The angel chronicles vol.., p.10
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       The Angel Chronicles, Vol. 3, p.10

           Nancy Holder
 
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  Her silence spanned the space between them.

  Her tears ran like rain.

  * * *

  Her mother had told her that the actor’s name was Robert Young. Buffy couldn’t remember the name of the actress who was singing, “Good night, my love. My moment with you now is ending.” They were rich people on a luxurious cruise on a vast ocean of black and white.

  Buffy’s mom came in with a cup of coffee and a plate with two bakery cupcakes on it. One was topped with an unlit candle.

  She brought them over to the coffee table and sat beside Buffy on the couch. They were similarly dressed, Joyce in an oversized sweater, leggings, and socks, and Buffy in a large gray V-neck top, white cargo pants, and a pair of her mother’s socks.

  Joyce glanced at the TV and asked, “Did I miss anything?”

  Buffy roused herself. “Oh, uh, just some singing. And some running around.”

  Her mom looked inside a wooden box and a round pottery bowl with a lid, and finally located a book of matches. “I’m sorry I didn’t have time to make you a real cake.”

  “No. This is good.” She meant it. This is home. My mother. The life I don’t usually have.

  “But we’re still going shopping tomorrow. So what’d you do for your birthday? Did you have fun?”

  Buffy’s throat tightened. Oh, Mom, Mom, I so want to tell you. I so need you. I need.

  “I got older.”

  Her mother looked mildly surprised at the sadness in her voice. “You look the same to me.” Her love for Buffy was in her eyes, and in her smile.

  Then she lit the candle on the cupcake. “Happy birthday.” She made a face and begged theatrically, “I don’t have to sing, do I?”

  Buffy tried to smile. “No.”

  “Well, go on,” her mother urged. “Make a wish.”

  Buffy looked at the tiny point of light.

  “I’ll just let it burn.”

  She laid her head on her mother’s chest. Joyce stroked her hair thoughtfully.

  The black and white people sang, “Good night, my love.”

  And Buffy watched the candle burn.

  THE THIRD CHRONICLE: PASSION

  PROLOGUE

  The Bronze. It was the same as it had always been. Through the weeks and months since his change, he had wondered if anything would ever be different in the Slayer’s little circle. Granted, Xander and Cordelia had become an official couple. The little sweetheart, Willow, was dating Oz, the guitarist.

  Love. How mundane.

  Then he realized that he could make changes. In fact, he was already in the process of changing everything.

  Always at the apex, that’s me.

  Angelus stood on the balcony and looked down on the dancers. The sensual rhythm of the music stirred seductive movements, glances; the candlelight from the glass votives on the tables caught the warmth and glow on their faces. Languid smiles passed; questions were asked, promises made.

  Angelus moved down the stairway, searching. He knew she was there. He could smell her; feel her.

  He stared through the crowd. She was dancing. Smiling. In a tight T-strap top and skirt, her hair tousled as if from savage kissing, she swayed and rolled her hips. Her eyes were on her friend, Xander, as he danced with her. The young man was not unaffected, but it was clear that he knew this was a moment between friends, not lovers. Cordelia, assured of her changed status as his official girlfriend, chatted easily with Willow at a table on the perimeter.

  Angelus watched. He stared, unblinking. His gaze devoured every gesture. He walked around the edge of the dance floor, never blinking, moving fluidly, a hungry, intent predator.

  Passion, he thought. It lies in all of us. Sleeping, waiting, and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir, open its jaws, and howl.

  * * *

  She was wearing vanilla, her new scent. She had worn it on the night they had made love. It wafted through the night air as she left with her friends, arm in arm with Willow, Xander and Cordelia bringing up the rear. As they passed him, he inhaled the aroma, drinking the blood of the victim in his arms, a young woman he embraced as if she were his lover, when all she was was food.

  The four were innocent, unaware as they chatted, Willow sucking a Tootsie Roll pop with girlish casualness. Still in vamp face, Angelus let the young woman’s body drop to the ground as the Slayer’s group strolled on . . .

  He morphed back to his human face and trailed them.

