TITLE: Safe as Houses
AUTHOR: starlet2367@comcast.net
RATING: About as R as you can get. C/O, C/A
SPOILERS: Through "That Vision Thing"
DISCLAIMERS: 1. Too bad I don’t own these characters. I think about ‘em enough.
2. This started out as a PWP. And then it grew. What it grew into, I'm not quite sure. 
Ebonbird says I should just call it erotica and stop trying to pretend it's got higher aspirations. 
All I know is, I've been working on it since October, and I'm still not satisfied with it. Guess 
that means it's time to cut it loose and see if it flies.
3. Thanks to DG for the idea that there might be a simple resolution to the curse. And to my friends who beta'd, offered support and picked up my flagging confidence on this one. Ebonbird, Kazz, Gracie, I don't know what I'd do without you.
SUMMARY: A lonely night and a light flirtation lead Cordy into something darker and hotter than she ever imagined.

***

"C’mon, guys, time’s a-wastin’," Cordy called. Her heels clackety-clacked against the Hyperion’s polished floors and the familiar masculine scent of the hotel slipped into her senses, weaving a comforting spell.

She wanted nothing more than to sink under that spell, to hide in the quiet, warm safety of Angel's arms. To let him soothe away the fears that had plagued her since the visions that turned her into some sort of 21st century Job.

Just two things wrong with that picture, Cor, she thought as she dropped her tiny satin purse on the round fainting couch. She wasn't the type to sit around wailing in sackcloth and ashes. And Angel wasn't her safe harbor.

No matter how much she wanted him to be.

So she gave a Queen C toss of her expertly tousled hair and reminded herself why she'd called this little party in the first place. They'd all been working too hard. They all needed to forget. To cut loose and party their asses off.

And if she had to write it on her forehead in magic marker, she was gonna remember that.

Fred clomped down the stairs in her platform sandals. "Hey, Cordy. You look great!"

That much was true, Cordy thought with a grin. Her strapless dress was skin-tight and black and ended just above her knees. It cupped every dip and curve, and as she walked, the outrageous side slits exposed her legs from knee to hipbone. "Thanks. You ready?"

Fred nodded, her smile genuine but a little nervous. "Where are the guys?"

"One of us is right here," Wes said from the doorway.

The women turned. "Hey," Cordy said. "Where’s Gunn?"

"I assume he’ll be here any moment," Wes replied. "You look lovely," he said to Fred.

Fred blushed and looked down at her silk slip-dress. "Thanks," she replied, glancing up at him from under her lashes, though on her, the look was more shy than seductive.

"Yo, what’s happenin’?" Gunn stepped into the lobby, all low-riding denim and street swagger. "Hey, Fred, nice dress."

Fred beamed. "Thanks," she said. Her eyes widened. "Um, do I have time to…?" she nodded toward the bathroom.

"Sure," Cordy said with an easy wave. She cocked an eyebrow at the guys. "Don't I get a 'you look nice,' too? Geez. You'd think I was invisible."

"Oh, Cordelia," Wes said hastily, obviously trying to cover. "Of course. You look...."

"It's just," Gunn said, interrupting Wes, "Fred, you know, going out for a night on the town? Gotta support her as she makes the big steps."

Wes nodded. "And you always look fabulous, so...."

"Why mention it," Cordy said.

"Yeah," Gunn nodded. "Exactly."

"Okay, now I’m ready," Fred said breathlessly as she came out of the bathroom. Both men turned to her, eyes glinting appreciatively over friendly smiles. They didn't notice the slight slump to Cordy's shoulders as she bent down to retrieve her bag.

"The cab should be here.…" There was a honk from the curb. "Right about now," Fred said with a freshly-lipsticked smile.

"Let's go," Cordy said, and as she turned, her shoulders went back and her head came up. No brooding for her, no sirree. She brushed past the guys on her way out of the lobby. Speaking of brooding.... "What about Angel? I thought he was coming."

"He’s patrolling," Wes said, ushering Fred onto the sidewalk. "He said he'd stop by."

Cordy followed, locking up behind them. "I'm sure well see him later, then," she snorted. "'Cause you know how he is with the dancing."

"Yeah. John-friggin'-Travolta," Gunn snickered.

***

"What do you want to drink?" Wes shouted over the thumping music.

"Something tropical," Cordy shouted back. Wes nodded and headed for the bar.

"C’mon," she said, but Gunn and Fred shook their heads, content to stay at the table and try to talk over the wail.

Cordy needed more. She pushed to the center of the crowd, aching to lose herself in its wildly beating heart.

It was like being at the Bronze, only better. Hotter, looser, with a darker vibe that suited her mood perfectly. A much safer spell to lose yourself in, she thought, raising her arms sinuously over her head and letting the music fill every pore.

Someone laid a hand on her shoulder and she jumped, startled out of her reverie. It was only Wes, who leaned close and yelled in her ear, "Your drink is on the table."

"Be right there." He nodded and disappeared, and Cordy stayed until the song faded.

When she reached their table Wes handed her a tall, thin glass. "Got two," he said, nodding toward the extra. "Figured you'd be getting warm."

"Thanks," she said. The drink went down cool and smooth. "You guys having fun?"

Fred slurped her pina colada like it was an icee. "This is great," she said, taking it all in. "I haven’t been to a bar in...forever." A wistful look passed over her face and she glanced down at her drink. Wes patted her hand companionably and she smiled up at him.

"We haven’t been out in forever, either," Gunn replied helpfully, swigging his beer and looking around the club.

Cordy nodded in agreement. "Yeah, we’ve been far too serious lately. Way too much of the serious at A.I."

"Hear, hear," Wes agreed before taking a polite sip of his scotch.

"I, for one, am gonna solve that problem by getting drunk. ‘Cause drinking and seriousness can’t coexist in the same body," Cordy said with a reckless grin.

"Well, I call for a toast, then" Gunn laughed, raising his beer. The odd assortment of glasses clinked. "To cuttin’ loose."

"Oh, yeah," Cordy said. "Way loose." She swigged the rest of the drink, reveling in the cool, liquid fire. "Good thing you got me two," she said, setting her empty glass next to the full one. She almost sighed with relief as the tingly warmth of a good buzz started to light up her blood.

Wes’s eyes glinted humorously behind his glasses. "That's why they pay me the big bucks," he said. He leaned his elbows on the table and turned to Fred, who was quietly bending her straw into origami-like shapes. "So, how’s the theorem on time progressing?"

Fred’s face lit up. "Oh, I'm way past that!" she said, angling toward him and dropping the straw.

Cordy turned to Gunn who was watching the crowd with sharp eyes. "See anything you like?"

He winked at her. "Besides what’s right in front of me?"

"'Bout time you noticed. I was beginning to think you were blind," Cordy huffed. Then she realized she was only a step away from pouting. Which was about as attractive as Joan Rivers in a bikini.

She took one more determined swig of her drink then set her glass on the table. "You wanna dance?"

"You don’t gotta ask me twice," he said, following her eagerly onto the floor.

The raunchy beat hit her somewhere in the solar plexus, mixing with the alcohol and loosening her limbs. They got lost in the crowd, became nothing but bodies moving and shaking and writhing.

At some point, Cordy realized hazily that she'd accomplished at least part of her goal. She felt lighter, more relaxed--heck--darn near blissful.

The floor was packed with people all in a similar state of false euphoria, all looking for escape. She let the wave carry her, let it wash her mind free of everything but the dance.

Eventually Gunn leaned against her and shouted in her ear. "Gotta pee," he said.

Cordy nodded. "I’m staying here."

He waved over his shoulder, leaving Cordy alone.

