temptation of them both made him want to trace her bare skin with his mouth and let his hands wander over her curves.
Looking back at Fred, Cordelia was sufficiently distracted not to noticed the faraway look in Angel’s eye had nothing to do with Pylea or rescued physicists. “Yeah, I think she’s finally coming out of her shell. Not to mention the fact that she looks gorgeous tonight.”
Angel grunted an agreement.
That was a hint dunderhead, Cordelia let out a sigh that finally drew Angel’s attention down to her. So tell me, big guy. How do I look?
Apparently vampires possessed no mental telepathy, Cordelia reasoned, because Angel was certainly not mind-reading tonight. He glanced at her bare shoulders with a frown on his face. “Should you be wearing a coat? It’ll be cooler when we come out of the club.”
“Big brother strikes again,” Cordelia grumbled as she left his side to snatch her coat from the cloak closet. Walking back over, she smirked, “Satisfied?”
He was still reeling from the big brother comment, but managed a nod.
Then Cordelia decided to try out alluring lure number twelve. “Before we go…smell me.”
“What?” Angel figured he’d done enough of that down in the laundry room.
Cordelia rolled her eyes impatiently. “Smell me. I’m trying out a new perfume. Use those vamp senses. Okay or too overpowering?”
She’d showered since then, he reasoned. Such a harmless little request would be safe enough. After all, she’d just referred to him as her big brother. The favor was obviously just that and not some obtrusively sneaky ploy to drive him insane.
Despite the fact that Angel could have told her his opinion without moving an inch, the subtle tilt of her chin exposing the soft curve of her throat had him closing the distance between them. Cupping her neck, Angel gently pulled Cordelia closer and bent his head until his face brushed her throat. A soft gasp sounded in his ear and Angel heard the quickening tempo of her racing pulse.
He could sense every spot Cordelia had dabbed with that perfume. Very nice, subtle and blending in with her natural scents making him want to press his lips against those hot spots. Realizing that, Angel jerked back letting her go so swiftly that she almost stumbled out of his embrace.
“So?” she demanded a response.
“Ever heard a vampire sneeze? I think I may be allergic,” Angel told her determined that she not subject him to that intoxicating scent. “Maybe you should wash it off before we go.”
“I will not,” Cordelia refused. “You are so exaggerating that. Vampires aren’t allergic to perfume.”
Angel shrugged, “You wanted an opinion. Maybe you’d better sit on the other side of the table at dinner.”
“So it’s me you’re allergic to?” That insinuation bought him silence all the way to the Starlight Terrace.
At the restaurant, Angel held out the chair next to him for Fred trying to put some distance between himself and Cordelia, but she had already plopped herself down between Wes and Gunn.
“Guess you’re stuck with me,” Cordelia sank into the chair looking like she wanted to stick her tongue out at him. “Good thing you don’t have to breathe. Cos maybe then my perfume won’t cause you to choke since you’re sitting so close.”
Fred’s enthusiasm for the evening and the club bubbled over and soon Cordelia and Angel were completely distracted by it. “My first real restaurant since Pylea. Taco Haven doesn’t count.”
Throughout dinner, they all talked about reintroducing Fred to the realities of life in L.A. Wes and Gunn talked about taking her to a carnival. Fred quickly suggested that they go at night so Cordelia and Angel could come too never noticing that she paired them up in saying so.
After Fred finished her own dessert and the remaining half of Cordelia’s raspberry ganache, she saw the seer longingly eyeing the dance floor. “I think Cordy wants to dance.”
Cordelia couldn’t deny it. “This music is too good to resist,” she grinned putting her hand down on Angel’s thigh. “Dance with me?”
Before Angel could respond, Wes raised a voluntary hand, “I’ll dance with you.”
Gunn gave Wes a nod of approval for fast thinking. “Barbie, you know the vamp doesn’t dance.”
“Not to this song,” Angel agreed and hunkered down in his chair thankful that Wes was going to be the one to dance with Cordelia and not some random man out there on the dance floor.
“Gee, thanks, Wes,” Cordelia stood up and managed to bump Angel’s shoulder with her hip before heading away from the table.
Angel attempted to ignore the sight of Cordelia moving rhythmically to the beat of the music, but Fred and Gunn were too busy talking about it to hold any other conversation. They laughed merrily at the sight of Wesley moving around her and dancing enthusiastically if not with any skill or talent. Cordelia threw her whole body into it and her love of the music showed in the energy bounding off of her.
They returned to the table, Cordelia holding Wes’ hand and pulling him behind her. “I think I need someone with a little more energy. Wes is running out of steam.”
“I am not,” Wesley adjusted his glasses.
Laughing, Cordelia held out her hand for Gunn who took it enthusiastically. “Think you can keep up?”
“Just try me.”
Angel watched them scurry back to the dance floor. The warm sheen on Cordelia’s skin heightened her scent. She pulsed with life, adrenalin coursing through her veins. He had to be content to sit and watch. Touching her now might prove too much for his resolve.
“I think Cordelia is disappointed that Angel won’t dance with her,” Fred commented to Wesley though she said it entirely for the vampire’s benefit.
Angel didn’t so much as stir, his eyes focused on the pair on the dance floor. Even he could tell that Cordelia and Gunn moved well together. Unlike Wes, Gunn possessed a natural rhythm that kept him moving in sync with Cordelia as they danced. Angel wondered absently why he wasn’t feeling jealous. Considering all of the inappropriate feelings he’d had about Cordelia, he expected to want to rip Gunn apart considering some of the moves he was making out there.
