How Bodices Get Ripped


AUTHORS: LISAMARIE514 and NICKLE
SUMMARY: The gang is back from Pylea and it has been a long hot Los Angeles summer. This takes place just after Angel returns from meditation with the Tibetan Monks but before the real fun of season 3 begins.
RATING: PG13
POSTED: 9 Aug 2004
CATEGORY: Romance and Humor
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A
WARNINGS: None
FICPIC CREDIT: Lysa
AUTHOR NOTES:
1) This is a joint venture between Lisa Marie and Nickle, and oh the fun we are having. Hope you enjoy reading as much as we have had writing.
2) And a very special thank you to Lysa, “Empress of Epics. Queen of the Kickass Betas. Princess of Plot.”
STATUS: Incomplete


HBGR


Chapter 1

~*~
“Holden, I know you don’t love me, not really, now let me go. We agreed this was a marriage in name only.” Jillian pushed against the warm flesh of his sculpted chest, held captive by his strong, sinewy arms.

Holden Montgomery looked down into cornflower blue eyes, held spellbound by the wanton heat in her gaze. Helpless in her thrall, he leaned down and kissed his mail-order bride’s soft supple mouth. He had lusted for her since the day she stepped off the train, all prim and proper, and then she opened her mouth and knew he had a witch on his hands.

Jillian Wentworth Montgomery tried to push away from Holden, not wanting to succumb to the magic he was creating. Jillian’s lips ached for his to claim hers again, but her head told her that this was madness. When his mouth descended onto hers, she couldn’t fight the passion any longer. Holden was insistent, demanding hot kisses filled with lust and passion. His hand moved up her sides and cupped her breast through the soft cotton fabric of her dress. Jillian shocked at the feel of Holden’s thumb rasping across her nipple, gasped and opened her mouth. Holden took advantage of the opportunity and plunged his tongue into her mouth, dueling with hers, taking possession.

She finally broke away from his lips, and turned her head away. Breathlessly, she pleaded, “Stop. We mustn’t give in to our base natures, no matter how much we burn for each other. We just have to last a year, and then I get my inheritance and you please your uncle and get full ownership of the ranch. We can get this marriage annulled and both go on our own, me back to New York and you here with the ranch.”

“If that is what you want sweetheart,” Holden stroked her cheek, feeling her warmth of her silky skin. “Is that what you want?” he asked, his voice dropping down an octave, seduction his goal. Innocent as she was, Jillian knew that to give in to his body’s demands would change her forever. She had to be strong; she had to remain steadfast in the face of his heated virility.

“You know it is Holden. Now I need to get back to my list of chores, and you need to finish up here in the barn.” Jillian pulled out of his arms, her body trembling from the deep caress of his voice, deciding her best bet was to make a run for the house when he let go of her. She picked up her skirts and ran, heart beating beneath her heaving breasts, wanting nothing more than to throw her very being into his manly arms.

Holden watched her bolt from the barn like a frightened colt as his firm mouth straightened into a line of pure frustration. “Hell, it is going to be a long year, especially when those long winter nights hit.” Holden went back to pitching hay into the loft of the barn, trying to ignore the throbbing steel between his legs.

~*~

“Cordelia, where is the Walker file?” Angel asked for the third time, finally turning around and seeing that Cordy was lost in the novel she was reading. He moved away from the filing cabinets toward her desk.

“Are you listening to me?” Angel asked, now annoyed.

“What, huh? Oh, I was just about done with this chapter,” Cordy looked up from the page she was reading and noticed that Angel had moved from standing next to the filing cabinets to lurking right next to her desk. She hated how he could move so quickly from one spot to another. It was creepy. She leaned back in her chair, resting the novel on her chest to hold her page, and glared at Angel, “What do you want?”
For the fourth time, Angel requested, “The Walker file?”

Rolling her eyes, sighing, “Didn’t you look under S?” Cordy stood up, putting her book face down on the desk to hold her spot, and walked past Angel to the filing cabinet. She pulled open the lower drawer and pulled out the file and handed it to Angel.

Angel took the file from Cordelia, feeling the brush of her warm hand against his. “S? Why would the Walker file be under S?” Curiosity had him asking despite the distraction of inadvertent touch. It wasn’t the first time her presence had disrupted his thought pattern. It was something about the electricity and warmth that she gave off, especially when she was annoyed or happy or sad. Hell more and more he was noticing Cordelia, regardless of her mood or state of mind lately.

“Duh, don’t you remember? They were the ones with the infestation of Slime Demons. Of course it would go under S.” Cordelia smiled, brushed past him again and sat back down at her desk picking up her paperback book. She went back to reading where she had left off, trying to ignore the fact that Angel was still standing right next to her, still in his lurking mode. Ever since he got back from Tibet he was obsessing over cases, and was filling his unlife with work. Did he really work out his Buffy issues?

Angel looked down at Cordy, amazed that she was sitting in the office, during office hours, reading something that obviously had nothing to do with cases or demons or work. When he was in charge things were never this lax, Wesley has let things go down hill. Hell everything has gone down hill since getting back from Pylea, demon monks, Buffy, gone. No not gone, Buffy dead, not coming back. Angel was annoyed with the world, a world without Buffy Summers, and now was particularly annoyed at the lack of work taking place in the office.

If Wes wasn’t going to do anything about the lack of work being done, then he would. Angel loomed over Cordelia, trying his best to be in intimidation mode. “Well, I guess that makes sense. Did you get the billing out?”

“No not yet.” Cordelia didn’t look up at him from her book, deciding that if she didn’t make eye contact maybe he would just go away. It was hard to focus on the story when he kept asking questions.

Angel suggested gruffly, “Well, don’t you think it’s a good idea?”

“Hello, just got back from a hell dimension. Jeez Angel,” Cordy replied with a roll of her eyes.

“Hello, not a queen here, Cordelia. And it’s your job,” Angel added flatly, taking the file and stalking back to the main office, slamming the door behind him.

Sticking her tongue out at the door Cordelia shouted, “You’re not the boss of me Mr. Moody Vamp!”

Then hearing a whimper, Cordelia looked toward the stairs. Fred had peeked downstairs, but the noise obviously frightened her. All Cordelia saw was a blur as she ran back to her room.

“Great, now he’s scaring the guests,” Cordelia huffed, putting her book down, and heading up stairs to check on Fred.

~*~

Angel aimlessly flipped through the file folder, not really looking at the pages inside. A summary of the case that Wesley had written up described what it took to eradicate the slime demons; descriptions of the appearance and smell, what they ate, nocturnal habits, mating habits, and a description of the female reproductive cycles. Wesley was nothing if not diligent in regards to documenting cases.

Flipping a page, ‘Draft Invoice’ with notes jotted down in Cordelia’s distinctive handwriting. While Wesley was diligent in his documentation, Cordy was, well, creative – ‘mileage LA office to Santa Monica 25m RT — $15.37’. He would never think of charging for mileage.

He had thought he was ready to move on with his unlife, to put Buffy behind him and explore his growing feelings for his best friend. That was what was really bugging him, Cordelia. Ever since that first hug when he stepped out of the door to the basement, all he could think about was how much he missed Cordelia while he was gone. How much he enjoyed making her laugh, and the way she smelled and looked the desire to be close to her and feel her warm skin against his cool hands.

Guilt and remorse racked his brain. It was wrong that he could go on without Buffy, right? It should be Buffy that I am still mourning, but only, Buffy died. Part of him knew that slayers had a short life span, but Angel wished that hers had lasted a little longer. Maybe if he had not been Pylea trying to save Cordy from being a princess, he could have saved Buffy.

An image of Cordelia in her Pylean Princess outfit flashed in his mind, and Angel shifted in his chair. Where did that come from? Cordelia, regally and scantily decked out, sitting on her throne, leaning towards the Groosalugg, her lips parting. Scowling, it made him mad to think that she was in love with the Groosalugg. How does anyone fall in love in three days? Plus I have saved her way more than the Groosalugg ever did. And I don’t smell.

Refusing to brood about it, Angel stood up from the desk deciding he’d had enough alone time in Tibet. Somewhere between battling the demon monks and the hours spent in the cargo hold of the ship that returned him to Los Angeles, he reaffirmed that it was time to move on from Buffy. With the Groosalugg in Pylea, Angel saw no reason not to act.

Uncertain what he would do, Angel simply followed the urge that compelled him to breach Cordelia’s personal bubble, and opened the door between the two offices. Action, he needed to take some sort of action. He was a man of Action, wasn’t he, and a 20 year old x-cheerleader was not about to intimidate him.

“Cordy, I…” Angel frowned, looking around the lobby and realizing that she was no longer there, that no one was around at the moment. He felt a huge sense of relief; maybe he was not ready to face his feelings for Cordelia. Sitting in her empty chair, Angel felt the residual warmth and sank back into it. His gaze fell upon the organized chaos across the top of her desk and settled on the book she had been reading. Flipping it to the front cover to read the title, ‘Love’s Wicked Fury’, Angel quickly focused on the artwork. It depicted a bare-chested man with short, dark hair holding a brunette, her head thrown back, and about to be kissed.

Wench. That was the first word that came to Angel’s mind when he looked at the artist rendering of the young woman, whose large breasts practically fell out of the old fashioned dress. Angel smiled and thought back to all the wenches he had had over his existence. God, I miss those dresses and girls in corsets. Angel flipped over the paperback to read the summary.
Holden Montgomery – This gruff Texas rancher who has sworn off women, swore he would never get married. That was until his Uncle Jake put a marriage clause in his will. The Double Bar Ranch would only go to Holden if he was married within a year of Jake Montgomery’s death and stayed married for a year. Holden had to find a wife, or risk losing everything. A wife was the last thing he wanted.

Jillian Wentworth – A nineteen year old debutant from New York Society. All was right in her world, right until her parents were tragically killed in a train wreck. Jillian discovers that she is now penniless as her mansion must be sold to pay her father’s debt and that her trust fund is out of her reach until her 25th birthday. That is unless she is wed for a year, and then her husband would have access to the trust fund. That is when Jillian decided that her only option was to respond to an ad in the paper –‘Bride Wanted in Texas’.

~*~

Cordelia returned to the lobby having tried yet again to convince Fred that Angel wasn’t mad at her, but had no luck. Halfway down, she noticed Angel sitting in her chair lost in thought, no doubt brooding about Buffy. He said he was better, that he was over Buffy after his summer of meditation, but she wasn’t quite sure. Knowing that Buffy was the love of Angel’s life, unlife she expected years of brooding ahead of them.

Cordy continued down the stairs and stood stationed herself in front of Angel, hands on her hips taking her turn to loom over him as he sat in her chair. “Next time we decide to have a shouting match, let’s do it with a little less yelling. We just started getting Fred to come out of her room to eat, even if it is under the table.” Cordelia realized that may have been a little harsh by the sad look that crossed Angel’s face. But she was mad at the thought of Angel brooding about Buffy for the next, well, ever. “Can I have my chair back please?”

“Sorry. Fred’s still hiding?” Angel gripped onto the book, surprised by Cordelia’s presence, having not noticed her come downstairs. Hey it was his job to be stealthy, how did she sneak up on him? He stood up and pulled out the chair for her.

“Yes and your yelling doesn’t help.” Cordelia sat down in her chair, avoiding touching Angel as she passed him to get to her spot. She wanted to get back to reading, because that was how she planned on spending her afternoon. She couldn’t solve Angel’s Buffy issues. She scanned her desk for the novel, lifted up a few folders, then turned and saw that Angel was holding it in his hand. Cordy arched her eyebrows and glared at Angel. Who did he think he was, certainly not the boss of her anymore. She held out her hand.

Momentarily clueless, Angel looked at Cordy with her hand out, wondering what she wanted, “What?”

“Can I have my book back please?” Cordy pointed toward the novel in his hands. She notices that he doesn’t have the “I am the Boss” look anymore, but more of a sad puppy dog. Why did he have the sad puppy look going? Her eyes moved past his face and noticed for the first time all afternoon that he wasn’t wearing as black, he had on a light blue shirt. He is so good looking, why does he always have to be so broody and sad?

Angel looked down and realized the book was in his hand and then gave it back to her with a sheepish expression, maybe this was an opportunity to not bicker. “Sure, any good?” Angel asked conversationally, knowing he had no interest in the romance novel considering what the back cover had on it.

“Don’t know. It’s just brain candy. I need something beachy and goofy to take the sting away, sometimes. I just started this one, but I’ve been reading books by Delilah Wilder all summer. Can’t seem to put them down,” Cordy shrugged, sitting back in her chair. Leaning back, she held the book in one hand while playing with the stone of the necklace that Angel had brought back for her as a present of from his trip. All week she had been wearing outfits that would go with the necklace, and hadn’t even realized it until now that she fingered the stone. “I thought you only liked books that were old, and smell like my grandmother’s house. But maybe you being Mr. Star-Crossed Lover would get into a good romance novel.”

“Oh, well, you know, I like reading, and well, I didn’t know you liked reading, and thought… yah know, didn’t know we had that in common.” Angel stuttered. Smooth, yes he was a vampire that was once the Scourge of Europe, having any woman he wanted; now he couldn’t make small talk with his best friend. What did she mean he was a star crossed lover?

“Riiiiiight,” Cordy said while wondering what was wrong with Angel now.

