There had been a vampire in Prague who’d tried to fuck with the deal Spike had had going in trying to locate Angelus. When confronted with his duplicity, the vampire had proceeded to taunt Spike in an attempt to shake his concentration, calling him weak for tending so meticulously to Dru, egomaniacal for thinking anything he could do would actually make a difference.
Spike killed him before he could finish the slurs. Shoved the wanker to the walk, ground his heel into his face, and then grabbed a broken plank from nearby and thrust it through the vamp’s back. Only afterward did the thought occur to Spike that maybe he should’ve made the pain last longer; it would’ve served as a lesson for others who would contemplate casting aspersions.
He wasn’t weak. He just hated seeing a woman he knew could be strong reduced to less than what she was. He’d done it for his mum, and he did it for Dru.
Now, he was doing it for the Slayer.
Made perfect sense to him.
When he started to lead her toward the bathroom, though, she pulled away from his hold, her eyes going wild.
“Not there,” she said. “I can’t…it still smells like him.”
Spike nodded. She was right. Though he knew she was referring to the Watcher’s cologne that hung like a thick cloud in the air, the whole place reeked of the magic Ethan wielded. It overpowered the traces of the Slayer’s essence. Standing amidst the rubble, Spike had a harder time discerning what was Buffy’s and what wasn’t than when he’d been getting out of the elevator.
He followed as she stepped gingerly over the wreckage, but was forced to a halt when she hesitated before the kitchen door.
“I need something else to wear,” Buffy said quietly. Her fingers worried the torn slit of her skirt. “Can you---?”
“Consider it done.” He knew it was hard for her to have to ask, and it was a small favor he could grant. Besides, better to see how the Slayer lived. The more information he had on her, the better his odds at defeating her when the time came.
It was easy to determine which room was hers. The scent of her shampoo lingered on the threshold, and a stray bra lay haphazardly on the floor as he entered. She’d dressed in a hurry that night, an array of clothes scattered across the foot of her unmade bed, and the rainbow of colors actually managed to surprise Spike. He’d figured her for the basics---black, red, white, maybe a bit of blue---but the explosion of greens, yellows, and other hues threw that notion out the window. Wherever the mood takes her, he thought as he plucked a flimsy top up from the floor. He cocked his head to look at it more closely when he realized just how sheer it really was, imagining her dusky nipples taunting him through its gossamer shimmer. The question of whether it was a wardrobe choice of her own or her Watcher’s, though, nagged him just enough to toss it aside.
Ignoring the closet, Spike went straight to the dresser and began rummaging through the drawers. There was little order to them, clothes tossed inside as if half-forgotten, but the other items they contained told him plenty.
A shoebox of photographs buried beneath a pile of t-shirts. Most of the pictures were of the Slayer and an older blonde woman, who Spike deduced was her mum. The older Summers woman was dead, Ripper had said. Died a few years back of a brain aneurysm. Spike wondered if the Slayer knew that.
A pile of thin journals. Pages frayed. Some with locks, some without. Though the temptation was strong, Spike left those alone after figuring out what they were. He knew what it felt like to have someone digging around in one’s personal thoughts; he’d give the Slayer this little privacy.
A stuffed pig that smelled of salt.
An atlas with dog-eared pages and routes marked in red.
A videotape with a smudged label that said, “Ice skating stuff.”
Stakes. Holy water. A particularly wicked looking dagger that still had blood dried to its hilt. Spike tucked the knife into his coat. It was too good to pass up.
It dawned on him mid-search that he couldn’t hear anything from the other room and stopped what he was doing to listen. The apartment swelled with the ghosts of the Watcher’s magic, but the Slayer’s breath was barely an echo. There wasn’t even the sound of running water to indicate that she was cleaning up.
Spike grabbed the first things he found, digging in the top drawer for some appropriate underwear before heading for the door. After a few steps, he stopped, glanced over his shoulder at the dresser, and walked back, taking out a second pair of black lace panties and stuffing them into his coat pocket. They’d be good for wanking with later, after he’d finished the job with the Slayer. His own private trophy.
