A Convenient Marriage, Part 7

Author’s Notes: This is AU.

A spinning class is aerobics on bikes.   Thanks to all the usual suspects for the support and encouragement.

Very happy new year wishes to everyone!

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 27, 2003

Buffy leaned against the wall outside the door to the aerobics studio listening to the muffled sounds of the music and waiting for Faith’s spinning class to end. After a sleepless night, she had crept out quietly just before dawn and made the drive over to the gym. She had her own class to teach at seven am, so she had to be there early anyway – might as well burn off some of her tension on the treadmill. It was a good theory, but even forty-five minutes of jogging hadn’t done much to quell the chaotic jumble of thoughts in her mind.

Since Angel had gone to bed by the time she had got out of the shower last night, they hadn’t talked any more about their little moment on the living room floor. She hadn’t really meant for that to happen… Well, maybe she meant it, but she hadn’t really expected it. She closed her eyes, calling up the delicious memory. There was no denying that she enjoyed his kisses, his lips on her body, his hands. But after Angel saying he wanted to take things slowly… had she been too… aggressive?

At the light touch on her elbow, Buffy gasped and opened her eyes. She was surprised to see the man from Patina standing in front of her.

“Hi there,” Lindsey said with a friendly smile on his face.

“What are you doing here?” Buffy blurted out suspiciously, though it was obvious from the sweat on his face and the snug grey t-shirt that he wore that he’d been working out. It was also apparent from the obvious muscles in his chest, shoulders and arms that he did so regularly. She hadn’t really noticed that the other day, his body hidden by the dark business attire that he wore.

“The Sunnydale Visitor’s Bureau says that this is one of the better gyms in town, so I joined.” He shrugged slightly, not taking offense at her blunt question. The door near them swung open as people slowly began to file out of the aerobics room now that the class was over.

Buffy’s eyebrows quirked upward somewhat skeptically and she gave a small nod, “Oh.” Looking past him, she smiled and said hi to two people who exited the class, other members of the gym that she knew.

“About the other day, at the restaurant… I’m sorry. I know I came on a little strong.” Lindsey offered, sensing both her discomfort and disbelief at seeing him there. She was being polite but not encouraging, and he found himself even more intrigued by her. Of course, the tanned bare midriff between her black sweats and baby blue bra top admittedly added to his interest.

Returning her gaze to his face, Buffy studied him as if trying to ascertain if he was telling her the truth or not.

“I moved here about a month ago from Oklahoma and haven’t met too many people.” Lindsey explained as he gave a cursory glance at the people passing along the hallway. He stepped out of the way to stand along the wall next to Buffy and continued apologetically, “Between the move here and my work schedule, I haven’t gotten out much, so I’m a little stir crazy.”

“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.” Buffy responded courteously, her curiosity piqued slightly as she wondered what he did and where he was from. She would have guessed him to still be in college, as young as he seemed.

“Can we start over?” Lindsey asked, a flirtatious smile gracing his features. He wiped his hand thoroughly on the towel he was holding then extended it. “Hi. I’m Lindsey. Lindsey McDonald.”

“Buffy Summers,” she said as she shook his hand. With only a brief pause, she amended, “O’Connor. Buffy Summers O’Connor.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Buffy Summers O’Connor. I take it you’re still getting used to part of that name.” Lindsey replied, his green eyes reflecting his amusement. “You did say married, but I’m going to guess you’re a newlywed.”

“Yes. Well, three months.” Buffy replied with a smile, her thoughts drifting back to her husband and their shared kisses from last night. She still had to tell Angel that she was using his name, but she had to admit hearing it out loud with hers gave her a feeling of intimacy, of closeness with him that she liked.

“That’s still pretty new in my book.” He replied with a wink. Lindsey, with his keen observation skills, noted the dreamy expression on Buffy’s face and the heightened color in her cheeks at the mention of her marriage.  Changing topics, he asked, “So you work out here then?”

“Yeah. I teach. Kickboxing class.” Shaking away the musings of her husband, Buffy turned her attention back to Lindsey. “Which, starts in about 10 minutes…”

“I’m impressed.” Lindsey said, genuinely surprised, though he would have admitted that Buffy was obviously in great shape. “You any good?”

Buffy shrugged modestly, “Maybe.” The mischievous grin on her face contrasted to her words and once more Lindsey found himself increasingly interested in the petite blonde.

“So then the Sunnydale Visitor’s Bureau is right about this being the best gym?  I’ve been using their damn guides to find just about everything in town that I need.”

“Well, this is one of the nicer gyms in town.” Buffy answered thoughtfully as she turned to walk to the door of the aerobics room. Lindsey fell in step behind her.

“And Murdock’s? Best grocery?”

“No. Lynardi’s is better. Less expensive too.”

“Ah. Thanks for the tip. They were right about Patina though. The food was great, the service impeccable.”  Lindsey smiled and held open the door before following her into the room. “You lived here long then?”

“Yep. All my life actually.” Buffy replied, waving at the three people who were talking near the small podium at one end of the room. Behind them, a few people entered and were taking a spot on the floor in preparation for class.

“Really?”

“Yep, really.”

The dark-haired girl in the tight black bike shorts and snug sleeveless white top smiled and walked over to meet them, while the two people who she had been talking to waved at Buffy as they left the room. “Hey, B. I didn’t see you in class.”

“Hi Faith.” Buffy answered, giving the other girl a hug in greeting. “You know I’m too lazy for your class. Besides, I needed some quality time with the treadmill this morning to atone for too many Joseph Schmidt’s.”

Faith rolled her eyes and snorted dubiously. She turned her attention to the man still standing slightly behind Buffy and to the right. “Hey, so, this your boy?  It’s about time she dragged your sorry ass down here with her, I’ve been wanting to meet you for what, like, three, four months now. The guy that just sweeps B here off her feet and rushes her to the altar has to be something else.”  Grinning, Faith held out her hand. “I know she always said virgin until she found the right guy, but she never said she was holding out for marriage too. Hope you were worth waiting for. I’ve been asking for details, but B here hasn’t said anything more than really good kisser. Oh, yeah, I’m Faith.”

“Uh, Faith…” Buffy cringed at the intimate disclosures her long time friend just blurted out to a perfect stranger.

“I’m Lindsey.” Smiling at the beautiful brunette, Lindsey returned Faith’s greeting.

“Oh, I thought your name was Angel? Or is that just some sort of cute lovey-dovey nickname?  It works, I guess, but I’d go with something more like ‘studmuffin’ but then, hey that’s just me.” Faith grinned and winked, “I’m sure you don’t mind what B calls you, particularly in the sack.”

“Faith, this isn’t Angel,” Buffy said flatly, “and Angel’s name is… Angel.” While that wasn’t strictly true in the formal sense, it was what everyone called him.