  One by one, her friends left Buffy’s side, to go home to their beds. At last, she was alone, in her room. The window was open, and though she peered through the Venetian blinds as though she sensed something, she left all the lights on as she undressed and got ready for bed. Another might see a beautiful school-age girl setting her alarm clock and climbing into bed. Lying back into the darkness in pink satin, closing her eyes. Angelus saw the Slayer, an exquisite, highly dangerous creature of unbelievable power.

  He remembered her touch.

  Her trust.

  He crept in through the window and sat on her bed. Studied her as she slept. The pulse in her neck beat rapidly. Perhaps she was dreaming of him. Gently, he smoothed a tendril of hair from her face, trailing his fingertips against her forehead, her temple, and inhaled her scent.

  It speaks to us, guides us. Passion rules us all, and we obey. What other choice do we have?

  CHAPTER 1

  Brilliant sunlight streamed through Buffy’s window as she slowly woke. To the pleasant chirping of birds, she turned her head and stretched, opening her eyes.

  A brown parchment envelope lay on her pillow. She sat up as she opened it, unfolding a thick piece of matching stationery.

  It was a charcoal sketch of her, her eyes closed in peaceful, unsuspecting slumber.

  Left on my pillow. For me to find.

  For me to know.

  * * *

  Dressed in an animal print velour, a small white backpack slung over her shoulders, Buffy burst into the school library. Giles was stamping books, of all things, and Cordelia, fashionable in a blue cham-bray shirt and a gray skirt, was chatting with Xander, who was perched on the back of one of the wooden chairs.

  Buffy said tersely, “He was in my room.”

  Giles looked up from his task and asked politely, “Who?”

  She stomped over to the study table. “Angel. He was in my room last night.”

  Cordelia and Xander looked shocked. His rubber stamp in his hand, Giles moved from behind the circulation desk through his office, to join Buffy at the table.

  “Are you sure?” he said, clearly astonished.

  “Positive,” she assured him. “When I woke up, I found a picture he’d left me on my pillow.”

  Xander piped up. “A visit from the pointed-tooth fairy.”

  Cordelia frowned. “Wait. I thought vampires couldn’t come in unless you invited them in.”

  Giles turned to her. “Yes, but if you invite them in once, thereafter, they are always welcome.”

  “You know, I think there may be a valuable lesson for you gals here about inviting strange men into your bedrooms.” Xander wasn’t joking.

  “Oh, God! I invited him in my car once,” Cordelia realized. “That means he could come back into my car whenever he wants!”

  Xander wore a regretful expression. “Yep. You’re doomed to having to give him and his vamp pals a lift whenever they feel like it. And those guys never chip in for gas.”

  “Giles, there has to be some sort of spell to reverse the invitation, right?” Buffy insisted. She was wigged and she didn’t care who knew it. “Like a barrier—‘no shoes, no pulse, no service’ kind of thing?”

  “Yeah, that works for a car, too?” Cordelia chimed in.

  Giles was already in motion. “Yes. Well, I could check my—”

  Xander stood as two underclassmen types wandered into the library. “Hel-lo,” he said gruffly. “Excuse me, but have you ever heard of knocking?”

  One was a boy, the other a redheaded girl. The
boy said, a little defensively, “We’re supposed to get some books. On Stalin.”

  Xander pointed an accusing finger at them. “Does this look like a Barnes and Noble?”

  “This is the school library, Xander,” Giles reproved quietly.

  “Since when?” Xander asked, as if this was news to him.

  Giles took over. “Yes. Third row, historical biographies.”

  “Thanks,” the boy said.

  He and the girl student walked past the silent group and went up the stairs to the second level.

  Xander gestured for the group to ogay into the allwaybay. Together they tiptoed out, just as the boy student emerged from the stacks and said, “Uh, did you say that was . . . Hello?”

  They walked down the corridor and out into the sunshine. Giles resumed. “So, Angel has decided to step up his harassment of you.”

  “By sneaking into her room and leaving stuff at night?” Cordelia said bluntly. “Why doesn’t he just slit her throat or strangle her in her sleep or cut her heart out?” At a disbelieving, ironic grin from Xander, she held out her arms and said, “What? I’m trying to help.”

