Paranormal / Fantasy Romance
Date Published: January 18, 2018
Dark Longing’s central characters are Inanna and Gabriel. She is a vampire warrior, one of Queen Jade Cicada’s Chosen guard, and has lived for several millennia. She is also one of the few remaining True Bloods in the world, vampires who are born, not made. He is a human, a widower and father who would sacrifice all for those he loves. Unbeknownst to Gabriel, he also possesses a Pure soul and has an ancient past, as well as a future destiny, that is inextricably entwined with Inanna.
Fate (and a helping hand from Gabriel’s dying wife) has thrown them together in this present age as joint guardians of Benjamin, the son of Gabriel’s heart if not his body. An avalanche of expenses and debts compel Gabriel to enter a deadly network of fight clubs to earn some quick cash, but pulling out of the club is not as easy, as he quickly becomes the spectator favorite.
Meanwhile, the Chosen has been working to eradicate the masterminds behind the fight clubs, which not only result in an increasing number of gory human deaths, but also threaten to expose the Dark Ones to the world at large. In a rare concerted effort, the vampires and their nemesis – the Pure Ones – come together to pursue a common enemy.
To protect Benji from harm, Gabriel risks his life once more in the fight clubs and is almost killed by an unknown vampire assassin. In order to save him, Inanna breaks the sacred laws of her Kind, including turning a human and taking him as her Blooded Mate. What’s worse, they discover after the fact that Gabriel has a Pure soul. A union between Dark and Pure Ones has been strictly forbidden since the dawn of time for reasons no one fully knew.
While the Chosen makes progress with slowing down the expansion of the fight clubs, they uncover new information that points to a traitor in their own midst. Gabriel has a rough adjustment to his new state of being as a vampire, at the same time struggling to make sense of his relationship with Inanna, with whom he’s felt an instant and irresistible connection from the first moment they met. Inanna, on the other hand, devotes her heart and soul totally to love her Mate, just as she had loved his previous incarnation in her youth many millennia ago. To save her from pain, Gabriel’s ancient self, Alad, had her memories erased of him until he could find her again in another life.
Through her newly-forged friendship with the Pure Ones, including their young queen Sophia, Inanna discovers that not only is she a True Blood, but that her mother was a Dark Princess and her father was a Pure warrior and the leader of the Rebellion that led to the destruction of the Dark empire. She is the offspring from this union, and she has a twin brother who all the records say had died. Inanna also finds clues that at least her father might still be alive, and perhaps her mother as well.
By now Gabriel has fully accepted his new lease on life and is determined to help in the war against vampire rogues and their human conspirators any way he can. He has also accepted Inanna fully into his heart, having fallen for her all over again in his present incarnation. But the vampire assassin who threatened them before reveals herself again to challenge Inanna for the right to claim Gabriel as her Blood Slave and takes him prisoner to use against Inanna in the final death match.
Inanna goes with eyes wide open to the site of the challenge and fights the vampire who used to be her comrade. To distract her, the vampire holds Gabriel captive and deals him mortal wounds for every wound Inanna deals her. The ploy works, and Inanna loses concentration, suffering a mortal wound herself.
Inanna and Gabriel’s deaths trigger their Awakening, a process by which those with Pure souls embrace their past lives with all their memories and gifts. When they regain consciousness, they rejoin the battle already waging between the vampire assassins and the Chosen and Pure allies. They win this battle, and together, Inanna and Gabriel execute the traitor who plotted to usurp the Dark Queen.
But the war is not won. The battle between the vampires, humans and Pure Ones was recorded and uploaded onto the Internet to spur the growth of new fight clubs and potentially hastening the widespread exposure of the immortal races to humans. Meanwhile, Inanna and Gabriel rediscover each other with full knowledge of their ancient past. They plan to search for Inanna’s father with the aid of the Pure Ones.
The future is not yet written. Inanna and Gabriel would face the unknown together. Forevermore.
That is what I and my Kind are called.
