Blood and War

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Chapter 12 - Monster

They were almost a week’s travel past her father’s borders before Dillon started to relax. He made their traveling days shorter and went easier on the horses. By then his smell, the sound, and sight of him was permanently imprinted on Catherine’s vampire senses.

Catherine found herself always aware of him. Her senses automatically kept track of him as if she was afraid he would disappear on her. In such close proximity, she could not help notice his every move, breath and heartbeat.

By then she had to admit a certain grudging respect for him. He was very human at times and in some ways, he would not have made a very bad specimen of vampire kind. Even now, in the relative safety of strange lands and the road less traveled, he didn’t trust the quiet, yet.

Dillon’s eyes were forever scanning the tree line and even at rest, the tension never quite left him. No human would ever catch him off guard and no lesser vampire.

Twice, he went out of his way to help stranded travelers. His decency in handling the less fortunate of his kind took Catherine aback. Her father would not have bothered. The most he would do would be to have them shifted out of his way.

The humans would not accept Dillon’s kindness of unearned coin to help them on their way. So instead he bought Catherine boots from one of those travelers, surprisingly finely crafted by the man’s own hands, and a cape, not so fine, but strong and warm from another.

These were human lands. Catherine understood how advertising the fact of Dillon traveling with a vampire and a female, would not go down without a frown. In fact, it could just draw the wrong kind of attention.

Catherine didn’t have to see the way the humans kept glancing at her. They were as shy of her presence as her horse once was of the dark, unfamiliar forests of her father’s lands.

She knew her presence was unwanted and who could blame them for their ignorance? Wordlessly she pulled the hood of her cape low over her face to hide the telltale signs of her inhuman heritage.

At first, they were forced to travel in silence for stealth purposes and somewhere along the line it became a habit. They did not speak much, neither quite knowing what to say to the other.

Catherine was around humans all of her life but never like this. Dillon was around vampires most of his life, but not like this either. This was too intimate and too close for comfort. Despite their unease with each other, the quiet was neither comfortable nor uncomfortable, it just was.

Catherine was habitually not a chatterbox. Her father’s philosophy in life was simple, speak with sense and purpose, or shut up. Jokes and nonsensical things did not amuse him. Border matters and enemies could loosen his tongue for hours.

She missed the conversations with Eduardo and her peers. About their business and their world, but this man was her master. She could not start a conversation with him, it would be improper.

Dillon had to speak to her first. He had to be to one to give her permission to speak. Catherine remembered from his presence at their functions that he could be quite eloquent if he chose. He apparently had nothing to say to her, but would it kill him to actually talk to her? Just once?

“You miss them,” it was the one thing about him, apart from him being so damned human, she didn’t like. He was oddly attuned to her baser emotions. Almost as if he was reading her, somehow.

“Yes,” perversely, getting what she wanted, this was the one subject she did not wish to discuss. It still caused an almost physical pain. She was unaware of her eyes flaring blue, and despite her reserve, her emotions threatened just below the surface.

“My own father sent me away,” Dillon admitted out of the blue, and she glanced at him. She could see the slight hard cast to his mouth as if the words he said tasted bitter in his mouth. The unnatural cold of his eyes burned with the struggle of many deep, dark emotions.

Catherine frowned. She could not recall hearing talk of Dillon’s past at court. He had a knack for keeping his private matters private, but how did one keep such a thing from being common knowledge?

“Yet you have his title and his lands?” Cathrine asked quietly, but with a slight frown. She meant that his father must have relented at some time.

“No, I have my uncle’s title and my uncle’s lands,” this time the bitterness was slightly more pronounced. It was uncomfortable how easily he understood her pain. He must know of resentment and shame almost as much as she did.

“He is still alive? Your father?” Catherine asked tentatively. She preferred the focus to be away from her own life.

“He is dead to me,” Dillon’s face turned to stone. It was one of those moments when she was forced to respect him as an equal. This man was no pushover, she knew as much already. He would never relent in his decision.

“How old were you?” Catherine asked, more to keep the conversation going than out of any real curiosity. She glanced at him, she guessed that he must be around thirty years of age.

“I was five,” his answer was short and succinct, but he answered nonetheless. It pained him to admit these things. Catherine found it hard to understand why he chose this topic of conversation when it caused them both such obvious grief.

“Why would a father send away a child?” She asked, perplexed. Despite common belief, vampires were very protective of their young, especially since they were notoriously slow breeders.

“I have four half-brothers. Their mother died in childbirth, but my father took for himself a young bride. She was a girl barely more than a child herself. She was pretty, and she was a prize more than anything else. She couldn’t live with him.

She couldn’t stand up to his abrasive personality so she jumped from the turret when I was two,” there was absolutely no inflection in his voice. This total absence of feeling in a man like Dillon was chilling.

“I was a sickly child, not strong like my brothers, not big like them, and the physician said I wouldn’t live long. My father despises weakness, so he sent me away, hopefully, to die,” this time the hardness was more pronounced. His speech pattern bordered on clipped. His pain was like a live thing, beneath his skin.

Dillon was no weakling now. He was a tall man with strong shoulders on a lean frame, and every inch of him was muscle. He was strong, emotionally and physically for a human.

The word driven came to mind at times and yet he could be so... almost serene, sometimes. He was contradictory and more interesting than she would ever have given him credit for... if she was still insulated in her own world.

“You never went back,” Catherine deduced from the set of his shoulders and the way he held himself.

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