  “Yes.” Giles spoke directly to Buffy. “It’s classic battle strategy, to throw one’s opponent off his game. He’s trying to provoke you. To taunt you, to goad you into some mishap or something of that sort.”

  “The ‘nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah’ approach to battle,” Xander, the soul of helpfulness, explained.

  “Yes, Xander,” Giles said, with the tiniest, most British bit of sarcasm, “once again you’ve managed to boil a complex thought down to its simplest possible form.”

  Buffy was having nothing to do with banter mode. This was deadly serious stuff. “Giles, Angel once told me that when he was obsessed with Drusilla, the first thing he did was to kill her family.”

  Xander got it at once. “Your mom.”

  “I know. I’m going to have to tell her something. The truth?” She turned and looked at Giles.

  He shook his head in deadly earnest. “No. You can’t do that.”

  “Yeah. The more people who know the secret, the more it cheapens it for the rest of us,” Xander riffed, as Cordelia rolled her eyes.

  “I’ve got to tell her something,” Buffy said urgently. “I have to do something. Giles, Angel has an all-access pass to my house and I’m not always there when my mother is. I can’t protect her.”

  “I told you, I will find a spell,” Giles reminded her.

  “What about until you find a spell?” she pushed.

  “Until then, you and your mother are welcome to ride around with me in my car,” Cordelia said, full of graciousness.

  Giles stayed with the topic. “Buffy, I understand your concern, but it is imperative that you keep a level head through all this.”

  She was frustrated with him. “That’s easy for you to say. You don’t have Angel lurking in your bedroom at night.”

  “I know how hard this is for you.” She blinked. “All right,” he admitted, “I don’t. But as the Slayer, you don’t have the luxury of being a slave to your passions. You mustn’t let Angel get to you, no matter how provocative his behavior may become.”

  “So what you’re basically saying is ‘Just ignore him and maybe he’ll go away.’ ” A statement she uttered without conviction or joy.

  Giles considered. Then he nodded. “Yes, precisely.”

  “Hey, how come Buffy doesn’t get a snotty ‘once again you boil it down to the simplest form’ thing?” Xander grumbled. “Watcher’s pet,” he flung at her.

  * * *

  Jenny Calendar’s computer science class was winding up for the day.

  “Don’t forget I need your sample spreadsheets by the end of the week.” Over the peal of the bell, she added, “Oh, and I want both a paper printout and a copy on disk.”

  As Willow began to leave, Miss Calendar reached out a hand and said, “Willow?”

  Willow stopped at her desk. “Yes?”

  “I might be a little late tomorrow. Do you think you could cover my class ’til I show?”

  Willow was flabbergasted “Really? Me? Teach the class? Sure!”

  “Cool,” Miss Calendar said offhandedly.

  “Oh, wait . . . but what if they don’t recognize my authority?” Willow fretted. “What if they try to convince me that you always let them leave class early? What if there’s a fire drill?” She escalated. “What if there’s a fire?”

  Holding her coffee cup, Miss Calendar leaned slightly across her desk. “Willow, you’re going to be fine. And I’ll try not to be too late, okay?”

  Willow calmed down. “Okay, good. Earlier is good.” She brightened as possibilities opened up. “Will I have the power to assign detention? Or make ’em run laps?”

  From the doorway, Buffy said in a strained voice, “Hey, Will.”

  “Hi, Buffy,” Miss Calendar said tentatively. “Rupert.”

  Giles looked uncomfortable as Buffy ignored Miss Calendar and focused on Willow. “Willow, I thought I might take in a class. Figured I could use someone who knows where they are.”

  Chagrined, Willow ducked her head and crossed over to Buffy. They left the room together, as Willow murmured, “Sorry. I have to talk to her. She’s a teacher, and teachers are to be respected. Even if they’re only filling in until the real teacher shows up. Otherwise, chaos could ensue and . . .”

  * * *

  Jenny Calendar wilted at the slight. Well, I deserve it. She took a breath, picked up her mail, and began thumbing through it.

  Then she realized that Rupert had stayed behind. Now he crossed the threshold and entered her classroom, looking as uncomfortable as she was. It was the first time they had been near each other since he had told her to get out the night Buffy destroyed the Judge.

