Title: How Bodices Get Ripped Chapters
Author: Lisa Marie and Nickle
Rating: PG-13
Category: Romance and Humor
Content: Cordy & Angel
Summary: The gang is back from Pylea and it has been a long hot Los Angeles summer. This takes place just after Angel returns from meditation with the Tibetan Monks but before the real fun of season 3 begins.
Spoilers: ATS Season 3
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Assorted places, please let us know before you post it
Notes: This is a joint venture between Lisa Marie and Nickle, and oh the fun we are having. Hope you enjoy reading as much as we have had writing.
And a very special thank you to Lysa for taking the time to beta.

Feedback: Yes! Yes! Yes!

Chapter 1

"Holden, I know you don't love me, not really, now let me go. We agreed this was a marriage in name only." Jillian pushed against the warm flesh of his sculpted chest, held captive by his strong, sinewy arms.

Holden Montgomery looked down into cornflower blue eyes, held spellbound by the wanton heat in her gaze. Helpless in her thrall, he leaned down and kissed his mail-order bride's soft supple mouth. He had lusted for her since the day she stepped off the train, all prim and proper, and then she opened her mouth and knew he had a witch on his hands.

Jillian Wentworth Montgomery tried to push away from Holden, not wanting to succumb to the magic he was creating. Jillian's lips ached for his to claim hers again, but her head told her that this was madness. When his mouth descended onto hers, she couldn't fight the passion any longer. Holden was insistent, demanding hot kisses filled with lust and passion. His hand moved up her sides and cupped her breast through the soft cotton fabric of her dress. Jillian shocked at the feel of Holden's thumb rasping across her nipple, gasped and opened her mouth. Holden took advantage of the opportunity and plunged his tongue into her mouth, dueling with hers, taking possession.

She finally broke away from his lips, and turned her head away. Breathlessly, she pleaded, "Stop. We mustn't give in to our base natures, no matter how much we burn for each other. We just have to last a year, and then I get my inheritance and you please your uncle and get full ownership of the ranch. We can get this marriage annulled and both go on our own, me back to New York and you here with the ranch."

"If that is what you want sweetheart," Holden stroked her cheek, feeling her warmth of her silky skin. "Is that what you want?" he asked, his voice dropping down an octave, seduction his goal. Innocent as she was, Jillian knew that to give in to his body's demands would change her forever. She had to be strong; she had to remain steadfast in the face of his heated virility.

"You know it is Holden. Now I need to get back to my list of chores, and you need to finish up here in the barn." Jillian pulled out of his arms, her body trembling from the deep caress of his voice, deciding her best bet was to make a run for the house when he let go of her. She picked up her skirts and ran, heart beating beneath her heaving breasts, wanting nothing more than to throw her very being into his manly arms.

Holden watched her bolt from the barn like a frightened colt as his firm mouth straightened into a line of pure frustration. "Hell, it is going to be a long year, especially when those long winter nights hit." Holden went back to pitching hay
into the loft of the barn, trying to ignore the throbbing steel between his legs.

"Cordelia, where is the Walker file?" Angel asked for the third time, finally turning around and seeing that Cordy was lost in the novel she was reading. He moved away from the filing cabinets toward her desk.

"Are you listening to me?" Angel asked, now annoyed.

"What, huh? Oh, I was just about done with this chapter," Cordy looked up from the page she was reading and noticed that Angel had moved from standing next to the filing cabinets to lurking right next to her desk. She hated how he could move so quickly from one spot to another. It was creepy. She leaned back in her chair, resting the novel on her chest to hold her page, and glared at Angel, "What do you want?"

For the fourth time, Angel requested, "The Walker file?"

Rolling her eyes, sighing, "Didn't you look under S?" Cordy stood up, putting her book face down on the desk to hold her spot, and walked past Angel to the filing cabinet. She pulled open the lower drawer and pulled out the file and handed it to Angel.

