“I still think this is a bad idea.”
Buffy paused, her grip tightening on the stake in her hand. She had been packing her weapons bag just as she had done many times before, only this time she was in a Los Angeles hotel room, and instead of a demon, she was preparing to go hunting for a damaged, rogue Slayer.
Though it had been months since she had last heard it, she knew the low, husky, controlled voice immediately.
She knew the accompanying body as well. Tall, lean, and strong, a Gryphon tattoo on his right shoulder. His hair would still be gelled into the same dark spikes that she longed to sink her fingers into, and he would be dressed in his typical dark fashion.
She knew too that his gaze would be shuttered, revealing nothing of his emotions.
But more than anything else, she knew that he didn’t want her.
He had made that clear months ago, without offering any explanation other than the trite excuse that it was “for the best”. Wanting to avoid that kind of painful rejection again, her only contact with him since had been a few brief words in one short telephone call. All other contact she passed through Giles.
“How did you get in here?” she asked, finally glancing over her shoulder at him. She couldn’t suppress the familiar flutter of her pulse. He never failed to affect her powerfully. And here, leaning against the doorway of her hotel room, she was reminded of the last time she had seen him. It had been at this very same hotel in Los Angeles, in a room that looked just like this one, just a day after Sunnydale had been destroyed and the Hellmouth closed. She was recovering from her injuries and debating options for her future when he had shown up at her door unexpectedly.
Emotions were high after all they had been through in the last weeks and months, and with logic and restraint seemingly on hiatus, they had made love for the first time before they even reached the bed. The rest of the night was passed in a blissful haze as they indulged in sensual pleasures long denied them. Then, near dawn, apologetic and regretful, and without so much as a word of explanation about the apparent lack of risk to his soul, he had walked away.
That had hurt far worse and far longer than any injury she had ever sustained in any battle.
“The front desk gave me a key.”
Buffy frowned. “Don’t tell me. You told them you were from Wolfram & Hart, and they just handed it over.”
“I am paying for the room.”
“I told you I would cover it,” she returned irritably.
“I know, but I don’t mind.” He advanced toward her with the same graceful, panther-like prowl that she remembered, and it sent a shiver down her spine. Her guess about his attire had been correct; he was wearing black slacks that fit his trim hips perfectly, and his trademark long black twill coat. The deep rust colored shirt was an unfamiliar choice, but it complemented his coloring perfectly. A flame of jealousy burst through her as she wondered if there was a woman in his life now, someone with influence over his wardrobe choices. She had heard the name Nina more than once mentioned in context with him; perhaps she was his new love.
“You could’ve knocked,” she snapped, bothered that he still attracted her so easily, that she still cared so much, and that he apparently didn’t.
And miss the opportunity to collect his thoughts for a few minutes after seeing her for the first time in months? Not likely, he thought. He needed those brief seconds to convince himself again that she was better off without him; that after everything she had been through, she didn’t need the constant threat and ambiguity that life at Wolfram & Hart brought. She deserved a chance at a normal life, and she wouldn’t find that in LA with him. Not now. Besides, she had told him herself that she wanted the chance to find herself, to “finish baking”. He didn’t want to pressure her into making a decision she wasn’t ready to make, despite his inability to control himself or his feelings to the contrary.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes,” she returned flatly. “It’s my responsibility to find this girl, but I need your help.”
“I still think it’s a bad idea,” he argued. “We’ll find her for you, then you can take her back. There’s no need for you to go out… with me.”
“Look, Angel, just because you and I… just because we… had a thing once, that doesn’t mean we can’t work together on this. I need to find her, and you know where she might be. It’s silly for us to go separately. The sooner we get this over with, the sooner I’ll be back on a plane and out of your way.”
He stared at her for a long moment. “That’ll be good.”
Hiding her hurt at his words, she turned back around and busied herself with adjusting the contents of her bag. “It’s not like I want to stick around here anyway. Rome is great. Spike tells me that he’s thinking of joining me there in fact,” she said deliberately, hoping that she might inflict a return jab.
Angel grunted. “If you need a pain in the ass, you’re welcome to him.”
Despite her mood, Buffy smiled. It was their very opposite personalities – Angel, the serious brooder, and Spike, the sarcastic, smart-ass – that caused them to grate on each other. No doubt, it was also a factor that had helped cement their friendship over the centuries.
“So when do you want to go?”
He glanced at the clock on the bedside table to check the time. “It’ll be dark in another hour or so, we’ll go then.”
“And until then?”
