Chapter 43- Union
Catherine and Dillon were led to the back room which was neatly closed off. The women and the guests left the main tent, but according to vampire and, oddly, Northern tradition, they were just outside. They surrounded the tent in a circle that would remain unbroken until dawn.
They were suddenly very awkward around each other. Catherine moved to help him remove his armor. She also helped him remove his clothes, and he did the same for her. Neither of them found the words to speak, try as they might.
She helped Dillon out of his armor a thousand times. She filled his bath and helped him scrub the blood from his body. She tended to his wounds and caught him in various stages of undress, but she was never this aware of him.
Usually, she just shut down her emotions around him to keep her sanity intact and try as she might, she could not do that now.
The wall between them was removed and left nowhere to hide. Dillon’s hand touched Catherine’s shoulder as he undid her chemise and she jerked involuntarily. His hand grew still, and she had to close her eyes for a moment to get control of herself.
“I could say we don’t have to do this, but we both know it would be a lie,” his words brought her back from the precipice.
They were both adults, and he was right. There was only one way for this night to have any meaning and any value. The ceremony could only be completed with the joining of their bodies. It didn’t make anything easier, but it cleared her thoughts.
“You may now kiss the bride,” Catherine teased with a small, rough catch to her voice. It evoked in him both pity for her and a raw desire, in a way he could never allow her to guess.
With a small sound that could be a laugh, he drew her to him, and that kiss shook both their worlds.
They were very careful to hide their feelings, and she was careful to keep control of herself.
She didn’t want to inadvertently hurt him, and with him, the possibility was there that she might. Dillon’s touch inflamed her senses in a way she never experienced before and hadn’t thought possible.
Catherine wondered if he had any idea what his touch did to her? If he ever would be able to appreciate how her senses responded to him? He was definitely no novice to the art of lovemaking, she found, and she wasn’t surprised.
Derrick was a child compared to him and Hellenic a brute beyond compare. She roughly pushed the thought of both from her mind.
If she could never truly be his, she decided, then she would take this moment and be content with it, and any other they ever got to share.
This was, in all ways, more than she thought she would have after she left her father’s lands, and her old life, behind.
It was shocking to discover that she was born for this man. She had no idea that it was shocking to him that he had her in his bed and she was his.
He had been so sure their two worlds could never touch. He had so arrogantly thought that a vampire could never be anything more than a cold, untouchable, killing machine. Catherine was all of that and none of that.
She thought he would fall asleep afterward, but he didn’t. He held her until dawn and with such gentleness that she felt safe in his arms. It was a novel experience, despite the incongruousness of it.
Dillon’s blood was sweet in her nose. The taste of his skin lingered in her mouth and yet she did not crave for his blood. It was so strange to be with someone like that and just be.
It was what she wanted all of her life and never really understood. The need to be a part of someone, to belong.
At dawn, Dillon rose and kissed her almost gently. He held her face in both his hands until she met his eyes. Their gazes lingered and held for the longest time. She could not read his thoughts and did not recognize the emotion in them.
“Ready for this?” He asked, and Catherine nodded without hesitation. Ready or not, they were about to be roused.
Catherine helped him dress in his pants, just before the women breezed in to come in and help her dress in her bath robes.
It was Robert’s doing, she guessed. The sheets were stripped down by the women and taken outside. It was done out of tradition and not because there would be any stain on them. Vampires did not put much stock in celibacy.
They were taken to bathe, one at a time. The women cleansed her over and over with the blessed water as per northern rites. This was as strange to them as it was to her.
Then Catherine and Dillon were both dressed in white flowing garments. Their hair covered by shawls and they were brought to kneel.
They were facing south and with the flap of the tent up, they greeted the sun on their knees. Priest blessed their union in a voice held low enough for the men outside not to hear.
The breakfast meal of the bride and groom consisted of sacrament wine, four pieces of unsalted bread and blessed virgin olive oil.
The bread had to be dipped in the oil, then kept in the mouth, before it could be washed down with the wine. It had to be done one piece at a time and one action at a time. All of this happened while they were still kneeling in place.
The last remaining oil was poured over their foreheads and the hair of the bride and groom, as a blessing.
The rest of the wine was passed from guest to guest until the glasses were both drained. The glasses, both expensive cut crystal, were then broken by the last person to drink from them.
They had to be destroyed by stomping on them inside a leather bag, and the pieces would be tossed into the first body of water the newlyweds passed on their way to their honeymoon.
The men outside were very nervous and very near violence when Dillon and Catherine finally came outside in their regular clothes.
Derrick arrived during the night, unable to find a priest. He missed the ceremony, and although Dillon spoke to him and explained at some point, he looked almost sullen.
Dillon calmed his men and told them that the Northmen were from a place where he lived as a boy.
He told them that he and Catherine would be going with the Northmen to meet with their leader and that Derrick was in charge until he returned.
Dillon also told them that he would know more about the Eastern situation when they returned. The men were not happy. Finally, Derrick was forced to stop sulking and take charge of the camp.
“Lord Dillon has spoken. Any man not happy about this can take it up with him personally, upon his return,” the comment caused complete silence, and Robert’s disdain was all but obvious.