Dru's prophecies had never perplexed him. She'd commune with the stars, speak of kings, queens, circuses, and all matter of things. She'd twirl naked under the night sky, singing at the top of her undead lungs, and Spike had never questioned her. Not once. Not when she told him what the night had shared, not when she whispered Miss Edith's nastiest predictions. Others would look at her in astonishment, but he saw naught but brilliance.
A century of brilliance. A century of being her faithful lapdog. A century of thinking her just another misunderstood genius. A century in believing, for all her deceit and treachery, she could do no wrong. Not in his eyes. No matter whom she shagged or how often she stomped on his constantly broken heart, Spike never once lost faith in her sight. If Drusilla predicted it—if she suggested it—then it, whatever it was, would occur.
Though perhaps not always in the way one thought.
It was for this reason that her last vision had thrown him. She'd seen him walking down a darkened path; the right side consisted of shadows, while the left was bathed in sunlight. Upon meeting a fork in the road, Spike hadn't hesitated, hadn't waited a blink before veering determinably for the light.
He'd stepped into sunlight, and he hadn't burned. He hadn't gone up in a spectacular cloud of dust. He'd merely walked.
Spike had had no idea what to make of the vision. For the first time in a hundred and twenty years, he'd looked at his sire and drawn a blank.
Drusilla had known, of course. She had known.
Once she mentioned Buffy, Spike's confusion had melted into irritation. Every other vision Dru had entertained since Acathla had involved Buffy. Buffy, Buffy, Buffy. It was all he bloody heard anymore. How he'd betrayed his immortal beloved by allying himself with the Slayer. How purity and light had blinded him, and how he was lost to her because of it.
Because of Buffy. Because of the Slayer, of all things ridiculous. Spike had done his best to ignore her—Drusilla’s whims were unpredictable at best, but he’d remained diligent in his devotion. In his hope that she would remember how faithfully he’d stood beside her through all her indiscretions and sordid affairs.
It wasn’t to be. Much like before, he’d found Dru necking a puss-oozing demon…and that had been the end. No amount of groveling would salvage what he’d thought was the love of his unlife. What he thought would be the beginning and the end for him. Never had he given consideration to anyone else.
Not of which he’d been aware, anyway. But these past few weeks living in the bottom of a glass had changed him.
Every time he closed his eyes, Buffy was all he saw. Not Drusilla. Never Drusilla.
At first, her intrusion had infuriated him—filled him with such potent outrage he’d find himself fangs-deep in some tarty blonde just to fulfill the fantasy of ripping out the Slayer’s throat. But it wasn’t all rage, and soon he found himself fantasizing about something else entirely. Something not foreign to him where Buffy was concerned, but likewise something he’d never before admitted to himself.
Images of her plagued him. Her perfect, bronzed body. Her soft, supple curves. Her strong thighs. Her firm, delicious breasts. And her pussy—god, how he longed to explore her. Spread her with his fingers and delve into her body, lap at her tender flesh and sample her juices until her legs closed around his head and squeezed him so good he’d suffocate were he anything but a vampire. He saw them together, limbs entwined, bodies moving, her mouth suckling greedily on his cock before he took her again and again and again…
And then she was here. He’d found himself on the move and suddenly she was where he was. Fighting demons. Battling baddies far from home. All alone to stop the world from ending.
It was too sweet to be reality, but he was truly at her side, walking with her up the wooded path toward some Southern castle. She’d called after him. She wanted him with her…though likely not in the same way he wanted her.
Under him. Around him. Squeezing him until the stars fell from Heaven. Holding him close to her soft, sweet body as he trembled.
He wanted to taste her.
Though something told him that were he to say anything, Buffy wouldn’t react all that well. So he walked solemnly at her side as Edgeview came into sight, a silhouette against a darkening canvas.
Edgeview. A skeleton of a house—a monument to America’s war-torn countryside. It stirred memories of boyhood: listening to his parents discuss the short-lived United States. Listening to neighbors chuckle and boast how the fledgling country had barely lasted a century before falling to its knees. Yet it wasn’t flashes of William’s pathetic childhood that caught him off guard, nor was it the tantalizing smell of Buffy’s soft, alluring flesh.
