Nancy Holder The Angel Chronicles, Volume 3

ISBN 13: 9780671026318

The Angel Chronicles, Volume 3

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9780671026318: The Angel Chronicles, Volume 3
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While her friends plan a special party in honor of Buffy's seventeenth birthday, Spike and Drusilla plot their own demonic celebration, and Buffy finds herself coping with two evil forces--the nearly indestructible Judge and the legendary vampire Angelus. Original.

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About the Author:

Nancy Holder has published sixty books and more than two hundred short stories. She has received four Bram Stoker awards for fiction from the Horror Writers Association, and her books have been translated into more than two dozen languages. She has written or cowritten twenty Buffy and Angel projects. Her books from Simon Pulse include the New York Times bestselling series Wicked and the novel Spirited. A graduate of the University of California at San Diego, Nancy is currently a writing teacher at the school. She lives in San Diego with her daughter, Belle, and their growing assortment of pets. Visit her at nancyholder.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

Since moving to Sunnydale, Angel had lived in a sub-basement apartment. He kept the lights muted, favoring Japanese-style lamps of paper, and decorated the apartment with only a few prized possessions from his many years of life. It was a lonely place in many ways, but it was his sanctuary as well. In life, he had not been much of an intellectual. But that was one thing he had remedied since becoming a vampire. In fact, he thought too much. And too much thinking led to brooding.

There was a soft knock at his door. It was just past dawn, and he had been fast asleep. Like his evil vampire brethren, Angel slept during the day, if he slept at all.

Muzzily, he got out of bed in his drawstring sweats and moved to answer the door.

"Angel?" Buffy called through the door.

The sound of her voice both delighted and puzzled him. He was unused to seeing her during the day.

"Hold on," he told her, opening the door.

She was beautiful, dressed for school in a very short black-and-white dress and a white jacket. He was very aware of the fact that he was half-dressed as he stepped back to let her in.

"Hey, I...everything okay?" he asked her, his protective concern for her at least temporarily replacing his instantaneous reaction of lust upon smelling her vanilla perfume and sweeping his gaze over her lovely body.

She gazed up at him, searching his face. Her face was clouded with worry. "That's what I was going to ask you. You're okay, right?"

He was thrown by the alarm in her voice. "Sure. I'm fine. What's up?"

She walked in and set down her purse, looking away. She wiped her mouth and looped her hair around her ear, gestures she made when she was nervous or uneasy. "I had this dream that Drusilla was alive."

Drusilla, he thought. The last time he had seen her, she had nearly killed him. In his remorse for what he had done to her, he had almost welcomed the torture she had inflicted on him, splashing him with holy water so that his flesh burned and blistered.

When he had met her back in England during the Victorian era, she had been an innocent young girl tormented by her ability to see visions. Angel had used her fear against her and driven her insane. But first, he killed everyone she loved -- all her family and her friends. When she tried to escape him by entering a convent, he changed her into a vampire the same night she took her holy vows.

He was her sire, as Darla had been his. He had made her what she was. And he, Buffy, and Kendra had destroyed her. Of that he was certain.

But Buffy was clearly upset. Angel asked softly, "What happened?" In a gesture of good manners, and not from any desire on his part to do so, he moved to put on his shirt as he waited for her answer.

Buffy spoke in a rush, looking up at him as if to reassure herself that he was still there. "She killed you. Right in front of me."

"It was just a dream," he soothed, longing to comfort her in his embrace. "It wasn't real."

"It felt so real." Her voice was raspy and frightened. Her eyes were huge in her delicate face.

He tried to satisfy his need to hold her by cupping her cheek. "It wasn't. I'm right here."

She moved her face into his hand, then took a breath and rushed on. Tingles raced through his body. With all the focus he could muster, he tried to concentrate on her words.

"Angel, this happened before. The dreams that I had about the Master. They came true."

The Master -- who had once been his master -- had been an evil vampire king trapped in a ruined church beneath Sunnydale. Buffy had dreamed of him before he made his presence known. The Master had succeeded in actually killing Buffy. Xander Harris, a guy friend of Buffy's who loved her and detested Angel, had brought her back to life with CPR. Angel could not have done it; he had no breath in his lungs to give her. If Xander had not been there, Buffy would be dead now.

Exactly as she dreamed.

"Still," he said now, trying to calm himself as well as Buffy, as he touched the lapel of her jacket, "not every dream you have comes true. I mean, what else did you dream last night?" He kept his voice gentle. "Can you remember?"

She thought a moment. Then she looked a little sheepish.

"I dreamed that Giles and I opened an office supply warehouse in Vegas."

He smiled. "You see my point."

