I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.Pablo Neruda
Forgotten Hollow Park of the Lost Souls Same evening as the previous chapter
Turning around slowly, Riordan measured up Anastasia then told her the unfiltered reason of his most recent angry meltdown. She had known exactly where to find him, and when she did, he was punching the stone walls of the lookout tower with his bare fists, groaning and screaming.
“You want to know what my ‘problem’ is? My problem? You mean our problem. We are right back to you sneaking away just to see me, again, and me sneaking around to see you, again, just like we had to as teens and twenty-year-olds, just nowadays you go home and share your bed with another man. That wasn’t the deal! You said if we could be friends, and just friends, we could see each other often. It’s been over a week – again! Before that it was two, then even three, then one and a half and so on. That is NOT what I call ‘often’! No, this was not what I agreed to! Then your arrogant, idiotic husband thinks he gets to talk down to me and decide for me? Thinks he is doing me a favor by ‘allowing’ me to see you, ‘now and then’, just before he kicks me out of your house!? And I am supposed to just sit here and smile like a fool about scraps?”
“Well, excuse me for not taking you on our honeymoon cruise with us or when we do the little newlywed or family beach getaways to Sulani – and sorry that I am a busy working mother of two now, whose days still only have 24 hours and I am too tired to go bump in the middle of the night with my vampire bestie. And what do you mean by scraps?! Do you have any idea what I am risking just to be here right now? And you had your chance! Remember, all those years ago I chose you, not once, but twice I chose you, but you walked away from me – did I mention that you did that not once, but twice?! Two times you ripped my heart out, recklessly. If anything, I am the one with the scraps! Which is why I chose the way I did, in choosing Chase. Even if the twins had been yours, you would have probably just walked away from me and your children once you realize how much work they are!”
“NO! You know as well as I do that I would’ve stayed. I would have the right leverage then, something uncle could never argue with. Family is everything to him, he knows how I hurt about the way my father always resented me and ignored me and now has a new family whom he loves. Uncle always wanted a woman to have with what we have, but he can’t find her. I have her, yet I am over here watching her play house and happy family and have kids with another guy, while I’m left to be a dirty, hidden secret! The only reason I am even playing along with our charades is because I know what I am, and what I can never be. But I didn’t choose this life for me, didn’t ask to not be mortal, to be some vampire protégé, I wanted none of that. And you know I would do anything and everything for you. You know that and I know that you know. The only reason I ever walked away from us – twice, as you like to point out – was to protect you from my life – and you know that, too! But there is no use, we cannot walk away from each other, we are already bound forever. There is no use pretending anymore. You may still be in denial, but I am not and the very fact that you are here right now – and that you knew exactly where you would find me – confirms that!”
“Riordan …. I …. uh …”
Anastasia looked shocked at his outburst, then just pulled him into an embrace, he allowed it, reluctant at first, then he wrapped his arms around her tightly, pressing them together so firmly as if he were trying to fuse them into one, while whispering in her ear.
“I love you Ana. Always have and I cannot stop loving you. I tried, so hard and so often, I can’t. I know all the reasons why we can’t be together, why we shouldn’t be together, I know what I am, but I cannot not want to be with you. Absolutely impossible.” the tone of his voice expressed the deep despair he felt and his eyes reflected the pain.
“I know what you mean, Ri. I have the same problem. I know what I should do, what the right thing to do is, but … I can’t stay away, because I … I … “
“Say it. Tell me. I need to hear you say it.”
“I love you, Ri. Always have and always will.”
He didn’t reply, just kissed her.
Gentle at first, all the emotions put into this one kiss, as it simmered and boiled up to more and more intensity until they were making out wildly.
Then suddenly Anastasia froze, began to struggle away.
“No, stop! This is wrong!”
“Wrong? How could this be wrong? We belong together. We have always belonged together.”
“I cannot do that to Chase. Not again. I love him. It’s a different love than the one between us, but I do love him so much.”
“Bullshit! You had your fun with him. He was there to pick you up when I tried to walk away, I know I hurt you badly, never meant to, something else on my conscience for all times, but I had to try. You think you love him because you are grateful for him and because he fathered your two kids. You played house with him to get that out of your system, to see if you liked it, if you could get used to that long-term, but deep inside you know that life is not for you, proving my point: here you are again. And again and again. We are magnetic. We need this. Fuck Chase and family life and all that stuff. I need you, you need me.”
“Maybe, but not like this. Not anymore.”
“What is this shit now all about? Are you kicking me to the curb now? Has he really softened you up to their spineless ways so much that you’d roll over and just settle? This isn’t going to happen, Ana, I won’t let you. I am not a pair of old socks, strung along until I am too much maintenance.”
