AN: I know, I know! It's been way too long since I updated. What happened was that I actually ended up getting laid off of my job a few months ago (another casualty of this awesome economy we live in!) and between the stress of trying to find a new job, finding one, and getting settled in to it, I completely lost interest in writing. I tried, considering there's only this little bit left of the story, but I was dried up.
But here it is, guys, FINALLY. The last chapter. It's a little short and I was thinking about doing an epilogue, but I have some ideas swirling around in my head for the sequel, so I figure I'll just leave it for then. Keep your eyes peeled for that!
I just want to say THANK YOU again to everyone for all the reviews. Even when this story probably looked like it was dead, I was still getting amazing reviews from you guys. THANK YOU SO MUCH! And I hope you all come back for the sequel!
The door swung open with a mechanical hiss and Maggie gawked at the penthouse on the other side. It was like the lair of some evil comic book overlord. Everything was harsh lines and angles. There was metal everywhere, in the walls, the windowpanes, the floors, the furniture. And everything was in black, white, or various shades of grey. The only splash of color in the otherwise cold and sterile environment was a huge abstract painting hung behind the leather living room set, and even that only had dark hues of blue and green. It was obvious that a woman hadn't been anywhere near this place in its inception.
"Depressing," Finn supplied, "I know."
Maggie shook her head. "I was going to say 'intimidating'."
He chuckled. "I suppose that's the desired effect." He placed a gentle hand on the small of her back to nudge her into the penthouse.
She crossed the threshold, still staring wide-eyed at her surroundings. Behind her, she heard Finn drop her bags by the door and close it behind them.
"Before you run away screaming," he said with a laugh in his voice, "this is only one of a few properties. And trust me; the others are much more inviting."
She laughed softly. "It's nice, Finn, really."
He swung an arm around her shoulders and placed a light kiss on her cheek. "No one has ever called this place nice, pet. You don't have to lie; it won't hurt my feelings."
Maggie glanced up at him warily. "I hate it," she said emphatically.
Finn tossed his head back with a great laugh. "Fuck, love, I said you didn't have to lie, but did you have to be brutally honest?" She shifted uncomfortably on her feet until he gave her a soothing squeeze. "I'm kidding. Please, always be brutally honest with me."
His words didn't ease the tension that had built in her shoulders since their arrival at Dupree Tower moments before. In fact, they made it worse. She was making a valiant effort at hiding her anxiety but Finn seemed to be able to pick up on every turn in her mood.
He examined her face with a frown and led her over to the long leather couch. "OK, talk to me, love. What are you thinking?"
She settled onto the glossy leather and looked down at her hands. Where could she even begin? She'd been pondering so many things all day; her mind was a jumbled mess. There were so many questions she needed to ask.
They had left the Hyatt in Chicago that morning and soon after boarded a flight back here. Maggie had wanted to say so much then, but she hadn't known how to. From the moment she'd woken up she'd been enveloped in a whirlwind of activity and there hadn't been a moment to have the kind of serious discussion she needed.
Finn had been wrapped up in making the arrangements and helping her tie up loose ends in Chicago. He'd been awake before her, talking to Blair in the living room suite about flight schedules. When Maggie had appeared drowsily in the doorway, she'd immediately been assaulted by the she-wolf and fussed over for the subsequent hours following.
Blair had ordered her a ridiculously large breakfast from room service and taken her sizes for a new wardrobe. Maggie could admit she desperately needed one, but she was nervous about the whole idea of someone else doing her shopping for her. But Blair had waved away her anxiety saying that it was only a "starter" wardrobe and she could add on to it later as she chose.
After breakfast, they had gone to Maggie's apartment. It hadn't been an easy thing for either of them. Finn had grown increasingly anxious as their cab drove through her seamy neighborhood, but had remained silent. When Maggie informed him that her roommate might be there, they had a short back and forth and finally established that yes, her roommate was a man, and yes, he was probably the same "boy" Finn had encountered the night before. His mood had soured further, but still he had not commented.
But then, when they'd entered the tiny apartment, Finn's misery had grown tenfold. He'd stayed in the doorway, looking around the room with poorly veiled chagrin and Maggie was thankful that Sylas was not there. She quickly gathered her few possessions and scribbled a note to Sylas that simply said, "Going home. I love you. -Mags"
It had been easier to breathe once they were away from the apartment and even easier once they were on their way out of the city. During the flight, Maggie had fought with broaching the questions she so desperately wanted answered. But she just didn't know how. Now, staring back at Finn's hard, honest face, she still didn't know how or where to begin.
How exactly was all this supposed to work? Being apart was not an option, but how would they exist together? He was a king in a world that was almost completely unknown to her. Did she have any sort of obligation as his mate? What was expected of her? Did she have any choices or say over her life anymore?
"I'm confused," she started hesitantly. Finn's eyes implored her to elaborate. "All I've wanted, all I've thought of for the past five years was being with you. But now that we're here, I don't understand what I'm supposed to do. How does this work?"
Finn smiled at her and it was hard to remember how she had once found his features so harsh and intimidating. His fingers brushed through her hair and she leaned into his warm hand. "It can work however you want it to, sweet."
"But you have responsibilities and obligations. You're a leader. How can anything be up to me?"
"You know I'd give it all up in an instant if that was your wish," he said sincerely.
Maggie leapt to her feet. "It isn't! How could that ever be my wish? This is where you belong! This is your home. This is your life, your duty, your birthright!"
Finn regarded her seriously. "You don't know where you fit into all of this," he observed.
She was thankful for his uncanny insight and fell back down to the couch with a grateful sigh. Finn pulled her closer to him and planted a fierce kiss on the top of her head.
"As I said, it's up to you, love. You can be as much or as little a part of this world as you want to be. There is no rule, no law, no expectation. If you want to live your life outside of this, you may. It is your choice. We can go wherever you want, live wherever you want. I can attend to my duties from anywhere I choose.
"If you want to know my world though, you can and you will be treated with the respect a queen deserves." He cupped her face in his large hands. "You are mine and no one can or will ever challenge that."
He released her face and sank from the couch to kneel in front of her. "My world is dark, Maggie. There are things you may not wish to know or see. But you do have a place here. You do have a role, if you wish to take it. I promise, no harm will ever come to you and under my rule, there is nothing you will have to compromise for it. But it is up to you."
Finn looked earnestly into her eyes. "We have eternity to figure this out, my love. Why don't we just see where life takes us?"
Eternity. She'd almost forgotten. Maggie's breath caught in her throat at the thought. Things would be so very different now. Her entire view on life would have to change. Time was of no consequence anymore. And when she really thought about it, it was liberating. She felt all of a sudden weightless. Immortality! The realization finally began to set in that life-changing decisions weren't nearly as significant when your life was potentially endless.
She looked at Finn, her partner, her lover, her mate. Her eyes studied the hard lines of his handsome face. Such a stern man, frightening really, but his devotion was plainly written on his features. She clasped his hands, marveling at the sinewy strength in the digits. He was strong, so strong. And he was hers, for eternity.
"Yes," she breathed, "let's just see."