Sarah’s eyes darted between the two men, both tensed and ready to fight. She met Axin’s gaze. “Let him live,” She cocked her head towards Jake.
Axin shook his head. “No.”
“Because he’s… unnatural. A creation of dark magic. He threatens the balance of everything.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “And you don’t? What about Nilu? He created the linked, didn’t he?”
A short pause came from Axin before he nodded. “Yes. But you don’t know the full story.”
“It’s not mine to tell.”
She sighed, annoyance filling her veins. “Fine! Then take us all to Nilu, and let him tell it.”
Axin scoffed. “There is no way I am taking him to Nilu. He will kill him, and everyone else the minute he gets there. For all I know, this could be part of his plan. He knows who you are… what you mean to me, and he manipulated you into believing he is willing to do the right thing.”
A grunt came from Jake and she gazed at him.
“What is it, Jake?”
He pointed at Axin. “This is what I was talking about. There is no winning with him. No matter what, he will always make it sound like he’s right. It’s no use, Sarah… He won’t understand. Not ever.”
“It’s okay, Jake,” Sarah said and a thought flashed. It was something Mr. Takamori said to her before she left.
“Is it true, Axin? Did you give me a piece of your heart?”
Without hesitation, he nodded, “Yes, I did. I didn’t know it at the time, but Nilu informed me of it. I didn’t understand why I was so drawn to you and he told me.”
“Am I your tamer?”
His brows shot up and his eyes went wide. “My what?”
“Tamer? Do I have any say in the things you do? Any voice at all?”
His face turned serious again and he took a small step closer to her. “Of course you do, Sarah. I would do anything for you. Despite everything you’ve heard about me, I really do care about you… a lot. I could never hurt you. Not physically, or emotionally.”
Her resolve softened as he stared into her eyes. The fire in his gaze cooled, making him the handsome, sweet man she met in the field once again. She swallowed her anger and fear and stepped towards him.
“Axin, I want to believe you. I felt something between us the first day we met, and it confused the shit out of me. I’m willing to give you a chance. So tell me the truth, and show me that you are not the monster everyone says you are. But I need you to do this for me. If there is even the smallest chance that we can stop Jake’s mother from unleashing hell on Earth, then we need to take it. I know you don’t trust him, and I get why, but trust me. Please.”
She stopped in front of him, her eyes locked on his, as she placed a careful hand on his chest. He swallowed, smiling, and closing his eyes at the contact.
“Be the guy I need you to be,” she whispered, taking a tiny step into him, her body inches away from his.
He tore open his eyes and met her pleading gaze. “If I do this, then it will take time. I will need help keeping Jake guarded. I will also need assurance from him… ones that I will believe, that this isn’t a trap.”
She nodded and looked at Jake. He watched them with sadness in his eyes. A deep longing that stabbed into her heart.
“Look at him,” she whispered. “He was born and raised knowing only one side to the story. His mother’s. He needs the truth too, Axin. He’s Nilu’s nephew. The only one he has.”
Axin considered it for a long moment, staring at Jake. They locked eyes, summing each other up, but to her surprise, Jake looked down first.
Axin took in a long breath. “Okay. Let me speak to Nilu and my team. See what we can arrange. But you’re coming with me, Sarah. I won’t leave you here alone. That’s not up for debate!”
She was willing to compromise. “Fine. I will go with you. Jake can wait here for us.”
Jake left the lounge and stepped into the dining room. He picked up the kitchen knife from the floor where he dropped it when Axin came charging in and went to her grandmother. Sarah tensed. “Jake, what are you doing?”
He looked at her with a soft smile. “It’s okay. I want you to trust me. Baby steps.”
He turned back to the old lady, who watched him with wide, scared eyes. He paused in front of her.
“I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you. You were always such a sweet lady, and you make the most amazing apple pie I have ever tasted. I hope one day I will get to eat it again.”
With that, he placed a hand on her forehead and began mumbling in that strange language Sarah heard earlier. Margaret’s eyes closed, her body going lax in the chair. If not for the tape holding her up, she would have fallen to the ground.
Sarah marched in their direction. “What the hell did you do!”
Panic rose at the sight of her only family falling limp.
“It’s okay, Sarah. She’s asleep. I wiped her mind of everything that happened. She will only remember falling asleep on the couch and waking up after we leave.”
“One more thing,” Axin said, going to stand beside Jake. For the first time, Sarah noticed how similar they were. Same height, same build. Same dark hair.
Jake frowned at Axin in question.
“Cut that tape off her. She’s going to wonder how she hit her head.”
Guilt tore through Jake's features as he frowned at the dry stream of blood in her white hair. He cut the tapes, and Axin gently picked her up into his arms and moved to the lounge. He lowered to his knees, laying her down on the couch, and turned to give Sarah a quick glance.
She nodded, knowing what he was about to do. This time she wanted to see.
He turned back to the sofa and a dark shadow emanated from him. His bones pushed the limit of his skin, protruding out in sharp mounds under the thin piece of flesh. His shirt tore, exposing his back and in a heartbeat, two massive red and black wings shot out, taking up most of the space in the small room. She was yanked back, a firm but not painful hold on her arm, and with a quick glance, she met Jake's eyes. She turned back to the sight before her as Axin curled his wings around the sofa. An orange glow began to burn from the tiny gaps between his leather-like wings.
“What is he doing?” she whispered to Jake, her body frozen in place.
“Healing her. Superficial wounds like cuts and bruises can be healed quickly. But he’s healing her heart, as well. It takes more of our power to do that.”
She smiled. The relief that washed over her that her grandmother would be better was so intense, tears built in her eyes. The glow continued for a few more seconds, then Axin’s massive wings curled back and vanished into the shadow. A moment later, he stood, glancing down at Margaret, before he turned to face Sarah.
“Her heart is as strong as a teenager's again. She will feel amazing when she wakes up. She also had a small lump of cancer in her bones. I cleared that up too. She might outlive us all.”
Emotion overwhelmed Sarah and she shrugged out of Jake's hold running for Axin. He caught her when her arms wrapped around his neck and held her tightly to him.
She swallowed a sob. “Thank you.”
He stroked her back with a gentle touch. “You never need to thank me, Sarah. I hate that you heard all of that about me without me there to defend myself. I know you still have a long way to go to forgive me, but I will wait as long as it takes. I will do anything for you. Anything.”
Being in Axin’s arms, held by him like that made a feeling stir in her, one she didn’t quite understand, but welcomed. It was belonging. Like that was where she was meant to be. At his side, in his arms, and falling dangerously fast for a man she was still a little afraid of.