The music poured over her and she sucked in a breath, glorying in the rush of air through her lungs. Her dress and hair clung to her damp body, tickling her sensitized skin. She drew her arms slowly over her head, closed her eyes and dissolved into the sound.

Someone came up behind her, scooting in close enough that she could feel the bump of his knees against her thighs. "Dance with me," he breathed.

"Angel?" She whirled.

"I can be," he smiled. It was one of the guys who had been stealing glances at her all night.

God, he sounded so much like him. Her heart, which had been pumping like a freight train, jumped the track.

"Hey, you all right?" He tilted his head down toward her and under the lights his eyes were warm with real concern.

She realized then that she'd stopped dancing, and that her disappointment must have registered on her face. So she smiled. It wasn't one of her best, but it was better than the shell-shocked look she'd probably been wearing.

"I'm fine, really," she said, touching his arm lightly. "I just thought you were someone I knew."

"Ah, an ex," he said conspiratorially. He started moving, slowly and easily, despite the fact that the bass was thumping and pumping at a much faster pace.

She shook her head. "No, just a friend," she replied, following his lead and letting him draw her back into the swirl of color and light.

"Girl, I've got friends, and they don't put *that* look on my face," he said with a sympathetic smile.

She grimaced. "Yeah, well, friends is all we are, and all we're ever gonna be. And listen to me, don't I just sound like the sourest puss on the West Coast," she laughed.

"How about we do something to change that?" He grinned and held out his hand.

After a second's hesitation, she took it. "It's a deal," she replied, startled and pleased by the confident way he tugged her against him.

He spun her out gracefully then brought her in just close enough that her breasts brushed against his chest. Cordy was surprised to feel her body respond. It had been so long since anyone had looked at her like that. Not as a Seer or an office manager or even some kind of pesky little sister.

But as a beautiful, desirable woman.

She moved with him experimentally, letting the artificial courage of alcohol take her past her usual comfort zone. Letting it drop her walls, unpin her inhibitions. The club wove its spell and she pressed closer, letting that first wave of sparkling heat grow.

***
"Hey," Angel said over the din. "I didn’t think I was going to find you." His eyes darted rapidly around the room, taking in the shadowed corners, the crush of people and the spinning lights. A line appeared between his eyebrows as if the whole thing gave him a headache.

"Angel!" Fred yelled, patting his arm tipsily. "Why are you here?"

Wes grinned. "What Fred means is that we thought you’d get settled at home and decide not to come back out."

"I promised Cordy I'd be here." He shrugged. "It was a slow night, anyway."

"It was quiet, then?" Wes asked.

Angel nodded. "Where is she?"

"She and Gunn were dancing a moment ago," Wes responded, gesturing toward the writhing mass of bodies with his glass. "You want something to drink?"

"No, thanks. I'm not staying." Angel glanced into the crowd, his eyes widening when he finally found Cordy. "Wow," he said.

"Mmm, hmm," Wes agreed.

"Who’s she with?"

Wes shrugged. "Some guy. He's been eyeing her all night."

"Of course he has," Fred said matter-of-factly. "She’s Cordelia."

Angel nodded absently. "Right," he said, openly mesmerized by her. And obviously not very happy with her choice of partners.

"Yo, Angel," Gunn said.

"Gunn," Angel said, not taking his eyes off the woman across the room.

"Good thing we didn’t take bets on you. I’d have lost." Gunn jostled him with his elbow.

"I don’t know why you guys think I don’t want to hang out with you," Angel replied, but his mind was only half on his response. The other half was on Cordy, who was looking at the guy like she wanted to eat him for dinner.

"No idea where we got that impression," Wes said wryly.

***

The music changed then, going from the bright house beat to something darker and more intense. Someone let out a howl as the crowd recognized the song and Cordy willingly followed its classic dark-dance groove into the shadow lands.

I’m taking a ride with my best friend
I hope he never lets me down again

She smiled, a wry twist of lips.

"What?" her dance partner asked, running his hands down her back.

"Oh...nothing," she replied, getting into the slow, thrust-parry of hips the beat demanded.

"I thought we had an agreement," he smiled, his dimple winking charmingly.

That got her attention. "Oh, you did?" She asked, smiling flirtatiously as he pulled her closer. "And what would that be?"

"That you forget about your friend for the night and concentrate on me." His hands slid up and up until they tangled in her hair.

She shivered and closed her eyes. He was right, she thought, nearly purring at the feel of his fingers on her nape. This was the first time in months she'd connected with someone outside of work. And she should make the most of it.

Now, if only the music would cooperate.

He knows where he’s taking me
taking me where he wants to be
I’m taking a ride with my best friend

She knew why this was happening. That voodoo-guru's visions had brought them together. Showed her what it meant to bare her soul and have it received like the rarest gift.

Made her want things. Things she couldn't have.

Ever.

So she stepped closer, close enough that their foreheads touched and their breaths mingled between them like steam.

We're flying high
We're watching the world pass us by
Never gonna come down
Never gonna put my feet back down on the ground

It was a dance fueled by alcohol and loneliness. She knew that. Accepted it. But maybe it was time to stop watching the world pass her by.

Maybe it was time to jump into whatever life was offering her, feet first.

Her conscious mind clicked off, leaving behind nothing but her humming, throbbing body. Around her the crowd danced, their footfalls like tribal drums.

***

"We training tomorrow?" Gunn yelled, yanking Angel’s attention back to the group.

"Sure," Angel said. "Early afternoon?"

"Maybe late afternoon, if our excessive lifestyle catches up with us," Wes replied.

Fred giggled. "Excessive lifestyle," she repeated, taking another sip of her drink. "Oh, hey, I love this song," she said, moving her shoulders in time to the beat.

"Really?" Wes asked. "What is it?"

"Depeche Mode. Never Let Me Down Again," she said, doing an innocent shimmy.

"Ah," Wes said, watching her wide-eyed. He swallowed the rest of his scotch in a hasty gulp.

"About training," Gunn said. "I’ve been wanting to try out those throwing stars."

"Yeah. Great," Angel said, turning his back on the dance floor and trying to put that picture of her out of his mind.

The one where her young, lithe body was encased in a dress that was hardly street legal. The one where she moved with a flowing, sensuous rhythm that called men's eyes to her like a homing beacon.

The one where she was letting one of those men put his hands all over her.

Angel clenched his fists and growled.

***

In her more sober moments, she would never allow herself to admit what she was feeling. But in her more sober moments, she wouldn't have been dirty dancing with a stranger.

Her hips moved, pumping against his, and she found herself struggling to remember who held her, who was fueling the rush of heat in her veins.

She was courting a desire that was both delicious and forbidden. She knew she shouldn't think of him this way, but now that her body was firing like a pot in a kiln, she just couldn't seem to stop.

She got tired of locking out the feelings, compartmentalizing her heart. She should just admit the truth.

In her mind, it wasn't the man standing in front of her that she was thrusting against.

It was Angel.

"You all right?" he asked.

"Yeah," Cordy whispered. "Just...dizzy." Which wasn't exactly a lie.

"Dizzy, huh?" he said with that sweet, sexy smile. "Want to get dizzier?"

And his mouth came down on hers.

The world spun crazily as their lips connected and the rest of the song became white noise under the roaring of her blood.

That's right, she thought hazily. Make me forget.

His tongue swirled in, cool and sweet, then danced back out. He nipped her teasingly, changing the angle, building the fire. Mouths fused, tongues dueled, teeth nibbled. They pulled back, gasping.

"You’re so beautiful," he murmured, running his lips over her ear. "I wanted you the minute I saw you." He slipped his leg between hers and pulled her to him.