The rational part of Angel’s brain registered that they were dance moves not flagrant attempts at touching Cordelia. Besides that, Gunn treated her like a sister. Somehow that was apparently how Cordelia seemed to think he also felt about her.
Big brother? Pfft!
Angel rolled his eyes at the thought. Then he started to think that might be how Cordelia wanted him to treat her. Certainly, she wouldn’t want to know that he lusted after his best friend. No doubt, in her words, that would simply be… eew.
After the third song, a ballad began and the lights over the dance floor shifted to the level of soft candlelight. Gunn and Cordelia were still out there laughing their way through a debate about the latest blockbuster movie.
“You just wanna jump his bones,” Gunn challenged her as their talk turned to the star of the movie.
Cordelia slapped him on the shoulder, “How shallow do you think I am? I’d jump his bones and admire his acting.”
Gunn scoffed, “Right.”
Naming his favorite singer, Cordelia came back with, “And if you thought you had a chance? What about her?”
“Unlike your lame actor, my girl can sing,” Gunn returned and then felt a tap on his shoulder. He started to warn off the interloper, “Buzz o— Angel?”
“Do you mind if I jump in on all of the boning, acting and singing going on to dance with Cordelia?” He grinned at the two of them having listened in as he crossed the floor to their position.
Still holding onto Cordelia, Gunn seriously thought about saying no. Then realizing Angel had been on good behavior ever since their little chat about respecting Cordy, he decided this was just the vamp taking a turn during a song he could actually move to.
Glancing at Angel who moved in expectantly, Cordelia commented, “He can act, can’t you, broody boy? Can’t sing worth a damn. As for the rest, well eunuch vamps can’t bone anyone.”
Gunn decided to escape that conversation before it happened. Nope. No worries at all about those two. Lorne must’ve had a few too many Seabreezes before coming into the office that morning.
“I’m not a eunuch,” Angel growled low under his breath.
“Will I contaminate you if I get too close?” Cordelia kept talking. “Those new allergies might get worse. You don’t have to dance with me. Don’t feel obligated just because Wes and Gunn know how to have fun and you’re al—”
“Just shut up for once and dance with me. I’m here, aren’t I?” He pulled her closer, his hand between her shoulder blades pressing her forward.
Realizing that she was snapping at Angel about being in his arms when that was exactly where she wanted to be, Cordelia put her hand in his sliding the other around his neck. “This song is still kinda snappy. Think you can keep the pace?”
“I lead, you follow,” Angel reminded as he maneuvered her around the floor.
With a little huff of frustration, she asked, “Going anywhere in particular or just in circles?”
“That isn—” he broke off as Cordelia suddenly cried out.
“Oh no!” Cordelia felt it coming, the flash of light and pain that signaled the coming of a vision. Within seconds, she found herself lost in the images, scents and sounds that would herald their next mission.
Already there, Angel whisked her up into his arms and over to an open space at the edge of the dance floor. Writhing with the shock of the vision, Cordelia slowly came out of it finding that she was cradled in Angel’s protective hold as he gazed down at her in concern.
The club’s manager inquiring after Cordelia’s condition joined curious onlookers in standing around the couple. Wesley quickly intervened having rushed across the room with Gunn and Fred close behind. “She’ll be fine. It’s just a common seizure disorder. Please just give us a little space.”
Left alone, Cordelia was finally able to impart the details of her vision. “Big ugly demon. Four claws on each hand. Three beady eyes. Has a taste for Mexican food.”
“He’s down in the Barrio?” Gunn inquired.
“No,” Cordelia groaned painfully as little flashbacks popped up like aftershocks. “He’ll be at Taco Haven in about forty minutes. Looks like the owner has been doing a little demon worshipping on the side to increase business.”
Fred gasped, “I knew those tacos were extra tasty.”
Cordelia was still unsteady on her feet, so Angel effortlessly lifted her into his arms again carrying her across the room toward the club exit. For once, she didn’t protest the move simply tucking her head against his shoulder and holding on. “I’d rather be dancing,” she muttered.
“I’ll get you home first before we go after the demon,” Angel told her wanting her to be safe.
“We don’t have time,” Cordelia reminded him. “My apartment is too far out of the way.”
After a pause, Angel clarified his intent, “I meant the hotel.”
Lifting her head, Cordelia focused on his profile and imagined him carrying her up to his room and setting her down on his bed. It always seemed to be his bed and not the one she used on the rare occasions she stayed at the hotel rather than heading back to the apartment. Despite the herd of elephants tromping in her head, Cordelia found that realization gave her a spark of hope.
“To your room?”
“Yeah,” Angel answered automatically never considering that there was any other option.
Cordelia had her chin on his shoulder as Angel carried her the last remaining steps to the car. The others had stopped back at the table to pay for their meal using the company card and to gather their belongings. “You’ll tuck me into bed?”
That question sounded like the start of one of his many Cordelia fantasies. Holding her while discussing anything related to his bed was definitely dangerous as subjects went. “That’s where you belong until the demon is dead and your migraine goes away.”
I belong in his bed, Cordelia twisted his words to suit herself. A smile curled the corners of her mouth at the idea that he’d said so. Now if only she could get Angel to read between the lines like she did. Unfortunately, her manpire was as thick-headed as he was handsome.
Angel opted to drive, though it was a toss up between that and continuing to hold Cordelia. He’d left that up to Wesley and Fred. Gunn took shotgun while Angel sped all the way back to the hotel. Then he had her in his arms again and this time she did protest considering that time was short. “I’ll just go upstairs myself. Maybe Fred can get me my purse and a glass of water. It’s almost time for big ugly to show up.”
