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Author's note: I wrote this after reading numerous books about paranormal romance. I love it and I love writing, so I decided to write this.
I woke up this morning, late. I forgot I had to work today and totally slept in. The thing that woke me up was my mother. "Ashley, honey, get up! You're going to be late for work!" As much as I hate my job, I still had to go. I worked at Party Hardy. A party store downtown where all the weird people and immature teens seem to shop. The store isn't in great shape either. But, I roll out of bed and go into the bathroom. When I come out, I throw on a blue polo, a clean pair of jeans, and my black chucks. I run downstairs and grab a bottle of water as I rush out of the door. "Bye mom!" I yelled over my shoulder. She waved back just as the door slammed behind me. I rushed down Garden Street and screeched into the Party Hardy parking lot. I jumped out of my car and ran into the store. "Good to see you Ashley. Glad you showed up." My boss Mr. Link said in a slightly sarcastic tone. I smiled and went to the cash register. "Nice morning." I tried to slide in before he walked off. "Yes, it is. But for now just do your job." He said rudely, and then walked out the door. I sat at the register for almost an hour before the first customer came in. It was a pretty brunette woman, maybe in her twenties. She looked around for a while before picking up a pack of paper plates, silverware, napkins, and a table cloth. She then walked over to my register and set down the stuff. She smiled at me as I began to ring up her merchandise. I told her the total and she swiped her card, gathered her stuff, and left. That was the last morning customer I had. Then the afternoon came. It was a pretty slow day. I wasn't expecting anything more. Turns out I was way wrong. It was about three o'clock, almost closing time, since we close at three- thirty. A couple of women walked in laughing and acting a fool. A couple minutes later a distressed looking man walked in. He looked at the girls and then went down an isle. The women left at about three- twenty, and the man right after them. I locked up and went around the building to my car. That's when I heard the screams. I ran, only to run into the distressed man and one of the girls from the store. Mascara streamed down her face and blood was staining her white sweater. The man looked at me before turning back to the girl. I screamed and hit him in the face. He staggered backwards and let the girl go, but before she could escape he grabbed her again and threw me across the lot. I hit the pavement hard and my head smacked against it. Tears started streaming down my face. Through blurred vision I could see the man beating the young woman again and again. I screamed out, but that didn't seem to affect him. He just continued. She finally quit struggling and squirming. She wasn't dead but she was most definitely unconscious. Blood was streaming down her beaten face. I started to cry but then I realized I could save the woman and myself. I pulled my cell from my pocket and dialed 911. With a quick ring a woman answered. "911, what's your emergency?" I assessed my thoughts and mumbled. "I am at Party Hardy downtown! I need help!" Then the man rushed over and kicked the phone from my hand. "You will not turn me in!" He growled and then kicked me. "No!" I screamed. I scrambled up off the pavement and tried to get to the other woman lying on the ground. But before I could make it to her the man hit me and I fell. This time I heard something crack. I felt the pain start to shoot up from my hand and wrist and arm. It was dreadful, but I pushed on. I tried once again to get to the girl, but the man was already on top of her. I didn't want to think about what he was doing to her unconscious body so I just ignored it and ran for him. I hit him in the head with my fist and he fell off of her. He staggered to get up and I tried to punch him, but he caught my good arm and yanked me away, mumbling something that sounded like, "Not anymore." I slammed up against the brick wall and fell to my knees. I was gasping for air. Then I heard it. Gun shots. One. Two. Three. Silence.
Next thing I know I'm in the hospital hooked up to a zillion different machines, one beeping, one wheezing, one counting, one humming. All of the noises blending together to make an annoying racket. "Mom?" I asked wearily. "OH SWEETHEART!" My mother exclaimed from the small bedside chair, while my dad leap in the door. "Oh Ashley! I thought we'd lost you! Baby, are you okay? How are you feeling?" My dad asked frantically, all the love pouring out as he asked questions. I smiled weakly. "Uh, I really don't know how to answer. I am hooked up to a lot of hospital machines, I witnessed a murder, and my body hurts! I don't think I am all honky dory!" I said frenzied. My dad sighed, a look of hurt on his face, while my mom stood there with tears in her eyes. I sighed. "Look I don't mean to be short with you mom, or dad, but I just don't know how to adjust to this just quite yet, and I'm sorry if I snapped at you. I'm just scared." I said, feeling my eyes water up. I quickly blinked the tears away. "Um, what happened exactly?" I asked. My mom hesitated. "Well, I'm not quite sure on all the details about what you witnessed baby, but from what I understand, you dialed 911 about twenty minutes before the ambulance got there with the police. They found a woman's body about ten feet away from you and she had been shot, more than once. You on the other hand were unconscious. Thank God. You have a broken wrist and a minor concussion. You were in a coma for about two days. You finally woke up. I am so grateful that you are alive." She said through frantic sobs. My dad just stood beside her staring at me. That's when I noticed a yellow light behind the door. I couldn't make it out, so I looked at my dad and said, "Can you close the door please?" He quickly closed the door. "Is that better honey?" He asked. I just stared at the beautiful outline of brilliant yellow light. It looked like the light was outlining a person. Strange, I thought to myself. My dad cleared his throat and I looked at him. "What are you staring at Ash?" My dad asked. "Nothing!" I quickly exclaimed. My mom had a worried expression on her face. I sighed. And when I looked back at the door, the light wasn't there anymore. It was strange, but I had the sudden urge to cry. The light gave me a sense of protection. I don't know why, but it was a good feeling. Then I assured my mom and dad that I was going to be okay. I drifted off into a peaceful sleep. Or so I thought.
I thought I was going to have a dreamless sleep, but I was wrong. At first the dream was black, but as I dreamed harder, I saw the same yellow light outline that I saw today in my hospital room. It was beautiful. Illuminated with the most brilliant yellow light. I smiled. But when I tried to touch it, it would vanish and then reappear in the distance. I tried to figure out what it was and why I was so drawn towards it. Why did it make me feel so safe? It was just a light after all. Then I saw it. The brilliant outline suddenly materialized into the most beautiful man I had ever seen. He had the clearest skin, the purest sapphire eyes, and the most chiseled face. It was the definition of perfect. He was wearing what looked like designer clothes. It was amazing. He was amazing. Then before I could see past him, he disappeared. I fell to my knees and started crying. I cried so hard that I started to shake. Why was I crying? The man, the light, the safety, all gone. That was why I was crying. I was waken up, thankfully, by my father's worried voice. "Ashley what's wrong with you?" He asked, worried. I stared at him through blurry eyes. "What? What is wrong? Ashley, talk to me! Please!" He started yelling. I wiped my eyes and narrowed them at him. "Look, after what I just went through I might have nightmares, okay. So yelling at me WILL NOT HELP! Listen dad, next time, just don't wake me up let me suffer. I'd rather go through a nightmare than have you yelling at me all the time." I snapped at him. His face went blank and I thought I saw tears in his eyes. "I understand." He said blankly. Then he walked out the door and left me alone. I started to cry again. What had I done? I felt a horrible emptiness start to envelop me. I realized I needed the light.
About a week passed and it was time for me to go home. But I still hadn't seen the light or the beautiful man from my dreams. I felt weird. Like something was missing. When I got home I was happy, relieved. It made me feel better. No more machines. No more hourly checkups or IVs. Thank you! Just me, mom, and dad. Of course my older brother Dannie was suppose to be coming in to see me. He was eighteen and a student at UCLA (University of California Los Angeles). He was accepted there on a basketball scholarship, so he had a ways to travel, considering we lived all the way in Jersey. He was coming to spend the summer back home. I gave up trying to think too much, so I went into the kitchen and found something to eat. I had lost almost ten pounds in the hospital because I couldn't eat. I was ready to eat some good home cooked food. So I rummaged around the kitchen when I came across some leftover grilled chicken and yellow rice. Good enough. I heated the food up in the microwave and went into the living room to eat, since my dad was in the computer office and my mom was in the library. I turned on the TV and flipped it to MTV2. Jersey Shore was on. That show was interesting because of all the people they get to be on the show. The typical jock guys and the coincidental blond, brunettes, and occasional redhead. They all hook up and live in a house of drama and chaos. So I watched. I finished eating just as the show was over. Then I went in my room and fell asleep. That was when I had the dream. I was walking through the most beautiful pasture. It was filled with lush green grass and lovely flowers. It smelled of hay and fresh air. It was great, and as I walked something tapped me on the shoulder. When I turned around I saw him again. The beautiful man. He stood before me. With a slightly stern look on his face. "Your name is Ashley, is it not?" He asked in the sexiest, most melodic voice ever. I mustered up the courage to answer him. "Well, yeah that's me." I said moronically. "You have witnessed something very sad and unfortunate and for that I am truly sorry. But I am here." He said properly. I stood there wondering who he was and why he was here saying that to me. "I don't get it. Who are you?" I asked. He looked deep into my eyes. "I am yours and you are mine. Unity my love." He replied. I looked around, confused. What in the world was he talking about? I had never seen him in my life. And yet I felt a pull between us. Like he was the magnet and I was the paper clip that was attracted to his gravitational pull. What was I thinking? He isn't even real. He is someone I dreamed up. To ease my troubles. "A dream, I am not." He said abruptly. That stopped everything I was thinking about. What? How did he know what I was thinking? What was this? "How did you know what I was thinking?" I asked. "I cannot explain the whys and why notch of this dreamland, but I can tell you that the world is dangerous, as you have witnessed. Love is power, hate is destruction. No one knows the real meaning. We just know what is and what is not. Take this and figure out what I have said to you. I will not be far away love. Just think of me and I will come to you." Before I could ask the stream of questions that were clouding my head he disappeared, again. How does he do that? How does he do anything? I mean really. Whatever that whole little speech was about I need to figure it out. And why was he calling me love? I don't even know him. And unless he is some kind of creepy, unnatural stalker dude, I have no idea how he knows me either. I tried to dream him again, but he did not return. So I ran around the pasture looking for him. I ran until I ran to a black edge. I was just about to walk away when I felt a shove from behind me. I fell off the edge; actually I was pushed off the edge. I screamed and felt a horrible sense of danger. I plunged down into darkness until I hit the bottom. Was I dead?
