AUTHOR: Becjane (aka Becky)
SUMMARY: Angel needs to get a fake tan for a case, and being the stingy manpire that he is, he buys the do-it-yourself kind.
POSTED: 1 Sep 2004
CATEGORY: Romance/Smut/PTB Vision Case File/Challenge Fic
WARNINGS: Sexual Content
FICPIC CREDIT: Califi
1) This was supposed to be a feel-good standalone, but I have turned it into a short serial fic with a little bit of angst. The angsty stuff is resolved early on, so it’s basically still a feel-good fic.
Cordelia Chase set her emery board aside and picked up a small bottle of nail polish. Holding it between her thumb and forefinger, she up-ended it several times to mix up the thick liquid within, then removed the tiny wand and began to paint her fingernails with meticulous precision.
Once she’d applied an even coat of the pink pearlescent lacquer, she returned the brush to the glass container, pursed her lips and blew on her freshly painted nails, coaxing the sticky polish to dry with warm puffs of breath.
She then repeated the whole routine with her other hand, finally waggling her fingers in the air to complete the drying process. That done, she placed her newly manicured hands down on her desk’s wooden surface, and surveyed the outcome of her endeavours with a critical eye.
“Salon perfect if I do say so myself,” she muttered under her breath, immensely pleased with the almost flawless result. Of course, she didn’t know why she was bothering. The next time one of her agonisingly painful visions hit, or some icky demon attacked, then her manicure would be the first casualty – it always was.
Drumming the pads of her fingers on the desktop, the bored seer glanced around the lobby, searching for something else to occupy her mind. Why was she here? It was Sunday; they had no cases – she should be out enjoying herself. It was a bright, sunny day – the perfect weather to visit the beach. Why then had she been drawn to the Hyperion like the proverbial bee to the honey-pot? It made no sense whatsoever.
As Cordelia absently took in her surroundings, it gradually occurred to her that she wasn’t the only one to succumb to the strange gravitation pull of the Hotel – all of her friends appeared similarly afflicted.
Gunn sat cross-legged on the floor, next to the weapons cabinet, polishing the myriad of swords, axes, and crossbows with a soft cloth. Grimacing with effort, he rubbed hard at the tarnished metal implements until they gleamed bright silver and cast dancing beams of refracted light back into the lobby.
Every so often, when a particular weapon caught his fancy, the young black man rose to his feet and play-acted a pretend fight with a make-believe demon. Muttering a running commentary to himself under his breath, he moved agilely about the floor space, trading thrusts and parries with his imaginary adversaries.
Someone seriously needs a girlfriend, Cordelia thought derisively, rolling her eyes at her colleague’s juvenile antics. Maybe I should introduce him to Sarah? she mused, bringing to mind the attractive young woman that she’d recently befriended down at the Gym.
Sarah was athletic, easy-going, and lots of fun – Cordelia reckoned that she and Gunn would be perfect for each other. I’ll call her tomorrow and invite her to lunch, then drag Gunn along with me.
The wheels of her match-making scheme set in motion, the seer’s attention shifted away from the former street kid towards the newest member of the AI team – Winifred Birkle, aka Fred.
Ever since the cathartic visit from her parents, Fred had been slowly coming out of her shell and integrating herself into their little family. She was currently seated on the floor, her back to the circular sofa that stood in the centre of the foyer, and her slim legs stretched out in front of her. Dressed in a pale green cotton sundress, with tiny blue flowers dotted in a haphazard fashion over the thin material, she sat playing with a small hand-held puzzle, her forehead creased in concentration.
The Texan’s hero-worship of Angel had gradually subsided as her confidence grew, and Cordelia had recently caught the gangling brunette gazing doe-eyed at their boss instead – a happenstance that made Wesley’s indecision about asking her out completely pointless. It wasn’t as if Fred was going to say no – the seer was almost certain that the shy young woman would jump at the chance. Cordelia decided it was about time she gave her reserved friend a good hard shove in the right direction.
Turning her gaze away from Fred, she let her thoughtful eyes settle on the reticent Englishman. Wesley sat at the counter, studying a pair of thick dusty tomes, his wire-rimmed glasses perched precariously on the end of his nose. Since their return from Pylea a few months ago, the ex-watcher had slowly undergone an image re-vamp – gone were the smart suits, shiny shoes, and severe hairstyle of yesteryear, and in had come an altogether more rugged look.
Today, he was dressed in a pair of beige slacks, brown leather boots, and a dark grey t-shirt, while his longer hair looked fashionably unkempt. Wesley’s whole demeanour radiated a newly acquired confidence in himself and his abilities to run Angel Investigations.
This self-assurance was a direct result of leading the victorious Palace cue in Pylea, and Cordelia couldn’t decide whether she liked her friend’s transformation or not. On the one hand, she was proud that he had managed to overcome his insecurities enough to settle properly into his role as leader of their little group, but on the other, she missed the clumsy, dorky Wesley too.
Needless to say, the ex-watcher’s newfound confidence did not extend as far as his personal life – his hesitancy with regard to his growing feelings for Fred was strongly reminiscent of his former self. Knowing that there was still some of the old Wesley left inside, made it a whole lot easier for the young seer to accept the subtle changes in her friend.
Cordelia shook her head, not quite sure why the ex-watcher’s personality makeover bothered her so much. Her wandering eyes finally landed on Angel though, and the underlying reason for her disquiet hit her with a lightening bolt of clarity.
The vampire and ex-watcher were the foundation stones of her surrogate family – they, along with Doyle, had been her lifesavers when she had first moved to LA, and she depended on them to be there for her. The recent upheaval that had taken place in their lives had stolen that security blanket away from her, however. Too much was changing, and the seer was petrified that she might have to navigate the emotional minefield of her visions, without her two closest friends by her side.
Cordelia frowned at Angel – the dark-haired vampire was lounging on the sofa, reading a book, his booted feet propped up on the low table in front of him. He looked like he didn’t have a care in the world, and she just didn’t understand how he could be so unaffected by everything that had happened to him in the past few months.
Angel had returned from his grief trip to Tibet, quite literally, a changed man, or more accurately, a changed vampire. In gratitude for ridding their monastery of its demon infestation, the monks had nullified the perfect happiness clause in Angel’s curse, granting him the precious gift of a permanent soul.
The seer understood his apathy about the event at the time – with Buffy dead, it must have seemed like too little, too late. It was a month since the Scooby Gang had brought the twice-deceased slayer back to life however; but, so far, the vampire’s only response had been to call up his ex to see how she was coping.
Buffy was supposed to be the love of his life, and yet Angel showed no visible sign of wanting to renew his relationship with her, an unexplainable state of affairs that puzzled Cordelia immensely. She was nervous to broach the issue with him though, worried that his reason for staying might be due to her and the mind splitting visions from the Powers That Be.
The seer knew that if that turned out to be the case, she would urge him to take this chance to be happy, even though, in truth, all she really wanted to do was to cling on to him like a limpet, and never ever let go. Therefore, fully expecting Angel to pack his bags and leave at some point, she held her peace on the subject, wanting to put off that inevitable occurrence for as long as possible.
As if sensing her eyes on him, the vampire looked up from his novel and flashed her a quick grin, his deep brown eyes sparkling with friendly affection. Her answering smile was weak and rather watery, and Angel’s broad brow furrowed with slight alarm, making the seer’s heart jump in anxiety.
Folding over the corner of the page to mark his place, the vampire rose to his feet and walked across the room towards her. Cordelia flustered a little as he approached, and – in a last-ditch attempt to evade the conversation she’d been trying to avoid for several weeks – desperately tried to come up with a plausible reason for her upset.
“Cordy…” Angel began, his deep voice laced with concern.
“Look Angel, I…” Cordelia quickly interrupted, and then stopped as she felt a familiar tightening between her eyes. Reaching up, she pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and her forefinger, just as the approaching vision hit with a vengeance.
Angel leapt forward with lightening speed, catching his seer as her flailing body toppled her chair over backwards. Wrapping one arm around her upper back, he shoved the offending piece of furniture to one side, and sank down to the floor with her. While her body jerked like a puppet on a string, he was powerless to do anything but cradle her within the circle of his arms, watching helplessly as the painful image flashes assailed her mind.
The seer’s screams of agony reverberated around the hotel lobby, bringing the rest of their friends running – Gunn dropped the sword he was polishing with a clatter; Fred rushed over, wringing her hands in agitated concern; and Wesley knocked over his stool in his haste to get to his stricken friend’s side.
Cordelia eventually calmed, but turned her face into the vampire’s chest and began to sob, clutching desperately at his shirt with one hand, still lost in the all-consuming agony of her vision.
Angel gathered her closer, and stroked his fingers through her silky hair, bending to murmur nonsensical words of comfort in her ear. “Ssh baby, it’s okay. It’s all over now.”
Fleetingly lifting his head, he focused his worried gaze on Fred, “Can you…?” the vampire left his question hanging, but the pretty brunette quickly cottoned on to what he meant.
“Pills!” she exclaimed, rising to her feet. “I’ll go and get them and a glass of water too. You think she’d like some ice? No, no, of course not – duh! – freezing cold, headaches, don’t mix.”
The young Texan scurried away, still muttering to herself, and Angel returned his attention to the weeping woman in his arms. He rubbed his hand soothingly up and down her back, and sighed in relief as she began to relax, the tremors assaulting her body gradually lessening in their intensity.
Although she was no longer dying from their effects, the pain Cordelia went through because of the visions never got any easier to watch. Hooking one arm under her shoulders, and the other under her knees, the troubled vampire rose to his feet and carried his precious cargo over to the couch, casting his mind back to a few weeks earlier…
Cordelia’s voice was weak and faint, and the vampire turned back towards the bed at the sound of it, “Yes?”
“I…” the seer swallowed and worried at her bottom lip with her teeth. She gazed apprehensively up at him, her liquid brown eyes swimming with unshed tears.
Angel perched on the mattress next to her hip, reached out a hand to tuck her dark hair behind her ear, and then gently cupped the side of her face in his palm. Stroking his thumb over her cheek, he was glad to find her skin smooth and unblemished; the horrific boils and burns, courtesy of Lilah Morgan, thankfully gone for good.
“Tell me,” he urged, his voice low and vibrating with deeply held affection.
“There’s something I should tell you,” she whispered brokenly. “I… the visions… I’m dying, Angel.”
“No,” the vampire shook his head, refusing to hear her heart-rending words. “I fixed it, baby. These latest visions, they were from Wolfram and Hart, not the Powers, that’s why they were so bad. I fixed it, I did.”
“No Angel, you didn’t, I’m so sorry. I’ve been to the hospital, had tests, there’s nothing that can be done. Every time I have a vision, more of my brain is damaged – one day I’ll lapse into a coma and I won’t ever wake up.”
“No!” Angel repeated, tears streaking unchecked down his pale cheeks. “Listen to me – we’ll find a way to fix it, we will. Wes will know what to do.”
The vampire barely heard her calling after him as he escaped into the living room. “Where’s Wes?” he demanded of Gunn, who was seated in an armchair, his crossbow resting across his knees.
“Umm – I think he and Fred went back to the Hotel. What’s up man?”
“Take care of her,” Angel curtly instructed, gesturing towards the bedroom as he grabbed his jacket and headed for the front door.
Fear ran like ice water through his veins as he took the stairs two at a time. He couldn’t lose her, he couldn’t; Cordy was everything – his confidante and his best friend. He loved her more than he ever thought possible, she completely owned his heart, he just hadn’t been aware of that truth until now…
Back in the present, Angel settled Cordelia on the couch, holding her hand in both of his as she gradually regained her senses after the disorientating effect of the vision.
Luckily, Wesley had found a way to fix it, locating a mystical healer who had been able to cure her. The strange man had cast an enchantment to repair the damage to the seer’s brain, and then made her drink a potion, which he claimed would give her life-long immunity to the vision’s harmful effects. So far, all subsequent tests had come back clear, and the hospital was currently investigating a possible malfunction of their MRI equipment.
The price had been high though – his shanshu – his life for hers. Angel had paid it without hesitation, Cordelia was more important, and it didn’t seem to matter now that his soul was permanent. The seer was not aware of what he had sacrificed for her however – Wesley was the only one privy to that information.
What’s more, the vampire still hadn’t found a way to confess his newly discovered feelings for her; the right opportunity just hadn’t presented itself. So much had happened since that night – first, there had been Buffy’s surprise resurrection, then Fred’s mini-breakdown to contend with, and now, to cap it all, his seer’s unexplainable avoidance of him had thrown another spanner in the works. To say Angel was getting seriously frustrated with the whole situation was a severe understatement.
“Thanks.” Cordelia’s soft voice brought the vampire back out of his reverie, and he returned his focus to the matter at hand.
“What did you see?” he asked softly, tenderly brushing several stray strands of her dark hair off her face.
Cordelia swallowed her painkiller with a big gulp of water from the glass that Fred had handed to her, and then closed her eyes, trying to gather her thoughts enough to answer Angel’s diffident question. “Umm, I’m not sure. It was at a swimming pool and it was as if the water was devouring people. You know like in ‘The Abyss.’ I don’t know for certain where the pool is, but I get the feeling it’s not too far away.”
She opened her eyes and looked at her friends apologetically. “Sorry guys, that’s all I’ve got.”
“Don’t worry,” Wesley said, patting her arm in reassurance. “We’ll start by checking to see if there have been any reports of unexplainable deaths at local swimming baths. If we don’t find anything, then we’ll check out all the pools within a ten mile radius of here – there can’t be that many to choose from.”
Cordelia nodded, and then started to get to her feet. “Okay, I’ll log on to…”
“You need to rest,” Angel said, catching her arm to prevent her from rising.
“Angel, I’m fine. Not waiting-for-my-head-to-explode girl any longer, remember?”
The vampire winced at his seer’s characteristically blunt assessment of her prior predicament. “You still need to rest,” he reiterated, his tone insistent.
“Geez! Mollycoddle much?”
“It only takes one person to look on the internet for information,” Wesley said, quickly interceding to derail the brewing battle of wills between his two friends. “I’m sure that Fred is more than capable of doing that.”
“I’m not an invalid, Wes.”
“I know,” the ex-watcher replied calmly. “But your visions are no walk in the park either. Besides, staring at a computer screen is hardly the best way to relieve a headache. Wouldn’t you like to take a few minutes to recuperate a little?”
Given the staccato drumbeat currently reverberated around her head, the seer would be lying if she answered in the negative. “All right,” she agreed sullenly.
“But I’m not going to lie down,” she added, throwing a defiant glance at the overly concerned vampire seated beside her.
Reluctantly desisting to the warning look Wesley threw in his direction; Angel kept his mouth shut and resisted the urge to forcibly insist that the obstinate young brunette took some bed-rest. He knew he overcompensated and cosseted her when a vision hit, but the sight of her pain just ate away at the burning sense of responsibility inside of him. Everything she’d been through, it was because of him, because he needed a link to the Powers At Be to fulfil his destiny and gain his hard-won redemption.
Satisfied that the potentially explosive situation had been defused, Wesley got to his feet. “Okay, let’s get to work,” he said, striding confidently across the Lobby towards his office.
Responding to his commanding tone and determined expression, Fred and Gunn immediately followed in his wake, abandoning their earlier recreational activities and switching effortlessly into research and destroy mode.
Cordelia tipped her head back against the sofa and closed her eyes with a deep sigh, trying to calm the turmoil in her brain and ignore the churning nausea in her stomach. Cool fingers stroked gently over her pale cheek, and she opened her eyes to look at their owner with a weary smile.
“I worry about you.” Angel’s voice was gruff with suppressed emotion, his deep brown eyes heavy with guilt.
“I know,” the seer replied softly, her earlier irritation with him vanishing in the face of his tender caring. “I’m okay though – it hurts like holy frickin’ hell, but it’s not like before. I can handle it.”
“You shouldn’t have to.”
“It’s a gift – a mind-splitting, frequently vomit-inducing gift – but a gift all the same. Helping the helpless, helping *you,* it gives my life purpose, real meaning. I lived a shallow existence for a long time, Angel; there is no way I would ever go back to that, not now.”
Angel curled his hand around her fingers and raised their joined hands to his mouth, brushing a whisper of a kiss across the backs of her knuckles. “You never cease to amaze me, Cordelia Chase,” he told her, his eyes holding hers captive as he spoke.
“Get some rest,” he added, releasing her hand and unfurling his tall, sinewy body from the sofa cushions.
Wide-eyed and confused, Cordelia watched the vampire walk away, her heart racing at the depth of emotion that she’d seen swirling in his chocolate brown orbs, her skin tingling from the touch of his soft lips against her flesh.
What did it mean? He couldn’t possibly be in love with her…
The heavy mahogany doors swung inwards on their sturdy brass hinges, permitting the entrance of two resolute men. Two men with an invisible thread of combined purpose between them, two men so familiar with the subtle nuances of each other’s work ethic, that they slotted together to form a seamless team.
“It was there, Wes – I could feel it,” Angel was saying to his friend. “Lurking, waiting for… something.”
Wesley nodded, trusting the vampire’s ability to sense the presence of another demon in the vicinity.
“I think we need to do some research into what kind of demon we might be facing, work up a MO, and a battle profile,” he decided. “And we ought to keep the pool under surveillance during opening hours. That means finding an excuse for being there without rousing suspicion.”
“Already on that, guys,” Cordelia chipped in from behind them, as the Angel Investigations team descended as one into the Hyperion Lobby.
A healthy glow had returned to the seer’s cheeks in the intervening hours since her vision. While her cure had not stopped the initial agony of her premonitions, it had mostly eliminated the ghastly after-effects. Consequently, as she circled round to stand in front of her friends, her hazel eyes were filled with the same purpose that imbued them, rather than the habitual dark, lingering pain of a vision headache.
“Ta-da!” she said, brandishing the piece of paper that she held in her hands, enormously pleased with herself for coming up with the solution to their stakeout problem.
Angel and Wesley exchanged a look of consternation, as they viewed the advertisement that Cordelia had discreetly pilfered from the pool’s notice board:
Wesley cleared his throat. “Err, Cordelia – I don’t think that any of us quite…” he trailed off and glanced over at Gunn.
“Hey, don’t look at me, buddy,” Gunn said, holding up his hands to ward off any suggestion that he take the assignment. “Have you seen what those guys have to wear? I ain’t squeezing my package into no tiny pair of Lycra Speedos. No frickin’ way, José!”
“Besides, I don’t swim,” he lied.
“Relax bubba – I didn’t mean you,” Cordelia said, rolling her eyes at the young man’s frantic attempts at avoidance. “I meant Angel.”
“What?! Me?” the vampire sputtered nervously, involuntarily taking a couple of steps backwards. “No, no way, I can’t.”
“You can swim, can’t ya?”
“Well yes, but…”
“And you’re big with the saving people, being all hero-y and all.”
“And you’ve *definitely* got that manly boob muscle thing going on – especially since you’ve been doing all that training. What’s with that anyway?” she asked curiously.
“You said I was fat,” Angel told his seer the truth without thinking, then shook his head. “It’s not going to work, Cordy.”