“I’ll tell her,” Angel promised, but he made no move to stop until he had deposited Cordelia on his bed. “I want you to rest. We’ll deal with the demon.”
Bending over, he ran a hand down her calf along the sheer silk nylons to remove her shoe and repeated the move with the other. Angel set them down beneath the bedside chair as Cordelia sat on the side of his bed watching him and wondering what it would be like to be here without the vision headache and him having to rush off to save the patrons of Taco Haven from a nasty demon.
Angel was about to tell her to slide under the covers when he noticed the bulky clip at the back of her head holding her hair up. Reaching out to remove it, he simply said, “You can’t sleep like that.”
Cordelia felt her hair tumble down her back and across her shoulders. The moment Angel combed his fingers through her soft tresses, Cordelia felt her decision to grow it out again after her return from Pylea was a good one. Even if his touch was meant to minister to her pain with kindness, Cordelia wanted it to mean something else. She turned her face into his open palm, closing her eyes for an instant as she slipped her legs onto the mattress.
As promised, Angel tucked her into bed pulling the covers up high and tucking them under her arms. For a moment, he simply looked down at her, hovering close as if he was considering something. Cordelia wanted nothing more than for him to close that distance and press his cool lips against hers. They tingled with need despite the ache in her head.
“Make it better, Angel,” she whispered. “Make it go away.”
With his hand against her cheek, Angel brushed his mouth against her forehead like best friends and even big brothers might do, though he mentally wiped out the latter consideration as soon as he’d thought it. “Time to go, but I’ll be home soon.”
Cordelia knew the moment the demon was dead. The last remnants of her migraine vanished as if it had never existed. While she really wanted to stay snuggled up in Angel’s bed, she was too concerned about the boys coming back with injuries that might require patching up.
She was down in the lobby with Fred, the First Aid kit at the ready by the time they arrived back at the Hyperion. Fred had changed into casual clothing, but Cordelia hadn’t bothered to look for anything. She was still wearing her short black dress, but only brought the shoes as far as the lobby rather than putting them on again.
“What are you doing out of bed?” Angel asked as Cordelia rushed over to meet them at the door.
Not bothering with an answer, Cordelia was too busy checking the three of them for signs of injury. She was appalled by the amount of blood coating their clothing. “Tell me that’s demon blood and not yours.”
“We’d be lying,” Wes confessed as he limped toward the couch. He was pressing a handkerchief tinged with red to his shoulder. “Angel took the brunt of it as usual. I think Gunn and I escaped with contusions and superficial lacerations.”
Fred was wide-eyed as she looked at the trio. Turning to Cordelia, she asked, “How can I help?”
“You take Gunn while I patch up Wes,” Cordelia pointed to the peroxide, antiseptic and bandages. “I’ll deal with Angel in a minute.”
“He’s the worst,” Fred pointed out. “Shouldn’t we fix him up first?”
Angel assured her, “I can wait.”
Cutting in, Gunn reminded her, “Living Dead over there is already healing. You won’t be able to tell he was injured in the morning. Wes and me ain’t so lucky. So being first in line for a little TLC is justice.”
“That does seem fair,” Fred agreed with all seriousness. Then asked, “How’s Taco Haven? Did it survive the demon attack?”
It hurt when Angel laughed, so he kept quiet as Gunn assured the taco-loving Texan that after a few days her favorite restaurant would be back in business. Her relief at the news was visible.
Cordelia and Fred quickly tended to the minor cuts of their human companions and then it was Angel’s turn.
“Stop squirming, you big baby. It can’t be that bad,” Cordelia complained dabbing hydrogen peroxide onto the angry red claw marks crossing Angel’s chest.
Protesting, Angel answered, “You’re not the injured party.”
“Sit back and don’t move. How can I clean this properly if you keep moving around like that?”
“It stings,” he told her as he flexed his shoulder and shifted his legs again. “Maybe you should blow on it.”
Rolling her eyes, Cordelia pursed her lips and blew air across his chest. “Better?”
“Not really,” he might have been pouting, but Cordelia had seen him injured far more seriously to believe that. Angel rubbed at the open area on his chest as if to wipe away the irritating antiseptic.
“Now look what you’ve done,” Cordelia sounded incensed as she pushed on his uninjured shoulder to keep him steady. “I’ll have to start over.”
Angel honestly gave her an out, “I’ll be fine.”
“Pfft! Like I haven’t heard that before,” she waved off the suggestion. Grabbing more clean cotton balls, she moistened them with the cleanser and started her task over. “I saw that. You moved.”
“You asked for it, buddy,” Cordelia harrumphed as she climbed onto his lap to stop him from squirming across the couch. “I told you to hold still.”
Angel realized he got more than he bargained for by teasing Cordelia. She always took her Florence Nightingale routine very seriously. He almost hated to admit to himself how much he looked forward to these little first aid sessions. Not that he had ever considered getting himself injured purposefully; it was just nice that Cordelia cared enough to take care of him as if he was a man and not just a vampire.
Like a friend would, Angel issued himself a stern reminder even as his hands grabbed onto her hips to steady her as she balanced on his thighs. Realizing that his fingers were pressed into the firm globes of her bottom, he moved them away only to settle on her upper thighs. His thumb brushed against something and Angel’s eyes darted down to see that her the edge of her dress had hiked up to reveal a black silk garter holding up her stocking. All he had to do was press his thumb up just a fraction to touch her skin.
