At Wolfram and Hart, it was business as usual. No boohooing, no survivor’s story, no interview with CNN—nothing. A massacre did not justify slowing down the workflow.
The only truly bizarre thing about the entire ordeal was the selection of those left alive. The two left alive. Lindsey McDonald and Lilah Morgan, each found under a pile of bodies. Each pulled out by the belated rescuers who had responded to an equally belated 911 call issued by the now late Mrs. Holland Manners.
Lindsey McDonald had just verified that he had no messages when Lilah came down the hall, her eyes cold. She wasted no time in starting in.
He wasted no time going autopilot. At least, until, a vampire snarled at him.
“What are you looking at?” he spat before shaking his head and falling back into step beside Lilah.
For her part, Lilah had hardly paused. “No phone calls, no flowers. If I were the nervous type, I’d be nervous. But as it is, I’m just pissed.”
Lindsey rolled his eyes. So typical of her. “What did you expect, Lilah?” he demanded. “We’re the only survivors of the massacre. It’s natural that we’re under suspicion.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “You know what I don’t like about suspicion? The part where they find us two weeks from now, dead in some freak accident.”
She had a point there. The firm had its less-than-orthodox ways of dealing with suspicious associates.
“We did nothing wrong,” he said.
Not true, a mutinous voice whispered. Look at you. At this. This is wrong.
That voice was becoming a real nuisance.
“I’m sorry, have we met?” Lilah retorted. “Because I work for Wolfram and Hart. Responsibility has nothing to do with it. If they’re looking for a scapegoat, we might as well grow horns and start eating garbage.”
He blinked incredulously, his resentment growing. “Scapegoat. Scapegoat, Lilah? They’re the one…”
Lilah slapped a hand over his mouth as another lawyer walked by. Once more, they were not spared a guilt-inducing glare. At once he felt a surge of something that might have been affection for her, which was wrong because their relationship was built on mutual loathing.
But dammit, he was right. They had done nothing wrong.
When he continued, his tone was reasonably lower. “They’re the ones that wanted Drusilla brought in. I was just following orders.” A pause. “And I was never supportive of the entire desouling idea. If memory serves, that was you and Holland. Of all your endeavors, how would you compare this failure to the rest?”
“Don’t you dare try to blame me.”
“I’m not. And they shouldn’t either.”
She balked. “And you honestly think that matters? Fine. Indulge your denial. Don’t doubt for a minute someone’s going to pay, Lindsey. And we’re the only ones left.”
He steered them both into his office, then stopped dead in his tracks.
“Not the only ones.”
The most vampire-ready building in California, perhaps the world, and no one had stopped the perpetrators of the massacre from waltzing through security and into Lindsey’s office. Drusilla was his chair; Darla perched on the edge of the desk. Angelus was in the corner, arms crossed. Upon first glance, Lindsey knew immediately that being here was not his idea. Just as leaving them alive hadn’t been.
Darla had to sense the tension rolling off her lover—and it was obvious even to the most ignorant observer that they had spent the past day becoming physically reacquainted—but she ignored it. Instead, she lolled her head to the side and smiled. “Lindsey,” she greeted in that husky voice he loved so much. “I’ve missed you. Close the door.”
Neither Lindsey nor Lilah budged.
Darla rolled her eyes and grinned. “Sweetpea, if we wanted you dead, you’d have never have made it out of the wine cellar. Now close the door.”
He supposed that much was true. Even if it wasn’t, he’d seen just how quickly these vamps could kill. A door, open or closed, wouldn’t stop them.
Once the door was closed, though, he couldn’t help but feel suffocated.
“He’s got cow eyes,” Drusilla stated. “Big and black.” She grinned kittenishly and draped an arm across the back of the rotating chair. “Moo.”
Lindsey sighed and decided to aim for the throat. He didn’t want to waste time with small-talk. Instead, he looked directly at the woman that had haunted his dreams for weeks and said, “You spared me. Why did you spare me, Darla?”
“Darla’s still walking off that soul she had,” Angelus answered.
Darla flashed him a grin. “You’re one to talk, aren’t you? You were back for months and didn’t manage to kill the cheerleader.”
“You know me, baby. I was getting to it.”
“Mhmm.” Darla smirked. “You do enjoy making wonderful art.” She looked back to Lindsey and slipped off the desk. “Don’t mind Angelus,” she all but purred as she sauntered toward him. “He’s always grumpy if he doesn’t get a decent kill in before sunrise. But to answer your question, my sweet Lindsey…” She leaned inward and drew in his scent. “Hmm. I’m in love with you.”
It was foolish, he knew, but for a minute he believed her. Looking into the depths of her murderous eyes. Imagining that the words were true. That she felt something for him other than a convenient meal ticket. The fantasy ended abruptly when she burst out laughing.
But her laughter wasn’t the worst. It was his.
It was the glee in Angelus’s eyes that he had something Lindsey wanted. That hurt more than her words, or Lilah and Drusilla’s cackles. It was the vampire’s smugness. His delight. His knowing.
Darla got a hold of herself, then turned her attention to the still-cackling Lilah. “Shut up, Lilah.”
