Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(42) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
“I did and I’m sorry I took him from you. But never be afraid of using the gift he left you with. You are drakomai. Hold your heads up in pride of that and never let anyone make you feel inferior.”
Max pulled back out of her memory to stare at her. “You really told them that?”
She nodded. “I meant what I said, Maxis.”
“Then prove it.”
“Turn into a dragon.”
The color faded from her face. “Pardon?”
Max took a deep breath before he explained his ultimatum. “You say that you want a fresh start? Then open your heart and show me that you’re willing to bend. I want you to face the beast inside you. As you made our children shift, I want you to shift. Just once. If you can embrace the dragon inside your own heart, then we might stand a chance.”
“And if I can’t?”
“Then I know you’re lying. If you can’t stomach the dragon that lives in your body, how could you ever accept and love the one that is inside me?”
Seraphina knew he was right. But as she stared at him, she doubted she could do this. For too long she’d denied that beast. Had hidden it away. To bring it out now…
What if she couldn’t go back?
“I mean this, Sera. You gave me an impossible choice once. Now I give you one. Shift for me or lose me forever.”
“You want me to shift here?” Seraphina asked, looking around the loft that suddenly seemed way too tiny for two full-sized dragons.
A teasing light shone in his eyes. “You’ll do it?”
“I don’t know… I’m scared.”
The playful light extinguished immediately. “And that’s why I’m insisting. You need to understand the beast inside you. Make peace with that part of yourself. I want you to understand the gift you unknowingly gave our dragonets.”
Still, it terrified her. But he was right. She’d made her children do this. In all fairness, she should do it too.
Maxis pulled back from her and rose to his feet. He held his hand out for her. “Come with me, my precious swan. Let me show you what it means to be a ferocious dragon. Trust me.”
Against all reason and sanity, she did.
Her hand trembling, she took his and allowed him to pull her to her feet. One moment they were in his New Orleans loft and in the next…
“Where are we?”
“Avalon. It’s the safest place I know to take you for this. The only place I know we can go and not be disturbed or hunted.” His gaze darkened before he gave her a chaste kiss that left her strangely breathless. “Now let yourself go.”
She waited for him to put a little distance between them before she took a deep breath and…
Dropping her arms to her side, she shook her head. “I can’t do this.”
He arched a brow as he gave her a stern look and crossed his arms over his chest. “Can’t or won’t?”
Won’t, but she wasn’t about to admit that to him. “Why is this so important to you? What does it really matter?”
“Because you fear it and me so much. I want you to understand the beast in your heart. To see for yourself what it means to be a dragon. Just one time in your life, Sera. That’s all I ask. Appease me.”
In all these centuries, he’d seldom asked her for anything. And as she stood there, shame filled her as she remembered those handful of times.
Whenever she was away from home, he’d asked her to let him stay in his cave where he wasn’t ridiculed by her people, and she’d denied him that comfort. He’d asked her to not submit him to her tribe to be inspected like a caged animal.
She’d denied him that, too.
He’d begged her to run away with him, and start their family. To live, just the two of them, in peace. No tribe. No hatred. To start fresh and create, rather than destroy.
And the final thing he’d wanted was for her to spare him Nala’s wrath.
Tears filled her eyes again as she realized how unfair she’d been. How cruel. She choked on a sob.
“Sera,” he breathed, flashing himself to her side so that he could gather her in his arms. “It’s okay. You don’t have to do this.”
And that succeeded in making her cry like a child. She buried her face against his chest and wept as all the pain and regret poured through her. They should have had a life together. Instead, her fears and pride had divided them for centuries. Had trapped her and her children as stone statues and forced him to live in complete celibate solitude.
Worse, they had hurt the one creature in her life who had never sought to harm her. In all her life, Maxis was the only one who had ever put her first. And in spite of everything, he still did.
Burying her hands in his hair, she pulled his lips to hers and kissed him. She let the taste of her dragon fill her senses as she remembered the way he’d once been. How he’d greeted her and held her. No reservations. No guile. Ever her loyal and precious mate.
Nipping his lips, she stepped back to smile up at him. “I am your dragonswan. Show me.” With a ragged breath, she forced herself to leave the shelter of his arms and run toward the open meadow.
Max wasn’t sure what to think. Not until he saw her spread her wings, then transform into a beautiful red dragon. Her laughter filled his ears as she ran, carefree, through the meadow.
For about three seconds, then she stumbled and fell flat on her face.
Concerned for her welfare, he ran after her. “Are you all right?”
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