A Convenient Marriage, Part 6

 

Author’s Notes: This is AU.”Enter the Dragon” is one of my all time favorite Bruce Lee movies. If you haven’t seen it, watch it sometime.

I know Buffy’s former landlady was also named Jenny; we just have two Jenny’s in this little ficverse. *g*

Ring references: O’Reilly’s Jewellers and Pink Diamonds UK (I recommend checking out the colors of the pink diamonds; pretty!)

So www.christian-kane.com says Christian Kane aka Lindsey has green eyes. So, I used green. *G*

Thanks to Harri for giving me the correct monetary terms for Ireland. *g* I originally had pounds here, but that’s been changed to Euros. Thanks!
Also, big hugs and thanks to LJ, Trammie and especially Indie on this part.

See previous parts for other notes.

Rating: Adult; explicit sex

Disclaimer: Own nothing. All belongs to Joss, ME, Fox, et.al.

Pairing: Initially C/A, ultimately B/A.

Distribution: My site, EverySixSeconds; sites currently with permission to host my fics; all others please ask.

Originally posted: Dec 2, 2003

At the firm knock on the door, Buffy smiled and looked up from the paper she was working on.  Since Angel left almost ten days ago, Wesley or Gunn – or in one instance, Wesley, Gunn and Doyle, had dropped by every so often to see if she needed anything.  At first she wondered if Angel put them up to it, but when she found out that they simply took the initiative on their own, she found it very endearing.

The afternoon that Gunn had stopped by, the two of them had ended up watching “Enter the Dragon” and bonding over their mutual respect and admiration for Bruce Lee.  During the movie he told her a few stories about Angel that made her laugh, though she wasn’t sure how much of the obviously embellished tales to believe. Later that week, Gunn showed up to take her kickboxing class.

When Wes stopped by a few days later, Buffy cajoled him into sharing her lunch. Over ramen noodles and grilled chicken, she managed to find out that Wesley was something of a young genius. He had managed to skip almost two years of college due to his academic prowess and would be starting his first year of medical school in the fall. The next time he stopped by, he brought truffles from Joseph Schmidt’s, having found out that Buffy had a fondness for the latte and hazelnut ones, as well as his biology class book and notes, since she’d be taking the same class next semester.

Angel had called two days after his arrival in Ireland to let Buffy know that his Uncle was going to be fine. He had been hit by a car while out for his morning walk. Fortunately, the elderly driver hadn’t been going very fast when she veered off the road in the dense morning fog, so Giles’ injuries were nowhere near as serious as they could have been. He had a broken leg, a fractured wrist and a minor concussion in additional to some other scrapes and bruises, but all-in-all was in much better shape than Angel originally feared after Jenny’s panicked phone call.

Angel called again after Giles was released from the hospital a few days later; he told Buffy that he was going to stay in Dublin until his uncle was moving around a bit more capably at home – probably another couple of weeks. He’d called again this morning, using the excuse that they had to continue their ‘work’ for the BCIS interviews, even if it could only be in short phone calls.

Still smiling as she reached the door, Buffy recalled the dozen or so questions Angel had asked her after she had told him about his friend’s visits and their determination to see that she wasn’t lonely in his absence. He sounded almost upset and angry about it; was it possible that he was… jealous?  No, she thought dismissively as she opened the door, that was highly unlikely. Even though he had been teasing and affectionate when he said that he hadn’t forgotten that she had agreed to go out to dinner with him and that he wasn’t going to let her back out, it didn’t mean anything. Did it?  She knew that her own feelings for him were growing steadily, but was it possible that he was interested in her in return?

“Dr. Walsh.” Buffy said less than enthusiastically, her smile fading as she opened the door to reveal the BCIS agent. She had expected it to be one of Angel’s friends, not the unfriendly BCIS agent.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Summers.” Dr. Walsh greeted formally, her posture ramrod straight. As always, she clutched her black notebook in the crook of her left arm.

“Mrs. O’Connor.” Buffy returned, coolly poised and equally formal. “I’ve submitted all the necessary paperwork with the DMV, the social security offices as well as UC Sunnydale. I can provide you with copies of the paperwork if you need them.” Changing her name hadn’t been in her original plan, but at this point Buffy was willing to do whatever it took to convince the BCIS that she was serious about this. She hadn’t even told Angel what she had done yet, uncertain of his reaction. There would be time enough for that when he got back.

“No, thank you. That won’t be necessary.” Maggie Walsh replied, suppressing the predatory smile that was just below the surface. She peered over Buffy’s shoulder briefly before returning her gaze to the young woman’s face. “May I?”

“Uh, sure.” Stepping back from the door, the petite blonde gestured for the BCIS agent to enter the apartment.

“Thank you.” As she crossed the threshold, Dr. Walsh scrutinized the room with a keen gaze. Living spaces told her a lot about people and she was always on the look out for any tell-tale sign or detail that she could use to build her case. Noting nothing of particular consequence, she took a seat on the couch.

Maggie Walsh opened her notebook then took out her reading glasses as Buffy sat down across from her on the opposite couch. She flipped through several pages until she found the page in the notebook she was seeking, then she glanced up over the rim of her glasses. “Ms. Summ- excuse me, Mrs. O’Connor, would you mind telling me where your husband is?”

“He’s visiting relatives in Ireland.” Buffy stated quietly, forcing herself to be calm despite the unexpected visit. The question made her wonder how closely they were being watched or how the agency had known that Angel was gone. She sat slightly forward, her hands tucked under her thighs until she realized what she was doing, then she forced herself to lean back and relax.

“I see. Are you aware that he’s traveling with another woman? A Miss Cordelia Chase?” Dr. Walsh sat back, watching the petite blonde’s expression closely.

To her credit, Buffy didn’t flinch. How naïve of her to dismiss Angel’s girlfriend from her mind.

She didn’t know that Cordelia had, in fact, joined Angel in Ireland though it probably shouldn’t have surprised her. He had never mentioned the brunette, but now that she thought about it, Cordelia hadn’t called or come by the apartment since the day when Buffy had told her that Angel had left. That had actually struck her as a bit unusual; she would have thought that Angel would have called his girlfriend before he left or shortly after he arrived in Ireland, but he hadn’t. That is, until some time later obviously. He had been stressed and worried, he probably wanted someone to lean on.  Buffy would have been on a plane in a minute, had he but suggested that he wanted her there… Shaking away the thought with a rueful smile, the young blonde finally answered, “Yes. She’s a family friend.”  Her voice was even, without a hint of the hurt or confusion she felt. Why had Angel asked her out for dinner?  Was she reading too much into his teasing queries and their warm, increasingly intimate conversations?  Was it all part of their marriage charade, nothing more?

