The blood seeping out of Ayden’s neck haunted my mind, keeping me locked in a place of agony. The apologetic look in his eyes stuck with me forever, even long after he made it into Heaven. We were together, but I could never move past the sensitivities I was forever tied to after watching the man I love die right in front of me. That kind of feeling could never be replicated.
“Angel?” Ayden whispered in my ear not to disturb anyone around us.
I gave him my best smile, easing his fears. “I’m doing great.” I needed to focus my pain on the pleasures of today. I would not let suffering burn away the commitment I made to Ayden when I told him I do.
Flowers littered the clouds as gentle music drifted through the air to the beat of joy. What set the mood was the lightness of the atmosphere and the openness of every angel present. Not an ounce of sorrow would be able to ruin this event. The moment was soft and romantic but also blissful and forgiving.
I had been so worried about falling in love and losing my job, yet not a single soul here judged us for our promise to one another.
Ayden placed a small kiss on my forehead while we danced to the sound of a harp playing, careful not to move fast. “Never did I imagine I would be here.” He chuckled as he scanned the area, examining everyone who was studying us.
I rested my head against his chest, letting out a small sigh of content. “But aren’t you so glad you are? We get to spend forever together now.” As cheesy as it sounded, it was also a dream come true.
His arms had been wrapped around my waist as we swayed to the rhythm of the melody. “I wouldn’t trade it for a second chance at life.” He lifted my chin with his finger and placed his sweet lips on mine. He pulled away, spinning me around and pulling me back to his chest all in one slow motion. This moment couldn’t be ruined by a single worry. I was in love and our relationship had been welcomed now.
He grabbed my hand and kissed my fingers as he stared at them with curiosity. “We finally get to do the dirty.”
“Ayden.” I laughed as I shook my head. It didn’t surprise me that he was looking forward to getting naked and doing sexual things.
“What? It’s not wrong to talk about it. We are married and wedded couples can want to have sex with each other. I will proudly admit I am so ready to do that tonight.” He pushed some hair behind my ear.
“Me too. I’ve never had it, and I can say I’m ecstatic to physically connect with you. There is no guilt or shame in those words.” I released a giggle and gazed into his green eyes. “I love you, Ayden.”
He formed a smile and kissed my nose. “I love you, too, Angel.”
“Elli?” I heard a female’s voice echo behind me.
I turned back and gasped at the face that belonged to the one person who called me by that name. My eyes didn’t seem to deceive me, and I prayed it was true. Where had she been since I’d died? In one breath, I whispered, “Selene.”
I hadn’t spoken to her since the day she died and seeing her before me now evoked emotions I could never conjure up on my own. There had been a hole in my heart when I heard about her death, and that missing piece was now being repaired as we spoke through our eyes. She was calling me over.
Ayden looked at me and nodded his head.
I followed Selene over to a table. “I can’t believe you’re here. I haven’t seen you all this time,” my words cracked as they rolled off my tongue.
“I’m sorry. I guess I just got caught up in things after realizing Liam killed me. It’s not exactly the best feeling in the world when your boyfriend murders you.” She lowered her head down to see the clouds beneath our feet.
I pulled her into my arms, offering her my comfort. “I’m so sorry. I wish I could’ve done something. I missed you so much after seeing what happened. You were my only friend and I was just lost without you. After your death, I barely found my way back.”
She pulled away from our hug and smiled a bit. “It’s okay now, Elli. I’m here. I want you to know that.”
I wiped a tear from my cheek and nodded. “Of course.”
“I heard what happened. Liam killed you, too, huh?”
“He did. He killed you. He killed me. He killed Ayden. It’s horrendous. Justice will never be served.”
“Tell me more about Ayden, please. I want to know about this boy who captured your heart.” She replaced the sorrow on her face with a smile.
I looked back at Ayden, our hearts connecting as one even without beating with life. “He’s amazing.” I smiled. I turned to Selene again. “This man was a tough one. I worked hard to change him and save his soul, but he refused. I learned so much about him. I’ve seen his darkest parts and I’ve seen what makes his face light up with joy. He even looks adorable when he’s baking.”
“A bad boy who loves to bake. Who’s ever heard of such a thing? I guess you don’t normally expect a man like him to be good at something like that. He reunited with his family. He wasn’t a good boy, but he has become a better person. He never gave up smoking but now that we’re dead, he doesn’t have to smoke. No smoking, drinking... He gave up sex before dating Sunny. That is a big deal for a man.” I chuckled.
