Summary: I deeply apologize for the delays, and I deeply thank everyone for reviewing! I'm so happy that you guys supported me, and I can't thank you enough.
This is the end! I'm afraid I am not too content with the ending as it is...but stayed tuned for a special addition :D.
And thanks SO much to ForeverLostTear for awakening me back to update this story. :
The Final Chapter:
The sky was hazy with purple sunrise, and birds were beginning to become restless. The morning air stung Iris's skin even through her coat. This year, she hadn't really prepared for winter's wrath. As she approached her own front door, she hugged her arms close to her chest. Her breath came out in spouts of smoke. Her chest felt ready to cave in from the weight of anxiety and complete and utter amazement. She really dreaded stepping through her front doors.
All she could focus on was her night with Dante, and the morning that followed. When she woke up, the clock struck the hour of five, and Dante was right beside her. At first, she was scared of the thirst in his eyes. He had told her that he would stay with her throughout the night no matter how strong his thirst became. Iris was glad to have woken up next to him and his truth. To see him left her in bliss. She couldn't have asked for anything more.
How was she going to face her mother?
Dreading to tell her the truth, she let herself in through the doors of her home, closing them loudly behind her.
To her surprise, Lucretia stormed into the room followed by a police officer. "Iris, where have you been?!" she asked, her voice echoing throughout the hall. "I called the police trying to look for you! You told me that you would be back by sunset yesterday! Where were you?! Where did you stay? Answer me, Iris!"
Iris didn't say a word. Instead, she glanced at the old police officer. His face was scrunched from fatigue, and she felt bad that her mother had called him, possibly wrestling him from his sleep, to report her missing daughter. Tiredly he looked down before heading to the door. "I shall leave now. Thank you, Mrs. Moretti," he said as he made his exit.
Iris's mother folded her arms across her chest. "Well, Iris? Are you going to tell me where you've been?" she asked, her face as solemn as stone.
Iris sighed, beginning to become overwhelmed with emotion. "Would you like to know? Fine! I was with Dante! You know, the prince of Rome!"
Lucretia's face dropped instantly. Iris spotted something common in her features; disapproval and anger. "You were with the prince?!" she spat, saying his identity with such disgust, as if he were a homeless beggar. Her arms dropped to her sides and her body stiffened with rage.
Iris decided not to fall into intimidation. "Yes, I was. We love each other, mother. There is nothing you can do to stop that!" Iris then stormed past her mother towards the stairs. All she wanted was to be alone, but Lucretia wasn't going to let her daughter go without a fight. She forcefully seized Iris's arm, and Iris pulled away in anger.
"Iris, Dante is not the one for you! He is the prince!" Her mother sighed, lowering her voice. "Iris, I believe that you are too...emotionally withdrawn for Dante. As the prince, he needs a woman who is outgoing and exuberant, all the things you cannot be, you see? H-He needs a grounded woman as well, someone who knows the difference between dreams and reality, Iris!"
Iris turned to her mother, expressing deep dismay in her face. How could her mother tell her that she wasn't good enough for Dante? She couldn't believe what she was hearing from her own mother, her own blood! "Mother, are you suggesting that I'm not good enough for him?"
Lucretia's face immediately rolled, and she became flooded with denial. "Oh, please don't turn this around on me, Iris. It is only the truth."
Iris scoffed, fighting back tears, holding back her innermost demons. She pulled her arm away in anger. "Gosh mother, thank you for all of these years of support. Thanks for being such a great fucking mother!" Not wishing to hear more, or tolerate any scolding for her cursing, she ran up the spiral stairs.
"Iris, I only-"
"You know what, Lucretia? If you're honestly going to stand there and criticize the ones I love, how I live, and who I am as a daughter, then you can rot in hell!" Iris closed the door to her bedroom, and threw herself onto her bed. She felt so betrayed by her mother, hearing her say that the prince was too good for her. Tears ran down her face as she buried her face in her arms. Soon, she fell into an exhausted, sorrowful sleep.
