SUMMARY: Angel’s inner struggle with what he is and who he wants to be is hampered by his strong emotional connection to the past. His secret affair with Cordelia blurs the distinction between demon and soul even further. And just when things can’t get any more complicated, mutilated corpses start popping up and everyone, including Angel, fears he’s back on the prowl.
POSTED: 3 Jul 2010
CATEGORY: Drama, Suspense, Romance & Glimpses of Explicit
CONTENT/PAIRING: A/C Romance and A/C/W Friendship
WARNINGS: Explicit Sexual Content and Language
FICPIC CREDIT: CydneStorm
1) Canon is intact through ‘Parting Gifts’. After Cordelia’s rescue from the auction block, the characters entered my fictional world. The story begins 3/15/00, but certain events have been underway since shortly after Wesley’s arrival.
2) I ran across the outline for this story while looking for some research notes, and before I knew what was happening fingers were pecking.
It lies in all of us.
Sleeping. Waiting. And though unwanted. Unbidden.
It will stir. Open its jaws. And howl.
It speaks to us…Guides us…
Passion rules us all. And we obey.
What other choice do we have?
Angel Investigations – Wednesday, March 15
“Morning,” Angel mumbled as he headed for coffee, stopping short when his sight landed on the empty pot. “No coffee.” He stated matter-of-factly, glancing back at Cordelia.
“Not since about three hours ago-and it’s afternoon-and when did I become designated coffee girl?”
“Making coffee is a task typically performed by the secretary,” Wesley offered then meeting Cordelia’s glower regretted venturing from his research.
“Bite me,” Cordelia snapped. “And guess what?” Turning her attention to Angel, Cordelia snatched a check from her desk and waved it in the air with the excitement of a child on her birthday. “We have a new client and a big fat retainer.”
Angel questioned how he’d missed a stranger’s presence until the lithe, young body jiggling in front of him reminded him of where his concentration had been most of the morning. Moving in for a closer look he took hold of Cordelia’s wrist to keep her and the check still. “What kind of job pays three thousand dollars?”
“Don’t ruin this Angel with your usual, well, being you self.” Cordelia pulled her wrist free and resumed waving the check in the air. “It’s just a retainer. There’s plenty more where this came from.”
Pushing away the distracting thoughts from his dream, Angel half turned and asked the question again. “What’s the job?”
“It’s not the type of service we normally provide,” Wesley hesitantly began, “however, I’m inclined to agree with Cordelia in this instance. Our financial status dictates we accept the case,” he quickly finished.
“Now there’s something you don’t hear everyday,” Cordelia announced before Wesley could spill the beans before she had time to coax Angel into the idea.
But Angel ignored her, instead, keeping his focus on the more likely source of a direct answer. “Wes?”
Angel’s brow hanging noticeably lower, as it often did when he’d reached his limit of irritation, Wesley cleared his throat and went straight to the point. “It seems Mr. Kirkland is in the middle of a rather nasty divorce and requires evidence of his wife’s… shall we say, illicit activites.”
“Good grief, Wesley, you make it sound like the woman’s involved in the black market or some-”
His brow arched high in question, Angel was suddenly bearing down on her, catching Cordelia off guard. She instinctively scooted away from her desk, and away from the sexy form nuzzling way too close for comfort.
“There’s a prenup that says the wife gets nothing if she’s unfaithful and it seems Mrs. ‘I’m at the peak of my sexual prowess’ likes it a la mode.”
“We’re not taking the case.”
Angel’s tone vibrated finality, and left up to Wesley that would be the end of it, but Cordelia was aiming for an entirely different ending.
“Who died and made you boss?”
“Me. To both questions.”
Angel was looming again. His eyes were dark. Piercing. Consuming. Maybe he’d always done that, Cordelia mused, realizing she’d never had reason to notice before.
“Will you lighten up already.” She countered, taking a step back and focusing on her irritation instead of the vampy vibe making it hard to concentrate.
“Filming a little hank panky isn’t a big deal. Especially when someone’s paying us to do it.”
The big lug wasn’t budging, but Cordelia could be just as stubborn. She wasn’t about to wave a white flag. “Back me up here Wesley.”
“Well, I… Well-”
“Return Mr. Kirkland’s check.” Angel was staring down Wesley now. The employee he could depend on to do what he said simply because he said it.
“God you’re useless,” Cordelia hissed at Wesley while matching Angel scowl for scowl.
“I’m going out.” Angel slowly backed away breaking eye contact with Cordelia only long enough to throw Wesley a silent warning not to disobey him.
Then he was gone in an instant, neither quite sure when his solid form disappeared in a blur of motion.
Once certain Angel was out hearing range Cordelia released the breath she’d been holding. “We’re keeping the check and we’re taking the case.”
“Let me worry about Angel.”
“No. No buts. What Angel doesn’t know won’t hurt him… Or us.”
Cordelia’s Apartment – Wednesday Night, March 15
Cordelia set her glass on the counter mouthing thank you when it floated over to the sink. An anticipated breeze tickling her skin, she ignored the frenzied flutter of air signaling Dennis’ disagreement and joined her guest. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Angel casually slipped off his coat hanging it on the hook next to Cordelia’s jacket. His action was perfunctory, comfortable, as though he’d done it a hundred times before. “How was your day?”
“I have a fuddy-duddy stick in the mud for a boss. You?”
