The dreams began that night.
Her body was worn, her muscles screamed for a hot bubble bath. Her mind was stuck on replay. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw the fight again. She heard every word, felt every punch, relived every humiliating second and was no better off for it.
He killed slayers, Giles said. The guy that called himself Spike killed slayers. He’d made a career out of it, and evidently, it was the reason he was here now. Because she was the Slayer, and he killed slayers. It was what he did.
He was strong. She’d never faced a vampire, other than Angel and a few of the Master’s older goons, that she hadn’t been able to kill on first try. Spike was old, yeah, but not as old as some. Not as old as Angel, and not nearly as old as Luke or Darla or any of the fang-faced buffoons that had caused her grief the previous year.
He was strong. Way strong. Stronger than any vamp she’d faced. Hell, Buffy wasn’t convinced she couldn’t have rendered Angel very much of the dusty had such been her ambition. The few times they’d fought each other rather than side-to-side, she always gained the upper-hand.
Though that could be explained rather easily. Angel had this silly notion that Buffy needed to be guarded—that she was the perpetual damsel, and hurting her would upset the balance of the universe. Never mind that she’d, oh yeah, died less than six months ago. No, Buffy was definitely a delicate little flower.
With as hunky as he was, Angel could be annoying as hell when he set his mind to it.
Something he assuredly had passed onto Mr. Sexy Brit Vamp. While picking up the debris of Parent Teacher Night, Angel had confessed that Spike was one of his vamp-kiddies, or whatever term he’d used to describe it. So her kinda-boyfriend was completely responsible for the current pain in her ass. The current incredibly sexy and oh so ruthlessly dangerous pain in her ass.
She couldn’t escape him. She showered and he was there. She brushed her teeth and he was there. She changed into her flannel jammies and he was there. He snipped at her, mocked the pain he’d caused whenever she flinched, whispering little taunts, promising the next time they saw each other he’d use her blood for mouthwash.
Buffy shivered hard and shook her head, flopping onto her mattress, wincing and biting her lower lip to keep her moan from touching the air. Things would look better tomorrow. Once her shoulders stopped aching and the pain in her side didn’t throb every time she turned.
A long sigh trembled through her lips. Things would look better tomorrow.
They had to.
He was the first thing she saw when she entered the room.
“Hello cutie,” he drawled, his azure eyes sparkling as he sized her up. “Fancy seein’ you here.”
Buffy blinked and froze. She was standing in what appeared to be a motel room. There was a bed in the middle of the room. An unremarkable bed, but a bed nonetheless. A bed that looked like it had recently been turned down by room service, minus the decorative chocolate mints. Buffy was standing in the far corner, trapped between the wall and a writing desk. There was a nightstand—topped with a lamp—between the bed and the closet. And in the small narrow stretch of hall that led to the exit was Spike.
What on earth was that asshole doing here?
Never mind that…what was she doing here?
“Where the hell are we?” Buffy demanded.
“Motel 6, near as I can figure it.”
“And…you’re here, why?”
The vamp shrugged, sliding a hand into his duster pocket and retrieving a pack of cigarettes. “’S my dream,” he retorted. “I tend to turn up in my dreams. Besides…I figured you’d be here.”
“You did?” she replied, blinking in surprise. Then she shook her head hard. “And—excuse me, your dream?”
Spike’s brow furrowed as he lit up. “Well,” he drawled. “Yeah.”
“I…wish? I wish my nights were spent in a filthy hellhole with the bint I’ll be killin’ come hell or high-water?” There was a long pause, his long, slender fingers stroking his chin in mock-thought. “You’re right, love. This is a real ball-buster.”
Buffy tried hard to ignore the rush of adrenalin that seized her veins, shivering hard and shaking her head. No matter what—no matter that she was standing in the middle of an illusion, speaking to a vampire whose dust would very soon be in her past—she refused to let any incarnation of Spike get the better of her. If he bested her in her dreams, what hope did she have for reality?
Giles was always saying the mind fought ninety-five percent of the battle. And up until now, she’d thought he was full of old-man crap. Maybe this was her mind’s way of letting her know her watcher wasn’t as hopelessly hopeless as he appeared most of the time.
Maybe the way to beat Spike was to get to know him.
Buffy balked and winced. Okay, she’d seriously gone loopy. Even if that did make sense, this wasn’t real. It was some crazy post-fight dream, starring the brand new bane of her existence. Not really much to figure out there. No matter how real it looked or felt. The motel room was about as real as the tooth fairy, and only half as believable.
“You’re just a sore loser, aren’t ya?” Buffy countered when she realized she hadn’t spoken in a few, awkwardly real moments. God, even her slayer dreams couldn’t replicate the way a vamp’s eyes burned while sizing up prey—and unless Angel was making a cameo, her dreams were never specific. Especially when it came to people—or devastatingly-sexy-but-oh-so-evil bloodsuckers—who were new to her life. Spike’s eyes were bright and lively, and God help her, but they swallowed her whole. For a minute, she could have sworn she was drowning in the ocean.
