Tana found Aidan with each arm slung around the waist of a girl, pulling them toward the bed. It wasn’t a new sight for Tana, nor was it much of a painful one. Aidan was just like that: couldn’t sit still, couldn’t commit. Tana was still waiting until the day that he did. She usually made herself known, made herself seem like she didn’t care even though she knew there was a part of her that did. There was a part of her that wanted Aidan all to herself but knew she could never have him like that.
She should be lucky she even had a piece of him at all.
“Hey, Tana! Wanna join us?” Aidan must have spotted her near the door. He waved her over and Tana relented. Sometimes she hung out and flirted with other guys, girls too, but she suspected she never had the heart, or rather, dedication that Aidan had.
But she didn’t want to be like other girls, couldn’t find it in herself to be angry or jealous or spiteful. She couldn’t force Aidan to change anymore than he could force her to change. Tana didn’t want to be that judgmental girl who started fights or found herself sulking in the corner, watching Aidan with his new plaything(s).
She was never meant to be that girl.
Aidan took one of the girl’s arms and looped it around Tana’s shoulder. Tana took note of the girl’s small, finely curved nose, overload of eyeshadow and mascara and upper teeth biting down on her bottom lip, as if she was nervous. Aidan was usually all the one for warming up the room and getting everyone to relax. Tana usually followed in his lead, but suddenly she didn’t want to be in this sweat stale room, a girl’s arm swung around her neck as if drunkenly, a girl she didn’t even know, and the other girl reeking of beer and cheap pretzels.
Aidan proceeded as if not noticing Tana’s change in mood. Tana didn’t even know if it was a change in mood exactly, just a shifting of her thoughts. She didn’t even know what she wanted, so far be it from her to say anything to Aidan. “There’s a party I snagged next Friday.”
One thing Tana’s learned: there’s always a party.
She relented about that too.
Tana woke up cold and wet and alone in a bathtub that wasn’t her own.
She remembered getting ready, putting on the jangling bracelets that still chimed together when she moved and the steel-toed oxblood boots that took forever to lace and were mysteriously no longer on her feet. Remembered the way she ’d lined her foggy blue eyes in shimmering black and kissed her mirror for luck. Everything got a little blurry after that.
Tana had never believed in luck, and maybe it was because she was always on the wrong end of it, but maybe it was more because she didn’t believe in the cosmic order of things, or whatever the hell you wanted to call it. She didn’t believe in fate or destiny either, but she couldn’t help but sense that it was fate that had dragged her into that bathtub. After her first brush with death she was destined for her second and maybe her last.
But Tana wasn’t dead, she wasn’t cold. She was alive.
She didn’t feel alive as she stepped through that living room strewn with bodies. She didn’t feel lucky or blessed that the blood coating the carpet and smeared across the windows wasn’t hers. Tana couldn’t feel anything but wrong and cold and alive when she shouldn’t be.
Another party Aidan dragged her into and she hated him for it. Yet tied up and gagged in the bedroom, still breathing but on the way toward turning cold, she loved him too.
Gavriel and Aidan were okay with her not being one of them. She didn’t think Aidan would be but he was. He still watched Tana like she was food, his food, but she was getting used to it. If Gavriel could learn to adjust then so could he. It was simple, if he wanted Tana in his life, which she knew he did, then he would have to hold himself back.
Every time she watched them drink together she remembered the taste of the vampire’s blood in her mouth. Remembered the way it made her feel gooey inside, like she was being stretched apart. She thought of riding through, holding on, Gavriel pulling her hair back from her face as she threw up and wanted to drink so badly but didn’t. That was what mattered. Gavriel hadn’t let her cave and she made it out. Alive. Human. Weak.
Gavriel didn’t let that state of mind stand for long.
He stuck by her and protected her even when she came out of hiding and walked the streets of the Coldtown again. She suspected that maybe she should start calling it her Coldtown, since there were slim to zero chances of her ever getting out. The being trapped wasn’t what bothered her though, waking up without Gavriel and Aidan was what pinched and tore at her skin, at the fragile folds of her mind.