“There is the *slight* hitch that the pool area is wall-to-wall with glass windows,” Wesley helpfully pointed out.
“Oh,” Cordelia said – she’d not though of that. A beat and then, “We could tell them he’s photosensitive and get them to put up black drapes!”
The seer’s bright suggestion was greeted with a telling silence from her three male companions.
“Or maybe not,” she conceded.
“Come again?” Wesley asked, swinging round at the excited outburst from their newest recruit.
“Sorry – just thinking out aloud. You know what it’s like when you have all these thoughts whirling about inside your brain and suddenly one leaps out and says ‘hey, look at me’ cus you know it’s the solution to your problem and…”
“Oh right – I’m doing the babbling thing again, aren’t I?” the young Texan apologised, briefly pausing for a much-needed breath before continuing with her convoluted explanation. “Necro-tempered glass – it filters out the UVA rays of the sun. Apparently, those are the ones that make vampires go ‘poof.’ So if we…”
“Fit it into the windows at the pool, Angel won’t be turned into a big ole pile of dust,” Cordelia said, triumphantly finishing off the sentence for her.
“All right, so why haven’t I heard of it before?” Wesley asked.
“Probably because it’s new research – only published a week ago.”
“Show me,” he instructed, ushering the pretty brunette over to the computer, a guiding hand in the small of her back.
Fred sat down at the desk and quickly pulled up the relevant article, her dainty fingers flying over the keyboard in a blur of movement. Her eyes skimmed over the report again, stopping at the acknowledgements at the bottom. “Oh – I didn’t notice that before.”
“What?” Wesley asked, leaning over her shoulder to read what she was indicating. “Research funded by Wolfram and Hart.”
“Kind of figures,” Angel shrugged, unsurprised by the information.
“Yes, but it means we’ll struggle to get our hands on what we need. Wolfram and Hart probably own all the suppliers.”
“Ah well,” the vampire said in an offhand manner, more than a little relieved at the turn of events. “I guess we’ll just have to come up with another way of keeping an eye on things at the pool.”
“Umm,” Fred said diffidently, timidly raising her hand. “Why do we have to buy some? Couldn’t we just transmute the glass already there?”
“Transmu-whatta?” Gunn asked, mystified.
“Transmutation – to change the form or nature of something,” Wesley absently recited the English Dictionary definition of the word.
“Oh, you mean like that dude who turned everything to gold with his touch.”
“Midas? Sort of yes – the Greek God of Wine, Dionysus, enchanted him though. Other forms of transmutation are purported to be practised by white witches. They use it so they don’t have to search high and low for every ingredient for their spells – or so I’m told anyway.”
“Is Willow a white witch?” Cordelia asked.
“I imagine she qualifies, yes,” Wesley replied. “Would you happen to have a contact number for her?”
“It *happens* I might have,” the seer replied, playfully mimicking the ex-watcher’s rather stilted way of speech.
She fished in her bag for her address book, and then scribbled the relevant Sunnydale number down on a yellow post-it note for him.
“Thanks,” Wesley said, taking it from her. “Good work, Fred,” he commended the young woman, patting her lightly on the shoulder as he passed by her chair.
Fred lit up like a belisha beacon at the praise, a slow smile creeping across her pretty features and the apples of her cheeks flushing pink with bashful self-consciousness. She lifted her head to gaze appreciatively up at her boss, her brown eyes big and puppy-dog round. Wesley returned her shy smile with one of his own, and then turned and retreated into his office to call Willow.
Cordelia cast a sidelong glance at Gunn and caught him observing the little exchange with interest, a knowing look hovering over his handsome features. He caught her eye and winked, then turned to clap Angel on the shoulder, his face splitting into a wide impudent grin as he did so.
“Looks like you’re on stake-out duty, man. Rather you than me on this one, I can tell you.”
“I don’t see why you’re so anti,” Cordelia cut in. “Think of all those bikini-clad hotties you’d get to ogle.”
Now why did I mention that? Angel sure better keep his eyes to himself if he knows what’s good for him. I catch him eyeing up some skanky blonde and…
“Tempting, but no – I ain’t into publicly displaying my pecs for the ladies.” Gunn’s relaxed drawl interrupted the seer’s train of jealous thought. “Gotta maintain that man of mystery image, you know?”
“Oh, of course,” Cordelia replied, with a sardonic nod of her head and a glimmer of a smile.
She then turned and thrust the job advertisement out at Angel, “You’d better call and get yourself an interview.”
The vampire glanced at his watch, “It’s ten pm.”
“So – the pool only closed half an hour ago, I bet there’s still a manager around. Go on, it’ll make a great first impression.”
“Just don’t tell them you broke into the premises fifteen minutes ago,” Gunn put in with a grin. “I don’t think that’d go down so well with ya new boss.”
Grumbling to himself under his breath, Angel went over to the counter and dialled the number at the bottom of the piece of paper, his broad forehead creased into a distinctly sulky frown.
“Don’t think the vamp-man’s too happy about stepping into David Hasslehoff’s shorts.” Gunn commented wryly to Cordelia, tongue firmly placed in cheek.
“Too bad, he’ll just have to get over it,” the seer replied unsympathetically. “He’s the PTB’s chosen champion. Sometimes, that means going above and beyond the call of duty for the good of mankind.”
A few minutes later, Angel replaced the receiver in its cradle with a clatter, just as Wesley exited his office and rejoined them in the Lobby, a small note-pad clutched tightly in his right hand.
“I’ve got an interview at seven pm tomorrow,” the vampire announced.
“Good – that’ll give us just enough time to do some research and gather what we need for the transmutation spell.”
“It also leaves the pool and its patrons unprotected for another day,” Angel pointed out gravely.
“Actually, I think that might be all right,” Wesley said. “A couple of months ago, the media reported three drownings at that pool, each occurring exactly four days apart. There’s been nothing since then, but I imagine that’s because they started to cover it up. The regularity of the earlier killings does suggest a pattern though. You said you thought this thing was waiting for something?”
“Maybe it goes through a four-day feeding cycle,” the ex-watcher postulated, “Only attacking when it needs to nourish itself. Did you get any feeling as to when the last attack occurred?”
“Not too long ago,” the vampire replied. “You could still smell the fear and violence in the air.”
“So we’re probably okay for another day then.”
“It’s a slim theory, Wes.”
“I know, but there really isn’t anything else we can do right now. We just have to hope that I’m right.”
* * * * *
The Following Morning…
“Morning, big guy. Is that coffee I smell?”
“Yeah, I just put on a fresh pot,” Angel replied, looking up as his seer gracefully descended the stairs into the Lobby. “There are donuts as well – Fred went out to the bakery a couple of hours ago.”
While the vampire’s eyes avidly followed her every move, Cordelia poured herself some coffee and selected a sugary ring donut from the pink cardboard box on the counter. Like all his friends, the seer had stayed over at the Hyperion last night, but unlike the others, she had slept eight hours straight. Angel had noticed that she had a tendency to do that after a vision nowadays. At first, it had concerned him until Wesley pointed out that it was probably due to the mystical elixir she’d been given to eliminate the harmful effects of her visions.
“The human body rejuvenates itself during sleep, Angel,” the ex-watcher had explained to the worried vampire. “I imagine the potion keeps her in a state of slumber while it repairs her damaged brain cells.”
“So, where is everyone?” Cordelia asked, crossing the room towards him, mug of coffee and donut in hand.
“They went out to get supplies for the transmutation spell, I think.”
The seer sat down on the circular sofa opposite him, and folded her legs up underneath her. “You know, you *have* to be the most sun-worshipping vamp ever!” she commented.
“I mean, what with the Gem of Amarra, that Moaning demon turning you human once, Pylea and now this – you’re Baywatch Vamp.”
“Moira Demon,” the vampire corrected absently. “I guess I am at that,” he added with a soft smile.
“Well – yeah! Maybe we can do the transmutant thingy on the windows here at the Hotel, then you can…”
“For the same reason, I smashed the Gem of Amarra. I don’t want to forget who I was, the motivation for my mission. If I could walk in the daylight, I might start to overlook the innocents who are lost in the night.”
“Is that why you’ve not…,” Cordelia stopped and looked down at her hands, taking a deep breath and preparing herself to broach the subject she dreaded. “Why you’ve not gone back to Buffy now your soul’s permanent? You’re afraid that being free to love her could tempt you into abandoning your fight for redemption.”
“No, Cordy, I…”
“Cus that’s kind of dumb, you know,” she rushed on, not giving him the chance to speak. “You’re just not the kind of guy who jumps ship like that. And if this is because of me, because you feel a duty to remain by my side cus of the visions…”
“It’s not a duty, Cor.”
“Whatever,” the seer brushed that off with an airy wave of her hand. “I would come with you, you know – to Sunnydale, that is.”
“You’d hate that.”
“Maybe, but I’d still do it – for the mission; for you – if being with her made you happy. At the end of the day, the helpless are not just confined to the streets of LA; they exist wherever in the world you go.”
“Cordy – listen to me.” Angel sat up straighter and reached forward to take her hands in his. “There’s nowhere else I want to…”
“You’re really kind of pale, you know.”
“What?” the vampire snapped sharply, irritated at yet another interruption.
Cordelia was intently studying their joined hands, comparing their contrasting skin tones, a troubled look on her beautiful face.
“A lifeguard is supposed to be Mr Bronzed-And-Supremely-Muscular. You’ve got the supremely muscular part down, but the bronzed part…” she trailed off and shook her head in dismay. “You’re never gonna pull it off.”
“Not much I can do about that – the pallid complexion kind of goes with the territory, what with the whole going out in the sun and bursting into flames thing. And it’s not as if I can buy a tan in bottle, now is it?”
Cordelia’s face lit up so brightly when the idea struck her, that Angel could almost see the light bulb in captions above her head. “That’s it!”
“A tan in a bottle!”
The seer excitedly set her breakfast aside, and then scrambled to her feet. Crossing to stand in front of the bemused vampire, she placed her sandaled foot on his muscular thigh and pulled back her cotton skirt, exposing the entire length of her long, slim leg to his perusal.
“Look – See?” she said, pointing at her inner thigh with her forefinger.
Angel’s bodily response to the sight of all that golden flesh on display was instantaneous, and he swiftly dropped both hands into his lap to cover his groin’s rather visible reaction. Swallowing hard and clearing his throat, he blinked owlishly, unable to drag his eyes away from the small mole decorating the dimple on the inside of her knee. “Err – see what?”
“My skin – the colour, you dumbass!”
“Sun-kissed honey,” Angel murmured abstractedly, his tone rich and thick like molasses. Absently lifting his hand, he lightly twirled the pad of his forefinger over the soft skin of her inner thigh.
Cordelia let out a small gasp as the vampire’s cool touch raised goose bumps on her flesh. Her cheeks flushing with embarrassment, she abruptly removed her foot from his thigh and smoothed her skirt down, forcibly tamping down the hot, clenching arousal that had unexpectedly been stirred within her.
“Exactly,” she said, once she’d regained her composure. “And when do you think this skin gets time to be kissed? Never – brain churning visions, ugly ass demon attacks, not to mention unseemly working hours – all that doesn’t give a girl much time for the finer things in life.”
“It’s fake. Shelley’s tanning salon down the street is the best around. Lorne pointed me in her direction ages ago. She works a little bit of magic mojo after the conventional St Tropez treatment, and it’s well nigh impossible to tell the difference from the real thing.”
“St Tropez treatment?”
“It’s a cream – it causes the same reaction in your skin that being exposed to the sun does, just without having to sit out in all those cancer-inducing rays for hours. All the stars are having it done nowadays. It’s voila – instant tan.”
Cordelia paused and reached out her hand towards him. “Let’s go.”
“To Shelley’s, dork-face. You need to get a patch test done. We have to make sure that you won’t burn to a crisp before you go for the full-body treatment.”
“Full body what?!”
“Come on, get yer butt moving,” the seer ordered in a peremptory tone, completely ignoring the vampire’s scandalized protest.
Against his better judgment, Angel stood up and reluctantly offered Cordelia his car-keys, reaching for the thick woollen blanket draped over the sofa back. Eagerly snatching the keys from him, the seer twirled round with a barely suppressed squeal of delight, and practically skipped towards the Hyperion’s front entrance.
“This is going to be so cool!”
Muttering darkly to himself, the vampire wrapped the large blanket around his shoulders and head to protect himself from the sun’s rays, and then grudgingly followed the inappropriately enthusiastic young woman out to the car.
Waltzing into the salon as if she owned the place, Cordelia confidently strode up to the front desk and explained the reason for their visit. Nodding obligingly, the cool as a cucumber receptionist immediately ushered Angel through to the treatment area out back.
As he reluctantly trailed along at the young woman’s heels, the vampire turned to shoot a beseeching look back at his seer, feeling like a little boy lost in a department store. Wholly indifferent to his plight though, Cordelia just waggled her fingers at him in farewell, her hazel eyes sparkling with silent laughter.
“If you’d like to hop up on the bed, Mr Angel, Shelley will be along in a few moments.” With that bright and breezy instruction, the impossibly manicured female drew the pale blue curtains closed with a smooth swish, and left the jittery vampire to his own devices.
How the hell did I get myself into this? Angel thought to himself, as he sat down on the treatment table and took in his confined surroundings.
The lighting in the small cubicle was subdued, but that didn’t make the place seem any less sterile and uninviting. A glass-fronted cupboard stood against one wall, with row upon tow of beauty products stashed inside, and several neat piles of towels stowed on top. Next to the bed, was a trolley on wheels, which held a trio of white plastic bottles, several pairs of surgical gloves, and – intriguingly – what appeared to be some kind of baseball mitt.
Pushed away in the far corner was some sort of torture device – at least that’s what it looked like to the vampire. The scary-looking machine had several dials on the front, and a metallic probe on the end of a piece of coiled flex, attached to the side. Angel did not even want to *think* about what it was used for; whatever it was, it didn’t look very pleasant, that was for sure.
His vampiric senses tingled then, informing him of another presence in the room, and he whipped his head round to confront the interloper. A small woman, in her mid thirties, stood at the end of the bed, watching him with an amused glint in her eye.
She was dressed in a pastel blue, calf-length dress, its wraparound style obviously chosen to emphasise her curvaceous figure to its maximum effect. Her hair was a deep burnished red and coiled up into a loose topknot, with a few wispy strands left free to frame her strikingly beautiful face. Her large almond-shaped eyes were deep violet in colour, a shade that Angel had never seen in a human before.
“Hello – I’m Shelley. You must be Mr Angel,” she introduced herself in a rich, contralto voice, holding out her right hand towards him in greeting.
Angel shook her hand, noting that she had long elegant fingers, despite her short stature, while her slim wrists looked as if they would normally be adorned with a collection on thin, decorative bangles. Sniffing cautiously, he tried to ascertain if she was human or not, but the results proved inconclusive. Beneath the light floral perfume she wore, the beautician smelt mostly homo sapien, but there was an underlying, unearthly aroma there, the origin of which the vampire couldn’t quite place.
Shelley’s generously proportioned lips curled up into a quirky half-smile, and Angel got the distinct impression that she had read his actions like an open book. This opinion was further compounded when her laser-sharp eyes made a slow and deliberate pass over every inch of his muscular body, an unspoken challenge shining in her indigo orbs as she gave him a thorough once over.
“So – you’re here for a self-tan patch test, correct?” she enquired politely, when her calm, unruffled gaze eventually settled back on his face.
“Umm – yeah, I guess I am.”
“Okay then, Mr Angel – if you’d just like to take off your jacket and shirt, we’ll get started.”
* * * * *
Cordelia absently flipped over the page of the magazine, not really reading it, her thoughts elsewhere. At first, it had seemed funny to abandon the, obviously petrified, Angel to his fate, but then a twisted knot of anxiety had begun to develop in the pit of her stomach.
What if the St Tropez treatment resulted in spontaneous combustion, and he vamped out and went all growly in the middle of the salon? She’d never be able to show her face in here again!
When the horrifying reality of that sank in, the seer bolted out of her seat, knocking her copy of Cosmo to the floor and moving quickly in the direction of the treatment cubicles.
“Excuse me, Miss Chase? You can’t go back there…” the receptionist called after her.
“Pfft!” Cordelia threw back over her shoulder, dismissing the woman’s objections with a curt wave of her hand as she went through into the back.
In her blind haste to get to Angel, before he got her barred from the salon, she pulled back the curtain of the first occupied treatment area, not fully considering the consequences.
“Hey! What the hell?”
The indignant objection came from the woman on the bed, who lay, legs akimbo, obviously in the process of having her bikini line waxed.
“Sorry, I was just… Wow! Is that a Brazilian? Doesn’t that hurt like holy hell, and then itch to high heaven afterwards?”
“My boyfriend likes it,” the young woman said defensively, before her blue eyes narrowed frostily when she realised that she’d been tricked into engaging in conversation with this bold as brass intruder.
“Okaay… I think I’ll be going now,” Cordelia said, hurriedly backing out of the cubicle and away from the artic death-stare aimed in her direction.
Tugging the curtain closed, the seer shut her eyes and concentrated her senses on locating Angel’s powerful presence in the vicinity.
She didn’t know when, or where, she’d learned how to do this, it just sort of happened. A consequence of being his seer, perhaps? She wasn’t really sure. Not that it mattered – it meant that the vampire could no longer sneak up on her unawares; she always knew his whereabouts when he was close by.
Quickly pinpointing him in the far cubicle on the right, Cordelia opened her eyes and strode down the corridor, quietly slipping into the treatment room, unannounced.
“Cordy!” Angel exclaimed, relief flooding through him as he took in her familiar and soothing countenance.
The vampire sat on the treatment bed, his pale muscular torso exposed from the waist upwards, and the seer’s warm hazel eyes turned to stone-cold flint as she absorbed the scene before her.
Okay, so exactly why does he need to be half-naked for a patch test? she thought to herself, swiftly moving to hover jealously over her man.
She glared at an unrepentant Shelley, who shrugged her shoulders as if to say ‘Hey girl! You can hardly blame me.’
Curiously, the fact that the beautician was completely unapologetic about her actions caused Cordelia to relax her protective stance. She couldn’t say for sure how she knew, but it seemed that Shelley had a look, but don’t touch, policy with regard to her clients.
Given that Angel was the pure definition of the word ‘hottie,’ she couldn’t really condemn the woman for checking out his, not so inconsiderable, attributes. After all, she’d been known to do her fair share of surreptitious ogling of his sculptured form herself. Patching up various minor injuries over the years had often called for the unnecessary removal of the souled vampire’s shirt, for instance.
Shelley’s eyebrows rose imperceptibly, and Cordelia blushed, almost certain that the other woman had sensed the shameful direction that her thoughts were taking. She quickly turned her attention to Angel to cover up her embarrassment, but found that she was unable to stop herself from admiring the planes of muscle that etched out the smooth contours of his toned back.
The vampire, meanwhile, was utterly oblivious to the silent exchange between his seer and the attractive beautician. Although, now that his soul was permanent, he had begun to release the restraints on his inner sensuality, the years of self-enforced celibacy had dulled the vampire’s senses towards the subtle come-on signals from the opposite sex. He was as clueless as ever with regard to his effect on the majority of women.
