Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(69) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
In response to his brother’s question, Linus turned on Eumon. “Or did you do it?”
“Do what?” Eumon repeated.
Linus raked him with a scathing glare. “You were always Father’s favored son. Had your life not been threatened, I’m sure he’d have let me die, as he did our mother.”
Eumon let out a tired sigh. “I don’t have time for your insecurities. Move aside.”
“Oh right. You never have time, do you?” Linus sneered at Helena. “You took the bride that was meant for me and now you took my true animal form. I should have been the dragon. Not you!”
“What madness do you speak?”
“Helena was my bride!”
She lifted her chin defiantly. “I refused your hand after I met you. There’s a cruelty in you, Linus, that scares me. Treaty or not, I would never have married into this family had I not met Eumon and seen for myself that, unlike you, he has a soul.”
Shrieking in anger, he lunged at her, but Max caught him and forced him back. “Stop it. We have dire business to attend to here.”
Linus’s jaw went slack. “So, it’s true. You do speak. You could have convinced Dagon to give me the form I wanted, but instead you chose to remain silent? Did you kill your own to keep me from being like you, too? You did, didn’t you?”
Linus shoved Max away. “You all disgust me. You never let me have what I want.”
He’s mad, brother. We should leave.
Max couldn’t agree more. Protect the princess.
As Illarion moved in to comply, Linus pulled out a knife and attacked. “Don’t you turn your back on me, Eumon! I will not be disregarded!”
Eumon shoved him aside as he lunged for Illarion. “Are you stupid? He’s the animal, you moron! I’m the prince. How can you not tell us apart?”
Those words had slapped Max hard. Especially since the only way to tell them apart was by the finery one wore and the filth on his brother. In his opinion, it said more for Linus that he hadn’t noticed their difference in dress.
Linus wrested his hand and weapon free from his brother. “I should have been heir! I’m far more worthy!”
Eumon had laughed in his face. “You were never worthy.” With that, he disarmed him and kicked him back.
Horrified, Max had helped Illarion to his feet. Then placed his body between Illarion and the princes to protect him.
Rolling his eyes, Eumon threw the knife down. “Ignore him.” He chucked Max on the arm and then Illarion. “Follow me and we’ll settle this.”
As they started away, Max caught the movement from the corner of his eye. He turned to disarm Linus, but he still hadn’t mastered his human body. Before he could do anything to stop it, Linus stabbed him, then turned on the others.
Furious, Illarion attacked.
“Stop!” Eumon growled, trying to get between them.
Max knew the prince would be hurt if he didn’t remove him from the conflict. “Highness?” He pulled him back at the same time Illarion and Linus staggered together, fighting for control of the knife.
They slammed hard into Max and Eumon, knocking them off balance and sending them reeling.
In a huge clump, the four of them fell to the ground.
As Max went to stand, he realized they were covered in a lot more blood than they should have been. Stunned, it took him several seconds to realize it was Eumon whose artery had been sliced open in their fall.
Panting for air, he met Max’s gaze. “Protect my wife.”
His eyes haunted, Linus pushed himself to his feet and staggered back. Dropping the knife, he pressed his blood-soaked hand to his lips.
Screaming in agony, Helena had rushed forward to weep by her husband’s side. “Don’t leave me, Eumon! Stay with me!” She applied pressure to his wound, but it was too late.
As his last act, Eumon reached up and removed Max’s collar so that he could shapeshift freely. “Protect them all.” And with that he expelled his final breath.
Helena had thrown her head back and shrieked like a harpy. “You beast! You killed my husband!”
“No…” Linus backed up in terror. “You saw for yourself. It was an accident.”
Shaking her head, she sobbed and sobbed.
Max glanced to Illarion, who watched them with an equally horrified gaze. What do we do?
He had no idea. Linus was insane and he’d never tell the truth and implicate himself in this. His fear of being blamed for his brother’s death wouldn’t allow that. The gods had decreed them all to die…
But one look at Illarion’s face and he knew he’d never stand back and let that happen.
I have to get them to safety.
There was only one place he could think that would be safe from the reach of the gods. One place where the king couldn’t demand Illarion’s head. Gathering his brother and the weeping princess, he shifted to his dragon form and took flight with them.
Her terrified shrieks filled his ears as she insulted him and tried to break free. Illarion fought against his grip. Remove my collar so that I can fly, too!
Not yet. He wasn’t sure what reception they’d have when they reached his destination. It could be welcoming.
Experience said it wouldn’t.
Even so, Max closed his eyes and prayed for this to work. When he finally reached the southern beach, he laid his brother and the princess down on the white sands, then landed. His stomach knotted, he gazed out over the perfect waves and did something he hadn’t done in centuries.
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