Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(8) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
If they would hate him as much as he hated his own father. But in Max’s defense, his absence had been lack of knowledge. Not the hatred and disgust for his young that his father had borne for him.
“Named for your mother?” he whispered.
She nodded. “And Hadyn in honor of your brother who died the day before we met.”
He couldn’t believe she’d remembered his brother’s name. He’d only mentioned Hadyn to her once, in an hour of extreme weakness on the first anniversary of Hadyn’s death. Never before and never since.
“Where are they now?”
“Nala has them in hiding. She’s in league with a demon who has demanded the Dragonbane be delivered to him. If I fail to bring you to them, they’ll kill the children.”
Max cursed under his breath. The only reason Nala knew of his dragonbane mark that betrayed his wretched heritage and curse was from the night Sera had handed him over to her queen for public discipline and ridicule.
He involuntarily flinched as he remembered the bitter details of something he did his best to never think about. “Why didn’t you tell her who I was when she was here?”
“I didn’t realize it was you until after she was gone. Not that it matters. I still wouldn’t have turned you over to her. Not after last time.”
Yeah, right. Her loyalty to those bitches was absolute. A lesson learned the hardest way imaginable. “Forgive me if I find that difficult to believe.”
At least she had the decency to look away. “You were warned, repeatedly, what would happen if you didn’t stop rebelling against our laws. I begged you to bow down to them.”
“I am drakomai!” he snarled. “Born in the sacred hallow of gods, and nursed on the breastmilk of demons! I’m not a dog to be leashed and taught to heel. Not even for a queen.”
“No, that you most certainly aren’t.” She walked into his arms and he felt his resolve weaken.
Worse? His self-preservation crashed even faster.
Standing up on her tiptoes, she pressed her breasts against his chest and sank her graceful hand in his hair. Those long, finely shaped nails scraped against his skin, making him even harder and more desperate for the last thing he could do with her.
He wanted to curse her and pull back, but she had him captured in her siren’s lure.
And he was helpless in her arms. He’d always been helpless before her wiles.
“I never wanted you hurt, Maxis. If I could take back my actions, I would have gone with you when you asked me to leave my tribe. And you’re right. I should have fought for you. You would have fought for me.”
Yes, he would have. With every ounce of lifeblood he possessed.
If only she’d been so loyal to him.
Even now, he struggled not to touch her. To remain perfectly still and wrapped in the hatred he needed to feel in order to protect himself from allowing her to hurt him any worse. She hadn’t just carved out his heart, she’d hand-fed it to him. “I would have died for you.”
A sad frown lined her brow as she brushed her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck. It raised chills all along his body and fired every hormone he possessed. “I miss your braids and feathers. You look so foreign with this short hair and odd clothing. But no less fierce or handsome.”
He missed the days when he’d foolishly thought they could have a future together. When he’d stupidly believed that she loved him and was as committed to their mated-union as he was. “Tell me of this demon who holds my dragonets. Why is it after me?”
“Because you are drakomai, they believe you’re guarding some object the demon needs for vengeance against a Daimon named Stryker. The demon stole something called the Smaragdine Tablet and —”
“You mean the Emerald Tablet?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. It is green. Is that important?”
Was it important? He couldn’t believe she’d asked that.
He gave her a droll stare. “Since it contains the words to undo the creation of the world… Little bit.”
The color drained from her face. “You’re serious?”
“I would never joke about the end of all existence, or something that could open the sacred gates and unleash all manner of hell onto this earth… That tablet was what my brother protected. What Hadyn gave his life for.”
She dropped her hand. “So you know this object?”
“I know of it. Hadyn would never allow me to view it. That is the curse of my race. We keep our secrets from all. Even blood kin.”
Seraphina silently winced as those words reminded her of her betrayal against him. Sadly, it wasn’t the nature of her species. But he was right. The drakomai were bred to be the sentinels and protectors of sacred objects for the gods and fey. It was hardwired into their DNA to savagely defend whatever fell under their protection. To let no one take it from them so long as they had breath in their bodies. The need to keep that pact was so strong that they’d been known to regenerate limbs and even heads to continue their fight against any enemy who tried to take their charges from them.
There was nothing like their will to survive and to protect. They were truly the most vicious and loyal creatures ever born.
And she had callously thrown that away for a group of bitches who lacked all understanding of real loyalty.
I am all kinds of stupid.
Wishing she could change what had happened between them, she brushed her hand against the area of his thigh where he’d been branded as a young drakomas.
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