When we tell little white lies, we become progressively color-blind. It is better to remain silent than to mislead.James E. Faust
Forgotten Hollow, just outside the Vatore residence
The young man turned his head to look over at the beautiful young woman next to him. Both of them shared similar features, light skin that contrasted with almost black hair, both were of a slender build, deceptively making them appear much like siblings, maybe even fraternal twins, which they were not. Not even related in the slightest.
“What?” the young woman now asked.
“How did you know I was looking at you?” the young man inquired amused.
“I could feel your eyes on me. So what is it, Ri? Just use words, I suck at reading minds.”
“Probably for the better. You’d just yell at me again.”
“You give me so many reasons to. What would I be yelling at you for now? Just say it.”
“That man you are with now …”
“Yeah, him. How serious is that?”
“How serious? Well, we’re officially a couple, our parents hang out … yeah, I’d call that pretty damn serious. Why?”
“Are you going to marry him?” Riordan asked quietly.
“What?! Where is that coming from now?” Ana exclaimed.
“See, you’re upset and yelling at me already. Just a question.”
“A really dumb one. OK, Riordan, you know I don’t do marriage and all that shebang. It’s 2020, nobody has to. Chase and I are still freshly in love, nobody thinks about marriage at that point. We are still getting to know each other’s quirks and such. And even if we totally work, the logical next step would be to move in together. Nobody in their right mind meets someone and runs straight to the altar, probably already preggers. Definitely not me!”
“I heard of that happening before.” Riordan argued quietly.
“And those marriages probably didn’t last.”
“So you want it to last?”
“Riordan, were you just dropped off on Earth by aliens or something? I don’t understand why you are asking such dumb stuff. Who enters into a relationship not wanting it to last? Duh?!”
“What about us?”
“Us? What do you mean?”
“Have you told him about me?”
“I don’t remember. When Chase and I met, you and I weren’t exactly on speaking terms. He’s seen my old room and that is still wallpapered with pictures of you and us, so there is that.”
“He’s been in your room? At your parents’ house?”
“Uh, yes Ri. Duh!? It’s a relationship, and that’s what you do in relationships when there is no idiotic uncle with a bee in his bonnet you have to hide from because your secret boyfriend doesn’t have a spine. Chase and I are fully present in each other’s lives, we visit my parents, we visit his parents, heck, our parents visit each other even without us. Plus he and I stay over at his parents’ place for the weekend sometimes, since they have a guest room and it is beautiful out there. You know my parents’ home is small, has no guest room, so Chase and I can’t hardly pile up in my old teen bed.”
“We always managed.”
“Yes, we did. But we were teens back then. We are young adults now and adults use properly sized beds. Especially when they are in relationships they don’t have to hide.”
“So, would you stay over at my place then? For a weekend or a night?”
“Huh? And bunk with your mom or curl up on Nightshade’s dog bed? Far as I recall, you guys don’t have a guest room.”
“My bed is ‘properly sized’. We both fit with room to spare.”
“Oh dear Lord. Riordan, I have a boyfriend. I cannot go and sleep in another guy’s bed, especially with him still in it. Chase would have a coronary. Do they not teach you that in vampire school?”
“No such thing as ‘vampire school’. I could always sleep in my coffin and let you have my bed, but that kinda defeats the purpose of wanting to feel you near. So just don’t tell him then, just like you won’t tell him what I really am and why I am different. I miss holding you. I am always so alone, Ana. I wouldn’t try anything, just would like to feel you next to me. You know you can trust me. No matter what I may want, whenever you asked me to not try anything, I haven’t. Not one single time.”
“Okay, true, but that is still super inappropriate, Ri. It’s just not done. I would not like it if I were to find out Chase bunked with one of his exes. I don’t care what they did or didn’t do. Just no.”
“But I am different and you know it. I can’t be measured by standards I can never truly meet. And I have known you much longer than him. You are the only reason I am still even here. I need you in my life, one way or another. Can’t you make him understand that? Otherwise, what’s the point for me?” his hand suddenly slipped atop hers.
“Don’t you go there, Vatore! I never want to hear you say anything like that ever again! If you ever even think about killing yourself again and I find out about it, I will finish that job for you with my bare hands! You don’t get to use that as leverage to blackmail me into submission, knowing how much I care about you.”
“I am not! I am lonely, Ana. I am happy and forever grateful that you forgave me and that we can hang out again, sometimes, but most of the time I am just so goddamn lonely, left to simmer in how screwed up my life really is and then there is the knowledge that I will spend an eternity like that. I am all alone. It’s like why even bother? Get mad all you want, but it’s the truth, it is how I feel and we used to be able to be honest with each other.”
“Oh Ri. You are not alone. You’re never alone. You’ll always have me and my family. Even dad keeps asking me how you are. I know my mom checks in on you, but even my dad worries about you, just too stubborn to admit it. And I know that you know full well that I will never abandon you.”
“Promise?” his voice was quiet and hopeful as his hand folded around hers. She allowed it and regretted ever having been mad at him. He was right, nothing about him had ever been normal and never would be, through no fault of his own.
“Didn’t know I needed to promise that after all those years of proving it to you, but sure, cross my heart. Hey, wanna come over and watch a movie together? Chase is away at a seminar out of town anyway. We could watch some old scary movies like we used to.”