That’s not on the list of things to do tonight, he reminded himself. Friends do not feel each other up, dammit. She just smells so good. Bet my bed will be full of that scent tonight.
“Almost done,” Cordelia told him oblivious to the position of his hands or the reason for his sudden stillness. She was too focused on measuring out the right length of tape to stick to the 4×4 gauze sponges covering his wounds.
“Good, just hurry,” his voice sounded almost gruff.
Cordelia paused long enough to ask, “What’s your rush? Don’t tell me you have plans to patrol around the shelter again.”
“No,” Angel denied quickly. “I think that situation is resolved.”
Taping the last 4×4 in place, Cordelia raised a brow and tried her best to sound only vaguely interested. “Really?”
“Definitely,” he answered realizing that if Cordelia didn’t move soon she was going to be find out just how friendly some parts of him could be.
Angel lifted her to her feet and stood up at the same time. She looked a little puzzled by his hasty actions. Stepping closer, Cordelia commented, “We were cheated out of our dance. You owe me one, broody.”
“Maybe when we all go out again in six months or so,” Angel nodded to her dismay.
“Six months,” Cordelia actually believed he meant it as she fisted her hands on her hips. “You’re like the Scrooge of Fun. Bah Humbug! You wouldn’t know fun if it came and bit you on the ass.”
“Actually,” he defended himself, “I’m planning a little fun right now. Your three-eyed demon has made me miss most of the hockey game. If I hurry, I can catch the end of it.”
Cordelia thought Angel’s idea of fun needed some serious work. “Hockey again?”
Just as Cordelia was actually contemplating taking up an interest in…she shuddered …ice hockey, Gunn called out, “Yo, Barbie! Ready to hit the road? Thought you might want a lift home.”
“Yeah,” she called out over her shoulder. “Be there in a sec.”
Angel felt certain Cordelia was going to call him on his escape routine. Hell, it was so obvious that he had to get away from her he could already hear the accusations.
Say something, he urged himself trying to think of words that would reassure her that he was in no way lusting after her. That arched brow and defiant stance had him worried. Had she guessed that he wanted nothing more than to drag her up to his lair and discover every delicious secret her body had to offer?
Even if Angel didn’t have a hope of convincing himself that he felt only friendship for Cordelia Chase, he was determined to keep her unaware of that fact. “You’re such a pal. Thanks for the patch up job.”
Cordelia watched as Angel bounded up the stairs. Glancing around the lobby seeking denial of that state of being, she found that Wes and Fred had already vacated the area. Gunn was leaning up against the front counter as Cordelia queried, “I’m a pal?”
“A good one too,” Gunn walked over, slung his arm around her shoulder squeezing tight. “Grab your shoes, woman. Let’s roll.”
“I so need my own car,” muttered Cordelia suddenly hating her dependence on the bus or one of her vehicle-owning friends. “Maybe a jeep. A yellow one.”
Gunn only laughed, “You planning on asking Wes for a raise? Good luck with that. I think you’ll stand a better chance hinting to David Nabbitt that your birthday is coming up.”
Following Gunn out to the curb, Cordelia thwacked him on the back of the head. “I’ll settle for a shopping spree. After tonight, I think I deserve one.”
A pal? Cordelia stared blindly out the truck window as Gunn drove her home. After all of the subtle hints and open flirtation, Angel had no idea she was in love with him. Lately, it seemed like he tried to avoid looking at her even like the other guys did. As if he found her so commonplace she was hardly worth glancing at unless it allowed him to play the part of the big brother or the dashing hero.
Cordelia waved her hand toward Gunn as he drove away, but her thoughts were all on the vampire back at the Hyperion Hotel. “Just you wait, Angel. Tomorrow, the kid gloves come off.”
Bright and early…almost too bright and too early…Cordelia dragged Fred on her carefully planned shopping spree. “I’m tired of being subtle. If that stubborn vamp wants to think of me as his pal, then he’s damn well gonna think of me as his sexy playmate.”
“Oh my,” Fred followed Cordelia around from shop to shop.
“I practically straddled him last night,” Cordelia realized suddenly. “He was thinking about his hockey game.”
Fred pointed out, “Angel is used to having you in his lap and holding you in a non-romantic way. Y’know, with the visions and all. You were just treating his wounds.”
“I practically drooled on his naked chest when I was patching him up. All he did was sound grateful that he had time to watch the game.” Cordelia shrugged, “Who knew vampires liked hockey so much anyway.”
Reasoning easily, Fred responded, “It’s an indoor sport played mostly at night.”
“Hmph!” Cordelia was not impressed. “I know of one indoor sport played mostly at night he’d be interested in if he ever opens his eyes. Just for a second last night, when he was tucking me into bed, I thought he wanted me. It was the way that he touched my hair.”
Fred hurried to keep the pace as Cordelia strode along in front of the stores. “Maybe he’s tactile rather than visual. Reacts to things more by touch than sight.”
Coming to a rapid halt, Cordelia glanced into the storefront window, her mouth curving into a conspiratorial smile. “Fred, did anyone ever tell you that you were a genius?”
“Yes, actually,” Fred nodded quite seriously. “Many times. Mensa has it documented using the Stanford-Binet, Wechsler, and Cattell scales.”
Rolling her eyes, Cordelia grabbed Fred by the wrist and pulled her into the store, “I have an idea. C’mon.”
Now standing directly in front of the store’s exclusive bed linen display, Fred gaped at the scene forming in her head. Suddenly, Cordelia’s idea seemed all too clear. “Oh my.”
