Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(40) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
But he wasn’t a whore to be bartered. And while he’d do anything to please his mate, this was where he drew the line. He would deal with Sera’s fury. But he was through being treated like an inanimate object with no will of his own.
Yes, his heart was that of an animal. Loyal. Fierce. Protective. He didn’t understand the duplicity and lies of her people. Most of all, he didn’t understand the betrayal and sneakiness.
Honestly, he wished Sera could understand why he didn’t want to stay home without her.
These are my sisters. We take care of each other.
Do I not care for you?
It’s not the same, Maxis. You don’t understand the bond of sisterhood we share. I have an oath to uphold.
And what of our bond? Your word to your mate?
The Fates forced us together.
The same Fates who put you with your sisters. Your ties to them are no stronger than your ties to me. So no, I don’t understand your loyalty to them over that of your own mate. Why will you not come away with me?
I can’t leave everything I know to be with you.
Why not? I left my world for you.
It’s not the same.
Because I’m not human?
And there the argument always stopped, because it all came down to that one fact. He was an animal unworthy of her human’s heart.
She’d dreamed of finding a man to love. Max would never be anything except a disappointment to her. No matter what he said or did. When she looked into his eyes, she didn’t see a man there.
She saw an untamed beast. One who embarrassed her.
Heartbroken over the anger he knew she’d unleash on him when she returned, he’d lumbered into his cave where he’d gathered all the items that fell under his aegis and damned every one of them. With his tail, he whipped at them, hating what he was.
Hating the fact that his dragon’s heart loved a human woman who was incapable of loving him.
And that was why he stayed, in spite of the animosity and challenges.
Because deep inside, where he hated it most, was the hope that one day Sera would look past his heart and see his soul that belonged to her. That she would learn not to despise him for something he couldn’t help any more than she could help being born into a group of mean-spirited bitches.
But hopes and dreams were for humans.
And so it appeared, was love.
Seraphina pulled away as she came back to her own body. For a full minute, she couldn’t move or breathe as she listened to the steady beating of Maxis’s heart. As she replayed his memories and felt a blinding rage consume her.
This time, it wasn’t at him. It was for the ones who truly deserved it.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she whispered.
“You never listened.”
He was right. Pushing herself up, she stared down into those wounded eyes and traced the line of his lips with the tip of her fingertips. “I’m so sorry.” For the first time, she saw humanity through his eyes and understood exactly what Aimee had meant.
All her life, she’d focused on the clan of Katagaria that had attacked her village and killed her mother. She still didn’t know why they’d done that.
A killing, animal rampage. That was all she’d ever been told. It was what Katagaria did. All they knew. They were wild animals that killed indiscriminately and without conscience.
They didn’t care who or what they destroyed. They were incapable of understanding.
But Maxis was right. He’d never shown that side to her.
Well, the rolling head a few minutes ago, notwithstanding. Yet she could excuse that. She’d have done worse had she been there to save her children.
For the first time, she looked at her mate and didn’t search for the human inside him.
She saw his animal heart for what it was. Beautiful.
And realized that was what she’d fallen in love with. That it was the animal inside him that she treasured above all else. It was what made him Maxis. What made him different from other men.
Frowning, he brushed his fingers against her cold cheeks. “Why are you crying?”
“Because I hurt you when I shouldn’t have. I listened to others when I should have kept counsel with you alone. And most of all because I know I don’t deserve the second chance I’m about to ask you for.”
Max sucked his breath in sharply at her words. He could sense that she meant them. But she’d “meant” them before and he’d lived to regret trusting her.
“I don’t know, Sera. So much has happened between us.”
“It has. I know I have no right to ask this of you.” She took his hand in hers and kissed his palm. “Can I share a memory with you?”
He hesitated before he nodded. “Just think of it and I’ll see it.”
She had so many memories she wanted to show him of their children. But there was one in particular he should see.
It was when their twins had first entered puberty. They’d been terrified of their emotions and magick.
Hadyn in particular had been skittish. In retrospect, she realized that he must have suspected that he was changing over from human to Katagari. As such, he’d been even more resistant to his newfound powers than Edena. It also hadn’t made it easier that Arcadians frowned on anyone who gave in to their animal nature and transformed.
Her people considered it weak to shapeshift. While other Arcadian patrias had their own laws and customs, hers were expected to maintain their human forms, no matter what.
But her children weren’t like the others and she knew that. Most of all, she wanted them to feel closer to the father they’d never met.
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