“I have a secretary that refuses to do as she’s told.” A devilish smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth, Angel leaned his head down and scrubbed his hand across the back his neck
“Maybe she just wants to be treated like an equal.” Cordelia eased closer, the slow sway of her hips responding to the smoldering eyes narrowed on them.
“Maybe she should learn her place,” Angel whispered hoarsely.
Angel grabbed Cordelia pressing her against the wall, the oomph of bodies colliding swallowed up in a hard, hungry kiss. Their tongues tasted and teased while their fingers clawed and ripped at clothing within reach.
“Enough foreplay,” Cordelia gasped when forced to break away for a quick breath.
Angel’s nostril flared taking in the heady scent of arousal. Cordelia was ravenous tonight and he was anxious for her to feed. Her legs wrapping around his waist, Angel slid his hands down cupping her bottom. Their mouths locked in another heated kiss, he maneuvered them into the bedroom kicking the door closed behind them.
Sedita Acting School – Friday Night, March 171
Angel had been waiting outside the makeshift studio for over an hour. At least a dozen students had left in the last fifteen minutes or so. Head cocked, he stared in confusion when the lights went out and moved in closer when the last two leaving locked the door.
The young man jumped barely squelching a yelp, which amused Angel more than it should. “I’m waiting for Cordelia Chase.”
“And you are?” The young man eyed him suspiciously, but luckily his female companion was more approachable.
Her coy smile as fake as her blond hair, she stepped closer without hesitation. “I’m Gina.”
He wasn’t in the mood for conversation, but she looked at him expectantly and Cordelia had scolded him about being too pushy for information. “Angel.
Do you know where Cordelia is?” Angel asked, satisfied that introducing himself qualified as social interaction.
“Are you and Cordelia friends or friends with benefits?”
Angel wasn’t sure how to answer. The last thing he needed was to flash an ‘I’m available’ sign. But he’d have hell to pay if he gave the wrong impression and it got back to Cordelia.
“Friends. Close friends.”
“Oh,” Gina sighed disappointedly. “Cordelia ditched class tonight. Said she was going out of town.”
Hollywood Nights Hotel – Friday Night, March 17
With a name like Hollywood Nights, Cordelia doubted anyone drove fifty miles out of the city before realizing they’d made a mistake. Purposely tucked
out of the way and not a single vacancy, the hotel was crawling with ‘Cheaters Club’ conventioneers.
“Do you have a good shot?” Cordelia asked, leaning over Wesley’s shoulder as much as she could without drawing attention to themselves as they squatted behind the desert cart.
“Perhaps it would be easier if you weren’t using me for a lounge chair.”
“Sorry.” Cordelia straightened up, using the opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of the cheating duo.
She hadn’t expected the leisurely dining and causal conversation. In fact, she had expected Mrs. Kirkland and her boy toy to make a beeline for the nearest bed. That was, Cordelia reluctantly admitted, how she and Angel did it.
Dinner and conversation with Angel. The idea was laughable… with a side of pathetic. Broody vamp didn’t eat and his social skills were still a work in progress, which meant a date would consist of her talking while he counted how many times she chews before swallowing. No thanks. Their arrangement was fine just the way it was – slap and tickle without the messy emotions.
“Cordelia,” Wesley called out softly. “Cordelia,” he called as loud as he could risk. “They’re leaving. We have to go.”
“Oh. Right. Go.” Lost in her thoughts Cordelia had missed the couple leave their table and head for the elevator. “Go where?”
“I bribed the desk clerk for their room number.”
“If we film through the peephole we’ll have to piece the parts together. And ewe!”
“Shush. Keep your voice down. And in case you haven’t noticed, this endeavor is rife with… ewe.” Wesley tried to shake off his unease with their quick-
cash voyeurism, failing miserably. “With any luck the adjacent rooftop will provide an unobstructed view.”
“Devious and a plan. I like that in a partner.”
“Thank you. I have my moments. But we need to pick up our pace,” Wesley urged when the couple disappeared into the elevator.
Angel’s Apartment – Saturday Pre Dawn, March 18
Angel pressed the button again letting Cordelia’s voice fill the room.
“Angel. Hi. We, uh, must have gotten our wires crossed. I have acting class tonight. Uh, thought you knew.”
Eyes, clouded with distrust, narrowed on the little box housing Cordelia’s lie.
“It’ll be late so don’t come o-”
He jabbed the button cutting her off.
Shoulders hunched, Angel rested his clenched fists against the desk, and concentrated on getting his emotions in check. They didn’t have plans to meet tonight. Her lie was the only thing he had reason to resent. Whatever Cordelia was doing, whoever she was doing it with was none of his business.
“My boy is troubled.”
“Go away, Darla.”
“Can’t lover. You won’t let me.”
Angel browsed his book collection. Every title read and reread until the words were burned into memory. An impromptu patrol of the city offered only a short reprieve. Sunrise was less than two hours away, and when he returned, she’d still be there.
“What do you want?”
“What I always want, my love. To help you.”
The rational response would be to turn away, shut out the whispers of his past. But normalcy was reserved for the daylight, for maneuvering through the carefully constructed facade of an agency, for helping lost souls find their way.
Here, in the predawn hours, the dark recesses of his mind could open its door. And try as he might to resist, he would enter.
Angel settled down in his chair, the coolness of the leather lost on him.
“What’s the play, Darla?”
He felt her arms slide around his shoulders, down his bare chest, her touch the only thing in the room colder than him.