“Ah. No?” Unabashed, Faith looked from Lindsey to Buffy curiously.

“No. This is Lindsey McDonald.” Buffy explained with emphasis on his name. “He just moved here from Oklahoma.”

“Well, welcome to Sunnydale, cowboy.” Faith said with a shrug, “Hope you can stand all the excitement we have to offer.”

“I think I’m up for it.” Lindsey replied, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

“I imagine you are.”  Faith teased with a wink. “Hey, I gotta run. See you later, okay, B? We need to catch up.” Turning, Faith gathered her things and began to walk toward the door. Halfway there she turned and walked backward, calling out, “And hey, I still need to meet your Angel.”

Buffy waved at Faith before she glanced back at Lindsey and gestured to the increasingly crowded room, “I’ve got to go. Class to teach.”

Lindsey nodded, but hesitated as if debating something mentally before he spoke, “Buffy – I know you’re married, but… do you think you might have some time in the next couple of days to show me around town a little?  I could really use some pointers from one of the natives.”

“I don’t really think…”

“Think of it as a community service.” Lindsey interrupted before she could finish. He was nothing if not persistent; it was one of the many reasons he was considered to be one of the best private investigators in the business.

When Buffy didn’t answer immediately, Lindsey continued, “If you’d still like to introduce me to your friend – the one that you said might be interested in that dinner and a movie offer?  I’ll take you up on that.”  Tilting his head in the direction of the door where Faith had disappeared, he added with a playful smile, “Her name wouldn’t happen to be Faith, would it?”

Buffy shook her head and laughed. She had never met a man who wasn’t interested in Faith, but Faith… she talked a big game, but in reality she wasn’t nearly as promiscuous or outgoing as she appeared. She would probably be interested in someone like Lindsey, however Buffy had someone else in mind that she wanted Faith to meet.

“You remember Anya, the hostess at Patina?” Buffy said as she put her class soundtrack in the CD player.

“I think so.” Lindsey answered slowly, as if searching his memory.

“That’d be the one.”

“Ah, okay, thanks. I’ll make a stop by there as soon as I get a chance and see if she might still be interested. So, what do you think? Do you have some time to help out a new friend? Or, if not a friend, how about helping out a lost stranger?” Lindsey pleaded softly, his expression schoolboy innocent. “What’d you say?”

Buffy studied his face for a few minutes before she finally gave him an answer.


The knock sounded on the door just after Wesley had gotten out of the shower. He finished dressing quickly, pulling on a pair of faded jeans and a dark green button up shirt. He glanced at the clock – it was just after eight am – as he made his way to the door. When he pulled open the door, he knew he’d seen the woman standing there before, but he couldn’t quite place where at first glance.

“Wesley Wyndham-Pryce?”

“Yes?”

“Dr. Maggie Walsh, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.” Dr. Walsh announced brusquely as she extended her hand. “I apologize for the early hour, but I do need a few minutes of your time.”

“Would you like to come in?” Wesley offered, stepping back from the door. He remembered her now; she had been the woman at Angel’s apartment who had wanted to meet his wife. They had even joked about it at the time, only to find out that Angel was, in fact, truly married.

“Thank you.” Stepping past him, Maggie entered the apartment. As she made her way to the sofa, she noted the shelves filled to overflowing with an assortment of books, a good many of them medical texts.

“Please have a seat.” Wesley took the chair next to the couch as Dr. Walsh seated herself on the sofa then opened her black notebook.

“I understand that you are friends with Liam O’Connor and Buffy Summers?” Dr. Walsh asked as she took out her reading glasses and slipped them on.

“Yes.” Wes answered easily. Angel had mentioned that the BCIS was checking out his marriage and that he had used Wesley as a reference, so the woman’s visit wasn’t completely unexpected.

“I am following up on the paperwork that they submitted to the BCIS in order to obtain Mr. O’Connor’s green card. The questions that I have are routine, but if you object to answering any of them at any time, please feel free to say so, and I shall simply make a note of it and move on.” Maggie Walsh informed him without pause, glancing through her notebook absently as she flipped through several pages. Reaching the point in the notebook she had been seeking, she glanced back at Wesley’s face. “I presume that they told you that you were listed as a reference on their behalf?”

“Yes,” Wesley said with a nod.

“How would you describe your relationship to either of them?” The BCIS agent asked as she took out her pen and jotted the date in her notebook along with Wesley’s name and another note.

“Angel and I met last summer when he moved to Sunnydale. I usually see him at least once a week. We had a couple of classes together, and we play on the same club soccer team. Buffy, I met only a few months ago, but I think we have a good rapport.”

“How close would you say your relationship is to Mr. O’Connor?” Dr. Walsh inquired, looking over the rim of her glasses.

“Pretty close, I would say.” Wes reclined back in the chair, casually crossing one leg over the other. He, Doyle, Gunn and Angel had formed an easy friendship based on shared interests, mutual respect, and no small number of beers.

“Does Mr. O’Connor confide things of a personal nature to you?”

“Some things, I would say, yes.” Wesley replied thoughtfully, recalling several conversations he had had with Angel recently, including one about Buffy.

“Tell me how Mr. O’Connor and Ms. Summers met.” Flipping back a few pages in her notebook, Maggie Walsh stopped on the page where she had made a few notes and scanned them. She then flipped back to the page she was currently writing on and returned her gaze to Wesley’s face.

“I believe they met through a mutual friend, Cordelia Chase.” Wes said, rolling down the sleeves of his shirt and buttoning them at the wrists.

“But you’re not sure.” Dr. Walsh asserted, watching Wesley’s reaction with a critical eye.

“Other than a passing mention, we never really discussed particular details about how they met, quite frankly.” The young pre-med student affirmed with a dismissive shrug.

“Did you attend the wedding?” The BCIS agent asked, glancing at a small post-note on which she had written several questions or comments.

“No.”

“He confides in you, you’re close friends – according to your own words – and yet he didn’t invite you to his wedding?” Dr. Walsh’s tone was obviously skeptical, her slight smile predatory.

“My schedule at the end of the semester was rather intense. I begin my medical residency next year and had a rather large number of things to wrap up in May.” Wes smiled slightly himself, his expression cool. “And, from what I understand, they wanted a simple, intimate wedding. Angel is rather protective of his bride, you see.”

“Protective? In what sense?” Maggie Walsh questioned with interest. She straightened her spine, hoping she might have just stumbled onto something useful for her case.

Wesley’s lips quirked into a smile, “I think Angel is a little obsessed with his wife and doesn’t exactly want to share her right now with anyone, much less other men. You might call it jealousy; though I don’t think Angel’s even aware he’s doing it.”

“I see.” Maggie Walsh replied with a small measure of disbelief and considerable annoyance that ‘protective’ didn’t seem like it was going to evolve into something more helpful to her case.  “When did Mr. O’Connor tell you about his wedding?”

