Chapter 32 - Understanding
Catherine turned her back on Derrick and made her way into the tent. Her eyes adjusted instantly to the darker interior and focused on the girl tied to the bed. Their eyes met and held.
Dina was much calmer. Her seeing eye was no longer fevered with delirium and overly bright, but clear and intelligent if not quite the same. Catherine quietly sighed with relief. Dina rallied much faster than Catherine thought she would.
The bright eye was a little different, clearer and Catherine guessed that Dina’s sight was improved. She would see a sharper, radiant world with more colors and she might even see in the dark now. A little legacy from the medicine which saved her life.
Vampire ash had many side effects and depending on the strength of the vampire, some of them were permanent. A heightening of the senses perhaps or a sensitivity to the presence of others.
Sometimes even a keener intelligence or heightened reflexes. Vampire strength and speed or some combination of changes, although the effects lessened with the passage of time. It was a well-guarded secret for obvious reasons.
“Hi,” Catherine smiled gently. She tried to reassure Dina as she turned to indicate Derrick with a wave of her hand that was both casual and dismissive. He frowned at Catherine, but the distance between them became a chasm.
“Derrick here thinks I turned you into a vampire. That I bit you,” Catherine informed Dina, who frowned and turned her brown eye on him. There were shards of green there now, which wasn’t there before, but only Catherine could see it.
Dina studied Derrick for a long moment. The blind eye made that look seem eerie as if it saw into some other dimension of him.
It felt like she could see into the future or the next world. Derrick felt uneasy under her intense scrutiny, and it made him suspicious of the woman.
“Althea says Catherine gave me some vampire medicine. It’s not safe for humans, but I was dying, and Catherine saved me. I feel different, but I’m me.
Althea says Catherine said I will be more me in a few days time,” Dina’s frown deepened as she let her eye wander over his face, his body and finally the mud he tracked all over the carpet.
“It’s as if I was blind all of my life. I’ve never noticed how beautiful everything is, almost as if I’ve always been asleep,” Dina said and turned her attention from Derrick to Catherine.
“Some things are worse than death. How do you bear it, always being around us? How do you endure the pain of a hunger that never eases? It almost drove me mad, and it only lasted a few hours?” Dina asked with compassion in her voice and eyes.
The words seemed to bring the room to a standstill, and Catherine found a small pained smile etching itself onto her face.
“I’ve borne it all my life, and you learn to ignore it, mostly. I think I would be lost without it. It has become part and parcel of who I am, but I am purebred.
My hunger eases when I am fed, just like your appetite diminishes when you’ve eaten,” Catherine admitted as she walked over to Dina and sat herself down on her haunches.
She loosened the bonds and Dina rubbed the circulation back into her wrists. There was relief in Dina’s eyes. She did not like being bound, Catherine surmised. It probably brought back bad memories, and it was one thing they had in common.
“Will it all go away? The brightness and the... beauty?” Dina asked quietly, and Catherine relaxed, even as she pitied the girl her limited human life.
They, humans, could see but they were blind. They heard, but they were deaf. They could smell and taste, but the world in all of its glory would always elude them.
Their eyes were level, and Catherine could scent the human in Dina, only now slightly tainted. She doubted herself when she saw the mob. She questioned her judgment, and Catherine could not really be angry at Derrick for jumping to conclusions.
Catherine could be mad at him for believing his own conclusions with such utter conviction. Without any proof.
“It might fade some, or it might go away, I really don’t know. It will remain for a while, and I would cherish this gift while it lasted, if I were you,” Catherine advised, and Dina nodded. A small smile played at the corners of her mouth. She was pleased that it would not be all gone in an instant.
Catherine turned her full and unflinching attention to Derrick. He was more at ease now and yet not all the way relaxed. Although he looked slightly angry, maybe even embarrassed.
“Why don’t you go tell your men that there is no raging newborn vampire in here, sir,” Catherine started to say, but then there was a swish of fabric and a smell that made her heart still, only to restart at a gallop. The flap lifted and fell back into place and Dillon appeared beside Derrick.