I woke up all sweaty and short of breath. I couldn't believe the dream I had just had. The beautifully strange mystery guy and being pushed off a dark edge. Weird doesn't even begin to cover it. What was I going to do? You'd think that I'd be having nightmares about, oh, I don't know, THE MURDER I WITNESSED! But no, I was dreaming about a beautiful stranger that somehow knows me. I guess that is good, but just not what I expected. I scrambled out of bed and looked at the clock. It was ten o'clock in the morning. The seemingly short dream lasted all night. I went into the bathroom and took a nice hot shower and then got dressed. I walked into the living room. "Good morning sweetie, how are you?" My mom sweetly asked. I looked at her. "I'm good I guess. Nothing out of the ordinary." I said back. She smiled at me and went back to watching TV. I went into the kitchen and got a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal. I brought it into my room while I turned on my Owl City CD. "Hello Seattle" was playing when my cell started beeping. I picked it up and opened the text message. It was from a restricted number. It said "I thought you could use some help." I had no idea who had sent me the text, but I didn't think anything of it. I just deleted the message and continued with my extremely bland day.
I had a dreamless sleep. This was a relief, as well as a disappointment. I showered and got dressed, and was surprised when I walked into the living room. Dannie was sitting on the couch playing the XBOX with my dad. When I walked into the room my brother threw down the controller and ran over to me. "OH ASH I AM SO GLAD YOU ARE OKAY!" He exclaimed. I was dangling above the ground in his arms. He hugged me so tenderly that it made me instantly miss my big brother. "Are you okay?" He asked me. I nodded as he put me down. "Dannie, you don't have to worry about me, really. I am good." I tried to assure him. He gave me a worried look, which was becoming a regular for everyone around me, and then sat back down. He patted the space beside him. "Come on. Sit next to me and tell me what's new since I've been away." I walked over and sat beside him. "Well, since you've been gone I have had my own space. No one to share with, which has been wonderful." I teased. "Listen, you, I have been having a blast at college. Better than being here and being annoyed by you" He teased back. "Oh yeah, well mom lowered my curfew. I can be out until three o'clock now." I added. "Oh, big whoop, I don't have a curfew." He shot back. We both laughed. "And at least I don't have a crappy party store job with obnoxious teens and weird homicidal maniacs." He tried to tease, but it made me stop laughing. He realized then what he had said. I got up and went into the kitchen. "Hey! Ash, I-I'm so sorry! I forgot-I-didn't mean to-." He scrambled the words. I grabbed a water bottle from the fridge. "Look Danny, it's fine. I know you didn't mean it. And running away from comments won't change anything so just forget it." I said from the kitchen. I closed the fridge door. Then he was there. The beautiful man. I let out a scream, and dropped my water bottle I tried to run, but slipped in the puddle and landed on my back. When I looked up, he wasn't there anymore. Oh my god what in the hell? My dad and brother rushed in to check on me. "Ash what happened?" My dad asked. I looked around to make sure the man wasn't still there. "Ashley?" My brother asked. "Yes?" I answered. "What happened?" My dad restated. "Um, I just had a scary flash. I'm sorry. I'll clean up." I said, shaky. "Oh Ashley, I really didn't mean to stir any of those awful memories for you." My brother apologized. "It's fine Danny, I just need to go in my room for a while." He was about to say something else, but I quickly walked away.
I secluded myself to my room. I didn't care anymore. I was stressed and I felt alone. Ever since I quit my job I had nothing else to do. It was summer and all the friends I had went to spend their summer on the famous Jersey Shore. So I sat on my bed, with thoughts swirling about in my head. I couldn't quite get a hold on one specific thought but I knew they were all there. They started to give me a headache so I went over to my computer and checked my Facebook and Myspace. I had a few comments from worried friends just getting news about what had happened, but nothing good. So I logged off and curled onto my bed. I closed my eyes. Just as I was about to drift off to sleep I heard someone whisper my name. I sat up and looked around. There was no one there. And just before I laid back down I saw the faint flicker of a brilliant shimmering light. The beautiful stranger. I didn't really know much about him, but I had to get to know him. He was the best thing that had happened to me since my near death experience.
I decided to write down some key points about the beautiful stranger.
· He was beautiful
· He called me love
· He somehow knows me
· He appears randomly…in and out of my dreams
· He came from light…(I think)
The last thing I wanted to worry about was some crazy stalker. The more I thought about it, the more it creped me out. Yes, it was true that he, whoever HE was, was beautiful. But he wasn't a normal man either. I saw him materialize from light. And then I saw him again today in the kitchen, before he disappeared. No regular guy I knew did that. So, having established that, I wrote down what he had said to me in my dream.
"I cannot explain the whys and why notch of this dreamland, but I can tell you that the world is dangerous, as you have witnessed. Love is power, hate is destruction. No one knows the real meaning. We just know what is and what is not. Take this and figure out what I have said to you. I will not be far away love. Just think of me and I will come to you."
What did this mean? I sat there looking at the paper, trying to figure it out. So he can't explain the dreams, but he knows the world is dangerous. And love is power, hate is destruction? No one knows what that really means we just know what is, and what isn't. It still doesn't really make much sense. But at least I managed to put it into simpler terms. I gave it a rest and watched some TV. There was nothing good on, so I put my ear buds in my ears and listened to my i Pod. I started doodling when my brother stepped into my room. I pulled out my earphones and looked expectantly at him. I knew what he was going to say. "Listen Ash, I know you have been through too much the past two weeks almost, and I shouldn't have made that joke. It was stupid of me. I don't want to hurt you." He said, like I guessed. "Look Dannie, I know you didn't really mean it. Just move on, okay?" I said, exasperated. He shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. "Alright then." He said, and then left my room. I hated it when my brother treated me like I was helpless. I especially hated people always apologizing to me. I just shrugged it off and went back to worrying about the beautiful stranger. Why did he choose me? It surely wasn't my beauty, because I was just normal. Tall, brown eyed, long brown haired, small, large chested, curvy hipped, nonathletic teenager. No extraordinary beauty or talent involved. So why would he care so much about me? And just when I had pictured him, I heard a whisper from behind me and I turned around. There he was. Tall, beautiful, and mysterious in all black designer clothes. The only weirdness about him was the illuminating light that lightly shimmered around his figure. "Does that bother you?" He asked. I looked at him confused. "What?" I asked. He looked me straight in the eyes. And then his shimmering outline disappeared. "I don't know who you are or why you care about me or how you show up instantaneously, but I want you to explain right now, or I will scream for help." I threatened. He smiled a smile that made me wobble. I blinked so hard my eyes started to water. "Dear sweet Ashley, I mean no harm towards you. In fact I love you. I wouldn't dare to live without you. And this may alarm you, do not be frightened. I will tell you that I am unlike anyone you have ever known. I am unable to tell you just what I am, unless you figure it out on your own. So, if you wish to know you must figure it out. I know you can. So as much as I hate it, I must go. And when you've figured it out, I will return as you wish. Until then." He said kissing my hand gently. And then disappeared. I stood there shaking. What was I going to do? I couldn't tell anyone without them thinking I was mental. I crumpled into a heap and started to cry. I felt absolutely empty, helpless, and exhausted.
