The Marriage Deal

New fan fiction challenge : The marriage deal .

The deadline : open

Timeline: up to you

Rating : up to you ( PG, PG-13, NC-17...)

The Idea :

* This is an AU fic.

* Angel has to have a wife to receive very fat inherence.

* Buffy have one sister in jail, one in depression, her parents just died and she have no money.

* The deal has been made.

The cast:

Buffy - 20 year collage student, have two sisters. " I really don't want to do it, but my sister - Faith has some issues with being adopted and killed her abusing boyfriend three weeks ago and Dawn been moping since our parents been gone. I have no money and no education and Angel seems like a decent guy and a lawyer ( I really need one right now for Faith). So I think I will take this "deal" , it's only three years. What deal? I really don't like thinking about it..."

Faith - 22 year old , adopted at the age of eleven by Buffy parents, in jail at the moment. " I really didn't meant to off the guy, but it was him or me this time and I really didn't want to die, Buffy thinks that i do the things that I do because of some adoption drama, right... I went from a dump to a house with a dog and where everyone just so damn nice, ha... maybe that it... the niceness of them all, specially B... Anyway, I think B did something stupid, cause now I got that hunky lawyer, that B married to ... and she didn't looks married to me, like... no glow or something... when B happy she got the glow thing going on..."

Dawn - 15 year old, the younger sister, honor student a few month ago, now failing most classes. " I really thought that i've got it all, till my parent died and left me to Buffy, i've though that next stop going to be foster care, i mean I love my sis and all, but she don't really have what it takes to take care of me ... That Angel guy, I don't trust him, Buffy not that kind of girl to get married in a week and now that Faith getting out of jail, I just sure that there is something not to great smelling here. They don't touch much and lets face it, if I had a husband that look like that - I would be touching every chance i've got. But it's not to bad - I've got a new home and lot's of clothe and I think a lot more money and Buffy not to sad... We just have to wait and see what will happen next"

Angel - 30 year old, lawyer, his uncle died and he about to become multi millionaire, provided of cause that he will gets married and stayed married for three years - all before his 31 birthday. " Did you ever heard that money only bring trouble, they right.. I'm a part of a big practice and I know plenty about wills, but can honestly say my uncle outdone himself with his and now I need a wife for three years, someone that I can trust and someone who don't cling to me after... That bring a big X on all my former lovers / girlfriend and then I meet her... She perfect ... So .. we wrote a contract, she gets to be a very wealthy woman and I get a wife in name only for three years. Simple, right ... Only now I have those felling and I think how soft she is and how good she smells and she has that tiny tattoo .... So... it's a marriage deal for three years with no felling involved, none at all..."

TITLE: The Marriage Deal

AUTHOR: Michelle

RATING: PG-13 (for now)

DISCLAIMER: Not mine, never will be. If they were, the characters would be a heck of a lot happier, and so would the fans.

COUPLES: B/A

SUMMARY: Buffy is forced into marriage to Angel. Answer to Victoria?s challenge.

1

"I had a really good time tonight, Buffy," Riley Finn told her as he made the right-hand turn onto Revello Drive. "It was a lot of fun. Did you have fun?"

Buffy Summers, who had been staring out the car window looking at the passing houses, sighed. "Yeah, fun. Definitely." She didn?t want to hurt his feelings by saying she didn?t, which would have been the truth. It was their first date and destined to be their last.

"Are you busy tomorrow night?" he wanted to know. "We could go to the Bronze again."

?Again. Wasn?t tonight humiliating enough?? While Riley was a perfectly nice guy, Buffy didn?t think she could handle one more date with him, especially at the Bronze, where only an hour earlier he had started break dancing in the middle of the dance floor. "I don?t think so. I promised my little sister we?d do the ?girls night out? thing tomorrow. Sorry."

He smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "That?s okay. Maybe some other time." Riley caught sight of the flashing lights ahead of them. "What?s going on up there?"

Buffy turned her attention to the road, and saw four police cars and an ambulance. "I have no idea. But it?s really close to my house." As they approached 1630 Revello Drive, Buffy tensed up. "Oh god, it *is* my house. Riley, stop the car!"

"But, Buffy?"

She didn?t hear him. The instant his car stopped moving, Buffy jumped out, running to her house. When she reached the front lawn, she found a crowd of people standing there, watching the police officers as they entered and exited the Summers? home.

"This is what happens when teenagers are left to their own devices," one of her neighbors commented.

Filled with both fear and anger, Buffy ran up the walkway to the front porch. Just as she was about to enter, a police officer grabbed her upper arm. "You can?t go in there, Miss. This is a crime scene," he told her.

"This is my home!"

"I?m sorry, but?"

Buffy wrenched out of his grasp when she saw her fifteen year old sister step outside, holding her arms to her stomach. "Dawn!" She sprinted up the steps to the young girl, embracing her tightly. "Are you all right?"

Dawn Summers nodded. "Yeah. God, Buffy, I was so scared! I thought?" She couldn?t finish the sentence, and started crying instead.

"Shh, it?ll be okay, Dawnie. What happened?"

"It?it was Faith," she managed to choke out. "She and Parker had a fight, a bad one this time. Worse than the other ones. He-he hit her and then he grabbed a knife." She stopped, shaking her head. "I don?t know what happened after that. Faith made me go upstairs, and the next thing I remember, the cops were here. I?m sorry, Buffy."

"No, you did the right thing. Where?s Faith?"

Dawn lifted her head up and gazed into her sister?s eyes. "They took her away. They put her in handcuffs, and I saw Parker on the kitchen floor with a white sheet over him. I think he?s dead."

Holding her sister tight, Buffy felt her heart break. The three of them had been through so much in the past year, Faith being arrested for murder wasn?t going to be easy on Dawn, or her. "You said the police took Faith?"

"Uh-huh. Right before you got here. Buffy, we have to help her. She has to come home."

"I?m going to do my best to bring her home, I promise. Everything will be fine. You have my word on it," she promised her younger sister. And she hoped it would be.

***

(3 weeks later)

"I don?t like him, B. He keeps telling me that it would be a lot easier if I just plead guilty; I might only serve twenty years instead of life in prison," Faith Summers said to her sister. "I?ve told him at least thirty times that I will *not* take the rap for this. It was self-defense."

"I understand where you?re coming from. But Kenneth is your lawyer and he?s doing his job," Buffy tried to reason.

Faith ran her hands through her shoulder-length brown hair, sighing loudly. "So you, too. You think I should give in and spend the better part of my life behind bars with a cellmate named Big Bertha who wants to make me her cuddle monkey? No way. Not on your life, B."

"That?s not what I want at all. It?s just that Kenneth is looking out for your best interests."

"Do you have any idea how wrong this is? I should be out doing?god, doing anything besides sitting here right now. Parker got what he deserved, and I?d do it again if I had to. He was going to kill me, and I get thrown in jail for defending myself! Is that fair?"

Buffy shook her head. "No, it isn?t; I never said it was. But you also have to work with your lawyer to help him convince a jury that you?re innocent. And I am not telling you to give up. You?re a fighter, Faith, you?ll get through this just fine."

"You?re right, I will get through this." She shook her head, preparing to tell her sister what she wanted her to do. "Without Kenneth. I want a lawyer who?s looking out for my best interests, not because he wants this case over and done with. He?s a public defender, he couldn?t care less whether I did it or not, or why I did. I need a lawyer who does."

"We can?t afford a criminal lawyer," Buffy said. ?Maybe before we could have, but not now?? "I?m sorry."

Grasping her sister?s hand in hers, Faith stared into her green eyes. "This is my life we?re talking about, B. Contrary to popular belief, I want to get married and have children, if only to prove I?m *not* like them. And I can?t do that if I?m spending my best years in jail for offing a guy who deserved what I did to him. Please, Buffy," she pleaded.

The twenty year old sighed, feeling guilty for not being able to help Faith; it made her feel like she was being a bad sister. Given all Faith had lived through the first eleven years of her life, didn?t she deserve a second chance? ?She only did what she had to do. Fate dealt her a crappy card, I have to do what I can,? Buffy thought. "Okay, I?ll see what I can do. I?m not going to guarantee anything, but I will do my best."

"Thanks. I know you?ll do it. You can do anything when you set your mind to it."

Buffy smiled, hiding what she was really thinking. It was going to be hard ? if not impossible ? to get an attorney to represent Faith with little or no pay. But she was determined to find a way to keep her family together?no matter what the cost.

***

2

It felt like he?d been staring at the piece of paper on his desk for hours, when in fact, it had only been twenty minutes. Twenty long, agonizing minutes of planning and wondering, decisions and answers, changing his mind over and over again until he came up with a new answer he disliked even more. For probably the first time in his life, he found himself in a quarry.

Angel McKenzie didn?t shock easily, not as a habit. Being one of the top defense attorneys in Southern California, he was expected to remain non-plussed by any course of events, no matter what the twist. And in thirty years of life, nothing had ever shocked him more than his uncle?s will. Even two weeks later, he was still amazed. And screwed.

?I, Rupert Giles, in the event of my death, bequeath the bulk of my estate to my nephew Angelus McKenzie on his thirty-first birthday. However, the sum of two hundred million dollars will be given to him only on the day of his wedding. If he is not married by the age of thirty-one, and married for three years following, he shall receive nothing except the law firm of Giles and Pryce. The money will be taken away and distributed among other family members if said marriage lasts less than three years.?

After having read the will at least a million times, Angel shook his head. "This is complete bullshit," he stated, not caring that he was alone in his office and nobody could hear him. "Why? What the hell did I ever do to Uncle Rupert?"

He just didn?t know. Granted, his uncle Rupert Giles had always been rather peculiar, but Angel never thought anything of it. He had been Rupert?s favorite nephew, giving him a job at his prestigious law firm the day after he graduated from law school. But the codicil in the will, that was over the top, even for Rupert. His uncle was always on his back about settling down with the right girl and getting married, but Angel had laughed every single time.

