After dinner, and hours of speaking and laughing with Nilu and Otoya, Axin led Sarah back out into the evening sun. So many questions had been answered for her. Many things that she feared about Axin were resolved, and she really liked Nilu and Otoya. They had a special bond that Sarah could see in the way they spoke to each other and acted around each other.
Nilu agreed to let Jake come to the shadow world, and speak to him. Sarah got the sense that Nilu wanted that for a long time. To get to know his nephew and to see if he was telling the truth. Raz had come back in the middle of dinner, to tell them that Jake went to Lexi, to speak to her and that her grandmother was safe. He had instructed one of the other warriors to keep an eye on her through the night.
Once they arrived at the cottage, Axin led the way down a stone path leading to the front door.
Sarah’s nerves were on end. Axin didn’t want to let her go back to the living world, for fear that someone might come after her again. She’d wanted to ask him why he didn’t just stay with her at her apartment, but she was tired. All she wanted to do was sleep.
They entered the cottage and she went to the lounge to sit on the same chair she used the first time she came here.
Axin disappeared in the direction of the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with a steaming cup of coffee for her.
“Thanks,” she reached for it, taking a sip and warming her hands on the sides.
“Are you cold?”
“It’s a bit chilly in here.”
Axin placed his cup on the side table and stood. He went to the fireplace and piled it with wood. He took a step back, giving Sarah a quick look. He winked at her, then turned back to the fireplace.
Her heart raced as she watched Axin lower onto his haunches. A thin stream of orange flames came from his mouth, igniting the wood. Once the fire was blazing, he moved the guard in front of it and stood. He casually went to his chair and sat down, grabbing his coffee as he did. When he met her eyes he smiled.
Sarah closed her mouth, “You’re so weird.”
He chuckled, “Thanks.”
“I’m sorry. But come on… Think of this from my point of view.”
“I know. I’m trying not to freak you out with all this, but I figure if you see all the crazy in one day and don’t lose your mind, the shock will be over and we can move forward.”
“How does that work? Where does the flame come from?”
“I have… glands in my throat. Something similar to tear glands. I need to shift that part of my body to get access to them.”
He moved his tongue around in his mouth, “Tastes like apples.”
She bit her lip, staring at him.
“What is it? What are you thinking?”
“Sarah… We talked about this. Come on, ask me.”
“Is it poisonous?”
He cocked his head to the side. “No. Not to me.”
“What about… to me?”
He grinned, placing his coffee on the table. “Why do you want to know?”
Despite how embarrassed she was, Sarah plowed on. “Would it kill me if I… kissed you, for example?”
“Would it make me sick?”
She licked her lips, watching him as she thought about what that would be like. He watched her back, his eyes not once leaving hers.
She needed to change the subject. Desire flashed in Axin’s eyes, matching her own, and things would get much hotter than dragon fire if they left the silence to stretch.
“Is someone keeping an eye on Jake?”
Axin smiled, lifting his coffee to his lips.
“Will they keep Lexi safe from him? If he decides to go bad again?”
“Lexi is safe. So is your grandmother. I even have someone watching Mr. Takamori.”
“No one knows anything about him, yet he knows a lot about us. Not only that, but he’s a linked that knows what he is. He can turn at will. People like that can be dangerous.”
“He’s not. He’s a seventy-year-old man, who has known what he is since he was six years old. He’s never hurt anyone.”
“It’s better to be safe. But the man watching him knows that he is to keep him safe as well. He’s your friend Sarah, and it matters to me that you are happy.”
“There is one more thing I wanted to ask. I didn’t get around to it at dinner.”
He raised his brows, waiting.
“Why did you kill Jake and Nilu’s family in Chile?”
He frowned. “I didn’t.”
“Jake said you attacked them. They tried to protect themselves, and it caused the biggest earthquake ever recorded.”
He put his cup down and slid off the couch onto his knees. He moved to her in slow strides.
“Sarah, I didn’t kill them. I went there to try to save them.”
“But Jake said that you killed his family that day.”
He let out a breath, stopping in front of her. He placed a hand on either side of the chair.
“Nilu felt an intense burst of magic that day. He sent me and a few of the others to check it out. We knew his family lived in the mountains out there. They were good people, who didn’t bother anyone. By the time we got there, the earth was shaking and everyone was burnt to the bone. It was staged to look like I did it. But if Jake thought about it for more than five seconds, he would know it couldn’t have been me.”
“My flame doesn’t leave anything behind. Not even bones. Jake’s mother had been lying to him since the day he was born.”
Sarah shook her head. “You need to tell him all this Axin. He’s lived his whole life thinking his mother is the good one in all this. He needs to know the truth. I can see that he is already starting to suspect it, but you need to be the one to tell him.”
“What Nilu said is right. You are strong enough to do it. He can learn so much from you. He needs a friend, more than anything. Someone he can trust to tell him the truth. Promise me, Axin, that no matter what, you will be honest with him. His life has been filled with one lie after another. Don’t let yourself get lost in that pattern.”
He smiled, moving his hand to rest on her knee.
“If it means so much to you, then you have my word. I will do what I can to help him. But if he tries to hurt you in any way… I will kill him without a second thought.”
“He just wants what everyone else has. A normal life. I think Fasia’s biggest mistake was sending him to the living world. He fell in love and saw a different future for himself.”
Axin’s smile fell. “Sarah, he can never live in the living world. You need to understand that. He’s too powerful.”
Sarah placed her hand on top of Axin’s. “If you take that hope away from him, he will turn against us. The only thing keeping him on our side is the dream of spending his life with Lexi. As much as I hate sucking her into this, and as bad as I feel for having to lie to him, this is one thing he cannot find out. Not until we find a way for him to not lose Lex.”
“There is a way.”
She frowned. “How?”
“Nilu created the linked. He can do that for Lexi. When she dies…”
“No. What if she ends up in Purgatory?”
“Then I can go get her and bring her here.”
“That’s not fair to her, Axin. She has the right to make that choice herself.”
His eyes darkened. “No one got a choice.”
“I understand that. But I won’t let you do that to her without her knowing.”
He sighed, meeting her eyes. “Okay. If it comes to it, you can talk to her. Tell her everything and let her decide. If she doesn’t agree, Nilu will wipe her mind, and she can go back to her old life.”
That eased Sarah’s worry over what would happen to Lexi. “Thank you.”
He shook his head. “You need to stop thanking me. I don’t do the stuff that I do for you because I want gratitude. I do it because I love you. Do you understand? You could ask me to set fire to the moon, and I would hold my breath until I got there. Don’t ever be afraid of asking me for anything. You asked me before if you were my tamer, and I didn’t understand you then. But I do now, and I think you are. I have never felt as calm as I do with you around me. You look at me and my anger fizzles away into nothing. I feel like I can’t breathe when you’re not here. I’ve felt like that since the day we met. At first, all I could think about was keeping you safe. But as you grew up, and became the incredible woman you are now, those feelings intensified and grew into something else. I kept telling myself that it was all in my head, but I’m not going to keep lying to myself. I know what I want. I know how I feel about you, and I know that I don’t want to spend another second away from you.”
Sarah didn’t think. All she could do was feel a tornado of emotions at what he said. No one had ever said those kinds of things to her, and she saw the truth in Axin’s eyes when he spoke.
She slid off the chair to sit on Axin’s legs, took his face in her hands, and pressed her lips to his.