“Whatever you’d like.” Casually he crossed the room to pick up a bra that she had draped over the chair earlier when she removed her clothes to shower and change after the long flight. It was a provocative vintage style beige demi-cup with black lace trim. She had splurged on the expensive La Perla set after her arrival in Rome, part of her attempt to assuage her heartache with some retail therapy. Quirking a brow at her, he held the material up to his face and brushed it against his cheek slowly, sensually.
Buffy’s breath caught in her throat, and she felt as though the room temperature rose ten degrees. Perhaps this hadn’t been a good idea after all. Maybe she should have let Andrew or Faith or one of the other Slayers handle it as Giles initially suggested.
Somewhat reluctantly he returned the garment to its earlier position on the chair. “You should get something to eat before we go.” He knew her habits; she skipped too many meals in the name of duty.
“I’m not hungry,” she said, suddenly wanting out of the small hotel room and the increasingly intoxicating – and achingly familiar – intimacy of the setting. Whirling around, she started for the door.
“Buffy, wait.” Reaching out, he grasped her wrist and halted her progress.
Closing her eyes, she silently willed him not to comment on the sudden jump in her already racing pulse at his touch. “Let me go.”
I did, years ago and again months ago, and I’ve regretted it every moment since. “We can’t go yet,” he said instead of voicing his thoughts. “Let’s get something straight. We’re playing by my rules here. That’s the way it has to be.”
Her eyes opened as he dropped her wrist, and she turned toward him. She studied him for a long moment, her eyes wide. Strangely his words didn’t anger her as they probably should’ve. Perhaps it was the sound of defeat in his tone, or the fleeting glimpse of pain she had seen in his eyes, but she knew then that things were not going as well at Wolfram & Hart as he wanted her to believe. He was tense and strained and was doing his damnedest to push her away.
She had always known him to be self-sacrificing, driven by his sense of honor and his guilt. Suddenly she wanted to protect him, to defend him, and to lash out at anyone that had ever dared to attempt to hurt him. It was a ridiculous notion. Man and vampire, he was one of the strongest individuals that she had ever known; he was more than capable of taking care of himself. And perhaps more importantly, he’d made it clear to her, several times, that he neither wanted nor needed her help. She doubted that there was anything she could say or do to change his mind about that.
Forcing aside her softening feelings, Buffy said, “Fine, but don’t get in my way.”
Tension was high as they stood facing each other, their postures equally rigid, and their expressions closed. Buffy mentally repeated her resolve to just do her job and get out, as well as reminding herself that Angel wasn’t interested in her any longer. They were through. Done. Finished. And everything else that meant over. She’d worked hard on trying to accept that, and had almost done so… but then she had to see him again, which meant starting the whole ‘accepting it’ process over again.
Angel clenched his jaw, disliking the reprimand. “When have I ever gotten in your way? I already said I would take care of this.”
“And I told you it- she is my responsibility. I don’t need your help. I can handle it.”
“This girl… she’s unstable and dangerous. You’re not going to be able to take her with a stake.”
Buffy planted her hands on her hips and glared at him indignantly. “You don’t get it, do you? This is my job, my responsibility, whether you like it or not. I don’t care if this is your city or whatever you call it now. She’s a Slayer, and she’s out there, and she’s hurting people. I have to stop her. Besides, if she has any idea what you are, you’re in far more danger than I could ever be.”
“I get it,” he snapped, pacing away from her impatiently. She had always been stubborn, particularly when it came to what she thought of as her responsibility. “I’ll be back in an hour, be ready to go.”
The door closed solidly behind him, and Buffy stood in the exact same spot, motionless, staring at the door. Her pulse was racing, and her heart was aching, and all those thoughts about their relationship that she had long tried to deny rushed forward. Don’t let him get to you, she reminded herself. She had a job to do. It would only take a few days – tops – then she’d be back on a plane to Rome, and she could once more work on putting him out of her mind.
Surely she could endure this for a day or two, couldn’t she?
An hour an a half later, ensconced comfortably in a black Mercedes Benz S65 AMG, they made their way south on the 405 along with a seemingly endless stream of LA traffic. Angel cursed the traffic, cursed himself for not simply dealing with this before calling Giles, but more than that he cursed himself for his inability to deal with Buffy objectively. He couldn’t spend any time around her without being reminded of how much he wanted her, how much he missed her, how much he still loved her. He couldn’t look at those big hazel green eyes without seeing them half-closed in passion, or see her petal soft lips without imagining them swollen from his kisses. Even her delicate scent permeated his senses until all he could see and taste and smell was her. And damn! Her physical reactions to him that she tried to hide only fueled the simmering fires; her eager and passionate responses for him had only added to her allure and fed his obsession.