She moaned long and deep and cupped her hands around his back to hold him steady so she could thrust against the hard muscle of his leg. The heat between her thighs melted and flowed like lava.

Oh, God. It had been too, too long.

He groaned and buried his face in her hair. Around them, the pulsing music and flashing lights fueled the fantasy of perfect strangers, perfect sex.

Cordy's head swirled.

"Let's get out of here," he whispered harshly, clutching her to him.

"Yes," Cordy gasped, letting him take her hand and pull her out the back door and into the alley.

***

Depeche Mode wove into Madonna and the crowd shifted, people coming and going for drinks, bathroom stops or assignations in dark corners.

After a few minutes where no one spoke, Gunn turned to Fred. "Dance?" he asked, nodding toward the floor.

She looked startled. "Me?" she squeaked.

Gunn grinned. "Yeah, you."

He held out his hand but Fred shook her head uncertainly. "All those people," she said, eyes scanning the packed floor. "And, really, I'm not very.... Hey, where’d Cordy go?" she asked, her brow wrinkling in concern.

Angel whirled. "What?" he said, peering into the crowd.

Wes leaned forward. "I don’t see her either."

A look flashed between Wes and Gunn. "That guy," Gunn said.

"Yeah," Wes replied.

"What?" Fred squeaked.

"You guys take the front. I’ll cover the alley," Angel said.

***

They spilled out into the warm L.A. night and he grabbed her to him, kissing her deeply. Cordy’s entire body was trembling with desire.

Her back hit the concrete wall, knocking the wind out of her already laboring lungs. She cried out breathlessly and scratched her nails down his back, moaning when his teeth found her throat. Cordy pulled him to her wanting to feel the full length of his body against hers.

Oh, God. If only he were taller, bigger, broader.

Then he slid his hands up her thighs, his palms coming up under her dress to cup her ass, and she forgot everything. He hissed as he found the thong. "You trying to kill me, here?" he grated.

Cordy licked her lips and pressed her breasts to him. Her nipples felt hot and hard as stones. "Is it working?" She slid her hands around his waist and over his crotch.

***

Angel kicked the door open, not bothering to apologize to the couple who had plastered themselves together in the relative privacy of the dark hallway. The alley stunk, like they always did, and the streetlight had been blown out, leaving behind a long, dark canyon. The harsh fluorescent glare of the security lamps on the corner of the building penetrated only so far into the gloom.

He heard a gasp, then a moan. "Cordelia," he said, running toward the sound. The guy had her pinned to the wall and she was squirming frantically, cries pouring from her open mouth. "Get off of her," Angel said, grabbing the guy by the shoulder and yanking him back.

"What the hell?" the guy asked, stumbling drunkenly.

"I said, get off of her," Angel growled, body instinctively assuming a fighter's stance.

The guy took a wobbly swing. Angel caught his fist in mid-air and held it, tempted to crush the fragile bones. Instead he wrapped his other hand around the guy's throat. Speaking of fragile bones…. He smiled ferally as he tightened his grip.

"Angel?" Cordy asked, her husky voice laced with confusion.

He knew she couldn’t see him in the darkened alley, so he answered quietly. "Yeah, you okay?" There was a moment of strained silence. Then it hit him.

Desire.

The sweet, humid smell of it permeated the air and when he looked at her he could see its telltale signs. Wide pupils, flushed skin, nipples puckered into tight, hard peaks.

Oh, God.

He dropped the guy like a vial of holy water then turned away, unable to look at her for another second. "I’m sorry, Cordy. I thought you were…."

"Wait," the guy rasped, hand to his throat. "You're Angel?" His gaze whipped between them. "I thought you said he wasn't your boyfriend," he said, still sucking air in big gulps.

Angel was mortified. "No! I'm just a friend. Who’s leaving," he finished, moving swiftly toward the mouth of the alley.

"Angel!" Cordy called. "Wait! What's going on?" She started after him.

The guy grabbed her arm. "Cordy? That's your name?"

She nodded, but her attention was divided between him, and Angel's retreating back. "I'm sorry, really. I...."

His smile, sad and sweet, finally caught her gaze. "There's no need to apologize." He cupped her cheek, ran his thumb gently over her lips as if he wanted to remember her taste, her feel. Then he dropped his hand. "Go after him," he said urgently. He nodded in Angel's direction.

"What?" She shook her head. Why wasn't he angry? Why wasn't *she* angry?

"Go," he said, giving her shoulder a little push. "Trust me on this." And then he disappeared toward the bar.

Angel kept walking, unable to get the picture of her, consumed by desire, out of his mind. He needed to leave. Now. Before he did something else that hurt someone.

Behind him he heard a muffled conversation, then retreating footsteps, and the door to the club slammed shut. He stopped walking and leaned his head against the brick wall, undone by what had just happened. Maybe that's why he didn't hear her approach.

"Angel."

He straightened his shoulders and turned. "I’m sorry," he said again. He could still smell her, fragrant and hot as the jungle floor. God. She was driving him crazy and she didn't even know it.

She put her hand on his arm. "Thanks," she said.

"For ruining your night?" He added confusion to the list of emotions churning through him.

"No, for taking care of me." She looked back at the club, realizing she'd lost her first chance to get laid in more than a year. She should be pissed. Instead she felt cherished, protected.

She ran her hands through her hair, pulling the heated strands off her neck. She was absolutely going insane. No question about it.

Angel's eyes tracked her movements with predatory accuracy. "Um, your dress, Cordy," he gritted, turning his head away again.

She looked down and realized that the dress was exposing a heck of a lot more than the designer meant for it to. "Oh, right," she whispered. A wave of embarrassment washed over her as she tugged it into place.

When she looked up, Angel was still standing there looking at his shoes.

"Angel!" Wes yelled from the street, his voice frantic.

"We're here," Cordy called, shifting uncomfortably on her four-inch heels. She ran her hands up and down her arms, suddenly feeling chilled as reality and the cool night air caught up with her.

"Here," Angel said, shrugging out of his duster and wrapping it around her.

The coat carried no body heat, but it was permeated with his scent. "Thanks," she said, holding it closed in front of her. Covered, she felt less vulnerable, but being engulfed in his scent was hardly going to calm her revving system.

Wes, Fred and Gunn skidded to a halt at the mouth of the alley. "Oh, thank God," Fred said. They trouped in to stand next to Angel. "What happened?" she asked.

"Nothing. I'm fine," Cordy replied. "Just a misunderstanding."

"Oh," said Fred, glancing from Angel to Cordy. Her eyes widened. "OH," she repeated, covering her mouth with her hand.

There was a moment of awkward silence.

Understanding dawned on Gunn's face. "Oops," he muttered. He looked pointedly toward Fred and Wes. "Hey. I'm, uh, thinking maybe we should get out of here. Get some, uh...." He glanced uncomfortably at Angel and Cordy. "Get some Chinese food or something. Yeah. I know a great all-night place."

Wes's gaze traveled from Angel and Cordy to Fred, who was tugging on his hand. The clue train finally pulled into the station. His eyes widened. "Right. Excellent idea," he said, letting Fred drag him along behind a rapidly disappearing Gunn. "We'll, um, see you at the hotel tomorrow, Angel?" he called over his shoulder.

"Sure," Angel replied. For a moment, the only sound was the muted bass coming from the club and the whisper of Cordy's breathing, gradually slowing.

***

Cordy leaned her head against the headrest, letting the wind lash against her face. The air was cool, even with the coat on, but she didn't mind, because the brisk flow kept her mind off of her still-throbbing body.

"So," Angel started, keeping his eyes straight ahead as they pulled to a stoplight. "Not much happening on the streets tonight," he said, in his making-amends voice. "Quiet. Nope. Not a demon in sight. Well, except for me," he laughed nervously. "But that doesn't really count because…."