He did react when he felt the warm caress of gentle fingers, tracing the outline of the tattoo on his shoulder blade though. Turning his dark, mesmerising gaze on his seer, he was suddenly very aware of her presence beside him.
With a sharp intake of breath, Cordelia snatched her hand back, the pink tinge already colouring her cheeks, intensifying to a deep rosy red on being caught with her fingers in the honey-pot.
Angel silently exulted; the barriers between them were slowly coming down, and he couldn’t have been happier. He wanted this amazing woman in his home, his heart, his bed, and everywhere else in between, and it felt good that he had the power to get under her skin in this way. He had not missed Cordelia’s earlier reaction to his touch back at the Hotel, and this was just further evidence that she wasn’t adverse to the idea of being with him.
Shelley loudly cleared her throat to disperse the thick cloud of sexual tension that had descended over the pair. Snapping on a pair of gloves, she squeezed a globule of dark brown cream onto a small circular sponge, and approached the bed.
“Shall we get this done?” she asked, her violet eyes questioning.
Angel swallowed hard, and nodded in agreement, reluctantly giving his permission for her to proceed. The short redheaded woman bent over and reached out to dab at the pale skin of his torso with the sponge, but stopped when he involuntarily cringed back from her.
“You can relax,” she said, her rich, smoky voice filled with amusement. “A few vampires have had allergic reactions, but I’ve never known one to burst into flames.”
“What? How did you…?” Cordelia stopped mid-sentence and stared at Shelley, open-mouthed.
“Krevlorneswath of the Deathwok Clan recommended my salon to you, did he not?”
“Yeah, but… that green colour doesn’t come from a bottle, does it?”
Shelley laughed, “No – that’s all natural. Considering who you are, you can’t be oblivious to the extra service I provide here though, Miss Chase.”
“You mean the new age chant that’s really a spell? No, it doesn’t fool me. It works wonders, I might add.”
“That’s why my salon has the reputation for being the best around.”
“You really treat vampires?”
“Yes, there are several on my regular client list.”
“But how do you stop them from – like – eating you?”
Shelley muttered something under her breath, and held out her hand, claw-like, towards Angel. The vampire jumped as a zap of electricity ricocheted through his veins, temporarily paralysing him for a second. He growled, his forehead rippling as the hard ridges and glowing yellow eyes of his demon emerged.
“Vampires find the sensation extremely unpleasant for some reason,” Shelley explained. “It doesn’t hold them for long, but I have this,” she pulled a wooden stake from the treatment trolley, “For the more troublesome ones. The majority are well behaved, however. This is LA – everyone wants to look good, even the un-dead.”
“So, you know who I am?” Angel asked the beautician.
“You’re reputation proceeds you, Mr Angel.”
“It’s just Angel.”
Shelley nodded and raised the sponge that she still held in her fingers. Angel inclined his head, and she began to paint a square patch of his skin with the brown lotion.
“Miss Chase here likes to talk – a lot,” she continued conversationally. “And you’re her favourite topic of discussion. I have to say her ways of trying to conceal the fact that you’re a vampire are *very* inventive.”
“You could have just told me you knew,” Cordelia reproved, her bottom lip jutting out into a slight pout.
“Ahh – but where would be the fun in that?” Shelley said with a smile.
She stepped back and threw the used sponge away. “Okay – just give that a few minutes to dry and then you can put your shirt back on. If there’s no reaction in half an hour, you’re good to go.”
“Do you think he could get an appointment this morning?” Cordelia queried.
“Well, I’m all booked up, but I’m sure one of my colleagues is free. I don’t remember there being a full appointment schedule today. Ask Heather on reception – she’ll sort something out for you,” Shelley answered, as she tugged off her soiled gloves and tossed them into the bin.
“Nice to meet you, Angel,” she added, bidding him farewell with a congenial nod of her head. “Miss Chase – I’ll see you next week for your regular appointment.”
Forty-five minutes later, Angel and Cordelia sat in reception, away from the windows, waiting patiently for an appointment at 10am. At least, the seer was waiting patiently, happily engrossed in the latest copy of Cosmo. The vampire, however, was bored silly and growing increasingly restless. Looking around for something to do, he strode over to the counter and grabbed a handful of advertising literature to peruse.
He let out a deep put-upon sigh as he sat back down next to Cordelia, but she purposely ignored him and continued reading. Angel sifted through the glossy leaflets and absently flipped open the salon’s price-list, skimming his eyes down over the range of treatments and their respective fees.
“How much?” he choked back a startled exclamation, causing his seer to look up from her magazine article. “Have you seen what a St. Tropez treatment costs?” he asked her.
“If you want the best, you have to pay premium rate prices,” Cordelia told him primly.
“Shelley said you had a regular appointment – how do you afford that?”
“I put it on the company credit card.”
“And Wesley agrees to this?”
“Not exactly,” the seer admitted sheepishly, her eyes downcast. “He doesn’t know Shelley’s a beauty salon – I told him it was a stationary supplier.”
“Hey – you fell for it too, buddy. Besides, it’s a legitimate business expense. It’s your fault; I can’t go out in the sun.”
Angel would have taken that to heart if she hadn’t kept her tone of voice deliberately light and teasing. “That’s a low blow,” he informed her.
“I know,” Cordelia said, gracing him with her wide beautiful smile. “True though,” she added.
Angel frowned, everything in him baulking at paying out that kind of money for someone to rub cream into his skin. “Can’t I just buy the stuff and do it myself?” he asked plaintively.
The seer turned her head to look steadily at him, disapproval written all over her beautiful face. The vampire stared back at her, completely unfazed by her icy stare. It was just cream – how complicated could it be for god’s sake?
Seeing he wasn’t going to back down, Cordelia rose to her feet with a loud huff and a disdainful toss of her head, and made her way over to the reception desk.
“I’m really sorry,” she told the young woman behind the counter. “But I think we’re going to have to cancel that appointment.”
Cordelia leaned forward conspiratorially. “He’s kind of shy around women,” she said in a low voice. “He’s gonna need a bit more persuasion to go through with it.”
“Oh, I see,” Heather said, with an understanding nod of her head. “We do have a qualified male beautician, you know. I think Andre is free in an hour if your friend would be more comfortable with him performing the procedure?”
Cordelia was sorely tempted, but wisely decided against it, remembering the vampire’s swift backtrack when she suggested that he would have to shower with a load of men if he joined a gym. “Thanks, but we’ll leave it for now. I don’t want to push it – I think a subtle campaign of feminine persuasion is the best way to go.”
“Works every time,” Heather agreed, with a sly wink. “Men are so gullible.”
“Not to mention extremely tight with a buck,” Cordelia muttered under her breath as she strode back across the room towards a completely unremorseful Angel.
* * * * *
Gunn looked up from his Game-boy as the Lobby doors crashed open, and Cordelia and a blanket-wrapped Angel came through. “Hey guys! We were wondering where you two had got to – whatcha been up to?”
In answer, Cordelia dumped a non-descript brown paper bag down in front of him, while Angel tossed aside his, slightly smoking, blanket and sat down on the sofa opposite.
His curiosity piqued, Gunn emptied out the contents of the shopping bag onto the low table. “Kinky,” he remarked as he picked up and set aside a box of surgical gloves.
Turning over one of the bottles, he laughed out loud. “Self-tan – got to look the part, huh? Cool! This your idea, Barbie girl?”
“Oh no!” Cordelia said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “*My* idea was for him to get it done professionally at a salon, but no, Mr I’m-not-cheap-I’m-just-old decided he could do it himself.”
Ignoring his seer’s pointed jibe, Angel picked up one of the other two bottles. “What’s an exfoliant?” he asked, his broad brow creased in puzzlement.
“You see what I mean?” Cordelia exclaimed in exasperation, throwing her hands up in despair at the vampire’s naivety.
“It’s a beauty product that removes the top layer of dead skin cells,” Wesley said automatically, and then shook his head. “And I don’t even want to know how I know that.”
“Me neither, English,” Gunn replied, as he studied the bottle of self-tan lotion in his hands.
“Given what those life-guards have to wear, you gonna have to rub this in some interesting places,” he remarked to Angel with a wicked grin.
“Mmm,” the vampire absently agreed, and then it finally occurred to him. “I’m going to need some help,” he said, lifting his eyes to look directly at the young black man, sitting across from him.
Their gaze held for a brief instant, and then speedily shifted in opposite directions, both of them fidgeting uncomfortably in their seats.
“Well,” Gunn said, rising purposely to his feet. “I promised my old crew, I’d check in on them to see how they’re doing after the debacle at Caritas. I’ll see you guys later.”
With that, the former street-kid turned on his heel and made a fast exit.
“And I should *really* be getting back to my research,” Wesley put in, scrambling quickly to his feet. “Coming Fred?” he asked, hooking his hand under the pretty brunette’s elbow and practically dragging her from the room.
Cordelia’s head swivelled from one swinging door to the other, and then she rolled her eyes in derision.
“Men! They’re all the same,” she snorted, gathering up the self-tan supplies in her arms. “I should have made you that appointment with Andre; it would have served you right.”
Angel stared at her blankly and she clucked her tongue. “Come on then – I see that I’m going to have to be the one who helps you with this. If you go to that interview with tiger stripes, you’ll never live it down.”
The seer turned towards the staircase, fully expecting him to follow her, but Angel remained where he was, thinking about the decision he had made in the car on the way back to the Hyperion. He had come to the conclusion that it was finally time to move their relationship onto the next level, and had therefore been planning to bite the bullet and confess his feelings. This unexpected turn of events had him reconsidering that course of action, however.
Watching as Cordelia climbed the Lobby steps, he gazed appreciably at the gentle sway of her curvy backside beneath the thin cotton skirt that she wore, his mind working overtime. The seer had been extremely flustered both times the boundaries of friendship had been stretched today, and he simply couldn’t resist this golden opportunity to tease her some more.
Cordelia turned to look down on the still stationary vampire. “Are we going to do this, or not?” she demanded wilfully.
Angel’s mouth curled up in a slow, sexy smile at her question. He pushed himself upright and was by her side in a blink of an eye. Placing one hand on her hipbone, his cool fingers brushed the silky strands of her hair away from her neck, before he bent to speak softly in her ear.
“Oh yes – I think we are,” he murmured, his gravelly voice low and seductive, despite the relative innocence of his words.
Cordelia Elizabeth Chase was suddenly a whole lot less sure of herself…
Leaning casually against the mahogany dresser, his arms folded across his chest, Angel watched in amused silence as Cordelia moved purposely about the room, arranging the furniture to her liking. After neatly lining up the self-tan supplies on the cabinet, she stripped the sheets and comforter from the bed, and spread several large bath-towels over the bare mattress, smoothing out the wrinkles with the flats of her hands.
Tucking her hair behind her ears, the seer paused to survey the makeshift treatment table that she’d created, her teeth worrying at her lower lip. Her heart was thudding at a rapid rate inside her chest, a detail that betrayed her lack of internal composure to the vampire, who delighted at having successfully knocked her off balance.
Sucking in a deep calming breath, Cordelia eventually plucked up the courage to turn around and face him, but kept her eyes downcast, refusing to look him directly in the eye.
“Umm – everything’s ready,” she told him, powerless to conceal the uneasy tremor in her voice.
“Okay,” Angel replied, matter-of-factly. “Guess it’s time for me to get naked then.”
Her expression aghast, Cordelia snapped horrified eyes up to his face, her voice coming out in a high-pitched squeak. Cringing in mortification, she tried to cover up her over-the-top reaction by offering some sort of vague explanation for it.
“I mean – that’s not necessary. You can keep your boxers on, at least to start with anyway, and then we can use a towel to cover… that area,” she said, gesturing at his groin with an embarrassed wave of her hand, a ruby-red flush staining her cheeks.
Trying not to laugh, Angel schooled his features into a solemn expression, resisting the urge to crow with masculine delight. His seer was adorable when she was all flustered. It sure made a refreshing change from the aura of self-assurance that she usually radiated in his presence – although he had to admit that that side of her nature attracted him also.
“Okay – you’re the boss,” he agreed, shrugging his leather coat off his shoulders and hanging it up on the hook on the back of the door.
He toed off his boots and socks, then turned back towards her and began to unfasten his shirt with deliberate slowness, unhurriedly slipping the tiny buttons from their holes, his big fingers surprisingly dextrous.
Unable to tear her eyes off him, Cordelia stood transfixed as the muscular flesh of his chest and abdomen was systematically exposed to her appreciative gaze.
Oh yeah – I’ve still got what it takes to make ‘em weak at the knees, Angel thought jubilantly, a rush of Liam and Angelus pushing to the fore-front of his consciousness as he watched her pupils dilate to black, until they virtually obliterated the caramel hue of her iris’s.
Finally dispensing with his shirt, the vampire laid it over the back of a chair and dropped his hands to the waistband of his pants. Then, with the same teasing slowness with which he had removed his shirt, he unbuckled his belt and pulled the strip of leather through its fabric loops.
It was the harsh sound of his zipper being lowered that finally broke through Cordelia’s spellbound stupor though. She suddenly realised that her mesmerised eyes had unconsciously followed the downward movement of his hands to his crotch, and spun around with a shocked gasp, refusing to look at him as he finished disrobing.
Once he was clad in just his navy-blue underwear, Angel crossed the room to stand, barefoot, by the bed.
“So, where do you want me?” he asked of his seer’s rigidly turned back, fully aware of the double entendre in his chosen words.
“Just sit on the edge of the mattress,” she shot back in a sharp tone, her nervousness making her irritable.
Angel obediently sat down, and Cordelia blew out a breath through pursed lips, attempting to quell the butterflies that fluttered about in her stomach at the mere thought of running her hands over all that exposed male flesh. She eventually pulled herself together and climbed up onto the bed, the bottle of self-tan lotion clutched tightly in her hand.
Angel felt the warmth from the seer’s body-heat spreading across the uncovered expanse of his back as she moved to kneel behind him. He heard the pop of a bottle opening, and then experienced a scratchy sensation against his back as she liberally applied a gritty substance to his skin, working it into his flesh with the tips of her fingers.
“Why is this necessary?” he asked, curious as to the reason for the exfoliation process.
“It stops the tan from streaking,” Cordelia explained, relieved that the conversation had moved onto safer ground.
Frowning in concentration, she focused on what she was doing, trying not to think of the vampire’s state of undress as she moved her fingers in concentric circles, rubbing the bright blue concoction over the broad extent of his shoulders and back.
“Here,” she said, reaching over his shoulder and handing him the bottle when she’d finished. “Do your arms, legs and front, then take a shower and wash it off.”
“You’re not going to help me?”
Cordelia shifted backwards off the bed and stood up. “I think you can manage by yourself.”
She turned to pick up another white plastic bottle from the cabinet, and tossed it to him as he rose to his feet. Angel easily caught it in his free hand. “What’s this for?”
“Moisturiser,” came the reply. “Apply it to the rougher areas of your skin when you’ve dried off.”
The seer rolled her eyes in exasperation at his mystified question. “You know – your knees, elbows, the backs of your heels. Geez! Do I have to explain everything? You’d think someone who uses the amount of hair product that you do would have more of a clue.”
Angel finally retreated into the bathroom, closing the door behind him, and Cordelia went to wash her hands in the hotel suite’s small kitchenette.
“Come on Cor, get a grip,” she murmured to herself as she rinsed her shaking fingers under the warm running water. “You can do this. I mean, rubbing self-tan lotion over practically every inch of that gorgeous bod will be a cinch, right?”
The irony of that statement was not lost on the jumpy young woman – Angel obviously intended to make this experience as humiliating as possible, and she cursed her defencelessness against his subtle teasing. When he threw that cocky, self-confident and, intrinsically male, attitude at her, she just melted into a seer-sized puddle at his feet. It was akin to the no-nonsense, take-charge mindset that came over him when he had a demon to vanquish, and that never failed to get her hot under the collar either.
The nature of their relationship was inexplicably changing, which both confused and excited her in equal measure. While Cordelia had acknowledged her undeniable attraction to Angel a while ago, she had never dared dream that anything could ever come of it. For starters, there was his curse – which admittedly wasn’t an issue anymore – but the main obstacle had always been Buffy Summers, slayer extraordinaire and one true love of the brooding vamp with a soul, anyway.
The seer wasn’t blind to the effect that she had on the majority of the male population, and therefore accepted that it was possible for Angel to feel sexual desire for her. She just couldn’t see how he could possibly love her like she wanted him to though. Buffy was everything he ever wanted, whereas she would always be second best, a substitute.
No, it was best to keep things on a platonic footing and lock away her secret yearning deep inside her heart. Angel wouldn’t push the issue if she made it clear that she couldn’t accept casual from him. He cared about her too much to treat her in that way, she felt sure of that. She could claim the title of ‘best friend and confidante’ at least. That was something, wasn’t it?
The bathroom door creaked open then, interrupting the jumbled flow of Cordelia’s muddled thoughts. Swinging around, she swallowed hard when she saw Angel emerge from the on-suite, his mid-section wrapped in what had to be the smallest towel on the face of the planet. The white fabric just about covered the firm globes of his ass, but barely concealed the rest of his manly assets from her gaze as he strode confidently across the room towards her.
Oh God! Why is he doing this to me? she silently wailed as her, already rapid, heart rate went through the roof.
Seeing the look of panic that flitted across her features, Angel almost took pity on her – except that he was having far too much fun. It wasn’t often that he got the upper hand with his beautiful seer, and he was determined to make the most of it. The vampire was surprising himself with the ease in which he was stirring up the sexual tension between the two of them, although, deep down, he knew he probably shouldn’t be.
Contrary to popular opinion, sensual mind games were not an exclusive by-product of his soulless self; it was simply that the lack of a soul had turned a once pleasant pastime into something cruel and maliciously twisted. The talent was inborn, but, for obvious reasons, Angel had subjugated it over the years. However, as there was no motive for him to do that anymore, that part of his personality was gradually reasserting itself – much to his immense enjoyment and Cordelia’s noticeable chagrin.
“Front or back first?” he asked, totally ignoring the seer’s unmistakable discomfort.
“Front… I mean, lie on your front,” she hurriedly clarified before the annoyingly self-possessed vampire took her literally.
Suppressing a grin, Angel did as instructed, resting his forehead against the mattress and folding his arms in a diamond shape above his head.
Okay, you can do this, Cordelia silently coached herself as she snapped on a pair of surgical gloves to protect her hands from the tanning mixture. Just don’t think about what’s under that towel whatever you do. Think unpleasant thoughts – putting out the garbage, cleaning up demon entrails, you know the kind of thing.
Placing first one knee, and then the other, on the bed, she gingerly knelt alongside Angel’s prone form, her movements causing the mattress to dip slightly. Squeezing a dollop of the dark brown lotion into her cupped palm, she set the bottle aside and started to apply it across the breadth of his shoulders and neck.
She then smoothed the cream down the sides of his body to where his flesh met the edge of the towel that was secured snugly around his hips. Moving her hands in long, broad strokes over the vampire’s pale skin, the seer focussed her efforts on getting an even coverage, taking care not to miss any spots.