"Why bother looking for Miss Right when I?m having so much fun with Miss Wrong?" Angel quipped each and every time. "I don?t want to settle down."

"You will someday, Angelus."

"It?s Angel. Nobody calls me ?Angelus? anymore, Uncle Rupert," he corrected. "And I refuse to get married. Ever."

Picking up his pen and grabbing a blank sheet of paper, Angel began to think. "This must be some form of cruel and unusual punishment to make me get married. After what I went through with my parents, how could Uncle Rupert make me suffer through that?" he wondered aloud.

A list of potential brides ran through the lawyer?s mind. ?Darla?no, she?s married already. Drusilla was *way* too much of a nutcase for my liking. I can?t imagine spending three years with her. Serena? No, she?d cling the second I tell her about the money. This is going to be next to impossible! There is not a single woman I know whom I could trust enough to marry for three years.

?I don?t *want* a wife, but I *need* one. I need someone who won?t get too emotionally attached, because as soon as the three years is up, I?m gone. Sure, I?ll give her a little something for her troubles, but that?s it. The last thing I?m looking for is a lifetime commitment; it will be a marriage in name only. Sex just complicates things.?

His intercom buzzed as he was putting away his papers, coming up with no possible matches for his search. "Yeah, Jenny?" he asked his secretary through the speaker.

"There?s a Miss Summers here to see you. She said she doesn?t have an appointment," his secretary told him.

?Miss Summers?? Angel thought, knitting his eyebrows together. ?I don?t know anyone with that last name. Unless?no, I don?t think that was Andrea?s last name. Besides, we only met last night and we never got around to last names; she couldn?t possibly know where to find me.? "Send her in."

Thirty seconds later, Jenny opened his office door and showed in a young woman Angel had never seen before. He would have remembered her, that?s for sure. The woman?s blonde hair fell slightly past her shoulders and her striking green eyes bore a look of unequivicated sadness. When he set eyes on her, she took his breath away with her beauty. Not an easy feat.

"Thank you, Jenny." She nodded and closed the door behind her, leaving Angel alone with the young woman. "Please, have a seat, Miss Summers. I?m Angel McKenzie."

She sat down. "I know who you are, that?s why I?m here. I won?t beat around the bush. You?re a great lawyer, and I need one right now. You spoke at one of my law classes last year and you were the first person who came to mind."

"I?m flattered, Miss Summers. What kind of help do you need?"

"You can call me Buffy. Anyway, I don?t need a lawyer personally, but my sister does. She was arrested three weeks ago on murder charges. A public defender is working on her case and he wants her to plea bargain."

Angel smirked, knowing exactly what Buffy was getting at. "Your sister doesn?t want to plea bargain, I take it."

"It was self-defense. She had been going out with him for years, and I saw the way he treated her. He hit her, he punched her, he verbally abused her; Faith didn?t have an easy childhood, so she just sort of took it from him. Her parents neglected her and she was adopted by my family eleven years ago. I?m not saying that?s why she did it; Parker was going to kill her and Faith was only trying to defend herself. And she deserves a lawyer who wants what she wants.

"I spoke to my professor yesterday afternoon and he recommended that I see you, Mr. McKenzie. I just couldn?t remember your name or I would have called earlier, I?m sorry. And I?m also sorry for not having made an appointment," Buffy said. "I?m sure you?re very busy."

"It?s okay, Buffy. Really, it is. What?s the name of her attorney?" Angel wanted to know.

"Kenneth Shaw."

He shook his head. "I know him. He?s an arrogant little bastard. I can?t stand him."

Buffy almost laughed. "That?s what Faith said."

Before he had a chance to reply, his office door burst open and a tall brunette waltzed in. "Angel, I need?" She stopped suddenly when she saw Buffy sitting in the chair across from Angel?s desk. "I didn?t realize you were with a client or else I would have knocked."

"Don?t worry about it, this is just a preliminary meeting. Lilah, this is Buffy Summers. Buffy, this is an associate of mine, Lilah Morgan."

"Nice to meet you," the blonde greeted.

Lilah gazed at her with a look of disdain. "Likewise. I only came to ask if you had the Turner/Barker case file. It looks like they?re in trouble again," she said to Angel.

"Yeah. Just ask Jenny and she?ll get it for you. It?s downstairs in my private filing cabinet," Angel informed her.

She sighed heavily. She wanted to be alone with him, but Angel wasn?t cooperating. "Thanks. I?ll see you later." Turning on her heel, Lilah stormed out of the room without so much as a goodbye to Buffy.

Buffy couldn?t help raising her eyebrows. "Is it just me, or did it get really cold in here?"

"She?s like that with everyone, don?t take it personally. Where were we? Right, Kenneth Shaw. I?ll give his office a call after you leave and have him messenger over the file on your sister?s case."

"You?ll take the case?" she asked incredulously.

"Based on what you?ve told me, it?s open and shut. Yes, I?ll take it."

She stood up, her face clouding over with a look Angel couldn?t identify. But he could tell it wasn?t happiness. "Your help means more to me than you can possibly know. But there is one problem. Your fee."

"What about it?" Angel wanted to know.

"I can?t afford to pay it; that?s why Faith had been assigned a public defender. My parents died at the beginning of the summer and they didn?t leave us with much more than the house and enough money to pay for their burials. I had to drop out of UC Sunnydale to get a job to support my fifteen year old sister. Between me and Faith, we?re barely making enough to get by."

He could only nod his head in understanding. "I see."

"But Faith needs a good lawyer, the best, and that?s you. I?d be willing to work off the fee here. I can work as a secretary a few hours a day, or down in the mailroom, or?god, I?ll even clean toilets. You have my word that you?ll get your money, though," Buffy swore.

Angel looked at her, and came up with an idea. ?She?ll be perfect. I help her and she helps me. Buffy looks like she?s only in her twenties, so I won?t be asking *too* much. She?s smart and beautiful?this could work out perfectly.?

"Don?t worry about the money, Buffy. I don?t want it."

"You don?t?" Buffy couldn?t believe it.

"There?s something else I want. Or, should I say, need. I know this is going to sound strange, but please listen. My uncle died a few weeks ago and in his will, he left me a significant sum of money. But it?s contingent on the fact that I marry by the time I turn thirty-one. Unfortunately, I have three months until my birthday, and there are no potential brides waiting in the wings. That?s where you would come in."

It took her a second to digest what Angel told her. "You want me to marry you so you can get your uncle?s money?"

"Yes. I think of it as a fair trade. You get what you want and I get what I want. It would be for three years, at the end of which we will file for divorce and go our separate ways. I am not asking for a lifetime of servitude, just three years of marriage in name only. You and your sister will move into my uncle?s home and I will see to it that you are taken care of well-after the marriage ends."

She didn?t know what to say. The proposal he had just given her blew her away. "Could I think it over?" she asked. There was no way Buffy could make such a decision in a minute. She?d do anything for Faith, but could she marry a stranger? It wasn?t something she could decide on the spot. It required a lot of thought.

"Go right ahead. My intentions are one hundred percent honorable, Buffy. I wouldn?t ask you to do anything you don?t feel comfortable doing. As I said, it would be a marriage in name only," Angel reminded her. "You think it over. In the meantime, I?ll get started on your sister?s case."

They said their goodbyes and Angel walked her to the elevator. As the doors closed between them, he smiled broadly. ?I?ll be married by the end of week, I just know it. No strings attached, either; things couldn?t be more perfect.?

***

3

The next twenty-four hours were spent weighing her options. Buffy was conflicted; she didn?t know what to do. It wasn?t as if she had a whole lot of choices: marry Angel McKenzie so he?d represent her sister or let Faith spend the rest of her life in prison. She didn?t like either option, but it was a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils.

Sitting at the kitchen table with a piece of paper and a pen, Buffy weighed the pros and cons of agreeing to Angel?s proposal. ?Okay, on the upside, Faith will have the best attorney in Southern California. He will be able to get her off, I?m sure of it. Although, if he loses the case, I?ll be trapped in a marriage with a man who let my sister go to jail. Pro: he is very nice-looking. It isn?t like he?s hideous to look at and I?d be embarrassed to be seen in public with him. Con: Looks can be deceiving. Angel could be a serial killer.

?Pro: It?s only three years. I won?t have to actually *do* anything with him. Name-only marriage. Con: It?s for three years. Can I live with a guy I hardly know for three years and act like his wife? Is it even possible? Pro: A stable home life for Dawn. Ever since Mom and Dad died, she hasn?t been herself, and Lord knows I?m not the world?s greatest provider for this family. Con: Angel could end up being a total ass and say Dawn can?t stay with us.?

She sighed, distressed with the decision she had to make for the sake of keeping her family together. "What am I going to do?" she asked aloud.

Unbeknownst to her, Dawn had walked into the kitchen. "What did you say, Buffy?" she wanted to know.

Seeing her sister standing across the room, Buffy folded the paper in half and shoved it in her purse. "Nothing. How did you sleep?"

Dawn shrugged her shoulders. "The same as usual. No better, no worse. How ?bout you?"

"Same. I?m going to visit Faith this afternoon, Dawnie. Do you want to come with me?" Buffy asked.

"No thanks." In the three weeks that had passed sine Faith?s arrest, Dawn had yet to visit her. She hated thinking about her sister dressed in an orange jumpsuit, their only means of contact being a ten minute conversation through a telephone, looking at one another through a piece of plastic.

"Are you sure? I know how much she wants to see you."

"I said no. I don?t want to go to the stupid jail to visit her! Now get off my back about it!" Dawn shouted. "I?m going to school. See you later." Grabbing her backpack off the table, she walked out the back door.

Buffy stared after her for a minute. Even though Dawn would never admit it, the whole ?Faith going to jail? ordeal was tearing her apart inside. And she hated seeing her once-outgoing, smart sister becoming withdrawn and despondent. She would do anything to give Dawn her perfect life back.

That was when Buffy made her decision.

***

"Can I help you?" the tall redhead behind the desk asked Buffy when she approached Angel?s office.