“Oh, yes. This is it, Fred. I’m pulling out all the stops for this and before the night is over, Angel will be mine.”
“Well that’s certainly a tactile way to go,” Fred considered. Her voice vibrated a little with nervousness as she pointed out, “You seem certain my theory will work. It’s just a hypothesis, Cordy.”
“Fred, I told you I’ve learned a lot from Cosmo,” Cordelia assured her. “That includes more than just a few flirting tips and makeover advice.”
Clueless, Fred could only ask, “It does?”
Picking up the corner of the top sheet on the display, Cordelia ran it across Fred’s arm and watched her mouth form a circle of surprise. “That’s really nice.”
With a smirk worthy of Angelus, holding the sensually smooth fabric up to her cheek and letting her fingers trace down the folds, Cordelia explained with confidence, “No man can resist 900 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.”
Angel awakened mid afternoon to Cordelia’s scent surrounding him. Gathering the pillow closer, he breathed deep and in his mind separated out each minute scent that made up the essence of her still clinging to the pillowcase.
Smothering his own laugh upon realizing he was sleeping on the wrong side of the bed, Angel guessed he had moved over to where Cordelia’s body had lain during her nap. Could he be any more pathetic? Noting the tenting of the sheet over his erection, Angel recalled that he had been dreaming about her, too.
That answers that, Angel groaned.
Flinging the covers aside, Angel stared down at his aroused body willing himself to relax. Not that it had ever obeyed him before, but it was worth a try. Get a grip you randy prick! He tried to focus on the random thought, but it only seemed to come out as a lewd suggestion.
“That’s what I’m trying to avoid,” Angel growled. There would be no gripping of any kind as long as the only thing he could think of was his best friend.
Certainly not while she went around pretending he was big brother material. Blast it if Angel wasn’t close to tracing the Chase family tree just to prove to her that he was not on it. Launching himself out of bed with a frustrated move, Angel stalked naked into the bathroom.
Emerging almost an hour later, Angel discovered Cordelia standing at his bedside. He hastily belted his robe before she turned around to face him. For some reason, she was changing his sheets as if she knew he had been wallowing in her scent all night long and come to steal them away before he really made a fool of himself.
Angel tried to keep his voice steady as he asked cautiously, “What’s this?”
“A little modern magic,” Cordelia told him as she met him at the end of the bed. “My gift to you for taking such good care of me yesterday.”
“Not just any sheets,” she quirked a brow and smiled. “I promise you’ll never sleep the same way again.”
Glancing at the pile of discarded bed linen on the chair, Angel realized she was right. Unless Cordelia’s scent came with the sheets, it wouldn’t be the same. “Were you so uncomfortable with the old sheets?”
“No comparison, Angel,” she told him as she reclined on the bed letting her hair fan out behind her. The top she wore was sleeveless and had thin crisscrossed straps across her back leaving most of her skin exposed. “Mmm, it’s heaven.”
Angel felt certain that was a fair description of what he was seeing right now. It was not like Cordelia hadn’t been in his bed before, but there was just something sensual in the way she spoke and how her tempting curves stood out across the blue cotton sheets.
“Go ahead,” Cordelia encouraged. “Touch them.”
Reaching forward, Angel barely managed to figure out that she was talking about the sheets and not the delicious swell of her breasts. He picked up the edge of the loose top sheet running his hand along the fabric. Admittedly, he had to agree the quality surpassed anything in the Hyperion’s linen closet.
“Is that all you have to say?” Cordelia bounded off the bed to stand beside him, her eyes sparkling with mischief and gazing intently into his. “They’re more than nice.”
The purr behind those words caught him off-guard. Did friends talk to friends with a throaty promise in their voice? Curious to find out, Angel answered back, “Guess I could give them another chance. Test them out.”
“Then lose the robe. I won’t peek,” she promised crossing her fingers up near her collarbone in plain sight. “Feel them on your bare skin.”
Her fingers toyed with the end of his belt, but Cordelia made no move to tug despite her curiosity knowing that there was nothing beneath that robe except Angel. She licked at her lips with nervous excitement as she watched a dawning light appear on Angel’s face. Cordelia could not hide the want in her eyes and for the first time Angel allowed himself to see it.
Lifting his hand to her face, he traced her cheek with his fingers brushing his thumb across her lips leaving them tingling. Throwing caution to the wind, he responded, “I’d rather feel them on your bare skin.”
Desire darkened in his eyes as he spoke and Cordelia could only gasp at the impact of his direct stare. All she could do was listen to the sound of her own thundering pulse as it filled her ears. Her moment of triumph in realizing that Angel did want her was eclipsed by her own escalating need.
Leaning into his touch, Cordelia murmured his name like a caress against his hand. “Angel.”
“That excites you? My touching you,” Angel felt as if the blinders had finally been lifted off his senses.
Softly, she confirmed his discovery, “Yes.”
“Oh God.” Was it even possible for a vampire’s prayers to be answered? Seemingly, yes.
Angel closed his arms around her tucking his head down on her shoulder as relief washed over him like a sudden downpour in the desert. His hands moved over her shoulders and back, pressed flat, his fingers splayed open to touch every inch he could reach.
“You smell so good,” he drank her scent in deep. “I’m like a bee buzzing around the perfect rose. I can’t get enough of you, Cordy. Guess you noticed.”
“No,” Cordelia admitted, puzzled by his confession. “You’ve been ignoring me.”
Angel corrected, “Trying to. Pretending my body doesn’t react every time you come near. You know how much your friendship means to me and I don’t want anything to ruin it. Not again.”