“You said something about helping me out?” His tone as drowsy as his eyes, Angel shifted, easing the stress against his crotch.
Darla’s fingers brushed down his stomach, lower and lower, barely touching, teasing.
“Give me what I want first,” she purred against his throat.
The muscles in his face rippled, blunt teeth elongated into sharp points.
“There’s my boy.”
“I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.”
Crash Davis in Bull Durham
Cordelia’s Apartment – Saturday Afternoon March 18
The would be sleuths inspected their collage of photographs with a smidgen of pride and heavy dollop of embarrassment.
“You did good, Wesley.” An occasional guilty conscience was simply part of the job, Cordelia reasoned, and gave her partner a congratulatory pat on the back. “Enough skin to confirm our client’s suspicions but not so much to make you porn king.”
“Thank you, Cordelia. I’ve grown to appreciate your obscure compliments.”
Removing his glasses had made the uncomfortable task of cataloging easier, but Wesley knew there were private moments of Mrs. Kirkland that would remain in his mind’s eye for quite some time.
“Cordelia, do you worry this type of work might present the wrong impression of our agency’s services?”
“Like sleazy, trashy, do anything for a buck skank?”
“Well, yes. It is, after all, our responsibility to defend against the seedy underbelly of society not-”
“Capture it on an eight by ten glossy?”
“Perhaps a cup of tea would soothe pesky inhibitions,” Wesley suggested, pushing down the risqué image flapping in his face.
“You think tea solves everything-Dennis, do you mind?” Cordelia yelled over her shoulder and without skipping a beat resumed their conversation.
“Look, I don’t enjoy peeping into windows anymore than you do, but this is a chance for some real money. Besides, it’s not our fault the woman’s been canoodling with some young stud,” she defended while doing her best to ignore how the prickly analogy irritated her skin.
“Perhaps you’re right.” Wesley gathered up the scattered photos, slipping them into the folder and out of view. “Let’s put these away for now and concentrate on our remaining dilemma.”
“Beefcake’s license plate?”
“Exactly. How is the tea coming along?” Wesley called out, prepared to duck at a second’s notice.
A steamy cup of Earl Grey with just a hint of lavender floated with perfect precision, garnering a sigh of relief when landing squarely on the table in front of Wesley.
“You thought Dennis was going to dump it in your lap, didn’t you?”
“It was a possibility I was prepared for.” Wesley offered an uncharacteristic wink and appreciative smile, mentally noting that Cordelia had stocked one of his favorite blends.
Ethereal laughter fluttered around the room unnoticed. Dennis enjoyed taunting the stodgy Brit, and surprisingly, was learning to overlook his ‘know it all’ attitude and actually like the man. Because unlike the licentious vampire making late night visits, Wesley wasn’t taking advantage of his friend’s vulnerability.
Conversations – Sunday Evening, March 19
Having gushed her confession in one breath, the responding dead air made Cordelia wish she’d taken the face-to-face approach. It was easier to maneuver around Angel when catching those rare and subtle changes he thinks no one sees. A quiet darkening of the eyes. A barely-there tic of an otherwise unflinching jaw line.
Too late now.
“Angel, say something.”
Angel had plenty to say, but first, he needed to let the truth behind Cordelia’s lie seep in and calm the wild scenarios that had plagued him for the last 48 hours. Yes, he was counting — with a little help from Darla.
“You did exactly what I told you not to.” There wasn’t a hint of question. His tone was cold and heavy with accusation.
“I believe I covered that in my mad dash to come clean.”
“Feeling guilty, Cordelia?” He’d suffered. More than he deserved. Cordelia wasn’t about to get off easy regardless of the relief her confession granted.
Angel wanted her to admit she was wrong and felt bad about it. Well she was and she did. Cordelia just wasn’t willing to announce it with the fervor he was looking for.
“Well, yea. A little.”
The dead air returned except for a low pitch background noise Cordelia would normally attribute to static, but knowing the bossy vampire as she did, growl was a safer bet.
“Okay. A lot. Happy?”
“Getting there.” Angel’s voice was gruff, barely hinting he might be willing to ease up.
Not much for her effort, but more or less what she expected.
It was the reality of her situation that galled Cordelia the most. They wouldn’t get the rest of their money without giving Mr. Kirkland a full account of his wife’s extracurricular activities. And she’d promised Wesley this wouldn’t come back to bite them on the ass.
“I need a favor.”
Nothing. Even the background noise had stilled.
Cordelia took a deep breath. The action was supposed to be calming, help find her center. Another deep breath confirmed her acting coach was an idiot. She could do this on her own. In fact, she was rather good at it. Had been since eighth grade.
“You know you’re going to forgive me, Angel.” A smooth-skinned lilt wafted across the distance that separated them to tickle his ear.
“Don’t make me beg.” Sultry. Molten silver flowing unconstrained over jagged-edged rocks.
Cordelia thought she was playing him, and Angel would let her — for now. Then it would be his turn. He was a master in the rules of fair play, had made a few of them and broken all of them.
“I need you to ask cop lady to run a license number. Will you do that for me?” Silky. Raspy. Throaty. Suggesting everything. Promising nothing.
If Cordelia wasn’t bartering her affections, the twitchy ache in his crotch would be impossible to ignore. But vengeance was more fun when served hot. His painful erection would have to wait until he had the little vixen flat on her back and begging.
