Natalie didn’t mind being dead. She really didn’t. After a brutal death ten years ago, she resided in Heaven. Actually she resided in the prime real estate of Heaven— the Inner Circle. It was where those who had led exemplary lives ended up after death.
It was pretty. Large buildings made out of crystal housed those who lived there. The residents walked on white clouds. She could eat if she wanted, but she didn’t need to. She could sleep or shower if she desired, but she didn’t have to. She admired the beauty, and she lived comfortably, but she wasn’t happy. No, in fact, she was downright miserable.
The cause of that misery still lived on Earth and went by the name of Aiden. Well, she couldn’t even call it living—he simply existed, and he really didn’t do a very good job at that. He had closed himself off from everyone except their son, Robert. Beautiful Robert, her son she never got to meet.
She remembered the first time she had laid eyes on Aiden. She had been bartending in a small place on the side of a Texas highway. She had felt eyes on her, and when she turned to the door, there he was. He was tall, dressed in black camo pants, combat boots, a black t-shirt, and a leather biker jacket. He stood somewhere between six and a half to seven feet tall, and weighed between two-fifty and three hundred pounds. His black hair hung to his shoulders, and his whiskey colored eyes seemed to burn her as he looked her over from the doorway. As he got closer, she noted the diamond studs just below his lower lip and on the side of his nose. They glowed in the lights against his chocolate skin. He was raw menace and sex. She had watched as he kicked a drunk man off a stool at the bar and put him in a cab. That had really made her mad because the drunk guy hadn’t paid his tab. She confronted him on it, and he had just stared at her.
“Can you hear me, or are you just an asshole?” she had said.
After a moment, he said quietly, “I will take care of his tab.”
Satisfied, she then asked him what he wanted to drink.
“Whiskey,” he said gruffly, “whatever you have.”
“You want the cheap stuff or the good stuff?” she asked.
“The good stuff, please,” he said.
She thought that she had finally a customer with a little bit of class, not to mention money in his wallet.
Their romance had developed slowly. He was at the bar every night she worked. In between her waiting on customers, they talked. She had told him about her life, and told him she liked roses, and that her favorite color was blue. He showed up with blue roses. They talked about the serious, such as her father’s death, and how her mother had left when Natalie was only four. Aiden had been kind and gentle, his brown eyes practically lighting her up with affection, but she noticed how he kept his past to himself.
One time, she had thought she had seen him outside the window of her apartment in the early morning hours, but dismissed the vision. He wouldn’t be the type to watch her while she slept. Would he?
Besides the interest in her, she felt a sexual tension between them. She found herself letting her fingers linger as she handed him his drinks, and he held her gaze a little longer than he should. Whenever they touched, or her eyes met his, a jolt ran through her body. She started taking the time to do something with her long, brown hair, and also putting a little make-up on her pale skin. She had to admit, Aiden was raw, bad boy sex, and she should probably stay away from him. Yet, he the way he acted was a direct contradiction to the way he looked. He was always the perfect gentleman.
He stayed at the bar every night to walk her to her car, and watched her drive away.
This went on for weeks.
One night as he walked her to her car, she had looked him right and the eye and said, “Are you ever going to kiss me?”
She remembered the look of complete and utter shock that passed over his face, but it eventually faded, and he kissed her. They ended up in her bed for a night that she had never experienced before. It had been amazing.
She remembered what he had said when she told him she thought she was falling in love with him.
He cleared his throat and whispered, “I have been in love with you since the second I laid eyes on you.”
Her heart swelled, and she was walking on clouds, similar to what she did now in Heaven, except in the metaphorical sense.
That was until two days later.
He had neglected to mention throughout all their time together that he was a vampire.
Of course, she did what any normal girl would do when confronted with that piece of information: She flipped out and told him to get the hell away from her.
Three days later, she couldn’t take the ache in her chest any longer. She called in sick to work because her broken heart had really made her physically ill, and she had done nothing but think about her situation.
He had plenty of opportunity to hurt her. They had been alone numerous times. If he wanted to drink her dry and bury her body, as all vampire lore she had heard indicated, he would have done it already.
Aiden had done nothing to danger her. In fact, he was terribly protective. She noticed how he eyed everyone who came into the bar, how he sneered at anyone who talked to her more than ordering a drink. And the way he walked her to her car every night, his eyes scanning the parking lot, she felt like she was royalty being protected by her honor guard.
But putting all that aside, she missed him. She missed his warm eyes and his big arms around her. She missed his attentiveness, the way he hung on every word she said, the way they made each other laugh.
And sweeping all that under the rug, was there really that big of a difference between them? He looked human and he acted human. Maybe there wasn’t as much to the whole vampire thing as she thought. She decided to go and find out. She called him, and went to his apartment.
