Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(38) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
When she’d started forward to protect him, Nala had grabbed her and shoved her back. “You interfere in this and you’ll be harrowed next.”
“I mean it! No one challenges my authority. And definitely not some piece-of-shit dog.”
Seraphina had stepped back, thinking it would be over quickly. But a few minutes later when they showed no signs of stopping, when their jubilant cheers had continued for them to worsen it, and they had yet to do a formal punishment for him, she’d moved in to stop them regardless of Nala’s threats.
They’d turned on her then. An all-out brawl that had forced her to withdraw or risk losing her unborn children.
By the time their anger was spent and they’d finally dragged, then thrown him into the pit, the damage was done. Maxis had barely been able to breathe or move. His wings broken, he’d lain there, panting in pain like the animal they accused him of being.
He’d refused to look at her. Instead, he’d stared at the pit wall, slowly blinking.
Heartbroken and sick, Seraphina had wanted to soothe him. To take everything back. “Maxis, please look at me.”
Finally, he’d pinned her with a cold, hate-filled stare.
Time and silence hung between them as she tried to think of something to say to him. But as she saw his condition and the betrayed fury in those golden eyes – anger and rage she fully deserved…
No thoughts would come to her mind.
Instead, he’d spoken those quiet words that had haunted her ever since. “I told you when we mated that I would gladly give you my heart, my life, and my love, but that when I did so they came with one condition. Never abuse me. Love is not abuse. And you have harmed me for the last time, my lady. I am done with you. Forever.” Then he had closed his eyes and refused to look at her.
Now he stood before her again. And she had a whole new chance to screw up everything.
A new chance to rebuild. If he’d allow it.
Wanting to start over, she reached up and fingered that short hair that reminded her how different he was from the feral dragon she’d been mated to so long ago. “Will you tell me what happened between you and Nala?”
More sadness darkened his eyes. “You don’t care. What difference does it make?”
“Because instead of attacking you then, I should have asked for your side of the story, and I never did. I want to know, now. Please?”
Max hesitated. He still wasn’t sure this was a good idea. But really, what difference did it make?
Nodding, he held his hand out. “Let me show you.”
She scowled. “Show me, how?”
His eyes took her to task for her hesitation. “You still don’t trust me?”
“I didn’t say that. Just —”
“You don’t trust me not to hurt you.” She could deny it all she wanted, but he saw the truth in her hazel gaze. With a heavy sigh, he headed back to his bedroom. “Either join me or not, it’s up to you. I really don’t care one way or the other.” He’d written her and their relationship off centuries ago.
Tired, aching, and honestly pissed off over all of it, he headed for his small pile of furs he sometimes used as a pillow. He’d have already turned into a dragon had it not been for the horror her eyes betrayed every time she saw his true body. But then, he was used to people reacting badly to it.
He was a dragon, after all. They only threw parties for his kind when the dragons were fake ones or had been slaughtered and they were celebrating their deaths.
So he was stunned when she followed after him and lay down by his side.
He opened his arms in invitation.
Seraphina hesitated, unsure of what he would do to her. With no choice, she curled up and allowed him to hold her. Cupping her head, he rested his chin on her hair and cradled her against his body. She could hear his deep, fierce heartbeat under her ear.
“Close your eyes and let me guide you.”
She obeyed and was stunned as images… no, memories began to play through her mind. Only they weren’t her memories, they were his.
Max had gone to bathe and fetch fresh water in expectation of her arrival. For over a fortnight, he’d been forced to endure the excruciating misery of living among the Amazons without her. Because of his promise, he was locked in her village where they wouldn’t allow him the most modicum of hospitality.
While she’d known some of it, she hadn’t realized that he’d been banned from their meals, too. That whenever she returned home to find food waiting for her, it was something he’d hunted and prepared for her because they wouldn’t allow him to take her portions unless she was there and she got it for them.
He wasn’t even allowed to draw water from their well lest he contaminate it. Rather, he had to hike to the stream to gather his own and carry it back to their tent.
As he returned to fill their stores, he found Nala in their tent, waiting.
“Where were you?”
Worried by her unexpected presence, he’d set his water down and frowned at her question. “Has Sera been hurt?” It was a natural assumption since that was the only time the queen came to visit someone’s mate.
Laughing, she’d circled him. “No. I sent word to them. They won’t be back for a few more days.”
His stomach had shrunk at the prospect of going even longer without her. “Oh.”
“So tell me, dragon, what do you do here while she’s gone?”
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