"Angel," she said, turning to look at him. "It's okay. Really."

The light changed and Angel hit the gas.

Cordy sighed. Could this be any more uncomfortable? "Look, it's not my preferred method of birth control. But if it had to happen, I'm glad it went down like it did. I mean, it's not like I even knew the guy."

Angel's head whipped around. "You picked up some guy in a bar and were gonna…gonna?" He wiggled his fingers on the steering wheel and Cordy snorted.

"Have sex with him?" She shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe." She fiddled with the buttons on his coat, suddenly unable to meet his gaze.

Angel pulled the car into a parking place in front of her apartment and turned off the ignition. "Cordy," he said, and when she turned to look at him, his night-dark eyes were full of emotion.

"What?"

He reached out and touched her face gently. He stared at her, seemingly unaware that the seconds were becoming minutes.

"Angel, you're freaking me out," she finally said, drawing away from him in an attempt to slow her rapidly accelerating heartbeat. If anyone else looked at her that way she'd think…. Dammit, he couldn't do this to her.

He smiled, just a faint twist of his lips. "Come on. I'll walk you up."

She climbed out of the car and they walked to the elevator. Before she could get the keys out, the door opened.

"Thanks, Dennis," she said, gratefully. She dropped her purse to the floor and stepped into the living room.

Angel stood in the doorway like a hulking shadow. "Well, come on in," she said, hoping she sounded like her normal, friendly, every-day self, and not the half-buzzed, raging-hormones version she felt like. "It's not like you need an invitation."

Cordy laid his coat on the back of the couch and walked to the kitchen for a glass of water. "You want anything?" she asked.

Angel made an odd noise. "No, thanks."

The water went down smooth and easy, soothing her alcohol-abraded throat. She set the glass gingerly on the counter and returned to the living room. Angel was still standing, half in and half out of the room, as if he couldn't decide whether to stay or go.

"I’m going to be up for a while if you…"

"Cordy, you shouldn't pick up guys you don't…"

Their words collided like trains on the same track. Cordy settled on the edge of her comfiest chair, grateful for its familiar support. "Angel, what I do in my spare time is none of your business," she replied.

"It is if it's gonna get you killed," Angel said, finally coming the rest of the way into the room.

Cordy snorted. "God, melodramatic much? And it's not like I do it every week." She waved her hand. "Hello," she said wryly, "not even like I do it every year."

Angel arched an eyebrow. "Still, Cordy." He moved over so that he stood in front of her. "Maybe you should look for a new way to spend your time off."

"Oh, right. Easy for you to say. You're a eunuch." Well, she thought, that came out harsher than she'd intended.

Before she could apologize, Angel squatted in front of her, his face fierce. "That's the second time you've called me that," he growled. "You think I’m blind, Cordelia? Incapable of desire?"

In his eyes she could see the smoke from fires lit centuries before.

Cordy blinked, a little frightened by the intensity of his response. "I’m sorry, Angel," she whispered. "It's just…don't you ever get lonely?"

His face softened. "Of course. Is that why...?"

She shrugged and looked down at her hands, which she'd clasped in her lap. "Sometimes I get tired of coming home alone. Sometimes I just need to feel…wanted. You know?"

There was a brief, humming silence. "Wanted?" he breathed incredulously. "Cordy, you have no idea how wanted you are."

Cordy's head snapped up, her brows drawn together in confusion. "What?"

"It's no wonder he couldn't keep his hands off of you," Angel whispered. "You're...radiant."

Cordy's mouth twisted. "Yeah, like any of you guys ever notice."

Angel grazed her cheek with the backs of his fingers. "Oh, we notice. Trust me."

He stared at her intently and something in his eyes shifted. It was as if a veil had been lifted, as if the wall he'd been hiding behind crumbled.

Suddenly she wasn't looking into Angel's eyes, but into a man's.

His gaze, hot and hungry, flicked to her mouth.

Something stilled in her. And like a gazelle scenting a lion she sat perfectly silent. Waiting, watching.

His mouth met hers, cool and soft. "I'm no eunuch, Cordelia," he whispered. "I watched you get lost in the dance."

Angel slid his tongue over her lips seductively. "I wanted to be the one you were touching, teasing. And then, behind the building when he had his hands on you, I couldn't think anymore. I just wanted to rip his throat out," he whispered.

She heard it then, the animal echo of the boy born more than two centuries earlier. The one who had defied his father's wishes and answered the call of the wild, ancient religion. Who had danced in primeval forests and knew dark, intimate couplings under full moons.

Who had thrown back his head and howled.

Cordy grabbed his shoulders. Her heart was thumping madly in her chest, her blood singing in her ears. She shivered. "Angel," she whispered. "This isn't…. We can't…."

He nuzzled her neck, ran the tips of his fingers down the backs of her arms, from her shoulder to the tender point above her elbow.

"Oh, yes we can," he said, palming her knees and sliding his hands up her thighs.

"But…but…. The curse."

His mouth met hers, just a brush of lips. "Isn't a problem," he whispered.

She closed her eyes as a spear of pain shot through her. If she ever wondered if he could love her, she now had her answer.

His hands rested on her thighs, his thumbs rubbing circles on the inside of her legs. "You don't have to be lonely, Cordelia. You don't have to find some stranger to fill you up."

Despite the pain, his words thrilled her. His voice, dark and husky, was like a call to something so deep in her it hadn't even been named. She shuddered as she remembered her earlier promise. Tonight was for forgetting, for letting go.

For jumping into whatever life offered her, both feet first.

"Is this really gonna happen?" she asked, almost to herself.

Angel leaned in and brushed her lips with his. "God, I hope so," he whispered.

And in his voice she heard a loneliness even bigger than her own. One that spoke of decades of isolation, of wishes ungranted and desires left wanting.

And that decided it for her.

She kissed him then, getting lost in the kiss the way a child gets lost in the woods. Turning, turning, no path out, nothing familiar to hold on to. She'd never been kissed like that before, so dark and deep, like a pitch-black night.

"Angel," she gasped when he pulled away. "What are you doing to me?"

"If you have to ask, I must not be doing it right," he laughed. He slipped back and pulled her foot into his lap.

"I love these shoes," he said, running his hand over the knifepoint stiletto, thumbing her arch under the t-strap. "You want to keep them on?" he asked, fingering the pointed toes delicately.

Cordy couldn't get her breath. "Um," she said, her mind turning to a pile of mush.

"I'll take that as a yes," Angel said, lifting her shoe-clad foot to his mouth.

Cordy's eyes widened as he ran his tongue over the exposed arch, up over her instep.

"I've always been a fool for a woman in high heels," he murmured. He set down one foot and lifted the other, cupping it in his hands and rubbing his thumbs over the silken skin. "Your skin is so soft and warm. I forget how warm humans are."

Cordy suddenly became aware of the coolness of his touch.

"You don't mind, do you?" he asked, setting her foot gently on the floor. He skimmed his fingertips up her leg and traced wandering loops in the space left by the skirt's slits. Her skin was like warm water, smooth and silky and alive beneath his fingers.

Her head lolled as the sensation washed over her, sweet and hot, slightly ticklish. "Mind what?" she asked huskily.

"Making love with a vampire."

She opened her eyes and looked at him. "I'm not making love with a vampire."

Angel's fingers stilled, his face suddenly unguarded in the quiet, golden light.

Cordy touched his cheek. "I'm making love with a friend," she said, her voice soft, her heart breaking. They might never be more, but she would take what she could, and offer him the comfort of her body in return.