“So, Cordy, how about some coffee?” Angel asked, getting off the topic of the book, as that had gone so well…not.

Thinking that Angel was trying to boss her around again, Cordelia slapped the book back on the desk and told him, “Hey that would be great. I like mine cream, no sugar..”

“Um. Actually…” Angel hurriedly corrected her. “I meant that we should go out for coffee. Together.”

“Did you notice that it’s 90-degrees and still sunny?” Cordy was now worried that Angel had lost it. Reminding him, “Hello, you’re allergic to sunlight.”

Angel looked away from Cordy and toward the day light filtering through the doors into the lobby of the Hotel. Smooth Vampire, right, he was a dork. “Oh, yeah, okay.” Angel decided that it was time to gracefully make his exit, as this was not going well at all. “I just thought it would be nice to do something, together.” Angel ventured, putting on his best puppy dog eyes look.

Cordy took one look at his expression and all of a sudden felt sad, felt his loneliness. She decided to throw Angel a bone and get him out of the jam he was creating. “Why don’t we go out after sunset and you can treat me to an ice cream cone on the Santa Monica Pier.”

“Ice cream? Sure, that sounds good,” Angel’s mind popped up a picture of them walking along the pier at night, strolling along, chatting. It was a happy image. “Pick you up here at sunset?”

“No, pick me up at my place. I am going to go to the gym and work out first.” Cordelia stood grabbed her bag and casually dropped her novel on the desk. “Hey this is almost like a date, wish I remembered what those were like.” Cordy said flippantly, not noticing Angel as he looked up at her words.

“Your place it is Cordy,” Angel agreed quietly, looking forward to an evening with Cordelia. So she hasn’t been dating…mmm that is a good thing, no competition.

Cordy swept out of the office, “See you in a couple of hours”

Angel watched her go and then picked up the romance novel, reading these all summer…must be a good author, or maybe this is what Cordy wants from a romance perspective. What if she wasn’t joking and thinks this is a date? I mean, she did suggest a stroll on the pier, and that is definitely in the romance category. She did say she couldn’t get enough of this Delilah Wilder’s writing…so she must be an expert on romance. Maybe I should read a couple of chapters. Get a few tips on what Cordelia finds so fascinating, before going out tonight. Angel took the novel and headed up to his suite to read, then shower and change for his date, his date with Cordelia.

~*~
Prologue
H olden sat back on his saddle and looked over the herd of cattle that he and his uncle were driving north from San Antonio to Kansas City. He loved the peace and quiet of the open range. A man could think in this wide open space. Holden’s Uncle Jake rode up, pulling his stallion along side his nephew.

Jake was a much older version of Holden, still handsome given his advanced age. He loved the annual cattle drive north, but his body was protesting. Jake coughed and had a hard time catching his breath. He had a feeling it was going to be the last time he made this route with his nephew, a nephew that was more like a son.

Holden didn’t say anything until the coughing fit was over. It had been no use arguing with the stubborn old man; Jake had decided to make the ride and nothing was going to change his mind. Holden looked at his uncle, Jake had purposely caught up with Holden, because he had something to say. Holden decided it was best to wait the old man out, but wondered what it’s going to be.

“Holden, ranching can be a lonely life, hours out here with just you, your horse and a whole lot of cattle. Are you sure you want this and not city life?” Jake asked, testing his nephew.

“I tried being a city boy, and being a lawyer was just not my thing, trapped behind a desk. The past 5 years of ranching have been the best of my life Uncle Jake,” Holden smiled at his uncle.

“You need to get a wife, son; you need to have a family and children,” Jake blurted out plainly saying what was really on his mind.

“I am through with women Uncle Jake. After the fiasco in Boston with Belinda, I am done with women, at least those looking for a permanent status as Mrs. Montgomery,” Holden tipped his hat and looked out onto the plains at the cattle moving. Where women were concerned, he didn’t mind an occasional tumble, but was not interested in establishing anything of a permanent nature.

Jake cringed at the hussy’s name. That money-grubber had told Holden she loved him, when she was really planning how to become a widow very quickly after the wedding. Thank God that Holden had caught her with her murderous lover before they went through with the wedding. Shortly after all that business Holden folded up his law practice and moved west to work on the ranch.
Angel looked and flipped over the back cover of the book, surprised that this was a romance novel. The story was starting out pretty well so far and while it wasn’t a classic, no wonder Cordy was hooked. He had yet to discovered any tips on romance, but found that he could associate with Holden. Well, not the whole rancher thing, but enjoying solitude. He could appreciate a man who enjoyed quiet.

Besides, he had liked the time he spent in Montana during the Depression, and that was nothing but open land. Holden certainly made an excellent choice in giving up a law practice. God I hate lawyers.

Maybe this character Holden had the right idea. After everything that had happened with Darla and then Buffy, maybe he should just call it quits with women as well. Then he thought back to Cordelia, and her smile at their ice cream date coming up tonight. Angel would risk going out in the sunlight for that bright smile, he decided. Angel looked back down to the novel, wanting to know more about Holden and his life on the range. Plus he still hadn’t read anything that he would deem romantic, and he wanted something he could use on his date tonight.

~*~

“I know that, but not all women are like that hussy. I want grand-nephews Holden, and I ain’t getting’ any younger.” Jake said firmly.

“Who knows, maybe I will cave and find a nice girl in San Antonio or Dallas to marry,” Holden lied. He had no intentions of ever getting married.

Six months later – December 1849

It had been raining since Jake Montgomery died, three straight days of rain now. Holden thought that was fine, it could rain the entire month and into next year for all he was concerned. They had buried Jake earlier that morning in the cemetery at the back of the ranch, in a plot next to his wife, Millie, who had predeceased him by almost ten years.

Holden swirled the bourbon in his glass and looked out the window, not listening to what the lawyer had said about Jake’s last will and testament. He watched the cold rain fall against the window panes.

“Did you hear what I said, Holden?” Greg Lassiter questioned, holding the document in his hand.

Holden turned to his friend, and away from his grief, “What was that?”

“Your uncle, he has a clause in his will about you getting the ranch. He says that for you to inherit, you need to be married within one year of his death and stay married for a year. If you don’t, the ranch is to be turned over to the State of Texas, to do as they see fit,” Greg said for the third time, not believing what he had read in the old man’s will.

“Married?” Holden blurted the word and then shook his head. “Uncle Jake sure as hell was stubborn. That is all he has talked about since the cattle drive. Getting me hitched was all that he talked about and grand-nephews.”

Greg chuckled at his friend’s dilemma. “Looks like you don’t have much choice.”

“Sure I do, when the year runs out I will have enough cash just to buy back the property from the State. Shouldn’t be a problem,” Holden added casually, taking another sip of bourbon.

“I wouldn’t count on that. Governor Pete Bell is all about claiming land to expand Texas Territory. He finds out he has a chance of getting this ranch and no amount of cash will get the thought out of his head,” Greg warned, pouring more bourbon into his own glass and then refilling Holden’s glass.

Holden downed another swallow of the liquor, letting it dull his senses, not wanting to deal with death and the thought of losing what had come to mean so much to him. “So what do you suggest?”

Both men were handsome, cocky and enjoyed a good tumble with a cute girl like any other red blooded Texan. “Holden, from what I have heard from the ladies around her, you’re a pretty good catch, not that I really believe it.” Greg snickered.

“Greg, you know that the problem with a local gal is that she will not want to end the marriage after the year is up. I don’t think a Texas girl is an option” Holden was enjoying how numbing the bourbon was making him feel. The thought of getting married made him want to stay drunk for a month.

“Have you thought of mail-order?” Greg asked casually, thinking that if Holden Montgomery set his mind to it, he could have any girl of his choice.

“Hmmm, mail order…interesting idea,” admitted Holden, finishing off the bourbon, deciding that he would get drunk, and hoping maybe when he woke up in the morning the nightmare would be over.

~*~

Angel looked up at the clock and saw that he had been lost in the novel for a while. Now only an hour before sunset, he still wanted to shower and change before picking up Cordelia. He put down the novel, beginning to understand why Cordelia had been so taken with the author and headed towards his shower. Mail order bride, hmmm what a concept indeed.

~*~

Cordy came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel with another wound around her hair. She had a great workout at the gym and now was looking forward to indulging in a guilt-free double scoop of double fudge chocolate. And it was going to be nice to be alone with Angel. Hey, where did that thought come from? Cordy shook it off and pulled out a tank top and jeans from her closet.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Dennis, if that’s Angel, let him in, okay?” Cordy called out to her ghost. Shortly after that she heard the door swing open and Angel thanking Dennis for letting him in.

From the living room, Angel’s voice rang out, “Hi, Cordy.”

“Hey Angel, I’ll be out in a minute. Just running a little behind,” Cordy shouted back from the bedroom.

“So Dennis, how’s it going?” Angel asked the ghost, figuring it was only polite. Of course the phantom wasn’t one to strike up a conversation exactly. Dennis flicked the light on the table in response.

“Good, I guess,” Angel said awkwardly, not sure what else to say to the ghost. He was saved fortunately by Cordy walking into the room. “Cordelia, you look nice,” Angel said taking in the green tank top and jeans she was wearing. Truthfully, she would look good to him wearing a potato sack.

“Well duh, of course I do,” Cordelia brushed off the compliment, “and it is good to see you in a color other than black.” Cordelia realized it wasn’t only the color of his shirt that she liked, but they way it fit across his broad shoulders and fell down to his tapered waist. Her eyes moved back up to his face and got lost for a moment in his charming good looks. She blinked for a second, realizing that she had practically described him as Delilah Wilder would have one of her heroes. She laughed inwardly, because truth told, Angel was her hero.

“Ah, thanks, are you ready?” asked Angel, nervous about the compliment himself, suddenly thinking maybe he should have gone with the black silk shirt instead.

“Yes, starving here, you may need to feed me more than just ice cream.” Cordelia said, eagerly taking Angel’s arm, ready to put some food in her grubbily stomach.

“I don’t know if my budget can afford that, Miss Chase.” Angel joked half-seriously, liking her hand wrapped around him, feeling the warmth of her body so close.

“Don’t be cheap, Angel. Let’s go,” Cordy pulled him to the door. “Goodnight Dennis!”
Chapter 2

Cordelia moved the files around on her desk and finally found her book. She thought she had left it right on the top; how it had ended up below all the files was beyond her. She had had enough of issuing bills to their relatively few clients and all was quiet around the office. Plus it wasn’t like her job was exactly nine to five, so if she wanted to spend some time doing something she enjoyed well that was her prerogative.

Cordy settled into her chair and opened the novel to where she had crimped the page she was on, then she peered over the book to double check that everything was as quiet as she suspected it to be, the last thing she wanted was to get into an argument with Wesley. Looking over to the other office she saw that Wes’ head was in an ancient tome and he was jotting down notes. She glanced into the lobby, Gunn hadn’t shown up yet and both Fred and Angel were still upstairs. Finally some peace and quiet around here, but it seemed too quiet, when was Angel going to wake up from his beauty sleep?

Cordy smiled at the thought of Angel. It had been nice walking down the pier last night, talking small talk. With him telling her stories of his childhood or even the occasional horror story of his Angelus days after Cordy begged for nearly an hour. Has she ever heard him talk so much at one time before, especially about himself? The only awkward point of the night was at the door to her apartment.

Though she had invited Angel in to watch a movie, she was yawning. He shook his head no, reminding her it was late. The door had opened behind her, and Dennis was giving Angel a cue the evening was over. He had chuckled at the ghost’s apparent jealousy and took the cue, but before leaving he brushed his lips across her forehead. Then whispering, “Thanks for a normal night,” Angel left before Cordy could react to the kiss.

Thinking about it, Cordy wondered exactly when they had become friends who kiss? His lips felt cool on her forehead, but there was something about the contact shared that rocked her slightly. It had seemed like Angel wanted more, or was that just her overactive imagination. She had been focused on reading the smut of this novel, more that the actual story. That has got to be why I am focusing on a stupid, meaningless kiss. Now to get back to the story, but this time, I am going to start at the beginning, and not just look for the smutty parts.

Cordy skimmed through the first parts, exposition about Holden Montgomery and his ranch. Handsome lonely rancher, blah, blah, blah. Okay. Now past that, she wanted to know more about Jillian Wentworth.

~*~

March 1850
Jillian paced back and forth in her bedroom, wondering what was she going to do now. She had nothing, nothing at all till she was 25 and that was six years away. How did they expect her to survive without money?

She turned to her best friend, Amanda Cross. “Mandy, my life is a disaster, my only option is to marry this Texas farmer.”

“Jill, I really don’t think that is a good idea, even though in his letter he wrote that he wanted only one year of marriage, and that he didn’t expect any wifely duties from you. How can you be sure, what if he is some fiend or worse?” Mandy mouth fell into an unladylike circle at the shocking thought as she sat upon the edge of Jill’s bed watching her friend pace a hole in the expensive oriental carpet. A carpet the bank now owned.

“He sent me very good references related to his character and Daddy’s attorney says that he checked them out, and this Holden Montgomery is not some fiend.” Jill said, not thinking about the horrible possibilities that could wait for her in South Texas.

“But Jill, he is so old,” Mandy had tried this argument before and it was still not working. “He is thirty-one. That’s twelve years older than you, and you have yet to see a picture of him. He could be ugly and missing all of his teeth.”

