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A Convenient Marriage, Part 7

Author: Gia Rating: R/NC-17 (Smoochies) Disclaimer: Joss, ME, & own all but the ficcy idea and some of the words. Pairing: Initially C/A, ultimately B/A. Includes W/O. Author's Notes: A spinning class is aerobics on bikes. *g* Thanks to all the usual suspects for the support and encouragement. Very happy new year wishes to everyone! See previous parts for other notes. Feedback: Yes, please Distribution: Anywhere currently hosting my stuff; my site, EverySixSeconds; anywhere else, just let me know. completed 12.27.2003

Buffy leaned against the wall outside the door to the aerobics studio listening to the muffled sounds of the music and waiting for Faiths 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 hadnt 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 hadnt talked any more about their little moment on the living room floor. She hadnt really meant for that to happen Well, maybe she meant it, but she hadnt 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 hed been working out. It was also apparent from the obvious muscles in his chest, shoulders and arms that he did so regularly. She hadnt really noticed that the other day, his body hidden by the dark business attire that he wore. The Sunnydale Visitors 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. Buffys 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 Im 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 havent 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 havent gotten out much, so Im a little stir crazy. Oh. Im 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. Im Lindsey. Lindsey McDonald. Buffy Summers, she said as she shook his hand. With only a brief pause, she amended, OConnor. Buffy Summers OConnor. Its a pleasure to meet you, Buffy Summers OConnor. I take it youre still getting used to part of that name. Lindsey replied, his green eyes reflecting his amusement. You did say married, but Im going to guess youre 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. Thats still pretty new in my book. He replied with a wink. Lindsey, with his keen observation skills, noted the dreamy expression on Buffys 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 Im 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 Visitors Bureau is right about this being the best gym? Ive 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 Murdocks? Best grocery? No Lynardis 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 didnt see you in class Hi Faith. Buffy answered, giving the other girl a hug in greeting. You know Im too lazy for your class. Besides, I needed some quality time with the treadmill this morning to atone for too many Joseph Schmidts. 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? Its about time she dragged your sorry ass down here with her, Ive 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. Ive been asking for details, but B here hasnt said anything more than really good kisser. Oh, yeah, Im Faith. Uh, Faith Buffy cringed at the intimate disclosures her long time friend just blurted out to a perfect stranger. Im Lindsey. Smiling at the beautiful brunette, Lindsey returned Faiths greeting. Oh, I thought your name was Angel? Or is that just some sort of cute lovey-dovey nickname? It works, I guess, but Id go with something more like studmuffin but then, hey thats just me. Faith grinned and winked, Im sure you dont mind what B calls you, particularly in the sack. Faith, this isnt Angel, Buffy said flatly, and Angels name is Angel. While that wasnt 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 Im 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, Ive got to go. Class to teach. Lindsey nodded, but hesitated as if debating something mentally before he spoke, Buffy - I know youre 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 dont 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 didnt answer immediately, Lindsey continued, If youd still like to introduce me to your friend the one that you said might be interested in that dinner and a movie offer? Ill 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 wouldnt happen to be Faith, would it? Buffy shook her head and laughed. She had never met a man who wasnt interested in Faith, but Faith she talked a big game, but in reality she wasnt 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. Thatd be the one. Ah, okay, thanks. Ill 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. Whatd 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 hed seen the woman standing there before, but he

couldnt 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 Angels 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 OConnor 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 womans visit wasnt completely unexpected. I am following up on the paperwork that they submitted to the BCIS in order to obtain Mr. OConnors 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 Wesleys 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 Wesleys 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. OConnor? 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. OConnor 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. OConnor 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 Wesleys 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 youre not sure. Dr. Walsh asserted, watching Wesleys 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, youre close friends - according to your own words and yet he didnt invite you to his wedding? Dr. Walshs 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. Wesleys lips quirked into a smile, I think Angel is a little obsessed with his wife and doesnt exactly want to share her right now with anyone, much less other men. You might call it jealousy; though I dont think Angels even aware hes doing it. I see. Maggie Walsh replied with a small measure of disbelief and considerable annoyance that protective didnt seem like it was going to evolve into something more helpful to her case. When did Mr. OConnor tell you about his wedding? Sometime in May, I believe. Wes said thoughtfully, as if trying to recall the date. Im sorry, I cant remember exactly when. Like I said, that was a very busy time for me. It was true enough, he didnt 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. Im going to say I think it was before Wesley answered, watching Dr. Walsh speculatively. He knew why the BCIS was investigating Angels 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 hadnt been so convinced that Buffy and Angel were in love with each other. It wasnt 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. OConnor 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 dont pry into others. Wes stated calmly, unaffected by Dr. Walshs implication. And I dont 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 wasnt 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 Wesleys every movement. Buffy is beautiful, smart, kind Wes said with a smile, honestly, its not hard to see why a man would be attracted to her. Those qualities that you mention, are hardly unique. Mr. OConnors 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 shes unique. Ive never seen Angel have the same level of interest or concern for any other woman. Id have to say all of the signs point to the fact that hes in love with her and thats 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 youre implying that they married purely for Angels green card, I think youll find that you are mistaken. Wes replied coolly, his defense of his friends unconditional. He hadnt 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 hes 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. Im sure you understand how this looks to my office. Perhaps, but then, in my experience things arent 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. Ill 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 hadnt seen Parker Abrams and his pals for at least two months, so shed been hopeful that maybe they werent 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 Snyders 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 hadnt 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 Freds apartment before going on to the guys 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 Angels apparent withdrawal from her, she was particularly vulnerable to Lindseys 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 didnt notice. As he talked, she eventually relaxed, reminding herself that Lindsey knew she was married and couldnt 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 didnt 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 didnt really know him. Not enough to confide in him at any rate. You dont 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. Lets just say, if you were my wife and wed only been married a few months hell, years even - youd 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 Lindseys 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 doesnt mean that theres a problem with my marriage, nor does it mean that Im interested in a relationship with you outside of friendship. If you believe otherwise, then youre sadly mistaken, and I

have no interest in even being your friend. Buffy, wait, Im 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 didnt 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 dont 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 dont. 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 didnt 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 Buffys 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. Buffys face fell in disappointment. Angel returned his gaze to Buffys face upon hearing the small sound and knew immediately that she hadnt understood his answer the way he had meant it. He smiled ruefully, I always seem to fuck this up, dont I? I dont know. What are you trying to say? Shrugging slightly, she waited for him to speak. She didnt 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 didnt want to rush you or push you, and the first thing I did was just that. He said apologetically. You didnt. I mean, I didnt think you did. She looked down at her hands, toying absently with the ring on her finger. You didnt? 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 havent changed my mind at all. You havent? 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 havent. 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 havent been avoiding you, but I didnt 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 hed give lie to his words about being pushy. He returned carrying a shopping bag that she hadnt 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 havent had a chance to give them to you. He smiled as Buffy drew the Aran-knit sweater out of the bag. Oh, Angel. Its 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. Theres 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. Its called Lismore, I think. Angel said, trying to remember what the woman in the shop had told him about the vase. Its really beautiful. And you shouldnt 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? Theyre 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 shouldnt have done this. You havent even opened it yet. How do you know that its 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. Its beautiful. But you really shouldnt 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. Buffys 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. Buffys 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. Id 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. Im 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. Hed 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 didnt want to risk her blurting out the truth in a fit of temper. Sorry. Im off Monday though Buffy ventured softly, her eyes meeting his once again. Dont be. Saturday well go out and have fun with our friends, and Monday itll 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 didnt 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. Harmonys 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. Theyd 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 Kendalls mansion. Angels 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 Angels dark expression. He had warned her that Cordelia had demanded to speak to him, so the brunettes appearance hadnt 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 Cordelias 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 Angels expression but growing irritated by the fact that he hadnt even noticed she was standing next to him. Hardly the impression I think you want to give your friends. Admittedly, she was a little shorttempered after the drive over. Angel looked down at her, one eyebrow lifting as he took in the dcolletage 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. Cordelias 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. Didnt 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 dont 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 didnt mean No, its fine. Buffy interrupted, taking her sunglasses off her head and slipping them on, effectively hiding her eyes. I understand what youre saying. You think I wore this because I wanted to attract attention. She smiled, but it didnt 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 Im going to attract any attention. He caught up with her in two strides. Buffy I didnt 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 Ill go over there with Wes and Gunn. At least find someone to talk to who wont just criticize what Im 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 didnt think you knew anyone in Sunnydale. Recognizing Lindsey, Buffy replied. Her tone was almost accusatory as she eyed him warily. Ive 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 Harmonys. Returning his gaze to Buffy he smiled warmly, Its 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 OConnor. Buffys 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, Its nice to meet you, Lindsey. Now if youd excuse me, Id like to dance with my wife. Suddenly, all he could think was that he didnt 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 Angels obvious anger. Why didnt 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 didnt 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 girls 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. Touch. But it still doesnt explain why you didnt 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 hadnt 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 youre going out with other guys. Angel replied. His eyes narrowed and he looked down at her accusingly, Unless youre hiding something. I can have guy friends, you know, and be just friends with them. Buffy snapped hotly. Maybe thats news to you. Maybe you dont have any women friends that youre just friends with. I know, I know. Youre right. Angel admitted grudgingly. He knew she

was right, he just didnt like it. I just... Im right? You dont have any women that youre 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, its not like Lindsey and I are, or were, ever involved. The only guy Im 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, thats not what I meant and you know it. He murmured on a deep exhalation of air. He added grudgingly, I dont have to like it though, do I? 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 Im 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, Im sorry for my behavior, and Im sorry for what I said earlier. He said softly, his gaze drifting over her, drinking her in. You look beautiful. Really? Beautiful? She wasnt 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 dont 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. Shed 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 brunettes 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. Ive 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 didnt like or trust Cordelia, but for reasons she didnt understand, she had to hear what the brunette had to say. Its true. I dont 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. Its just so sweet. The wealthy brunette continued in a sugary patronizing tone. Thats 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. Its so hard now, not being able to be together openly because of the BCIS. Cordelias eyes met Buffys in the mirror. But Angel said hed work something out with you. You know, for the next few months. I see. Buffy replied sharply. He wasnt really planning on seeing

Cordelia still, was he? Though, just because they had talked about seeing each other, it wasnt like they had talked about it being exclusive At least in Ireland we didnt 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? Buffys 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 its 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. Youll 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 didnt want to hear any more. Stopping at the threshold, she turned back. Wanting to get back at Cordelia, if only a little, she couldnt resist a small jibe, Maybe Ill ask Angel to take me. You know, sometime. Oh, Im sure he will. Just like hes 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 dont think thats 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 doesnt mean hell be faithful, now or ever. I dont like it anymore than you do, but thats 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 youll only get hurt, but I understand how irresistible he is, so I cant say that I blame you. Seeing the doubt in Buffys eyes, Cordelia mentally smirked. How easy it was to manipulate the nave 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, thats the main reason why I didnt 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 dont believe you. Buffy said after a few long minutes, her voice calm

and low. Suit yourself. Youll 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 Cordelias words had sparked in her mind. Her first inherent impulse was to disregard the brunettes assertions. Angel had said he had sent Cordelia home, that he hadnt 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 nave? 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 hadnt 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 Angels 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 wasnt the time or place to have a serious conversation about real or

imagined infidelities. Angel. Cordelias voice interrupted before Buffy could collect her thoughts. I was just telling Doyle about the drive along 101. Theres that beautiful little beach cove. How far is that? It was obvious to Buffy that Cordelia was reminding him of some romantic interlude. Didnt 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 Cordelias question completely, smiling at his wife and leaning down to whisper in her ear, Ill 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 Cordelias eyes burning a hole in her back. Go ahead and kiss your wife Angel. Gunn urged with a laugh, his own arm looped around Freds shoulders. They two of them had just moved in together recently, a situation that suited them both. You look like youve been dying too all day. Might as well get it over with. Besides, we all know youre 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 Buffys 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 didnt 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 wasnt 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. Angels hand often lingered on Buffys 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 wasnt 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, Buffys 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 Buffys lips as he wished her a good night. Anything more and he wasnt sure hed be able to control himself. It was a long while before either of them slept.
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A Convenient Marriage, Part 8

Author: Gia Rating: NC-17 Disclaimer: Joss, ME, & own all but the ficcy idea and some of the words. Pairing: B/A; includes W/O and Gunn/Fred. Implied C/A. Author's Notes: The song is I Belong To You by Lenny Kravitz. Its on Lennys Greatest Hits (2000) as well as 5 (1998). The Rangers refer to the Carrick Rangers, an Irish soccer team. For more info:>. Recipe: Angel hair pasta with peas, prosciutto, and lemon (though its not specifically used, thats what Angel was cooking). Yep, theres a real Doug Flutie (my aunt swears that my hub looks just like him); hes a quarterback for the San Diego Chargers. Principal didnt work as a first name, so I used Doug but think Principal Flutie from BtVS s1, not quarterback Doug Flutie. *g* Big thanks to LJ and Copper. See previous parts for other notes. Feedback: Yes, please Distribution: Anywhere currently hosting my stuff; my site, EverySixSeconds; anywhere else, just let me know. completed 1.12.2004

Buffy kept busy on Sunday with household chores and various errands, eager to distract herself from the tempting thoughts of her husband, and his wickedly enticing kisses from last night, before she did something that might embarrass them both. When she left for her shift at Patina, Angel kissed her goodbye, a sweet, tender kiss that filled her with an inviting warmth and tempted her to call in sick. Despite the relative slowness of the Sunday evening shift, the night

seemed to fly by. Buffys good mood was infectious to both her coworkers and customers, and the atmosphere of the restaurant was filled with a rare jovial camaraderie. Snyders absence no doubt contributed to the mood, making it a much more pleasant place to work than it normally seemed to be. Monday morning found Buffy on edge, restless. She was grateful for her kickboxing class, which got her out of the apartment early and gave her a way to vent some of her nervous energy, but by mid-afternoon a heightened sense of anxious anticipation had returned. She listened to the radio and sipped iced tea as she dug through the closet, sorting through her clothes and trying to decide what to wear tonight. It was one thing to think about a date with Angel in theory, but another to actually prepare for the reality. Holding a burgundy slip-style dress in front of her, she studied her reflection in the mirror. Wrinkling her nose slightly, she exchanged it for a dark blue halter-style dress and once more returned to the mirror to scrutinize her reflection. She was glad that Angel had gone out with Doyle earlier and said he wouldnt be back until almost time for them to go. It was hard enough to get ready without having him nearby, particularly when she planned to occupy their only bathroom for most of the afternoon showering, shaving, and moisturizing in addition to all of the other things that went into preparing for a really important date. After several more minutes of deliberation, she smiled and hung the dark blue dress on the closet door. Now, which shoes? *** Doyle, breathing heavily, slowed and finally came to a stop, resting his hands on his thighs. He watched as Angel continued to run at a grueling pace around the track surrounding the UC Sunnydale football field. Theyd often worked out together, but today Angel was setting so punishing a pace that Doyle wondered exactly what had set off whatever it was that seemed to be driving his long-time friend. Theyd already spent almost an hour lifting weights in the gym before they headed, against Doyles protests, outside in the hot afternoon sun to the track. Angel pushed himself harder, almost sprinting when he hit the straightaway on the opposite side of the field. After another two laps at nearly the same speed, he reduced his speed to a jog and did one final lap to cool down before he finally slowed to a walk and made his way to where Doyle now sat on the bleachers alongside the field. You want to talk about it? Doyle asked with his characteristic straightforwardness. There was never any need for pretext between the two men, something that obviously added to their long standing friendship.

Nothing to talk about. Angel replied, reaching in his bag to retrieve a towel and a bottle of water. You sure about that? Doyle asked, leaning back on his elbows and squinting at the two women in the distance that had just entered the field and were making their way around the track before he returned his gaze to Angel speculatively. Because it looked to me like you were running like the hounds of hell were chasing you. Id say youre trying to get you mind off something or, should I say, someone. Angel drank over half the bottle of water before spraying his face liberally with the rest of it to cool off. He wiped his face again before he glanced back at Doyle intently and shook his head. Well Im done for, Doyle said after a minute, picking up his bag and rising to his feet, If you want to get your mind off your lovely wife by wearing yourself out in yet another grueling sport, count me out. Its bad enough that you got me up at the crack of dawn and drug me down here as it is. It was after nine. As I was saying, the crack of dawn. Doyle returned with a grin as the two of them made their way toward the locker room. So, the Rangers play tonight. Dublins is carrying a delayed broadcast of the game. Meet there around seven? I need a pint or two of fortification before the game starts. More if theyre going to play like they did last time. Cant. Doyle turned and glanced at Angel, his gaze incredulous. Tell me youre kidding. Im taking Buffy out tonight. Angel replied calmly as he opened the door and stepped into the cool hallway. The explanation did nothing to diminish Doyles astonishment. Continuing to stare at Angel with wide eyes, he said, Were talking about the Rangers and Portstewart. They lost to those bastards last time. Shes your wife already, man, youre past the need to impress, not to mention the small fact that you can and do see her any and all the time. Wait, let me guess. You had your first newlywed fight, and now youre trying to make amends. No, nothing like that. Angel dropped his bag on the bench behind him and reached for the locker combination. And Im still taking her out to dinner. Youre kidding right?

Nope. Angel removed his watch and placed it on the top shelf of his locker. Made reservations at Ginza Shushiko. He shrugged, kicking off his shoes. She likes sushi. Argh, tell me it isnt so! Tell me she doesnt have you whipped. No, we havent got to anything quite that interesting, with a small chuckle, Angel added, yet. Doyle let out a short bark of laughter. Dont tell me. No, wait, on second thought, tell me. I want details. You can start by telling me what she looks like naked. Angel shook his head, but returned Doyles grin with a smug grin of his own. I dont think so. Besides, he continued reprovingly, were talking about my wife. Not just some girl. Doyle shook his head and whistled softly, She must be damn good. Whens the last time you missed a Rangers game one that there was a chance of actually seeing that is. Not many are broadcast here in good old Sunnydale. Ive missed a game before, Doyle, and you know it. Pulling his sweat soaked t-shirt over his head, Angel stuffed it in the bottom of his locker. He stripped off his shorts and threw them on the bottom shelf along with his other dirty clothes. Oh, now I get it. Doyle exclaimed, slapping himself on the forehead as he sat down to take off his own shoes. Marriage, or even long term relationships, brought with them a certain adjustment of schedules, one of which was the accommodation to a womans monthly cycle. Angels attempt to wear himself to exhaustion must be because of an excess of pent up sexual energy due to such a conciliation. Now his behavior at least made some sort of sense. Get what? Angel questioned, one eyebrow lifting skeptically as he glanced over his shoulder. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he closed the metal door of the locker. Youre in love, but more importantly, youll be getting laid. Doyle grinned as he tossed his clothes into his locker and slammed it shut. He slung his towel over his hips and started walking toward the shower. Even Id give up a soccer game for that, especially after a week of abstinence and doubly so when the woman is as hot as your wife. Its not what you think, Angel answered brusquely, automatically. He stopped short, regarding his friend carefully. He wasnt in love. Nor, he reminded himself on a deep exhalation of breath, was he getting laid. Maybe not tonight, a little devil in his head suggested, but there were plenty of other Buffy delights yet to be tasted that would make any

waiting for the actual act worthwhile. Uh huh. Doyle replied dubiously, making a right and crossing into the tile covered shower area. He tossed his own towel on a hook near the first shower. Then you want to explain it to me? Because I cant think of anything else that makes any kind of sense. No. Angel returned flatly, walking to the shower stall on the far end and turning on the water, effectively shutting out any of Doyles reply and any further commentary until almost an hour later when they climbed into Angels GTX for the ride home. First you, then next Im sure wedding bells are going to ring for Gunn. I hope this isnt catching. Doyle said seriously, leaning down to look through the open passenger window as he closed the car door behind him. Despite the prodding and teasing on the drive, he hadnt been able to get Angel to say anything more about either his wife or his evening plans. I think youre safe. Angel said with a faint smile, glancing at his friend then in the rear view window. Have a drink for me. Dru will miss you. Doyle answered with a wink, thinking of the attractive brunette that waited tables at Dublins Pub and seemed overly interested in Angel. There was no question that the service was better when Angel was with the group. But Ill break the news to her that youve gone and fallen in love and got married. That works. Angel returned absently, glancing at his watch. He had almost an hour and a half before the agreed upon time for his date with Buffy. Enough time to run an errand before going home to change. Watching as Angel drove away, Doyle shook his head slightly. Knowing Angel as well as he did, Doyle was well aware that his long-time friend had never considered marriage seriously before the highly secretive and rushed wedding so alarm bells had sounded in his mind immediately when he heard the news. His first thought had been that Buffy had trapped Angel into marriage with some cunning ploy, like a deliberate accidental pregnancy or some other form of blackmail. The fact that Angel had continued to see Cordelia after the date of the wedding had reinforced his suspicions. When Doyle finally met the mysterious Buffy, his suspicions tripled. Petite, blonde, and beautiful, he could easily see how she could get a man to do just about anything for her. Angel was obviously taken with her. Even Wes and Gunn seemed to fall easily under her spell after a few brief meetings. Angels typical taciturn behavior had done nothing to help alleviate Doyles concerns that his friend had been somehow conned into marriage. When Angel finally confided that there were problems with his visa and that the BCIS was snooping around, Doyle thought he had found

the key: Buffy had somehow used Angels immigration status to her advantage. It was only recently after talking to Angel and later, seeing Angel and Buffy together that he had begun to grudgingly revise his opinion. In all honesty, he had to admit that Buffy didnt appear to possess the manipulative qualities necessary to pull off such a scheme, but even more pertinent was Angels behavior. In all their years of friendship, Doyle had never seen Angel show even the smallest sign of jealousy, much less encourage public displays of affection, but he could think of no other way to describe his friends actions at the Kendalls pool party. Now, Angels casual reply only confirmed what he had begun to suspect as of late; regardless of whatever reason they might have had for marrying and whether he would admit it or not, Angel was obviously enraptured with his wife. Whistling a happy tune, Doyle made his way to his apartment. *** You make my life complete Buffy half hummed and half sang along to the song playing on the small portable CD player, finding the romantic Lenny Kravitz tune perfectly suited to her mood as she applied her makeup and put the finishing touches on her hair. You make me feel so sweet With one last nervous glance in the mirror she carefully scrutinized her appearance again. Oh, I belong to you Her hair was pulled back at the sides and secured with a pearl clip at the crown of her head. A few strands were loose and curled around her face while the rest of her hair hung down, shiny and golden, over her shoulders. And you belong to me too Taking one last quick glance in the mirror, she snapped off the CD and unplugged the player before returning it to the bottom of the closet. Angel stood on the deck, gazing down at the street below. His senses were on alert, the tension in his shoulders almost straining the fine silk of his shirt as he waited for Buffy. It was impossible that he could be nervous. He was never nervous. This was just dinner. Are these for me? Buffy asked from the doorway, holding the bouquet of purple tulips in her hand. The flowers had been lying on the kitchen table wrapped in paper and tied with a white ribbon. Yes, Angel turned and smiled, his eyes sweeping over her in assessment, If you want them. Thank you. Her warm gaze met his over the flowers for a few lingering

seconds before she retreated back into the house. Her voice was somewhat muffled when she continued speaking, Let me just put them in some water. Angel followed her into the apartment and waited patiently while she arranged the flowers in a narrow glass vase and set it on the table. He admired her figure in the dark blue dress, the narrow halter-style straps offering only tenuous support for the plump mounds of her breasts, adding a delicious element of suspense to his interest as he considered what might happen were the bow at the back of her neck to become untied. They made mundane small talk on the drive to the restaurant, Buffy sneaking glances at Angel out of the corner of her eye. He looked absolutely gorgeous in a pair of black slacks and a grey silk shirt, both of which fit his tall, muscular form perfectly. They had walked only a few steps toward the restaurant, when Buffy stopped him, holding his arm to lean forward and adjust the strap of her shoe. Her breasts threatened to spill out of her dress, causing Angel to inhale deeply and wonder how he was going to keep his carnal urges firmly in check tonight. After that, each time she bent or turned he noticed that her breasts swayed gently, and he felt desire curl more tightly within him. Buffy was more than impressed with the restaurant that he had selected, glancing up at him with an appreciative smile as the hostess escorted them to their table. Ensconced in a cozy private room in the small restaurant, the candlelight adding an air of enchantment to their evening, conversation flowed freely in the tranquil ambiance as they enjoyed their dinner. Buffy was cautious about her choices when she ordered, well aware that the restaurant was exceptionally expensive, but Angel ordered several of the rare delicacies himself and coaxed her to try them. He fed her little bites of food and she returned the favor, so by the end of the evening they had devoured their cuisine with playful intimacy. Smiling, Buffy waited for Angel in the foyer of the restaurant after dinner. She wondered if she was slightly drunk from the few sips of potent sake that she had tried or simply just deliriously happy. She caught sight of Angel out of the corner of her eye as he made his way toward her from the back of the restaurant. As if in slow motion, she watched as the pretty waitress put her hand on his arm, stopping him. When the girl smiled up at him flirtatiously and slipped a small piece of paper in his hand, Buffys smile slipped from her face, her happiness suddenly marred. She glanced away, looking out the window to the street as Cordelias words rang forcefully through his mind, You may be married to him, but that doesnt mean hell be faithful, now or ever. With Angel, there will always be other women.