She’d hardly said two words to him since he returned to the hotel to pick her up. It was better this way, he insisted to himself. He couldn’t give in to the desire to take her to bed that had been foremost in his thoughts since the moment he let himself into her hotel room. He’d only hurt her again. Other than the fact that it seemed he could no longer lose his soul, very little had changed; he was still unable to give her everything that she deserved. It was entirely possible that he had even less to offer her now that he had all but sold his soul to Wolfram & Hart. No, he didn’t deserve Buffy, nor could he risk taking her down whatever road to hell he had signed on to.
Buffy stared out the window at the traffic. Would there ever come a day when she could deal with Angel rationally? When they didn’t hurt each other with harsh words? Or was this what their relationship was destined to be? But wouldn’t it be grand, a little voice suggested, if they could have the companionship they once shared along with all that delicious, glorious passion that she knew him capable of? Why couldn’t they have that instead?
Angel eased the through traffic until he finally took the exit that would take them toward Long Beach. They sped quietly along the surface streets, Angel looking for the former distillery where they suspected Dana to be hiding. After going almost two miles, he eased the car over to the curb and turned off the engine.
She didn’t look at him. She didn’t even answer him. She simply stared at the building ahead of them.
“Are you pouting?”
“No, I’m thinking. And studying the building,” she answered after a moment. “Just pretend that I’m not here.”
Angel laughed softly. “I can’t exactly do that when you smell good enough to eat.”
Her stomach fluttered with feelings of desire that were entirely unsuitable for the time and place; it annoyed her that he could affect her so powerfully, and so easily. No one else ever had that ability; not Pike, not Riley, certainly not Spike. He probably just did it to keep her off balance, as he could no doubt sense her uncontrollable physical reactions to him. Without looking at him, she replied blandly, “I suppose that’s a compliment coming from a vampire.”
“Oh, man or vampire, it’s a compliment.”
“Someone’s been practicing their flirting skills,” she snapped jealously, wondering again if there was now a woman in his life, someone he took out on dates in this very same decadently posh car and murmured sweet things that caused that unknown woman’s pulse to race and her body to turn liquid.
“No, just being honest.”
Her only response was a small snort of disbelief.
“Come on, let’s go.” Sighing, he opened the door and got out.
Buffy opened her own door and followed him. Reaching in her pocket, she retrieved her cell phone and pressed a few buttons to dial. When the person on the other end answered, she murmured a few brief words into the phone then snapped it shut. Her own team would be ready to pick up Dana once she gave the signal.
Behind her, Angel was retrieving something from the trunk of the car.
“Take this,” he said, pressing the rifle in her hands. “It’s loaded with enough xylazine to take down a rhinoceros.”
“Or a Slayer,” Buffy commented wryly as she examined the .50 caliber weapon. She tested the weight of it in her hands then aimed it in the distance and looked through the site. It wasn’t unlike the weapon they had kept in the library all those years ago for Oz. And, she had to admit, tranquilizing Dana in order to capture her without her harming herself or anyone else was probably a good idea.
Without another word, they started toward the building.
The old distillery was still and quiet when they entered. But Angel knew that someone was here; he could hear the rapid pounding of another heartbeat besides Buffy’s. He could also sense the presence of another vampire. Spike.
“Over there,” he whispered, his hand touching the small of her back as he indicated the corner stairs down to the basement. He could feel the heat of her body through the soft corduroy jacket and cotton top she wore, and he was amazed that he noticed such a thing at a time like this. It shouldn’t have surprised him; he was always hyper aware of everything where Buffy was concerned. He dropped his hand. They didn’t need any additional distractions.
They crept silently down the stairs.
Buffy saw Spike almost before she saw Dana. She suppressed a horrified gasp at seeing the vampire with his hands severed at his forearms, the Slayer leaning over him with an angry-looking bone saw. Almost before she could take another step Angel lunged past her with preternatural speed, grabbing Dana and tossing her aside. The saw clattered to the ground as Dana tumbled and rolled.
As Angel talked to the deranged Slayer, keeping her distracted, Buffy moved into position behind her and took aim. Just as Buffy was about to fire, Dana darted forward to attack. Buffy cursed softly, waiting to line up her next clear shot.
Dana whirled and kicked, and Angel retaliated skillfully until she managed to catch him in the center of the chest with a roundhouse kick, knocking him aside. Still, he leapt to his feet and blocked her next blow as she advanced on him yet again.
Finally able to get a shot off that wasn’t likely to hit Angel, Buffy fired the gun, shooting Dana squarely in the back. The dark haired Slayer whirled around to face her new attacker giving Angel the opportunity to grab her shoulders from behind. Buffy fired again, this time catching Dana square in the chest.
“Dana… it’s going to be all right. We’re going to help you,” Buffy said soothingly. Just in case, she cocked the weapon again preparing to fire. The younger Slayer struggled violently, yanking out of Angel’s grasp and plunging toward Buffy. Before she could take more than three steps however, she slipped to the floor unconscious.