“I see. It’s hardly expected for a newly married man to travel with a single, female friend. A friend that it has been rumored that he was sexually involved with prior to and immediately after your wedding. You understand how this situation looks to my office.” The BCIS agent’s lips curved upward in what would only be described as a nasty little smile, her pleasure at having had such a nice bit of gossip dropped in her lap almost unrestrained.  She knew Ethan had expressed his wishes about having his granddaughter implicated in the whole O’Connor marriage farce and she knew that bringing up Ms. Chase’s involvement was risky for that very reason, but she had confidence that she could use this information to her advantage and still be in strict compliance with Ethan’s wishes.

“We can’t all afford to take a vacation Ms. Walsh. I have classes and two jobs. My husband needed to see his family. His uncle was in an accident.” Buffy returned calmly, disappointment beginning to pervade her entire body. Pretending to be interested in her beyond their arrangement was hardly necessary; in fact, the mixed signals only complicated things. When Angel returned, they would have to have an honest and open discussion about this. Clearing her throat slightly, she added, “And he’s not traveling with Cordelia, Dr. Walsh. She happens to be in Europe on vacation and simply stopped by to express her concern to Angel and his family. It’s as much as any good friend might do in the same situation.” The lie burned as she forced it out, but she reminded herself again of the importance of convincing Dr. Walsh – and therefore the BCIS – that her marriage was real. She was doing this as much for herself as for Angel.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Maggie Walsh murmured insincerely, glancing down at her watch. “Will he recover?”

“Yes, fortunately it wasn’t as bad as they initially expected.”  Buffy shifted slightly on the couch, pushing aside the maudlin thoughts of her husband for the moment. “As for your other… suggestion, I doubt that my husband was involved with Cordelia, but if he was, it was prior to our marriage and therefore is of no interest to me now. I trust my husband, Dr. Walsh.”

“I find it highly unlikely, Mrs. O’Connor, that your husband has only a platonic relationship with Ms. Chase.”  The BCIS agent returned coldly, jotting a few notes in her book before returning her gaze to Buffy’s face. “Nor did I believe that Ms. Chase just happened to be in Europe and able to ‘pop-in’ to express her concern.”

“Then I’m sorry that you’re uncomfortable with the truth.” Buffy struggled to maintain her composure. It was bad enough to be rudely slapped with the reminder of Angel and Cordelia’s relationship when she had begun to entertain fanciful notions about her husband, but then to have to lie – convincingly – about it when she was uncomfortable with even the smallest white lie… it was almost more than she could take. Already she could feel her temples begin to pound with start of a headache.

“If it were the truth, I would have no problem with it whatsoever.” Dr. Walsh replied, her voice tinged with impatience. “I have no interest in playing games or continuing to waste time here, Ms. Summers.  If you would simply like to tell me the truth about the circumstances of your marriage to Mr. O’Connor, I can recommend leniency in prosecuting your case.”

Buffy wavered for all of two seconds, wondering if simply confessing might be the easiest and simplest way out at this point. Ultimately though, she trusted Dr. Walsh only about as far as she could throw the sturdy BCIS agent, which probably wasn’t far despite the fact that Buffy was in great shape.

“Dr. Walsh, I love my husband. Yes, we’re young and our marriage probably seems to be rushed to you, but what can I say?” Buffy paused and shrugged her shoulders, “Love makes you do the wacky.”

With an angry look, Dr. Walsh tapped her pen on her notebook. “Since you insist on continuing with this charade, then I will proceed with my investigation.  I will need the names of no less than six references. These references should be people that have knowledge of your relationship with your husband and can verify your… story.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t have six references for you.”

“I require at least six. They can be your friends or your husband’s.” Maggie Walsh firmly declared, looking over the rim of her glasses.

“I’m not sure who my husband would like for you to speak with. You’ll have to ask him when he returns.  As for my own, I’ve lost contact with most of my friends in the last year due to personal obligations. They won’t be able to help you since many of them won’t even have a clue about my life any more.” The petite blonde murmured quietly. Absently she twisted the silver ring around her finger as thoughts of just how much her life had changed in the last year drifted through her mind.

“That’s very convenient.” Dr. Walsh replied skeptically, as if she thought that the younger woman was merely making excuses.

“If that’s how you prefer to see it.” Buffy replied stiffly, shaking away the sadness at the reminder of the last few months and her mother’s death. It was the truth; nursing her mother had taken her away from most all her friends except for a few steadfast ones like Willow and Oz or Faith.

“When will Mr. O’Conner be back?” The BCIS questioned brusquely, flipping to the calendar page at the front of her notebook.

“We’re playing it day by day. His uncle is at home now and still improving, so it’s likely that Angel will be back within a couple of weeks.”

“Irrespective of his travel schedule, I will need your references by the end of the week. You are in touch with him, are you not?” Maggie Walsh jotted a note on the box marked for Friday then snapped her notebook closed. She slipped her glasses off and tucked them in her pocket.

“Of course I am.” Buffy stated with confidence, her eyebrows lifting slightly as if in question of such a ridiculous question.

“Here is my card. Please have a list of references in my office by Friday. I will need names and phone numbers and I would like addresses as well.”  Dr Walsh rose to her feet in a smooth economy of motion. “If not, then I suggest that you tell Mr. O’Connor that he might just as well stay in Ireland.”

Without another word, the BCIS agent strode to the door and swept out of the apartment, the door closing with a slam behind her.

With a reluctant sigh, Buffy found the number that she had written down for Angel’s Uncle Giles. After finding out that he was with Cordelia – a minor detail that he had obviously forgotten to mention – she wasn’t exactly in the mood to talk to her husband right now, but unfortunately this had to be done.

She checked the time; it would be almost 10 PM in Dublin – a little late really to be calling… Still, she dialed the number with shaking fingers then listened to the ring as she waited for someone to pick up the phone.

“Hello?”

“Um, hello. Is this the home of Rupert Giles?”


Angel walked along Wicklow Street until he reached the store that he was seeking.  Shifting his packages to one hand, he opened the door to O’Reilly Jewelers and entered the brightly lit shop.  O’Reilly’s was one of the more prestigious jewelers in Dublin, known for their quality work and custom designs, particularly their traditional Celtic patterns and styles. David O’Reilly, the founder’s son, and Liam Devlin O’Connor, Angel’s father, had also been friends.

“Hello.” The auburn haired woman behind the counter greeted with a friendly smile as the bell on the door rang announcing Angel’s entrance into the shop. “Can I help you?”

“Yes. No. Actually, I don’t really know.” Angel replied with a small self-conscious smile, uncertain of the impulse that had brought him to the shop. He already had a hand-knit Aran sweater, a Waterford crystal vase and a box of Butler’s chocolates in his hands from his earlier shopping, so why did he feel compelled to also look at O’Reilly’s for yet another present for Buffy?

The man bent over the counter carefully examining a trio of diamonds with a jewelers eye loupe glanced up. “Angel?  Angel O’Connor?”  Scrutinizing Angel with a keen gaze, he slowly smiled as he straightened up. “Well, I’ll be damned. It is you.”

