Sarah awoke in Axin’s tight hold in the massive bed at the cottage. She lay still, listening to him breathe peacefully beside her. The events of the last few days filled her mind.
She almost died. She almost lost everyone she cares about, and her future seemed more uncertain than ever before.
What will Lexi decide to do? She needed her friend in this. To talk to her about it all, and to have someone there besides Axin that she could turn to. She made a mental note to go see Lexi later. To find out how she was doing with all this, and to be there for her in case she was freaking out.
Jake had taken the side of his family. The family that cared about him. It still shocked Sarah that he and Axin were brothers. They still had a long way to go before things become normal between them. Axin and Jake had history, and not the kind that caused arguments at the Christmas table. They tried to kill each other, several times.
But Jake told them that he was willing to learn from Axin. To dig into the dragon side of him. Axin gave her his word that he would be there to help Jake with that, and Nilu would show Jake how to use his magic for good, and to help him sustain the Shadow world.
Nilu couldn’t be happier to have someone new under his wing. From the moment they got back to the shadow world, what little she saw of him, he spoke none stop about the plans he had for Jake. It made Sarah smile at the thought that she had a hand in helping such a lost soul find his place.
“What are you thinking about?” Axin grumbled from next to her, his arms growing tighter around her.
He rolled onto his side, kissing the top of her head. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No. I just want things to play out the way they’re meant to.”
He smiled. “How are you feeling?”
She took a moment to answer that question. With everything that happened, she should be locked in the nut-house. But her mind felt at ease, accepting of everything she saw and went through. Even Axin devouring Fasia didn’t bother her.
“I’m great. I thought I would have lost my mind by now, but… I get it. I understand it all, and I accept it.”
He kissed the side of her head again. “I’m really happy to hear that. Because I have something to ask you.”
She twisted in his hold to lay on her side, meeting his soft red eyes. “What’s that?”
He watched her for a moment, narrowing his eyes as he thought.
“Just ask, Axin.”
“Come live here with me.”
Her smile fell as she frowned. “What?”
“I know it’s fast, and you have a life in the living world, but I want you to come home to me at night… here. I thought about it all last night. We can use your apartment as a gateway of sorts. You and Lexi can go to work, and do the stuff you normally do in the living world, and at night, I will come to get you from your apartment and bring you here. Jake and I can’t live in your world. It’s too dangerous for us.”
“Too dangerous for you? You’re indestructible, Axin.”
He chuckled, “I meant it’s too dangerous for the people around us. Jake still has a lot to learn. He was raised in a world where changing into a dragon is nothing new. Imagine he gets pissed off in New York and changes. Or someone hurts Lexi by accident. Us dragons are a very protective breed. We don’t take well to someone hurting what’s ours.”
The mention of Lexi brought her friend to mind. “How did Lexi take it all?”
“Fine. She’s with Jake now, talking about it. It looks like they’re getting back together. She loves him, and is willing to accept everything about him.”
The way he said that made Sarah’s heart break. Did Axin think she didn’t accept him the way he was?
“I love you too, Axin. All of you. And I think it’s a great idea. If Lexi is willing to live here as well, then I can’t think of a better way for things to turn out. But I don’t want to lose my job in New York. It took me four years to build up my own design portfolio. Even though I work from home and don’t make a lot of money, I’m still not ready to give that up.”
He stroked her face with a gentle finger. “I know. I would never ask you to change, or give up any part of your life for me. I just want to spend each night like this. Falling asleep with you by my side. It won’t be perfect, but it can work for now.”
“Sounds perfect to me.”
He smiled. “There is one more thing. We need to go see Nilu at some point. He wants to place a spell on you.”
Sarah’s smile fell. “Why? What kind of spell?”
“Relax. It's an aging spell.”
“What does it do?”
“I want to spend all of time with you, Sarah. I won’t die. At least not in the sixty-something years it would take for you to grow old. Nilu wants to place a marker on your timeline. That’s how he explained it to me. Basically, you will still grow old in the living world like normal. But when you die, you will come here, to me, exactly the way you are now. Then we will have forever to be young and happy.”
Words fell short for Sarah. It all sounded too good to be true. She was to get her dream life of designing stunning homes. She had her best friend with her, who she could talk to about every part of her life. She had an amazing man, whom she loved deeply. And now she would have the oldest witch in all of time, place a spell on her so that she would live forever in paradise with the man she loved. There had to be a downside to all this.
“What’s that frown for?” Axin broke her out of her thoughts.
“I’m trying to find the negative in all this.”
He laughed, “Does there need to be one?”
“It all just seems too perfect to be true.”
“What’s wrong with that? Can’t things just be perfect for once?”
“One thing I’ve learned in my life… Is that nothing is ever the way you want it. Something has to give. Sooner or later, something will come up that will change, and I’m trying to mentally prepare for it by figuring out what it is. So that I can plan for it.”
He smiled, rolling onto his back. Sarah couldn’t help but run her gaze over his fit body. His tight defined muscles on his chest and arms. He wasn’t an overly large man, not like some of the guys she saw at the gym the three times she actually went. Axin held a strength contained inside him. A power so intense it gave her goosebumps.
She ran her finger along a small scar on his side. “What happened here?”
He looked down at it. “Oh. That was a long time ago. Fasia tried to kill me many times. That was one of her attempts. She got her hands on a dragon tooth and made it into a spear. She sent some of her goons into the living world for me to hunt, and they caught me with it.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Umm… about eight hundred or so years ago, I think.”
“The day you met Hashi?”
He turned his head to frown at her. “Yeah. How did you know?”
“Mr. Takamori told me about how the legend of the Shadow people began. You told Hashi about what you are, and where you come from.”
Axin smiled with a nod. “Yeah, I was pretty out of it that day. I was so drugged up on whatever shit she laced that spear with, that I couldn’t even change back to my living form. I’m surprised that kid didn’t run off screaming. I felt so bad that I couldn’t help him, but those assholes that killed his dad got what was coming to them eventually.”
With a smile, Sarah rolled on top of Axin and sat up on his hips. She ran her hand over his chest, loving how warm and soft his skin felt under her palm.
Axin watched her, his arms crossed under his head, and his eyes glowing brighter with desire.
She leaned down, placing soft kisses over his chest. “So… you said you want to show me more of this world.”
“Mmm. Not if you keep doing that.”
She chuckled, sitting up. “Do you want me to stop?”
He moved so fast, Sarah barely had time to gasp before he was on top of her, pinning her down with his strong body. “No chance. We have all the time in the world.”