Angel took the file from Cordelia, feeling the brush of her warm hand against his. "S? Why would the Walker file be under S?" Curiosity had him asking despite the distraction of inadvertent touch. It wasn't the first time her presence had disrupted his thought pattern. It was something about the electricity and warmth that she gave off, especially when she was annoyed or happy or sad. Hell more and more he was noticing Cordelia, regardless of her mood or state of mind lately.

"Duh, don't you remember? They were the ones with the infestation of Slime Demons. Of course it would go under S." Cordelia smiled, brushed past him again and sat back down at her desk picking up her paperback book. She went back to reading where she had left off, trying to ignore the fact that Angel was still standing right next to her, still in his lurking mode. Ever since he got back from Tibet he was obsessing over cases, and was filling his unlife with work. Did he really work out his Buffy issues?

Angel looked down at Cordy, amazed that she was sitting in the office, during office hours, reading something that obviously had nothing to do with cases or demons or work. When he was in charge things were never this lax, Wesley has let things go down hill. Hell everything has gone down hill since getting back from Pylea, demon monks, Buffy, gone. No not gone, Buffy dead, not coming back. Angel was annoyed with the world, a world without Buffy Summers, and now was particularly annoyed at the lack of work taking place in the office.

If Wes wasn't going to do anything about the lack of work being done, then he would. Angel loomed over Cordelia, trying his best to be in intimidation mode. "Well, I guess that makes sense. Did you get the billing out?"

"No not yet." Cordelia didn't look up at him from her book, deciding that if she didn't make eye contact maybe he would just go away. It was hard to focus on the story when he kept asking questions.

Angel suggested gruffly, "Well, don't you think it's a good idea?"

"Hello, just got back from a hell dimension. Jeez Angel," Cordy replied with a roll of her eyes.

"Hello, not a queen here, Cordelia. And it's your job," Angel added flatly, taking the file and stalking back to the main office, slamming the door behind him.

Sticking her tongue out at the door Cordelia shouted, "You're not the boss of me Mr. Moody Vamp!"

Then hearing a whimper, Cordelia looked toward the stairs. Fred had peeked downstairs, but the noise obviously frightened her. All Cordelia saw was a blur as she ran back to her room.

"Great, now he's scaring the guests," Cordelia huffed, putting her book down, and heading up stairs to check on Fred. Angel aimlessly flipped through the file folder, not really looking at the pages inside. A summary of the case that Wesley had written up described what it took to eradicate the slime demons; descriptions of the appearance and smell, what they ate, nocturnal habits, mating habits, and a description of the female reproductive cycles. Wesley was nothing if not diligent in regards to documenting cases.

Flipping a page, 'Draft Invoice' with notes jotted down in Cordelia's distinctive handwriting. While Wesley was diligent in his documentation, Cordy was, well, creative – 'mileage LA office to Santa Monica 25m RT -- $15.37'. He would never think of charging for mileage.

He had thought he was ready to move on with his unlife, to put Buffy behind him and explore his growing feelings for his best friend. That was what was really bugging him, Cordelia. Ever since that first hug when he stepped out of the door to the basement, all he could think about was how much he missed Cordelia while he was gone. How much he enjoyed making her laugh, and the way she smelled and looked the desire to be close to her and feel her warm skin against his cool hands.

Guilt and remorse racked his brain. It was wrong that he could go on without Buffy, right? It should be Buffy that I am still mourning, but only, Buffy died. Part of him knew that slayers had a short life span, but Angel wished that hers had lasted a little longer. Maybe if he had not been Pylea trying to save Cordy from being a princess, he could have saved Buffy.

An image of Cordelia in her Pylean Princess outfit flashed in his mind, and Angel shifted in his chair. Where did that come from? Cordelia, regally and scantily decked out, sitting on her throne, leaning towards the Groosalugg, her lips parting. Scowling, it made him mad to think that she was in love with the Groosalugg. How does anyone fall in love in three days? Plus I have saved her way more than the Groosalugg ever did. And I don't smell.

