That's why she had wanted this little vacation. A bit of time away from Sunnydale, away from her other lives so to speak. She wanted to examine herself to figure out just who she was. She knew that Buffy understood, even if her best friend had given her a guilt-inducing hug that had lasted several minutes before leaving her at the airport. She did feel a bit guilty leaving so soon after their big showdown with Glory. But, Dawn was safe. Glory was gone. Things were calming down. Well, as calm as they ever were in Sunnydale. And she'd seen a chance to escape for a few months and jumped at it. She stood up, walking across the floor to stand at the window.
LA was huge. It was smoggy and crowded and people seemed to be everywhere. She almost missed Sunnydale but knew that LA was the perfect place to find herself. She laughed softly, thinking about that. It wasn't like she was lost. She knew who she was. More so now than she had a few years before. But, she still had questions. The biggest at the moment was concerning her sexuality. Tara had been unexpected. Nice, but unexpected. She had never considered herself anything but straight until last year. Well, she'd had her doubts after running into her double, but nothing ever seemed to indicate that she liked girls. Then, Tara had changed that. Willow knew that she hadn't been attracted to Tara because she was a girl, she had just fallen in love with who Tara really was and her sex had never mattered. Of course, Willow tended to love without limits, so she wasn't very surprised to figure out that she was bisexual. She found men and women attractive, but fell in love with the person regardless of their sex. She knew that that made her a bit unusual. She knew she wasn't a lesbian. She had loved Oz and enjoyed being intimate with him, missed being with a man in some ways. She knew saying she was bi was taking the easy way out, but it was the truth. And, after her feelings for Tara, she knew there was no way she could claim to suddenly be straight. She shook her head slightly, deciding that she was spending way too much time thinking about her life when she could be living it.
"Is the room to your satisfaction?"
Willow jumped as the soft words reached her, turning and laughing softly, "Damn it, Angel. You still sneak up on people!"
He smiled slightly, "Sorry. I assumed you heard me."
"I was thinking," she said with a sheepish smile. "And, to answer your question, this room is great."
"Good," he nodded, looking at her still closed bags, "I wanted to check on your before I retired for the day."
"I'm fine. Just need to get everything unpacked," she said, fighting a yawn. "And maybe take a nap. The past few days have been pretty busy."
"I'll second that," he said, again with the ghost of a smile.
This time, Willow asked, "Are you OK? How are you really doing?"
Angel looked at her, surprised to see genuine concern in her eyes. He thought about her question, giving it serious consideration. He finally said, "I'm good. Getting better."
"Well, good," she said, smiling. "Thank you again for letting me stay here this summer. I needed a break."
"Willow, if you thank me again I may be forced to do something rash," he said with amusement.
"Like what?" she challenged, moving to sit back on her bed, her eyes still watching him. She had never really been close to Angel, him being Buffy's boyfriend and someone she saw at research sessions. Over the past couple of days, though, she liked to think they were starting to build a friendship. He did seem good, better than he had been before moving to LA. He was smiling some, seemed to have a sense of humor, actually seemed to enjoy his life. She had caught him brooding a few times, but figured he couldn't change that much.
"I'll," he said the first thing that popped into his head, "have to bend you over my knee and spank you."
Her smile faltered slightly as she felt the room grow suddenly warm, her mind flashing to naughty images that she had no business thinking about. She laughed softly, her eyes moving away from his face as she realized just handsome he still was. "OK. I promise, no more thank yous."
Angel nodded, his eyes curious as he watched her. Surprisingly, he could smell the faint hint of arousal coming from her. His eyes widened slightly as he realized what had caused it. The idea of him spanking her turned her on? He frowned, having heard from several people while in Sunnydale about her recent break up with a little blonde girl. Deciding he must be reading too much into things and that he was probably a bit too excited about having a guest and constant company for a few months, he started to move from the room, "On that note, I'll leave you to your unpacking. If you need anything, I'm right across the hall."
"Thank...I mean, sure. Got it," Willow said, not wanting to give her suddenly overactive libido a chance for more mental images.
"Sweet dreams, Willow," he said softly before leaving the room and closing the door behind her.
Willow fell back against her bed, her right hand fanning her face as she asked herself, "What the hell did I get myself into?"
Willow sipped her coffee and smiled, her green eyes watching the sun filled street outside the small coffee shop. She had been in LA for less than a week but it was already beginning to feel like home. She had found a bookstore, a coffee shop, a small grocery store, a video store and an occult store all within walking distance from the hotel. She was sure that she would find more once she had time to explore. She was starting to fit in with Angel and the others too. She had spent her first couple of days staying out of their way, just watching and listening until she learned their routine. Angel hadn't really let her remain too out of the group though, she thought with a smile. He had always tried to include her, even with the situations that she had no idea about.
Strangely enough, she and the dark haired vampire had begun a friendship. Once they were away from Sunnydale, away from the shyness on her part and the broodiness, close mouthedness on his part, Willow frowned in her thoughts wondering if mouthedness was actually a word and making a mental note to look it up when she thought about it, they had learned that they had a variety of common interests. She and Cordelia had managed to make a truce of sorts themselves. Willow had learned that it was better to not think about Sunnydale or mention it, to just accept that things and people changed and run with it. She certainly knew that she was not the same Willow that they had known those years before, so why should she have expected them to remain the same? Even Wesley was different while still keeping a few of his familiar traits. And she liked Gunn. He was loud and brash and funny and knew exactly how to get under everyone's skin without them even realizing it was deliberate. He amused her. He and Wesley amused her. She wasn't sure if either of them was even aware of the attraction that seemed to exist between them, but she'd decided it was not her place to mention it. Instead, she sat back and watched the fireworks with a smile.
She took another sip of her drink, wondering what she should do that day. She had the entire day free, not needing to be back at the hotel until dusk. She'd already done a little exploring around the hotel, and thought it might be time to broaden her scouting locations. Gunn had offered to take her to the beach and she was seriously considering that option. And Cordelia had suggested going shopping for some more practical clothing. It seemed the former homecoming queen did not feel that Willow's long, flowing skirts were logical in the private detective business. She was encouraging the redhead to invest in some comfortable shoes and pants with a few shorter skirts that might free up her legs in case of emergency. It struck Willow as funny that Cordelia was actually worried about practical things such as fighting off attacking demons yet still managed to equate such tasks with an entirely new wardrobe. Willow also knew that Wesley had some new books that he had told her she could borrow. Plus, there was Angel. The dark haired vampire rarely left the hotel before dusk, but he was almost always awake and roaming around. He struck Willow as being rather lonely. She could identify with that, finding it rather odd to be single again after nearly three and a half years of almost constant 'girlfriend' hood. True, there was a short span after Oz had left that she was single, but she'd found Tara's friendship not long after.
Willow looked at the paper, catching up on any news she thought important while sipping her coffee. She put her paper down, looking up to see the clock. That was when she saw him watching her. A handsome man, honey blond hair, a little older than her but still in his low twenties. Green eyes from what she could tell. He was simply looking at her while drinking his espresso or latte or whatever foamy concoction he had in the mug in front of him. His eyes held pure masculine approval, something that Willow was not very used to seeing and it knocked her off guard. She could feel a slow blush crossing her cheeks at his obvious interest as he smiled at her, his teeth perfect and white. He looked like something from an Old Navy ad. She looked down at the table, not accustomed to flirting and rather unsure whether she wanted to flirt in the first place. True, he was attractive, but she was getting over Tara. It didn't really seem the time to pick up some random guy in the espresso Express. She looked back up, just to assure herself that he had been flirting with her and not someone behind her. That would be the ultimate humiliation. Nope, he was still studying her with those rather nice eyes. She smiled shyly before looking back out the window.
She wasn't surprised when, a few minutes later, she heard someone clear their throat. She looked up, seeing that his eyes were indeed green. "Yes?"
He smiled again, a charming smile as he motioned to the chair opposite her, "Is this taken?"
"Not at all," she said, keeping her tone friendly and open but not too attentive. So far, there were no ringing bells for her.
"My name is Mark," he said, shaking her hand as he sat.
"Willow," she replied, liking the friendly smile. They spent nearly half an hour talking over two more cups of coffee. He was a student at USC it turned out, a senior majoring in finance of all things. He was smart, articulate, attractive and he did absolutely nothing for her. He was nice though, and she could see by the sheepish look in his eyes that he was aware that it was merely friendly conversation on her part.
"You said that you had a free day?" Mark said, knowing that the cute little redhead didn't seem interested in more than conversation but deciding that you could never have too many friends.
"Yeah, I'm rather at loose ends," she said, smiling.
"Why don't you let me show you some of LA," he suggested, giving her a boyish smile. "I know this city like the back of my hand. They should give me a job at the chamber of commerce, I'm that good."
"It sounds so tempting," she said, laughing. He reminded her of Xander in a way, the humor and goofiness.
"What better way to see the city but with a new friend?" he asked, letting her know that he was aware that friendship was all she was offering. He saw her relieved smile and felt a twinge of regret. She was certainly beautiful.
"You're right," she said. She put money on the table and stood, following his example. It was funny. She'd come in for coffee and left with a new friend.
Willow laughed as Mark finished his joke. She shook her head, "You're nuts."
"Nope, just charming and suave," he said, winking.
"Don't forget modest," she said with a serious nod.
"So, you want to go to that club I told you about?" he asked, popping a french fry into his mouth.
"Maybe some other night," she said, looking at the water as she continued, "I've got plans tonight."
"With that guy? Your best friend's ex-boyfriend?" Mark asked, looking at his new friend. He had heard the way she spoke about that guy.
"Angel," she said, smiling slightly. "And no, the plans aren't with him exactly. They're with a few different friends."
"Ah, the former homecoming queen and those other two guys?" he asked, having heard her stories about her friends during their day out on the town. He liked Willow, but knew he didn't have a chance in hell. She was too smitten with that Angel guy. Oh well, he'd made a friend. That was always cool.
"Yep," she smiled at him, seeing him checking out a girl that skated by. She laughed, "Her breasts aren't real."
"What? Who?" he asked, looking at her and smiling sheepishly. "Caught me."
"Not a problem," Willow said with her own smile. "That brunette over by the hot dog is pretty hot. She's been checking you out for the past twenty minutes."
"Really?" he looked over, looking at the girl she had pointed out. Laughing, he said, "Nope, she's looking at you."
"She is?" Willow smiled and looked at the girl, checking her out. "Not bad. A bit too flashy for me though. My last girlfriend was the opposite. Timid and shy but sweet."
"Whoa," Mark said, looking at her with surprise. "I think there's something you failed to mention during our big tour."
"Is that a problem? That I'm bisexual?" she asked, studying him.
He smiled a purely masculine smile, "Fuck no. Kind of a turn on, you know. If you ever feel the need to share the experience, you've got my number."
She laughed as he leered and wriggled his eyebrows, "Guys! What is it about two women that makes you all slobbering dogs?"
"Forbidden fruit and all that shit," he said, smiling. "Hell, I don't know. I'm majoring in finance not psychology. Why do men do anything that they do? For that matter, why do women? We'd be here forever if we tried answering those questions. Hey, do you want the rest of your fries?"
"No, you can have them," she said, handing him the carton. "She left. Guess she got tired of waiting."
"It's all right baby. You've still got me," Mark said with a smirk before putting six fries in his mouth at once.
"Oh joy," she said rolling her eyes. "Ugh, it looks like the sun is going to set soon. I'd better get back. They'll be worried."
"They got you on a curfew?" he asked, watching her shake her head.
"Nope. I just promised I'd be home by dusk," she explained.
"I'm ready," he said, getting to his feet and offering her his hand. "Your chariot awaits, m'lady."
"Thank you, sir," she said, snickering at him as they started across the sidewalk towards the car lot.
"She's late," Angel said, looking at the clock on the wall.
"It's just six thirty," Cordelia said, rolling her eyes. "She said she'd be back by dusk."
"It was dark nearly five minutes ago," Angel said, frowning as he continued pacing.
Wesley covered a smile as he pointed out, "Angel, pacing is not going to bring her home faster."
"Besides that, it's damn annoying," Gunn added, looking at the vampire as if he had lost his mind.
"Cordelia, check the street again," Angel said, not answering either of them with anything except a glare.
"Good grief," Cordelia muttered, getting to her feet. "Would you like to call in the police too, master sir?"
"It's not like Willow to be late. She was always very prompt," Angel said, not wanting to examine the reason for his sudden concern.
"Wow. And suddenly the reason for her lateness is explained," Cordelia said from the doorway. "She's got a man."
"What?" Angel practically growled as he moved to Cordelia's side. He looked out and saw Willow getting out of some sporty convertible. She was smiling and laughing as she spoke to the too pretty boy driving. "Who the hell is that?"
"I don't know, but I wouldn't mind finding out," Cordelia said, her eyes raking over the handsome guy and then taking in his expensive car. "She's in town a week and scores a babe like that. I'm here over a year and can't get a date. What am I? A leper?"
"You know, you really shouldn't ask questions like that, Delia. One day, someone might answer you," Wesley said sweetly as the brunette stuck her tongue out at him.
Outside, Mark glanced up then looked at Willow. "Um, I think we're being watched."
"Really?" she asked, not turning to look. "What do they look like?"
"Some guy with dark hair a very serious scowl. Big guy. Remind me not to cross him, ever. Other one is a looker. Great legs, nice breasts, cute hair," Mark said, asking, "Ring any bells?"
"Angel is the one you don't want to piss off. And the beauty is Cordelia. Point of interest, hers are real," Willow said with chuckled as she saw Mark look back at the girl with interest. The wheels began to turn in her head as she considered setting up her new friend with her old friend. Matchmaking never worked out though. She had learned that lesson. This time, she'd just stay out of it. "Well, Mark, it was nice meeting you. I enjoyed your tour of LA and will get a letter out to the chamber of commerce tomorrow recommending it to everyone."
"Nah, don't do that. They'd try to make me work. Besides, I prefer personal tours with friends," he said, laughing. "It was very nice meeting you too, Willow. Even if you are immune to my charms, I think we can be friends."
"Do you?" she asked, moving to get out of the car. "We'll see."
"Teasing wench," he called out as she moved towards the opening door.
She looked back at him and winked before saying saucily, "You owe me a night on the town, pretty boy."
"Name the time and place, sweetheart," he said in a flirty tone, enjoying being able to flirt with her without worrying about expectations or follow through. "I'm yours."
"Who says that I want you?" she asked, laughing as she blew him a kiss. "You've got my number."
"Etched onto my heart," he replied dramatically as he put his hands over his chest. "Seared into my memory."
"Are you aren't majoring in drama?" she teased, shaking her head. "Good-bye Mark. Thanks for today. It surpassed my expectations."
"I always aim to please," he said, wriggling his eyebrows as he blew her a kiss. "Enjoy your night, darling."
Willow groaned in amusement as he drove away before turning to face her friends. "Hey guys. Is something wrong?"
"I'm not saying a word," Cordelia said, making a motion of zipping her lips. "Broody was worried about you so we were keeping an eye out. Quite a little show, wasn't it?"
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean for you to worry," Willow said, her amusement fading as she looked at Angel seriously. "I wasn't aware that I had mentioned a certain time. I guess we lost track of time at the beach. We were talking and watching the people. I am very sorry."
"It's nothing," he said sharply, angry at himself for making her feel worried and angry at her for flirting so openly with that wealthy pretty boy. "Come on, we've got work to do."
Willow frowned as she looked at Cordelia who was also watching Angel with surprise. The brunette shrugged as she moved to the side for Willow to enter. When the redhead came close, Cordelia leaned over and whispered, "I want details later, missy."
Willow just laughed, thinking that maybe introducing Mark to Cordelia wouldn't be too much like matchmaking.
Willow looked at the skirt that Cordelia was holding and shook her head. "Nope. No way. Jeans I can handle. That scrap of nothing? Not a chance."
