Sarah came around to a soft hum that took her back to her past. She was a little girl again, laying in the arms of a man with red eyes. He smiled at her. “You’re okay now, little one. No more pain.”
She smiled at him, a sense of calm filling her. There was no pain. No fear. Only peace and the feeling of being safe.
“Sarah?” the man asked, a bright glow emanating from his eyes.
He smiled. “I know, beautiful. You can sleep now. I’ve got you.”
Memory returned, flooding her mind like a raging tidal wave, and panic set in. “Jake?”
“I’m here, Sarah.” She heard him say, but couldn’t see him.
As her mind cleared, she looked around at the black and red wings curled around her. Axin held her in his arms, kneeling on the charred ground. His hand gently stroked her cheek as he continued to hum that familiar tune.
Feeling returned to her legs, making them jerk. A breath of relief escaped her lips as her eyes filled with tears.
“Axin. You came for me.”
She didn’t want to lose the opportunity to tell him how she felt. Time could run out in the blink of an eye, as she learned, and he needed to know.
“I love you.”
Axin’s wide smile made her heart swell. “I love you too, beautiful. More than you will ever know.”
“Is Lexi okay? Fasia wanted to hurt her. Please tell me you got to her in time.”
“Shh. She’s fine. I heard her calling me at your place. I know something had to be wrong when I felt your fear, then it vanished. She’s with Nilu, getting the rundown on everything. She’s pretty open-minded.”
Sarah laughed. “That’s Lexi for you. What about Jake?”
“He came through for us, Sarah. He kept his end of the deal, and he lifted the cloak enough for me to get in. Your escape gave him the chance to do it without Fasia noticing. How did you manage to get away from her anyway?”
She wasn’t about to tell him about pulling the vampire stunt on the goon that held her down.
“A kid named Zach found me. He’s a griffin. He grabbed me and took me to his den, to keep me safe.”
“I heard him call to me. I was ready to kill him if he hurt you, but then I saw Fasia pull you back with magic. I tried, Sarah. I tried to get to you-”
“Axin.” She placed a hand on his cheek. “You’re here. You saved my life. You came for me, and there is nothing more I could have asked for.”
Axin shut his eyes, a tear rolling down his cheek. “I thought I was going to lose you. I’ve never been that scared in my whole life.”
“It’s okay. I can already feel that I’m healing. My legs work, I can breathe, my head is fine. I’m all good.”
He nodded, the glow in his eyes easing. “That should do it.”
Sarah moved her toes, smiling that she was able to. She took in a long, deep breath, and straightened her arm without pain.
“I feel great. Thank you.”
He met her eyes with a brow raised. “What did we talk about? Stop thanking me.”
She smiled. “I will always thank you for doing something for me. My grandmother raised me right. Get used to it.”
He chuckled, moving a strand of hair away from her eyes before his face turned serious. “Are you ready to finish this?”
She nodded. “More than ready.”
His wings unfurled from around her and he helped her get to her feet. She found Jake standing next to Axin, a relieved smile on his face at seeing her better.
“Thank you, Jake.”
He nodded in return, then moved his gaze to the clearing. Sarah turned to find Raz and four other equally as large men standing behind a kneeling Fasia. Her skin still burnt in places, and her bald head shining in the dim light.
Instantly, anger filled Sarah. She glared at her, wishing she could send death through her eyes.
Axin went to stand beside her. “Sarah?”
She turned to look at Jake. “It needs to end, Jake.”
He nodded. “I know. She was never my mother. Not really. I have a family that actually cares about me now. Finish it.”
She nodded and turned back to Axin.
“Eat her ass, baby!”
A roar of laughter erupted from the men around Axin and Sarah felt her cheeks heat. Even Jake chuckled from next to her. She met Axin’s gleaming eyes, the smile on his face making her laugh.
“For a guy over a thousand years old, you’re childish, you know that!”
He stepped back, still smiling, and the dark shadow pulsed out of him. Within seconds, Axin’s dragon form shook its massive head, extending its wings at its side as though stretching. He turned to look at her and winked one massive red eye.
Fasia screamed, trying to shuffle away from him on the ground. Raz and the other men moved back, giving Axin enough space. With one last look at her, his large jaws opened, and in one swift snap, Fasia’s top half separated from her lower half. Sarah turned away, not able to watch the bloody mess.
Jake came to stand by her, his back turned to the scene behind them.
“Are you okay?” She asked him.
“I’m good. I know it needs to be done, but I can’t watch.”
“I understand that.” She reached over and took his hand. The events of Axin arriving stirred something in her mind.
“How did you survive the fire? Axin told me his flame burns everything except him.”
Jake met her eyes. “It burns everything except his blood.”
She frowned. “But…”
“He’s my brother, Sarah.”
Her mouth fell open. “What? How?”
“We had the same father. Axin was born in the living world, and I was born here, but both to a pureblood. You were right. I do have a family.”
She smiled, packing that away for later when she could talk to Axin about it. Her mind was done trying to figure it all out for one day. All she wanted was a long hot soak in a bath, food, and sleep in Axin’s arms.
A soft touch on her back made her turn to see Axin smiling at her. “It’s over. Purgatory is already healing. Look.” he pointed to the trees around the clearing. Tiny green buds had popped out from the branches all around them.
“Fasia used all the life in this place to fuel her magic. Now that she’s gone, it can go back to the way it was. A safe, peaceful paradise for the linked to spend eternity.”
“What about you?”
“I will still have to keep an eye out around here. But I think things are going to get a lot better.”
She let go of Jake’s hand, wrapping her arms around Axin’s waist. The air already smelled cleaner, the thick clouds above clearing enough to allow sunlight through.
Axin lifted her chin and moved to give her a kiss. She jerked back. “Oh no, buddy. You just ate a person. You’re brushing your teeth before any of that.”