“Excuse me!? You are not one to talk here, Riordan! You dumped and ditched me twice! TWICE! I was in so much pain back then … tearing my beating heart from my chest would have been more merciful than how you did what you did. TWICE! Yeah, that’s what I will have to remember, that exact feeling of being dead while alive, so that this, whatever this even is right now, and what almost happened again will never happen again. Never, you hear? I know you are more addictive than chocolate, but I am going to have to rise about the temptation and only remember all the pain you put me through. TWICE! Best cure ever!”
“Just how many times are you going to beat that dead horse again? I fucked up, I apologized a million times for that. I thought I was doing the right thing by walking away, setting you free. But, you do not want to be free. You keep coming back, and not just for friendship, you always want more and don’t you dare blame me. I initiate this kinda thing, I admit it, but so have you, plenty of times and not just before you met Chase! And you know what else, I am done apologizing and feeling guilty about it. No more, not after what I had to listen to tonight, courtesy your marionette husband! Besides, you are not the only one who got and still gets their feelings hurt over and over again. How do you think I feel about loving a woman who is married to another, refusing to leave even though she knows it’s wrong, while I keep sitting here waiting and waiting with literally no way out of this mess I am in through no fault of my own? Plus we are both good at hurting each other because we are each other’s weakness, just as we are each other’s strength. Because we BELONG, Ana! The moment where you have to make the final choice is coming, Ana, you don’t get to keep both of us! I am not a doormat, only because of what I am … of what I cannot change and I am just about done hiding. But when that moment comes, choose wisely, and remember, I am the one you always run to, I am the passion you need, I am the truth you want, I am the real deal and you know it. Your precious, arrogant Chase is nothing but the easy button. The safety net. Easy on the eyes, but about as deep as a puddle of piss, and about as captivating. Sorry if my candor offends you, but I am so tired of pussyfooting around the truth. The life you lead may be a dream life for the average mortal, but you are too dark for that. You may not be like me, but you need me, you crave the intensity and darkness, because you are not like everyone else, Ana. You do not fit that mold everyone is trying to push you into, never have, and never will, and you know it! You’ve always known it.”
As soon as he was done with his rant, Riordan grabbed Ana, who had stood by, silenced and paralyzed by his candid words, knowing he was only telling the truth, no longer sugarcoated, now she tried to struggle away, even slapped him hard, completely unfazed he just threw her against the door to the lookout tower and began kissing her … and she let him. It felt so good. Such a release from the rigidity she lived all day, every day.
She began to respond to Riordan’s advances in kind, suddenly felt odd, the air around them buzzed and next thing she knew was he was pulling her down atop him, both now fully undressed, undoubtedly he had teleported with her and used his vampire speed to rid them of the bothersome clothing, as they suddenly were at ‘their’ bench, the one they usually sat on when they met here at the park, their secret rendezvous spot as hardly any mortal ever set foot into this creepy park, especially not after dark, and most vampires had other things on their minds than romantic strolls in a park where there would be no mortals to still their desires with.
Unstoppable now, and with her eyes wide open and of crystal clear conscience Ana went along with it all, doing the very thing she said she would never do with him again. But this felt … right. Even though it was wrong. So very, very wrong. But she had it and she wasn’t going to let go now. He was right, she needed this. His touch. His darkness. The sense of melancholic passion, always enjoyed in secrecy.
It felt like a cure, a temporary relief from heavy shackles. Indescribably passionate and wonderful, special. Hot and cold, fast and easy, rough and gentle, all at the same time.
And again, she did nothing to stop it from happening as they went all the way.
On the drive back home to Brindleton Bay Ana cried, even though she couldn’t even put into words what exactly about.
She cried for an old love that couldn’t be, shouldn’t be, then or now.
She cried because deep inside she knew Riordan was right about everything he had said.
She cried for having cheated on Chase – again – unable to stop it. Again.
Riordan was right.
She was dark, like Riordan, which clashed at the very core with the angelic bright kindness, the sweet patience of Chase. He was the epitome of the type of men most women would kill for. She had hoped she could become one of those women, even though deep inside she had always felt like the square peg everyone – herself included – was trying to stick in a round hole. Chase was downright dreamy, but Riordan, with all his flaws, his aggravating ways, was the one who got away. He was the one to evoke the most primal urges, the deepest feelings and the most passionate reactions from her – and not just if it came to carnal pleasures, just like he had for decades now, since they were children together. He was the one she had, and would, always run to.
She felt a lone tear roll down her cheek, her pondering during the drive home had brought no clarity, only more confusion, more questions, more pain. The cold, salty air caressed her face as she walked up to the front door of her home.
How could this situation have gotten so out of hand?
How could she have allowed this?
How could she stop the pain?
How could this not end with her hurting someone she deeply loved?
How could she get through the days not knowing when she would see Riordan again, when she would feel him again, just like she just had?