“David.” Angel smiled as he set one of his packages on the counter then extended his hand in greeting. Other than the wealthy smattering of grey hair at the temples, David O’Reilly looked much the same as Angel remembered as a boy. “How have you been?”

David retrieved a bottle of finely aged Whiskey from a cabinet at the back of the room, then they sat a small work table behind the jewelry counters and reminisced over fond memories of family and times past until long after O’Reilly’s and the other the shops along Wicklow and Grafton closed.  David and Rupert Giles kept in touch, so David was aware that Angel was attending college in the U.S. and had ambitions to follow a career similar to his father’s.  Angel however, offered very little information about himself preferring instead to talk about David’s family or his uncle’s health.

David wasn’t surprised when Angel mentioned wanting to buy a present for a female friend, but he was a little taken aback when the young man’s eyes landed on the Claddagh rings.

“She’s special, this girl?”  David questioned with some amusement as he unlocked one of the cabinets containing the jewels and extracted several items.  He set them on the table as he sat back down and reached for his glass, taking another sip of the amber liquid.

“She’s my wife.” Angel returned absently in answer, picking up a white gold band with a raised Claddagh design from the velvet tray in front of him.

“Your wife, did you say?”  The jeweler’s eyebrows shot up in astonishment. Women had been a constant in the young man’s life since a very young age; David had seen that first hand beginning with the giggling girls who used to stop by the O’Connors’ house with various and often flimsy excuses in search of the lad. While Angel was always polite and friendly, which no doubt only helped his popularity, he always seemed to maintain a level of detachment. Even as he got older, Angel was rarely with the same girl for long – giving confirmation to his vehement declaration of not settling down any time soon, if ever.

“Yes.”  Replacing the first ring in the tray and picking up a gold Claddagh band with a heart shaped emerald in the center, Angel wondered about Buffy’s tastes. Did she like silver or gold? Emeralds? Sapphires?

“In that case…” David stood and walked over to a large cabinet at the back of the room. He unlocked the wooden door to reveal a large safe.  He turned the dial with familiar expertise and pulled open the heavy steel door. He sifted through a few items before pulling out the one he was clearly searching for with a small ‘ah-ha’.

“Let me show you something special.”

“Oh, but I don’t think that I can really afford…” Angel began hesitantly, looking up to see David returning to the table with a velvet bag in his hand. He had some money saved and he had his trust fund, but he wasn’t really planning on spending a lot. Partly because he didn’t want to make Buffy uncomfortable with an extravagant purchase and partly because he wasn’t even sure what he was doing.

“Nonsense, lad. The woman that captured the capricious heart of Angel O’Connor must indeed be truly a special gem. Don’t think I’ve forgotten your declarations about never settling for just one woman.”  David grinned and winked as he shook the ring out of the bag into the palm of his hand. The polished platinum gleamed in the light. “And a special gem deserves a special gem.”

Angel took the ring from the jeweler’s hand almost cautiously. It was extraordinarily beautiful, each detail of the crown and hands perfectly formed. A heart shaped diamond with an obvious rose-pink tint winked at him from the center of the ring.

“I finished that piece over two months ago.”  David nodded toward the ring, “But for some reason I didn’t put it out. I think maybe now I was just waiting to find the right person for it. Pink diamonds are quite rare, you know. That’s only the second one that we’ve ever had pass through the shop in all my years.”

“It’s really beautiful.” Angel said quietly, turning the ring over in his hand. He felt a tinge of guilt that David obviously thought that he had married for love. Still, he could imagine Buffy’s surprise at being given such a gift – she had several pieces of jewelry that he had seen but nothing to rival this in either beauty or value. The thought of making her happy – and seeing her wear his ring, this ring – filled him with an inexplicable feeling of warmth. With a resigned sigh, he held out his hand to hand it back to David. “But I can’t afford it.”

“And how would you know that? I haven’t exactly told you what I want for it, now have I?” David clasped his hands in front of him, refusing to take the ring.

“No, you haven’t but I’m sure it’s out of my budget. I don’t know much about pink diamonds short of the words ‘J.Lo.’ and ‘extremely expensive’, but I’m sure that it’s several hundred Euros beyond what I can afford to spend.” Angel placed the object in question carefully on the velvet bag that it had come out of.

“The stone itself, given the size and clarity, is worth over £5,000, but that’s not what I’m asking for the ring.” The jeweler swiveled in his chair, tapping his fingers on the table contemplatively. “Such a rare beauty as that deserves to belong to someone truly extraordinary. Tell me that the woman you married isn’t that someone and I’ve a bridge or two I can sell you along with that ring.”

“Buffy is…” Angel paused, considering an appropriate description for his wife. Buffy’s image rose clear and vivid in his imagination. His feelings for her were murky and undefined, but there was no denying that she affected him like no one else had before. “She’s certainly a rare beauty herself.” He finally said as he leaned back in the chair, his expression shuttered. She was more than beautiful, as he had come to know from their days spent together going over the details of their lives, but what could he tell David that didn’t sound like he was simply waxing poetic and mooning over her? Because he wasn’t waxing poetic or mooning. No, he didn’t do that.

“Well then, there we go.” David retorted cheerfully, reaching for the bottle of whiskey. “Now let’s drink a toast to your bride and another to your future wee ones, then I’ll tell you how your father introduced me to the love of my life and why I want to see his son happy.” Pushing one almost full glass across the table, David held the other aloft. “Then afterwards, we can haggle a bit over the price of the ring.”


Angel was a little surprised to see the front room lights on at Giles’ house when he parked his uncle’s Citroen in the long narrow drive. Had the circumstances of his visit been different, he would have expected it – Giles always one to stay up late and get up early – but that pattern had changed significantly due to his various injuries. In addition to napping during the day, the antiquarian had been retiring early, needing the additional rest to recover from his accident.

Hearing voices as he entered through the side kitchen door, Angel set his packages down carefully and then walked through the doorway into the front room. To say he was surprised to see her was a considerable understatement; thunderstruck would perhaps be a more accurate description.

“Cordelia? What are you doing here?”

“Angel, darling. There you are!” The brunette smiled widely and immediately came to her feet. “When I found out that your Uncle was hurt, I came as soon as I could.”

Giles struggled with his crutches and finally managed to also rise to his feet.  With a look of displeasure on his face, he glanced over at his nephew. “Liam? I would like to speak with you in the kitchen.” He had only gone two steps when he paused and added, “Privately.”

Angel backed up as Giles hobbled past him and into the kitchen. With a brief apologetic look at Jenny and a warning glance at Cordelia, Angel closed the door between the two rooms. Apprehensively he watched as his uncle opened the cabinet and extracted a bottle of brandy. Giles calling him Liam didn’t bode well; he only ever called him that when he was upset or angry. In fact, it had been at least two years since Angel could recall hearing that name from his uncle and that had been when Giles had to pick him up from the Interpol office in Lyon.