No, it was something different. It started quietly, an inward itch he couldn’t address, rather accept until it faded. Only it didn’t fade—it expanded. His veins hardened and his unbeating heart became, if possible, even more inert. The farther they traveled the more certain he became. Something was wrong…something that made his cold insides colder. As a creature of the night, it took quite a bit to make him shiver…but this was different.
This was something else. Something he’d felt before—felt in New Orleans—but not like this. Never this potent. Never this…
Buffy glanced up sharply. “You feel something?”
“Not…just kinda the tingly I got when I was here before.” She licked her lips, which had his eyes drawn to her tongue before it disappeared back inside her perfectly kissable mouth. Oblivious. The silly chit had no bloody idea how much a temptation she was. “I guess I’ll be missing the ghost tour tonight.”
He perked an eyebrow. “Ghost tour?”
She shrugged. “I’m chasing a baddie who thrives on that kinda energy.”
“So you thought…”
“Give a girl a break. It couldn’t hurt.” Buffy exhaled deeply, shivering. “Giles sent me here with nothing to go on but that this creep has a major jones for all manner of things that go bump in the night…and yeah, while ghosts are on the side of oh please, I live in Sunnydale…where you never say never.” She paused thoughtfully. “Hey, you’re pretty old.”
Just what every bloke wanted to hear. “Thanks ever so.”
“Well, if it’s any consolation, you do wear it well.”
He grinned. That’s a bit more like it.
“What’s your take on ghosts?” she asked.
“I figure you’ve been around long enough to have an answer.” Buffy tossed him a pointed glance. “Also, you hang around with a rough crowd.”
“Baby, I’m the leader of the rough crowd.”
She snorted incredulously. It was a sound he very much should not have thought adorable, but there was no accounting for the way his chest swelled with warmth.
“Thought you’d know the answer to this, pet. Wasn’t it you Angelus got all snuggly with while your school was going all William Peter Blatty couple of years back?”
Buffy stopped short, her eyes going wide. “Oh. Oh, you’re right.”
“Forgot about that?”
“No, I'd thought about them before, but I guess it…” She turned a fetching shade of red, looking away. “I guess I just never… That seemed like a special thing. Like…a one-time incident. Possession and all.”
“Right. Well, yeah, I’ve stumbled across a spook or two.” Every step they took extended the tight discomfort stretching his chest, but he’d be buggered before he admitted as much. “Nothin’ like the rot you see at the cinema, but yeah. Hauntings, regular hauntings, aren’t total bollocks, pet. But like you, I doubt this git would waste too much time dallying with ghosties.”
Buffy frowned. “Well, if he’s really what Giles says he is, then it’d make sense for him to hit up the haunted hot spots. I mean…if ghosts aren’t just designed for tourist traps, then the Reaper’d want as many uglies for his collection as possible. And maybe that’s why it took so long for him to get picked up by the Council radar. It’s only been recently that the bigger demons started to go missing.”
“You think the bloke’s been snaggin’ spirits quietly and only now decided to think bigger?”
“Hey, I didn’t think there were ghosts at all. This is just me trying to make sense of that which is without.” She paused and favored him with a long, speculative glance. “You really look uncomfortable.”
It must be bloody bad for the Slayer to sound worried. Or perhaps he just hoped it was worry. There was no telling these days. There was likewise no denying the sick sensation gripping his stomach, flooding his veins with cold but similarly making his otherwise cool skin to break into a sweat. His feet hardened further into lead with every step forward. He truly did not wish to explore the grounds.
Yet likewise, even when he tried to forcibly bring himself to a halt he found himself incapable. Something was dragging him forward. Something wanted him here.
Something wanted him.
“It’s here, isn’t it?” Buffy’s breath was short and excited. Glad someone was having fun. “It’s here. You feel it, don’t you?”
“I’m feeling something, all right.”
“I think I’ve rethought this whole ‘homing beacon’ thing. I never was a beacon sorta vamp.”
They were right before Edgeview now. The small pathway leading to the back entrance veered for the right, but his feet would carry him no farther. There was something here—something he’d felt before…in New Orleans, but never like this. Never this potent. This sick, cold, terrible, but somehow wonderful feeling spreading through him. He felt diseased but satisfied that the cure was just a few feet away…if only he could find the thing and touch it.
This wasn’t right. Something here was very wrong.
Somehow, he found the willpower to nod. “There.”
