‹ 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



One week later

“Babe, are you ready to go?” Zak called out to me from the other room. Today was the day of Luke’s funeral and I wasn’t even quite sure if I was ready to do something like this. They hadn’t been able to recover the body. Whether he was too mangled to repair or they hadn’t found it, I wasn’t sure, but we were having a ceremony for an empty casket and that’s all I knew.

I sat on the bed with my head down, my hair falling over my shoulders to shield my face. I’m not sure which was worse…going to a funeral with an empty casket so you were reminded of the horrible fall to his death or going to a funeral in the case they HAD found the body and you were forced to see him the way he had died. I closed my eyes tightly shut and willed the tears back. I hadn’t been ready for my mother’s funeral; I had been even less ready for my father’s funeral shortly after. This funeral, however? I would never be ready for.

“Babe?” Zak softly called from the doorway. My eyes slowly opened and flickered up to look at the man who had stolen my heart. He was handsomely dressed in a black button down shirt, black slacks, and—

“Zak? Why are you wearing bright red tennis shoes?” I asked curiously, my lips curling up into an amused grin.

Zak shrugged those broad shoulders of his. “I like these shoes. Plus they match my watch,” he answered with a smile showing me his ungodly, bright red wristwatch. I shook my head smiling.
“You’re such a dork,” I sighed.

“Luke wouldn’t want every person to come dressed in all black,” Zak quietly stated. I glanced up at him in shock. He was right. Luke, even in death, would want his funeral to be of happy memories and full of life, not be consumed with sadness and mournful tears over his death. He’d want everyone to remember him the way he had been. Not how he was now.

“You’re right. He’d probably want his funeral to have strobe lights and a bar,” I chuckled. His parents would never do something like that considering they had planned the funeral, but had it been up to me? I would want to carry out his funeral in a very traditional Luke way.

I stood up off the bed and glanced down at my feet. The only thing I needed to do was strap on my heels and then I would be ready to go.

“I think I am ready. I just need to put on my heels,” I informed him. The funeral started in about an hour and was being held at the small funeral home near the edge of town just a bit of a drive away from the cemetery.

Zak approached me; his hands cupped my hips and gently tugged me closer to him. He rested his forehead on mine and nudged my nose with his.

“You look so beautiful,” he breathed against my lips. I smiled into the kiss, my hands coming up to rest on either side of his neck. I was wearing an old dress of my mother’s that Mason had found when digging through a box of their stuff we had stored away in the hallway closet. It had needed a couple of washings, but once it had dried out and smelled of lavender and chamomile instead of mothballs, I had slipped it on. It fit perfectly.

The halter top dress was knee length with an empire waist line. The bottom of the dress flowed out from the waist line to gently settle around my curves accentuating them in a graceful manner. The heels I was planning on wearing were simple black strappy heels with a large rhinestone detail on the toe strap and had a slingback heel. Nothing too flashy, but still fit in nicely with the elegance of the dress.

“Thank you,” I replied rubbing my thumb along his jawline. I placed a soft kiss on his lips before stepping out of his embrace.

“I’m going to put my heels on and I’ll meet you by the door, ok?”

“Ok, I’ll go grab your jacket from the hook,” he nodded heading for the door. Before he disappeared around the corner, he poked his head back in. “Oh, your brother said he was going to meet us there. He just needed to close the pizza shop up first,” Zak informed me. I nodded at him so he knew I had heard him.

I sat back down on the bed while Zak got our coats. As I slipped on the heels, I vaguely wondered what our lives were going to be like now that Zak was no longer battling the darkness inside himself. Would our lives turn into something more normal? More mundane? And what about me? Was I still an angel of God? Did I still classify as the Savior of Souls or was that over for me now that I had completed the task God had set for me? I desperately wanted our lives to turn into something normal, but I knew that as long as I was with Zak our lives could never be completely normal. Not with the line of work he was in. I just hoped that he would stop being so adamant about having spirits hurt him in the near future. I sighed and chuckled to myself. Who was I kidding? This was Zak Bagans we were talking about. He was never going to stop pissing off spirits.

“Hey, uh, Aerolynn? Did you know you have a box in your jacket pocket?” Zak asked me as he returned to the room. N his hand he held a velvet square box. It almost looked like the kind of box that held a ring.

My eyes shot up to his. My heart stopped beating. Was he…was he going to propose? On the day of Luke’s funeral?? His brows were bunched together in confusion as he gazed down at the box. When those stormy blue orbs met mine, they rounded in realization at the situation.