Selene smiled wide. “Wow, Elli, you’ve really made an impact on him. He really loves you, doesn’t he?”
“I sure hope so. He begged for me to come back when I left. He apologized for everything he’s done, and he hasn’t done it since. He really changed. He returned what he stole. He’s waiting until our honeymoon, for me.”
“That is attractive. A man who has self-control is perfect. I mean, he’s no virgin and that’s unfortunate but the fact that he has given up sex until your honeymoon... That takes some self-control. I know you were the type of girl who wanted to wait. I’m glad you found someone who makes you feel complete.” Selene stood as Ayden came over to us.
Ayden faced her. “Selene, I’m guessing? Angel has talked a lot about you. She’s said some bad things,” he joked.
I playfully hit him. “Ayden, I did not.” I stood up but never matched their heights. “Selene, this is Ayden, my newly wedded husband. As you can tell, this is our wedding.”
“Yes, congratulations. I’m glad someone loves Elli the way she deserves to be loved.” Selene eyed Ayden.
Ayden wasn’t at all intimidated. “Yes, I do. It was a bumpy road. We went to Hell and back but now we’ve reached Heaven. I don’t mean any of this metaphorically either.” He lifted both eyebrows with a tiny smirk displayed on his lips.
Selene shot us both a surprised look. “You went to Hell? What was that like?”
“Awful. Endless torture. Pain. Trust me, you never want to go there. I thought I was going to die, and I’m already dead,” I said.
Selene looked between both of us, giving us pitiful expressions. “I’m so sorry.”
“Never mind that. Why are you showing up now?” I asked.
Selene went silent for a moment and looked down at the clouds. She looked back at me and Ayden. She smiled and shook her head. “Don’t worry about that. I’ll tell you guys soon. Enjoy your wedding. You deserve this.”
Her eyes admired the decor surrounding us all. Lights were strung about throughout the tree branches while flowers attracted the eye to the center of every table. The cloth on each one was white but the chairs circling were black to represent Ayden and I coming together. The centerpieces were made up of red roses to symbolize our love.
A white dress flowed from my shoulders to my bare feet. My hair was loose as it always had been, curls free to be themselves. Nothing else enhanced my appearance and I didn’t need it to.
Ayden’s clothes were just as casual as mine. He wore brown shorts with a black shirt that suited his figure in a complimentary way. His hair had been left ruffled and his beard kept neat. Everything about his appearance turned me on in ways that made me blush.
I gazed at Ayden and grabbed his hand, intertwining our fingers. “You should try some of the desserts. Ayden baked them himself.”
Ayden puffed out his chest, wearing a proud expression. “I did. I baked the sweets that are here at our wedding. I’m going to make a great husband.”
Selene glanced at the desserts table and nodded a bit. “I was told that you baked.”
Ayden walked over to the table, taking me with him as our fingers were still locked together. He grabbed a cupcake and held it up. “It’s something I enjoy.” He looked at me and smiled.
Selene came over and picked up a cupcake, smiling. “I’ll be the judge of that.” She took a big bite. “Wow, this is good,” she said with her mouth full.
“Well, you must try the fruitcake,” Ayden said as he gave Selene a look.
Her eyebrows creased downwards as she tilted her head. “Fruitcake? No cake?”
I chewed on my lip. “Ayden’s from England and it was important to me that a tradition from his country was incorporated. In England, they have fruitcakes at the wedding. Besides, we have cupcakes in place of a cake. I think it suffices simply fine.” I glanced at Ayden as my heart fluttered.
My thoughts turned sour in an instant as a realization hit me. I lost him as I did Justin. I was beginning to question if I was losing my ability to be a good guardian angel.
“Time for the bouquet toss! The bride carried it, now the groom gets to pass it on,” one of the female angels told everyone.
Ayden looked over at me. “Wait, males toss the bouquet? What did I sign up for?”
I smiled, admiring the disapproval on his face. “You signed up to toss the bouquet. Go on.” I pushed him over and he grumbled in response.
He grabbed the bouquet from the angel’s hand and peeked at the male angels. They gathered into a crowd and Ayden turned his back to them. He threw the bouquet back, but the men ran away as if it was a demon.
I chuckled, watching Ayden’s expression. He was thoroughly confused by the reaction to the bouquet and came over to me, pointing in their direction with his thumb. “They really don’t want to be tied down, do they?”
“Angel weddings are different from human weddings.” I slipped my hand in his.