"Yeah. I do." She looked down, then back up at him. "But what if Drusilla is alive? I mean, we never saw her body."

He embraced her gently to stop the torrent of words, and of her fear. If Drusilla's alive, she won't rest until Buffy's dead. And I can never permit that.

"She's not." His voice was firm and he looked at her steadily, though his own alarm was growing. "But even if she was, we'd deal."

Buffy was not placated. "But what if she -- "

This time, he silenced her with a kiss. She tensed for a second, and then she relaxed into it. Her lips were hot against his cool mouth; her body was strong and coursing with energy. The room was charged; the intensity rose in the dark intimacy of his apartment.

The bed, he thought, I'll carry her there, and --

No.

With extreme difficulty, he finished the kiss, pulling gently away, though inside he was on fire. "What if what?"

Her voice was a whisper, as she said, "I'm sorry. Were we talking?"

Oh, Buffy. Sweet Buffy.

Who began the next kiss? They moved as one being; when their lips touched, they both gasped. Arms reached, caressed, embraced; rings glinted as fingers gripped arms and shoulders, caressed necks, and caught up handfuls of hair. The kiss grew; was it another kiss or the same one?

Is there a world anywhere but here, in her arms?

She leaned up and into him; he was bowed slightly over her, wanting her desperately, his passion rising. He lost track of thought; all he was, was need.

And then she broke away, looking a little frightened, and stammered, "I'm sorry, I...I have to go to school."

She turned and almost ran, and though he said, "I know," he followed her, grabbed her arm, and pulled her around into his embrace.

They were kissing again, as they were meant to. He wanted her so much. He needed her.

"Oh, God, you feel -- " she whispered.

In that moment, he knew he had a choice to make. He chose for her, not for himself.

He said, "You have to go to school."

She began to walk backward toward the door. "All right. This is me. I'm going."

Her gaze said otherwise. He pursued her. He couldn't stop himself. Lover, predator -- he was both. Vampires did not ask for things. They did not deny themselves.

They took.

He came up to her and put his arms around her. The door was a welcome barrier to her flight as her back pushed against it. She raised her right hand slightly and it fluttered down onto his shoulder as she moaned. He kept kissing her, allowing himself to reveal how much he wanted her, his need growing, as he neared her neck with his kisses. He almost bit down. She gave a tiny cry, perhaps not realizing what she was doing, and then they both smiled a little. He was, after all, a vampire. Danger was mixed in with the lust, and the love.

Too much danger, Angel told himself, for her. Slayer she might be, but she's very young, and still innocent. It's up to me to be strong.

She would never realize what it took for him to break the mood as he said, "You still haven't told me what you want for your birthday,"

She smiled sweetly at him, looking girlish and a little shy, and said, "Surprise me."

"Okay."

This kiss was the last for now; they both knew it, and there was a calm finality to it that allowed Angel to savor it without worrying about going too far again.

"This is nice," Buffy murmured, more at ease now. "I like seeing you first thing in the morning."

"It's bedtime for me," Angel reminded her.

"Then I like seeing you at bedtime," she countered. She blinked, as if she realized how that sounded. And again, she was a young girl, blushing and stammering, "I -- you know what I mean..."

He took it upon himself to smooth over the situation. "I think so." Then he realized he was not that noble. "What do you mean?"

"That I like seeing you." Her face lost all shyness, if not its heartbreaking sweetness. "And the part at the end of the night where we say goodbye, it's getting harder."

Angel looked deep into her eyes. "Yeah," he admitted. "It is."

They gazed at each other. Neither spoke again.

They were both too afraid to.


Willow could not contain her amazement. She stared wide-eyed at her best friend, her eyebrows hidden by her large purplish-blue felt hat as they walked toward school.

"'I like seeing you at bedtime?' You actually said that?"

Buffy shrugged, but she was embarrassed and excited and well, a little proud, too. Her cheeks were very warm. "I know. I know."

Willow wasn't finished. "Man. That's like...I don't know. That's moxie or something!"

"Totally unplanned," Buffy assured her with a wave of her hand. "It just came out."

"And he was into it?" Willow persisted. "He wants to see you at bedtime, too?"

"Yeah," Buffy said. "I think he does. I mean, he's cool about it."

"Well, of course he is," Willow said brightly. "'Cause he's cool. He would never, you know -- "

"Push," Buffy finished for her.

Willow nodded. "Right. He's not the type."

Loyal Willow. Buffy was so glad she had someone she could really talk to.

"Willow, what am I going to do?"

"What do you want to do?" Willow asked back.