“No! It’s not like that! I’m not—this isn’t—I swear I’m not proposing! This isn’t even mine!” he sputtered unsure of how to say what he wanted to say.

I cocked a brow. “So are you saying you don’t want to marry me?” Although I was only teasing him, I couldn’t help but feel a little offended at his words.

“No! I’m not saying that at all. I just…this seriously isn’t mine. I would never propose to you on the day of your best friend’s funeral. That would just be….wrong,” he answered more clearly, but with an underlying tone of fear in his voice. He was afraid he might still offend me with his words.
“Calm down, Zak, I’m only teasing,” I softly laughed giving him a reassuring smile.

His entire body relaxed as the tension left his body at my words. He strode over to the bed and held out the box to me. I slipped my fingers around the box and held it gently. If the box wasn’t from him, then who could it be from? I popped open the lid to stare down upon a beautiful, round, ruby ring that had silver flowers intertwining themselves along the ring. I tugged it out of the satin padding and gazed closer at it. Along the inside of it was an inscription. I squinted my eyes and held the ring up to the light. Along the inner silver lining of the ring, the words read:

*ad aeternitas*

My brows scrunched together in confusion. What sort of language was this? I almost threw the ring to the ground in frustration because I didn’t understand the language. Seriously, how had this ring ended up in my jacket pocket? Who had given it to me?

“Ugh!” I growled slamming a fist down onto the bed beside me. The velvet box jumped off the bed to land on the floor. Chuckling, Zak picked it up only to see a small SD card lying underneath it. The velvet bedding had popped out making the small card fall out. He picked it up along with the box and handed them both to me. This entire thing was becoming more confusing by the minute.

“Hey, Zak, do you know French?” I asked glancing up at him. He plucked the ring from my fingers and held the ring up to the light the way I had. A handsome, crooked smile graced his lips.

“This isn’t French, dear, it’s Latin,” he corrected me.

“The language itself is irrelevant if I can’t understand any of it,” I huffed.

He smiled and handed me the ring back. “I don’t know a whole lot of Latin, but Nick might. We could always ask him. Did you want to check out what was on the SD card?”

I nodded my head as I turned it around in my fingers. What treasure could this small card be containing? Would it answer my question as to who had given me this ring or would it leave room for only more questions? Zak left the room and came back a few minutes later with his laptop. He opened the lid and typed in his password before laying the computer in my lap. He gently took the card from my fingers and inserted it into the laptop’s SD slot.

Almost immediately a box popped up asking if we wanted to view the files inside. I double clicked the option and a larger menu opened up. On it was only one file labeled ‘happy_birthday_aero.avi’. Zak’s gaze shot up to meet mine. This had clearly been meant for me to see last week on my birthday when so many tragic things had happened. That’s when it hit me. My eyes widened in shock as I remembered the moment I had been clutching Luke while he slowly lost his grip on the root. During the time I had been looking up at the root he was clasping onto for dear life, I had felt him rummage in my pocket. I hadn’t really thought about it at the time, but looking back on it THIS must have been what he slipped inside my pocket. It had been the ring along with this video. It had been my birthday gift from him. So did that mean the inscription said ‘happy birthday’? My eyes dropped to my jacket that Zak still held in his hands. It was the same one from that day…so it HAD to be form Luke.

I quickly maneuvered the mouse over to the video and double clicked on it. Immediately, a windows media player box popped up with a loading bar at the bottom. I clicked play and watched in silence as the video began playing.

Luke’s room suddenly came into view. His guitar was lying on the bed and all of his posters were plastered across the back wall of his bedroom. Suddenly his face popped into view of the camera. Tears instantly sprang to my eyes. 'Luke…'

“I really hope this thing is recording,” he mumbled softly to himself. He glided over to the bed and sat upon the edge making sure he was facing the camera. He wore his usual faded, ripped jeans and a white tank top. His blonde hair was disheveled like he had been raking his hands through it all day in frustration. Those baby blues stared intensely into the camera as he took a deep breath and spoke.

“Hey, Aerolynn,” he nervously greeted with a small wave. I picked up my hand and gave a small wave back. A sad smile curled the corners of my mouth.

“Even though your birthday is a month from now…I decided to go ahead and make this video. I know you are feeling really down because Zak’s gone and he hasn’t contacted once throughout these past few months. What an ass, huh?” he chuckled rubbing his hand across the back of his neck. My eyes darted over to Zak who smiled sheepishly.