Almost immediately, Wesley, followed by a small security team, swept down the stairs behind them.
“Friends of yours?” Buffy asked dryly as the group efficiently began to gather any evidence of the night’s events.
“Yeah,” Angel replied absently, his gaze moving from Dana to Spike, who was slumped over on the floor. He turned to Wes, “The medical team-?”
“Is on their way,” the former Watcher finished.
“Good.” Angel said quietly, watching as Buffy knelt by Spike. She was crooning to him softly as she ran her fingers gently over his face.
“I can’t believe they were able to reattach his hands, and that they’ll actually work normally again,” Buffy said as she pushed away from the wall in the hospital corridor where she had been waiting as Angel exited Spike’s room.
After he came out of surgery and as soon as he had been allowed visitors, Buffy had been in to see the blonde vampire. She stayed until Angel arrived, then excused herself to leave them to talk privately. She didn’t know that Angel had stood outside and listened to the last of her conversation with Spike, or that in some part of his soul, he wanted a return of the same easy companionship and laughter that they once shared; that she and Spike still seemed to share.
He missed her in a thousand different ways, though he tried to convince himself that he didn’t, that he was simply lonely and empty, and it was too easy to remember how good things had been for that all too brief of a time that they were together in Sunnydale. How easy things had been then, how simple. And how sweet she tasted, how eagerly she greeted him, and how ardently she clung to him during their many heated nights of sensual exploration before the fateful night of her birthday when he lost his soul. Those nights were burned vividly into his memory; no matter how long he lived, he would never forget even a single moment.
“Angel?” she questioned, breaking his train of thought.
“We have good doctors,” he answered with a shrug, forcing his attention back to her comment.
“Thank you, for your help, and for helping Spike.”
Angel didn’t respond. He didn’t want her gratitude, not for Spike.
After a long moment, she said, “Andrew, Giles and a couple of dozen Slayers have already left to take Dana to London. Giles knows a place… he’s going to try to help her.”
Dropping her gaze, she looked away. “I should go. I mean, now that we have Dana, and now that I know he’s going to be all right.”
“I’ll drive you back to the hotel,” he offered, not wanting to part from her just yet. She’d be back on a plane to Rome soon and out of his life. She was happy there, or so she said. It was what he wanted for her.
“It’s okay. I mean, you don’t have to.”
“I don’t mind.”
Buffy took a deep breath. Having him drive her back to the hotel in the dark wee hours of the morning, just the two of them alone in the dark car probably wasn’t a good idea. It seemed, somehow, too… intimate. They should part company now, in the relative safety of this hallway where they could both behave rationally and politely. Perhaps this time, they could both even say the words they had both long avoided: good bye.
Instead, she heard herself say, “Um, okay. If you really don’t mind.”
Buffy stretched and settled comfortably on the soft leather seats. The car was more luxurious than any she had ever been in her life, and yet Angel seemed not to notice. He probably had a dozen more just like it, along with the designer clothes, and elegant penthouse suite, all courtesy of his position as head of Wolfram & Hart. It suited him, the position of power and all that came with it. She snuck a peek at him out of the corner of her eye. And damn, if it didn’t just add to his appeal…
Maybe there was something wrong with her in that Angel could so easily evoke such a primal response from her, while other men left her feeling as though something was missing. It wasn’t as though she hadn’t felt something for the other men she had dated, but it was always a safe, comfortable attraction. Stable. Normal. Uncomplicated. And wasn’t that the foundation of a good relationship? Weren’t those things the things that held people together after the initial flare of passion subsided, as everyone declared that it must? The everyday reality of love was much less than the fantasy, right?
The answer should be a resounding yes, and yet…
It all came back to Angel for her. He was the man she would never forget. He was the man she loved more than anything, and he was the man she wanted desperately to love her in return. Her passion for him hadn’t waned one bit despite the years or the distance between them; if anything, it had grown stronger. She was a long way from the innocent girl she had been when they were together, and she knew more about desire and infatuation and sex than she did then. It wasn’t the fact that their relationship had been new or that they had so few opportunities to indulge her passions that kept them simmering; it just was, and it would always be that way, regardless of how he felt about her. It was, for her, quite simply, Angel himself.
It was clear after their last in-person meeting that they could have sex without risk to his soul. Maybe if she suggested that they have one last romp… But no, if they made love, it would be empty and unfulfilling because sex was all it would be to him. There was also the possibility that he would say no, and she wasn’t sure she could handle the humiliation that such a rejection would bring.