The shutter of his lashes came down. "Is that enough for you?" His voice held its own edge of sadness.

And she knew, then, he was truly sorry he couldn't offer her more.

"It's more than I've ever had," she said with quiet conviction. "At least with you, I know what I'm getting."

"A 250 year old vampire with a tendency to brood?" Now when he looked at her, he was her Angel, the silly boy she worked with every day.

She grinned. "No, my best friend and what's probably going to the most mind-blowing sex of my life. So, yea me."

Angel laughed. He leaned forward and touched his nose to hers. "Now you've done it," he whispered against her mouth.

"What?" she asked, snaking her tongue out to taste his lips.

He groaned. "Issued a challenge. Most mind-blowing sex of your life?" He slid his hands up the outside of her legs, following the slits in the skirt until he got to her bottom.

"Let's just say, if that kiss was a preview, I'm in big trouble," she said breathlessly.

Angel ran his hands over her ass and up her back. "One little kiss, Cordy? Your other lovers must not be doing their job."

"What other lovers?" she asked, her laugh turning to a gasp as his hands rounded her ribcage. His fingers circled her nipples, not touching them, but making the skin around them sparkle like stars on a moonless night.

"Well, that's about to change."

Cordy's body tensed in anticipation. "Angel?" she asked.

"Hmmm?" he said, seemingly fascinated with the way his hand fit over her belly.

"Kiss me?"

His head snapped up like a wolf scenting prey.

She kept her eyes open, understanding that what they were about to do would change everything. His gaze was fathomless, his pupils wide with desire, almost indistinguishable from the black irises. She parted her lips as he came closer, ready for a dizzying onslaught.

Instead, he veered off to the side, taking small sips of her jaw. She moaned. "Angel," she said. "Quit teasing."

He laughed, low and smoky. "But, Cordy, that's half the fun."

He slid his mouth to her ear, dipped the tip of his tongue in, and blew a cool stream of air across it. She shivered and clasped his arms, trying to keep herself upright as he wreaked havoc on her nervous system.

"Your scent is different here," he said, nosing behind her ear. "Deeper." He licked her like a cat with a bowl of cream, dampening the patch of skin under her earlobe. "Tastes different, too. Sweeter."

Cordy groaned and tried to pull him to her.

He laughed. "Impatient?"

She moaned.

He slipped his mouth down her throat, slowly covering each inch of skin with kisses and bites. When he got to the juncture of her neck and shoulder, he stopped. His fingers came to rest on her fluttering pulse, next to his mouth.

Her limbic brain, the part still in the savannah running from panthers, went on high alert.

"I can hear it," he said. "Life."

Cordy shuddered against him. "Do you ever think about…?" She ran her hands up and down his arms restlessly.

Angel moaned and pressed his teeth to her throat. "Oh, God, yes. All the time."

"Really?" she gasped.

Angel's fingers slid from her throat down the midline of her body. Over her collarbone they trailed, between her breasts and across her belly until his hand splayed against her pubic bone. She wriggled against it, moaning at the heat he sparked.

"I smell you, Cordelia. I smelled you earlier, outside the club. Hot, fertile. So fragrant. I just want to crawl inside you and never come out."

He rubbed his face in the crook of her neck and his other hand shifted down until it covered her lower back.

"Human women don't fully understand they have," he said, pressing her pelvis gently between his hands. "The power to create life in their bodies.

"Human men, they're so afraid of it they can't appreciate it. But to me…. My God," he breathed. "I know when you ovulate, Cordy," he whispered.

In his voice, memories rose like incense above a sacrificial fire. Memories of moonlit pagan rituals, of a boy falling to his knees on damp grass, a willing servant before a dark, fierce goddess.

"Your body changes. Your breasts get slightly fuller, your scent becomes almost floral. I'm like a bee buzzing around you then. Haven't you noticed?"

He ran his tongue across her jaw leaving a wet trail behind.

Cordy's ability to think scattered like leaves in the wind. She shook her head, her hands clenching and unclenching on his arms. "No, I…."

"And your period. My God, Cordelia," he growled.

Flash of his body--young, virile, human--painted with the blood of fawns, running all night through shadowed woods, striped with the flickering yellow-orange glow of Beltane's torches.

He rubbed his hand across her belly, creating friction-heat against the fabric. "Rich, lush. I could drag you off to my room and fall between your legs."

In his gaze was the reflection of countless women whose bodies he had worshiped, whose lush heat and damp curves had initiated him into the wild, spinning burst of creation's fires.

Next to it sat the delicate glint of moonlight in the young girl's eyes as he tumbled her to the ground.

Hunt, chase, catch. Mate.

Cordy moaned. "Angel, please."

He moved suddenly, and his lips were on hers, his hands anchoring her trembling body to the chair as he ravished her mouth. The dark, cool night descended on her again, chasing away any semblance of thought and leaving behind nothing but a woman on the verge of surrender.

Angel's hands slipped around her back and pulled her to him, sliding her across the chair so his body was cradled between her thighs. When her hot center collided with him, she cried out and wrapped her legs around his back.

Words poured from her mouth between kisses. She didn't know what, maybe prayers, maybe curses. His lips were soft and cool and he tasted so good. He was the master of the kiss, his tongue moving with experience beyond imagining and building in her a towering house of pleasure.

She plucked at his shirt, almost weeping as he scraped his teeth across her collarbone.

"You're making me crazy," he said, the demon winking on and off in his face like a light in a dark window.

"I'm making you…" was as far as she got before his mouth latched on to her breast. She cried out his name and plunged her fingers into his hair, pressing him against her tightly.

He suckled like a baby, intent and intense, tugging with lips and tongue until her nipple was hard and wet. He pulled away, leaving behind damp fabric and a wave of frustration. "Stand up," he whispered. He got to his feet and held out his hands.

Cordy, dazed, took his hands and did what he said. Angel reversed their positions, sitting down on the chair and spreading his legs. He pulled her between his knees and ran his hands up her hips, to her shoulders and back down. She didn't feel him unzip it, but he must have, because her dress slithered down her body.

"Oh, my God," Cordy said, watching as the slick, black fabric pooled at her feet. She kicked the dress away.

Angel reached up and cupped her bare breasts in his hands, stroking her nipples with his thumbs. She put her hands on his shoulders and arched back, feeling her hair free-fall down her spine.

"You're so beautiful," he whispered. He licked her nipples with the flat of his tongue, and the raw, wet-silk feel nearly sent her over the edge. He slid her thong down her thighs, his fingers leaving trails of fire.

"Cordelia," he said, his voice calling her from her fog. She looked down at him, at his beautiful, familiar face, its lines blurred by desire. She reached up and cupped his cheek in her hand.

"What?"

Angel slid his fingers between her legs. "I wanted to see your eyes," he said, plunging his fingers home.

A wave of heat flared, taking her with it like a tiny boat in a sea-storm. Cordy opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She was pure, soundless ecstasy. She shuddered and spread her legs, giving him better access to her body.

Her hands clamped down on his shoulders as he pounded into her.

"A-angel," she stuttered, following him as he led her to oblivion. She cried out when she came, her body exploding into a million mirror-shards and then reconnecting like a supernova in reverse. Angel's hand slowed, then stilled, then slipped from her body.

She collapsed against his shoulder, barely registering that he stood, her body slung over his, and walked to the bed. She only knew that, instead of standing, she was lying back on something soft. And there was something cool and very hard on top of her.

He was raining kisses on her face and neck. "You're flushed," he said, following the pink haze on her skin.

"Is that what you call it?" she asked stupidly. Her head was still spinning crazily.

Angel laughed and she felt him slipping off her shoes. She heard two thumps, which she assumed meant he'd dropped them to the floor.