Maybe she should just ask him if they were seeing each other exclusively. For her, it wasnt an issue there wasnt anyone else she even wanted to date. But Angel was he seeing Cordelia? Or someone else? Chewing her lip thoughtfully, she considered what she might say to him, how to bring up the subject for discussion. After another few seconds of deliberation, she decided that it was too early to bring it up it was only their first real date after all despite the unusual fact that they were married. There would be time to ask him later. Right now, she resolved to put it aside and not let the actions of some other woman bother her. It wasnt worth spoiling what had been a wonderful evening. I cant believe that bitch gave you her number. Buffy fairly exploded when Angel touched her elbow, guiding her toward the door. So much for any resolve to not let it bother her. She may have tried, Angel responded dismissively, wrapping his arm around her waist as they walked slowly down the street, I dont honestly know. I threw away the paper she gave me without looking at it. It was rude. Couldnt she tell that youre married? She retorted, hot with resentment. She turned to face him as they stopped beside the car. Angel looked at her cryptically for a moment, not entirely sure how to respond when his own feelings as of late were curiously out of character. I dont know. You dont know? Buffys emotions were more in response to Cordelias remarks of the other night than to Angels answer. Buffy Angel began cautiously, aware that she was upset. Reaching out, he ran his hands down the smooth skin of her arms to take her hands in his. Even if she doesnt know, I know. He tugged her closer, leaning down to look her directly in the eye. His nose brushed hers. Ive already forgotten all about her. What are we even talking about? As if his earlier statement finally registered, Buffy asked, Really? You threw it away? Really, sweetheart, Angel replied, brushing her cheek with a kiss. Somewhat mollified by his answer, Buffy inched closer. By saying Even is she doesnt know, I know, did that mean he intended to take their wedding vows seriously? She was still trying to rationalize that statement and gauge the level of her anger when she heard his soft whisper near her ear. Lets go home. I want to kiss you. Raising her hand slowly, he brought it to his lips and placed a warm kiss in her palm. And maybe show my appreciation for that dress.

Buffy glanced up at him, her eyes wide. After a moment, her lips curved up in a smile, warmed by the teasing, interested light in his eyes. When he held her close and looked at her like that, she couldnt doubt his sincerity. He fascinated her and charmed her, allowing her to easily accept romantic notions of love and fidelity and forget that it might all just be a familiar game for him. With her earlier feelings of contentment and happiness gradually returning, she rose up on tiptoe and kissed him. When they finally returned to the apartment, Buffy lit the few candles along the mantle while Angel retrieved the CD player from the bedroom. The sounds of the CD Buffy had been playing earlier drifted through the apartment as Buffy sank down on couch and kicked off her high-heeled sandals. Arching her back slightly to stretch, she sighed gratefully, Thank you again for dinner. That was wonderful. I never thought Id ever get to go there. Im glad you liked it. Angel said as he joined her on the couch. She was a glorious sight, he thought, her cheeks flushed a delicate pink, her golden hair loose on her shoulders. Buffy looked up and smiled a winsome, half-seductive smile that Angel couldnt resist. His pulse soared. Bending his head, his mouth closed over hers, drawing in her soft, breathless sigh. Lifting her arms and wrapping them around his neck, Buffy melted into him and pressed her lips eagerly against his. A shiver ran along her spine when Angel made a soft sound deep in his throat, almost a growl, and his hands moved to her waist, pulling her tightly against him. His silk shirt was thin and slick, as was her dress, and Buffy felt almost as if nothing existed between them. She eased back on the couch, pulling Angel with her so that he was lying over her. Angel could feel the swell of her breasts against his chest, the small, hard pebbles of her nipples pressing into him. His lips moved on hers hungrily, his tongue exploring her mouth. For a very long time, he only kissed her - on her eager lips, the downy arch of her brow, the soft smooth skin of her cheek, the sensitive hollow behind her ear, the silken column of her throat and her warm, bare shoulders before finally drifting slowly along the edge of her dress just above her breasts. Buffy sighed languorously and mewled softly in pleasure as she gave herself up to his attentions. Enthralled, she couldnt get enough of him. She could feel the hard ridge of his erection pressing into her, and her hips moved unconsciously against his in a sensuous rhythm, trying instinctively to lure him closer. His lips returned to hers and their tongues twined, sliding together in a heady seductive kiss. One of her hands slipped to his head, and she buried her fingers in his thick hair. Her other hand clung to his shoulder,

her fingers flexing as she gripped him tightly in a desperate urge to move closer. When their lips parted again, Buffy sucked in a gasping breath. Before she could open her eyes, his lips settled on hers again. His kiss was ravenous, demanding and an answering flash of heat raced through her veins. With one hand, Angel reached up and cupped her breast. Buffys breath hitched. His touch was muted by the thin material of her dress, but still she felt it acutely, arching into his hand. He stroked and kneaded gently before his thumb found the taut peak of her nipple. The sheer pleasure of his caresses spread through her body with a molten heat making her every nerve hum with anticipation. Undeniably, she wanted more. She wanted his touch on her bare skin. Breaking their kiss, Angel shifted and moved back slightly. Finally he did what he had wanted to do since he had first seen her standing in the doorway: he tugged the tie of her halter dress free with a quick tug. With agonizing slowness, he pulled the top of her dress down, the material teasingly scraping her nipples as it slid along her skin. He gazed at her bare breasts for a long moment, watching as her nipples seemed to tighten even more under his gaze. Feeling the cool air on her skin, Buffy drew in a shaky breath. Angels hand returned, curling around her breast and cupping the soft weight in his palm. Gently he took a nipple between his fingers and squeezed, rolling it slightly. Her senses leapt when she felt the touch of his lips on her heated skin, and she gave a small moan of pleasure. Angel placed small kisses on the smooth skin surrounding her aureole before he drew the taut peak of her nipple into his mouth. He suckled and Buffy squirmed, clutching at his hair and pulling him closer. He nibbled and licked and sucked, alternating between breasts until Buffy thought she would die from the sheer pleasure. Angel wanted to devour her; he wanted to sink into her and feel her surrounding him intimately. He wanted to shove her short skirt up and take her, thrusting hard and deep into her body. His feelings were so intense and pervasive, he wondered for a moment at his sanity. Clenching his jaw and taking a breath, he moved back slightly and fought for some semblance of control. He stifled a groan as his body protested his withdrawal. He couldnt continue or hed end up taking her here and now on the couch. There was no doubt that he wanted to make love to her, but he also wanted their first time together to be special. He suspected that Buffy was a virgin; she deserved a special night. And he needed to know that she was sure. Buffys lashes fluttered and she opened her eyes to look at him. Her

luminous green eyes were slumberous with passion. Angel? His eyes followed his fingers intently as he traced a small pattern over her skin, causing goose bumps to rise anew. When he spoke, his voice was deep, husky, Youre beautiful. She flushed slightly, but kept her gaze directly focused on his face, Why did you stop? His lips brushed hers lightly too lightly to satisfy the hunger inside her. I dont want to rush. He murmured after a moment, his gaze contemplative. We have plenty of time. Besides, I want to fully appreciate he paused, dropping a soft kiss followed by a suggestive lick on one nipple before pulling her top up to cover her, all the stops along the way before I make love to you. Buffy drew in a breath as a flaring surge of passion washed over her at his words. His gaze met and held hers for a long minute before she nodded in acceptance. With a strength of resolve she didnt know she possessed, Buffy excused herself to get ready for bed. *** So I saw you come to the party with Angel. Harmony said cheerfully, giving Cordelia a hug and blowing an air kiss on each cheek as they met outside April Fools. Its not what you think, unfortunately. Cordelia replied as she followed Harmony into the small but exclusive boutique. The two women were frequent patrons of the shop, meeting there usually once a week to peruse the latest fashions before heading down to the Espresso Pump for a latte and gossip. Oh? Harmony questioned, taking a red print skirt off the rack and handing it to the sales girl now trailing along behind them. I told you I was going to see Angel, right? Well, so I told him that Id given it some thought and was no longer mad at him for sending me away from Ireland. I said that I understood that he was stressed out and not thinking clearly, particularly about making his marriage work. The brunette paused and rolled her eyes slightly. I mean, where did that come from anyway - making his marriage work? Like its a real marriage, or something? She gave a skeptical snort as she picked up a pale blue sheath dress and examined it before stuffing it carelessly back on the rack. And? Harmony asked as she paused by a small table to scrutinize the

scarves that were neatly stacked for display. So whatd he say? Not much. Is this my color? Cordelia held out a scarlet dress with a plunging neckline. In all honesty, Cordelia had talked almost non-stop the entire time she had been in the car giving Angel little or no opportunity to reply to anything she had said. Oh, absolutely. You look fab in that color. Anyway, I told him that I understood completely about the BCIS and that I could see why he would need to pretend to have a relationship with Buffy. I mean, I doubt that the stupid little cow can be even half way convincing to the BCIS woman otherwise, so its probably the only hope he has to get his green card or whatever. Not that I told him that, but Im sure thats a huge reason why hes doing this. Anyway, I also said that I know his whole future depends on this, so it was only natural that hed be all nervous and stuff about it, not to mention a little cranky. Oh, and I said that I knew he was sorry so he didnt have to apologize. I said some other stuff too, you know, so hed realize I was all understanding and supportive. Hm, I guess. Harmony replied distractedly, handing a peach pantsuit to the sales girl still following behind her. The girl scurried away to hang the stack of items in her arms in the fitting room. What? You dont think hes actually serious about her? Cordelia snapped, pinning her best friend with a glare. He cant be. He has to be just doing this to make Buffy think he cares so that she doesnt screw it up. Harmony shrugged, You saw them together at my party. She was hanging all over him. What youre seeing there, Harm, is yet another Buffy mistake. I know for a fact that Angel hates clingy and hates PDAs. The brunette declared hotly. She had first hand experience; Angel had coolly and politely shaken her off on several different occasions. The fact that he seemed to tolerate Buffys clinginess grated on her, as did the kiss that she witnessed. I didnt see him exactly complaining. He seemed to, like, cling back. The blonde stated airily, her blue eyes wide and seemingly innocent. Despite being the closest of friends, the two women were fiercely competitive about wardrobes, jewelry and men; opportunities to make digs or achieve any sort of an imaginary social advantage were never passed up. Im sure its just an act. Cordelia sniffed indignantly, examining a black Tahari dress before tossing it casually on a nearby chair for the salesgirl to scoop up. Like I said, he has to pretend to like her so that everyone

else believes that their relationship is real. Kissing her in public is just part of the act. She punctuated her sentence with exaggerated air quotes around the word relationship. I dont know, Cordy I saw them making out before they left. It didnt seem very pretend to me. Cordelia frowned. She hadnt seen that, being inside and rather occupied herself by doing body shots with Xander, but anything was possible. Buffy probably threw herself at him again just like she had done earlier by the pool, and he couldnt exactly say no. Regardless, Angel would never, ever fall in love with someone like Buffy, much less stay with her for very long. As soon as he had his green card, his little pretense with Buffy would be over. Noticing that Harmony was watching her curiously, Cordelia shrugged dismissively, Well, so what if they were kissing. It doesnt mean anything. Most guys will fuck anything thatll let them, and obviously little Buffy falls into that category. If he wants to screw her, then let him get her out of his system now. Hes not going to stay with someone like her, married or not. Okay, Im done. Im going to the fitting room. The brunette glanced quickly around the store once more before returning her gaze to her friend. Besides, she added airily as she flounced back to the elegant dressing area, Ive already started working on Plan B. Plan B? Harmony questioned with a lift of her eyebrows as she entered the small room containing the things that she picked out. Plan B. Cordelia affirmed decisively, drawing the curtain closed behind her. Uh, share? I need details. Harmonys voice came from the room next door. I just planted a few little seeds of doubt in Angels mind about little Miss Buffy. The brunette answered a few short minutes later, standing in the middle of the room wearing the black Tahari dress and eyeing herself in the large, triple mirror. You remember Parker Abrams, dont you? I think so Harmony mumbled, coming to stand next to Cordelia at the mirror. She was wearing the peach pantsuit. Well, he and Buffy apparently had a little thing awhile back, so I may have told Angel what I had heard about that. Cordelia turned and looked back over her shoulder at the back of the dress. Guess little Miss Buffy is a kinda kinky. Which, now that I think about it, makes total sense why Angel might be kind of interested in her right now Turning again, the wealthy brunette smoothed the fabric along her hip. Honestly,

men are totally ruled by their cocks. Buffys into kinky sex? Harmony questioned with a giggle as she returned to her dressing room. Thats the rumor. Cordelia replied smugly, also returning to her fitting room to try on the next thing she picked out. The flattering black Tahari dress went into her to purchase pile. Okay, but how is that a Plan B? Harmony asked, the confusion in her tone obvious even though her voice was muffled from the distance and the fact that she was changing her clothes. Wouldnt that just make him want to see her? Not necessarily not if he thinks that shes going to blow the whole thing for them because shes all hot for another guy. Or maybe lots of other guys. The brunette answered matter-of-factly, slipping on a pale green slip dress. Thinking back to the party, Cordelia remembered that the guy who had come to the party with Kate had seemed to know Buffy as well. Shed have to ask Kate about that. You think shes still seeing Parker then? The blonde asked as she once more came to stand in front of the mirror. I may have embellished it a little and said that something was still going on. Cordelia replied, frowning as she exited the dressing room to stand next to Harmony. The pale green was an unflattering shade for her and she grimaced. You didnt? I did. With a flip of her hair, Cordelia returned to the dressing room and stripped off the green dress. She tossed it carelessly in a ball in the corner. I told Angel that I only told him about Buffy and Parker because I know how important this is to him and because I care about him. Her tone was one of practiced innocence. Did he believe you? Harmony asked as she returned to change outfits as well. Well, he didnt seem too happy about it. When we got to your place, I told him that Id always be here for him if he needed me to talk or whatever then I hugged him and left. Ooh, nice touch. I thought so. Cordelia stood in front of the mirror in the scarlet dress with the plunging neckline. The back was also low, dipping below her hips to reveal the upper curve of her behind. She smiled. This was exactly the kind of dress that made men crazy. Guys seem to always want the girl

they cant have. Ill show Angel that Im caring and supportive, not to mention stunningly beautiful. If another guy, or two, shows interest well, even better. A little jealousy can be a good thing. Ooh. True. Harmony, wearing a pale pink sundress, came out of the dressing room. Oh, Cordy! She gasped, That is absolutely perfect on you. You have to get it. I know. Cordelia gushed, holding out her arms and twirling in a circle. Lets just see if Angel still says hes going to stay with Buffy once he sees me in this. True. Harmony gave a little happy clap and smiled. After a second, her smile faded and her brow creased in concentration. But I still dont see how your plan is going to work. Divide and conquer, Harm. Thats a strategy that Grandpapa says always works. Cordelia returned to the dressing room. Her voice was muffled as she continued to speak, Did I tell you I ran into little Buffy in the bathroom? No. Harmony replied, carefully scrutinizing her own reflection in the mirror. We had a little girl-to-girl chat. I might have mentioned that she shouldnt expect Angel to be faithful to her. I figure if she thinks shes only one of many, the little mouse will retreat into her little hole for a while and not be all that interested in Angel. Which will, therefore, make Angel not at all interested in her. But if hes so worried about the BSCI people, wont he be? Harmony asked with a perplexed frown. Faithful that is. Oh, probably. Cordelia shrugged as she came through the curtain once more. I know I told you he turned me down, so I cant imagine that hes seeing anyone else. I still dont get it. The blonde glanced over at her friend. If Angels not screwing around, wont Buffy figure that out eventually? Well thats why I have Plan C. Cordelia said self-confidently, her eyes fixed on her reflection. *** The next week was filled with a flurry of activities in preparation for the start of the new semester along with the start of classes. Angel worried when he saw Buffys course schedule: it was full and then some. He cautioned her about taking on so much and still trying to work the same schedule at Patina, but she assured him repeatedly that she could

handle it. It was no more than she had taken the semester before she met him. Angel also noticed that she watched her budget carefully when purchasing her text books. She spent extra time searching out used books in good condition in order to save money. It was the first time that he had wondered seriously about her finances. He had cashed the checks that she had given him for rent, but all the money went into a savings account that he intended on returning to her someday. He didnt need the money and wouldnt have taken the checks at all if she hadnt been so adamant about paying her own way. She had once refused his offer of paying for all of their groceries during a trip to the store, and he knew better than broach that subject again. Searching his memory, Angel recalled that Buffys father was in LA and that he didnt help her out with any of her expenses. She had told him once in short, clipped phrases that her father lived in a sprawling new house in LA with his wife and her half-sister and that he had no interest in her, especially after he had collected the money from the house after her mothers death. With a thoughtful expression on his face, Angel promised himself then that hed find a way to find out a little bit more about Buffys financial situation. *** Early Sunday afternoon Buffy sat on the couch reading through the first few chapters of her psychology text. She glanced up as Angel opened the door, one hand clutching his bloody side. What happened? She questioned with wide eyes. Her book was discarded without thought as she came quickly to her feet. Angel hissed through his teeth, Nothing. He moved his hand and glanced down at the wound. The blood that had seeped through his tshirt was clearly visible. That looks like something. Buffy replied matter-of-factly, one eyebrow lifting skeptically. It was stupid. Angel answered, dropping his sports bag carelessly on the floor near the door. Ill go get some bandages, just take your shirt off. So? She called from the bathroom where she was searching through the assorted items in the cabinet. What happened? Angel walked toward the bedroom, pulling his t-shirt over her head. He

could hear the padding of her bare feet as she followed him into the room. Soccer game. The field isnt the best. Its near a large hedge thats covering as I found out the hard way - a very old picket fence. He smiled slightly, a little embarrassed by the admission. He didnt explain that he had been fighting for the ball with two of defensive players from the other team at the time and was essentially shoved into the tall hedge. I like your tattoo. Buffy said as she stopped behind him and studied the large tattoo on his shoulder. Without thinking, she reached up and traced it lightly with her fingers. Feeling her touch on his back, Angel turned. Buffy looked away, feeling flush and warm. She was very cognizant of the bed so very near. Despite several heated make-out sessions this week, they had yet to move into the bedroom. How did you know about it? I mean, did you when Dr. Walsh asked? Angel asked curiously, lifting his arms as Buffy washed the nasty gouge on his ribs carefully with a warm cloth. She glanced up at his face. Oh. I had to get some clothes one morning not long after I moved in you were asleep on your stomach. I peeked. Oh? he murmured interestedly as she taped the white bandage squarely over the wound. Yes. Buffy smiled up at him playfully. Her fingers lingered on his ribs just above the bandage. His skin felt warm to touch. Leaning down, Angel kissed her gently. Buffy parted her lips and Angel shifted forward. His lips forced hers wider as his tongue thrust into her mouth in a now familiar game of thrust and parry. Buffys hands slid up his chest, palms flat, gliding as she traced the heavy muscles, and slowly explored the warm, smooth expanse of skin. Hearing a sound at the door, Angel drew back slightly. Oblivious to his distraction, Buffy stretched upward against him, her hands going to his shoulders to steady herself as she pressed against him in flagrant invitation. Her hips rocked slowly into him in unconscious entreaty. Her fingers slid into his hair as she reveled in the raw hunger that he always made her feel. Closing his arms around her possessively, Angel dismissed any other thoughts from his mind. He slanted his head, deepening the kiss. The unquenched desire that had been growing steadily between them