I fell into a black abyss of a dream. There wasn't one spec of light. I was blind. I stumbled forward. I tripped over something and fell smack down on my face. I rubbed my face and tried to find any kind of light. But as hard as I tried to see, there was none. Until my eyes suddenly revealed a horror of sights. It was as if I was looking through glass. I saw my family in a graveyard all crying and dressed in black. There was a casket in front of them. And when my mom walked away I saw myself. Pale with a blue tint. Unbreathable, unmoving, lying in a black wooden casket. I was dead. I let out a cry. But no one moved, which meant no one heard me. Then I saw hundreds of slightly transparent people with white outfits and gold light swirling around them in an outline. Just like my beautiful stranger. Only these had wings and no one noticed them. Those were angels. I fell to the ground. I had figured it out. My beautiful stranger was an angel.
I woke up screaming. I was shivering and crying. My dad burst into my room and turned on the lights. "What is it Ash? What is wrong?" He yelled frantically. I could see the pain in his eyes. I looked around blurry eyed. "Nottingham." I sputtered. My dad eased his muscles and tried to look calm, but I saw the hurt in his brown eyes. "Okay sweetie. I love you." He said before closing my door. I felt bad for my dad. He cared about me so much, but I always denied his help. I started to cry and then my mom scurried to my side. "Oh Ashley baby!" She exclaimed. I was becoming worn out. "I'm fine." I said flatly in between sniffles. She looked me in the eyes and
I could see the hurt in her eyes as well. "Okay." She said with a sob hidden behind her words. And she hurried out of the room. I curled up in my bed when my brother came in. Great. "Ashley are you really okay?" He asked in a concerned tone. I felt so bad for turning them all away. But I wasn't admitting my problems to them. They were my problems, and mine alone. "For the last time I am fine. I would have asked for help if I had needed it I assure you. So you guys can all stop asking." I snapped, but instantly feeling bad after my words escaped my mouth. My brother's expression dropped. "Well I am so very sorry that we all care too much about you." He said bitterly before storming out of the room. "I'm so sorry." I whispered to the door. Choking on my words. I began to cry so hard that I was hyperventilating and heaving. I had shut my family out. But I had to. I didn't want their lives ruined because of my problems. And then he appeared. "Ashley, do not cry. They will all be fine. They are just very worried for you. They see the fear in your eyes. They care for you deeply." I looked into his eyes. Tears impairing my vision. He wiped them away from my eyes and face. "I have figured it out. I know what you are." I said. He nodded. "I know you've figured it out. I am so grateful. So now I don't have to hide from you any longer." I looked at him. Waiting patiently for an explanation. He put his hands on my shoulders. "My name is Armand Victor's. I am an angel. I chose you that day in the parking lot, but I've known you since you were born. I always wanted you, but needed you to be in serious danger to actually become your angel. I love you Ashley Gram." He admitted. I stared at him blankly. I was amazed. "I can't believe this." I shook my head. Armand got up and walked over to my window. I can appear to you whenever you like. But it has to be at your will." He said to me. I sat on my bed staring at my white plush carpet. Processing everything that I was hearing. He continued talking when I didn't say anything. "It isn't safe in this world. I am the one who must protect you no matter what. And if you were to die, I would die as well." He said with what sounded like a hint of pain at the mention of me dying. I looked at him for a split second before returning to staring at my carpet. "Ashley, I am among one of the few angels to be able to fall in love with a mortal. I am not allowed to be with you unless it is what you want. And if at any time you decide you don't want me anymore, I cease to become your angel and your love. I want to ask you something." He looked me in the eyes. "Yes?" He paused before asking. "That first day you saw me, in the hospital room, what did it feel like to you when I left?" His question made an answer slam right into my mind. My eyes wandered around the room before landing on him. "It felt like I had just lost everything I'd ever known." I admitted. "I felt abandoned and empty inside and out. I thought it was just post- traumatic stress I was experiencing, and that the medicine I was taking was making me hallucinate. But I know now what it really was. I'm in love with you. Every time you leave I feel that way. Abandoned and lost." I whispered. He gathered me in his strong arms. "Ashley I promise that you will not be harmed as long as I am yours." He softly smoothed my hair. Then he was gone and that feeling of love and comfort left with him. "What is going on?" I whispered to myself.
I was so tired that I went to sleep. And thankfully didn't have a dream. I woke up around eleven o'clock the next day and wandered around the kitchen looking for something to eat. I was about to give up when I saw a white paper bag on the table with my name on it. Inside were dough-nuts. Glazed. My favorite. I sauntered into the living room and turned on the TV. I was apparently home alone, so I watched Super bad. After it was over I decided to go for a run. I was extremely out of shape, so running wasn't the best choice, but it felt good to escape the house for a little while. As I ran I let all of my thoughts completely escape from my head. The only thing I thought about was my breathing. Inhale, left foot, exhale, right foot, repeat. I did that for about an hour and a half until I couldn't run anymore. I returned home and showered letting the steam release some of my stress. When I got dressed and walked into the living room everyone was glaring at me. I instantly remembered what I had done to them last night and felt horrible. I would glare at me, too. "Where were you?" My father growled. And then I realized they weren't mad about last night, they were mad about me leaving the house. "I'm sorry dad." I whispered. "Don't do that to me! Don't do that to us!" My mom hollered. And I could tell that she was trying not to cry. "I went for a run. I went to clear my head before I went insane. It is summer I have no job, I have no friends to hang out with, and I am contained here all day and everyday!" I snapped back. And not really feeling all that bad this time. "Mom, Dad, listen; stop trying to express your concern to her anymore. She obviously doesn't want your input in her life. She has shown that many times. I say you just shrug it off and let her do whatever." My brother shot at me. I couldn't believe what he had said and I burst out of the house running so fast I felt like I was going to end up in Canada any minute. "Ashley!" I heard my parents calling behind me. But I didn't listen. I just kept running until I reached the park that my dad used to take me to as a little girl. I sat on the swing and cried. Nothing in the world mattered. I was lonely, I was scared, and I wanted Armand. As soon as I thought about him he was there with me. "My love, I am terribly sorry for what your brother said. His actions have hurt you. But I have come for you. He held me in his arms and cradled me back and forth. Don't worry about it. They all love you and worry for your safety. As do I, but in greater measure. They want you to know that they love you and so they scold you. But do not worry, they forgive and forget." He said. I looked him in the eyes. "Can I ask something?" I asked. "You may." He said to me. "If angels are suppose to protect people, then why do people die?" I stared up at him. He looked at me with a hard expression. "They die because they have either wished away their angel, which is rare, or they have no will to be protected." Even though he had said this I doubted that the young woman I had witnessed murdered, did not want protection. But if he said it was true, then who was I to contradict him. "Is there something else?" He posed. I shook my head lightly. "Let me get you home before your parents do something irrational." He said. I nodded. And before I knew it I was at my front door. And before I could say goodbye, he was gone. I sighed and walked through the front door and stormed into my room. In a matter of seconds I had Dannie, my dad, and my mom all banging on my door begging me to come out. But I had shut them out and resorted to listening to my i Pod. I blasted Keri Hilton's "Energy" in my ears so I could no longer hear what they were saying just outside my door. About two hours later I slipped into the kitchen. And they all bolted from their rooms to get to me. "Leave me alone!" I yelled. But they were all persistent with their "I'm sorry" and "We love you" apologies. But the truth was I didn't want or need any of it. I had heard enough. "ENOUGH!" I finally screamed. "I know you are all so very sorry, but just give me space. What you guys fail to see is that what is helping me is you guys being happy and not worrying about me every single second. If I need help I promise you all will be the first to know." I managed to say. Then they all nodded at me and left me alone. I got my salad and went to my room to watch TV. I watched MTV until I was too tired to stay awake anymore. And so I went to sleep. This time I had a dream.