“Why should I help you, Cordelia?”
His voice thick and penetrating, it slid over her, coating her skin and bleeding into every crevice.
Cordelia had cursed his silent treatment, making her do all the work, but now worried the sound of his gravely timbre would unravel her.
“Because we’re friends. And friends help each other.”
Angel picked up on the edginess that had seeped back into her voice. It shrouded the lush, honeyed whispers that aroused fleshy images.
“I’ll talk to Kate and drop off the information later tonight.”
His offer resonated in her head. Drop off. Tonight. Cordelia realized too late she might have gone too far. Because it sounded like Angel’s little present would come wrapped in ulterior motives.
Their conversation had left them both hot and bothered. Hell, she planned a long, libido-dousing soak in ice water as soon as they hung up. But if Angel thought a horizontal mambo was on schedule for tonight, the horny vampire needed to buy a clue. Maybe get her one while he was at it, because she was about three seconds from chucking the ice bath and singing cha-cha-cha.
“I really appreciate the help, big guy. I can always count on you.”
Big guy? That was office lingo. An occasional ego stroke when he’d messed up, or a not so subtle go kill something so I can read my magazine in peace. Angel didn’t like the way this was going. But before he could put them back on track –
“Don’t put yourself out-Asking Kate is more than enough-I’ll get the info tomorrow-Thanks-Bye.”
A hard click followed by a grating dial tone reverberated in Angel’s brain. Cordelia could be such a bitch.
And heaven help him, he couldn’t get enough of her.
LAPD – Late Sunday Evening, March 19
“I’m not your personal research assistant, Angel.” Kate tossed the folder into the out bin with a little too much oomph almost spilling its contents. “You can’t just drop by every time you need something.”
Assuring Kate that wasn’t his intention would be Angel’s next move if he thought there was the slightest chance she’d believe it.
“It’s not for me. It’s for a… friend.”
“And that’s different how?”
Angel would think a woman scorned was worse than hell — except he knows better.
“Look. She needs my help.”
“If this guy is harassing her, your friend should file a formal complaint.”
That comment had air quotes all over it. Angel cringed at the mental reference. God, he was thinking like Cordelia now.
“It’s complicated,” was all he said. Because telling the angry woman he planned to trade the information for a hot and sweaty lust-fest that was illegal in most countries would only complicate things more.
“If she’s mixed up with you, I’m sure it is.”
Angel scrubbed his face. This was the last place he wanted to be and the last place Kate needed him to be. “I’m sorry I hurt you… I thought it was better to be honest before anything happened.”
“This has nothing to do with that.” She didn’t believe that one herself. This must be what it feels like on the other side of the interrogation table.
Kate was ready to give in just to end the humiliation. It was bad enough that Angel shut down her flirtation before she’d even gotten started, but to get the ‘it’s not you it’s me’ speech was almost more than she could stand.
“If I run the plate will you leave?”
Cordelia’s Apartment – Sunday Night, March 191
“What’s wrong with this one?” Stephanie whined.
“Nothing. We just don’t click.” Cordelia poured another margarita trying to decide if it was her second or third. Realizing it was her fourth, she hesitated then filled her glass.
Considering the third degree she was getting, Stephanie had missed her calling, and mild intoxication was a girl’s best friend — if she was keeping a dirty little secret.
“That’s what you said about Luke,” the girl tried again. “At least give Kevin a chance. He’s a nice guy, Cordelia. And he likes you. A lot.”
Her excuses getting flimsier with each fix-up, Cordelia knew she’d have to do better. “I had a boyfriend in high school named Kevin. He was murdered-it was a whole emotional thing-I almost missed the prom.”
The murder part was true enough, but the rest of it left a bad taste in her mouth. “Stephanie, it’s just-”
“Ex post facto mourning?”
The dig was laced with a heavy dose of sarcasm, but Cordelia figured being accused of fake bereavement was better than the alternative.
The truth was, anything more than a friendly dinner and movie was out. Cordelia learned that while dating Luke — or trying to. Gorgeous with a promising career as a screenwriter, and none of it mattered. Macking on a hottie after riding your boss like bronco girl was like asking your grandmother for directions to your G-Spot.
“Stephanie…” Having enough sense to pass on a fifth margarita, Cordelia refilled Stephanie’s glass instead. Maybe if she got the girl drunk enough she’d leave her the hell alone. “We need another batch of margaritas.”
Wesley’s Apartment – Sunday Night, March 19
“Thank you, Willow,” Wesley proffered obligingly, adding a mindful, “and remember you are sworn to secrecy,” before hanging up the phone.
Procuring Miss Calendar’s research had required little plying on his part, garnering Willow’s discretion, even less.
The young woman was eager to help her friend while prudent enough not to get her hopes up prematurely.
Wesley shoved aside the pinch of guilt over his small deceit. He had recently photographed naked, writhing bodies for money. A little deception about helping Miss Summers improve her love life was hardly going to keep him up nights.
His eyes were tired from hours of reading and taking notes. But having his hands on a translation of the original Kalderaš curse renewed his energy. And knowing his newest piece of research material would be available tomorrow morning made the prospect of sleeping practically impossible.
The kettle whistling, Wesley took a break to mentally peruse his options. Black tea would provide the necessary boost to his stamina. Perhaps tonight he would double bag for an extra kick.