"Yes. I?m here to see Angel McKenzie. I was here yesterday, don?t you remember me?" Buffy was in no mood to play games.

Jenny smirked. "A lot of people come and go from Mr. McKenzie?s office. It?s nearly impossible to keep track of all of them."

"I?m sure. Can you tell him Buffy Summers is here to see him?"

"Sorry, he?s in the middle of a meeting. I really shouldn?t interrupt him, especially since you don?t have an appointment. Perhaps if you have a seat, I can announce your presence when his meeting is over," Jenny told her snidely.

Buffy fumed. There was nothing she wanted more than to slap the smug smile off the secretary?s face. "I think if you tell him I?m here, he?ll let me in. Are you going to call him, or am I going to have to do it?"

Jenny let out an angry breath. "Fine. Wait just a minute." She stood up and made her way to her boss? door, knocking lightly. When she heard him invite her in, she opened the door. "That Buffy Summers girl is here to see you again. Without an appointment *again.* Should I tell her to go away?"

"No, I?ll see her right now. Please send her in," Angel ordered his secretary. He was eager to talk with the blonde.

Lilah lifted a single eyebrow after Jenny closed the door. "Buffy Summers? That little blonde girl from yesterday? Isn?t she a bit young for you, Angel? I always thought you liked mature women, not high school cheerleaders."

"She?s a client, Lilah. I?m defending her sister in a murder trial."

"How old is Buffy? Seventeen?"

"Twenty, not that it?s any of your business. I think we?re done here, so you can leave now. I need to speak to my client in private."

Lilah didn?t take kindly to being ordered out of the room. "Are we meeting for lunch? Maybe a little dessert after your meeting?"

"I don?t think so. I have to go down to the Sunnydale Holding Facility to meet with Buffy?s sister. After that, I?ll probably grab a bite on the way back to the office. Goodbye, Lilah," Angel said.

"Goodbye," the tall, brown-haired lawyer replied shortly.

As she walked out of the office, she bumped into Buffy, who was on her way in, without even bothering to apologize. "She doesn?t get friendlier with time, does she?" Buffy asked.

"Unfortunately, no. If she wasn?t such a brilliant lawyer, I would have fired her the second this firm became mine." Angel motioned to the empty chair vacated by Lilah. "Sit down."

"I?d prefer to stand, thank you. I-I came to a decision, Angel."

He?d been waiting on pins and needles since she had left the previous afternoon. His entire future lay in the hands of the beautiful girl standing four feet away from him. "And??"

"Three years, you said?"

Angel nodded. "Yes. No more, no less."

"Have you ever been convicted of a crime I should be aware of? Rape, assault, abuse against women?" Buffy questioned.

"Who?s the lawyer here?" Angel asked, his tone of voice light.

"I spent a year studying to be a lawyer; I want some info if I?m going to go through with this marriage. Now answer my question."

Her forwardness impressed him. This was no dumb blonde he was getting involved with. That made it more exciting. "I have a perfectly clean record, except for a few speeding tickets. There are no skeletons in my closet, Buffy. What you see is what you get."

She extended her right arm in his direction. "Then it looks like we?ve got a deal, Angel McKenzie. You have yourself a wife."

"I?ll have the contract drawn up this afternoon while we?re meeting with Faith." He took her hand and shook it, ignoring the electricity making its way through his body at the touch of her skin.

***

4

"Hey, Summers!" the female guard called. "Your lawyer?s here to see you."

Faith couldn?t help but sigh heavily at the announcement as she stood up from her bed. She had come to dread her meetings with Kenneth Shaw; it was always the same conversation day after day. It seemed no matter how many times she told him she wouldn?t plea bargain, he never let it sink in. "Oh joy. The thrill of my day," the girl commented sarcastically.

The guard led Faith down the hall to one of the conference rooms. "He?s in there."

"Thanks for the tour. Pardon me if I don?t take pictures."

"Quit mouthing off, Summers. You may be staying here for a very long time." She held the door open for Faith to step inside. "And don?t even think about trying anything funny. I?ll be right outside the whole time."

Faith rolled her eyes. "Lucky me." When the door closed behind her, she took a look around, expecting to see Kenneth sitting at the table in the middle of the room. Who she found instead was a far cry from the average-looking public defender. The dark-haired man in the room was not only well-dressed, but extremely good-looking. "Are you lost or something?" she demanded.

Angel glanced up from his papers. "Depends. Are you Faith Summers?"

"Yeah. Who the hell are you?"

"Then I?m not lost. My name is Angel McKenzie. I?m your new lawyer."

Faith looked him up and down. "What happened to Kenneth? Did he get run over by a bus, God willing?"

"Sorry to disappoint you, Faith, but he?s alive and kicking. Your sister Buffy hired me yesterday to take over your case. I hope that?s okay with you; she explained that you and Mr. Shaw didn?t see eye to eye on your defense."

"What defense? Please, Kenneth just wanted me out of his hair. The guy was a prick."

He laughed. "I won?t disagree with you there."

?Thank you, B,? Faith thought to herself. ?This one?s a definite improvement over Kenneth Shaw.? "So?what?s your plan for getting me out of here, Mr. McKenzie?"

"It?s Angel, just call me that. Before we decide on an official game plan, I need to know what really happened that night between you and Parker."

"Haven?t you read the case file? It?s all in there," Faith informed him, pointing to the manila folder sitting on the table in front of him.

Angel smiled, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms across his chest. "I want to hear it from you." He motioned toward the tape recorder, which captured their every word. "Humor me."

"Fine. We were at my house watching a movie in the living room with Dawn. Buffy wasn?t there, she?d gone out on a date that night. Everything was fine, we were laughing and talking. I remember making a comment to my sister about how the guy in the movie was really hot. You know, I couldn?t even tell you what movie we were watching, it seems like a lifetime ago. Well anyway, Parker got angry because of what I said. He pushed me off the couch and I hit my head on the coffee table when I fell. Then he got up and went into the kitchen, calling me all sorts of names I can?t even repeat. When he came back, he had a knife in his hand.

"I told Dawn to go upstairs, I was so afraid of him hurting her. After she was gone, he basically attacked me. Slapped me once and came at me with the knife. The look in his eyes told me he wasn?t about to give up without killing me. It was either me or him, and there was no way in hell I was gonna let him win, not without fighting back. Parker and I wrestled for the knife, and before I knew it, he was lying on the kitchen floor. I stabbed him in the gut. That?s the it of it."

"Had Parker ever been abusive towards you before that night?" the lawyer questioned.

Faith narrowed her brown eyes. "What do you mean by abusive?"

"Did he ever hit you? Push you? Hurt you in any way?"

"A few times, yeah. Look, I did what I had to do. He was going to kill me."

"I know that, Faith. Was Parker the jealous type? Did he get upset if he saw you talking to another guy?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "Yeah, kinda. But I got used to it after awhile. We were together for three years, I learned the hard way not to piss him off."

***

"What was Faith like when she first came to live with your family?" Angel asked.

Buffy and Angel sat across from each other in a quiet corner table inside the Expresso Pump nearly two hours later. Following his meeting with Faith, they decided to get a cup of coffee together. Both agreed they needed to get to know each other, given the circumstances.

"I really wish I could remember it, but it was so long ago. It was eleven years ago, and I was only nine at that time. But I do recall her being very quiet, at least at first. Looking back, I can understand why she was so withdrawn. She?d been taken away from her family and was forced to live with complete strangers," Buffy told him. "I would have behaved the same way if I were in her shoes."

"Do you know what her childhood was like with her biological parents?"

Buffy shook her head. "Faith never liked to talk about them. I only know what I overheard my parents saying. Her mother died when she was seven and her father liked to drink. A lot."

"Did he abuse her? Physically? Sexually? Mentally?"

"I don?t know, Angel. I?m sorry." She felt so useless when he asked questions about Faith?s childhood before she moved in with the Summers family.

"It?s okay. Did Parker abuse her?"

She took a sip of her coffee before answering. "Yes, he did. Parker Abrams was a possessive asshole who liked to release his aggressions by punching my sister."

"I see. Buffy, I may need you to testify to that in court. Will you do it if it comes to that?"

"I?ll do anything to keep Faith from spending her life in prison."

"Good. What do you say we change the subject?" Angel suggested. "Why don?t you tell me about yourself. Obviously, I?m going to need to know something about my soon-to-be wife."

"There?s not a lot to tell. I was born on January nineteenth, 1981. I have an older adopted sister named Faith, who is twenty-two, and a fifteen year old sister named Dawn. My parents died in a car accident a few months ago, so I had to drop out of college, where I was studying law. My life isn?t all that exciting."

Angel smirked. "It doesn?t sound too bad. Don?t take it the wrong way, I do sympathize considering what happened to your parents. Any boyfriends I should know about?"

She shook her head. "Hardly. Dated a few guys back in high school, but nothing really serious. The last time I went out on a date, it was the night Faith was arrested. And needless to say, I won?t be going out with him again. What about you?" Buffy wanted to know.

"Thirty years old, my birthday is February twelfth. I?m an only child, my parents divorced when I was seven years old, and I was really devastated by it. They sent me off to school in England and I went on to Harvard. After I graduated from law school, my uncle Rupert hired me to work as an associate in his law firm. He died a couple weeks ago and left the place to me, as well as that stipulation in his will. As for girlfriends, I?m not seeing anyone, at least not seriously."

"Can I ask, why me?" posed Buffy. "Why a complete stranger you had known ten minutes rather than an ex-girlfriend?"

"I would never trust any of them, and I wanted to be able to trust my partner. Also, I didn?t want someone who would cling to me, and all of my exes would have done just that. Buffy, I don?t want to come across as a chauvinist pig, but I have slept with a lot of women in my life and I can?t imagine spending three years with any of them.

"It?s not that you?re not attractive, you are," Angel continued. "I want to make this very clear. I do *not* want to sleep with you. I just want you to act like my wife in public, but not in private. And I don?t expect you to perform the usual wifely duties."