I thought the dream was harmless. I was swimming in an empty glistening teal colored pool surrounded by spotless white tile walls when out of nowhere I was sucked under. Above the service I could see a dark figure staring down at me with a desperate look on his face. I tried to swim up, but I was unable to go anywhere. I thrashed. I tried and tried to get to the surface, to the air above, but I couldn't. Then I realized that the figure was Armand and he couldn't save me. Now I knew I could never let him go. And I woke up, gasping for air. I was alert and unaware that I had slept so long. It was one o'clock in the afternoon. I had plans. I jumped out of bed and hopped into the shower. I scrubbed clean and got out. I rushed over and pulled on my bra, my "Little Miss Sunshine" t-shirt, my undies, my Hollister jeans, and my Nike's. I ran into the living room and told my mom I was going to the mall. I ran outside and jumped in my mom's Nissan Altimeter. I sped down the road, eager to get to the mall. I jumped out of my car and ran straight into the Guess store. I picked up frilly blouses and jeans and even the occasional mini dress to try on. I went into a dressing room and slipped into one of the little dresses I had picked up. I was a pretty black dress with gold trimming and long black sleeves. I was impressed with the dress, but decided to give the other outfits a try before deciding. I tried on my jeans with a plain pink blouse first. I didn't like that one so I replaced it with a frilly purple blouse. I liked it, but gave up because I knew I wanted the black dress. I left the dressing room and returned the clothes I didn't want to their racks. I bought the dress and left the mall. I went home and put the dress in my closet. I wanted to save it for just the right time. "Ashley!" my mom yelled from the living room. "Yes mom?" I yelled back. "Honey come in here we need to talk." She said back. I walked into the living room. My mom, dad, and brother were all sitting on the couch. "Sit down." My dad said. I sat down on the brown leather chair. "Your mother and I have decided to talk to you about your behavior." I looked at her with a confused look on my face. "Okay." I said expectantly. "Your mother and I have noticed how you have become isolated and quiet. You leave unannounced and you are a bit aggressive. We have decided to send you to a post traumatic stress camp, where you can be with other people who have been through things just like you." His words were like a slap in the face. "Dad, I just went out today. I went to the mall. I told mom I was going. I don't understand why you would do that to me! I never even got a say." I panicked. My dad had a sympathy look in his eyes while my mother and my brother just stared at me. "I'm sorry Ashley, but we think it's for the best." He tried to reason. "No dad, it's what you think is best. You have no idea what I really feel. No idea what I go through. And no amount of time and talking will fix that. Nobody can help me!" I screamed before bolting out of the room and slamming my bedroom door, locking it once I got in. "No one knows!" I sobbed. "ARMAND!" I screamed. A second later he was there. His arms open and golden light was shining around him. "Oh Armand my parents think I need help! What can I do?" I cried into his crisp button down shirt. He stroked my head and looked down at me. "Ashley, I say you go and endure the camp. If you do not, your parents will only think of something else. I will be with you the whole time, and visit you whenever you like." He whispered into my ear. His voice made me cry. He was so beautiful. He loosened his grip and released me. I looked up into his eyes and ran my hand through his long glistening black hair. He smiled at me and pulled me to him. "I love you." I whispered in his ear. "I love you, too." He whispered back. I smiled and rested my head on his shoulder. I closed my eyes and when I opened them I was on the floor and Armand was gone. I crawled onto my bed and curled up into a ball. It was a little after seven, but I didn't care. I was going to sleep. I was going to drift away from this world and into my own.
I dreamt of being sent to a camp where there were girls and boys dressed in dark emo clothes and dark eye makeup with lots of piercings and spiky hair. I was scared. Little Ole me with my red Aberration t-shirt and dark faded denim blue jeans and Nike's walking into punk-o polis. Everyone was glaring at me and snickering. I felt vastly out of place. I tried to smile, but when I did I got the meanest looks. Someone even yelled, "Smile somewhere else you freak!" I felt like an alien. I was wandering around the gloomy site when I accidentally bumped into someone. I was about to apologize when the guy I bumped into looked up and apologized to me instead. This was a first. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to run into you. I just, uh, was wondering where to go. It's very confusing here." I explained. The young guy looked at me with a wide grin playing across his face. He was tall. About six foot three and cute. He had sandy blond hair that covered his ears and hung just below his eyebrows. He was slightly tanned and had a cute black shirt with light denim jeans and white tennis shoes. His face was slender and unblemished He had pretty green eyes that stared at me. "It's alright." He chuckled. I raised my eyebrow and twisted my mouth slightly. "It's just that the people I've seen so far have not been all that welcoming." I admitted. He smiled again. "Well here at "Dread or Dead", which is what we call this place, no one likes a prep. They probably took one look at you and saw a private school rich kid who came here in order to get her parents off her back. Well they assumed that probably because of your polished outfit and good looks." He pointed out. I couldn't believe I was blushing. Who was this guy anyways? "Who are you?" I asked in a short tone. "Well I am Liam Franco. "The pretty boy who thinks he runs the place." Or so I've heard." He teased. I looked at him doubtfully. "Well my name is Ashley Grahm and I am here because my parents sent me. But I am no private school prep. I go to a public school and live in an upper middle class home." I informed him. He shrugged. I turned to walk away when he caught me by the arm and whirled me around. "You might not want to mess with Armand Victor's, because someone might get really, really jealous." He spat. His words had stunned me. And he stepped aside to reveal a chain linked Armand with a cloth tied to his mouth and his arms restrained. He looked tattered and beaten. I ran towards him, but was forced backwards. "Who are you?" I yelled. Liam glared at me. "I am your death angel, and we were meant to be." He said his voice like acid. "No." I whispered. And then everything went black.
I woke up shaking, again. These nightmares were beginning to get old. I always woke up shaking or sweating or even screaming. I just knew that I could in no way go to that camp. I couldn't tell my parents the real reason why, so I'd have to make up something. Even take drastic measures, if needed. I composed myself and walked into the living room where everyone was watching a movie on HBO. I cleared my throat and everyone turned. "Yes dear?" My mother asked. "Mom, dad, I can't go to that camp. I promise I will go to a psychiatrist or whatever, but I DO NOT want to leave." I emphasized. It seemed to be working because my dad nodded his head and looked at my mom. "Alright Ashley." He said. "You don't have to go. But I want to see some improvement in behavior. And if we don't see that, then you are definitely going." He warned. I nodded and waddled into the kitchen for some food. I looked around and saw some leftover bacon. I picked up a piece and nibbled at it. I decided it was good enough, so I took it back to my room. I munched on the bacon slowly and processed my thoughts. So I had gotten out of going to the camp, for now, but one slip up and I was there. Which meant I would have to be on my best behavior, or be the best actress until my parent's concern dissipated. I decided I'd start my charade ASAP. I quickly showered and got dressed. I scurried into the living room and sat in between my mom and dad. As I wiggled in I noticed that they were watching some really sappy romance movie. And as much as I hated it I sat there quietly and watched as a woman fell in love with a rich man who completed her life. And before I went insane I got up and asked my brother if we could spend some quality time together and go get ice cream. He quickly agreed and we immediately left the house. He took me to Marble Slab. I ordered a birthday cake explosion and Dannie got a plain chocolate. We sat outside on the steps and ate our ice cream in the warm Jersey summer weather. It was peaceful until he had to ruin the moment by posing annoying questions. "I know what you're doing is an act Ashley. I'm not stupid. You just don't want to go away from the house where everyone treats you like a little perfect angel." He shot at me. I rolled my eyes and bit back a bitter response. "I'm trying to be on my best behavior so everyone will stop worrying about me so much. I just want to be normal again. I want to go back to w hen no one questioned me and I was free to come and go as I pleased." I sad sadly. He looked at me with an apologetic look. "I'm sir-" I stopped him. "Don't you dare say it!" I warned. "I am so not in the mood for any more apologies." I said, exasperated. I ate the last bit of my cone and started walking to the car. I got in the driver's side and started the car. I pulled up to the curb and waited for Dannie to get in. I drove us home and put on a smile as I walked through the door. My mom and dad looked at me closely. I smiled at them and confirmed that I had had a good time with Dannie. They seemed to believe me because they went back to watching TV. Dannie just shook his head. I wandered into my room and locked the door. I laid back on my bed and closed my eyes. I imagined Armand bold and beautiful, beckoning him to come to me. And when my eyes fluttered open, he was lying right beside me with a warm, honey smile on his face. I snuggled up to him and he started stroking my hair. "I have so many questions Armand. May I ask?" I asked questioningly. He nodded. "Of course." He reassured me. So I braced myself and started with a simple question. "Do you know a Liam Franco?"
His eyes widened and his jaw clenched tightly. He was tense. "Where did you hear such a name?" He asked irritably. I sighed and lowered my head. "I met him in my dream." I confessed. My eyes started to sting at the flashing images of the dream in my head. I sat there silently. Armand lifted my chin up and looked at me with those sapphire eyes. I closed my eyes so I could block out the urge to lean in and kiss his welcoming lips. "Look at me please." He begged. "I can't look at you Armand. It's so wonderful, it's painful." I whispered to him. I could feel his hand on my cheek. "Raga dole." He whispered in my ear. "Non triteness IL dolor. Lo voguish es sere Felice." He paused. "Liam is not to be trusted." He said sternly. I nodded, finally looking at him. "It was just a dream Armand and I won't be going to that camp anyways, which is where I met him in the dream." I explained. He looked at me for a second. "What exactly did he say in this dream?" He asked. "Well first it was just a normal dream about me going to this post traumatic stress camp. And when I realized I didn't exactly fit in I ran into him. He was sorta dressed like me, with his faded denim and t-shirt. I ran into him and he talked about how the people there didn't like me because I looked like a prep and not an em punk. And so he went on about that for about twenty minutes. And when I tried to walk away that's when he grabbed me and said that I should stay away from you or he would get very jealous. And behind him I saw you chained up and tortured. I didn't know what to do but scream and stare. He told me he was-" I elucidated before Armand cut me off. "He told you he was your death angel." He whispered. His eyes jerking up to meet mine. "Do not ever try to save me from him. I don't care if they are ripping my limbs apart in front of you. He is a contortionist." Armand said looking at me in a worried manner. I nodded. "It was only a dream. A dream I have no idea how he got into." I shook my head. Armand looked down. "He got into your dreams because he can do whatever he wants. Death angels are almost indestructible and can do anything they wish." He said. "But why me?" I asked. He looked at me. "We used to be friends. Before we chose the path we wanted to fulfill. I decided I wanted to protect and he decided he wanted to denounce. We separated. And since then we haven't spoken. His work is considered a heinous crime to guardian angels. He has obviously found you through me and decided to attach himself to you. If you ever let me go, he will take control and most likely kill you. So be aware." Armand exhorted. I nodded and turned walked over to him. "I don't think I'll be seeing him." I assured him. He looked at me intensely. "He will find you again, and you must be very careful." I nodded my head at him. I understood. He kissed me softly on the head. "That's enough for one night." He breathed. I looked up at him. "Goodnight." I murmured. And as always, when I closed and reopened my eyes, he was gone.