Bloodsucker. Demon.Devil’s Spawn. Fiend. Incubus.
I cannot say whether I am or am not these things.
I suppose it depends on one’s point of view.
To the humans whose blood, and sometimes souls, I take for survival, I suppose I might appear somewhat… dangerous. But it is all a matter of perspective.
So allow me to give you mine.
I was born. I was not made.
Nor am I a Pure One who chose the so-called Darkness over an excruciating death when they surrendered their love to the wrong person.
I am simply, and always have been, as I am.
There have been times, oh so many times in the millennia that I have lived, that I resented, raged, railed against my existence.
To the Goddess. To the Heavens. To the Universe at large.
But it wasn’t always that way.
I was born into privilege and luxury. Royalty, even.
There was a time, all those thousands of years ago, when vampires ruled the earth. Pure Ones were inferior chattel and humans were our livestock.
And then the Great War reversed the balance of power.
History, as they say, is written by the victors.
And now I and my Kind are hunted like vermin by the very creatures who used to kneel at our feet. There are also human factions who know of us (or at least think they know) and target us for extermination, torture, experimentation, even just for the sport of it. What was once the most powerful civilization the world has ever seen is now in crumbled ruins, its noble citizens degenerating over time into renegades, thieves, lawless parasites.
Few of us True Bloods remain.
Most have either perished in the Great War or in the Purge of the aftermath. Over time, Pure Ones who have lost their faith joined our ranks.
And in this new era, vampires can also be made.
It is this last type of predator that we should all guard ourselves against, for they have no compunction, no morals.
Never-ending, unquenchable thirst for the blood and souls of others.
But this is no longer my concern—this galactic battle between Good and Evil. I ceased to care which was good and which, evil, the day that he betrayed me. I only live for my daughter and son.
My beloved Dark Ones…
“Thou shalt be a benevolent ruler of the human race. Thou shalt not forget thy place, nor that of thy weaker subjects. Except through the Blood Contract, with Consent, or through the Deliverance of Justice, the taking of human blood and souls is forbidden.”
—Excerpt from the Dark Laws, verse ten of the Ecliptic Scrolls
Present day. New York, NY.
“Mr. D’Angelo, you may come in now,” the nurse said as she exited the hospice room, pushing a rolling laundry basket of used bed linen and towels.
Gabriel quietly thanked the nurse, his shaggy dark hair shielding his expression, his head and eyes slightly lowered, further hiding his face.
Though he knew that he was being rude, he was unable to reciprocate her small smile of encouragement he caught through the filter of his lashes. Instead, he acknowledged her sympathy with a barely perceptible nod and shuffled into the dimly-lit sterilized room after she passed by, closing the door behind him.
As if the click of the shutting door sent a buzz of electricity through his body, turning him on, Gabriel abruptly raised his head and greeted the woman in the mechanical twin bed with a beaming smile.
“Hey beautiful,” he said as he moved closer to sit in the deep-seated armchair by her side. “You’re looking better today.”
“Hey yourself, handsome,” the woman bantered back, her eyes sparkling with happiness at the sight of him. Though her voice was barely a whisper, her tone vibrated with good humor.
As if she weren’t dying of cancer.
Gabriel determinedly tucked away the dark thought in a remote corner of his mind. He pulled out a folded piece of paper from the inner pocket of his jacket and revealed colorful scribbles before her eyes.
“A gift from Benji,” he explained, helping her to raise her head a little bit from the stack of pillows, his warm palm cradling the back of her head with care.
Had her skull always been so small, so fragile? Like egg shells.
The images and colors blurred together in front of her eyes, no longer able to see with clarity, only recognizing light and shadows.
Nevertheless, she proudly proclaimed, “Another masterpiece. Our little man is an artistic genius. I always knew he would take after you.”
“It’s heaven,” Gabriel interpreted the drawing for her so she could picture it in her still vivid imagination.