Angel closed his eyes, hidden tension draining unbidden from his body under the powerful sway of Cordelia’s gentle ministrations. The warmth from her palms seeped into his skin and acted as a muscle relaxant, helping him unwind. The fact that the skilfully massaging hands belonged to the woman he had grown to love, only heightened the experience for him. It was utter heaven, and all thoughts of having fun at her expense fled from his mind as he submitted to her touch. This level of human contact had been missing from his life for such a long time and he revelled in the pleasure of it.
As she ran her hands down the concave curve of his spine and over the ropy tendons in his back, Cordelia couldn’t help notice that everything about Angel’s body was firm and toned. The recent frenzy of training had clearly paid off – there wasn’t an ounce of extra flab on him anywhere, any added bulk being pure, solid muscle. Despite this, he was still perfectly proportioned and not over-developed like those body-builder types. They did nothing for her sexually, whereas the vampire’s muscular form….
Okay – stop that! she mentally chastised herself, trying to clear the inappropriate thoughts swirling around inside her head.
She shifted position and turned around to work on the backs of his legs, squeezing out some more of the self-tan lotion as she did so. After she’d finished smearing a coat of the thick brown mixture over his calves and upper thighs, Cordelia hesitated for a second before bravely venturing into significantly more dangerous territory. Tentatively raising the towel, she pulled it back to expose the crease where his ass met the tops of his thighs.
“Umm – could you open your legs a bit?” she asked tremulously, glad that he couldn’t see her beet-red face in their current positions.
Angel obliged readily enough, but tensed when her fingers traced a path that skimmed the edge of his buttocks. Her touch was starting to invoke a different kind of pleasure now, one that wasn’t quite so relaxing.
When her deliciously warm hands unexpectedly slipped down between his thighs, Angel had to bite his lip to stifle the strangled groan that threatened to escape. While the swift response of his lower body was proof positive that he was extremely aware that her fingers had lightly brushed the backs of his balls, he didn’t think that the seer was cognisant of the fact at all.
As the vampire had correctly deduced, Cordelia was indeed oblivious to his predicament. Glad that the first part of the ordeal was over, she let go of the breath that she’d been holding and stood up, tugging off her soiled gloves and throwing them in the bin.
“Don’t move!” she warned sharply when Angel shifted on the bed, desperately willing his thrumming body to calm down. “You have to leave it to dry first, or it’ll go all streaky.”
Once he had alleviated the pressure off his aching groin somewhat, the vampire duly complied with her instructions, but, on hearing the clanking of pots and pans from the far side of the room, he lifted his head again, curious as to what she was doing.
Cordelia was standing on her tiptoes, rummaging through the kitchen cupboards, obviously searching for something. She finally found what she was looking for and came back towards him, carrying a medium-sized cappuccino cup in her hands.
“What’s that for?” he asked, decidedly puzzled.
Cordelia blushed from the rounded neckline of her t-shirt, right up to the roots of her hair before answering his question.
“Those Speedos are cut quite high at the front, so… err… the towel is – umm – going to be too bulky. So, I thought…” the seer broke off her stuttering explanation and upended the cup she was holding to illustrate her point.
I suppose I should be grateful, she didn’t pick a teacup, Angel thought, highly insulted at her choice of cover up object. Before he could voice his objections though, something occurred to him.
“Cordelia – have you ever seen a naked, fully-grown man before?”
“That’s non of your business,” she retorted hotly.
The vampire shrugged. “Okay – have it your way, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
The seer looked down at her feet and shifted uncomfortably, turning the cappuccino cup repeatedly over in her hands. “I… umm… I never saw my father when I was growing up, and it was dark in the school janitor’s closet with Xander, so…”
“You had sex with Xander in a closet?”
Shaking his head, Angel tried to banish the image, that that particular piece of information conjured up in his mind’s eye.
“No! We just fumbled around a bit. Anyway, it was pitch black, so I didn’t really see anything. And then, with Wilson, the lights were out so I never saw his body either.”
Reading between the lines, Angel’s eyes widened as the implications of what she had just said sank in. “Wilson was your first?”
Cordelia briefly flickered her eyes up to meet his, then looked down at her feet again and nodded.
“Jesus Cordy! Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Yeah right!” she snorted, letting out a short, bitter laugh.
“Back then – well, it wasn’t like it is now, Angel.”
The vampire nodded, acknowledging that the intervening years had deepened their friendship and brought them much closer emotionally. “And since Wilson?”
“No-one – I mean, I’ve been on dates, but getting impregnated by demon spawn kind of makes you cautious, you know?”
Knowing her as he did, Angel already knew that the rumours that used to circulate Sunnydale about Cordelia’s promiscuity were complete crap, but he was nevertheless shocked at how inexperienced she actually was. It made him rethink the game he was currently playing with her for a start.
He reasoned that it was okay to continue to flirt with her, but he definitely needed to temper his original approach a little. The last thing he wanted to do was push things too far and step over the boundary of what his relatively innocent best friend – and potential lover – would be comfortable with.
“If you look in the cupboard by the sink, you’ll find a small opaque mixing bowl. I think that might be more appropriate than what you’ve got,” he said, inclining his head towards the cup in her hands.
Relieved that he wasn’t going to pursue the conversation about her rather dismal love life any further, Cordelia heeded his quiet suggestion and fished out the basin from the back of the cupboard.
Whoa! she thought, gulping when she compared the relative size of the two objects in her hands.
Angel grinned at her reaction, his ego doing a happy dance inside his chest. Okay, so maybe he was exaggerating his measurements a little bit, but his choice was certainly more fitting than the miniscule piece of crockery that she’d selected for the job.
Placing the bowl on the bedside cabinet, Cordelia reached out and lightly brushed his shoulder with two fingers to ascertain whether the tanning lotion had suitably dried out. Satisfied with what she discovered, she pulled on the buffing mitt and polished off the residual lotion with short, brisk strokes that encouraged his borrowed blood to rise to the surface of his skin.
“I wondered what a beautician needed a baseball mitt for,” he commented blandly as she made quick work of the back of his legs.
“Well now you know.”
“Yeah, guess I do. It’s true what they say – you learn something new everyday.”
“Even when you’ve lived for over two hundred years?”
“Okay, you can turn over now.”
Cordelia handed the vampire the basin, and then swiftly turned her back under the pretext of putting on another pair of surgical gloves. Angel flipped over and concealed his private parts, before playfully flicking the towel at her curvy backside to regain her attention.
With two bright spots of pink suffusing the apples of her cheeks, the seer moved back towards him and perched on the mattress next to his shoulder, deliberately avoiding looking at his barely covered lower half.
“We need to tone it down a bit on your face, or it’ll be too dark,” she told him conversationally in an effort to hide her embarrassment.
After mixing up an equal amount of tanning lotion and moisturiser in her hands, she leaned over and traced the angular contours of his face with her fingers, unaware that he could see down the front of her top as she did so. Entertaining himself by surreptitiously admiring her womanly curves, Angel chose not to inform her of that pertinent fact.
The next few minutes passed in companionable silence as the seer covered the front half of the vampire’s body in the dark brown cream, working in a circle around the dreaded area of his obscured groin. Eventually though, she could no longer avoid the inevitable, and sat back to contemplate how best to go about the delicate procedure.
Observing the look of consternation on her face, Angel was about to offer to do the last bit himself, but then she squared her shoulders and determinedly reached for the bottle of lotion. To his utmost surprise, and supreme delight, she proceeded to hitch up her cotton skirt and tuck it into the sides of her panties. Throwing one slim leg over his body, she straddled his torso, facing towards his feet.
To Cordelia, it had, at first, seemed preferable not look at him while she rubbed the tanning cream into this most intimate of areas. Unfortunately, once she was in position, she belatedly realised that she was giving him the perfect view up her skirt. She couldn’t sit down because that would result in smudging the already applied lotion on his chest, and so, stuck in an awkward situation of her own making, she had to make the best of it. She could crawl into a hole and die of untold embarrassment later, she reasoned.
Carefully adjusting the position of the basin, she quickly applied the self-tan to the vampire’s lower abdomen, skirting the top half of his groin. She registered the faint grunt that escaped Angel when she did this, but did not see how his fingers dug into the mattress, or the way his eyes rolled into the back of his head, as he reacted to the exquisiteness of her hesitant touch.
When she moved her hand to the strip of flesh between his groin and inner thigh however, the seer felt his muscles jump and tighten under her fingertips and realised, with a sudden flash of clarity, that he was getting a hard-on. To her intense discomfort, her body responded to his of its own accord, her nipples tightening to hard points and a gush of wetness dampening her panties.
Unable to help himself, Angel let out a low groan as the sweet fragrance of her excitement filled his nostrils. “Oh God Cordy, you smell so damned good.”
The seer froze at that, immediately recognizing that his supernatural senses had detected her arousal.
Oh.. My… God!
Panic rising like a tidal wave within her, Cordelia quickly scrambled off the bed and stripped the brown-stained gloves from her hands in agitation. While she nervously bounced on the balls of her feet and ran her fingers through her hair, a flood of disjointed instructions tumbled forth from her lips.
“Let it dry, and then rub yourself down with the mitt. If you get dressed, wear loose clothing. You’ll get better results if you stay in your underwear though. You need to leave the tan on for six to eight hours, but then you can shower it off. I have to go – I’ve just remembered something that I’ve got to do today. See ya!”
With that, the seer bolted from the room like a frightened rabbit, not giving the vampire chance to respond.
“Cordelia wait! Come back!” Angel called after the fleeing young woman, struggling into an upright position.
He cursed under his breath when he realised he was too late. He couldn’t chase after her when he was completely naked, covered head-to-toe in brown lotion, and sporting an erection that wasn’t about to subside any time soon.
Suddenly, the subtle game he’d been playing with her over the past hour or so, no longer seemed like the great idea it had been earlier. He should have laid his cards on the table, and told her how he felt before embarking on this campaign of seduction. He’d not given her any indication that this was about more than just sexual attraction, so it was his own stupid fault that things had ended in this unsatisfactory manner.
It was down to him to make things right again, although how he was going to do that, god only knew. His seer could be the queen of avoidance when it came down to dealing with her own feelings, in spite of her directness with regard to other people’s emotional issues.
Determined to tackle the situation head on from here on in, Angel vowed to sit Cordelia down and talk to her about the direction in which their relationship was heading. It would happen at the earliest opportunity because this dancing around the issue just had to stop. In his opinion, it had gone on long enough already.
Seven hours later, Cordelia had finally talked herself into returning to the Hotel. Standing outside on the sidewalk, she gazed up at the formidable building, still undecided as to which part of the humiliating ordeal in Angel’s bedroom she was more embarrassed about.
That his highly tuned senses had detected her untimely arousal was bad enough, but her adolescent reaction when he had hoarsely informed her of that detail, made the seer want to hide under the bed-covers in total shame. Freaked out by the raw, sensual desire that she had heard in his voice, she had run away like a gauche young schoolgirl, one who had suddenly decided that maybe now wasn’t the time to lose her virginity after all.
Cordelia wasn’t usually so unsure of herself around Angel, but he’d knocked her completely off balance when he’d turned the tables on her and taken charge of the situation in the way that he had. Mortified that she hadn’t been able to handle his subtle teasing in a manner more befitting of her twenty-one years, it didn’t occur to her that, given her lack of sexual experience, her reaction was perfectly understandable.
Thus, she’d fled the Hotel as fast as her feet could carry her, prompting a concerned Wesley to call to see if she was all right. Keeping her tone of voice deliberately bright and cheery, she’d fobbed him off with a hastily made-up story about being late to meet a friend. Luckily, her Oscar-winning performance had fooled him into thinking everything was fine, when in truth it was anything but.
Angel had been more persistent in his efforts to track her down however, repeatedly calling her cell from his room at the Hyperion. Supremely grateful for caller recognition, the seer cleverly circumvented all his attempts to contact her, secure in the knowledge that it would never occur to the technophobe vampire to call from somewhere else to catch her out.
At first, she had gleefully cut him off before he had the chance to speak, but when the constant calls started to grate on her nerves and earn her death-stares from the passers-by at the mall, she was forced to turn her phone off completely.
As a result, she arrived back at her apartment, a few hours later, to discover a string of messages from Angel on her answering machine. The afternoon of retail therapy hadn’t worked and, at the end of her tether, she proceeded to delete all the messages without even listening to them – much to Dennis’s obvious disapproval.
Her ghostly roommate seemed to think she should hear what the vampire had to say for himself, but Cordelia was in no mood to listen to reason. She would much rather drown in a sea of denial, than face up to the reality of her stubbornly persistent feelings for her creature-of-the-night best friend.
“Humph! I might have known you dead guys would stick together,” she told her phantom friend. “You’re supposed to be on my side, Dennis, remember?”
Dennis didn’t reply, but, twenty minutes later, when she went through into the bathroom to take a shower, she found the word ‘WOMEN!’ scrawled across the mirror in her favourite lipstick.
“Dennis!” she remonstrated loudly, storming back into the living room and grabbing the pad of paper that they used to communicate with each other.
“All right, so tell me why you and Angel are such big buddies all of a sudden,” she demanded, wildly brandishing a pen in the air.
Dennis snatched the writing utensil out of her hand. ‘TALK TO HIM,’ he wrote in bold capitals on the top sheet of paper.
‘Only Angel can tell you that,’ was the annoyingly cryptic response.
“Why don’t you tell me?”
‘Because it’s not my place.’
Cordelia had continued to cajole him, but Dennis remained impassive, insisting that she talk to Angel instead. She had eventually given up with a haughty toss of her head. “Be like that then,” she said huffily, her mouth settling into a sulky pout.
After that, she refused to speak to him, and their only other interaction that afternoon was a juvenile battle over the phone-cord. The seer had pulled it out of the wall to avoid Angel’s calls, but Dennis had promptly plugged it back in, thereby inciting her wrath. She stubbornly tugged the wire free again, only for it to be swiftly replaced by her Ghost. They continued back and forth in this childish fashion for almost half an hour, until Dennis finally let her win, sensing he was doing more harm than good with his actions.
What Cordelia didn’t know was that her roommate was privy to considerably more information about the vampire’s feelings for her, than she currently was. Dennis had played witness to the full extent of Angel’s unspoken devotion, when – a few days after the seer had told her friends about the damage the visions were doing to her brain – her condition had taken a dramatic turn for the worse.
Despite her failing health, Cordelia had adamantly refused the worried vampire’s request that she relocate to the Hyperion, and so he had insisted on moving into the apartment instead. At first, Dennis was incensed that he wasn’t trusted to take proper care of her – until he realised that Angel’s constant presence was more about his need to be close to his seer, rather than any real slight on his caring abilities.
Given the events of those few short weeks, the Ghost was at a loss to explain Cordelia’s ignorance with regard to the way that the vampire felt about her. His fear of losing her had been almost palpable in the air around them for all of that painful time. He had barely left her side, the deep abiding love that burned bright within, more than apparent to anyone who observed him hovering anxiously over her weakened form.
It wasn’t until Wesley came up with a cure that Angel gained the final seal of approval from Dennis however. His tender caring had won him major brownie points, but it was only after the Ghost had eavesdropped on the two men’s conversation about the mystical healer, that the vampire had fully satisfied all of Dennis’s strict criteria.
Only someone who was prepared to sacrifice his life for Cordelia was good enough as far as the Ghost was concerned. So, when he had willingly given up his shanshu to save her life, Angel had unknowingly passed this stringent test with flying colours, and left the seer’s self-appointed guardian in no doubt of the depth of his feelings for her.
Cordelia just couldn’t seem to see it however; all she saw was someone who cared for her as a friend, but nothing more than that. Sometimes Dennis wanted to bash their respective heads together – he didn’t understand why Angel was so reticent about confessing his feelings, or why Cordelia refused to see what was right in front of her face. It was utter madness – especially considering there was now nothing standing in the way of their mutual happiness.
He needed to convince his stubborn roommate that she should give the vampire a chance, but that was unfortunately proving to be easier said than done. At least he had persuaded her to return to the Hotel, but the Ghost suspected that Angel was in for a rough ride all the same. Cordelia was going to be a tough nut to crack – her inexperience and fear of rejection had doubled the thickness of her emotional walls, and it would take hard work and perseverance to knock them down.
Phantom Dennis just hoped the vampire was up to the challenge.
* * * * *
Standing in the shower, Angel watched as the muddy brown hue of the cascading water slowly faded, and then ran clear. Placing his palms against his chest, he ran his hands down the front of his muscular torso to his six-pack abs. The defined muscles that pressed hard against his fingers were a testament to the gruelling training schedule that he had taken on in the wake of Cordelia’s comments about his weight.
The sun-kissed colour of his skin absolutely fascinated him; he couldn’t remember the last time he was anything other than pasty white. Now his pale flesh was burnished a light bronze shade, not dissimilar to the warm golden hue of his seer’s silky-soft skin. That thought prompted a glorious image of a naked Cordelia standing in the shower before him, and he closed his eyes, letting out a muffled groan as his lower body instinctively hardened in response.
He’d never actually seen her completely nude, of course. However, the shell bikini, which she’d worn for that commercial she did last year, had left very little to the imagination, and, consequently, it didn’t take much for the vampire’s creative mind to fill in the missing blanks. As his hand dropped downwards to relieve the aching pressure in his groin, Angel allowed his imagination to run riot with the vision of loveliness projected against his closed eyelids.
Redressing her in the skimpy bikini added a provocative air of mystery, and he followed that up by pressing a chaste kiss to her lush lips. He then turned his fantasy Cordelia away from him and ran his fingertips down the delicate curve of her spine to the small of her back.
Sensually sliding his hands around to her hips, he tugged lightly on the tie-fastenings that held her bikini bottoms together, and let the scrap of material drop to the floor. Then, cupping the firm globes of her bottom in his big palms, he encouraged her to bend over slightly to give him better access to her voluptuous body.
Lost in his vivid fantasy world, the vampire could have sworn he heard a soft whimper escape her throat as his probing hand slipped down between her legs to test her readiness for him. She was slick and wet, and the smell of her arousal saturated the steamy shower cubicle with its heady fragrance, making his head spin – and the pace of his hand on his engorged sex quicken.
He began to suck in lungfuls of unneeded oxygen, his arousal reaching fever pitch as he imagined positioning the tip of his erection at the soft entrance to her body, preparing to make her his at long last. He envisaged grasping hold of her hips, and slowly sinking into her inviting depths, spurred on by her breathless cries of encouragement. Human and practically a virgin, she’d be hot and tight inside, and…
“Jesus!” Angel hissed, bracing the flat his hand against the slippery tiles to steady himself as his body pulsed, then exploded in intense orgasm.
Slightly shamefaced about using Cordelia as masturbation fodder, the vampire hurriedly washed himself down and stepped out of the shower. As he blotted the dewy drops of water on his artificially tanned skin with a towel, he pondered on the meaning of his fantasy.
It had become a real habit lately. The rigid self-control, which he’d imposed on himself before his soul had been made permanent, had disappeared without a trace. Being able to indulge safely in sexual activity was only serving to heighten his need for gratification, and his beautiful seer was rapidly becoming the entire focus of his spiralling desire.