Buffy folded her hands. "Good, we?re in agreement in that respect. Because I have no intention of sleeping with you. Although we do have one minor problem."

"What?s that?"

"We?ll have to explain this whirlwind courtship and make it sound plausible," she said. "Any ideas?"

"Old family friends?" Angel suggested.

She shook her head. "It won?t fly with Dawn and Faith. They know all of Mom and Dad?s friends, and their children. We need something more convincing than that."

"High school friends? College friends?"

"Try explaining the ten year age difference if we?re high school friends," she pointed out.

"Fine, how about this?" he began after a lengthy pause. "We met the day you came into my office, and since we started working closely on Faith?s case, sparks flew. We?re together all the time and we ended up falling in love. At first sight, of course. And we?re getting married."

She loved the idea; it could work. "You?re a genius. We might be able to pull that one off."

"Might? No, we?ll definitely pull it off. So, when do I get to meet Dawn? Since she is going to be my sister-in-law shortly."

"Are you busy for dinner tomorrow night?"

"I can clear my schedule."

"You do that. Come by the house at six o?clock for a home cooked meal prepared by yours truly," Buffy invited. "It?ll be the perfect time to spring the news on Dawn."

Angel grinned at the thought of a home cooked dinner. "I?ll be there. With bells on."

***

5

"Why does Faith?s lawyer have to come over for dinner? Shouldn?t he be sitting in his office working on how to get her off?" Dawn complained the following evening.

"Even lawyers need to eat, Dawnie. Come on, he?s a perfectly nice guy, you?ll really like him," Buffy promised. She took the rolls out of the oven and placed them in the center of the kitchen table.

"Well, I don?t see why I have to get all dressed up for it," she huffed.

Buffy shook her head out of aggravation. "Because I said so. Angel is a guest in our home, we should look our best."

"You have a crush on this Angel guy, don?t you?" the fifteen year old asked.

At that exact moment the doorbell rang, allowing Buffy to dodge answering her sister?s question. "Stir the spaghetti while I?m getting the door."

Ignoring Dawn?s grumbling, Buffy made her way to the front door, checking her hair in the mirror before opening in. Unbeknownst to her, Dawn had peeked her head into the hallway and saw her. ?What was that about?? the girl asked herself. ?Buffy rarely worries about her appearance.? Shrugging her shoulders, she went back to preparing the dinner.

When she opened the door, Buffy was pleasantly surprised to see a dapper-looking Angel on the other side. ?He looks good even without a suit and tie on,? she noted. He had on a pair of black pants and a black shirt, a while tank top visible beneath the unbuttoned top buttons of his shirt. "Hi, Angel," Buffy greeted. "Come on in."

"I suddenly feel very underdressed," Angel commented when he saw Buffy in a dark blue sundress. He couldn?t help but notice how it hugged her in all the right places. ?Stop it, Angel,? he chastised himself. ?This is a business arrangement.?

"You look fine." ?More than fine?? "Dinner?s almost ready."

Angel nodded and handed her a bottle of red wine. "This is for you."

"That was thoughtful, but you really didn?t have to. Especially since no one in this house is of legal age to drink."

"I find it hard to believe that you don?t drink. Not even a little?"

"Not often. But I might make an exception tonight." An awkward moment of silence fell upon them. "Let?s go into the kitchen so we can eat while the rolls are still warm."

Following her into the other room, Angel made a mental note of the layout of the rooms. He knew it would be crucial to Faith?s defense. "Nice house," he said.

"Thank you. I grew up here; I just wish I could afford to keep it."

He placed a hand on her shoulder. "Pretty soon you won?t have to worry about it, Buffy. All your money problems will be solved."

"Lucky me." When she entered the kitchen, she couldn?t find her sister. "Dawn? Where are you?"

A second later, the back door opened and Dawn entered. "Hey."

"What are you doing out there?" she wanted to know. "I told you to watch the spaghetti."

Dawn gave her sister a funny look. "I was putting the sauce jar in the recycling bin, thank you very much. No need to have a cow about it."

"I was just wondering where you were." Buffy took a step to the right so she wasn?t standing directly in front of Angel. "Dawnie, this is Angel McKenzie, Faith?s lawyer."

The girl checked him out. He was obviously still young, but definitely older than her sisters. It didn?t escape her attention that Angel was handsome. ?No wonder Buffy checked her appearance before she answered the door. This guy?s a total hottie!? "Hi," she said simply.

"Nice to finally meet you, Dawn."

"Is the spaghetti done?" Buffy asked her sister.

"Yeah, I strained it when you were letting him in. Everything?s on the table."

Buffy turned to their guest. "I hope you like spaghetti, Angel."

He smiled at her. "It?s fine. I love Italian food."

As they sat down, Dawn couldn?t help but wonder if something was going on between her sister and the handsome lawyer. It wasn?t anything they said, but a feeling she had. Something just wasn?t right.

Once they?d begun eating, Angel decided to start up a conversation with his future sister-in-law. "What grade are you in, Dawn?"

"Tenth."

"Oh. Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?" he questioned.

She put a forkful of spaghetti in her mouth after Angel asked his question, and waited until she?d swallowed it before answering. "I don?t know yet. But I know I?m not gonna be a lawyer. I hate lawyers."

Angel chuckled. "Don?t blame you at all. You probably had to be around a lot of them lately, haven?t you?"

"Too many. What?s up with the third degree?" Dawn demanded. "Aren?t you supposed to save that for my sister?s trial? Shouldn?t you be more worried about her than me?"

"I?m sorry," he apologized. Angel knew that he wasn?t good with children, he didn?t spend too much time in the presence of them. "I only wanted to get to know you a little better. Dawn, I am not a lawyer every minute of every day."

"What are you now, Mr. McKenzie? A lawyer or a man?"

He didn?t quite know how to answer the girl?s question. Luckily, he did not have to. "Stop behaving like a brat, Dawn," Buffy ordered.

"You can?t tell me what to do. You?re not my mother!" Dawn shouted. Without another word, she stood up and stalked out of the room.

***

"I apologize for my sister?s behavior, Angel," Buffy said to him an hour later as they sat on the porch swing in front of the house.

"You don?t have to apologize. Dawn?s going through a hard time right now; I mean, her sister is in jail for murder, that?s not an easy thing to go through at that age."

Buffy sighed. "She?s not normally like that. Before my parents died, Dawn was a honor student, and now?she?s barely passing. I don?t know what to do. She needs a real family, not a sister who has to be her mother and her father as well."

"We?re going to be her family. Speaking of families, I have something for you." Angel reached into the pocket of his pants, pulling out a ring. "This is for you."

Taking it from him, Buffy stared at the diamond ring in a platinum setting. "It?s beautiful. Why is it mine?" she wanted to know.

"If we?re going to make this look somewhat real, you need an engagement ring." He took it out of her hand and placed it on her finger. "Will you marry me, Buffy?"

It wasn?t exactly the marriage proposal she?d dreamt about her entire life, but she could live with it, considering it wouldn?t be a real marriage anyway. "Yes, I will."

He flashed her a genuinely relieved smile. "Whew! Now that the hard part?s over, we have to set a date. What day is good for you?"

"Soon. In fact, the sooner the better, because the quicker this marriage starts, the quicker it?ll be over, right?" she asked.

***

Buffy knocked on Dawn?s bedroom door after Angel left. "Dawn? Can I come in?"

"Yeah, I guess."

She opened the door and stepped inside, seeing her sister lying on her stomach on the bed, watching television. Walking over to the TV, Buffy turned it off. "We need to talk," she said, sitting down next to her.

"If you came in here to give me a lecture, you can save it. I know I shouldn?t have been so mean to him, it?s not his fault my life totally sucks," Dawn stated. "If you want me to call him up and apologize, I will."

"Angel understands you?ve been under a lot of stress. He?s Faith?s lawyer, you?re going to be spending a lot of time with him the next few weeks."

"Don?t remind me."

Buffy pushed the long hair out of her sister?s face. "What do you think of him?"

"I don?t know. He?s okay, I guess."

Taking a deep breath, she prepared to break the news of her engagement . "Dawn, there?s something we need to talk about. I?Angel asked me to marry him."

"What?!" screeched the teenager.

"And I said yes. We?re gonna get married this weekend."

Dawn sat up and gaped at her sister. "Are you crazy? You hardly know him, Buffy." ?This has got to be a joke. Buffy would never marry a guy she?s only known a week.?

"I *must* be crazy." She held out her hand for her sister to see the diamond engagement ring Angel gave her. "He asked when we were sitting outside."

"How? Why? When did all this happen?" Dawn couldn?t take her eyes off the ring. It was the biggest diamond she?d ever seen.

"We?ve been spending a lot of time together and one thing just led to another," Buffy lied.

Dawn narrowed her eyes. "Are you pregnant? Is that why you?re marrying him?"

"No, I?m not pregnant," she laughed. "Believe me, I?m not." ?Unless it was the Immaculate Conception.?

"Have you at least slept with him? ?Cause he?s a total babe, Buffy."

"I won?t even dignify that with an answer."

A realization hit Dawn. "Where are we going to live? Is Angel going to move in here?" she asked.

She shook her head. "No, Dawn. Angel?s uncle died a few weeks ago and left him a big house on the other side of town. I?m selling this house and we?re going to move there."

"You can?t sell this house! This was Mom and Dad?s house; we grew up here. Buffy, no," argued Dawn.

"We have to. I wish we could stay here, but there?s not enough room for everyone; and there?s plenty of room at Angel?s house."

Dawn sulked. "Fine. Do what you have to do."

"It?s not like we?re leaving tomorrow, Dawn. It?s going to take awhile to sell this house and move all of our stuff out. I know it?s going to be hard, but it?s for the best."

"I know," Dawn replied with a frown. "I?m happy for you. Do you love him, Buffy? Enough to be with him forever?"

She nodded. "Yes, I do love him." There was nothing Buffy hated more than to lie to her sister.

