Chapter 24 - Killer
Derrick’s relief at seeing Catherine unhurt was touching. There was a little blood on his face from a scratch and a bruise on his cheek but was unhurt.
“Don’t kill him,” Derrick ordered as Catherine moved in for the kill. She brought the attacker to his knees instead, quickly restraining him from behind.
He was not as much of a challenge as his peers were. What he lacked in skill, he made up for in arrogance and insults. Dillon spoke fluently in some language, and the attacker spat at him.
“Bite him,” Derrick ordered shortly. When Catherine hesitated, Derrick stared her down, and with a shrug, she sank her teeth into the Easterner.
At Derrick’s signal, Catherine stopped. He repeated the same question and got the same answer. She moved without asking.
Finally, the Easterner realized that Derrick was not going to relent and he shouted something harsh which made Derrick turn almost purple with rage.
“Do a little damage this time, the gentleman just offered to rape you,” Derrick grimaced, and Catherine knew he was very near snapping. She had no problem tearing the vein a bit.
The man grasped what Catherine knew all along, he could not be allowed to live. He could not be afforded the chance to escape and endanger all of their lives.
This time his diatribe was much longer and much more venomous. Derrick went white as a sheet. He walked forward until he was close enough to spit in the man’s face. Instead, Derrick hit him so hard, the wind whooshed out of him, and still, the Easterner grinned.
“He says the eastern army is already at our borders. They did not march here as we expected, they arrived as trappers and merchants, one by one, for months.
He said they will rape and pillage their way across our lands, they will leave no man, old or young, alive.
There are many of your kind among them. They have been here for years, waiting,” suddenly Derrick seemed to step back almost as if he was dealt a physical blow.
This time he beat the man almost to a pulp and nothing Catherine said appeared to penetrate the pure rage that finally left him panting as the man sagged.
Catherine broke the intruder’s neck with a sharp twist before she meticulously cut the veins through. The action seemed to jerk Derrick from whatever broke through his defenses. This time the horror was there.
“We don’t want him coming back powerful enough to fight us. He was bitten before, and I can’t take the chance that no venom was placed in his body to ensure it,” she explained.
Derrick was even paler now as he belatedly realized just what he asked her to do and with such violent intent. He seemed less unsettled than Catherine would have expected.
“Now how about you tell me what made you do that?” Catherine asked quietly, and Derrick hesitated long enough for her to doubt if he would answer but then he sighed.
“He said that a Lord named Hellenic sent them here to capture you. They were paid twenty gold pieces to take you to his castle. He told them you would fight. They should ambush you and inject you with a mixture of herbs and poisons, it would slow you down and make you easy to handle.
Hellenic told them he did not care what they did with you on the way as long as you arrived at his doorstep, alive. They were intrigued by having a female vampire as a toy, especially since you are a lady,” Derrick explained through clenched teeth.
Catherine went very still while he spoke and only when the skull of the intruder exploded in her grip, did she seem to snap out of it. She let go of the bloody mess as if she had been burned.
“He will send others,” Catherine’s voice sounded hoarse when she turned her back on him and methodically searched the bodies.
She wiped her hands clean on their clothes. Then washed her bloodied face and hands with water from her pigskin.
Catherine found both the poison and most of the twenty gold coins. They piled the bodies together in a hollow, and Derrick watched as she snapped the necks of every last one of them.
There was some strong emotion going through her and only when Catherine avoided his eyes, did he realize it was fear. She was afraid of Hellenic, and that said more than words.
“Should we burn them?” Derrick asked, and Catherine shook her head as he helped her cover the corpses.
“They’re dead,” Catherine assured him, and Derrick felt shamed. He didn’t say a word as they gathered their gear and his horse before they loaded their dinner.
It would take two days for Dillon to return and they spent most of their time searching the forest. There were no more signs of trappers. It would take a while for Hellenic to suspect his men failed.
That night as Catherine watched Derrick eat, she kept staring out the window. She wondered in how much danger her presence here would put these people? She had learned to care for them. Eventually, she noticed Derrick staring at her.
“You do know this isn’t just about you? Dillon will not allow someone from his household to be taken, not even you. It is Hellenic’s way to draw Dillon out and take care of him before he turns into a problem capable of swinging the tide of this war,” it took Catherine a moment to accept how Derrick had seen to the heart of the matter. She slowly nodded as he finished eating and drank the last of his wine.
Catherine felt cold inside, alone in a way she could not describe. She knew it was not only about Dillon, but it was also about her.
They had unfinished business, Hellenic would see it that way, and she acknowledged to herself that she would not be his toy, she would rather die.
Catherine hadn’t touched her food. Could not force herself to touch the meat, never mind eat it. She was uneasy, unsettled and too horrified at what the future might hold for her and for them. She was also uncomfortably full from the amount of blood she drank earlier.
Derrick seemed to sense her loneliness and her fear. She did not protest when he sat down beside her, nor when he folded her into his embrace.
His hold was both comforting and possessive. It reminded Catherine again of the lion living docilely with the lamb. Except vampires weren’t docile, and the lambs were sometimes wolves in sheep’s clothing.