His guilty conscience was somewhat relieved by the knowledge that he wasn’t viewing her purely as sex object; Cordelia meant a whole lot more to him than that. She was his best friend, his confidante, and the woman he had grown to love more than he ever thought possible. He just had to get her to understand that, and then maybe fantasy could finally become longed-for reality.
Discarding his towel, the vampire wandered through into the bedroom and began to dress, thinking about how he could make his increasingly erotic daydreams come true. He had pushed too hard earlier, come on too strong before he had convinced the seer of the strength of his feelings for her. Was it any wonder that she had fled from him in a blind panic? After all, she still believed that Buffy was the one who owned his heart and soul.
Sitting down in a chair and pulling on his socks and boots, Angel resolved to remedy that misconception as soon as possible. As if on cue, his supernatural senses informed him that Cordelia had arrived back at the Hotel, detecting the familiar thrum of her heartbeat from downstairs.
Breathing a sigh of relief, the vampire stood up and cracked his knuckles, letting go of the frisson of worry that had plagued him during her absence. Wise enough not to back her into a corner, he had left her to return to the Hyperion under her own steam, in the hope that the space would make her more receptive to his overtures. This was his opportunity to set things straight and he didn’t intend to screw it up.
* * * * *
With only half an ear on Cordelia’s nervous prattle, Wesley painstakingly copied the transmutation spell from the large book onto a pad of paper. He figured it would be preferable to lugging the huge tome to the swimming pool, inconspicuous the heavy volume was not. As he finished writing out the last cadenza, he turned his divided attention fully back on the edgy seer.
Ever since she’d entered the Hotel a few minutes ago, a babbling brook of chatter had fallen constantly from her lips, betraying her inner turmoil to her observant boss. So, she’d been lying to him before then, when she’d told him everything was fine and her flight from the Hotel was nothing to worry about.
Something had happened between her and Angel, something that she wasn’t prepared for obviously. Hardly clueless with regard to his best friend’s mutual feelings for each other, it wasn’t difficult for the ex-watcher to figure out what.
Opening his mouth to question her about it, he was interrupted when Gunn breezed into the Hyperion with a cheery “Yo boys and girls, how’s it hangin’? The vamp-man shown his face yet?”
Wesley shook his head. “Not yet, no. He’s been holed up in his room since this morning.”
“Umm – do you want me to go and fetch him?” Fred asked, slipping down from her stool, anxious to please. “His interview is in half an hour, isn’t it?”
“No need Frederica. I think this is the grand entrance,” Gunn chipped in with a playful grin, indicating the side staircase where the vampire’s booted feet were just emerging into visible range.
There was a deathly hush as Angel descended the rest of the way into the Lobby, each of his friends stunned into silence by his altered appearance. He was dressed in a pair of black jeans and a dark blue t-shirt, which clung to his toned upper body like a second skin. His ubiquitous leather jacket was missing however, his muscular arms left exposed. The bare flesh was tanned and healthy-looking, just like the bronzed skin of his face.
Gunn was the first to find his voice. “Whoa! I never realised how dead you looked.”
“Thanks,” Angel replied, sarcasm rife in his tone. Holding out his right arm, he spread his fingers and looked down at the back of his hand, still mesmerised by the colour of his skin. “It feels weird, kind of like it’s not me, you know?”
Wesley removed his glasses, squinted, and then stepped closer. Without warning, his hand suddenly shot out and pinched the vampire’s cheek. “Absolutely fascinating,” he said as Angel irritably batted his hand away.
“So, what do you reckon, Fred?” the vampire asked, winking at the spellbound young woman who stood next to the curious Englishman.
The gangly brunette’s eyes were wide and her hands had risen to cover her mouth. “You look like… oh wow! It’s just… wow!” she stuttered, for once at a complete loss for words.
Angel grinned and turned towards his seer. “Well?” he asked, fixing his steady gaze on her lovely face.
Cordelia’s expression was a dichotomy – on the one hand, her hazel eyes were openly staring, her pupils dilated with noticeable feminine appreciation, but on the other, her forehead was creased in consternation.
“Huh?” she said, jumping at his question and shaking herself out of her reverie.
“What do you think?”
“It’s – err, umm…”
Cordelia trailed off, not really sure how to articulate her mixed reaction to his changed appearance. While the new look was undeniably hot, he somehow didn’t look like her Angel anymore, and there was something not quite right about that.
“You look great,” she said weakly, forcing her lips to curl up into an encouraging smile.
Angel’s penetrating gaze missed nothing though. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing!” the seer said quickly. “It’s just gonna take some getting used to that’s all. You look so different.”
“Good different, or bad different?”
“Never mind; it doesn’t matter. You better get going or you’ll miss your interview.”
“I’ve got a few minutes yet.”
“You don’t want to be late; it’ll create a bad impression. Go on – get!”
Cordelia gave him a gentle shove in the centre of his chest, but Angel refused to budge. Lightly grasping her upper arms, he bent to speak in her ear. “We are going to talk,” he vowed, making her stomach do flip-flops. “You can’t avoid me forever, you know.”
Releasing her, he stepped back and looked over at Wesley. “Is everything ready for the spell?” he enquired.
“Yes – I don’t think the transmutation of the glass will be overly visible to the human eye, but I thought we’d do it tonight after the pool is closed, just to be on the safe side.”
Angel nodded. “Okay, are you coming with me now then? Or will you be along later?”
“Now, I think. It’s going to take an hour or so to set things up. I’m going to need some assistance with that by the way.”
“Well, I better get on,” Cordelia cut in breezily before anyone could suggest that she go along. Indicating her desk with a wave of her hand, she added. “Lots of filing to do, you know. Lots and lots.”
“Since when?” Wesley asked, one eyebrow lifted in sardonic amusement.
“Hey!” the seer said, punching him on the arm as she went past, her lips settling into a dramatic pout. “I file all the time.”
“Just not using any system I’ve ever heard of,” the ex-watcher commented with a sly grin.
“It’s the Chase system,” Cordelia told him over her shoulder. “It’s new and revolutionary, ahead of its time. You wait – in five years, *everyone* will be using it.”
Wesley laughed and turned to Fred who was hovering expectantly at his elbow. “Fred – I’d appreciate it if you would come along. You’ve been helping me research the spell so you’re the logical choice to aid in its execution.”
“What?” he asked, swinging round when Cordelia snorted derisively from behind him.
“Like that’s your only reason,” she said knowingly, pinning him with a pointed stare.
Wesley shifted uncomfortably, looking acutely embarrassed at being caught out in his little subterfuge. So, he wanted to spend some time alone with her – what was wrong with that? He felt a warm hand on his arm and turned back to look down into Fred’s smiling face.
“I would love to help,” she said sincerely, her brown eyes warm and reassuring.
Wesley relaxed. “The supplies are in my office,” he said, and the two of them began to walk across the Lobby, side by side, their shoulders almost touching.
Encouraged by her lack of censure, the ex-watcher drew in a calming breath and took the bull by the horns. “Umm – maybe, you know, after we’re done, we could – err – go for something to eat?”
“Tacos?” Fred’s face lit up, her eyes softening with pleasure at his hesitant invitation.
“If you like.”
“That would be… really nice.”
“Okay, so Tacos it is then.”
As the couple retreated into the off-shot office to collect the magical supplies, Angel caught Cordelia and Gunn exchanging wide grins and delighted thumbs-up. His eyes widened as what had previously passed him by finally registered.
Wes and Fred, huh? Actually, come to think of it, it does kind of make sense.
The vampire’s gaze settled back on his seer after that. She had her head bent over her desk, studiously avoiding him, and he sighed. What was the betting that she’d be gone from the Hotel again when he came back from his interview? Just what was he going to have to do to make her listen to him? Tie her to the bed?
The wanton thoughts that that suggestion prompted made him shudder and his borrowed blood swiftly headed south. He shook his head, trying to clear the lustful imaginings from his befuddled mind.
Jesus! Get your brain out of your pants, man! he silently admonished himself.
Crossing to stand behind Cordelia, he saw her tense up at his approach. She swiftly rose to her feet and began to rummage through the filing cabinets, trying desperately to look busy. Wesley and Fred re-emerged from the office, and Angel felt a flash of irritation, annoyed that his attempt to talk to her had been thwarted once again.
He wasn’t about to leave without re-iterating his earlier promise, however. So – reaching around his seer’s body – he grasped hold of the metallic drawer to prevent her from closing it. Stepping closer, he trapped her against the cabinet with the solid wall of his body and then ducked his head to speak in her ear.
At this close proximity, he could feel the throbbing pulse-point at her neck, and hear her quickened breathing. “Stay,” he warned. “I want you here when I get back – we have things to discuss.”
She gave a little gasp and he could suddenly smell her desperate fear of the unknown. They didn’t have the time to talk properly now, but, before he left, he did want to reassure her that she had nothing to worry about with regard to his intentions towards her.
“You asked why I haven’t gone back to Sunnydale?” he murmured quietly, referring back to their conversation over breakfast that morning. He lowered his hands and loosely wrapped his arms around her waist, hugging her gently against him. “Just so you know – Buffy and me? It’s over. For good – I’ve moved on, okay?”
“Angel?” Wesley’s voice sounded from behind them.
“Yeah, I’m coming,” he replied, reluctantly releasing the seer from his embrace.
Cordelia stood rooted to the spot, watching as the vampire left with Wesley and Fred. Her heart was racing ten to the dozen inside her chest, and her palms were slippery with sweat. Instead of reassuring her, his words had only heightened her panic.
Oh God! This could actually be for real!
Cordelia wasn’t sure that she was ready for what that meant. Angel had placed Buffy on such a pedestal. How could she – an ordinary young woman who had been sucked into this wacky, bizarro-world – hope to live up to his expectations? She was no slayer, that’s for sure. How would she ever compete?
“I’ve gotta go!” she said, slamming the cabinet drawer shut, and scrambling around for her bag.
“Aren’t you going to wait to see if Angel gets the job or not?” Gunn called after her, as she hurried towards the Hyperion’s double-doors.
“No, I… I’ve gotta go!” she repeated, her mind only on putting as much distance as possible between herself and the Hyperion. Her heart in her throat, she pushed open the heavy doors and escaped out into the anonymity of the LA night…
Mid-afternoon, the following day…
In a repeat of the previous evening’s events, Cordelia once again stood outside the Hyperion Hotel, debating whether or not to go inside.
Today, the sidewalk was bathed in warm sunshine as opposed to the dwindling twilight of the preceding day, but her frame of mind wasn’t all that different. Now that she’d had the chance to calm down, she felt extremely silly for running away from like the proverbial frightened rabbit, but remained in a state of high nervous tension nevertheless.
Angel would be mad at her, she knew. He’d asked her to stick around, and she’d not heeded his insistent request. Not only had she left the Hyperion against his wishes, she’d also failed to return home to her apartment, instead spending the night in a hotel on the other side of the city.
The solitude had given her time to think, helping her to sort through the mass of jumbled feelings whirling around inside of her head. It had taken a long while to figure out why the reality of a romantic relationship with Angel scared her so much. The answer finally came to her in the middle of the night, making her sit bolt upright in bed.
He’s ‘the one,’ she realised with a start. I’m twenty-one years old, and I’ve found the guy who I can see myself spending the rest of my life with.
Her ‘home, hotel, hotel, husband’ strategy had come true in the weirdest possible way. Quite naturally, it freaked her out, especially since she still wasn’t sure of Angel’s real feelings for her. Okay, so he had said that his relationship with Buffy was over, and hinted that he felt more than friendship for her, but there was a big jump between that and true love.
Because of the visions, she was already bound to him with ties that could not be broken, and the thought of being by his side and knowing that she wasn’t number one in his life, just filled her with a deep sense of despair. The potential for heartbreak was immense and, in some ways, she’d prefer to remain ignorant than have to face up to the fact that his feelings might never match hers in depth or intensity.
Filled with confusion, her heart pulled her one way, her head another, until she didn’t know which way to turn. As the night went on though, things gradually started to click into place and, just as the rosy dawn was approaching the horizon, she eventually reached a conclusion about what to do.
She had to know, that was the simple fact of the matter. Hiding from the situation wouldn’t solve anything in the long run. She was just going to have to swallow her apprehension and take that giant leap into the unknown – and hope that she survived the subsequent rollercoaster ride with her fragile heart still intact.
With her decision made, the seer was finally able to relax enough to sleep. She woke up several hours’ later feeling refreshed, but filled with trepidation over what was to come next. Before her newfound resolve could desert her, she checked out of the hotel and headed over to the Hyperion, making a whistle-stop visit to her apartment to change clothes on the way.
So here she was – on the threshold of potentially the most challenging and rewarding experience of her entire life. Did she have the courage to grab it with both hands? Or would she let it slip through her fingers through fear of the emotional risk involved? Cordelia Chase was not one to shy away challenge once she’d set her mind to it. So, taking a deep breath, she adjusted the shoulder strap of her bag and strode purposely across the courtyard to meet her waiting fate…
The Lobby was empty and she frowned, wondering where everyone was. Just as she was beginning to think that she’d stepped into an alternate universe, the light pitter-patter of feet descending the stairs alerted her to the presence of another life form.
“Cordy!” Fred hurtled down the last few steps and engulfed the bewildered seer in her thin-armed embrace. “Where have you been? Angel’s been so worried – nobody knew where you’d gone.”
“I’m fine. I just needed some time alone, that’s all.” Cordelia replied, gently untangling herself from the Texan’s over-enthusiastic hug.
“You might have shown a little bit consideration and let someone know that you were okay,” Wesley’s stern voice sounded from behind her as he emerged from his office, alerted by the sound of the two girl’s conversation.
Cordelia felt a sharp stab of guilt at that. It hadn’t even crossed her mind that her friends might be worried about her. “I’m sorry,” she said, genuinely apologetic. “I guess I didn’t think.”
The seer winced at his reproachful tone. “Is Angel upstairs?” she asked, her voice trembling with nervous anticipation.
“No, he’s at the pool. I persuaded him that you just needed some space to think. I’m glad I was proved correct, my life wouldn’t have been worth living if I’d got it wrong and something had actually happened to you.”
“I’m sorry,” Cordelia said again, suitably chastised.
“All right, apology accepted. We’ll say no more about it.”
“Thanks Wesley. You’re the best.”
“I don’t think Angel’s going to let you off the hook that easily though.”
Cordelia grimaced ruefully, “No, I don’t suppose he is,” she rejoined.
“Hey, Barbie girl, you’re back.”
Much to the seer’s relief, Gunn’s arrival diverted Wesley’s attention away from her. “Anything to report?” he enquired of his friend and employee, his tone suddenly all business.
“Nah! It’s a demon no-show so far. The new Lifeguard is sure attracting of whole lot of attention though. I think word’s got around that there’s a new slice of hunk on display – the blonde surfer babes are out in force.”
“And I bet he’s just lapping it all up, right?” Cordelia said, her hazel eyes narrowing dangerously.
Gunn shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. “What guy wouldn’t?” he replied, a wicked twinkle in his eye.
The thought of all those scantily clad blondes making eyes at *her* Angel had possessive jealousy running like wildfire through the seer’s veins. Stiffly gathering her things, she moved quickly towards the Hotel’s exit. “I’m going out; I’ll see you guys later.”
“You could have been a bit more tactful,” Wesley said, throwing a reproving glance at Gunn as the doors swung shut behind the fleeing brunette.
Gunn’s face was all wide-eyed innocence to start with, and then it split into a self-satisfied grin. “I thought they could use a little encouragement. Come on, English. You just know she’s gone over there to stake her claim and flash her booty at him.”
Wesley considered that for a second and then smiled. “Is he really attracting that much attention?” he asked, one eyebrow raised in amusement.
“Oh, he’s a hit all right – not that he’s actually aware of it mind you. I swear the guy goes around wearing blinkers half the time. But to answer your question, I may have exaggerated his fame just a little bit.”
The ex-watcher laughed. “I don’t suppose the women were all blond either?”
“There might have been a more demographic range of hair colours involved, come to think of it,” Gunn agreed, tongue firmly in cheek.
Wesley shook his head. “You’re bad.”
“Maybe, but if it achieves the desired effect, it’ll be worth it, won’t it?”
* * * * *
“Incoming at three o’clock. Definite ten out of ten there.”
Angel shot an irritated look at his fellow lifeguard, whose main purpose in life seemed to be to talent spot every female under the age of thirty-five, rather than do his job properly. Admittedly, the vampire’s tolerance levels were at absolute zero at the moment, due to his elusive seer’s constant vanishing acts. He had arrived back at the Hotel last night to find her gone again, and his patience had snapped in spectacular style.
“I specifically told her to wait here,” he ranted, throwing up his arms in exasperation.
“Hey man, don’t look at me,” Gunn said, holding up his hands to ward off the irate vampire’s fury. “Since when has Cordelia ever let any of us tell her what to do?”
Spinning on his heel, Angel strode over to the counter, and angrily wrenched the phone round towards him. Stabbing at the buttons with his forefinger, he punched out the number imprinted on his brain, and lifted the receiver to his ear. The phone rang several times and then automatically clicked over to the answer phone. With a low growl, he slammed the receiver down, splintering the cradle, and then marched resolutely towards the door, only to find his way blocked by a determined Englishman.
“Get out of my way Wes!” he demanded, his eyes flashing gold.
The ex-watcher firmly stood his ground, his shoulders back and his head held high. “Angel, just stop and think about what you’re doing. Storming over there in high dudgeon is hardly the best way to make Cordelia more receptive, is it?”
Viewing the intolerable situation through the red mist of his wrath, the vampire failed to see the logic in that sensible suggestion though, and swiftly sidestepped his friend to go in search of the runaway seer.
Fearing the outbreak of World War III, Wesley followed him in hot pursuit, taking his life into his hands when he scrambled into the passenger seat of the Plymouth, just as it accelerated away from the sidewalk in a cloud of dust. The journey to Cordelia’s apartment took half the time it normally did, and the ex-watcher was a nervous wreck by the time they arrived.
“Angel! Calm down for pity’s sake!” he said, desperately trying to placate the agitated vampire as he knocked loudly and repeatedly on the apartment door, attracting the curious attention of the neighbours in the process.
Angel ignored him and continued to pound his clenched fist violently against the wood, demanding that Cordelia ‘open this door right now or I swear I’ll break it down!’
The door finally swung in on its hinges without warning, and the vampire stumbled and fell over the threshold with a muttered curse. Hauling his friend to his feet with one hand under his elbow, Wesley hurriedly entered the apartment and shut the door behind them, much to the disappointment of the gathered on-lookers.
‘She’s not here’ Dennis immediately informed them with his floating pad of paper.
“Where is she then?”
‘How the hell should I know? I’m a ghost, not psychic.’
“Dennis, this isn’t helping,” Wesley quietly warned, sensing that Angel was rapidly reaching the end of his limited supply of patience.
The Ghost proceeded to make things worse, however. ‘What did you do?’
“Me!” Angel spluttered in outrage. “I didn’t *do* anything.”