He had told her of his childhood at the hands of a full-bred vampire, or his “bitch mother” as he referred to her. He told her stories of him being in charge of his brothers while his mother was out looking for another mate, and how he had basically shut down emotionally…that was until he met her.
He explained the Behavior Doctrine—the rules the Vampire Nation lived by. It was simple: Humans were never to know about the Vampire Race, and that humans were to never be killed, but revered.
He had told her that the first time he laid eyes on her, he felt a fissure in that wall he had put up around his heart, and that she had quickly eradicated it.
She asked if he wanted to drink from her.
He had been honest, and said yes. She appreciated that honesty, but it sent a spear of fear through her.
They ended up in bed, and she decided to give him the ultimate test. She was desperate to totally trust him, so desperate, that she told him to bite her. She felt so lost, so incomplete without him, she didn’t care if she died in his arms.
After a slight hesitancy, he had bitten her. It was an amazing experience to be nourishing the one who she loved, not to mention the heat that coursed through her veins, the lust that licked throughout her body.
They had joked about it later that night.
Aiden actually told her a vampire joke, a bad one, but it was a joke that had them both laughing until the tears came.
Three vampires went into a bar and sat down.
The barmaid came over to take their orders. “And what would you, er, gentlemen like tonight?”
The first vampire said, “I’ll have a mug of blood.”
The second vampire said, “I’ll have a mug of blood.”
The third vampire shook his head at his companions and said, “I will have a glass of plasma.”
The barmaid wrote down each order, went to the bar and called to the bartender, “Two bloods and a blood light.”
On a more serious note, Aiden decided that they needed to leave, to fall of the grid, so to speak. He explained that if he were to be caught with a human female who knew that vampires actually existed, they both would die.
Okay, off the grid was good with her, especially if it meant avoiding death. She didn’t have anything tethering her to the area. Besides, she was wholly in love with Aiden, and couldn’t imagine a life that didn’t include him. Wherever he went, she would follow.
The next night they left on his Harley and headed to Mexico. They had ended up at a small town just over the border. After finding a small cottage for them to live in, they had found out she was pregnant.
The pregnancy had been a huge surprise, but an amazing experience for her. She marveled at the changes in her body, and she probably did a little, okay, a lot of grousing as well. Aiden worshipped her each day, kissing their growing baby, or babe, as he called it. It seemed that the bigger she got, the happier he was. He waited on her hand and foot, always attentive to whatever she may need. He even learned how to do a pregnancy massage, and she bet she was the only pregnant female on the planet that didn’t have a sore back. He also rubbed her feet whenever she asked, and helped her indulge in her cravings.
One night, just before dawn, he came through the door with a bag of Candy Corn, her newest craving.
“I had to ride for fifteen miles to track these down for you,” he grumbled with a smile on his face. She knew that although he complained, he loved making her happy. And Candy Corn made her very, very happy.
Then, one day, two weeks before her due date, she had decided to go out for a walk in the late afternoon sun. Aiden couldn’t go with her as vampires couldn’t go in the sun. Secretively, she had been happy for the small amount of alone time. She loved Aiden with everything in her being, but every now and then she just needed a bit of space.
She walked by the flower shop, and just as the sun dipped over the horizon and began to turn the sky dark, someone had grabbed her from the alley and dragged her in. She remembered the pain from the first knife wound, and resolved that whoever it was, would not destroy her babe. She had fought, but the knife kept coming at her. But she noticed the attacker had deliberately avoided her belly, and seemed hell bent on destroying her. When she finally fell to the ground, not quite ready to accept her death, she heard people at the mouth of the alley. Her attacker fled. She watched faces of strangers loom above her, one on a cell phone, the rest trying to stop the bleeding. She saw a blackness descend on her from above, but oddly, she wasn’t afraid. It had been slow, as if it was unsure if it was supposed to claim her. She heard the people above her screaming, someone was crying. She didn’t know how many people were there, and she didn’t care. She just watched the blackness.
She knew in her heart that if she let go, it would descend on her, engulf her, and that would be it for her time on Earth. But if she fought, she may be able to hold it off. She tried to breath, but she didn’t have any fight left in her.
“Your son will live,” a large, deep and kind voice told her from the blackness. “But it is your time to come to me.”
She nodded, felt a tear trickle down her face. Images of Aiden and a son she would never meet swam in front of her eyes. The heartache she experienced was so strong, it almost hurt worse that the stab wounds in her body. She shut her eyes, let the tears roll down her cheeks and gave up the fight.
