CHAPTER NINE

Buffy was adding the final square to the perfectly tiered mound of chocolate brownies when she realized that was no longer alone. Looking up, she glanced across the room to where her Watcher leaned against the doorframe between the kitchen and hallway, his green eyes keenly following every little move she made. She didn’t know how long he’d been standing there, spying on her, but it gave her an uneasy shiver to think that Giles had been playing Peeping Tom and she hadn’t noticed him.


“What’s the matter?” she challenged, hiding her discomfort with a verbal frontal attack. “Couldn’t wait for the brownie mountain to come to you, Mohammed?”


“It does smell quite tantalizing,” Giles grinned., stepping away from the door. He sauntered casually toward the kitchen island, crossing the expanse in a few long, easy strides. Circling the island, he glided to a halt at her elbow. “Is something wrong?” he asked.


“Wrong?” Startled by the question, Buffy blushed, wondering if Giles knew what she’d been thinking. “No. Nothing’s wrong. Nothing at all. Why would you think something’s wrong?”


Giles blinked, fixing her with a concerned look. “You cut away all the crusts.” Her blank stare said she didn’t understand what he was talking about, so he expanded on his statement. “The brownies,” he explained, nodding toward the baking pan on the counter. “You have some strange baking fetish that says you can’t serve the crust bits?”


“Oh ” A loud, relieved giggle burst from the slayer’s lips, and she blushed again, hoping that she hadn’t sounded too insane. “They got a little dry around the edges, so I trimmed off the crispy parts. Most people prefer the moist and chewy middles. Besides, if we run out of stuff to eat, and things get really desperate, I can put them out later. I mean, it’s not like they’re burnt or anything. They’re just a little on the crunchy side.”


Reaching out, Giles tentatively picked at one of the thin strips clinging to the pan’s edge. He broke off a small piece, and popping the bite into his mouth, began to chew, his hand poised beneath his chin to catch any stray chocolate crumbs.


“Tastes perfectly fine to me,” he announced, smacking his lips as he licked his fingertips clean.


“Yeah, well I’m not so sure how much weight I’d give an endorsement from someone whose country of origin considers jellified eels edible.”


“Whereas, a nation responsible for such delectable fare as grease sodden hamburgers and over salted instant food byproducts is obviously home to a populace with more discriminating palates.”


“Hey Don’t go knocking our American diet,” Buffy pouted, her lips curling with a trace of a smirk. “It’s all those artificial, unpronounceable ingredients that are keeping us so well preserved.”


Chuckling, Giles calmly leaned in closer, his body pressing lightly against her shoulder. It was an obtrusive proximity, and Buffy found herself having to stifle an impulse to push the Brit away as an involuntary shiver raced up her back.


“I-I couldn’t help noticing,” she stammered, trying to ignore the strange tingling butterflies that fluttered in her belly. “You aren’t wearing your glasses. I mean, you weren’t wearing them, as in, you know, before, when you were reading. Your new demon powers wouldn’t happen to include improved eagle eye vision?”


Giles sighed, and she shivered as the Watcher’s warm breath gently brushed against her ear. “I’m afraid the truth is not nearly so imaginative,” he replied. “I’d simply left them upstairs, and was too lazy to go fetch them.”


“But..." Buffy frowned, fighting to maintain her composure as the Brit continued to invade her personal space. “Don’t you need them?”


“Yes, I do,” Giles returned. “And I’ll probably have one smashing headache in the morning to prove it.”


A delicate chill ran up along Buffy’s spine. Over the years, she had learned to accept being in close quarters with Giles. Their training sessions often included intense physical contact between them, but for some reason, the Brit’s present territorial intrusion was very unnerving. It made her heartbeat quicken and her palms break out in a fine sweat. She was practically swooning at his touch like a giddy little school girl.