“Then don’t let it,” Cordelia inched her fingers along his chest beneath the navy robe. “Best way to do that is to give me what I want.”
Reacting to her impish smile as she brushed her fingers across his nipple, Angel let his own finger curve around her shoulder, one knuckle circling around her nipple as it puckered up against the thin material of her red top. Then his hand splayed open against her ribs moving back up to map the curves of her breast.
“What would that be, Miss Chase?”
Infinite slowness brought them to their first kiss. It lasted moments, only a touch of their lips, a taste of curiosity. They parted no longer than it took to gaze intensely into each other’s eyes, communicating recognition of the feelings that kiss evoked.
Then hungry need took over as voracious kisses followed. Those deep devouring clenches came interspersed with soft nips and the tender sucking of her lips and tongue as Angel explored her mouth with his own.
Cordelia moaned her pleasure at the sensations he evoked, her body humming with a desire that fed the ache low in her belly. Reacting on instinct, Cordelia returned his kisses inventing a few of her own along the way. Her hands were everywhere as they tangled in his short spiky hair, gripped his shoulders and snuck under his robe to curl around to his muscular back.
Angel’s delight in her enthusiasm was evident in the smile that flirted at his lips in between kisses. His touches were more deliberate and designed to heighten her arousal as well as his own. When his hands slid beneath the stretchy red top, Angel found nothing to hinder his touch as his fingers curved around the full globes of her breasts.
“How’s that for titillation?” Cordelia sounded a breathy laugh into his ear just before nibbling on his earlobe and sucking it into her mouth.
His smirk appeared as Angel plumped her breasts in his skillful hands, his fingers teasing her sensitive flesh and tweaking the soft velvet tips into hard little points. Angel bent down and sucked one into his mouth fabric and all eliciting a sharp cry from Cordelia who grabbed him by the head to pull him up to her mouth.
Deeper and desperate their kisses became. Cordelia shifted her hips against him as she felt the hard column of his sex pressing into her thigh. Her leg hooked over his and Angel let out a groan of need as she moved her hips to bring herself into closer contact with his engorged member. Reaching between them, he deftly unbuttoned her low-waisted pants and unzipped them with ease slipping his fingers through the downy curls.
“Wait!” Cordelia’s sudden cry startled them both. She hadn’t planned to say that, but her mouth opened and the word came out.
Angel slowly moved his hand back up to her waist now worried that she was having second thoughts about being with him this way. Then it occurred to him that Cordelia might be afraid of the likelihood of waking up tomorrow with Angelus.
“Do you not want this?” Angel asked despite the ache in his chest and loins. “We can stop. We’re taking things a little fast.”
“We’ve taken forever,” she told him smiling. Then with a husky promise, claimed “I do want this and you so much.”
He smoothed his hands up and down her nearly bare back, asking confusedly, “Then why stop me?”
Good question. she asked herself even a she circled her arms around his neck. “I just need to know. Is this just for now, today, something to stave off the cold? I want to know what to expect tomorrow.”
“More of the same,” Angel answered cupping her face in both hands. He kissed her until she melted in his arms. Starry-eyed, she trailed her fingers down to the ties of his robe starting to release the belt from its knot. One large hand clamped down on hers. “Wait.”
Arching an eyebrow, Cordelia did just that even though the temptation to keep on pulling at that belt made her fingers itch. She dropped it, sliding her hand back up to his chest where the demon claw marks were now barely visible.
“There’s no reason to be scared,” he assured her. “You know I’d never put you in any danger. Even from me if I can help it.”
“I’m not scared,” Cordelia drew a random pattern on the hard wall of his chest with her fingertip. Thinking this was the beginning of the big Angelus-is-no-threat speech, she lowered her eyes and tried not to give away the fact that she already knew his secret.
“Cordy, I love you so much,” his words stunned her. Cordelia’s eyes darted back up to meet his. Angel curled his finger under her chin. “You’re my blunt voice of reason, my humanity, my heart. You complete me. For so long, I thought there was nothing I could give you. Not even myself.”
Tears of happiness glistened brightening the hazel orbs to a golden hue. “But…”
Cutting off her protest, Angel swept his thumb across her lips. “I have to tell you something. My soul…it’s safe now. There are no more worries about losing it. It’s secure permanently.”
As Angel dropped his hand away awaiting the response to everything he’d said, he didn’t have to wait long. A smile of megawatt brilliance appeared along with the return of that flirtatious glint in her eye. “So you’re saying bliss can be had by all?”
“I can give you a lifetime of blissful moments, Cordelia,” he told her with confidence that only wavered when he added, “but can I make you happy?”
“You already do. Angel…,” she stood on her tiptoes to whisper in his ear, “I’m in love with you too.”
“Really?” He just looked so cute asking for more confirmation that Cordelia caught herself rolling her eyes.
“No, I was joking,” she told him. “Love a homely vamp like you? Pfft! As for bliss, there’s probably nothing to see under that robe anyway.”
Then she snagged the belt and yanked until the robe fell open. In a small wondrous voice though she was aiming for amusing quip, “Nope, nothing at all,” but managed to sound close to breathless.
Nothing except Angel all impressively impressive, she gaped. When her gaze finally lifted back to his face, Cordelia saw passion burning in those sinful eyes. He’d let her look her fill without saying a word, but she wasn’t done yet.
“Let me,” was all she asked.
Staying just out of arms reach, she moved behind him, curling her hands over his shoulders to grasp the collar of his robe. Pulling it over his massive shoulders and down his arms, Cordelia watched as the robe slid into a blue puddle around his feet.