“First, please explain to me how on God’s green earth you became involved with that self-centered, irritating woman that is sitting out there in my living room and second, why in the bloody hell didn’t you think to tell me you had gotten married?” Giles snapped impatiently as he poured a healthy measure of brandy into a teacup.

Angel sighed. He should have guessed it would be something along either of those lines, given Cordelia’s unexpected presence. What all had she told them?  And how long had she been here?  “I… It wasn’t important.”

“Please clarify which, that woman or your marriage?”  Giles questioned as he stumbled clumsily into the cabinet, one of his crutches slipping out of his grip as he drank down the brandy in one shot.

“Both actually.” Angel replied, stepping forward prevent his uncle from falling.

“Since when is marriage not important?” Shaking free of his nephew’s arm irritably, Giles steadied himself and fixed his gaze on Angel’s face.

“I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just- it’s not-” Angel paused as he considered what he wanted to say.

“It’s not what?” Leaning against the counter, Giles sat the teacup down and crossed his arms over his chest.

“It’s not what you think.” Angel paced across the small kitchen, searching for how best to explain what had happened. He should have told Giles and Jenny about Buffy, but the right time hadn’t yet materialized given their other more pressing concerns about Giles’ health.  “There was a problem with my student visa paperwork. The BCIS office threatened to deport me before the end of the semester. I was going to have to forfeit all my credits and end up back here.  I would probably have been unable to return and finish school there for another year, if at all. I married a woman from the U.S. so I could stay and finish school.”

“I see.” Giles said skeptically as he removed his eyeglasses and began to clean them, a familiar gesture. “I hardly think it was necessary to go to such an extreme measure. A simple phone call and I’m sure that the problem could have been dealt with. If not directly through the university, then you know that several of your father’s former colleagues would have offered assistance. I’m sure Interpol is not without influence in the U.S.”

“You know I wouldn’t do that.” Angel declared bitterly, turning back around to face his uncle. “I don’t want or need their help.”

“So you thought getting married was the better solution?” Giles questioned sternly as he replaced his glasses on his nose. “And what of the young woman? Does she know that you married her only to stay in the country?”

“I- well, I – yes. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.” Angel replied with a dismissive shrug. “And yes, Buffy knows.”

“You do realize that what you’ve done is illegal in the United States?” Leaning on his crutches, Giles moved the short distance to the stove and turned on the gas beneath the teakettle to reheat the water.

“Yes.”

“And yet, given your ambitions, you still thought that such an illegal action was better than enlisting the aid of an agency that owes you their assistance?”

“Yes!” Angel snapped heatedly, “They owed me the truth but they weren’t forthcoming with any information when… You and I both know they know more about what happened in Los Angeles than they ever said.”

“Yes, well, while I may agree with you that’s not what we’re discussing at the moment.” Giles replied without turning away from the stove. He missed his sister and brother-in-law dearly; their deaths had never been adequately explained, but that was to be expected given Liam’s job. As the Director of Specialized Crimes for Interpol, he traveled often on risky assignments around the world. Kathleen refused to stay at home, so she often went where Liam went and over the years became an asset and alibi for him. For more mundane or routine cases, Liam and Kathleen would take their son with them; for riskier ones, Angel would be left with Giles.

Shaking away his grief, Giles turned back to face his nephew. He felt responsible for how the boy had turned out since he had partially raised him. He also worried as much as any parent worried about their child’s health, their happiness, their future. “We’re discussing you and your marriage and therefore, your future.”

“What did Cordelia tell you?”

“That pleasant bit of fluff didn’t happen to mention your marriage, though she had plenty to say about the closeness of your relationship.” Sarcasm was evident in every word as Giles sat on a stool near the counter, his strength waning. “Your wife called looking for you.”

Alarmed, Angel turned to stare at his uncle. “Is she okay? Is something wrong?”

Giles studied his nephew for a moment, surprised at the obvious intensity of his concern.  Was there more to it than Angel was letting on?  Did he have feelings for his wife beyond their convenient marriage? “She’s fine, I believe. And I have to say, rather patient and indulgent with a nosy old man. She didn’t immediately tell me that you were married.”

Angel smiled faintly, thinking of Buffy dealing with his uncle who no doubt pestered her with questions until she confessed. He knew how persistent Giles could be. “What did she say? Did she need something?” He couldn’t keep the anxiety out of his voice.

“The apparently unpleasant woman that works for the BCIS was by for a visit. It seems that even they know about your whoring about.” With a frown he gestured toward the now almost whistling teakettle.

“Damn,” Angel swore softly as he turned off the fire and lifted the kettle from the stove to pour the hot water into the teapot. How did they know that Cordelia was here?

“What did Buffy say? Was she upset?” He asked with a worried frown. Did Buffy think that he brought Cordelia with him? Or that he called and asked her to come to Ireland?

“She didn’t seem to be particularly upset, no.” Giles surmised, replaying the conversation with Buffy in his mind. She had answered his questions politely but vaguely, and had only mentioned the other woman reluctantly. “She did say that she needs the names of four of your friends for references by Friday.”

“Maybe I should call her and make sure.” Angel said anxiously, glancing at this watch and checking the time. He wanted to reassure her that Cordelia had not come with him, that he hadn’t even called her. He was surprised himself when she had showed up tonight. “Dr. Walsh – the woman from the BCIS can be a pretty big pain in the ass. I hate that Buffy had to deal with her alone.”

“Your Buffy seems like a nice young lady…” Giles ventured, growing ever more curious now as he watched the play of emotions on his nephew’s face, his agitation obvious.

“She is,” Angel replied absently, a faint smile curving his lips at the possessive pronoun.  Unconsciously, he glanced over to the packages on the counter, the presents he’d bought for her.

“Then why did you leave her in California and why is that-that overblown, arrogant floozy in my home and claiming to be the love of your life?” Reaching over to the counter, Giles picked up the teapot and poured tea into the cup he’d been drinking brandy from previously.

“What?” His musing over Buffy interrupted, Angel turned back to his uncle. “I didn’t bring Cordelia here, she came on her own.”

“Do you deny that you are involved with her? Sexually involved?” Giles questioned sternly, his blue eyes landing on Angel with piecing intensity. “I was young once you know, and I’m far from blind, Liam.”

“No, I don’t deny anything.” Angel replied with a heavy sigh. “But Cordelia… it’s not like that. Not anymore.”

“I see. Does she know it’s not that anymore? And does she know you’re married.”

“Yes.”

Giles eyebrows quirked upward in question.

“No,” Angel corrected at his uncle’s knowing look. “She knows I’m married, but…” He hadn’t exactly ended things with Cordelia though he hadn’t been in touch with her either. He had thought that their last conversation might have been enough, but apparently not.