“Mandy, if he is ugly it will be all the better, plus he said in his letter very clearly that he did not expect any wifely duties. Look, I just need to stay married for him for a year, and then we will get it annulled. He will get his farm and he agreed to sign over my trust fund to me.”

Jillian paced in front of Mandy, telling her the same thing she had repeated in her head over and over since writing to Mr. Montgomery and telling him she would marry him. “We will tell everyone that I was so distraught at my parents’ death that I am visiting my Aunt in England. I will come back in a year, change my name back to Wentworth, and return to living in society. Plus twenty is not so old to find a good husband, and who wouldn’t want to marry a Wentworth.”

Jill had convinced herself that the story would work and that one year away from New York would not ruin her chances at a good match in society. Plus with her parents’ death and being in mourning, no one would expect her to be on the marriage mart. She held back the tears that were threatening again. She was done crying over things she had no power to change.

“When do you leave?” Mandy asked, knowing that it was no use. Once Jillian Wentworth had made up her mind, nothing could change it.

“He sent me a train ticket for April 1st, funny, April Fool’s day. The bank agreed to wait that long to finalize the foreclosure.” Jill explained, sitting down on the bed next to her friend.

“Well, I will write you every week and keep you up to speed as to what is going on here in New York. How ever will you survive out in the country?” Mandy took her friend’s hand, squeezing it and reassuring Jill who seems so determined, or just herself?

Jill steeling herself for the upcoming year, squeezed back on Mandy’s hand. “I plan on thinking of it as a holiday in the country, and I am sure this farmer has servants, so how bad can it be?”

~*~

Cordelia sniffled, understanding Jillian completely. She felt like a kindred spirit, her life turning out almost the same. Except for it being the 21st century, finding her way to Angel Investigations, getting a job, supporting herself, and the whole Champion/Seer bondage thing they had going on…

Swiping her eye that the tear was threatening to fall from, she looked around the office hoping no one saw that moment of weakness. Phew, Wesley was still deep in his research and no one else was around yet. The Hyperion was nothing like the Double Bar Ranch, even though she empathized with Jillian’s struggles. She took a sip of her Diet Coke and thought about how lucky she was working here, helping the hopeless, making a difference.

Then she thought about last night with Angel. Awkward much? Had he really kissed me on the forehead last night? He’s kissed my forehead before, hasn’t he? When I was sick. Right? Maybe I’m not remembering correctly. He has never kissed me, just too well kiss me. I did kiss him that once, when I wanted to get out of the visions, but that was well, not something to make a girls toes curl. He has never kissed me standing at my door, inviting him in.

Cordy’s mind was racing, remembering everything, the cool feel of his lips touching her skin. Why was she wishing for more, that Angel would kiss her for real? Cordy sighed…she really did have no hope for romance in her life if she was thinking about Angel, her best friend, that way. Well Angel was a hottie, all tall and dark, and even the broodiness was endearing at times.

The more Cordelia thought about it, walking on the pier with her hand on his arm suddenly seemed more like a date than two friends going out for ice cream. He had paid for everything, which was so un-Angel like. And when the breeze picked up on the pier Angel had shrugged off his leather coat and wrapped it around her shoulders. It was all so, so… weird, but nice and then that unexpected kiss.

It was a big brother kiss, definitely a big brother, had a nice time see you at work tomorrow kiss. Cordelia closed her eyes and replayed the final moments of their date in her head, and kept coming back to the tingly feeling she had after Angel pulled his lips away from her skin and quickly said goodnight. Said it before anything else could happen. Cordy was beginning to realize that maybe she wanted something to happen. Wonder what will happen when he comes down stairs?

~*~

Angel woke up smiling at the memory of last night. He and Cordy had laughed and talked more than they ever had before. Then he nearly kissed her at her doorstep. Not just that little peck on her forehead. Really kissed her. At the last minute he changed his plans and decided to not to move too quickly. The mood ‘just wasn’t right’. That was his brain making excuses. Truth be told, he was scared.

What if she didn’t feel the same way as he did? What if Cordy still had a thing against vampires? Was it the blood drinking, no he didn’t think she minded that, she had heated up a cup of blood for him more times than he could remember. Damn, I am just out of practice. Buffy was easy, well not easy per se, different. With Buffy, the kissing just started and it evolved and then ended horribly. He didn’t want things with Cordelia to end horribly.

He wanted things to go on forever with Cordelia. Where did that thought come from, he wondered. Yesterday he wanted to have a date with his best friend, and now he was planning a forever scenario. Maybe he had been zapped by some sort of spell. No, why on would Cordy use a love spell on him, she didn’t need any spells, not the way she looked. His demon side was definitely laughing at him, hell he couldn’t even act on her invitation in to her apartment last night. He blew that opportunity to snuggle on the couch and maybe more.

What I am feeling is just lust, like the lust Holden Montgomery was feeling about the New York debutant. It was time he took a bold action and just kiss Cordelia senseless. Angel rested his bare forearm over his eyes and sighed, he was a dork. How would he ever pull off just kissing Cordy like that, like a hero from a romance novel?

Angel rolled out of bed and headed for the shower. Not really ready to face another day at Angel Investigations. But a day of watching Cordelia was a good thing.

~*~

It was a quiet Thursday morning at Angel Investigations. Wesley casually paged through a large book on the counter of the hotel lobby desk. He had a note pad to his left and was taking down random notes as he looked through the book. Gunn sat on the couch in the lobby, intently staring at his Gameboy that was intermittently bleeping and buzzing as he played.

Standing, Cordelia put her book on the desk. “Snack attack! Guys, you want anything kitchen?” She looked at Wesley and Gunn who remained completely entranced by their tasks.

Gunn, not looking up from the addicting game, “No, I’m good Barbie.”

“Wesley?” Cordelia prompted, knowing he wasn’t paying any attention to anything other than his research.

“Hmmm?” was Wesley’s response, not looking up from his book.

Cordelia rolled her eyes; Wes was in typical book-man mode, “Food?”

“No, no, I think I am onto something.” Wesley continued taking furious notes onto his legal pad, and flipping pages.

“Okay, but I am not sharing when I get back.” Cordelia warned good naturedly and headed out of the hotel lobby toward the kitchens.

The Gameboy sang the ‘You Lose Song’ and Gunn tossed it onto the cushion next to him, frustrated that he could not get past level 7. Standing, he walked over to the counter. Gunn looked at one of the books pushed to the side by Wesley, open to a page with a lithograph of a demon.

“Man that is one ugly demon. Kinda looks like Shrek, but with little wings. Why the research English?” Gunn noticed that the text under the picture was all in Latin, or what he presumed to be Latin or some other dead language.

“The demon we killed the other night was, I believe, a juvenile version of this demon, a common Graplar. The Graplar is a cross between mammal and reptile, hunting primarily at night for warm-blooded prey.” Wesley explained while adjusting his glasses, loving to talk about the research, feeling he knew what was going on.

“A juvie Graplar? No way, man! That demon we killed was at least 7 feet tall.” Gunn didn’t like the sound of what Wesley had discovered.

“According to this particular translation, the Graplar reaches a full height of 10 feet at adulthood. It also indicates that they remain with their mother until they have reached their majority.” Wesley stated.

“So, are you saying, ‘cause this thing we killed was shorter than normal, it might not be an adult?” Gunn asked despite knowing he was not going to like the answer that he was going to get.

“Exactly,” Wesley confirmed. “I am afraid we might have a very upset parent on our hands.”

“A pissed off momma is not a good thing, Wes. We should see if we can find her,” Gunn folded his arms over his chest, wondering how they were going to kill a 10 foot version of this thing.

“Yes, that is what I am researching now, living habits of the Graplar, but unfortunately the history is a bit sketchy, at least in this volume.” Wes frowned, a little sad. Wes & Gunn look up from the picture of the Graplar when they hear Angel humming.

Angel came bounding down the stairs, humming a tune, not being as stealthy as usual. “Morning, guys!” Angel greeted in a chipper voice and then continued humming his way through the lobby as he headed for the kitchen to get his breakfast.

“Wesley, man, was Angel humming?” Gunn asked concern in his voice.

“What?” Wesley asked, looking up from his book, having barely noticed Angel walking through as he had caught another paragraph in the book that looked like it had potential of helping them learn more about the living habits of a Graplar.

“Angel… he was humming,” Gunn didn’t like it when Angel was not his predictable brooding self.

“Hmm, interesting. It is probably nothing, was he smiling?” Wes added, suddenly, did Angelus hummed? “Gunn was he wearing leather?”

Gunn craned his neck, to see if he could tell what Angel wearing, but lost sight of him as he entered the kitchen. “Didn’t see a smile. Not sure if he had on leather or not. Why would he be humming?” Gunn asked suspiciously.

Wes nervously tapped his pen on the notepad and thought for a moment. “I don’t know, maybe he was listening to music and got something stuck in his head. As long as he wasn’t smiling, I think we are safe.” Wes assumed. Then he walked over to Cordy’s desk, opened the top drawer and pulled out a wooden stake, setting it on the counter next to his notepad and books.

Gunn looked at Wesley, “English, do I gotta worry?”

“No, just a precaution,” Wes turned back to his book and continued his research.

~*~

Cordy finished spreading the peanut butter onto her sandwich and put the two pieces of bread together. The actions were almost automatic since her head was still replaying the evening she had spent with Angel and how good it made her feel. It was so weird, thinking about Angel in a non-plutonic sense. She was glad they were friends again, but her body wanted more than her head was ready to deal with. The kitchen door swung open and the object of her thoughts walked in, and gave her a big smile.

“Morning Cordy.” Angel looked at her and took in her familiar scent.

“Hey hungry?” Cordy held up her sandwich, offering to share.

“Yes, but for something less solid.” Angel walked past Cordy deliberately brushing his hand across her back, a small touch that he couldn’t help himself from taking. He inwardly smiled when she didn’t flinch. Without pause he moved to the large hotel refrigerator, opened the door and took out a container of pig’s blood.

“Grb th mhilk for mhe.” Cordy said, her mouth full having taken an initial bite of her PB&J sandwich. The peanut butter sticking to the top of her mouth.

Angel looked at her, mouth full, chewing, and gave up on translating what she said, “One more time?”

Cordelia lowered her sandwich, “Grb th Mlk”

Angel looked at her, even with vampire hearing he shook his head, still not getting what she wanted.

Finally, frustrated, Cordy took a deep swallow, trying to unstick her mouth, “Milk,” she managed to say.

Angel chuckled at her frustration and then pulled out the gallon jugs of milk and blood. He used his hip to close the fridge door and put both jugs on the counter. Grabbing two glasses out of the cupboard he filled one with blood and one with milk and walked over to Cordy.

Cordy made a grab for the glass, not paying attention to which one was which taking the closest glass from Angel. She started to take a sip, then looked down and realized it wasn’t milk in her glass.

“Dork,” Cordy said handing the glass of blood back to the vampire.

“Oops, sorry,” Angel apologized sheepishly, trading beverages with Cordy. Hell, where was his head at? He couldn’t believe he did something as stupid as giving her his blood. UGH.

“So did you have a good time last night?” Angel asked, not believing that he was able to engage his mouth after that blunder.

Cordy looked down at the glass, verifying it was milk, and too a big chug. She set the glass down on the counter and smiled. “Absolutely, it was a blast.” Cordy thought a moment; Angel was acting more dorky than usual this morning. She looked at him and realized that he was not wearing his usual black and grey ensemble; he had on a light green shirt that looked good on him, he almost looked happy. Hello salty goodness. Where did that come from?

“Good, I thought so too,” Angel agreed, suddenly feeling at a loss for words, feeling like an awkward teenage boy, having a hard time talking to a girl, a girl he liked. Angel mentally shook his head and began the mantra in his head – Cordy is my best friend, Cordy is my best friend, no lusting after Cordy. It is hard not to lust after her watching her eat that sandwich, wearing a red tank top that accented her breasts so well, and casual khaki shorts that highlighted her long, long legs as she sat on the stool at the counter. Wonder if she would mind if I licked that milk mustache off the top of her lip? No damn it, there is more, and I am going to be a man..man-pire, and do something about it.

“Did you hear me?” Cordy snapped her fingers in front of his face when he appeared lost in deep thought, hoping he wasn’t about to go into brood mode. Cordy casually swiped her hand across her upper lip, removing the traces of milk.

“Sorry, what?” Angel responded, his mind having wandered from listening to Cordy to thinking about what he would like to do to Cordy.

“I asked if you wanted to go to the movies tonight. I want to see Pearl Harbor.”

“Movies, sure, I haven’t seen a good movie, well since Omega Man with Charlton Heston,” Angel responded, happy to have another opportunity to spend time with Cordelia. Well it is the 21st century, girls do ask boys out on dates these days.

“Omega Man? Never heard of it, was it a talkie?” Cordy teased Angel about his age, which she loved doing.

“Yes, it was a talkie. Charlton Heston is not that old,” Angel deadpanned. He was not going to get baited into an argument about his age. I am not old.

Cordelia swallowed the last bite of her sandwich and moved to the sink to wash off her plate. “No, but you are, Big Guy, or should I say ‘Old Guy’? So do you wanna go or not?” Cordy grinned over her shoulder.