Angel’s chest rumbled with a deep moan as Cordelia’s hands, warm against his cool skin slid across the bunched muscles of his back. Her fingers traced the edge of the ‘A’ in his tattoo. Then her lips scorched his flesh at the center of his spine between his shoulder blades.
Moving again, Cordelia met Angel’s hungry gaze halfway there letting her hand trail down his back to palm the solid curve of his ass. Back to the front again, Cordelia appreciatively let her eyes wander up and down the hard male body that was even more spectacular than her imagination.
All that salty goodness…mine! Cordelia lifted a finger to her mouth sucking on the tip.
Angel didn’t need a reflection to confirm Cordelia’s impression. He could read it in her eyes and in the impish smile that flirted over her mouth. “Like what you see, baby?”
“I see a lot I like.” Cordelia watched him step closer and shivered in anticipation of his touch. Taking that last moment to glance down again at his aroused flesh and up the length of his sculpted torso to his eyes, she added with a cheeky grin, “Baby.”
The moment her wandering fingertips grazed his hard flesh, Angel wondered if he’d be able to pull off playing the masterful lover to this sensuous vixen when he suddenly felt like a horny teenager wanting nothing more than to bury himself inside her. Not to be outdone Angel distracted her with drugging kisses as he undressed Cordelia.
Then turning her in his arms, Angel kept his hands on her belly one above the other as he nuzzled her neck. His hands lifted to cup her breasts as he whispered words that spoke to her beauty in her ear. Cordelia held onto his thighs, her bare bottom pressing against his hard shaft, a moan on her lips as Angel took a step back.
Dropping down on his knee, he pressed his lips to the tattoo gracing the small of her back, the faces of the sun and moon entwined. There was only one mark that might be more appropriate, Angel knew, but this wasn’t the time to delve into his demon’s fantasies.
As Angel rose to his feet, he stepped close to the bed to pull the loose top sheet from its spot on the mattress. Wrapping it around them both, playfully reminding Cordelia, “I think we’re supposed to be testing these sheets. Was this what you had in mind?”
Cordelia realized too late that he was backing her up toward the bed and she let out a squeal of laughter when they both tumbled onto the mattress. Holding on to the edges of the sheet, Angel whipped it over their heads completely covering them up. Light filtering through the sheets saved them from complete darkness.
“Is this an undercover operation?” Cordelia giggled, but soon stopped laughing as Angel’s hands and mouth came into contact with her body.
Tickling and teasing in between kisses and touches that left Cordelia drenched with wanting, Angel intended to memorize every millimeter of her smooth skin before allowing himself release. Above them, the sheets slid over their bare flesh adding another level of stimulation.
The cotton threads shifted over her face as Cordelia cried out in want pleading with Angel as his mouth teased close to her center, pressing kisses into her inner thigh and the soft forest of chestnut curls. Cordelia stared straight down the length of her torso between the valley of her breasts and along the sloping path ringed by her navel directly meeting Angel’s potent gaze.
His knowing fingers worked their magic and his agile tongue played like a Riverdance on her silken folds. So close. So close to the edge, but not quite. Angel kept building her pleasure earning raves as Cordelia noisily encouraged him. Her hands wandered from her breasts, down to her inner thighs alternately tangling in his short hair and gripping at his shoulders. Slowly driven to frenzy, Cordelia looked straight down into his eyes again, this time as he sucked the swollen bud of her clit into his mouth.
Then Cordelia’s orgasm spiraled to its peak as Angel fingers moved along her slick channel curving in just the right spot to send her flying. Her head thrashed along the mattress as Angel’s tongue lapped up the ambrosia of her sex.
Cordelia’s flushed face brushed against the sheet clinging to her dewy skin as Angel prowled up the length of her body. She whipped the sheet aside tossing it to the end of the bed and curled up on to her knees as he came up onto his leaving them face to face again.
“My turn,” she flashed that teasing grin.
Angel thought of her going down on him and nearly fell over. He didn’t want her to think it was expected and almost suggested to her that it was not necessary for her to reciprocate. Making him, he felt certain, the only manpire in existence to refuse such an offer from his mate, especially considering his current state of arousal.
Mate? The thought caught Angel by surprise, but somehow it brought a warm feeling along with it. They’d have to talk about that when he finally let her out of his bed—sometime next Tuesday, maybe.
Reconsidering his plan to simply take her now, Angel decided they had all the time in the world tonight for anything they wanted. Since Cordy hadn’t been specific, Angel decided to play along. “Just give me a hint. Tell me what you want.”
“I’m way past subtle hints,” Cordelia poked a finger in the center of his chest and gave a tiny push. Cooperating, Angel fell back on the mattress propping himself up with his elbows for support as he waited to let her have her way with him. “I want what I want and I plan to take it.”
Angel licked at his lips as he controlled the urge to lift her into his lap and let her ride him. “Go ahead. Just don’t expect me to keep my hands to myself.”
Looking head to toe at the long expanse of his body, Cordelia hardly knew where to begin. Trailing her fingers up from his feet to his thighs, she felt the heavily corded muscle beneath her touch and sounded out a little moue of delight at the sensation.
The direction of her hands suggested she was just going for it and Angel watched as her fingers crept closer and closer to his hard shaft. Other than the sensual rub of the sheets against it as he lay in the cradle of Cordelia’s hips and thighs, it remained eager for attention.
Then Cordelia surprised him. Her hands moved to his outer thighs and then propped on the bed on either side of his hips as she crawled up to kiss just the corner of his mouth. “Do you like my kisses?”