In Dillon’s eyes, there was no doubt, no suspicion, and no accusation. Just anger directed at Derrick and the men outside.
Dillon’s eyes held concern as they roamed over Catherine’s face. He barely glanced at Dina. He seemed to need no confirmation and his trust soothed her soul.
“Now Derrick!” Dillon commanded, and Derrick obeyed in an instant. Derrick’s eyes lingered on Catherine, but she ignored him, and he moved off. The message was clear, she was in no mood to deal with him, not yet.
Catherine didn’t ignore him out of spite, although she was utterly disappointed in him. Something else caught her attention and held it as she stared up at the man she missed more deeply than she could explain.
The white hot searing realization hit her that what she felt for Dillon was growing stronger. She had found something even more painful than the hunger she fought all of her life and as pungent.
There was no fighting what Catherine felt for Dillon. She didn’t have to look at him to know every little detail of his person. He was imprinted in her mind like a bright white light.
She should have known better than to try to find an easy way out of this. Catherine knew how the mating bond worked. It would not be set aside or ignored.
Her pain, her hunger, and her yearning would be everlasting, far past the meager span of his life. Cruel was the fate that would make one such as she, fall for a mere human.
“Are you alright Dina?” Dillon asked. Catherine could see how flattered Dina was that he even knew her name, even if she was uneasy in his presence, but what Catherine did not know was that Dina focused on her instead.
Dina’s new senses alerted her to what no human would ever notice and just how hard Catherine tried to hide her reaction to Dillon. Dina, being a commoner, understood all this and how futile their lives were.
“I’m alive my Lord and Catherine says I’ll be better soon,” Dina answered truthfully, and Dillon nodded at her, but his eyes traveled to Catherine almost of their own will.
She was more beautiful every time he saw her, and he couldn’t help being just a little pleased with her being angry at Derrick. Dillon felt like a traitor for wanting their relationship to fail.
He walked over, turned his arm, pulled his dagger and drew it across the skin just hard enough to draw blood. He held the bleeding wound within reach of Dina, knowing full well that if she was a newborn vampire, his actions might just forfeit all of their lives.
Dina shook her head, despite finding the smell oddly pleasing. The thought of taking human blood repulsed her. There was no yearning for blood that remained in her anymore.
“Good girl,” Dillon praised. He had no idea how Catherine feared his test being conducted too early and dreaded its failure, even as she knew she was irrational.
Dillon also had no idea how her muscles tensed involuntarily for action or the knowledge born into Catherine’s consciousness at that moment. Catherine painfully conceded to herself that she would kill Dina with her own bare hands to protect Dillon.
She would kill anybody who tried to harm Dillon. It was a shock to her system. He had the power to bring out the best in her and the worst.
Dillon casually turned his arm, and Catherine stilled inside. Sometimes he could so carelessly torture her and she could not help but wonder if he did it on purpose or not.
She sighed as she firmly took his arm and licked the small wound. It sealed shut instantly, and Catherine hated herself for savoring the taste and smell of him. She knew it would linger in her mouth for days.
A second, reluctant, swirl of her tongue and the scar was almost entirely gone. It would be by morning. She wanted to bite Dillon so badly, her gut ached with her need.
The touch of her tongue shot through Dillon like fire and it took all that he was not to grab her in his arms, carry her to his tent and take her for himself.
It was not hunger that drove the urge in Catherine, it was the need to mark, to own and to mate. Dillon would run away if he knew what went through her mind in that second. The thought of it made Catherine both want to smirk and run away herself.
Althea handed Catherine a wet towel, and Catherine wiped the rest of the blood away from his arm. She fought the urge to lick it up like some shameless needy little whore.
She had felt wickedly pleased as his pulse jumped at the touch of her tongue. Even as she purposefully moved away from him to create some distance to keep herself in check, his heartbeat still raced a little. His scent also altered slightly.
Catherine felt pleased. He was not as unaffected by her as he liked to pretend, but naught could come of their attraction. The sobering thought brought her emotions under control. The longing remained though, stronger than ever.