“Your boy’s here. I can’t…” His legs aimed in a new direction now, one veering from the pathway altogether and heading for the front door. “Buffy…”
“This was a crap idea,” she insisted, wrapping her hand around his arm. God, his little Slayer had a firm bloody grip. Enough to stop him from moving, of course, but not enough to keep the urge in his body from propelling him forward. “Spike, you’re a walking target.”
“Yeah, love, getting that.” Digging his heels into the ground seemed cartoonish, but he wasn’t above it. “Next time you tell me to bugger off, believe me—”
“You’ll ignore me and get yourself into another mess.”
Spike flashed her a grin, awkward as it was. “You know me so well.”
It was maddening how cute she looked when irritated—it was maddening that he had to notice it at all. Especially at such a time when he had seemingly lost possession of his body. One would think there would be more pressing matters to occupy his mind, but the damn girl had him blinded.
That was until the doors of the manor swung open and a shadowy figure swept down the front steps like every melodramatic two-bit villain to ever grace the silver screen. A creature calling itself the Reaper would be adorned in a wavy black cloak. Like swirling black cloaks were the universal shorthand for big bad evil. Spike would have laughed, but the dueling sensations of helplessness and Slayer-inspired arousal overpowered him. The Reaper didn’t walk so much as glided across the ground, and though its head was shrouded, Spike felt its eyes narrow on him.
“Collecting spooks,” the vampire said loudly. “Bloody hell…”
It was coming for him.
The shadowy figure outstretched a single arm, then motioned to the object it carried in the other. The object that had escaped notice until now. The object the Slayer and her watcher had called Pandora’s Box. It wanted Spike in there—in that crowded cell with fuck knew how many other demons and spirits and nightly creatures. The other doomed beasties that had been exactly where he was now. Had looked at the shadow and wanted…wanted…
It just happened. There was no rhyme or reason to it happening, but it did. The war pounding his temples washed away as though it had never been, and at last he saw the thing the Slayer had warned him about. The glow of Pandora’s Box, the gentle hum, the soothing, irresistible lull of its well-kept secrets. These wore away at his resistance before melting it entirely. The lure of the box was too much. He needed it. He needed it like he needed blood. Needed the box. Needed to crawl inside. Needed to see what secrets it harbored. Needed…
“Lemme go,” Spike ordered suddenly, surprising himself at first with his words, but speaking only confirmed the abrupt burn in his chest. “Slayer—”
The grip on his arm tightened. “No, we need to get you out of here.”
“Don’t tell me what I bloody need!” Fangs tore through his gums and he began pulling against her. Away from her. The box was so close. So close… “I’ll rip your throat out and—”
In a blink, she was in front of him, her body between his and the Reaper. Pandora’s Box disappeared behind her eyes. “Shut up,” she snapped.
Then she captured his cheeks between her hands and brought his mouth crashing down upon her own. And all thought of Pandora’s Box or the wanker in the black dress vanished. Spike moaned, his demon receding, all fight abandoning him as his body seized what it wanted above all else. Buffy was against him. Buffy’s lips molded to his. Buffy. Everything around him ceased to exist. The ground vanished, the house faded, and the Reaper merged into nothing. Reality blinked away, and there was nothing but the pure, unadulterated truth of Buffy. The way her lips spoke against him, brushing his with softness Spike had never before touched. Not with anyone. Not this—this tenderness, this gentleness. Her mouth moved with girlish curiosity, consuming him with her richness. Her taste. Her good.
The kiss hadn't been planned—she was far too tense to have made the conscious decision to snog him. For what cause, he knew not, but he was there to catch her when her body relaxed. When her lips parted with a pleasured sigh, he dove his eager tongue into her wet, wonderful mouth. Exploring, searching, drawing in as much of her taste as possible. Committing her to memory, since there was little chance he'd get to savor her again. But she was here—against him, kissing him with enthusiasm. Holding his chin to anchor him into her mouth with small, hungry murmurs scratching her throat. There was no way to tell if she was aware of herself for the way she leaned into him, her hips swaying against his, rubbing herself against the iron hardness at his crotch, but he was too far-gone to care. All that mattered was that she did.