"But Willow, it would look great on you."
"Save that coaxing for someone else. Doesn't work on me, Delia," Willow said, rolling her eyes. "Let's take a break. I could use some lunch."
"Fine," Cordelia said. "Let me take those and check out."
Willow handed over the pile of clothes before looking back at the rack of shirts in front of her. She didn't notice Cordelia adding the leather skirt to the pile. When the brunette came back, she smiled and took the shopping bag. "Remind me to thank Angel for letting us borrow his credit card."
"It's the least he can after the way he's been acting," Cordelia said in a snooty tone. "I don't know what's got into him lately."
"I think I must have upset him somehow," Willow said, making a face. "How, I don't know. He's been practically distant the last couple of days."
Cordelia got a thoughtful look on her face as the two girls entered the restaurant. She noticed the stares that they got as they moved to their table, smiling a proud smile that they could catch attention. She sat down, ordering her drink and taking the menu. "So, what sounds good?"
"I don't know. I'm pretty hungry," Willow said, deciding finally on a salad and a chicken dish that sounded tasty. They placed their order and began talking.
Halfway through their meal, Willow was surprised to see a handsome man stop at their table. He smiled at Cordelia then looked at her, "I'm a bit embarrassed to do this, but live for the day is my motto."
"That's a good motto," she said, looking at Cordelia with a confused look before looking back into the man's blue eyes. He was in his late twenties with dark hair and a kind smile. "What exactly are you doing?"
"I'm about to give you my card with the hopes that you'll phone me," he said, smiling rather sheepishly as he handed over a card. "That's my office number. My name is Mike Adams."
Willow took the card and said, "Willow. Mike, I'm flattered at the offer, but I don't usually phone strangers."
"Don't make up your mind yet. Take my card, give it some thought. I'm not proposing marriage or anything quite that serious. Just a date, maybe coffee, something informal. And I won't be a stranger if you call and we talk," he added with a smile.
"I'll think about it," she said, looking at Cordelia as he walked away. "OK. Was that not weird?"
"I hate you," Cordelia said simply. "That's the second attractive man that has approached you since you arrived in town. And that's only the ones that I know about!"
"I don't get it. Back home, I can't even get a second glance. It's strange," she said, shaking her head. "Maybe I cast a spell or something and I didn't realize it."
"Honey, you're gorgeous," Cordelia said, looking at Willow with dismay. "It wouldn't take a spell to get guys interested in you. See, the difference is that guys in Sunnydale are scared pathetic little losers while here, they're brave pathetic losers."
"Ouch, that's kind of rough," Willow said wondering when Cordelia had become so cynical. "You really think I'm gorgeous?"
"Willow, if I were the type to be interested in women, I'd fuck you," Cordelia said. "And trust me when I say that my standards are very high."
"Thank you for the compliment," Willow said, smiling at her former enemy. "If you were my type, I'd take you up on that offer."
"Good. That's out of the way. We would fuck each other silly if we either of us were interested," Cordelia said, her lips twitching in amusement.
"So, do I keep the card?" Willow asked, looking at the small white card.
"Why not? He was cute and obviously had money," Cordelia said with an envious smile. "You might get bored and want to go out for a friendly date sometime."
"That's what Mark is for," Willow pointed out.
"Speaking of, when do I get to meet him?" Cordelia asked, feigning disinterest.
"I don't know. When I'm sure that he's good enough to meet you?" Willow suggested, smiling at the happiness that entered Cordelia's eyes.
"That is so sweet!" Cordelia said, smiling. "I'm so glad you got bored with Sunnydale. It's nice becoming friends. Also nice having another woman around. Those guys can get so annoying."
"I'm glad too," Willow confessed honestly. "Sunnydale was getting to be rather stifling. It's nice for a change of scenery."
"And you have to admit that the men are better," Cordelia said with a smile.
"Enough about the men," Willow said, not bothering to tell the brunette that none of them interested her as much as Angel did or that she was slowly starting to get a crush on the handsome vampire. Slowly? Who was she kidding? She'd had a slight crush years before. After coming to LA and becoming his friend, it had merely resurfaced. "So, where do we go next?"
Willow moved her gaze from Mark then back to Cordelia. They were both seated at the small table with her, casting shy glances at each other while trying to keep her involved in mindless chit chat so they could have more opportunities to look at each other. She was tempted to lean over and smack them both one good time on the head. They'd been at the club for nearly an hour. It was plain as day that there was an attraction between her two friends. Looking at them, she had to admit that they made a striking couple. Albeit a silent one. How could two people that were so confident and gorgeous seem so silly and shy?
"Hey babe. Want to dance?"
Willow glanced up at the slurred words, her face frowning as the scent of alcohol overwhelmed her. "Sorry, but I don't dance."
"Come on, babe. One dance," he asked again, pulling on her arm.
"Hey, the lady said no," Mark said, looking at the intoxicated man.
"Didn't ask you. Was talking to Red here," the man said, again touching Willow's arm.
"Yo, buster," Cordelia stood and faced the drunk, her arm going around Willow's shoulders. "She's with me, got it? Don't make me break a nail."
"Bitch dykes," the guy slurred before moving away.
Willow looked at Mark then at Cordelia, trying to keep from laughing but failing, "Don't make me break a nail?"
Cordelia shrugged, "Well, he didn't seem threatened by Mark!"
"That was amazing," Mark said, looking at Cordelia with a besotted smile. "The way you stepped in there and told him off. I think I'm in love."
Cordelia smiled shyly, tucking her hair behind her ear in a nervous way as she looked at the handsome college man, "A bit early for love, don't you think?"
"No way," he denied, holding his heart. "Love at first fight, Delia darlin'. Dance with me?"
"Is he always so...." Cordelia struggled for the right word as Mark's shyness left and he held out his hand for a dance.
"Overwhelming?" Willow asked with a smile. "Confident? Charming? Flirtatious?"
"Yeah," Cordelia said agreeing with Willow's descriptions.
Willow stood and whispered in Cordelia's ear, "He's a good guy, but he could hurt you. Of course, you could hurt him more."
Cordelia nodded, smiling, "I think I want to dance."
"And I think I'm going to leave. I could use some air," Willow said, looking between her friends and smiling.
"We'll leave too," Mark said, looking at Willow. "I don't want you trying to catch a cab this late."
"Yeah, we can get that dance some other time," Cordelia said, not wanting to stay without her friend.
"Guys, I'm a big girl. I can make it home on my own. Stay and enjoy the music and each other," Willow said, urging them.
"Sorry, not gonna do it," Mark said after looking at Cordelia and seeing a similar stubborn look in her dark eyes. Loyalty. Another plus in that column. Damn if Cordelia Chase wasn't turning into his perfect woman.
"Yeah, Wills. You're stuck with two overprotective friends," Cordelia said with a smile. Mark was too good to be true. He had to have something wrong with him, didn't he?
"You guys have to stay and dance and fall in love and end up happy together!" Willow whined, shaking her head. "You can't leave yet."
"Honey, we can't fall in love if we don't have a chance to talk. Can you really see us trying to talk in here?" Mark said, motioning around. "We'll take you home and then maybe just for some coffee. I tend to have good luck with attractive women in coffee houses."
Willow groaned as he wriggled his eyebrows and leered at her, laughing as Cordelia rolled her eyes, a smile on her pretty face. "Is that the best you can do, Mark?"
"Just give me a chance," he said, his flirty tone covering up a nervous edge. Cordelia Chase scared him. She wasn't fooled by his breezy act. She'd called him on it a couple of times already. He liked that.
"We'll see," she said with a smile as she looked at Willow and winked, letting the redhead know that she liked Mark.
"Come on, let's get out of here before I get propositioned again," Willow said, laughing as they started to leave, headed towards Mark's car and peaceful silence.
Willow watched as Mark and Cordelia drove away, a smile on her face. It seemed that Cordelia defending her had broken the ice between the two, neither shutting up the entire drive back to the hotel. She looked at the door in front of her, realizing that she hadn't been gone even two hours. Angel would still be out working, and she'd just be alone. She sighed, turning to walk away from the hotel. She decided to visit Kathy, an older woman that owned a small grocery store not a block away from the hotel. She had stumbled upon Kathy's her third day in LA, loving the small friendly store immediately. She would often stop in and visit with the owner as she bought something for lunch or dinner, depending on the time. The small store had become a regular stopping most afternoons. She knew from the hours etched on the door that the place stayed open until three am, once asking Kathy if she actually worked that late. The response had been that sometimes she did, sometimes she didn't. Tonight, Willow hoped that she was there. It was only ten pm and she could use some friendly conversation.
She was almost to the store when she heard a loud bass coming up behind her. She turned, seeing a very nice black BMW pulling to a stop beside the light. The car was practically moving from the music playing inside and she smiled as she entered the store.
"Willow, honey. Why are you out this late?" Kathy asked, looking up from her crossword as the redhead came inside.
"It's only ten," Willow said with a smile at the woman. "I got hungry and decided to come get some snacks before settling in to watch a movie."
"Go, buy, then come and talk to me," Kathy said, using her hand to shoo the girl into the aisles.
Willow smiled as she grabbed a basket and moved towards the back of the store. She didn't really have anything at Angel's to eat, usually buying only enough to eat for each meal. She knew that the only snack food belonged to the others, having snuck some of Gunn's chips the other day. She went to the fruit, deciding that she could use some apples. Maybe she could cook something. A pie or something. She hadn't baked in years, she realized. She'd probably forgotten how. She picked up several apples, eyeing each one critically before it received her final approval and made it into her plastic bag. She tied the end and started to look at the other produce. She had just picked up a tomato when something caught her eyes. Looking up, she froze, seeing one of the most beautiful men she'd ever seen.
Dark hair that was rather long, brushing against his collar. She couldn't see the color of his eyes but could imagine them a piercing blue or maybe something unusual like gray. He was tan, his skin a golden brown. He was wearing a torn white T-shirt that had paint stains and a pair of faded blue jeans that molded a body that deserved at least a third or fourth glance. She swallowed, touching the cool ice to relieve some of the heat. Good grief, he was handsome. She turned her head before he realized she was staring, knowing that she'd been horrified to be caught ogling a guy in the produce section. She took her basket and moved to the chip aisle, her eyes moving back to study him of their own free will. He moved with a steady grace, a confidence in his step. She watched as his left hand pushed his hair from his face as he tossed a couple of apples into his basket.
She moved to the front counter, putting her basket down as she sat shakily on the chair beside Kathy. She let out a breath, her eyes looking up and finding the hunk in the mirrors bordering the store.
"I see you've seen Mac," Kathy said with an impish smile.
"Mac?" Willow repeated.
"Good looking, dark hair, blue eyes," Kathy rattled off. Looking up, she wriggled her eyebrows, "I could probably guess his jean size from the time I've spent looking at that tight ass of his."
"Kathy!" Willow said, laughing as the older woman smile. "Yeah, I think I just saw him."
"He's a good guy. A painter. Not houses. Does pictures. Lives around the corner I think. Always comes in here before midnight almost every night. Always comes in smelling of paint and smiling that smile of his. Damn thing should be illegal," Kathy shook her head as she fanned herself.
"He's an artist?" Willow asked, filing that away. She had seen the paint on his shirt but assumed it was just an old shirt.
"Uh, oh," Kathy said with a smirk. "Someone's smitten."
"What?" Willow said, shaking her head. "No way. He's nice to look at, but I've learned that looks can be deceiving. Besides, I've already got too many men in my life, thank you very much."
"You can never have too many men," Kathy said with a horrified look. "Bite your tongue."
"Anyway, I was merely going to say that he is very attractive," Willow said primly.
"And he's coming this way to check out," Kathy said with a nudge of her elbow.
"He is?" Willow said, getting to her feet and moving into the nearest aisle. She ignored him, instead staring at her basket. She felt the blush on her face as if he had heard what she and Kathy had been saying. She listened as Kathy started to talk to him, flirting easily with the handsome painter. She heard him laugh and her stomach tightened, the husky sound sending shivers along her spine. She looked up from beneath her lashes, her eyes moving along the contours of his ass, noticing that it was indeed tight and nicely shaped. His voice was pleasant and he seemed interested in what Kathy was saying. He must be a good guy, to stand around and flirt with a sixty-year-old woman.
"See you tomorrow, Mac. Same time?" Kathy asked, her eyes moving to look at her new red-haired friend then back into the smiling blue eyes of her other friend.
Mac shrugged, "About the same, Kat. See ya," he added as he picked up his bag and left the store, leaving two women, one twenty and one sixty, sighing as they watched him disappear.
Willow looked over at Kathy and started to laugh, "Goddess, we're horrible. Looking at him like that."
"He didn't notice, honey. He's always caught up with whatever is going on in that mind of his to pay attention to things like that," Kathy said with an easy smile. "You getting anything else?"
"No, I think this is enough for tonight," Willow said, not sure if she would be able to stay away knowing that Mac would be in the next night. She was turning into a wanton hussy, she realized. First having delicious thoughts about Angel, not working some complete stranger into them too. She paid for her groceries and left the store, pushing away thoughts of good looking strangers from her mind.
Angel hid in the shadows, his dark eyes looking around for any sign of a trap. He glanced at his watch, seeing that it was nearly two. He was early, as usual. He hadn't been lying to Willow earlier, he was working. He had been extremely curious when he had received the phone call earlier than evening, curious and suspicious. He still wasn't sure if he had made the right decision, coming to this meeting alone. He trusted too easily, he decided. Either that or he was stupid. Lately, he'd probably vote for the latter. It had to have been stupidity that had allowed him to let Willow leave the hotel. After she had left, he'd sat for nearly an hour lost in vivid images of ways he could have kept her from meeting that pretty college boy. Images that had excited both him and the demon. He knew that wasn't a good thing.
He was brought from his mind when he heard footsteps. Cursing, he became alert, hearing only one set of footsteps. Maybe it wasn't a trap. He frowned, almost wishing it had been. He felt like fighting someone, anything to take away from his desire to toss Willow to the ground and fuck away thoughts of any other man from her mind. He groaned, moving a hand over his face as he felt his cock harden. Now was not the time to be horny. He counted to ten, removing his hand to find himself looking into a familiar face. A familiar, smug, pretty boy handsome with just a hint of danger, face. "MacDonald. What did you want?"
"Angel," Lindsey said smoothly, his voice not betraying his fear of the dark haired vampire. "Thank you for meeting me."
"Did I have a choice?" Angel asked, not wanting to play any verbal games. He just wanted to find out what Lindsey wanted then get back to the hotel to see if Willow was back yet.
"I thought that you always had a choice, Angel," Lindsey said, frowning at the vampire.
"What did you want?" Angel asked again, moving from his position in the shadows. He saw Lindsey move slightly and smiled, a purely masculine smile of someone that knew the other person was afraid of them. It was nice being feared, he realized, deliberately moving closer to the lawyer.
"Here," Lindsey handed over a plain brown envelope.
"What's this?" Angel asked, not taking the envelope as he reminded the human who had the power.
"Information," Lindsey said tightly, glancing behind him. He knew that no one was following him, but he hated to let his guard down. He looked at Angel and scowled, seeing the cocky vampire giving him a look as if he was beneath him. From what he could tell, they had a lot in common, he and Angel. He'd never admit it, nor did he think Angel would, but it was one of the many reasons that the dark haired vampire annoyed him. "Take it and read it. Up to you if you want to take action."
"Haven't we been down this road before, MacDonald?" Angel asked, taking the envelope, his fingers brushing over the top of Lindsey's hand. "You help me, I help you, you try to screw me, I fuck you."
"Bastard," Lindsey muttered under his breath, giving the vampire a hard look. "I know that you hate me. I know that you don't trust me. Hell, I don't blame you at all. I thought I'd take a chance and give you that folder. That guy is bad news. If you want to stop him, fine. If not, hell, I tried. I can rest easier."
