Britchester University Campus Blaine 48, Viktoria 47, Anastasia 22, Brendan 17
Looking at our beautiful little girl, who had grown into a gorgeous, smart and accomplished young woman right before our very eyes, both Blaine and I were very emotional. There she stood, freshly graduated from college with a law degree. 22 years young, her childhood now irrevocably behind her, her whole future before her, I only wondered how much of that Blaine and I would get to share. And less than a year to go until we would embark on the college stress again with Brendan.
Anastasia had a job already lined up at a one of the best law firms, known to be demanding on their junior attorneys. Long hours, after work meetings off-site, working dinners. Even we had to admit that her commuting between San Myshuno, where the good jobs were, and Windenburg was getting too much.
So the inevitable happened and with heavy hearts Blaine and I helped our little girl, who was really a young woman now, to look for an affordable apartment downtown, helped her renovate it and move, which took no time at all, as it was small, she had few things and she had recruited her brother and her ‘boys’ as well, from the old group. Despite their youth, most of her friends were engaged to be married by now, heirs to their parents’ wealth obligated them I suppose, the rest of them in steady relationships. All except Ana.
Ana wasn’t even dating anyone to our knowledge, and even that didn’t throw any red flags for us, she was busy now, so we didn’t question it. She was stubborn enough, once she wanted a boyfriend, she’d find the time.
Windenburg, Cameron Residence
Some weeks after Ana had moved out, Blaine and I found ourselves in our living room with Caleb Vatore sitting on the couch next to us.
Caleb had just shared some troubling news with us, about how his entire life had been turned upside down by a chain of unrelated events.
We learned that Riordan’s absentee father, Akira Kibo, had been harassing Caleb for years to reverse the vampirism, for most vampires that was downright impossible, especially if they were born as such, but evidently in a few select cases of recently turned – by vampire standards – former mortals that was sometimes possible, even though highly risky and therewith frowned upon. Caleb had denied him for years but eventually had enough and allowed it, mostly because his sister Lilith had broken the rules by turning him in the first place. Ever since then, Akira was out of the Vatore’s hair and Riordan’s life completely which suited all involved parties just fine. Those could be considered to be the good news, I suppose.
The bad news were that Caleb’s children with his wife Amelie turned out to not be his, which broke his heart and made him bitter from the betrayal. Neither of the children was vampire, which raised red flags with Caleb, as it was absolutely impossible since both parents had been vampires at conception. Amelie then confessed her deception, turning Caleb’s heart cold.
Since this wasn’t something that could remain a secret for long, in his role as Grand Master of the local vampire society he had no choice but to hold a trial, a tribunal consisting of himself and several other high-ranking vampire leaders sentenced her to the same un-turning as Caleb had granted Akira, should she survive it, she and the children would be banned from ever setting foot in Forgotten Hollow again. Amelie did survive and was then sent into exile, all vampires were banned from seeking contact to them ever again. Naturally they were divorced and she was forced to change her and the twins last name back to her maiden name.
So publicly shamed before his peers from other districts and his own subjects and family, Caleb resented her and the kids, which was unlike him, but probably understandable considering everything. Caleb wasn’t just any man or any vampire, he was a leader and had to be a prime example for his subjects. Vampires could be incredibly dangerous and cruel, if he didn’t have a good hold on all of them and lots of respect, it could end badly and he knew it.
Heartbroken and frustrated he now directed all of his paternal love towards his illegitimate mortal daughter Cara, whom he was close with, and his nephew and quasi-son Riordan, but now was even stricter with the poor boy who was now his only heir.
All Blaine and I could do about any of this was to comfort our friend.
Several months later. San Myshuno
Anastasia laughed charmingly, as the attractive man walked her to the door.
“This is me. Thank you for delivering me home safely, Grant, I had a lovely evening.”
“Well, I guess this is goodbye then?” it was more a question than a statement.
“Yes, sorry, maybe some other time. I am tired and wouldn’t be much fun to be around.”
