Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(22) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
“Are you still in service to Artemis?”
Sam shook her head. “I got my soul back.” She jerked her chin toward Dev, who was shoving at his twin brother. “It’s an adorable werebear who owns me now.”
“And you’re happy?”
A wicked smile spread across her face. “He’s a very special kind of happiness.”
“He loves to tease and nettle me to the brink of murder, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. He is everything in this world to me.” She wandered back to Dev to give him a hug from behind.
A part of Seraphina envied Sam that easy camaraderie with her mate. She’d never really had that with Maxis. Some of it was the fact that he was so much taller and more massive than her, even in human form.
But mostly it stemmed from the fact that she was acutely aware of the their “other” differences. The fact that he stood out radically from other males.
Even in this group.
Both he and Illarion, and Blaise. While they weren’t the largest in their human incarnations, there was something more feral and innately powerful. Something about them that warned they were much more than they seemed. They exuded a quiet, lethal predatorial confidence that other species lacked.
An air that said they were the pinnacle of the food chain and that anyone else could be added to their menu at any time.
At their sole discretion. And there was nothing anyone could do to stop them.
He also moved with an exquisite grace. A fluidity of muscle and sinew that was both beautiful and unnerving – like watching a sleek jungle cat stalking its prey on the savannah.
Maxis was the perfect killing machine.
It was what he’d been conceived for. All he’d been created to do. Since the dawn of time, his species had existed for no other purpose than to kill and breed. To guard and protect.
To survive in solitary seclusion, under the harshest of environmental conditions, hot or cold, feast or famine. While other creatures needed social interaction to save their sanity, dragons didn’t.
Females were biologically driven to find males twice a year to spawn and carry on their species. Unless a male caught the scent of such a fertile female, they were content to remain celibate, and reclusive.
Alone for centuries.
Being merged with humans had changed that. Arcadians, because they possessed human hearts, formed communities and tribes or patrias of dragon clans, as did many of the animal-hearted Katagaria.
But Maxis had remained solitary even after his transition.
Until they’d been designated as mates. With her alone, Maxis had been unbelievably attentive and affectionate. Insatiable. And true to his dragon’s blood, he’d made her his own sacred object that he’d held and guarded, and dared anyone to threaten or harm. She’d been the one thing he’d kept diligent watch over.
He seldom even slept whenever she was with him. No one could come near her that he didn’t watch them with careful suspicion, ever ready to attack if they said or did anything to hurt her.
And the entire time he’d lived with her, he’d sought out her company, and made her feel as if she were the most beautiful and precious woman in all the world.
Given that absolute hunger he’d possessed for her, she had no idea how he’d managed to leave and return to his monastic ways. Even now, he kept glancing at her with that familiar, scorching heat in his eyes that said he wanted to find a secluded nook for them… kept holding his mouth as if he were tasting her already. It left her breathless and starving, and for that, she could almost hate him.
She had seriously underestimated how much impact his presence would have on her. How traitorous her body would be once it was this close to his. Dear gods, it was unbearable to be under that golden scrutiny again and not have some way to taste those lips. To run her hands over his long, languid body and enjoy the wealth of tawny skin…
Did all mated couples feel like this? Did they have the same overwhelming need whenever they were together?
But then Seraphina knew from experience that the other Arcadian Draki didn’t respond this way to their mates. In fact, the females of her tribe, even those already mated, had been drawn to Maxis in a way that had viciously pissed her off. Any time they thought they could get away with it, they’d cornered him and called it “curiosity” over the fact that he was Katagari and they’d never been that close to a Katagari Drakos before outside of battle, especially one in human form. They’d claimed they only wanted to see if there was any difference between his kind and male Arcadians.
It was that very thing that had led to their first real fight when she’d returned to her village from a hunt to find him gone. Her tent empty.
No sign that he’d been there at all. Something that was a viciously rude public slap in the face, as it was expected for mates to receive their warriors on their return. He should have been there with the rest of the males and children and elder villagers to celebrate as the returning war party rode in a parade to Nala’s tent. Since Seraphina was the queen’s champion, he was supposed to be waiting outside Nala’s tent to greet both her and Nala.
As her mate, his absence was well noted, especially since they’d left a space of honor for him to stand.
Instead of cheers, smirks, and snide innuendoes had greeted her.
A quick interrogation of her neighbors and she’d learned Maxis had left her village just after her raiding party had ridden out. No one had seen him since.
Angry and concerned, Seraphina had headed into the woods, with her tribe’s wild speculations about his activities ringing in her ears. Everything from he’d gone hunting humans, to he was practicing the black arts and conjuring foreign gods.
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