Angel finished the last of his blood, licking his lips, “Yes, I mean no. Yes to the movies, and No to the Old Guy comment.” He moved to the sink next to Cordy, turning the faucet closer to him so he could rinse out his glass. He liked standing close like this, hearing her heartbeat.

“Here, let me, Angel. My hands are all soapy already,” Cordy offered, brushing her hand against his and taking his glass. She quickly rinsed away the blood then washed out the glass.

“Thanks, but you shouldn’t have to do that,” Angel said as he watched her clean the glass and place it into the dish drain.

“You’re right, but we can’t really afford hiring a cleaning service, can we?” Cordy commented wryly, drying her hands on a towel and turning around to face him. He was standing very close to her, definitely in her personal bubble. For once, she didn’t mind.

“No, uhhh…,”Angel was at a loss for words. He wasn’t sure if it was her question or that she was standing so close to him that he could hear each beat of her heart.

“Don’t worry about it; I’m used to the living hand-to-mouth thing.” Cordy smiled, and then patted his shoulder, feeling the strong muscle under her hand, “You should wear green more often. Looks good on you,” Cordy complimented him, wanting to encourage him out of somber colors.

“Thanks, uh, you look good in red.” Angel said following her hand from his shoulder, up her arm to the strap of the deep red tank top, trying hard not to look down and focus on her breasts.

“Well duh! Okay, back to work.” Cordy pushed past Angel heading out of the kitchen back to the lobby.

Angel watched her walk past and enjoyed the view. How stupid was he with the ‘you look good in red’ comment. What did Cordy call him – yes he definitely was a dork.

~*~
Wesley paced in front of Cordelia’s desk, asking for the third time, “Are you certain in your vision that you only saw the one Graplar, and not two?”

“No, Wes, only saw the one that you guys killed the other night, and no I haven’t had a vision since that one.” Cordelia harrumphed in frustration at the vision quizzes that Wesley put her through.

Wes kept looking at his notes as he questioned Cordelia. “It just doesn’t make any sense. All of my research indicates that the Graplar we killed was a juvenile, and we should have seen its mother near by. I fear that she is still out there and will be quite mad we killed her offspring.”

“Wes, you’re being a little rough on her. If Cordelia said she only saw the one demon in her vision then that is all she saw,” Angel jumped in to Cordelia’s defense.

Cordy crossed her arms over her chest, defiantly, “Yeah, rough. Look Wesley you may be my boss, but the PTB are the ones who decide what I see and what I don’t see in my visions,”

“Sorry, it is just that my research…,” Wesley started but didn’t finish.

Cordy was tired of the questioning. “Wes, maybe this Graplar was an orphan or something. Don’t get your panties in a bunch,”

Wes slammed down his note pad on the desk and put his hands on his hips, “My panties are not in a bunch!”

“Coulda fooled me,” Cordelia muttered under her breath sensing a bickering match was about to begin.

Wesley standing a little taller straightened his shoulders. “What did you say?”

“Children, enough.” Angel interrupted before a serious argument could begin and ruin his good mood.

“Fine.” Cordy huffed.

Wesley glared first at Angel and then at Cordy. “Fine.” He reached down and picked his notepad up off of Cordy’s desk and then grabbed one of his books, sulked into the back office, closing the door behind him, not quite slamming it, but loud enough to notice.

“I have no control over my visions. The PTB are not exactly delivering clearly typed messages in a FedEx envelope.” Cordy asked Angel.

“I know. Wes is just frustrated. The research doesn’t match what we killed.” Angel responded.

“Well, life isn’t all about books,” Cordy said, and then picked up her romance novel and started reading.

“I’ll talk to him,” Angel promised.

Not looking up from her book. “Good,”
~*~
“Nice to meet you, Ma’am.” Holden tipped his cowboy hat to Jillian and took her hand as she stepped off the stage coach. He noted the girl’s wide-eyed expression as she surveyed the area. Jillian wore a very prim and proper high necked dress that clung to her figure, her dark hair pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head. Holden more than a little surprised how beautiful his new bride-to-be was, since she was a mail-order.

“Very nice to meet you Mr. Montgomery.” Jillian looked up, noticing for the first time how tall he was and how handsome. Mandy would die if she saw him.

Holden wondered what she would look like hair loose and the dress buttons undone, revealing young firm breasts. He pushed the thoughts of lust to the back of his head, and remembered what was written in marriage proposal – no wifely duties. Hmm well if she asked for them, then he would of course oblige. “So how was your trip?” Holden hated small talk, but figured it would get his mind off of how good her body looked, even in the Sunday school outfit she had on.

“It was long but interesting, this is the farthest West I have ever been, Mr. Montgomery.” Jillian looked at her husband to be and said a small prayer of thanks not expecting such rugged good looks from a man looking for a wife by placing an add in the New York Times.

His dark chocolate eyes stared intently, not hiding the fact of looking up and down her young nubile frame. Jillian felt a blush rising to her cheeks; he was undressing her with his eyes. Jillian felt the electric power of his touch as his work roughened hand clasped her small delicate one. She wobbled a little getting off the coach and he quickly steadied her, moving his other hand to her arm.

“Steady, miss,” Holden said, in his deep gravely voice, enjoying the touch of the girl in his hands, “You must be tired from your travels, lets get you home.”

Jillian gulped. Home. She wasn’t going home, she was going to the only option that life had given her, married to a stranger for a year. Home was New York. She steeled her frame and decided that she needed to be brave and ask the question that she dreaded asking the entire trip from New York to Texas. “When are we to be wed?”

“Next week at the Ranch,” Holden responded, moving her away from the stage coach and to his open wagon. “That is when Hank Walker is scheduled to be passing through.”

“Who is Hank Walker?” Jillian asked, surprised at the sudden touch of Holden’s hands at her waist, effortlessly lifting her up onto the wagon seat.

“Local Justice of the Peace. He’ll perform the ceremony,” Holden said, tossing her bag into the back of the wagon and then flipping a coin to the boy who had loaded the rest of her trunks into the back of the wagon. The girl certainly didn’t travel light.

“Thanks, Mr. Montgomery!” The boy responded smiling up at the rancher.

“Your welcome Charlie, tell your dad I said hello.” Holden smiled at the boy and then moved to the driver’s side of the wagon.

Jillian turned and looked at Holden, and shifted a little so she wasn’t touching his muscular thigh, certain it was not proper to be so physical with this stranger. No matter that he was going to be her husband in a week. “We aren’t getting married in a church?” Jillian was distressed, this might be a temporary marriage, but she’d never imagined a wedding outside a church.

“Do you really think that we should do something like that in a church? This is a business arrangement, Miss Wentworth, not a love affair,” Holden said coldly. While he might lust after her young nubile body, he was only getting married to keep the ranch.

“I suppose you are correct, Mr. Montgomery,” Jillian admitted and then was jostled as the wagon started moving. Her hand defensively went to the side of the wagon and gripped on to the edge for dear life as Holden snapped the reins and the team of horses quickly took off across the road leading out of town.

~*~

At least Jillian has a hope of being married at least once even if it was some tragic farce, Cordy thought. Being Vision Girl, I have no hope of even dating, much less getting married. She was determined not to feel sorry for herself because of a non-existent love life. I am not a cat lady, okay maybe a ghost lady, but if you had one that was good with a loofah, where was the bad in that? Hey I go on dates, ice cream at the Santa Monica pier was definitely in the date category and tonight she was going out to the movies. Does it still count as a date if its with your best friend? Wait, did I ask Angel out on a date?

Cordy looked at her watch, 6 p.m. It had been a quiet day at Angel Investigations with no clients and no visions, thank you, God. Wesley had come out of his office a little bit earlier and mumbled an apology. Cordy accepted it; she could tell he meant it. He then announced he was going down to the bookshop to see if he could get another reference book for the Graplar demon. Cordy told him not to be so obsessive, and wondered if Wes had paid any attention to her advice. Her vision only showed one demon; everything was going to be fine.

Angel came up from the training room, a towel around his shoulders, sweaty in his white tank undershirt and black sweat pants. He looked around the lobby and noticed that only Cordelia was there. “Hey where is everyone?” Angel asked walking over to the counter, gripping the ends of the towel around his neck.

Cordy looked up from the book and took in the sight of Angel. He looked so good, his arms firm with muscle, his hair messy as usual. Cordy licked her lips before she could stop herself.

“Out. Gunn took Fred for tacos and Wesley went down to the rare book dealer; something about another reference on this demon.” Cordy put down her book and moved to stand on the other side of the counter from Angel. Her eyes drank him in. When had she started noticing how good looking Angel was?

“So then it’s just the two of us for the movies?” Angel asked, not blissfully happy, but very happy that he was going to get more Cordy alone time.

“Looks like.” Cordy said, twisting her hair up and clipping it back. Even though it was September, it was still hotter than hell in Southern California. That random thought had her asking, “Was it this hot in hell?”

Angel laughed, “Not the hell I was in. It just smelled bad. Didn’t notice if it was hot, but vampire, so it might not have bugged me if it was.”

“Ugh, I hate this heat and humidity. Can we go to an early showing, and soak up all that cool air conditioning?” Cordy asked, wanting to get out of the hotel before everyone got back and invited themselves along. She wanted alone time with Angel.

“Let me grab a shower, and then we’ll go.” Angel agreed, smiling.

“Hurry, before I melt,” Cordy smiled back at her vampire, watching him take the stairs two at a time, heading upstairs. “And don’t forget money… you’re paying.”

“What?…can’t hear you Cordelia.” Angel shouted from the top of the stairs.

“Pfft, you can hear me from here Mister Tight-With-A-Buck,” Cordy said in a normal voice.

Angel smirked at her comment heading down the hall to his room to shower and change.

“Cordy, are you ready to go?” Angel asked, coming down the stairs and pulling his leather coat on he looked good in it and knew that he did. Who said he was vain?

He caught a scent in the air, and then took a deeper breath and was surprised, it was definitely Cordelia, but something else. He could swear it was arousal. Angel looked around, expecting to see Cordy staring at him, maybe even drooling a little, but no such luck. She hadn’t even noticed his appearance, her total concentration was on the romance novel in her hands. He stealthly moved down the stairs and edged behind her and leaned in sniffing her hair. Yep that is definitely arrousal, along with her apple scented shampoo.

“Hmmm must be a very good book, to have you so enamored.” Angel said behind her, knowing that she would be startled.

As Angel’s words sank in, Cordy quickly put down the romance novel and fanned her face. She did what she had promised herself she wouldn’t and had skipped ahead in the book to a smut scene, and boy was it hot in here. “Yes a good book. I am in need of a super-sized ice cold soda right about now.”

“It isn’t that hot is it?” Angel asked having a feeling it was the book she had been reading and not the temperature in the hotel. Yes, he did turn down the air conditioning when nobody was paying attention, but hello, if you paid the electric bill for this place, you’d learn to wear less clothing if it was hot out.

“Yes, aren’t you hot in that coat?” Cordy said, looking at Angel and wondering how he was not sweating, and then it hit her, vampire, not effected by heat.

“No. Come on let’s go and I’ll drive fast to cool you off.” Angel said offering his arm to her.

“That won’t be any different then normal Angel.” Cordy commented wryly, noting that Angel had only one speed when came to driving fast. Kind of like how Holden rode his horses, fast like lighting, Cordy thought about the book she had just put down.

Angel smiled as her hand slipped into the crook of his arm, and led Cordy out of the hotel and into the night.
Chapter 3

Looking around the dark theater, Angel cringed that it was packed full. This many people made him nervous. Although he was getting better with his people issue of ‘bite or avoid,’ but all the heartbeats and blood pumping made him hungry. He knew he should have finished off the bottle of pig’s blood that was in the fridge before leaving.

Angel never remembered the movies being expensive, granted ticket prices had gone up since seeing Omega Man, and he thought that it was a little steep at $11.85 each. Cordelia’s detour to detour to the concession stand had drained his wallet. Cordy logic explained every purchase: Popcorn, $13.33 because, “well you have to have popcorn at a movie,” bottled water, $4.50, “cause lord knows popcorn makes you thirsty,” a package strawberry Twizzlers, $4.35 “cause what if it is a boring movie and you need the sugar rush,” and the little, emphasis on little, box of Snowcaps, $5.25, “cause well chocolate, please who can not have chocolate when you go out.” And to top it all off, Angel got stuck carrying everything into the theater, as Cordy took the lead in finding them a place to sit. He followed her up the stairs to a middle row in the theater, where she had found two openings almost dead center.

The previews were showing and to get to the middle, they had to step over what felt like to Angel one hundred people. Cordy didn’t seem to mind all the people, and easily maneuvered around feet and knees. Angel was grateful that he didn’t step on anybody’s toes or drop any food, it was too expensive to get replacements. Cordy stopped and got herself organized, putting her drink in the cup holder, checking to make sure there was no gum on the floor where she was resting her feet, she inspected the seats and the middle row that she had chosen. He juggled the popcorn in one arm and the candy in the other, waiting for her majesty to settle down. Finally she sat down and crossed her legs and looked up at him.

Cordy looked up at him, holding everything, “You want the popcorn or the Twizzlers?”

“Hey, Mister, are you gonna sit down or what?” A pimply faced teenage boy said from two rows behind where Angel stood.

