Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(24) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
He shook his head. “We are solitary beasts who only war when confronted.”
She’d gestured at the trunks of treasure that surrounded them. Gold and jewels that glimmered in the dim light. “And what of that? Are those not your war trophies?”
Sincere shock had marked his handsome features. “Hardly. I have no need of treasure or money. Those are things given over to me for my protection. I hold them in trust for their rightful owners.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
“Believe it or not, that’s up to you. It’s the truth. Everything I own, I placed in your tent.”
“And why weren’t you in my tent on my return?”
He’d stared at her in sullen defiance.
His eyes had snapped the same fire he could have easily breathed all over her. “You don’t take that tone with me. I don’t speak to you in such a manner and I demand from you the same respect I show my mate.”
Fury had simmered deep in her and she’d wanted to beat him for that. In Amazon culture, the men bowed down to their women and were, in truth, subservient to them. But she knew he didn’t come from that kind of environment. And she did her best to understand and respect it.
Yet it was difficult when it went against everything she knew.
“Fine, then. Please, explain to me why you humiliated me today.”
He’d snorted in shocked disbelief and repeated her words back at her. “Please explain how I humiliated you?”
“By not being there when I returned. You showed a total lack of regard for me and my standing in the tribe. And they all laughed at me because of it.”
His jaw had gone slack. “I didn’t know that.” His brow furrowed by earnest regret, he’d closed the distance between them and cupped her cheek in his warm palm. “If this is true, then I’m so sorry, Sera. I had no idea that was your custom. No one told me. I swear, I never meant to hurt you.”
It was so hard to be mad at him when he looked at her like that. When he touched her with such loving sincerity. She felt her anger wilting. But worse than the anger was the underlying hurt, and their mockery that stung much deeper than she wanted to own up to. “Why weren’t you there?”
Then she saw it. The bitter agony in his eyes. His own hurt and embarrassment. “In the future, if you will call out to me on your approach, I shall make sure to be in attendance on your arrival.”
“But you won’t stay in the village while I’m gone?”
He’d shaken his head.
His gaze had burned into hers. “You know why, Sera. My speaking it aloud will only anger you, and solve nothing. And we both know the only thing you can do is leave… which you won’t do.” He’d placed a tender kiss to her lips. “I don’t wish to fight with you any longer. Come, let me make amends for my unintended slight. I promise, by the night’s end, I’ll earn my way back into your good graces.”
And that he had. He always did. No matter how much she wanted to stay angry at him, he had ways of making her smile. Of melting her ire until she was laughing and happy again.
That was his greatest magick of all. His ability to wash away her pain and drive out her demons with nothing more than a teasing smile, warm hug, and tender kiss.
Worse, he’d been right that day. The members of her tribe had always been too free with their hands on his body. Even though they knew he was mated and off-limits – that he couldn’t do anything had he wanted to – they’d constantly tried to corner him so that they could compare him to a “regular” man. Get a “hands-on” comparison.
To Maxis’s credit, he’d done everything he could to avoid them and their cheap caresses. Everything he could to fit in and please her. To make their union work.
If only I’d met him halfway.
Seraphina winced as the guilt of it settled hard on her shoulders. She’d asked things of him that were so far beyond tolerance, she still couldn’t bear to think on them. Things he’d suffered.
To please her.
She hadn’t deserved him and she knew it. Unfortunately, that realization had come too late. She’d listened to the wrong people and allowed their venom to color her heart. Had allowed their beliefs and opinions to interfere with her relationship with Maxis. Instead of trusting herself and her husband, she’d trusted them.
And learned the hard way that too many people spoke jealousy under the guise of “truth” and “good intentions.” When honestly, their only purpose was to make others as miserable in their lives as they were in theirs.
And instead of having a devoted husband at her side when her children had been born, as Aimee would have with Fang, she’d been completely alone.
The loss of what should have been was what made her saddest of all. Her pride and blind stupidity had robbed them all of the family life they should have had.
But there was no way back. And she had no one to blame for it except herself.
“So how do we find where they’re holed up?” Dev asked Fang, distracting her from her thoughts.
“I called Thorn, and because they’re gallu, he’s clueless. Since they don’t fall under his jurisdiction, he doesn’t deal with them and knows nothing bout them. I tried to call Sin and got no answer, so I left word with Kish to tell him what was going on. He said he’d have him call me ASAP.”
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