"You'll never rest easy, Lindsey," Angel said softly, his eyes flashing.
"Drop it," Lindsey said, rolling his eyes. "You've tried, Angel. Can't save someone that doesn't want to be saved. Now, run along back to your dark hotel and forget that you saw me."
"Already forgotten," Angel said as he moved back into the shadows, the envelope in his hand.
Lindsey went back to his car, sliding inside and shutting the door. Leaning his head back, he let out the breath that he had taken when he had first left it. He hated going to Angel, his hatred for the sanctimonious bastard having grown after every defeat, but he knew that Angel would help. He didn't question why he was risking his job and his life to destroy a client. He no longer cared. He sighed, running a hand through his hair as he realized that it was getting to be a bit too long. He needed to have it cut soon. He turned his car on, pushing in a CD and turning the volume low. Reaching over, he grabbed an apple and took a bite as he started towards the road. He smiled as he looked at the bag of apples, wondering idly who that cute redhead talking to Kathy had been.
Angel shut the door of the hotel, moving to his office and tossing the folder that Lindsey had given him onto his desk. He'd look at it tomorrow. As it was, dusk was fast approaching. After leaving the lawyer, he had driven around aimlessly for nearly two hours, just lost in thought. It had been nice with the top down, the cool air clearing his mind. It hadn't really helped, bringing him no closer to any definite answers on how to handle Willow. He had to admit that he was falling for the redhead. It was the only logical explanation. Logical? Nothing in his feelings for her were logical. Even now, he could smell her, knew she was asleep just across the hall from him. It would be so easy to open her door and go inside, wake her up as he entered her, kissing her and teasing her until she decided that she wanted him too.
He couldn't do that, though. He was her friend. She was dating that Mark guy. The annoying pretty boy with the fast car and loud mouth. What did Willow see in that jerk? What did Mark give her that he couldn't? Well, besides being able to be with her in the sun and give her babies if she wanted those. With a soft growl, Angel went up the stairs two at a time. He didn't want to imagine that moron giving Willow anything at all. He knew that Willow hadn't had sex with Mark. He'd have been able to smell it easily. Things might not be perfect in that relationship after all, he thought with a small hopeful smile. If he could get Mark out of the picture, maybe Willow be more inclined to see that love was right across the hall.
Angel's hand was on his doorknob when he heard a door opening. Looking up, he saw Willow standing in her doorway. He ran his eyes over her, seeing that she was wearing a tank top and a pair of boxers. Her hair was slightly mussed and her eyes were sleepy. He felt himself harden at the images that flashed through his mind. Pushing them away, he said huskily, "I'm sorry. Did I wake you?"
Willow shook her head, frowning slightly when he looked at the floor rather than at her, "No. I was waiting up for you."
"You were?" he looked up, surprise and pleasure in his dark eyes.
She nodded, "Yeah. I was a bit worried about you. Business at this late hour. And you were alone. I had no idea where you had gone or what you were doing. I kept thinking that maybe you had been hurt and I wouldn't even know where to find you."
"I'm fine," he said, deciding not to dwell on the pleasure that her words caused.
"I see that," she said, smiling softly. She laughed as she ran a hand through her hair, "Goddess, you must think I'm so silly."
"It's nice," he said quietly, speaking honestly. "I haven't had anyone worry about me in a long time."
"Oh," she said, smiling. "Did everything go well? I don't see any bumps or bruises."
"It was fine," he said, smiling as he leaned against his door. "Rather simple. Just had to get some information. Afterwards, I drove around a bit, did some thinking. I wasn't sure if your date," he spat out the word without realizing it, "would have ended by now. I'm rather surprised to see you home so early."
"Early?" she said, "Angel, it's nearly four-thirty. I was home by midnight."
"The date didn't go well?" he asked, watching her face.
Thinking of Cordelia and Mark's meeting, Willow smiled a pleased smile, "Oh, it went perfectly. Better than I ever imagined."
He scowled, not liking the look that had entered her green eyes, "That's nice."
She looked at him in surprise, "That didn't sound very sincere."
"It's late and I'm rather tired," he said, his hand turning the knob to open his door.
"Oh, sorry I was keeping you awake," she said, her eyes looking at the floor. She felt foolish suddenly. "I'll quit bothering you and let you get some sleep."
"You're never a bother, Willow," Angel said softly before turning and entering his room.
Willow heard the door open and looked up, a smile crossing her face as she watched Cordelia practically float into the room. Raising an eyebrow, she asked in a dry voice, "Nice time last night?"
Cordelia beamed, her face almost glowing as she hurried to take the chair opposite Willow. Leaning forward, she said, "I think I must be dreaming."
Willow smiled sweetly as she pinched Cordelia's arm before the brunette had a chance to move. At the girl's yelp and glare, Willow said, "Nope. You seem awake to me."
"That was cruel!" Cordelia said, rubbing her arm before she smiled again. "But I'll forgive you. I owe you, after all."
"You don't owe me anything," Willow said, shaking her head.
"Yes, I do," Cordelia said, "you gave me Mark."
Willow snorted, "You act as if he was a shirt that I thought looked better on you."
Cordelia laughed, "I could take that somewhere, but I won't. Instead, I'll merely tell you that I had more fun last night than I've had in longer than I can remember. Well, non-demon related fun."
"You have demon related fun?" Willow asked, snickering as Cordelia again glared at her.
"You know, you make it very difficult for one to thankful to," Cordelia remarked, before she grew pensive. "Someone's cranky. Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed today?"
"It was the right side," Willow said, sighing.
"Uh oh," Cordelia's eyes widened as she laughed. "It wasn't the wrong side that was the problem, was it? It was just that it was your bed instead of someone else's."
"Your happiness has affected your mental abilities," Willow said.
Cordelia just smiled, her mind thinking back over the last week. "I can't believe I didn't see it. You want Angel. I could really be offended that you didn't share that with me, but in respect for our new friendship, I'll forgive you this one time. In the future, be aware that I will expect a full report on any such lusts or cravings though."
"I do not want Angel," Willow denied, her words rather weak even to her own ears. "I mean, not like that. He's just a friend. A good friend. In fact, I met a guy last night."
Cordelia rolled her eyes, "That's not gonna work with me, Will, but due to my extreme good mood, I'll let it slide. For now. Know that I will be watching though and the first time you slip and undress him with your eyes, I'll be there to smile and say I told you so. Now, tell me about this new guy."
Willow had to laugh at Cordelia's antics, thinking how nice it was to have become friendly with the girl after years of animosity. Cordelia's friendship was not given easily, and, once earned, it also included loyalty and tolerance and bad advice. "I saw him last night. Didn't even meet him. It's nothing."
A skeptical look entered the brunette's dark eyes, "If it's nothing, why are you blushing? Tell Auntie Cordy all about the latest hunk in your life as you continue to deny your lust for his Broodiness."
"He's an artist," Willow finally said, laughing in a mocking way as she looked at the desk. "He's not even traditionally handsome really. A bit rough around the edges, you know? His hair is dark and kind of long, to his collar. His eyes are mesmerizing. This wonderful shade of blue that just...." she trailed off as she sighed and looked up at Cordelia. "Isn't it silly to get this worked up over some guy I didn't even meet?"
"You are silly. What's the problem?" Cordelia asked, dodging a paper clip that Willow tossed at her. "Hey, no throwing things! You might make me lose my memory of what happened last night after we dropped you off...then I wouldn't be able to share the details so you could gloat at your successful matchmaking."
"It's still pretty early," Willow said, looking at the clock. "Angel won't be up for hours and I don't expect Wesley or Gunn in until later this afternoon. Why don't we go get some coffee and you can make me envious with details of your perfect evening."
"Envious?" Cordelia repeated, smiling as she stood. "I rather like that. Come along then."
"Yes, your highness," Willow said, grabbing some money from her desk drawer as she followed the brunette out of the hotel.
Wesley looked at Angel and frowned, putting down the file he had been reading, "Where did you obtain this information?"
"A source," was all that Angel said.
"Can I say again how I hate those damn cryptic answers?" Gunn asked, crossing his ankles as he looked at the high ceiling. "Angel, my man, there's this neat thing called a sentence. You string several words together and toss them out so people know what you're thinking."
"Ahem," Wesley cleared his throat, glaring at Gunn as he saw Angel straighten, an unreadable look entering the vampire's eyes as Cordelia and Willow giggled at Gunn's words. "I think we could all do without the commentary, Charles."
"The name is Gunn," Gunn said, not moving his head to glare at Wesley. It wasn't worth it. The other man was completely immune to the withering glares by now. "Four letters. Hell, one of them is repeated. Why is that so hard for your 'intelligent'," his fingers made little quote marks in the air beside his body, "mind to grasp, Wussy?"
"Boys," Willow interrupted with an amused smile and a roll of her eyes before fireworks could begin, again, "before you two start, can we please have some idea what's going on?"
"Yes, well, of course. Willow's right," Wesley said, sending the redhead a smile that evaporated as he glanced at Gunn. He looked at the file and said, "Angel has given me a file from his 'source'. It contains information about a Triaakan demon that has recently arrived in the Los Angeles area."
"A triawhat?" Gunn asked, frowning. He hated these information sessions. Show him what to hunt, what to kill, and he was there. Discuss plans and demon origins? That was just stupid in his opinion. OK, so it may have helped a few times when fighting, knowing strengths and weaknesses of the enemy, but it was such a waste of time. Listening to Wesley's pompous, condescending, know-it-all, by the book word for word quoted definitions? Well, it just pissed him off.
"A triaakan," Wesley repeated. "A rather nasty breed that usually avoids populated areas. If this information is accurate, our boy has come to LA to hunt."
"Why do nasty demon and hunting make me not have warm fuzzies?" Cordelia asked with a wrinkle of her nose.
"As I said, this information contradicts most of what I've learned of this particular breed of demon," Wesley said, a thoughtful look on his face. "If it is true, I fear we must act quickly. A triaakan is not someone you want hunting in your neighborhood."
"Was that a funny?" Gunn asked, sitting up and looking at the man in surprise. "You just tried to make a funny, didn't you?"
"And I am once again awed by your powers of observation, Charles," Wesley said tightly, glaring at Willow who let a giggle pass her lips.
"Angel," Willow spoke to the vampire for the first time since the night before. She was still confused over what had happened in the hallway between them. True, nothing had happened, but it felt as if something could have. He had come downstairs nearly an hour before but had only grunted at her greeting. Seeing that he was obviously in a foul mood, she'd ignored him.
"Yes?" he looked at her, wondering how anyone could look so beautiful in something as normal as an old T-shirt and jeans.
"Your source. Do you trust it?" she asked.
Angel hesitated, feeling all eyes on him. Damn, he hated this. He didn't trust Lindsey as far as he could throw him, but he also knew that he would not have had this file if Lindsey hadn't been concerned. If he was wrong, he could be leading them all into a trap. If he was right, there'd be another dead demon in the city. With a slight nod, he said, "I trust it."
Willow looked at Wesley and smiled, "If Angel trusts it, I trust it. I'd say we need to start figuring out how to locate a Triaakan."
"I'm with Red," Gunn said, winking at the redhead. "Looks like we got ourselves a demon to kill."
"Why does it bother me that he says that with such enthusiasm?" Wesley muttered before reaching for one of the various demon guides that littered his desk.
Willow entered the store, smiling at Kathy as she let the door shut behind her. "Working late again?"
"Willow, honey," Kathy smiled, looking up from her crossword puzzle. "You look tired. Did you not sleep last night?"
Willow laughed, "I'm fine, Mom. I slept at least five hours."
"That's not healthy," Kathy said, shaking her head. "You young people these days. No regards to your health and well being."
"I have a very high regard for my health," Willow defended as she picked up one of the handheld baskets. "See? I'm about to buy fruit which is very healthy. And just for you, I'll buy some vitamins."
"Just trying to appease an old woman," Kathy grumbled with a smile. "You won't take them, so don't waste your money. Hey, honey, what's a five letter word for paramour that starts with an l?"
Willow's face grew thoughtful as she thought. Before she could speak, she heard a husky voice speak softly behind her.
Willow turned, her eyes widening slightly as she gulped. She found herself looking into blue eyes that were watching her with curiosity and a bit of flirtatious amusement.
"That fits perfect," Kathy said, writing in each letter. "Thanks, Mac."
Willow turned back to face Kathy, knowing her face must be flaming. She was even finding it difficult to breathe, able to feel the warmth his body was giving off from his nearness. "Fruit. I need to buy fruit."
Lindsey watched the cute redhead hurry away, her back to him as she went towards the produce. He moved towards the counter, resting against it as his eyes followed her. He hated to admit it, but he had been hanging around Kathy's for nearly half an hour, hoping that the intriguing redhead would show up again. He had never been so glad to see anyone in his life. He had just known that Kathy would kick him out on his ass after he'd read every single package of chips in the aisle, trying to waste time. There was just something about that girl that got to him. He'd dreamed about her last night. He couldn't remember the dream, but he had woken up with her face on his mind. He'd never even met her, barely even seen her, yet he couldn't forget her. Willow, he'd heard her called. Pretty name.
"You're a rascal," Kathy said, shaking her head as she took his basket.
"Who? Me?" he asked, looking at her in surprise.
"Yes, you," she responded, clucking her tongue. "You 'bout near gave that little girl a heart attack, skulking around behind her and whispering such lewd words."
"I was answering your question and I did not whisper," Lindsey said, his eyes lit with amusement. "Besides, you know that you're the only one for me, Kathy, darlin'. No need to be jealous. Just sell this place and run away with me."
"Fiddlesticks," she said, laughing. "Mac, my boy, you just may have met your match with that little girl. She's one that will keep you on your toes."
"Not if she always runs away before I can even introduce myself," he pointed out dryly as he reached in the back pocket of his faded jeans for a twenty. Handing it to Kathy, he glanced over to see that Willow had disappeared into one of the aisles out of his sight.
"I knew she was a smart girl," Kathy said, handing him his change as she bagged his purchases. "Seriously, Mac. Don't play any games with this girl. She's special."
Lindsey looked at Kathy and saw sincerity in her eyes. With a smile, he winked and whispered, "Trust me. The only games I've been thinking about, I think she'd enjoy."
"Get outta here," Kathy said, laughing as he smiled, looking almost boyish as he again did a sweep of the store, looking for Willow.
"If there was one thing my Momma ever taught me," Lindsey said, taking his sack, "it was to listen to my elders. I'll see you tomorrow night, Kath."
"I'll elder you, boy," Kathy warned, amusement in her eyes as she watched him leave. When the door had shut, she called out, "Willow, honey, he's gone. You can quit hiding now."
Willow appeared from one of the aisles, a sheepish smile on her face, "I wasn't hiding. He just startled me. I hadn't realized he was here."
"You go back to your shopping, sweetie. I'll work on this puzzle a bit more," Kathy said, smiling as Willow went back to her shopping. Looking down, she almost laughed as she was reminded of both Mac and Willow. A nine letter word for unaware. Oblivious.
Angel stilled when he heard the key enter the door lock. He closed his eyes, her scent already reaching him though she was still outside. He listened as she came inside, shutting the door behind her. He smiled as he heard her lock the door. He opened his eyes, glancing at her and seeing that she was carrying a plastic bag. He saw her eyes widen as she noticed him, an almost guilty look crossing her face. For a moment, he wished he could read her mind. What was she thinking? Instead of asking, he said, "I could have driven you to the store."
She gave him a smile, "You were busy. Besides, I kind of like the walk. Gives me a chance to clear my head."
"This area is not the safest, Willow," he reminded.
"Don't go all protective on me, Angel," she warned, her eyes narrowing. "I live in Sunnydale, remember? Compared to the Hellmouth, LA is nothing."
"And that attitude is going to get you into trouble," he said, giving her a look. "You should know better."