She stared out the window, watching the buildings and lights pass by. Her lips compressed in a sad smile, she thought this moment was analogous with much of her life: she had sat back too often and watched it pass by. Maybe she had hoped that Angel would change his mind, that he would come after her and tell her that he loved her and missed her and didn’t want to live another day without her in his life. But, to her regret, she had set her expectations too high. He seemed as determined as ever to keep her out of his life.
Twice he had hurt her more than she had thought humanly possible, and she had vowed never to allow that to happen again. Yet here she sat like some lovesick teenager, pining away for the man that sat a scant few feet away. It was stupid and emotionally disastrous, she chided herself exasperatedly. Maybe she simply needed some sort of closure. Maybe if she just understood why, she could let go and move on, as Angel had apparently done with ease.
She turned toward him and studied his profile.
“What happened, you know, with us?”
The question startled him, and he visibly stiffened. He glanced over at her warily. “What?”
“I just wanted to know what you thought about us. I mean, it’s not like we really ever talked about us… or what happened last time… or about your soul. And how you didn’t… you know… lose it.”
“We’ve been through this before, Buffy.”
“I know. You said you didn’t want to spend you life with me, that us being together is unfair to me, but you presented it as a fact. Decision made. Done deal. Fat accomplice.”
Despite his feelings of alarm on the conversation topic, his lips quirked into a smile. “Fait accompli.”
“Whatever. The way I see it, you think that you’re protecting me from… I don’t know, something. Certainly not heartbreak, since I’ve seen that in Technicolor with surround sound. It can’t be demons, because well, that doesn’t make any kind of sense. For awhile I thought that maybe it was sex. Not that you were protecting me from sex, but more that you were thinking that I wanted it and that you were keeping me from it. Which, I did, want it that is. But only with you, and not in a sex-crazed way or anything. If we couldn’t, I was okay with that. I just wanted to be with you, but I thought that maybe you didn’t like being around me because we couldn’t, or that maybe you wanted to, but not with me. Maybe you could with someone else… Don’t get me wrong, it was easier in a way, not having the temptation there every night looking all hot and incredibly smoochable… But I still missed you.”
“Then after Sunnydale exploded, and we did… um… you know, make love… but then you left saying only that you were sorry and that we shouldn’t have… I don’t know, maybe it didn’t mean as much to you as it did to me. Or maybe I was thinking it was more than just sex because it was us, and while other people just do the casual sex thing we didn’t… Though I guess maybe some exes do, but I wasn’t thinking it was just that… you know, ex sex,” she trailed off, wondering if she had just revealed how completely unsophisticated she was about casual relationships and sex, and if he was going to think of her as a swoony little schoolgirl again. But she’d come this far, she might as well get it all out – even though she might possibly be making one of the biggest mistakes of her life. Before he could speak, she took a deep breath and continued, “So I guess, now I think that everything that you had said to me about ‘always’ and ‘forever’ was a lie. You told me that we’d make it work; then you left me a few weeks later, so that was also a lie…”
“I didn’t lie to you,” he countered adamantly, changing lanes to pass one of the few cars on the road in front of them. “And us, being apart, it is for the best.”
“Who’s best? Yours? Certainly not mine.”
He didn’t look at her, and in the dark car she couldn’t quite read his expression. “Angel, please just talk to me. Tell me why. I need to understand, so I can put all this behind me. Otherwise, it just hurts too much…”
He was silent for a long moment, struggling to organize his thoughts. Seeming to reach some sort of decision, he turned right on the next street and eased the car over to the curb. He put it in park and cut the ignition. He stared out the window for a long moment then turned toward her.
She looked up at him expectantly, waiting for him to speak.
Years ago he had concluded that she deserved far better than he could ever offer her. And now, getting lost again in her hazel green eyes, he knew it still. But he also knew that he needed her in a way that he had never needed anyone else in his life. Something fierce and powerful and tender stirred in his chest, and he just knew. He couldn’t pretend any longer that he didn’t want his life to be with completely and intimately intertwined with hers.
Instead of answering her question, he reached out and pulled her into his arms. He buried one hand in her hair, tilting her head up as he lowered his and kissed her. Buffy basked in the possessiveness and hunger she could taste in his kiss. He wasn’t gentle or even the slightest bit tentative. It was as if there were no regrets, no uncertainty and no anger between them; there was only desperate need and deep, abiding, heartfelt emotion.
She slid her arms over his shoulders to twine around his neck. Her mouth opened wider as his tongue plunged deeper, his hand cupping the back of her head to hold her still for his possession.
“You didn’t answer my question,” she murmured when he finally lifted his mouth away to nuzzle her jaw, and kiss the scar on her neck beneath her collar.
“I know.” Releasing her, he eased back into his own seat. Their gazes caught and held.