Refusing to brood about it, Angel stood up from the desk deciding he'd had enough alone time in Tibet. Somewhere between battling the demon monks and the hours spent in the cargo hold of the ship that returned him to Los Angeles, he reaffirmed that it was time to move on from Buffy. With the Groosalugg in Pylea, Angel saw no reason not to act.

Uncertain what he would do, Angel simply followed the urge that compelled him to breach Cordelia's personal bubble, and opened the door between the two offices. Action, he needed to take some sort of action. He was a man of Action, wasn't he, and a 20 year old x-cheerleader was not about to intimidate him.

"Cordy, I..." Angel frowned, looking around the lobby and realizing that she was no longer there, that no one was around at the moment. He felt a huge sense of relief; maybe he was not ready to face his feelings for Cordelia. Sitting in her empty chair, Angel felt the residual warmth and sank back into it. His gaze fell upon the organized chaos across the top of her desk and settled on the book she had been reading. Flipping it to the front cover to read the title, 'Love's Wicked Fury', Angel quickly focused on the artwork. It depicted a bare-chested man with short, dark hair holding a brunette, her head thrown back, and about to be kissed.

Wench. That was the first word that came to Angel's mind when he looked at the artist rendering of the young woman, whose large breasts practically fell out of the old fashioned dress. Angel smiled and thought back to all the wenches he had had over his existence. God, I miss those dresses and girls in corsets. Angel flipped over the paperback to read the summary.

Holden Montgomery – This gruff Texas rancher who has sworn off women, swore he would never get married. That was until his Uncle Jake put a marriage clause in his will. The Double Bar Ranch would only go to Holden if he was married within a year of Jake Montgomery's death and stayed married for a year. Holden had to find a wife, or risk losing everything. A wife was the last thing he wanted.

Jillian Wentworth – A nineteen year old debutant from New York Society. All was right in her world, right until her parents were tragically killed in a train wreck. Jillian discovers that she is now penniless as her mansion must be sold to pay her father's debt and that her trust fund is out of her reach until her 25th birthday. That is unless she is wed for a year, and then her husband would have access to the trust fund. That is when Jillian decided that her only option was to respond to an ad in the paper –'Bride Wanted in Texas'.

Cordelia returned to the lobby having tried yet again to convince Fred that Angel wasn't mad at her, but had no luck. Halfway down, she noticed Angel sitting in her chair lost in thought, no doubt brooding about Buffy. He said he was better, that he was over Buffy after his summer of meditation, but she wasn't quite sure. Knowing that Buffy was the love of Angel's life, unlife she expected years of brooding ahead of them.

Cordy continued down the stairs and stood stationed herself in front of Angel, hands on her hips taking her turn to loom over him as he sat in her chair. "Next time we decide to have a shouting match, let's do it with a little less yelling. We just started getting Fred to come out of her room to eat, even if it is under the table." Cordelia realized that may have been a little harsh by the sad look that crossed Angel's face. But she was mad at the thought of Angel brooding about Buffy for the next, well, ever. "Can I have my chair back please?"

"Sorry. Fred's still hiding?" Angel gripped onto the book, surprised by Cordelia's presence, having not noticed her come downstairs. Hey it was his job to be stealthy, how did she sneak up on him? He stood up and pulled out the chair for her.

"Yes and your yelling doesn't help." Cordelia sat down in her chair, avoiding touching Angel as she passed him to get to her spot. She wanted to get back to reading, because that was how she planned on spending her afternoon. She couldn't solve Angel's Buffy issues. She scanned her desk for the novel, lifted up a few folders, then turned and saw that Angel was holding it in his hand. Cordy arched her eyebrows and glared at Angel. Who did he think he was, certainly not the boss of her anymore. She held out her hand.

Momentarily clueless, Angel looked at Cordy with her hand out, wondering what she wanted, "What?"