I laid in darkness on my bed. I was staring up at the blackened ceiling. I went from being a normal teenager, to being this multi- problematic girl. I was so unsure about everything. I had a guardian angel/ eternal lover and I think I have a death angel/ enemy. I laid there and let the thoughts swirl around in my head. I eventually fell into a deep sleep. All I could really see was a swirl of colors. Reds, yellows, blues, greens, and purples all surged together in a madness of colors. I just focused on the spinning and eventually lost focus of each distinct colors and they all became a blur. I spun around until I lost balance and landed flat on my back. I laid on the smooth, polished marble floor and closed my eyes. It felt as if I was on a spinning amusement park ride. It was a cool rush. I opened my eyes when the spinning sensation stopped and found myself lounging on the most luxurious plush chase in what appeared to be a very lavished room. It had beautiful crimson walls with expensive paintings hanging along them. I sat upright and admired the exorbitant decorations. I saw that their was a narrow white wooden door on the other side of the room. I stepped delicately on the fine linoleum floor. I stepped quickly to the door and exited the extravagant room. I closed the door behind me and entered an equally lavished hallway. It was extremely long. At least twenty feet. I curiously walked down the beautiful hallway. I ran my hand along the creme colored wall decorated with more expensive paintings. It was clear an extremely wealthy person owned the house. But how did I get here? I wondered to myself. I liked the comforting feeling it gave me. Like I was important. I finally got to another door and went through it. On the other side of that door I found a dining room. The biggest dining room I had ever seen. It was at least fifteen feet long and seven feet wide. It was massive. I smiled when I saw that a candle was still lit. I walked over to the candle and slowly glided my hand above the small flickering flame. "I wouldn't do that, you wouldn't want to get burnt." A male voice said from behind me, making me jump. I whirled around and saw a black silhouetted figure leaning against the door frame. "Might I help you miss?" The voice suggested politely. I half smiled. "Um, would mind telling me where I am exactly?" I proposed. I couldn't see his face only his black shadowed figure. He was tall and lean. His voice was smooth. It was interesting to say the least. "You are in Sir Lianardo's estate. I am Juliandro, the grounds keeper and cousin to Liana. He lives here. I do not know where he is at the time, but he informed me of a young woman who might show up soon, and I'm guessing that must be you, my lady." He inquired. I was facing him and trying to see his face, but couldn't without getting right up to his face. "Well, I do not know anyone by the name Liana." I assured him. He chuckled softly. He sounded youthful. "Well, he most certainly knows you." He said. I just stared at him waiting for him to say something else. "He said that he met you just yesterday, but it didn't go so smooth." I blinked trying to remember this Liana. "But I don't know anyone by the name-" I was abruptly cut off by another silhouetted figure. "You may not recognize my formal name Ashley, you may know me by my nickname that I used yesterday." The man who I assumed was Lianardo, hinted. I looked hard at him, but nothing gave him away. "I don't know you sir." I confirmed. "Please call me Liam." He coaxed, making me freeze. "I'm sorry, I thought you said, Liam?" I swallowed. "Yes that's right my dear, Liam. Last time we met I think I frightened you away, so this time I brought you to my place, our place if you'd like." He commended. I was rooted to the ground I was standing on. I couldn't move, couldn't breathe, couldn't speak. My functioning had ceased with his words. I just stood there like a statue. "Julian, please take her to lie down, she looks faint." He said smugly. When Julian reached me I slid away from him. "Please don't touch me." I politely commanded. He evidentially didn't hear me because he proceeded to lead me out of the dining room and into the den. "Lie on the couch miss." He told me. I didn't listen. "Now don't make this hard on yourself. Just lie down." He said with a little more assertiveness. This time lightly pushing down on my chest. I wouldn't give in to him. He started to look offended and left the room. I could hear him talking to Liam in the other room. "I'll handle her Julian, just forget her and focus on what I tell you, and that is getting her heart." Liam hissed. "Very well." Julian replied. I got up and rushed to hide in a room. They want my heart. Oh my god. Why? I really wish Armand was here. I crawled across the floor and tried to keep extremely quiet. "Thought I wouldn't be able to see you in the shadows? Baby I am a shadow." He breathed slimly. I looked away. "Why try to run away, when all you've ever dreamed of is right in front of you." He whispered disgustingly. I squirmed in his iron grip on my arm. "Why can't you just leave me alone?" I pleaded. He pulled me close, too close, to his face. "I won't leave you alone because you are the best thing in the human world right now. Us death angels have higher standards than those awful guardians." He spat. I squirmed even more. "No, no, no. You're not going anywhere so you might as well settle yourself." He chanted. I tried to pull away, but he only yanked me back. "Let me go or I will-" He cut me off. "Or you will what? Call dear Armand? Oh Ashley. Ashley! Don't you know anything about angels? Death angels cannot be around guardians, and vice versa. Armand mustn't have told you a damned thing. That's a shame. Really, it is." He purred cunningly, but not helping. "I want to go! Now!" I growled. He didn't let go or loosen. Instead, he laughed. "You think you scare me?" He taunted. I felt myself get angry. "LET ME GO!" I shouted and thrusted with all of my strength. All of a sudden I was standing alone. Liam was crumpled up against the wall. I took this opportunity to run. I ran out of the front door. I kept running I was snatched out of the dream and sent back to my gasping, sweaty bodied self. I gasped for air, and felt my hair sticking to my face. I sat up and rubbed my sweaty face. I couldn't fathom how Liam had gotten into my dream, yet again! I screamed when I saw Armand laying beside me. "What the hell?" I fussed. And then I realized that I was the one who had called him here. Not literally called him, but imagined him in my thoughts. "Did he harass you in your own dreams again?" Armand asked crossly. I nodded, exhausted. I slumped back into the pillows and rolled over to my side, facing away from Armand. I wanted to go back to sleep, but I was scared to have anymore dreams. "I don't know what I did, but I forced myself out of the dream." I guessed. I was talking to myself, but Armand answered. "You have a special gift." He assured me. I just rolled my eyes and stayed on my side staring at the wall. I was in a isolated mood. Even though I had called Armand, and wanted him to stay, I didn't want to talk, just lay there next to him. "Ashley, please turn over and face me." He begged. I closed my eyes and pretended not to hear him. Only imagining him with me. I stayed that way until I could feel my body being rolled onto my right side. "Look at me please." He begged, this time with a hidden tone of desperation. "Armand, please don't make this difficult. I want you here with me, but not to question me. Okay?" I explained. It was nearly four in the morning and my eyes were growing weary. I could see his face now, and his face was the exact reason I was facing the opposite way, before he forced me to look at him. He distracted me in a way that distracted me from everything else. And while that sounds perfect, it isn't. Every time I look at him it becomes harder for me to break away and be independent again. It's like I become part of him. And that's exactly why I hadn't wanted to face him. He was now staring into my eyes. I was mesmerized by his beautiful face, sapphire eyes and all. I felt the pang of relief in my stomach. It felt as if all the worry just vanished. It was the best feeling, for now. But when he left once again, it would be hell. And I often wondered if it was just as hard for him. "Is it hard for you to leave me?" I asked seriously. He looked down at the blue sheets. "Of course. In fact I'd rather go to hell with Satan and all his death angels, than to leave you." He retorted. I felt a fear creep up, knowing that Liam worked for Satan. Then that must mean that Armand worked for God. "So do you live in heaven? I mean, is that where you go when you disappear?" I questioned. He shook his head lightly. "It is where guardians go when they are released from duty or un-assigned." He proclaimed. I looked at him. "So where do you go?" I asked, puzzled, yawning in between words. "Well, we go to Il Medio. Which means"in between"in Italian. It is the place-" "The place between heaven and hell." I interrupted. He nodded. "I know about the in between Armand." I sort of snapped. I looked away from him. "Please don't get upset. I know you've had nightmares for the past few weeks, but I just want to help." He whispered, looking guilty. "I know, but I just don't want anyone to worry about me." I confessed. He looked at me with loving eyes. "I know how you are Ashley, but I love you. I want to help you. I am your guardian angel after all." He chuckled. I felt bad for not opening up to anyone. I had my own personal reasons.