“I think there is no way you could ever be anything but delightful, Anastasia.”
“You make it easy, Grant.”
“Anastasia, such a beautiful name for an even more beautiful angel. Well, I hope we get to do this again soon.”
“Count on it. Good night.”
The man gallantly kissed Ana’s hands, she let him, before she smiled, unlocked her door, flipped on the light and slipped inside, still smiling. That smile vanished immediately when she felt pulled with, her back pressed roughly into the door before she was kissed, hard and longing, immobilized until her assailant decided to let go, blocking her with his arm.
“What the heck are you doing?!” she ranted immediately, as she already knew who this was.
“Who was that?”
“Hardly any of your business, Riordan.”
“Ah, so you do still remember me then?”
“Me remember you?! Oh, this is rich! I wasn’t the one who walked away from it all. That would have been YOU! Looks like you finally remembered me. Why? Bored?” she pushed his arm out of the way and took a few steps.
“And you have nothing better to do with the freedom than to screw old men?!”
“Grant is not an old man. He is a distinguished and accomplished entrepreneur and a gentleman. Look that up in a dictionary, as clearly, you wouldn’t know!”
“Ah, screwing yourself to the top of the food chain and straight into high society then, huh? One way to do it, I guess.”
“Don’t you dare go there!”
“Get out! I never invited you in, you are trespassing. Out!”
“Make me then.”
“Fine!” Ana grabbed him hard and tried her best to move him, but he didn’t even budge one iota.
“You really think you can win a fight with a vampire?”
“Fine, what do you want?”
“To see you. Obviously.”
“After months of absolute silence you suddenly want to see me? You have some nerve, showing up here after you dumped me! In case you forgot: many months ago you came to my home, ripped my heart out, then left in that fucking black cloud before I could even react to you dumping me!”
“Stop saying that! I did NOT dump you. How could I dump you, when you were never really mine, when you could never be mine?! I set you free so you have a chance at happiness. I didn’t think that would end our friendship.”
“Friends don’t just ditch you for months on end without a single note and they certainly don’t sexually assault you inside your apartment, uninvited!”
“Sexual assault? I kissed you, that’s all, don’t make it sound more than it was. I have kissed you many times before. And maybe I just wanted to erase that fool’s nastiness from you. Those old, grabby hands all over you. Repelling! You are welcome.”
“Have you lost all footing in reality now?!”
“Do your parents know you are ‘going out’ with that old sugar daddy? Letting an half-rotten corpse kiss around on you.”
“Ironic coming from someone without a heartbeat! Corpse much yourself?”
“Oh, so you are gonna hold what I am against me now?!”
“You started it!”
“Straight back at ya, Vatore!”
Riordan didn’t respond.
“At least I wasn’t completely cut from your life.” he said, pointing at a picture of them both on her desk behind her.
“I could never cut you from my life and you know it. You will always be part of me, I told you that before you DUMPED me. You were the one cutting me out. Keep the facts straight with your accusations and allegations.”
“Spoken like a true lawyer. But for the last time, I did not dump you! We were never a couple, because we could never be a couple!”
“We met in secret for years, we kissed, we cuddled, we laughed together, slept together, woke up together. If that is not a couple, then I do not know what is!”
“So, are you and that mummy that took you home a couple then?”
“Quit calling Grant old, he is maybe around my parents’ age. And he and I aren’t … you know what? Sure. Yes, sure, Grant and I are a couple and we fuck. All the time, all day long, everywhere. At his office, at mine, in his car, in the elevators, behind the bushes, everywhere, with ever growing enthusiasm!” Ana hissed at Riordan, her eyes narrowed. It wasn’t the truth, but she just wanted to hurt him back now.
It had the desired effect, his eyes nearly glistened with anger and withheld jealousy.
“Are you deliberately trying to torture me?” his question was nearly a whimper, laden with pain-filled anger.