  A little hopeful, a little flustered, she said to him, “How’ve you been?”

  “Not so good, actually,” he admitted. “Since Angel lost his soul, he’s regained his sense of whimsy.”

  He’s talking to me, she thought, her stomach doing a little flip. That must mean he forgives me in some small measure.

  She crossed her arms as she took in what he was telling her. “That sounds bad.” And it did; her pleasure in being able to talk to him took nothing away from that.

  “He’s been in Buffy’s bedroom. I need to drum up a spell to keep him out of the house.”

  She reached for a weatherbeaten book on her desk. “This might help.” She handed it to him. “I’ve been doing a little reading since Angel changed.” Glancing at the cover, she mused, “I don’t think you have that one.”

  He was obviously touched. “Thank you.” He opened it, scanned a bit.

  As he perused the book, she tried to strengthen the whisper-thin connection. “So, how’s Buffy doing?” Besides, she really cared how Buffy was.

  He shut the book, looked down for a moment, and raised his chin. Coolly, he replied, “How do you think?”

  They regarded each other for a moment. Then she admitted defeat. Turning away, she said, “I know you feel betrayed.”

  “Yes, well, that’s one of the unpleasant side effects of betrayal,” he returned.

  “Rupert, I was raised by the people that Angel hurt the most. My duty to them was the first thing I was ever taught. I didn’t come here to hurt anyone. And I lied to you because I thought it was the right thing to do.”

  She looked away. “I didn’t know what would happen.” Her voice became a whisper. “I didn’t know I was going to fall in love with you.”

  They had gotten to know each other over a year ago, when she had headed a project to scan all the books into the library. Willow Rosenberg, one of her prize students, had accidentally scanned a demon into the net, and Jenny had felt it necessary to blow her cover to the extent of coming forward and identifying herself as a technopagan.

  Their relationship had grown from there, and she had never faced the fact that someday she would have to tell him who she was and what she was doing in Sunnydale.<
br />
  In the ensuing silence, she looked up at him. She couldn’t read his expression, and she was humiliated. “Oh, God,” she said miserably, “is it too late to take that back?”

  “Do you want to?” he asked.

  “I just want to be right with you,” she said softly. “I don’t expect more. I just want so badly to make all this up to you.”

  “I understand.” His tone was kind, if laced with caution. “But I’m not the one you need to make it up to.” He smiled gently. “Thank you for the book.”

  With that, he left.

  * * *

  There was baked chicken, salad, bread, potatoes. Buffy ate none of it.

  Finally, Joyce said, “Okay. What’s wrong?”

  Buffy was caught off guard. “It’s . . . nothing.”

  “Come on, you can tell me anything,” Joyce pressed. “I’ve read all the parenting books. You cannot surprise me.”

  I sure can, Buffy thought, but that was very beside the point. Her mom was her mom, after all. She was supposed to be able to tell her things.

  She took a chance. Laying down her fork, she began. “Do you remember that guy, Angel?”

  “Angel? The college boy who was tutoring you in history?” Joyce filled in.

  That was what I told you the first time you met him, wasn’t it? Buffy thought. I just conveniently left out the part about how he had just saved my life from three vampire assassins.

  “Right. Well, he . . . I . . . we’re sort of dating. Were dating.” She shrugged and smiled uneasily. “We’re going through a serious ‘off again’ phase right now.” Because he’s a demon.

  Her mother gave her a knowing look. “Don’t tell me. ‘He’s changed. He’s not the same guy you fell for.’ ”

  Oh, God, why did I even start this? “In a nutshell. Anyway, since he changed, he’s been kind of following me around. He’s having trouble letting go.”

  Joyce’s face clouded. “Buffy, has he . . . done anything?”

  “No, no, it’s not like that,” Buffy said quickly. I wish I hadn’t started this, she thought. I can’t tell her what’s really going on. “He’s just been hanging around. A lot. Just sending me notes. That kind of thing. I don’t want to see him right now. I mean, if he shows up, I’ll talk to him.” She had to say that to keep her mother from worrying. She tried to toss in casually, “Just don’t invite him in.”

 
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