"Angel, I'm careful. I keep my eyes open and am always aware of my surroundings," she said patiently, knowing that he was only worried because he cared. She was used to Buffy's protectiveness which made Angel's look almost nonexistent.
"I just worry about you," he admitted, looking away from her. He realized what he had said and added, "About all of you."
"Oh," she said, smiling at his bent head. She was not going to try to understand the small fluttering that had entered her heart when he had first spoken, instead concentrating on the recognition that he was just being a friend. "We care about you too, Angel."
"You do?" he looked up at her, a small smile crossing his handsome face.
She rolled her eyes, "As if you had to doubt that. You're our friend, you idiot."
"Friend?" he repeated, nodding slightly. "Yeah, friends."
"Did you and Wesley figure out anything about that Triaakan demon?" she asked, sitting on the sofa as she reached into her bag and took out a box of cookies.
"We've narrowed the search area," Angel said, running a hand through his hair, "but it still leaves most of the Los Angeles area."
She smiled wryly, "That doesn't sound too good."
"They dislike water," he said, ticking off a finger, "they hate the sun, they dislike flowers."
"Flowers?" Willow repeated before eating a chip. "So you need a dark, dry place that smells bad?"
Angel nodded, "Which leaves half of LA."
Willow sighed, "I guess I know how we'll be spending tomorrow night."
"Or the next week," he said, laughing softly.
"That's enough," she said, seeing the lamp on his desk and the file that lay open on the top.
"Excuse me?" he asked, looking at her in surprise.
Willow stood, "You've spent all day since you woke up looking through that research. We can't possibly do anything else until tomorrow evening so shut the file. You're coming with me."
"And where, pray tell, are we going?" he asked in amusement as he looked at her.
"Upstairs to watch some TV," she said, smiling. "I'm sure we can find some completely ridiculous movie on this late at night. I have cookies and a bag of chips plus a brand new soda. I'm ready to veg out."
"You want me to watch a movie with you?" he repeated, his lips twitching as he tried not to laugh.
"Duh," she said, laughing as she held out her hand. "Come on, old man."
He got to his feet, knowing there was no way he could refuse such an invitation. He shut the file and turned off his desk lamp before turning to take her hand. He looked at her as their hands touched, wondering if she had felt the same electric shock that he had felt. He couldn't tell anything by the look in her eyes or the smile that stayed in place on her pretty face. He sighed, his finger brushing against her palm as they headed upstairs to watch a movie.
Willow was going to kill her inner voices. She would find a spell that would allow them to take solid form so that she could strangle them. Yep, that's what she would do. She shifted on the sofa, her knee brushing against Angel's leg. She slowly counted to ten, wondering if he could smell her arousal. She knew that vampires had a keen sense of smell, had read as much in some of Giles' books. He had to know. Thankfully, he seemed to be ignoring it. Or maybe he didn't know. Either way, she couldn't get the voices in her head to shut up about simply straddling him and kissing him. Of course, then her voices would keep pestering her with vivid descriptions about where the kissing would lead until she could see her and Angel having wild sex on the sofa.
Add to that, the constant mutterings about Mac in her head and she knew she was going crazy. She had never even met the man. Had only seen him twice. She couldn't get him out of her head. Half of her was completely under Angel's spell, knowing what she felt for him was deep and might even lead to love. The other half of her couldn't forget Mac and the tingling feelings she felt just by looking at him. There was extreme lusting driving her to that damn grocery store in hopes of seeing him. It was pretty pathetic that she had just broken up after a yearlong relationship with a girl to find herself intrigued and interested in not one but two men. Would her life ever make since?
"This movie is awful," Angel said, glancing at Willow to find her watching the screen.
Willow didn't hear him, lost in a mental image of her in the middle of Kathy's grocery store with Mac pulling at one arm and Angel pulling at the other until she could almost feel the pain. Closing her eyes, she sighed, wondering if she was being stupid for thinking about putting aside her newly discovered feelings for Angel to find out who Mac was and why he made her feel so alive. But Angel made her feel alive, too. Goddess, she should have just stayed in Sunnydale and wallowed in post breakup self pity. No, now she was torn between two men that had no interest in her at all. Could she be any more pathetic?
"Ahem," Angel cleared his throat, his dark eyes lit with amusement as he turned to study her profile. Her eyes were closed, her bottom lip drawn into her mouth. She was obviously lost deep in thought. And, judging by the slight frown on her face, she wasn't happy with her thoughts.
Willow distantly heard Angel and turned, opening her eyes to find him staring directly at her. She felt a faint blush cross her cheeks as she said, "Did you say something?"
"I was just wondering you were able to watch the movie when your eyes were closed," he said lazily, raising an eyebrow as he waited.
"Oh," she looked at the TV and saw that she had no idea what was happening on screen. Looking back at Angel, she said, "I was just deeply moved by that last scene and had to take a moment to reflect on the perfection of it."
He snorted, rolling his eyes, "Willow, just admit that you weren't paying attention to the movie."
"I was too," she defended.
"So, the scene with those two counselors in bed having sex then getting impaled at the end of that sword deeply moved you?" he asked, smiling smugly as she realized he had her.
She nodded, giving herself a minute to think, "I was moved by the director's message. Sex ends up getting you stabbed to death by a sharp knife."
"Somehow I don't think that was his message, if there even was one," he said dryly.
"You just failed to catch his message," she said, smiling as she looked back at the screen.
"You're impossible," he said, laughing as he went back to watching the movie.
"So are you," she said, an evil look entering her eyes as she grabbed the pillow beside her. She smacked him in the face with the pillow, laughing as he growled at her.
"You think that's funny?" he asked, a playful look in his eyes as he picked up a pillow and hit her on the back of the head.
"Ow, that hurt!" she cried out, glaring at him. She hit him again, her glare fading as he hit back. Soon, the movie was forgotten as she got to her feet and ran from him. They continued hitting each other, their laughter drowning out the screams of terror from the TV. Willow ducked behind the sofa, ready to pounce on him. She caught in his stomach as he came around the couch, his pillow raised. She heard him growl again shortly before his hands caught her pillow and pulled it away. "Angel!" she said, seeing the yellow flash eyes that were still amused. She scrambled away, gasping when she felt his hands close around her ankle.
"Going somewhere, darlin'?" he asked in a sexy drawl as he pulled her towards him.
Willow caught sight of his dropped pillow and smiled, twisting until she reached it. She swung it, knocking him off balance. Angel landed on his butt with a thump as she laughed. "I think you're the one going somewhere, darlin."
Angel couldn't believe she had gotten him. With a predatory smile, he moved, pinning her to the floor and straddling her stomach before she had a chance to move. "You were saying?"
She looked up at him, seeing the smug, triumphant smile on his handsome face. She was suddenly aware of their positions, the laughter fading as she felt him against her stomach. She shifted, struggling to get out from under him. "Angel, let me up."
Angel ran his eyes over her, taking in the sweaty flushed face, the breasts that were pushing against her shirt as she took in deep breaths, the feel of her warm body under his. He looked into her eyes and was struck by the obvious look of arousal in their green depths. He took an unneeded breath, letting his grip on her wrists loosen as he sat back, still stunned by the desire he had seen in her eyes. She wanted him? Surely not. It must be the circumstances. He watched her wiggle out from under him, her hand smoothing her hair as her eyes looked everywhere but at his face. "I'm sorry..."
"For what?" she managed to ask, pasting on a friendly smile as she looked at him. "It was just a game, Angel. I'm kind of tired. I think I'll go to bed."
"Yeah, just a game," he said, cursing as she left the room, his eyes closing as he rested it against the back of the sofa.
Willow groaned as she looked at the clock. It was only ten minutes than the last time she had looked. She gave up, getting out of bed and going to her bathroom. She showered and dressed, not believing that she was up and awake at five in the morning. Of course, it might have helped that she hadn't slept at all after leaving the TV room. She'd been kept awake all night with visions of naked Angel and then naked Mac. It had been rather hard to sleep with those vivid images in her mind. She grabbed her backpack, deciding that she'd just get some breakfast and spend some time breathing. Away from the temptation of Angel sleeping right across the hall.
She took the elevator to the lobby, moving to Cordelia's desk. She scrawled a hasty note to her friend, telling the brunette that she had gone for breakfast and would be back in time for their planned lunch date. Taping it to the girl's phone, she knew Cordelia would find it. She left the hotel, sure to lock the door behind her. Stepping into the street, she felt a smile cross her face. She loved this neighborhood. Contrary to what Angel said, she felt no immediate danger here. She was growing accustomed to several of their neighbors. Of course, most of them were around the corner, not directly opposite the hotel. She took off down the street, turning the corner as her smile grew.
She waved at the elderly man sweeping the sidewalk in front of the cafe, smiling as he called out a hello. She knew that he ran the cafe along with his wife of forty years. She had met them both when she and Cordelia went there for lunch earlier in the week. Willow passed the coffee bar, deciding that she was going to actually eat a real breakfast. It was Saturday morning so she deserved the treat.
"Beautiful morning, isn't it?" a woman asked, smiling as she walked by.
"Glorious," Willow said truthfully, rather glad that she hadn't been able to sleep.
Willow entered the small twenty-four hour diner, following the waitress to a booth in the corner. She sat down, sighing as she realized that she had walked several blocks. She opened the menu, studying it intently. Did she want waffles or pancakes? She decided on strawberry pancakes. She placed her order, adding a glass of orange juice. She took a sip of her coffee before reaching into her backpack to find her journal. She had started keeping one months before, finding it a relaxing experience. She had even managed to write down most of her memories of her past, including everything from her first meeting with Xander to Jesse's death to meeting Buffy. She had some journal entries on her computer, but it seemed more personal writing it with her own hand.
She continued drinking her coffee, smiling a thank you as it was refilled. She glanced around, noticing that the diner was getting crowded. Luckily, she was in no hurry. There were people standing around the cash register, waiting for tables. She was glad that she had gotten there early. She knew it was rather selfish to take up the booth when it was just her, but being single deserved some reward didn't it? She took another drink of coffee before losing herself in her writing. She was remembering her night with Angel, still confused over what had happened. She'd lost it. She'd been so close to just forgetting about her fears and simply kissing him.
She noticed the waitress place her food on the table, smiling a thank you as she moved the plate. She inhaled the scent of the food, hearing her stomach grumble. Goddess, she was starved suddenly. She decided to finish her notes before eating. Her green eyes studied the pancakes for a minute before she laughed softly. She shut her journal, leaving her pen to mark her place. She used her fork and cut up half the pancakes, eyeing the golden brown cakes with hunger. Reading for the syrup, she tipped the jar over soaking a few pieces in the sticky brown substance. She put the syrup back down then took a drink of her coffee as she readied her fork. She opened her mouth and popped the first bite inside, groaning in delight at the taste. She was chewing when she felt it. She was being watched. Looking up, her eyes widened as she looked into amused blue eyes.
Lindsey smiled at the redhead, wondering if it was destiny or merely stupidity that had made him come to her booth when he had noticed her upon entering the diner. He motioned to the empty seat across from her, asking softly, "Is this seat taken?"
Willow swallowed her pancakes, her eyes still wide. She felt like a child, not really sure what to say. How could a stranger have that affect on her? She looked at her plate, hating to speak. She knew she'd end up saying something stupid and silly. After counting to ten, she looked back at him and saw him watching her, an amused smile on his handsome face. She managed to stutter, "It's not taken."
Lindsey felt a rush of masculine delight as he saw her reaction to him. She was blushing and they'd only spoken a few words. He found himself wondering if she'd blush when he took her to bed. Shaking those thoughts from his mind, he frowned. He'd not even met her yet he was already planning her seduction. Go slow, Mac, he told himself. This little girl is not in that league. Maybe that was what he found fascinating about her. She was so beautiful yet she seemed so innocent. A part of him craved that innocence, wanted to see the world as she must see it, without the horror of reality. Another part of him honestly wanted to corrupt that innocence. To teach her the truths about the world, to be there to hold her as she realized just horrible everything really was. Hold her? Looking into her green eyes, he felt a slow smile crossing his face. Hold her and protect her. For the first time that he could remember, he had met someone that he wanted to protect, to keep safe. Why did that scare him more than any demons he had ever met?
"Can I sit with you?" he heard himself asking, wondering if she had any idea what she did to him. Knowing that she couldn't possibly.
Willow nodded, her cheeks flushed from the intensity in his eyes. He was looking at her in a way she'd never really been looked at before. She found her eyes back on the table as she said, "Of course."
Lindsey slid into the booth, his knees brushing hers. His body reacted from that simple touch. Looking at her bent head, he again asked himself if this was smart. He should have been running from her, from what she was making him feel, from the instincts she was bringing out in him. Instead, he was drawn to her even more. "You're Willow," he said softly, watching her look at him in surprise. He smiled sheepishly, "I asked."
She felt herself smiling at his admission, saying, "And you're Mac. I didn't have to ask."
"Guess we can skip the introductions then," he said, glancing up as the waitress approached their table. He ordered the same thing that she was having, looking back at her after the waitress left again. "Please, continue eating. I don't want to be responsible for your food getting cold."
"All right," Willow said, wondering how she was going to eat something so messy without making herself look like a slob. He was even more attractive up close. His voice did something to her that should have been illegal. Between him and Angel, her libido was in overdrive. She took a bite of her food, aware that his blue eyes followed every movement. She looked up, catching his eyes as she chewed. He was interested in her, she realized with a shock. She swallowed her bite, not really sure what she should say.
"You're not from around here," Lindsey said softly, watching her face.
"Is it that obvious?" she asked, laughing softly.
"No," he smiled, "I'd have remembered seeing you."
"Oh," she smiled, "you're right. I'm not."
"Just move here?" he asked, liking the sound of her voice.
"No," she shook her head. "Just visiting for the summer."
"You're leaving?" he sat back in the booth, not liking his reaction to that news at all. Good God, he'd just met her yet he felt like someone had stabbed him when he thought of her leaving him.
"Not for a couple of months," she said, intrigued by his reaction. She had to be dreaming. This entire week had been a dream. From Mark to Mac, she wasn't used to guys finding her interesting much less approaching her.
He smiled, his eyes moving along her face again. "Visiting friends or family?"
"Friends," she smiled, deciding she wouldn't mention too many details about them. "You're an artist?"
"An artist?" he looked at her for a minute then slowly smiled. Nodding, he said, "Yeah, I'm an artist."
"Have you always wanted to paint or did you try something else?" she found herself asking as she took another bite of her pancakes.
"I've always wanted to create," he said truthfully, smiling as his food was placed in front of him. "Painting relaxes me. I'm not very good, but it's fun."
"I've never been very artistic," Willow admitted with a laugh. "My sixth grade art teacher told me that I was hopeless and should never again take an art class. I listened to her."
"I don't think you're hopeless," he said with a slow smile. "You probably just had a bad teacher."
"No, she was right," Willow said, smiling. "I can't even draw a straight line with a ruler."
"Lines aren't meant to be straight," he corrected as he poured syrup on his pancakes. He found it easier to talk to her than anyone he'd ever met. Of course, she had no idea who he really was. Maybe that helped. Either way, he found himself falling more and more under her unknowing spell. "Art is vague. You create what's in your heart. There is no right or wrong with art. That's one reason I love it so much."
"You're very passionate about it," Willow said, seeing the look in his eyes and hearing the strength in his words.
"I'm always passionate about things that I love," he said quietly, his eyes moving over her face before he took a bite of his food.
Willow felt her eyes drawn to his lips, watching the muscles in his jaws as he ate. A rush of heat spread over her. She tore her eyes away, taking a bite of her own food. There was something happening between them that she didn't understand. There was something in the air, an electricity that she had never felt, not even with Angel. She didn't know what she'd do if Mac touched her, but exploding came to mind. How could she love Angel and feel this attracted to Mac? She looked back up and caught him watching her, a lazy smile on his face. She smiled, "You know, I'm glad you came over here."