“Uh….ah geez, I was never good at these sorts of things. I always hated being on camera. Unless I was with you,” he quickly tacked on with a bright smile. “Whenever I was with you…man, Aerolynn, you made me feel like I could fly. Like I could just reach out and touch the stars. I always got this…girly feeling in my stomach when you were around,” he chuckled.

“You know that feeling you get when you see someone and you just…you just KNOW? You just know that there is NO ONE else that can make your breath catch in your throat; there is NO ONE who can make your heart race faster, yet stop at the same time? And whenever they look at you…you feel like your drowning in the endless depths of their eyes, but you find that you never want to swim back to the top?” Luke’s gaze was now drifting away from the camera as a tender smile stretched across his handsome, unshaven face.

“And when they laugh…your stomach does these little flip-flopping feelings. The kind you get when you go upside down on a rollercoaster or when you go over that first drop on a rollercoaster. All you think about is that person. And even when you tell yourself not to…you still are because all you want to do is be beside them for the rest of your life…” His gaze flickered over to stare back into the camera lens. “That person for me…was you, Aerolynn. Ever since that moment I think I saw you when we were kids…I just…I just KNEW. Then that first time you smiled at me…whoa,” he chuckled holding a hand to his head. “You blew me away with the radiance of that one smile and I just continued falling deeper and deeper in love with you as time wore on. I fell hard and fast, it damn near made me dizzy. And then we started dating. I don’t care what you say, Aerolynn, we HAD something. That went beyond our friendship. It was there and you know it. We’ve always had that connection hiding just beneath the surface. It was just…it just kind of…became suppressed because neither one of us wanted to take that step out of the comfortable friendship we had established. We were both too afraid to take that leap. I think at the time, both of us were even afraid of finding that sort of love you always hear about in fairy tales and romance novels.

“Even when I was dating my ex and later when you were so set on Zak…I never once stopped loving you. Not once. Not a single day goes by, Aerolynn, that I DON’T think about you,” he chuckled. Zak intertwined our fingers together and kissed the back of my hand. It was then that I realized how hard I was crying. No sobs were escaping my mouth, but there was an endless flow of tears streaming down my face to land on the black fabric of my dress. Some tears even flowed down my neck reaching my collarbone.

“Ah, geez, you’re probably bawling your eyes out right now, aren’t you?” Luke sighed raking a hand down his face. A strangled laugh burst forth through all the tears. He knew me too well.
“I always hated seeing you cry. Every time I saw a tear of sadness drip forth from your beautiful brown eyes, I wanted to punch the guy or rip apart the thing that made you tear up. I plan on telling you in person that I love you…I’m not sure when I will dredge up the courage for that though. Maybe I’ll do it during a romantic event. Hey! The Frost Festival is coming up soon! Maybe I’ll woo you there, huh?” he winked at the camera with a cheesy smile before slapping a hand to his forehead and groaning. “That was so lame…” he mumbled.

I smiled remembering how he had kissed me that night when we had come back from the festival. My smile died when I remembered the way I had reacted. If I could turn back time knowing what I knew now…I would change my reaction completely. My eyes started to burn with the steady amount of hot tears that kept falling. Zak gripped my hand tighter in his as the video continued playing.

“Anyways, I don’t want to sound like a selfish ass or anything, but…I hope Zak rots in Hell and a demon or something eats his face off so that he never returns to you so I can have you all to myself,” Luke bluntly said. Zak and I burst out into laughter. Luke had been almost right, but the demon hadn’t exactly fed off of Zak’s face.

“In all seriousness though…I see how happy Zak makes you and, even though it hurts me to see another guy making you happy…I’m just glad you found a person that makes you feel the way I feel about you,” he softly told the camera. “And I hope he does return for you because if he doesn’t? He is obviously the dumbass I always kind of thought him to be for letting a woman like you slip from his fingers.”

My eyes met Zak’s. “He’s not afraid to let you know how he feels about me, huh?” Zak smiled.
I shook my head, my eyes returning to the screen.

“Well, on THAT note, like I said I have never been good with expressing my exact feelings through words, so…” He paused as he grabbed up his guitar from beside him and positioned it in his lap. “I’ll sing my feelings. Well…I’ll TRY and sing about my feelings. We both know I suck balls at singing, but you know I play a mean guitar,” he winked. I smiled knowing he did play guitar rather well, but his singing was never as awful as he always made it seem.

His fingers began strumming across the guitar strings as he began singing the familiar lyrics of a favorite song of mine. His deep, husky voice formed words that wrapped around my like a sweet, sad lullaby.