“Fuck,” he breathed. “Buffy…”
A pause. He worried his voice had broken the spell around him, but only for an instant. She was kissing him again before he could miss her warmth, blinking away coherent thought. All he knew was her heat. Her liquid fire. The scent of her arousal attacked him without warning, teasing his tastebuds, flooding his nostrils and confirming what he already knew. What he'd known long before Dru started sprouting riddles about dark and light paths. He was lost. Spike was completely lost in Buffy. In the Slayer. For whatever reason, he was hers.
“Buffy…” Her name rolled between them on a groan as he sucked at her lower lip. “Want…fuck…want you so much…”
Then she was gone, and the loss was crushing. Spike's eyes flew open.
“You with me?” she demanded, breathless and flustered. That much was satisfying. Good to know her feathers weren't beyond ruffling.
Not that he paid much attention to anything but her moist pink lips, swollen by his ardor. That couldn't be it. She couldn't deny him her kisses. She couldn't give him so much without giving him anything at all—no, he'd taste her again. He needed to taste her again.
However, he wasn't able to put as much into words. All that came out was an ineloquent, “Huh?”
Buffy nodded shakily. “Okay, you're with me.” And before he could dip his head to seize her again, she'd shoved him to the ground. The ground which returned without warning. Then she was gone, flipping in a furious bout of acrobatics toward the all-but-forgotten form of the Reaper.
And suddenly the mist around his head cleared, and he understood.
If she heard, she gave no indication. Her beautiful body threw itself into battle. She was poetry in full form—poetry in motion. Poetry in every conceivable embodiment.
But then, he'd always thought so.
Spike's eyes fell upon Pandora's Box, the burn in his stomach rekindling. It wasn't nearly as potent as before, but there nonetheless, and the wail of the demon couldn't be denied. In a flash he found himself transformed again into the pun of a bad voodoo gig, unseen hands dragging him uselessly toward the Reaper's collection.
“Oh, not good,” he decided, voice tinged with panic, fingers scratching at the earth. “Not bloody good.”
“Oh, no you don’t!” the Slayer snapped as she dug her heel into the Reaper’s chest. She whirled and pinned Spike under a fierce glare. “Dammit, Spike!”
What, did she think he wanted to become a demon trophy? She was off her rocker. “Help me, you silly bint!”
Perhaps it wasn’t wise to insult a woman while simultaneously requesting assistance, but it seemed to work. Buffy materialized just as his toes threatened to skim the box’s surface, smashing her leg into Pandora’s side and sending the thing flying across the night sky. It twisted and spiraled before crashing at the foot of Edgeview’s front steps, rocking to its side and knocking the lid off its hinge.
Then there was nothing.
Nothing until the Reaper shrieked.
“Bloody hell!” Spike barked, scrambling to cover his ears. “What the—”
But there was no point in speaking—the Reaper’s piercing wails consumed every grain of earth. The creature shot across the ground, throwing Buffy off her feet in a fury before bolting toward the fallen collection. Though Pandora’s open lid hadn’t unveiled anything remarkable, the strident panic in the Reaper’s movements was impossible to misread. He commanded the box shut with a wave of his arm, and with a parting faceless glare in Buffy’s direction, vanished in plain sight. A whirl, a breeze, and he was gone, leaving behind only the echoes of his inhuman cries.
The ground felt violated when silence commanded it once more. It took Spike a few long seconds to realize freedom had been restored to his body, a few more seconds to identify Buffy on the ground where the Reaper had tossed her. He climbed hastily to his feet.
“You all right, pidge?”
The frown on her face served as all the answer he needed. It was contemplative, not pained—a look of which he’d made considerable study back in the days when plotting her death had been the preferred method by which to fall asleep, as it always guaranteed good dreams.
Dreams of fighting until they fucked.
Amazing he hadn’t seen what Dru had seen. Amazing it had taken his ex to point out the bloody obvious.
“Someone lit a fire under his cape,” Buffy griped, accepting his hand when he offered it. “What happened?”
“He lost his goods.”
Her nose scrunched up adorably. “Huh?”
“Least that’s how I figure it,” Spike explained, nodding to the place where Pandora’s Box had landed. “You knocked the cap off, love. Wager a few spooks went missing.”
The frown deepened, unconvinced. “But…nothing happened.”
“’Cept the git nearly busted my eardrum.”