Ayden pulled me closer to his chest and kissed me. It was as short and sweet as I was. He rested his chin on top of my head, taking my attention away from everything that threatened our happiness. “I cannot wait until the honeymoon.”
I laid my head against his chest and laughed. “We’ve got that by now. You want sex.”
“You’re my wife now. I’m allowed to want it.”
“You guys look so adorable together,” Selene said beside us.
We pulled away and looked at her. She had a smile on her lips. “I’m glad that you guys are happy, despite Liam trying to ruin that when he killed both of you.” A hint of regret had laced her words.
“We are. Isn’t that right, Ayden?” I looked up at him, patting his chest.
He chuckled and shook his head. “I’m not happy.”
“You don’t mean that.” He had to be joking. He wouldn’t have married me if he wasn’t happy. He was not shy of expressing his negativity towards anything.
He placed his free hand on my cheek and kissed my forehead. “Nope.” He peered over at Selene.
My eyes lingered on the roses and one word flashed through my mind—crimson. Our lives had consisted of so much blood. Now the color stained our flowers meant to inspire peace and devotion. Again, images entered my brain and refused to let go. Its hold was firm and triple knotted. I could never unsee the moment I witnessed Ayden’s life get severed. But Liam was dead, wasn’t he?
Selene decided to try a piece of the fruit cake, using her fingers to shove it into her mouth. “This is a fantastic cake.”
Ayden’s lips curved upwards. “I know.” He held my hand tightly and the three of us ventured over to a table and sat down.
I leaned against Ayden and looked at Selene. “I never thought I’d see you again and now you’re at my wedding. I’m glad. It makes my life feel complete. Well, I’m not actually alive but it makes me feel complete either way. I know I died young, but I still got my happy ending. That’s what matters.”
Ayden rubbed my arm. His warmth would stick for years to come. “The journey was rough, but it was worth it.”
I lifted my eyes to meet his, smiling to hide my fears. “Of course. I got you in the end.”
Selene watched us. “Elli found love. This is quite the sight to see. I never imagined it would be this joyful but I’m glad it is. Who thought it was going to happen this way? I don’t think anyone could’ve pictured it like this.”
Ayden moved some hair from my face, pushing it behind my ear. “Well, every love story is different. Ours just happened to involve Heaven and Hell. That’s got to be some kind of normal.”
“Who wants normal? Normal is boring,” I said, sitting up.
Ayden started to get out of his chair. “I’m going to get more cupcakes.”
I grabbed his shoulder, pushing him back onto his seat. I stood up and smiled. “Let me get us both cupcakes. I want to try them.” I walked over to the table and picked some. I put them on a plate so I could get more than just two. When it came to his baking, I made it a habit to indulge in the delicacy of his passion.
I glanced back at the table where the two I loved most had been sitting. My heart almost started beating again at the sight of Ayden laughing. It made my day when he was the definition of euphoria. He deserved to be nothing but happy.
Turning my head slightly to the right, I saw Selene and noticed she was laughing, too. My best friend and husband were getting along so well. Could I not ask for more? I never imagined this day would come and yet I was wrong. My mood was beyond fulfilled. This was my wedding day, and my best friend had returned to me.
I headed back and took a seat between them both, placing the plate of cupcakes between Ayden and I. “What are you two laughing about?”
Selene took a cupcake from the plate and took off the wrapper, biting into it. She chewed and swallowed, her laughter echoing into the sky once more. “Your husband is hilarious. He was telling me about the time you two were throwing flour at each other.”
Ayden nodded as he faced Selene. “Her face was priceless.”
“I don’t know if Elli has ever had fun before you came along.” She continued to let out uncontrolled giggles.
Ayden’s eyes landed on me before he kissed my cheek. “I think I’m the one who introduced her to what the word fun even means.”
My cheeks flushed as I tried to hide my embarrassment. I didn’t want them talking about my silly moments. “Let’s talk about something else, shall we?”
Ayden brought up a subject I wanted to bury in Hell. “Selene, you didn’t want to tell us why you came here but I think it’s time we know what’s going on. Don’t sugarcoat it.” The tone in his voice was enough to make anyone obey his commands. As much as I dreaded the news she beared, I knew my husband was right. We could walk on eggshells for the rest of eternity if given the chance.
Selene’s smile fell from her face. What she carried with her wasn’t easy to throw around. She was uncertain—hesitant about what would come next. Despite how she felt, she eyed us both, waiting for our reactions. “About that happy ending you guys thought you earned, I’m here to tell you that it’s not coming just yet. Liam has other plans. He’s still alive.”