“Pfft! It’s just previews,” Cordy said loud enough for the boy to hear, but didn’t turn around. “Angel are you gonna stand there all night?” Cordy asked, smiling at him holding all her goodies.

Angel managed to sit down, juggling all of Cordy’s food. Knowing she was never going to be able to eat all of it, he wondered why she made him buy it. He could hear the annoying kid from the back row snickering at him. For an instant, Angel was ready to forget about his redemption and put an end to the kid.

“Angel, here, let me take some of that.” Cordy offered, looking over and realizing that he did not look comfortable at all. Big dork, all he had to do was ask her, and she would have taken something.

Angel swiftly transferred the food to Cordy, but decided to hang onto the chocolates. Two reasons: one, he knew they were her favorite and second, well maybe he would try one. It had been forever since he had chocolate.

“Aren’t you hot in that coat?” Angel looked up from the box of chocolates to find Cordelia’s eyes on him as she teased him about his appearance. She tossed a couple of popcorn kernels into her mouth and then licked away a smear of butter before adding, “I mean, it’s like ninety-degrees outside and you look…well, too bundled up.”

Angel gave Cordy a questioning look, “Bundled up?”

“Well yeah, you know, it’s hot out. Don’t want to raise suspicions,” Cordy mumbled with the popcorn in her mouth.

Deciding that maybe she was trying to tease him, “You know how gross that is don’t you?” Two could play at this game.

Cordy swallowed, “Please, I am not the one who was drinking cold blood straight from the bottle in the fridge.”

“Well it is not like anyone else is drinking it, unlike what I saw you do with the milk jug yesterday.” Angel countered with a smug smirk. Vampire 1, Seer 0.

“Lose the coat,” Cordy ordered with a smile, deciding to ignore his observation of her milk drinking habits. Next time she was going to have to make sure nobody, especially Mr. Snoopy here, was around when she had a dairy craving. “I’d rather lean against that silk shirt of yours than leather when it is this hot out.”

Angel stood up to take off his leather coat once the words registered that she wanted to lean against him. Vampire 1, Seer 1.

Hopefully the movie would start soon. Angel sat back down, his leather coat off, the chocolate Snowcaps balancing in the cup holder, and Cordy on his right.

Cordy looked around, craning her neck to clear her view of the screen. Directly in front of her was a rather tall, bald guy, who she couldn’t see through, “We need to switch I can’t see over the guy in front of me”

She gave him a look that he couldn’t say no too, Angel just stood up and held out his hands, taking the popcorn, water, and Twizzlers from Cordy. She brushed past him to switch seats and his body reacted. He made a point of taking a deep unneeded breath as their bodies touched; she was all warm and smelling like cinnamon and apples. If Cordy every figures out how much control she could have over me, I am dust. Vampire 1, Seer 2.

“Sit down, jeez, trying to watch here!” The boy in the back said again. A few other kids joined in with similar phrases.

Angel turned and looked at the kid, deciding that eating him would probably piss Cordy off. He glared at the kid, maybe it was time to flash his game face, just for a second, long enough to shut the kid up for the rest of the movie. He glared at the kid, sending a clear message that he was in no mood to be messed with, and the kid got it loud and clear. Vampire 1, Teenager 0.

Cordy moved Angel’s leather coat so that she was sitting on it and was able to pull the sides up so it covered her legs. Angel grimaced at the thought of all the wrinkles that were going to be inflicted on his coat the way Cordy was sitting. Then he decided that maybe it was not such a bad thing that she was all wrapped up in his clothing. His possessive nature decided that it was a good thing that his scent was going to be clinging all over her body by the time they left the theater. Angel looked her over realizing he was still holding all her food and handed her back the popcorn, water and Twizzlers. I hope that she doesn’t spill anything on my coat, that popcorn looks a little greasy.

“Are you cold?” He asked, sitting back down on the opposite side, and rebalancing the box of chocolates into the cup holder on this right.

“Yeah, a little. The A/C must work here, unlike at the hotel.” Cordy said.

“The air conditioning works at the hotel,” Angel said flatly, hoping she was not going to call him on adjusting the A/C down.

Cordy snuggled in further into Angel’s coat, enjoying the smell of leather and well, Angel, “Yeah, right.”

“Hey, it’s expensive running the A/C as cold as you like.” Angel responded.

“I think you’re not running the A/C just so I wear less clothing; that’s what I think Angel,” Cordy whispered loudly, baiting him.

“There is that benefit,” Angel deadpanned. Vampire 2, Seer 2. Tie game, how you gonna break it Cordy?

“Pfft. Quiet the movie is gonna start,” Cordy said, leaned against his arm and looked up at him, smiling like the Cheshire cat.

The opening music started welling up in the theater and the credits began. Angel moved his arm to rest around Cordy’s shoulders a bit hesitant at first. That’s what a guy did on a date, try to get the girl to snuggle against him, right? He relaxed the moment she leaned further into him, holding her popcorn in her lap.

This was the best $51.13 he had ever spent. Vampire 3, Seer 2.

~*~

Walking out of the theater into the LA evening, Cordy pushed up the arms of Angel’s leather coat, silently signaling him that she was cold, “So that was what World War II was like?”

Angel cringed watching the leather wrinkle under Cordy’s fingers as she pushed up the too long sleeves. He wondered if he was ever going to get his coat back. He liked that she was wearing his coat, but just wondered if it would ever be the same. “Yes, it was a good versus evil fight, especially based on how the papers depicted the Japanese during the war.”

“It was so sad at the end, but I am glad that Evelyn had Danny’s baby, and that she ended up with Rafe,” Cordy said looking up at Angel happily. Maybe it was the sugar high from all her snacks. No, she wouldn’t lie to herself, she was happy because she was with her best friend and they had just done something very normal.

“People smoked a lot more back then,” Angel decided to steer clear of the love story portion of the movie.

“Yuck, smoking is gross. Don’t you agree it was romantic but sad?” Cordy asked, again adjusting the sleeves on Angel’s coat. The temperature had dropped quite a bit since they had entered the theater. September in California was never predictable.

“Sure…uh…yeah, romantic.” Great, here I go with the stutter routine. Relief coursed through Angel as they finally arrived at his car. He stepped ahead of her to be able to open her door for her.

Cordy got into the Plymouth, “Thank you.” Angel never opens the car door for me, what is going on with him tonight?

“You’re welcome. It‘s the chivalrous thing to do, isn’t it?” Angel responded, firmly closing her door.

Chivalrous? Cordy decided to let it go. She watched Angel walk around the front of the car, and took in how good he was looking tonight. He opened his door and slipped behind the wheel. “I meant for the night out, doing normal boy-girl things.” Cordy was not quiet sure how to read Angel’s look at her response to his question, then it hit her. Crap, Crap, Crap, did I just say boy-girl things?
Angel looked down into her eyes, and wanted to do nothing more than lean over and kiss her. “I had a good time too,” He said is a soft voice, almost a caress, maybe it was time to take action, do something about what he was feeling. He wanted to kiss Cordelia Chase, to find out if she tasted as good as she smelled. Angel reached over and tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear.

Cordelia’s heart was racing. She didn’t realize it, but she was leaning in closer to Angel. A tingle ran up her spine as his finger grazed her cheek and rubbed against her jaw… He is gonna kiss me. Angel is gonna KISS me. Cordy closed her eyes and leaned in further, closer to the vampire.

Angel heard her heart speed up, and felt her move closer. She’s giving all the right signals; I mean Buffy use to do that leaning thing too. I can kiss Cordy, my best friend, no harm right?

Angel suddenly pulled back and turned the key of the ignition of the Plymouth, the engine roaring to life loudly. Staring straight ahead, not looking at Cordelia.

Cordy opened her eyes at the sound of the car starting and the loss of Angel’s cool hand from her face. He was facing forward and not looking at her. What was wrong, she wondered, he was going to kiss her. Cordy was positive that Angel was going to kiss her. Why didn’t he kiss me?.

‘I am such a dork,’ Angel kept repeating over in his head and then decided to break the awkward silence. “Well kinda late, I should get you home before Dennis gets worried,” Angel said, amazed that his voice held.

“Yeah, late.” Cordy blinked and looked forward as Angel drove through the city traffic. Maybe she had been reading him wrong, maybe he wasn’t interested. Maybe it was because she was not blonde. Cordy sat in the Plymouth in silence, getting angrier as the got closer to her apartment. Mad because she really wanted Angel to kiss her.

~*~

Holden watched Jillian struggle through washing clothes. It was hard work, and he had decided that if he kept her busy she would stop complaining about being bored. Plus his shirts needed cleaning, and why pay for it when he now had a wife. One he had no bedroom rights too, according to their agreement, as much as he wanted them now.

Jillian’s hair was in a loose bun and several dark tendrils had escaped and were curling in the humid summer air. Her white blouse was damp from working in the heat and the splashes of wash water. She had her sleeves rolled up and the top three buttons of her blouse were undone hinting at her generous cleavage. Holden liked the look of how the damp white cloth molded her perfect breasts. He stepped away from the barn and decided to talk to his wife.

“You know, that might go a little quicker if you actually got some soap on the shirts, rather than just wringing them around in the water,” Holden said sardonically, tipping his hat up to get a better look at Jillian.

Jillian huffed and wiped the back of her hand against her sweaty brow. “I am getting soap on your shirts, it is just they are so dirty it takes forever to get them clean,”

She had never felt so filthy in her entire life, and she was supposed to be cleaning. A Wentworth did not clean, that was done for them. Then it hit her, she wasn’t a Wentworth anymore, she had married the bastard, this Montgomery man standing right in front of her, bare-chested, deeply tanned and muscular. He looked comfortable in the Texas heat, not seeming to be bothered by the sun or the humidity.

“Ranching is hard work; I told you that in my letters,” Holden reminded her, deciding to bait her into an argument. When she sounded like a shrew he didn’t have the urge to grasp her around the waist, smash her young fiery body to his and kiss her senseless. At least that is what he was telling himself.

“Well, I expected a rancher such as yourself with such extensive holdings would have some help around here to do these tasks,” Jillian challenged back. She had a hard time focusing when Holden stood so close to her. His voice, his body, his strength was all so intoxicating. She would not give into her lustful feelings for him, or else she would never be able to get this marriage annulled.

“Ranchers have to reinvest their money back into the ranch. It can’t be wasted on servants so you can sit around and be waited on,” Holden said firmly annoyed that she had not listened at all to him when he had described what life was like at Double Bar Ranch.

Jillian dropped the shirt she was cleaning back into the laundry water and stood hands on her hips. “You won’t spend a little bit of money to get someone to help with the household work, just so you can buy a few more cows,” Jillian huffed. She was in just a mood to start an argument, and Holden was fueling the flames.

“Cattle,” Holden responded through clenched teeth.

“Whatever. I am hot and tired and I am not doing this anymore. Find someone else to do your laundry,” Jillian said firmly.

Holden’s blood starting to boil, “You are my wife, and as my wife I expect you to at least perform some wifely duties,” The wifely duties he wanted her to perform had nothing to do with laundry and everything to do with being in his bed, naked.

She was overheated and all she wanted to do was get out of the Texas sun. “That wasn’t part of our agreement. You better figure out who is going to do your laundry from now on, because I am through! Now get out of my way, I am hot and no longer have any desire to be anywhere near you, Husband!” Jillian shouted, and moved to step away from him and the argument.

“Hot are you?” Holden asked,, mad not because she refused to do his laundry, but because he wanted her so badly. He had sworn off women, but Jillian Wentworth made his blood boil, and he either wanted to rip her clothes off and spank her for her shrewish behavior, or kiss her and make her forget all about being a shrew. As she moved past him, he decided that it was time to cool this vixen off. He stopped her and in a quick move slung her over his shoulders, like a sack of grain.

“Holden! What are you doing? Put me down!!” Jillian shouted, hanging upside down over Holden’s shoulder. She banged her fists on his bare back and felt his strong muscles, rippling as he carried her, barely noticing her weight.

“I think it is time we both cooled off, Mrs. Montgomery.” Holden said sarcastically. He quickly made his way down to the creek behind the barn. Halfway down to the creek, he got tired of her beating her fists on his back and smacked her bottom hard. That stopped her fists from hitting him; maybe he would take her over his knee.

“No, Holden! Stop!” Jillian shouted as she realized that he was going to dunk her in the creek. She didn’t think she would survive the embarrassment. Plus, underneath her cotton skirt she wasn’t wearing the proper three layers of petticoats. It was just too hot, all she had on were a pair of light cotton bloomers.

Holden got to the edge of the creek and took two steps in before tossing his wife into the center, completely drenching her. The creek was deep enough to swim and didn’t have a strong current, plus he already knew she was a good swimmer.

Jillian came up sputtering. Her hair covering her face making her look like a drowned rat, the white blouse clinging to her bosoms, her nipples pressing wantonly against the wet cotton fabric.

Jillian started laughing it was the only thing she could do, realizing that maybe Holden had the right idea in cooling her off. She pushed her hair out of her eyes then looked down and realized how transparent her blouse was now that it was wet.

Wrapping her arms around her chest she looked to the shore and saw that her husband had pulled off his boots, and now was unbuttoning his trousers. “Holden Montgomery, what do you think you are doing?” Jillian asked, and turned around to maintain her modesty.