smoldered for a scant few seconds before it flared hot. He walked backward, moving steadily toward the bed and taking her with him. In a smooth economy of motion Angel turned, easing her down. Buffys arms clutched him closer as Angel settled over her, his hips between her thighs, his chest against her breasts. She hooked one leg over his hip, her foot on his thigh pulling him closer. Bracing himself on his elbows, Angel kept the bulk of his weight from crushing her even as he continued kissing her with a hunger that said he would not be denied. Ah-hem. Am I interrupting something? Doyle asked from his position just outside the doorway, a wide grin on his face. Angel stilled, opening his eyes but otherwise didnt move. Yes. He finally answered in an exasperated groan, his attention riveted on his wife. No. Buffy squeaked in answer at the same time, her cheeks flushing a brighter shade of pink. Sorry to interrupt, but after the game we, uh, wanted to make sure that you were all right. See, I had thought you were injured I didnt realize you were, er, occupied. Doyle said teasingly, not in the least embarrassed. Normally I wouldnt just walk into your bedroom, but I thought you were back here alone, clumsily bandaging your wounds. After a moment when Angel didnt reply, a grin still on his face, Doyle shrugged in apology, Why dont I Ill just go somewhere else. Good idea. Angel said flatly, dropping his head to the bed next to Buffys shoulder. Uh, I have to go to work soon anyway. Buffy said softly looking up at Angel. Her fingers stroked his shoulder absently and she had yet to move the leg still curled around him. With a sigh, he kissed her again and then reluctantly rolled to the side to let her up. There was no sign of Doyle or the others when Angel came out of the bedroom a few minutes later. Angel knew however, that Doyle would tease him endlessly about this later. He groaned, wondering of how many weeks of fake injury and wifely TLC jokes hed have to hear. *** When his last class of the afternoon ended early, Angel headed straight back to the apartment anxious to see his wife. In the last two weeks since school had started, they had only managed to snatch little bits of

time here or there together - which meant that he would take every opportunity he could to see her. Buffy looked up as he opened the door; she smiled warmly. I didnt think youd be home so soon. Criminal Evidence ended early. Professor Mortensen apparently had something that didnt agree with him for lunch. Hey Willow. Angel walked over and sat down on the arm of the couch next to his wife. Resting one arm along the back of the sofa, he picked up the paper in Buffys lap. Chemistry? Willow nodded, watching the two of them with interest. Homework. We have lab tomorrow. Angel scanned the page of notes and put it back in Buffys lap. He still worried that she was taking on too much this semester with both her course load and her work schedule. As it was, she already seemed to be studying constantly. Are you going to be awhile? Angel asked, studying Buffys profile as she looked down at her book. Or do you want to get something to eat? As she looked up, Buffys arm brushed his thigh. Her eyes met his and she gave a disappointed frown, Another half hour at least. Then I have to read a chapter for psych and, I think, do some calculus problems. Take your time. Im going to take a shower, Angel brushed her lips lightly with a kiss before he rose smoothly to his feet, Then if you want, Ill make something. Turning, he smiled at one of his wifes closest friends and frequent study partner, Of course, you should stay and have dinner with us, Willow. Willow nodded eagerly, returning his smile. Oz was at a gig tonight so she was happy for the company. Besides, she knew from at least two other occasions that Angel was a great cook which was definitely preferable to the ramen or mac and cheese thatd she be having if she went home and cooked for herself. Buffy watched as Angel walked down the hall and disappeared into the bedroom, her expression wistful. Finally, at Willows insistence, she grimaced and returned her attention back to her studies. You think well ever finish? Buffy questioned with a groan almost half an hour later. Angel had emerged from the shower about ten minutes earlier and was now in the kitchen rattling around. We only have Flipping through the book, Willow looked through the exercises, oh, only one more!

Finally! Then just psych and calculus Sighing heavily, the petite blonde closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the couch. You took on too much again. Willow chastised, glancing up at her friend with worry. I have to. I cant afford to take five years to get my degree. Buffy opened her eyes and sat forward, crossing her legs beneath her. With a sigh, the red-haired girl twirled her pencil. Ill be in school forever. Awhile, but not forever. Buffy replied, knowing that her friends long term goal was to become a forensic pathologist. Since they were younger, Willow had been fascinated with the subject, devouring books and watching the various forensic science shows. Besides, Will, you excel at academia. Eh, maybe. Willow shrugged dismissively, her features twisting into a pensive frown. But it would be more fun if Oz hadnt dropped out this semester. I mean, Im happy that the Dingoes got so many great gigs and all, I just wanted to see him at school and stuff too. I know. The petite blonde empathized, before sitting up a bit straighter and smiling brightly, But hey, you still get plenty of time to see him at home in the evenings and at night. Thats something. Think of it like he only has one class: Willow. Buffy grinned, trying to cheer up her friend for what she knew wouldnt be the last time. And you can tutor him so he gets an A in that. True, Willow laughed. Her eyes sparkled mischievously, So is Angel getting an A in Buffy? Oh, hes definitely getting an A... Her smile was impish, in all his subjects. She glanced toward the kitchen, wondering if the man in question could hear their conversation. Im so happy that things are working out for you. The red-haired girl replied sincerely. She was genuinely happy to see her friend so happy. It had been a long time since she had seen Buffy smile so much; Angel was definitely good for her. Willow also found herself smiling at their demeanor when they were together; they were just so cute with the sly looks, hand holding and sweet kisses. Thanks, Will. Me too. The next few minutes were quiet as they both turned their attention back to the one remaining chemistry problem. Finishing first, Willow closed her book and set it aside. Since Buffy was still working, Willow retrieved her anatomy book and flipped it open, reviewing the diagram of the muscular

structure of the shoulder. Her brow creasing into a frown, Willow glanced up. I told you that Parker is in my anatomy class didnt I? Only half-hearing the name, Angel paused in chopping the prosciutto for the pasta. Until that point he hadnt really been paying attention to the conversation in the other room. Hearing the name reminded him what Cordelia had told him weeks ago; comments that he had dismissed as gossip after a brief deliberation. Buffy herself had told him weeks prior when they had talked about people in their pasts that she had dated the guy twice and that it had been a mistake. But still, breath held, he couldnt stop himself from listening for Buffys response. Hm, yes. Buffy replied disinterestedly as she made one last notation in her notebook. Is he still coming in to Patina? Willow asked with concern. Buffy had vented one more than one occasion about the annoyance and difficulty that Parker and his frat brothers at the restaurant caused at the restaurant. In fact, some of what Buffy had told her that Parker had said actually had made her a little afraid for her friend. Unfortunately. Anya said they were in on my day off. Closing her book, Buffy set it aside. At least I missed them. And Snyder never says anything? The red-haired girl asked incredulously, shaking her head. You know, about what jerks they are? You mean besides that theyre just young and blowing off steam? Buffy sighed, a flare of indignation on her features. Nope, not a word. Angel stirred the simmering cream sauce then took the boiling water with the pasta off the stove and poured it slowly in the colander, carefully to keep the sound to a minimum so as to not miss a word of Buffy and Willows conversation. He knew it was wrong to eavesdrop, but his curiosity was peaked. Cleaning up, he wiped down the counter then picked up the knife he had been using earlier. But, Buffy Willow protested adamantly, With Parker making threats and grabbing you and stuff, that has to be sexual harassment or something. Snyder has to do something or hell get in trouble. You should report it. Angel fingers closed around the handle of the knife until his knuckles turned white. His face was dark and set in grim lines; a furious rage washed over him. I guess, but report it to who? Buffy asked, her voice low. Most likely Snyder would just fire me and you know I cant afford to lose that job without having another one lined up first. Ill just have to deal with Parker and his friends. I figured if I dont give him the satisfaction of a

response, then hell eventually tire of his little game and go away. Its only fun for him if he gets to me. Willow whirled around and Buffy jumped as a loud sound came from the kitchen. Buffy rose quickly to her feet. She had a worried frown on her face. Quickly crossing the room, she peered cautiously into the kitchen. Angel? Hungry? Pastas ready. Angel replied, walking toward Buffy with two dishes of pasta in hand. He stopped and studied her face for a few minutes. He wished that she would trust him enough to tell him what was going on. After a long moment, he pressed a hard kiss to her forehead then moved past her to set the plates on the table. Wondering about his sudden strange mood, Buffy watched him for a few seconds before she picked up the remaining dish of pasta and followed him to the table. She never noticed the knife embedded firmly in the thick wood cutting block on the counter behind her. *** Maggie Walsh burst through the glass doors of the BCIS offices. Without slowing her stride she strode to her office, her agitation plain. Grumbling, she slammed her notebook and briefcase on her desk then sat heavily in her chair. Her meeting with Faith Emerson had been an exercise in frustration. The young woman had cooperated and answered all of her questions, but said nothing that would provide support for Maggies assertion that the OConnor marriage was a fraud. In fact, with a wide eyed look of innocence, Ms. Emerson had smiled and told tale after tale of what Maggie was positively sure were made up stories about Buffy and Angels love life. If she had to hear a story that started with And this one time, at their apartment again, Maggie was positively certain shed scream and pull her own hair out. Standing in the doorway, Doug Flutie, the Director of the California branch of the BCIS, made a steeple with his fingers beneath one of his many chins and surveyed one of his better agents; her anger and frustration was obvious. Problems, Dr. Walsh? Maggie glanced up in surprise. She hadnt realized that anyone had been standing there. She took a deep breath. No, nothing that I cant handle. She answered dismissively, turning her attention to the paperwork piled on her desk. Good, good. He nodded agreeably, a friendly smile on his face. I never suspected otherwise. After several long seconds when it was obvious that he didnt intend to

budge from his position at the door, Dr. Walsh sat back in her chair and looked up at him. Did you need something, Doug? I had a call today about one of your cases, the OConnor case. Oh? Maggie asked speculatively, shifting in her chair. She tapped her fingers on the desk impatiently. From? Youve been working on that for what? Four, five months? Doug Flutie studied his employee with casual regard. His casual, dopey demeanor hid a shrewd and perceptive mind; he wouldnt have the position that he held at the BCIS otherwise. Yes but you know that with these types of cases, the ones that are suspected to be fraudulent, it often takes time to complete a thorough investigation. Some cases have taken up to a year, as you well know. Dr. Walsh returned coolly, unperturbed. Who did you say had called? Id like to see what you have currently on the case. He stated firmly, ignoring her question. Maggie shook her head slowly, pressing her lips together to hide her growing anger. I dont really think its ready for you to review. Its far from complete. Im still working several angles and have several additional interviews to conduct with references. I have yet to write my report on the interview that I just came from, in fact. Id also like to talk to several of the professors at UC Sunnydale as well as the manager at the restaurant where Ms. Summers works as I believe they will have valuable information to contribute. That being the case, I think that it would be a waste of your time, given the incomplete state of the- Just give me what you have. Director Flutie interrupted, pushing away from the doorframe. Knowing how thorough and detailed you are with your paperwork on all of your cases, I think that there will be sufficient enough information there for me to at least get a sense of how things are moving along. I trust that having a current report on my desk by the end of the day wont be a problem. Yes, sir. Maggie Walshs dour face further soured. *** It was almost nine when Angel finally entered Patina. He paused just inside the gated patio and looked around, scanning the crowd. After a few minutes, he spotted Buffy carrying a tray of drinks to a table at the far end of the patio on the left. He had paced by the restaurant several times in the last few hours, debating exactly what it was he wanted to do and why he was there. Last night at dinner, he had wanted to ask Buffy point blank about Parker and

what Willow had meant by threats and grabbing but he hadnt been able to bring himself to do it. He didnt know why she hadnt told him, but he didnt want her to think he was prying or being pushy or perhaps worse, eavesdropping. When Buffy trusted him, she would confide in him. Until then, he doubted that anything short of torture would get her to tell him whatever it was that was going on with Parker. But that didnt mean that he couldnt check it out for himself Hey, so... can I help you? The hostess asked with a flirtatious smile. Anya had seen the gorgeous guy pass the entrance several times and each time she prayed a little harder that he would finally come in. She had even entertained a dreamy little fantasy that he was working up the courage to ask for her number; it ended with the two of them in bed, Anya riding him like a stallion. By the third time she had seen him, she had planned their wedding on the beach in Antigua and was beginning to name their children. Noting the direction of his avid gaze, Anya frowned. Shes married. When he seemed undeterred, she pouted and grumbled louder. Very married. I see. Angel replied lazily, his gaze still following his wife as she crossed the restaurant once again. She was bustling around with a quick and friendly efficiency that he had come to recognize. Hes big too. And mean. Anya cast a glance out of the corner of her eye, lifting one shoulder. Really mean. Angels brow quirked upward. He turned then to look at the Patina hostess, a small smile playing on his face, Really? Thats what Ive okay, so I havent really heard that. Anya confessed with a shrug. She found it difficult to lie directly to the piercing gaze. But he should be, what with all the guys that come in here and want to sit in Buffys section. Her lips pursed into a pout. Which, Im going to guess is what you want as well. In a minute, yes. Angel answered honestly, though his eyes glittered darkly. Why dont you tell me first, what guys? Why? She asked bluntly. She hugged the menus that she held in her arms to her chest and studied his face. Im curious. He gave her a charming smile as he slipped one hand in a pocket, taking on an almost casual stance. Well, there was one guy, Lindsey hes been back a couple of times. The first time he wanted to sit in Buffys section. The second time, well She preened slightly, smoothing her hair, He asked me out. Were going out next Thursday in fact. He drives a Mercedes, so Im sure were going

somewhere nice. Thats nice. Angel replied politely, Now what about the other guys? Anya glanced away to smile and nod at the family of four leaving the restaurant. She turned back and looked at the man in front of her speculatively for several seconds. Youre Buffys husband arent you? Yes. Angel admitted after a long pause. And I want to know about Parker Abrams. *** What are you doing here? Buffy asked with a smile as she stopped next to the table where Angel sat. She couldnt help but noticed that he looked perfect as always in a wine colored shirt and a pair of dark charcoal slacks. She ran one hand over her disheveled hair, suddenly conscious of her rumpled appearance. I wanted to see you. He replied warmly, handing her the menu that Anya had left with him. And maybe I wanted a glass of merlot and some chocolate mousse. Ive never seen you eat sweets. Her eyebrow quirked upward, but still she smiled. The mousse is for you. His gaze took on a suggestive gleam. Although I could be persuaded to try it if youll let me eat it off your tummy. With a smile and a slight flush, Buffy retrieved the desired items from the kitchen and the bar, returning them to Angels table. Suffused with a warm glow that withstood Snyders critical eye and Anyas constant ribbing, the rest of Buffys shift passed by quickly. She flirted with her husband both in words and with her eyes as she went about her job, finding it an extremely pleasant and appealing way to pass the evening. She refused to give him his check, paying it herself. She had only just stepped out on to the sidewalk where Angel waited, when he pulled her into his arms and kissed her long and hard. Minutes later, their hands intertwined and their smiles an indication of their shared good spirits, they made the short walk back to the apartment. Just after they got home, Buffy excused herself to take a quick shower. She was anxious to wash away the food smells that she imagined clung to her after a shift at Patina. Less than twenty minutes alter, wearing a pair of grey sweats and white t-shirt, she padded out to the living room and sat down on the couch.

Tired? Angel asked as he came to his feet. He had been reading, as he often did, while he waited for her. Not really. She fluffed her hair, the long strands mostly dry now after a quick blow out with the hair dryer. With a bemused smile, she watched as Angel turned off all of the lights but the lamp in the bedroom, leaving the room shadowed in darkness. He lit several of the candles along the mantle then walked forward to join her on the couch. Her lips curved into a gentle smile as she looked up at him. Instead of sitting next to her as she had expected, he placed one knee on the cushion and leaned over her. With one hand, he tilted her face back to meet his kiss. As always, she responded eagerly. Her lips parted beneath his, welcoming him and inviting him in. She tasted faintly of the chocolate mousse dessert he had brought and fed to her in sneaking bites when she stopped at his table. Slowly, he eased down beside her. Buffys arms came up to twine around his neck even as she leaned back on the couch, her head resting on the pillows propped up in the corner. Angels arm slipped around her waist, pulling her against him. They kissed for long moments as if they were starved for the taste of each other, but it wasnt enough to ease the hunger that had been growing between them for weeks. Caught up in their kiss, Angel didnt realize that Buffy had worked the buttons of his shirt free. A fleeting moment was all the warning that he had before her palms settled, soft and warm, on the bare skin of his chest. Distracted, he drew back from the kiss and caught his breath as she boldly ran her hands over his chest, exploring. With her encouragement, he shrugged out of his shirt, dropping it to the floor. Buffy flexed her fingers, gliding them over the hard expanse of muscle before sliding down along his ribs. Splaying her fingers wide, she caressed him eagerly, possessively. Forcing his mind away from the pleasurable sensation of her touch, Angel pushed her t-shirt up and encouraged her to pull it over her head. Next he expertly unfastened her bra, baring the breasts that he was, by now, quite familiar with. He paused, savoring their absolute perfection: the pale smooth skin that contrasted with her tan, framing her breasts for his attention, and the pale rose of her taut nipples. He blew on one and watched it pucker before lowering his head and taking the tip between his lips.

Buffy gasped as he laved and suckled her nipple, dropping her head back as she sank her fingers in his hair to hold him close. Her other hand, still splayed on his chest, moved up to cover the tan pebbled nipple of his chest. She closed her eyes and reveled in the now familiar pleasure, the delicious intimacy and waited expectantly for more. Angel took his time, moving from one breast to the other and making the heat swirl higher and hotter within her. Beneath him, Buffy shifted restlessly and her hands moved frantically, one clenched in his hair, the other stroking his chest. The sensation of his hands stroking her skin combined with the play of his lips and tongue on her breasts was more than pleasant, but still Buffy wanted more. And she wanted it now. When he seemed content to linger, Buffy reached out and grabbed Angels wrist, bringing his hand to rest on her stomach. She didnt need to give him any further encouragement. His fingers teased, kneading her abdomen gently before slipping beneath the waistband of her sweats. She tensed, the anticipation curling through her body and growing steadily until she ached. She lifted her hips in flagrant invitation, deliberately forcing his hand lower. Angel glanced up at her face, his eyes glittering darkly. A primitive, unrestrained need, provoked by her actions, slammed through him and shook him to his very core. He wanted her with a need so acute that it was physical pain. AngelTouch me. Buffy demanded, her gaze locked with his. The green of her eyes was darker, luminous. She was breathy, dizzy with desire and gripped with a sense of urgency. Her senses seemed heightened yet greedy for every sensation, every kiss and every touch. He shifted slightly, returning his lips to hers. The thought flashed through his mind that he could make love to her here, tonight. After a few seconds of mental debate, he reminded himself that there were a few pleasures yet that he wanted to show her. He could wait; but not much longer. Buffys breath caught in her throat as Angels hand slid lower, slipping beneath her panties to skim the neatly trimmed curls before moving lower still. Her body was seemingly no longer in her own control as she lifted her hips to meet his exquisite stroking fingers. The delicious sensations spiraled higher and higher until Buffy broke off their kiss to catch her breath. Her head dropped back as she gave herself up to the steadily building coil of tension. Angel moved back a few inches, his gaze roving over her face, down to the flushed skin of her breasts and the taut peaks of her nipples, over her stomach to her hips, where his hand moved rhythmically between her legs beneath the grey cotton of her sweats. His hand shifted, probing

deeper. Slowly and deliberately his thumb circled and caressed the highly sensitive spot hed teased before through layers of clothing. Reaching up, Buffy attempted to tug him closer. She was nearing the edge of the precipice and she wanted him with her, she wanted him closer. Relax and just feel. Angel murmured softly, his lips curving up in a small smile. His lips brushed her neck and she shivered, mewling softly. She was close so very close. The maelstrom of sensations overwhelmed her suddenly; she gasped, her nails digging into his shoulder as the heated hysteria seized her. Her breathy whimper exploded in the shadowed room, and she melted under his hand. He planted soft kisses on her face and neck, and held her until the last shuddering spasm died away. Her eyelashes fluttered a short while later, and she opened her eyes to look up at him with a satisfied sigh. She reached for him, wanting to offer the same glorious pleasure that he had given her, I want to touch you. He caught her hand. Next time. He whispered against her cheek, uncertain if hed be able to keep to his resolve to wait just a little longer. Now. She countered, shaking off his hand. They gazed at each other for a long moment, Buffy stubbornly insistent, Angel uncertain. Her gaze still locked with his, she lowered her hand to his stomach. The muscles beneath her palm tensed. Slowly her hands glided down along the smooth warm skin to his pants. She drew her fingertips along the length of his rigid erection, the soft material of his pants warm to the touch. After several breath-held seconds of exploration, she worked the top button free with his help, then tugged his zipper down bit by bit. Shifting positions, she pressed him down on the couch and moved so that she was kneeling between his knees. With a boldness that surprised him, she tugged his pants and boxers down his thighs. Buffys eyes widened in surprise. Youre not She traced the hard length with one finger tip before her eyes darted back to his face. Circumcised. No. Angel replied, his voice husky. Her slightest touch made him feel like an adolescent, tense and lacking control. She couldnt control the giggle that escaped her lips. Good thing Dr. Walsh didnt actually ask for visual confirmation He returned her smile, swallowing hard and clenching his jaw when her fingers closed around him and tentatively began to stroke up and down.