And yet, upsetting as it all was, the most frightening thing about what was happening was that she liked it. The sensation that swept over her was strangely exhilarating. As Giles’ shirt front rubbed up against her elbow, she found herself trembling, faint with anticipation, but for what she couldn’t say. It was as if the Watcher’s very presence was charged with an electrifying energy, and she was helpless against its powerful onslaught, her senses reeling unmercifully in response to every innocent gesture of his body language.


Closing her eyes, Buffy felt herself sway. Leaning back against her Watcher, she gave in to temptation. That’s Tara’s coconut shampoo, she thought, inhaling the soapy scent that clung to the Watcher’s body.


Gripping the counter for support, Buffy opened her eyes, and turned to look at her Watcher. Giles was smiling at her. No, correction, he was leering. There was a definite edge of predatory desire in his penetrating green gaze. The pools of knee-weakening color stared back at her so intensely, she had to fight a rise of nervous panic and calm her pulse as it raced like a skittery little bunny running away from the jaws of a big, bad hungry wolf.


The strangest sensation began to insinuate its presence throughout Buffy’s body. She found herself frozen, unable to tear away from Giles’ unwavering gaze. A fiery tingle ran through her, her nerve endings zapping like a thousand tiny electric shocks. It was nice feeling. Exciting. Sensual. It was as if the world had fallen away, and wrapped in an enveloping vacuum of time and sensation, nothing else existed outside of her and Giles.


Giles. Buffy quivered, her body surrendering itself to the Watcher’s mesmerizing eyes. An unconscious smile toyed at her lips, and an unbidden image formed within her fervid thoughts. Vague at first, the picture slowly sharpened, her imagination filling in the missing details. Giles. Tall and handsome. Firmly muscled. Naked and…


Dear, God, what is wrong with you, Summers?


Blinking, Buffy fought to dispel the vision possessing her mind, but it continued to linger, refusing to submit to the cleansing wash of reason. Gotta think about something else. Anything else. Not Giles. Not naked. That is just so twisted. And...perverted. It’s wrong! It’s-it’s…wow How come I never noticed how incredibly beautiful Giles’ eyes are? They’re like a perfect green ocean. And those lashes? No mascara in the world could make lashes that thick and curly. And… Buffy frowned, an uneasy, puzzled feeling settling over her fogged brain. Why is he looking at me like that?


There was a peculiar sharpness in the Brit’s smoldering gaze. She could feel it, suggestive and sybaritic in its intensity. This was not a look she was used to seeing on her modest, subdued Watcher. This was a man’s expression. A strong man, confident and attractive. Sexy. And the more she thought about it, the more she convinced herself that it was true. Giles was sexy. Extremely so. Why hadn’t she ever noticed that before?


Something told Buffy she was treading into dangerous territory, that she should beat a hasty retreat before it was too late. But Giles’ limpid green eyes were so captivating, and try as she might, she couldn’t tear herself away from them.


“Uh, Buffy? You plan on bringing those brownies in here anytime soon? We’ve got starving researchers waiting for chocolate refueling.”


Dawn’s voice penetrated through the hormonal fog enveloping Buffy’s brain. Roused from her trance, the slayer felt a shudder wrack her tense body. Her breath caught in her throat as she realized, in horror, just how close she had come to succumbing to the strange hypnosis Giles was using on her. It has to be magic, she reasoned, nervously sidling away from her Watcher’s contact. What other plausible explanation is there for that insane flight of Gilesean fantasy.


Yes, that’s it! Magic. Magic is responsible for all these nasty little thoughts bouncing around in my head. Well, either that, or Giles has developed some special demon power that makes him irresistible to the opposite sex. No, it has to be magic. Oh, God, he looks so hot and...yipes! I have to get away from him now!


Snatching up the plate of brownies, Buffy mumbled a comment about being needed elsewhere, and without so much as a backward glance, took off like a shot for the living room and the safety of its very public sanctuary.


p> Alone in the kitchen, Giles returned to his scavenging of the leftover brownie pieces. Nibbling industriously at the neglected crusts, he grazed his way around the pan, and sighed.


“Seven years, and she is no less as strange as the day we met. I do wonder if I’ll ever understand what she thinks.”








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