Blood and War

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Chapter 67 - Truth

Catherine sensed him even before she entered her tent. He sat staring at the facets of a crystal goblet as he swirled the wine and she felt her heart ache.

Why did he have to have so much of Dillon in him? She could barely look at Goran and to look at Darcon was even worse. It was a cruel trick of fate that fired the pain in her heart into an inferno.

His gaze slowly turned to her, and for a second it was as if he had to physically force himself to come back from some faraway place.

“Did you know I met your mother once?” Goran asked quietly. His eyes watched her now with curiosity and reserve.

Catherine reigned in her anger carefully. She sensed that Goran wished to speak and yes, she had questions. Questions she meant to ask of Dillon, yet never found the chance and now never would.

“No, I didn’t even know you knew Aldrich or the Drake,” she admitted.

His eyes never strayed from her face and she knew that he noted the hesitation before Drake, knew that in her heart, she still could not help but call him father.

Goran held out a glass to her and even as she took it, she recognized it as one of the wines that her father cultivated. She sat down across from him.

Catherine would have loved to take off her boots, put on something more comfortable and just rest, but for this, she would suffer a little longer. She returned his scrutiny, and a small smile touched his lips.

“Drake is a fool. You’re worth ten of that spineless mongrel he has adopted and that woman... Your mother would have sorted her out in less than ten seconds.

Elizabeth was like you, not a woman fooled by the lovely exterior of a rotten apple,” something in the way his glance softened as it touched her, warned her that Goran knew more than he should, that he knew it all.

The only way he could know that was from Aldrich. She just barely prevented herself from frowning.

Why was this man not the way that Dillon believed him to be? Was he such a good actor? She looked into those familiar eyes, and she knew one thing for certain, Goran was not Drake. He did not play games.

His acts of revenge and political moves would be straight forward and unadorned, just like his strategies and his dealings with people.

“Dillon said that you raped his mother,” Catherine threw the gauntlet down, and his face became an odd mix of anger and hurt. A grimace touched the elegant lines of Goran’ lips, but his eyes were dark with pain and hatred.

“Dillon’s mother...” He stopped himself just short of snorting. He struggled to gain control over himself for a second.

He absentmindedly drained the glass of wine, before he carefully replaced it on the table as if he were afraid to shatter it in his grip.

“I conquered Lionel’s lands, not because it suited me, but because he organized an uprising against me with lies...” Even after all these years, his dislike of the man was easy to see.

“His son, Thomas, was... a spoiled spineless twerp, but the sister was all feigned innocence and charm... I was forewarned that Lionel’s sudden political ambitions were not quite his own.

I never suspected that a woman, nay, I saw her as a child, although she must have been nearer twenty than not, would be behind it all.

My men and I had come far, fought hard and it was enough. Lionel wasn’t a man for battle, and when push came to shove, he couldn’t surrender fast enough...” the smile never reached his eyes.

“We locked him in his own dungeon for the night, and it was all the lesson he needed. I have never seen a man more afraid of the dark than him.

I told him that he may keep his position if he gave me the names of all the others,” Goran reached out to pour himself more wine, but Catherine shook her head and served him. His eyes were vague now, locked in memory.

“That night, I awoke... let’s just say I took a wench to my bed and the second this woman touched me, I knew it was not Carry. She never stayed... Knew her place,” his eyes shifted to her face to gauge her reaction to that, but she just watched him.

Catherine grew up around that mentality, and she would not allow him to read her. Her carefully blank face amused him, just barely.

“It was not the touch of an untried woman...” His teeth gritted at the memory, and she felt surprised at the depth of his need for her to believe him.

Catherine could see it in his eyes. For the first time she understood that Goran, the mighty king of the North, was trapped in a situation he could not control and crucified on the word of a woman...

“She knew what she was doing, and she was no innocent. She straddled me before I could get my sleep drunk, wine hazed brain to function and the next moment the door slammed open. She started screaming and crying...” His jaws worked in anger, his fist clenched, and his body was tight with rage.

Catherine believed him, his reactions were too honest to be faked and what would be the point in lying to her? Her opinion of him did not matter in any of this and did not change anything.

“She was still... on top?” Catherine asked with mirth. He blinked and stared at her.

“Yes,” Goran could see it in her eyes as she gave him what no other had given him, she believed him. He blushed. The great Goran actually blushed, and her amusement puzzled him.

“You were not holding her?” She clarified, and Goran shook his head.

“If her mother were alive, she would have gotten a spanking and found herself posted to the nearest cloister. Father’s are not that objective,” Catherine grinned at his chagrin and his fist unclenched slowly.

Goran now understood her amusement, but there was sympathy in her eyes and understanding too. He liked her from the first moment he saw her, and he grew to like her more each time their paths crossed.

“Unfortunately her chambermaid claimed that her mistress was dragged from her bed and forced to my room, by me,” he admitted, and Catherine could almost pity him, how do you tell your son something like that?

Catherine was also a little pissed. Darren’s mother was a little ambitious, lying whore and that would be an even worse thing to tell a boy about his mother.

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