Cordelia was actually rather fortunate to have a ghost, Wesley mused as he headed to the kitchen. It had been quite enjoyable having his afternoon tea served piping hot with the perfect portions of lemon and honey. Mixing his tea and discovering he was out of fresh lemons, Wesley briefly contemplated the likelihood of Dennis wanting to change venues.
Cordelia’s Apartment – Later Sunday Night, March 191
Fisted knuckles hovered inches from the door, hesitating a second or two before pulling back. Angel stepped away, putting a little distance between himself and the unsuspecting girl inside.
If he allowed himself to dwell on the ramifications of what he was doing he might backtrack and take another path.
Thinking was overrated — with Cordelia just a few feet away.
It would be easier with Kate, he reasoned too late for it to matter. She’d be accepting, willfully naïve, and forgiving — like another blonde not so long ago. But he’d teamed up with a curvaceous brunette with a come-hither, keep-your-distance sexiness that makes a man want to fall in love.
And at some point, that Angel couldn’t quite put his finger on, taking a different path became an option neither soul nor demon wanted to travel.
He wasn’t worried about himself. He could handle the falling in love part, anchor his emotions on the cautious side of lust. Angel chuckled at the authoritative tone resonating in his head. It was hard to speak authoritatively from a space continually cut into ribbons of light.
Cordelia had become his light, illuminating the darkness of his nature just enough for him to see, but never so bright that she blinded him to what he is.
He’d worried about her in the beginning, feared she’d be heartbroken if wanting more than he could give. But Cordelia, for all her youth and innocence, was surprisingly receptive to his emotional limitations, practically embracing them as the foundation of their arrangement.
Night after lust-filled night she never asked for anything beyond the physical realm of his capabilities, until eventually, his worry turned to wonder.
Cordelia’s silhouette appeared in the window peaking carnal desires Angel had thought tapped down to a safe level.
He drew in a deep breath, blowing it out slow and cautioning demon-spurred cravings.
For a vampire it was akin to walking a tightrope. Sating the need, feeding the hunger, but always stopping before there was nothing left.
Angel was always aware that the rope holding him up could break at any moment.
Cordelia fed on the adventure, tested the weak spots, and reveled in its elasticity.
Sometimes he wanted to give in, join her, and humanity be damned.
Preparing to knock, he rubbed his knuckles over the wood, bringing his fist back again when catching the muffled conversation inside.
Angel leaned closer and narrowed in on Cordelia hoping to identify the other voice. Female, he determined, and let the relief ease his stiffened frame. Throwing a date through the window would piss her off, and probably get him kicked out on his ass.
He rapped lightly, listening for Cordelia’s voice and the pad of her footfalls moving closer to the door.
Cordelia was shocked. He would have preferred surprised. And when she kept the door open just enough to poke her head out, cautioned cravings reared up in retaliation.
“Cordelia,” husked across the narrow breach.
She leaned out a little further. But not for a stolen kiss. Her eyes were glassy, and her breathy, “What are you doing here,” reeked of liquor.
Before he could say anything another head popped out. It was hard to tell who was more annoyed by the intrusion, but as usual, Cordelia took the lead.
“Do you mind!”
“Not at all girl.” Stephanie pushed the door open wide enough to squeeze by, gave Angel a once over and a wink that spoke volumes, then sprinted to the curb hailing a cab with one arm and waving off Cordelia’s frantic invitation to stay with the other. “Call me tomorrow. I want all the juicy details.”
Knows how to make a speedy exit without any fuss or muss. Angel liked that in woman.
“She seems like a nice girl,” he tried but Cordelia wasn’t having it.
“Do you live just to embarrass me-what the hell are you doing here?”
Cordelia knew exactly why the horny vamp was there. She hadn’t thought about much else since their phone sex romp.
“I came to see how you are, and apologize for being gruff earlier.”
Angel wasn’t sorry. Cordelia had gotten exactly what she deserved for disobeying him. But seeing how his confession softened her demeanor, he figured there wasn’t any harm in a little white lie between friends.
“Oh. Well come…” Forgiving eyes widened pushing her brows higher on her forehead. “Where’s the police report?”
Fuck. So close.
“Kate was swamped with work. Some big murder case they’re trying to keep out of the press.” Angel was rambling. It didn’t look good on him. “We can pick it up tomorrow.”
“So you’re here because?” God, why did she keep asking him that? Because really, what could he say? I bought a pair of fur lined cuffs today and I’m dying to try them out? There had to be a book about boning your boss while maintaining your cool.
Not waiting for an answer, Cordelia waved Angel inside and busied herself clearing away dirty glasses and the half empty pitcher of margaritas.
“Want a drink?” She hadn’t looked his way since he’d stepped inside. And the pitcher was already on the shelf and she was closing the refrigerator door, which insured the implication of her obligatory pleasantry rang loud and clear.
Angel mumbled a barely audible, “no thanks,” and Cordelia took it as blessing. She turned on the faucet, over squeezed the dish detergent bottle, and plopped the glasses into the sudsy water.
“Well, I guess you’ll be going then-Are you sleepy-I’m sleepy.”
Angel didn’t budge, but with a least ten feet separating them, Cordelia figured it was a pretty safe bet she wouldn’t morph into slut mode. Even if she wanted to jump him – which she did – her physical prowess couldn’t leap the distance.
“I don’t want a drink, Cordelia. And I’m not sleepy.”