"Time, is going by, so much faster than I,
And I'm starting to regret not spending all of it with you.
Now I'm wondering why I've kept this bottled inside,
So I'm starting to regret not telling all of this to you.
So if I haven't yet, I've gotta let you know..."

Those baby blue eyes met mine through the camera as his soft words grew louder on the chorus.

"You're never gonna be alone
From this moment on, if you ever feel like letting go,
I won't let you fall...
You're never gonna be alone
I'll hold you 'til the hurt is gone."

I clasped a hand over my mouth as the sobs finally began to take voice. The soft strumming of his guitar rang throughout my ears as Luke continued singing:

"And now, as long as I can, I'm holding on with both hands,
'Cause forever I believe that there's nothing I could need but you,
So if I haven't yet, I've gotta let you know...

You're never gonna be alone
From this moment on, if you ever feel like letting go,
I won't let you fall.
When all hope is gone, I know that you can carry on.
We're gonna see the world out,
I'll hold you 'til the hurt is gone."

The soft melody of the guitar shifted as he entered into the bridge of the song.

You've gotta live every single day,
Like it's the only one, what if tomorrow never comes?
Don't let it slip away,
Could be our only one, you know it's only just begun.
Every single day,
Maybe our only one, what if tomorrow never comes?
Tomorrow never comes..."

The more times I wiped away my tears, double the amount kept falling. I released my grip on Zak’s hand and held both of my hands over my mouth so that my loud sobs wouldn’t interrupt Luke’s beautiful singing.

Suddenly, Luke’s fingers came to a stop as he bowed his head. His hand came up to cover his face. Even though I couldn’t see him I knew he was crying. He was doing everything he could to hold back the tears for just a while longer so he could finish the song. His fingers once more began caressing the strings of the guitar as he slowly lifted his head. His voice, once strong and full of confidence, now came out barely above a whisper as he continued on.

"Time, is going by, so much faster than I,
And I'm starting to regret not telling all of this to you…"

His blue eyes, shining with tears, lifted to meet the camera lens.

"You're never gonna be alone
From this moment on, if you ever feel like letting go,
I won't let you fall.
When all hope is gone, I know that you can carry on.
We're gonna see the world out,
I'll hold you 'til the hurt is gone.

I'm gonna be there always,
I won't be missing one more day,
I'm gonna be there always,
I won't be missing one more day."

By this time, tears were streaming down his handsome face. Both of us were crying only for different reasons. In my heart, I knew he was crying because he knew that there was no hope for a relationship to happen between us. Not when I had already found Zak. And I was crying because these lyrics hit me even more now knowing he was gone and it was like he was telling me that even in death…I was never going to be stranded. That somewhere, somehow, Luke was going to come to me and comfort me no matter what it took. This song made me miss him all the more.
Luke laid the guitar beside him on the bed and wiped away the tears with the back of his hand. He chuckled through his tears as he looked into the camera.

“Look at that. You made me cry,” he teased. “I guess it’s payback for making you cry earlier, huh? Anyways, hopefully you find the ring before you find this. Knowing you, you’re probably wondering what in the fuck kind of language is inscribed on the inside of your ring. Well, that would be Latin, my dear. You thought it was French didn’t you?” He chuckled as a gleam shined in his eye.

“Shut up,” I mumbled with a sad smile. I could taste a mixture of snot and tears on my lips. I could only imagine how I looked now with mascara and eyeliner running down my face with my eyes and nose being puffy and red.

“You are probably thinking ‘stupid, Luke! Why couldn’t he just make things simple and use English! He is always making things so damn complicated’,” he mocked in an overly high pitched voice that sounded nothing like me. My fingers itched to reach out and slap him, but I knew I never would be able to do that again.

“Well, the inscription, in English, reads ‘unto Eternity’,” he answered. My eyes dropped to the ruby band clasped tightly in the palm of my hand. “You’re probably wondering why I chose such a phrase, huh? Well, it’s because—”

“Luke!” An all too familiar female voice called out. I entered into the camera shot and plopped down onto Luke’s lap with a giggle. “What are you doing you weirdo? Are you talking to yourself again?” I asked him.

I could vaguely even recall this day considering so much had happened in between then and now.
Luke laughed. “Just brushing up on my guitar skills,” he answered with a charming smile. I watched in a weird sense of déjà vu as the me on camera rolled her eyes.

“Well, come on! That new movie I want to see just came out in theaters in the next town over. I promise to pay for the tickets if you buy the pop~corn,” I sang. He chuckled and set me down off his lap.

