Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(14) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
“Enough,” she breathed, unable to stand it.
But he took no mercy on her. They’d even clipped his wings to ground him.
“Stop!” Max snarled.
Now even Blaise glared at her. What could she say? They weren’t supposed to do that? That she’d fought her sisters to stop them from torturing her mate, and had only ceased fighting against them for fear of miscarrying her children? She’d been as horrified by their actions against Maxis as his brothers were.
But she’d been powerless to stop it. Truthfully? She’d never gotten over her own sense of hopelessness that day. That feeling of just how little control she had. It’d been the hardest lesson of her life.
Maxis broke between his brothers to approach her. To her shock, he gently lifted her chin until she met his haunted gaze. “My wings grew back together.”
After two hundred years. Leaving you at the mercy of enemies you couldn’t escape until you could fly again.
He glanced over his shoulder toward Illarion. “It taught me to be a stronger fighter. Now leave it. This isn’t about me or the past. It’s about my dragonets and their survival today.”
Illarion moved to stand at Maxis’s back. He placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder. You are the only parent I’ve ever known. And you’re my best friend. I will not let you fight alone.
Blaise nodded. “Three dragons are better than one.”
Scoffing, Max dropped his hand from Seraphina’s face. “Two dragons and a mandrake.”
“What exactly is a mandrake?” she asked, not quite sure of the exact difference between them.
“They’re the children of dragons seduced by Adoni who wanted to tame them. Born from the womb of an Adoni mother, they were hybrids of the two races at first… until they became a separate species by themselves.”
Blaise nodded. “My father was the leader of the mandrakes under King Uther Pendragon. When I was born looking like this —” He held his hands out to show off his face. “— my demonic mother decided she had no use for her special mandrake son. She handed me over to my father, who then took me out to the woods and left me to die.”
He shrugged. “Don’t be. Got over it. And given my mother’s wonderful personality, and my father’s oh-so-kind temperament, prefer it to having been kept by either of them. Normally, I just tell folks I know nothing of my parents and leave it at that. It’s easier than dealing with their pity for something that really doesn’t affect me.”
Like Maxis. It’d never bothered him, either, that his mother had abandoned her nest and left him to either die, or survive on his own. Something Seraphina hadn’t known about him until he’d seen one of the women in her tribe nursing her infant.
He’d stopped in his tracks to stare at them with a curious scowl. “What is she doing to that poor child?”
Seraphina had laughed at his shocked question. “Nursing it.”
Perplexed, he’d deepened his frown even more as he looked back at Seraphina. “Why? Is it ill?”
Seraphina had paused to stare up at him as she realized he was in earnest. “It’s what a mother does with her young to feed them. Were you not so nursed?”
“No. Never. I was only fed by demons whenever I was ill and I only met my mother once, when I returned to my nest to bury my skin, and she was laying more eggs there. At first, I thought her an interloper. As I went to drive her away, she clipped my wings as punishment, and told me who she was.”
It’d been her turn to be completely stunned by the disclosure. She couldn’t fathom what he described. “Why did she abandon you?”
He’d been as baffled by her as she was by him. “Why would she stay?”
Aghast, she’d laughed nervously at his inability to comprehend basic human decency and the role a parent played in their children’s development. “To feed you. Clothe you. Protect you.”
“I was fully drakomas then. I required no clothing. As for food, I found my own, and was more than able to scurry and hide from or fight whatever pursued me.” There’d been no animus or condemnation for his parents in his tone. Simple acceptance. To him that was what a mother did.
She birthed her children and left them behind to fend for themselves. Whether they lived or died was solely up to them.
Seraphina had struggled to comprehend it. But as an animal, he couldn’t understand why she was so baffled.
As they’d headed for her tent, he’d glanced back at the nursing mother one last time. “Should we have children, would you nurse my dragonet in such a manner?”
What an odd question. “Of course.”
A slow smile had spread across his handsome face.
She cocked her head at the curiousness of it. “What?”
“I’m glad to have an Arcadian mother for my dragonets. Perhaps the gods have finally forgiven me.”
“For surviving what should have killed me.”
She’d never really understood what he meant and he’d refused to explain it further.
Now, Seraphina stared at the three dragon brothers who’d never known a mother’s tender loving touch. Never known what a real family was. Not that she had that much experience herself. Her own family had been brutally slaughtered by a dragon raid when she’d turned fourteen. Her mother’s last act had been to wrap her dragon cloak around Seraphina and shove her into a small knoll where the dragons couldn’t reach her. Made from the scales of the dragons her mother had slain, it had protected her young body from their dragonfire as they razed her village.
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