"Then I?m okay with it."

***

6

Angel knocked on the partly opened door of one of his associates. "Are you busy?"

"Not at all. Come on in, Angel," Lindsey McDonald invited, piling his paperwork on the right side of his desk. "Anything I can do for you?"

"Yeah. Do you have that contract I asked you to draw up the other day?"

He nodded, pulling a folder out of the top drawer of his desk, handing it to his boss. "Right here. Pre-nuptial agreement; the couple has to be married for three years for her to get four million in the event of a divorce. She gets nothing if the marriage is dissolved before the three years is up. That?s it, right?"

"Perfect." Angel read the document over before saying another word. "Any possible loopholes?"

"None whatsoever," Lindsey answered. "It?s one hundred percent ironclad. Is it for a big client or something?"

"Or something. It?s for me."

The handsome younger lawyer raised his eyebrows at Angel?s admission. "For you? Since when are you getting married?"

"As of last night when I proposed to her."

"You popped the question? Diamond ring and everything? You?ve got to be kidding me. The eternal bachelor finally met his match?" He simply couldn?t believe it. Angel always told them he would never get married after living through his parents? divorce.

"In a manner of speaking. Yes, I popped the proverbial question and gave her a diamond ring. And surprisingly enough, the girl said yes," Angel informed him.

Lindsey shook his head in shock. Never in a million years did he think Angel would ever get married. "Does she know about the pre-nup?"

"Yes, she does."

"Wow." He saw Lilah Morgan walk past his office. "Hey, Lilah! Come in here! Angel?s got big news!" he called.

Angel sighed, knowing how uncomfortable he was going to feel when she was told. The two had had a brief fling several months back. "Lindsey, please?"

Lilah stepped into the office, annoyance written all over her face. "You bellowed, Lindsey? This had better be important, I have research to do for a case I?m working on."

"Oh, it?s important. Our very own Angel here is getting married."

She didn?t say anything right away. Like Lindsey, the news came as a complete shock. "Well," she said after a lengthy pause. "That was rather unexpected. I wasn?t aware you were even seeing anyone." ?Not since our night on the desk in his office.?

"It happened really fast. Love at first sight, that old clich?."

"Must not be such a clich? if it happened to you," Lilah retorted, sweetness dripping from her voice. "When did you have time to go out and meet anyone? You?ve been married to that Summers case all week."

Lindsey gazed at the groom-to-be. "Who is the lucky girl?"

"Buffy Summers."

The female lawyer almost burst out laughing. "The sister? The bleach-blonde cheerleader? You must be joking."

Angel shook his head. "I?m serious, Lilah. Buffy and I are getting married on Saturday morning."

"No wonder you put the rush on the pre-nuptial agreement," Lindsey commented. "You have only known her a week."

"Not even," Lilah corrected. "And it doesn?t sound like you trust your little cheerleader too much if you?ve had a pre-nup drawn up."

He was trying his best to hold in his anger, but Angel knew it was useless. "I trust her. And I didn?t ask for your permission to get married, Lilah, but I appreciate your concern. It?s touching." Angel headed for the door, but turned around before exiting. "Oh, by the way, the ?cheerleader? has a name. Call her by it from now on."

***

Waiting patiently in her seat for Faith to arrive, Buffy twisted her engagement ring around her finger. She?d never seen something so beautiful, and wondered what kind of a ring Angel would have bought for the woman he really loved. It shimmered in the dim light of the visitor?s room of the Sunnydale Holding Facility.

She picked up the phone when her sister sat down across from her. "Hi, Faith," Buffy greeted. "How?s it going?"

"Right as rain, whatever that means," Faith replied. "Itching to get the hell out of here. How are things back at the old homestead? Surviving without me?"

"Barely. We need you home soon."

Faith nodded. "That new lawyer you hired for me is doing his best, I?m sure. Where did you find him, Gorgeous Hunks R Us?" she joked, trying to keep the atmosphere light.

Buffy laughed. "He was a guest lecturer in one of my classes last year. I asked my professor where I could get in contact with him. Do you really think he?s a hunk?"

"Hell yeah. If that conference room wasn?t hooked up with a camera in the corner, I would have jumped him in a heartbeat." She paused for a moment, noticing for the first time the ring her sister wore. "B, where in the world did you get that rock?"

She glanced down at the ring she wore. "It?s?it?s a long story I?d rather not get into right now."

Faith just glared at her. "Come on, don?t leave me in suspense here. It?ll drive me nuts until you tell me, and considering all I?m doing all day is sitting in a small, cold cell all by myself, I need some happy thoughts. If some guy gave you a ring, I want details."

"Okay," the blonde relented. "The ring is from Angel."

"Hunky lawyer Angel?"

Buffy nodded. "One in the same."

"Why did he give you a diamond ring the size of Rhode Island?"

"Because he asked me to marry him last night. And I accepted," she told her sister.

The brunette prisoner couldn?t speak for nearly a minute; she needed to let it all sink in. "Let me get this straight, B. You?ve known this guy four days and you are accepting marriage proposals from him? Something?s wrong here." ?Very wrong,? she thought. ?Usually when Buffy is happy, she gets this glow around her. She?s glow-free. Something is definitely not right.?

"Everything is fine. I?ll explain it some other time."

"No, you?ll explain it right now. Buffy, I?ve known you half my life; you aren?t the type of girl who marries a man she?s known less than a week. God, you refused to even sleep with a guy you?d dated for six months. You?re the last of the true romantics. Now, what the hell is going on? And don?t lie to me, either."

The younger sister sighed. "If I tell you, you have to promise not to say anything to anyone. Especially to Dawn."

"Who am I going to tell? Please. Spill it."

"Okay." Buffy took a deep breath. "I asked Angel to represent you; you needed the best lawyer money could buy. Unfortunately, I didn?t have enough to pay him. I told him that and offered to work off the fee by helping out at his office. He had a better idea. I marry him for three years and we call it even.

"It?s not as bad as it sounds. See, he needs to get married by February in order to get his inheritance. And it all worked out. Angel gets a wife for three years and you get the best lawyer in Southern California defending you. It?s a win-win situation."

Faith closed her eyes and shook her head. "I can?t believe you would prostitute yourself to that man just to get me a good lawyer. What would Mom and Dad think?" she asked.

"I?m not prostituting myself to anyone, Faith," Buffy argued. "This is a business arrangement. And Angel has already made it clear that it will be a marriage in name only. No exchanging of bodily fluids required."

She smirked. "Too bad. If I was in your position, I?d screw him the first chance I got. But seriously, B, think about it. What do you really know about this guy? Sure, he?s gorgeous and he?s loaded, but he?s gotta have a dark side. There?s a beast in every man."

"Angel?s a nice guy. Besides, it?s too late to turn back now. What?s done is done; I am marrying him this weekend. Tomorrow morning to be exact."

"I think it?s a mistake. You?re setting yourself up for a major fall," Faith warned. ?Angel?s a hottie and B?s pretty?no exchange of bodily fluids. I doubt that. He?s going to totally screw her over and she is going to be so hurt.?

"This is my life, Faith. I?m doing what I have to do to keep my family together. And I am not setting myself up for a fall. I know exactly what I?m getting myself into," Buffy reiterated. "Trust me."

Faith shrugged. ?She always was the most stubborn one out of all of us.? "Fine." But not for one second did she believe Buffy?s words. Her sister?s life was about to change drastically. Nothing would ever be the same for the Summers girls.

***

7

Dawn knocked on her older sister?s bedroom door at eleven-thirty Saturday morning. "Are you dressed, Buffy?" she asked.

"Yeah, come in. I actually need your opinion anyway." Dawn opened the door and saw Buffy sitting in front of her vanity mirror. "Okay, should I wear my hair up or down, Dawnie?"

The fifteen year old gazed at her sister. She wore a white button-down shirt and a long skirt with pale blue flowers on it. ?She doesn?t look like someone who?s getting married in an hour,? she said to herself. ?Aren?t brides supposed to be all jittery and stuff? Buffy looks like she?s going out to the Bronze with Willow and Cordy, not getting married to a hunky lawyer she?s in love with.? "Down. It looks pretty when it?s down. With some curls at the ends."

Buffy smiled in the mirror. "That?s what I was thinking." She spied her sister?s outfit ? black pants and a red turtleneck. "Are you wearing that?"

"I didn?t exactly have time to go out and buy myself a nice outfit. It *was* sorta short notice and all."

"Sorry," the bride apologized. "You look great. You don?t need to get dressed up, we?re just having a quick ceremony down at City Hall."

Dawn sat down on her sister?s bed. "I don?t like this. Something isn?t right about this and I don?t know what."

"What do you mean?"

"I just don?t know. It?s going down so quickly; you just met this Angel guy a week ago and all of a sudden, you?re marrying him. That *so* isn?t like you, Buffy. And don?t you want Faith to be there? You two have always been more than just sisters, and now you?re running off to get married without her? No way. I want to know what?s really going on."

Buffy shook her head. "You wouldn?t understand."

"I?m not a little kid anymore! I think I?d be able to understand it."

"Fine. Do you want to know why Angel and I are getting married now? Because Faith wanted us to. We were going to wait until she got out of prison, but she told us not to wait for her," Buffy lied to her younger sister. "She did not want us to hold off in case things didn?t work out in her favor. We?re gonna save the big church wedding for her."

"Why weren?t your friends invited?"

She shrugged. "Just family. We don?t want to make a big deal out of it right now. Today is just a ceremony to make it legal. It?s about our families becoming one; it?s small and private, no big deal."

***

"Dawn, why don?t you go inside and have seat," Angel suggested. "Your sister and I have to talk about some things in private before the ceremony."

She rolled her brown eyes. "Yeah, whatever. See you inside." Turning on her heel, the teenager walked inside the room where the ceremony was to be held.

Pulling out a manila folder from inside his suit coat, Angel motioned for Buffy to sit down on the bench next to him. "Are you sure about this? There?s no going back now, Buffy."

