Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(26) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
All humor and friendliness evaporated from Dev’s eyes as he gaped. “Are you shitting me? You’re the sole reason for the war between the Katagaria and the Arcadians?”
Illarion stepped between them. It’s not that simple, Dev. Calm down.
Dev curled his lip. “Not that simple, my ass. You murdered Lycaon’s heir in cold blood and started this bloodbath between our people, and you’re telling me it’s not that simple?”
Max felt that same sick knot in his stomach he got any time someone saw his mark and recognized it.
He was the most hated among his people.
No, not his people.
They were Greeks and Apollites.
He wasn’t. He’d never really been one of them. Forever a hated outsider. An interloper who’d been mistaken for them since the day Dagon had captured him and mixed him in with their ancestors.
Unable to bear their rejection, he met Sera’s gaze and waited for her to condemn him as well.
Seraphina choked on tears as she saw the familiar agony in that golden gaze. The reservation and acceptance of the fact that he didn’t belong to anyone.
For the first time ever, she saw him.
Worse, she saw herself in the way the others reacted as they shouted and accused him of crimes and misdeeds. Judged him without a hearing or without understanding. Like her, they had accepted him only a few minutes ago and now they were attacking him, without listening. They were so busy condemning him over the stories they’d all been told that none of them even asked him what had happened.
They acted as if they knew.
But none of them had been there. With the exception of Maxis, none of them had been born.
Yet they were the experts, with all the answers.
“Enough!” Fang shouted, holding his hands up to get the others to settle down. “We’ll deal with the Dragonbane issue after this is over. Right now, we need to focus on getting the kids away from the gallu before they convert them. Regardless of anything else, they’re innocent in this.”
His eyes haunted, Max held his hand out toward Seraphina. By the expression on his face, she could tell that he expected her to react the same way she had the first time she’d learned he was the Dragonbane.
To refuse him completely and shirk away as if he were poison.
This time, she did what she should have done then – she took his hand and smiled up at him. “I trust you, Lord Dragon. Lead me to your lair.”
But as he closed his hand around hers, a chill of foreboding rushed over her spine. With this one action, she was either saving all their lives…
Or consigning them to death. And not just them. Her children were counting on her to not screw this up. Yet what choice did she have?
There was no one else to turn to.
Yes, Maxis was the most hated enemy of her people. But he was the father of her children. And he was the only chance she had to save them.
Please gods, let this be the right choice.
Seraphina let out a slow, nervous breath as she cast her gaze around the huge attic where Maxis had made his home. It held “modern” things she couldn’t even begin to comprehend, but aside from a few of those, it reminded her so much of his sparse cave that it raised chills of déjà vu on her body.
Those were definitely the same trunks from his cave that lined the right brick wall. This was his home in a way her village had never been.
And that made her saddest of all. He’d found a comfort here with strangers that he should have known with her. His mate.
Maxis used his powers to light four huge iron candle stands. The light flickered and merged with the rays of the dawning sun to cast their shadows against the wall.
Illarion and Blaise followed them into the room and closed the door. By the way Maxis continued to grimace and act toward his brother, she assumed they were having a private conversation in their heads.
Sighing, she met Blaise’s blank stare. “He doesn’t think much of me, does he?”
“I’m trying to remain impartial, but if one-quarter of what Illy is saying is true… do your people really make jewelry from the tusks, scales, and bones of dragons?”
She felt heat creep over her face. “We don’t hunt mandrakes.”
“From what I’m hearing, you don’t know. Your people don’t exactly bother to find out if they’re hunting Katagaria or not. You basically kill indiscriminately and go after any large serpent that isn’t Arcadian.”
“Stop, Blaise,” Maxis said in a gentle tone. “She’s not to blame in this.”
No. We are, you and I. I curse the day I ever let you talk me into saving their kind. Illarion raked her with a chilling stare. We should have let the gods have them all.
“Enough, Illarion. And I didn’t talk you into shit, as I recall. You were in it more than I was. Besides, what’s done is done. Now either choose to be part of this solution, or leave. I’m not about to tolerate your incessant bitching. I have to focus.”
Illarion threw his hands up. Fine. Let’s see how she handles this. After all, she never bothered to ask you anything about what you really are. Where you came from. How you were dragged into her world to become part of it. The three years you lived with her, she never once cared enough to learn.
Maxis growled at his brother. “Stay out of my head and thoughts… I swear, I should have eaten your egg instead of nesting it.”
Seraphina arched her brow at that. “You nested him?”
“Sadly, yes, and I did a piss-poor job of it, too. As you can see.”
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