“Sometime in May, I believe.” Wes said thoughtfully, as if trying to recall the date. “I’m sorry, I can’t remember exactly when. Like I said, that was a very busy time for me.” It was true enough, he didn’t remember the exact date but he did remember the exact conversation in the kitchen, only a short while after Dr. Maggie Walsh had disappeared down the stairs.

“Was it before or after the wedding?” The BCIS agent asked, her brow furrowed in a frown.

“Hm. Good question. I’m going to say I think it was before,” Wesley answered, watching Dr. Walsh speculatively. He knew why the BCIS was investigating Angel’s marriage to Buffy; but he was also loyal to his friends. He saw no harm in a few white lies to help them out, particularly since Dr. Walsh seemed so intent on proving that their marriage was a scam. He might have felt differently if he hadn’t been so convinced that Buffy and Angel were in love with each other. It wasn’t anything that either of them said directly to him, but rather a conclusion he had come too after talking to them both separately over the past weeks.

“Did you know that Mr. O’Connor was having problems with his visa paperwork?” Dr. Walsh questioned, tapping her pen absently on her paper.

“Yes, though not the specific details,” Wes said calmly, glancing briefly at this watch.

“And yet, you said he confides in you regarding personal matters?” Maggie Walsh inquired archly, making it clear by both her tone and expression that she questioned Wes’ earlier assertion that he and Angel were close friends.

“He confides in me on some matters, Dr. Walsh, as I do him. I don’t pry into others,” Wes stated calmly, unaffected by Dr. Walsh’s implication. “And I don’t believe in violating confidences, though I will answer whatever questions you have.”

“Were you surprised that he married?” Dr. Walsh asked, growing increasingly disgruntled that the interview wasn’t going as she had hoped.

“Yes, initially, though after I met Buffy, I revised my opinion,” Wes replied honestly, taking his glasses off to clean them.

“Why is that?” Maggie Walsh asked as she scrutinized Wesley’s every movement.

“Buffy is beautiful, smart, kind…” Wes said with a smile, “honestly, it’s not hard to see why a man would be attracted to her.”

“Those ‘qualities’ that you mention, are hardly unique. Mr. O’Connor’s reputation would have me believe that he has never lacked for female companionship, so I have no doubt that other women in his past have met that same criteria, yet this is the first one that he married.”

“I suppose so, but Buffy is… she’s unique. I’ve never seen Angel have the same level of interest or concern for any other woman. I’d have to say all of the signs point to the fact that he’s in love with her and that’s why he got married.”

Maggie Walsh pressed her lips together in displeasure. “In love or simply happy to be staying in the United States?”

“If you’re implying that they married purely for Angel’s green card, I think you’ll find that you are mistaken.” Wes replied coolly, his defense of his friends unconditional. He hadn’t asked Angel directly if that was why he married Buffy, but after seeing them together he found it hard to believe that that would be the only reason.

“A sudden marriage to a woman he’s known only a few weeks, if that, just when problems with his paperwork put him at risk of deportation appear suspect. The timing is coincidental, as are the circumstances of his marriage. I’m sure you understand how this looks to my office.”

“Perhaps, but then, in my experience things aren’t always as they appear.” Wes acknowledged politely as he rose to his feet. “Do you have any other questions? I have to be at the hospital in about an hour.”

Closing her notebook, Maggie Walsh also stood. “I’ll be back if I do have any additional questions. Thank you for your time.”  With a brisk nod, she strode toward the door and let herself out.


Buffy sighed when she saw the group enter the restaurant. She hadn’t seen Parker Abrams and his pals for at least two months, so she’d been hopeful that maybe they weren’t coming back or had lost interest in their game of taunting her. That, she surmised, was wishful thinking. Apparently the fraternity had simply dispersed for the summer. Now that the fall semester planning was going on at UC Sunnydale and classes would be starting in a few weeks, no doubt they would all be returning.

Catching her eye, Parker winked and gave Buffy a lewd gesture. His buddies, watching him, snickered and laughed.

Giving them a cold look, Buffy turned her attention back to her work. At least her section was full now so there was no chance that either Snyder or Anya could seat the six guys in her section.

Twenty minutes later she grimaced and closed her eyes to quell her anger as Snyder led the guys to a table in her section; they had been waiting in the bar until a table opened up.

Stiffening her spine and gritting her teeth, Buffy took a deep breath as she walked toward the table of loud and obnoxious frat boys. She could practically feel Snyder’s eyes boring a hole in her back; the little troll no doubt wanted to see her screw up.  It had been weeks since he had chastised her about anything; he probably felt like he was overdue.

At the first ‘accidental’ grope of her behind, Buffy sighed and looked at her watch. She still had almost three hours left on her shift. It was going to be a long night…


Although Buffy had said that she would show Lindsey around Sunnydale, she called him Sunday morning and backed out, pleading illness. But when he showed up at her door a short while later, a boyish grin on his face, several cans of chicken noodle soup and small bouquet of daisies, she relented.

She left a note for Angel, simply saying that she was showing Lindsey around Sunnydale and would be back later.  She hadn’t seen Angel at all on Friday, having left early and then worked late in addition to stopping off to visit with Willow and Oz for awhile after work. After putting up with Parker and his friends for almost the entire rest of her shift, she had needed to vent some of her frustration, anger and hurt to her friends. On Saturday, he had left early in the morning before she even got up, leaving her note that said he was going with Doyle down to LA for the day and would be back late, which turned out to be long after she had gone to sleep. This morning, she and Angel saw each other only for a few minutes in passing before Angel left to help Gunn move some furniture into Fred’s apartment before going on to the guy’s soccer game. He had seemed a little distant or distracted, and Buffy wondered again if he had changed his mind about the two of them.

Forcing herself to smile, Buffy directed and Lindsey drove around the various Sunnydale locations and over the course of their drive, he cheered her with his sense of humor, distracted her with amusing anecdotes, offered subtle compliments that made her feel appreciated as a woman and, he shared confidences about his life that made her feel valued as a friend.  Given her increasing depression about Angel’s apparent withdrawal from her, she was particularly vulnerable to Lindsey’s captivating charm.

Against her protestations, he bought her dinner – in appreciation for her spending the day with him, he said. Buffy felt a little uncomfortable in the romantic French bistro with Lindsey, but he continued his same cheerful banter as if he didn’t notice. As he talked, she eventually relaxed, reminding herself that Lindsey knew she was married and couldn’t possibly be entertaining thoughts about the two of them despite his choice of venues.

“Buffy, can I ask you a personal question?”  He asked several hours later as they stopped outside the apartment, Lindsey easing the Mercedes expertly into a parking spot along the curb.