When she awoke, the clock had struck the hour of four in the afternoon. She was struck with alarm, Dante would be leaving soon. How would she get out of the housee? She knew her mother wasn't going to let her go anywhere, and she didn't want to have to sneak out again. But she absolutely needed to see Dante before he left. Oh, how she struggled to think about it...Rubbing her eyes, she sat up in her bed.
Since she had on her dress from the night before, she put a different dark blue dress. The material was thin and lightweight, making it comfortable. Her heart was heavy just thinking of Dante leaving. As she stood in front of her desktop mirror, she was overcome with grief. Tears came to her tired eyes again as she sank to her knees.
Never again would he see her the way he had seen her the night before. Never again would they be able to share the same passion and desire they experienced the night before. Just remembering it made her sink lower into the depths of despair. This man that she had come to adore, learned to love, was leaving her to dream all alone in Rome. This wonderful man, who's lifestyle should have never existed, was never going to see her again. Iris could bear to expose her face to the world; she covered her face as quiet sobs escaped her lips.
Her mind wandered back to his tender whispers of love, and his delicate touch against her thighs. Numerous times he had made her cry out that night, all times where she had realized the deep physical connection that they shared. It was in those moments where they clung to each other hopelessly, rubbed each other passionately, that she realized just how close their hearts had grown. With every shared breath that he had taken, she had taken the escape the same breath. Every single moment she trembled, an identical shiver ran through his supernatural body. When the hour of midnight had become just minutes away, she remembered the power of the pleasure had become stronger than it had been the whole night. His aggressive, protective growls made her feel wanted, and made her feel like the most attractive woman in the world. Throughout his entire transformation, he had held Iris in his arms while he screamed, cried, and twitched from the touches of the devil.
Once under the watchful eyes of a vampire, Iris simply him breathe all over her neck, let his fingers run down her arms and over her entire body. That was what she remembered to be one of the best feelings in the entire world.
But now, all she could do was grieve...All that had happened the night before was going to be lost forever...How would she survive?
She only had so little time left. Without another thought or care in the world, she got up, and thrust open her window. She slid out carefully, wiping away her tears. The temperature had increased while she was sleeping, meaning a coat would not be a necessity. She swfitly climbed down off the rooftop, and leaped onto the grass. Instantly she ran in the direction of the king's home.
She knew that if she got, she would never be trusted by her mother again. However, she was still mad at her for saying that she wasn't good enough. Still, she could not understand how her mother could say something so cruel. But now she didn't care; if her mother didn't accept the fact that she was in love with the prince, she would leave with Dante. Nothing would ever bring her back here, not even her mother.
But...Dante had said no.
She couldn't understand why she couldn't go with him. They could live together and love each other...and maybe one day she could end up leading the kind of life he did. She knew that she should never be wishing something like that, but she was. What she found most discouraging was the fact that he was running away from his duties as being king. How could he surrender? how could he be so weak? Didn't he knew that he would eventually be caught, and possibly be executed? Iris thought that he could handle it, which was why she was so angry that he was leaving.
He loved her, and he wanted to protect her.
Thoughts of her last words to him raced through her mind as she ran through the streets like a madwoman. Her breathing increased as she turned a corner. She recieved many disapproving looks from pedestrians on the streets, but she didn't care. None of them knew what was happening, what was about to happen. All she wanted was to be with Dante.
But then, she decided that she was thinking too negatively. She knew that he loved her. And if he loved her, and if she asked enough, then maybe he would give in. She could prove to him that leaving without her was an idea that was too selfish to carry out, and she could actually leave with him! If she filled his head with the fact that she would be with him through thick and thin, and let him know just how great it would be to be together, then she could go with him.
She almost stopped in the street, smiling to herself. It was definitely worth another shot. Dante couldn't possibly be content with himself if he left her to be all alone. Iris realized that if she could make him see that, then she could possibly end up leaving with him on the boat to Venice. He loved her enough; maybe it took just one last time of pleading to make him give in. From how she was looking at it at the moment, nothing seemed wrong with her going with him. She wondered how Dante had any thought of negative effects.