Gavriel kept a close eye on Aidan too. He always made sure they fed together so he could watch Aidan’s consumption of blood, make sure he wasn’t overdoing it. Tana would never truly forgive Aidan for his lack of trust in her when they first arrived, for taking the marker from her and playing on her fears and relationship to him. Regardless, Aidan was a part of her she couldn’t cut out, and he could more than make up for all his wrongdoings by being here and by envying Gavriel, who would always belong to Tana first and foremost. Gavriel had to sense this but he seemed to respect it regardless. Tana had a distinct feeling that the once Thorn of Istra was finally happy, and that he would do just about anything to keep that strange, foreign feeling.
Tana smiled at that as she stepped out of Valentina’s shop, wearing the dress Valentina had found and saved for her out of gratitude for helping her with Jameson. Considering that, Tana started to think that maybe she could do some good here, especially with Gavriel’s constant support.
Gavriel stepped out from behind a corner then, like he had been waiting for her, and she sent him a ‘what are you up to?’ look. Gavriel smiled back but Tana barely paid attention as Aidan stepped out beside him, his lips wet and pupils blown wide as if he had just been feeding. Tana saw the dried blood at the collar of Gavriel’s shirt, felt her forehead start to throb. Aidan had mentioned this before, his attraction to Gavriel, and coming from him it was both a threat and not a threat. What stopped her anger and jealousy in its tracks was that all this time she had been wanting Aidan too. She had been wanting him for so long that she couldn’t remember her life before wanting him. And not just having him but all of him.
She bit back words she could no longer understand and waited for Aidan to brush himself off and come forward. It wouldn’t take long.
Gavriel put a hand on his back and pushed him forward. Tana watched them with interest. She couldn’t say the worst thing in the world would be watching them make out, back at that corner, Aidan’s fangs buried in Gavriel’s neck. She shook the thought out of her mind. Aidan was holding flowers, yellow and red and white ones, bound together by a pink ribbon.
“Happy birthday, Tana.”
She glanced over at a smirking Gavriel. “He told you?” It was an obvious question, but she didn’t see the mighty and mysterious Thorn of Istra smirk often.
“No.” Aidan shoved the flowers at her and Tana took them, several petals falling to the ground. “He got it out of me.” Who knew? The Thorn of Istra still remembered birthdays. He had been human once, yes, but she never expected him to recall various human things, insignificant things like birthdays and flowers and amusement over mundane things. As far as Tana had been concerned, birthdays were over after the party, after coming here. Apparently not. “So,” Aidan rubbed at a spot on his shoulder. Tana had rarely ever seen him nervous, yet she still caught the mischievous glint in his eye. “I know you like having me all to yourself and all. But how about a threesome? Sounds like a pretty good birthday present.”
“To you maybe,” she reminded him. Then again, looking both of them up and down, she thought that maybe this could work. Gavriel seemed like he had already been told of the idea, or at least suspected it, and didn’t appear particularly adverse to it. Tana had to wonder about that but she couldn’t say she knew much about Gavriel either. For all she knew, this was normal to him. For all she knew, this might have truly been her own end goal.
She couldn’t wait on the road to love anymore. She could have Aidan and Gavriel and somehow make a life here because there were no other choices left to her. Things, she realized, had finally worked out for the better.
Tana eyed the flowers closely, picking off a few petals and watching them fall to the ground. Remnants of her own life… she could leave them behind now. Neither she nor Aidan were what they used to be; too much had happened for them to be those same people.
“Is there cake?”
Aidan shrugged. “If there’s not I’m blaming Istra here.”
Tana nodded and pulled down her dress, not missing Aidan’s lascivious stare and Gavriel’s intense one and enjoying the attention. “Fair enough.”
There was cake and blowing out candles and wishes.
Most of those came true.