She marveled at the velvety softness, the silky smoothness that covered such an incredible hardness. She licked her lips, wondering if she dared to taste him. Taking a deep breath, Angel closed his hand over hers and guided her movements. Buffy followed his lead eagerly, leaning what he liked and how to touch him. Catching his rhythm, she moved her hand with firm, eager strokes until the explosive pleasure broke, and he gritted his teeth and came with a groan. With his eyes closed, Angel relaxed back on the couch. Buffy retrieved her t-shirt, and wiped up the white sticky mess on his stomach with a few quick swipes. She then cuddled next to him, closing her eyes. He simply held her for awhile, until much later, when he finally rose, adjusted his clothing and carried her to his bed. Curled together, it was the best night of sleep either of them had had in months. *** Buffy clicked off the phone and returned it to the cradle with a resounding snap. She walked distractedly to the center of the room, wrapping her arms around herself in a hug. Just a few seconds ago, she had been humming happily as she changed clothes, pleased to have an evening to spend alone with Angel. They both agreed that a night at home would be a welcome change to their busy schedules; take out and a rented movie was on the agenda, and Angel had gone out to pick up both. And, she hoped, they might have a repeat or more of last night. When the phone rang she had thought it would be Angel calling to tell her that The Two Towers had already been rented and ask her for alternatives. He was so thoughtful and considerate that way that it never failed to make her feel special. She had never imagined that it would be someone named Kate. A Kate claiming to be returning Angels call after he had asked for her number when they met recently in the UC Sunnydale library. Buffy sank down on the couch. Despite the heat, she trembled. Had he really? Was he seeking out other women because they hadnt had sex yet? It wasnt like she didnt want to or wasnt ready... He was the one that had been delaying Was she doing something wrong? She was tense and slightly angry when Angel finally opened the door. Got it! He said almost triumphantly, a smile on his handsome face. He held up the DVD case in one hand. Though I had to wrestle a couple of Hobbit wannabes for it since it was the last one they had.

Crossing her arms over her chest, Buffy snapped resentfully, Whos Kate and why did you ask for her number? Part 7
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Part 9

A Convenient Marriage, Part 9

Author: Gia Rating: NC-17 Disclaimer: Joss, ME, & own all but the ficcy idea and some of the words. Pairing: B/A; includes W/O and Fred/Gunn. Mentions of C/A. Author's Notes: Fred and Gunns paint colors are from Ralph Lauren Home collection. Big thanks to LJ and Copper. See previous parts for other notes. Feedback: Yes, please Distribution: Anywhere currently hosting my stuff; my site, EverySixSeconds; anywhere else, just let me know. completed 2.8.2004 When Angel walked through the door, Buffy had every intention of asking him calmly who the woman that had called was and why, but by the time he had finally gotten home her best intentions, with the helpful memory of Cordelias words, had slowly evolved into anger and hurt. The minutes had ticked by, and her mood had gone from pleasantly anticipatory to one of confused affront; it had made her question come out harsh and blunt, surprising both of them. Kate? Angel echoed, a perplexed frown on his face as he closed the door behind him.

Kate Lockley. She said she was returning your call. She implied that it was for Buffy paused, uncertain of her next choice of words, personal reasons. Asking her out on a date, to be specific. I dont know anyone named Kate, havent asked for a phone number from a Kate, Angel said calmly as he crossed the room to set the bag of food and the video on the coffee table. And certainly have never called a Kate for personal reasons such as a date. She says otherwise, Buffy replied irritably, cynically inclined at the moment to believe that Angels answer was too practiced, too perfect; he was too adept at soothing womens tempers with his smooth charm and beguiling smiles. Are you saying that you believe her? He asked, his voice low in deliberate inquiry. Crossing his arms over his chest, Angel watched Buffys face. Confronted by the soft challenge in his voice, Buffy sighed. She glanced away from him, finding the clear blue sky out the window of sudden interest. She knew your course schedule, about your work for Professor Johannsen, and about your soccer games on Sunday, she said quietly, returning her gaze to his face, but apparently not that you were married. Maybe shes in one of my classes. He shrugged slightly. Or maybe she knows Gunn or Doyle. Maybe. Buffy replied her voice tinged with skepticism. Her eyes traced the perfect symmetry of his face: the dark slant of his brow, the straight line of his nose, the firm set of his lips before coming to rest on the dark beauty of his eyes. Without hesitation she acknowledged that she found him both beautiful and irresistible; it was no surprise that other women did as well. Shed already seen glimpses of it with Cordelia, the waitress at Ginza Shushiko, and now this Kate. Even Anya had been quite clear that if Buffy tired of her husband that shed willingly take him off her hands. Without a doubt, Cordelia was right; there would always be women besieging him, anxious to please him. He had casually dismissed the women in his past as unimportant; would he be saying the same thing about her in a few months time? Was she simply the latest, someday to be discarded like all the others? Buffy Angel said sincerely, uncrossing his arms and holding them open in supplication. I honestly dont know anyone named Kate and have no idea how she got this number. I didnt ask her out. Lets just forget about it and enjoy our evening. Picking up the bag of food, he walked toward the kitchen. Still bristling with unstable, volatile emotions, Buffy stared after him; she was just supposed to forget about it with his casual dismissal? After a few

seconds, she followed him to the kitchen. Angel Buffy began as she forcibly tempered her anger. She took a deep breath, her gaze on his back. Suddenly she was seized with uncertainty. She was unsure if she wanted to have this conversation, unsure if she wanted the truth. To continue to ignore the issue would be foolish; but it wouldnt hurt anyone other than herself. Having a relationship with Angel real or pretend - had been so wonderful that she wasnt sure she wanted to chance ruining it. Maybe she should simply adhere to the adage ignorance is bliss to have him confirm Cordelias words - it would surely break her heart. Realizing that he had turned and was looking at her, waiting, Buffy glanced up at his face. Thats when it hit her. Her eyes grew wide. Her chaotic emotions of the last few weeks were suddenly crystal clear. She knew in that instant - that she was in love with him. But then, she reminded herself, every woman in his life loved him. And that was ultimately the crux of the issue here. But she had her pride; while it was tempting, she couldnt just leave things as they were. She had to know about the other women. Finally she spoke, her words sounding as if they came from a long distance, Cordelia she said that you were going to work out something so that you could still see her. Her and probably others too. That you never intended to be Be what, Buffy? He prompted softly, frowning. He should have known that Cordelia would cause trouble; her little act of acceptance of his decision and his marriage had been just that: an act. Faithful, she said almost inaudibly. Cordelia is spoiled and selfish; shell say anything to get what she wants. Angel replied gruffly with a touch of exasperation. Did Buffy honestly believe that lying bitch? Hed have to have a talk with Cordelia, but he wasnt sure he could risk doing so before the BCIS finished their investigation. At the very least, hed have to approach her cautiously until Maggie Walsh had talked to her. He wouldnt put it past the wealthy brunette to confess everything about his arranged marriage just to get even with him, should he piss her off. Well, what she wants and what she claims is hers, is you. Buffy returned hotly. His answer was too vague; she wanted a more direct confirmation. And from what I understand, she believes those feelings to be returned. She said the two of you had a very nice time in Ireland lets see, I think her exact words were something like romantic and honeymoon. Oh, though, Im sure youll be happy to know that shes quite willing to accept that you wont even be faithful to her, that shell have to share you. Kate will be thrilled to hear that too, Im sure. She added sullenly.

Angels nostrils flared and a muscle twitched in his cheek. I see, he bit out sarcastically, stung by what he perceived as Buffys disbelief and accusations. And you believed her even though I told you otherwise? I never invited her there in the first place! None of what she said is true, he contended, his voice taking on an edge, she doesnt know anything about being faithful herself, so shes the last person that should be telling anyone anything on that particular subject. In her current frame of mind, where confusion, anger and doubt predominated, his words sounded like those of a jealous lover. Buffy closed her eyes, willing herself not to break into a thousand tiny pieces. She had known from the beginning about Angel and Cordelias relationship; she had simply allowed herself to forget about it in the blissful enchantment of the last few weeks. Look, he said on a deep exhalation of breath, lowering his voice perceptively, I dont want to argue. Cordelia isnt an authority on my love life in any sense of the word. She told you what she did because shes trying to cause trouble. Silence greeted his words for a disconcertingly long moment. Have I given you any reason to think that Im still interested in Cordelia? Or anyone else? He advanced toward her, his voice flat. That I didnt mean it when I said I wanted to see where things go between us? Buffy hesitated, and in that hesitation, the tenuous hold on his temper flared. Did I? He bent low so their eyes were level. He didnt realize that she couldnt know how different he was with her, how different he treated her from the other women in his past. How different his feelings were for her especially when he had yet to fully acknowledge them himself. I dont know what to think. Buffy said truthfully. Fine, Angel said curtly, the muscle in his cheek twitching again as he fought to control his temper in the face of what he believed to be unfounded accusations. Believe a stranger, someone that you dont even know, when she calls and says that I asked her out. Believe Cordelia a woman that I think you know to be selfish, unscrupulous and a liar. Believe either of them, not me. Believe that, not what you feel, what you know in your heart to be the truth. His lips twisted ruefully and he quirked one dark brow, And I thought we really had something here. I I thought so too but You know what? Im not in the mood for food now or a movie, he interrupted, brushing past her abruptly as he strode toward the door. He retrieved his keys from the table and opened the door. Im going out to

get some fresh air. Dont wait up. Without a backward glance he walked out the door. *** Buffy shifted her position for the umpteenth time and tried again to concentrate on the steady drone of her chemistry teachers lecture but was finding it next to impossible. Instead, her thoughts were entirely focused on her husband and their unresolved argument from last night. She had fallen into an exhausted sleep on the couch last night long before Angel returned and then, as usual, left early for her kickboxing class this morning. That meant that they hadnt had a chance to talk and werent likely to any time soon given their schedules. Buffy had spent the evening after Angel left sitting on the deck and staring out at the lights of Sunnydale with unseeing eyes. Her mood had fluctuated wildly between contrition, hurt and anger. When rational thoughts prevailed, she had to admit that she hadnt given Angel the benefit of the doubt as she had meant to do; she didnt trust Cordelia so why had she taken the brunettes words as truth over Angels? If their roles were reversed and he were to take, God forbid, Parkers word over her own well, she knew she would be more than a little upset. In fact, she probably would have reacted much as Angel had. But in moments when the anger and hurt jostled aside rational thought, she convinced herself that his storming out of the apartment was evidence of guilt. For all she knew, he had in fact gone to Cordelia or Kate or any number of other women last night and had spent the evening in their arms without giving her another thought. Once again she shifted in her seat. Trust. That was what it ultimately boiled down to, wasnt it? Did she or did she not trust him? Her parents relationship hadnt been the best example; her fathers infidelities combined with her mothers bitterness over their split had taught her to be uncertain and distrustful. Her brief experiences with both Tyler and Parker had reinforced those insecurities. But Angel Angel was different, wasnt he? In just their short time together, she had already seen that. It would be so much easier if only she knew what he was thinking, what he felt. If only she could be certain When class ended twenty minutes later, Buffy lingered in her seat and scanned through the text she needed to read for her homework. Her classes were over for the day, and the only thing she had to look forward to was another long shift at Patina. She checked the time on the slim silver watch on her wrist; she had almost two hours. Two hours that she could use to do homework. Riley Finn, the sandy-haired, broad shouldered UC Sunnydale basketball

star, stayed behind as well, finally working up his courage to talk to the pretty blonde sitting next to him. He had only just introduced himself to Buffy and started up a conversation when her attention suddenly became focused on the doorway, her expression one of obvious surprise. Rileys glance veered to the man leaning against the doorframe. Dressed in all black, he exuded a confidence that was mildly unnerving; when he smiled, the lift of his mouth was almost wolfish, his dark eyes narrowing in a predatory gleam as he returned Rileys stare. Incongruous to the dangerous image he presented was the bouquet of pale pink roses that he held in one hand. Angel had been waiting for Buffy outside her class for almost half an hour before the class had ended. When she hadnt come out, he had entered the class to look for her. He hadnt expected to find a drooling puppy at her side with a hopeful expression on his face. A powerful, almost unrecognizable, emotion had assailed him at first sight; he controlled the urge to curl his hands into fists and strike out at the man. At the first, unexpected glance of her husband, Buffy felt a warm rush of pleasure and that now familiar ache in her heart. Angel. His name came out as a breathy half-question. Buffy. Angel said simply, turning to look at his wife. Buffys way of saying his name never failed to affect him powerfully. It curbed his temper somewhat that she seemed distracted and uninterested in the guy at her side. He pushed away from the door and moved toward her. His gaze drifted over her lazily, taking in the sheer white top with the camisole beneath, the faded jeans that he knew from memory to be snug and low on her hips, and finally her dainty feet in the open-toed sandals with pink-painted toenails peeking out from beneath the hem of the long jeans. Riley looked from one to the other uncertainly, the tension between the pair obvious. He took exception to the possessive look and the proprietary tone in the mans voice, the thought never occurring to him that the young, beautiful blonde might have a boyfriend - much less a husband. The fact that she wore a wedding band had gone completely unnoticed. Turning to Buffy, he asked in a low voice, Do you want me to ask him to leave, Buffy? Realizing that she had been staring at Angel since she had spotted him in the doorway, Buffy finally pulled her eyes away from her husband to look at Riley, who had come to his feet next to her. No, Riley. This is my husband, Angel. Angel, this is Riley Finn. Finn. Angel replied mildly, a slight challenge in his voice, as he strolled over to where Buffy still sat. Leaning down slightly, he held the flowers out to Buffy. Peace offering? he murmured softly, dismissing the sandy

haired man that was watching them with interest. Can we talk? Taking the flowers from him, Buffy looked at him with a hopeful expression. Her pulse began to hammer wildly and the urge to smile bubbled inside her. Yes, of course. Now? Now. Angel answered, reaching for her hand as she came to her feet. If thats okay with you, he amended politely, taking her book bag from her. It is. I mean, I have almost two hours. Buffy smiled slightly, butterflies in her stomach fluttering wildly. He was here. With flowers! Surely that meant well, something. See ya, Finn. Angel smirked, draping his arm possessively over Buffys shoulder as they walked toward the door. *** Ethan Rayne signed the document on his desk with a scrawl before answering the buzz of the intercom with an irritated sigh, Yes? What is it? You have a Mr. McDonald here to see you, sir. Eve said crisply, even as her eyes roved suggestively over the good looking man standing in front of her desk. He gave her a wink and a smile as he waited for entry to her bosss office. Send him in. Ethan muttered, setting the expensive Waterman pen aside. In front of him, stacks of paper littered his desk; a pile of letters that demanded attention set on one side. There always seemed to be some unfinished business that he had had to handle personally; something he didnt trust anyone else to handle. Lindsey strolled nonchalantly into the expansive office suite, unconcerned that his casual attire looked out of place in the formal atmosphere. He opened the antique cherry wood humidor that sat on one corner of the desk and took two of the expensive Cuban cigars. Tucking one of them in his pocket, he took a seat opposite Ethan in one of the leather chairs facing the desk. Leaning back, he propped his feet up on the desk and toyed with the other cigar, rolling it between his fingers. Yes, Mr. McDonald? Ethan inquired, noting with disdain the worn cowboy boots and ragged jeans. Leaning back in his chair, he clasped his hands together in front of him. Have you something important to tell me, or did you simply wish to partake of my cigars and hospitality? Ive told you before that I prefer that you not come to my office unless I call you. Reaching in his jacket pocket, Lindsey tossed an envelope on Ethans

desk. I think youll find everything you wanted on the insurance deal in LA. Well done, the wealthy banker muttered, already begrudging the money that he had spent on what he perceived to be such an easy task. He should instead have paid his P.I. firm by the hour instead of assignment. I suppose I could have taken care of the matter myself. But you didnt, Lindsey replied cheekily, and you were in a hurry, if I recall. Yes. Youll be paid the agreed on sum, Mr. McDonald. Ethan said bitterly. Anything else? Lilahs closing up the paperwork now on those offshore accounts that you wanted, and Ive tripled checked the background on that hotel buy. By the way, did you know that the owner of the hotel the one that didnt want to sell disappeared mysteriously? Its quite a coincidence, should you ask me. Yes, quite. The wealthy businessman replied drolly, And the other matter? Ah. The OConnor marriage? Swiveling in his chair, Lindsey put his feet on the floor. Im still working a few angles on it. I expected you to have it wrapped up by now, Mr. McDonald. You assured me that it would not be a problem. Ethan leaned forward on his desk, his brows rising inquisitively. Its not a problem, its just more complicated than you led me to believe. Lindsey returned confidently. Complicated? How can it be complicated? Ethan asked, pressing his fingers to the bridge of his nose. The situation is not as simple as you think. Lets just say, I believe more women than just your granddaughter are willing to do favors for Angel OConnor. Not that Id mind if Ms. Buffy Summers wanted to do me a favor or two Just do what you have to do to resolve the situation as I requested, Ethan interrupted curtly. Preferably this week. I want Angel OConnor deported. He had overheard his granddaughter once again discussing Angel OConnor on the phone just the other day which meant she wasnt quite out of the young mans clutches. Hed since taken to monitoring her expenses closely to assure himself that she wasnt wasting money on the good-for-nothing Irish bastard; what more would he have to do? Lindsey recognized anger and frustration. In his profession, one became

a specialist at discerning body language, tone and manner. Ethan Rayne was too immoral to have a conscience, and too mired in illegal activities to be concerned about something as minor as breaking up a marriage; something else was causing his consternation. Money, he mused, could be one explanation. Ethan was certainly attached to the almighty dollar. Perhaps he thought Angel OConnor was planning to steal the family fortune. Family, he supposed, could be the other, noting the picture of Cordelia Chase on the credenza behind him. He no doubt thought that his granddaughter was still involved with OConnor. Lindsey controlled the smirk that threatened to pass at the notion of either of the two suppositions; if only Ethan knew the truth. However, taking full advantage of the situation was another skill at which Lindsey excelled. Casually, he let out a slow, low whistle, Expediency will cost you. We agreed on a fee when you took on the task. The rules of the game have changed. Lindsey replied calmly. His casual lounging position in the chair belied the level of his attentiveness. Ill find someone else then. Ethan snapped brusquely, tapping his fingers on the desk. Be my guest, the young P.I. countered silkily, his green eyes glittering coldly. He knew Ethan would be hard pressed to find someone else that he trusted at such short notice. He also knew as much about Ethans various business interests as Ethan himself; something that made him indispensable and invaluable. And exceptionally dangerous for both of them. Youre extortion knows no bounds, Mr. McDonald. Ethan murmured with a hint of admiration. Is your business partner aware of your predilection for changing the rules in the middle of the game? Are you suggesting that Im pocketing the extra fee that Im planning to charge? Lindsey smoothly murmured as he came to his feet, Because we can trade insults all day long. Just do your job, Mr. McDonald, Ethan ground out, irritation evident in every syllable. Now get out of my office. I dont wish to see you here again unless I call for you. *** The bench was tucked behind the art building, near the campus duck pond and gardens. It was off the main path between buildings, and offered as much privacy as could be expected on a busy college campus. The fresh air and sunshine were welcome, however, after a sleepless

night of emotional turmoil. How did you find me? Buffy asked as Angel sat down next to her. Her nerves were on edge, as if she were expecting news that might prove disastrous to her peace of mind. He smiled. Do you think I dont know your schedule? Oh. I guess I never thought about it. She replied, toying with the petal of one fragrant rose. She knew his schedule by memory, but she never thought he had paid close attention to hers; it was a pleasant surprise. So you wanted to talk? I did. I do. He corrected quickly, glancing away briefly to collect his thoughts. It was the first time he had ever gone out of his way to apologize to a woman; he was way out of his comfort zone. Buffy about last nightIm sorry. He had only gone as far as Dublins pub downstairs, where he had sat in a back corner booth and nursed a couple of glasses of whisky for the better part of four hours, watching the various sports games in an attempt to distract himself from the anger and frustration that he felt. She looked at him through half-lowered lashes. Im sorry too, Angel. I well, I should trust you. Angel sighed softly, raking his fingers through his hair. I shouldnt have left. Well, no, not if we ever want to resolve anything when we argue. Buffy agreed quietly, her shoulders rising almost imperceptibly and the corners of her lips lifting in a small smile, And no matter how much we try, we will argue about something again even if its just who left the cap off the toothpaste. You left it off again? He mocked, a playful smile on his face. He reached for her hand, his fingers closing around hers and squeezing gently. His expression turned serious, This is new for both of us, you know. Well just have to figure it out as we go. I know. She murmured softly in agreement. So, are we okay then? he asked, his thumb rubbing the back of her hand gently. Too long inured to the possibility of love, he knew only that he intensely disliked the discord between he and Buffy and had sought to end it in the most expedient way possible. Angel? I I need to ask you a question, she said in a hushed, hesitant voice, and I need you to give me a direct answer. Anything, Buffy. You only need to ask. He bent slightly to look her in

the eye. Are you She paused, searching for the right words. She pulled her hand from his grasp and sat back on the bench as if distance would make it easier. Twirling the silver band on her finger around nervously, she finally asked, Are you still seeing or planning to see - Cordelia? No, Im not. Angel answered without hesitation. It surprised him that she would still have the question in her mind. Buffy felt a significant measure of relief at hearing those words, yet still a corner of her brain demanded more. Her chin came up a fraction. What about Kate? Or anyone else? Im not interested in anyone but you. Really? She said happily, a warm glow of contentment spreading through her senses. Really. If we werent in the middle of campus, Id find a better way to convince you of that. He smiled, reaching out and recapturing her hand. He brought it to his lips and pressed a warm, soft kiss in her palm. And you? Me? Buffy questioned in a sweetly innocent tone even as a shiver raced up her spine at the promise in his dark eyes and the feel of his lips against her skin. Yes, you. Is there someone else that you want to see? That guy Finn, maybe? He asked much too impudently, his lips curving into a smile. Um, well, actually Im glad you brought it up. There is this one guy She answered, glancing at him coyly out of the corner of her eye. One eyebrow lifted in question; the impertinent look vanished from his expression. Hes tall. Big, too. And mean. Really mean. She teased, recalling what Anya had admitted, without a trace of embarrassment, to having said to Angel when he visited Patina. Buffy had been chagrined to think that Angel might believe that was what she was telling people about him rather than something Anya had made up, but the Patina hostess had only smirked in response. In a sudden economy of motion, Angel yanked Buffy forward and lifted her into his lap. She let out a small startled squeak as he grinned roguishly, That so? Buffy returned his smile, her fingers tracing a small pattern on his shirt along his collarbone. Quietly, her tone serious, she asked, Are you sure

about this? This? He inquired innocently, bending to brush a light kiss on her lips. Or us? Either. Both. She gazed up at his face as her hand crept along his shoulder to toy with the short hairs at the nape of his neck. I Angel paused, caught off guard by unfamiliar emotions. He didnt know what, exactly, was prompting him. He only knew that happiness seemed oddly tangible when she was near. After only a few seconds, he finally found an answer, As sure as I am about anything. What about you? Yes. Im sure. She said, her heart beating wildly as her eyes searched his. Without thought, she leaned closer and pressed a kiss to his lips. Her eyes closed as they kissed, gently, sweetly. Come home with me, he whispered several long seconds later, his breath warm on her lips. He brushed her hair back from her face tenderly, for a little while? I would but I have to be at Patina at six. And if we go home She kissed him again, a delicate kiss that changed swiftly to the familiar, impatient passion that she adored. She sighed softly as the kiss ended and his lips traced a path over her cheek to her ear. If we go home I might not make it to work. So call in sick. He urged, his palms drifting down her back as he nibbled on the sensitive shell of her ear. Stay home with me. She shivered, goose bumps forming on her arms. She was trying hard to keep from simply sinking in his arms and giving herself up to his kisses. Another few minutes and she wouldnt care that they were on a bench in the middle of the UC Sunnydale campus. Youre so bad. Snyder will kill me if I call in only two hours before my shift. He pulled back and dropped a kiss on her nose. He knew her strong sense of responsibility and her determination to always meet her obligations. Okay... Reluctantly he lifted her from his lap and sat her on her feet, then stood next to her taking her hand in his. Then Ill meet you at the restaurant tonight when you get off. Buffy smiled up at him as they made their way across campus to the library. A sweet affinity quite separate from lust pervaded both their senses that afternoon.

