Chapter 76 - The End
Catherine woke with a sense of disorientation and from the way she felt, she knew she must have slept for more than a few hours.
Dillon moved to his knees beside her bed. He was shaved and dressed in clean clothes. The peace in his eyes and the... love... told her that all was right with his world.
Catherine noticed a ring much like that of Darcon on his right pinky, and she knew that he and Goran belatedly got to have that talk.
“Finally, your father wore a hole into the carpet waiting for you to wake,” Dillon took her hand and squeezed it, before kissing her knuckles.
For a second she pictured Aldrich, but then she remembered, and loss swept through her. He saw her eyes darken and knew her thoughts.
“How long have I been asleep?” Catherine asked, too awake to be groggy.
“Two whole days,” he answered, and she frowned.
“Too much vampire ash,” she groaned, and Dillon smiled, just as her hand bumped against her stomach and she stilled.
“I lost her,” she realized quietly, and a single silver tear streaked down her cheek. Her sorrow was so deep that it tore at his soul.
“Lost what?” Eduardo demanded testily from the door and her gaze nailed to him as the smell of baby hit her.
In his arms, he carried a little girl vampire that was casually sucking on his finger. Catherine had never seen her father hold a baby.
As if sensing her gaze, the baby turned her head, and the most brilliant blue eyes stared right into Catherine’s as if the child knew her.
“You haven’t given me time to explain, she just woke,” Dillon answered with amused tolerance, but she ignored them as her arms automatically reached out for her baby.
She was so tiny, but even as Eduardo strode over to her, the baby detached from his finger and reached for her.
“I hope your mothering instincts are as good as your fighting skills because these little ones need milk and I’m tired of being a dummy,” Drake grouched as he sucked his bleeding finger and her shocked gaze took a moment to alter as she caught onto his words.
Even as the little one automatically nuzzled for her breast, Althea came into the tent, and she carried another little bundle. Although this one was tinier, she was also busily trying to bite.
‘Twins?’ It was hard enough to accept that she gave birth while unconscious, but twins? Her heart bloomed and warmed as she cuddled her babies to her and almost as if it were a competition, they found what they needed almost instantly. Both dad and granddad looked fit to burst. It was the oddest sensation.
“I am still angry at both of you,” Catherine stated coldly, and they nodded almost in unison.
“You cast me away like a stray dog, then you save the man I love? I do not understand the logic?” Catherine demanded, and automatically she comforted her babies as they squirmed, sensing her disquiet.
“Hellenic fooled me. I thought he would be the man that was finally good enough for you. It wasn’t until he raped you in your cell and boasted about it to my dear wife, that I realized that I was fooled.
He was going to have you murdered, so I took the cards out of his hands. I pretended that I was going to execute you and even Aldrich believed me. I knew he wouldn’t let you die.
I thought he would take you with him then. Instead, he did one better. He sent you so far away it gave me a chance to find out what was really going on. I was prepared to live without you, but I wouldn’t lose you, not after the way I lost your mother.
I was so afraid of losing you, that I allowed you to feel that I didn’t care. That I would allow you to die. That I would let your human lover die. Hellenic had an assassin on that battlefield, I tried to save you without letting him know that I knew.
I never wanted Dillon to die and having known your pain, I had to try and give him back to you. I was afraid he would not be the same, that he would be like his... mother, but Goran has good blood, and his will was strong. Plus he had some of your blood in his veins.
“I knew about Priest, even as a child he liked killing things. I knew there was no good in him, but Aldrich tried, until the very end and none of us even suspected him. He fooled us all. He was smarter than anyone ever could have believed, and I should have killed him at birth.
He nearly cost me all I held dear, and in his wake, he left destruction that would take years to repair, but mostly, he did one thing he could not have predicted.
He reminded us of our role in the lives of the people of our land,” Eduardo came forward, and he touched his two grandchildren gently before he kissed Catherine on the top of her head. Something he hadn’t done since she was a tiny child.
Catherine didn’t know if it was normal that her children were born so quickly or if the vampire ash hastened the process. She was only grateful that they were perfect and healthy. She cuddled them instinctively.
“They are asleep. Why don’t we take them for a nap and you and Dillon can finish talking,” Eduardo suggested, and Catherine would have protested, but it was almost amusing to realize that he was dying to hold them again.
“Thank you Father,” Catherine said, and she didn’t have to say anything more. He touched her cheek affectionately, and it felt so odd but right.
Althea winked, and Catherine overrode her sense of possessiveness. He was right, she needed a few moments alone with Dillon. He picked up the babies and handed one to Althea.
Catherine smirked when he made sure that it was not the same baby, he didn’t want to play favorites. It still confounded her mind. Catherine glanced at Dillon.
Their eyes met and held, and it was as if the world stopped existing. Catherine was always aware of Dillon before, but it was as if their souls were touching now. His touch on her hand scorched her with a heat so intense that her hand tingled.
“I love you,” he said gruffly, and the words startled her attention back to his face. She stilled.
“I wanted to tell you before the battle, but I didn’t want it to be like that, and then you died. I knew then, how it felt for you not to have said the words.
To know that you would never have the chance. I died with you,” Dillon sat down on the bed beside her and took both her hands in his. He caught her gaze and her breathing hitched in her chest.
“I love you. I loved you when you were the haughty princess, naked and bleeding, screaming in pain and rage. I loved you when you accepted your fate. I loved you when you fought by my side, even though I was human.
I loved you when were married. My love for you was the last thought in my head as I died and the first when I woke. It kept me alive, kept me fighting,” Dillon let go of her hands and unbuttoned another few buttons on her shirt.
Heat followed his fingers as he pushed the folds aside and traced a silver scar on her chest. It looked almost like a birth mark. The place where she was cut and her mother’s ashes entered her bloodstream.
“We have been twice blessed. We both have lived and died, to live again. We both had two fathers. We have two babies that survived against all the odds, even being born far too soon.
We were made for each other, and we are part of two kingdoms and two realms. He kissed the silver mark lightly and then he touched her face.
“I love you too,” the words spilled out and yet, even as she said them, she knew that he knew. He always knew, and she kissed his palm.
“Now rest, apparently, you have a kingdom to run,” Dillon teased, and Catherine groaned.
“That’s more my father’s department,” she scoffed, and he shook his head with a smile.
“You have no choice, my love. You defeated Priest when no other could. The vote was unanimous. There have been many changes, and now there are even humans on the vampire council.
Times have moved on, and we need to move with them. Stuck in our own ways, we almost allowed a madman to claim our lands,” Dillon held her hand as the sadness colored her eyes. She had lost a brother, and he understood her loss.
They kissed deeply then, and she allowed herself to get lost in his kiss. The world outside their tent stopped existing, and it took a moment for them to realize they were no longer alone.
“No time for smooching, you have forever for that. We have a coronation to plan, and I’m not getting any younger,” Goran grumbled, but for an aging man he looked majestic in his court robes and royal crown. He also looked as pleased as punch.
“Are you sure you’re Goran the great?” She teased, and he drew himself up to his full height and pretended to stare her down.
“You’re not as scary as I thought,” she mulled, and he laughed with such genuine enthusiasm that she could not help smiling. She knew only one human warrior like Goran in her life, and that man was now a vampire.
“You’re not the quite the uppity vampire princess who fancies herself a dab hand at swordplay either, and you are scary. Most of my men would wet themselves if you frowned in their direction,” Goran teased right back, and this time she laughed.
It was the first time she really laughed since either of them met her. Both men found their hearts warming.