“There’s a red brick house with a chimney and smoke coming out of it in puffs as big as clouds. A snowman with the scarf you gave me wrapped snugly around his neck. You’re kneeling down in front pinning the carrot nose on his face. I’m standing on your right side not offering much help. Benji’s on your left holding three sticks of marshmallows. He told me to tell you that this is the house he built for you in heaven.”
Having painstakingly related the message from their five-year-old son, Gabriel exhaled deeply, silently, as if releasing a great burden that had been suffocating his lungs. He hoped she didn’t notice how his hands shook, how his voice grew deeper with barely contained anguish.
“He built me a house,” she mused, using what little strength she had to lift her hand an inch to smooth her thumb over a corner of the drawing. “How did I get so lucky? To be sandwiched between the two most wonderful men in the world? Benji has indeed depicted the heaven within my heart.”
She turned slightly toward him, he helped her the rest of the way until she could look upon him fully.
After a long silence, he teased, “Do I have mustard on my face? I ate a Crif Dog on my way here.”
Self-consciously, he swiped at his lips and chin, trying to avoid her penetrating gaze.
“Don’t hide,” she said softly. “Let me look at you. One of my biggest regrets is that I haven’t gotten a real good look at you in all the years we’ve known each other. And now my eyesight is misbehaving and I have to concentrate extra hard to see and memorize everything I’ve…”
“Don’t,” he interrupted when he saw the sheen of tears in her eyes.
He didn’t want to hear about her regrets. He didn’t want her to blame herself for a past that could not be changed.
But she took a deep breath and stubbornly pushed on.
“Everything I’ve stupidly taken for granted for so long.”
She wiggled a finger and he was instantly there, holding her hand in both of his, ever in tune with her needs.
But alas, she had never tended to his needs, never considered his feelings and desires.
Until it was too late.
Selfishness was yet another regret in the long list of sins for which she wished she had the time to atone.
“Have I ever told you that you are the most beautiful man I have ever known?” she told him with a slight curl at the corners of her lips.
When she’d been well, this would have been her most charming, most saucy, most flirtatious come-hither smile. Now it was a mere shadow of a thought of a smile.
“You don’t have to say that,” he returned, shaking his head a little with disbelief.
He didn’t know how much more of her revelations he could take. It was all he could do to hold back the grief, to pull a mask of hope and cheerfulness over his countenance when, inside, he was frozen with despair.
“There are many things I must say before I go,” she insisted, her voice surprisingly firm despite the raspy belabored edge. “You must hear them.”
When he started to shake his head again, she said, “No. Please let me say them. There isn’t much time.”
“You’re tired,” he said, switching topics desperately. “It’s time to rest.”
She whimpered in distress when he tried to pull away, a tear leaking out of the corner of her eye.
“Don’t go. I can’t… sleep in peace if I don’t tell you.” Desperately, she clung to his hand with her last bit of strength, her breathing becoming more ragged from the exertion.
“I’m here,” he assured her, relenting to her request, infusing warmth into her icy-cold hand by enfolding it completely within both of his. “I won’t leave you.”
She took a shuddering breath, and her eyes shut immediately, as if she were preserving her energy to speak and keeping them open would have cost too much.
“I love you,” she stated clearly, her voice full and resounding in the silent room. In that moment while she spoke, even the persistent whirring from the radiator by the window could no longer be heard.
Time stood still.
Gabriel squeezed his eyes shut as well, clenching his jaw through a wave of pain that rose like acid in his throat.
“I’m sorry I never told you,” she continued, “I’m sorry for many things. Countless things. Sorry for being blind and foolish. For my misguided stubbornness. For making you carry my burdens. For being so selfish. For hurting you unforgivably…”
“Stop,” he beseeched her, giving her hand a gentle squeeze, as much pressure as he dared exert on her brittle bones.
“No,” she answered strongly and took a deep breath for fortification. “Indulge my selfishness one last time.”
With visible effort, she peeled open her eyes, as if raising the heavy lids required strength equal to raising a castle drawbridge. Her pale blue eyes glittering with unshed tears—from anger, frustration or remorse, he could not tell—she pierced straight into his soul with their laser lights.