“Shh!” Drusilla hissed.
Lindsey seized the chance to steer the conversation back to safer waters. Well, safer for him, at least. He’d rather incur the wrath of the Senior Partners than deal with Angelus’s knowing grin. “You’ve put us in a difficult position, Darla,” he said.
“Hmmm, have I? I could have sworn it was the three of us.” Darla turned and sashayed back to Angelus. “You played a hand and you lost, Lindsey. We don’t like being controlled. Although…had I known that Holland was going to give me such a lovely treat…” She ran her hands up Angelus’s chest, and the two made eyes at each other like they were about to start fucking right there on his desk. “I might have been a little forgiving.”
“I wouldn’t,” Angelus murmured.
“I know, lover. You’ve never worn generosity well.” She turned back to her audience. “I suppose this is a bit of a dilemma. Choices, choices. Such smart, young lawyers, hungry for their big break and—whups—boss gets eaten. Someone has to step in. Someone promising, pretty, with questionable ethics and twelve-hundred dollar suits that look good on the six o’clock news.”
Lilah perked an eyebrow perked. “You think they’ll promote him?”
Darla made a face like she had smelled something unpleasant. “Or you. In any case, that’s why you’re here. I’ve decided to keep the line of communication open between us and Wolfram and Hart.”
“I believe we can help each other.” She took one of Angelus’s hands in her own and wrapped it around her middle, smiling as he murmured something in her ear. “And before you ask, it’s power I want. We want. See, during my stint as Wolfram and Hart’s puppet, something occurred to me. I loathe being used. If I recall, there was a fifteen-body-memo to that effect. We plan on being big players in this town, my boy and I. And while you can’t give me what I want, you have the things I need to get it. Money. Connections. And a face to die for.”
Lilah shook her head. “We’re no good to you dead, Darla. The Senior Partners are looking for someone to blame for your massacre.”
“Our massacre,” Angelus corrected with a growl. He yanked Darla to him tightly, thrusting his hips against her ass. She mewled a strangled cry of pleasure, and for a moment Lindsey entertained the idea of dying right now. He likely wouldn’t be able to take Angelus out before the others killed him, but there was always a chance he could.
“Yes, yes,” Lilah agreed, rolling her eyes. “Your massacre. As in, all of you. Sorry if that was vague.”
“Just want to make sure we’re on the same page, here.” Angelus cocked his head. “Which begs the question, and please…stop me if I sound ungrateful.” With a turn, he released Darla and started walking forward. “Why exactly was the firm so keen on releasing the big bad me? You thought that just because I have a hard-on for anything bloody I’d bend over backwards and be your whipping boy? Please.”
Over Angelus’s shoulder, Darla flashed a grin. “As I believe I have clarified, we do not like being used.”
“The firm was interested in piecing back together the Order of Aurelius,” Lindsey said. “Though I think you've convinced them to take that off the table.”
Darla’s grin melted to a frown. “Meaning?”
“There was going to a committee…namely you and Drusilla,” Lilah offered, nodding in Dru’s direction. “Holland was going to have you go to Sunnydale to pick up the last member of your Order. Or rather, the last member of note. William the—”
“My Spike.” Drusilla sat forward, her huge eyes wide. “Our happy family.”
“Hmmm, now that would have been interesting,” Angelus mused. “Last I heard, though, Spike was playing the part of the Slayer’s lapdog.”
Darla smirked. “Wouldn’t throw stones, dear.”
“A phase I have thankfully outgrown,” he replied, tossing her a somewhat irritated look. “Furthermore, and here’s the really funny part, he has some government chip in his head that doesn’t let him kill.”
The dreamy expression on Drusilla’s face melted into a pout. She crossed her arms and began playing with the spin option of Lindsey’s chair. “Not fair,” she complained. “Lock him up and take all his toys away. Naughty Slayer. Stealing him from me.” She looked to Darla. “Can we get him, grandmum? Can we go and rescue my William from that nasty, nasty Buffy girl? I won’t abide it.”
“The Slayer was part of the deal,” Lindsey continued. “We wanted her as leverage.”
Darla snickered. “You were going to bring the Slayer here? How very foolish.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Angelus mused, a wicked glint in his eyes. “I might like to see old Buff. Give her a big, messy, and bloody kiss for sending me to Hell.” He flashed a grin at Darla. “Not that I’m one to hold grudges, but that does irk me. And if she’s here…well, as we said. I’m a long-haul kind of planner.”
Darla’s lips curled into a smile once more.
“There’s also word of an impending apocalypse,” Lilah said. “Holland was interested in its success, and what it could mean for the firm. If the Slayer is in Sunnydale at the time that the Key is activated, she will stop—”
“Okay,” Lindsey interrupted, blinking. “…what? What Key?”
“Nothing. The specifics are not important. All you need to know is there is more than one reason we wanted the Slayer in Los Angeles.”
The smile on Darla’s face was getting nastier by the second. “You see? I knew that your precious Senior Partners wouldn’t pull the plug on you. To kill both of you would be such a waste, especially with such…colorful ideas floating around. Oh, Dru. I smell a plan.”