"I know, and I?m sure. It?s not like this is a lifetime commitment; it?s only three years. I think I can handle it," Buffy told him.

He nodded. "Good. Then before we do this?you know, make it legal, I need you to sign these papers." He handed her the papers he had Lindsey draw up.

"What is it? Am I signing away my firstborn?" she joked.

Angel laughed. "No, nothing like that. It?s just your standard pre-marital agreement stating the terms of the marriage. If the marriage is dissolved before the three years ends, you get nothing. After three years, you?ll receive four million dollars."

She nearly choked. "Four million dollars? Are you crazy?"

"I sure as hell hope not. Uncle Rupert left me a lot more than that and you deserve your fair share of it."

"Why? I thought I was only doing this so you?ll represent Faith."

"That?s part of it. But see, three years is a long time, especially to someone your age. So I thought I?d make it worth your time and trouble," Angel explained.

"Ah?I see. It?s like a pre-nup. Don?t trust me to stick to our agreement?"

He smiled at her. ?She is so beautiful,? he thought. ?So soft, so innocent looking. How am I supposed to go three years without even so much as kissing those lips of hers? Or touching her. Ugh! Why am I thinking about this? It?s a business arrangement.? "I trust you, Buffy. But this piece of paper ensures our future. I don?t want you to think you?re doing this for nothing."

"I know why I?m doing it. For my sister. Give me a pen so I can sign it," Buffy ordered.

***

An hour later, the three of them pulled up to a large, white Victorian home in the nicer section of Sunnydale. "Welcome to your new home, ladies," Angel announced.

From the backseat, Dawn?s eyes widened. "This is your house? Nice place." She was impressed.

He glanced at her in the rearview mirror, smiling at her reaction. "It?s your house, too, Dawn. At least until you move out. I just recently moved in; it was my uncle Rupert?s until he died. He left it to me and I couldn?t bear to sell it. I figured it was the perfect place to start a family in?and then I met your sister. It was destiny."

"Sure, whatever." Dawn climbed out of the car and headed for the front door.

Buffy sighed and shook her head as she and her new husband got out of the car, making their way to retrieve the girls? suitcases from the trunk. "You?re laying it on kinda thick with the destiny stuff, aren?t you?" she commented.

"Dawn?s buying it, isn?t she?"

"Well, you got me there," she said, laughing. "But if you keep it up, she?s gonna know something is amiss. She?s already starting to ask questions."

"All right. I don?t know what to say to kids. Teenagers especially. I?m kinda new at this."

"So am I, so we?ll just have to wing it. It?s not like I?ve ever been in love before," Buffy divulged. "If we succeed at this, maybe I should think about being an actress."

Angel took her bags. "I?ll take those. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe the husband should carry the bags and open doors for his wife."

Buffy smirked. "And here I thought chivalry was dead. You know, I envy the woman you end up truly marrying. She is going to be very lucky. And spoiled."

"Nah. This is it for me. You are the only woman I will ever marry."

Even though she questioned Angel?s comment, she never had a chance to act upon it. They reached the front door and Angel unlocked it, allowing Dawn to enter. Buffy was about to walk in when her sister stopped her.

"What do you think you?re doing?" the teenager demanded.

"What does it look like I?m doing?"

"You can?t! It?s tradition for the groom to carry the bride over the threshold. And you can?t break tradition."

Angel walked in and put the bags down in the front hall. "Your sister has a point, Buffy. It *is* tradition."

"Fine." She took a deep breath and felt herself being swept up into Angel?s strong arms. Something about being in his embrace felt comfortable; it felt right to her. And Buffy couldn?t explain it. Nor did she want to.

Once he put his wife back on her feet, Angel turned to Dawn. "Would you like to see your bedroom?"

"Sure."

He led her up the stairs to the second floor and turned left at the top. At the end of a long hallway, he opened a door. "This is yours."

Dawn looked inside. It was a standard bedroom containing a bed, dresser, desk and a mirror, but twice as big as her old room. "It?s nice. I like it."

"You can decorate it any way you?d like," Angel told her. "You also have your own private bathroom and a balcony overlooking the backyard."

"Cool. Where?s yours and Buffy?s room?" Dawn asked.

"At the other end of the hall."

She smiled knowingly. "Convenient. That way I don?t hear you two going at it like bunnies every night?"

"We figured you?d want your privacy. I?ll leave you alone to start settling in." He started to leave. "By the way, I?m taking the two of you out for dinner tonight. Be ready at six."

After he?d left, closing the door behind him, Dawn scowled. ?I don?t like him.?

***

8

"I hope you enjoyed dinner, ladies," Angel said to the two women walking behind him when they waltzed back inside the house at seven-thirty. He?d taken Buffy and Dawn to dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant to celebrate the wedding.

"It was very nice," Buffy replied. It was the first time any man had ever taken her to a really nice restaurant. ?I could get used to it.? "Wasn?t it kinda expensive, though?"

"Don?t worry about it."

Buffy noticed her sister heading up the stairs. "Dawn, where are you going?"

"To my room. I?m gonna finish unpacking before I try to go to sleep. Do me a favor and try not to be too loud when the two of you are having sex tonight. Some of us have virgin ears," she stated, walking away before either of them had a chance to reply.

All Angel could do was raise his eyebrows at his sister-in-law. Winning her over wasn?t going to be easy. "I?m sensing some hostility. Your sister hates me."

"She doesn?t hate you, trust me. I think she?s afraid you?re going to order her around and lay down all kinds of rules. You know, act like her father."

"Well then, she doesn?t have anything to worry about," Angel told her. "I?m not good at following rules, much less making them. I?ll leave all that up to you."

"I appreciate it. Dawn just needs a little time to warm up to the idea of you being around."

He looked around, an uncomfortable silence filling the air around them. "Would you like the grand tour? This is your home and I just realized that you don?t even know where anything is yet." The two of them spent most of the afternoon packing Buffy?s and Dawn?s things from their old house, bringing it to the new one.

Buffy chuckled. "I think that would be a good idea. Especially if I?m going to be living here for the next three years."

***

Angel opened the last door on the left, on the opposite end of the hall from Dawn?s room. "This is your room. I hope you like it."

She took a step inside and found herself filled with awe. If she had to guess, she would say it was the master bedroom. To her left was a king-sized bed with a flowered comforter and a bedside table draped in a matching cloth. On the other wall was a walk-in closet and armoire, followed by an expensive-looking vanity table. To her right was another large dresser and a loveseat. Directly in front of Buffy was a sliding glass door with a private balcony, much like the one in Dawn?s room.

"You can see almost all of Sunnydale from the balcony," Angel informed her.

"This room is beautiful, Angel. And so big." She frowned slightly. "Uh-oh, though. Two of us, one bed. That doesn?t exactly work."

He smiled at her naivet?. "I?ve got it covered. That door on the right is to the bathroom, which we share. On the other side of the bathroom is the door leading to my room. It?s right across the hall. In case Dawn wonders where I am or why I?m not in here, you can tell her I?m in the bathroom. Easy access, also."

Buffy blushed in embarrassment. "Pardon Buffy?s little outburst there. Looks like you have all the bases covered."

"I try. Do you need any help unpacking?"

She shook her head. "I?m good. The only problem is that I don?t have nearly enough clothes to fill that massive closet over there. And the dresser."

"Guess we?ll have to increase your wardrobe, then."

He turned to leave, but Buffy stopped him. "Can I ask you a question?"

"What is it?"

"You said outside earlier that I?m the only woman you?ll ever marry. What did you mean by that?" She had a fear of not being able to get out of the marriage when the three years was up.

"Exactly what I said out there. Look, I never had any intention of *ever* getting married; I was perfectly happy being single and going out with a different woman every night. My parents? divorce was very traumatic for me; I saw what it did to them and I didn?t want to go through that myself in the future. Divorces can get really nasty, particularly when there?s a child involved. After living through a bitter custody battle, I decided I would never get married, nor would I put a child through what I went through.

"Unfortunately, my uncle had other plans for me. He didn?t like my lifestyle and as punishment, he added the codicil to his will. He was a hopeless romantic and Uncle Rupert once told me that nothing would make him happier than for me to fall in love, settle down and raise a family. But I don?t think this is what he had in mind."

"Somehow, I think you?re right."

Angel looked her dead in the eyes. "Don?t worry, Buffy. I have no designs on keeping you here longer than the three years we agreed upon. Even I?m not that evil."

"That?s a relief."

He shoved his hands in his pockets. "Well, I?ll let you get to unpacking your things."

"Good idea. I might be here for days getting organized."

***

Several hours later, Angel heard the bathroom door close on Buffy?s side, signaling that she was finished in there. If there was one thing he didn?t think he would be able to get used to, it was having to share a bathroom. Rather than brush his teeth, he knocked on Buffy?s door instead.

"Can I come in?" he asked.

"Feel free."

He entered, finding his wife climbing into bed. The size of it dwarfed her, making Buffy look like a fragile porcelain doll. But she looked perfect there, as if she belonged nowhere else. "Are you settling in okay?"

"Yep," she replied with a nod of her head. "Almost done unpacking; I should have it all finished by tomorrow afternoon."

"Are you comfortable?" Angel was concerned she didn?t like her bed, or her room. Or the situation.

"I?m fine, so you can stop worrying about me. I love this bed, by the way. It?s like I?m laying on a cloud."

For the first time since Angel had entered, Buffy really looked at him. He was wearing only a pair of black sweatpants and white socks. She needed to take a deep breath and blink hard at the sight of his bare chest. ?He definitely works out,? she thought. ?Guys aren?t born with a body like that. God, what am I doing? He?s good-looking and is built like a god, so what? It?s not like I want to jump him or anything. Okay, get a grip, Buffy. He?s your sister?s lawyer.? But a voice in her head reminded her that he was also her husband.

Angel noticed her stare. "What?s wrong? Do I have something on me?" he asked worriedly.