“Sure, I guess.” Buffy replied, looking up at the apartment windows. The lights were on and the window was open, which meant that Angel was home.

“Are you happy? In your marriage, I mean.” Lindsey asked, leaning over look at her. His green eyes were darker in the fading evening sunlight as he gazed directly in her eyes.

“Yes. Why do you ask?” She finally answered, her earlier feelings of discomfort returning. What could she say about her relationship?  She didn’t know where things stood right now, though she was hopeful that Angel was still interested in pursuing some sort of relationship with her. And despite spending the day with Lindsey and being taken in by his subtle charm, she didn’t really know him. Not enough to confide in him at any rate.

“You don’t seem like a cherished new bride.” Lindsey declared adamantly. He reached up to brush her hair away from her cheek, but though better of it when she pulled away. He dropped his hand back to the steering wheel. “Let’s just say, if you were my wife and we’d only been married a few months – hell, years even – you’d never be out of my sight – or my bed, much less spending the afternoon with another man.”

Buffy flushed slightly, uncomfortable with the presumptuous statement as well as Lindsey’s interest. She thought they had put that aside and could be just friends. Obviously, she had been wrong. Reaching for the door knob, she snapped angrily, “Lindsey, look, just because I showed you around today doesn’t mean that there’s a problem with my marriage, nor does it mean that I’m interested in a relationship with you outside of friendship. If you believe otherwise, then you’re sadly mistaken, and I have no interest in even being your friend.”

“Buffy, wait, I’m sorry.” Lindsey pleaded apologetically as Buffy opened the car door and began to get out. Grabbing her hand, he stopped her. “I was out of line. Way out of line. I seem to do that a lot with you. Listen, if you ever want to talk, or need a shoulder to lean on… I hope you know that you can call me. As a friend only, I promise.”

Buffy didn’t say anything, only stared back at Lindsey in consideration. After another few seconds, she simply climbed out of the car. She paused briefly before closing the door and quietly said, “Goodbye, Lindsey.”

Lindsey waited until she disappeared up the stairs before he drove away.


When Buffy opened the door, Angel was lounging on the couch reading as he did so often. He was wearing black sweats and a white t-shirt, and looked as if he had showered not all that long ago. She sighed wistfully, stopping to look at him. Just the sight of him strangely seemed to soothe her agitated nerves.

Angel looked up as Buffy closed the door behind her. “Hey.”

“Hi.” Buffy replied softly, dragging her gaze away from her husband. Turning, she hung her purse on one of the hooks near the door.

“Did you have a good time?” Angel asked, rolling to a seated position and setting aside his book.

“Yes, it was fine.” She answered, soothing the green floral material of her sundress.

“Good.” Angel replied, only half hearing her. He was preoccupied with the conversation he had been having in his thoughts for most of the afternoon. He had been working out exactly what he wanted to say to Buffy, but now that she was here, standing in front of him and looking absolutely delectable in the green silky material, he seemed to have completely lost his train of thought. Forcing his eyes back to her face, he asked, “Do you have a minute?”

“Sure.” Buffy sat down on the couch opposite of Angel. Her stomach fluttered nervously.

“Buffy… about the other night…” Angel began earnestly, sitting forward.

“Yes?” Turning slightly sideways, she crossed her feet at the ankles.

“I don’t want you to think that just because we are married and just because… well, because I said I was interested in seeing where things between us go that you have to… that you have to have sex with me.”

Buffy gaze held his for a moment before she answered, “I don’t.”

“Good.” Angel felt the tension in his body ease slightly, and he let out the breath he had been holding.

“Good?” Her brow furrowed in confusion. He didn’t want to sleep with her? Did that mean he had changed his mind about them?

“Good that you think that,” Angel said, his gaze roving along the slim line of Buffy’s calf to her dainty feet, encased in a pair of beige sandals with thin crisscrossing straps. Her toenails were painted a shiny pale-pink which seemed brighter against her tan skin, and Angel felt a strong urge to drop to his knees and kiss her feet.

“Oh.” Buffy’s face fell in disappointment.

Angel returned his gaze to Buffy’s face upon hearing the small sound and knew immediately that she hadn’t understood his answer the way he had meant it.  He smiled ruefully, “I always seem to fuck this up, don’t I?”

“I don’t know. What are you trying to say?” Shrugging slightly, she waited for him to speak. She didn’t want to guess and be wrong, and she was tired of playing games after spending the day with Lindsey and worrying about her intentions being misconstrued. Mentally, she braced herself for his clarification.

“I said I wanted to see where things went with us, but I didn’t want to rush you or push you, and the first thing I did was just that.” He said apologetically.

“You didn’t. I mean, I didn’t think you did.” She looked down at her hands, toying absently with the ring on her finger.

“You didn’t?”

After a few seconds, Buffy returned her gaze to his face. “No. I thought maybe I was the one who… did.  You know, I thought you thought I was too… pushy or something. You said you wanted to take things slow, and then well, I sort of just…” She paused, blushing lightly, “Well, you know what happened. I thought maybe you changed your mind after that and were avoiding me.”

“No, Buffy, no.” Angel objected firmly as he moved to sit next to her on the couch. He took one of her hands in his. With the other he lightly traced her jaw, tilting her head to look up at him. Unhurriedly, he studied her features. “I haven’t changed my mind at all.”

“You haven’t?” Hugely relieved, she fought to hide her feelings by schooling her features into a passive smile. Still, her happiness was clearly evident by the sparkle in her eyes. She could feel his thigh pressing against hers, and she fought the desire to press closer.

“No, I haven’t.” His voice was low, husky as he answered. Resisting the urge to kiss her, he sat back slightly and dropped his hand from her face. “I haven’t been avoiding you, but I didn’t want you to think I was the one being pushy.”

“Oh.” Buffy breathed, her eyes searching his face. Instinctively, she leaned closer.

“Now, I have something for you.” Releasing her hand, Angel stood and crossed the room. He had to put some distance between them, or he’d give lie to his words about being pushy. He returned carrying a shopping bag that she hadn’t even noticed that had been sitting on the table.

“What is this?” Buffy asked with a smile as Angel set it in her lap. He sat next to her again, careful to leave some room between them this time.

“A few things I picked up for you in Ireland. I haven’t had a chance to give them to you.” He smiled as Buffy drew the Aran-knit sweater out of the bag.

“Oh, Angel. It’s beautiful.” She held it to her chest, looking down at the ivory cable knit pattern.

Angel nodded in agreement, though he was thinking more of his wife than of the object in her hands. “There’s more.” He urged after a minute, when she seemed content to examine the texture of the sweater.

Still smiling, Buffy laid the sweater carefully on the edge of the couch then reached in the bag and pulled out the vase wrapped in layers of tissue.  “Oh.” She gasped as she stripped away the paper before holding the crystal up carefully to examine the simple yet elegant design. She rolled it gently in her hands, looking at every edge and facet.