*** Angel was in good humor as he walked through the gated patio and into Patina. He joked with Anya for a few minutes before he made his way to the sparsely crowded bar. He was almost an hour early, so he had plenty of time to kill. Ordering a drink, he leaned against the bar and casually glanced through the shadowed interior of the lounge area. His eyes narrowed as he spotted a familiar figure sitting at a table along the back wall. Picking up his drink, he walked toward the table where the man was seated. McDonald, Angel said brusquely, his tone unwelcoming. Ah, wasnt sure youd remember me, what with the crowd at the Kendalls party and all, Lindsey replied placidly, gesturing to the chair across from him, Have a seat. Angel ignored the offered chair, giving it only a cursory glance before returning his gaze to Lindseys face. I tend to remember the guys that try to pick up my wife, he declared insolently, a hint of a challenge in his voice. He vaguely remembered that Anya had mentioned that she was dating Lindsey, but it didnt stop the irrational feelings that coursed through his system upon seeing the guy in relatively close proximity to Buffy - again. What are you doing here? Lindsey shrugged and held up his beer in answer before taking a healthy drink. Suit yourself. Though I thought you might be interested in shootin the breeze for a while. Youve got what? An hour or so to wait until the missus is off? Not sure I care to know why you know Buffys schedule. That could be Angel replied, his smile urbane, his voice too soft, deadly provocation in his gaze. He placed one foot on the chair and leaned forward, unhealthy. Maybe, He acknowledged his eyebrows quirking upward slightly, the slight flare of his eyes the only perceptible sign of any unease. The vehemence in Angels tone surprised him a little, but then Lindsey had been in plenty of difficult spots; it took a hell of a lot more than words and implied threats to truly ruffle his feathers. Lindsey waved a hand to signal the waiter working the bar, We could both use another drink, he returned calmly as he gestured for another round of drinks for both of them. He drank down the last of his beer and sat the bottle on the table with a solid thud before returning his gaze to Angels face. Its up to you, but since what I have to say concerns your hot little wife he nodded in the direction of the restaurant where Buffy could now be seen delivering plates of food to one of her tables, Im thinking you might want to reconsider.

After almost thirty seconds of deliberation, Angel reluctantly sat down. *** Buffy was sitting in the center of the bed when Angel walked into the bedroom. One of her textbooks was open in her lap, her bare feet crossed beneath her. I didnt know how long youd be on the phone, Buffy said almost apologetically, setting the book aside. The walk home from Patina together had been more than pleasant, as were the kisses that they had shared on the couch after they had arrived home. Is everything okay? Angel had reluctantly answered the phone when his Uncle Giles voice was heard on the machine, concerned that a late call meant problems. Buffy had gone in the bedroom to give him privacy for the call, though she was a little concerned that it now seemed presumptuous. Closing the door softly behind him, Angel replied, Fine. Apparently Im going to have a cousin. Jennys about six weeks pregnant. Ah. Thats great! She smiled and fell back on the pillows in a playful sprawl. Abruptly she rolled over on her side, her eyes searching his. That is great, right? Yes. Theyre very happy about it, he answered, glancing over at the clock near the bed. Its late. Are you tired? A little... Buffy replied softly, her nerves tingling in now familiar anticipation as he moved toward her. He stood at the side of the bed and held out his hand. Their fingers touched then their hands melded together, their fingers interlacing, You can sleep here with me His tone was soft, cajoling. I dont know Buffy swallowed, suddenly nervous. Still, a sweeping rush of warmth swept through her at the thought, at Angels warm heated gaze. Im not sure I mean We dont have to make love. He watched her carefully, noting the heightened color in her cheeks. But I would like to kiss you. To touch you. Her direct gaze held his for a moment. Without releasing his hand, she reached over with her other hand and turned off the light. Deliberately, she moved back on the bed to make room for him. Angel, Buffy ventured softly as she slid into his arms, snuggling into his tall, powerful frame, still tautly muscled despite the lounging pose. His dark eyes were watching her with a now familiar intensity. How would it

feel to be surrounded by his potent virility and strength? To feel him deep inside her? What would it be like to know him in such intimate detail? An answering spiral of heat melted downward within her and pooled between her legs. I want to, you know. That is, I want to make love to you. I just Ive never I know. Kiss me, he murmured encouragingly, running his palm up her back to cup the back of her head. Bending his head low, his lips touched her lightly before his tongue slipped between her lips, adding to the heated trail of fire curling inside her. His arms tightened, pulling her more securely against him. Buffy responding willingly, exulting in the elusive, steadily building desire. Her mouth opened wider, her tongue twining with his, boldly encouraging him to take more. Angels hands roamed over her body, reacquainting himself with her curves as his mouth devoured hers. He wanted her with a primitive emotion that demanded to be sated; but not tonight. First, he wanted her trust. He had told her that they would not make love tonight, and he would keep his promise. But soon he would have her beneath him in this very bed Swiftly, his fingers unbuttoned the white shirt that she wore and slipped it back over her shoulders. He tossed it somewhere off the side of the bed, and his hands returned expeditiously to the zipper on her skirt. Buffy helped him shimmy it down her hips and off to join her shirt on the floor. You feel good Buffy murmured breathlessly, her hand returning to his shoulder and slipping under his collar to curl around his nape. Her fingers toyed with the short hairs as she lifted her lips to his once again. Kissing her hungrily, Angel cupped her breast in his hand. Though the thin silk of her bra, he stroked and caressed the firm mound, teasing the taut peak of her nipple with the brushing sweep of his thumb. Reaching for the top button on his shirt, Buffy undid it slowly. Her hands moved with increasing speed down the next few buttons, stopping when she reached his belt. She murmured softly, the sound trapped between their lips. In response, Angel shifted back slightly, and Buffy tugged his shirt out of his pants. Unfastening the few remaining buttons, she slid the slick material down his arms, brushing her palms over his powerful shoulders in a slow caress. Breaking their kiss, Angel shrugged out of his shirt, tossing it aside carelessly. Returning to Buffy, he brushed open-mouthed kisses along her cheek, moving down her throat to linger at her shoulder. He eased the strap of her bra down her arm, pulling the soft silk away from her breast to stroke her bare flesh. A few seconds later, Buffy impatiently

unclasped her bra and tugged it off to join the rest of her clothing on the floor. His hands shifted on her body, rolling her on her back as his lips returned to hers in a heated, intrusive kiss. He settled between her thighs, his longer, harder frame pressing her down into the soft mattress. Beneath him, Buffy twined her arms around Angels neck holding him close. Their kisses grew heady; more demanding. When he at last lifted his head, she inhaled deeply, filling her starved lungs. Angel nipped playfully at her throat as he slowly moved lower; her nerves tightened in anticipation, her nipples tingling as she waited for the addictive pleasure of his mouth. He looked up her briefly, his lips curving into a knowing and sure smile, before he slowly lowered his head to her breasts. Buffy mewled softly, sinking her fingers into the thick mass of his hair as she gave herself up to the intoxicating play of his lips and tongue, the hot wet suction of his mouth. Her need grew steadily as he caressed then tweaked the tight aching peaks of her nipples, pressing hot kisses to every inch of the soft skin surrounding them as he leisurely worshiped her body. She arched into his mouth, her low breathy gasps filling the room as her fingers clenched tightly, holding him close. He shifted lower, his lips trailing down her abdomen with warm, wet kisses. One hand still stroked her breasts, massaging, squeezing, caressing. He paused briefly when he reached her navel, stopping to circle it with this tongue. The fingers of one hand drifted along her ribs then down her waist to stop at the lacy elastic of her panties on one hip. Breathless, Buffy tensed, wondering what he was intending. Her fingers flexed, and she opened her eyes to look down at him. Angel lifted his head, and their eyes met; hers were lambent and luminous, his were dark and fathomless in the shadowy bedroom. Both pairs were filled with longing and desire. He moved lower on the bed, parting her legs further to accommodate his wide shoulders. His hand glided along her thigh, over her hip to rest on her stomach, his palm, firm and possessive on her warm, soft skin. Buffy couldnt take her eyes from his, even as he reached for the elastic on her hips and began to peel the tiny lace panties down her legs. Her breath strangled in her throat even as she lifted her hips and helped him remove her last article of clothing, leaving her nude before him. Her head dropped back to the bed as his fingers brushed her curls, slowly, artfully. He caressed, stroked, and finally probed, his finger slipping inside just enough to tease, to send her frenzied senses scrambling.

Under his skilled touch, her body came to life. Her hips lifted in anticipation of each caress, her nerves tightening and her muscles tensing. Angel pushed her higher, caressing the sensitive nub of her clit with his thumb as his finger slipped steadily deeper in her now slick and swollen folds. Leaning forward, he brushed her thigh with a soft kiss. At the first touch of his lips between her legs, Buffy lost all capacity to think. A tidal wave of exquisite sensation surged and swept through her, sending her pulse racing and her heart hammering in her chest. She wanted to protest the intimate act, but instead moaned as the wicked pleasure threatened to engulf her. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment, but the pleasure he brought her could not be denied. Seemingly of their own accord, her hips writhed and twisted, but his hands closed over them, holding her still. Buffy squirmed helplessly, mewling and fighting for breath as he lapped at her, stroking her with his tongue and showing her the shared pleasure that could be found in such an intimate act. Her embarrassment melted away with the sheer ecstasy as he continued the delicious torment. Angel. His name escaped her lips on a breathy sigh. The implosion of sensation caught her suddenly and a high, keening cry escaped her lips as she fractured; hurled into a sensual, explosive ecstasy where, for that one blinding moment, nothing mattered but the intense, glorious pleasure. Exultant, Angel savored her release and the powerful contractions that rippled through her body as he continued his erotic licking caresses. He waited for the last tremor to subside before he eased back and lifted his head. Ignoring the intense ache in his groin, he studied the now still form of his wife. She was gloriously spent, dazed, and without a doubt, sated. His eyes traveled over her naked form with possessive fervor. He dropped a kiss on her stomach as he moved to her side. Stripping off all but his boxers a small barrier of self-control he lay next to her, pulling her against his side. Covering them with the thin sheet and blanket, he closed his eyes and slept. ** At the loud knock, Gunn rose to his feet and walked toward the door, his eyes never leaving the pre-game coverage of the basketball game that was on TV. It was one of the few games between the Clippers and the Lakers and was, despite being pre-season, expected to be tense due to the intense local rivalry between the two teams. Fred was in the back of the rented house, currently painting the bedroom

for the third time having decided that neither Bellflower Blue nor Caspian Sea was exactly the right shade of blue. Lynx Lake was, however, looking promising. Hey. Gunn greeted as he opened the door to see Angel, Wes and Doyle. Angel was carrying a brown grocery bag, Doyle held a twelve pack of beer in each hand, and Wes carried a pizza box. The guys had agreed to get together for the Tuesday night game several weeks ago and fortunately, everyones schedule cooperated. Bout time, games about to start. Is that paint I smell? Wesley asked with a frown as the guys followed Gunn to the dining table that sat at one end of the combined living room and dining area. Yeah, Freds painting the bedroom. Again. Gunn answered with a slight roll of his eyes. The yellow that was in there when we moved in was bad Feng Shui or so she says - and the previous two shades of blue were not quite the right color to rebalance the room or some such thing. His expression mirrored his thoughts, as he obviously didnt share his girlfriends objections to the colors or her unwavering perseverance to correct the matter. Shouldnt you be helping? Angel questioned as he took the chips and salsa out of the bag and set them on the table. Opening a bag of corn chips, he popped one in his mouth, catching the incredulous stares of his friends. Helping? With the Clippers and Lakers starting in ten minutes? Gunn said with a facetious lift of his brows, Are you kiddin me? Youre asking the wrong guy, Doyle asserted with a grin, Angel there missed the Rangers and Portstewart to take the wife out to dinner. No shit?! Gunn exclaimed laughingly, taking the two beers that Wes handed him and passing one to Doyle and the other to Angel. Oh, but it was worth it. Angel replied with a shrug, his smile sportive. You missed that game? Can you still call yourself Irish? Wes chimed in with a wink, picking up the bottle opener and popping the metal cap off his beer. Yo, speaking of that, Gunn interrupted, slapping his hands together. Dr. Walsh, your friend from the BCIS, came by yesterday. Yeah? Angel said curiously, pausing in lifting the bottle in his hand to his mouth. That is one uptight woman. Gunn declared with a shake of his head.

And when did they change their name from the INS? I musta missed that memo Whatd she say? Angel asked calmly, though his shoulders tensed. She asked some questions about how you and Buffy met, why you married, if I thought your behavior was typical Sounds similar to what she asked me, Wes nodded agreeably, glancing back at Angel. She gave me the distinct impression that she thinks you got married just to stay in the country. Gunn said seriously, taking the bottle opener from Wes and opening his own beer. Angel searched for the right thing to say. He had married Buffy to stay in the country; but that seemed so long ago now, things had changed so much since then. Still, for reasons he couldnt quite discern, he didnt want to tell his friends that at least not yet. So whatd you tell her? Well, I started to tell her how I could never imagine you married, but instead I told her the truth that Ive never seen a man as whipped as you. Gunn joked, holding up his beer in mock toast, One look at Buffy and you were done for. Next sound was wedding bells and hes not been the same since. Wes added with a laugh, clinking bottles with Gunn before slapping Angel companionably on the shoulder. Games starting. Doyle said, glancing at the television as he loaded his plate with a combination of pizza, chips, and salsa. But I think hes onto something there, He added, gesturing toward Gunn with his beer bottle, as he looked directly at Angel, of course, its not hard to figure out, you know. No doubt hes endured hours of hearing about the wonder that is Buffy when hes attempting to study criminal law with you thats led to that conclusion. And thats without being drug out of bed at the crack of dawn to watch you run off your sexual frustration. Uh, thanks I think. Angel returned with a touch of friendly sarcasm in his voice. He endured their good-natured teasing about his marriage and his obvious affection for his wife for another twenty minutes before the conversation finally shifted to sports and the game.

*** Two days later ***

Angel walked through the door just after five oclock, carrying a small bouquet of flowers. As expected, Buffy was sitting on the couch studying her typical position most often when she was home. Oh, Angel, theyre beautiful. You shouldnt have. Buffy said with a smile as she took the elaborate paper wrapped arrangement of red and white blooms from him and started toward the kitchen. She inhaled the delicate fragrance of the roses and lilies as she reached for a glass pitcher that was to serve as a makeshift vase. Its a special occasion. He leaned against the counter behind her, watching her. And were going out. Really? She turned from the sink to look at him. Which occasion would that be? Its our five month anniversary. Angel grinned as he crossed one leg over the other at the ankle, Dont tell me you forgot. I didnt forget exactly. Buffy murmured in reply, her heart suddenly beating wildly in her chest. She was taken by surprise that he remembered, since they had never done anything to mark the occasion before. She was also suddenly wishing she had some gift to give him in return. I thought wed go down to the beach. Theres a great hotdog stand at the pier and if you want dessert, theres cotton candy His expression was playful. He knew though, how much she loved the beach, she had mentioned it several times. Wow, hotdogs and cotton candy. Youre going all out here, arent you? Buffy teased, setting the flowers on the counter with a proud smile. Stepping over to where Angel stood, she went into his arms easily, naturally. Of course. Five month anniversaries dont come along every day. He dropped a kiss on her nose, reminded suddenly of his Uncles words earlier when he had happened to mention the date and occasion in their brief phone conversation. With a smile in his voice, Giles had said something to the effect of when it hits, youll know it. Not that Angel was exactly admitting that anything had hit. I should change then, Buffy said, feeling absurdly happy, if were going out. You look great. Angel murmured huskily, his eyes drifting lazily over the baby blue figure hugging sundress that she wore. The thin straps revealed her tan shoulders in a way that beckoned for him to slide them

down; the skirt was decorated with flowers, giving it a very feminine, flirty look. Just wear that. When they arrived at the restaurant Angel selected, they were shown to an intimate table in the corner near the window with a magnificent view of the ocean and sunset. Dinner was casual but superb, conversation flowed easily, Angel was endearingly sweet, and by the end of the meal, Buffy felt as if she had walked into a fairytale indulged and pampered by the handsome prince. Afterwards, they took a walk along the pier and then down the beach, enjoying the late fall warmth of the evening and each others company. This is all a little overwhelming, Buffy said softly, tucked securely in the curve of Angels arm as they sat at the edge of the water on a quiet stretch of beach. In the pink-hued, slowly darkening sky, the lapping of the waves was soothing as were the pervasive salt tang of the air and the melodic and repetitive call of the seagulls. They were familiar sights and sounds that Buffy had always found a calming respite, particularly during her mothers illness; now they took on new meaning sharing them with Angel. The ocean? No, you. She said with a smile, brushing her hair out of her eyes, I keep thinking Im dreaming. Pinch me. Ill be happy to, babe, but lets wait until we get home, Angel said with a smile. His arms tightened and he pulled her closer, leaning down to nuzzle her ear, then Ill pinch you wherever you want. Mmm promises. Buffy murmured softly, her hand sliding up his back as she leaned her head against his arm. What do you say about taking the weekend off? His voice was soft and low, his fingers moving in a subtle caress on her ribs. What did you have in mind? Leaning back slightly, Buffy looked up at him from under her lashes. His eyes, darker in the fading light, met hers. Her head tilted back even further as a tiny frisson of heat crept up her spine at the mesmerizing look. Raising his hand, his fingertips skimmed her cheek before moving along her jaw, barely touching. Bending, Angel lowered his head and brushed her lips with a butterfly light kiss. I was thinking about you and me The barest touch of his lips on hers brought forth the now familiar ache of want. He nibbled gently at her lips, lingeringly before his mouth settled on hers. Angling his head, the pressure of his lips increased as he

deepened the kiss. There was magic in the air, surrounding them as desire rose, hot and enthralling and whirled through her. The tip of his tongue traced her lips, caressing. Melting against him, she parted her lips on a soft sigh and willingly delighted in the intimate caress as his tongue slipped into her mouth to twine with hers. Several heated kisses later, Angel finally drew back. Her senses reeling, Buffy opened her eyes and studied his face. I was thinking about you and me spending the weekend together in bed, he murmured softly, running his palm down her back, stroking soothingly, seductively. His breath was warm against her ear as he added, Naked. Skin to skin. Buffys breath hitched slightly, and she closed her eyes. I want to spend the entire weekend making love to you, He whispered the words against her throat as he planted soft, open-mouthed kisses along the smooth column, kissing you, touching you, exploring every delicious inch of you. I want to be inside you. The husky words set her nerves on edge and sent her heart racing; her skin tingled. She shivered. He turned, his lips returning to hers with a deep, soul-stirring kiss as he eased her down on the soft sand. His mouth moved on hers in a primitive, elemental call to her senses. Buffy responded eagerly, her tongue slipping in his mouth to tangle with his as mind-whirling anticipation surged with forceful intensity. The desire that had been building between them for weeks, smoldered, flared then exploded, the flames licking greedily and devouring any last trace of resistance. Buffy twined her arms around his neck, wanting more of the beckoning pleasure. She pressed herself against him in unconscious entreaty, her hips rocking unconsciously against the powerful body intimately pressed to hers, seeking to ease her hunger. Their lips parted for less than a heartbeat before they met again with a steadily mounting, compelling urgency. Tongues twined, sliding sensuously together. Moving one hand to his shoulder, Buffy flexed her fingers in a desperate attempt to get closer. Angel shifted slightly and his muscles flexed beneath her hand, his strength, his body fascinating her. Their kiss changed from hungry to ravenous; Angels hand crept up her waist and closed over her breast. His fingers kneaded and stroked as lightening raced through her veins; his thumb found the tight peak of her

nipple, rubbing in delicate caress. Buffy hauled in a gasping breath as his mouth moved to her throat. Giddy, her senses reeling, she arched her back and pressed more firmly into his caressing hand. A nearby shout brought them to their senses. Angel lifted his head, his arms tightening protectively as he looked up in the direction of the noise. Panting softly and still clinging to him, Buffy followed his gaze. A short distance down the beach a raucous group was setting up an evening party spot. With a sigh, he returned his gaze to her face, Ready to go home? Soon, Buffy murmured softly as she pulled his head back down to hers. She knew only that she wanted more of him; she was unconcerned about the group in sight of them on the beach. There was a hunger in their kisses, an unleashed passion that lurked just below the surface clamoring for release. Angels tongue tangled with hers, intimately enticing, before settling into a slow, repetitive probing rhythm. How much longer they stayed there, kissing, touching, Buffy couldnt say; when they finally separated she had lost touch with the world. The white of Angels teeth gleamed in the dark. Ill be counting down the hours until the weekend He took her mouth in one last, searching kiss before pushing back and coming to his feet. Extending his hand, he helped her up and began brushing the sand from her clothing. She blinked up at him, her eyes luminous in the dim light. Reaching up, she traced the line of his brow with her fingertips. By my watch the weekend starts in about eighteen hours, give or take a few minutes. One eyebrow quirking upward, Angel reached for her hand. I cant wait. Mmm me either. Buffy murmured softly, returning his smile. Now what excuse do you think I should give Snyder? Walking hand in hand, they made their way back to the car. ** So whats the important shopping situation? Willow questioned as she dropped her book bag and purse in the back seat of Buffys jeep. I need something. For tonight. Buffy replied, looking in the rearview

