Chapter 22- Competition
Derrick perked up beside him, and Dillon frowned. Slowly over the past week, Derrick’s natural wariness of the unknown turned into something even more concerning, admiration.
Dillon could see how Catherine would appeal to the boy. Derrick had a thing for beautiful women. His charm was legendary and was the cause of them having a few scrapes with angry fathers in the past. In the past, the thought was amusing to Dillon, but it was altogether less charming now.
Catherine was like a singular cut diamond of unprecedented clarity. Polished and perfect, even among those of her own kind. Not that she seemed to notice her packaging much. Her breeding and her natural grace only added to the attraction and made her more unattainable.
To Derrick, bastard son of a mighty lord, Catherine would be like a red flag. It tickled him how the women of gentry found him appealing.
They seemed to be willing to forget his low roots at first glance of his blond good looks and lean muscled body. His appearance made women drool from nine to ninety, but it was his boyish charm they found undeniable.
It never bothered Dillon before. The only man with more success with the ladies was Dillon, not that he spent much time with them. He outgrew his need for conquest, and he was not like Derrick, he could not callously play the game.
Women didn’t want to be his friends when he eventually chose to move on, as they did with Derrick. That was not to say Dillon didn’t have a few friends who were once lovers, but Derrick almost seemed to cast a spell on women.
They would take whatever crumbs he was willing to offer. The fact that he was both valiant and one of the best fighters Dillon knew, did not help matters.
Catherine would be a double challenge to Derrick. She was a woman who was not only his superior in species and breeding but in skill. It would be a coup for him to win her affections.
The only problem, Dillon suspected was Catherine being more like Derrick than Derrick understood. At least in her approach to men.
Suddenly the odd tightness in his chest lightened. She would see Derrick as a boy, a distraction. Women like Catherine did not fall for men who could not equal them.
Inexplicably he felt like smirking. He had a feeling Derrick might be taught a lesson and given a dose of his own medicine.
Catherine was more sensitive than Dillon. She was also a lot wiser than Derrick realized to the ways of men and how they viewed women and Catherine pegged Derrick at his very first glance.
She noticed the way his eyes had lingered on her body and clung to her curves. She spotted the way he glanced at her lips and now that he was more relaxed in her presence, made eye contact often and kept it, this spoke volumes to her.
Catherine wasn’t immune to his physical charms. He was in looks only second to Dillon himself, but Catherine preferred Dillon.
He was more mature and less boyish. Catherine grew up around beautiful people, she was in awe of neither of them. She could hold her own.
Still, Derrick amused her. He had a certain cheek. He was no more than her in his master’s household and the fact that she was a lady, an actual princess among her kind, only intrigued him more. So Derrick took little liberties and the inevitable consequences when he ended up on his butt more often than necessary.
It took a while for him to concede that she was not going to fall for his usual little tricks. Not for his flattery, teasing insults or gibes and Derrick found himself on unfamiliar ground. He was stuck with just having to be himself, around a woman who saw through him.
The amusement in her eyes never really left, nor did the teasing light. Derrick was very near irritating her, which perplexed him. It took a while longer to notice why she wasn’t interested in him.
Derrick’s first instinct was to distract her. He wanted to bring her attention back to him and to wangle her away. Then he saw the light in her eyes, and it was as if something in him came to a standstill.
He finally understood how his face would look, exactly the same way hers did as she stared at Dillon when Derrick looked at her. It was a shock to his system.
Derrick had fallen in love a thousand times before. He’d assured many a woman that he loved them from the bottom of his heart, and he meant it at the time because he did not know any better.
He’d been infatuated a thousand times, but he knew now that he never knew love. There was a difference between the two. Infatuation was skin deep. Love was soul deep, and Catherine could not help what she felt, as he could not help what he felt.
Catherine was distracted enough to allow him to bring the flat of his blade right up against her cheek before she even noticed that Derrick slipped inside her defenses.
Her head turned slowly in his direction as if she was dazed and the compassion in Derrick’s eyes caused an ache in Catherine’s chest. It actually felt a little like dying.
They were exposed, their souls bared and she saw what gave birth to Derrick’s compassion, and it hurt her. Life was very often not fair. Derrick loved her, she loved Dillon and Dillon loved no one.
“When you were a princess he was not in your league. Now you are a slave, and you are not in his. You two can never be together, not the way you deserve.
You’re not even of the same species, and we need him too much. He is the only one who can bring the lords together and save us,” Derrick changed in an instant. He was infinitely more mature, and she wondered if Dillon would notice.
“It doesn’t matter Derrick. He doesn’t feel anything for me, and I understand this better than you do. He saw me, the real me. The one this skin covers and it will always be in his head.
I am his pet. He witnessed the animal. Dillon does not look at me and see the woman,” she brought her sword up, and for the next half hour, Catherine never relented.
Derrick did not want to say it to her, did not want to get her hopes up, but he did not agree. Dillon, despite seeing both the woman and the animal was still more intrigued than he would allow himself to acknowledge.
Catherine was not punishing Derrick. She just illustrating the differences between them, but more to herself than him. For the first time in his life, Derrick actually felt empathy. If she hurt half as much as he suddenly did, then she deserved compassion.
* * *
Dillon did notice how Derrick matured overnight. Derrick was suddenly more driven, more focused. Catherine, on the other hand, was quieter and more reserved than before, and yet they got along much better. Again there was that tightening in his chest, but he ignored it.
“Is there something going on between you and Catherine?” Dillon asked when they were finally alone and Derrick just glanced at him.
“No, not yet,” it was hard to resist the childish urge to state the contrary.
“I will have her. It’s not as if suitors are going to come knocking down the door. I know what she is and I am comfortable with it. We’re both scorned and without family.
I can never marry and neither can she. It’s just a matter of time unless of course, you are interested. Catherine is your property?” Derrick watched Dillon’s jaw square at the mere thought of Catherine sleeping with him that was Derrick.
The word property made Dillon grit his teeth so hard his jaw locked, and the unfamiliar empathy in Derrick tightened like a vice in his chest.
Catherine didn’t know what Dillon himself doesn’t realize yet, he wants her. Dillon wants her for himself, and the only thing that kept him from admitting to it was his place.
He is Lord Dillon Harcourt De Lacy the fifth. He is the only man who has managed to make the lords listen to him, and some of the vampires were listening too.
“I could tell you to leave Catherine alone and that she is not for the likes of us, but you won’t,” Dillon sounded tired when he said those words and Derrick found he was just a little angry. If Dillon would not fight for what he wanted, then he didn’t deserve Catherine.
“Catherine Drake is not some hapless girl, Dillon. She won’t fall for my charms or my looks. When and if she decides to sleep with me, it will be her choice.
Not that she has many options, but she could choose not to and when push comes to shove, she is not human. She does not view life as we do,” Dillon heard the anger beneath the words and the control of that anger was something new to him, he frowned.
“At least be discreet, Catherine has to live here,” before Derrick would have laughed at the rebuke. Instead, his face darkened in anger.
“Catherine may be your property, but she is a lady, not some loose woman who would allow a man to tarnish her reputation. You insult her by thinking she would be indiscreet,” neither of them was aware that Catherine was closer than they thought. She could both see and hear them. Nor did they know that their conversation made her choice for her.
Dillon did not fight for Catherine. She had to close off her heart to him and not allow herself to be hurt and feel betrayed. She had no right to those emotions. He was very frank with her from the start.