“Are you deliberately trying to insult me?” she asked back.
“Ana …” his voice and face softened.
“No Ri, you cannot have it both ways. You hurt me so much when you just dumped your decision on me like a bucket of ice water, never even giving me the chance to veto it or reason with you. Then you just left me, all alone, for months, without a single word from you. Now you have to live with the result. Did you expect me to sit in some darkened chamber mourning our love lost until the day I die?”
“Of course not! I want you to be happy, which is why I did it. You think it was easy for me?”
“It was uncalled for, unless you had someone else you wanted, which is what I suspect. Maybe a more acceptable vampire broad, handpicked and sanctioned by your uncle. Maybe she couldn’t deal with your sarcastic, arrogant ass and now you’re back because it didn’t work out and you want to pass the time with second best me until the next vamp chick comes around. You were happy to not show yourself for all those months.”
“There are no vampire chicks, my uncle wouldn’t pick someone for me. You know what happened to his own marriage, he would not force me into a relationship. He wants me NOT to have ANY relationships, that is my big issue. So after setting you free I isolated, thinking it would help me get over you. It didn’t work. I nearly drove myself insane doing nothing but think of you, miss you, regretting my mistake, my lapse in judgement.”
“May I recommend a job? Keeps you busy and mind occupied. Or how about that training you and your uncle are so fond of. Train until smoke rises. Not literally though, because I actually still care about you, more than I can say about you.”
Ana walked off into her bedroom, as she expected, Riordan followed her, watching her undress. She let him, but said nothing to him.
“Why are you so cruel to me?” he finally said, staring at her in her undergarments, his voice deep and husky.
“How am I cruel? By changing out of my work clothes? You think I sleep fully dressed now? Some of us do have work and do get tired. You intruded on me, uninvited, and I have to be up early tomorrow morning. If this feels cruel, get the heck out of my bedroom!”
Suddenly he was right before her, reaching for her, she stepped backwards and turned her back to him.
“Let me hold you, please.” he begged, as if in great despair.
“Why would I? You ripped my heart out and stepped on it, then left me all alone to deal with it, knowing I couldn’t tell anyone to keep our secret, or shall I say your secret, which I did, despite of everything. So I suffered in silence, all alone, only because of YOU! You weren’t there then to hold me through that shit!”
“I wanted to give you a chance at the life you deserve, why don’t you understand that?! I sacrificed myself to give you a real chance. That was the only way I thought! You know that after everything that happened with his marriage falling apart in such a humiliating way, uncle is even stricter with me now. If he knew about …. us, he would take me away forever until after you … you know. For your entire lifetime he would put me somewhere and now allow me back until you were gone. I know now how that feels, nearly lost my mind without you.”
“Shouldn’t that have been MY choice if this was supposedly for my benefit? And if all that is true, why are you back now?”
“Because I cannot do it. I am not strong enough, Ana, one way or another I need to have you in my life, just like you always have been or I’ll go insane. Please. And before you ask, yes, vampires can go insane too.”
“Oh, come here you big baby.” Ana stepped forward and they embraced.
For a long time they just stood there like this, until Riordan suddenly picked her up and carried her towards the bed.
“Ri – uh uh!”
“No?” he stopped, his eyes begging her.
“Just set me down. I want to put on some clothes.” Ana told him, softly, but firm.
“Not even a kiss? A teeny tiny one?”
“Riordan! No! And you really don’t know what you want.”
“I do know what I WANT, but I also know I can’t have it. Or shouldn’t.”
“Go sit in the living room and wait for me. I’ll be right out.” to her surprise he obliged.
She put on comfy clothes, then joined him and they spoke. About the time they were apart, about old times.
“Can you ever forgive me?” he suddenly asked.
“I want to say no so badly now, because I am still pissed you did that to me, but I know you, I know you really thought you were doing the right thing for me, and I know I will forgive like I always have. Might as well cut through the chase. So, yes, fine, we’re all right again. Friends.”