“Regardless of the reasons for your marriage, I’m disappointed that you would take your vows – I presume they were typical wedding vows – so cavalierly.” Giles said disapprovingly.

Leaning on the counter with both hands, Angel looked down. He wasn’t sure what to say. He hadn’t taken his wedding vows seriously; he hadn’t mentioned his wife to his friends until he had to, he had slept with Cordelia after his marriage…

“Liam?”

Angel looked up at his uncle’s face.

“I don’t suppose I have to tell you that I’m disappointed.”

“No, you don’t.” Angel replied, chagrined. He hated disappointing his uncle, the man that had been there for him during some of the best and worst moments of his life. Giles rarely chastised and never judged, he had always been understanding, supportive and usually encouraging; it made his disapproval now that much worse.

Angel ran a hand through his hair in exasperation. He still had to deal with Cordelia.


With his rumpled hair, striking green eyes and obviously toned body, he had sexual attraction written all over him, and Anya wanted him in the worst possible way. She hid her disappointment when he specifically requested a table in Buffy’s section, saying, with a roguish wink, that he’d wait if he had to.  Still, Anya wasn’t just throwing in the towel just yet. Buffy was married while she was most definitely not. She smiled and flirted as she led him to his table, stopping just short of asking him for his phone number.

“Get me a name and phone number and I promise that I won’t seat anyone that even remotely looks like a bad tipper in your section for at least a month.”

Buffy turned at the sound of Anya’s voice and glanced at her friend. She looked over her shoulder as Anya pointed behind her, indicating the man in the charcoal grey shirt, black jacket and black pants.

“Three months if I get some naked one-on-one action out of it.” Anya added, her eyes trained on the man seated across studying the menu. She was just short of drooling.

“And how do you suppose I’m going to get that for you?” Buffy asked with a grin, picking up the plates of food to deliver to one of her tables.

“I’m sure you can think of something.” The blonde hostess said with a toss of her hair. “Surely you remember how to flirt. You haven’t been married that long. Speaking of which, when are you going to bring the husband down here? I’m beginning to think you really are keeping him chained to the bed.”

Buffy laughed and shook her head. Anya had made no attempt to hide her curiosity about Buffy’s marriage from the minute she had spotted the wedding ring on the blonde waitress’ hand. “I’m sure you’ll meet him someday, Ahn.”

“Right. It better be soon, or I’ll think you’re making him up.”  As Buffy headed out to the dining room, Anya called out commandingly, “Married, Buffy! Just remember that.”

With a smile still playing on her lips, Buffy dropped off the plates at her first table then moved along to the table where the man that they had been discussing sat.  He was pretty close to gorgeous, Buffy thought as she pulled her pad of paper out of her pocket.  She probably would be a little interested in him if… if, she thought with a sigh, if everything was totally and completely different. If she wasn’t married, if she had never seen Angel, if she had never met Angel, if she wasn’t falling for her husband…

“Hi, what can I get you?” Buffy asked, pushing the muddled thoughts about her husband aside and focusing on her job.

“I’ll have the tenderloin, rare, an Amstel Lite, and,” Lindsey lowered the menu and met Buffy’s gaze directly, “your phone number.”

“The first two are no problem; the third is a no can do.” Buffy returned smoothly, though she was flattered and a little surprised at such a direct approach.

“Darlin’, you wound me.” The handsome brown haired man countered with a smile as he held out the menu for her to take.

“I doubt that,” Buffy said as she returned his smile hesitantly.

“So you think I’m used to being turned down. Now that really hurts.” Lindsey replied, refusing to release the menu from his grasp causing Buffy to tug on it ineffectively. “At least tell me why you’re turning me down without even giving me a shot at dinner and a movie. I’m told I buy a mean dinner. Not to mention, I’m willing to sit through even the most heinous French art film for the right girl.”

With a laugh, Buffy held up her left hand and showed him the silver band on her ring finger. “I’m married. But I do know someone that would be very interested in your offer.”

“I’ve known plenty of women to wear those just for show.” Lindsey said half-jokingly, glancing only briefly at the ring before returning his gaze to her face. “And I’ve known more than a few who don’t let a little thing like a ring get in the way of pleasure.” He seemed to ignore her comment about a potential interest for him.

“Not me.” The blonde waitress replied curtly, jerking the menu away from him and tucking it under her arm. If that was his attitude, then she didn’t want to get his number for Anya.

“You sure about that, darlin’?” He asked with a playful wink, offering a somewhat apologetic smile.

The teasing tone in his voice was the only thing that kept Buffy from snapping at him angrily. Instead, she simply said, “Yes, absolutely.”

“Then I’m real sorry to say I didn’t meet you first.” Lindsey said almost to himself, Buffy already walking away.


“He practically threw me out, Harm.”  Cordelia muttered angrily into her cell phone. She was in the back of a cab that was careening wildly along the streets of Paris in route to the Ritz Carleton hotel. “And, get this… He took me to a hotel in Dublin in a hideous old car. I mean, you should have seen this piece of junk. It was unreal.”

“I don’t know what kind of car. Just… hideous.” The brunette answered with exasperation as she extracted her lipstick from her purse and dotted the rose-pink shimmer on her lips.

“Well, so I went to his Uncle’s dank little house and had to wait there for like hours while Angel was out God only knows where. Let me tell you, making small talk with the uncle and aunt for more than 10 minutes? Bor-ring. These people have, like, lived in the same place all their lives and have done nothing. I mean, they hadn’t even been skiing in the Alps or been to the film festival in Cannes, and they knew nothing about French couture. I’d bet my latest Jimmy Choo’s that they’ve never even been to Harrods.  Which, hello? You live in Europe people, get out of Ireland once in awhile and do something. Needless to say, their conversation skills?  Limited.”

Cordelia barely listened as Harmony offered sympathetic murmurs for her plight.

“So when Angel finally showed up, he and his Uncle closed themselves in the smelly little kitchen for awhile to talk about I don’t know what. Afterwards, Angel was acting all depressed and moping. He didn’t act happy to see me or anything, just says that we have to go.”

Slowing, the cab stopped at a light and Cordelia glanced out the window to see where they were before turning her attention back to her conversation.  “I’m thinking, finally! We’re going to get out of there and get some alone time. I do have to say, Angel was looking pretty damn good in this white linen shirt and these jeans that were just so perfectly snug.  Anyway, on the drive to the hotel he asks how I found out where he was. I told him that Buffy told me of course. I didn’t mention how many hoops I had to go through with my Grandpapa’s P.I. firm to find his uncle’s address. Then, out of the blue, Angel says that he didn’t want me there.”

Pausing, Cordelia held the phone away from her ear as Harmony’s surprised exclamations could be heard loudly over the small device. Even the cab driver glanced in his rear view mirror at the noise.

“I know! I mean, hello? I didn’t want to be there either, but I went to show my support for him. You’d think he could stop thinking about himself for two minutes and consider what I went through to get there. It’s not like I enjoy rustic, damp old houses and Irish cuisine. Honestly.”