“That pattern is supposed to be one of the better ones. It’s called Lismore, I think.” Angel said, trying to remember what the woman in the shop had told him about the vase.

“It’s really beautiful. And you shouldn’t have.” Buffy admonished, carefully setting the footed vase on the table in front of her.

“I can buy gifts for my wife if I want,” Angel replied with a smile. “And there are a couple of other things in the bag.”

She felt a sudden rush of warmth at his words and returned his smile. “Nothing too expensive I hope.” Buffy peeked into the bag, letting out a little squeak when she found the two remaining packages. Tearing the gold paper from the larger package, she exclaimed happily, “Ooh, chocolates! Yum!”

She opened the box and examined them carefully before choosing one to pop into her mouth.  Closing her eyes, Buffy practically purred, savoring the rich treat.

Angel simply watched her, his dark eyes heated and covetous. He swore that the temperature in the room rose by at least five degrees in those few seconds, just watching her beautiful face as she enjoyed the decadent chocolate.

Buffy opened her eyes and gave him a sheepish smile, holding out the box to offer him one of the chocolates. “Sorry. Would you like one? They’re very good.”

Angel shook his head to decline, and Buffy put the lid on the box and set them next to the vase on the coffee table.

She picked up the last item, a small bag obviously from a jewelry store. “Now, I know you shouldn’t have done this.”

“You haven’t even opened it yet. How do you know that it’s not just a box?” Angel teased, unaware that he had shifted closer to her on the sofa. Buffy was turned toward him, her knee nudging his thigh. His arm was draped over the back of the couch almost around her. “Or maybe a hideous leprechaun charm.”

Quirking an eyebrow at him, Buffy slowly withdrew the velvet box from the bag. She opened it to reveal a simple but elegant and beautiful silver cross. “Thank you. It’s beautiful. But you really shouldn’t have gotten me all of these things. One was more than enough, but all four is… much too much.”

“Not at all. I just hope you like them.” Angel replied softly. Buffy’s hair brushed the bare skin on his arm as she moved it aside to put the cross necklace on and he felt as if every last ounce of his awareness was focused on her.

“I love it. All of it. Thank you.”  Buffy looked up at him and smiled. Spontaneously, she leaned forward and gave him a kiss on the lips.

Angel sat perfectly still when her lips touched his, almost afraid to move. Buffy’s hand settled on his nape as her lips moved against his for several long moments. Pulling back slowly, she shivered. Clearing her throat slightly, she eased back further and looked away from him. Without even trying, he captured her so easily, so completely. It was no wonder that she seemed to lose her senses when he was around. No one else had ever affected her so strongly.

“Can I take you to dinner?” Angel murmured softly, toying with a strand of her hair. “You said yes before I left for Ireland.”

“Yes. I’d like that. Dinner that is.” Buffy replied, clasping her hands together in her lap before giving in and burying her fingers in his hair. She amended, “Oh. I’m not off this week until Saturday, but then we have that party thing. You know our first big appearance as a couple.”

“Damn.” Angel forgot that they had already agreed to go. He’d also suppressed the fact that Cordelia was stopping by because she had insisted that she wanted to talk to him. He had only agreed to see her because he had to keep on good terms with her for the BCIS. It was highly likely that Maggie Walsh would be talking to her since her name was on their marriage license, so he didn’t want to risk her blurting out the truth in a fit of temper.

“Sorry. I’m off Monday though.” Buffy ventured softly, her eyes meeting his once again.

“Don’t be. Saturday we’ll go out and have fun with our friends, and Monday it’ll be dinner, just the two of us.”

They talked for a few more minutes to firm up their plans and then spent the next two hours catching up on the events of the last few days as well as talking about dozens of other topics of interest.  It was almost 11:00 when Buffy excused herself to take a shower and go to bed.

That night, they both wished for the weekend to come swiftly.


“You can ride with Xander.” Cordelia tossed out rudely as she pushed Buffy aside and slid into the black Plymouth GTX next to Angel. “I need to talk with Angel privately.”

“Fine.” Buffy murmured under her breath as she watched them pull away from the curb after what appeared to be a few minutes of avid discussion. Still, she fought an urge to hurl a rock after them.

A hand touched her elbow and she looked up into the smirking brown eyes of the man next to her.

“Ready?” He pointed to the black corvette parked haphazardly along the curb.

Instantly, Buffy didn’t trust him. He reminded her of Parker, leering and arrogant. Reluctantly she nodded and followed him to the car.

“Do you know many people at this party?” She asked as they sped through the streets of Sunnydale. When she and Angel had talked about attending this party earlier, it seemed like a good idea, in theory. Harmony’s Labor Day party was known as one of the biggest bashes of the summer; a final blowout before everyone shifted into fall and prepared to go back to school. They’d appear together as a couple in front of their friends, many of who had yet to be interviewed by Dr. Walsh, and show everyone that they were a real couple. At the moment, however, with the man next to her practically drooling on her shoulder and Angel somewhere on the road ahead of them with Cordelia, none of it seemed like a very good idea.

“Pretty much all of them.” Xander replied with a sidelong glance that made Buffy increasingly uncomfortable.

They traveled for almost thirty minutes before they finally reached the gated entrance of the Kendall’s mansion.

Angel’s GTX was parked in the center of the driveway, the valet standing near the open door.

Angel himself stood near the front door of the mansion, his expression shuttered. He eyed Xander suspiciously as the young man slipped past them with a smirk and into marble foyer.

“Everything okay?” Buffy asked, noting Angel’s dark expression. He had warned her that Cordelia had demanded to speak to him, so the brunette’s appearance hadn’t come as a surprise.

“Yes.” Angel answered with a nod.  Placing his hand at the small of her back, he escorted Buffy into the house. They parted ways at the back patio, each heading to the respective areas of the pool house to change into their swimsuits.

Buffy stopped just at the edge of the elaborate marble terrace and nervously surveyed the crowd around the pool. Dangling her feet in the water, Cordelia sat on the edge of the pool. She was wearing a red bikini that was stunning on her. Harmony and Xander sat next to her, the three of them talking to two guys who were standing in the waist deep water. Angel stood on the opposite side of the pool, looking absolutely scrumptious in a pair of black board shorts and no shirt. He still looked moody, though his eyes were hidden behind the silver rimmed sunglasses he often wore.

She wondered again what he and Cordelia had talked about in the car on the way over. Maybe he would tell her later.

Angel stared with narrowed eyes in Cordelia’s direction, hearing her laughter ring out. He was annoyed by what she had said in the car on the way over and was trying to decide how much credibility to give to her statements.

As Buffy slowly made her way across the marble terrace, first one pair of male eyes then another followed her. Her black halter-style bikini was modest compared to many of the others, as was the black sheer pareau wrapped around her hips, but the style and color enhanced her natural beauty.