He had gorgeous eyes. Those gorgeous eyes had distracted her the first night—the night when he’d clapped and stepped out of the shadows. Instead of quipping and being her normal punny self, she’d done little more than stare blankly and fire inane questions. Thankfully he’d sported his bumpies tonight; there was no chance of getting lost in those eyes if he looked like every other vamp she dusted on any given night.
“Haven’t lost anything,” Spike countered, licking his lips. “I dunno how you’re used to doing it, Slayer, but I’m not the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kinda bloke. When I start somethin’, I intend to enjoy every sodding minute of it.” He paused and ran those sinful eyes over her body in a way that had her twitching and feeling very much aware of her southern parts. “You’re gonna be a right treat, you are. Can’t wait to get a taste of you.”
“Get used to disappointment.”
He grinned. “Big talk for a chit whose mum had to ride in to the rescue. There’s a word for people like you, love. Whas’sit again?”
She rolled her eyes, trying hard to suppress a shiver. “Oh please,” she retorted, crossing her arms, her body wound tight. “Don’t tell me strong, modern women intimidate you.”
“On the contrary, there’s nothin’ better.” Spike grinned, sucking hard on his cigarette. “The harder they fight, the better they taste.”
“Hello.” He waved, his eyes narrowing. “Vampire.”
“Yeah. And you wanna take a wild stab at how many of your kind I’ve turned into itty bitty dust particles in the past three years?” Buffy retorted, rocking enthusiastically on her heels. “I’m sorry—you just don’t inspire me to push the Big Fear button. So you messed up Parent Teacher Night. The big? Not seeing it. And hey! You even did me a favor. My mother’s all with the impressed on how thoroughly your ass was handed to you by yours truly.”
That much, at least, had the over-confidence in his sexy eyes melting into indignation. Buffy honestly wasn’t sure which she preferred.
She shrugged and swallowed rigidly, doing her best to hide how hard she was trembling. Even knowing it was a dream, but she couldn’t keep herself from shaking like the proverbial damsel. It was stupid; Spike couldn’t reach her here—not when he was a figment of her very tired but endlessly overactive imagination. “Well, if you can’t handle the truth.”
“The truth?” he barked, stifling an incredulous laugh. “Your definition of truth must be a bloody kick. The truth is your mum is the only reason your corpse isn’t rotting in my freezer. If anythin’, you were outdone by a middle-aged an’ painfully average human. A human that could’ve gotten killed. She walked stupid into a situation an’ got lucky. Think that’ll happen again? Think she’s gonna be lucky every time? Think she’s always gonna be there to have the Slayer’s back?” He waited and smiled when he was rewarded with cold, angry silence. “’S what I thought. Sorry, pet. That’s gotta smart.”
Buffy swallowed again, shoving her anger aside. And boy, was that a mistake. Anger was the only thing that kept her from the accuracy behind his words. She really didn’t want to think of how right he was. Spike had truly had her at his fingertips, and she’d be one pulse short of a living slayer had her mother not stepped in and gotten all axe-happy.
There was really nothing to say in rebuttal, so she decided to throw his words back in face and hoping they stuck. “And here I thought you wanted to savor the hunt—hence the non-deadness that is me.”
Spike shrugged again, his lips massaging his cigarette like a lover. She did her best to ignore it. He was sexy enough without focusing on specific body parts.
“That’s right,” he agreed. “But if you think that means I would’ve turned away a freebie, you’re off your bird. ‘Sides, once this dance is over, I got me the next chit to off. An’ if I don’t get there in time, there’s always the one after that. The possibilities never end for me, see. That’s the good thing about slayers. One kicks it an’ the next one gets all Chosen an’ the game starts again. The only thing that changes is you—what you bring to the dance.”
His eyes did the rakey-thing again, and those so were not shudders racing down her spine. Nope. Next question, please.
“I can’t wait till round two,” he concluded.
“It’s not like vamps to look forward to their dusty ending, is it?”
Spike chuckled and shook his head, and damn if he wasn’t the most infuriating jackass she’d ever seen. Was there anything that unraveled him?
“You got spunk,” he murmured. And gah, she should not react to him like some love-struck schoolgirl. His voice should inspire revulsion—not exhilaration. She should be clenching her fists in rage, not her thighs in excitement. Spike just grinned, undoubtedly knowing exactlywhat he was doing, and took a step forward. “I like spunk.”
“Yeah. Now ask me if I give a damn.”
The grin broadened. “Case in bloody point.”