The tone was unmistakable. It was the one that left her a puddle on the floor — along with her hurriedly stripped off clothes. God, she wanted him so badly she could taste him. And unless she got him out of there quick…
His boots were already off and he was working on his belt. Pulling it out slow with lazy tugs that made her stomach flutter. And those damn leather pants. The bastard knew what that did to her. His zipper rasped drawing her attention to his crotch, and Cordelia held her breath as the metal teeth unclenched one by one in a harmonious slide.
Angel beckoned her with his finger, and Cordelia felt her last thread of resistance stretch to its breaking point.
She could handle this, was smart enough to know opening her heart to Angel would never end well.
If he didn’t love her he’d prove it night and night when he didn’t lose his soul. And if he did love her…
Well, lucky for her she wouldn’t have to worry about that particular bad ending.
The thread snapped and Cordelia was on him in a flash. Angel might have met her halfway. She wasn’t sure. Didn’t care. At that moment she would have leaped across a volcano to get to him.
“You play dirty,” she mewled between hungry kisses.
“I know.” Angel husked, tearing her blouse open and yanking it down her shoulders.
“Hey! I just bought-”
“I’ll buy you another one.”
Angel fisted Cordelia’s hair, pulling her head back and nuzzling her neck. Scraping his teeth across her flesh, his groin twitched painfully at her throaty moan. “Do that little trick with your tongue again and I’ll buy you three.”
“Hmmm,” another throaty moan captured in a lust-drenched kiss, “I like the way you think.”
1904 Crenshaw Boulevard, Sunday Night – March 19
Detective Lockley jerked her hand free of the glove, flinching when the latex snapped her skin.
The scene was eerily familiar with all the telltale signs warning of something bigger, darker, simmering under the surface.
And the intuitive murmuring in her gut told her not to overlook any of them.
“The coroner’s on his way back into the city, so it’ll be a while.” Officer Benton announced, pulling Kate back into the moment.
“Do we have an ID?” Her tone was lifeless, disconnected. A lesson she learned early.
“Melissa Burns and David Mattson. According to the super they were getting married next week.”
Melissa Burns rang a bell, but she couldn’t remember why.
“Just make sure the scene isn’t disturbed before forensics is finished.” Kate didn’t need anyone to tell her how the couple died. The evidence was gruesomely obvious. “I’ll get with Frank in the morning. See if he finds anything new.”
Cordelia’s Bedroom, Monday Predawn, March 201
Every inch of her was sated. Her skin glistened with heat and sweat. And too exhausted for anything other than sleep, Cordelia fell limp, her head rolling to the side as it slid onto the pillow.
Angel had gotten exactly what he wanted. Cordelia, compliant, wanting, and begging for his attention.
It wasn’t victory that made his body hum with contentment. He was smart enough to know that. And foolish enough to languish in it.
He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close and savoring the warmth of their lovemaking.
Cuddling in afterglow was new. Different. They’d never taken time to savor before. Once recovered from her last orgasm, Cordelia always headed for the shower signaling it was time for him to leave.
But tonight he would stay, and risk whatever small shift it might cause.
“Maybe the fact that you don’t love me.”
“When I don’t love you, I’ll let you know.”
Cary Grant & Ingrid Bergman in ‘Notorious’
Coroner’s Building – Monday 8:30am, March 20
Kate stood in the open doorway for a moment quietly watching Franklin Birch perform his autopsy with the care and precision of a surgeon.
Frank had been a coroner and her father’s Friday night poker buddy as long as she could remember. The stories they told, the cases they discussed, provided a bird’s eye view of what thirty years on the force could do to a person.
His crusty exterior a mandatory survival tactic, only the most grotesque could break its way inside after so many years. But underneath his hard outer shell Frank was kind and compassionate, a trusted confidant, and at times, her security blanket.
“What have you got for me, old man?” Kate asked stepping inside, her hand shielding her nose from the grotesque odor of decaying flesh and obstructing most of her scrunched up face.
“Katie! Come on in and take a load off.” He didn’t look up, just kept slicing away with the scalpel in his right hand while motioning toward the chair with his left.
Kate settled onto an uncomfortable stool and scanned the meager evidence in the folder. “Cause of death?”
Frank interrupted his work long enough to scratch the itch on his double chin and grab a couple puffs off his cigar.
Kate smiled. Old school, Frank ignored most of the city’s regulations, and no smoking was no exception.
“My examination is still in the preliminary stage but if I had to hazard a guess,” he wheezed pausing to take another deep drag of tobacco smoke and share a waggish wink, “Somebody ripped out their hearts.”
“Thanks for clearing up the hard part, now all I have to do is — Damn it.” Her phone rang interrupting her comeback. A shame really. Matching wits with Franklin Birch was a learned skill, and she had a doozy just waiting for the right moment.
Kate snatched the ringing nuisance from her belt, instantly stepping back into professional mode. “Kate Lockley,” she announced already growing impatient for the bad news coming her way. “Damn, Morris, I’m not officially on duty until nineteen hundred. Hummm. That is interesting. I’m on my way.”
Flipping the phone off, she turned her attention back to Frank. “I’ve got an ID on the first two victims. Get me a full workup on both cases. Yesterday.”
Chinatown – Monday 9:00am, March 2011
“Good morning, Master Sheng,” Wesley greeted.
“Greetings, Mr. Pryce.”
“That’s Wynd—” Wesley broke off, covering his mistake with a reverent bow. Correcting an accomplished teacher of enlightenment would express disrespect.