‘Maybe that’s the problem!’
The fight went out of the vampire at that. He sank into a chair and buried his face in his hands.
Wesley reached out and squeezed his friend’s shoulder in sympathy. “Just give her some time Angel, okay? She’ll come around.”
Angel raised his weary eyes to the ex-watcher’s face. “What if she doesn’t?” he asked fearfully.
“She will,” Wesley assured him.
‘She does love you,’ Dennis wrote. ‘She’s just scared, that’s all.’
“Of what? Am I really that frightening?”
“You can be very intense sometimes,” was Wesley’s shrewd response to his question. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you have to remember that Cordelia is still a young woman, and she’s never really had a serious relationship before. Just give her some space to sort her head out – she’ll come to you when she’s ready.”
Angel had tried to do as Wesley had suggested, but it took a great deal of self-control not to pound the streets in search of the missing seer. LA at night was not the safest place for a young woman alone, especially not one with a strong connection to him. It made her a target for the demon underbelly, and he worried constantly about something happening to her while he wasn’t there to watch over and protect her.
Whether it be overtly, by making sure that Wes or Gunn gave her a lift or driving her back to her apartment himself; or covertly, by following her progress from the rooftops of the surrounding buildings, the vampire saw Cordelia safely home almost every night. He knew he would get endless earache if she ever found out the truth, but that wouldn’t stop him from doing what had to be done. He couldn’t care less if it encroached on her need for independence; her safety was paramount, whether she thought so or not.
These thoughts darkened his mood and he had to remind himself that she was safe and sound. He’d called the Hotel an hour ago, and Wesley had told him that she had returned, unharmed, earlier that afternoon.
“Let me talk to her,” he’d demanded.
There’d been a short silence before Wesley’s hesitant voice explained that she wasn’t there.
“You let her leave?” he asked incredulously.
“Angel relax, she gave no indication that she was planning to disappear again. In fact, I got the distinct impression that she was headed your way…”
“Wowza! Code red! Mega hot babe alert!”
Brian’s exclamation and low whistle of appreciation cut through Angel’s recollection of earlier events, bringing his mind back into the present. Turning his head, he looked to see what had prompted such a vehement reaction from the other man.
He might not have been interested in being with any other woman apart from Cordelia, but he was still a man – not to mention a vampire – and he therefore had a healthy appreciation for the female form in its variety of guises. What he saw almost made him fall out of the high lookout chair he was sitting in. He had to grab hold of the armrests to stop himself from tumbling forward and falling flat on his face.
Cordelia Chase, clad in a navy-blue bikini, was sauntering slowly towards him, her head held high and her hips swaying seductively from side to side. The secret smile tugging at the corner of her lips told him that she was fully aware of the male attention she was attracting and his heart clenched in anticipation. Was this aimed at him? Was she telling him that she was finally ready to take that next step? He sure hoped so.
Absolutely mesmerised, he couldn’t take his eyes off her as she got closer and closer. The bikini wasn’t nearly as skimpy as those belonging to the long line of determined women, who had fluttered their eyelashes and brazenly thrust their breasts out at him all day, but the cut and style left him in no doubt that his seer was all woman.
Whilst still concealing the majority of her voluptuous flesh from view, the halter neck top showed off the deep well of cleavage to spectacular effect. The bottoms were cut high at the front, whereas the dark Lycra material clung lovingly to the rounded globes of her ass at the back, giving a hint of what was underneath without exposing too much skin.
To Angel, this was deeply arousing. He loved to be teased and tantalised, had always enjoyed the thrill of sensual discovery. Women who showed off every available inch of skin at the first opportunity did nothing for him. In contrast, Cordelia, in her deceptively modest choice of swimsuit, stirred up every one of his hidden desires. His avid gaze travelled over the rest of her curvaceous body, absorbing the essence of the woman who had sneaked in and stolen his heart when he’d been looking in the other direction.
Her figure looked a fraction fuller than a few months ago, but that wasn’t such a bad thing. Her golden skin glowed with health, while her hazel eyes sparkled with a renewed passion for life. This was in stark contrast to the dark shadows that circled them before – the result of the ever-debilitating effects of the visions.
Seeing the picture of radiant health that she was now, Angel couldn’t quite believe that he hadn’t noticed the toll the visions were taking on her at the time. He supposed the physical deterioration had happened gradually over time, but still… He mentally chastised himself for being so unobservant, for taking her reassurances that she was fine at face value until it was almost too late.
Brian’s voice once again distracted him from his darkening thoughts as he brashly declared his intention to ‘have me some of that,’ obviously confident in his abilities to charm any member of the opposite sex into submission.
The other man started to climb down from his perch, and Angel’s arm promptly shot out and shoved him back in his seat, a palm flat against his chest. “Mine,” he growled possessively.
Brian may not have been the sharpest pencil in the box, but he didn’t miss the underlying menace in the vampire’s tone. “Okay man – chill,” he said, hurriedly backing down. “I’ll let you have to cream of the crop, seeing as it’s your first day an’ all. Good luck, she’s a major hottie – I bet she’s a hellcat in bed too.”
Fortunately for Brian, Cordelia joined them before Angel could respond to that last inflammatory comment. With only a brief glance in the vampire’s direction, the seer glided to a halt in front of the other lifeguard’s chair and smiled up at him.
“I wonder if you could help me?” she enquired with saccharine sweetness. “This is my first visit here – is there any chance of a tour of the facilities?”
“Err…” Brian baulked at that, fearing Angel’s reaction if he agreed to her request.
“Please?” Cordelia lowered her eyes and coquettishly peered up at him through her long dark lashes.
“Oh okay,” Brian quickly agreed, climbing down from his chair before his courage deserted him. “Well, this is the pool area obviously,” he began, placing a lecherous hand in the hollow of her spine and steering her towards the door that led through into the sauna.
Angel was stunned into inaction. Disbelief ran through his veins. What the hell was she doing? Couldn’t she see the idiot was all brawn and no brains? And what was with all the air-headed simpering? He had never known Cordelia to act in that way before.
With his stormy eyes glued to her retreating form, he tried to rouse himself out of his shocked stupor and do something, but found that he was frozen in his chair. Cordelia flickered a quick look over her shoulder at him then though, and it finally dawned on him what this was all about. She was testing him, challenging him to prove his worth to her. Well, he wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity. Jumping down from the chair with cat-like agility, he caught up with the retreating couple in a few quick strides.
“Brian – maybe I should show the young lady around?” he said, firmly removing the man’s hand from her back and replacing it with his own. He felt Cordelia shiver under his touch and suppressed a delighted grin at her reaction.
“After all, it’s my first day and you’re the senior lifeguard. I don’t think it’s such a good idea for you to be away from the pool,” he finished, his tone perfectly reasonable, but his eyes cold with the threat of violence.
“Umm – yes, I guess you’re right,” Brian reluctantly concurred. “I’ll leave you in Angel’s capable hands then,” he added with brief nod in Cordelia’s direction.
Once the other lifeguard was out of earshot, Angel caught hold of his seer’s elbow and drew her over to a secluded corner of the pool area.
“Where the hell have you been?” he hissed, his earlier anger at her disappearance resurfacing now that he had her trapped. If she thought he would allow her out of his sight again, then she had another thing coming.
At first, Cordelia was taken aback by the sudden change in attitude from him, but then his overbearing indignation fired her resentment and she stiffened in anger. “That’s non of your business,” she shot back stubbornly.
“Like hell it isn’t!”
“You can’t tell me what to do – you’re not my father!”
The vampire’s arm suddenly whipped out and the seer gasped in shock as he hauled her up against him. “No, I’m not,” he agreed, lustily pushing his hips into hers.
Cordelia’s skin tingled and broke out in goose bumps wherever it touched his cool flesh, and her eyes briefly flickered closed at the sensation. Her full breasts were crushed up against the solid wall of his chest, and her nipples instantly stiffened to hard points as her insides clenched and released.
Angel’s eyes glittered with unmasked desire as he looked down at her. “You’re mine and don’t you forget it,” he told her with dark possessiveness, prompting a soft involuntary whimper to escape from the back of her throat.
Satisfied that he’d got his point across, the vampire released her and stepped back. Cordelia’s eyes dropped to where the tight black Speedos failed to conceal the telltale bulge, which she had felt pressed against her a few moments before. Swallowing hard, her fingers agitatedly brushed her hair off her flushed cheeks and tucked it behind her ears.
“Do *not* go anywhere,” Angel instructed and then abruptly turned on his heel and walked away from her.
Oh God! I *so* need a shower, Cordelia thought wildly as he strode confidently back towards his lifeguard post.
Her admiring gaze slowly wandered over the muscular planes of the vampire’s broad, tanned back, and a trickle of sweat ran down between her breasts. She looked away from the addictive sight, shaking her head and trying to clear the haze of arousal that fogged her brain. The sparkling blue of the pool beckoned to her and she crossed to sit on the side, her dangling feet causing ripples on the still surface. Slipping down into the water, she closed her eyes and allowed the coolness to douse the flames of her heated skin.
The soothing balm of the water helped her regain her composure and she opened her eyes again, looking over to where Angel was re-seating himself in his lookout chair. She saw him remove a towel from the chair arm and place it in his lap, and a naughty giggle escaped her lips. He immediately turned to look in her direction and she knew his super-vamp hearing had picked up her delighted laugh.
A small smile hovered on Angel’s lips as he watched her, and then he slowly and deliberately winked, making her heart leap inside her chest. Cordelia blushed scarlet and sank beneath the surface, immersing herself in the water as a growing sense of anticipation stirred low in her belly.
Oh Boy! Oh Boy!
Cordelia reclined on the sun-lounger, her long, slender legs stretched out in front of her and a trashy novel resting in her lap. Glancing up from her book, she looked over at Angel. The vampire sat perched on his tall chair, surveying the pool with an eye out for trouble, demonic or otherwise.
His penetrating gaze returned to rest on her at regular intervals though, sending shivers of anticipation running down her spine and butterflies fluttering about in her belly. They’d not spoken since their earlier confrontation, but these long meaningful glances were threatening to raise the temperature in the room to that of the adjoining sauna.
Looking away from her contemplation of Angel, Cordelia glanced over at the large digital clock fixed to the wall – 20.15; the place would be closing soon. The other lifeguard had left twenty minutes ago, and it looked as if the few remaining patrons were also getting ready to leave.
The seer set her book to one side and removed her sarong, feeling the sudden need to take another dip in the cool water. She swam several lengths, her lithe body cutting through the water with elegant grace, and then paused to take a well-earned breather, her arms resting on the poolside.
When she turned around, a short while later, she yelped in shocked surprise to find Angel right behind her in the water. Lost in her thoughts, she hadn’t heard him enter the pool and swim across to join her.
“Geez! Give a girl a heart attack, why don’t ya?” she exclaimed, making a desperate grab for the side to stop herself from going under.
The vampire swiftly caught her around the waist to steady her, and then manoeuvred her backwards so that her spine was flush with the edge of the pool. They were in the shallow end, so once she’d regained her equilibrium, Cordelia’s feet easily found purchase on the tiled floor. With nowhere else to put her hands, she rested them lightly against Angel’s chest and looked around.
“Shouldn’t you be…?” she started to ask, but the vampire interrupted her question.
“Everyone’s gone,” he informed her.
“Oh.” Cordelia awkwardly dropped her gaze to her hands, her nervousness returning with a vengeance.
There was a pregnant pause, and then Angel slipped a crooked finger under her chin and lifted her face to his. “Let’s get one thing straight,” he said firmly. “I’m not playing games here, okay? I would never do that to you.”
He was looking her directly in the eye as he spoke, and the seer could see the honesty of his words in his gaze. “I know… it’s just…”
Cordelia swallowed hard, trying to screw up the courage to lay her heart on the line. “If we do this, it has to be all or nothing, Angel,” she blurted out in a rush. “This is a big deal for me. I need you to be totally committed. I can’t – I won’t – settle for anything less than that.”
Angel nodded and cupped her face in his hands, rubbing his callused thumbs over the soft skin of her cheeks.
“Listen to me, I love you – I’m *in* love you. When you were so sick, I’ve *never* been so scared in my life – I thought I was going to lose you. Sometimes it takes an experience like that to make you realise what’s important. And you’re it, Cordy. I don’t know how, or when for the matter, it’s just something that is, and I don’t want to run away from it anymore.”
“Me neither,” Cordelia whispered in return, sagging in relief at his soft declaration, her hazel eyes brimming with tears.
“That’s good because I’ve had quite enough of your running away, thank-you,” the vampire said, softening the sharp censure of his words with a warm smile.
The seer blushed and slapped him lightly on the shoulder. “Ang…” she started to protest, but broke off when she found herself engulfed in the heady maelstrom of their first kiss.
Keeping the embrace relatively chaste to begin with, Angel brushed her damp hair out of her eyes and planted a series of sweet, nipping kisses on her upturned lips. As he tenderly traced out the delicate arch of her cheekbones and ran his fingers and thumbs down the smooth column of her neck, Cordelia let out a soft sigh of pleasure and her eyes fluttered closed.
The vampire increased the pressure of his kiss then, opening up her mouth under his, his tongue playfully teasing at her lower lip, begging for admittance. His hands swept down the length of her spine to settle in the concave curve of her lower back, and Cordelia moaned low in the back of her throat, instinctively leaning into his body. Returning his kisses with growing fervour, she wound her arms tightly around his neck and slipped out her tongue to invite his into the unexplored cavern of her mouth.
While their tongues tangled together and fought a spirited battle for dominance of the heated embrace, Angel hooked a hand around the nape of Cordelia’s neck and tugged her closer. Pressing his inflamed body against hers, he let her feel the full extent of his passion for her. The seer gasped as she felt him hard and urgent against her belly, and instinctively ground her hips into his, her arousal cutting through her inhibitions and making her uncharacteristically wanton.
After what seemed like forever and a day to Cordelia, Angel finally dragged his mouth away and looked down into her face, his chocolate brown eyes dark with desire. Leaving her gasping for breath, he bent to nuzzle at her neck, curling the wet tendrils of her hair around his fingers as his tongue flickered out to savour the peaches and cream taste of her skin.
Beside herself with hot, clenching desire, Cordelia clutched at his short spiky hair and held him to her, her soft whimpers of pleasure echoing around the pool as the determined vampire kept up his unrelenting oral assault on the silky smooth skin of her neck and throat.
“Tell me if this isn’t okay,” he murmured hoarsely in her ear.
At first, Cordelia wasn’t sure what he meant, but then she felt his hands busy at the back of her neck, deftly untying her top. That accomplished, his purposeful fingers stroked down between her shoulder blades and unhooked the strap of material across her back. The garment loosened, but did not fall, the suction of the wet Lycra against her skin holding it precariously in place.
Cordelia tensed, suddenly realising where they were. “What if someone comes?” she whispered nervously, her hands rising to stop her bikini top from slipping.
Angel lifted his head and looked down into her flushed face with a grin. “I was hoping we both would,” he said with a mischievous glint in his eye.
The vampire laughed and then his expression turned serious. “We can stop,” he said, not wanting her to feel uncomfortable.
Cordelia considered that, but her mounting desire quickly won out over common sense. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “Don’t stop, I don’t want you to stop.”
Angel groaned at her breathless acquiesce and pressed a hard, brutal kiss to her swollen mouth, making her dizzy with want. Releasing her lips, he insistently brushed away her hands and slowly peeled away the wet swimsuit from her upper body, his eyes intent on the voluptuous flesh he was revealing. Tossing the top aside, he traced the full, round shape of her bare breasts with his fingertips.
“So beautiful,” he murmured reverently.
His open appreciation made Cordelia feel like the most desirable woman in the world, and she arched her back, trying to increase the pressure of his feather-light touch. “Please!” she moaned softly, not really sure what she was asking for.
Angel’s response was to hook his arm around her middle and lift her bodily out of the water, forcing her to wrap her legs around his waist and grab hold of the side for balance. Then, with the flat of his hands supporting her back, he dipped his head and drew the tip of her right breast into his mouth. He suckled lightly on the puckered nipple and the seer gasped out loud from the sheer pleasure of the sensation.
“Oh, oh god…” she whimpered, as the insistent tugging on her breast triggered a wave of feminine moisture at the juncture of her thighs.
Humming in the back of his throat, the vampire switched his attention to her other breast, lazily circling her areole with his tongue and then biting down lightly on her sensitive nipple. Cordelia cried out again and restlessly began to shift her hips against his taut abdomen, desperate for something to relieve the throbbing ache between her legs.
Angel finally lifted his head from her breasts and reached down to unwind her legs from around his waist. Lowering her gently back down into the water, he kissed her again, wrapping his strong arms fully around her and pulling her close. Stirred by the slow rocking movements of their entwined bodies, the cool liquid lapped gently at their skin, adding a deliciously erotic overtone to the heady, sensuous embrace.
Cordelia was focused entirely on their kiss; so when Angel’s wandering hands cheekily slipped down the back of her bikini bottoms and playfully squeezed her curvy bottom, she jumped in startled surprise. The vampire chuckled at her reaction and ducked under the water to trail a stream of kisses down her torso to the elasticated waistband of her panties. Sliding his fingers into the sides of the navy bikini bottoms, he drew them down and off her legs, then, rearing up out of the water like Poseidon, discarded them with her top on the poolside.
He immediately made to dive back down under the water, but Cordelia stopped him with a questioning hand against his chest. “What are you doing?” she asked breathlessly.
The vampire paused to drop an affectionate kiss on the end of her nose. “No need to breathe, remember?”
Before she could finish the sentence, Angel disappeared below the waterline again and her heart lurched inside of her chest as she felt his nuzzling lips against the delicate skin of her lower abdomen. He had unerringly discovered one of her secret erogenous zones, and her pelvic muscles jumped violently in reaction, making her gasp. Stroking his palm down the back of her left thigh, the submerged vampire then hooked his hand under her knee and lifted her leg over his shoulder.
Although she couldn’t see, Cordelia knew she must be completely opened up to him in this position, and her breathing began to come in sharp, shallow gasps in nervous anticipation of what he planned to do next. She had never been this intimate with a man before and it was both frightening and exhilarating in equal measure. She trusted Angel implicitly however, and so closed her eyes and waited for the touch of his fingers or tongue, not really knowing which to expect.
The vampire chose to use his mouth and the seer couldn’t stop the impassioned cry that escaped her lips at the first lash of his tongue against her sex. It was exquisite torture and she instinctively dug her heel into the hollow between his shoulder blades, pulling him closer. She could have sworn she felt Angel smile against her slickened folds at her positive reaction, but then decided she must have imagined it.
What she wasn’t imagining though were the deep shuddering waves of bliss that radiated out from his busy mouth, making her head spin and her world tip on its axis. Moaning almost continuously now, she rhythmically thrust her hips into Angel’s face as his enthusiastic tongue licked and probed at her centre, all the while pushing her higher and higher towards the pinnacle of her pleasure.
Just when she was getting to the stage where she couldn’t take anymore, an unexpected splash of water caught her directly in the face, making her cough and splutter. Opening her eyes in astonishment, her startled surprise quickly turned to panic when she saw the huge swell of water that was hurtling towards her.