"Can I have my book back please?" Cordy pointed toward the novel in his hands. She notices that he doesn't have the "I am the Boss" look anymore, but more of a sad puppy dog. Why did he have the sad puppy look going? Her eyes moved past his face and noticed for the first time all afternoon that he wasn't wearing as black, he had on a light blue shirt. He is so good looking, why does he always have to be so broody and sad?

Angel looked down and realized the book was in his hand and then gave it back to her with a sheepish expression, maybe this was an opportunity to not bicker. "Sure, any good?" Angel asked conversationally, knowing he had no interest in the romance novel considering what the back cover had on it.

"Don't know. It's just brain candy. I need something beachy and goofy to take the sting away, sometimes. I just started this one, but I've been reading books by Delilah Wilder all summer. Can't seem to put them down," Cordy shrugged, sitting back in her chair. Leaning back, she held the book in one hand while playing with the stone of the necklace that Angel had brought back for her as a present of from his trip. All week she had been wearing outfits that would go with the necklace, and hadn't even realized it until now that she fingered the stone. "I thought you only liked books that were old, and smell like my grandmother's house. But maybe you being Mr. Star-Crossed Lover would get into a good romance novel."

"Oh, well, you know, I like reading, and well, I didn't know you liked reading, and thought... yah know, didn't know we had that in common." Angel stuttered. Smooth, yes he was a vampire that was once the Scourge of Europe, having any woman he wanted; now he couldn't make small talk with his best friend. What did she mean he was a star crossed lover?

"Riiiiiight," Cordy said while wondering what was wrong with Angel now.

"So, Cordy, how about some coffee?" Angel asked, getting off the topic of the book, as that had gone so well...not.

Thinking that Angel was trying to boss her around again, Cordelia slapped the book back on the desk and told him, "Hey that would be great. I like mine cream, no sugar.."

"Um. Actually..." Angel hurriedly corrected her. "I meant that we should go out for coffee. Together."

"Did you notice that it's 90-degrees and still sunny?" Cordy was now worried that Angel had lost it. Reminding him, "Hello, you're allergic to sunlight."

Angel looked away from Cordy and toward the day light filtering through the doors into the lobby of the Hotel. Smooth Vampire, right, he was a dork. "Oh, yeah, okay." Angel decided that it was time to gracefully make his exit, as this was not going well at all. "I just thought it would be nice to do something, together." Angel ventured, putting on his best puppy dog eyes look.

Cordy took one look at his expression and all of a sudden felt sad, felt his loneliness. She decided to throw Angel a bone and get him out of the jam he was creating. "Why don't we go out after sunset and you can treat me to an ice cream cone on the Santa Monica Pier."

"Ice cream? Sure, that sounds good," Angel's mind popped up a picture of them walking along the pier at night, strolling along, chatting. It was a happy image. "Pick you up here at sunset?"

"No, pick me up at my place. I am going to go to the gym and work out first." Cordelia stood grabbed her bag and casually dropped her novel on the desk. "Hey this is almost like a date, wish I remembered what those were like." Cordy said flippantly, not noticing Angel as he looked up at her words.

"Your place it is Cordy," Angel agreed quietly, looking forward to an evening with Cordelia. So she hasn't been dating...mmm that is a good thing, no competition.

Cordy swept out of the office, "See you in a couple of hours"

Angel watched her go and then picked up the romance novel, reading these all summer...must be a good author, or maybe this is what Cordy wants from a romance perspective. What if she wasn't joking and thinks this is a date? I mean, she did suggest a stroll on the pier, and that is definitely in the romance category. She did say she couldn't get enough of this Delilah Wilder's writing...so she must be an expert on romance. Maybe I should read a couple of chapters. Get a few tips on what Cordelia finds so fascinating, before going out tonight. Angel took the novel and headed up to his suite to read, then shower and change for his date, his date with Cordelia.