"Saved me from hanging around the grocery in hopes of seeing you again," he said, watching as her eyes widened at his confession. "I've wanted to meet you since the other day. Last night, I stood around for nearly half an hour hoping you'd come in."
"Really?" she smiled shyly, looking at the table then back at him. "I never would have guessed."
"I'm rather good at hiding my emotions," he said softly, taking a drink of his coffee. Looking back at her, he found himself asking, "Do you anything planned today?"
Willow thought of her lunch with Cordelia, knowing her friend would forgive her, "Not really."
"Would you," he faltered, having to smile at how nervous he felt. For a moment, all of his confidence left him as he realized that this little girl could possibly make or break him. He'd never really believed in fate, but there was something about Willow that made him wonder if she was his destiny. God, he was starting to even scare himself. Giving her a charming smile, he hoped, he asked, "Would you want to spend the day with me?"
Willow realized this was the second time she had been asked that question since arriving in LA. And, for the second time, she found herself smiling and saying, "I'd love to."
Willow saw Mac smile at her answer, a warm tingle spreading over her at his obvious happiness. She looked down at her empty plate, a blush crossing her face. She didn't understand what he was making her feel. A part of her was scared by these emotions, this raw need he seemed to bring out in her. It was so very different from what she felt for Angel, but in many ways the same. And here she had always thought her life was boring.
"Are you sure?" Lindsey asked softly, having noticed her sudden silence. Had she said yes just to be polite? Did she not feel the same sparks that he felt?
She looked up, surprised to see a hint of doubt in his beautiful blue eyes. She studied him a moment, somehow knowing that he wasn't often told no. He seemed like a man used to getting what he wanted. That didn't fit with her usual ideas about artists. He seemed a bit more reserved than she would have thought. She smiled, kind of enjoying the idea that he couldn't figure her out. "I'm sure."
He smiled a relieved smile, laughing softly, "Had me worried for a minute there."
"Good," she said, smiling back.
"Somehow I think I may have met my match," he said softly, his eyes amused as he looked at her.
"We'll see," she answered, not believing that she was flirting with a virtual stranger, and enjoying it. "So, tell me Mr....what is your last name?"
He leaned back, "Just call me Mac. All my real friends do."
"And what do your fake friends call you?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Uh uh," he shook his head, smiling a charming smile. Seeing her face, he explained, "My mother named me. According to my grandpa, it was a girly name so he started calling me Mac. It stuck. I rarely use anything else," except at work, he added mentally so that he technically wouldn't be lying to her. He didn't want her to meet Lindsey MacDonald, up and coming lawyer. He wanted her to fall in love with Mac. She already seemed to think he was an artist. It didn't take much to forget his job and become the bohemian painter that she seemed to believe he was. He always insisted that there was more to him than his job. Well, this would be an excellent time to find out if that was the truth or if he was just full of shit.
She nodded, accepting his story. She knew that Xander never used Alexander, would probably die if forced into being called by his true name. She smiled, "All right, Mac, what are we going to do today?"
"Whatever you want," he answered truthfully. Somehow, he knew as he looked into her green eyes, that he would be unable to refuse her anything.
"Right now, I'm going to go wash this syrup off my hands," she smiled as she stood. She noticed him stand partially as she stood up, the smile deepening.
After she was finished in the bathroom, she dug in her pocket for some change. She went to the pay phone and called Cordelia, knowing that her friend would still be in bed this early on a Saturday. She waited for five rings before a sleepy voice answered.
"This better be important," Cordelia threatened, covering a yawn.
"Hey, Cor. It's Willow," she said, smiling as she listened to Cordelia curse her for waking her up this early.
"Willow, I love you, but it's not even eight! What couldn't wait until say NOON?" she demanded.
"I'm not sure if I'll be near a phone later," Willow explained. "I left a note on your desk about having lunch together, but something has come up. I won't be making it back. Just didn't want you to worry."
There was silence before Cordelia accused, "You met another man!"
Willow felt her face turn red at the accusation even though Cordelia was not there, "Uh...well, um...yeah."
"I loathe you!" Cordelia said, laughing. "Good grief. Remind me to start eating what you eat, OK?"
"As if you need another one. Speaking of, how is Mark?" Willow asked.
"He's great," Cordelia smiled. "We sat up all night talking again. I just can't explain it. We click."
"I understand that," Willow muttered, thinking about Mac.
"So, who is this one?" Cordelia asked, frowning. "And what about Angel?"
"You're still on that?" Willow asked, sighing. "He's still there. And this one? Well, I don't know. His name is Mac."
"Mac?" Cordelia repeated. "You just met him?"
"Yeah, but it feels like I've always known him. Does that make sense?" Willow asked, frowning. "I really like him, Delia, and it's kind of scary."
"It makes sense," Cordelia smiled. "Enjoy your day out. And remember, I want details!"
"Fine," Willow laughed, "I'd better go before my money runs out."
"Have fun," Cordelia said before hanging up.
Willow hung up, turning to enter the diner. She saw Mac looking out the window, a soft smile on his handsome face. She smiled as she went towards him. Cordelia had said to have fun. She definitely intended to.
Willow made it back to the table in time to see Mac receiving change from the waitress. She watched as he gave the overworked woman a twenty as a tip, causing the first smile she had seen since the rush had begun nearly an hour before. Any misgivings that she had felt in accepting the invitation of a stranger evaporated with that caring gesture. She might not know him, but he had to be kind. She could see it in his eyes, in his attitude. A smile crossed her face as she came to stand by the table.
"You're back," he said, smiling in relief. For a few moments, he had been worried that she had left. He didn't understand why that thought scared him so much. He'd only just met her, barely knew her, yet he felt such a connection to her.
"Of course," she said with a smile. "I was promised a day out, after all."
"The best day out you've ever had," he promised with a charming smile.
She raised an eyebrow at his words, laughing, "That's rather arrogant, since you have no idea how good my days have been."
He followed her outside into the early morning sun, leaning forward close to her ear and saying, "Baby, you've never been out with me before."
She felt a tingle as his breath touched her ear, not even hearing his words for a few seconds. When she comprehended them, she had to laugh, "You're horrible!"
He lowered his head, tilting it slightly and giving her a hurt look, "Guess marriage is out of the question then?"
She rolled her eyes as they started to walk down the sidewalk, "Ask me again later. We'll see."
"Now you're teasing me," he said, shaking his head as he walked beside her, "You're a cruel woman, Willow."
She gave him a haughty look as she tried not to smile, "Baby, you ain't see nothing yet."
"Can we walk there?" Willow asked, glancing up at Mac.
"If you want to spend hours getting there," he said with a smile. Looking down at her, he said, "I have a car. We can run by my garage and be there within half an hour."
Willow hesitated, knowing it was foolish to get into a car with a stranger. She reminded herself that she had gone with Mark, but that had been different. By that time, they'd spent hours talking like old friends. There had not been this threat that she felt from Mac, this attraction that made her want to get closer. Being in a small car alone with him might not be wise. And, honestly, she felt a bit guilty. She had feelings for Angel, thought she might even love the handsome vampire. How could she ignore the attraction and love she felt for Angel? What she felt for Mac was different, more electric. Not to sound stupid, but it almost seemed destined. Why did she have to meet him now? Why couldn't she have met him before she started feeling weird mixed up things for Angel? With Mark, she had known they could be friends. With Mac, she feared that being friends would never be enough. She had only been involved twice in her life. She was not sophisticated enough to manage loving two different people. She knew that she'd have to pick one of them, and that thought scared her more than anything. Good grief, she was getting ahead of herself. She'd only just met Mac that morning yet she was already considering choosing between him and Angel. She might spend the day with him and hate him. She was worried for no reason. With a start, she realized he was watching her with an amused smile, waiting for her response. "Sorry, I was thinking."
"I figured," he responded with a smile. "I've noticed, when you start thinking, you get this faraway look in those pretty eyes and you draw your lip into your mouth," he reached over and ran his thumb over her lip as their eyes held. No one had ever made him feel like this before. He was actually rather accustomed to ignoring his feelings, emotions not really having a place in his life. If he let himself care, he did stupid things like help that bastard Angel. Willow scared him. With her, he could too easily forget who and what he really was. He could see himself becoming who she saw when she looked at him. He should never have introduced himself. He should have been content to watch her, take her memory home and imagine how his life might have been. Now, he could not turn back.
"Um," Willow gulped, his knuckles brushing against her jaw as his eyes darkened slightly, she managed to whisper, "that would be good."
"What?" he asked, wondering if she had heard his thoughts, if she knew he wanted nothing more than to kiss her.
"Your car," she said, not able to move away from his hand, knowing that if he tried to kiss her, she'd let him.
"Oh, yeah," he said, his eyes closing briefly as he heard the huskiness of his voice. One touch and he was standing there aroused. What was it about this girl? Reluctantly, he lowered his hand, remembering that they were standing on the sidewalk. He looked at her and gave her a small smile, "Come on. We'll pick up my car and then I'll show you Paradise."
"Lead the way, Mac," she said, shyly taking his offered hand and following him down the street.
Cordelia entered the hotel, her hand covering a yawn as she stumbled to her desk. She loved talking to Mark, but many more of their all night conversations and she'd be the walking dead. Speaking of walking dead, she thought with a smile as she saw Angel seated at his desk. "Morning, sunshine."
"Cordelia," he said in greeting, not looking up from the book he was studying.
She put her bag down beside her desk, glaring slightly at him. "Must be a real interesting book."
"How did you guess?" he asked, still not looking up.
"Duh! It's huge and looks dusty. I bet that it is even in some obscure language that only you understand. Why else would you find it so fascinating?" she replied, sitting in her chair and seeing Willow's note. She was going to kill the redhead, she decided. Waking her up to just to tell her to ignore the note. She hadn't been able to get back to sleep after the call, finally getting up and taking a shower then watching some very awful cartoons before finally coming to work.
"It is," he said, a slight smile crossing his handsome face at her words.
"If you're going to spend all day reading and ignoring me, can I go home?" she asked hopefully.
"I'm not ignoring you," he said, rolling his eyes before finding his place again. "We need to work on locating that demon."
"You haven't looked at me once since I walked in," she said, pouting. "For all you know, I could be sitting on my desk completely nude!"
"You can turn the air up," he said, chuckling softly, "don't want you to get a cold."
"Hmmph," she said, glaring at him before turning on her computer. "Just so you know, I'm going out for lunch."
"I know," he said, finally looking up and seeing that she was indeed fully clothed, "I saw the note," he explained when he saw her confused scowl.
"Oh, not this," she said, laughing. "Willow's already met yet another man to spend the day with. She dumped me for him. Sounds like she's really interested in this one, for a change. Got all breathless and giggly when she talked about him."
Angel frowned, his hand tightening its grip on the book, "Another one?"
"I swear, I've lost track of all her men," Cordelia said, deliberately teasing Angel. Willow might deny it, Angel might deny it, but she wasn't stupid. Those two wanted each other. Any moron could see it. Right now, Angel looked like he wanted to kill something. Her smile faded as she had to remind herself that he had a soul, that he couldn't kill her for bringing him the bad news. She softened her voice, speaking seriously, "I'm just teasing. She'd been flirted with several times, but this is the first guy that she has actually seemed interested in."
"What happened to the pretty boy college kid?" he asked sharply, thinking that he might just give into his demon and chain her in her room, let her know who she belonged to once and for all.
"Mark?" Cordelia smiled, wondering if he could see how happy she felt, "He's mine, not Willow's. They're friends, sure, but that's it. There are two guys that I've seen or heard her being attracted to. Mark wasn't one of them."
"Two?" Angel asked, raising a brow as he saw Cordelia look away and start fussing with her desk. "Delia, who do you think Willow wants?"
Me and my big mouth, Cordelia thought, knowing that Willow was going to kill her. She had been so caught up in defending Mark and Willow's friendship that she hadn't realized what she had said until it was too late. With a sigh, she looked back at Angel and said, "This Mac guy she's out with today."
"And?" he asked, making a mental To Kill list.
Cordelia rolled her eyes, wondering how anyone so good looking and smart could be so damned stupid, "You."
Angel leaned back in his chair, every thought leaving his mind at Cordelia's statement. One word and he was knocked for a loop. He frowned, his eyes narrowing as he growled, "Don't play with me, Delia."
Cordelia snorted, looking at him in surprise, "Let's think about this a moment, shall we? You--big brooding vampire that could easily kill me soul or no soul. Me--attractive friend of said vampire. What good would it do me to lie, Angel?"
"You must be mistaken," he said, studying her intently.
"I may be wrong about a lot of things in my life, but this isn't one of them. Willow is interested in you. Wants you, lusts for you, might even love you. Does she admit that? Of course not," Cordelia rolled her eyes. "No more than you admit to your own wants and needs involving a certain redhead we both know and love."
"Have you been drinking?" he asked slowly, ignoring her insight into his own heart. Cordelia might be beautiful, but he would never accuse her of being stupid. In fact, she was far too observant for her own good at times.
"Is it so hard to believe that she might have feelings for you?" Cordelia asked softly, watching her boss and friend.
"Honestly? Yes," he admitted quietly. "She knows who I am, Delia. She has seen the demon. Hell, he almost killed her. How could she ever care for me?"
"Because, silly, she's seen the intelligence and the loyalty too. She knows how far you'd go to protect those you love. She's seen the man as well as the demon, Angel. Willow is the smartest person that I've ever met. She knows that that person you became wasn't you," Cordelia said. She saw the stubborn denial in his eyes and sighed, "Angel, she loves you. It might just be as a friend, but I honestly think it's something more. If you need to go off and brood about that, you'd better do it. Ignoring it or denying it won't make it go away anymore than it has made your own feelings for her go away. Deal with it and open yourself up for the chance to maybe find happiness. You deserve it."
"Cordelia," he started to respond to her lecture but stopped when she raised her hand and cut him off.
"Nope. I'm not listening to any excuses or denials. Angel, she could make you happy. Don't let your own doubts or self pity prevent that," Cordelia said. "There. That's my lecture of the day. You can listen to me or not, but I feel a bit better. Now, I'm taking the rest of the day off to spend with Mark. You see, I'm not letting my doubts cloud my judgment. I practice what I preach."
"Is he...does he treat you well?" Angel asked softly, his eyes watching her face as she smiled a large smile, lighting her entire face with happiness.
"Extremely well, though I'm not foolish enough to say that it is going to last. I only just met him and I've learned not to rush into these things," Cordelia said, shrugging. "For now, he makes me happy. He might be the one, he might not. Only time will tell me that. Seriously, Angel, you need to decide if you want Willow or not. When I spoke to her earlier, well, she's met someone that might take that choice away from you. I'd hate to see either of you hurt. You're my best friends, and when you both suffer, I suffer."
"I'll take your advice under consideration," Angel said simply, not admitting anything to the brunette.
"That's all I ask," she smiled, gathering her stuff back up. She went to him, giving him a brief hug and whispering, "Promise me that you won't spend all day brooding alone."
"Get out of here before I put you to work," he said, smiling slightly as she laughed and went towards the door. With a sigh, he closed his eyes, rubbing his head with his fingers as he thought back over Cordelia's words.
Willow looked at the sign and giggled. She glanced at Mac and saw him looking a bit too smug. She rolled her eyes, "Paradise, huh?"
"I always deliver what I promise," he assured her, moving to take her hand. "This is one of my favorite places. No tour of LA would be complete without a visit here."
Willow followed him into the Paradise Art Gallery, looking around with curiosity. "My best friend's mother used to own a gallery. I helped out there a couple of times, but she tended to concentrate on statues and objects and stuff. World wide, you know?"
"Claire loves paintings though you will find the occasional statue from some local talent she has discovered," Lindsey said, his eyes watching Willow.