“It is too hot to argue, Jillian. You needed to cool off and so do I, I’m taking a swim.” Holden grinned as he saw his young bride blush and turn around quickly. Naked, he dove into the creek and let the water flow over his body, cooling the heat that had developed from their argument. He surfaced just behind her and stood, the water coming just to his waist, barely hiding the strength in his thighs and legs. Water dripped down his well sculpted chest and glistened in the sunlight. He touched Jillian’s back and turned her around to face him.

“I am sorry I dunked you, you just make me so mad,” Holden said softly, moving her long dark wet hair out of her eyes. He loved how her cornflower blue eyes sparkled with intensity when she argued with him. His other hand rested gently on her hip. The space between them was minimal; he could feel her body heat coming off her in waves.

Jillian moved a fraction closer, wanting to melt into him, and be kissed again like he had the night of the thunderstorm. “Holden, this isn’t proper at all,” Jillian protested weakly.

“No, definitely not proper for a man and wife to go swimming on a day hotter than Hades,” Holden chuckled. He pulled her closer, feeling the electricity that jumped between them. He looked down from her face, her breasts pressing against the wet blouse, nipples excited. He wanted her, and damn it she was his wife.

“Holden, what are you doing?” Jillian asked, knowing very well the answer to her question.

Holden decided he was through talking and pulled Jillian up against his chest and kissed her, something he had wanted to do all day.

~*~

Angel put down the book and looked around the empty lobby. Everyone was asleep and he had dropped Cordy off at her apartment hours earlier. It was almost dawn and he wasn’t tired so he had picked up the romance novel and continued reading through a good share of it over the course of the night.

Why the hell didn’t I kiss Cordy tonight? She wanted it, I know she did, she smelled like she wanted to be kissed, and her body was definitely sending all the right signals. Angel thought a moment and then just could not come up with a good reason for not kissing her, other than he panicked.

I should have just done what Holden did and kiss her senseless, I still remember how to kiss a girl. God damn it, I am such an idiot. If Holden can seduce a 19 year old New York debutant, I should be able to kiss my seer, Angel fumed, mad at himself, Cordy, and most of all gypsies. God, he hated gypsies and especially gypsy curses. All he wanted to do was toss Cordelia over his shoulder and take her to his bed. There had to be a way. Angel headed upstairs, he wanted to brood in the dark before anyone arrived for work, and especially before Cordy got there.

~*~

Cordy rolled over on her bed and glared at the clock. It was only an hour later than the last time she looked at it 4:30 am. She still had a few hours before getting up, and her head was racing. All she could think was that Angel had almost kissed her tonight, that it seemed like a real date, up until they got to his car and the magic went kablooie.

Was it because she wasn’t Cry-Buffy or blonde? Some days she wished her life was a Delilah Wilder novel and that the hero would kiss her and make everything better. Plus the heroines in Delilah Wilder books were always brunettes and the blondes were appropriately enough floozies or hussies. She closed her eyes and demanded her body to sleep, but it refused. Her brain kept replaying Angel leaning in to kiss her and then suddenly pulling away, leaving her cold and alone.
CHAPTER 4

Cordelia walked into the Hyperion Hotel and casually looked at her watch – 5:30 am, much earlier than normal. She sighed and looked around the dark lobby; it seemed so quiet this early in the morning, unusual really. Sure she had been here lots of times at daybreak, but that was usually only after an all nighter of fighting demons, and then it would be so she and Wesley and sometimes Gunn would have their boss make them breakfast.

Funny, come to think of it, Angel had stopped making them breakfast, in fact she couldn’t remember the last time they all sat around the table eating eggs. Strange how life takes twists and turns, Cordy thought. Walking over to her desk, she placed her bag down on the chair and looked at the paperwork that was waiting for her. Paperwork wasn’t what she was really interested in, not after last night. She had spent all night wondering if there was anything between her and Angel.

Spending the better part of the night tossing and turning, she finally gave up on sleep and figured heading to the office would keep her occupied. Well that was the excuse her rational brain made up. Her heart was telling her to march up the stairs and confront Angel.

And ask him what? Hey Angel, thought you were going to kiss me then you didn’t, was it cause I am not a blonde? In her mind she had had one sided conversations with Angel the entire car ride back to her apartment. Hey Angel, it was as if you were going to kiss me, you know it’s okay to kiss me don’t you? The theme was pretty much the same the whole car ride. Angel had said nothing, just driven, in that stoic manpire of few words way he has about him.

Cordy looked at the staircase and it looked much longer and higher than it normal.

“Maybe the dork is still awake, heck if I can’t sleep why should he?” Cordy said out loud to the empty lobby. Part of her was surprised to not get a response. At least at home Dennis would flick a light if he agreed or disagreed with her. She was on her own in making the decision to climb the stairs to Angel’s suite.

Deciding that it was now or never, Cordy started up the staircase, to face her destiny. With each step she tried to figure out what she was going to say to him. Did she just go in there full force and ask why he didn’t kiss her last night. Or did she go for a little subtly and make with the small talk. Hey Angel, it is going to be a really nice sunrise, wanna watch? Before Cordelia knew it, she was standing in front of the door to his suite. She raised her hand to knock, but then lowered it.

“What am I doing here?” She whispered, more to herself than anybody else. “I am imagining things, if Angel wanted to kiss me he would have.” Cordy turned from the door and quickly walked away, not ready to face a conversation with the man on the other side of the door. Not ready to admit that she had feelings for him. She practically sprinted down the stairs and looked around the empty hotel…she felt like a coward. Cordelia Chase was no coward.

~*~

Angel opened the door to his suite. He could have sworn he had heard Cordelia’s voice just moments earlier. He unconsciously sniffed the hallway and picked up her scent and it well smelled fresh. It was sometimes hard to tell, as she and Wesley and Gunn for that matter, spent so much time at the hotel, everything was covered in their respective scents. But he had the feeling his hearing had not deceived him. What is Cordy doing here at the crack of dawn? She must have had a vision.

At that thought of Cordy being in vision pain, Angel ignored his state of undress – no shirt or shoes, and his black trousers without a belt and the top button just undone – and followed his nose to the staircase.

He got to the edge of the landing and looked over the railing, and there was Cordelia. She was pacing and muttering to herself, something that sounded like ‘be brave, be brave’. Now he really wondered what was going on, and wasted no time getting down the stairs to confront his seer.

Cordy in her mind wanted to do nothing more than to go back upstairs and ask for answers, answers to questions that had been lurking ever since their series of dates started. As she turned to start her 17th lap of pacing she ran into the object of her nervousness…literally.

“EEEKKK!!!!” She screamed, surprised by Angel, her hands now resting on his chest, as his gently grasped her upper arms.

“Geez Angel, what’s with you and sneak attacks?” Cordy huffed, a bit embarrassed by her reaction. She noticed that her hands were on his chest, and didn’t move them, not yet anyway. His body felt cool to the touch, and it always surprised her that there was no heartbeat.

“I thought I smell..uh..heard you a little bit ago outside my room. What’s wrong, did you have a vision?” Angel looked down at her, and noticed that her eyes looked tired, as if she hadn’t gotten any sleep.

“Vision, no, uh…just couldn’t sleep, and you know how the paperwork is just piling up around here, so I decided to get a early start and you know de-pile it.” Cordy found it hard to talk at first, being surrounded in his embrace, and then the babbling started.

Angel looked at her, and decided that maybe keeping her off guard was his best move, he had been thinking about holding her all night, and now here she was, standing in his arms. “What do you need to be brave about?” He asked quietly.

“Brave?” Cordy played dumb, damn vampire hearing. She would need to learn to not mutter at the hotel anymore, at least not to mutter things she didn’t want Angel knowing. Suddenly it felt like Angel pulled her an inch closer, into his arms.

Angel nodded, maybe if he kept her talking the urge to kiss her would go away. But as he watched her breath, and felt the air passing over her lips, the only thing on his mind was that he wanted to taste that breath, taste her lips. He wanted to know if what he was feeling was mutual.

Cordy looked up at Angel, and saw a glint in his eyes…was it humor or oh god…it was… Cordy took a closer look it was definitely borderline lust in Angel’s eyes. Before she could react, his head angled down and he pulled her closer, definitely noticeable this time, and kissed her softly on the lips. Her eyes widened as she felt his cool lips touch hers, Angel is kissing me, she sighed and moved her arms around his neck and pulled him closer, wanting to never end this magic of a first kiss.

Angel’s head was swirling with the first taste of Cordelia, and joy coursed through his body, when he felt her hands slip around his neck and pull him closer. He deepened the kiss, wanting to just be lost in her, wanting more, knowing deep down that more was not likely possible.

The kiss came to a natural end, but Angel, instead of pulling away, slid his lips along her jaw line until he could nuzzle her ear. He spoke softly, “I wanted to do that all night,” confidence back in his voice, as he felt that Cordelia did not mind being kissed by him.

“Angel…I…uh…” Cordelia was more than a little dazed by his kisses, and found it difficult to form a coherent thought with him nuzzling her neck. Woah…vampire…neck nuzzling…not good…

“EEEK!! Angelus!!!” Cordy screamed and pushed away from Angel, startling him both with her scream and the use of his alter-ego’s name. She was now standing three feet away and was obviously looking for an escape route.

“What!? Why did you just call me Angelus?” Angel looked at her, not sure what the hell she was talking about.

“Well you started the neck nuzzling thingie…and I guess, I just thought that maybe you had…turned.” The words fell out of Cordelia’s mouth before her brain was engaged, for some reason she was worried about the perfect happiness clause kicking into effect with the way he kissed her.

“Angelus?” Angel looked at her a little befuddled and then it hit him, She really does like my kisses.“I don’t think that one kiss will bring out my evil twin Cordy.”

All of a sudden, something akin to fury raced across Cordelia’s face and Angel realized that he some how had said the wrong thing.

Cordy folding her arms over her chest glared at Angel, “Kissing me is not the cause for perfect happiness buster?!”

Angel couldn’t help himself, but he let out a little chuckle. The look on her face told him that was the wrong sound to be making at this juncture. He wanted to kiss her again, and thought that his chances were going downhill rapidly.

“No” The look on her face made him quickly back pedal, “yes, it was very good, I like kissing you” Angel had a strong feeling he was going to loose this battle.

“Good, my kissing is only good?” Cordy asked flustered. Her functioning brain realized that no, a kiss did not equal perfect happiness, but damn it she was Cordelia Chase.

Angel smiled, not an evil smile, but a genuine one, as this was his open door, and he was going to take it. “One kiss really isn’t enough to tell.” He took two steps closer to Cordy, lessening the gap; he could hear her heart racing. “Let’s try again, and see if we can do better.” Angel pulled her to him and kissed her thoroughly.
~*~

Jillian’s head was spinning from the headiness of Holden’s kiss. Feeling the water of the creek rush past their bodies, cooling them while at the same instant she felt like she was on fire. Her arms tightened their grasp around Holden’s neck, and she felt his one of his hands move off of her back and trail a path up her body to cup her breast. When he squeezed slightly, she sighed into his mouth and moved to push her body closer. Holden moved his mouth from her lips and trailed kisses down her neck, and was gently kissing her collar bone, while his thumb was flicking over her nipple. She had never felt this way in her entire life, and it scared her to know that she would do whatever Holden had planned. They were married, so it was okay…right.

And that is when Jillian’s brain kicked into gear. They couldn’t be together as husband and wife; she would never be able to get married into New York Society if she was compromised. Even though Jillian’s head was spinning from the temptation Holden was creating she somehow found the strength to push herself away from him. She looked at him, panting, the water from the creek rushing past her hips. “We can’t do this, you know we can’t” She said breathlessly.

Holden looked at his young mail-order bride, and she looked as skittish as a deer during hunting season. He had felt something in that kiss, and knew that she did too, why was she denying it. “Darlin, you don’t want to stop anymore than I do.” Seduction filled his tone, and he looked at her hotly.

Jillian knew that he was right, what had made her stop was the one thing she wanted to hear before she gave her virtue up to a man – that he loved her. “Mr. Montgomery, I will have you know I can control my lust.” She said, straightening her frame and standing tall, folding her arms over her chest to hide her nipples straining against the wet fabric.

“Oh really Mrs. Montgomery?” Holden looked at his furious young wife and wondered what was going through her head, but felt that she had just issued him a challenge.

“Really Mr. Montgomery,” Jillian said, as she started to slosh past him to get out of the creek. “This is only temporary and in a few months I am going back to New York and you will have your ranch. I think we can control our baser urges, so we can successfully annul this sham of a marriage.” Jillian made her way to the edge of the creek and stepped up onto dryer land. Her words made her sad beyond belief, but she knew that it was how it had to be. She walked away from the creek and her husband without turning back.

Holden watched her and decided that a challenge had just been issued and he was up for that challenge.

Cordelia more and more realized that her life was starting to look exactly like Jillian Wentworth Montgomery’s life. Right down to the scene she just finished reading in Chapter 27 to what had happened this morning with Angel. Looking back on it she didn’t know how to feel. The second kiss from Angel this morning more than spun her head, it made her want to grab him by the belt buckle and drag him upstairs to his bedroom and not let him out for a month. For someone with no body temperature, he certainly knows how to kiss a girl, and make her so hot she is on fire. And whoa boy does he know how to unbutton a girl’s blouse in record time. Suddenly she was in his embrace with just her lacy peach bra separating her hot skin from his cool chest. And that is when something snapped in her brain, reminding her of what would happen if things went any further.