The next day I woke up around eleven. It was rather quiet in the house so I decided to make my way to the living room. When I walked in I found my mom, dad, and Danniel all doing separate things. Dad was typing away on his laptop, mom was calmly reading her book, and Danniel was typing furiously on his Blackberry. When they noticed me they all sort of stopped what they were doing. Except for Danniel. He just kept typing. "Sweetie, nice of you to wake up." My mom grinned. "Yea, why are you all dressed in your swimsuits?" I asked. I now noticed that they all had their swimsuits on. "Going out to the beach today." My dad said. "Oh great!" I excitedly said. I loved the beach. It was always exciting. Jersey Shore was the hot spot during summer. I ran back into my room and stripped off my clothes. I pulled out my beach bag from under my bed and started stuffing it with my stuff. I slipped on my purple, pink, and black bikini and slipped on my black flip flops. I shoved a plush, white beach towel in the bag and searched my room for anything else. I picked up the bottle of suntan sunscreen from my side table and put it in the bag. I put a thin tshirt with a smiley face in the bag and then shoved a pair of blue jean shorts in the bag. I walked into the bathroom and grabbed my mousse out from the cabinet. I squirted some in the palm of my hand and rubbed it around in my hair. I shook my hair and when I flipped my it there were nice little waves. It looked cute. So on my way out of my door I grabbed my Coach glasses that I had gotten on sale last year. I slipped my glasses in my hair when I walked into the living room. I noticed I was wearing my bikini and that my dad would not like that. I hurried back in my room and wrapped my sarong around me. When I walked back into the living room everyone was at the door. "Come on! You're so slow!" Danniel complained. I gave him a mean look. We all got into my dad's Yukon and headed towards the beach. When we got there I was the first to get out of the car and hustle to get down to the beach. I almost didn't hear my mom calling me. "Ashley! Wait!" She hollered. I turned around and walked over to her. "We are going to eat at Wade Deep and then we will go down to the beach." She informed me. I nodded and walked along with the others to the restaurant. Wade Deep was the best beach side restaurant around here. It gave a nice view of the ocean and had some great food. When we walked inside a nice brunette hostess sat us at our table. She took our drink orders. I ordered the Blue Sunset which was a combination of blue punch, lemon juice, and a bunch of fruits. It was the best drink. Once we got our drinks I had to refrain from slurping it all down at once. The waitress took our orders so I was momentarily distracted. I ordered the Sand Dollar Burger, which was a burger with a sand dollar bun and a handmade hamburger served with swiss cheese. It sounded delicious. After we all ordered we sat and made small conversation. We were soon chowing down on the best food I'd had in a while. It had been about a year since I'd eaten at WD's. I was glad we had come here because I stuffed my food down. It was so good. When everyone had finished we paid and headed back towards the beach. I skipped down the little path and ran up the sand dunes. We were almost there. I barreled through the sand when I saw the beach. it was packed. The weather was abnormally nice today so in addition to this being a hot spot it drew everyone today. I whipped out my towel and spread it across the finely grain white sand. I set my beach bag down and got out my suntan sunscreen. I rubbed myself down and then unknotted my sarong. My mom and dad were busy setting up there things so I took this chance to jog down the beach. "Going for a jog." I yelled behind me as I ran down the beach. When I got farther down a couple of college kids whistled at me and tried to call me over. i waved politely but kept jogging. I had reached a part where no people were so I decided to slow to a walk. I was just about to turn around when I saw someone sitting on the sand ridge that the tide had made. I squinted but I couldn't see. I walked closer and I still couldn't tell so I pretended like I was going to walk past until I found out that it was Armand. I must've wished he was here. "Ashley!" He exclaimed. "I'm so glad you're here." I said as I hugged his neck. He pushed me back, still holding my hands and looked me up in down with innocence in his eyes. "What?" I asked. He smiled playfully. "Now how do you suppose I protect you when you look so hot." He teased. I subconsciously rubbed my hands down my front, as if I was smoothing out my bikini. This made his eyebrows shoot up. "You liked that huh?" I teased back. He nodded looking dumbfounded. I giggled. I looked down but I was surprised when he pulled me onto him. I was laying on him. This may have looked like a racy scene to anyone who might walk by. I kissed him gently and before I could lift up he was hovering over me. He kissed me a little more intensively. I looked into his gorgeous sapphire eyes and was amazed. He rubbed my neck and then stopped. My eyes widened when I felt his hands on my thighs. I closed my eyes and sighed. "I have to get back. They'll wander where I am." I told him. He nodded slowly and lifted me to my feet. "See you tonight?" I asked. He smiled. "Only if you wish." I smiled back at him and gave him a quick kiss before jogging back off down the beach. When I got back to where my mom and dad had laid there stuff they were in the water. My dad and Danniel were wrestling in the water while mom calmly stood there embracing the waves. I walked down to the water and eased myself into the water. It was warm and a nice cloudy blue green color. I swam to where my mom was. When I stood up she jumped. "Sorry." I apologized. She smiled sarcastically. My dad and Danniel were playing rough so I just watched. Then when my dad was off guard I pounced on him. "Argh!" He hollered. And we both dunked underwater. I was gasping and laughing when we came back up. Eventually we made our way back to our towels. I was wrapped up when my dad came back and I had put my sarong back on as we walked to the car. We all laughed about our day and once we got inside I was headed for my room but got stopped by my dad. I had pulled off my sarong and stuffed it back in my bag on the way to my room. "Why are you rushing off so fast and what in God's name are you wearing?" He asked in a raised voice. I exhaled. "It's a bikini and I was heading off to change." I explained. He looked at me with his fatherly stare. "That is a good idea. I mean just look at you! You are practically naked!" He was expressing. I just looked towards my room. "Denise!" He called to my mom. "Yes dear?" she asked walking over to us. "Did you see your daughter?" He questioned. "Yes, I bought her that. She looks fine. You're just over reacting. She won't talk to strangers so don't you worry Jerry." My mom defended. I smiled. "Fine." My dad grumbled. He waved up his hands in a sign of defeat. IU turned and headed to my room. I stripped off my clothes and plugged in my iPod. Christina Aguilera's song "Not Myself Tonight" was playing and I started singing and dancing to it while I picked out clothes to put on. I got out my bra and underwear. I was going to get out some old sweats and tshirt, but then I pulled the clothes out of the beach bag and tossed them to the bed. I really started to get into the song and I started to dance wildly. I was lip singing, too. I spun around. When I opened my eyes I screamed. Armand was sitting on the bed with a smile spread across his face. "What the f-!" I yelled. I ran into the bathroom and threw on my robe. "What are you doing here?" I yelled. I was so embarrassed. He smiled at me. "I appeared because you made me, I didn't do it on purpose. Although it wouldn't matter I know what you're doing twenty-four, seven." He said smartly. I quickly turned around and grabbed some clothes I ran back into the bathroom and changed quickly, still mad that I'd been caught off guard. Even if it was my fault for bringing him here. I was mumbling to myself when I walked out of the bathroom. "Hey, I was wondering if you saw me-" I was cut off when I noticed he wasn't even here anymore. I sighed and walked out of my room. "What took you so long?" My dad asked. "Shower." I wasn't in the mood to make conversation. I was kind of upset that he had gone so fast. That night we had a nice family evening. We played Monopoly and mom won. We watched a movie that I couldn't remember the name of and then settled down. We were all sitting quietly in the living room just making small conversation when dad got up and told everyone goodnight. My mom wasn't far behind him. It was just Danniel and I so we sat and talked about his college until he too went off to his room. My room was apart from the rest of the rooms because it was added on after I was born. It made me feel like I was in my own apartment. I went into my room and locked the door. I didn't want anyone in here. I slipped into a tshirt and laid my clothes on my dresser. I crawled in my bed and buried myself in my comforter. It was almost eleven-thirty and I was tired. I let my eyes close and I fell into a light sleep. Two hours later I felt a touch on my cheek. I opened my eyes and saw Armand. I sat up and looked at him. "Hello beautiful." He said charmingly. "Hi." I said lamely. He smiled and turned over on his back, staring at the ceiling. I slipped a piece of gum in my mouth when he wasn't looking. I chewed it quickly and just swallowed it. Getting the feeling of dryness out of my mouth and freshing my breath. Almost immediately after I swallowed the gum he kissed me softly. He hugged me close to him and started kissing my close to my ear. I closed my eyes. Then I felt him kiss my neck and when he got to my chest I opened my eyes. I didn't want to verbally shoot him down so I scooted away from him a little, but he didn't notice and he had moved to my thighs. I got up and went to the dresser. I figured if I changed clothes he'd get the hint. I didn't want to say anything because I didn't know what to tell him. I went over to the dresser and tried to change quickly but I was naked too long because he came over, grabbed me, and had me up against the wall all in one movement. I squeezed my eyes shut. I was afraid to tell him anything. I knew how sensitive guys were to rejection. But what happened next caught me off guard. He was pushing me to the bed and from there he just took my breath away. He did things to me that I didn't know was even possible. He shoved me back on the wall where we stayed. We had sex. It felt so amazing that when I finally gave in that I couldn't even speak. It was like I was in, wait. It was like I was in heaven. And then Armand's wings extended and I was snapped back into consciousness.