The cab began moving again, turning left on the final leg of the trip to the hotel.

“Well, then so you’re not going to believe this. He actually says that he’s going to try to make things work with Buffy.” Cordelia laughed, a shrill fake sound that reverberated through the small cab. “Buffy! Can you believe that? Like that little mouse has anything to offer. I figured, he’s stressed out and maybe his Uncle found out about the marriage and made him feel guilty or something.”

Swerving right, the cab driver pulled into the driveway in front of the Ritz Carleton and slammed on the breaks. Moving briskly, he got out and went around and opened the door for Cordelia.

“I give it a month, two tops, before Mr. Liam Angelus O’Connor comes crawling back to me. And believe you me I’m going to make him do some serious groveling after this.” The brunette stepped out of the cab, shaking her jacket as the bellhop rushed forward to take her bags from the cab driver. Reaching in her purse, she extracted a handful of bills. “In the meantime, I plan on making sure to show him exactly what it is he’s missing. Every. Chance. I. Get. Which means, I need to make sure you’ve invited him to your pool party, okay?”

Pressing the money into the cab drivers hand, she walked up the steps to the hotel without a backward glance. She had no doubt that the bellhop would be following with her luggage.

“Why do I want him?” Cordelia asked in response to Harmony’s question as she entered through the glass door into the lobby.  “Well, for one, no one breaks up with Cordelia Chase. Second, because I just want him, Harm.” Her voice changed to a distinct whine. “I don’t know… maybe it’s some sort of addiction.”

The brunette laughed as she approached the marble counter. She was oblivious to the others in the hotel lobby listening to her conversation, “I am so not a sex addict.”

Sliding her platinum American Express card across the counter, she smiled at the clerk and resumed her conversation. She’d already had her Grandfather’s assistant make her reservations before she left Dublin.

“Right now I’m going to my room to soak away some of the rustic smells in a hot tub. Tomorrow, I’ll be exercising my plastic on the Rue du Faubourg. I figure since I’m here, I might as well make it worth my time before I head home. Besides, I could use a few more things to show off the wonder that is me and give Angel something to drool over.”

Cordelia smiled and signed the credit card receipt that the petite French woman had set on the counter.

“I can tell you one thing, Harmony, Angel O’Connor is going to be very sorry that he broke up with me.” Cordelia picked up her credit card and room key and turned on her heel toward the elevator. “Oh, definitely. Buffy already knows that she can’t have him, but I’ll be sure to make that very clear to her when I get back.”


Buffy stared at the answering machine as the phone rang. Angel had called every day since she had left a message with his Uncle Giles, and every day she listened to his voice on the machine instead of answering, resolved to put a little bit of distance between them. Each day her resolve weakened a little more as she struggled with her own feelings. She missed their conversations, she missed hearing his voice, and after almost three weeks, she had to admit, she missed him.

At night, when it was dark and she was alone in the apartment, she imagined Angel and Cordelia taking long drives through the beautiful Irish countryside, stopping to explore historic sites, beautiful castles and craggy, windswept beaches. She imagined them kissing and snuggling and spending nights at cozy romantic inns along the way. Even though Angel had encouraged her to take the bed while he was gone, something about sleeping in his bed felt a little too… intimate, so instead, she’d simply toss and turn on the couch until dawn. Other nights, she’d turn on the light or the TV to chase away the images.

Impulsively she reached out and snatched the phone from the cradle just as the machine began to pick up the call. “Hello?”

“Buffy?” Angel breathed with relief. He’d been trying for days to reach her, but had only reached the machine each and every time he had called. He’d even called Wes to find out if Buffy was okay, worried after almost ten days of not being able to catch her at home.  Finding out that she was fine but busy eased his fears somewhat, but he was still afraid that her unavailability was connected to her finding out that Cordelia had come to Ireland. “Buffy, I’m glad I caught you. Did you get my messages?”

“Yes, I did.” Buffy replied, suddenly wishing she hadn’t picked up the phone. Her stomach was fluttering nervously. She felt as if they had suddenly gone back to being strangers. Clearing her throat slightly, she asked, “How is your uncle?”

“He’s doing much better.” Angel answered. He could hear the reserve in her voice, so unlike the warmth he had come to know and it frustrated him.

“That’s good, I’m glad.” Shifting the phone to her other ear, Buffy ran her finger along the counter near the phone. “I’m sorry I had to call, but I needed the information for Dragon Walsh. I wasn’t going to tell your uncle, you know, about us-”

“No, it’s fine.” Angel interjected firmly, his voice soothing and warm. “I’m glad you called. You got all of the information you needed, right?” He had left the names and numbers for Doyle, Wes, Gunn and their landlord, Lorne, the day after she had called needing the information.

“Yes. Thank you for leaving the message.” She replied, trying to work up her courage to ask him about Cordelia and about their relationship, such as it was.

“It’s not a problem. I’m sorry you had to face her alone.”

“Oh, no biggie. I mean, it was fine.” Buffy hadn’t even seen Maggie Walsh when she went to the BCIS office to drop off the list of references.

“Buffy… is everything okay?”  He asked softly. He stood near the window, glancing out into Giles’ backyard. He wondered what Buffy would think of Ireland, of Giles and Jenny.

The concern in his voice infused her with warmth and confusion. She paused and took a deep breath, collecting her thoughts only to lose her courage and instead say simply, “Yes. Just fine.”

“Buffy…” Angel ventured on a soft exhalation of air. He wasn’t used to explaining himself and wasn’t exactly sure how to start. “I want you to know, I’m not here with Cordelia. Yes, she was here, but not because I invited her.”

“You don’t have to explain anything to me, Angel. You know that.” Buffy fought against succumbing so easily to his charm and to her tumultuous feelings. Wariness and practicality intervened, firming her wavering resolve. Just a business arrangement, she repeated in her thoughts. “Your relationship with Cordelia is none of my business.”

“I know, but I want you to know the truth.” He declared firmly, taking a seat on the wooden bench near the window. He could hear the soft murmurs of Giles and Jenny talking quietly in the living room. “I told Cordelia to go home. I didn’t want her here.”

“Oh.” She replied with a touch of astonishment and a heady rush of pleasure.  A squeal of delight bubbled under the surface, but she held it in.  Still, she couldn’t seem to form the questions in her mind about ‘why’ and ‘when’ and ‘give me all the details, how did she take it?’  Did saying ‘we should talk about us’ sound too presumptuous? Or how exactly should she go about bringing up the topic?

“I miss you.” Angel murmured softly. It was the first time he could remember ever saying those words to a woman, and certainly the only time he could remember meaning them.

Overcome by surprise and the sudden racing of her heart, Buffy stammered a reply, “I-I miss you too, Angel.” She was overwhelmed, attracted and filled with trepidation.