At the door of the galley-style kitchen, the sight of her standing at the sink brought him to a standstill. Her back was rigid, her scarlet-stained hands held out over the stainless steel bowl as if she’d been just about to run them under the faucet. That wasn’t what she was doing, though.
Instead, Buffy was transfixed by her torn cuticles, by the tiny droplets of blood that fell so slowly to the metal below. It was hypnotic to watch her, to hear the low, even rhythm of her breathing and not see any sign of the wild child who had ravaged the apartment. But it was her fingers that truly mesmerized Spike. As if imbued with life of their own, they traced the tanline where her ring had been for so many years, going around and around as if the simple act of touching it could bring it back into existence. Suddenly, the weight of the actual ring in his pocket increased, and Spike had to quell the urge to take it out and give it back to her. She didn’t need it.
Dropping the clothes to the counter, he moved so that he stood directly behind her, reaching around her tiny frame to turn on the water. “Cleanin’ goes a mite quicker when there’s actual water involved,” he murmured into her ear.
Mutely, she nodded. She never said a word as he washed the red from her hands, and he steeled himself from vamping out as he watched all that lovely Slayer blood run wasted down the drain. It wasn’t until the cuts and scrapes were cleanly visible against her hands that she spoke up again.
“I won’t even have any scars,” Buffy said. Her voice was calm, matching the slow and steady pace of her heart. “Ethan’s going to lose his security deposit and nobody’s even going to know that I did it unless I say something.”
“That Watcher of yours goin’ to be around long enough to be worrying about that sort of thing?” he asked. Though he didn’t move from his place behind her, Spike let her hands go, placing his own on the edge of the counter so that she stood within the circle of his arms.
Buffy stiffened. “I don’t know what you’re thinking,” she said, “but I’m not going to kill Ethan. I can’t do that.”
“You can. You just won’t.”
“Same diff.” She started to move away, but his stance prevented her from going far. “Let me go, Spike. I need to get changed now so that we can do this.”
“You’re not done.”
“Yes, I am.”
“No, you’re not.” The smell had been intoxicating him for the entire time he’d been standing behind her. Leaning in, Spike ran his tongue along her jaw, lapping up the blood she’d smeared there earlier, his mouth watering at the promise of how much more flowed beneath the thin veneer of her skin. It went straight to his cock, hardening him so that he nestled firmly against the Slayer’s ass again, and he felt the shudder pitch throughout her body.
“You really want to bugger off so quickly?” he asked, his voice barely above a whisper against her cheek. “Wouldn’t it be best to take your time and make sure you’re ready, all good and proper, before you go charging in on your white horse?”
“Ethan hates…white horses…” she breathed. Her hands slid to cover his where he gripped the counter, and the powerful squeeze of her fingers made his cock twitch.
“What does Buffy like?” He finished licking away the blood on her face, and then used the tip of his tongue to trace the delicate shell of her ear. “Think it’s about time you take a little for your own, pet. From the looks of things, you’ve been the one doin’ the givin’ all these years.”
For a moment, she froze, and Spike wondered if he’d gone too far in bringing up the past so quickly after her tirade. Frankly, he just wanted to bury himself between her legs, and he’d say whatever it took to sweet-talk those dimpled knees apart again. She was addictive, this one, and he was prepared to take as much as he could get before finishing her off.
Then she started to move again. “I need to change,” Buffy repeated.
Disappointment made him retreat, but the Slayer’s hands on his kept him in place. She held them fast in her tiny fingers as she guided them to her hips, and Spike’s momentary regret fled when he realized what she was doing.
“Best to get out of these first, then,” he murmured.
He felt the tiny goosebumps erupt along the curve of her ass as he pushed the small skirt out of his way. Buffy’s hands fell away as he reached for the hem of her top, tugging it upward until the butterfly bow of her shoulder blades was exposed, and he lowered his mouth to suckle at the sweat that still cast a slight sheen along her spine.
“Love the way you taste,” he murmured. His hands cupped her breasts, rolling her hard nipples between his fingers. He was dying to pull his cock out and slam into her, but the heat that practically steamed from her flesh was too exhilarating not to enjoy just a little bit longer.
