Blood and War

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Chapter 9 - Spies

Catherine tore the leg off the deer with a meaty suction and a pop of bone that made him grimace. She could have cut it, except she had no knife.

Dillon didn’t think she’d just rip it off. He kept forgetting that she looked human but that she wasn’t.

Without a word, he launched a bone handled skinning knife at her in a gentle arc. She caught it, cut the skin off, and then wrapped it with the cloth he handed her.

Dillon was well organized. Catherine liked and respected him for it. When she finished her little task, she gave the knife back, but he folded her fingers over it, instead.

“Keep it,” Dillon bade, and then he moved off as she mounted her horse behind him. Catherine found him and his behavior strange, even for a human. Another would not have trusted her with a knife, not even this small blade.

How could he have guessed? Stupid as it sounded, after a hundred years of being armed, she felt more naked without her sword than without her clothes. It was only a knife, but it would do.

It gave her some of her dignity back, and she knew it was more than trust he extended to her. If she decided to kill him, she would not need the knife, and he knew that.

Dillon saw no point in depriving her of the tool when its presence or absence, made no difference to her intentions or lack thereof.

Catherine kept toying with the blade. She touched it and fidgeted with it, almost as she did earlier with her ring. He noticed her actions, and Dillon knew he did the right thing.

There was not much he could do for her to ease the pain, humiliation, and loss of this day. Another would see the gesture as trivial, but she did not.

It was an odd thing to admit to, but Dillon found he instinctively knew what she needed because in a way he knew her. Deep down, at the heart of their souls, they were a lot alike.

Catherine was a warrior, she had honor, and she was without family. She was far from her own people or would be soon, and her father cast her away.

All of those things were correct about his own life too. Just like her, he knew pain, humiliation, betrayal, anger, and dishonor. Their differences were just as glaringly obvious as their similarities.

He found himself frowning as the familiar tingling sensation started at the base of his spine. He didn’t glance back the way they came.

Dillon didn’t want the one that followed them to know he had been spotted. Catherine’s horse inched imperceptibly closer to his own.

“We are being followed,” Dillon murmured quietly.

“Yes, master,” Catherine verified. She could see the very moment he became aware of the fact that they were no longer alone.

It was a strange sensation to watch the way the small hairs on his neck stood on end, almost as if he felt a chill and then his back stiffened.

Even though Dillon didn’t glance around, she could tell it was only because he curbed the urge to do so. She’d heard about humans possessing of such a sixth sense, but she’d never actually seen it for herself.

It explained a few things... certain rumors about his extraordinary “luck” in battle and his talent for getting out of unexpectedly sticky situations.

Although she was aware of their shadow for some minutes, she wanted to be certain before she warned him.

“It is a single scout. Human. He’s just keeping track of us,” Catherine murmured.

“Keeping track of us and marking the route for others to follow,” Dillon glanced subtly past her as he spoke.

“I think we need a little break,” he promptly stopped his horse and got off. Catherine frowned at him but followed suit.

“I am going to take a leak. Give the horses a little grain. I’ll be back in a minute,” Dillon walked into woods with a sure, but unhurried stride.

Only as he disappeared out of sight, did his footfalls become quiet. It took Catherine less than a minute to deduce he was steadily and quickly making his way toward their stalker. He chose an angle which would allow him to double back and come up behind the human.

Catherine fed the horses and checked their straps. She kept her movements natural and relaxed. There was a shuffling sound, and then a distinct gurgling sound. Something heavy dropped to the ground and was dragged away.

There were several odd sounds like leaves being raked, and the odor of blood reached her. It took only a moment to determine it was not Dillon’s. She glanced at the woods, and he strode from them while wiping his blade on a rag.

It was a clumsy attempt to send a lone human to follow them. Then again, a human could be disavowed as some lunatic and a vampire could not.

They probably thought Catherine would still be sick. They bargained on her weakness, and that their slow pace would keep Dillon sufficiently occupied so he would not notice.

Only a vampire would be arrogant enough to disregard a man like Dillon and that arrogance just gave away the game. She watched him approach. He was angry and grim-faced.

“You killed him,” Catherine stated, and he glanced at her.

“He left me no choice. There was gold in his pockets though, and he left a trail a blind man could follow. We need to move, and we need to change direction,” Dillon mounted his horse, and she nodded at him as she did the same.

She could almost feel Hellenic breathing down their necks. She was not overly confident that they were going to survive leaving this place. Not now that she had proof Hellenic was going to disobey her father and the council.

Catherine could smell Hellenic’s scent on the coins in Dillon’s pocket. Coins Dillon took from a dead man, who had been following them for hours and left a clear trail for his master.

If the human hadn’t become overconfident, he could have kept following them until nightfall, and they would not have lived to see the sun rise.

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