Prologue
H
olden sat back on his saddle and looked over the herd of cattle that he and his uncle were driving north from San Antonio to Kansas City. He loved the peace and quiet of the open range. A man could think in this wide open space. Holden's Uncle Jake rode up, pulling his stallion along side his nephew.

Jake was a much older version of Holden, still handsome given his advanced age. He loved the annual cattle drive north, but his body was protesting. Jake coughed and had a hard time catching his breath. He had a feeling it was going to be the last time he made this route with his nephew, a nephew that was more like a son.

Holden didn't say anything until the coughing fit was over. It had been no use arguing with the stubborn old man; Jake had decided to make the ride and nothing was going to change his mind. Holden looked at his uncle, Jake had purposely caught up with Holden, because he had something to say. Holden decided it was best to wait the old man out, but wondered what it's going to be.

"Holden, ranching can be a lonely life, hours out here with just you, your horse and a whole lot of cattle. Are you sure you want this and not city life?" Jake asked, testing his nephew.

"I tried being a city boy, and being a lawyer was just not my thing, trapped behind a desk. The past 5 years of ranching have been the best of my life Uncle Jake," Holden smiled at his uncle.

"You need to get a wife, son; you need to have a family and children," Jake blurted out plainly saying what was really on his mind.

"I am through with women Uncle Jake. After the fiasco in Boston with Belinda, I am done with women, at least those looking for a permanent status as Mrs. Montgomery," Holden tipped his hat and looked out onto the plains at the cattle moving. Where women were concerned, he didn't mind an occasional tumble, but was not interested in establishing anything of a permanent nature.

Jake cringed at the hussy's name. That money-grubber had told Holden she loved him, when she was really planning how to become a widow very quickly after the wedding. Thank God that Holden had caught her with her murderous lover before they went through with the wedding. Shortly after all that business Holden folded up his law practice and moved west to work on the ranch.

Angel looked and flipped over the back cover of the book, surprised that this was a romance novel. The story was starting out pretty well so far and while it wasn't a classic, no wonder Cordy was hooked. He had yet to discovered any tips on romance, but found that he could associate with Holden. Well, not the whole rancher thing, but enjoying solitude. He could appreciate a man who enjoyed quiet.

Besides, he had liked the time he spent in Montana during the Depression, and that was nothing but open land. Holden certainly made an excellent choice in giving up a law practice. God I hate lawyers.

Maybe this character Holden had the right idea. After everything that had happened with Darla and then Buffy, maybe he should just call it quits with women as well. Then he thought back to Cordelia, and her smile at their ice cream date coming up tonight. Angel would risk going out in the sunlight for that bright smile, he decided. Angel looked back down to the novel, wanting to know more about Holden and his life on the range. Plus he still hadn't read anything that he would deem romantic, and he wanted something he could use on his date tonight.

"I know that, but not all women are like that hussy. I want grand-nephews Holden, and I ain't getting' any younger." Jake said firmly.

"Who knows, maybe I will cave and find a nice girl in San Antonio or Dallas to marry," Holden lied. He had no intentions of ever getting married.

Six months later – December 1849

It had been raining since Jake Montgomery died, three straight days of rain now. Holden thought that was fine, it could rain the entire month and into next year for all he was concerned. They had buried Jake earlier that morning in the cemetery at the back of the ranch, in a plot next to his wife, Millie, who had predeceased him by almost ten years.

Holden swirled the bourbon in his glass and looked out the window, not listening to what the lawyer had said about Jake's last will and testament. He watched the cold rain fall against the window panes.

"Did you hear what I said, Holden?" Greg Lassiter questioned, holding the document in his hand.

Holden turned to his friend, and away from his grief, "What was that?"

"Your uncle, he has a clause in his will about you getting the ranch. He says that for you to inherit, you need to be married within one year of his death and stay married for a year. If you don't, the ranch is to be turned over to the State of Texas, to do as they see fit," Greg said for the third time, not believing what he had read in the old man's will.