“Angel!” she screamed, frantically reaching down into the water to attract his attention.
The vampire resurfaced in a flash, immediately detecting the rapid change in her body language. Casting one quick glance behind him at the approaching wave, he wrapped his arms tightly around the petrified seer and catapulted them both out of the pool like a ball out of a cannon.
“Get back!” he said, jumping in front of Cordelia as the gigantic swell of water hit the edge of the pool and reached out towards the two of them with finger-like tendrils of pure, churning liquid.
Slipping and sliding on the wet floor, the seer scrambled back out of the way, flattening herself against the wall, her eyes wide with horror. Angel wasn’t so lucky however; the spinning vortex of water encircled him in an instant, sucking him back into the pool with a huge splash.
“Angel! Oh God, oh no!” Cordelia cried out as she watched his struggling form sink like a lead weight to the bottom of the pool, the water eddying and churning around him with the violence of a hurricane until she couldn’t see him anymore.
Swallowing huge mouthfuls of water, Angel tried to get free of the demon that had him in its tenacious grasp, but it was extremely difficult to fight against something that had no solid form. The vampire was quite certain that if he’d been human, he’d currently be having the life systematically choked out of him. However, owing to his lack of need for oxygen, the water that filled his lungs just burned unpleasantly instead of drowning him.
As it realised that its attack was having no effect in subduing its victim’s violent struggles, the creature’s fury slowly grew. Increasing its efforts, it tightened its grip on the vampire, constricting his chest until several of his ribs cracked under the pressure. The sharp stabbing pain of his bones breaking caused Angel to vamp out with an angry growl. Kicking out with his legs, he propelled himself upwards, his stronger demonic form taking over and shaking off the liquid shackles holding him imprisoned at the bottom of the pool.
Breaking the surface, he immediately struck out for the edge, his arms slicing through the turbulent water like the spinning blades of a propeller. Reaching the side, he hauled himself out of the water and staggered back out of the demon’s range, falling to his knees and expelling the liquid in his lungs with great, tearing coughs.
Roaring with rage at being thwarted, the water demon proceeded to work itself up into a complete frenzy, turning the once calm swimming pool into the eye of a rampant storm at sea. As the resulting wind and spray rained down over them, Cordelia crawled over to Angel, who pulled her into the protective circle of his arms, despite the pain this caused to his broken ribs. Unaware of his wound, the seer clung to him tightly, her body trembling with relief at his fortuitous escape.
After a while, the creature’s spectacular temper tantrum subsided and it slunk away to lurk once again in its lair in the drainage ducts under the pool. The former tranquillity of the water returned and Angel slowly rose to his feet, one hand pressed to his injured ribs and other around Cordelia’s waist. Wrapping her arms around his back, the seer turned and buried her face in the hollow of his throat. Her warm lips pressed frantic kisses to his skin as she allowed his solid presence reassure her that he was safe.
“Cordy, someone’s coming,” the vampire warned, gently pulling away as his sensitive hearing picked up the distance sound of running footsteps.
The seer raised her tear-stained face and looked at him blankly.
“I’m thinking you might want a towel,” he explained, looking down at her nude form with one eyebrow raised.
Cordelia flushed and dashed over to the sun lounger area to cover herself up while Angel hobbled over to retrieve her discarded bikini from the water’s edge. Just as she tucked the towel over her exposed breasts, the staff access door unceremoniously banged open and the leisure centre’s female manager burst in.
“Oh God! It happened again, didn’t it?” she exclaimed, her face white as a sheet. “I heard the noise and… oh God!”
“Everyone is okay, but you need to seal the pool and close it off to the public,” Angel instructed, his tone effortlessly commanding.
“I… I wanted to, but the owner wouldn’t hear of it. This is a highly profitable business for him, you see.”
“Tell him the chlorination tanks need servicing or something,” the vampire said impatiently. “Look – I can help you, but only if you do as I say. I’m not a lifeguard, I run – sorry, work for a detective agency – Angel Investigations – and we specialise in unusual cases like this.”
“Our research team is working on it as we speak,” Cordelia put in helpfully. “I’m sure they’ll find a way to get rid of your – umm – infestation.”
The young manager hesitated, and then nodded her head in agreement. “All right, but if he ever finds out the truth, I’m so fired. Still, rather that than more people getting killed.”
“You’re doing the right thing,” Angel assured her. “We’ll go get dressed, and then call our colleagues for help. We’ll figure it out, I promise you.”
* * * * *
At the pool, half an hour later…
“It doesn’t make sense,” Wesley said, removing his glasses, his brow creased with puzzlement.
“What doesn’t?” Angel asked patiently.
Fully dressed now, he and Cordelia were sitting opposite the Englishman on one of the sun-loungers, whilst Fred sat cross-legged on the floor at his feet. Gunn was prowling restlessly around the pool like an army sentry.
“I felt sure we were dealing with a Merlock demon – everything fit to a tee. It’s known to merge its essence with water to remain undetected, has a four-day feeding pattern, even the mode of attack is spot on, but this latest attack just doesn’t fit the profile.”
“Miss Monk says the last incident occurred three days ago, not four, so why did it attack today?”
“Maybe it got hungry?” Cordelia suggested, wondering why Wesley was so worried about such a trivial detail.
“It doesn’t work like that, Cordelia. The four-day cycle is key to this type of demon’s survival. If the Merlock attacked today, I’m either wrong about the species, or something caused it to act out of the ordinary.”
“I don’t know. Maybe if you tell me what you two were doing before it attacked?”
Cordelia felt a rush of colour rise to stain her cheeks at Wesley’s innocent question, and she ducked her head in embarrassed discomfiture. Angel, on the other hand, just grinned like a Cheshire cat as he remembered her enthusiastic – and loudly vocal – responses to his touch.
“Whoa, way to go, man!” Gunn said, catching the tail end of the conversation as he walked by. He held up his hand to high five the vampire, and the two men slapped their palms together.
“Excuse me! I am sitting here, you know,” Cordelia said, huffily protesting at their macho posturing, her face still red as a tomato.
“In a swimming pool?!” Wesley cut in then, his blue eyes aghast as he stared at the two of them.
“Do we *have* to discuss it?” Cordelia lamented, wanting to crawl into a hole and hide her head in shame.
Gunn laughed and she turned to bury her flaming face in Angel’s shoulder. The vampire wrapped his arm around her and dropped an affectionate kiss on the top of her head.
“I suppose that would explain the Merlock’s uncharacteristic behaviour, it was probably attracted by the – err – sexual energy you were generating with your – umm – activities.”
“So, do we have any idea of how to kill to it?”
“We’ve come up with a possible idea – well, Fred did anyway,” Wesley replied.
The soft smile, which the ex-watcher threw at the woman sitting at his feet as he said this, reminded Angel that his impromptu trip to Cordelia’s apartment last night had put the kibosh on his friends planned date.
“So what’s the plan?” he asked, resolving to make it up to them somehow.
“Electricity,” Fred replied triumphantly.
“Electricity and water don’t mix.”
“There’s just one problem,” Wesley took over the narrative. “We’re talking about more than a mains power cable or a car battery here. Fred has already rigged up a suitable weapon, but I’m afraid…”
“I’ve not quite figured out how to stop it from electrocuting the person who wields it,” Fred finished with an apologetic shrug of her shoulders.
“I can do it,” the vampire volunteered immediately.
“Angel – I’m not sure you quite understand,” Wesley said worriedly. “The weapon will discharge a several thousand volt shock – it’s likely to cause severe burns to your hands and arms.”
“But it won’t kill me, will it?”
“Well no, but…”
“All right then,” Angel said, cutting off Wesley’s objection. “What do we do? Wait until tomorrow for the demon to show itself again?”
“That seems like the most sensible option, yes. The Merlock has to feed; a human presence in the room should lure it out of its hiding place easily enough.”
Angel nodded and fished in his back pocket for his car keys. “Okay, the pool is all sealed off. The Merlock is not going anywhere, so why don’t you take Fred out for that meal you promised her? You can take the Plymouth if you like, seeing as it was my fault that you had to cancel last night.”
“Are you sure? I mean – don’t you and Cordelia want to…”
“I think we’re just going to spend a quiet night in at the Hotel,” Angel interrupted. “We’ve got unfinished business to attend to,” he added with a sly wink, earning himself an indignant slap from his new girlfriend.
“That’s what you think, buddy,” she said haughtily. “I might be busy.”
“Washing my hair,” Cordelia immediately shot back. She childishly stuck her tongue out at him and then burst into fits of uncontrollable giggles.
Angel rolled his eyes and looked over at a grinning Wesley. “Remind me why I wanted this again,” he said drolly.
“I believe you mentioned something about loving her. I did try to tell you that you’d taken leave of your senses.”
Wesley laughed and got to his feet. “Just kidding,” he said, bending down to plant a sound kiss in the centre of the pouting seer’s forehead. “I’m very happy for you both, really.”
“Do you want a lift back to the Hyperion?” he turned to enquire of Angel.
The vampire pressed his fingertips to his ribs, testing out the progress of their healing. The bones seemed to be knitting together nicely. “No, I think we’re okay to walk,” he replied. “It’s only a couple of blocks.”
Wesley nodded and held out his hand to Fred, helping her to her feet. Gunn sighed mournfully as he watched the two of them leave, hand in hand. “Everyone’s getting some except me,” he complained.
“I don’t think Wesley’s the type to bed a girl on the first date,” Angel remarked with a smile. “Not one he really likes anyway.”
“Typical!” Cordelia said. “Fred gets the gentlemen, whereas I get stuck with the caveman.”
“I didn’t hear you complaining earlier.”
“Okaay, so now I’m definitely leaving,” Gunn drawled. “There’s only one thing worse than knowing everyone else, but you, is at it – and that’s having to hear about it.”
“I can be a gentlemen,” Angel said quietly when they were alone again.
“Angel, I was only teasing. It would be different if we weren’t already so close, but it’s not like we don’t know each other, is it?”
“No, but I don’t want you to think that I don’t respect you.”
“I don’t think that.” Cordelia cupped his worried face in her hands and pressed a soft kiss to his lips. Rising to her feet, she held her hand out towards him.
“Come on, Tarzan,” she said brightly. “Jane wants to go back to the Tree house of lurve.”
Angel laughed and swept her up into his arms, ignoring the faint twinge of pain from his bruised ribs.
“Anything the lady wants,” he murmured, smiling down into her laughing eyes as he carried her towards the door…
“Where are we going?” Cordelia asked, when instead of heading for the leisure centre exit, Angel took the back staircase that led up to the roof.
“The roof,” the vampire replied, stating the obvious.
“Well, I know *that*, but why? I thought we were going back to the Hotel.”
“We are,” Angel said, as he shouldered the door open and carried her out onto the rooftop. “It’s quicker this way though.”
“Which way?” Cordelia asked puzzled, and then his meaning dawned. “Oh no, no way José,” she said, emphatically shaking her head.
“You wanted to be Jane.”
“Tarzan had a rope!”
Angel laughed at her wide-eyed horror. I won’t let you fall,” he promised as he set her back down on her feet. “You trust me, don’t you?”
The seer promptly thumped him on the shoulder in retaliation. “That’s cheating,” she accused, her mouth settling into a dramatic pout. “You’re not supposed to use the ‘don’t you trust me’ line this early on in a relationship.”
In response, Angel palmed the back of her head in his hand and tugged her towards him, planting a sound kiss on her pursed lips. Stepping back slightly, he leaned in close, deliberately invading her personal space as he trailed a forefinger back and forth along the neckline of her top.
“I like to break the rules,” he informed her.
Oh, I am in so much trouble! Cordelia thought, as her traitorous body reacted to his low seductive tone, automatically softening in readiness for what was to come. She squeezed her thighs together, trying to quell the throbbing ache at her centre – unfortunately without much notable success. Angel smiled knowingly and she flushed to the roots of her hair, embarrassed that her arousal was so transparent to him.
His finger continued with its journey across her skin then, brushing over her collarbone and shoulder as he circled around her in an almost predatory fashion. He eventually came to a standstill directly behind her, and her breath caught in her throat as he sensually ran the back of his finger down the length of her arm, barely even touching her, but making her acutely aware of his presence nevertheless.
Her heart thumping wildly in her chest, Cordelia waited for him to make his next move, which he did by hooking his arm around her middle and drawing her back against him, his free hand holding onto her hip. Her bottom settled snugly into the cradle of his strong thighs, and she gasped when she felt his erection straining hard against the crotch of his pants. The vampire seemed wholly unconcerned by her shock though, and bent to murmur a series of instructions in her ear as if nothing was amiss.
“Just relax and let me do most of the work, okay?” he said softly. “We’ll need to take a bit of run up each time, but I’ll take care of the rest. And, whatever you do, don’t look down – try to keep your gaze focused on where we’re going instead.”
Cordelia’s heartbeat accelerated in alarm, a wave of panic washing over her. “I need to hold on,” she blurted, her voice a little shrill.
“Just cross you arms over,” the vampire calmly instructed, his level tone helping to soothe her mounting anxiety.
The seer did as directed and found that this enabled her to take a proper grasp of the arm that was banded like steel around her midriff. With one hand clasping his bent elbow and the other clutching at his wrist, she relaxed back into his hold.
“Don’t drop me,” she said, her voice trembling with nerves.
“Don’t worry, no chance of that,” Angel assured her with confidence. “We’re going that way first, okay?” he said, pointing out their destination with his free hand.
“I need you to run with me until we’re about a metre from the edge, and then I’m going to jump. Got that?”
Cordelia nodded. “Yes.”
“All right then, on three. One… Two… Three…”
Oh God! I’m so gonna die! Cordelia thought as the edge came closer and closer…
And then, all of a sudden, she was flying, the wind gently ruffling her hair as they sailed effortlessly across the gap between the two buildings. The concrete roof of the adjacent apartment block rushed up to meet them, but she felt no fear, only wild exhilaration. She was laughing in delight when they finally touched down on solid ground again.
“Whoa! That was so cool!” she exclaimed, twisting round in his arms and giving him an excited hug.
Twirling away from him with an almost childlike enthusiasm, she hurried over to the edge to look down on the bright lights of the city. They stretched as far as the eye could see, twinkling like multi-coloured fairy lights on a Christmas tree. Angel smiled at her girlish wonder and followed at a more sedate pace. Slipping his arms around her waist from behind, he pressed a gentle kiss to her temple, inhaling the citrus-sweet smell of her hair.
“Glad you enjoyed it,” he said in her ear.
He dropped his face into the crook of her neck then, and Cordelia leaned back into him, curling her hand around the nape of his neck as his cool lips latched onto her throbbing pulse point. She closed her eyes, sighing contentedly when he placed a stream of wet, nibbling kisses up the column of her throat.
“Time we moved on, I think,” he murmured, when he finally lifted his mouth from her silky skin. “I want you in my bed, but I’m in danger of ravishing you on this rooftop if we carry on like this.”
Images of the latter scenario flooded Cordelia’s brain, making legs go weak at the knees and her breath quicken with want. Her shyness had all but disappeared now, leaving behind an urgent need to be at one with the man she had come to love beyond anything else.
Angel chuckled in her ear. “Maybe some other time,” he said, somehow reading her mind. “Somewhere comfortable – like my bed – is more suitable for what I have in mind for tonight though. I plan to worship every inch of your body, and discover all those secret places that are guaranteed to have you writhing in ecstasy.”
The seer twisted around in his arms and looped her arms around his neck, her eyes soft as melted caramel. “Take me to bed and lose me forever then,” she said boldly, despite the butterflies in her stomach.
“It’s a line from a movie,” she added off his quizzical look.
“Sounds like a good movie.”
“Oh yeah – Tom Cruise in a uniform – what more could a girl ask for?”
Angel touched his forehead to hers so that their noses rubbed together in a tender Eskimo kiss. “Me in her bed,” he suggested roguishly.
“Well, there is that I suppose,” Cordelia replied in a deliberately offhand manner, “Although, I hafta say, it’s a close call.”
“You’re pushing your luck, girl,” Angel growled in mock anger, causing her to break out in delighted laughter.
Her mirth was infectious and the vampire found himself laughing along with her. “Come on,” he said, turning her around in his arms. “Time to go.”
They arrived back at the Hyperion five minutes later, and Cordelia found herself being tugged towards the doorway that led down into the upper wings, almost before her feet touched the ground.
“Eager, aren’t we?” she teased as they descended the small wooden staircase to the topmost floor.
Angel didn’t reply, but when they reached the lushly decorated landing, he grabbed her upper arms and pushed her up against the wall, his dark eyes glittering with what could only be described as pure, predatory lust. Tunnelling his fingers through her hair, he kissed her roughly, his demanding tongue seeking out every nook and cranny in her mouth, while he forcibly separated her legs with his knee and pressed his inflamed groin into the vee of her thighs.
“I’ve waited long enough,” he gruffly informed her, when he finally released her from the dizzying embrace.
Incapable of speech, Cordelia just nodded, her fingers rising to touch her swollen, passion-ravaged lips, as he took her by the hand and towed her along the corridor and down several flights of stairs.
Jesus man, slow it down for god’s sake! This is only her second time remember? Angel sharply rebuked himself, striving to get his unleashed ardour back under control.
It was extremely difficult; the months of waiting for the right opportunity to take their relationship to the next level – not to mention the interrupted lovemaking session earlier – had only served to heighten his desire for her, not diminish it. By the time they reached his room though, he had regained some semblance of self-control, his concern for his seer’s well-being helping to kick his rampant hormones into partial touch.
Shutting and bolting the door behind them, he led her through into the bedroom area, where he turned on a couple of lamps, lighting the room with a muted yellow glow. Crossing to stand in front of a nervous Cordelia, he reached down and took her hands in his. Seeking to reassure her, he lifted their entwined fingers to his lips and brushed a gentle kiss across the backs of her knuckles.
“I’m sorry,” he said with a self-deprecating smile. “I kind of lost it there for a moment. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t, not really, it was just… intense.”
“That’s one way of describing it, I suppose,” the vampire replied as he stepped closer and slipped an arm around her waist.
He bent to kiss her then, his free hand rising to cradle the side of her face as his lips moved slowly and sweetly over hers. The loving tenderness in this embrace was a direct contrast to the wanton possessiveness of the one a few minutes before.
As she surrendered herself to his kiss, Cordelia’s hands rose to clutch at his back, her fingers tracing his vertebrae through the material of his t-shirt. After a while, their embrace began to heat up and she was filled with the desire to feel his cool skin under her burning fingertips. Pulling away, she insistently began to push up his t-shirt, intent on achieving her goal.
Angel quickly got the message and crossed his arms over his chest, removing the offending garment and tossing it aside. Cordelia’s warm hands and mouth were immediately upon him, her gentle fingers stroking up and down his back, while her soft lips trailed wet kisses across the tanned expanse of his torso, branding him as her own.
Angel closed his eyes, his hands rising to tangle in her hair as she circled the tip of her tongue around his flat, male nipples. Allowing her to be in control for now, he surreptitiously started to back her over towards the bed, preparing to take back the upper hand once they got there.
