“Get out of the way, Sarah!” Axin’s angry growl echoed in the room as he stalked closer.
She felt Jake move behind her but didn’t tear her eyes away from Axin. “Please, stop, Axin. Just take a second and listen to me.”
“He is going to kill you! Get out of my way, so I can end him.”
He tried to step around her, his big body charging ever closer, but Sarah managed to maneuver her way in front of him again. “Axin, please stop! If he wanted me dead, he would have done it by now!”
Axin stopped dead in his tracks, his burning red gaze snapping to her. “I felt you calling for me. Your fear. What did he say that changed your mind? You can’t trust him, Sarah. He’s lied to you.”
She dropped her hand, anger filling her veins. “Like you?”
“I never lied to you.”
“No, you just left out a shit load of details. Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”
He snarled, actually snarled at her, baring teeth. “I told you there was a lot to tell you. Most of it wasn’t exactly the kind of stuff I wanted to reveal to you on our first date.”
That made Sarah’s eyes go wide.
Axin’s anger faded a little, but his eyes still looked ready to burn holes in the walls.
“Call it what you want. Just step out of my way. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Jake spoke from behind her. “I’m not the one she needs to be afraid of, warden.”
Axin visibly angered again, his hands fisted at his sides, and she was sure she saw a tiny puff of smoke escape his flaring nose.
“Don’t call me that! I don’t hurt the innocent!”
“You sure about that?” Jake asked, taking a step out from around Sarah. “You’ve never killed an innocent person in your life?”
More anger flared on Axin’s face, and she could swear she saw his skin began to take on a shimmering glow.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“The crusade you and Nilu went on? The witch hunt that killed my family? The death you spread all over purgatory. Most of the souls that end up there are innocent. They were good people in life. Lived a clean existence, until they died and ended up in hell. No, worse… In your Purgatory. One tiny step out of line, and you ended them in the worst way possible.”
Axin’s ashamed stare shifted to Sarah before he looked away. “I have to keep the peace. No one else can do it.”
“What gives you the right? Who made you the master of all the linked souls?”
Axin spun to Jake. “Life did! I never asked for this! I was born like this! Do you think I enjoy being the only pureblood? The only one that has the power to end a soul in Purgatory? If I don’t do what I have to, imagine the chaos that would follow? Your mother destroyed Purgatory in her rage, and now you want to blame me for trying to make it a little bit safer for those that have no choice but to live there? I only hunt those that are vile and cruel to others. They have plenty of warnings, but eventually, shit needs to be dealt with.”
Jake shook his head with a smile. “And the crusade? Hundreds of thousands of innocent people died. Most of them by you.”
Axin’s breathing was growing faster, his jaw clenched as he narrowed his eyes at the man. “Don’t.”
“Don’t? What? Are you worried your precious Sarah will learn the truth about you? Too late! She already knows. And funny enough, I didn’t tell her. Some old man with old books did.”
Sarah frowned. She didn’t tell him any of that. “How do you know that?”
He turned to her. “I looked into your mind. That’s how he knows who I am. I finally used my magic. I saw the images of the books and the man that told you about Axin. He’s right, Sarah. Everything he told you is the truth.”
Sarah didn’t want to believe it. She moved her gaze to Axin, but he stared at her eyes for a moment, then lowered his head with a nod.
Blood drained from Sarah’s face, as her eyes filled with tears. “Tell me that’s not true, Axin.”
He didn’t say a word, only glared at Jake.
“Axin?” Sarah pushed, taking a step back.
“He can’t, Sarah. He won’t lie to you. I admire that about him. Even though it will cause you to hate him, he still refuses to lie to you.”
“Why?” Was all she could choke out. Her throat tight with emotion.
He shut his eyes for a moment, then looked at her. “There was no other way,” he said, his voice soft, lowering his head in shame. “We had to stop them. It was chaos. A dark time in history. I did what had to be done.”
A tear slipped out of her eye. “Children, Axin?”
“Yes,” he mumbled without looking at her.
“Oh, my God,” she breathed out, backing away from him. “Why?”
He met her eyes, a sad and defeated look tearing him apart. He stared at her, a heartbroken smile on his face before he looked at Jake.
“Shit!” Jake cried out, backing away.
“Happy now, Jake?” Axin asked, stalking towards him. “You’ve managed to make her hate me. To turn the love of my life against me. The only thing that’s left for me is revenge!”
With a deafening roar, a dark shadow swirled around Axin, growing larger by the second. Sarah stumbled back, seeing the shadow take a new shape as it grew, and recognized the sharp, deadly looking fangs of the dragon she saw in the sky take form in front of her eyes.
She spun to her grandmother, reaching for the tape holding her in place on the chair, and tugged at it, shooting looks behind her to see what was going on. Jake had moved farther away, but his eyes glowed a white light as he stared at the shadow around Axin. Jake raised his hand, mumbling strange words to himself, and she spun back to her grandmother. She met her eyes and wished she hadn’t. The pure terror and confusion in them made Sarah’s heart break. Her grandmother had a heart condition, and this could kill her.
This needed to stop, or there was a good chance she could lose the last person in her family. If Axin changed into a dragon in her tiny home, it would be the last straw for her grandmother.
With an angry roar, Sarah spun around to the men and screamed, “Enough!”
Her voice sounded louder than she thought possible, and when she spoke the words, she felt a burst of something akin to energy explode out of her.
Jake spun to look at her, his eyes fading to the piercing blue color she knew, and the shadow around Axin grew smaller, then vanished.
She stomped to them in her rage. “Get out! Both of you! You want to fight, go do it somewhere that won’t kill my grandmother when she sees you change!”
Axin frowned at her, concern washing over his features. “I would never hurt her, Sarah. Even in that form.”
“Watching you change could kill her. She has a heart condition.”
He stepped towards her, but Sarah moved away.
He paused. “You’re scared of me now. Give me a chance to explain myself to you.”
Shaking her head, she put her hands up. “No. I’m done with this, Axin. With all of it! Just get out and leave us alone! Both of you. Go fight your war somewhere else.”
“Sarah.” Jake stepped forward despite Axin’s growl of protest. “It ends with you. If I leave, then my mother will just send someone else to come get you. They might not give a damn about Margeret, or about not watching the world burn. You’re not safe on your own.”
“She has me. I’ve watched out for her since the day we met, and I have no intention of stopping now. She might hate me, but nothing will ever change the way I feel about her.”