Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(59) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
All the powers he had and not a one could help them out of this. What then was the use?
“It’ll be all right, Max.”
He hesitated at her encouraging tone. “I’m glad you still have your optimism. Mine slammed into a wall a while back. I think it now has a concussion.”
“I have faith in you.”
“Always.” She placed her hand on his arm. “Do you know why I chose you that night in the drinking den?”
“I was the only sober male in the room?”
She laughed. “No. In that room full of warriors, you stood out as the most fierce. While they clumped together for protection and safety, you stood alone. Fearless. Defiant. It was the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen. You were everything I’d always wanted to be, but never had the courage for.”
Max paused as her words struck a tender place in his heart that left him feeling strangely vulnerable. No one had ever said anything so kind to him. Oddly enough, he’d never felt particularly heroic. Most days, he just felt lost and adrift. He barely got through them.
But he wanted to be a hero for her.
“Oh Seramia… you are far braver than I.”
“How do you figure?”
“Your biggest fear has always been the dragons who killed your family. Of them coming back to slaughter what you love. Instead of hiding and running, you taught yourself to fight them and confront them. Any time the call went out for battle, you were the first one saddled and ready. And when the Fates tied your life to the very thing you despised most, you accepted it and allowed me into your home, all the while you waited for my betrayal.”
“That wasn’t courage. What I did to you was so wrong. I blamed you for what other dragons did. Instead of judging you by your actions and heart, I judged you by theirs and by my own fear.”
“You were human. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Seraphina swallowed against the tears choking her. She still didn’t know how he could accept her for who and what she was. Maybe that was the dragon heart inside him. It enabled him to see the world so differently at times. Clearer. More concisely.
She envied him that ability. To her, everyone and everything was viewed through a veil of hazy suspicion. And he was right. Trust had never come easily to her. There had been too many women in her tribe who’d tried to pull her down and lie about her to Nala so that they could replace her as champion. Even Nala, lying about Max to hurt them both.
Sera had never known who to trust, except herself.
In all her life, he was the only one she could have faith in. Her dragon had never sought to betray her.
“So how do we get out of this, Max?”
Max paused as a radical idea hit him. Really radical. The kind that would either save them or damn the entire world. Too bad he didn’t know which and wouldn’t be able to tell until he pulled the switch.
Then it would be too late.
But then that was life. Sometimes you had to take that leap and pray.
Skidding to a stop, he pulled Sera against him. Just in case the worst happened. If he had to die, he wanted it to be with her in his arms. He just hoped she didn’t pay for one of his stupid mistakes.
He didn’t respond, rather he used his powers to access the Tablet and speak an ancient language he hadn’t used since the day he’d slain his mother for her last betrayal.
Seraphina could barely breathe as Maxis formed a tight wall of protective muscle around her. She knew he was doing this to keep her safe, but at the moment she just wanted to draw an unencumbered breath. His heartbeat pounded beneath her cheek as a strange light began to illuminate around them.
She had no idea what he was doing until white smoke began billowing out of the floor and walls. Iridescent and translucent, it was beautiful, and swayed as if it were dancing. The gallu drew up short as if mesmerized by the rhythmic movements. The mist began to spiral and form larger shapes.
Pausing, Namtar cursed at the demons. Then he urged them to disperse. “Run! It’s the liliti!”
But it was too late. The liliti descended on them with a hungry vengeance, like piranha who hadn’t eaten in decades.
When they came toward Max, he let out a burst of fire that drove them back. Moving in the opposite direction, he pulled Sera after him.
“That was horrifying!”
“I know. Let’s hope they have no way out of here. But it was all I could think of. After what you said about waking your sisters, I remembered that my mother would be here in Ikalla, sleeping, too. As her son, I have the ability to summon them.”
“That is even more terrifying.”
“And one of the very few benefits that come with being my mother’s son, and having been suckled by her sisters.”
She scowled at his words. “But I thought you told me you weren’t suckled.”
He gave her a bitter smile. “It’s not the same way human mothers nurse their young. Believe me, it’s much more harsh and uncomfortable.”
That was all he needed to say. She definitely didn’t want more information than that, given what she knew of him and his people. “I’m sorry, Maxis.”
“Everything that’s been done to you. And for the fact that you look so tired right now. I wish I could find a safe place for you to sleep for a little while.”
He kissed her cheek. “It’s all good.”
Still, she felt guilty over it. She’d brought them to his door and led them straight to him. Instead of feeding him to the demons, she should have protected him with the same resolve and integrity he would have shown.
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