Being with you never felt wrong. It’s the one thing I did right. You’re the one thing I did right.Becca Fitzpatrick
After entering her little downtown apartment, Anastasia pushed the door shut, humming, while tossing the key onto her desk by the door and flipping on the light with her other hand, then winced when she was addressed in a man’s voice.
“You’re home late considering it’s the middle of the work week.”
“You startled me – AGAIN! What are you even doing here? Did you move in and I just forgot about that?”
“I wish. Thought I’d stop by for a friendly visit. I actually did try the conventional way and used your front door initially, but after waiting for over an hour I decided it would probably be less conspicuous to wait inside. By the way, your boyfriend from across the hall has stopped by a bunch of times. Seems to miss you greatly. Persistent little dork.” Riordan spoke calmly, but his facial expression told the rest of his thoughts on the matter.
“He is not my boyfriend, just a neighbor – and we went out a few times. He is not just pretty cute, but also an artist and wants to show me some of his pieces.”
“I can imagine. The pieces in his pants is what he wants to show you.” he growled.
“Do you realize how ridiculous you sound? And even if you were right, nothing is stopping me from looking at those pieces if the mood hits, remember? Not like I had a – say – vampire boyfriend or any boyfriend for that matter. So, why not, right? I will say though, he definitely has an artist’s hands, soft, delicate, precise and dexterous. Just don’t ask me how I know.”
“You just cannot help but be cruel to me!”
“And you cannot help just breaking and entering, can you? And for the record, this iffy situation we are in is because of YOU, not me. Point your finger at me for being cruel, four fingers will point back at yourself for not having the courage to stand up for what you want! You won’t stand up to your uncle, I refuse to be your secret side-piece, so this is what we are left with. I am not going to waste my youth pining after you, so, I date and have fun. Including looking at other men’s ‘pieces’ if I feel like it.”
“Still dating grandpa Grant or did he die of old age yet?” Riordan asked through gritted teeth.
“Grant is not that old. He may be around my parents’ age but that is the prime of a man’s life. Look at my dad. Fit as a fiddle. Just like mom. So, why not? At least I do not have to deal with immaturity with him. But if you must know, I was out with someone else tonight. For dinner. You know, that is when two people meet to actually eat food and talk, civilized.”
“Do you have to be such a bitch to me?”
“Just trying to match your douchiness!”
“I made coffee. Would you like some?” Riordan said, ignoring her comment.
“Sure, I’d love some of my own coffee, made with my own machine in my own kitchen in my own apartment which you weren’t invited into. Thanks.” Anastasia’s response dripped with sarcasm.
“You never come over to see me, so I have no choice.”
“Come to see you? At your uncle’s house? Seriously? And sit stiffly in those uncomfortable chairs in the living room while your uncle watches us like under a microscope? No, thanks, I rather go and get root canals. You could meet me someplace else. Like a cafe or a bar, you know. Never heard you offer anything like that.” Ana’s tone was accusatory.
“If that’s what you want. It’s just more personal here, if someone were to see us, it wouldn’t be so risky in case …”
“In case what, Riordan? All they would see is two old friends talking. Remember? Since you dumped me, and we cannot date, we are just friends. Nothing anybody could have a problem with. Not even uncle Caleb. Unless you come here hoping I’d give in and put out if you soften me up long enough. Spoiler alert: not gonna happen! You got your rules, I got mine.”
Riordan’s facial expression darkened, he nodded, then turned and went to get her coffee.
“Wow, so you can actually walk longer stretches without having to do the damn black cloud thing. I am impressed.” Ana mocked.
“Impressed enough to quit verbally beating me up?”
“Aww, come on now. Since when are you so delicate? You have to be able to take what you dish out, buddy. You’re never afraid to tell me ‘no’, always analyzing and criticizing everything I do. You think I like any of this? The distance between us is torture, but it wasn’t my idea, this is all you, Ri. You can change this in a heartbeat. If you really wanted to.”
“Ana, not again. I missed you. And I am in a bit of a rough mood already. I found out my father has a new family, wife and kid, a little girl, whom he apparently loves and plays with like he never did with me. Not once. I was hoping you’d be nice to me, maybe even spare me a hug. Not … this again.”