mirror, then the side mirror, before pulling away from the curb and into the early afternoon traffic. She had called Willow early that morning and asked if shed mind missing their afternoon classes in order to hit the mall and a few boutiques. Something, huh? Well that narrows it down. The red-head laughed in response, glancing at her friend out of the corner of her eye. Something Buffy searched for the appropriate word as she drove through the intersection and turned right, heading toward downtown Sunnydale. Her voice dropped an octave, sexy. Sexy? Are we talking going out and knocking somebodys socks off dressy sexy here? Willow asked with an impish gleam in her eye. She flipped down the sun visor and checked her teeth in the small mirror. Yes The petite blonde answered, but then amended, Well, but not the going out part. And maybe more than socks. Oh-oh-oh! Willow squealed animatedly, snapping the visor up and turning toward her best friend. You mean sexy sexy. So then you and Angel, youre gonna you know? I think so I mean yeah, we are. Buffy chewed her lower lip thoughtfully as she scanned the row of cars in search of a parking spot. And I want something special to wear. Tonight? Youre going to-to do it tonight? The red-haired girl pointed off to the right, Theres one. That cars leaving. Are you going someplace special? Details, I want details. Well, not all of them, but some. I took off from Patina this weekend, so were spending it together just me and Angel. The young blonde answered as she guided the car into the parking spot along the curb. I dont think were going anywhere. At least if we are, Angel didnt say Wow, Buffy, wow! I knew you and Angel had a thing you know, a good thing. Im really happy for you. Thanks Will. Buffy smiled as she opened the door and got out of the car. So where are we going first? Willow asked cheerfully, shielding her eyes from the glare of the afternoon sun. I thought wed try Chloes and Bonne Nuit then maybe head over to the mall to Victorias Secret and La Petit Coquette, Buffy said happily, looping her arm through Willows as they started down the street. Laughing, Willow teased, You know, hes only going to let you wear

whatever it is that you buy for only like ten minutes, right? Well then I want to look really, really good for those ten minutes. The petite blonde returned with an answering laugh and a faint blush. The afternoon passed in a whirl as the two women made their way to the various shops. Buffy tried on dozens of lacy, frothy, silky confections before deciding on a sensual ivory silk gown with a decorative lace bodice, a high side slit and low plunging back. In addition, Willow talked her into buying a light pink mesh baby-doll with black lace trim and a black embroidered merry widow style corset and sheer black stockings. She wasnt entirely sure shed ever wear the latter, but then the thought of Angels jaw dropping as Willow assured her that it definitely would if she wore it definitely gave her a wicked urge to give it a try. *** Angel glanced up from the book in his lap and looked out the window. Just as Buffy had requested when she had gotten home, he was staying away from the bedroom while she did whatever it was she was doing in preparation for their evening. He had picked up a book to read, but instead his mind had been focused on his now-habitual obsession: his wife. Her image rose in his mind her smile that flirted across her lips when she looked at him, her beautiful hazel green eyes that watched him with such intensity, her soft, rich golden hair and petite but oh-so-perfect figure the taut coral nipples that beckoned for his lips, the warm, wet honeyed heat of her delicate core Standing, he paced over to the window and attempted to curb his lusty thoughts. His desire for his wife had grown stronger, if that was even possible, in the last few days. He wanted her more than he could ever recall wanting someone or even something before yet even as he wanted to ease the ache in his body, he questioned if there was something more he could do to make this night special for her. Should he have taken her away, to some romantic resort? At the very least, he could still take her out to a nice, elegant dinner but where? Angel? Her soft voice interrupted his thoughts and he turned from the window. Buffy stood near the sofa, still in the shadows as the sunlight streamed in the windows behind him. When she came forward, into view, Angels breath caught in his throat, his every muscle tensing, rigid with not shock exactly, but something far greater than surprise. He swallowed hard, his gaze locked on her as he took in what she was and wasnt wearing. The ivory gown clung seductively to her figure, in no way concealed by the diaphanous robe

hanging open from her shoulders. She walked toward him, one tan, slim leg revealed by the high, side slit with each step. He couldnt move, couldnt take his eyes off of her; his entire focus was on the woman standing in front of him, her body so beautifully and temptingly displayed. Buffy didnt stop until she reached him, the whisper soft silk swirling around her. Meeting his gaze directly, expectantly, she slid one hand up his arm to his shoulder. Her other palm splayed flat on his chest. Angels control was tenuous; taking a deep breath, he managed to choke out, Are you sure we could go to dinner first. Swaying closer, her thighs brushing his, her breasts pressing into his chest, she smiled a sweet, understanding, patronizing smile. There was more than a hint of challenge in her eyes. Her gaze dropped to his lips, Im not hungry for food. Without conscious thought, he lifted his hands to rest on the gentle curve of her hips. He fought back the desire to simply haul her close, toss her on the nearby table and ease the fierce ache in his body. It was a desire infinitely stronger, more compelling than anything he had felt before. Slipping her arms around his neck, Buffy rose up on her tiptoes and drew his head down to hers. When her lips were almost touching his, she murmured softly, Stop thinking. Just- Angel covered her lips with his, stopping her words. The kiss was hungry, demanding as he gave up trying to control his desire for his wife. His hands slid over the smooth silk, caressing her hips before his arms closed around her, dragging her closer, molding her small frame into his body. Buffy clung to him avidly, returning his kisses, flagrantly inviting him to seize, to take, to claim. With her heart pounding rapidly in her chest, she felt as though she had been waiting for this moment her entire life. Without breaking their kiss, Angel tightened his arms around her and lifted her in his arms. He walked slowly toward the bedroom, stopping every few steps as if taking time to savor each kiss. Finally reaching the bed, he unhurriedly lowered her so that she was kneeling, facing him. His hands roved over her body beneath the robe, cupping her bottom, pressing her firmly against the rigid length of his erection, while his tongue continued to plunder her mouth. Senses whirling, Buffy drew back from the kiss. Your clothes, she murmured, her voice coming out in breathy gasps, as she reached for the buttons of his shirt.

Suddenly impatient, Angel pulled the shirt out his pants and helped with the buttons. When she slid the shirt back over his shoulders, he shrugged it off and tossed it aside with barely restrained violence. Cupping her face with his palms, he tilted her face to look up at him. Buffy studied his eyes, seeing clearly the dark, burning passion, the hint of wildness. For her. It was a heady feeling, an aphrodisiac in fact, to know that she could affect him so powerfully. He bent his head, nuzzling her jaw. Youre beautiful. Turning her head, she enticed his lips back to hers with an eager kiss. Her hands swept over the smooth skin of his chest, splayed and touched, searched and grasped delighting in the feel of the hot skin, the tense and rigid muscles. The long muscles of his back flexed as her wandering hands slipped around him, acquainting herself with his body. Impulsively, she broke off their kiss and ran her mouth down his neck. Her lips and tongue followed where her hands had been only seconds before, exploring and tasting, filling her senses with him. Angel buried his hands in her hair as she moved lower, teasing his flat nipples with small, nipping bites then alternatively soothing them with laving licks of her tongue. Playfully, she traced his collarbone with her tongue, stopping to lave at the pulse beat in his throat for several long seconds before sucking the skin between her teeth. Her hands, never still, danced along his ribs, slipping lower to stop at the waistband of his pants. He froze, breath held, as she unbuckled his belt, then grappled with the button, releasing it with a satisfied sigh. A small groan escaped his lips when she lightly skimmed the line of his erection with her fingers. Glancing up at his face, Buffy could tell that his attention had shifted. His breathing was shallow, his senses distracted by her subtle movements as she steadily lowered his zipper. After only a pulse beat of hesitation, she reached between the gaping material to find him, hard as she expected, yet the velvety smooth skin was hotter than she had anticipated. She dropped a kiss on his shoulder as her questing fingers circled the solid length of his cock, squeezing gently. Taking her time, she varied her strokes, her rhythm and her grip, trying to discern what he liked best; how to please him. And, she thought wickedly, glancing up at his face through the fringe of her lashes, how to provoke him. Tugging gently at her hair, Angel pulled her face back to his, and his lips found hers in a deep, searching kiss. She was only vaguely aware of him stripping the robe from her shoulders, pausing in her ministrations and releasing him only long enough to pass the smooth material over her hand and off to pool on the floor at their feet. Angels control grew more uncertain with each passing second; her every touch, if somewhat lacking in subtlety or finesse due to her inexperience, was guided by instinct and enthusiasm and was, from his perspective,

just shy of heaven. Her body - warm and supple beneath his hands and, soon, spread beneath him in his bed - would, however, be the ultimate ecstasy. The licking flame of anticipation to take her rode him hard, causing a surge of pure unadulterated lust to race through his body, hardening and lengthening the part of his anatomy that she currently held in her hand. Buffy felt it, her thumb sweeping over the head of his erection to massage the few drops of liquid evidence of his desire into his skin. After a few seconds, he captured her wrist, dragging her hand away from him. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her closer. She sucked eagerly on his probing tongue as he cupped her bottom, lifting her into him as he devoured her mouth in a drugging kiss that sent her senses reeling. Completely unresisting, Buffy sank into his arms, reveling in the feel of his body against hers, the silken gown offering no real barrier to sensation. Breaking their kiss, Angel lowered his head at the same time he arched Buffy back over one strong arm. His mouth covered one pebbled nipple through the silky fabric and he suckled fiercely. Gasping, Buffy dropped her head back even as she buried her fingers in Angels hair in an attempt to steady herself. After almost a minute, he tugged the straps of the gown down, baring her to his gaze. His arm tightened on her waist as he returned his lips to her bare skin. He licked and suckled torturing the taut peaks for several long minutes, his mouth hot on her skin. His other hand pushed the material of her gown lower, growing impatient when it stalled at her hips the fitted gown designed to be pulled over her head. Angel drew back and straightened, his gaze fixed on her swollen nipples. Buffy helped him pull the gown over her head. It was only then that she realized that he had somehow kicked off his shoes and removed his pants. As naked as she, he was now standing in front of her. She licked her lips and swallowed hard, a momentary shiver of fear passing through her. Pushing it aside, Buffy reached for him. Angel once more drew her back in his arms, his lips finding hers again as his hands roamed over her curves with explicit intention. She matched him kiss for kiss as their desire rose higher, into a raging, unfettered need. Buffy sighed softly and clutched him closer, delighting in the feel of his hard body against hers, hot and urgent, his desire for her never more evident than it was tonight. It swept away her last vestige of modesty and any remaining reservations. Urging her back on the bed, Angel lifted one knee and parted her thighs. Her breath hitched, tangling in her throat as his knee brushed the sensitive apex gently, deliberately pressing against the neatly trimmed

curls with a steady, knowing pressure. His clever fingers replaced his knee as she melted back into the bed. He teased, retreated, only to return and tease again until she was helplessly clinging to his shoulders, just on the brink of climax. Her nerves tight with anticipation, she waited as he shifted away to draw something out of the table near the bed. She watched with interest as he rolled the latex sheath over his erection before joining her on the bed. The touch of his thighs, parting hers, reinforced the intimacy of the situation and sent her senses tumbling in disarray. Arms braced, Angel held himself over her. He shifted fractionally, and she felt the touch of the hard, blunt head press against her intimately. He moved again, pressing forward, and she felt the hard strength parting her swollen, slippery folds. Beneath him, Buffy tensed. Angel stopped, every muscle taut, and glanced at Buffys face. He planted soft kisses on her lips, her eyes, her cheeks, as his hips flexed, sliding forward just a little. He withdrew slightly and she whimpered, clutching at him. Easy, He whispered softly, reversing direction and pushing forward again in shallow, tantalizing thrusts. Buffy sucked in a breath, exhaling softly as he withdrew again. Slowly, she began to relax, growing accustomed to the size and feel of him. Angel lowered his head; Buffy lifted her lips to meet his. He kissed her lightly, his attention still focused on the steady flexing of his hips, gliding forward ever so slightly before retreating to begin the pattern anew. Gradually she began to respond, her hips rising to meet him, her body arching into him, wanting more. Bit by bit, the ache threatened to consume her, leaving her wet and open and so hungry with desire, that she whimpered softly and dug her fingernails into his back when he attempted to withdrawal from her again. Angel kissed her ravenously, his tongue deep in her mouth, plundering. She felt him shift his hips again, his weight settling more heavily on her. After a brief hesitation, he thrust forward powerfully. Buffy cried out softly, the sound captured his mouth. He drove forward, stretching her, impaling her deeply until he was seated to the hilt. She struggled for breath, struggled to comprehend the feel of him, hard and hot and strong, embedded deep with in her, filling her more completely than she imagined possible. Lifting his head, Angel studied her face. He licked away the single tear that leaked from her eye as he murmured soft words against her skin, love words, seductive words that told her how good she felt, how much

he wanted her. When he finally drew back and pressed in again, she tensed, expecting the same sharp pain. Instead, she was surprised to feel only a minor twinge of discomfort; he moved again, slow and steady, and by degrees her defensive tension began to unwind. As she relaxed, the intimacy of the moment captured her. She gradually became aware of her nipples brushing the smooth hot skin of his chest as she writhed beneath him, the delicate brush of his hair against her cheek as he kissed her neck, the hard strength of his legs between hers Her earlier hunger began to return as passion stirred within her, reignited. Stay with me, babe, he murmured as he withdrew completely, only to thrust forward more forcefully than before. A streaking rush of sensation shot through her at what she perceived to be more of a growled command, and she twined her arms around his neck, arching up to meet his next downward stroke. Buffy tugged his head down, nibbling and biting at his lower lips as the relentless, repetitive movements fed the steady, growing whirlwind of desire. Restlessly they moved together as the unrestrained swell surged higher, the force frightening, thrilling and utterly compelling. She arched wildly, taking him deeper, wanting him more intensely, satisfied only when he thrust harder, faster, even more powerfully than before. She keened softly, sinking her nails into his shoulders as their bodies merged and came together in desperate need. Could one die from such heated pleasure? She wondered briefly. She would have given anything in that moment to reach the elusive peak of desire that beckoned with steadily escalating urgency. In the next instant she felt it; she let go of her hold on reality as her body imploded with shimmering sensation, the spark flashing through every quivering nerve to melt through her skin. Screaming his name, she reached that soul-shattering, unearthly, divine climax. Angel dragged a deep breath into his lungs; his eyes closed tight as he felt the shuddering convulsions of her orgasm surround him. Driven by a need he could no longer control, an ache that had gone unfulfilled for what seemed like weeks now, he thrust hard and deep. Release came crashing through him with an unsurpassed intensity, leaving him spent and exhausted and more deeply sated than he had ever been in his life. ** With the machine turned on to answer calls on the first ring and turned down so that they didnt have to hear the callers voice, the two lovers spent the weekend in blissful, isolated companionship. Angel made Buffy breakfast in bed, and in turn she smilingly fed him from her plate. They cuddled together and pretended to watch TV, spending more time kissing and searching out sensitive spots than watching whatever program was

on. They made love often, Angel showing Buffy the pleasurable delights that could be had in the shower, on the sofa and even once, on the kitchen table. Buffy, in turn, exerted a growing assertiveness and growing abandon in her sexuality that Angel found both endearing and incredibly seductive. When the alarm went off Monday morning, a cruel reminder that their pleasurable weekend interlude was over, Angel reluctantly let Buffy slip out of his grasp. Tired but smiling, she gave Angel a lingering goodbye kiss at the door before she headed out to teach her kickboxing class. She had only reached the bottom step, before she turned and raced back up the stairs. Faith owed her several times over; surely the brunette wouldnt mind teaching her class this morning. Twenty minutes later Buffy was happily ensconced back in bed, legs parted and draped over her husband's shoulders as he showed his appreciation for her return.

A Convenient Marriage, Part 10

Author: Gia Rating: NC-17 Disclaimer: Joss, ME, & own all but the ficcy idea and some of the words. Pairing: B/A; includes W/O, Fred/Gunn and Spike/Harmony. Mentions of C/A. Author's Notes: Yeah, okay, so I may have some teeny, tiny Nina issues I'm exercising in fic. It happens. Sorry this took soo long to get out! Big thanks as always to LJ and Copper. See previous parts for other notes.

Feedback: Yes, please Distribution: Anywhere currently hosting my stuff; my site, EverySixSeconds; anywhere else, just let me know. completed 3.12.2004

Buffy smiled, half listening to the joking barbs that were being bantered back and forth between the guys as their ritual poker game gradually grew more competitive. It was the first time that she had been home when Angel hosted the monthly poker game, so it was the first time she had a chance to hear the friendly but loud rivalry that went on between the guys. She was baking chocolate chip cookies to take over to Willows as a comfort present of sorts since Oz was going to be gone over a week. The Dingoes were playing a few gigs in Northern California, and Willow seemed particularly down about his absence this time, particularly with Buffy spending more of her free time with Angel. Putting the bowl that had contained the cookie dough in the sink, Buffy rinsed it out then set it aside to wash. She glanced over her shoulder as Angel entered the kitchen. It was apparently his turn to retrieve another round of beers. Cookies smell great. Are you going to leave me some? He teased, veering from his path to the refrigerator to stand in front of her. Maybe. If youre good. She smiled up at him, reaching around to grab the oven mitt from the counter behind him. Im always good, sweetheart. I thought you knew that though Id be happy to refresh your memory later he murmured suggestively, stepping forward until she was backed up against the counter, his arms braced on either side of her. Buffy looked up at him and he lost himself in the radiant hazel green of her eyes. Without thought, he lowered his head and touched his lips to hers. Her lips felt petal soft beneath his and she tasted like a delicious combination of cookie dough and rich coffee. Nudging her lips open with his tongue, he savored her warmth, her taste. A now familiar jolt of fire shot through him and he leaned closer, pressing her firmly against him and the counter. Yet even this wasnt close enough. He wanted to be closer With a smooth economy of motion, he lifted her effortlessly and sat her on the edge of the counter. Buffy automatically clasped his hips with her thighs, her arms encircling his neck to cling even closer to him. Angel? She gasped breathlessly when his lips finally lifted and moved to

her neck, kissing the sensitive flesh beneath her ear. Behind them a laughing cough erupted. I, uh, was sent in to see what was taking so long. Doyle was right about why it was so quiet in here. Blushing slightly, Buffy peeked over Angels shoulder to see Wesley standing in the doorway, a grin on his face. Angel sighed, resting his forehead against Buffys for a lingering moment before helping her down from the counter. Smiling, he dropped a kiss on her nose then stepped back and over to the fridge, reaching inside to take out four bottles of Corona. Its only been two minutes; you boozers are just impatient. Two minutes? According to my watch its been more like ten, Wes countered with a grin, winking at Buffy who, with lightly pink cheeks, was watching them. And I have to say it looked like it was going to be at least another ten though I hope youd have more consideration for you wife than that. With a watch that bad, its a wonder you get anywhere on time. How do you manage to get to your classes, anyway, doc? Angel shot back jokingly as he followed Wes back to the dining room. Calling him doc' had become a recent joke among the guys now that Wesley was in medical school. Buffy shook her head as the teasing camaraderie continued for several long minutes after the guys returned to the poker game. When the last batch of cookies came out of the oven, she placed them on a plate that she slipped into a zip lock bag. She drew a little heart next to Angels name on a piece of paper and propped it next to the plate. She gathered up the rest of the cookies along with her book bag. Waving goodbye to the guys, she left for Willow's. ***** The poker game was still in full swing when Buffy returned almost two hours later. Shaking her head, she said her hellos and, shortly thereafter, her goodnights, then made her way to the bedroom. She was cocooned in the bed long before the game broke up and the guys made their way out the door. She wasnt asleep; rather she was waiting and listening for Angels footsteps as he finally made his way down the short hall. She could only hear faint sounds from the bathroom next door as he went about the nightly ritual of washing up and brushing his teeth for bed. A short while later he slipped into the room, a shadow moving carefully in the murky darkness. He stopped by the bed and took off his shoes and

socks, taking care to be quiet since he thought her to be asleep. Buffy moved then, shifting on the bed as she watched him. Hearing the small sound, Angel glanced toward her. Im sorry, did we keep you up? No, Buffy replied, her voice a low whisper. She watched him undress with avid interest, her eyes adjusted to the dark. His shirt was unbuttoned with a habitual ease before he shrugged it off and tossed it toward the basket near the closet. He unbuckled his belt, and stripped off his pants leaving him standing near the closet in only a pair of black boxers. I was waiting for you. Her voice sounded husky to her ears. She lifted the blankets back in invitation. Oh? Angel answered with interest as he moved to the bed, stopping to strip off his last remaining article of clothing before he slid into bed next to her. Without waiting for a response, he cupped her cheek in one hand and kissed her. It was a sensual, thorough kiss that sent her senses soaring and her mind whirling. It was exactly what she had been waiting for; exactly what she had been craving. Beneath the covers, he settled his body against hers. His hand moved from her cheek to her neck then down over her shoulder to slip beneath the sheet and caress the smooth skin of her back that was revealed by the low cut of her chemise-style nightgown. His hand continued lower, gliding over the rounded swell of her bottom covered by the satiny material. He tugged her closer, his hand brushing the back of her thighs before slipping beneath her gown. He caressed her leisurely, his hand roving over her behind with a possessive languor. After a few minutes he tugged on her gown, pulling it upward. Breaking off their kiss, he helped her remove the tiny garment, dropping it off the side of the bed. Their lips met again, fused, melded together and his hands once more swept over her warm, smooth skin. One hand slipped between her thighs, stroked and then pressed in. Angel stifled a groan. She was wet, ready for him. Rolling slightly, he leaned over and reached for the nightstand, pulling open the drawer. Mentally he noted that hed need to buy more condoms soon; they were going through them at a pretty steady pace not that he was in any way, shape, or form complaining. Ripping open the package impatiently, he donned the condom with the speed of considerable practice. Buffy opened her arms to him as he pressed her back in the bed. She lifted her face eagerly for his kiss as he parted her thighs with his own and slid into her damp heat. He moved with a slow, hard rhythm,

