‹ Prequel: Shadow Kiss
Status: This is the sequel to Shadow Kiss. If you have not yet read Shadow Kiss all the way through, then please do so before continuing with this story. Thanks! And remember comments are always appreciated!

The Freeing Blood

Chapter 17

Chapter 17

******Luke’s P.O.V******

I slowly drove my truck down the road leading to the lakeside beach. As soon as I saw Aerolynn dart onto that trail leading to Sunset Cliff, I shoved the gear into park and tumbled out of the truck. I didn’t even bother with shutting the door behind me as my feet pounded against the pavement. I ran down the rest of the road, passed Aerolynn’s car, and into the trail. I was immediately smacked in the face with multiple low hanging branches; my feet were constantly tripping over the broken twigs and projecting tree roots. How Aero had glided passed these like they weren’t even here was beyond me. The branches caught at my shirt ripping tiny holes into the fabric; the ends sliced into my flesh creating small scratches all over my exposed arms.
Angry that with every step I took I was being ensnared by Mother Nature, I released a frustrated growl and started plowing my way through the trail uncaring about the things that slapped at my face or ripped at my shirt. My only focus was getting to Aerolynn.
I couldn’t believe she would willingly come back to this place after what almost happened to her brother when she was younger. Then I heard her voice call out from far away.
Everything clicked into place. My footsteps slowed to a stop in the middle of the trail. She wasn’t in need of my help. She had Zak. Zak had probably planned a surprise birthday picnic for her here without realizing her fears about the place. I should have known that she would only ever come back to this place for HIM. Hell, even when we had been dating I couldn’t even get her to come anywhere close to the entrance of the trail let alone onto the trail.
'Congratulations, Zak. You have officially won the heart of my best friend. Seems you make her happier than I could even dream. Take care of her. She still has a hold of my heart even though it’s broken in her hands', I sighed to myself.
I pivoted on my heel and kicked a few twigs and leaves off the path. I withdrew the velvet box from my pocket and popped open the lid. Inside, tucked safely in the satin bed, was a thick ruby ring with a silver flower encasing. Her favorite gemstone combined with her favored metal: silver. I had been saving up money since the beginning of the year in order to buy her this in time for her birthday because I had hoped there might be a chance for us again, but it seemed there was no longer room for me in her heart.
I plucked the ring from its satin bed and rolled it between my fingers as I remember what the clerk told me about the ruby.

“Do you know what the ruby means?” She asked me as I admired the beauty of the ring.
“No,” I answered shaking my head.
She flashed me a wide smile. “The ruby is considered to be the most powerful gem in the universe. It is associated with many astral signs.”
“Oh yeah?” I mumbled not really interested in her babble.
“And this is a gift for your lady friend, am I correct?” she prodded.
I nodded, my gaze now lifting from the ring to stare into her bright green eyes.
She smiled, licking her lips before speaking. “Well, it is said that the ruby given as a gift, is a symbol of friendship and love.”
I smiled sadly down at the ring. It looked like her favorite gem was the perfect match to my heart.