“I mean…I saw the lid come off, but it wasn’t anything worth…”
The worry lines on her face deepened. Strange that a girl so young could have worry lines. For the first time in all his years, Spike felt a pang of pity for slayers. A pang he couldn’t describe and didn’t fully wish to acknowledge, yet couldn’t ignore all the same.
“Wouldn’t you think,” she continued, “if he’s collecting demons and nasties, they’d have more pomp and circumstance if they ever got free?”
“Could be the ghosties are all that made it out,” Spike said reasonably. “The last ones in, the first to leave…that sorta rot. It wasn’t open that long.” He paused. “Also, the wanker screamed loud enough to stop anyone from movin’. Maybe that’s why he made such a bloody ruckus.”
“He prevented them from leaving by throwing a hissy?”
“Well, love, could you move at all?”
Buffy deflated at that, poking out her lower lip as her eyes turned in contemplation. Not that Spike was particularly interested in her eyes at the moment—not with her mouth begging silently for his own, and certainly not with the deliciously steady rise and fall of her breasts tempting his empty hands.
Was she going to pretend the kiss hadn't happened?
No, Spike avowed. No, she would not bloody well forget.
He wouldn't let her. She could fight him if she wished, but he wouldn't let her pretend it hadn’t happened. Regardless of her intentions, he knew she'd felt something. No girl moaned like she'd moaned without feeling…
Well, he didn't know what, but he was sure as hell going to find out. Without waiting another beat, he cupped her cheeks and drew her mouth into his, slipping his tongue between her lips without waiting for an invitation.
She tasted so sweet. Tense like before, but only at first. Only until passion overwhelmed her better senses; only until she conceded. Then she was battling him all over again. Whimpering, clawing, nipping, sucking, drawing him into her mouth to stake her claim on his tongue, his lips—fuck if she wasn't careful, he'd toss her to the ground and spread her legs apart. The molten heat of her pussy was going to melt his jeans, anyway, for the way she gyrated her hips against him. She would split him apart if he wasn't careful, and he couldn’t give a fuck.
Her kisses were starved. She would consume him if he let her.
And he would let her.
A gasp drove their lips apart, Buffy's head rolling back, and his lips eagerly accepted the invitation. He pressed hot, wet kisses down her throat, slipping his hands—which had at some point traveled from her cheeks to her waist—further southward until he had ripe Slayer-ass cradled in each palm. “Christ,” Spike breathed against her throat, rubbing his erection against her center with shameless abandon. He wanted her to feel him—feel exactly to what she'd driven him. Feel how desperate he was to be inside. “My…Buffy…”
“So hot. Taste so good.”
“Wanna feel you, kitten. And I know you want to feel me, too.”
There was no account for what happened. One second he was swimming in the Slayer's arousal, and the next he was on his back, woefully unaccompanied by the Slayer in question. It took a few beats to register what had occurred, and another to realize the only person around to have shoved him to the ground was the girl standing before him. The girl whose cheeks were flushed, whose lips were swollen, and whose eyes were dark with lust she couldn't hope to hide.
“What?” he demanded, sitting up on his arms. “Buffy?”
Buffy was looking everywhere but at his face. Twice, her eyes landed on the bulge pressing his jeans and twice they darted away, scandalized. She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. “I…ummm…”
“I like weird,” he retorted, climbing to his feet. “Weird is good.”
“I didn't mean to kiss you earlier.”
Spike scowled. “What? Your mouth just accidentally fell on mine?”
“I was trying to get your attention.”
“Yeah, and you managed fine.”
“It was either that or Spike the Sardine in the Reaper's Box of Wonder.” Buffy crossed her arms, finally gaining back some of that righteous indignation that made her so bloody cute. “What would you have had me do?”
His hands came up. “Make no mistake, I loved kissing you. I just don’t understand why we can’t do it again.”
“Because…we’re…we don’t…” Confusion flooded her eyes. “You hate me!”
Oh, how much simpler his life would be were that true. “What’s a little snogging between enemies?”
“Do I even want to know what that word means?” She held up a hand and shook her head before he could retort. “No. I really don’t. Spike…” A long pause, filled only with the sound of her heavy breaths. “You should leave.”
“Too tempting for you?”
“No, I mean town.” Buffy waved emphatically toward the house. “You saw what happened. If the Reaper finds you when I’m not around—”
“Not seein’ a problem. Just gotta stick close to you, is all.”
“—but even then, there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to stop you from crawling in the box yourself.”