"Claire?" Willow looked at him, wanting to ask how he knew the woman, if she was an ex-girlfriend or even a current girlfriend. Willow frowned slightly as she realized that she had not even asked if he was single.
"Claire Van Owen. She runs the gallery as well as the small cafe and gardens in the back," Lindsey smiled. "They make the most delicious sandwiches and soup."
"You can't already be hungry." Willow said, laughing as he described the food. "Mac, we only just ate."
"I'm a growing boy," he defended with a lazy smile. "Besides, I tend to forget to eat during the week. Snacks that I buy from Kathy's but not many meals. My weekend is when I catch up."
"That's not very healthy," she scolded, "food is very important. You need to take care of yourself."
He smiled softly, his eyes catching hers, "Maybe I just need someone to take care of me."
Willow licked her lips nervously as his eyes darkened, not able to respond to his teasing. Honestly, she was no longer certain that he was teasing. Her entire body was on edge as she waited for him to touch her, to kiss her. Instead, he looked away quickly, his hand running through his hair as he moved away from her. She let out her breath slowly, waiting for her heart to slow down before moving behind him. She said his name questioningly, "Mac?"
Lindsey heard her and sighed, wondering why he was acting so foolish. First proposing to her on the street and now propositioning her to take care of him. He was perfectly fine as he was. He was respected and feared at work, making more than enough money to keep him in wine and caviar until old age. He had a fantastic loft with every convenience he could possibly buy. He had a new sports car that purred under his touch. He had women throwing themselves at him during every party and event that he was forced to attend. Why had Willow affected him? What was it about her that caused him to evaluate his life and come up lacking? When had he become so miserable and lonely?
"Mac?" Willow called again, watching as he finally turned to her, his eyes changing as he gave her a smile.
Lindsey held out his hand to her, his smile curving into a sexy grin as he drawled, "Let me show you Paradise, Willow."
A sea of sharp, bold colors swam before Willow's eyes. She turned her head to one side then another as a small frown crossed her face. She was so intent on studying the painting in front of her that she didn't realize she was no longer alone until Mac spoke.
"You look confused," he said softly, not wanting to disturb her but also slightly jealous of the attention she was paying on the canvas in front of her.
"This is a mess," she decided before looking around to make sure no one had heard her. The last thing she wanted to do was offend some art patron with her amateur views.
"Why do you think that?" he asked, turning his attention to the painting.
"Well, look at it. It's just a bunch of colors. I mean, c'mon, at least put some sort of something into the painting. I like abstract, but this is more like preschool art class," she explained. "But that's just my opinion. I tend to be more of a solid shape kind of girl. Splashes of paint just do nothing for me really."
"I can see your point," he said slowly, thoughtfully. "I've seen much better from this artist, actually. The colors are vibrant, signifying life. The way they mix and blend, stroke touching stroke, she's trying for thought provoking. But, see how they run here and here," his fingers brushed above the painting as he spoke, his eyes catching hers, "she got sloppy. It looks like she was in a hurry to finish, either because of her show or maybe it quit talking to her. Regardless, the haste ruined her statement. She wasn't able to define what she wanted it to say. Shame really. It started off rather well."
"You can see all that from a bunch of messy colors?" Willow said in surprise. She watched him smile in slight embarrassment and had to laugh, "I wish I had your talent. Now see, this one I like," she said, taking his arm and moving them down several paintings. Once they stopped, she didn't move her hand from the crook of his elbow, instead pointing at the painting. "This I can identify."
Lindsey moved forward, studying the painting. He rather liked the warm feel of her palm against his flesh. It was the first time she had touched him all afternoon. He wasn't about to risk her dropping her hand. It was a watercolor, a sea scene. Choppy waves crashed onto an isolated beach as the moon show full in the sky above. The sky was gray and stormy, the overall scene giving the impression of rough weather ahead. Surprised, he looked at her and saw her smiling, "You like this one?"
She nodded, "It's beautiful. Your messy color painting over there can signify whatever it wants, but, to me, this is life."
"A stormy night?" he asked with curiosity.
"Yeah," she smiled, "think about it, Mac. You're standing on the beach, both feet firmly planted on the ground. Danger lurks in the sky above, in the dark choppy water in front of you. Behind you is your car or your house, somewhere safe. That's all life really is, isn't it? Keeping yourself balanced between the safe and secure and the dangerous and unknown. It all depends on your perception of where you are on that beach. Some people are in the car or house while others are swimming deep in the dangerous waters. Most are somewhere in between, closer to one than the other. The storm clouds, though, are reality. No matter where you are in life, how safe or daring you think your life is, uncontrollable dangers always lurk near, threatening to knock you on your butt in the sand."
He smiled, shaking his head, "And you were impressed that I could tell where a couple of colors ran together."
She felt a slight blush cross her cheeks, "I'm sorry. This painting just really made me think." She didn't go into specific details on how she had related Angel to being the safe, secure shore and Mac to being the dangerous unknown waters and herself being torn between the two. There was no need to get into her own messed up mental problems so early into their first date. Wait, was this a date? They had met, had breakfast, driven to the gallery where they had had coffee before spending nearly two hours wandering amongst the paintings, discussing various subjects and learning more about each other. Was that a date?
"It is beautiful," he agreed, his attention moving from her to the painting. With a smile, he looked back at her, "Are you about ready to leave?"
She shrugged, hesitant for their time together to end but assuming that he must be tired of her company, "I'm sure you have plans, it being Saturday afternoon and all."
"Well, since I've taken you to Paradise, I thought if only fitting that I now take you to Heaven," he said slowly, trying not to show her the fear that she would say that she had to leave him now.
"Heaven?" she smiled, realizing that he had no plans for their afternoon to end yet. "Dare I ask?"
"It's a surprise," he winked at her, "just trust me."
"I think I can do that," she said softly, knowing the truth in the words. She hardly knew Mac, but over the afternoon, she had learned enough to know that she trusted him.
"Let me go find Claire and let her know we're leaving. I have a few things to discuss with her, but I shouldn't be ten minutes," he decided.
"Take your time," Willow smiled, "I'll just sit down and look at some more paintings and try to pretend that I'm not trying to figure out what Heaven is."
"I'm not telling," he said with a laugh as he turned and went to find Claire.
"It's open," a soft voice said after two knocks.
Lindsey walked into the office, shutting the door behind him, "Hello, Claire."
"Lindsey," the beautiful blonde smiled at him, getting to her feet as she took his hand. She kissed the air above his right cheek before sitting back down. "Did you enjoy your visit?"
He nodded as he sat opposite her, "As always. That new girl, Oliviera, has promise. Good strokes, good use of color, just not a lot of follow through."
"She has gotten better," Claire said, her brown eyes studying Lindsey. "I will show you some of her new work when I receive it."
"I'll look forward to it," he smiled.
"Who is your friend?" Claire asked with a small smile, having spent several times observing the redhead with her old friend.
"Willow?" he shrugged, "I'm not quite sure yet."
"She's different," Claire observed, waiting.
"I promised myself that I would never use you, but there's something about her," he said softly, running a hand through his hair. "She makes me forget who I am."
"Or maybe she makes you remember who you really are," Claire watched his face. "She is very strong, Lindsey. Her soul is powerful. Her colors are vibrant, bold. There are some shadows, clouds that I cannot see through, but she does not let them cloud her mind."
"She thinks I'm an out of work painter," Lindsey said softly, watching Claire's eyes widen in surprise. "I never corrected her impression. I get a feeling that she would never have let herself get involved with Lindsey MacDonald, attorney, the way she has with Mac."
"You're playing a very dangerous game, Lindsey," Claire said. "I believe that you're right, though. She would have nothing to do with the Lindsey MacDonald that most of the world knows. She is everything that Wolfram and Hart isn't."
"You're telling me," he said quietly, looking into Claire's eyes, "I think I could be falling in love with her. How crazy is that? I just met her today. I mean, I've seen her around a couple of times before, but today was the first time we spoke. I just can't get her out of my head."
"She's human," Claire said, "but there is an aura around her, magic and the presence of supernatural. She is not a demon though, nor has she put you under any sort of spell. What you're feeling, it's really you."
"What do you think?" he asked after a moment of silence.
"I think that you need to do some serious thinking, Lindsey. You're not happy. You haven't been for the last year. Today, with her, you were happy. What would you risk, what would you give up, to keep that feeling?" Claire asked. "I will warn you of one thing, because you are my friend."
"She can hurt you," Claire said softly.
"I know," Lindsey shook his head, giving her a smile, "I didn't want to ask if you saw anything, I was going to just say hi and give you some news, but I couldn't resist. I hate not knowing what I'm doing, acting without thinking. I am not impulsive. I just needed to know that she was real, that it was all real. Call me jaded, but I've dealt with bastards for far too long not to wonder if anything that happens isn't a set up."
"I can tell you that she has no idea what you do, that she is not with you out of deceit, that she enjoys being with you," Claire had to smile as he smiled at her.
"Really?" he smiled. "Enough," he decided as he stood. "I wanted to let you know that we received your monthly payment from your ex-husband. It was transferred into your account yesterday."
"Not good, Lindsey. Business can wait until Monday," Claire smiled at her lawyer.
"Also," he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. "There's a painting that I want to buy. A watercolor, stormy sky and ocean. Do you know which one?"
She nodded, "Yes. It's untitled, by a Goragan demon. It's always been rather peaceful to me."
"I want it," he handed her a credit card.
"Dangerous, Lindsey. Not asking the final price," she watched him carefully.
"It's a gift. The price isn't important," he shrugged, knowing that she could see far more than he wanted her to.
"I'm certain that Willow will love it," she smiled as she left the office, moving to the credit card machine.
"I'll come by and pick it up later," he said, taking his card back. He signed his slip, noting that she had charged him only five hundred dollars though the price had been listed as eleven hundred.
"It will be ready for you," she smiled as she watched him start to leave, calling out, "Be careful, Lindsey."
"I'll see you later, Claire," he said, rolling his eyes at her warning as he headed down the stairs to find Willow.
"That was wonderful," Willow said as she finished the last piece of her slice of apple pie. She laughed as she put her fork down, looking at Mac, "You know, you can't continue feeding me like this."
He smiled as he took a sip of his coffee before he replied, "You could use a little weight so stop complaining. Besides, you haven't needed any forcing."
"I have very little will power when it comes to food," she admitted with a sheepish smile.
"Just for food? Too bad," he said with an amused smile.
"Quit flirting," she scolded, proud that she had built up a blushing resistance to him during their day together. She was getting used to him, having realized that flirting to him was the same as breathing.
"You just try to take away all of my fun," he said with a wink as he stretched. He glanced at the clock hanging on the wall of A Little Slice of Heaven, the bakery and pie shop that he had taken her to. He was surprised to see that it was already after nine. He'd been with her more than half a day.
"I'd never do that," she said, her eyes widening when she saw the time. "It's that late? I hadn't realized."
"Did you have plans?" he asked, his tone even though his eyes were narrowed with jealousy.
"Nothing definite," she said, "but I was planning on helping my friends. I'm sure they expected me hours ago. I've gone all day."
"Should you call them?" he asked, knowing that it would take them a while to get her back home.
"No, I'm sure they're fine. I think they were going out to dinner anyway," she said, knowing that Cordelia had mentioned meeting Mark. Angel, on the other hand, was probably furious with her for not phoning. He worried more than a strict parent she had realized over the last few weeks.
"I guess that means we should get back," he said, reluctant to let their day end. He wondered if he would see her again, knowing that he wanted to, but also knowing that the game he was playing was dangerous. He could run into someone from the firm at anytime, or worse, a client. Somehow he didn't think Willow would be understanding of his failing to mention that he was not a painter but was instead a rising associate with a prestigious law firm. Yet again, he felt himself wishing that he was the poor painter she believed him to be. He'd been in a rut at work for the past few months, no longer able to ignore what he had become. The majority of his clients were evil, demons that should be destroyed not defended. He'd lost his focus, lost the desire to win at all cost, lost everything that made him the best. Now, he was acting. Trying to conceal his contempt towards those he was hired to protect. Knowing that he had given up his chance to get out, made the wrong choice. It had been his choice, though, and he would live with the consequences. Being with Willow, though, made him wish he had chosen differently. He wanted to be someone she could love.
"Yeah, I guess so," she agreed softly, watching his face as he grew thoughtful. Would she see him again? Or would she just have the memory of this magical day?
"Are you ready?" he asked, paying the check and walking her to his car. He still had several hours before he planned to contact Angel, set up a meeting with the vampire to see if he had figured out anything about the file he had given him. He knew he was riding an edge, giving confidential information to the enemy. If he were caught, he would not only lose his job but he might have to pay with his life. Was it worth it? Letting that bastard play dogood savior just to ease his own conscience? He had thought for days before contacting Angel. He had gone down this path once before, almost losing everything. Now, he was risking it all again. This time, though, he was being smart. Going slow, being careful. Not jumping in to sink or swim. No, this time he was cautious. He had learned from his previous mistakes.
Willow listened to the radio as they drove, both of them silent and lost in thought. The day had been wonderful. She knew that she would gladly see him again if he asked. She could easily fall in love with Mac, which was so confusing because she was already in love with Angel. Why did these things always happen to her? Why couldn't her life be normal just once? She looked at Mac and smiled, "Can you just drop me off at the store? I need to pick up a few things before I go home."
He glanced at her before changing lanes, "I can take you home afterwards. I don't have any plans."
"No, that's all right," Willow said, not wanting him to take her to the hotel.
"You don't want me to know where you live," he said softly, his eyes flashing hurt at her distrust.
"It's not that," she said, leaning against the window. "My friends are a bit overprotective. I don't want to share you with them yet."
"Really?" he felt himself smiling at her confession, glancing at her and seeing the courage it had taken for her to admit that. "I don't mind you keeping me to yourself, for now."
"Thank you," she said softly, giving him a small smile as he drove.
"Well," Willow said, looking at Mac then looking at the sky.
"Are you sure you don't need a ride home?" he asked again, glancing at his watch. "It's after ten."
"I'll be fine," she looked at him and smiled, touched by his concern. "This is when I usually come to the store, anyway."
"I know," he smiled as he remembered seeing her only a few nights before. He couldn't believe they had only really met that day. It seemed like he'd known her forever.
"Thank you for today," she said softly, chewing on her bottom lip. She wasn't really sure what to say. They hadn't really been on a date, having just met. Yet, they'd spent the entire day and most of the night together. He'd brought her to the store, walking with her as she had made her purchases. She'd been glad to see someone she didn't recognize working. She didn't really want to answer any questions at the moment, not sure if she even knew the answers.
"It was my pleasure," he responded honestly. "I had fun."
"You sound surprised," she said with a smile. "Do you not usually have fun?"
"Honestly? No," he said. "I rarely allow myself the pleasure of just enjoying life. Today, though, with you, I forgot everything else but living."
"You know, there are times you sound unlike any painter than I've ever met," she said thoughtfully, "not that I've met many. You know what I mean."
"Ah, Willow, there you go, judging everyone by your own preconceived notions of what they should be like," he scolded playfully, trying to cover for his lapse. He'd forgotten too well, he realized, almost not maintaining the act of being some poor painter.
"I wasn't judging, merely observing," she clarified.
"Well, I'll just say that I try to never be predictable. Always keep them guessing, that's my motto," he said.
She nodded, saying, "Now that doesn't really surprise me all that much."
He smiled as he leaned against his car, knowing that it was getting later and also knowing that she was stubborn enough not to let him drive her home no matter what the hour. He had some things to take care of, but he didn't want to leave. He watched her move her plastic sack to her other hand, her eyes on him, seeing into his very soul he would swear. He sighed, giving her a small smile, "You should go before it gets too late."
"Yeah, my friends are probably getting worried," she said not sure what she should do. She finally held out her hand, smiling, "I really enjoyed seeing LA through your eyes, Mac. Thank you for showing me so many neat places."