A small, pitiful growl tickled her throat and she threw her arms up in exasperation. This was definitely a downside to realistic dreams. She’d never been so annoyed while sleeping. “So that’s it, then?” she demanded, her brows perking. “You came here to kill me, which you’re determined to do by haunting my dreams and taking shots at my mother. Well, I—”
“Don’ flatter yourself, pet,” Spike intersected with a snicker. “Never said I came here for you.”
She frowned, her anger melting into confusion. “But I thought—”
“Giles said you hunt slayers.”
Spike’s eyes narrowed. “Who the bleeding hell is Giles, an’ how does he—”
“My Watcher, brainiac.” Buffy rolled her eyes. “God, for someone who boasts as much as you do, you’d think you’d be able to pair an obviously British name to a very British occupation.”
He scowled around his cigarette, then tossed it to the ground and stamped it out beneath his boot. “You think I’m gonna let you smart-off ‘cause this is a dream, don’cha?” he said, his voice dangerously soft. “You think that I won’ remember how much of a royal bitch you are, or let you off jus’ because this isn’t real. Got news for you, Slayer…vamps don’ give much of a damn for logic or reason.”
“Really?” She blinked. “Could’ve fooled me.”
“I can keep you alive as long as I like, you know. Learned from the sodding best.” He paused and grinned. “That’d be your honey. The giant fanged teddy-bear that walked you home t’night.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Please. If you think you’re gonna scare me with horror stories of—”
“You obviously haven’t heard any, else you’d be scared enough already.”
He snickered. “Would if I could, love. You’re not exactly a bloke’s idea of a good time. Besides the killin’ an’ all.”
“Wow…see, if I gave a crap about what you thought, that’d actually hurt.”
Spike just grinned again, damn him. She hated that grin. It was all with the condescending and the super annoying ‘I-know-something-you-don’t-know.’ How third grade was he, anyway?
“I can see why Angelus likes you,” he purred, his eyes doing the vertical dance once more. And no, she definitely didn’t miss the way they lingered on her boobs. Even in her dreams, guys were thorough pervs. “He prefers his women with fight in them.”
Buffy shuddered, her mind automatically setting her down a path she didn’t want to travel. Ever since the Darla incident last year, she’d done her honest best to both ignore Angel and his less-than-reputable past. And okay, so waiting around the Bronze for him wasn’t exactly the best way to display her honest best; nor was grinding against Xander to the point where she learned way more about the male anatomy than she cared to at the moment. None of that meant her intentions weren’t in the right place.
“The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, kitten,” Spike quipped.
“Ugh. Cliché much?”
He shrugged, unbothered. “Clichés become clichés because most of them hold some truth.”
“Oh, I’m gonna. An’ if you’re a good li’l slayer, I might even make it fun for you. Jus’ a little, yeah?” A dreamy look overwhelmed his eyes, and he shivered hard with a good surge of anticipation. “Ahh. An’ Angelus can have a front row seat. Watch his woman scream another bloke’s name before—”
He blinked. “What?”
“You really think that—”
“You ever been bitten before?”
The second the words touched the air, the Master’s mark on her throat began to burn. Buffy stifled a whimper and slapped her hand across the scar, doing her level best to ignore the violent shudders that had her suddenly yearning for a waste-bin in which to vomit. “Yes,” she choked, just barely missing the surprise that flooded Spike’s eyes. “Yes…and there was…nothing orgasmic about it.”
Cold silence followed, but she didn’t care. Her mind had dragged her back to the Hellmouth. To the cavern she’d wandered into so stupidly. Suddenly, her arms were heavy with the weight of an invisible crossbow. Her legs were covered in a white gown. She fired one lousy shot and, for all her training, for all the vamps she’d killed and the monsters she’d defeated, she still lost. She lost without putting up a good fight. She fired her crossbow but she couldn’t beat his eyes. With every blink, she saw him, and she lost all over again.
“Who?” Spike asked softly, pulling her out of her reverie. Of her dream within a dream. And as much as she hated him, she couldn’t help the gratitude that flooded her veins the second her eyes met his again. “Who got a taste of you?”
God, why was she telling him this?
Because it’s a dream. It’s not real.
Didn’t matter. It felt real enough.
“It’d be different with me,” Spike said. And then he was close. God, he was so close. Another step, and her breasts would be against his chest. And perhaps because she knew it was a dream, she didn’t fight or step back. She didn’t attempt to regain the space he’d stolen. The cold she’d felt in the cavern—in even remembering the cavern—was gone. Spike was standing right in front of her, and damn if he didn’t smell as good as any man she’d ever met.
Dreams are deceiving.
“It’d be different,” he repeated, running his index finger over her faded scar. “Master din’t much care if you got off, I reckon.”
Her throat was suddenly hoarse. “A-and you would?”
“Oh yeah. That’s half the fun, sweetheart.” A pause. When he spoke again, his mouth was right at her ear. “I’d take my time with you. Slayers One and Two were business with jus’ a dash of pleasure. You…you, Slayer…I think you’re gonna be the other way around.”