Oblivious, Cordelia continued with her ardent exploration of his body, her fingers massaging at the base of his spine, while her tongue dipped into the hollow of his throat to taste the salty tang of his skin. Having been unaware of her boyfriend’s sneaky manoeuvres, she jumped in surprise when the backs of her thighs bumped against the edge of the mattress.
Grinning at her astonishment, Angel curled his fingers into the hem of the turquoise vest top and, rather surprisingly, she obediently raised her arms so that he could remove it over her head. After first toeing off his boots and socks, he waited patiently while she sat down on the bed, and then knelt down on the floor in front of her. Lifting first one leg and then the other, he removed her sneakers in turn, pausing to kiss the inside of her bare ankles before he set each foot back down again.
Next, he hooked his hands into the waistband of her sweatpants and – with a soft instruction to ‘lift up’ – stripped them from her lower body, leaving her clad in just her underwear. Her matching bra and panties set was plain – pale blue cotton with a thin lace trim, pretty, rather than sexy. Noticing the focus of his gaze, Cordelia shifted uncomfortably, an embarrassed flush colouring her cheeks.
“I – umm – wasn’t really expecting this, or else I might have worn something a little more…” she trailed off, waving her hand at her rather functional undergarments to illustrate her point.
Angel grinned. “Right, so you came to the pool, dressed in *that* bikini, and you didn’t expect this to be the result.”
“Well, I…” Cordelia was at a loss for words. “I guess I didn’t think that far,” she eventually confessed. “I mean, all I could think about was those Buffy clones fluttering their eyelashes at you, and I…”
“Buffy clones?” One of Angel’s eyebrows quirked up at that.
“Yeah – you know, blond, petite – well, I guess some of them had boobs, but… what’s so funny?”
“You’re so wonderfully blunt sometimes,” he said, through his laughter.
“Oh,” Cordelia giggled when she realised what she’d said. “You think it’s funny?” she asked, surprised at his open mirth. “I thought you’d be mad.”
Rising up on his knees, Angel ran his hands up and down the soft skin of her outer thighs and kissed her forehead. “Why would I be?”
“Cus it’s well… you know – Buffy,” the seer said as if that explained everything.
“Cordy, I loved Buffy, I don’t deny that, but I’m not going jump down your throat just because you inferred that she’s flat-chested, for god’s sake.”
“You would have done before,” Cordelia pointed out.
Angel sighed, she wasn’t wholly wrong there. “That was then,” he said. “It’s different now. Besides, you’re right – she isn’t as blessed in that area as you are.”
“You think they’re too big?” Cordelia worriedly glanced down at her voluptuous chest, suddenly filled with an irrational sense of inadequacy.
“Well now, let’s see.” The vampire cupped her firm round breasts in his hands, testing their weight and feel by gently bouncing them in his palms.
“Nope, they seem like the perfect size to me,” he concluded with a sly wink, his thumbs lightly teasing her semi-erect nipples through the cotton of her bra.
The seer blushed furiously and batted his hands away. “Angel!”
“Well, you did ask,” he said, getting up off the floor.
He climbed up onto the bed, and Cordelia immediately scooted back up the mattress away from him, thwarting his first attempt to ensnare her. Undeterred and intent on capturing his prey, the vampire promptly followed her on all fours, forcing her to retreat again. When she reached the head of the bed, the seer could no longer evade his grasp however, and she squealed in protest as his hands closed like traps around her ankles.
Angel grinned and hauled her towards him, enjoying her playful teasing. Although there was obviously a serious side to the act, he firmly believed that sex should be fun, and was glad that his new girlfriend seemed to be of the same opinion. Still holding on to her slender ankles, he separated her legs and lowered his body down over hers. Immediately afterwards, his mouth descended to capture her parted lips in a slow, sensual kiss – the drugging embrace full of the promise of greater pleasures to come.
Cordelia moaned into his mouth, her breasts growing full and heavy as hot, clenching desire blossomed low in her belly. The delicious heaviness of his bodyweight pressed her deep into the mattress and it felt like absolute heaven. Wanting to crawl inside his skin, she hooked one of her legs around his waist and pushed her hips up into his, digging her heel into his buttocks to gain extra leverage.
A low tortured groan escaped Angel’s throat at her actions and he ripped his lips from hers. Palming her bottom in his hand, he held her tightly against him while he rhythmically thrust his throbbing erection into the cradle of her thighs, his need for release threatening to consume him whole. Although it was extremely hard to ignore the insistent demands of his body, he knew he had to stop before his self-control deserted him. Cordelia was so much more to him than a casual conquest, and he did not intend to treat her as such.
So, with a great deal of effort, he pulled away from her silken embrace and rolled over onto his back. Closing his eyes, he pressed the back of his hand against his forehead and focused his attention on subduing his out of control arousal, drawing in deep unneeded breaths to aid his efforts.
Cordelia’s soft worried “Angel?” eventually brought him back to his senses, and he turned his head to look at her, fixing an apologetic gaze on her anxious face.
“I’m sorry baby. I’ve just wanted this for so long and what with the unfortunate interruption earlier… I’m gonna have to do something to take the edge off, or I’m in danger of forgetting myself in the heat of the moment. And you need me to take this slow.”
“It’s all right, I want you to. I mean, we can…”
“No Cordy – you haven’t had sex in two years, not to mention the fact that it’s only your second time. I may be a caveman about some things, but wham, bam, thank-you ma’am, is not my style.”
Cordelia looked down, her fingers playing nervously with the comforter. “So what…?”
“You think you’re ready to see your first buck-naked man yet?” Angel asked, catching her off guard with his question.
The seer shyly raised her gaze to his, her eyes wide and round like saucers. Her colour was high and shiny beads of sweat dampened the dark tendrils of hair that framed her lovely face. Swallowing hard, she nodded, her cheeks flushing a deeper shade of pink.
Before she could change her mind, Angel sat up and shrugged off his sweatpants and boxers, then lay back down on the bed. Bending his outer leg at the knee, he placed his foot flat against the mattress and turned his nude body slightly towards her, drawing her gaze down to his erect penis, which rose proudly from the cradle of thighs.
“You’re beautiful,” she eventually said, her voice soft and breathy in tone.
Angel smiled, glad that she’d lost her earlier self-consciousness. He didn’t want to do anything that would make her uncomfortable, but couldn’t deny that he was hoping to coax her into helping out with his current predicament. Unaware, Cordelia stepped right into his carefully laid honey trap.
“Can I touch you?” she asked, inching a little closer.
When he nodded in acquiesce, she reached out and tentatively ran her forefinger down the front of his hard length. Then, moving her hand around to the sensitive underside, lightly stroked from root to tip with the pads of her fingers, causing his hips to buck up off the mattress in reaction.
“It feels… is it an it or a he?” she asked curiously.
The vampire couldn’t care less, just long as she didn’t stop touching him. “Whatever you want,” he said from between clenched teeth.
“He,” she decided. “I mean, he’s definitely male, isn’t he?” she added with a naughty giggle.
Despite the fact that her tantalising touch was absolute torture, Angel laughed and shook his head, charmed by her saucy playfulness. “You’re incorrigible.”
Cordelia snuggled closer and rested her warm cheek against his chest, her hand still lightly stroking up and down his twitching erection. “Is this what you meant by taking the edge off?”
“I think you’ve got the general idea, yes,” Angel said, the strain of holding out evident in his strangled tone.
“Am I doing it right? I mean Xander liked… humph!”
The seer was cut off as the vampire’s hand clamped over her mouth. “That’s the last time that *boy* gets mentioned in our bed,” he said fiercely.
“Okay, keep your hair on. Geez! Possessive much?”
“Get used to it.”
Cordelia ignored that. “Well, am I?” she demanded impatiently. “Doing it right, I mean.”
“You don’t have to be so tentative; it’s okay to be a little firmer.”
Angel reached down and closed his hand over hers, guiding her movements for a while, showing her how to touch him the way he liked. She quickly caught on and he let his hand fall away, leaving her to tease and arouse him as she saw fit. Spurred on by his low moans of pleasure, Cordelia gradually gained in confidence, her ministrations growing bolder as she sensed him surrender to her rhythmic touch.
While she pumped his smooth hard flesh between her fingers at a firm, but steady pace, Angel fisted his fingers into the comforter, his arousal rapidly starting to spiral out of control. His borrowed blood was rushing like wildfire through his veins, his sex painfully erect, and he was slowly starting to lose all sense of self.
“That’s it baby, like that. Feels so good,” he began to chant, mindlessly tossing his head from side to side on the pillow as his focus narrowed to the exquisite pleasure of her hand on his rigid flesh.
It wasn’t long before his body tightened in readiness for blissful release, and he gasped, arching his neck back at the intensity of the sensation. His engorged sex pulsed once in her hand, and then he came with a long drawn-out groan of completion.
“So that’s how I get you completely at my mercy,” he dimly heard his seer murmur as he slowly came back down from his high.
“Useful to know,” she added, when he eventually opened his dazed eyes to look at her. She smiled at him, a warm twinkle sparkling in her eyes and her expression filled with smug satisfaction.
“It works both ways,” he warned, grabbing some tissues to clean himself off.
“Oh, it does, does it?” she asked archly.
“I can almost guarantee it.”
“My, my – confident, aren’t we?”
“Let’s test my theory out, shall we?” the vampire suggested, rolling her underneath him in one smooth, unbroken move.
Skipping the preliminaries, he bent to kiss her neck and confidently slid his hand beneath the waistband of her panties. His fingers teased the damp curls guarding the entrance to her body, while his middle digit circled her moist outer lips, gathering up her creamy arousal and making her whimper with pleasure.
“You like that, huh?” he whispered in her ear. “How about this?”
His thumb brushed lightly over her clitoris, and Cordelia let out a helpless moan, instinctively squeezing her thighs around his probing hand. “Oh yes, feels so good!”
Angel’s skilful fingers played her like a lute until her body was thrumming with ecstasy. As the sizzling sensations coursed, unrestrained, through her quaking body, her heart started to pound like a bass drum in her ears, while her breath heaved in harsh pants. Then, out of the blue, the vampire removed his hand, leaving her suddenly bereft of erotic stimulation.
“Don’t stop!” she wailed in protest, beyond anything other than incredible pleasure he was affording her.
“Yep – definitely at my mercy,” he remarked blandly, making her want to scream in frustration.
“I don’t think I like you anymore,” she complained, her bottom lip jutting out into a sulky pout.
“Sorry babe, but I beg to differ. I have strong evidence to the contrary you see. To start with there’s this…”
The vampire paused in his narrative and reached behind her back to unhook her bra. Slipping the straps off her shoulders, he exposed the soft mounds of her breasts to his openly lustful gaze. “They seem quite happy to see me,” he remarked, reaching out to tweak her pebbled nipples between his thumb and forefingers, making her breath catch in her throat.
“And then of course, a woman smells a certain way when she likes a man, probably something to do with the way her body reacts when she’s sexually aroused, don’t you think? You, my gorgeous seer, are saturating the air with that heavenly female scent right now, so I’m guessing those panties of yours are anything but dry. Let’s see, shall we?”
Aroused beyond belief, Cordelia bit her lip as Angel hunkered down between her legs and deliberately sniffed the air. His left hand curled around her upper thigh to hold her still, and then he slipped his other hand into the elasticated edge of her panties, rubbing the damp material between his fingers and thumb.
“Feels kind of wet to me,” he murmured. Then, without warning, he tugged sharply on the thin cotton and tore the undergarment from her, leaving her naked and exposed beneath him.
“You look wet too,” he continued, his voice thick with heady desire. “Soaking actually – all pink and glistening. Why is that do you reckon? Could it be that you were lying, and you do like me after all?”
Cordelia wanted to resist, but it was too hard, what with his face between her legs and his mouth mere centimetres from where she wanted it the most. She vividly recalled the wondrous feel of his tongue moving against her slick folds and she was suddenly desperate for him to finish off what he had started at the pool.
“Please…” she moaned beseechingly.
Cordelia hesitated, her inexperience showing as she wavered over voicing her desires.
“Tell me what you want, baby,” Angel softly urged, lightly stroking her inner thigh with his fingertips.
“Your mouth – on me – like before,” she gasped out, her back arching and hips undulating against the mattress as her body involuntarily signalled its need for sensual satisfaction.
“You liked that, did you?”
“Yes! It was just… I’ve never… I mean no one else… So good…”
In her rising delirium, she wasn’t really making sense, but one thing, in particular, stood out to the listening vampire from the midst of all her garbled rambling.
“I’m the first?” he asked, the very idea filling him with pure masculine delight. “To go down on you, I mean.”
“Yes! – Angel please! Don’t make me wait anymore,” the seer pleaded breathlessly, agitatedly twisting the comforter around her fingers to stop herself from appeasing the throbbing at the juncture of her thighs with her own touch.
“I’m also the last,” the vampire told her possessively, and then finally gave her what she wanted.
Humming with pleasure, he ran his tongue lazily over the soft pink folds of her womanhood, the sweet and sour tang of her arousal shooting sensation straight to his reawakened groin. With her delicious womanly flavour no longer diluted by the water of the pool, his sensitive taste buds were enjoying a palatable feast and his tongue devoured the gourmet meal on offer with relish.
Bending one of her legs back up towards her chest, he opened her up a little more, his mouth seeking out the small nodule hidden near the top of her sex, while his fingers lightly stroked the moist outer lips down below. As his lips closed around her swollen nub, Cordelia stiffened, a fountain of gibberish pouring forth from her lips as her pleasure started to spiral toward its conclusion, her body determined not to let anything stand in the way of its dogged pursuit of orgasm.
Sensing she was nearing completion, Angel sucked relentlessly on her throbbing clitoris and pushed two fingers up into her wet heat. Her vaginal walls fluttered in mild protest at the invasion, but eventually relaxed enough to permit further exploration. With the accuracy of a heat-seeking missile, the vampire’s fingers quickly found what they were looking for, and the seer exploded in ecstasy as he pressed firmly against the spot that was guaranteed to launch her like a rocket into space.
As her inner walls contracted hard around his fingers, Angel lifted his head from between her legs to look up at her. The seer’s eyes were closed, her long dark lashes lying flat against her flushed cheeks and her golden skin dewy with sweat. Lost in the ecstasy of release, she was veritably writhing on the bed, soft cries tumbling voraciously from her lips as she unconsciously stroked the sensitive tips of her breasts with her fingers.
The vampire had never seen anything more erotically beautiful in his life and the effect on hardening sex was instantaneous. He was standing fully to attention in no time, desperate to feel those hot walls rippling around his throbbing length, as he thrust deep and hard into the well of her femininity. Retracting his fingers from her body, he rose from between her trembling legs and positioned himself atop of her, his hands either side of her head and the tip of his erection nestling against the quivering entrance to her body.
“You’re gorgeous when you come,” he told her hoarsely, when her eyes finally opened to look at him. “I want to see it again, only this time I’m going to be inside you when it happens.”
Cordelia’s left hand rose to clutch at his muscular bicep, while her fingers lightly stroked his face. She had climaxed, but there was an ache inside her that was not yet satisfied, and her body still clamoured for more.
“Yes,” she breathlessly agreed. “Oh yes!”
Easily balancing on one arm, Angel reached down between her legs and deftly swiped two fingers across her distended clitoris, quickly building her arousal back up to boiling point. Finally satisfied that she was ready, he shifted his weight so that he was once again supporting himself on both hands, and then slowly pushed an inch or so inside her.
“Ready?” he softly asked, looking down into her hazel eyes, which were large and filled with desire.
Cordelia wound her legs around his lower back in response, the move causing him to sink a little deeper inside her. “Want to feel all of you,” she said, hooking her arms under his shoulders and attempting to pull him down on top of her.
Not complying straight away, Angel cupped a hand under her upper thigh and penetrated her fully in one smooth thrust. Her fingernails dug into his shoulders in reaction, and he let loose with a low groan of pleasure. He had been right in his imaginings; she was wonderfully tight inside, her inner muscles gripping him with a band of steel, even though they accepted rather than repelled his body’s invasion of hers.
Dropping down to rest on his elbows, he blanketed her with his big, strong body, keeping the majority of his weight shifted forward onto his arms so not to crush her slighter form. Cordelia moaned her approval, arching her neck and baring her throat to him as she pressed her soft breasts firmly against the hard wall of his chest. Their bodies rocked gently together to begin with, their movements slow and shallow as they savoured the sensation of finally being one.
“God Cordy, you feel so fantastic. I never want to leave,” Angel murmured against her skin as he nuzzled affectionately at her neck.
Cordelia turned her head and touched her mouth to his temple. “I love you,” she murmured into his hair.
“Love you too baby,” the vampire whispered back. “God so much.”
He closed his mouth over hers in a fiery, passionate kiss, and their coupling increased in both depth and tempo, their shared ardour shifting up a gear. Soft feminine cries and deep male groans filled the air with their harmonious chorus, and the mattress springs started to creak in protest as the headboard rattled against the wall.
Panting and whimpering, Cordelia clung to Angel as he thrust into her at an ever-increasing pace. His hard length stretched her inner walls to just the right side of uncomfortable, causing a delicious friction that had her eyes rolling into the back of her head and her senses singing with joy.
Lost in the warm, tight heaven of his seer’s body, the vampire thrust into her with wild abandonment, releasing soft grunts of pleasure at the bottom of each stroke. Adrenaline flooded his veins as Cordelia’s gasps and moans filled his ears with their sweet sound, both sensations pushing him towards the finish line with no chance of reprieve. Sensing he wasn’t going to last much longer, Angel deliberately shifted the angle of his entry, so that his pubic bone pressed firmly against her clitoris with each downward thrust.
“Oh God! So close!” Cordelia cried out loudly, when this immediately pushed her closer to the edge.
“Yeah, that’s it baby, come for me,” the vampire murmured in encouragement, driving hard into her grasping depths as he peppered her face with fervent kisses.
A few more strokes and the incoherent seer tumbled over the edge with an impassioned scream of his name, her sweat-slickened body arching in exultation as she clawed at his back, her fingernails scoring his flesh. “Angel! Yes! Oh God!”
As her inner muscles began to contract rhythmically around his painfully engorged sex, Angel finally lost it, pouring himself into her with a strangled groan of triumph. His sex pulsed hard as he repeatedly bathed her insides with his cool seed, his body shuddering in violent orgasm. Completely spent, he eventually collapsed atop of her, crushing her under his boneless weight.
Her breath still leaving her lungs in harsh, almost painful, gasps, Cordelia didn’t protest, simply curled herself tighter around him, her trembling legs still crossed across his lower back and her hands running soothingly up and down his spine. She tucked her face into the crook of his neck, her salty tears dampening his skin as her shattered emotions finally overwhelmed her.
Angel pulled back to look down into her tear-filled eyes. “I love you,” he told her with honest emotion, tenderly brushing her hair off her cheeks.
“I love you too,” Cordelia softly returned, and then drew his face down to seal that heartfelt declaration with a loving kiss.
…TO BE CONTINUED (MAYBE)…
THIS FIC APPEARS TO BE UNFINISHED