“I want Benji to have a mother.”
Gabriel sucked in a gulp of air and would have interrupted her if not for the quick, resolute shake of her head.
“It is my last request,” she told him firmly. “I have all the necessary paperwork prepared.”
Gabriel sat straight suddenly as if lightning lit his veins afire.
“Her name is Nana Chastain.”
He’d heard of her, but he had never met her.
In the years since the “incident,” his wife had sometimes spoken of this Nana with great affection and respect. But Gabriel knew nothing of his wife’s friend and confidante, didn’t even know how they met, or anything about who she was. Other than his wife’s words, there was never even a trace of physical evidence proving that Ms. Chastain’s existence wasn’t simply imaginary.
As Gabriel’s ears rang with inner alarm, his wife went on, “I want you and Nana to raise Benji together. I know Benji will love her madly if he doesn’t already.”
What? When had their son met this mysterious woman?
“Do it for Benji,” his wife implored, “Do it for me.”
She didn’t add—doit for yourself.
Maybe those closest to death had the most insight to life.
Somehow she knew that Nana Chastain was exactly what Gabriel needed to rejoin the living. All the time, energy and emotion he’d wasted on her over the years had worn him down just as surely as disease had worn her down. If not for Benji, she thought he would have gladly, disastrously, chosen to join her in the afterlife.
“Have I a choice?” her husband whispered, his voice shaking, his head bent, eyes squeezed tightly shut.
He already knew the answer. She had made her decision, and she was Benji’s mother.
She sighed, hearing the reluctant acceptance in his words, and the strength all at once seemed to seep out of her, her eyes closing again on their own volition, her hand going limp in his grasp.
“You’ll like her,” she promised, her voice so soft he could barely hear her over the radiator.
Time marched onward.
*** *** *** ***
Inanna watched the couple through the thin wall of the hospice, seeing clearly every hair, every eye-lash.
For the most part, her unique ability could be likened to infrared vision, but it was much more powerful than that: she could see through walls as if they were entirely transparent, and she could zoom distant objects into focus to the finest detail.
His chin-length hair hid most of his expression, but Inanna understood the exchange between husband and wife as if she’d heard every word. She knew what was being discussed; Olivia had told her late last night after Gabriel had taken Benji home.
Inanna’s new son.
How did a four-thousand year-old vampire get into this predicament?
Because she was greedy, that’s how. She’d fallen in love with the little boy and his bouncy, blond curls at first sight. And first sight was before he had any hair, right after he was delivered, in fact, at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley-Komansky Children's Hospital.
But who was she kidding, Inanna silently chided herself. She wasn’t just in love with the boy.
She was head over heels in lust with the husband.
Inanna turned away from the hospice room and walked briskly outside toward her sun-proofed gun-metal Lamborghini Aventador. Folding her long limbs into the vehicle, she fired up the ignition and raced out of the hospice parking lot, into the pitch-black night.
She would grant husband and wife one last night together before collecting on Olivia’s Blood-Contract.
And fulfilling her own.
About the Author
Aja has been writing stories since the age of six, and novels since the age of thirteen. While she'd be the first to admit that those early efforts weren't particularly good, she sure loved putting them down on paper!
The best part of writing, according to Aja, is that it’s completely organic, the way the stories develop. When the inspiration hits, she writes just so she herself can learn where the characters are headed because oftentimes, they take her by surprise! It is her ultimate dream to share her stories with as many readers as she possibly can.
Her other loves include art, cooking, old movies (anything with Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Robert Redford, Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Clark Gable, and all the song and dance numbers because she can’t watch them and not be happy!)
She adores taking long walks with her husband and running after her two rambunctious kids. She has traveled extensively (all seven continents except Antarctica) and has a multi-cultural upbringing. She speaks two and a half languages and binge watch TV shows when the mood strikes.
Aja has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Comparative Literature and Economics and two Master’s degrees, one of which is in East Asian Studies.