glorying in how much she wanted him, how hot and tight and wet she was for him and how she tilted her hips to take him deeper with each stroke then rotated them slightly in teasing friction as he withdrew. With mouths fused and tongues tangled together, they moved together easily, in a fluid, now familiar, rhythm. The sound of their panting breaths, the small mewls and deep groans of pleasure and the swish of the sheets on the bed were the only sounds in the darkened room. Slick, hot skin slid across equally hot skin as the heady pleasure spiraled, pushing them ever closer to the tumultuous edge. With steady but slow and powerful strokes, Angel moved between her thighs, feeling Buffy arch beneath him and lift her hips to meet each thrust, urging him on. Even as the urgency built, he continued to pace himself, moving slowly, wanting to draw out the rapturous pleasure. Closing his eyes, he concentrated, attempting to savor every small touch of her hands on his body, the taste of each sweet, delicious kiss and the sensual brush of her skin against his. He thrust harder, deeper, and Buffy gasped. She felt the tension coiling inside her as release drew steadily closer. Bending her legs, she lifted them and wrapped them around his hips. Her fingers skimmed his hips, his back, clutching at him. Her hands drifted up his back to his neck. She sank her fingers in his hair as he sucked hard at the erratically beating pulse in her throat. She was teetering close to the glorious edge, struggling for breath. Her eyelashes fluttered and her eyes opened. She tugged at his hair, bringing his face back to hers. Her panting breath mingled with his own as they writhed together, Angel intent on maintaining his steady, driving rhythm. Their eyes met in the dim light before he lowered his head once again to kiss her. Buffy gave a small shuddering gasp and Angel felt the tremor ripple through him. The tension in his body increased and he moved forward again, his cadence faster, more urgent, more compulsive. They moved together in feverish abandon, the blankets slipping off the bed and falling to the floor unnoticed. In the next instant, Buffy felt the peaking desire consume her, the sensation overwhelming; she sank her teeth in his shoulder as she reached her glorious, explosive climax. Angel felt the scalding heat of her body stiffening beneath his, convulsing around him in tiny, quivering shudders. It was the last test of his tenuous control; gasping, he joined her, plunging forward with barely suppressed violence and propelling them both upward on the bed. Heedless to all but carnal satisfaction, he felt the rush of orgasmic pleasure sweep through his entire body for a fiercely long, endless moment before he collapsed

over her, sated and content. Long after Buffy had fallen asleep in his arms, Angel lay awake feeling curiously different. The pleasure was familiar, but anything he experienced before paled by comparison. It was a feeling of contentment, of belonging and of something stronger, something he wouldnt quite name. He brushed a kiss on her hair as she stirred in his arms, snuggling her nose against his chest and mumbling slightly in her sleep. Buffy had become immeasurably important to him; he could no longer see his future without her in it. And that frightened him more than he cared to admit. ***** With his book propped on the arm of the couch, Angels concentration was focused on the text as he studied for his Criminal Evidence midterm. He absently caressed the small, bare feet that lay in his lap, Buffy stretched out on the couch next to him half-dozing, her Chemistry notes having fallen to the floor almost an hour ago when she first drifted off to sleep. It was well after midnight when the phone rang, startling them both. Buffy sat up groggily and watched as Angel rose to answer it, a concerned frown on his face. A call this late during the week usually was not good news. Hello. Angel? Speaking, Angel replied politely, not recognizing the feminine voice on the other end of the line. With the portable phone cradled between his ear and shoulder, he returned to perch on the edge of the couch. Hi Angel, its Nina. She stated in a friendly tone, a hint of a smile in her voice. I thought Id see if youd like to get together. I have tickets to the Dave Matthews concert next week and I would really like your company. Uh, I dont remember Angel began hesitantly, glancing over at Buffy who was watching him curiously, if somewhat sleepily, from her position on the sofa. Without a second thought, he amended his reply, Thanks for the invitation, but no. Im not interested. If Dave Matthews isnt your thing, we could just get together for dinner. Or something. You know, whatever you might want to do, she insisted suggestively, Im up for anything, and Id really like to see you.

Im sorry, Nina, Im not interested. Maybe we met months ago, but things have changed since then. Im married now. Buffy perked up slightly with Angels words; the mention of a womans name and that he was married. She was trying not to appear too interested in his conversation, but it wasnt exactly working. Married? Really? Nina echoed with a laugh, Thats pretty extreme to get out of a date, isnt it? Its the truth, Angel answered plainly. Whatever, Angel, really. That doesnt have to matter to me; I dont have any ridiculous scruples. I just want to have a good time, Nina declared congenially, looking up and smiling at her friends that were watching and listening as she made the call. It matters to me, he declared unfalteringly, watching Buffy who was now studying her fingernails with interest. That surprises me. Ive heard that you were up for anything. A pout evident in her tone, Nina tried a different tactic, But then, if your wife has you by the balls, I understand. That happens to a lot of men when they get married; the wife runs the show. Its sad really, how emasculating that is and so unattractive. I just never thought you were the type, but Wait! Angel suddenly snapped, afraid that she was going to hang up. On the opposite end of the phone, Nina smiled and gave the thumbs up to her friends, indicating success with her insinuation. Men were so easily manipulated by ego, or so she thought. His next question, however, took her by surprise, Where did you say we met again? You dont remember? Nina replied after a moment, hedging. No, Im sorry, I dont, Angel murmured smoothly, maybe you could remind me? We met at work. Work? Yours or mine? He asked, his eyes still on his wife. Buffy was now pretending to read her chemistry notes, which were upside down in her lap. He smiled. Your work. I came in the office there to see a friend and you were very insistent on getting my number, she purred, unaware that Angels thoughts had gone in a different direction than she expected. And since its been a while and you havent called, I thought you must have lost the number so I decided to call you.

I see. And this was where again? Reaching out, Angel lifted a strand of Buffys hair and let it slide through his fingers. At his touch, she turned and looked up at him. Does it matter? Why dont you just meet me at the Bronze tomorrow night, and Ill refresh your memory. Nina insisted, attempting to hide the annoyance from her voice. She rolled her eyes and shrugged at her friend who was gesturing to know what was being said. Sorry, I was just curious where we met, thats all. Im still not interested. Good night, Angel said bluntly, clicking off the phone. Who was that? Buffy asked, trying hard to keep her tone casual. She had told herself she wasnt going to ask, but the words were out before she could recall them. Someone named Nina, Angel replied, his brow creasing in concentration as he stood. He was certain that he had never met the woman before, but he was admittedly curious why she would say otherwise. His instincts told him that it wasnt as simple as it appeared; it was too similar to the phone call from someone named Kate that he had also never met, but he wasnt sure yet how to explain it or why the pretense from either woman. Making a mental note to change their number, he returned the phone to the cradle. You knew her? Or you didnt? Buffy queried softly, her gaze never leaving him as he walked toward her. No, I dont. He sat down with a puzzled frown. Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, he drew her closed and planted a kiss on her hair. I didnt. I dont. I admit I wasnt a monk before we married, but I honestly cant say that I ever met this Nina. Something tells me that she was lying. Buffy snuggled next to him, resting her head on his shoulder, Lying about what? About us having ever met; about me asking for her number. Idly, he played with her hair as he sorted through the various, unsettled thoughts in his mind. Maybe its a joke? She ventured unconvincingly, aware of his discontent. Maybe He replied, distracted. His expression was still serious. What do you say we change our phone number? If you want too Her fingers drifted over his ribs as she pushed back to look up at him. She shrugged and smiled, her expression without a trace of doubt or censure. Of course, then you realize that Ill have you all to

myself. At least until everyone gets the new number. Angel studied her face. When she smiled at him, his worries seemed to vanish and he forgot all but the tantalizing promise in her smile. You do already. Now what do you say we go to bed? She stretched up against him, looping her arms around his neck. Did you finish studying? Im finished for tonight. Ill read the rest in the morning. I thought you had a mid-term tomorrow. Buffy moved so that she was straddling his lap. I do, but Im ready. He returned, his hands coming to rest on her hips. For the test? She wiggled, feeling the rise of his erection beneath her. For you, he murmured as he guided her hips down and forward in a slow, rocking glide. She shivered at the heated murmur, anticipation warming her senses. Leaning down, she ran her tongue over the curve of his lips. Really, she whispered provocatively, reaching for the string tie on his sweats even as she slid back to drop to the floor between his knees. Thats good because Ive been ready for you since you got home. Buffys caressed the hard length of his erection through the soft cotton material of his sweats, a teasing light in her eyes as she watched his face. Her hand was warm on his stomach as she brushed his shirt out of the way before easing the material of his pants down to expose his cock. Angel brushed a fingertip over her eyebrow, thinking not for the first time how beautiful she was and how lucky he was to have met her. Curling forward, he took her face between his hands and kissed her, a long, slow, delicious kiss that expressed the feelings for her that he had yet to fully acknowledge. When he leaned back again, he had forgotten about the disconcerting phone call only minutes earlier. When Buffy lowered her head, Angel closed his eyes. Her mouth was warm and soft surrounding him; her stroking hands, teasing and eager. A delicate scene of vanilla drifted to his nostrils, along with the faintest trace of hazelnut from the nearby candles, the room seemed to drop away and his focus centered solely on his wife, and the intense, exquisite sensations she was evoking with her mouth, lips and tongue. His size and hardness intoxicated her, a tantalizing reminder of the paradise that he brought so readily. Buffy felt her own temperature rise, restless desire surging through her blood to pulse between her legs. Along with desire, a sense of power rose bringing with it a new degree of

enchantment; she was growing increasingly confident in her ability to bring him to the height of pleasure with her mouth. She could hear his harsh breathing and feel his fingers flexing in her hair as she took him deep in the back of her throat. His hips lifted slightly when she withdrew and he seemed to growl in satisfaction when she returned, sucking him deep and swirling her tongue around the sensitive ridge below the head of his shaft. Angels fingers tightened reflexively in her hair, wanting to grasp the incredible pleasure in his hands. He tugged, suddenly aware that he was close to the brink. Buffy- She shook her head, pulling free. Im not finished, She murmured, looking up at him through tousled strands of blonde hair. She licked the swollen crest of his erection suggestively, causing Angel to groan before taking him in her mouth again and continuing her actions. Long minutes later, he was overwhelmed with glorious sensation. The explosive pleasure broke, shocking and intense, and he came, a low guttural growl sounding deep in his throat. Buffy swallowed willingly, thrilled to have brought him such pleasure. Blissful moments later, Angel lifted his head and met Buffys smile as she lay with her arms draped over his lap, her cheek resting against his thigh. My turn, he said with a satisfied but playful smile. He leaned down and brushed her lips with a kiss. But I think youll have to call Faith to teach your class in the morning, he murmured, his breath warm on her skin as his lips drifted over her cheek, because I plan to keep you up late Before Buffy had a chance to reply, Angel had scooped her up in his arms and had deposited her in his previous position on the couch, switching their positions. He quickly stripped her shorts and t-shirt from her, his own clothing joining hers on the floor short seconds later. Mmmm that sounds perfect, she whispered in reply, her arms twining around his neck and wrapping her legs around his hips. As often as Im calling her lately, she purred against his throat, I think Im going to have to permanently change my schedule. Good, Angel rumbled in absolute agreement, his tongue tracing the delicate shell of her ear. Good wasnt precisely the word, Buffy thought, her eyes closing as her husbands hands and lips drifted with deliberate intent over her body. No, it was something far better than good, but her mind was unable to find the right words as passion and lust and the ache of want took precedence.

It wasnt until after two am that they finally made their way down the short hallway to the bedroom. Sated and replete, they curled together in the big bed and slept. ***** Angel waited patiently in the UC Sunnydale Arts & Sciences Deans Office for the next available clerk. He was understandably paranoid about paperwork now, and so wanted to make sure that he checked and rechecked all the requirements and formalities necessary for his graduation in the spring. His thoughts preoccupied, he didnt see the woman standing next to him until she touched him on the arm. Angel! Cordelia, Angel returned politely, unconsciously shifting his stance slightly away from her. Glancing over her shoulder he saw Harmony standing just inside the door, a bored expression on her face. What are you doing here? I was just passing by on my way to the gym to meet Devon. I saw you come in, thought Id stop in and say hi. The brunette smiled widely, leaving out the fact that she had just dragged Harmony across most of campus at a near run in order to stage the accidental meeting after she had spotted Angel from a distance. So how are you? You look tired. Cordelia schooled her features into a friendly, but worried expression, her fingers dropping from his arm as he moved still further away from her. Im sure adjusting to married life has got to be draining. And I know you - you really work yourself too hard, what with work and classes and all. Im good. And no, its not. Things are good actually, Angel replied carefully, studying Cordys expression. Mentally he smiled, not about to elaborate on the real reason why he hadnt got much sleep last night. Until the BCIS investigation was complete however, he couldnt risk pissing her off. If she were to tell the BCIS that she arranged the marriage, it would be disastrous. Now more than ever he didnt want to do anything that would jeopardize his relationship with Buffy or put her at risk in any way. Oh. Well, thats... so great, she said insincerely. It was obvious by her tone that she didnt believe him; that he was giving her the answer that was expected rather than the truth. With a small lift of her shoulders, she whispered understandingly, But if you ever want to talk about it, or just need somewhere to go for awhile and hang out to get away from things, you know where I am. Stepping forward and reaching out, she gave his arm an affectionate squeeze. After all, what are friends for?

Angel OConnor? The clerks voice calling his name saved him from having to come up with a sufficiently bland reply. Cordelia as confidant was laughable; still, he wasnt taking any chances at angering her. Until Dr. Walsh declared the case closed, he felt he had no choice but to be civil to Cordelia. And unfortunately, in reading through the BCIS online FAQs, he found a mention that it could take up to two years to complete an investigation of this type. Uh, thanks. I have to go Angel gestured behind him where the greyhaired clerk was now waiting for him. I have to go to meet Devon anyway. Were going to dinner again tonight and then some new club; he just wants to be with me twenty-four seven it seems. Cordelia said airily, You know Devon, right? Lead singer of the Dingoes? Oh, of course you do Oz and all. Theyre playing at the Bronze next Friday, maybe well run into each other there. Devon insists that I be at all his gigs. Hes so- I have to go. Angel interrupted, cognizant of both the clerk and the other students waiting in the office as well as uninterested in hearing the latest about Cordelias love life. Fine, go then. See you around. The brunette muttered, unable to completely hide her displeasure at the dismissal and Angels apparent lack of concern. Nodding slightly, Angel turned and walked away. Remember what I said! Cordelia called, lunging after him and narrowly missing capturing him by the arm. If you want to talk or something, call me! As Angel disappeared behind the tan cubicle wall, she cursed under her breath and flounced back to where Harmony still waited near the door. So howd it go? Harmony asked as the two women exited the building. Did you mention Devon? And did he get all jealous like you thought? The blonde mused almost as an afterthought, He didnt really seem jealous but then I guess guys are weird about that stuff. My blondie bear is more the obviously jealous type. Maybe Angel is the more of the quietly jealous type. And is he so totally hating being married to Bunny like you thought, or what? Harm Cordelia warned softly, her nerves on edge. Oh, I wonder if shes all pissed at him because of Ninas call. Did he say anything about it? The blonde rattled on, unaware of her friends growing annoyance. I guess he might not mention that. Or maybe he

would. I mean if my Spikey was getting calls in the middle of the night from women asking him out on dates, youd better believe Id be a little upset. Especially if they interrupted something, if you know what I mean. That whole thing was inspired, Cordy, really. Bunny has to be- Harmony, please, just shut up! Cordelia snapped, putting her sunglasses with a brisk jerky movement. I need to think. Well, excuuuse me. Harmony muttered, watching her friend stomp away, her heels making a staccato rap on the pavement as she strode angrily away. ***** Images of Angel and their sexual exploits on the living room couch last night filled her at various moments during the day and Buffys lips would curve upward in a dreamy little smile, making her classmates and later her coworkers and customers wonder about her thoughts. At Patina, Anya teased her relentlessly, much like Faith had when Buffy had called her that morning to ask that she substitute teach her class again. After Faith teasingly agreed, Buffy had gone back to bed with Angel for another two hours, though this time purely for sleep. Around eight, they showered together and had breakfast before driving over the UC Sunnydale campus. Angel went to the library to study for his midterm while Buffy went to her classes. When her last class ended for the day, Buffy stopped in the student health center and made an appointment to see one of the nurse practitioners. She had decided that she wanted to go on the pill, though she hadnt yet told Angel about her decision, preferring to wait until she had more information. She was disappointed to find out that the next available appointment was three weeks out but she went ahead and took it anyway. They put her on the cancellation list, and also made sure to advise her that shed need to make sure to schedule the appointment around her period. With a faint blush for not having considering that little detail before, Buffy made a quick mental calculation and double checked the date of her appointment. Nodding at the woman behind the counter, she reassured her that the date would be fine then took the offered card with the neatly written date and time. Willow had dropped her off at Patina around five because Angel had gone straight from class to his volunteer job at the Sunnydale Police Department. On the drive over, the red-head had asked her a dozen different questions about married life and how things were working out. Buffy had answered most of them with candid honesty and more than a few grins, having shared confidences with her best friend for more years that she could remember. There were a few things she kept to herself though, things that seemed somehow too precious and intimate to share with anyone other than Angel. One such small fact was that she was

wildly in love with her husband ***** Francis Doyle? Thatd be me. And youd be Ms. Maggie Walsh from the BCIS. Doyle squinted at the woman standing on the small landing to his apartment door, the sun bright behind her. Dr. Maggie Walsh. The stern and rather formidable woman insisted, her gaze trained on the man that had finally opened the door to her insistent knocking. Well Dr. Maggie Walsh, what can I do for you? Doyle questioned, leaning casually against the doorframe. I take it Angel OConnor told you that I would be contacting you? The BCIS Agent said curtly, her words more a statement than a question. She raked him with her gaze, her disapproval obvious. It was after nine-thirty in the morning yet it appeared like the man in front of her had just rolled out of bed to answer the door. The loud patterned shirt was rumpled and unbuttoned, revealing the white tank he wore beneath it. His dark grey slacks appeared to be well worn, as were his shoes. He may have mentioned something like that, yeah. No doubt he told you to lie for him. Maggie Walshs lips pressed together tightly in displeasure. No, he left that part out. Doyles mouth twitched into a smile, which was quickly repressed. All he said was that a Ms.- I mean a Dr. Maggie Walsh from the BCIS would be calling me because he gave out my name as a reference. May I? Dr. Walsh gestured toward the interior of the apartment. This gonna take a while then? Doyle asked, one eyebrow quirking upward in question. My questions wont take long, Mr. Doyle, but I do have a job to do, and I can be very persistent. If youd prefer, I can come back at a time that is more convenient for you if you would just let me know when that would be. Maggie Walsh insisted with a tight smile. No, not necessary. Come in. With a resigned sigh, Doyle stepped back from the door and swept his arm wide in a gesture of invitation. After Dr. Walsh passed by him, he closed the door and followed to where she stood waiting next to the cluttered couch. He moved the books and

papers, setting them on the also cluttered coffee table. Maggie Walsh looked at the couch with distaste before she carefully chose a clear spot and sat down. She flipped open the black notebook that she always carried and deliberately thumbed through the pages until she reached a blank page. Pulling her glasses out and slipping them on, she glanced over the rim to where Doyle now sat in a chair adjacent to her. How long have you known Angel OConnor? Lets see. Well, thatd be almost our whole lives. Doyle replied matterof-factly, running a hand through his rumpled hair. Were you surprised when he married? Looking down, she drew out a pen and jotted some notes on the blank piece of paper in front of her. Honestly? Yes. Really? Dr. Walsh glanced up from her notes in surprise. And why is that? Well, naturally, when a consummate bachelor up and marries a young one at that its bound to raise a few eyebrows. I had thought that Angel would be sowing oats for many a year, so married now? Yeah, it was a pretty big surprise. Doyle answered with shrug. He flicked a spec of lint off his trousers. And? Maggie Walsh prompted eagerly. This might just be the break in this case that she needed. And so the conclusion that I came to was that he musta knocked up some sweet young thing with some very influential parents. He shifted on the chair and propped his feet up on the coffee table. A haphazardly stacked pile of books teetered precariously as the table shook but seemed to defy gravity and so stayed put. That or there was some other reason behind it, if you know what I mean? I think I do. The BCIS agent nodded, smiling a superficial conspirators smile. Please continue. Not much more to it really. I met Buffy. No baby, no influential parents, no cunning ploy to trap him, he grinned and gave her a wink, though shes not without her own persuasive capabilities. I dont understand, Mr. Doyle. What are you saying? Dr. Walshs brow creased in to a frown. Im not the most observant man, but I think I woulda noticed by now if she was pregnant so that wasnt the reason for the quick wedding. I considered that maybe she knew about his trouble with his visa, but Angel well, hes just not the type to be manipulated by a woman no

matter how clever she might be. Hes damn stubborn in fact. Which leads me to only one thing. Which is? The BCIS agent pressed impatiently, leaning forward. As a confirmed bachelor myself, it pains me to admit this, but I think maybe Angel just went and fell in love and so, got married before she got away. With feigned gravity, he added, Not that hell just come right out and admit it, you know. Old habits die hard and all that. With an exasperated sigh, the BCIS Agent countered belligerently, I find that reasoning highly unlikely, Mr. Doyle. I believe that Mr. OConnor married because he was at risk of deportation, and I believe you and I both know that. As a naturalized citizen yourself, I think you would resent others that attempt to cheat the system. You went through the right channels, did the paperwork, took the tests. Doesnt it gall you to see someone else try to take the easy way out? Doyle pursed his lips for a moment and then said, I have to say no, not in this case. Angels the closest thing I have to a brother and quite honestly, Ive never seen him take the easy way out of anything. Unflinching, Doyle returned Maggie Walshs cold, blue-eyed stare as though he could see behind the mask of her expression. Dr. Walsh contemplated the man across from her for almost a full minute before she snapped her notebook closed. Im sure you believe that its commendable to cover up for your friend, however, I can assure you that this will only hurt you both in the long run. Thank you for your time, Mr. Doyle. Ill see myself out. Suit yourself. Doyle returned with a wave of his hand. He didnt move from his spot until long after the door closed behind the irritated agent. ***** From the seat that was fast becoming his usual spot at the bar, Angel sat and watched the group of guys across the restaurant with steadily growing anger. He had noticed them immediately after he arrived, the boisterous group talking and laughing loudly enough for everyone in the restaurant to hear them. Finding out that they were seated in Buffys section was grating; more so when he caught a glimpse of the cavalier attitude they had toward her as she approached their table to drop off their check. As it was it already took considerable effort for Angel to restrain himself from going over to the table and knocking a few heads together in an effort to teach them some manners. That, Anya pointed out caustically, is Parker Abrams. I think you were asking about him a few weeks back. She strolled casually over to where Angel sat, reaching out to pluck a cherry from the tray of garnishments that sat on one end of the bar. She popped it in her mouth and glanced

at Angel curiously, wondering what he was going to do. His expression was forbidding, making her glad that she wasnt in Parker Abrams shoes. Angel simply stared, his eyes dark and glittering furiously. He watched as the guys tossed a stack of bills on the table then made their way toward the restaurant exit. Still laughing and talking loudly, they showed little regard for any of the restaurants other patrons, many of who cast annoyed and relived looks at the group as they passed. Purposefully, Angel stood and strode out behind them. After they had gone through the exit and halfway down the block, he called, Parker Abrams? Parker stopped and turned around. He tensed when he saw the less than friendly face of the man calling his name and glanced around nervously. Reassured by the presence of his friends, he folded his arms negligently over his chest and managed to reply, Yeah? Do I know you? No, you dont. Angels tone was cool as he continued to advance toward the group. It was to Parkers favor that he hadnt actually attempted even a casual grope of Buffy, as he had often done in the past, while her husband had been watching; still, Angel hadnt forgotten what he had overheard Buffy and Willow talking about weeks ago. My name is Angel. Angel OConnor. You want something or what? Parker asked sardonically, glancing at his friends with a slight roll of his eyes. I want you to stay away from my wife, Angel declared bluntly. Your wife? Parker questioned with a smirk. Dude, with so many hotties around, why would I be interested in your used goods? Let me make this simple enough so that even you can understand. Angel stated, his lips curving upward in a slow smile, I want you to stay away from Buffy. Summers. OConnor. Parkers eyebrows lifted in surprise. Buffy? Shes your- Wife. The taller dark-haired man interrupted emphatically, taking another two steps forward so he was within only a few feet of his prey. You see, I dont like what Ive heard about you and your behavior toward her. Whatever, man. Shes obviously told you a bunch of lies. Parker shrugged dismissively, his confidence bolstered by his three frat brothers standing around him. That or she still has the hots for me. Shes a real piece of work, that girl. He concluded the sentence with a lewd thrust of his hips.