"Angel?" she asked woozily.

"Hmmm?" He slid up her body, resting between her legs. She opened her eyes and looked into his. He was smiling, his beautiful rare smile.

"Are you ever gonna fuck me?"

His smile grew. "Oh, yeah. Into next week."

Her laugh came out half giggle, half moan. "Take your clothes off, then. I'm tired of waiting."

Angel stood and peeled off his clothes.

"God, you're gorgeous," Cordy said, nearly swooning as he joined her on the bed.

"You see me all the time," he whispered, nuzzling her temple and letting his hand trail over her body, building the need in her all over again.

"Not like this."

"No, not like this," he said breathlessly, bending his head to her breast and flicking his tongue across her nipple.

Cordy moaned and pulled him closer. "Angel, I need you," she said, running her hands over his bare shoulders.

He stopped moving and looked up at her. "You mean that?"

A smile flashed across her face. "Yeah."

He slid up her body and buried his face in her neck. "I need you too, Cordelia," he said. He pulled her legs up and thrust once, hard, bottoming out.

"Oh, God," Cordy gasped. "Wait, wait," she said, a butterfly speared by a pin.

He fought for control, his face twisting with the twin fires of agony and ecstasy. Then his golden eyes went black again. He leaned on his elbows and brushed her hair off her face. "Whatever you want."

Cordy took a deep breath and concentrated on not flying apart. "It's just been a while."

"It's okay, Cordy. Whatever you need," Angel said, leaning down to run baby kisses over her eyelids, her cheekbones.

She lay still, adjusting to having him on top of her, inside her. Then the need to move rose up in her like a tsunami, sudden and enormous.

"Now, Angel, now," she cried.

He rocked into the cradle of her hips and an electric shiver rattled her bones. She gritted her teeth against the spear of pleasure, winding her arms tightly across his back, looping her legs around his waist.

He fucked like he kissed, dark as night and just as deep. She was dissolving beneath him, insubstantial as mist. He pounded her into the mattress, chanting her name with each thrust. Then, with lightning speed, he pulled out, turned her over, and spread her legs.

He growled, scraping his teeth against the back of her neck then thrust into her body, high and hard. Cordy screamed his name.

He looped an arm under her waist and pulled her hips in the air, sliding a pillow underneath her. Still imbedded deep, he leaned back. "God, your ass is incredible," he said, running his fingers over it and down into the cleft.

Cordy grabbed the sheets as he thrust against her. "You're so hot, like sunshine," he said, licking his fingers and slipping them beneath her. He stroked her clit, then pinched it delicately. She gasped and pressed back into him.

"You like that?"

Cordy nodded, her body clenching around him as he did it again and again.

Then he withdrew his hand.

"Nooooo," she wailed.

"Shh, baby," he crooned.

She felt cool, wet fingers slip between her cheeks and rim the tiny, puckered hole. She jerked in shock as he slipped the tip of his finger into her. "Oh, my God," she gasped.

He slid his finger deeper, stretching her gently. He thrust against her, finding a rhythm that allowed him to work his hand and his cock at the same speed.

It was like being split in half, cored. Colors exploded behind her eyes when he added a second finger. She'd never felt so full in her life.

Gibberish, she knew that's all she was getting out now, as he slapped his body against hers in a manner that should have seemed lazy but was anything but. She melted like burning wax.

"You're so tight, everywhere," he said, bending down to kiss her neck. It increased the pressure of his fingers, pressed him into her so deeply she simply fragmented.

"Angel, Angel," she gasped, exploding against him, out of her mind with pleasure. The only thing keeping her earthbound was the litany of praise coming from his lips.

She felt him slide out, fingers and cock, and turn her onto her back. She whimpered as he pulled her to the edge of the bed, the cool slide of the bedspread against her hot skin almost sending her into sensory overload.

He stroked her hair off her face and leaned over her, kissing her from temples to chin. "Beautiful, beautiful, Cordelia," he whispered as he worked his way down her body. "I have to taste you." He slung her legs over his shoulders and knelt between her thighs.

Cordy thrashed against the sheets as he ran the point of his tongue over her. Fistfuls of fabric weren't enough to keep her grounded when he lathed her clit with the flat of his tongue and nibbled it gently with his teeth.

The pressure started building again. "What are you doing to me?" she gasped.

Angel smiled up at her. "I think you said something about the best sex of your life?"

She laughed weakly. "We've already achieved that."

"Oh, we're just getting started." He slid his hands under her hips and buried his face between her legs. "How many times do you think you can come in one night, Cordelia?"

"What are we up to so far?" she gasped, pressing against his busy mouth.

"So far, only two," he said.

"Only two?" she squeaked as the pressure built, leaving trails of colors behind her eyes. "Oh, my God," she wailed. Something about the thrust of his fingers and tongue was the best thing she'd ever felt.

"Don't stop, Angel," she said, feeling her body straining again. She ran her fingers through his hair, loving the silky feel of it.

He slipped his other hand out from under her and laid it on her belly, over her womb. The weight of it nearly sent her over the edge.

Her eyes flew open and the room was spinning.

Angel pressed down on her belly just as he thrust his fingers deep. Cordy exploded, keening in delight. He kept his hand over her womb, massaging and pressing, and the orgasm expanded all the way out to her fingertips like a nuclear explosion, the clenching of her body so intense she almost blacked out.

When she resurfaced she realized Angel was laughing.

"'s not funny," Cordy mumbled.

He slid back up her body, pressing kisses in all the places other guys missed. The side of her knee, her lowest rib, the space between her breasts.

"I'm not laughing at you," he said. "That was amazing."

Cordy brushed her hair out of her eyes. "I don't think amazing does it justice. I almost passed out."

Angel framed her face with his hands and laid a soft kiss on her lips. "Let's rest a minute, then," he said, shifting so he lay beside her.

"But aren't you…?" Cordy asked, glancing down his body. Startled, she reached out her hand to touch him. "You're not, um," she looked up at him, blushing slightly.

"Circumcised? No. After my time," he said, closing his eyes as her hand ran the length of his cock.

"Wow, that's really different," Cordy said, wiggling down to get a closer look.

"Hey, thanks, I feel very confident now," Angel said wryly.

"You know what I mean," Cordy laughed. She was head-to-head with him and she ran a finger around the tip, fascinated by the foreskin. "So if I were gonna go down on you, how would I do it?" she asked, looking up at him, wide-eyed and innocent, all the while trying to imagine how he'd taste.

"How would you do it any other time?" he asked, stroking his fingers through her hair.

"Oh, I'd just…" she leaned forward and took him into her mouth. God, he felt fantastic, smooth and big and hard as marble. She slipped a hand up his thigh and cupped his balls.

The groan seemed to start from his toes and work its way up. "Cordy, stop," he said, sounding like it was the last thing he wanted her to do.

So she ignored him, pulling him deeper into her mouth and lathing him with her tongue. Beneath her hand, his balls were tight and they nestled close his body, screaming for release. She squeezed them gently, felt him buck beneath her.

He pushed her away and she released him with a soft pop. "Cordy," he panted, "you have to stop. God, you have to stop. Now." He was still writhing under her hand, his voice desperate, edgy.

"But I don't want to stop," she pouted, stroking his balls, running her fingertips up his hard, throbbing length.

He grabbed her by the arms and pulled her up his body. "Too much," he said. "Too good. If I come now...."

"Then we'll take a nap and start again later," she promised, slithering back down.

He halted her with one hand on her shoulder. "No. Cordy, you don't understand. The curse it's...."

That got her attention. "What?" She sat up, suddenly chilled.

"The curse. It's not an exact science."