Buffy sat still for a moment, her pulse racing and her heart thumping. Dare she hope that he wasn’t as unfeeling as he wanted her to believe? Was there a chance for them? Could she find some tiny part of him that she hoped still cared and convince him to finally give them a chance? Or was she about to set herself up for the mother of all heartbreaks?
She ran her tongue over her lips. She could still taste his kiss. “Well?”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Buffy.”
She cleared her throat. “How about the truth?” she asked, a vulnerable catch in her voice.
Reaching for her hand, he held it in his own, much larger one. He stroked his thumb back and forth over her knuckles, looking absently at her rings. “I’ve never stopped loving you. I’ve missed you every minute of every day. But I still can’t offer you what you deserve.”
Silence hung between them for a moment. Hope leapt within Buffy’s chest, though she reminded herself to be cautious.
“What about me making up my own mind about what I deserve or don’t? Don’t I deserve to know what I deserve? I mean, shouldn’t I get a say in the deserving?”
Angel smiled slightly. He missed the way she had of putting words together, more than he knew until that moment. “Even so, you wanted time to figure things out, to…” he paused, his expression pained, “finish baking.”
“Oh. The cookie thing.” That analogy had not been one of her finer moments, but in her defense she had been stressed about everything that was going on at the time, and he had taken her off guard by showing up in Sunnydale unexpectedly. And then there was that amazing, incredible, breathtaking kiss… that was enough to spin a girl’s head.
“The cookie thing,” he affirmed with a slight grimace.
“What if… what if I said I was done? All baked and ready to be eat- you know, done,” she finished, willing herself not to blush. She had made that same mistake last time they had this silly conversation, and she might never live it down with him. Though, there were certainly worse things, and if not living it down meant having a future together she could definitely deal.
He remained silent, while Buffy held her breath. Finally, he murmured, “I don’t have anything to offer you. Maybe even less than I did years ago.”
“You can offer me sunshine in your penthouse suite with your necro-tempered glass,” Buffy suggested, rallying her determination to see this through even while fear of yet another rejection was hovering at the edges of her mind.
“And Wolfram & Hart… it’s not safe.”
“Maybe not, but we’ve been through this before. I’m the Slayer, remember? I can help you. You don’t have to protect me.”
He stared at her. She was right; she was a more than a capable ally, and as much as he would worry, he knew she could take care of herself. His confidence in her abilities was absolute and unquestionable.
Suddenly she felt emboldened with new resolve. He wasn’t saying no… maybe he just needed a little more convincing. Leaning forward, she ran a finger along the buttons of his shirt, stopping only when she reached the waistband of his pants. Her fingers toyed idly with the buttons there, and when she spoke, her voice was low and husky, “And you can offer me sex. Lots and lots of great sex.”
“Great sex?” he asked, his tone indicating that his resistance was melting away.
“Really great sex, if memory serves. That is, unless there’s something about the curse that you forgot to tell me last time.”
Her hand dipped lower, tracing his erection.
He sucked in a startled breath.
“That’s everything, isn’t it? Sunshine and sex? Oh, and children. Well, we can adopt if you want kids. Or do the in-vitro thing. I don’t know what else there is that you think I need that you can’t give me. All I ever wanted was for you to love me. Nothing else. I think when it comes to deserving, I deserve that.”
“Buffy…” he growled huskily as she cupped him none too gently. The dull throb in his groin that had been there practically since he had first seen her exploded into a full on ache.
“Yes, Angel?” she asked sweetly, looking up at him innocently from under her lashes.
“You keep that up, and I’ll have you in the back seat with your pants around your ankles.”
A frisson of pleasure spiked through her senses. She glanced toward the back seat as if considering. “Really?”
He plucked her hand from his lap and planted a kiss in her palm. “My bed is much more comfortable.”
“But my hotel is closer,” she countered, dropping her hand back to his lap and massaging the impressive length of him with her fingers.
Twenty minutes later, Buffy slid the room card key though the slot with an impatient shove.
Entering the room, Angel kicked the door closed behind them as he reached for Buffy and pulled her to him. His need for her was now at a fever pitch, driven by her relentless teasing in the car on the drive over. He turned, backing her into the door as his mouth descended on hers, his tongue plunging deep.
Buffy returned his kiss eagerly, her hands fumbling with his shirt buttons in a desperate attempt to get closer. He pinned her hips to the door with the slow grind of his.
“Bed,” she murmured, pushing his shirt and jacket back over his shoulders. He shrugged out of them, and they fell to the ground, unheeded.
“Later,” he whispered, sliding his mouth along her neck. One hand slipped under her shirt to squeeze a lace covered breast, his thumb raking over the pebbled tip of her nipple. After a moment, he pulled the fabric cup down wanting to touch her bare skin.