Yong Sheng was a master of Tao, rumored to be over a hundred and fifty years old and to have studied with the great philosopher Lao Tzu — on the spirit plane, of course. Wesley was awed and humbled by the wise, compassionate scholar.
“I see my message reached you. You have come for the book.”
“Indeed. I was practically giddy to learn my request had finally arrived.” Wesley exclaimed then immediately regretted admitting the girlish reaction.
“Indeed.” Yong Sheng repeated, his lips curving into an impish grin that erased decades from his
He presented Wesley’s long-awaited prize with a word of caution. “The Codex Mazorrón will teach you the language and customs of the Gypsy people, but do not expect to find their heart within the bindings of a book. It is purpose that drives the spirit. Words are merely a channel.”
“Yes. Of course.” Wesley agreed, taking the codex and eyeing it intently.
Yong Sheng sensed the young man’s confusion, but was confident he would discover the truth of his quest once ready to receive it. “Lacho deves, my young friend.”
“It is Gypsy for have a nice day.”
“Ah, yes. A most interesting language.” Wesley glanced at his watch, and realizing he was already an hour late for work, bowed reverently before departing. “Lacho deves, Master Sheng.”
Angel Investigations – Monday Late Morning, March 20
Cordelia absently thumbed the corner of the Kirkland envelope and glanced at the wall clock for the umpteenth time. Eleven fifteen and no sign of Angel, or Wesley for that matter.
Noting she was the only one to arrive at the office on time — nine o’clock sharp, Cordelia drew a big, red circle around the date on her calendar marking the occasion for Wesley’s next lecture on work ethics. No need to let a useful anomaly go to waste, and besides, it’s not like anyone was around to witness her nine thirty arrival.
The unexpected alone time would be a wish come true if she didn’t need the name and address of the cheating Kirkland’s lover for her appointment with the vindictive Kirkland. Otherwise, Cordelia would be happy if she didn’t see Angel for the entire week.
And speaking of the devil…
Cordelia froze at the rattling sound of the elevator cranking its way up to the ground floor. He must have used it on purpose, she reasoned. Angel wanted her to know he was coming.
Thankful for the small favor, she busied herself with the clutter on her desk, ignoring the clunky swoosh of the elevator door and Angel’s scratchy,
Not in the mood for feigned pleasantries, Cordelia snapped a quick, “Do you have my police report?”
Heading straight to the coffee machine, Angel’s second, “Morning,” had a little more scrape.
So that’s how he wants to play it. Deliberately observing the time, Cordelia matched him rub for rub. “Morning, huh. Barely.”
Angel let it go. Cordelia was obviously itching for round two but he wasn’t about the take the bait, so instead, questioned the absence of his other employee — the one that does as he’s told. “Where’s Wes?”
“Not my turn to keep up with him.” Cordelia finally turned to face him, her hand extended and waiting. “Can I have my report now? Or did you break that promise too?”
So much for playing it cool…
Angel advanced without warning, dark eyes boring down on her. “Do we really have to rehash this morning?”
Cordelia cringed despite her spirited effort. Fighting demons, caught up in the throes of passion, or just generally pissed off, the man was as intimidating as hell.
“You broke the rule, Angel. I’d say you’ve already hashed everything to bits.” She managed to spit out while attempting to slip from the narrow crevice between the domineering jackass and her desk.
Common sense dictated he back off, but Angel was too riled to listen. Sensing Cordelia’s retreat, he rested his hands on the desk caging her inside his arms and tightening the narrow separation.
Cordelia searched for a focal point in the room. Anything other than the prominent forehead and straight nose that led her to stone-sculpted lips.
Angel’s face hovering barely an inch from Cordelia’s, his mouth watered when her tongue tentatively brushed across her bottom lip.
Awareness arced between them, hot and electric.
Easy would be forgetting rules and re-igniting last night’s passion. Easy would be walking away before they burned from the inside out.
Nothing was easy anymore.
The jingling bell catching them unaware, their heads whipped toward the door. Thank the deity of good sense for it’s well-timed intrusion. Three more seconds and their friend would have witnessed a porno flic in action. Both sighed relief. The spell was broken. They were safe. For now.
Wesley froze stock-still taking in the peculiar scene. The tension palpable, he shifted uncomfortably from his left to right foot then back to his left.
Perhaps, Wesley surmised, he shouldn’t have taken the time to secure the codex in his apartment. Late for work once, and… Actually, he didn’t have any idea what he’d walked in on. Head cocked, he observed the pair curiously. “Am I… interrupting something?”
Cordelia pushed Angel away, but his employer’s compliance was almost too orchestrated for Wesley to accept at face value.
“What’s to interrupt?” Cordelia balked, rounding the desk and plopping into her chair. “The dark avenger is upset because I’ve gone three whole days without a vision.”
Angel’s blood boiled. Cordelia was purposely making him look like a jackass because she was angry with him. The little wench had no idea who she was messing with.
“That’s not what I said, Cordelia.” His features softened, feigned concern dripping from his lips like watered down honey. “I only suggested that The Powers might have realized you can’t handle the visions.”
Angel crossed the line. She merely insinuated he was a jerk. He made her sound weak and useless.
“You take that back!” Cheeks flaring an angry red, Cordelia reared up prepared to defend her title. “I can handle the visions just fine, thank you.”