“In my mind I was only sacrificing myself, thought you’d be all right and find true happiness, like I could never give you.”
“I don’t know Ri, we were pretty happy for a while there, at least I was. I had you, that was all that mattered to me.”
“Don’t you see? I could never give you walks on a sunny afternoon, romantic dinners together, breakfast in bed, beach vacations. I could never take you to the most romantic spot and hit one knee, offer you the biggest and best ring I could afford, hoping you’d have me. Never could give you a fairy-tale wedding. I cannot marry you. Not now, and not ever. We could never raise children together, grow old together. The type of life every girl dreams of. Like what your parents had and have.”
“Let me stop you right there, Ri. First of all, my parents may have gotten to all that ultimately, but not like you make it sound. There was a lot of dysfunctional crap going on for them to overcome. Secondly, have we met? Do I really read like that simple average girl to you that wants all that? If I do, then you really don’t know me and my dark side. I don’t want any wedding, I hate weddings, just like my dad does. You know most of our friends are getting married and I can barely stand the thought of sitting there watching all the sickening, suffocating, ridiculous, old-fashioned shit? I love my last name and wouldn’t change it anyway, and I was the world’s worst child, especially to my mom, I don’t think I ever want to do that to myself. Also, I hate beaches and palm trees. Abhor them!”
“Wow. Okay. If I promise to behave, may I stay with you tonight? At least until you go to sleep?”
“If you were any other man who did to me what you did, not a snowball’s chance in hell. But you are not and I know that. You are my Ri, you are different and special. So fine. But just so we are clear, we are not doing anything beyond laying in bed together. I am so not putting out.”
“Understood. You have my word. I’ll be of my best behavior.”
“Better be, or I’ll break out the garlic and chase you through the apartment with it.”
“That’s disgusting! Why would you even have garlic?”
“Because I no longer had a reason not to have any, remember? I just peeled some every night and just chomped down on it, raw, nom nom nom….”
“I know you are joking but that just nasty and gross … stop it, you evil woman!”
Laughing Ana jumped up and ran to the bedroom, Riordan followed her, surprisingly on foot, then caught her with his arms around her waist, and both fell onto the bed together, laughing, tickling each other, play-fighting like teens.
She looked at him, something in her eyes changed, then she kissed him. He said nothing, just moaned with a mix of relief and pleasure.
“I love the new look by the way. So grown up. Very rakish. The ultimate tall, dark, handsome.”
“Do you love it enough that it makes you forget your own rules and let us renew old memories?”
“Mayyyybe … I do like those tattoos. Rawr! I am going to have to see the whole thing sometime.”
“Really? I’ll show you now!”
“Nope. I am tired. If I let you take that shirt off … just no. You start stripping and I am putting my head under my pillow.” she said, grinning.
“You are the cruelest woman ever. Worse than Erzsébet Báthory.”
“Who?” she began playing with his hand, their fingers intertwined.
“A Hungarian countess born in the 16th century, said to have tortured hundreds of virgin maidens and drained their blood then bathed in it to preserve her youth.”
“I may try that some time. Who wants to get old, right? Especially if I keep hanging out with you and you don’t age.” she giggled.
“I am starting to think that I may be the vampire here, but you are the scary and dark one.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying. Now shut up, I really am tired.”
“Are you really just going to go to sleep?”
“Cruel.” he said smiling, when he realized that she had picked him to be her pillow, meaning he was allowed to stay. For now. Maybe they weren’t a couple, maybe they never would be a couple again, but at least he didn’t have to live without her. Vampires needed little rest, so he spent the entire night holding her, watching her sleep, move, twitch, quietly moan in her sleep, while reveling in the feeling of having Anastasia back in his life again.
A.N.: Anastasia’s new apartment is one of my own Gallery uploads named 2A Jasmine Suites. The gentleman Anastasia was on a date with is Grant Stewart, also my creation, a wealthy business man and quite a bit older than Ana.