Cordy pushed back from Angel, pressing the palms of her hands against his chest as he tried to lean in and kiss her more. He looked in her eyes and saw something he wasn’t expecting, mixed with lust was a thin layer of sadness in her eyes.

Angel moved a hand up to cup her chin “Cordy, what?” asking, not sure if he wanted the answer.

“I want to, but Angel we can’t.” Cordy didn’t say anymore than that, the meaning was all to clear to both of them. They couldn’t risk Angelus making a return appearance.
Chapter 5

It was still early at the Hyperion, and nobody was in yet. Cordelia yawned, while she had had plenty of sleepless nights working at Angel Investigations, her body and mind was exhausted especially after the emotional rollercoaster that started earlier with her pre-dawn encounter with Angel, or more specifically their kiss. At the awkwardness of pushing him away, Angel made up an excuse to get out of the hotel, something to the effect of patrolling the sewers or double checking something. It was a lame escape tactic, and Cordy let it go, she needed some space too…not knowing what more they could say to each other. Her heart ached, that maybe, just maybe, the two them found something, and knowing that it couldn’t go anywhere. She sighed and rested her head on her arms as she sat at her desk. Maybe I will just rest my eyes for a moment.

Cordy looked around the room she was standing in and knew in an instant she was at the Double Bar Ranch house. It was large, but simple with tasteful furniture and what she could only describe as Western art hanging on the walls of what looked like a study or a library. Her mind slipped into the dream, she took in her surroundings and saw a roaring fire going in the fire place and moved to stand by it. Drawn to the flames and heat, Cordy watched the flames flicker and change colors. All of a sudden she felt strong hands wrap around her waist their heat pushing through the cotton fabric of her simple farm dress.

“Jillian, you know we are meant to be together.” The voice was deep and seductive, and was clearly Angel’s voice. She thought a moment and wondered why his hands felt warm and not cold as she would have expected from the voice behind her. Cordy’s also wondered why in her dreams Angel would call her Jillian, but then decided to go with it and play out the fantasy. …Oh well, maybe Holden has a similar voice to Angel.

“No we aren’t Holden, we can’t be together.” Cordy said, playing the role. She turned in his arms and looked into Holden’s eyes, noting how funny yet sexy she thought Angel looked in a cowboy outfit. The light blue chambray shirt, the rough brown workpants…were those corduroy or denim?

“You won’t deny me Jillian.” The dream Angel said strongly. He bent down and kissed her, one of those drugging, sexy hot kisses, which melted her brain, even in her dreams. Moving his hands up and down her spine, pulling her closer to him, to feel every inch of her body against his rock hard body.

Still kissing her, Holden/Angel swept her up into his arms and carried her out of the study…presumably towards the bedroom. Jillian/Cordy did not struggle in the least, just sighed into his arms.
Fred sat on the counter top of the check in desk and watched Cordelia sleep silently. Fred noticed that she would moan occasionally and smile in her sleep. She is just like me, I can sleep anywhere, especially after sleeping in a Pylean Cave for 5 years.

“Good to see you downstairs Fred.” Angel said quietly, having snuck up behind her from the basement steps, taking in the same view she had of Cordy sleeping on her desk.

“Shhh…you’ll wake her and I think she is having a good dream.” Fred said in a quiet whisper.

“Well she can’t be comfortable sleeping there can she?” Angel asked in the same quiet whisper.

Fred turned her body and looked at her hero. She was greatful on so many levels that Angel had rescued her; he will always be the ‘Handsome Man’ who saved her from hell. “Wonder why she is sleeping here and not at home?”

“She couldn’t sleep, we had a disagreement, I left, and I guess she decided her desk was the perfect place for a nap.” Angel replied planning on going into any details about what their disagreement had been about. The less of the group that knew about he and Cordy, the better the chances this thing would work out, at least that is what he sincerely hoped.

Fred shook her head, “She’s gonna be mad when she wakes up with a crick in her neck.”

Angel looked at the awkward body angle that Cordy was in, realizing Fred was right, and an idea sparked. He wasn’t sure if he was ready for the repercussions of what he was about to do, but then decided that he definitely didn’t think that Cordy with a crick in her neck later in the afternoon would be pleasant to be around.

Angel moved past the edge of the counter over to Cordy’s desk and looked down on her sleeping form. He gently picked her up out of the chair into his arms, and adjusted her sleeping form so she was cradled against his chest, her head resting on his shoulders, one are slung over his shoulder.

“Better move her to somewhere she will be more comfortable.” Angel said to Fred, making the excuse for his actions, but relishing the feel of Cordy in his arms.

Fred sighed as she saw Angel quickly head towards the staircase, carrying Cordelia as if she wade nothing. Someday my Hero will sweep me off my feet like that. She hopped off the counter and moved over to Cordy’s desk, and saw she had fallen asleep resting her head on a book. Fred picked it up and looked at the cover…a romance novel. She smiled, picked up the book and moved over to the lounge in the center of the lobby. “I haven’t read a romance novel in years!” Fred said to the empty room, and curled up on the couch and started reading.
~*~

Angel reached down to open the door to his suite, not wanting to jostle the sleeping girl in his arms. She instinctively tightened her hold around his neck as he moved, and it felt good to Angel to have her want him…even if it was in sleep. He managed to get the door open and moved into his room, kicking the door closed with his foot. He looked briefly at the small couch in the sitting room and decided instantly where he wanted Cordy to sleep – his bed. He’d be the gentleman and take the chair, of course, and let her have the bed. He really didn’t need much sleep anyway, even though the time of day was getting to be prime sleeping hours for a vampire.

As Angel was laying her down on his bed, he felt Cordy start to wake up, her heart beat quickening.

Cordy sighed and then without opening her eyes somehow found Angel’s lips and started kissing him.

Angel didn’t care that if she was asleep, her kisses had a drugging effect on his system, and he wanted this more than anything. He gently kissed her back, not wanting her to come out of her dream and end their closeness. He moved his hands to pull her body closer to his, to absorb her body heat that he craved as much as her lips. Closing his eyes, he didn’t want this to end, didn’t want her to wake up.

Cordy’s mind swirled between being asleep and awake, and decided to stay asleep, and keep her dream going, having moved from the fantasy of the Double Bar Ranch to somehow being in Angel’s arms and in a soft bed. The fantasy of being with Angel was ten times better than the romance novel fantasy. She gave into her dream world and snuggled deeper into her fantasy’s embrace…having no idea that it was more real than she could have ever imagined.

Angel looked down at her and smiled, as she remained sleeping, but cuddled closer to him, clinging to him really. He kissed her one more time on the lips, a gentle brush, a tease and then closed his eyes. If I move now, she’ll wake up and we will have to argue again. Maybe I do need to get some sleep. Angel closed his eyes, pulled Cordy tighter into his embrace and let sleep take over his mind as well. It is just sleeping, not sleeping together, well together, but not together.

~*~
Cordy woke up slowly in a very dark bedroom, her eyes trying to adjust to the darkness. She stretched a little and realized there was a heavy weight on her chest. She moved her right hand slowly, and felt the silky soft short hairs of the weight resting on her. Absently she ran her fingers through that hair and rubbed the nape of the neck of the man laying on top of her. Must still be dreaming…that is it…mmm I love being held like this. As much as Cordy fought to stay sleeping, she was coming awake…and then it hit her…this was not a dream man sleeping on her chest…it was Angel.

Okay…what is Angel doing sleeping on me? Cordy struggled to think about how she ended up where she was now. As the haze of sleep started to wear away, she remembered Angel walking out the basement door to go patrol, and that she decided to close her eyes for a quick nap. Whoa…what is that hand doing? Cordy’s eyes opened wide when she felt Angel’s hand move from resting on the side of her hip to cupping her breast, teasing her nipple.

Cordy stopped moving her fingers that were still involuntarily massaging Angel’s neck. Angel’s fingers stilled, yet remained firmly on her breast. Cordy sighed…what kind of mess she had gotten herself into now. She knew she couldn’t move without waking him, and wasn’t it unwise to wake a sleeping vampire?

Experimentally she moved her fingers again, against his neck. As she started engaging in rubbing, so did he – continuing a very sensual caress of her breast. Cordy stopped again, and so did Angel.

“Angel!” Cordy said in a loud whisper.

“…”

His hand moved away from her covered breast and moved down her stomach, and started to slip under the fabric of her t-shirt.

“Ahhh…” Cordy sighed, his cool touch on her skin was making her head flip. She didn’t think she really wanted him to stop.

“…”

Angel’s hand moved to the space between her breasts and felt the front clip of her bra. The man who invented that type of underwear deserved a Nobel Peace Prize, or some other very prestigious award. Angel, now awake too, decided it was best if Cordy thought he was still sleeping, and doing all of this in his sleep. He flicked open the clasp and felt the fabric of her bra slip away. He moved his hand to fully cup her breast…the heat warmed him, and her racing heart beat excited him.

“Angel!” Cordy said a little louder…in shock to be lying there, a heavy vampire on top of her, who was now successfully copping a very big feel. Part of her was outraged, but a much larger part of her didn’t care…this is what she really wanted.

“Shhh…go back to sleep Cordy…this is all a dream.” Angel whispered to her seductively in the dark bedroom. He use to be great at using the vampire thrall thing, at least when he was Angelus…he hoped it worked tonight.

Cordy shuttered at the soft sexy sound of his voice. It would be so easy to do what he said. Just to close my eyes and let this fantasy take hold. “We can’t” Cordy said, still in a whisper, but it felt like she was shouting it, in the quiet dark room.

Angel moved his head and started kissing her neck, soft gentle kisses, that he used to tame her fear. “shhh…trust me…I know how far I can go…” Angel said, acknowledging her fears about his curse.

“But I can’t trust myself Angel.” Cordy said, her voice catching on the border line of tears. So many emotions were swirling around her now, well really two, arousal and fear. Arousal cause this hottie really knows where to touch a girl, and fear because, Hello Angelus, she thought.

“Trust me, Cordelia,” Angel said, as he moved his mouth from her neck, to kiss the underside of her chin. “We can do kissing,” he continued, as his mouth moved over her lips quickly and then kissed her closed eyelids.

Her arms wrapped around his back, pulling Angel closer, giving into his seduction. She knew that she should be pushing him away, but her body was a traitor to her mind. “Just kissing.” She said mimicking his words.

He started kissing her earlobe, licking around the edge of her ear, and feeling her heart beat soar louder and faster, smiling to himself that he found a sensitive spot. “We will be careful.”

An other husky whisper…sending chills up Cordelia’s spin. “Careful…we will stop before things get too far…” Cordelia’s body was rationalizing that she would be able to stop, even though her mind was terrified.

Angel nodded his head…taking in her scent…it was time to stop talking. He moved his lips across her cheek and took her mouth in a tender kiss. He knew he was coaxing the equivalent of a frightened animal, and gently kissed her mouth…teasing her lips with his tongue.

Cordy hadn’t realized till just that moment how much she really wanted this man that was holding her, wanted to be lost in his arms for a long long time. She didn’t want gentle kisses anymore…she wanted to feel the fire again, that his second kiss earlier that morning had left in her. She pulled him closer to her, and then kissed him back with all of her passion.

Angel was surprised, but not disappointed by her sudden change in emotion, and became wild himself with kissing this girl, this woman, who meant so much to him.

~*~

“So I believe that if we are going to kill this Graplar demon we are going to need to set up some sort of trap, to lure it out of hiding.” Wesley said, looking up from the ancient volume he was reading.

“You mean like a snare or some sort?” Fred asked from the couch, not looking up from the paperback novel she was reading.

Wesley looked up, surprised that the girl had spoken, she had been so quiet most of the summer, and he was glad she was starting to come out of her shell. She was very cute, with her glasses resting on the edge of her nose and her hair all over the place. He stood up and walked from the desk to in front of the sofa. “Why that is an excellent idea Fred.” He smiled down at the girl.

Fred looked up from the book, and gave Wesley a smile back. “Course I have never set up one quite that big before. I mean in Pylea, I was able to catch rabbits, well not exactly rabbits, not sure what they were called, the ears weren’t quiet as long, but they were small and furry. Blue fur, you’d think that be unappetizing, but roasted over a fire, yummy. Kinda like chicken. The green furred ones weren’t as tasty.” Fred giggled nervously, knowing that she was rambling but just couldn’t stop.

“Isn’t it amazing how many things taste like chicken…especially when we have no clue as to what they are…I have heard that frog legs tastes like chicken.” Wesley commented back to the nervous girl. He liked her, and was glad they had rescued her, and that she stayed here at Angel Investigations. “How much wire do you think we would need to snag a 10 foot Graplar that weighs 400 pounds?

Fred smiled up at Wesley, and knew she had found a friend. “Well, you would probably want to use 10 gauge, steel reinforced wire. You could go with 12 or 14 gauge, but we would need to know what the exact angle was going to be, anything more than 47.5 degrees and we would need to use stronger gauge wire. Course if we can’t get steel reinforced wire, than we would need to calibrate the appropriate gauging. What are you going to use for bait?”

