Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(12) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Blaise screwed his face up. “With the exception of Monty Python and a few other movie franchises, I’m not real fond of this time period, either, you know.”
As Maxis turned back toward her, she hesitated. Don’t do it. He won’t forgive you.
Then again, he already hates me. What’s the difference?
And in her mind, she saw him down in the pit as she’d left him the last time she’d seen him in her village. Nearly dead. Bleeding because of her and what she’d done.
Yes, he was immortal, but he could be killed.
That was what they’d almost done to him then and it was what they intended to do now. To take his powers and his dragon’s heart and to use them against this Stryker.
He’s an animal. Sacrifice him for your children and be done with it.
Like him and all of his kind.
Yet in her mind, that wasn’t what she remembered of her mate. It wasn’t the dragon beast who haunted her dreams and brought tears to her eyes whenever she remembered their past together. It was the bashful male who’d been so curious about her world. So kind to her and thoughtful in spite of his cold beginning. The one who’d tried to fit in with her tribe and please her. To that end, he’d shed his clothes and dragon customs, and had adopted their style of dress and manner of doing things. For three years, he’d laid aside his claws and wild ways, and done his best to suppress everything he knew and was so that he wouldn’t anger her sister tribeswomen.
And they had been merciless to him. Goading and insulting. Demeaning. Even their men had rejected him and made sure that he wasn’t included in anything they did.
You’re incapable of understanding. You’re just a dumb animal. They’d even thrown rocks or sticks at him to drive him away whenever he came near them, as if he were a crow or some other vermin nuisance they didn’t want around.
Never once did he complain to her over it. He’d merely walked away in silence, head high. Eyes haunted.
It was why he’d done his best to never show them his real form. Rather, he’d stayed in his human body as long as he could physically do so. Until he’d been so weak and ill that he couldn’t stand it anymore. Then he’d seek privacy to shift for a brief respite and to sleep. Someplace dark and secluded so that no one in her tribe would see his real body, as if what he did, what he really was, was innately wrong and grotesque.
In all her long existence, Maxis was the only one who’d ever made such sacrifices for her. The only one who’d ever put her needs above his own.
And he’d given her the two greatest blessings of her life. Hadyn was so like his father, not just in form and mannerisms. He held the same loyalty and honor. That need to protect whatever he loved above all else, as if they were sacred objects.
Unlike Maxis and his brothers, both of their children were Arcadian. Human born, and trained to be dragonslayers like her and her people. Nala and the others had taken a morbid thrill over the fact that both of them were some of the best hunters among their tribe.
When Edena had made her first kill, they had celebrated with an overzealous glee that still sickened a part of Seraphina’s soul.
Now that she thought about it, Max hadn’t even asked her about their children’s base forms. He hadn’t cared. They were his progeny and that was all that mattered to him. Not whether or not they were Arcadian or Katagaria.
Regardless of their birth forms, they were his, and therefore, worth his life. Even though they were strangers and he’d never met them.
And her people dared to call him the animal. In his own way, he knew more about love and decency than any man she’d ever met.
In that moment, she made a decision she knew would make him furious. But he’d already suffered enough for her stupidity. She wasn’t about to watch him be slaughtered for no reason. Not when she knew she could help it, and him.
“Blaise? If you care for your brother, stop him from leaving. He’s off to face a demon who plans to slaughter him and bring back the reign of the Sumerian demons.”
Max cursed under his breath as Blaise moved to block the door.
“Did you perchance forget to mention a minor-major detail, brother?”
Maxis sighed heavily. “I didn’t forget. I intentionally left it out.”
Blaise sputtered. “Hell of a detail to omit. Care to elaborate now?”
“Not really. If you’ll excuse me…”
Blaise completely blocked the door. “Don’t make me call out Kerrigan. I might not be able to kick your ass, but he has a good chance of it.”
“Not amused. And I don’t have time to waste. Now move aside or else I’ll move you, and you won’t like the bruises caused by it.”
“Why? You really want to die that badly?”
Max laughed, low and evil. “I’m not a mandrake, Blaise. Have you any idea how long it’s been since I’ve killed in my true form? How much I’ve missed it? For too long I’ve been forced to live in a cage. They want a battle? Bring it. This is what I was spawned for. If it’s a true-born dragon they want, then I say they should actually face one, and not one of the pussy half-bloods they’ve been battling. Let them taste my fiery wrath as I send them all straight to their respective hells.”
Seraphina shivered at those growled words. He was right. She’d only seen his real form once and it’d terrified her to such an extreme that he’d promised to never transform around her again. While she’d killed dozens of Katagaria and other breeds of dragons, they were nothing like him. Drakomai were the oldest and deadliest of their species. They were so powerful that even when Nala had tried her best to force him to transform, he’d been able to hold his human body. No matter the pain they’d heaped upon him. The most they’d gotten from him involuntarily was his wings had jutted out of his back.
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