Her body humming with raw need, she raked his bare chest with her fingers as he unfastened the snap of her pants. Her mouth devouring his, she whimpered softly and clutched at him as he worked his fingers down the front of her pants and into her panties. She trembled as he brushed lightly over her clit then lower into the hot, wet folds of her pulsing sex to stroke her engorged flesh.
Her release came quickly, slamming through her in a pounding rush of sensation that nearly overwhelmed her with the pleasure of it. She bit her bottom lip to stifle her scream, only to have Angel cover her mouth hungrily with his, lapping at the small wound with his tongue.
A second orgasm followed the first, the wave of heat building quickly as he manipulated her expertly with his fingers, working her clit and sliding inside her until the slowly cresting desire peaked, and she fell over the edge again.
Lifting his dark head, Angel stared down into her eyes as his fingers, wet from her, slipped from her body and brushed over her hip. She helped him tug her pants down, kicking them off impatiently. She ran her hands up his thighs, reaching for the buttons on his pants.
“Fuck me now,” she whispered, sliding his zipper down eagerly.
His restraint, already tenuous, shattered. In one quick movement, his pants were shoved down his thighs and her panties were ripped from her, the scrap of fabric tossed carelessly aside.
Cupping her bare bottom in his hands, he lifted her and stepped forward, entering her with a long, hard thrust that impaled her to the hilt. Keening softly, Buffy clamped her thighs around his hips and wrapped her arms around his neck. Bracing her firmly against the door, he began to move in an erotic rhythm as old as time.
She could feel the powerful muscles in his arms, shoulders and back flex as he drove into her with unrestrained force. She reveled in his weight, and his strength and his complete possession. She loved this primal side of him, the way he could so easily lose control with her.
Burying his face in the curve of her neck, he inhaled her delicate scent. It had been too long since he had held her in his arms, too long since he had made love to her, too long since she had been part of his life. He nipped at her neck as he felt her tighten and clench around him, another climax beckoning.
“God, Buffy, you feel so good,” he rasped in her ear, poised at the brink himself. She was his very definition of heaven. How had he ever thought he could live without her?
With her breath coming in panting gasps against his chest, she held on to him tightly, and abandoned herself to the pleasure he brought with the rapid pistoning stroke of his hips and the slick, penetrating slide of his flesh into hers.
“I love you,” he murmured against her lips, barely aware that he’d spoken the coveted words aloud.
She whispered his name reverently as another stunning orgasm washed over her. This time, he was right there with her. Arching his back, his body straining against hers, he came with a hard, convulsive shudder that sent him over the sharp edge of pleasure and straight into the realm of mindless, physical sensation.
Leaning heavily against her, his body still strumming with feeling and his face buried in the curve of her neck, he held her to him. His heart reclaimed, his mind was devoid of any thought but that of keeping her with him – indefinitely.
A smile drifted over her lips as she trailed her fingers along his shoulders and arms and back to the short hairs at the nape of his neck, savoring the fascinating feel of him inside her, against her, over her. She couldn’t remember when, if ever, she had felt so utterly satisfied, so sexually physically content, and so entirely whole and complete.
Much, much later, comfortably settled on the bed, Angel leaned over and kissed her. It was a long, deep, soulful kiss that expressed the depth of his feelings for her.
“You’re so beautiful,” he whispered reverently, his lips sliding along her jaw. His hands wandered over her warm skin worshipfully, and Buffy sighed blissfully and arched into his touch. Her eyes closed, she murmured, “Are you sure about this?”
“Mmm… this?” he whispered, lowering his head to lave her nipple with his tongue before drawing it into his mouth, sucking first one taut peak then the other.
“Well that, but I meant us,” Her fingers threaded through his hair, encouraging him to continue his pleasurable attentions.
He looked up, waiting until she opened her eyes to meet his gaze. “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.”
“And?” she prompted, her eyes wide with anticipation, her heart beating rapidly in her chest.
He smiled and brushed the hair back from her eyes. “And I want you to stay here, with me. I want to make this work this time, and I intend for it to last forever.”
“I love you,” her voice cracked with emotion, tears of joy filling her eyes. She tugged his head down to hers, her lips meeting his in a heartfelt affirmation of her feelings. Her luscious body melted into his, and he returned her kiss, avidly, deeply.
Her hands explored the cool expanse of his chest, caressing his nipples before sliding lower to his taut abdomen. Even after hours of making love, she still felt eager and out of control, and she reveled in the freedom and the intoxicating pleasure to do things with him that she had never been able to do.
Reaching the hard length of his erection, she encircled him with her fingers, stroking with gentle, teasing pressure. She smiled at the power she had over him as his body jerked in response and his mouth slanted over hers with a rough growl.