“Ok, ok, just let me get more appropriately dressed will ya? I mean, geez, woman, I could have been naked and masturbating to a Playboy magazine for all you knew,” he huffed angrily, but there was no mistaking that playful gleam in his eye.

I rolled my eyes. “Oh whatever. You know you would totally be jacking off to Ryan Reynold’s face,” I joked.

“Hey, now! That man has a fantastic body that I can only DREAM of having. I would definitely go gay for that man,” he said pointing a stern finger at me.

The me now and the me in the video both laughed. Only her laugh was more carefree and full of joy while mine was full of sorrow and painful memories.

“Just get dressed,” I sighed at him before leaving the room. Luke’s eyes met the camera and he smiled.

“We’ll be laughing about this later,” he foretold. “Anyways…” he approached the camera and crouched down onto his haunches in front of the recording lens. “That phrase?” he whispered.
“It means…” he paused and took a deep breath. At the same time, both him and I repeated the last words he had said to me:

“I will always love you…now unto eternity.”

The camera went black as the video cut off. It was so hard to look away from the screen. I wanted Luke to be standing there before me so badly that when I looked up and didn’t see him there…I erupted into a fit of sobs.

Zak pulled me tightly into his arms and cradled my head against his shoulder. The ring bit into the palm of my hand as I grasped my fingers even tighter around it. How was I supposed to go to the funeral now when I felt and looked like THIS?

“Zak, I-I c-c-can’t go t-to—”

“Ssshhh,” he soothed. “I know. I understand. I’ll call Mason and the guys to let them know. It’s ok, Aerolynn. I promise…they’ll understand.”

He gently gripped my face between his hands and tilted my head back to look up at him. My eyes quickly darted away knowing I must look ugly having my eye make-up running down my cheeks along with my nose being all puffy from the tears.

He grabbed my hand and tenderly uncurled my fingers from around the ring. He took it from my palm and slid the band around the middle finger of my right hand. It formed to my finger perfectly. Tears laced with black from my mascara dropped onto the back of my hand as I gazed in awe at the ring.

“Luke…he loved you…probably more than any guy ever can,” Zak said softly playing with my fingers. “He makes my love for you feel kinda…inferior,” he chuckled.

My eyes rose up to clash with a pair of stormy blue eyes.

“I promise you though that for as long as I live…I will strive to love you as much as he did if not even more than that. Luke…he has become my role model in the ways of knowing how to love someone with a feeling so intense…you would give your very life to protect them and their loved one.”

“Zak, you’re not helping with the tears,” I joked.

A sad smile graced those lips. He took his thumbs and did his best to wipe away the make-up and the tears.

“I know,” he replied seriously.

My eyes fell back to the ring that glinted in the afternoon sun. The ring itself was stunning, but the meaning behind it was even more breathtaking. And the video he had made? No words could describe the overwhelming joy and sadness that pulled at my heart. And even though I didn’t want to…I knew I had to go to that funeral. I needed to say the goodbye I never was able to say to him when I had the chance.

“Let’s go to the funeral,” I decided. Zak watched me through wary eyes.

“Are you sure?”

“No…but…I think I need to go because if I don’t? It’ll just be one more thing I regret not doing when I had the chance,” I answered.

Zak nodded. He stood up and pulled me with him. He rested his jacket around my shoulders before pulling me close to him in a tight embrace.

“I’m so proud of you,” he whispered against the top of my head.

He grabbed my hand and walked us out of the apartment building. The moment we stepped out into the sunlight and the warmth of the rays washed over my skin, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace inside my heart. I looked up at the bright blue sky and saw a Blue Jay fly across the clouds before disappearing into the sun. I smiled, touching my lips to my new ring.

'Unto eternity…'
♠ ♠ ♠
Ok, so I told you I would update you with more info on this whole "third book" thing. Here is the deal...the third book will be titled (can you guess?) "Unto Eternity" (I know, real original right? Way to steal Luke's words) hahaha but anyways, that is the title.

Here's the catch, I probably won't actually start writing on it for a while because I am going to go back and write on some of the other stories that I KINDA may have ignored while writing this one _ (shame on me!)

Anywho, I will update The Freeing Blood with an excerpt of Unto Eternity once I get around to it (you know how it is with school, homework, multiple stories, and such...BUSY BEE!)...

I do hope you enjoyed the last (super long) chapter and will be with me once I publish Unto Eternity! Remember to LEAVE A COMMENT! Thank every single one of you so much! :)