Chapter 13 - Fools
“No, I had a father. He is dead now these two years. He was more of a man than my own father ever was and my real father would never understand or credit that simple notion.
Gerard was my mother’s brother, more than a decade her elder and my father called him a fool,” this time the hatred, usually kept so well in check, almost surfaced.
“A fool good enough to raise his son?” Catherine asked quietly and his shoulders tensed. For a second she feared she had gone too far, been too familiar with him, but then he forced himself to relax.
“Yes. A fool good enough to raise the son he didn’t want,” this time there was no feeling in his voice, and she could not read him. She wondered if he knew how chilling it was when he became like that.
She understood fully now, why the human lords and the vampires treated this man so carefully. There was something in Dillon which made him dangerous, a determination and a coldness that equaled their own.
“I am sorry my father forced me upon you. I know yours are human lands and my presence would not go unnoticed and may even cause you danger, my lord,” Catherine had no idea of the pride of her carriage, or how every inch of her screamed of breeding and power despite her peasant clothes.
“I hate injustice,” it was the second time he alluded to the same thing, but this time she thought she understood his reasoning.
“I would have preferred a different fate, even if Eduardo banned me to the hunting grounds,” Catherine admitted. He glanced briefly at her, and the touch of mockery was again reflected in his eyes.
“You would rather live like an animal than be the property of a mere human?” Dillon teased, and she hated it when he seemed to laugh at her, but it was the understanding of it all which made her uneasy.
“I was not raised with the notion of being property, my lord,” she bit out. Her face was pale with anger but the emotion was not directed at him.
“Not even of your future husband, when your father found a better purpose for his investment?” The words stung because they had the solid ring of truth to them. It was a truth that was looming ominously close, before her fall from grace.
“I would be the lady of the house, my lord, not a slave,” she found herself rising to his bait far too easily.
“Were you never raised, Catherine, to bend your will to a man? To wash his feet, see to his household and his needs. To bear his children and his opinions?” The question made her aware of just how neatly she stepped into his trap and its truth, he had her caught.
Despite her training at her father’s side, she was thoroughly prepared to be the future lady of a castle. She was made to understand that she was granted her freedom, but one day she would marry. Then she would honor her family, by honoring her traditional role as a woman.
There would be no question of petty human emotions such as love. She always knew she would marry a man of her father’s choice and she would not be viewed as his equal. The difference was glaring and... not.
“You may have no social standing Catherine, but at least your body is your own. I am not some lecherous old man, or a man so abrasive that the only way out would be to take your own life,” the edge was there, and she understood she was being told to count her blessings. It angered her a little, and even so, Dillon was not wrong, this could have been so much worse.
Her father could have given her to Hellenic as he requested and she knew she would rather have found a way to die than live with him... forever...
“Hellenic forced himself on me the night my father had me imprisoned,” she did not know why she told him this, except that he was the only person in the world she could talk to and who would understand.
Dillon brought his horse to an abrupt stop, it forced her to swerve away from him, just to avoid a collision. Their eyes met, the unspoken understanding thing was there again and the anger thing. Injustice. The word hurt her.
“He asked my father to give me to him as a chattel. Eduardo refused,” it was only the second time he saw Catherine vulnerable, and he didn’t like it.
It made him feel cornered, almost angry. He understood what Catherine told him, that she would not have survived Hellenic.
Dillon maneuvered his horse next to hers and then he did something she didn’t expect him to do. He hugged her to him, held her.
He was so warm and human. He smelt so much like food, but his warmth seemed to seep into her soul. Up until that moment, she hadn’t realized just how much she needed the contact, just to be hugged, to be held. Something Catherine could only ever remember her mother doing.
It took a long time for her to relax into his comforting embrace. Only then did he realize she was shaking. It was so subtle, another might never have noticed, but he did.
Dillon made a silent promise to himself, if it was within his power, he would find a way for Hellenic to die.