She twisted unexpectedly in his arms, and Spike was left staring down into her wide eyes. The pupils had practically drowned out the green irises, and some of the color was starting to return to her cheeks, making her radiate with a life that threatened to drown him. “Why do you want me?” she demanded.
“Have you looked into a mirror lately?” he asked. His fingertips trailed along her sternum, down between her breasts, across the flat of her stomach. He smiled when he saw the muscles there quiver beneath his touch. “I’d have to be dead not to want something as beautiful as you.”
“You are dead.”
“And you’re far too literal.”
“What’s in this for you?” she asked. “And don’t tell me there isn’t anything. You’re a vampire. You think the whole world revolves around you.”
His fingers found a wiry curl and tugged, making Buffy gasp. “Your Watcher ever teach you ‘bout your history?” Spike asked. He caught his lower lip between his teeth when he felt the first slick of her pussy, tracing the entrance with a single finger. “I’m the Slayer of Slayers, pet. I’ve killed three of your kind, and the plan was to make you my fourth.”
It wasn’t the answer she was expecting to hear, but her sharp intake of breath was the only visible sign of how much it took her by surprise. “So..what?” she said. “You decided fucking a Slayer was better than killing one?”
“Never said I wasn’t still goin’ to kill you.”
“You said was. That sounds like a change of heart to me.”
He leaned forward, his tongue running along her jaw until his mouth hovered at her ear. “Gotta have a heart in order for it to change, luv. That leaves me out of your little club.”
“You’re such a liar,” she hissed.
She moved before he could pull away, grabbing his head between her hands and dragging it down to slam her mouth to his. Spike decided he wasn’t going to argue with her any more, even if he could. He was going to enjoy this for as long as it lasted.
It was just up to him to make sure it lasted a bloody long time.
She watched him on the small monitors, his lean form slumped against the white wall. “This is taking too long,” Lilah complained to nobody in particular. “At this rate, the Slayer will be long gone before we get anything of value from him.”
“Do you want me to send in the Interrogators again?” the secretary at her side queried.
Lilah shook her head. “The man seems to like it too much,” she said. “Torture isn’t going to work in time.”
She deliberately left off uttering the for me at the end of her declaration. The responsibility of returning Jutta’s Ring to Wolfram and Hart’s security rested solely on Lilah’s head, and she didn’t want underlings sensing her worry that she would somehow fail with this assignment. The problem was, if the Watcher didn’t crack soon about what exactly he’d done with the ring and where exactly his Slayer had hidden it, the underlings would be the least of Lilah’s problems.
He shifted where he sat, his chest gleaming with sweat and trickles of blood, and the movement brought her attention back to the screen. His lips were moving. “Turn up the volume,” she ordered the security guard, and leaned forward, closer to the speakers, in an attempt to hear what was being said in the holding cell.
At first, all she could make out was his rasping breath. The Watcher had already been pretty severely beaten when she’d gotten to him, and she was fairly sure at least one rib in his chest that was broken. With her rotten luck, that number was very likely to be higher.
But then, beneath the exhalations, she heard syllables being forced past his lips, soft and sibilant as he repeated the lone word over and over again.
The seed of an idea took root as she listened to the Watcher, and a smile slowly spread across Lilah’s face.
“Get me the lab on the phone,” she said. “I think I’m about to be brilliant.”
He had no concept of how long he’d already been held by Wolfram and Hart. The pain made the minutes blur into one long, unbroken cadence, and it was all Ethan could do to keep from passing out from it. Only images of what he’d have Buffy do to the stuffed shirts once she got him out and away kept Ethan going.
He heard the door open and close, but the thin sound of heels clicking against the floor stopped him from turning his head to see his new guest. He knew who it was. Not someone who was here to help him.
“Well, now that’s just rude,” Lilah said. She sounded annoyed, and a small flare of satisfaction burned somewhere deep inside Ethan. “I could’ve had you killed already, and yet, you’re still here, breathing in your precious oxygen. If I were you, I’d be grateful.”