Breaking off their kiss, she pushed him over on his back. Leaning forward, she ran her lips along the corded muscles of his neck down to his chest. Raising her eyes to his, she smiled suggestively then took a ravenous bite of a firm pectoral muscle. A wild tremor whipped through him in response.
She slid lower as he watched, dipping her head to run her tongue over his nipple. She laved it wetly, then unhurriedly kissed a path down his torso to his stomach, pausing to nibble here and there along the way with soft bites or nipping scrapes of her teeth. Each touch of her mouth on him sent a stab of erotic sensation spiraling through his body all the way down to his groin.
Licking her lips eagerly, she slid lower, straddling his thighs. Looking up at him with a sensual gaze, she reached with deliberate slowness for his hard cock. Bending over him, she curled her tongue around the broad head of his sex, tasting him. After several slow licks, she lapped and nibbled her way up and down his thick shaft. Slowly and leisurely she licked every inch, savoring the taste of him with small, appreciative sighs that had him gritting his teeth in pleasure. Just when he thought he couldn’t stand it any longer, she parted her lips and sucked him deep into the wet heat of her mouth.
Angel groaned, a savage lust sweeping through him, as she worked his cock with her lips and tongue and her now slick fingers which were wrapped tightly around him. She brought him to the very edge of climax, only to ease off and let the wave of sexual tension ebb.
Buffy took her time, delighting in giving him pleasure, savoring his scent, his taste, his texture and his every response to her. Watching his face under the thick sweep of her lashes, she swirled her tongue around him one last time before sucking harder, stronger and deeper, devouring him in long rhythmic strokes.
He exhaled a hiss of breath, and reached down, threading his fingers through her hair. His muscles clenched as he fought to hold off his orgasm, wanting to be buried inside her wet and willing body again.
With a fluid, agile movement, he flipped her over, crawling up her body to fit his hips between her spread thighs, crushing her breasts against his chest and bracing himself on his elbows on either side of her head so that he could look down at her face. He watched her expression as he slid inside her, savoring the play of emotions and the desire emanating from the depths of her green eyes. He sucked in a breath as she enveloped him in her slick, tight, heat; the sensation of being one with her was exquisite beyond measure.
“You feel so good,” he murmured huskily, catching her hands and stretching them over her head so that she was pinned beneath him. “So wet, so hot.”
Moaning softly, Buffy closed her eyes. She lifted her hips to meet his, and he began to thrust into her – long, slow, delicious strokes that gradually increased in pressure. He lowered his mouth to hers, kissing her with the slow lazy stroke of his tongue against hers.
Despite her attempts to quicken the pace, and his own already burning impatience, he controlled their movements, taking her slowly and lazily, allowing the pleasure to build in slow degrees. Breaking their kiss, he nuzzled her neck making her shiver. Flexing his back, he arched into her so that his hips met hers in just the right way, pushing her steadily closer to the edge.
Her breathing ragged, she writhed beneath him, silently seeking more. The slow, mindless seduction and her inability to use her hands to take what she wanted, was frustrating yet so wonderfully, incredibly arousing.
Her fingers tightened around his, holding on as he moved with steadily increasing pressure. Her head dropped back to the bed, and her legs came up to wrap around his hips. It had always been one of her fantasies, to be completely at his mercy, allowing him to do whatever he wanted to her… The thought brought with it a spiraling rush of pleasure, and she came in wild abandon, a white hot burst of pleasure radiating through her entire body.
And Angel reveled in her capture and submission as he had his way with her.
A wave of uncontrollable passion rolled over him as she tightened around him, her insides clenching in a deep, wrenching throb of pleasure. It was ecstasy, pure and sweet, and so damned enticing he couldn’t resist any longer. He crushed her mouth with his and began to plunge and withdrawal with hard, fast thrusts that instantly had her spinning wildly toward another peak. His muscles flexed with one last, deep surge, and he tossed his head back, a low throaty growl escaping him. His entire body shook as he gave himself over to his own scorching orgasm.
All she could manage was a whimper of sound, as he took her eagerly, hotly, over the edge with him.
Seventy two minutes after her flight left for Rome without her, Buffy rolled and stretched languidly, feeling surprisingly rested considering neither she nor Angel gotten more than an hour or two of sleep over the last twenty hours. A dreamy smile touched her lips, and she snuggled closer to the man lying on his side next to her.
Without opening his eyes, Angel pulled her closer and dropped a kiss on her head.
Maybe it was selfish or wrong, and maybe he was making the wrong decision, but he was through being without her. They were together now, and he intended to keep it that way.
After all, wasn’t that the whole point?