“If you keep staring at Cordelia like that, everyone is going to pity me for my husband with the wandering eye.” Buffy hissed up at him, not understanding Angel’s expression but growing irritated by the fact that he hadn’t even noticed she was standing next to him. “Hardly the impression I think you want to give your friends.”  Admittedly, she was a little short-tempered after the drive over.

Angel looked down at her, one eyebrow lifting as he took in the décolletage visible by her low-cut top. “And what impression are you hoping to give them?” His aggravation at Cordelia colored his tone, making his words come out snappish.

Buffy willed herself not to blush. “There are smaller suits than this here. Cordelia’s for one.” She glanced down at the low halter-top, adjusting it just slightly. She was supremely conscious that his eyes followed her every move. “Besides, I like the style.”

“And every guy here likes it as well. A little too much.” He growled at her, unreasonably uncomfortable. “Didn’t you have something bigger?”

Her eyes narrowed at him. “Are you suggesting that my suit too small?  Or that I should have worn something else?”

He stared down the guy currently eyeing her before he returned his eyes to her face and answered. “Both. It might have been a good idea to wear something less revealing. You don’t need to…” his gaze drifted down again, taking in the curve of her breasts, the tanned and firm flesh of her stomach above the black pareau and her hip teasingly revealed by the open side below the short skirt tie, “to try to attract additional attention.”

“Oh.” There was nothing in her tone to suggest that she was upset or offended, rather it was the flash of anger in her eye and the slight lift of her chin.

“I didn’t mean…”

“No, it’s fine.” Buffy interrupted, taking her sunglasses off her head and slipping them on, effectively hiding her eyes. “I understand what you’re saying. You think I wore this because I wanted to attract attention.” She smiled, but it didn’t match the tone of her voice. “Unlike Cordelia in the bright red, thong back bikini, who, no doubt, wore hers for style and comfort.”

“Buffy.” Angel reached for her hand, but she swung out of reach and walked away.

“I need to circulate if I’m going to attract any attention.”

He caught up with her in two strides. “Buffy – I didn’t mean it the way it sounded.”

They had reached the edge of the marble terrace; she stopped and scanned the crowd. She glanced up at him dismissively. “I think I’ll go over there with Wes and Gunn. At least find someone to talk to who won’t just criticize what I’m wearing.”

The words reached him too late and Buffy had already moved off into the crowd. By the time that he reached her, she was chatting with Wes, Gunn and Fred animatedly and effectively ignoring him. Jaw clenched, arms folded over his chest, he leaned against the wall next to them and half listened to the conversation. He warned off one man with his eyes. The emotions gripping him were unfamiliar – desire he recognized, but the other… he felt over reactive, his temper on edge.

Buffy knew that Angel was watching her though she avoided looking in his direction.  Instead, she talked to several other people who joined the group, everyone laughing and having a good time.

“Buffy? Buffy! It is you.” The voice came from somewhere behind the group as the man pushed his way through the crowd to join them.

“I didn’t think you knew anyone in Sunnydale.” Recognizing Lindsey, Buffy replied. Her tone was almost accusatory as she eyed him warily.

“I’ve met a few people, hoping to get to know a few more.” Pausing, he pointed behind him in the direction of a petite blonde talking to Harmony, “I met Kate on Thursday, and she invited me along, being a friend of Harmony’s.”  Returning his gaze to Buffy he smiled warmly, “It’s nice to see you.” His eyes drifted lower, obviously checking out her figure in the black bikini.

Angel pushed away from the wall, coming to stand almost between Buffy and Lindsey, blocking Buffy slightly from Lindsey’s view. He held out his hand, “Angel O’Connor. Buffy’s husband. And you are?”

“Lindsey. Lindsey McDonald.” Lindsey shook the offered hand. The small group surrounding them grew quiet, glancing from one man to the other at the noticeable tension.

“Lindsey?” Angel looked accusingly at Buffy as his large hand closed over her smaller one tightly, “It’s nice to meet you, Lindsey. Now if you’d excuse me, I’d like to dance with my wife.” Suddenly, all he could think was that he didn’t want Buffy anywhere near the guy who was not even attempting to hide his interest in her. He tugged Buffy along behind him until they reached the covered patio where several other couples were dancing to the smooth R&B beat.

“What was that all about?” Buffy questioned with a touch of anger as Angel pulled her stiff form into his arms.

“That was Lindsey?” Angel returned in a barely suppressed growl.

“Yes.” The word was clipped, her eyes blazing.

“The Lindsey you went out with the other day?”

“Yes.” Buffy answered, unrepentantly. She had done nothing wrong and refused to be intimidated by Angel’s obvious anger.

“Why didn’t you tell me Lindsey was a he?” Angel snapped in a hushed whisper. Noticing the couple dancing near them looking over curiously, he guiding Buffy to the back corner of the patio where it was less crowded.

“You didn’t ask and I didn’t think to mention it specifically. Why does it matter?” She retorted heatedly. Her heart was thudding in her chest, and she was unsure whether it was from anger or from the close proximity to her husband.

“I thought you were out with another woman. Lindsey sounds like a girl’s name.” He gazed down at her with cool regard.

She arched an eyebrow at him, “So says a man who goes by the name of Angel.”

“Touché. But it still doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me.” Angel muttered peevishly, his hand slipping from her waist to splay across the bare skin of her lower back.

“You need to approve my friends?” Buffy questioned archly, refusing to explain that they hadn’t seen each other much the weekend that it happened and that she had simply forgotten about it in the days that had passed since.

“No. I just… I should know when you’re going out with other guys.” Angel replied. His eyes narrowed and he looked down at her accusingly, “Unless you’re hiding something.”

“I can have guy friends, you know, and be just friends with them.” Buffy snapped hotly. “Maybe that’s news to you. Maybe you don’t have any women friends that you’re just friends with.”

“I know, I know. You’re right.” Angel admitted grudgingly. He knew she was right, he just didn’t like it. “I just…”

“I’m right?  You don’t have any women that you’re just friends with?” Buffy inquired coldly, her eyebrows lifting. “And before you use the excuse of what the woman from the BCIS would say, think about your little adventure in Ireland with Cordelia or even your drive over here with her.” She continued angrily, trying unsuccessfully to jerk her hand out of his grasp. “Besides, it’s not like Lindsey and I are, or were, ever involved. The only guy I’m involved with right now is you.”

Her words soothed his temper almost instantly, taking the steam right out of his argument. His thighs brushed hers as he shifted her closer. “No, that’s not what I meant and you know it.”  He murmured on a deep exhalation of air. He added grudgingly, “I don’t have to like it though, do it?”

“You confuse me.” She answered honestly, her own anger dissipating. Instead she felt a provocative warmth deep in the pit of her stomach.