"I don't know," Buffy answered, trying to be honest. It would be easy to pretend she was so virtuous that she wasn't even considering her options. But Willow wouldn't judge her; of that she was certain.

The two sat down at the same time and faced each other. "I mean, want isn't always the right thing to do. To act on want can be wrong."

Willow considered. "True."

"But to not act on want." Buffy frowned at the thought of never being with Angel, really being with him. Her life was not the same as other girls'. Didn't that mean some of the rules were different, too? "What if I never feel this way again?" What if I die without knowing love?

Willow smiled. "Carpe diem. You told me that once."

Buffy was bewildered. "Fish of the day?"

Willow's smile grew into a chuckle. "Not carp. Carpe. It means 'seize the day.'"

"Right." Buffy hesitated. Her heart was racing. Her entire being sang as she realized she had made her decision.

"I think we're going to," she admitted finally. "To seize it. Once you get to a certain point, then seizing is sort of inevitable."

She looked for Willow's reaction -- shock? disapproval? -- but as she had anticipated, Willow was clearly on her side.

"Wow," she said, a bit wistfully, obviously very impressed.

Buffy smiled, feeling a little shy, a little excited, and very relieved. "Yeah."

"Wow," Willow repeated, in the same awed tone.

The school bell rang. Buffy groaned and stood up. Willow did the same, trailing after her.

"Wow," she said again

She caught up with Buffy.

"Wow."

Buffy said, more happily, "Yeah." Then she glanced over at the concrete picnic tables -- more specifically, at a guy sitting on top of one of them, strumming an electric guitar. A large black amp sat beside him on the table. Now it's Willow's turn to think a few things through.

"Hey," Buffy drawled coyly, "speaking of wow potential, there's Oz over there. What are we thinking? Any sparkage?"

Willow glowed. "He's nice. I like his hands."

Buffy was delighted. "Ooh, fixing on insignificant details is a definite crush sign."

"I don't know, though," Willow added humbly. "I mean, he is a senior."

Buffy was unimpressed, although, in theory, she understood Willow's hesitation. "You think he's too old 'cause he's a senior? Please. My boyfriend had a bicentennial."

Willow's voice rose. "That's true." Then she began to lose her nerve again. "I guess...I just..."

Buffy sensed it was time to push. Willow was so good. She deserves a nice boyfriend to go out with and have fun with. Okay, he doesn't know about my secret Clark Kent identity and all the rest of that -- he's not a Slayerette, as Xander would say, but we'll figure out how to keep him out of the loop without making it weird. And speaking of old, unrequited loves...

"You can't spend the rest of your life waiting for Xander to wake up and smell the hottie. Make a move," she prodded. "Do the talking thing."

Willow was not thoroughly convinced. "What if the talking thing becomes the awkward silence thing?"

"Well, you won't know unless you try," Buffy reminded her. Then she moved on ahead, leaving Willow to do just that.


Gulp.

Willow gathered her courage and walked up behind Oz. He was still sitting on the picnic table, strumming his guitar.

"Hey," she said, coming around to his side.

As soon as he heard her voice, he stopped strumming and looked up at her. "Hey," he said back, giving her his full attention. That was one of the things she really liked about him. He knew that listening was more than waiting for your turn to talk.

But here it was her turn to talk again, already! Which I know how to do, she reminded herself firmly.

"Do you guys, uh, have a gig tonight?" she asked, aiming for hip, knowing she was falling oh-so short.

"No. Practice," he answered. "See, our band's kind of moving toward this new sound...where we suck. So, practice."

"I think you guys sound good," she said, smiling. I'm talking to him. Even better, we're talking to each other.

"Thanks," he replied, looking genuinely complimented.

Suddenly she felt a little shyer. "I bet you have a lot of groupies."

A smile flickered over his features, flattered and touched. "It happens. But I'm living groupie-free nowadays," he assured her. "I'm clean."

"Oh." As he looked down at his guitar, she bit her lip. She was running out of steam. Argh. Time for the awkward silence thing.

Then he gazed at her and said, "I'm going to ask you to go out with me tomorrow night, and I'm kind of nervous about it, actually. It's interesting."

Wow. She reeled. Wow.

"Well, if it helps at all," she breathed, "I'm going to say yes."

Oz nodded seriously. "Yeah, it helps. It creates a comfort zone." His smile returned. "Do you want to go out with me tomorrow night?"

Willow winced and clapped her forehead through her hat. "Oh, I can't!" Tragedy! Frustration!

Oz appeared unfazed. "Oh, see, I like that you're unpredictable."

And unbelievably bad timing. "It's just that it's Buffy's birthday and we're throwing her a surprise party."

He was still unfa...

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