"No. You don?t have anything on you." ?Shit!? "I mean, there?s nothing on you, don?t worry. I was just thinking."

"About anything in particular?"

Buffy shook her head. "Not really. What?s on the agenda for tomorrow?"

"I?m going to visit with Faith and work on her story. The preliminary hearing is Tuesday morning. That?s when we find out if it?s going to trial."

"Do you think it will?"

He shrugged his broad shoulders. "Don?t know. We have a pretty good case for self-defense, but it?s up to the judge. It could go either way, but I?m hoping that yours and Dawn?s written statements will sway him in our favor. After I get back from the meeting, I have to go to the office and get started on the paperwork for the judge. So I may not be home until after dinner. How about you?"

"I was going to hang out with Willow and Cordy tomorrow."

"Who?"

"My best friends, Willow Rosenberg and Cordelia Chase. We always go out for lunch every Sunday afternoon. It has become tradition."

He smiled. "Do you need money?"

"I?ve still got money left over from my paycheck at the caf?. I should have enough. But I appreciate the offer," Buffy said.

"Yeah, about your job, I meant to ask you about that. Were you planning on keeping it?" Angel wanted to know.

"I make decent money there. I need to work to pay the bills."

"Not anymore you don?t. I make more than enough to support both you and Dawn. There is no reason for you to work."

Buffy sighed. "I don?t want you throwing your money out the window when I make more than enough to get by. I?d feel bad if I quit and took your money. What would I do all day long?"

"You could go back to school. Get your degree and go on to law school like you wanted to," he suggested.

"You?re joking, right?" Buffy asked incredulously.

"I kid you not. There is no reason why you can?t go back to school now. You?re living in a house that is paid for and you have a husband who is financially secure enough to take care of you. Do it, Buffy," Angel urged. "It?s a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Buffy couldn?t believe what she was hearing. "Are you totally sure it?s okay?"

"I wouldn?t have suggested it otherwise."

She nodded, thinking it over. "Okay, then. I guess I?m going back to school in January. Thank you, Angel."

"You don?t need to thank me. Good night, Buffy."

"Night."

Hesitating before leaving her room, Angel debated whether or not to give her a kiss on the cheek before leaving. Thinking it might make her uncomfortable, or confuse her, he turned and walked into the bathroom to prepare for bed.

***

9

At twelve-thirty the next afternoon, Angel walked into the Sunnydale Holding Facility and made his way to the sign-in area. "I?m Angel McKenzie, I am here to see my client. Faith Summers," he told the female guard behind the desk.

The guard handed him a clipboard. "Sign here."

"I know the routine." He signed his name in the provided space.

"Good." She took the clipboard back and buzzed him through. "Conference Room Two is open. Wait there until I bring her in."

Angel found the room without much trouble and sat himself down on one of the two chairs, spreading the contents of his briefcase in front of him. He scanned what he had written already while waiting for his client to arrive. There were only a few more things he needed to go over with her before preliminary hearings began on Tuesday.

"Well, doesn?t this just brighten my whole day," Faith commented when she found her lawyer waiting for her. "A visit from my fearless lawyer. What brings you here on a Sunday afternoon?"

"Hello to you, too, Faith," Angel said. "I came by to go over your case again. Hope I?m not interrupting anything particularly interesting."

Faith rolled her brown eyes. "Please. A couple of fellow inmates and I were about to embark on an exciting game of Old Maid. Rather ironic, huh? What?s up?"

"The preliminary hearing is the day after tomorrow. It?s there that the judge decides if there?s enough evidence to bring your case to trial. There is a slim possibility Judge Wellings may ask you to speak, so I want you to tell me everything all over again. Everything, Faith. I don?t want any surprises in there Tuesday. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," she replied, saluting.

He sighed heavily. ?I just *love* sarcastic women,? Angel thought. ?I thank god Buffy isn?t like Faith. She seem more like the quiet type. But then again, I have three years to find out exactly what type she is.? "How long had you been dating Parker Abrams?"

"Close to three years."

"Would you say you two had a good relationship? A loving relationship?"

"You mean was the sex good? I wouldn?t have stayed with him through all that shit if it wasn?t," Faith answered.

Angel shook his head, chuckling at her bluntness. "That wasn?t what I meant. Was Parker a good boyfriend? Loving and attentive?"

"Sure, when he wasn?t using me as his personal punching bag."

"You have to *just* answer the question," the lawyer chastised. "Don?t volunteer any other information that might incriminate or come back to haunt you later on. No added commentary. It?ll only make you look guilty in the eyes of the judge. Or jury, if it comes to that."

"Fine. You asked if Parker was a good boyfriend? Yeah, at first he was. For the first couple of months it was great."

Angel scribbled in his notes. "At first, you said. When did it start to change?"

"About six months after we started going out, Parker started getting really possessive. I couldn?t go out without him asking where I was going and who I was going with. Then he told me I couldn?t spend time with specific friends because he didn?t like them. It got to the point where I had been cut off from every one of my friends; I?d have to sit at home and wait for him to call. It made me jealous of Buffy because I?d see her go out and have fun with her friends and I?d wish it were me."

"You said Parker had been abusive towards you," Angel began. "When did that start?"

Faith wrapped her arms around her body, as if trying to shield herself from the memories. "It began with him grabbing my arm and twisting it until I?d do what he said. But he didn?t start hitting me until later on."

"Do you remember the first time?"

"Like it was yesterday. Parker and I had been together for about eight months, and I got sick of sitting at home, so I went out with Buffy and some of her friends. We were at the Bronze; I was having the best time I?d had in months. I was dancing with some guy I had never seen before when I felt someone grab my arm and pull me away from the dance floor. It was Parker. He yanked me into the alley next to the club and slapped me, calling me a slut and a whore and a bunch of other things I can?t remember."

"Why didn?t you break up with him after the first incident?"

"I did. B convinced me that anyone who truly loved me wouldn?t hit me. So I told Parker the next day that it was over. A few days later he showed up at my front door with a dozen roses and swore up and down that he was a changed man. Stupid me, I believed him. That?s how it went until a few weeks ago," explained Faith.

Angel nodded in understanding. "I see. Why did you keep taking him back if he always broke his promises about changing?" he questioned.

"Because I loved him, and in his own twisted way, Parker loved me, too."

"Did he ever abuse you in any other way? Verbally? Sexually?"

"He?d hit me, punch me, kick me, call me names I don?t care to repeat. But did he ever force something on me that I didn?t want? He wouldn?t have even tried. He didn?t have the balls for it. And Parker also knew I wouldn?t stand for it. I?d only take so much, and he knew just how far to push me."

They went over the night of the murder once again, Faith telling him every detail of what had happened. Her story never wavered from her original telling, and Angel knew they had a strong case for dismissal. It was self-defense, no doubt about it. He hoped Judge Wellings thought so, too.

"I think I have everything we?ll need for Tuesday," he informed his client. "Rest up tomorrow; I want you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when we go to court."

"Got it." She smiled. "I?ve been meaning to ask you how the wedding was."

Angel packed his things neatly into his briefcase. "It was nice."

"I see. You know, I?d ask how the wedding night went, but I already know the answer to that one."

He lifted his eyebrows. "Do you now? What do you mean by that, Faith?"

"Buffy told me all about your little arrangement. Lawyers never cease to amaze me, you know that? Defending me in exchange for marrying my sister?you guys reach new lows every day."

"There?s more to it than that."

"Yeah, I know all about that, too. Your inheritance only kicks in if you?re married for three years. And Buffy?s the lucky girl. Or should I say unlucky? Buffy?s young, and not nearly as experienced as you?d think when it comes to love. I?m gonna tell you something right now, Mr. McKenzie. I don?t care if you pull off a miracle on Tuesday and get me off, but if you hurt Buffy even one iota, I *will* kill you," Faith threatened. "Family sticks together."

***

"You *what*?!" Cordelia exclaimed.

Buffy took a sip of her milkshake and nodded her head. "You heard me. I got married yesterday."

"But how?" Willow asked running a hand through her red hair. "You aren?t even dating anyone. How can you be married? The last date you went on was with Riley, and that was the night Faith was arrested. I thought you couldn?t stand him."

"I didn?t marry Riley, Will. Yuck." She showed her two best friends her wedding and engagement rings. "You?re looking at the new Mrs. Angel McKenzie."

"Faith?s lawyer?" the redhead asked incredulously. "You married her lawyer?"

"Yep."

Cordelia, who usually didn?t surprise easily, found herself in a state of shock. "Buffy, you?ve only known this guy a week. What do you really know about him?"

"You sound like Faith and Dawn now. Please. I know him well-enough to trust him with my life." ?For the next two years and three hundred sixty-four days of it at least.?

Willow shook her head. "I can?t believe you?re married. And after knowing the guy less than a week. It?s unreal."

"Tell me about it," added Cordelia. "You dated guys for three months who you wouldn?t even let get past second base with you, and here you are, a married woman."

"Thanks for the recap, Cordy," Buffy retorted.

"How did he propose?"

With a fake, dreamy sigh, the blonde newlywed began. "We?d been spending a lot of time together because of Faith. Angel and I visited her one afternoon at the jail, went out afterward and got to talking. We clicked right away. So I invited him over for dinner the next night. We were sitting on the front porch talking when he pulled out the ring. He said he?d fallen in love with me when I walked into his office Monday afternoon and couldn?t live without me. When he asked me to marry him, I said yes."

"Wow."

Brown-haired Cordelia wasn?t nearly as impressed. She knew Buffy too well to believe she would marry some guy in less than five days. "Why so quickly? What?s with the rush?"

Buffy shrugged her shoulders. "We just did it; we didn?t see any point in waiting."

"Not even for Faith?" she pointed out.

"We had her blessing. Look, neither one of us wanted a big wedding. Something small and simple, that?s it. What?s wrong with that?"

"Absolutely nothing, Buffy," Willow reassured her. "I?m happy for you."

The blonde turned to Cordelia. "What about you, Cordy? Are you happy for me?"