He looked at her hand then at her then back. He took it, not able to ignore the attraction that he felt any longer. He pulled her towards him suddenly, her body colliding with his. A slow smile crossed his handsome face as he leaned over and gently brushed his lips over hers. He ran his fingers along her cheek, asking, begging, "Can I see you again, Willow?"
Willow felt herself nodding as she rested her cheek against his hand. Her lips were tingling from the small kiss he had given her, part of her cursing him for not making it more explorative, another part of her still so confused by her growing feelings for Mac mixed with her current feelings for Angel that she was glad he had stopped. She didn't want him to know where she was staying, knowing that involving him with her life would make things too difficult at the current time. She was a coward, she knew, but being with Mac had been almost like a dream, so perfect it seemed unreal. It was her escape, in a way. She was selfish enough to want to keep it that way for a while longer, at least until she understood what she was feeling and made some decisions. "I think I'd like that."
"Can I call you?" he asked.
"I'll give you my cell number," she said, giving him a shy smile. "I don't leave it on most the time, but it has voice mail. I check it every few hours, well, not today because I left it in my room thinking I'd only be gone an hour for breakfast but normally I have it."
"Write it down for me?" he asked, leaning into his car and finding a pen and piece of paper. He would have given her his numbers, but every machine or voice mail he had contained his real name. If he continued seeing her, which he suspected was going to happen, he'd just buy a new cell phone just for Willow to call. He frowned as he realized that he'd eventually have to tell her the truth. So far, he hadn't really lied. He'd omitted some very important details and had not denied her own beliefs, but he had never technically lied. For some reason, he found himself not wanting to lie to her. Somehow, he seemed to know that she would find a flat out lie far more difficult to forget than many other things.
"Here," she handed it back to him, saying again, "I really did enjoy today, Mac."
"Me too," he said, tucking the piece of paper with her number into his pocket. He smiled as he moved to get into his car, saying, "Be careful going home, Willow."
"I will," she smiled as she watched him get in and drive away, waiting until he had turned the corner before she turned and headed back to the hotel, her mind already wondering what Angel would say about her being gone all day without calling. Somehow, she doubted it would be good.
Angel shut the book as he glanced at the clock. It was nearly midnight and Willow still wasn't home. She'd been gone an entire day with a stranger that she'd just met. He was worried that something might have happened to her, angry that she hadn't called if she was fine, and confused after his conversation with Cordelia earlier. All in all, it hadn't been one of his best days. He was planning on searching for the Triaakan demon, Gunn and Wesley having left to begin a search hours before. Instead, he was sitting at his desk waiting for Willow. He knew that he should just go, but he couldn't leave until he knew that she was all right.
If he were completely honest, he also wanted to look into her eyes to see if Cordelia was right. He knew that she was attracted to him, her arousal the previous evening confirming that suspicion. Part of him doubted it, though. Despite her arousal, he couldn't believe someone as wonderful as Willow would ever want to be with him. She knew more about him than anyone except Buffy. Actually, considering their long talks the last weeks, she probably knew more than his ex love. The relationship with Buffy had never really been about talking. Willow, however, was one of his best friends. Would that make a difference if he tried to begin a relationship with her? He didn't know why he was bothering to think about it. She might want him, but she couldn't be in love with him.
She'd spent an entire day out with some guy that made her breathless and giggly, according to Cordelia. Girls in love did not spend hours with other men. He growled softly as he stood, kicking the trashcan as he imagined what she might have been doing with the guy. He knew that Willow wasn't the type to have sex on a first date, especially not with some stranger, but that knowledge didn't keep his demon from taunting him with vivid images of her laughing and touching some other man. He had lost any chance with her because he had been scared, he had stayed silent instead of speaking about his growing affection and feelings for her. Now, it might be too late. If he said anything, she could think that he was just reacting because she was dating someone, just trying to get her to stay with him. If he didn't say anything, he'd lose any chance of being happy with her.
He heard the key in the door and froze, trying to push his demon away. He didn't want to scare her. This was not a good time for an argument, or for talking at all. He was near the edge and wasn't sure how much control he actually had at the moment. Hours spent lost in thought could do that to a guy. He turned to look at her as she came into the lobby, relieved to see that she was indeed okay. Anger set in after the concern faded as he asked, "Did you have a good time?"
Willow jumped at the sharpness in his voice, not at all surprised by his anger. She sighed, apologizing, "I'm sorry it's so late. Time got away from me."
"You could have called," he said, closing his eyes briefly as he realized how sullen he sounded.
"I honestly didn't think about it, Angel," she said sincerely. "I was having fun and assumed that I'd be back earlier. I'm sorry."
"That doesn't fix anything, Willow," he snapped, relenting when he saw her eyes, "I was worried."
"I know," she whispered, feeling guilty as looked at the floor. She'd spent a fantastic day with Mac at the expense of making Angel worry about her. She was so confused, and she was getting a terrible headache.
"That was so dangerous, Willow. Going off with some stranger," he shook his head, "that's the second one since you've been here. I thought you were more careful, smarter than that."
"I was careful," Willow said softly, knowing that she really hadn't been. She'd allowed her attraction to Mac to lead her into his car, which could have been as dangerous as Angel said. She had been lucky that he had been honest, that he had been affected by this weird connection as much as she.
"I don't want to argue, Willow. You're not a child and I shouldn't have to treat you as one," he moved to get his coat. "I waited to go out until I knew you were safe. I've got to go."
"Angel," she followed him, "don't leave it like this. I can't have you angry with me."
"I'm not angry," he denied, looking into her pretty eyes, "I was worried, Willow. Far more than I should have been. Do you understand?"
She shook her head, pushing her hair away from her face, "Not really. You always worry about us, just like Buffy."
"Not at all like Buffy," he said quietly, his eyes flashing as he looked at her. He moved forward without realizing it, his fingers lifting her chin. "I was jealous, Willow. Jealous of some faceless human that got to spend an entire day with you. Worried that you were hurt, that you might actually like him, that you wouldn't come back."
"Oh," she said softly, licking her lips as she tried to think of a response, not able to look away from the intense statement in his dark eyes. Could he be saying what she thought he was saying? Was he jealous because he might have lost his friend or was it far more than that?
"You still don't get it," he said softly, moving his thumb over her cheek. She was so beautiful. He watched her eyes flash at his touch, again seeing the arousal from the previous night. Looking past that, he saw something else. Without regard to consequences, he leaned over and brushed his lips over hers. With a growl, he pulled her into him, deepening the kiss as she responded to him. He claimed her mouth as his hand cupped her jean clad ass cheek. He finally pulled away, seeing the confused green eyes and swollen lips as she shakily ran a hand over her hair. "Do you finally understand?"
"Yeah," she whispered as her heart continued to beat at twice the normal speed.
"Good," he smiled slightly as she seemed to be trying to deal with the new development. He put his coat on as he said, "I've got to go. We'll talk tomorrow. Get some sleep, Willow. You've had a busy day."
Willow watched him leave, waiting for the door to close before she slid to the floor, her legs no longer able to hold her. She sighed as she laid on the floor, thinking about her wonderful day with Mac and the feelings she was having for him, about her growing relationship with Angel, ending with that electrifying kiss. She had feelings for them both. She wanted them both, loved Angel and could very well love Mac if given time. She stared at the high ceiling overhead as she sighed softly and asked the empty room, "What do I do?"
Willow finally stood, running a hand over her face. How had this happened to her? In love with her best friend's ex boyfriend. Maybe in love with a stranger. Two men. It hadn't been many weeks since her relationship with Tara had ended, now this. Oh God, Angel had kissed her. She leaned against the stair railing as she touched her lips, her body heating up as she remembered every detail of the brief but passionate kiss. He'd been jealous of her spending the day with Mac. Angel had feelings for her. Why couldn't she have learned that before she'd met Mac and started to fall for him? Why did her life have to be so damn complicated? She entered her room, falling on the bed as she sighed. What was she going to do? The logical part of her brain told her that she should just forget Mac and the what might have beens. She'd just met him, had only spent a day with him. She'd known Angel for years, had been half in love with him for as long. She wanted him more than she could remember wanting anyone ever. But being with Angel was complicated. She would be selfish if she thought otherwise.
Willow reached across the bed for the phone, knowing that Angel had told her not to worry about long distance while she was staying. She dialed the familiar number, smiling when she heard the voice of her best friend.
"Buffy, it's me," Willow said, laying against the pillows as she heard Buffy squeal.
"It's about time, Willow!" Buffy scolded. "I was beginning to think you'd forgotten us. It's been forever since you've called."
Willow laughed, "I talked to you three days ago."
"Well, that seems like forever," Buffy defended. "You sound weird. What happened?"
"How is everyone?" Willow asked, avoiding answering the question. She'd needed to talk to Buffy, but now didn't think she'd be brave enough to talk about what was really bothering her.
"They're fantastic, wonderful, having a great summer. Now, what's wrong?" Buffy demanded, knowing from years of experience that something was bothering her best friend. She had a sneaky suspicion what it was, but she didn't want to mention anything in case she was wrong. After their last phone call, she'd hung up with the realization that Willow was in love with Angel. She didn't know how her ex felt about the redhead, but she couldn't really imagine anyone not loving Willow so she had a pretty good idea. This was the first time they'd spoken since she'd figured it out, and she was wondering if something had happened between her friend and the vampire.
"It's kind of complicated," Willow admitted, looking at the ceiling.
"Well, I'll do my best to uncomplicated it," Buffy said.
"I didn't mean for it to happen, so please don't hate me," Willow said softly.
"I could never hate you, silly. You're my best friend," Buffy said honestly. "Now, is this about you being in love with Angel?"
"You knew," Willow had to smile, wondering how Buffy could seem so self involved but still have such an uncanny way of knowing her friends.
"I suspected," Buffy corrected. "Does he feel the same?"
"Is this too weird for you?" Willow had to ask. "I don't want to hurt you, Buffy."
"It's all right, Willow. I've had time to get used to it. Honestly, I'm not that surprised. You two always had such a good relationship. I just never really saw it, I guess," Buffy said quietly. "I want you to be happy."
"It's more complicated than you think," Willow said with a sigh. "I met this guy, Mac, at the corner store. He's gorgeous, charming, an artist. I spent all day with him, just talking and hanging out."
"Wait, what happened to Angel?" Buffy asked, wanting Willow to be happy but also caring enough about her ex boyfriend that she didn't want him hurt either.
"That's the problem. I love him, Buffy. I mean, I've always had a bit of a crush. Who wouldn't? He's so handsome and smart and just, you know..." Willow trailed off, "I never imagined that he saw me as anything but your best friend. Tonight, when I got home, he was waiting for me. He was jealous. He kissed me, Buffy. And now everything is confused."
"Poor Willow," Buffy said, having a good idea now why her friend had called her. "This Mac guy, it sounds like you liked him."
"He's special. I can't explain it, but when I met him, it seemed like we'd known each other before. Does that make sense?" Willow asked.
"It does. You have feelings for him," Buffy sighed. "You're right. It is complicated. Willow, I can't tell you what to do."
"I know," Willow made a face. "I should have just stayed at home."
"Don't say that," Buffy warned. "You're just confused. You don't have to have all the answers right now. You're young and single and beautiful. Why not date them both before making a decision? Your feelings for Angel seem deep and sincere, but being involved with a vampire, even one with a soul, may not be what you expect. And this Mac guy could turn out to be a frog instead of Prince Charming."
"Rather not think about frogs, Buffy," Willow said as she laughed. "You're right."
"I am?" Buffy beamed, "Can I get that in writing?"
"I miss you," Willow said with an affectionate smile. "Really, how is everyone?"
"Well, Dawn is enjoying the summer. She's spent nearly everyday at the beach with her friends. Xander and Anya are doing well. He just got promoted at work, making more money and he seems to like the added responsibility. Anya is driving Giles nuts, but she brings in money so I guess he can't complain. Giles is okay, still a bit protective over all of us. And I'm doing good. Better than I would have thought," Buffy stopped, finally asking what had been weighing on her mind since she had realized her friend's feelings for Angel. "You won't be coming back, will you?"
"What are you talking about?" Willow demanded, eyes widening as she realized Buffy was right.
"You won't be coming home at the end of the summer," Buffy said quietly, her voice sad but resigned. "Both of your men live and work in LA. No matter which one you choose, you'll be staying."
"I honestly hadn't thought that far ahead," Willow said. "I'd rather not think about that, Buffy. Besides, I could end up losing them both. I'll be coming home. I promise."
"No, don't do that," Buffy said as she wiped away a tear. "Don't make promises you can't keep. It's okay, Willow. LA isn't that far away, you know? We can write and call and visit on the weekends. I had to lose you someday, I guess. So, do you know what you're going to do?"
"I have no idea," Willow said, the realization that Sunnydale might not be her home anymore adding to the confusion she was already feeling. "I can't lose Angel. What I feel for him, the friendship, the way he makes me feel...."
"Whatever you decide, know that I'll support you. If you need to talk, you've got my number," Buffy reminded. "I'd better go get some sleep. Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Willow said. "It helped, talking to you. I love you, Buffy."
"I love you, too, Willow," Buffy said with a smile. "Try to get some sleep. And don't over think things the way you always do. You'll make the right choice. I have faith in you."
"I'm glad someone does," Willow said. "Goodnight, Buffy."
Willow hung up the phone, getting to her feet as she decided to take Buffy's advice. It was time to get some sleep. She went to the dresser, getting her sleeping clothes from the top drawer. It was then she noticed that she had a voice mail on her cell phone. She clicked the button to retrieve her message, a smile crossing her face as she heard Mac's voice. He wanted to see her again, leaving a number where she could reach him. She sighed as she wrote the number down, erasing the message before yelling at the empty room, "Why me?"
"You look like shit!"
"Thanks, Delia. Love you too," Willow muttered as she sat down and took a drink of coffee. "Ah, caffeine. What would I do without you?"
"What happened?" Cordelia demanded, putting the file on her desk and moving to sit beside the redhead. "You look like you didn't sleep at all and now you're talking to your coffee."
"I didn't sleep," Willow admitted, with a yawn. "Was too busy thinking."
"About?" Cordelia prompted, deciding that if Willow didn't start talking soon, she'd scream.
"Angel," Willow said, "and Mac."
"Mac? That's the guy from yesterday? What were you thinking about?" Cordelia wanted to know.
"Angel kissed me last night," Willow whispered as she looked into her cup.
"He didn't!" Cordelia squealed before she lowered her voice and said, "I can't believe he finally kissed you. How was it?"
"It was unbelievable," Willow said truthfully, giving Cordelia a wry smile, "everything I've always imagined....I didn't really want him to stop with just the kiss."
"Hot damn," Cordelia smiled before she frowned, "you said you were thinking about Mac too. I thought you loved Angel."
"I do," Willow nodded, "but I liked Mac. Now do you understand why I couldn't sleep? I love Angel, I really do, but I felt something for Mac, too. He's special, Delia. I can't even explain it because I don't understand it, and now I don't know what to do. I talked to Buffy last night and she said some things that really made me think and I'm even more confused."
"What did she say about you and Angel?" Cordelia asked, knowing that she'd never been fond of the slayer but acknowledging that the blonde cared about Willow and thus couldn't be all that bad.
"She was happy about it," Willow sighed, "but she was sad because she realized I wouldn't be going home if something did happen and then I got sad because I love Buffy and the others and hate thinking about not being with them, but I also know that I like being here too and I don't know anymore. She suggested that I date both of them until I figure out which one makes me happy, not rushing into anything until I'm positive about my choice."
"That's actually good advice," Cordelia said with surprise. "But, you love Angel. I can't think that you're suddenly going to stop loving him. You hardly know this Mac guy and, sure there is some kind of pull between you, but is it worth risking losing Angel to see if you could love Mac?"