“Good to know because…” Angel paused, rubbing his face as though searching for the just-right response, “You’ve been looking a little haggard lately and I was worried.”
“Haggard!” Cordelia shot around her desk with the ferocity of a charging bull. “I’ll show you haggard you son of a—”
“What the hell is going on here?” Wesley demanded.
His high-shrill bellow stopped the dueling duo just short of their impending collision. It was, Wesley assessed, one of the most surreal sightings he’d encountered since joining the agency.
Pulling the door open, Wesley confirmed the suite number. Regrettably, he was in the right office. Unsure of Cordelia’s safety, or Angel’s for that matter, Wesley stepped back inside and closed the door. Discomfort be damned. It was imperative that he remain.
“I am aware of my tardiness and sincerely apologize, but what in heaven’s name could have happened in,” he checked his watch for an exact timeframe, “a mere three hours?”
The silence was so deafening you could hear a pin drop. To Wesley’s chagrin, his comrades were suddenly at a loss for words. “Well?”
Angel had a totally different take on the situation. His employee did not question him or demand answers. And had he not been caught on the verge of molesting his secretary, he’d enlighten his tight-ass employee on just who was in charge. As it was, Angel was content with dropping the issue altogether.
“I have to meet with Kate,” he informed his subordinates, confident his dry tone would render the subject closed.
Cordelia couldn’t believe her ears. “Meet Kate? What have you been doing all morning?”
Angel stiffened for a split second before forcing his face into a blank slate. “I’ll get the report, Cordelia, and you will stop obsessing over a problem that doesn’t exist. Understood?”
The clenching and unclenching of small fists that wanted to smack him in the face would be amusing if he wasn’t holding back the urge to strangle her. Subordinate? He was kidding himself. Cordelia would never bend to the role of submissive. Maybe that was why he craved the feisty hellcat. He couldn’t break her even if he wanted to.
“Anything else you want to say, Wes?” Angel asked, his stern expression indicating the answer he expected.
“Absolutely not,” Wesley announced emphatically. “Given that our office is intact and there doesn’t appear to be any blood loss, I’d say all is well with the world.”
Nodding curtly Angel grabbed his coat on the way out twirling it around him so that it flared in the breeze.
Cordelia seethed at the spectacle. She was sure the bastard did his super-heroy exit just to piss her off.
The door closing securely behind his employer, Wesley dared to ask the question gnawing at his curiosity. “What obsession was Angel referring to, Cordelia?”
“How should I know?” Determined to walk away with a semblance of dignity, Cordelia was ready to get out while the getting was good. Making sure to lay the brunt of their humiliating fiasco at Angel’s feet, she yelled back to Wesley while escaping into the bathroom, “The man is clearly a drama queen,” and slammed the door shut.
Los Angeles Police Department – Monday Afternoon, March 2011
“Why did it take so long to ID the guy?” Hands fisted on her hips in a don’t mess with me stance, Detective Lockley demanded answers. “Lenny Walsh has a rap sheet longer than my arm.”
“Some of the files were inadvertently purged while downloading into the new system,” Records Specialist Brenda Morris defended. “The Records
Department just completed the recovery late last night.”
Kate let the subject drop with a obligatory nod of thanks. She had more important things to focus on than glitches in technology.
Once Walsh was identified it had been a short path to ex-girlfriend, Rachel Simms. And now that they had their heads out of the asses, Kate would have the unpleasant task of informing the Simms family that their missing daughter had been in the morgue for almost four days.
Then she would look into the weird coincidence that both murdered women were former clients of Angel Investigations.
Sewer Tunnel – Monday Afternoon, March 20
Angel hit the sewer tunnel at a full run putting distance between him and Cordelia before changing his mind.
He needed to slaughter something big and nasty to work off the adrenaline pumping through his veins. But considering the lack of time and abundance of sunlight, that wasn’t likely to happen.
Slowing to a halt, he hunched his back and rested his hands on bowed knees. Feeling strangely out of breath, he leaned against the damp wall and sucked the stale, humid air into his lungs. A learned human reaction, Angel mused, and one he didn’t much care for. Mimicking human traits might make fitting in easier, but it also made him weak and careless.
“My my, this is a pathetic exhibition. Angelus, once ruthless to the core, feared by man and demon alike, hiding in a cesspit with rodents.”
Angel groaned. This wasn’t a good time for hallucinations, especially a vulgar one, and considering the dress he had her in, it would get nasty. “Not now, Darla.”
“If not now, when my love? When that little tease has you begging for crumbs?”
“No one makes me beg,” Angel challenged heatedly.
“No? You made love to her, and when she’d had her fill, your precious new toy threw you out.”
“I fucked her,” ground into the face ridiculing him.
His denial too vehement for an imaginary rival’s benefit and his lips twisting into a snarl that bared blunt teeth, Angel reluctantly considered the possibility that he was losing touch with reality. It would explain Darla’s presence outside the confines of his bed or the occasional shower fantasy.
Angel rolled over until facing the brickwork relishing how the coolness against his cheek mimicked Darla’s hands stroking his back.
He just needed a moment to gather his thoughts, and then he’d make her go away. It’s not really insanity if you know you’re hallucinating — right?
Doubt singing a whimsical jeer inside his head, Darla’s mocking laughter joined its chorus accentuating his worst fear.
He was losing control. Knowing it wasn’t likely to reduce the body count.
TO BE CONTINUED. . .MAYBE
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