Im not going to ask you again. A muscle in Angels jaw clenched; his fingers curled in palm tightly. He couldnt believe that Buffy had actually gone out with this guy, not once but twice. Or what? Parker taunted mockingly, Youll kick my ass? Yes. The single word was uttered low and emphatically. To anyone listening, there was no question about the seriousness of the threat contained in that single word. Parker paled. He wanted to back up a few steps away from the larger man, but he somehow managed to muster up enough courage to hold his ground. He was aware that his friends were watching them closely; he dared not let them see his fear. Through lips that trembled slightly, he managed to squeak out a response, Whatever, man. Patinas a public place. I can go there whenever I want. Hey, Parker. Just let it go Larry urged calmly, his eyes moving between the two men. Six foot two and a tackle for the UC Sunnydale football team, Larry wasnt afraid of much, but there was something about the intensity of the man in front of them that made him think twice. There was also the small fact that he hadnt really liked Parkers continued harassment of Buffy, but he went along just to be part of the group and avoid having their teasing barbs turned on him. Now seemed like a prime opportunity to call an end to the game; something that was long over due. Turning back to Angel, Larry added, Its cool. Were cool. You cant tell me what to do. Parker blurted again, his voice a childish whine. Jutting his chin out, his eyes flitted from Larry back to Angel. At his waist his hands clenched into fists. He completely disregarded his friends attempt to extract them from the situation. Ceding defeat, Larry shook his head, held up his hands slightly and backed up, indicating that he wanted no part of Parkers continued ignorance. After a second, the two other frat guys backed off as well, moving to stand next to Larry a few feet down the sidewalk. They watched with interest, but it was obvious that they had no plans to intervene. No, I cant. Angel returned contemptuously, I cant tell you to stay away from Patina, or campus or anywhere that Buffy is likely to be, but I can advise you that youll be a lot healthier if you make an effort to go out of your way to avoid being anywhere my wife happens to be. Taking a menacing step forward, an insolent smile on his face, he added, But to be honest with you, Abrams, I think Ill be a lot happier if you do insist on being an idiot. I wouldnt mind teaching you a lesson. Realizing that his friends had stepped aside, Parkers courage faltered. He unclenched his hands and back up two quick steps. Yeah, well, whatever. He stumbled slightly as he turned around and started to walk

away. Hed only gone two steps when he turned and muttered over his shoulder, That place sucks anyway. In a cold crisp voice, Angel called after him, Dont forget what I told you After Parker disappeared around the corner, Angel turned and walked back to Patina. ***** You work too hard, Angel murmured with a touch of censure in his voice. Kennedy went home sick and Andrew needed the help. Besides, I could use the extra money. Buffy replied, walking into the bedroom. Im just sorry you had to wait so long. You werent in your usual spot talking to Clem when I went to tell you I was going to be late. I didnt mind waiting. Besides, I brought a book, he offered, following her. Its just... I worry. You do? Buffy turned to glance at him. Leaning against one tall, carved bedpost she scrutinized him as though the truth of his words would be discerned on close inspection. Other than playful love words during sex, it was the closest he had come to telling her how much he cared. Her heart seemed to skip a beat. Of course I do. Angel shrugged, his emotional state still slightly skewed after his confrontation with Parker Abrams now almost two hours ago. He couldnt recall ever wanting to hurt someone quite as much as he had wanted to hurt Parker; it was a near-blind jealous rage combined with a feeling of protectiveness toward Buffy so strong he could almost taste it. It was discomfiting to a man who never before considered fighting over a woman. Still, he hadnt mentioned his little conversation with Parker to Buffy yet. Not that he was hiding it he just wasnt sure how to approach the subject, particularly since she had never mentioned Parkers harassment to him directly. He wasnt sure shed be too pleased that he interfered. Buffy smiled, reaching up to unbutton her blouse. Thats so sweet. Wait, he ordered softy, his dark eyes watching her intently. Let me. Pausing, she looked up at him, her brows quirked. You dont have to. I know. He grinned, advancing toward her. But I want to. What makes you think Ill let you? She gave him a coy glance from

under her lashes. Ill make it worth your while, Angel murmured as he gave her an impertinent half-smile. Reaching out, he began to unbutton the remaining buttons on her shirt. Or if you wont let me take your clothes off, I can just slide your skirt up, bend you over the bed and have my way with you. Oh. Buffy gasped, her eyes flaring wide as a sudden jolt of lust swept through her senses at his suggestive words. Turning her around, Angel pressed her between his body and the bed, holding her firmly against him with his arm wrapped around her waist. Slipping one hand down, her tugged her skirt up her thighs. Maybe I should do that first anyway. Buffy closed her eyes and squirmed restlessly, the long fingers slipping between her legs intoxicating, his whispered words effectively provocative. Would you like that, hmm? His mouth was close to her ear, the length of his body pressed firmly into hers, his erection blatant and hard against her bottom. Yes. Buffy breathed, the throbbing between her legs intensifying with each tantalizing stroke of his fingers. She leaned back into him, the familiar scent of him filling her nostrils as the heat of his body warmed her even through their clothes. Tell me what you want Angel whispered, nuzzling her neck as she turned her head aside to accommodate him. Reaching up, he cupped a bra-clad breast in his hand, his thumb sweeping over the jewel-hard tip of her nipple through the smooth satin. His words evoked another feverish rush of desire as did the questing fingers between her legs, which had now slipped beneath her lacy panties to slide inside, teasing her, filling her. Reaching up, Buffy tangled her fingers in the soft mass of his hair. Tugging his head down as she turned in his arms, she opened her eyes and looked into his with a smoldering gaze. I want you. You want me to what, babe? He asked, easing his fingers from between her thighs and turning her more fully to face him. His gaze roved lazily over her face, down her neck to the open shirt where her white bra peeked out between the sides of the gaping material. With one finger, he traced the outline of the material teasingly, as if to nudge it off her shoulders. Instead though, he simply waited. A scant few seconds later she caught on to what he wanted. Her smile

was inviting. Undress me. Returning her smile, Angel removed her clothing slowly, taking pleasure in their game and stopping to kiss or caress sensitive spots with increasingly blatant and erotic touches. Mmmm very nice, he murmured softly, his gaze proprietary as he looked her over from head to toe when she finally stood nude in front of him. Her skin was lightly flushed, her breathing deep and slightly erratic, her eyes half-closed, all giving added evidence to her desire. He wanted her, as he always did, with unrestrained lust. Kiss me, Buffy whispered as she tilted her head back and leaned into him. The feel of his clothing against her bare skin gave her an added thrill as his mouth covered hers in an intrusive, forceful kiss. His hands grasped her shoulders, pulling her into him. Twining her arms around his neck, she swayed closer, rubbing against him sensuously. The taut peaks of her nipples scraped along the soft material of his shirt and she cooed softly in pleasure. Angels hand slid down her back to cup her bottom, lifting and tilting her so that his aching erection pressed hard against her. In turn, Buffy rocked back, rubbing persistently as his tongue mimicked her rhythm, thrusting into her mouth. His hands roved over her body, his caresses blatant and explicit. Your clothes, she murmured between kisses, tugging at his shirt to help him pull it over his head before reaching impatiently, urgently for the button of his pants until, finally, he was as naked as she. Her eyes on his, Buffy tugged him forward as she slowly sank down on the bed and parted her legs. Angel followed, lowering his weight over her, reveling in the soft feel of her body undulating seductively, wantonly beneath him. She parted her legs wider as he reached between them, feeling the slick heat of her desire. Bending his head, he kissed the taut crest of one nipple, his mouth closing over it and sucking gently. When he lightly bit the turgid sensitive tip, Buffy gasped softly and her hips lifted against his hand. You like that? Angel whispered against her skin, his lips tracing a path to her other breast. Yesss Buffy hissed softly in reply, feeling the blunt edges of his teeth close around the previously neglected nipple. Arching her back and lifting her arms, she sank her fingers into his hair wanting him closer as he leisurely nibbled and bit, licked and sucked.

Ann-gelll she whined softly in frustration, reaching down with one hand to run her fingertips along the hard, jutting length of his cock. Mmm? he questioned innocently, his hand closing over hers to guide her motions before he let go leaving her to continue the stroking pattern on her own. I want you She breathed. The pulsing between her legs was intense, the slightest motion of his hand between her legs adding to the already heady thrill racing her senses. Here? He murmured, parting her thighs wider and adding a third finger to the two already buried inside her. Now. She demanded, her voice husky and low. She squirmed in wanton anticipation, her craving for him growing with each passing second. I want your she paused, uncertain of her next choice of words even as a lascivious thrill swept through her when she mentally finished the sentence. My what, sweetheart? His voice was gruff, his eyes sweeping over her possessively as he too anticipated her words. His control wavered as desire flared hot. Tell me. I want to hear you say it. Your cock, Buffy whispered, the basely carnal words turning her liquid inside. She lifted her hips to meet the deft movement of his hand, the motion adjunct to her fevered urgency. She was nearly insensible to all but the heightening pleasure. You want me to fuck you? Angel murmured, his voice low and filled with obvious heat. An incredible lust was pounding through his veins, his body poised and taut over hers. Her lashes fluttered. Her green eyes, sultry and heated, met his. Her desire was ravenous, sharp-set and urgent; his blunt words only sparked her passion. Yes. Fuck me, Angel. Before she finished the sentence, he was already reaching for a condom; as he tore the package open, Buffy reached to help him roll the latex sheath over the swollen crest of his erection. Mmm fast or slow? he whispered as he entered her with a slow steady thrust. He clenched his jaw and gritted his teeth, feeling her warm heat close around him tightly. Slow. Haaarrd, Buffy murmured decisively in response, lifting her hips to draw him deeper. Would she die of lust? she wondered, all sensation seemingly centered in the shimmering, heated core of her body, every pulsing nerve quivering in anticipation.

Angel plunged deeper, suddenly impatient to possess her and dangerously out of control. As if he needed any additional encouragement with the rapacious urgency burning through his blood and spiking in his brain Tightening his hands on her hips and withdrew marginally, only to thrust back forward, going deeper still. Sweeping her hands down his back, Buffy traced the muscles along his spine, down to his hips and over the curve of his ass. She exerted pressure, pulling him toward her as she once again raised her hips to meet his downward stroke. He slammed into her again, following her murmured demand to the letter. A low, exultant sigh escaped her lips. The enticing sound added to the fierce need, his control slipping away as he settled into an unbridled, pounding rhythm that brought them quickly to a tempestuous, shuddering climax. Too quick, Angel thought disgustedly. More Buffy breathed in his ear, clutching at him just before he rolled away to discard the condom. He smiled; they were obviously in accord. Her words were an answer to his own feelings of discontent, of famished, insatiable desire. He returned to the bed quickly, his lips crushing hers even as he rolled them so that she was sprawled atop his large body. Minutes later, a new condom in place, Buffy lowered herself impatiently on his erection. Beginning a slow, bewitching rhythm, she began to glide up and down on him. She was ravenous for him it seemed, eager and impatient. Angel watched her through half-closed eyes, marveling at the sexy picture she made, her breasts bouncing slightly with each thrust, her peaked coral nipples hard and jutting toward him, begging to be touched. His eyes moved lower, down her firm abdomen to where their bodies joined, his erection disappearing between her thighs as she moved. Leaning down, she nuzzled his throat, tasting his skin with her tongue. On each downward thrust, she paused, savoring the sensation. She felt gloriously full, as though she was meant to be filled by him, with him. She purred deep in her throat, expressing her pleasure. The passage of time seemed momentarily arrested as the riveting sensation became her sole focus. She came once then twice more in a sweet flood of pleasure before Angel joined in her release, holding her close as she collapsed in a sweaty, sated heap on his chest.

***** Not taking her eyes off the computer screen where she was currently placing a bid on eBay for a replica Pirates of the Caribbean gold coin, Amanda flipped the answer button and spoke into her telephone headset, Morgan and McDonald, how can I help you? One minute please, Ill see if hes in the office. Placing the caller on hold, she finished typing in the information necessary to complete her bid then leaned back to peek through the door just to left. Lindsey was reclining at his desk, his shoeless feet propped up on the edge revealing white athletic socks. A stack of folders sat on the desk at his elbow; one thick folder was open on his lap. Linds? Its Ethan Rayne. Amanda shouted, smacking her gum slightly. Or rather, Eve wanting to get you on the phone for him. Shed had this job for just over four months, and it was by far one of the better temp assignments that she had. She liked both Lilah and Lindsey; they were smart, friendly and easy to work for and the work itself wasnt at all taxing; answering the phones, doing the occasional filing, and serving as office receptionist. The latter was probably the easiest part of all given that in all the time shed been there less than a dozen people had ever walked into the small, sparsely furnished office suite. Lindsey McDonald and Lilah Morgan, partners in the PI firm, spent a significant portion of their time out of the office, and when they were there, they were usually in one office or the other with the door closed in deep discussion. Ethan Rayne had been a regular client of the PI firm for as long as Amanda knew and was obviously one of their more important ones; she had been given explicit instructions to contact Lindsey without delay whenever Ethan or his secretary called. That didnt mean Lindsey always took the call or even called back right away it just meant that he knew about each and every call when they happened. Nodding that hed take this particular call, Lindsey waited for Amanda to transfer it to his office. He set the documents he had been reviewing aside and reached for the tattered legal pad that was partially covered with scrawled notes and an occasional random odd doodle. He flipped another couple of pages over and coiled them with the rest before jotting the date and time on the top of the next blank page. Ethan. Lindsey greeted as he tapped the button on his speakerphone then just as quickly hit the mute button. His gaze landed on Lilah Morgan as she walked into his office and quietly closed the heavy door behind her. She had overheard Amandas shout from her office immediately next door, and so, as was their typical pattern, joined Lindsey in his office for the call. Taking the chair on the opposite side of the desk, she crossed her legs and opened her elegant leather portfolio notebook on her lap.

McDonald. Ethan returned gruffly, his voice sounding hollow as it echoed through the room. Have you completed the research on the vendors that I asked you for? Im looking to close the deal by end of the week. Several of the names you asked me to check out seem viable; well have a FedEx package in the mail to you tomorrow with all the details and the financial statements you requested, including the personal profiles of the company officers. Lindsey replied, making eye contact with Lilah who simply nodded. Ethan was referring to a request he had made to check out several manufacturers of cell phones equipped with smart-card technology. Immediately Lindsey had been suspicious of the motive behind the demand. The use of such technology had become a recent trend in cyber-payment money laundering schemes; schemes that often proved to be rapid and efficient, not to mention difficult to trace. Excellent. Ethans voice reverberated through the office, followed by the muffled sounds of paper shuffling as the wealthy investment banker obviously moved some papers around on his desk. Dryly, he added, No doubt your bill will be included. Now, Ethan. You know I wouldnt do that. Lindsey answered cheekily, Our bill will be mailed separately. Cant have it getting lost in all that other paperwork, you know. Mouthing the question, Lindsey asked if the invoice for the job had, in fact, been completed. Lilah, in return, wrote the figure $37,500 on a piece of paper that she held up for Lindseys inspection. Quite. Ethan snorted acerbically, having no doubt that the enormously expensive yet extremely competent firm would send a hefty bill for the work that he had demanded. Picking up a note on his desk, he continued thoughtfully, I have yet another small task for you. I need anything you can find on a Devon MacLeish. New employee? Lindsey asked, scrawling the name on the paper in front of him. Does it matter why I need the information, Mr. McDonald? Ethan inquired impatiently, turning slightly in his chair to glance at the Dionysus wall sculpture that Cordelia had brought back from her recent trip to France, claiming to have purchased the expensive object only because it was so perfect for his office. He found the gold painted object rather tasteless, but had hung it up to humor her. Of course not, Ethan. Lindsey returned smoothly, his lips curving up in a smile as he reclined back in the chair, Well start by pulling up his birth certificate, his school records from kindergarten on and all of the rest of the easily available public information then well fumble around until we figure out what else might be relevant about Mr. MacLeish that you might need to know. Ill set it up on our normal hourly fee schedule, and well

get started first thing tomorrow. Very well, Ethan sighed exaggeratedly, his fingers drumming on his desk. Devon MacLeish is the young man that my granddaughter is currently seeing, and I need to know his standing. Its nothing you havent done for me before, so I dont expect excuses for enormous fees on this one. Ah. Lindsey lifted his eyebrows at Lilah who only shrugged in question. So if the lovely Miss Chase has a new beau, are we dropping our work on the OConnor case then? I thought you were close to wrapping up your work on that, the investment banker countered, a touch of sarcasm evident in his tone, Or have you been billing me for a job that you have not done? No, no, now Ethan, when have we not come through for you? The handsome PI contradicted, Im sure I told you that the OConnor situation wasnt quite as you explained it. In fact, let me be clear in telling you that I dont think its what you thought it was at all. What are you saying, Mr. McDonald? Ethan inquired wearily, suddenly feeling every bit of his seventy-three years. He opened his desk drawer and reached for a bottle of extra strength aspirin. Honestly? I think the OConnor marriage is about as legit as they come. Theyll probably have your two-point-five kids and the requisite divorce by the time theyre thirty-five just like everyone else, but I dont see any reason to waste your time or money to get Angel OConnor deported. Lindsey exhaled slowly, his green eyes meeting the golden brown ones of his partner, who was obviously somewhat surprised by the candor that he had demonstrated with his blunt statement. Fine. Ethan said after almost a minute of consideration. His eyes were closed as he leaned his head back against the soft leather of his chair; his head was beginning to pound and he still had several hours of meetings planned for that evening. He hadnt actually heard his granddaughter mention OConnors name lately, and there were no suspicious expenses from her bank account; likely she had lost interest in the young man and moved on as she was wont to do. And there was the possibility that his extremely well compensated PI was right. With a resigned sigh he continued, Ill defer to your judgment then. Though, do understand, Mr. McDonald, I will expect a return of all fees paid in addition to a significant monetary recompense should your advice prove unwise. Do we have an understanding? Lilah shifted on her seat, careful to avoid making a sound. She watched Lindsey carefully, waiting for his reply. Sitting upright in his chair, Lindsey replied with all seriousness, I dont

think thatll be a problem, Ethan. If Im wrong, Ill take care of the situation personally and at my expense. Then were agreed. Ethan returned coolly, massaging his temples with one hand. Ill be in touch. The phone clicked off abruptly as expected, Ethan never one to linger over small talk once the purpose for the call was concluded. So what do you think? Lindsey asked as he tossed the yellow notepad on the desk haphazardly. I think were close, but we still have some work to do. We have the wire transfers, the fictitious accounts and the names of plenty of non-existent persons that cashed the checks but not enough to tie them back to Ethan Rayne specifically, just to banks that he happens to hold a controlling interest in. Lilah stood and paced across the room as she voiced her thoughts out loud. That means money laundering charges arent likely to stick. The deal with the smart card vendor will help particularly if we can get in there and get the serial numbers of the phones and cards that are distributed Even so, itll take time because possession alone isnt illegal. The racketeering angle is pretty solid, Lindsey offered, I think we can indict on at least twenty-three counts, maybe twenty-eight if we can nail down that last lead. In addition, weve got at least four counts of extortion as part of the deal. True, Lilah mused thoughtfully, but weve been working this for almost three years, Linds. I want to nail that bastard to the wall. You and I both know that Ethans been behind more than a few inexplicable disappearances and unsolved murders in Sunnydale and even in Los Angeles. He may not have pulled the trigger himself, but damn it, hes guilty. Im sure he is. Lindseys eyes narrowed speculatively. Slowly, he smiled, I think I have an idea. Oh? Lilah returned his smile with one of her own. Once again, she sat down in the chair across from him. So tell me.

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