“You have to ask?” Angel curled a hand into the cascade of her hair as he captured her mouth again.
Parting on a moan and reminding himself that he was letting Cordelia play a little, Angel contented himself with toying with her hair as she moved her mouth to yet another sensitive area. She sucked softly at the flesh of his neck eliciting a deeper groan and her hands wandered over his broad shoulders.
“Are you as sensitive here as I am?” she queried curiously as her tongue lashed across one flat nipple and the small brown circle around it. From his body’s reaction, it seemed clear. “Mmm, you are.”
By the time Cordelia worked her way down his torso, Angel was close to losing it. His control was quickly crumbling under the onslaught of her hands and mouth. There was a hint of topaz in his eyes as he spoke next, “Practice teasing me later, vixen. If you don’t put your mouth on me right now, we’re going to skip the rest of your turn and move on.”
Reminded of his predatory nature, Cordelia realized it wasn’t really in that nature to give her the freedom to explore her curiosity with his body. Giving her this chance to play came on a knife’s point edge of control and Cordelia suddenly wanted to find out how far she could push him. She gripped him moving her hand in a tight ring along the shaft marveling at his smooth hardness while her eyes feasted on Angel’s every reaction to her touch.
Cordelia felt the impact of Angel’s lusty encouragements and urgent undertone with the inward clenching of her loins. Her mouth brushed over his velvet tip tasting the salty drop of fluid beading there. Licking her lips, she met his intent gaze with a quick glance before taking him into her mouth. Her head bobbed up and down as she hollowed her cheeks and sucked on the broad crown, her fingers curling beneath and working along the rest of his shaft.
Whether seconds or minutes ticked by, Angel neither knew nor cared. He kept his eyes glued on Cordelia, watching her wet mouth move over him. Until finally, Angel pulled her up the length of his body setting her down so that she pressed fully into him.
One hand stayed low on her back, keeping her hips and belly in tight contact with his erection. The other tangled in her hair as he savagely claimed her mouth, his tongue invading and dueling with hers. Flipping them both over, Angel spread her thighs taking a moment to gaze down at the swollen pink folds of her sex still glistening with her arousal.
“I can’t wait a minute more to have you,” Angel explained needlessly. That was all too apparent and Cordelia was far from being upset that her turn had come to an end. There would be more time for fun and games later.
“Please, Angel,” she wanted him badly enough not to care that it sounded like begging. Lifting her knees a little higher, Cordelia dropped her hand to her aching center, fingers sliding along her slick flesh as she hissed at the sensation.
Fisting his hard length, Angel rubbed the tip along her folds and the feminine fingers that moved to assist his entry. He rocked his hips back and forth, his hand now cupping her bottom, tilting her hips higher, thrusting steadily through the hot core that clenched down against his intrusion and alternately opened up to let him in.
Wrapping him in her intimate hold, Cordelia circled his shoulders and tucked her legs around him as her hips bucked upward meeting his in that timeless rhythm. The world could have come crashing down around them unnoticed. Words of love and lust crossed their lips between succulent kisses on this first journey of passion.
The ecstasy they found in each others arms peaked almost simultaneously. Cordelia cried out nearly unintelligibly, her eyes open and making pinpoint contact with his as she crashed over the edge into oblivion. Her inner muscles fluttered around Angel’s engorged member as he pistoned in and out thrusting deep until he threw his head back and called out her name.
They held each other tightly, Angel’s face buried along the curve of her throat as he listened to the steady pulse against his ear, breathing deeply to memorize the scents surrounding them at this moment. Cordelia palmed the nape of his neck as he softly kissed the pulse at its strongest point, a little gasp at her throat as she felt it quicken in curiosity and anticipation.
Angel read the question in her eyes as he slowly withdrew and shifted his weight to the side. His thumb trailed over the spot that would one day bear his mark. “Maybe later.”
“What else comes later?” Cordelia asked as her fingers tapped on her hip as she was propped up by one hand on her side.
Eyes sparkling, she grinned, “How soon might that be?”
“Maybe sooner than you think,” Angel leaned forward to kiss her. “I only hope we won’t have Wes and Gunn barging in on us. Being immovably chained to this bed is not what I have in mind.”
“Dunno. That could be fun for a little while,” laughed Cordelia who knew they had nothing to fear from their friends. Not tonight anyway. “Lucky for you that Fred has convinced those two busybody friends of ours that she wanted to go to the carnival tonight.”
Wondering how Fred got involved, Angel asked, “What’s she got to do with it?”
“Genius, remember? Fred helped me formulate my Angel seduction stratagem. Only you managed to elude all of my sure-fire attempts to get you to notice me,” Cordelia revealed with a laugh.
“Trust me, I noticed.”
“Then I discovered the secret weapon,” Cordelia reached behind her to pull up the blue top sheet tickling under his chin with the corner.
Trying to keep a straight face, Angel nodded, “Sheets.”
“Nine hundred thread count Egyptian cotton,” she sighed running her hand along the part of the sheet tucked between her breasts drawing his eyes there. Quipping, “No man can resist ‘em.”
Angel smirked in agreement, “Especially when they’re wrapped around you.”
The Challenge by Impress:
While watching the movie ‘Uptown Girls’, Impress saw “a scene that screamed C/A”. To be set during BtVS 3, but I can put it anywhere (umm, so I did…AtS S3). Cordy attempts to seduce Angel, but all her attempts fall short because Angel is purposefully playing dumb. Then she remembers a secret weapon…Egyptian cotton sheets. Must include the line: “No man can resist 900 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.”