Friendship and love, huh? Seemed to fit us perfectly. I tilted the ring up to read the words I had the woman engrave inside the silver metal of the ring. I sighed and slipped the ring back into the box before closing it shut. I jammed it back into my pocket with a mixture of sadness and anger. I was sad that she may forget me now that she had a new life as a celebrity’s girlfriend and I was too cowardly to try and keep that friendship with her. At the same time however, I was angry with myself for being stupid and dating another girl to make her jealous when I should have just manned up from the very beginning and told her how I felt.
I drug a hand down my face as a sudden feeling of lethargy swept over me. Just then I heard Aerolynn shouting— no, she was singing something. I jogged further down the path hoping to hear what it was she was singing. I had always loved hearing her sing. Her voice was soft and delicate like a feather, but had the power and harmony of an angel.
The closer I drew to the end of the path, the clearer her words became.
“I won’t turn my back on you,” she sang. I pushed aside the low hanging branch to get a look at her and Zak.
Zak had his back to me; his body slightly trembling. I smiled. Her singing usually had that effect on people.
“Take my hand, drag me down,” she sang louder. That’s when I noticed her backing up towards the edge of the cliff. I straightened up from my hunched over position in the woods as fear stabbed at my heart. What was she doing? Why wasn’t Zak doing anything to stop her?!
“No!” Zak screamed in pain. His voice was a mixture of anger and pained sorrow. His body began to convulse as Aerolynn now stood on the edge of the cliff. My eyes widened.
I watched as she closed her eyes and spread her arms wide. That one action confirmed my fears. She whispered something; tears streamed down her angelic face.
“No!” I breathed rushing out from the trail and pushing Zak aside since he was doing nothing to stop her from what she was about to do.
She slowly started falling backwards; her hair billowing around her face as the air swept in around her. My heart pounded hard inside my chest as the cold hands of fear tightened around my lungs making it hard for me to breathe.
'Please reach her in time…'
I stretched out my hand…
Our fingers brushed by each other as she continued to fall.
I pushed my feet off the ground and jumped after her over the cliff.
I fell through the air catching up to her quickly. I wrapped one arm securely around her waist while the other one shot out and was barely able to grab hold of the root protruding from the side of the cliff. We swung through the air and slammed up against the solid cliff wall. I grunted in pain, but kept a firm grasp on her and the root.
Aerolynn lifted her head and slowly fluttered open her eyes. She glanced up, shock registering in her eyes.
“Luke? What…what are you DOING here?” she asked in disbelief. Her arms wrapped tightly around my chest as she clung to me for her life.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing, Aerolynn? Are you fucking INSANE?” I chastised her as I felt my grip slowly beginning to slip on the root.
“I was trying to get Zak back!” she hissed in my ear angrily.
“Well, clearly he wasn’t going to do anything about it,” I huffed. My grip slipped a little more jarring us.
Aerolynn looked up as she saw my face beginning to strain from the effort of trying to hold her and the root. While she was staring up, I jammed my hand inside my pocket and dug out the velvet box. I slipped it inside her coat pocket before she could even notice.
“Luke, we aren’t going to make it,” she said gazing at me through tear filled eyes. Her plush bottom lip had begun trembling.
“Yes, we will,” I assured her tightening my grip around her waist to bring her comfort.
“Aerolynn!” A voice called from above us. We both glanced up to see Zak’s head looking down at us from the edge of the cliff.
“Zak!” Aerolynn cried, tears dripping from her face.
Zak smiled, but the smile didn’t stay long. “We have a short amount of time before it comes back. We need to hurry!” Zak stretched out his hand towards us.
“Grab my hand, Aerolynn!” he hurried. She looked back at me. I smiled down at her reassuringly.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I’m more worried about your safety.”
She held my gaze for a few moments longer. As she held my gaze, I had the sudden urge to kiss her trembling lips. So I did. I leaned in and covered my mouth with hers. I could taste the salt upon her lips from the tears she was shedding. I pulled away with a small, sad smile.
“Aerolynn, come on!” Zak shouted spreading his fingers in hopes of reaching her hand.
She stretched her arm high above her head; her fingers barely meeting Zak’s. They both stretched a little further and grabbed onto each other’s wrists. Freeing her other hand from its death grip on my shirt, she clasped it on the other side of Zak’s hand as he slowly pulled her back up onto solid ground.
When she had safely been pulled up onto the cliff, I released a sigh of relief knowing she was safe for now. I grabbed a hold of the root with my other hand only to feel it begin to pull out of the cliff even further. I smiled sadly to myself knowing this was going to happen. It’s why I kissed her. I wanted to feel those lips against mine one last time.
I was just glad I could save her in time. Now she could live a happy life with Zak. I just hoped she wouldn’t pull anymore stupid stunts like this one. I wouldn’t be there to save her the next time. Hot tears clouded my vision before falling one by one down my face.
The root slowly began pulling out of the cliff underneath my weight.
Zak and Aerolynn peered over the edge; Zak’s hand outstretched toward mine.
“Come on, Luke! If we hurry I can pull you to safety. We don’t have much time!” he shouted reaching down as far as he could for my hand. My fingers trembled around the base of the root. Or was that the root trembling from the stress of my weight?
My eyes locked onto Aerolynn’s crying face. She had known the minute I kissed her that this was goodbye.
“I will always love you,” I mouthed to her.
“Luke, no!” she cried out nearly jumping off the cliff again as the root finally broke free from the cliff. Zak grabbed her around her waist holding her back.
“LUKE!!!” she screamed before breaking down into sobs.
My eyes stayed focused on her face as my body flew weightless through the air. As she grew smaller and smaller, I closed my eyes and awaited my inescapable death; Aerolynn’s cries ringing eternally in my ears.

~~~~~~Aerolynn’s P.O.V~~~~~~

“LUKE!!!” I screamed again as he fell away from me soon disappearing from my sight.
Zak’s arms were wrapped tightly around my waist to keep me from tumbling over the cliff after my best friend.
“Luke…” I sobbed. Why couldn’t I be a true angel of God? Why couldn’t I have wings? Then I could have saved him. I COULD HAVE SAVED HIM!
Zak yanked me back up onto the cliff. I fell back onto his chest; my body shaking from the endless sobs. Why did he do that? Why did he have to be so STUPID?! How in the world had he known where I was to begin with?
“Why, Luke, WHY?! You STUPID son of a bitch!” I cried angrily into Zak’s chest as he stroked his fingers through my hair.
How was I supposed to go on without my best friend right by my side? It was unimaginable. He meant everything to me. EVERYTHING. If it hadn’t been for him though…I’d be dead. Zak wouldn’t have been able to catch me in time.
“You stupid man…” I chuckled through my sobs.
His final words rang in my ears: 'I will always love you'.