I rubbed my eyes. It was five in the morning. I yawned. And rolled over on my side. It was all a dream. A vivid dream. I closed my eyes and slipped into a black dream. I woke up feeling good. Maybe it was the dream or maybe I was just happy, but either way I was in a good mood. I took a shower and got dressed. My good mood had made me look nice today and I skipped into the living room. "You look good today." My mom complimented. I gave her a wide grin. "Thanks mom I feel great." I beamed. Danniel look over at me and then looked down at his phone. "Can we go to breakfast now?" He said in a whiney voice I would only expect from a five year old. "Yes let's go." Dad said. "Breakfast?" I asked confused. "Yeah we are going to Denny's." My brother said as we all walked out the door and piled into dad's car. When we got to the restaurant and sat down I started to notice how hungry I really was. I ordered eggs, bacon, sausage, and pancakes. When the food came I sucked it all down faster then the girl had set it down. Everyone else was only halfway done when I had eaten all my food. I wiped my mouth and shoved a piece of gum in my mouth. I was happily chewing when a guy came over to ask us how our meal was. I wasn't paying attention to him until I heard his voice closely. I quickly looked up and I was staring into the face of Liam! I put a hand on my mouth. S**t! "Oh Ashley." He said nicely. He was such a fake. My mom looked at me. "I didn't know you were here or I would've told someone with better service to come help you all." He cheerily informed me. "We're fine." I said with a short tone. "I would love for you to come talk with me outside." He politely asked. I knew he was a liar and I didn't want to go anywhere with him. "Absolutely not!" I yelled, disturbing a few other people nearby. "Ashley Lynn!" My mom fussed. "You will be polite and go with your friend." She told me. "Fine." I grumbled and got up. I followed him outside, hating every second of this. When we got outside he looked to make sure no one was in earshot. "What do you want?" I asked nastily. He smirked at me. "Listen up girly. I've tried to play nice with you. It just doesn't work out so, since I can't have your love, I'll just have to take you." He said. "Never gonna happen." I countered. He chuckled. "Oh we'll see." He challenged. "Now go you are going to go inside and tell your parents that I apologized for the argument that we had a few days ago. That will take care of the explanation for your rude attitude. Then you are going to ask them to go with me for a walk on the beach. You are going to tell them that you trust me and that we'll be out late. You will also use a fake name. And if you don't do all of this then they will suffer. I will punish them all. And you know I will." He threatened. I clenched my hands into fists. I couldn't say anything. "Go now." He ordered. I pushed through the doors and went back to our table with a smile. "Hey mom, dad Mark and I just made up for an argument we had the other day. He wants to take a walk on the beach and we might be out a little late. He is a nice guy and I was very rude to him so we need some time together to patch things up. May I go?" I reasoned. My mom glanced over at my dad and then looked back at me. "Sure honey just be safe." She warned me. I nodded and kissed them all. I held my mom's hand for a second. "I love you guys." I said. I wasn't sure when I would see them again. I waved over my shoulder as I walked away. Once I was outside Liam was already waiting in a car. He got out and shoved me in. Then we drove away from safety.
I looked around trying to find some sense of location, but nothing was recognizable. "Don't try to figure out where we are because you won't figure it out." He told me. I looked at him angrily. "I hate you, you a-hole." I spat at him. He turned around and slapped me so hard that my head spun. "You won't speak to me that way. Or things are going to turn nasty." He shot back. I rubbed my cheek. That bastard. "I'm not scared of you. I don't think you have balls to do anything." I taunted him. He narrowed his eyes at me. He had a demonic look in his eyes and then everything went black. When I blinked my eyes I was staring at the moving ground. I was being carried. I looked from side to side and noticed that we were in a secluded cemetery. I panicked. I thrashed my body trying to escape, but it didn't work. I could see an altar set up and I freaked out. Liam dropped me onto the altar and the breath was knocked out of me. I struggled to breath while they tied my hands and feet. I was bound together and laying on an old, dirty altar. It was disgusting. I didn't know what to do. I just laid limply and waited for something to happen. I looked over to the side and noticed that there was a crowd in the clear space beyond the tombstones. All of these people were dressed in fancy black clothes. The people were all beautiful, but I knew that they were hiding evil under their skin. They were her to watch me die. They were in Liam's favor. I could only watch but then it dawned on me to scream. I opened my mouth and screamed with all my strength. Liam's eyes shot over to where I was laying and flew over to me. He put a hand over my mouth but I kept screaming. "Silence." He commanded me. I was still trying to scream, but now no sound left my mouth. He had used his evil magic on me! I squirmed under his grip on my arm. Why did he have to hurt me? "No one can save you. So lay there and think about what you're going to do when you die." He hissed. He walked away, casually approaching his crowd. "It is time for me to take control of the dark angels. We thrive on tears. We thrive on anger. We thrive on the hate of this world. The destruction of mankind. We were made for a reason. To made those filthy guardians pay for what they've done to us. We reek havoc onto their precious little human world so that they may feel the true torment. But today we are here to witness something much more powerful. Something so unique, so rare that it has never been seen before. Humans may be aware or believe in guardians, but very rarely do they love one enough to see them in their true form. There have been instances where one will fall in love and then promise themselves to that guardian, but that always ends tragically thanks to us. But today we see something far different. Behind me is a girl. She seems like an ordinary human, but she is not. She has love for a guardian and has the hate for a death angel. No one knows of us. No one suspects tragedy happens because of us. It wasn't until I noticed this that I started to pursue her. I tried to lure her to me. But, she resisted with such force that I had to come up with another plan. I realized that the only way for her to suffer and for me to gain ultimate power was to cut out her heart!" He shouted and everyone went wild. Everyone except me.
I started to cry. I was never going to see anyone again. I was never going to see mom or dad or Danniel ever again. I was never going to see Armand. Armand! I shouted his name but I still had no voice. Then I closed my eyes tightly. I wished for him. I wished so hard that he was next to me. When I opened my eyes, he wasn't there. I was losing hope. Then I decided to try something. I closed my eyes again and put all my focus on my thoughts. "Armand please help me. If you can hear me please, oh please help me. Liam is going to kill me. And then he is going to take my heart. I'm so scared. He took my voice away. I think I'm going to die." I didn't hear a voice answering so I just opened my eyes. I was staring straight up at a large oak tree. The leaves were half there. It looked like it was dying. I was crazy to think that people could communicate through thoughts. "Ashley?" I heard. I looked from side to side and I didn't see anyone. "Ashley I heard you!" It was Armand. I closed my eyes and tuned into my thoughts again. "Armand, oh Armand help!" I was desperate. "Guardian rules demand us to stay away from death angels. And from the feeling there is nothing but death angels where you are." He informed me. "Please help." I cried. "Everything will be fine. No matter what trust me." He said. And then there was nothing. I just kept my eyes closed and let myself go numb. I couldn't feel my feet. I was sweaty and stale feeling. My hands hurt from the rope cutting my skin. No one was going to be able to save me. I had to accept my fate. I trusted Armand. But I didn't think even he was going to be able to save me. Shortly after I had tuned out almost everything going on around me, Liam walked over to me and tried to kiss my lips. I moved my head away from him. I spit in his face and he slapped me once again. "Enough." He shouted at me. I was unable to move. I hurt everywhere. He yanked me to my feet and pushed me over to two men standing close by. "Take her." He ordered them. They tried to get me to walk, but I couldn't move. My muscles were frozen. So, the biggest one threw me over his shoulder. He had large muscles, but unlike the others he wore an old navy polo and jeans. The other man was a little less muscular, and he had slightly nicer attire on. He wore a black button up and dark jeans. When the man put me down he put me behind a tree. "Undress." He said in a monotone voice. I couldn't. I also couldn't speak. He narrowed his eyes at me when I just stood there. My hands and feet were still tied. He came over and pulled off my clothes. I was terrified. Are they going to rape me? Surely they aren't those kinds of people. The only problem was is that they weren't people, I realized. The other man walked over and handed the biggest man a long, black cloth. When I looked at it more I figured out that it was a dress. The man slipped it over my head and pulled it down. It barely fit over my chest. It was very clingy. I noticed that in the middle it had a little heart shaped opening right over where my heart was. Then the man pulled out the ponytail holder from my hair. "Shake your head." He barked. I shook it. "Harder." He demanded. I shook harder and my hair whipped around. "That's better." He huffed, satisfied. He picked me up again and we walked back to the altar where he put me down. I looked towards Liam. He was walking my way. "Excellent." He whispered. I saw something glinting from Liam's hand. My eyes widened saw what was in his hand. The biggest, shrapest, most demonic looking dagger I could have ever imagined. This was it. I was about to die.