She walked over to him and hugged him, wordlessly, gently, tightly.
They stood in the embrace for a while, before Riordan moved, trying to kiss Ana. She pulled away.
“No Ri. I am not some cheap hooker you can satisfy some momentary need with, then hide me away like an embarrassing secret. We did that for many years and you still dumped me when you decided from one day to the next to put yourself in that many months long ‘isolation’. No more of this now, or I’d lose all self-respect.”
“I just wanted a kiss, Ana, not rape you or something.”
“But when we kiss it always leads elsewhere, like a chemical reaction that was activated. We’re both too passionate to just peck on the cheek and smile contently – and you know it! You are very hard to say no to, but I have to. Who knows when the next time is that you decide to just drop me like a hot potato and do your own thing again?”
“You know it’s not like that! I want this more than anything, us, together, all the time. And it kills me watching you with all those men.”
“Then quit stalking me! Maybe you should date too. Uncle Caleb often talked about how big his vampire society has grown, there are bound to be some vampire girls for you.”
“There are plenty of females. You know uncle does not want me distracted, not with mortals or vampires. Besides, I …. I ….”
“You … what?”
“I do not really like being with vampires!” he stated quietly.
“Boy, in that case, I think I have some terrible news for you …”
“Not funny. Just because I am one, doesn’t mean I want to be with one. I prefer the feel of warm skin, the tickle of breath on my face, feeling the heartbeat …. and all those emotions … many vampires don’t have much to offer in that department … might as well kiss a fridge.”
“Barking up the wrong tree, Ri. That type of complaint would be best launched with your uncle. I’d be happy to sit in on that discussion as Exhibit A for you or even help you make your case. I got emotions to boot, which I’d be more than happy to share with uncle Caleb.”
“If I had even the slightest hope that could change anything for the better and not make it all much worse, I would take you up on that. You know I do not want this distance between us. But I told you how risky it is. If I confessed to him my feelings about you and he reacts the way I am 99% sure he will, we would be separated for good. Besides, I am pretty sure uncle prefers mortal women himself for the same reasons.”
“Ri?” Ana said after a few moments of silence between them.
“Your uncle turned your father into a mortal again. Maybe there is a way to turn you ….”
“No. There isn’t. Trust me, I checked. I was born a vampire. There is no way for me to ever be anything else. It is simply impossible, like trying to turn a rock into a pony. Only those once born mortal can ever be turned back, and even that doesn’t always work. Plus, I am the only viable heir now, there is absolutely no way uncle would ever allow it, let alone perform it and he is the only one who can. If it were possible, I guarantee you, he would have un-turned himself a long time ago and my mother as well and I would never be in this position. He hates this life as much as I do, but realized he cannot fight it, so he chooses to lead the others like us to avoid them from becoming the careless, reckless monsters mythology pictures us to be. Some vampires need very strict rules and dire punishment if they break them or they really are careless, not everybody retains their humanity after living this life for a while.”
“But you could turn me, and then your uncle would not have anything more to complain about, right?”
“Wrong. Firstly, I will never turn you, no matter what you say. Never! This life is not for you. Secondly, vampires aren’t allowed to just randomly turn people as they please. Our numbers in the shadows are plentiful, there is no reason for any of us to turn anyone, there is a strict code, which my uncle enforces vicariously. Let alone the wrath I would face from your parents and my uncle and the perpetual guilt I’d feel. No way that would ever add up to a happily ever after for us.”
“What if I talked to my parents and maybe even uncle Caleb and they all were okay with it?”
“Ana, no. No way they would be, and even if, I will never turn you, no matter what you tell me or whom you persuade. Never. 100 percent no. I love you too much to do that to you.”
“Say that again.” her voice was soft now.
“Why? You think how I feel about you has changed? It hasn’t, never will. I love you, Anastasia Cameron.”
With a groan she kissed him now.
“Tell me again, Ri.”
“I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you!” he said, she sighed, and he kissed her. A long kiss. Gentle, yet full of passion.
That kiss turned into many more like it, for an undetermined time they stood there, making out as if they hadn’t seen each other in years, their bodies pressed up against one another, desperate to feel every little sensation to the fullest.
When they finally seized, Ana shook her head, shooting Riordan a glance full of determination and desperation.