King Constantine's mansion came into view, and Iris slowed to a dignified, urgent walk. Her breath came fast as she rushed to tell convince Dante once more. She had cleared her mind completely, and filled it with positivity: this would work. The world seemed silent as her legs propelled her forward faster. She snuck below the windows and to the back of the mansion where Dante's balcony was. "Dante?" she asked, scanning below the bushes.
A wave of memories came over her as she remembered the night that she had first entered Dante's bedroom. Not all memories were to be happy about; she remembered how Dante had told her to leave once his transformation had arrived. But that had also been the first night in which they ever reached a deep physical connection. She remembered how her innocence had peeled away for just a moment to reveal something more relative to a woman. Feeling the touch of Dante for the first time in her life had been something to remember forever, regardless of the bad events that happened afterwards.
But Iris recieved no reply to her calling. Her eyes scanned the balcony. "Dante? Where are you?" she asked, circling around the small premises. She tried to keep her voice down in an attempt not to disrupt the king or any of the servants. She didn't want to be caught for trespassing.
"Dante...?" she said again, her voice trailing off. It couldn't be. He'd couldn't have left yet without giving Iris some sort of notice. Last night couldn't have been the final goodbye, the final farewell. She sighed, her heart beginning to beat furiously in her chest. She quickly turned around and exited the king's property, ducking near the windows so she couldn't be seen. She arrived back on the street, and she stopped for just a moment.
Could he have honestly already left? Iris thought that he would surely say another goodbye before leaving for good. She didn't understand. This couldn't have been the last goodbye. Iris suddenly started running down the street, searching the streets frantically with her eyes. Her heart was racing madly in her chest, threatening to burst, for she knew that if Dante had already left without saying one last goodbye, she would forever be torn.
"Dante, Dante?!" she called, trying not to draw to much attention to herself. She was almost at the corner of the street when suddenly, someone reached out from behind her and grabbed her arm. She whirled around, and saw the precious face of the prince. Her eyes filled with tears as he drew her into a soft embrace.
"Oh, thank heaven…" she whispered. He held her closer to him, planting tender kisses down the side of her face.
"I saw you running away, Iris. I'm sorry I wasn't there," he said, pulling away to look at her face.
"I thought you were already gone!" she cried, almost giggling at her frenetic search for him. He smiled, but the action did not affect his eyes. He took her hands in his, holding them close to his own chest and savoring the moment. Brittle leaves fell off nearby trees, skidding down the cobblestone streets.
"I wouldn't leave without saying goodbye, Iris. But…I must talk to you."
"Okay, Dante. I have to talk to you as well."
"Come with me, Iris." Dante took her hand in his, and lead her down the street back where she had come from. Iris couldn't believe that he hadn't left. Now, she desperately needed to know how much he loved her. He needed to know just how much she loved him, and maybe, just maybe she could make him stay. She knew it wasn't over yet.
The streets of Rome began to grow quiet as civilians decided to return home after a day of touring. The afternoon was beginning to grow dim as twilight approached. Still, the sunset wasn't ready to give up yet. It was more ferocious than usual, showing no signs of surrender. That's exactly how Iris felt. Tonight, she would not give up.
As they walked onto the main road that headed toward Vatican City, Dante put his arms around her waist. Something inside him was somber, and Iris hated that feeling. "My boat leaves in an hour," he said.
"…So you're really leaving?" she asked, feeling her lungs become deprived of air. How could she survive this last hour?
"I'm so sorry, Iris. If I could take you with me, I would in a heartbeat." By then, they had entered the Vatican gardens. As she listened to Dante, Iris slid her hand across the oncoming flowers. Her hand was tightly clasped in his, and she refused to meet his gaze. If she did, she would certainly become hysterical.
But then she stopped. "But you could! Please, I wouldn't refuse!"
"My precious Iris…I fear many things about letting you come with me. You must stay with your mother."
