“My heart is part of my body,” he whispered.
“Then love me.”
William met her eyes, then turned away.
He strode to the closet, withdrawing an armful of clothes.
“If you want to go, go. But know this.” He walked to the door. “You are the one who is ending what we shared. Not Aoibhe. Not another woman. And certainly not me.”
He opened the door and entered the hall, slamming the door behind him. The paintings and light fixtures rattled on the walls.
Raven sank onto the divan, burying her face in her hands.
Less than thirty minutes later, Marco was driving her home. She left the sketches on the bed and the bracelet on William’s nightstand.
Raven grieved silently and privately.
It would have been embarrassing to confess the explanation for her sadness—that she’d had her universe expanded in a short period of time, tasted passion and affection, and fallen in love only to discover her love would never be reciprocated.
She tried to take consolation in the fact that she’d progressed from thinking that love was not for her to hoping that, someday, it might be. Even if the dream was never realized, the prospect remained.
She tried listening to music.
The first time “White Blank Page” by Mumford and Sons played on her laptop, she switched it off. Then she listened to it several times.
It was while listening to this song that she came to the momentous conclusion that what William believed about the nature of feeding and addiction was wrong.
She craved the experience. She craved him. But her desires for him, sexual and otherwise, were not enough to overthrow her reason. They were not enough to impel her to cast aside hope and crawl back to him.
She took this as an indication that she was stronger than she thought.
She threw herself into her work, volunteering for any and all overtime offered by Professor Urbano. She went on a few day trips with Patrick and Gina, visiting Lucca, Siena, and Pisa.
There were evenings when she thought she saw a dark figure moving in the shadows across the street. Or when she was sure he’d been in her apartment, while she was sleeping.
“You’re the shadow on my wall,” she whispered to the darkness one evening. But the darkness was always silent.
There were no signs of hunters, no more bodies found in the street or down by the river. Whatever battle the principality had waged, it seemed to have won.
Raven found herself relieved the Prince was safe. But beyond that recognition, she did not allow her mind to go.
Instead, she focused on work, on her friends, and on bringing flowers to Angelo’s favorite spot by the Ponte Santa Trinita, hoping that death had brought him peace.
The Prince stood high atop the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, staring down at the Uffizi Gallery. Tourists and locals congregated, sharing conversations and holding hands. Music could be heard in the distance. A few couples danced in the Piazza Signoria.
As his gaze flitted from figure to figure but failed to see the person he was looking for, his mood darkened. He tried to convince himself his longing was temporary—the result of sex and pleasure. But not even his coldest, harshest application of rationality could persuade him that he was unchanged by her.
“You’re brooding.” Aoibhe’s voice sounded at his elbow.
He’d scented her a moment or two earlier. Despite her advanced age and skill, he’d heard her land on the tower’s roof. He didn’t turn around, confident as he was in his assessment of her loyalty and threat level, especially now that he had saved her life.
“I never brood.” The Prince’s voice was cool as he continued to search in vain.
“Then why are you up here, glaring? The night is ours. There’s food and sport to be had, even for someone as dour as you,” Aoibhe said, gently mocking him. “From what I hear, the police have given up their investigation. They have no evidence, no prospects, and a shrinking list of suspects. You must be very pleased.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He scanned the grounds one last time before turning to face her.
“Come now, my prince. While I’ve never seen your vast art collection for myself, I’ve heard rumors. I just don’t understand why you chose to steal from the Uffizi now. Presumably, you already acquired the jewels of the Renaissance while you and Niccolò were enjoying the company of the Medici.”
William sniffed. “I moved in their circle for some time. Niccolò had a fraught relationship with them.”
“So I’ve heard. Could it be that he wrote The Prince for you?”
William offered her an indifferent look before gazing down at the gallery again. He saw a pair of lovers sitting on the steps of the loggia, kissing passionately.
“Where’s the Prince’s little pet this evening?”
“Out,” he rumbled.
“I’m surprised you let her out of your sight, given the way you were with her at Teatro.”
William opened his mouth to protest, but Aoibhe interrupted.
“Don’t bother lying. One might almost say you’re in love with her.”
“Love?” he scoffed. “You know our kind too little.”
“Ah, my prince. I know you only too well.” She moved closer to touch his face.
He sidestepped her. “What do you know of love?”
“Precious little. I’ve tried to forget my time as a human. It made immortality much easier. But there was a boy . . .” She smiled, a faraway look in her eyes. “After the English lord raped me, the boy didn’t want me anymore.”
“This is your account of love?” William strode to the crenellations, placing his hands on one.
“Maybe the boy didn’t love me. Maybe the ugliness of rape killed his love. I was young and unable to fathom such mysteries.”
She tilted her head, regarding the Prince thoughtfully.
“One might say we have shared love, you and I. Our evenings together were certainly pleasurable. That’s love enough for me.”
“It isn’t enough,” he muttered, leaning forward on the battlements.
She stood next to him, following his gaze to the lovers who were kissing at the loggia. “The kind of love of which you speak is dangerous. It makes one vulnerable.”
Satisfied that the woman entangled in the embrace below was not Raven, he tore his eyes from her.
“We are all vulnerable in some way.”
“Then be vulnerable to me and make me your consort.”