Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(9) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
He caught her wrist to stop her from touching him. Those golden hazel eyes seared her with the fiery beauty that had always been her Maxis. How could she have ever chosen someone else over him?
“Where are my dragonets?” By his tone, she knew he intended to go after them. Alone. But then, that was the nature of the beast.
“They’ll kill you.”
He scoffed. “Let them try.”
“You are one. They are many.”
And still that old light burned deep in his fearlessly ferocious eyes. Nothing could ever deter a dragonswain when he was set on his course.
Even one of suicide.
“Draki don’t scare me. I was a natural-born drakomas long before they were created or birthed. Not half-bred. Fully blooded and vested, spawned from the egg of my demon mother. If they think they can stop me, I defy them to bring the best they have and I shall roast them over a pit of their own arrogant stupidity.”
Reaching up, she cupped his cheek in her palm. “And you were merged with an Apollite prince. That blood and form weakens you. They know how to force your change and lock you in this frail body where you can’t fight with your full drakomas power.” Tears choked her as the past came back with a vengeance and she remembered what they’d done to her proud mate. “I can’t watch them do that to you again. I barely survived your last harrowing.”
He stiffened as the fury returned to his eyes and his cheeks darkened, warning her that he was barely holding on to his human form. “That makes two of us.”
A tear slid from her eye as her memories surged again. For a moment, she saw him as he’d been when they met. Wrapped in the furs and hides of the Arcadian Were-Hunters he’d vanquished who had foolishly tried to slay him, he had been sitting in the rear of the small kapeleia, drinking alone. His long, dark blond hair had held tiny braids in the front like many Thracians, and Gerakian feathers had been braided into it. His beautiful face had been painted like a thousand other barbarians’ with a spiraling Celtic or Pictish pattern.
At the time, she’d thought nothing of it because she knew naught of his breed. She hadn’t realized that the feathers in his hair were trophies from Were-Hunter Sentinels who’d once hunted him for sport and found him a far worthier adversary than their advanced martial skills had been prepared to handle. Rather, she’d assumed he was of some human nomadic steppe tribe that was passing through Scythian territory.
Her Amazonian sisters had spread out through the crowded drinking den to find partners, who’d eagerly greeted them with drunken revelry.
Grief-stricken, Maxis hadn’t even looked up at their approach. His golden gaze haunted, he’d been lacing a silver chain through his fingers. One that still bore the bloodstains of his slaughtered brother.
When she’d neared his small table, he’d given her a look of warning that said he wanted to be left alone. She should have listened.
Rather, that aloof arrogance had beckoned her toward him against all common sense. And of course, it hadn’t hurt that he’d possessed the best body and handsomest face of any male there. Even better, those long legs and arms had told her he was much taller than the average man. Something that she’d always found desirable and sexy. Irresistible.
Best of all, he held the aura of a savage, bloodthirsty warrior. A barbarian warlord. A fact the dragon sword on the table next to his hand had borne testament to. Had she not been in the throes of her spawning cycle, she might have resisted him.
Instead, she’d walked up with full Amazon temerity, pushed him back in his chair, and boldly straddled that long, muscular body.
As she slid herself up his thighs and into his lap, he’d gasped audibly and she’d taken advantage of that to ravage his open mouth. To sink her hands into his lush, soft, feather-laced hair and taste every bit of those amazing lips and skilled tongue. Now fully vested in her embrace and attention, Maxis had only broken from her kiss long enough to pay the kapeleia owner for his drink and to rent one of their oikemata – small rooms – for privacy.
That had been the most amazing night of her life. She should have known by his stamina, dexterity, skills, and scars that he wasn’t human. But truthfully, she’d been too grateful to find a male who could finally satiate the aching hunger inside her to question it.
Naked, breathing raggedly, and still entwined, they’d finally paused for a small repast just after dawn. Right as the room began to lighten, both of them had pulled back as the burning in their palms began and their mating marks appeared.
Shocked and horrified, she’d looked from her hand to his to verify her worst fear. “You’re a Were-Hunter?”
He’d hesitated before he responded. “Not exactly.”
She’d frowned and prayed silently that they were at least the same branch of her species and that that was what he’d meant by his cryptic response. Because they were born humans who learned to shapeshift during puberty, many of her breed disavowed their animal natures. “Arcadian?”
Her fear had tripled with that simple denial. Dear gods, don’t let it be true. She’d almost choked on the next, bitterly despised word. “Katagaria?”
No? Even sicker to her stomach, she could only think of one other grisly possibility. “Human?” she’d tried again.
He’d shaken his head.
What the hell was left? He didn’t have fangs so there was no way he could be a Daimon or Apollite.
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