Wesley looked down at his watch and shook his head. “Where is Cordelia, it is nearly 2 o’clock?”

“You would use Cordelia for bait?” Fred asked, slightly perplexed as she thought Wesley liked Cordelia.

“Oh good heavens no, it is just that it is getting rather late, and she is usually here by 10 am.” Wesley adjusted his glasses. He thought it was probably best not to tell the girl that they had indeed used Cordelia as bait on more than one occasion.

“She’s here.” Fred said, and picked up the novel again.

“Where, I didn’t see her when I came in this morning?” Wesley looked around the office, knowing that he had not seen Cordelia at all.

“Oh she is upstairs, sleeping with Angel.” Fred said matter of factly, turning the page in the novel.

“Sleeping with Angel, good heavens.” Wesley said, looking up the stairs, wondering why Cordelia would be foolish enough to sleep with Angel, knowing that would equal Angelus.

“Yeah, she got here really early, she and Angel had a fight, and then she fell asleep in her chair on her desk. When Angel got back, he and I agreed it would be better if Cordy didn’t get a crick in her neck, so he brought her upstairs to sleep in a bed properly.” Fred explained.

“Oh, sleeping…not sleeping together…ah well yes a cranky Cordelia is not someone who is fun to be around.” Wesley said, realizing how foolish he was to think that Angel and Cordelia would risk awakening Angelus.

“That is right buster, a cranky Cordy is not a pleasant Cordy.” Cordelia said from the top of the landing looking down on the lobby of the hotel. She stretched a little and then headed down the stairs.

Wesley watched Cordelia descend the stairs, yes he was positive she would not be reckless. “Did you have a vision, is that why you were here so early?”

“No Wes, I just couldn’t sleep, so I came in to do some paperwork. Then I guess my body decided that it was ready for sleep.” Cordelia giving Wesley an extremely edited version of her morning activities at the Hyperion.

“Ah, insomnia is never good, but you look well rested now, good thing Angel didn’t let you sleep on your desk.” Wesley commented, knowing he would need to thank the vampire for his kindness to Cordelia, as they all benefited when she was in a good mood. He walked back over to his desk and returned to reading the text, and thinking about how to set up a snare trap. Fred maybe onto something.

“Good thing. Hey Fred, whatch ya reading?” Cordy asked, wanting to get off the subject of her morning activities, sitting on the couch next to Fred.

“This Delilah Wilder novel, I hope you don’t mind, it was on your desk.” Fred said…nervous that she had just taken the book and not asked.

“No big, haven’t finished it yet, so I might steal it back. What part are you on now?” Cordy asked, sensing the girl starting to withdraw back into herself. This was the most time she had spent with them before bolting back to her room. Maybe Fred was starting to come out of her shell.

“Oh Holden and Jillian are still fighting and denying that they have feelings for each other. Boy can that author describe a bare chest hunk of man or what?” Fred smiled, loving having girl talk again, after not having talked to anyone in so long.

“I know…it is so obvious that they are in love, they just need to do it.” Cordy said, her mind flashing back to just a little while ago where she was lost in Angel’s arms, ready to give up everything just to be with him. She sighed, thinking back to it, and then shook her head. They had agreed not to go past 2nd base, and that was sure to keep the curse in full force. At least that is what Angel rationalized.

“Yeah, but it is all the tension building up to when they finally do do it that makes it a great book. Don’t you agree?” Fred looked at Cordy, and then noticed what looked to be a hicky on her neck. She thought for a moment and wondered if more was going on between Angel and Cordy than just friendship. She smiled, she hoped so, they were both nice people, who seemed to belong together.

“Yes nothing beats some sexual tension.” Cordy said, realizing that her new situation was very much rife with sexual tension.

“What about sexual tension?” Angel asked from behind the two women, having moved quickly down the stairs after listening to their conversation.

“Sex, what no sex…” Cordy blurted out, surprised by Angel’s appearance.

“Hi Angel.” Fred beamed up at the tall dark vampire.

“Afternoon Fred.” Angel smiled back at the girl, and then looked at Cordy, like he wanted to eat her –“Hi Cordelia. What about sex?” He teased her, knowing he was making her uncomfortable and liking that feeling just a little bit.

“…” Cordy for the first time in forever was at a lost for words.

“Oh we were just talking about this tawdry romance novel that she and I are reading.” Fred jumped in, much to Cordy’s relief saving the day from awkward silences.

“Tawdry huh, has the hero swept the heroine off her feet and carried her away to his bed yet?” Angel asked Fred, but glanced at Cordy, knowing he had done just that very thing this morning. He could have sworn that she blushed.

“Not yet, at least not to the part I have read up to yet. But I would imagine it is going to happen soon.” Fred said, apparently oblivious to the sexual tension that was starting to ignite in the room.

“What part of the book are you up to Cordy?” Angel asked, putting her on the spot and asking a very different question than what appeared on the surface – had he swept her off her feet yet, had she fallen for him? He kept a physical distance from her, afraid if he got to near her he would start touching her again, in front of Fred and Wesley. He knew that that was probably not the best idea at this point in their budding relationship.

“Almost the same spot as Fred. So Wes thinks he has come up with a way to take out the Graplar demon.” Cordy said, trying to shift the power back in her favor, and get off the topic of sex.

“Wes, what did you find?” Angel moved away, putting more distance between him and Cordelia, before he decided to say the hell with it and toss her over his shoulder and carry her back upstairs to his bed. He was a little miffed that she had left his bed while he was sleeping. Payback was going to be fun.

“It was actually Fred who had the idea.” Wesley said, looking up from his book, and the note pad where he had sketched out the idea. He stood up from the desk, walking to the counter and placing the note pad down.

“We build a snare, in the vicinity of where we killed her child. Put some bait in there and then once she goes for the bait we release the snare, and we will have caught one very angry Graplar.” Wesley said showing Angel the drawing.

Cordy had moved over to the counter and was standing next to Angel, wanting to be near him, compelled to be near him. “I can be bait, I have experience at that.” Cordy said, wanting to help, wanting to put an end to this particularly nasty monster.

“No you can’t” Angel glared at Cordy, she was not going to be putting her life in danger anymore.

“Yes I can, I have a long history of being bait girl, this is the perfect job for me.” Cordy said defiantly.

“No, no more bait jobs,” Angel said firmly.

“What do you think I can’t handle it Angel?” Cordy challenged, her voice increasing in volume. Not shouting at him yet, but getting close.

“No you can’t, I don’t want you getting hurt.” Angel raising his voice, matching her louder voice.

“I am not some damsel in distress Angel, I am part of this team, and that is one of my best talents being bait.” Cordy folded her arms over her chest, she was not going to loose this argument.

“Lets see how good you are being bait when I lock you in my bedroom Cordelia!” Angel threatened.

“You and what army Mister!” Cordy shouted, knowing that if Angel decided to lock her in his bedroom, she would probably have little choice in the matter.

“Cordelia, Angel is right on this one.” Wesley jumped in, also not wanting Cordelia to get hurt but for a much more practical reason. “You wouldn’t make very good bait in this particular instance.”

“What do you mean Wesley, I am perfect bait…hottie here.” Cordelia huffed at the former watcher. She could not believe he was taking Angel’s side in this.

“Well..huh…yes you are…but you’d be of no interest to the Graplar. You weren’t there the night we killed her child. She would have no interest in you.” Wesley said, hoping his words sunk into her stubborn brain.

“I’ll be the bait, I was there when we killed the first one.” Angel said smugly, deciding on how big a raise he was going to give the rogue demon hunter for talking Cordelia out of being bait. But for safe keeping I might still lock her in my bedroom.

“Angel, I am afraid you would make bad bait as well.” Wesley stated, looking from the Vampire to the Seer, wondering which one would win this battle of wills. He had a strange feeling it would be the girl and not the man.

“Your right Wesley, Angel is not attractive in the least.” Cordelia lied.

“No it has nothing to do with attraction; really, this is a demon, not a beauty pageant.” Wesley sighed. “Angel has no body temperature; the Graplar might not even notice that he is there. Although she would recognize his scent as one of her child’s killers, it might not be enough. It is going to have to be either myself or Gunn.”

“Once we snare it, all I have to do is cut off its head, like we did the last one right?” Angel asked, not liking the sound of using Wes or Gunn as bait, but liking it better than using Cordelia.

“Yes, a standard slice and dice.” Wesley replied.

“Call Gunn, we will set a trap at sunset, I’ll be in the basement, training.” Angel said, and pushed away from the counter. He was mad at Cordelia for wanting to put herself in danger, and realized that he needed some space.

As the basement door closed behind Angel, Cordelia turned to Wesley. “Were you just saying that Wes, you know I am more than capable?”

“No, that was the absolute truth Cordelia.” Wesley said, looking at the strong willed young woman in front of him.

“Good. You know I want to help.” Cordy said, looking at the former watcher and her friend, realizing that he wasn’t lying.

“Yes, and you do help. Angel is just protective, of all of us, you know that. Why must you argue so?” He asked a little exasperated.

“I don’t know Wes.” Cordy looked at the basement door. She had a feeling this was going to be the first of many arguments to come with Angel, now that their relationship had moved from being best friends to something more.

“I’ll call Gunn and have him meet us tonight. Fred, how would you like to go to the hardware store with me and pick out some steel gauge wire?” Wesley asked Fred, who had put down her book to listen to the loud discussion.

“Sure, sounds like fun. Hey can we get some tacos while we are out?” Fred ask, standing up, folding over the page she was on and walking to the counter.

“Of course, I could use a late lunch.” Wes smiled, “Cordy would you care to join us?”

“No Wes, I think I need to go mend some fences with Broody boy.”

“Alright, we will be back in before sunset.” Wesley grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair and headed towards the front door to the hotel, Fred in his wake.

“See you in a couple of hours.” Cordelia said, moving in the opposite direction toward the basement door.

~*~

As Cordelia took the first steps down into the basement she heard the sounds of the punching bag being pummeled. Whoa boy…this is not going to be fun.

“Cordelia, go back upstairs, I am in no mood to talk.” Angel said sharply between punches, not turning around to see her on the stairs, but rather sensing her arrival.

“Too bad.” Cordelia closed the basement door and continued down the stairs, walking onto the training mat behind Angel. He was shirtless, and what a sight to take in watching his back muscles work as he pounded the punching bag.

“Look, I am part of this team, and I will not stop being a part of this team just because we kissed.”

Angel ignored her and continued to hit the bag…working out his frustrations.

“We all have jobs to do, and I am not going to just be Vision Girl, and sit home and knit while the men go out and save the day. I need to learn how to fight, how to protect myself, or maybe even protect you, you big dork.”

“Cordelia, you are not going to start fighting these things.” Angel turned around and glared at the girl. He was not going to loose her now that he had just found her.

“Angel we have a dangerous job, keeping me in the dark, untrained is not smart. Plus all summer while you were in Tibet, I helped. I helped a lot. I can certainly use a stake, and I am pretty good with a cross bow.” Her words were softer, no longer arguing with him, but trying to get him to see reason.

Angel put his hands on her shoulders, needing to touch her, feel closer to her. He didn’t move to pull her into his arms though, this was serious. “Your right, and it is my job, not yours, my mission, I will not risk you.”

“It is not just your mission Angel. I am the one who sees the helpless. I am the one who knows how much is out there; remember last summer, Vocah, hello, I know about what is out there that goes bump in the night. I am fighting with you, this is our mission now.”

Angel pushed away from her and turned his back. “You don’t have to make up for a hundred years of slaughter and mayhem.” He said quietly.

“No, but I was the meanest girl at Sunnydale High. We all need to find redemption, but we don’t need to find it alone.” Cordy moved closer to Angel and wrapped her arms around his waist, resting her head against his bare back.

“I just found you. I don’t want you dead.” Angel said, relishing the feel of her so close to him. Moving his hands to touch the top of hers, to feel her warmth.

“That is why I need to be trained,” Cordy started to kiss his back, starting with his shoulder blade. “To know what to do, how to protect myself.” She squeezed him tighter as she pleaded her case, continuing to kiss him. Moving around his body with kisses until she was facing him. “I am strong; teach me to fight, to protect myself.”

Angel lowered his head, knowing he was loosing this particular battle. He looked at her determined face. “But Cordelia…” He started to say.

“But nothing, Angel, who better to teach me how to fight then you.” Cordelia said sensing victory was close at hand.

“Fine.” Angel said, giving in to her, knowing he had no choice.

“Yippee!” Cordy shouted, and then jumped up onto him, wrapping her legs around his waist and kissing him. If he had a breath, that kiss would have stolen it for sure. Angel moved his hands to cup her bottom, and pulled her closer to him, getting lost in the aggressive kissing she had started.

Cordelia smiled and pulled away slightly, to catch her breath. “So should we start with hand to hand, or go straight to swords?” She was excited to learn how to defend herself and protect her family and friends.

Angel tumbled her down onto the mat, pulling her closer, and kissing her neck. “Let’s start with hand to hand.” He said, grasping her hands in his and pulling them above her head gently, then swooping in to kiss her breath away.

Cordelia sighed…training was going to be very interesting with this particular manpire.


…TO BE CONTINUED…

THIS APPEARS TO BE AN UNFINISHED STORY


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