Spike shrugged. “Just make like you did tonight. We should be fine.”
There was nothing for a beat. She just stared at him. “Do you have some massive death wish I should know about?”
“Kinda redundant asking that of a bloke who’s already dead,” he observed. “I told you I wanted to help.”
“And then you changed your mind.”
“Just before the Reaper started working his mojo on you!”
“Yeah, well, I changed my mind again right around the time you snogged me.”
“You’re reading waaaay too much into one little kiss, Spike.”
Seemed she’d worked out what he meant by snog. “There was nothing little about that kiss,” Spike retorted, hooking his thumbs through his belt loops. “And you’re off count.”
Buffy sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’m not going to stand here and argue with you,” she said, hesitating, then breaking for the path they’d walked together. “If you know what’s good for you, Fang Face, you’ll get out of Dodge now.”
“Yeah, well, not one for doin’ what I’m told.”
“You’re also not known for your smarts. Strange how these things tend to go hand-in-hand.” She turned away before her eyes could punctuate her words, seemingly aware that her voice lacked conviction. She betrayed so much in one little gesture. Without being any the wiser, her desperate confusion was on full display.
Christ, he’d really rattled her.
“I’m going back to Maplewood,” Buffy announced, visibly trying to convince herself. Another beat. She hesitated as though struggling to find words, but gave up in a matter of seconds for the more tempting escape of the wooded path.
Leaving Spike to do nothing but watch the rhythmic sway of her hips until she melted into shadows.
“I’m a moron,” Buffy muttered irritably, ripping the comforter down the bed. “Kiss the dangerously sexy vampire to distract him from certain doom. Why, yes, that does seem to be the only option.”
God, he’d tasted so good. Nothing like the few fantasies she’d allowed herself. Nothing like any of the kisses she’d shared. His mouth wasn’t overly remarkable, by any means, but the way he’d touched her—the way his lips had molded against hers—the way he’d flaunted his reaction to her. It had been so long since she’d given thought to sex. After the disastrous popping of her cherry, Buffy had all but decided she belonged in a nunnery. All her life, adults had told her sex was bad and boy, had she ever gotten the memo.
Angel had left her so she could lead a normal life. Have normal boyfriends. Go on normal dates. Bear normal children.
It had been in abstract until tonight. The thought of someone else. The thought of anyone else. The thought of her with someone who wasn’t Angel. Angel, whose face she couldn’t quite summon due to the way her lips tingled still with the echoes of Spike’s kisses. Spike, who wouldn’t leave, even when she demanded it.
Another vampire. She was out of her mind.
Angel’s kisses had never made her burn. Not once, yet she couldn’t stop sizzling from the simple thought of what she had shared with Spike tonight. Perhaps it was the thrill of the forbidden. Perhaps it was knowing exactly how wrong it was. How wrong Spike was.
“Folly, thy name is Buffy.”
The night had at least been somewhat productive, aside from the idiocy that had been throwing herself at the enemy. She’d seen the Reaper. She’d fought him, witnessed him in action, and now she had a fairly good grasp on how he operated his trade. Likewise, she knew the tingle she’d experienced at Edgeview hadn’t been a false alarm. Perhaps there was enough otherness in her to hunt this thing without too much difficulty. And really, the sooner the Reaper was a footnote, the better. Then she could place much-needed space between herself and Spike and get the tantalizingly delicious image of them writhing together out of her mind.
God, she really needed to stop, else she’d start cursing at the top of her lungs. Though her room offered privacy, she doubted the walls were sound-proof. And judging by the rental parked in the drive by the main house, the elderly woman’s son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law had arrived, meaning a Spike-inspired screamfest would disturb at least two more patrons.
Thus, instead of screaming, Buffy changed into her favorite oversized T-shirt and slipped her legs under the blankets. Better to sleep it off and hope for Spike-less dreams.
One could hope.
A metallic crash rendered her instantly awake. Buffy bolted upward with a gasp, wide eyes darting around the dark room as memories fought through the sleep-addled haze to remind her where she was and for what purpose.
It took a few seconds, but everything came surging back with a clarity she was too tired to consider. Bits, pieces, then the whole puzzle. She wasn’t home; she was in Natchez, Mississippi, and she was here hunting a demon.
Then she remembered where she’d been tonight. What had happened tonight.