She swallowed. Hard. “Do you?”
“Din’t dream of the others,” he replied with an easy shrug. “Not at all. An’ yet you’re here. In this room. With me.”
“It’s not real,” she reminded him.
“All the more reason to enjoy you.” Then he stepped forward again, and her breasts were pressed against his chest, and something of his—something very hard of his—was against her stomach. A flood of heat washed between her legs; all at once, she felt very hot and very…wet. And sticky. Like watching a dirty part in a movie, only magnified times a thousand.
“I’ll make you beg for it, Slayer,” Spike purred. “I’ll strip you down an’ tie you up. Think you’ll still hate me when I’m fucking you with my tongue? When your luscious tits are between my fingers? When I rub your clit till it’s worn out its use?”
Oh. Dear. Lord. She was going to faint. God, she was going to totally do the girl thing and faint. In her own dream. In front of a hallucination of her current worst enemy. There wasn’t enough mortification in the world.
But God, could anyone blame her? Her face was hot and she was more than just a little lightheaded. Spike moved against her as he spoke, rubbing what had to be his erection into her belly and gently running his hands up and down her arms. He was telling her how he was going to use her body before he killed her, and he was doing it while caressing her skin with gentility that offset the inherent cruelty in his words. And she was responding to him.
“I’ll bring you to the edge so many times, you’ll be beggin’ me to take the dive.”
She swallowed. Hard. “You wish.”
“’S a promise, love. Not a wish. You’re gonna love me before this is over. An’ the second that happens…”
For the way she gasped when he gently sank his blunt teeth into her neck, she could star in porno movies. It was a gasp to end all gasps—one that could only be followed in shame. Only there was no time for shame. Her hands flew instinctively to his forearms, her hips arching upward with foreign need. She was on fire—she was burning in ways she’d never burned before. And Spike was there. Spike’s mouth was on her throat—on the bite mark the Master had left behind. He growled into her skin, evidently tossing whatever he’d been ready to say out the proverbial window for the want of driving her even crazier than he had already.
This was sick and twisted and God, she needed more. She needed him to strip her pants off and feel between her legs. She needed him to do something to ease the fire he’d set loose in her body. She needed—
She needed him to say her name.
And perhaps because she knew it was just a dream—that everything around her would return to normal the second she opened her eyes—Buffy just stopped caring. She stopped caring altogether. It wasn’t real. Nothing was real. She couldn’t be blamed for something that wasn’t real. For doing something in her mind while she slept.
She couldn’t be blamed for anything in here.
So she fisted his hair and dragged him away from her throat, ignoring the shared whimper of protest that tumbled through his lips. “It’sBuffy,” she growled, then attacked his mouth with hers. And immediately, any teeny sliver of doubt that this wasn’t real was banished, because there was no way any man could ever taste this good. He was sin and decadence; he was lust and fire. He tasted of cigarettes and whisky, of blood and leather. He tasted of everything she’d always sworn she’d never want. He was danger. He was evil.
He was hers.
“Slayer…” he whimpered, sucking her lower lip into his mouth.
“Buffy,” she growled again. “It’s Buffy.”
Spike nodded furiously, swallowing her in another kiss. “Buffy,” he agreed. “Buffy.”
He nipped at her lips. “Buffy.”
“Uh huh.” His tongue stroked hers with fire she’d never felt before. Not with any of the laughable boys from her old life; not from Owen. Not from anyone. Not even Angel. Her dream-Spike blew every little girl expectation out of her head, and she knew without cause or reason that she’d never feel this again. Not in reality. Not with anyone but him. With Spike.
It was wrong, but it was a dream. It was only a dream. Dreams weren’t real.
Then something happened. Something that stole the dream from her fingertips. Something horrible enough to qualify as reality. Spike froze and jerked away from her with an angry growl, shoving her into a pit of endless cold. She froze, her heart hammering. Rejection split her veins. Every inch of her numbed.
“You think it’s that easy?” he snarled, shoving her into the wall, his eyes blazing with yellow. “You think you’re gonna distract me with—”
“I don’ do Angelus’s leftovers, blondie. Not anymore.” He backhanded her, and the smack rocked her head back with pain that felt anythingbut dreamt up. “You can’t make me…I broke her. She’s not his anymore. You can’t make me forget that. You can’t make me want you.”
Buffy blinked. “Spike, I don’t—”
“An’ if you think you can tempt me with that juicy li’l pussy of yours jus’ because it’s his, you’re in for a rude awakenin’.”
“I don’t want you. It’s a sodding miracle anyone does.”
And with that glowing blow to her self-esteem, Spike whirled around and stormed into the hall, leaving her only with the thunderous echoes of his footsteps.
Footsteps that couldn’t get away from her fast enough. Even in her dream.
Buffy had never been so grateful to wake up in all her life.