“Good. Then for once I’m not alone.” Angel said, leaning back slightly to look down at her. Other couples danced by them, but they paid them no mind solely focused on each other.

Buffy studied his face.

“Look, I’m sorry for my behavior, and I’m sorry for what I said earlier.”  He said softly, his gaze drifting over her, drinking her in. “You look beautiful.”

“Really? Beautiful?” She wasn’t sure whether to stay mad at him or not. His words of apology had gone a long way to assuaging her own hurt and anger.

“Beautiful.” Angel tugged her closer, leaning down to nuzzle her neck. Holding a scantily clad Buffy in his arms was doing dangerous things to his libido. He was only a scant thought away from finding them a private room and giving in to his repressed desires. “And I don’t want to fight with you.”

Buffy felt his warm breath on her ear. Still, she held her body stiffly, feeling every inch of his hard thighs against her legs, the chiseled expanse of his chest against her breasts. The memory of his lips against the hard peak of her nipple drifted through her mind and against her will, she felt the tips swelling, hardening.

“Me either.”  She breathed softly, relaxing into him and letting him guide her against him to the seductive beat of the music. Their bare skin touching made her wish they were alone. She slid her hands along his back, encircling his waist as she laid her cheek against his chest. She had the urge to let her hands wander over his body. And, she thought wickedly, she wanted his to do the same.

Instead, she contented herself by being held in his arms, surrounded by his scent and warmth. She closed her eyes, letting him guide her to the slow tempo of the music. Much too soon, the music stopped.  As the dance floor slowly emptied, the band choosing that moment to take a break, Buffy and Angel broke apart. The tension between them was palpable.

Buffy dabbed cool water on her face. Just dancing with Angel, feeling his body against hers was enough to raise her temperature and make her forget her resolve to take things slowly. She’d never had to worry about her own urges before, but lately she was beginning to feel as if they were becoming uncontrollable.

Her cheeks were flushed becomingly so she skipped any addition makeup, choosing to simply brush a shiny pink gloss across her lips. It was then that she noticed Cordelia standing behind her.

“Buffy.”

“Cordelia.” Buffy replied as she met the brunette’s eyes in the mirror. She moved aside as Cordelia sidled up next to her and leaned toward the mirror to check her makeup.

Buffy had just started to leave when Cordelia spoke again. “I’ve been meaning to tell you how grateful Angel and I are that you did this little favor for us. We were just talking about what a sweet girl you are in the car on the way over here.”

“Oh?” Almost against her will, Buffy stopped to listen. She didn’t like or trust Cordelia, but for reasons she didn’t understand, she had to hear what the brunette had to say.

“It’s true. I don’t know how many people would be as giving as you are, you know, doing so much for a woman you barely know and her boyfriend. It’s just so sweet.” The wealthy brunette continued in a sugary patronizing tone.

“That’s me… giving.” The petite blonde answered in a stilted voice.

“And I appreciate how understanding you are about giving Angel and me our alone time. It’s so hard now, not being able to be together openly because of the BCIS.” Cordelia’s eyes met Buffy’s in the mirror. “But Angel said he’d work something out with you. You know, for the next few months.”

“I see.” Buffy replied sharply. He wasn’t really planning on seeing Cordelia still, was he? Though, just because they had talked about seeing each other, it wasn’t like they had talked about it being exclusive.

“At least in Ireland we didn’t have to hide.” The brunette continued as she brushed her cheeks with a rose blush, “It was so nice. And his uncle and aunt were so understanding and sweet. I was a little embarrassed about all the noise – you know, you can practically hear through the walls in their quaint little cottage, but they were so great. They just said how young love was so beautiful.”

“Oh really?” Buffy’s tone was skeptical, but the smooth, confident words were a bit unnerving. Crossing her arms across her chest, she waited for Cordelia to continue.

“And it’s such a romantic country. Those cozy Inns… it was almost like a honeymoon.” Cordelia dabbed her lips with a rich red lipstick that seemed to shimmer. Her smile in the mirror was almost malevolent. “You’ll have to go there sometime – you know, when you find someone of your own.”

“Maybe I will.” Buffy replied coolly, moving toward the door intending to leave the room. She didn’t want to hear any more. Stopping at the threshold, she turned back. Wanting to get back at Cordelia, if only a little, she couldn’t resist a small jibe, “Maybe I’ll ask Angel to take me. You know, sometime.”

“Oh, I’m sure he will. Just like he’s done dozens of times before with dozens of other girls.” Cordelia turned from the mirror, wickedness and anger flashing in her eyes for a brief moment, “He always has been a spoiled boy. I don’t think that’s changed.”

“What do you mean?” The petite blonde stood frozen in her spot, the implication disastrous to her peace of mind.

“Really Buffy, do you actually expect Angel to fall in love with you or something? You may be married to him, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be faithful, now or ever. I don’t like it anymore than you do, but that’s the way he is. With Angel, there will always be other women.” The brunette shook her head in feigned commiseration. “I warned you about getting involved with him, knowing that you’ll only get hurt, but I understand how irresistible he is, so I can’t say that I blame you.” Seeing the doubt in Buffy’s eyes, Cordelia mentally smirked. How easy it was to manipulate the naïve little mousey blonde. No doubt she believes in true love and soul mates and all that crap.  “I understood when I got involved with him that there would be other women, so I to try to accept it. To be honest, that’s the main reason why I didn’t marry him myself. He wanted to – to get married that is – but I told him that I could have a lover who was unfaithful, but never a husband.”

“I don’t believe you.” Buffy said after a few long minutes, her voice calm and low.

“Suit yourself. You’ll find out soon enough.” Cordelia replied flippantly. After Buffy disappeared through the curtained doors, the brunette smiled ruthlessly. She had hoped to provoke more of a reaction out of the little blonde, but no matter. Checking her hair and make-up one last time, she contented herself with the fact that she had at least planted some seeds of discord between them. Given time, she could make them grow.

Buffy found a quiet cool spot in the shade and stood still for a few minutes, her eyes closed. She rubbed her temples and attempted to chase away the unwelcome images that Cordelia’s words had sparked in her mind. Her first inherent impulse was to disregard the brunette’s assertions. Angel had said he had sent Cordelia home, that he hadn’t wanted her in Ireland, but the woman herself implied otherwise.  Who was telling the truth?  Buffy wanted to believe Angel, but she was uncertain. she should trust her instincts? Or was she foolishly naïve?  They had talked about past relationships during their workbook question and answer sessions, and while Angel never denied that there had been more than a few women, he claimed that none of them had been anything even bordering on serious.

Could he be faithful?  Had he even considered that as part of the deal with respect to marriage?  With respect to their marriage? While she hadn’t thought about it specifically before today, she had to admit that she expected no less of her husband. Finding out that he was cheating on her would be devastating. It would also be the end of them.