“Buffy… you and I should talk, but I don’t want to… but not over the phone.” He said as he toyed with the silver ring he still wore on his left hand. “My flight gets in around 9:30 Friday night. Can we get together then?”

Buffy let out a soft groan. “I’m sorry. I have to work. We’re short staffed. Extra shifts.”

“When then? You tell me.” He questioned, glancing up as Jenny entered the kitchen. She smiled at him as she retrieved a plate of fruit from the refrigerator and returned to the front room.

“Well, Saturday…”

“How about breakfast? I know a great place.”

“Sure. I mean, that sounds nice.”

They talked for a few more minutes before Buffy reluctantly said she had to go get ready for work.  Only when the phone was securely in the cradle, did she let out the happy squeal that she had long been holding in.


Buffy was still asleep when Angel got up. He crept quietly into the living room and stood arrested for a moment, her beauty more glorious than he remembered.

Tired from the trip and slightly jet lagged, he had gone to bed before she had gotten off work. He eased down on the couch opposite her, content to watch her.  Her skin was a rich golden hue against the white of the pillowcase, her hair in wild disarray around her face. One arm and shoulder were uncovered, the blanket tucked just above the steady rise and fall of her breasts with each breath. The delicate pink of her top gave her an almost ethereal appearance in the gray morning light, the sun just beginning to peek over the horizon.  He’d missed seeing her last night, but this moment seemed to more than make up for it.

On the flight home he questioned his decision to further his relationship with his wife; after all, he hadn’t wanted such an encumbrance at such a young age.  However, with her slumbering so peacefully, so near… his fingers flexed, an unconscious gesture of restraint, and he resisted the urge to touch her.

“You’re back,” Buffy whispered softly, still half asleep. “How was your trip?”

“Fine.” He smiled faintly at her closed eyes.

Yawning and stretching, Buffy attempted to shake away the remnants of sleep. Glancing at him with a playful expression, she tugged the blanket up slightly. “I know we said breakfast, but I didn’t realize it was going to be at the crack of dawn.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.” He said apologetically and made to rise.

“No, no. It’s okay.” Buffy held out her hand to stop him. Coming to her feet, she wrapped the blankets around her modestly. She wasn’t quite ready to stand in front of him in just a tiny tank top and shorts. “Just give me a few minutes to shower and then, I’m yours.” Her cheeks turned pink as she realized how that sounded.  With a small sound, almost a “meep” she rushed down the hallway.

They made mundane small talk as Angel drove them to Stacks, a cozy but busy restaurant just a few blocks down from the beach.

Angel was noticeably restless until after they were seated and the waiter took their order.

“I’ve been thinking our situation…” He grimaced; that wasn’t exactly the smoothest of starts.

“Yes?” Buffy inquired, suddenly wondering if she had misinterpreted his signals. She sat stiffly, bracing herself for his next words.

“I’ve been thinking about us.” He amended softly before he stopped again and cursed under his breath. He ran one hand through his hair. Why was this so awkward?

Changing his approach, he smiled, “You look beautiful.” And she did, he thought, in her pale yellow sundress.

“Thank you.” Buffy returned his smile, reaching for her coffee and taking a sip.

“I want to start over, with you.” Leaning forward, he reached for her hand. “But I don’t want to rush. I thought we could take things slowly, see where they go.”

“You mean… date?” She said finally, her nerves on edge.

“Yes. That is, if you want.” Angel quietly replied, watching her closely in an attempt to discern her mood. “I know it’s a little unusual, given our circumstances but…”

“I’d like that.” Buffy cheerfully replied, smiling up into his eyes.

Angel felt the tension he hadn’t even been aware he had been holding in his body dissolve. Returning her smile, he squeezed her hand gently as his eyes held hers.

Just as he leaned forward, the impulse to kiss her unchecked, the waiter arrived with their food. The moment passed and they both sat back in their chairs.

Conversation flowed easily as they ate, their accord from weeks ago restored now that they were together again. Now, however, there was a heightened awareness between them, a noticeable palpable attraction.

And their thoughts on the future that bright summer morning were eerily similar… Heaven, or something quite near, might just be within reach.


Buffy sat cross-legged on the floor, studying her notes as Angel put away the leftovers from their Chinese take-out dinner.  The apartment was quiet, even the traffic outside unusually hushed for a Thursday evening.

Since his return almost a week ago now, they had yet to reestablish any kind of routine. When Kennedy had quit almost a week ago, Snyder switched Buffy’s schedule for the next month, so she was once again working extra shifts until a replacement was hired.  Summer classes were also winding down, bringing with them final exams and projects, so Buffy found her time pretty well constrained to work and studying.  It was now almost midnight, and she had a dozen or so problems to finish tonight for her statistics class tomorrow.

Angel sat down on the couch and picked up his book. He half-heartedly tried to read, but spent most of his time watching Buffy’s expression twist up in aggravation as she struggled over a problem. She sighed, muttered and then erased before repeating the actions several more times. With a small smile, he eased himself down on the floor next to her.

“Let me see?” He asked softly, reaching for her notebook.

Buffy studied him under her lashes, trying to quell the fluttering of her stomach. Other than breakfast a few days ago, they hadn’t been this close in weeks. They’d both been so busy, she with work and school and Angel spending time with his adviser, preparing for the upcoming semester as well as making up for lost time on the study that he had been working on with Professor Johannsen before he had gone to Ireland.

Leaning closer, Angel looked from her notes to the problem in the book on her lap.

Buffy inhaled, breathing in the clean scent and faint woodsy smell that seemed to define Angel. He was so close, she could sense him; a hard, strong and very male potent force. Rarely had they been this close.

“Here.” Angel pointed from her notes to the problem in the book. “It looks like you just transposed the denominator here at the beginning.”

“Oh.” Buffy sighed in exasperation. It figures it would be something so mundane and stupid, one of those things that you look at a dozen times but still miss. Finishing the problem quickly, she waved her pencil in the air triumphantly, “Done! Thank you.”

Turning slightly, she glanced up at Angel’s face. Their eyes locked and held. Buffy felt her lungs seize as her breath caught in her throat. His nearness provoked a surge of emotion within her. It was something more than nervousness, something more like anticipation. Or pleasure.

With his gaze still on hers, Angel leaned closer.

Buffy’s eyes dropped to his lips and her own lips parted as he moved steadily closer. When his lips touched hers, Buffy’s eyes closed completely, and she dropped the pencil she had been holding on the floor.

Angel kissed her, his lips moving against hers firmly.

Parting her lips, Buffy leaned into his kiss. Her book and notebook slid from her lap as her hands came up to rest with on his chest, her palms flat on the white cotton of his t-shirt. She inched closer, leaning into him slightly, encouraging him as their kiss deepened. The thought flitted through her brain that maybe this wasn’t a good idea and she paused – but the warmth of his tongue slipping into her mouth chased it away. This felt too good not to be… good.