"Married?" Holden blurted the word and then shook his head. "Uncle Jake sure as hell was stubborn. That is all he has talked about since the cattle drive. Getting me hitched was all that he talked about and grand-nephews."

Greg chuckled at his friend's dilemma. "Looks like you don't have much choice."

"Sure I do, when the year runs out I will have enough cash just to buy back the property from the State. Shouldn't be a problem," Holden added casually, taking another sip of bourbon.

"I wouldn't count on that. Governor Pete Bell is all about claiming land to expand Texas Territory. He finds out he has a chance of getting this ranch and no amount of cash will get the thought out of his head," Greg warned, pouring more bourbon into his own glass and then refilling Holden's glass.

Holden downed another swallow of the liquor, letting it dull his senses, not wanting to deal with death and the thought of losing what had come to mean so much to him. "So what do you suggest?"

Both men were handsome, cocky and enjoyed a good tumble with a cute girl like any other red blooded Texan. "Holden, from what I have heard from the ladies around her, you're a pretty good catch, not that I really believe it." Greg snickered.

"Greg, you know that the problem with a local gal is that she will not want to end the marriage after the year is up. I don't think a Texas girl is an option" Holden was enjoying how numbing the bourbon was making him feel. The thought of getting married made him want to stay drunk for a month.

"Have you thought of mail-order?" Greg asked casually, thinking that if Holden Montgomery set his mind to it, he could have any girl of his choice.

"Hmmm, mail order...interesting idea," admitted Holden, finishing off the bourbon, deciding that he would get drunk, and hoping maybe when he woke up in the morning the nightmare would be over.

Angel looked up at the clock and saw that he had been lost in the novel for a while. Now only an hour before sunset, he still wanted to shower and change before picking up Cordelia. He put down the novel, beginning to understand why Cordelia had been so taken with the author and headed towards his shower. Mail order bride, hmmm what a concept indeed.

Cordy came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel with another wound around her hair. She had a great workout at the gym and now was looking forward to indulging in a guilt-free double scoop of double fudge chocolate. And it was going to be nice to be alone with Angel. Hey, where did that thought come from? Cordy shook it off and pulled out a tank top and jeans from her closet.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

"Dennis, if that's Angel, let him in, okay?" Cordy called out to her ghost. Shortly after that she heard the door swing open and Angel thanking Dennis for letting him in.

From the living room, Angel's voice rang out, "Hi, Cordy."

"Hey Angel, I'll be out in a minute. Just running a little behind," Cordy shouted back from the bedroom.

"So Dennis, how's it going?" Angel asked the ghost, figuring it was only polite. Of course the phantom wasn't one to strike up a conversation exactly. Dennis flicked the light on the table in response.

"Good, I guess," Angel said awkwardly, not sure what else to say to the ghost. He was saved fortunately by Cordy walking into the room. "Cordelia, you look nice," Angel said taking in the green tank top and jeans she was wearing. Truthfully, she would look good to him wearing a potato sack.

"Well duh, of course I do," Cordelia brushed off the compliment, "and it is good to see you in a color other than black." Cordelia realized it wasn't only the color of his shirt that she liked, but they way it fit across his broad shoulders and fell down to his tapered waist. Her eyes moved back up to his face and got lost for a moment in his charming good looks. She blinked for a second, realizing that she had practically described him as Delilah Wilder would have one of her heroes. She laughed inwardly, because truth told, Angel was her hero.

"Ah, thanks, are you ready?" asked Angel, nervous about the compliment himself, suddenly thinking maybe he should have gone with the black silk shirt instead.

"Yes, starving here, you may need to feed me more than just ice cream." Cordelia said, eagerly taking Angel's arm, ready to put some food in her grubbily stomach.

"I don't know if my budget can afford that, Miss Chase." Angel joked half-seriously, liking her hand wrapped around him, feeling the warmth of her body so close.

"Don't be cheap, Angel. Let's go," Cordy pulled him to the door. "Goodnight Dennis!"