by Tesla

In the smoky darkness of the nightclub, the couple stood out. The woman was young, with long dark hair and dark intense eyes. Her complexion was a golden tan that owed nothing to cosmetics or tanning beds. She was wearing a leather cat-suit that didn't come off the rack. She seemed solely interested in her glass of champagne, the dance music, and her nail polish. The other pairs watched them, avidly. The woman didn't need to make any overt displays of domination; she seemed to barely need to focus on her escort, yet he seemed to know exactly what she wanted. She glanced casually at the other patrons, her face bland and smiling.

He was tall, broad-shouldered, also in leather, and the long folds of his coat draped as he knelt on one knee beside her chair. When she put her hand on the back of his head, she looked like a woman with a tamed lion.

Her perfect control over such an obviously alpha male made a mockery of the other dominatrixes in the club, with their collars and chains and whispered commands.

Cordelia would have been an unimaginative liar if she didn't admit that she was getting off on the whole undercover deal. From the moment she zipped herself into the soft leather of the catsuit, and took Angel's arm, she felt absorbed by the part she was playing. "Just be Queen C," Angel said. "You're the Queen. I'm your--"

"Warrior?" she suggested, when he seemed at a loss for words.

"Yes, that'll do. We'll probably have to go a couple of times, before we see any demonic activity. But our sources are pretty clear, and your vision confirmed Wesley's research; they're heart-eaters."

"I wish he was being metaphorical," she sighed. "But I know it's going to be ooky."

"No, literally heart-eaters," Angel said, dead-pan. "And we're hearing that these people who like to play the dominance games are mixing with the people who want perpetual youth, and the demons who promise youth in return for---"

"---human sacrifice," Wesley chimed in. He finally looked up from his study of two books. "My word, Cordy, you do something for that suit."

Cordelia let go of Angel's arm, and twirled, pleased at the neatness of the compliment. Then she punched Angel in the shoulder. "How come you didn't say anything nice?"

His face was still straight, but his eyes narrowed in amusement. "But that would mean that you don't usually look fabulous."

"Old smoothy," she snorted, taking his arm again.

In the nightclub, Cordelia could feel the stares sliding over her like effervescent bubbles in a Jacuzzi. It almost went to her head, but even more intoxicating was the sensation of Angel paying attention to her breathing, to the tiniest movements of her lips and eyelids. It was like nothing she had felt, unless when she had been riding Keanu, her palomino. Angel knew where she wanted to sit, so she could watch the crowd; knew when she wanted something to drink; knew when she was feeling a little insecure, and knelt protectively beside her.

She put her hand on his hair, so stiff in the front and soft in the back. She felt like a lady lion-tamer. The lady and the tiger? No, definitely a lion.

The waiter brought her an ice bucket with a bottle of champagne and two flutes. She picked one up, and felt Angel move under her hand. He stood up, and her hand slid down his neck, his collar, his back, as he took the bottle and popped the cork. He poured the wine---expertly- --into her glass, and she wondered, for a second, how often he had done that for a woman, how many hundreds of glasses he'd poured, and then the thoughts were gone. Angel looked down at her, and then,on one knee again, put the glass in her hand.

She felt the gazes of the entire club on her. Envious, excited gazes, curious gazes.

Only one gaze counted, the steady brown gaze of the man beside her, and she was the only one he was looking at.

It was the hottest thing she ever experienced.

Angel. A vampire, her boss, the grumpy guy who had spent the first weeks of the summer sleeping on her couch, the one who cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen when he couldn't sleep. Who snored.

She felt like she was falling into his eyes. She sat back, sipping her champagne.


On the way home, her head cleared, and she could look at Angel again. He didn't look like a warrior, he was just, Angel, a good-looking, kind of beefy guy. No sort of lion. He was talking about the club. "-- -You can tell that kind of activity is goin' on somewhere in the building, because there's an underlying odor of blood."

Cordelia wrinkled her nose. "You could smell that, with the food, and the alcohol and smoke and cologne?"

He gave her a disbelieving look. "Of course." He cut his eyes at her. "Just like I could tell when your pulse and breathing changed."

She brushed her fingertips along her throat, smiling.

Back at the apartment, she watched him hang up his leather coat, take out his cuff-links, and sit down on the sofa to unlace his heavy shoes. He walked into the kitchen, rolling his shoulders, stretching his arms over his head. She heard the pop of the refrigerator opening, and the ping as he set the microwave. She dropped into her armchair, and pulled her stilettos off.

"Don't think I can take these back," she muttered, examining a small scuff on the heel. In the kitchen, the microwave pinged. She wet her fingertip and rubbed at the mark. It disappeared, and she tossed them on the couch. She stretched her feet out, flexing her toes.

Angel came out and sat on the ottoman, with a mug. "Feet hurt?" he asked. Without waiting for an answer, he drained the mug, set it on the coffee table, and then pulled her feet up and onto his thigh. She sighed, and closed her eyes as he massaged her feet, his touch gentle on the tender spots.

"That feels so good," she said, her eyes still shut.

His big hands closed on her feet. "Can I do anything else for you?"

She opened her eyes. "Yeah. I can't get this damn zipper down." She pulled her feet out of his grasp, and stood up, putting a hand on his shoulder.

"I wondered why you weren't undressed," he said, and bent his head to his hands on the zip. She sighed, again, at his touch. He fiddled with it, and then, smoothly, the front of the suit opened.

"I should shower," she said, not moving.

"You know I love the way you smell," Angel said, and, circling her waist with his big hands, he kissed, as he always did, the little rebar scar on her belly. And, as she always did, she dug her fingernails into his shoulders, like the claws of a cat.


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