Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(35) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Hadyn and Edena immediately protested.
Seraphina wanted to argue, too, but she knew Maxis was right. This was the only way to keep them safe. They’d already been punished by the gods for her actions. She didn’t want them in the line of fire again. “He’s right. It’s just for a few days. I promise. Go with your uncle and we’ll get you soon.”
As Blaise started to leave, Max stopped him. “Tell Merlin not to worry. I have not forgotten my oath or my duties. Should I fall, guardianship will go to Falcyn and then to you.”
He arched a brow. “Not to Hadyn?”
Max shook his head. “I would never do that to him. The curse of it’s too strong.”
“So you give it to us. Thanks, brother.”
Max laughed. “Getting you both back for all the years of hell you’ve given me.”
Blaise sobered. “I’ll tell her. You be careful.”
“And you.” He kissed Edena’s cheek and hugged Hadyn one more time.
It took Seraphina longer to say good-bye. With the exception of Nala taking them, they’d never been separated before. “I will come for you very soon. I love you both.”
“Love you.” Edena kissed her cheek.
Hadyn hugged and kissed her. “Love you, Matera.”
“I love you. Guard your sister.”
“I will.” And then they were gone.
Alone with Maxis and Illarion, Seraphina felt so strangely empty. She’d been a mother for so long that she’d forgotten what it was like to be by herself. To not have to look over her shoulder to make sure her children were keeping up with her and not falling behind.
“We have to prepare for war.”
Illarion went to the disembodied head. I’ll take care of this. He wrapped it up in a T-shirt. His eyes sad, he locked gazes with Maxis. I’m so sorry I dragged you into this. Then he looked at Seraphina. And I’m sorry I’ve been so rude to you the entire time you’ve been here. You’re not really the one who fucked my brother’s life over and ruined it, my lady. I am. And I swear to you both that I won’t take my hatred for myself out on you anymore. Please forgive me.
Max grabbed Illarion’s arm as he started to leave. “You have nothing to apologize for where I’m concerned.” He cracked a chiding grin. “That being said, you could have been a little kinder to my dragonswan.”
The tormented agony in Illarion’s gaze was searing. How can you not hate me? At the very least, blame me or curse me for what I’ve done to you?
Max buried his hand in Illarion’s long hair and locked gazes with him so that he could see the sincerity in his heart. “Would my life without you have been better? Really? Let’s say that none of this had happened. That I remained a fully blooded drakomas. Where would I be now? In a cave somewhere alone like you were, enduring in Avalon? You’re right, Illy. You’re a rank, effing bastard to spare me that god-awful fate. I should take you outside right now and beat the shit out of you for doing this to me.”
Illarion snorted. I hate you.
Smiling, he tightened his grip in his brother’s hair before he released him. “I hate you, too.”
Then Illarion did the one thing he hadn’t done since he was a small dragonet. He pulled Max into a tight hug and held him there.
When he finally stepped back, he refused to look him in the eye, as if the action embarrassed him too much to acknowledge. I’ll check on the others. I’m sure the two of you could use a moment to yourselves to catch your breath, and decide what to do about her tribe and the demons out to claim you.
Illarion inclined his head to him, then left.
Suddenly alone with Seraphina, Max turned around, unsure of what to say. She’d blown back into his life like an unseen whirlwind and brought all manner of devastation and revelations in her wake. It was almost as swift and startling as Illarion’s unexpected return after centuries of absence. Honestly, the two of them had left him reeling and feeling ungrounded and dizzy.
While Illarion’s return had required him to reorient his living arrangements – he’d been forced to learn how to share his attic space with another dragon – this…
This changed everything. The fact that he was a father completely redefined who and what he was, as well as where his loyalties and responsibilities lay.
He had a family now.
His first priority was no longer protecting the Peltier members and the Sa’l Sangue Realle. It was protecting his own progeny and ensuring they lived.
Never before had Max regretted being marked as the Dragonbane. He hadn’t even tried to defend himself during the trial.
His family needed him to not be hunted. For the first time ever, he regretted that long-ago day and the decision he’d made to throw away his life. What had seemed like a simple solution then, now had lethal, unforeseen consequences.
How do I undo this?
He had no idea.
Seraphina approached Max slowly, unsure of his suddenly somber mood. What to say to ease him. There was a peculiar air about him that she couldn’t quite make out. But one thing was obvious…
“You’re bleeding.” She took his arm to lead him back toward his… well, she hesitated to call that straw spread out on the floor a bed. Anything else might insult him. “You need to clean your wounds before an infection sets in.”
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