“If you vouch for me, I am sure uncle will let me out of his sight for once. When you are not here, he and my mom are like vultures circling a corpse with me. So tired of having to be cooped up on this property, so they can keep an eye on me. But – do you still have all that garlic up?”
“No, I took that down when I met Chase. Kinda hard to explain. Plus my dad kept calling my apartment a cheap Italian diner, all you get there is almost expired leftovers mashed together and everything reeks of garlic.” she snickered.
“Still can’t cook, huh?”
“Oh, shut up, I can too, just not as well as my mom, which is what dad’s used to, and when he’s hungry he is a cranky, whiny baby. Kinda like you.”
San Myshuno, Anastasia Cameron's apartment
A few hours later, after watching a horror movie marathon while having some wine, they were on her bed together, innocently, just friends seeking to be near each other, not as lovers, Ana had fallen asleep while they were talking, and now Riordan was trying to soak up every second.
The next morning Ana was awoken by loud noises and the buzzing of her cell phone. She looked at it. The caller ID read Chase.
“Hey baby …” she answered drowsily regretting all the wine she and Ri had last night.
“Good morning! Did I wake you? Are you at your parents’ house?” came Chase’s lightly amused voice from the phone.
“No, I am home, in my bed, why?”
“I am at your door, didn’t you hear me knocking? Your neighbors did … no worries, I apologized. Thin walls in this place for certain.”
“Oh, crap. Hang on, I’ll let you in!”
She sat up a little too quickly, it felt like someone had been shaking her brain around in her skull, before she ran down the hall to unlock and let him in.
“Wasn’t expecting you … sorry.” she told him after their kiss.
“But I was expecting you. Judging by the wine bottles on the table looks like someone had a one-girl party last night and forgot we were gonna meet for breakfast this morning.”
“Oh shit! That’s right! I did forget … I’ll get ready right now! I am so very sorry, Chase!”
She turned to run off, when he held on to her, pulled her back into his arms and kissed her forehead, gently, but the sensation send pleasant shivers down her spine.
“I could not imagine being stood up by a more gorgeous woman. I missed you, beautiful. Even though it were only two days, they were two very long and dreary days, and not just because lectures by long time medical professors are bone-dry and painful to sit through.”
“I missed you too, Chase. Sorry again.”
She felt him look past her and stiffen slightly, so she pulled out of his embrace and turned around.
Ana’s heart stopped briefly, and she felt heat rushing up her cheeks. Uh oh.
She had not expected him to be still here. After all, it was light out already. She thought he had long gone home. Apparently not. YIKES!
“Oh shit! Ahem … well … Chase, this is my childhood best friend Riordan. Riordan, meet my boyfriend Chase.”
“Hi Chase.” Riordan offered politely.
“Well, hello, I guess. I have a lot of questions right now, but not sure I am prepared to hear the answers.”
“No, it’s not like that. Ri has been recovering from something serious and we haven’t seen each other for a long time, he came over last night and we watched a horror movie marathon and had some wine. Didn’t want him to drive under the influence, so he crashed on the couch and I in my bed.” Ana over-explained, straddling the truth.
“Yeah, we are childhood friends, grew up together, her mom basically raised me too. So, I am like a brother from another mother. And father, obviously.”
“Yes, I remember you. Thought you looked familiar. You’re on a lot of pictures at the Cameron home. Well, nice to meet the actual man then, I suppose. Just wondering, is this a regular thing you two do, when you are not sick?”
“No. Of course not. But you don’t have to worry at all, because Riordan is gay. You’re more his type than I am.” Ana topped the pile of half-truth off with a lie, her eyes briefly met Riordan when he side-glanced at her, frowning.
“Yeah, right. On that note, I better get going. Nice meeting you Chase, great catching up with you Ana.”
Riordan walked towards the door, then turned to Chase briefly before he exited.
“Nice ass by the way, Chase. Hmm hmm! Lucky for you Ana and I don’t steal each other’s dates, pity though. You look delicious.” he winked at Ana for the last part, so she wouldn’t miss the nod to his vampirism, which Chase naturally knew nothing of.
He slipped out, Ana smiled apologetic up at Chase, while in hear mind dreaming up various ways to torture Riordan for this. He’d definitely get an earful for this stunt! And what the heck was he even still doing here?!
“I hope I didn’t cause his sudden departure. If you two are close as siblings, he should have had lunch with us. I’d love to get to know him better.”
“Oh no worries, he doesn’t eat. Uh – I mean, of course he eats, just he is on a strict diet because he was so ill. And what do you mean by lunch? What about breakfast?”
“Baby, it’s almost 11 am, sleepyhead. Knowing how long you take to do your hair and makeup, it will be noon at the earliest before we get out the door. Unless you want to order us pizza and stay in …”
“Do you like jalapenos on yours? And since I stood you up, it’s my treat! I’ll buy you a dozen pizzas.”
“Dial that phone, girl, and I am not that hungry, at least not for pizza, but you know I love hot stuff …” he winked at her to underline the double meaning of his words.
“You shall have all the hot stuff you can handle then. Edible and otherwise.” Ana promised continuing his insinuation, while relieved that she managed to dodge the Riordan bullet.