"If you?re happy, I?m happy," she responded, nodding her head. "You landed Sunnydale?s most eligible bachelor. I?m actually envious. When do we get to meet him?"

"I?ll have to check his schedule. He?s been really busy working on Faith?s case."

"How?s that going? Is she handling it okay?" Willow asked.

Buffy frowned. "I think she?s holding a lot of her emotions in, but that?s Faith for you. She doesn?t like to show fear. Although in this case, I wish she would."

"What does Angel say about it?"

"He?s cautiously optimistic. But he told me yesterday that he thinks they have a good chance of getting the case dismissed on Tuesday. That?s when the preliminary hearing takes place," Buffy told them. "Angel?s with Faith right now, putting the finishing touches on her statement. Then he?ll be at the office until?well, I don?t know when he?ll be back. He told me not to wait up."

Cordelia couldn?t stop herself from laughing. "So much for a romantic honeymoon."

"I could care less about that. I just want my sister home. And if it means giving up my honeymoon, so be it." ?Oh, I wish I could tell you guys the truth. But it?s better for everyone if you just think I?m happily married.?

***

10

Monday morning rolled around and Buffy was awakened by the sound of the front door opening ? and then shutting ? at nine-thirty. She groaned when she saw the time. ?I swear, if that?s Dawn leaving for school this late she is in *so* much trouble.?

After stretching her tired limbs, she climbed out of bed and threw on a robe on top of her nightgown. Hearing the noise of a vacuum cleaner running downstairs, she headed for the first floor to see who was down there. She half-expected it to be Angel, but then decided against it, knowing he left earlier for his office to work on Faith?s case.

The last person she expected to find was a Hispanic woman in her mid-fifties pushing a vacuum cleaner around the living room. "Excuse me!" Buffy called. The lady didn?t hear her, so she tapped the woman on the shoulder. "Excuse me!"

The woman turned around and looked at Buffy, then smiled and shut off the vacuum cleaner. "Hola, Se?ora."

"Who are you?" Buffy asked.

"I am Emilia, the housekeeper. Did I wake you, Se?ora?"

?Housekeeper?? "That?s okay. I just didn?t know you were coming."

Emilia nodded in understanding. "Perhaps Se?or McKenzie forgot. He does that occasionally. You must be the new Se?ora McKenzie. Se?or told me he had married."

"Yes, that?s me. I?m Buffy; you don?t have to call me Se?ora. How many days a week do you come by to clean?" she wanted to know. ?I have a housekeeper. I, Buffy Summers, have a housekeeper. This is so cool!?

"Just during the week. I have worked for Se?or Giles for a long time and Se?or McKenzie kept me on. He es un hombre muy simpatico. Y muy guapo."

"So I?ve noticed," Buffy laughed. ?Thank God I took Spanish in high school.? "Well, I won?t keep you any longer, Emilia. I?ll stay out of your way."

"You aren?t in my way, Se?ora Buffy."

***

"I had the documents for the Summers case messengered to Judge Wellings? office this morning when I came in," Jenny told Angel after he had settled into his office at ten in the morning. Even though he had left the house an hour earlier, Angel usually didn?t arrive at the office until later in the morning. Like most mornings, he stopped by the Expresso Pump for a cup of coffee and a bagel.

Angel nodded. "Thank you. What?s on the agenda for today?" he asked.

Jenny saw her boss smile at her and she melted. For as long as she?d worked for him, Angel McKenzie?s smile never failed to make her knees weak. But she knew he didn?t think of her as anything more than a secretary. "You?re free most of the day. I cleared your schedule because I figured you?d want to work on your statements for the preliminary hearing tomorrow morning."

"You know me too well, Jenny. Just hold all my calls until mid-afternoon and if anyone comes by, tell them I?m in a meeting with an important client.

"Does that include Lilah Morgan?" Jenny teased. She saw the way the female lawyer looked at her boss, and found it amusing the way Lilah always threw herself at him. And she couldn?t resist teasing Angel about it once a day.

He smirked at her implication. "*Especially* Lilah Morgan. I don?t care if the Queen of England calls, tell her I?m busy."

"Got it."

After Jenny left the room, Angel swiveled in his chair and stared out the window, looking into downtown Sunnydale. But his gaze never fixed on any particular object or building; his mind was focused on something else.

// "Do you, Angelus Richard McKenzie, take Buffy Anne Summers to be your lawfully wedded wife? To have and to hold from this day forward, as long as you both shall live?" the Justice of the Peace asked.

Angel put the ring on his bride?s finger. "I do."

"And do you, Buffy Anne Summers, take Angelus Richard McKenzie to be your lawfully wedded husband? To have and to hold from this day forward, as long as you both shall live?"

She glanced down and fingered the ring Angel had placed on her finger. ?This is it, Buff. Just remember, it?s only three years,? she told herself. "I do."

Angel noted her hesitation and squeezed her hand in reassurance after she?d put his wedding ring on. He completely understood her fear; after all, Buffy was only twenty years old, still a child compared to him. ?Don?t worry,? he told her with his eyes. She smiled at him in response.

"With the power vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride."

Taking a deep breath, he bent his head down to kiss his new wife. He saw her close her eyes as his lips descended upon hers, and he did the same, his arms automatically wrapping around her. Their lips touched in a sweet, gentle kiss; a kiss that made Angel?s heart pound in his chest like a freight train. In his thirty years he had kissed plenty of women, but none of them felt the way Buffy did. Her lips were soft and tender, and it took every ounce of willpower he had inside of him to keep from pushing his tongue between her lips to fully taste her. It was then that he realized it would be a long three years. \\

?How am I supposed to do this? The whole purpose of marrying Buffy was so I could get my rightful inheritance and have a wife in name-only for three short years. I thought this would be easy; I?d be married, but I could still go out and have fun. But why is it every time I think about being with another woman I feel like I?m betraying Buffy? What the hell is wrong with me?? Angel wondered.

With a vigorous shake of his head, he discarded the thoughts of his pretty bride out of his mind. He needed to concentrate on her sister?s murder case; he would worry about his growing feelings for Buffy later. One thing he knew for sure was that if he didn?t get Faith off the hook the next day, Buffy would never forgive him.

So he worked on his statement in his head, trying to figure out what sounded right in Faith?s defense, taking notes when he thought of something he wanted to use. One thing he didn?t want to do was come off as just an arrogant defense attorney. He knew from experience that juries didn?t respond to fast-talking lawyers, and neither did judges; he?d lost a few cases that way. And if he could prove Faith was the victim more than Parker Abrams was, there would be a good chance he?d never have to face a jury.

"Tell me, where can I find a good lawyer?" a voice asked, shattering Angel?s concentration.

He looked up, seeing his best friend standing in his office, the door closed behind him. "Oh my god, Spike. What the hell are you doing here? I told my secretary not to let anybody in."

The bleached-blonde man smiled with amusement. "That?s a nice way to greet your best mate from boarding school," Spike commented in his thick British accent. "Your cute little secretary is bound and gagged at her desk, but she?s not complaining, believe me. And here I thought you?d be happy to see me."

"I am. But I?m surprised to see you. What are you doing in Sunnydale?" Angel wanted to know.

"Europe got boring. So did the girl I was with. Then I realized it?s been a bloody long time since I stopped by to pay a visit to my best friend. Hence, here I am."

"Well, I hope you didn?t hop on a plane to Sunnydale for excitement. Because you?ll be sorely disappointed."

Spike shrugged his shoulders. "I don?t mind kicking back and relaxing for awhile. Besides, I?ve heard about California girls, so I thought I?d find out for myself."

The dark-haired lawyer laughed. "You?ll never change, will you, Spike?"

"Not if I can help it." His eyes caught sight of the gold wedding band on Angel?s left hand. "That isn?t what I think it is, is it?" he demanded, pointing to it.

He looked down at what his best friend was pointing at. "Actually, it is."

"You have got to be kidding me! You did *not* get married."

"I did. This past weekend."

Spike couldn?t believe it, and he shook his head in disbelief. "No, not you. What happened to getting with a different girl every night of the week? No strings attached, remember? Don?t tell me you?re settling down into married life."

"It?s not like that, Spike. It?s a business arrangement, not a real marriage. No need to get all worked up about it," Angel told him. ?Hey, if Buffy can tell her sister, I can tell my best friend.?

"What do you mean, ?a business arrangement??"

"Exactly the way it sounds. I didn?t marry Buffy for love, I married her for money."

His eyes widened. "Buffy? You married a girl named Buffy?" He laughed. "Only you, McKenzie. So, is she ugly but completely loaded?"

"It?s the opposite. Buffy is a very pretty, smart, nice girl. And no, she?s not loaded; she doesn?t have any money at all. Remember when I told you my uncle Rupert died?" His best friend nodded. "Well, he left me everything. However, the only way I get it is if I am married for three years. I met Buffy and she agreed to marry me so I could get my inheritance. Simple as that."

"Three years, huh?" Spike remarked. "Was your uncle trying to punish you?"

"Probably, knowing him. He hated that I was thirty and unmarried. So what better way to torment me than by making me get married. He knew how I felt about marriage after my parents got divorced. I just think about it this way, I marry for three years and I get more money than I know what to do with. And when the three years is up, I get divorced and I get my money."

"Sounds like you?ve got it all planned out. What does the little missus have to say about it?"

Angel softly sighed, thinking about Buffy. "Nothing. When it?s over she gets four million dollars for her troubles."

"And what if she gets clingy and refuses to let you divorce her?"

"She won?t. It?s a marriage in name-only. She knows it and I know. And I completely trust her."

"Three years? That?s a long time to be married to a pretty chippy and not be able to touch her," he commented to his best friend. "You won?t make it."

"Three years isn?t *that* long. I?ll be able to make it. I have no desire to touch her." ?Yeah, right,? a voice in Angel?s head stated. ?You want to touch her so badly you can taste it.?

***

PART 2 



| Fiction Index | Home Page | Back |