Kissing Spike. Kissing Spike a lot.
No, no, no.
Thankfully, another noisy clamor chased away Spike-driven thoughts. Buffy tossed the covers aside and made her way toward the door. She had no idea what to expect at this hour; Sunnydale was so much easier to predict. Creepy sounds were always at the blame of some pointy-headed demon. It was the way it worked—the way with which she was comfortable, as it left no room for doubt. However, Natchez was a demonically sleepy town with little-to-no activity marring its past. Nothing that could be attributed to causes from her line of work, anyway. Nothing like she saw on the Hellmouth.
Not until the Reaper came to town.
Perhaps that was it. Perhaps it was the Reaper. Faceless or not—though the jury was still out on that—he’d gotten a good look at her tonight. There was no telling whether or not he’d followed her to Maplewood. Her body had already been buzzed with the aftermath of Spike’s kisses, so if the Reaper had followed her, she wouldn’t have been in the position to notice.
Better to collect a weapon. Just in case.
Buffy inhaled deeply, grabbed a stake off her nightstand, and threw the door open.
To nothing. There was nothing on the other side.
A large weight rolled off her shoulders in the form of a sigh. Pathetic.
“Either never leave the Hellmouth or rethink this semester’s enrollment at UC Sunnydale,” Buffy muttered, poking her head out the door for good measure. The soft glow of the security light above Maplewood’s parking garage peered back at her. Likely set off by one of Jerome’s bajillion cats.
“Okay, enough excitement.” She turned around, tossing the stake onto the bed. “Back to sleep for a certain slayer.”
A shiver of familiarity rang her spider senses. Buffy tensed and whirled around again, her eyes this time clashing with another’s. A familiar crystal gaze with a smirk to match its sparkle. Though she wasn’t surprised, she balled her fist and swung on instinct, only to be captured in Spike’s all-too-firm grip.
“Touchy, are we?”
“Force of habit,” Buffy explained hurriedly, jerking away. “And what the hell are you doing here?”
Spike shrugged, rocking slightly on his heels. “Hiding.”
“Figure the Reaper’s on my tail now and there’s no safer place than the Slayer’s side.”
“I told you to get out of town.”
“Yeah, well, I decided to come here instead.”
Buffy blinked dumbly. “Are you out of your mind? You can’t stay here!”
“Because…this is my room, Spike!”
He flicked his eyebrows and licked his teeth in a way that should be one hundred percent obnoxious and zero percent sexy, yet was somehow the other way around. “One of its more attractive qualities.”
“You can’t be serious.” She shook her head hard. “This is… You can’t be serious.”
“As a sodding heart attack,” Spike replied. “Been givin’ it a lot of thought, I have. The both of us know I’m goin’ nowhere so long as you’re in town. And I stand by what I said earlier…I can help you.”
“If by help, you mean becoming a vamp-magnet the second the Reaper is actually in view. Yeah. Great idea.”
“We’ll work around it.”
Buffy laughed harshly. “Spike—”
“Sweetheart,” he drawled, leaning against the doorframe. “You know you don’t want me to go. You want to want me to go, but you like havin’ me around. I’m here so you’re not alone, yeah? And I know you liked snogging me earlier.” He licked his lips before his gaze dropped to hers. “I liked it, too. Can’t bloody stop thinking about it. How you taste…”
She took a large, exaggerated step back. “There will be no more…that.”
Spike shrugged. “Fine.”
“None at all.”
“Whatever you say, love.”
“And you sleep on the floor.”
A childlike grin spread across his delicious lips. His lips which she so did not favor with a longing, perhaps drool-included stare. “So I get to stay?”
This is the worst of all bad ideas.
“On the floor,” she said, barely hearing herself. “Do I need to invite you in?”
Spike’s grin broadened as he stepped across the threshold. “It’s a rented room,” he said, shrugging off his duster. “I can come and go as I please.”
“If you try anything—”
“I know…you’ll stake me good and proper.”
“Something like that.”
“Mmm.” His eyes fell to her lips before landing on her breasts. “But what a way to go.”
Oh yeah. If her thundering heart and racing pulse wasn’t indicator enough, the sudden need to press her thighs together definitely drove the this is insane nail to bed.
So she was insane.
Buffy met Spike’s eyes, warming under his smile.
She could deal with insane.