“Riordan, this is insane! We belong, can’t you see that? All this vampire rule bullshit is irrelevant. Talk to your uncle about us, or I will. I can’t do this ‘look but don’t touch’ crap anymore and I am too proud to just be your dirty little bedroom secret. I don’t want to be your mistress, I want to be your girlfriend, out, loud and proud.”
“Ana, I can’t and I won’t. I told you why!”
“Okay, if you don’t have the balls, I do. Tomorrow I’ll be out there. This has got to end.”
“Ana – please don’t! This is not funny anymore.”
“Not intended to be. I am dead serious Riordan. This is happening. I will talk to uncle Caleb, calmly, and explain everything to him. He is such a smart and reasonable man, no way he could have a problem with it, not if he hears the full story.”
“He will. Please do not. I beg you. You do not fully understand vampires – or him. He is different when it concerns vampire business. I swear to you he is and he will not listen.”
“He’s gonna have to. I am gonna make him.”
This ended in a terrible fight between them until Riordan left in a black cloud after punching her wall so hard it made his hand bleed.
Still Anastasia kept her word and went to see Caleb the next day. And his reaction was exactly as Riordan had predicted, resulting in a yelling match between Caleb and Anastasia, who wouldn’t back down one iota, until Caleb had enough and just grabbed Ana to teleport with her to her apartment, then left her standing outside her door without another word as he vanished into a black cloud again.
After that all contact to Riordan was cut off. His cell phone was disconnected so Ana took a cab back to Forgotten Hollow where her car was still parked, only to stand there for hours, banging on the Vatore’s door which only ended with her tiring herself out, but nobody ever answered.
Totally beside herself Ana came to us, sobbing barely intelligible things, when we finally were able to make heads and tails of it all, Blaine and I loaded Ana in the car and went straight over to Caleb’s, both fuming about him daring to hurt our little girl so much for such nonsensical reasons, but even with us he was stubborn as hell and Lilith, Riordan’s mother, was no help at all.
The highest of all feelings was that he eventually called his nephew downstairs and allowed him and Ana to speak face to face, naturally with the rest of us standing around watching them. Their grim-faced ‘talk’ started with tears and ended with Riordan basically confirming he was choosing to oblige his uncle’s wishes to not pursue a relationship with Anastasia. It was obvious that he had been conditioned by Caleb to say this, no clue what leverage he used to make Riordan bend to his wishes with his tail so firmly tucked.
Regardless of the how and why, Riordan’s obviously regurgitated statement caused it all to boil into the final showdown when Caleb had to keep Blaine from beating up Riordan after Anastasia had a near nervous breakdown right in the Vatore’s living room. It just wasn’t pretty.
Once back at our home Ana could not stop sobbing, utterly inconsolable, so I helped her email in sick to work. She stayed with us in her old room for the next few days while I pampered her like a sick child. Blaine was very upset with all things Vatore, and our poor girl was an absolutely destroyed mess, while the friendship between Caleb and Blaine was barely hanging by a thread now and Caleb was at the top of my shit list, right below Riordan.
I had always known something like this would happen one day, call it motherly intuition, back when they were both still adorable little toddlers. I would not have minded being wrong that time, especially when I felt an ice-cold hand around my heart watching my daughter hurt so badly.
It took a considerable amount of time for Anastasia to recover from all this, and even then she wasn’t quite her old self again, as if a part of hers was missing now, which it probably was.
I knew my daughter, if you hurt her this bad, it wouldn’t be easy, if at all possible, to get back on her good side, it really didn’t look good for her and Riordan right now not even for a simple, innocent friendship.
That became perfectly clear to me when I went to see her at her apartment and noticed that not only there now were empty spots where all the pictures of Riordan’s used to be all over the entire home, but there was garlic all around the place.
Not like I thought Caleb would allow Riordan to roam freely unsupervised anyway but it looked like he was no longer welcome with Anastasia regardless.
The saddest part of all was that I actually did understand Caleb’s reasoning, at least to a degree. He wasn’t a bad guy and I knew him long and well enough to see that he wasn’t just trying to be ass for no sound reason nor was this some sort of power-play, he really was convinced it had to be this way and honestly, I wasn’t a vampire, so who was I to say he wasn’t right about that?