Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(4) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Every sense he possessed was on high alert.
No. There was no way it was possible…
It couldn’t be.
His breath caught as he saw a bleeding Serre scrambling down the stairs, leading a small group of women dressed in the ancient war garb and armor of a long-dead race. While Sanctuary closed to humans at four thirty in the morning, it remained open around the clock to any preternatural creature who needed a safe haven to rest from battle. Limani such as this had always been few and far between, and in the twenty-first century, there were only a handful left intact and operating.
As a precaution to keep humans from accidentally discovering their supernatural breed and freaking out, the Peltier bear family had the entire building shielded. Anyone coming here by way of magick was confined to do so on the third floor only, where a shapeshifting bouncer was always posted.
Tonight, Serre Peltier had pulled that duty. As blond as his brothers and sister, he was a slightly smaller version of the quads, which meant he was still bigger than most creatures. But even so, it hadn’t kept him from getting his ass kicked by the Arcadian newcomers who beat him down in front of their group.
So much for abiding by the eirini, or so-called peace laws, that Savitar and the Omegrion had set down for their species to follow.
Blond and built for murder, the leader of the small group of women grabbed Serre by his short hair and wrenched his head up to show his battered face to their group. She held an old-fashioned Greek kopis to his throat. “Who owns this place?”
When Aimee started forward, Max, her brothers, and her husband cut her off to protect her and the unborn babies she carried. It was obvious this preter group was here for war and not to make peace or truce.
Fang moved to meet the warrior bitch face-to-face while Max covered Aimee. “That’s my brother you hold. I suggest you release him or lose your head.”
She raked a scathing glare down Fang’s body. “I am Drakaina Arcadia and we don’t deal with inferior species. Stand aside, animal.”
Sam stepped to Fang’s side. Gloved hands on hips, she met the women with the open hostility of someone ready to battle. “And I am Samia, Basilinna of the Thurian Riders, granddaughter of Hippolyte – who was the daughter of Ares. Declare yourself.”
“Nala, Basilinna of the Drakaina, most favored of Ares, Artemis, and Athena.”
Samia scoffed. “Color me unimpressed. Now release my most beloved brother or suffer my full wrath and battle-tested blade.”
Nala tightened her grip on his hair. The pain of it must have been severe, since a moment later, Serre involuntarily shifted into his native bear form. Something that only happened when the Katagaria were in severe pain or suffered an electrical shock.
Sam manifested her staff. The men moved forward to engage their group as Aimee shot past him to cover Serre.
All eyes went to the stairs and for a full minute, Max stood completely motionless as the mark on his hand heated and burned in response to her appearance. Every part of his body came alive in a way it hadn’t for more centuries than he could recall.
The dragon inside salivated and it was devouring the human in him so fast, he could barely hold his form.
He struggled to breathe. If he broke dragon right now, he’d take out half the bar. He was far too large in his native body to shift here and now.
But it wasn’t easy to remain human…
Not when the beast inside him was stirred to this level. Not when it wanted blood.
Like a grand queen wrapped in a mantle of red, brown, and gold feathers, a lush, full-figured, Titian-haired beauty descended the stairs. Her red helm fell over her face to form a sharp beak that shaded her eyes.
But he knew their color. Searing, haunting green that was salted with gold. Filled with bold intelligence. They had a way of looking at him with ball-shriveling scorn.
Seraphina of the Drakaina-Scythian Riders. Voluptuous. Passionate.
How he hated every breath she drew.
The Amazons parted to make way for her to pass through them, to reach their queen. To the baretos humans, her armor would appear as painted, scaled bronze. Yet it wasn’t. Those were the tanned and preserved scales of Katagaria dragons she’d slain, and marked her as one of the most vicious dragonslayers of her tribe.
Her queen’s champion rider.
Seraphina struck her chest in salute and lowered her head. “Forgive my interruption, Basilinna, but perhaps I can be of assistance?”
Nala hesitated. “Is he here?”
“No, my basilinna. I fear your informant lied to you. I would know if my mate were here.”
Nala cursed and kicked Serre in the ribs. With a flick of her vibrant red cloak, she faced Seraphina. “I’m going to gut that demon.” And with that, she led her warriors back upstairs.
Seraphina stayed behind as they left. It was all kinds of stupid to lie to her queen. She knew that and yet…
She swept her gaze over the gathered men. The raven-haired one was definitely not the Drakos she sought. By his fetid stench, she knew him to be wolfborn Katagari. The rest were all blonds. All exceptionally handsome and well built. Two were twins. They couldn’t be her Maxis. They, like the one wheezing as he turned human again and pushed himself to his feet, were bears.
That only left the one.
Like the others, he wore strange clothing – not that of a warrior or traditional Drakos. His dark blond hair was cropped very short, but as their eyes met, she recognized those perfectly chiseled masculine features. That strong, rigid, and unyielding jaw. That look of fiery defiance that pierced her with its proud arrogance. A pride that had always dared her against their traditions and culture.
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