The question now, what was she going to do?

A few minutes later, a decision made, Buffy walked slowly through the crush of people in search of Angel or his friends. After weaving her way along the far side of the pool, she finally spotted Angel’s dark head. As she drew closer, she saw that Cordelia was now standing next to Doyle and talking animatedly. Angel, Wes, Gunn and Fred all stood near by talking amongst themselves.

Angel smiled at her as she walked up, reaching out to take her hand. He tugged her forward to stand next to him, his hand sliding along her arm to slip around her waist. He could sense her change of mood immediately.

“Is everything okay?” He whispered near her ear, his hand gently stroking the bare skin of her back.

Buffy looked up at him, searching his face. What should she say? This wasn’t the time or place to have a serious conversation about real or imagined infidelities.

“Angel.” Cordelia’s voice interrupted before Buffy could collect her thoughts. “I was just telling Doyle about the drive along 101. There’s that beautiful little beach cove. How far is that?”

It was obvious to Buffy that Cordelia was reminding him of some romantic interlude. Didn’t she realize how important it was that their friends be convinced that their wedding was the real deal?  Even if she and Angel were sneaking around, in public Angel was hers and Buffy felt a sudden urge to prove it. And it supported her decision to trust him – at least until he proved otherwise either in word or deed.

Leaning into Angel, Buffy placed her palm on the sculpted muscles of his stomach and looked up at him through the veil of her lashes. “Sounds romantic,” she murmured softly, so that only Angel could hear, “like a nice place for newlyweds.”

Angel forgot Cordelia’s question completely, smiling at his wife and leaning down to whisper in her ear, “I’ll have the car out front in two minutes.”

His warm breath against the sensitive skin of her neck gave her goose bumps and she shivered slightly. Pressing her breasts against his side, she shifted closer. She could feel Cordelia’s eyes burning a hole in her back.

“Go ahead and kiss your wife Angel.” Gunn urged with a laugh, his own arm looped around Fred’s shoulders. They two of them had just moved in together recently, a situation that suited them both. “You look like you’ve been dying too all day. Might as well get it over with. Besides, we all know you’re still in that honeymoon phase.”

Buffy needed no encouragement, particularly with Cordelia watching. Maybe it was childish, but she wanted to prove something to the wealthy brunette. And maybe, she wanted to prove something to herself. As Angel reached for her, Buffy stepped forward and slid her hands up his chest to twine around his neck.

Angel intended a light, controlled kiss, but with Buffy’s half-naked, supple figure stretching up against him, his intentions slipped away. Bending his head, he met her lips with his own. His hands clasped her waist as they melded together. Buffy parted her lips beneath his, and he drew her closer. He moved his hands deliberately over the smooth silk of her skin down to her hips, drawing her softness into his hard frame. The kiss was long, slow, and thorough.

Buffy forgot all about wanting to prove something to Cordelia in the increasingly explicit exchange. Her tongue boldly swept in his mouth to meet his with an eagerness that was neither staged nor restrained.

Somewhere behind them, someone gave a loud wolf whistle. Only Wes and Doyle had seen Cordelia stomp off in a huff.

Buffy heard the sound through the haze of desire, opening her eyes to see Angel watching her with dark, assessing eyes. Slightly breathless, she stared up at him. God, she wanted him. She didn’t care about anyone or anything else. That might not be the best thing for their relationship given the number of uncertainties that existed between them. It certainly wasn’t going to help in maintaining their resolve for ‘slow’.  Suddenly aware of their very public surroundings, she moved away from him. She could also use the distance to collect her thoughts.

Angel however refused to let her stray too far, one strong arm still holding her close. He found himself feeling very possessive about his wife. Buffy was a beautiful and sensual prize and all his. It was no small wonder he felt like gloating.

The rest of the afternoon they mingled with their friends, talking, laughing and having a good time. Angel’s hand often lingered on Buffy’s waist or the small of her back. He would deliberately brush his fingers over the nape of her neck, smiling at the resulting shiver from his wife. The touch of his hand on her bare skin was so intimate somehow that Buffy found herself with goose bumps despite the heat.

Their friends offered toasts to their happiness, which they graciously accepted. They had both long forgotten about the need to put on any show for their friends; it wasn’t necessary.

From his seat along the edge of the pool, Lindsey watched Buffy and Angel speculatively.

It was dark when Angel led Buffy on to the dance floor once again, which was now lit with low lights and tiki torches. Raucous laughter and splashes could be heard from the pool, an aggressive game of volleyball still in progress. Several couples, including Gunn and Fred, had found private, dark corners and were actively engaged in heated embraces. Wes had gone home earlier, having an early day tomorrow at the hospital. Doyle had disappeared somewhere in the house with a tall brunette named Meghan.

“You ready to go home?” Angel asked as they swayed slowly to the music.

“Whenever you are.” Buffy murmured in reply, her eyes closed and her cheek resting against his chest.

“Kiss me.”  He whispered, guiding them toward a dark corner just off the edge of the dance floor. He turned her so that her back was against the wall, his broad shoulders blocking the view of her from any passers-by.

As he leaned toward her, Buffy’s lids lowered, her lips parted and her gaze dropped to his lips. She licked her lips unconsciously just before his mouth covered hers.

Buffy returned his kisses avidly, greedily. She delighted in the feel of his body pressed to hers, and wriggled closer, rubbing her tingling breasts against the hard muscle and warm skin of his chest.

Angel changed the slant of his head, deepening the kiss and plunging his tongue into her mouth. She sucked on it lightly, wanting more. Sinking against him brazenly, she pressed closer still. She could feel the hard length of his erection rigid against her stomach and it sent a spiraling warmth through her body.

She gasped in his mouth as his hands moved up along the bare skin of her waist to the edge of her bikini top. His fingers traced the edge teasingly before he flattened his palms and once more slid his hands back down to her hips.

Buffy mewled softly into his mouth. She wanted him to touch her as he had before – she wanted to feel his lips and hands on the bare skin of her breasts.

Angel kissed her hungrily, ravaging her mouth thoroughly before he eased back and lifted his head. He reminded himself that he had promised to take things slowly with Buffy; she deserved better than an adolescent grope in a dark corner. With his hands on her waist, he set her back away from him. He met her wide-eyed gaze, searching her eyes.

Buffy could barely breathe. Her pulse was racing and her senses were whirling, but she understood why he pulled away. It was enough. For now.

Without a word, he took her hand and led them down to the pool house to collect their things. In another twenty minutes they were on their way home, speeding down the road in the black GTX.

When they arrived back at the apartment, Angel used every ounce of will he possessed to drop only a light brushing kiss against Buffy’s lips as he wished her a good night. Anything more and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to control himself.

It was a long while before either of them slept.