Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(36) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
She wanted to argue, but he would know better than she. Still… “I would feel better if you allowed me to tend them.”
Finally, his gaze softened. Some of the rigidity left his limbs.
She brushed her hand against the bloodstain on his shirt and scowled at it. “How are you able to hold human form and be wounded like this?”
He shrugged. “I’m a different beast. With the exception of Illarion and me, the others they caught to form the Were-Hunters were all draconi.” Smaller in stature, they were more animal in nature than their larger drakomai cousins. They also lacked the same magical and psionic abilities.
“How did a god not know the difference?”
“I don’t think he cared. Or maybe he did and he was trying out the different drako breeds to see which would merge better with Apollite DNA before he mixed our blood with Lycaon’s son.” He sighed. “In the end, does it really matter?”
Not really. Her heart aching for what they’d done to him and his brother, she pulled the shirt over his head to examine the wounds on his human body. Wounds she knew were probably deeper on his dragon form, yet hidden by his magick – as he often did his mark. He must have fought them ferociously for their children. But then, that was what he did best. Fight and bleed for what he protected. “How did you get away?”
Biting back a smile at his verbal confirmation of her thoughts, she traced the ridges of his hard abdomen. His body had always been among the best of any male. Liberally sprinkled with dark golden hairs, that body had tempted and pleased her to the brink of madness. She’d once spent hours raking her fingernails over the peaks and valleys of his ripped chest and powerful legs. The Greek prince he’d been merged with must have been quite spectacular back in the day. No wonder Lycaon had been so determined to save his son’s life.
Maxis caught her hand in his. “Why do you touch me when I know how disgusted you are by my breed?”
Those heartfelt words choked her. “You never disgusted me, Maxis. You only scare me.”
She nodded as she confessed the one secret she’d always kept from him. It was time to let him know the truth. To let him see her heart and real fears. Why she’d pulled away from him when she should have embraced every part of her dragon lord. “I’ve fought enough dragons to know how powerful you really are, even though you try to hide it. The very air around you sizzles with the energy you pull. As I said, the fact you can hold your alternate body while in this amount of pain… No one else can do that.”
“That’s no reason to fear me.”
She let out a nervous, contradictory laugh. “It’s every reason to fear you. You are the Dragonbane. You drew first blood for no reason.”
He pulled back as if she’d slapped him. “So that’s it, then? You judge me without knowing. You’ve seen my heart and still you’re blind to it?”
“No, now you’re the one being unfair.”
“How do you figure?”
“If I didn’t care, do you think I’d have carried your young while never knowing if they were human or dragon? Every day I was pregnant, I was terrified of what would come out of me.”
He snorted dismissively. “Because you feared you wouldn’t be able to love a true-born dragonet.”
Tears blurred her vision as he spoke her eternal shame out loud. “In part. You’re right. I was afraid of that. But every time I thought of purging them from me, I couldn’t. Because I remembered the way you held me, protected me. How you endured the mistreatment of my tribe in silence so that you wouldn’t hurt my feelings, and it made me determined to keep that part of you, no matter what.”
She nodded. “And I hate myself for saying nothing.”
In that moment, as she stared up into his hurt gaze, she saw the same painful memory haunting him that still haunted her.
Seraphina had just ridden back from a particularly dangerous mission. Because they’d been on the brink of war with another Amazon tribe, Nala had stayed behind with a contingency of warriors to defend the village should it come under attack, and sent Seraphina out to lead their forces against the dragons they’d spotted.
Exhausted and wounded after losing half her hunting party to the Katagaria, Seraphina had done nothing but dream of returning home and sleeping for a few hours. Of curling up to Maxis’s warm body and having him hold her until she forget the rancid smells of battle.
Instead, Nala had issued an immediate summons for an audience on her return.
Fresh from the kill, Seraphina had gone to her queen and bowed low, thinking the matter had to do with their hunt or the Amazons threatening to invade their lands.
She couldn’t have been more wrong.
Nala had risen from her throne – something that was never a good sign. “We have had it with that thing you’ve dragged into our village and forced us to tolerate for years now so that you’d have a playmate.”
“Your rabid mate! He attacked me!”
Seraphina’s jaw had dropped. “Excuse me?”
Nala pointed to the remains of a deep-purple bruise on her arm. “Your animal attacked. Unprovoked. He is disobedient. Disrespectful… Dangerous! What if he’d attacked one of the children? Or someone else’s mate who couldn’t protect himself?”
“Basilinna, please. I’m sure —”
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