"I don't want to lose Angel," Willow made a face, "but I also don't want to forget Mac just because something is starting to happen between me and Angel. I know that makes me a horrible and selfish person, to want to date them both, but I do. I want to get to know Mac, become his friend and see what happens. I'd also like to get to know Angel on a more personal level. We've been friends but we've never dated or anything. I love him, I really do, but it would be nice to move slowly from the friendship thing to the something more than friendship thing."
"Willow, it sounds like you're just setting yourself up for heartbreak," Cordelia said truthfully, "I mean, dating a man that you love and another man that you think you could love....that's a recipe for disaster. In the end, you'll have to choose one or the other and I just hate the idea of seeing you hurt."
"Cor, you're right. I know you're right," Willow said, pointing to her head, "in here...but in here," her hand moved to cover her heart, "I just feel like this is the right choice. Besides, who knows? Mac could end up becoming a great friend and nothing more. I mean, I've only just met him and don't really know all that much about him anyway. I just don't want to find myself wondering in a few years what might have been....I'm young, I can date two guys without setting myself up for hurt. I don't want any regrets."
"And do you think Angel is going to want to date you while you're dating some other guy? I mean, Willow, he really does love you. I talked to him yesterday about it and I could see how deeply he cares about you. He's my best friend and I don't want to see him hurt anymore than I want to see you hurt," Cordelia said, hating that she didn't have any definite solution for Willow. In a way, she could see the redhead's point about not wanting any regrets later, but she also didn't want two of the only people she cared about getting hurt.
"If he is against the idea," Willow decided, "I'll call Mac and tell him that I had fun but that I'm involved with someone else. I love Angel, Cordelia, and my wish to get to know Mac better doesn't change that. I wish Angel had decided to kiss me senseless a few days ago, *before* I went out with Mac! It would have made my life so much easier!"
"You're crazy," Cordelia said, shaking her head and finally laughing, "but I love you anyway."
"I feel like I *am* going crazy these last few days," Willow said with a smile, glad that she had at least realized that she loved Angel and didn't want to lose him. That made things a little less complicated, though she knew that she was attracted to Mac, too, and that it was all just too confusing. Pushing her problems out of her head for the time being, she looked at Cordelia and asked, "So, tell me about Mark. How's everything going between you two?"
The girls settled back on the sofa as they started talking, Cordelia giving the redhead every detail of her date with Mark. Neither girl noticed Angel on the stairs, a thoughtful expression in his eyes as he went back to his room, thinking about everything he had heard Willow telling Cordelia. He'd not meant to eavesdrop, but hadn't been able to interrupt them when he'd heard Willow talking about the kiss that had kept him awake most the night. He wasn't sure if he could be strong enough to give her what she wanted. He didn't want to risk losing her to another man, but he also didn't like the idea of her ever having regrets about choosing him. She loved him, of that he no longer had any doubts. He didn't want to drive her away by being too possessive or holding on too tight. He'd let her make her own decisions, let her get to know the human if she wanted to, make sure that she would never have to wonder what might have been as she put it to Cordelia. Thinking about sharing her with another man made him frown, made him sincerely hope that it wouldn't be long before she decided that any kind of connection with that Mac guy was just her imagination, made him wonder just how long he'd be able to control his jealousy and natural possessiveness. It wouldn't be a lot of fun, but, for Willow, he was willing to give it a try...for a while at least. He laid on his bed, a small smile crossing his face as he realized just how lucky he truly was. Willow loved him.
"Good afternoon, girls," Angel said as he entered the lobby of the hotel, a smile on his handsome face.
"Girls? I don't see any girls around here. Women, yes, but not girls," Cordelia corrected the vampire as her dark eyes darted between him and Willow.
"I stand corrected," Angel rolled his eyes, his smile softening as he looked at Willow. "What are you working on?"
"The triaakan demon," Willow told him, looking into his eyes for the first time since he'd kissed her and left her confused and uncertain the previous evening. She saw lust and affection burning in their chocolate brown depths, wondering if she'd been blind to never notice his feelings for her before. Why couldn't she have seen it before she'd gone out with Mac? Things were just too complicated.
"Find anything promising?" Angel asked as he took a seat on the sofa next to Willow, looking over her shoulder to see what she was reading. He'd done a lot of thinking over the last couple of hours, since he'd overheard her conversation with Cordelia.
He knew that he had feelings for Willow, he also knew that he wasn't very good at sharing. Okay, so he'd shared Drusilla with Spike for several decades, but that was because Drusilla drove him batty when it was just the two of them, because Spike had loved Drusilla in a way that he had to admire, and because he'd wanted Spike in his bed, too. It was a bit selfish, but it had still been sharing. He'd gotten pretty good at it, then, but it hadn't been nearly as easy when he'd lost his soul a few years before.
He didn't know how well he'd be at sharing Willow with some human she'd just met...of sitting back and letting her date someone else even as she spoke words of love for him. He could understand what she was feeling and that was the main reason he was willing to try to work with the situation. They needed to talk, though. He'd kissed her last night, hadn't wanted to stop kissing her, and he needed to tell her what he was feeling, to have her tell him what she had told Cordelia.
"Nothing much," Willow said as she looked at the book that was open in front of her. He was sitting so close, she could smell the scent of shampoo and soap, knew he must have just taken a shower. God, she so didn't need to think about Angel naked in a shower right now.
"Wesley called and said that he and Gunn are going to do some scouting," Cordelia said with a smile, wondering if they had any idea how heated the attraction between was. She could practically feel the desire, see the chemistry, and it was kind of fun to sit back and watch.
"They're checking the Valley," Willow told Angel as she closed the book and turned towards him, "and Wesley mentioned doing a sweep down south if there was time. They'll be back here later tonight to report."
"Good," Angel nodded, "I did some sweeps around here last night but didn't see or hear anything unusual."
"I've been checking some local posting boards of the demon variety and there hasn't been any mention of a Triaakan demon," Willow sighed.
"They have posting boards for demons?" Cordelia looked at Willow with surprise.
"They're a bit difficult to find, but, yes, they have their own boards," Willow smiled. "Guess even the demons realize how convenient the Internet can be."
"I'm getting an image of that Shriutok demon that we fought senior year sitting over a computer and typing in an instant message," Cordelia began to laugh, seeing the look of recognition in her friends' eyes.
"That was the big slobbering demon that had the horns and the long fingers, wasn't it?" Willow asked with a smile, shaking her head, "That slobber would so not be good for a computer. Anyway, none of my contacts have heard of a Triaakan arriving in LA and they have no idea where he might stay if he were in town. If anyone does hear anything, they said they'd let me know. Until then, I guess we're going to have to continue the sweeps and keep our eyes and ears open for anything unusual."
"Angel, I wish that your source had given us an address," Cordelia complained, "It would have saved us a lot of time. I mean, we got that nifty file with color coded stickers, why couldn't there had been an address?"
"I'm assuming that the information wasn't available," Angel rolled his eyes, though he had to admit that Cordelia had a point. If Lindsey had a file on the demon, wouldn't it be logical that they'd have a current location, especially if Wolfram and Hart was keeping an eye on the demon. He might have to break down and call the arrogant little bastard to see if he could get the information to save them time in destroying the demon. He watched Cordelia make a face as Willow smiled at the brunette.
"We'll find it," Willow said with more confidence than she actually had. One thing she'd learned since arriving in LA was that the city was huge, stretching out miles and miles in every direction and blending suburb to suburb. Since the triaakan didn't like water, that at least ruled out the coast. She smiled at them as she added, "Someday."
"If we aren't any closer to finding it by tomorrow evening, I'll contact my source and see if there is anything new," Angel decided.
"That's a good idea," Willow smiled at him before looking back at the books that were covering the coffee table and sighing as she picked up another one and opened it to the index, her green eyes searching the 'T' section.
"I don't think there's anything in these books to help us," Cordelia said as she closed another book and tossed it on the table.
"Yeah, they're a waste of time," Willow agreed, "they only tell us things that we already knew. I think we need a break."
"Great idea," Cordelia beamed as she got to her feet, "I'm going to call Mark and see if he wants to stop by and get some lunch. I might even let him finally meet you, Angel."
"Lucky me," Angel had to smile at Cordelia's enthusiasm. He had been greatly relieved to hear that Mark was dating her instead of Willow and he had to admit that he was glad to see her so happy. She had become one of his best friends over the last years and he really did want to see her happy. If this Mark made her smile like that, well, he must not be that bad. He looked at Willow and asked, "Are you hungry?"
"Yeah, lunch might be nice," Willow said, "I think I'll make a sandwich or something. You want anything?"
"Why don't you order a pizza or something?" Angel suggested, "Cordelia's guy can come by and eat with us."
"That's a great idea," Cordelia smiled as she moved to pick up the phone. "I'll call him now and tell him he's invited for lunch."
"That was sweet," Willow whispered to Angel, a smile on her face.
"What?" he asked with an innocent _expression.
"Inviting Mark to have lunch here. He really is a nice guy and he's good for Delia," Willow said.
"I figured I better meet him and make sure his intentions are honorable," Angel said with an evil laugh.
"You'd better not scare him," Willow warned with a laugh.
"Scare him? Me?" Angel again gave her his most innocent _expression though it was ruined by the wicked gleam in his eyes.
The wicked gleam and smile made her forget what they were talking about. She looked away from him to watch Cordelia take a seat, a large smile on her face. "I'm assuming that Mark was free for lunch."
"He's on his way," Cordelia giggled before her eyes widened and she groaned, "oh my God. I just giggled. I haven't giggled about a guy since high school. This is terrible!"
"It's cute," Willow smirked, laughing when the former cheerleader stuck her tongue out at her. She leaned back and stretched, not aware of Angel's eyes watching the movement or the desire that flashed in his dark eyes as he watched her. She smiled as she listened to Cordelia warning Angel to be nice to Mark, wondering if Mark had any idea just what he was getting into by dating Cordelia. Remembering the looks the two had exchanged on their first date, she realized that he'd probably think that being with Cordelia was worth the trouble.
It was Sunday afternoon and he was at the office. Lindsey sighed, running a hand over his face before looking at the files that were laid out in front of him. Yesterday was the first real day off he'd taken since starting work with the firm during his final years of law school. His typical weekend consisted of reviewing cases, making notes for the upcoming week, meeting with clients or attending functions that would further his career, and generally anything else he could find to do that would make the partners notice him and insure his position as the best associate at Wolfram and Hart.
The previous day was the first time that he'd just enjoyed himself without worrying about his career or his job. From the moment he had seen Willow at the diner to the soft kiss last night, all he had cared about was getting to know her better. His brief conversation with Claire wasn't necessarily work related since his thoughts at the time had been on Willow and how she made him feel. He didn't understand the effect that she had on him. Looking into her green eyes, he found himself wishing that he was the struggling artist that she believed him to be. He wanted to protect her, to be there to hold her as she realized how cruel the real world was. He didn't want her to lose her optimism, to see her lose that innocent belief that there was good in people, to watch her smile fade as she realized that evil existed.
He realized how ironic it was since he was one of those evil creatures that he wanted to protect her from. He had done things in his life that he wasn't proud of, things that had gotten the partners to notice him and put him on the fast track, but that didn't help him sleep better at night. He'd never really questioned his actions, convincing himself that the world was a tough place and that you had to do what you had to do to survive. That argument hadn't held up nearly as well after he met Angel. He'd started to have doubts, started to realize that he was as bad as his clients, if not worse.
He didn't have a demon yet he was as evil as many of them were. Not all of his clients were monsters, but he hadn't earned his reputation as the best lawyer at Wolfram and Hart by representing those few. He had known what he had become in the back of his mind, but he'd chosen to ignore that knowledge. After meeting Angel, he'd no longer been able to ignore it. The pompous vampire made sure to tell him what a monster he truly was every time that they met.
Angel was a bastard, but he was also right. Lindsey had seen that, had known the truth in the vampire's words, and that was when his world had started to fall apart. He'd realized that he wasn't happy, that he was not content, that he wasn't cut out to be an uncaring monster. He'd wanted to turn his back on everything, to just leave and start over and forget what he had done, what he had become. He had nearly done it, nearly gotten himself out, but he'd been sucked back in. What was he without Wolfram and Hart? He liked the power, liked winning, liked his fancy car and nice apartment and expensive suits. Angel had tried to save his soul, but it was too late. He wasn't salvageable.
Or so he had thought. Then he'd met a green-eyed beauty that made him feel things he'd never felt before. What the hell was he thinking? He'd only spent a day with her, didn't really know that much about her. He couldn't seriously believe that she would ever want him once she knew the truth about what he was, about what he had done. She deserved far more than he could ever give her. He knew he should forget her, bury himself in work until she became a distant memory, a memory that would make him smile and wonder what might have been, but he couldn't.
She was all he could think about. Wanting to see her again, to learn everything about her, to have her look at him with love in her beautiful eyes. He couldn't have a relationship with her, couldn't keep up the pretense, the lie, that he was Mac, an artist. He wanted her to love him, Lindsey MacDonald, lawyer, monster, painter. He didn't want secrets between them, but he couldn't tell her the truth. He didn't want his world anywhere near her, not wanting his reality to corrupt her. He should just forget her.
Lindsey closed his eyes, knowing that wasn't an option. It was the ideal solution, certainly. He could protect her from the knowledge of what he really was, of the evil things he had done, of the reality of what lurked in the shadows. She'd move on easily. It had only been one date, after all, and not even really a date in many ways. She'd return home with pleasant memories of spending a day in LA with a painter, and he'd have the memory of her smile and the way she tasted during their brief kiss to keep him company during the night. He couldn't do that, though. He was a selfish bastard and, God help him, he didn't want to let her go. There was something between them, an attraction, a connection, something that made him want to be a better person. He wanted her to be proud of him, to know the truth about his life and still want to be with him.
Hell, he'd been home less than an hour when he'd changed the voice mail on his cell phone to a rather vague 'leave a message' with no names just so she could call him without finding out the truth. He knew he would tell her everything, well, at least the part about being a lawyer since he somehow doubted the part about monsters and demons being real would go over too well. He didn't know when he'd tell her, and a part of him wondered if he honestly would or if he'd just let her believe he was a painter named Mac, and he didn't know the answer to that internal debate.
Lindsey sighed as he stood. He wasn't getting anything accomplished at the moment so he decided to just go home. He closed the files and stacked them before turning off his desk lamp. The office was empty today, most of the associates having been in Saturday like Lindsey usually was. He was the only one that came in on Sunday, though, Lilah even taking the one day off. He was a constant presence at the firm and he could just imagine the whispers that had gone on yesterday when he hadn't shown up at all. Since it was the first day in years that he hadn't shown up, even for a short time, it was definitely something they would notice. If asked, he was planning on shrugging it off with an excuse about being too ill to come in and that he'd just done some work at home. It was believable and would stop the talk before it reached the partners. He knew that he had technically had weekends off unless there was an important case or a function that he was forced to attend, but it was very important to the firm that their promising associates, of which he was the top of the list, made the their jobs their number one priority. They had given him a second chance following his alliance with Angel and he had no desire to make them regret that choice.
Lindsey nodded to the security guard as he left, noticing that the man was watching a small TV instead of the cameras. He rolled his eyes, wondering how the partners would like the fact that their security guard was caught up in a beauty pageant of some sort of paying attention to the building. He found it rather amusing, he decided as he made his way to his car. He sat down, the scent of Willow still occupying the small space. He inhaled deeply, a small smile crossing his face as he relaxed, his hand removing his tie and tossing it into the back-seat before he turned on the car. He left the garage, turning left to heard towards Paradise. He had a painting to pick up, his smile growing as he imagined Willow's reaction to his gift. He hoped she was pleased, liking the idea of making her happy. He began to sing along with the radio as he drove, his mind on the captivating redhead that had somehow stolen his heart during the course of their day together.
End of Part 34