Blood and War

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Chapter 31 - Disheartened

“Get out of my way. Your presence here is tolerated out of respect for Gunther, but you have no rights here. You don’t belong with us. Now move,” Derrick’s voice carried across the strident background noises of the men.

Hurt flashed briefly in Althea’s eyes, but then her lips set and her eyes chilled. She unmistakably just lost her respect for Derrick and quite frankly so did Catherine. Even Gunther’s expression turned to stone.

Derrick made to grab Althea’s arm to physically remove her from the doorway. Instead, his hand encountered something much stronger and much more immovable. Gunther.

As solid as a rock and twice the size of Derrick. Derrick jabbed his elbow into the man behind him but only succeeded in creating enough space to turn and face his attacker.

Derrick grew still as he recognized Gunther and frowned when the man stared at him with the hard eyes of a stranger. Gunther’s actions gave Catherine the opportunity to shield Althea from the mob of angry faces.

“May I ask what is going on?” Catherine demanded of Derrick. She was very aware that only Gunther’s overlarge presence, added to their knowledge of her strength and skill, kept the men from attacking her. That state of affairs would not last.

Catherine was unaware that her very otherness, her beauty, her haughty anger and her wariness, made the crowd even tenser. Their voices raised and murmurs became shouts of accusation.

She heard their words, and she knew what this was all about, but she wanted Derrick to answer her. She wanted to hear him say it.

Catherine saw the irrational anger, the unbending certainty and the betrayal in his eyes. Her heart chilled even further.

“You created another vampire,” Derrick spat the accusation at her. The betrayal of her trust was as much as Catherine could deal with, but she put it firmly aside.

There was no doubt in his voice and no uncertainty. It was almost as if he waited for this to happen. Without consulting Catherine or taking anything he knew about her into account, Derrick confronted her. There was only betrayal, anger and self-righteous hatred on his face.

Derrick probably thought that by not allowing the mob to attack the tent and dealing with all of this in an outright manner, was a courtesy to her.

He arrogantly thought himself humane. Catherine stared into Derrick’s handsome, disparaging face and she could barely stand to be near him.

The pull of attraction Catherine felt for him, the sense of kinship they shared and the respect she had for Derrick, died in an instant.

“Why would I do that?” Catherine asked calmly. She needed to hear his answer.

Catherine knew it would irrevocably and ultimately sever the link between them, but her words only seemed to heighten the resentment of the men. She felt infinitely sad. She hadn’t expected Derrick to turn on her so completely and with such ease.

“How would I know? Probably so you would have an ally. Someone like you to even out the balance,” Derrick’s words hit Catherine like ice water in the face.

She knew she was done with him. Derrick was not a man like Dillon. His prejudices were not just skin deep, and she would not trust him again.

“I am the only vampire here,” Catherine said the words slowly and with complete certainty.

“Then what do you call the thing in there?” Derrick accused without hesitation. His arm shot past Gunther to indicate the tent, and in response, Gunther made a moody warning sound, much like a growl. Derrick frowned at the man, and his eyes grew colder as he stared at Gunther with suspicion.

“Have you actually been in there?” Catherine asked, distracting Derrick from whatever thoughts about Gunther he harbored. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, and his eyes shifted back to her.

“Have you seen whatever it is?” Catherine asked quietly, and Derrick frowned. It betrayed to her that Derrick went on this crusade without even verifying the facts for himself. Her heart froze, and she gradually became furious.

“Come, Gunther will escort you,” Catherine commanded coldly. She felt the crowd surge, but Gunther gave some low guttural warning. Not even the angriest among the men, moved any further forward as he blocked Catherine from their view.

“Did the vampire bitch get to you too?” An angry voice taunted Gunther from the mob. His eyes moved to the perpetrator like a snake spotting prey.

“I’ll remember to tell your mother that she did a shitty job raising you, Thomas, the next time I’m screwing her,” Gunther’s usual level droll voice, caused a few titters among those watching the crowd, instead of joining in it.

Thomas, one of those kinds of people who could be easily provoked, tried to lunge at Gunther and unexpectedly got detained by a spectator, one of Gunther’s men.

Gunther nodded his approval at Claud and the others who remained on guard as they moved to side with Gunther.

Derrick went pale with anger when he caught onto what happened. His eyes narrowed on Catherine with even more venom.

She tuned out the lewd insults from the rest of the crowd. Instead, Catherine concentrated on Derrick. She sensed he was torn between trusting her and trusting the men he knew far longer. It hurt that he doubted her, but she understood.

Understanding and forgiving? Those were two very different things.

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