“And if I were you,” Ethan managed, “I’d find a new pedicurist.” He summoned all his strength to cast a contemptuous look at her. “The one you currently have does dreadful work.”
She was dressed to the nines, wearing a slinky black dress revealing dangerous curves that had dismantled more than one man in the past, he was sure. Her lips were blood red, her make-up perfect, and in one slender hand, she carried a full glass of wine. Red, of course. That and black seemed to be her colors of choice.
“Do you treat your Slayer like this?” Lilah asked. “Please don’t tell me this is the Watchers’ Council method of training these days. Cooperation by humiliation.” She made a tsking sound with her tongue, and the way she pursed her mouth as she did so made his cock go half-hard. “They’re warriors. They deserve better than that.”
A short bark of laughter escaped his lips. “Rather amusing coming from such a paragon of virtue,” Ethan said. “When was the last time you paid heed to the statutes of right and wrong except to see how you might bend them to your own desire, Miss Morgan?”
She smiled. “You know who I am. I’m flattered.”
“And do you know who I am?” He swallowed down some of the blood that filled his mouth, lifting his chin to give a stronger sense of his power. “You can’t break me, you know. My magic is more powerful than your little mindreaders’. And my Slayer is more surprising than any trick you might have up your sleeve.” His gaze flitted over her bare arms. “Metaphorically speaking, of course.”
“Maybe I’m not interested in breaking you.”
His brows drew together as she crouched down at his side, the glass tipping precariously toward his bare chest. The fruity scent of the wine floated to his nostrils, and unbidden, his mouth watered. It smelled divine.
“Maybe,” Lilah continued, “I’m interested in striking a bargain. You seem like the sort of fellow who knows a good deal when he hears one. And trust me. My deals are always the best.”
“You don’t have anything I want,” he replied.
“Really? See, that’s not the way I understand it.”
Ever so slightly, she shifted her position, and the wine sloshed over the rim, splashing onto his chest and dripping down to his bare stomach. Lilah affected wide eyes. “Oops,” she said, her voice high and phony. “Did I do that? How clumsy of me.”
His lips parted to speak, but before he could do so, Ethan felt a burning start peppering his torso and glanced down to see the scarlet fluid sizzling where it made contact with his skin. Instinctively, his hands jerked to wipe it off of him, but they were held fast by the manacles chained to the wall, and all he managed to do was scrape even more skin off of his wrists.
“The pain doesn’t last too long,” Lilah said casually. “But it could last a lot longer if I were to pour the rest of it over you.”
“That would be a waste of a perfectly good vintage,” he said through gritted teeth.
Her smile widened. “Now that is exactly my thought.” She held the glass just millimeters from his mouth. “I’m told that drinking it doesn’t hurt nearly as much.”
“Why on earth would I take anything you offer? Last I checked, I hadn’t chased any white rabbits lately.”
“You’ll drink it because you’re not a stupid man,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s ingested or absorbed through the skin. It works both ways. Drinking it will save you pain.”
“If it works both ways, why bother getting me to drink it at all? Just pour it over me and be done with it.”
For the first time, her amusement faltered. “Because absorption takes longer to take effect,” Lilah replied. “I’d much prefer to get this business of ours over with, Mr. Rayne. I have an early meeting in the morning. I’d hate not to look my best.”
Ethan clamped his lips shut. Time was already working against him; he was hardly going to gird its efforts even further by swallowing the elixir Lilah so desperately wanted him to take.
She seemed to realize at the same instant he did that he wouldn’t be making this any easier for her. With a nonchalant shrug of her shoulders, she poured the rest of the wine over his chest and stood up, ignoring his screams of agony as the liquid immediately began to sear.
“You’ll probably find it best to pass out soon,” she said as she walked to the door. “It’ll make the time fly all that much more quickly.” Pausing in the exit, her eyes reflected the yellow light from overhead, making them seem almost feline. “When you wake up, Mr. Rayne, it’ll be a brave new world for you. Exciting, isn’t it?”
He could barely breathe by the time she closed the door behind her.
To be continued in chapter 8: Tear Your Web Away…