Here's another unedited peek at Sasha and Maxim meeting again for the first time in so many years, this time from Sasha's POV.
In the moonlight, Sasha hardly made out the scars on the alpha’s face. The long jagged line that split his left eye, which was now an empty socket, in two. He’d been too slow that time. Much too slow, and Maxim carried the scars because of it.
Maxim carried far too many scars, and they were almost all Elijah’s fault. The rest Sasha blamed squarely on himself.
The severing spell held. Even so near, he couldn’t feel Maxim’s heart beat with his. His body, mind and soul didn’t cry for their mate, though the omega howled faintly in the corner of his mind. He burned that bridge so thoroughly it might never be repaired.
One instance of his magic working the way he’d planned – no dead bodies or apologies – and it had to be this one.
Sasha forced himself to smile and raised an eyebrow. “Did you get taller? I think you got taller. It’s been too long, Max.”
“I found you. Now, why are you here?” Maxim growled again and his hands balled into fists. They looked rougher than the hands Sasha remembered, the ones with the callouses on his forefinger and thumb from writing. Those were the hands of a bookish prince with far too much trust. These were the hands of a swordsman – a warrior – a world wary alpha king.
“You know the answer to that. You found the anchors. Thankfully, you didn’t disturb them or things could’ve ended up much worse. Magic of that sort isn’t as predictable as we’d like it to be. But I expected a better welcome than this. You didn’t even bring a pack of guards with you?”
The power tingled from the earth at his feet and surged to his fingers. It used his body like a conduit, a way to pass from one thing to another. It chewed at him. Sanded away the parts of him he thought he knew best and left him raw. He’d spent too much time here already, and it ate at him every day. He needed to hold out until the barrier grid was complete. Get Maxim to come with him and free himself of this curse.
From the sharpness in Maxim’s expression, Sasha wasn’t sure he could pull it off now.
What was he supposed to say? Hey, let’s be mates again! And wait for Maxim to run into his arms? Yeah, that probably wouldn’t work.
Sasha had learned so much since they last saw each other! The part of him, that foolish, childish part he thought no longer existed, wanted to share his travels with Maxim. Tell him of Alexandria’s Grand Library. Share the secrets of Athens or Ur or Great Zimbabwe. But the eyes he remembered softening in his presence were as hard as obsidian.
Just as sharp and unforgiving.
“Why did you return this time?” Maxim grumbled. His voice held the barest hint of a plea.
Sasha swallowed. “Kamil thought you’d need me. Turns out he was right. Tough luck with those Old Ones. Everyone thinks they’re immortal, but they’re really just brimming with stolen magic. There is a difference.”
Suddenly, Maxim lunged forward. Hands snagged on his shoulders and shoved him backwards. He thudded into a tree, the trunk rough through the fabric of his T-shirt.
The breath clogged in Sasha’s throat at the proximity. That scent, musky and rich and right. Tangled into a knot of lust and fate and the only way to free them both was to sever it at the source.
It reminded Sasha of something else – Maxim complicated things.
Why did he think this time would be any different?
Not to mention, Maxim was stark ass naked. His body, tall and lean, had gained muscle over the years. With the bare flesh pushed against him, it reminded Sasha of all their time together.
To say the least, it’d been awhile.
Maxim breathed against Sasha’s mouth. His lips hovered there for a moment, that delectable tongue darted out and almost fucking tasted him. But Maxim pulled it back, ran it over his own lips. His hands dug into Sasha’s shoulders, squeezed the bones. The heat of his body radiated into Sasha’s, dispelling the cool night air.
They were so close they could kiss. Sasha’s brain sparked at the thought. He leaned forward, pressed his knee between Maxim’s corded thighs. Smirked. “Admit it. You missed me.”
Maxim’s eyes flashed, and he growled. “You shouldn’t have come back. You're a traitor to this kingdom.”
“Do you expect me to believe you told anyone what happened? We’re the only ones who know the truth, Max,” Sasha said, and his lips brushed Maxim’s cheek. “What’s a little regicide between lovers?”
Maxim let out a huff of air. “Ex-lovers. You killed my brother while he was King!”
Right. Sasha had done that. He shrugged. “And you killed your own uncle while he was King. Roland killed your mom. It’s a thing in your family. I was helping out.”
Then Maxim smiled an empty, ugly smile, and Sasha’s blood chilled to ice in his veins. His Maxim never smiled like that, but his Maxim might not exist any longer.
Funny how that worked out.
“Is that what this is? More help I didn’t ask for?” Maxim snarled.
Sasha squeezed his eyes shut, buried any remaining pride he had, and nodded. “Help you need. My magic is holding the barrier in place. Without it, you know what the humans will do. Defeat one army of hunters and another will take its place. You need another pair of Old Ones, and I can get them for you.”
Maxim’s good eye narrowed, and he bared his fangs. “Oh? And how will you do that?”
The alpha’s heart slammed, Sasha felt it pounding against his sternum. He took one last leap of faith, and hoped he didn’t land flat on his ass. “You know me, Max. I can do almost anything.”
Anything but keep a mate.
Maxim took a sharp, ragged breath. It warmed Sasha’s skin, and he closed his eyes. Drank it in. “You can. I remember.”
Sasha smiled, even if his beard covered most of it. “What else do you remember?”
Maxim moved closer, dark eyes burning. His musk made Sasha lightheaded. “Everything. I remember everything,” he growled and lifted his hands, mere centimeters from Sasha’s cheeks.
The omega shoved him forward. Sasha’s lips caught Maxim’s mouth, forced them together into a kiss that was neither polite nor delicate. It raged and burned. Maxim’s tongue swept against Sasha’s with the force of a tidal wave, and a hand tangled in the back of Sasha’s hair, tugged it.
Maxim’s body, hot, needy and naked, pressed flush into Sasha until that’s all Sasha felt. Maxim surrounded him. Enveloped him. After everything he’d done, he ended up back here in Maxim’s arms.