Once she reached Heaven, she didn’t understand why she hurt so badly. She had thought that all pain would be left on Earth, and that Heaven was nothing but love, happiness, joy, and puppy kisses.
Saint Peter set her straight.
“You loved deeply on Earth,” he had said, scanning a clipboard, his grey beard rustling in the heavenly breeze.
He shook his head.
“I have seen this just a few times,” he said quietly, his deep blue eyes meeting her gray ones, his brilliant white robe dancing around his ankles. “Your love has transcended.”
Natalie wasn’t sure what that meant.
Saint Peter nodded and sighed. “Think of it this way: your connection to your love down on Earth cannot be broken unless he lets you go. Until then, you won’t have peace. You will feel the pain he feels at your loss.” He then touched her cheek, concern in his eyes
“I’m sorry, my dear.” He turned to go back to his duty of who decided to get in to Heaven and who didn’t.
It broke her heart to feel Aiden in so much pain, and it hurt her. It physically hurt. They had been so in love when she resided on Earth, that his pain at her death transcended time, space, and dimensions. She could feel what he felt.
She quickly grew tired of the pain that swirled through her. It was debilitating.
She hoped each day that the pain would ease, and sometimes she thought that maybe it had. Then it would come back with such a force it would knock her to her knees. She was so done with all of it, and so a month into her residency in Heaven, she decided to do something about it.
The problem was that she couldn’t leave Heaven. Those in the Inner Circle were kept in Heaven. The Creator wanted them safe, so he put the kibosh on any visits to Earth, except for the Guardian Angels, of course.
She had heard about The Fringe, a place on the outskirts of the Inner Circle. It was also a part of Heaven, but it was where those who had lived lives on Earth that didn’t quite qualify for Hell resided. The residents of The Fringe didn’t walk on clouds, but nice grass. Their buildings weren’t made out of crystal, but the place looked like an old western town with wooden buildings. They even had a bar there. Motorcycles buzzed up and down the grassy spaces, where men clad in leather, and few women, roamed the streets.
Those of The Fringe were free to come and go as they pleased because it was up for discussion as to whether they actually belonged in Heaven or not. No one cared what they did. She envied their ability to leave, and she went there multiple times looking for someone to help her. She wanted someone to go down to Earth and help Aiden get over her so that he could go on living without the pain, and in return, she wouldn’t be subject to the pain either.
Those from the Inner Circle weren’t allowed to cross to The Fringe. Heaven had some pretty stringent rules.
No one paid much attention to her. At first.
Then one day a big male dressed in leather pants and boots and a gray t-shirt with a flop of red hair came over to her. He introduced himself as Mark, and asked why she was always at the border between The Fringe and the Inner Circle. She explained what she wanted him to do, and she also had a message for him to give to Aiden regarding her murderer. She knew who had killed her. The information had been given to her upon her check-in to Heaven, and it was important for Aiden to know.
Why, she didn’t know, but he’d agreed. And Mark the Angel went down to Earth to find her beloved Aiden and hopefully talk some sense into him, and give him the message.
Except, he couldn’t find him. Natalie kept checking the death records, but it showed Aiden was still alive. Mark looked for ten years, it becoming less of a favor to Natalie and more of a personal mission for him. And then he found Aiden at his brother Thaddeus’s house. Mark had become good friend with Thaddeus during his time on Earth searching for Aiden.
Heaven recently upgraded its ability to monitor Earth. For those who still had ties to Earth, or those who were assigned as Guardian Angels, they could watch the happenings of their loved ones or their charges on large, flat screen TVs that had been installed in all the residences. It was far more convenient than the Pool of Destiny they used to gather around to watch the happenings of Earth.
She had been told that the stronger the ties to Earth, the clearer the picture on the TV would be.
Natalie watched on her flat screen as Mark treated Aiden to a left hook that brought him to his knees on some nice hardwood floors that belonged to Aiden’s brother, Thaddeus. The picture was crystal clear.
Mark stood over him. “I have been looking for you for ten years, you fucker.”
Natalie covered her face with her hands, her heart breaking at seeing Aiden. He looked wrecked, destroyed. She watched between her fingers as Aiden took the news that a man named Victor Marano had killed her. She watched as he stormed out of the house, and had to look away when he fed from a prostitute. She jumped from the couch as Aiden was attacked on the street by two teenagers with a tire iron, and left on the sidewalk to bleed out. She heard him say her name, a tear trickled down her face, and the pain she felt lanced through her leaving her gasping for air.
The pain eventually faded, and she turned off the TV. She hoped she had done the right thing by sending Mark down there. She prayed that Mark could steer him in the right direction. She knew the only way for her to find peace was through Aiden finding his peace.