Angel sensed her slight hesitancy, felt it himself in fact, but chose instead to ignore it. Placing his hands on her waist, he stroked gently with the long length of his fingers before closing his hands around her and lifting her so that she was all but lying atop him as he eased back against the couch.

Buffy felt the muscles of his chest bunching and shifting beneath her hand as his arms closed around her, drawing her to him. She felt surrounded by his strength and his heat, and she shivered.

He felt her tiny tremble and his kiss grew deeper, ravenous and hungry.

Buffy gasped and tried to draw back, but Angel lifted his hand and cupped the back of her head, tangling in her hair as he drew her steadily back into his kiss.  Sighing softly into his mouth, she sank into him and gave up any attempt at rational thought. Content to follow where he led, she went willingly into the beckoning whirlpool of sensation.

His hand slipped from her hair, the knowing caress of his fingertips moved over her throat, along the exposed skin above the neckline of her cotton tank top and then down the outer curve of one breast. His fingers traced and teased before returning to flirt with the bare flesh just along the edge of her top.

With the unfulfilled ache of desire growing rapidly between them, Buffy murmured softly as she arched into his hand, the sound trapped between their lips.

Encouraged by her subtle movement, his fingers returned to the swell of her breast and began to trace the curve again slowly. Again and again he touched her, his touch gradually firming while her skin grew increasingly warm and her nipple hardened. Finally, Angel curved his fingers and cupped the mound of flesh in his palm.

Sensation whipped through her, the warmth melting through her, spreading and filling her. His wicked fingers flexed, tensed, squeezed. He closed his hand, kneading.  This wasn’t anything like the inexperienced groping she had experienced with Pike or Tyler. With her eyes still closed and her mouth locked on his, she was captured in the drugging sensuality of the slow deep kiss. Nerves she didn’t even know she possessed leapt into life. Pure pleasure washed over her as his thumb brushed over the now taut peak of her nipple, the heat and fire building through her along with an ache that he seemed to evoke and alternatively appease.

It was almost a revelation that anything could feel so good, yet she knew there was more. Within seconds, she knew that she wanted to find out exactly what more there was.

Angel broke off their kiss only to brush his lips along her jaw to her ear. He was beyond thought; instead he only wanted to take what he had been craving for what seemed like months now.  His attention, his senses were entirely focused on the woman in his arms, the tempting promise of the supple body beneath his hands.

He’d had many women… but this one… Buffy was special. Perhaps it was because he had considered her a forbidden delight for so long. Perhaps there was something else to it… but he found himself wanting to savor her, and at the same time he wanted to satisfy every wicked dream he had ever had about her, thoroughly and completely.

He moved lower, planting open-mouthed kisses along the soft smooth column of her throat. He could feel her soft, warm breath on his hair, along his ear, caressing his skin with a sweet rush of temptation. Pressing his lips to the base of her throat he could feel the erratic beat of her pulse beneath his lips, urging him on as did the small hands clutching at his shoulders, caressing him through the soft cotton of his shirt. Her nails raked his skin through the material, spurring his desire and need to feel her hands on his bare skin, to feel her bare skin.

Her breasts were full and firm, the nipples hard and straining beneath the cotton of her tank style top. It was a simple matter to slip the straps from her shoulders, and tug the material down slowly.  A shift of position and he was cupping her naked breasts were in his palms.

Buffy gasped at the feel of his hands on her bare skin. Her eyes lashes fluttered, but didn’t open.

Returning his lips to hers, Angel smiled against her mouth as she kissed him hungrily. Her tongue slipped into his mouth to explore and taste him as his hands played, familiarizing himself with her body. He found the taut peaks of her nipples and tweaked them gently then slowly squeezed.

Buffy gasped again, breaking their kiss and lifting her head, searching for breath.

He kissed her neck, trailing his lips down over her collarbone and savoring the soft skin as continued a path lower to the upper curve of her breasts. Shifting her slightly in his arms, he pulled her higher to her knees so she was straddling him, her knees on the floor on either side of his hips. When the heat of his mouth touched her nipple, she stilled, waiting. He licked gently, then took the taut peak into his mouth, his tongue curling around it teasingly.  Buffy quivered as he laved her pebbled nipple with his tongue.  His hand skimmed her waist and hip, moving around to cup her bottom.

A low sound of pleasure escaped Buffy’s lips as he continued the pleasurable torment. He licked and then sucked, glancing up at her face from beneath his lashes to gauge her reaction. Her breath caught in her throat as he suckled harder, her hand slipping from his chest to his nape, holding him to her as her head dropped down to rest against the softness of his hair. He steadied her with his hands, as he moved between her spiked coral nipples lavishing them equally with his attention. He glanced up to catch a glimpse of her green gaze beneath half-closed eyes; she was watching him.

His other hand moved to the waistband of her sweats, skimming the skin of her narrow waist. Leaning his head back, he looked up at her.  Tugging at her waist, he urged her down, settling her on his lap. Feeling the hard bulge of his erection beneath her, Buffy eased down tentatively at first, uncertain.

Reaching up to grasp a strand of her hair, Angel tugged her face closer.  Buffy leaned forward and kissed him, sinking down firmly. Instinctively, she moved her hips, rocking slowly at first then with flagrant invitation.

Outside a car alarm went off.

Their kiss slowed, stopped. Buffy drew back reluctantly as the alarm continued loudly.

Lying beneath her, staring into her trusting face, Angel was suddenly reminded of his words the other day at breakfast about taking things slowly.  He didn’t want to rush into physical intimacy with his wife, no matter how beautiful and desirable she was. He knew she was innocent. Moving too fast too soon would only complicate things. He circled the aureole of one nipple with his thumb. With a resigned sigh, he tugged her top up and covered her beautiful breasts.

“Buffy, maybe we shouldn’t…” Angel ran a hand through his hair. Was he honestly thinking about taking things slowly?  Because right now, that was the last thing on his mind. He was resisting the urge to carry her into the bedroom and spent the next few hours, hell days, acquainting himself with her beautiful body.

“Oh, you don’t…” Buffy’s face flamed in embarrassment. Had she been too forward? He did say he wanted to take things slowly… She scrambled off his lap.

“No, I do… I just don’t think-”

“We should.” She finished for him, gathering her books together in a jerky nervous gesture and rising to her feet. “I get it. You know, you’re right. We shouldn’t. Do. Stuff. Stuff like that. Um. You know, I’m going to take a shower.”

“Not a cold shower. Just a shower shower.” Buffy amended without turning around. She was mortified. Here he had said he wanted to take things slowly and the first thing she did was throw herself in his lap and… practically give him a lap dance. What did he think of her now?

Angel watched her hurry away on stiff legs. When the door to the bathroom closed, he cursed softly. He rushed her – exactly what he said he didn’t want to do – and now she probably didn’t want to have anything to do with him. Maybe he should give her some space for a few days, then start over.