There was a beat of anguished silence as she realized what he'd said. "No, it's me not being able to give you a happy," she said, looking down at the comforter, at her hands. Anywhere but his face.

He gasped. "What? You not...?" He sat up, took her by the shoulders. "Cordy."

She shook her head.

"Cordy, look at me."

She glanced up, found him gazing at her urgently.

"It's not about what I feel for you. It's not about my partner at all."

She shook her head. "No, that's exactly what it's about. It's you finding your soul mate, which I'm obviously not." She turned away again, hating her cowardice, but not wanting him to see her tears.

"Oh, God," he whispered, drawing her to him. "No. NO. I can't believe that's what you thought I meant."

She shook her head. "I'm fine, Angel. Don't...just.... If we're gonna do this, just don't bring it up again, okay?" Her breath hitched despite her best attempts to stop it.

"Cordy, listen to me," he whispered, stroking her back gently, tenderly. "The curse isn't about you or Buffy or anyone else I sleep with. It's about me. As long as I remember who I am, what I am, I can't lose my soul."

"But, Buffy...."

"We didn't know what could happen. Of course I blissed out with her, Cordy. There was nothing keeping me grounded."

She pulled back so she could see his face. "Then why'd you stop me?"

He cupped her chin in his hand and let his fingers play on her kiss-swollen lips. "Your mouth on me right then.... It was so good that I...." Instead of finishing the thought, he kissed her softly. "Sometimes, Cordy, the way you make me feel frightens me."

She gasped. "Angel...."

He buried his face in her neck, breathed deeply. "How I feel about you.... I.... You have to know...." He nuzzled her like a child seeking solace in his mother's arms. "Please, Cordy. Don't pull away."

She trembled, body and soul. Her arms wrapped around him, pressed him close. "Oh, baby...."

"Please don't leave me," he whispered, voice trembling. "I don't know if I can...."

She pulled them down into the mussed bed until they were lying side-by-side, facing each other. "Oh, Angel," she whispered, kissing his nose, his cheekbones, his eyelids. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Make love with me, Cordy," he whispered, pulling her close. Closer.

She lifted ran her hand over his brooding brow, soothed away the ancient fears. "I thought that's what we were doing already," she whispered.

His smile was so full of hope it nearly broke her heart. How many times had he been told he wasn't worthy? How many times had he been left alone?

"Angel," she breathed, rolling him onto his back and leaning down to kiss him. "Let me love you."

He groaned. "Please...."

She dipped her head to his lips, fascinating by his taste, his texture. She kissed him deeply, then let her whims carry her across his body.

She nuzzled the damp crook where his throat met his shoulder, sucking and nipping. It was odd to find it so still, no pulse. Fascinated, she bit him, felt her teeth sink deeper than she'd intended. Expected to hear him grunt in pain.

Instead, he groaned in pleasure. Intrigued, she trailed her fingers across the hard ridge of his collarbone. She glanced up at him, eyes glinting with curiousity. She'd heard about vampires, and their love of that knife-edge of pleasure and pain. She wondered just how far she could push him before he slipped over that devil's edge.

Only one way to find out.

She scraped her nails across his belly, let them really dig in. Watched in delight as his hips arched.

"Cordy," he rasped. "Am I gonna have to tie those hands?"

She grinned as he rolled her over and shackled her wrists above her head. "That's probably the only way you're gonna keep 'em off of you." She threw it out like a dueler's glove.

"I don't know about that," he said, eyes glinting as he picked up the challenge. He slipped his other hand down her belly and through the crisp patch of hair between her thighs. Slid his fingers slowly into her, one excruciating inch at a time. "I think there are other ways I can keep you occupied," he whispered, trailing his tongue around the shell of her ear.

Cordy keened, her body going on red alert.

He kissed her, slipping his tongue between her lips and building the heat between them with frantic kisses.

"Angel," she gasped, resurfacing. God, his hands were pure magic, drawing her out, filling her up. But it wasn't enough. "If I don't have you right now, I'm gonna die."

He laughed, stroked into her deeply. His eyes showed that he knew exactly what he was doing to her and that he was nearly as turned on by it as she was. "You may have been born in America, but you’re French at heart."

Cordy shook her head in frustration and bucked against him. "Angel, please, shut up and…."

"The petite morte, the little death," he interrupted, dropping a kiss to her lips. Then he slid his hand free, let go of her wrists, and smiled wickedly. "That’s what the French call orgasm."

He rolled over and pinned her beneath him.

"Well, kill me, then," she said, laughing and grabbing his ass.

"I'll bet you say that to all the vamps." He positioned himself against her, the tip of his cock barely spreading her lips. She moaned and pushed forward.

"You sure you want it?" he teased.

Cordy whined and slapped his butt. She raised her knees, dropping him against her and gaining an extra inch. "I'll get it, one way or another," she panted.

"Last time was too fast," he said. "I didn't get to feel you the way I wanted to."

Cordy's eyes widened as he slid slowly to the hilt. He growled as the ridges and fangs appeared and shook his head to get rid of them. She reached up and cupped his cheek with her hand.

"It's okay, Angel, you don't have to hide from me."

He balanced on his elbows, which freed his hands to frame her face. He leaned forward and kissed her, and when he raised his head, he was fully vamped. "It takes so much energy to control it," he said apologetically.

"I don't want you to. I just want to feel you, Angel, all of you. That's part of who you are."

He thrust, a long slow slide that felt like heaven. "Let me take you someplace you've never been, Cordelia," he whispered, scraping his fangs gently down the side of her throat.

She shuddered and wrapped herself around him. "You already have," she whispered.

Angel began a smooth, even rocking motion that made her moan.

"Oh, that's good," she said.

"Hang on, it's gonna get better." He slid his hands under her hips and angled her toward him. Now every thrust hit that place deep inside her, the one that made sparks go off behind her eyes. She hissed.

"Gotcha," he said, nipping her lips with his elongated teeth.

She ran her fingers through his hair, over his back, down to his butt, kneading his cool, hard flesh and meeting him thrust for thrust. Their rhythm was like a river, sending waves of pleasure through her system.

Angel slipped a hand between them and began massaging her clit.

Her mouth opened on a gasp. "Oh, God, Angel," she panted, as he thrust deep and sure, banging his cock against all those electric spots.

"I really want to feel you come, Cordy. I need to feel you come," he said, grimacing in ecstasy as he watched her face blur with the force building in her. He circled her clit, scraping her delicately with his thumbnail.

"Oh!" she cried, shattering. She clenched around him like a fist, cooing and arching and digging her fingers into his back.

He kissed her sweetly and rested his forehead on hers as she came back into her body. "Finish me off, Cordy," he said.

"Only if you promise me something, Angel," she whispered.

"What's that?" he asked, raising his head to look at her.

"I don't want you to hold back, okay?" She ran her hands over his shoulders, slid her feet down the back of his legs, leaving her scent on him like a cat marking territory.

"I don’t think that'll be an issue," he said wryly.

"No, I mean this," she said, pulling his head to her throat.

He jerked back as if she'd burned him. "Don't ask me for that, Cordelia," he said, his voice suddenly tight and strained.

She soothed her hands over his back, pressing their bodies together. "Angel, I'm a big girl. I told you before, I'm making love with my best friend. Who happens to be a vamp."

"You don't know what you're asking for," he said roughly.

"Angel, I have a gut feeling about this, and tell me if I'm wrong. But asking you not to bite me when you come would be denying you half your pleasure."

"I don’t care. Half's better than none," he grated. "Now stop it. Stop talking about it." His eyes were hot and gold in the dark, like live coals.

"All right, all right," Cordy said. "I just wanted to let you know, to give you permission. I thought we were being ourselves here."