I didn't expect this to be graceful. Liam was going to make me suffer. He lowered down and looked me right in the face. "It's not going to be fast. It's going to last for a while." He teased with a horrific tone behind his meancing words. He licked the knife and made a small cut on my cheek. I winced. He traced his finger across the cut, getting blood on his finger. He wiped the blood on his tongue slowly. "Sweet." he taunted. I squirmed trying to get away. I knew it was useless. He was about to cut me again when out of nowhere Armand knocked him to the ground. The whole crowd gasped in shock. Some even looked angry and ready to fight. Liam was laughing. "Armand, brother nice of you to join us." I looked from Liam to Armand. "We are not brothers." Armand hissed through gritted teeth. Hope swelled inside of me. Then Liam was on his feet. Armand was next to me moving with incredible speed trying to untie me, but Liam was equally fast and he threw Armand away from me. He threw Armand to the ground and he hit his head hard. He was up in a split second trying to hit Liam. But every move he made Liam dodged. Liam took Armands face in his hands and slammed his fist directly into his nose. Armand fell to the ground, even though there was no blood he didn't get up. He lay there slowly shaking on the ground. "This is the guardian who she is in love with." He pointed to me. "And tonight he will either join us or die. No exceptions." He pulled Armand to his feet. "Walk away now and make a promise never to defend against us again, and I won't turn you or even kill you. Don't walk away and I will choose for you. And I think death would be too easy." He snarled. Armand turned. "Trust me." He mouthed to me before turning and walking away. "Wait!" I tried to call out, but I couldn't. No one could hear me. Liam turned back around to his adoring audience and while he was occupied Armand spun around and charged at Liam with lightning speed. Liam caught Armand's arm and slammed him down on the ground. "I knew that was coming." He laughed. He brought him to his knees and pressed his hand on his face. "Now he joins us!" He shouted and the crowd cheered. I watched while the only thing I've ever truly loved joined the dark force. Liam shouted words foreign to me and then shoved Armand to the ground. Armand got up and I was holding my breath. He wasn't affected. But when he joined the crowd I let out a cry that was unheard. I was never going to get out of here. No one was going to save me. I had no more hope. I laid there limply until Liam walked over and forced me to my feet. He pretty much drug me over in front of the audience. "This girl is mine now. Armand! Come now and prove your loyalty." He beckoned.
Armand came forward. "Take her and taste her blood." He snatched me up and took the dagger. He grabbed my arm and cut a line along my upper arm. It hurt. He had cut me deeper than Liam. He licked the blood right from my arm. I cried out silently. Tears rolled slowly down my face. Liam smiled. "Perfect." He walked over to me and pulled me over to him. He ran his hand up my leg and stared into my eyes. He kissed my neck and I tried to push away, but he had a grip on me. "This is goodbye." He whispered to me. He carried me over to the altar and dropped me down. The dirt stung my cut and i was still crying softly. He walked over to me with the dagger now in his hand. He held it up and put it to my face. "This is your fate." He said to me. I couldn't do anything but stare. He lifted his arms and plunged the dagger into my heart. My eyes rolled back and all I saw was black.
I didn't know what was going on with my body. I was lost in a black world. I wandered around blind and scared. I must be dead and stuck in the underworld as some sort of punishment Liam brought upon me. It was as if I was in a black hole. I was alone. I was definitely lost. And I had nowhere to go. Three things that make a horrible combination. I did what I think was sitting and shut down. I didn't do anything. When I closed my eyes I felt a excruciating pain in my chest. I opened my eyes and I was back at the cemetery and Armand was towering over me. "I told you to trust me." He whispered into my ear. I cringed at the pain. I clutched my chest and felt the healing tender skin where I had been stabbed. "You healed me?" I asked, my voice raspy and sore. I could barely hear myself. "Yes. I healed you. I couldn't lose you. But Liam, he, he got away. And the rest of them they sped away when Liam left. Some of them tried to stay and fight me off, but they couldn't. Guardians are often stronger and more stealthy than death angels. I'm so sorry that I couldn't have gotten to you sooner. But, I just couldn't find you. Liam found a way to hide you from me. I found you when you called out to me." He explained. I looked wearily up at him. "But I thought you couldn't be around them?" I pitifully asked. "We can't. I came anyways. I wasn't going to let you die." He said with pain etched on his face. "But, I was dead. How did you-". He hushed me. "Don't you worry. I'll explain everything later. You have to get home. You are in terrible condition still." He told me. "But my parents! What will I tell them! They must be panicking!" I tried to yell, but my voice wouldn't get louder than a raspy whisper. I felt defeated. Damn Liam. "They are all taken care of. I made sure that they remember nothing about you leaving. They think that you are asleep." He confirmed. I was thankful. We were home and in my room in a minute. He moved at an incredible speed. Before he laid me out on the bed he took everything off my bed, sheets included, and ripped the dress off of me. I was in too much pain and shock to care anymore about my body. I knew I was safe with Armand so I allowed him to undress me. He took a towel and covered below my waist. He cleaned the blood off with peroxide and water. I had to keep a hand over my mouth while I screamed out in pain, even though I'm sure no one could hear my whispered screams. I was crying hysterically when I realized I had been cut everywhere. I knew I had cuts on my cheek and arm. I also knew that I had been stabbed in the heart, but when I sat up, lifted the towel, and saw the cuts down my side, on my thighs, on both my arms, and on the fronts of both my wrists I couldn't help but cry. I had no memory of those cuts. I was traumatized. "Shh shh shh love. I know you are upset, distressed, even outraged, but I have to help you in order for you to be healed." He soothed. I laid back down and cried. I was heaving. The pain was indescribably horrible. The pain spread everywhere. It was like someone was slowly cutting each one of my nerves. When he was finished he prepared the bathtub for me and set me down in the warm water. He went out of the bathroom and left me alone. I couldn't move. I was still in pain and I didn't want to move. When the water started to get cold and I had been in there for at least thirty minutes, Armand came back. When he found me in the same position he had left me he came over and washed me. The soap hurt worse than the peroxide and I screamed with my weak voice. He scooped me in his arms and swaddled me in my towel and carried me into the bedroom. He got out a large tshirt and gently put it on me. He slipped on my underwear and put some large sweatpants on me. It was nice and warm. He put all my sheets back on and put me under my comforter. He got under the comforter, too and pulled me into his arms. It still hurt, but I wanted to be in his arms, so I didn't care. I just wanted him. "Il mio amore eterno. You are my eternal love, Ashley Lynn Grahm." He whispered softly in my ear. I smiled weakly. "I love you, too." I whispered. And then I fell asleep. I had nightmares. Reliving the events that had occured. I woke up still in pain. When my mom came in, I told her I was sick and I didn't want her to catch anything and she left me alone. I tried to get up but it was nearly impossible. Armand came and helped me get up and take another bath and get into more comfortable clothes. He was the most help. We laid back down together and I was happy again. He made me feel complete. "I thought I had lost you to Liam." I said, sounding the smallest bit better. He looked away. "I'm sorry for what I did." He said with sorrow and regret. "Hey, hey, I know that wasn't really you." I assured him. "But it was. I was never under his control. I had to fake it so that he wouldn't suspect me saving you. I hurt you and I can never get over that." He confessed. I looked at him and felt more pain, but not physical this time. "I know you did that for me. I'm not mad. I am forever grateful. Nothing will change that. So don't feel sorry for me. I'm alive because you saved me. Right?" I reasoned. He didn't look me in the eye and I started to get nervous. "Ashley, you died and came back. I am no longer able to be your guardian. I'm no longer able to be a guardian at all. I have been exiled. No one can fix that." I stared in disbelief. "I am officially cut off at sundown. I can't save you ever again. I have brought you back. I gave you my heart. Literally." I touched my chest. The skin was still extremely tender. "I have your heart?" I asked in awe. "Yes, you do. I don't think we can ever be together now. Unless I'm a guardian we can never be together." I looked at him. Confused and felt abandonment creeping in on me. "I don't understand." I breathed. He looked at me and then looked down. "Ashley I can never see you again." He told me. It was like Liam had stabbed me all over again. I didn't know what to do. This was the worst thing I could possibly imagine. "I can't do this." I said. "Please tell me there's another way." I begged. He just stared at me. He got close to me and kissed me with an intensity that hurt more because I knew it would be our last. I opened my eyes and he was gone. The only thing left behind was a pure white feather. Armand Victorus, my only love, the only heart I have, is gone out of my life forever.