“Mmmm…” the insane vampire agreed. “Tastes like lemon drops.”
Angelus sighed and rolled his eyes. “Please tell me we’re not really going with the ‘snatch up Spike’ idea? I really, really can’t stand that boy. Last time we met up, he decided to take to me with a crowbar.”
Lindsey snickered. “Sounds like my kind of guy.”
The vampire’s gaze flickered. “We could always make the decision for the Senior Partners right now.”
“Down boy,” Darla said shortly. “Wouldn’t want to do anything that might stink of regret come morning.”
“What’s your deal with Spike, then?” Lindsey asked before Angelus could respond, eyebrows perked. He looked to Darla. “Afraid of a little competition?”
She snickered. “Please. I never supported the siring of that buffoon. Oh no, dear. He was made solely for one purpose.” Darla and Angelus looked pointedly at Drusilla, who seemed to be having a very animated conversation with an invisible pixie. “To keep our resident lunatic… occupied.”
“When I wasn’t taking liberties, that is,” Angelus added with a smirk.
“He’s fun…” Drusilla murmured, snapping away from her pixie conversation and licking her lips. “Bumpy in all the right places. Oh yeah. Oohhhh…but all alone. Watching his girl walk on by. Pshhh…” She abruptly leaped to her feet and crawled onto the desk until she was within reach of Angelus, clawing at his back. “Daddy. He’s taken.”
Angelus turned to her. “Taken?”
“Dancing. They’re dancing.” At that, she slid back to the floor and began swaying to unheard music, her eyes closed and an almost euphoric expression on her face. “My Spike loves the dance, but the nasty Slayer isn’t interested. She’s had her supper and is too full for dessert. She doesn’t want to go to bed with an upset stomach.”
Angelus snapped back to Darla. “Did you just hear what I just heard?”
“Spike’s in love with a Slayer.” Darla rolled her eyes. “Honestly, what is it about this girl that makes the men of our Order slobber themselves silly?”
He shrugged. “She’s got spunk, what can I say?”
“And somehow, Spike’s involvement with a slayer doesn’t surprise me at all,” Darla concluded, shaking her head. “He always was obsessed with them. Figured it was only a matter of time before he wanted to screw his meal before making it his…well…meal. And the fact that she was one of yours, Liam…”
“That boy always wanted to play with my toys.”
“I must get him out of the hole. So dark. It’s so dark in the hole.” Drusilla fixed those large eyes of hers on Lindsey. “Shall we go to Sunnydale, then? Collect my boy and bring him home?”
“Collect the Slayer to make sure home’s where he wants to go,” Darla added. “Come to think of it, there are some things I’d like to say to that vapid cheerleader…before I rip her throat out, that is.”
Lindsey frowned. “Our motive is not the Slayer’s death…” He turned to Lilah. “Is it?”
“Honey, I don’t think you understand,” Darla said. “If I want the Slayer dead, she’s dead. Wolfram and Hart following us won’t make an itty bitty bit of difference. You’re chasing a tail that won’t end. And anyway, Holland is dead. His plans are yesterday’s news.”
“No,” Lilah interjected, “they really aren’t. The contract with Wolfram and Hart goes far beyond the mortal coil. Holland’s association with the firm—”
Darla waved a hand. “Be that as it may, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s not here and you are. Therefore, I’m thinking that as far as so-called ‘special-projects’, the two of you have more say. Though, really, I do thank you for the idea. Seeing little Miss Buffy again will be the perfect way to end our reunion celebration.” She turned to Angelus. “And there will be no—”
“More like disgusted.”
He chuckled. “Trust me.”
“Angelus, unless I’m wrong, Hell hasn’t frozen over.”
Lindsey smiled quietly to himself. “I believe that we can work together,” he said, stepping forward. “Though I must stress the importance of not underestimating the resources of our firm. Despite however powerful the Order was in the day, Wolfram and Hart is connected to powers that should not be taken lightly.”
“Oh, honey,” Darla retorted, turning to meet him halfway. “Was I not clear enough?” She ran her hands up his mortal chest, played the fine silk of his tie and tugged him down so that her mouth grazed his. “I have absolutely no intention of taking anything lightly…ever…again.”
And all at once, he was terrified. Not of what she would do—the wine cellar had more than proven that he was no good to her dead. No, the fear that blossomed in his chest had nothing to do with him.
“In the meantime,” Angelus was saying, moving for the door, “I think it would be rude if I didn’t visit some friends who are long overdue for a good…talking to. Drop in. Say hello. Rip out their intestines. The usual. Wouldn’t you say so, darling?”
Darla smirked at him, and Lindsey’s blood chilled even more. “Oh yes,” she agreed. “In fact…a trip to Angel Investigations is just what the doctor ordered. Just to pass the time, of course.”
It was her. Her power. The power she wielded. The power she flaunted. The power she held over Angelus. There was no denying that she had him wrapped around her little finger. What she was going to do was no longer the question. That, Lindsey knew.
What frightened him was what remained unanswered.
More like, where Darla’s reasonability ended.
He guessed he didn’t want to know.
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