"Dante, how could you? How could you be so…so cowardly? How could you abandon your duties like this? I thought you would be so powerful, and…and…" At this moment, Iris lost her breath. She moved past Dante to sit on the edge of a fountain in the heart of the beautiful city. Breathing in deeply, she covered her face with her hands. At first, Dante didn't approach her.
"How could you be so selfish?" Her voice came out as a low tremble, and it was almost inaudible. She closed her eyes and covered her face again. She knew that wanting him to stay wasn't selfish; she was saving his future and his life. He was running away, he was giving up just for one transgression that she could help him with. And most importantly, he was leaving behind the most important thing in his own life; her.
As her quiet cries continued, the prince slowly walked up to her. He sat before her on the edge of the spouting fountain. Iris felt his hand touch hers, and lift it away from her face. Now she wanted to turn away and hide her bloodshot eyes, but Dante wouldn't let her do that. He only moved her other hand away from her own face. For a while he held them in his grasp. Iris almost fainted from seeing the way his face glowed in the sky's orange sunlight. He had faced away from the sunset, and its glowing light surrounded his head. She was staring into the eyes of an angel.
The prince then lifted her hands up to his mouth, and overturned them. Silently he kissed her tear covered palms, melting the sadness away with his lips. They glided down to her wrist where he landed soft, tranquilizing kisses. He then looked up at her with a vague expression in his eyes. They showed nothing, yet they explained everything about hurt in fine detail.
Then he spoke. "…I never wished to hurt you."
Iris didn't jerk her hands away from him even though she was angry with him. Something inside her wanted to slap him, tell him how mad she was that he was refusing his responsibilities. She wanted to yell and shout and cry, tell him how he is leaving his whole future behind when he leaves her…She wanted to hug him and tell him how much he meant to her. Deep inside she wanted to kiss him, hug him, and make him feel important. A more private part of her wanted to take the rest of the time they had and make passionate love to him, make him feel just as he had the night before. She needed to her him say, "I love you", and she wanted to feel the satisfaction that only ecstasy could provide.
Dante finally spoke again. "I…I don't want to become king when there is so much more I wish to accomplish. I don't want to accept the throne, Iris."
Just then, Iris pulled her hands out of his, and placed them on his cheeks. He leaned into her touch, and sighed. Iris brushed away a lock of hair on his forehead, gently touching his eyes with her palm. She put her forehead on his, and looked into his eyes.
"Then don't…" she whispered.
The prince then pulled her close and pushed his lips onto hers with passion. Iris returned the kiss with everything she had in her soul. Being in a public place at this time was a downfall for them; the desire kept growing and growing. Before things could go any further, Dante pulled away and looked at her. Iris still clung to his shoulders, but forced herself to loosen her grip. Wanting to be close again, Dante put his forehead against hers, and held her hands.
"..Do you think they would allow me to step down?" he asked quietly.
"I do…Dante, just because you live with what most people don't doesn't mean that you have to pack up and give up. That is the true sign of weakness. If you give up now…What was I fighting for?" Iris touched his neck as she spoke.
The prince smiled, a first in a long time. "I understand. Thank you, Iris. It is you who makes my life complete."
Iris smiled back, tears forming in her eyes. She didn't know what to say or do. It couldn't all end now, could it? Would he really leave after he had spent last night with her, and taken her before anyone else? All those times they said I love you…and they may never say it again.
"So?" she asked suddenly, a questioning look in her eye.
The prince pulled out his pocket watch, eyeing it suspiciously. He then shrugged. "I'm not about to wait for the next bat. Tomorrow looks pretty grim, as well…" He smiled.
"Oh, Dante!" Iris gasped as she threw her arms around him. The prince laughed into her hair, wrapping his arms around her possessively. Iris was too excited for words. He's staying?! She thought in disbelief. It was too good to be true.
"But now, I've got a question for you, Iris," said Dante, pulling away to take her hands. With one, he reached into his coat pocket, and confined something in his fist. Iris smiled, wondering what he was going to do. Her heart pounded, her mind swimming at the thought that he was really staying. She was too excited for words.
When he got down on one knee, she knew.
"Iris…Will you marry me?"