Angel scrubbed his hands over his face. "Cordy, this is hard enough without adding that," he said.

She nodded. "Look, Angel, I trust you. That's all I'm saying, okay?"

He searched her face, found it open and easy. He shuddered.

"Now, come here," she smiled, and pulled him back down on top of her. "Let's see what we can do about you."

She rolled, flipping him onto his back. "What do you like, Angel?" she asked trailing her fingers down his chest and pinching his nipples with a hard twist. "I have a feeling nothing gets you off like a woman in control," she whispered, licking his ear and biting down hard on the lobe. "Especially if she hurts you just a little bit."

He shivered and grabbed her hips, bruising the skin. She pressed into his hands, reveling in the slight pain.

"I've never made love to anyone who paid so much attention to me," she said, pulling up so that he slid almost all the way out. "I've never been this wet, this hot. Never come this many times." She sat down, hard, enjoying the way her clit rammed his pelvic bone. She ran her nails down his chest like claws, leaving long, red scores on his flesh.

"Cordy," Angel growled.

She grabbed his hands off her hips and laced her fingers with his, pulling his hands above his head. Leaning over him, her breasts brushed his chest, his throat. "I'm gonna return the favor," she murmured, increasing the pace, and tightening her muscles around him with every thrust of her hips.

He squirmed beneath her.

"I know you, Angel. You like living on the edge, seeing how far you can go before you fall," she whispered, running kisses over his jaw line. Beneath her lips, his mouth was pliant, open. His tongue reached out for hers and she sipped him delicately.

"You taste so good," she said. "Someday, you're gonna let me go down on you," she whispered seductively. "And when you do.... God, Angel, when you come in my mouth, you'll know just how close the edge really is." She slammed herself against him, ramming him home with confident, brutal thrusts.

"Please," Angel begged. "Cordy, please...." His hands twined under her wrists like vines.

She leaned down and kissed his forehead. Another quick set of thrusts, like a jazz riff, uneven and floating, and his eyes closed helplessly.

She kissed him, long and deep, running her tongue carefully around his fangs. She thought about piercing herself, giving him the blood, but he trusted her to let him set the limits, so she concentrated on his lips. Soft, like pillows or clouds, cool as stone, he tasted glorious.

She bit him then. No one said she couldn’t break *his* skin.

She moaned against his lips, glorying in the copper taste of him in her mouth. Her tongue swirled deep enough that he could taste himself.

He lost control, jerking beneath her like a stallion. If she hadn't already come so many times, that one thing would have been enough to send her flying.

As it was, the tension spiraled upward mercilessly. "Cordelia," he gritted, clutching her ass with hard fingers.

"Yes," she replied.

"Let me…" he leaned up and pressed his mouth to her throat. His cool, wet tongue darted out, and she shivered, terrified, but surer of this than she'd ever been of anything else.

"Do it," she said, opening herself to him.

The fangs were sharp and the puncture deep. Something in Cordy stilled in mortal fear as he invaded her throat. But then he pulled on her with his lips and the light behind her eyes exploded. She keened, long and low, and felt her body shake and shimmer.

"Angel!" she gasped, and her entire being, soul to fingertips, was suffused with ecstasy.

He pummeled her with hips and teeth, a penetration so complete she dissolved into something elemental, a vessel designed solely for pleasure. Darkness entered the edges of her vision. "Yes," she said, quivering against him, urging him onward.

She was lightheaded; she could hear the blood thrumming in her skull, feel it under the thin skin of her wrists. Pleasure wrapped itself around her like a snake, coiling tighter and tighter until she nearly couldn't breathe. The little death, she thought, sliding under the oncoming wave.

Beneath her, Angel was an animal, feral and jealous. He clenched her upper arms, controlling every movement of her body now, guiding her expertly toward a precipice so high she couldn’t see bottom. All she could do was hang on to him and hope he knew the way out.

She gasped, desperate for air, for release.

Then, as if he knew what she was feeling, his fangs disappeared and his mouth was pressed against her ear. "Now," he whispered, ramming himself home.

The orgasm slammed into her with gale force, sending her spinning like a hurricane over deep water. She called out his name, clutching him to her desperately as her tears of release and relief dropped onto his skin like rain.

His thrusts grew edgy and sharp, his body tense as steel. He said something in a language she didn't understand, something so pure and lovely that it made her heart sing. Then he arched against her, water seeking land, and she felt him spurt deep, flooding her womb with his cool semen.

Her world went black.

She came to and found him stroking her back. She felt raw, used, exhausted, and more exhilarated than she'd ever been.

"Are you okay?" he asked, his voice a husky rasp.

She nodded and gasped as she felt a sharp pain in her throat.

"Cordy?"

She shook her head and sat up, waiting for the room to quit spinning. "I think I died and went to heaven," she slurred.

Angel laughed, and she realized he was still inside her, softening rapidly, but still there. She didn't want him to go, so she lay down on top of him again.

"Your throat," he said, pressing his fingers to her delicate skin. They came away slick with blood and sweat.

"Yeah," she said, woozily.

Beneath her Angel stiffened. "I'm…."

She hushed him with her fingertips. "Don't you dare apologize. It was the most amazing thing I've ever felt." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

Angel's big body relaxed, melting down into the bed. He ran his fingers through her hair, scrubbing her scalp lightly. She purred, soothed by his gentle touch.

Around them the suite was quiet. No leaky faucets, no cars flashing by. Just silence and darkness.

Cordy's body adjusted slowly, from post-coital bliss to an almost lethargic sleepiness. Angel shifted beneath her and slipped out of her body. She whimpered.

"What?" he asked.

"I didn't want you to go," she said, rubbing her face into his neck.

Beneath her his chest rumbled with laughter. "You can have me again," he said. "Anytime."

She kissed the underside of his jaw and breathed deeply, inhaling his musky scent. "Just give me a couple of hours. You won’t be able to keep me off of you," she sighed.

"I wouldn't want anything else. I need you, Cordy."

She slid down his body until she rested under the crook of his arm. His skin was soft and nearly warm beneath her lips. "I love you, Angel," she murmured, too sleepy and sated to keep up her guard.

Beside her, Angel went still. "Cordy?" he whispered.

"Mmmm?" she asked, burrowing deeper into his body.

"I love you, too."

Her breath stopped as if in surprise, then a warm, drowsy laugh filled the room. "Now he tells me." She lifted her head and the look on her face took his breath away.

He didn't think he'd ever made anyone that happy before. Didn't know he could.

"If I'd known that," she said with a roll of her eyes, "I'd have jumped you months ago."

She laid her head back down and sighed contentedly as he drew the blankets around them.

He nearly laughed out loud. "Guess we've got some lost time to make up for," he teased, running his hand down her bare arm. "Should I pencil you into my calendar?"

"Oh, I'm easy," she slurred, sliding her fingers through his. "Just put me down for forever."

A wave of joy washed over him, heart to fingertips. Not pure bliss. Something better.

"Forever it is." He pressed his lips to her hair and closed his eyes, letting the tidal rush of her breath pull him into sleep’s dark arms.

END

Depeche Mode - Never Let Me Down Again

I'm taking a ride
With my best friend
I hope he never lets me down again
He knows where he's taking me
Taking me where I want to be
I'm taking a ride
With my best friend

We're flying high
We're watching the world pass us by
Never want to come down
Never want to put my feet back down
On the ground

I'm taking a ride
With my best friend
I hope he never lets me down again
Promises me I'm as safe as houses
As long as I remember who's wearing the trousers
I hope he never lets me down again

Never let me down

See the stars they're shining bright
Everything's alright tonight