Hostage Bride – Part 2

This is the second part of the story I started a couple months ago.  It’s an answer to the genre stretch for last month: low fantasy.

**

It hadn’t taken Richard long to find Erin. The problem was that she was, to him at least, entirely unreachable. He was forced to retreat for the moment. He returned as night was falling with two others: Franz Edelstein and Dietrich Schneider. Erin didn’t particularly care for either of them. However, they were on her side… most of the time.

“Why are we here, Moore?” Edelstein asked. “What’s this to do with Erin’s disappearance?”

Richard scowled at the decrepit old building that served as a prison for Erin. “She’s in there,” he said, glancing over at Edelstein. His brows furrowed. “Adler kidnapped her. You recall Adler, do you not? Wanted for murder? Summoner of demons? The man who assaulted Erin just over a year ago?”

“If you know he has her and that she’s here,” Edelstein asked, his tone one of annoyance, “why haven’t you stormed the place and rescued her? Surely, it’s not an impregnable fortress. Once night has fallen…” he trailed off to wave around at the gathering gloom.

“It’s not so simple as that, sir,” Schneider said, his voice soft. He gave Richard a wry smile. “You can’t enter a house where you haven’t been invited. Is that it?”

“Yes, dammit,” Richard growled. He looked at Edelstein. “If you were to go in ahead of me…” he trailed off with a shrug. When Edelstein frowned at him, he released an exasperated sigh. “Surely you want to capture Adler? Heaven only knows what horrible things he’s doing to Erin as we speak.”

“I do wish to capture him,” Edelstein said, his voice soft. “The question is: if I were to help you gain entry to that house… would you allow him to be captured or would you kill him to protect Erin? Is your revenge more important to you than seeing justice done?”

Richard rolled his eyes. “You need my word that I’ll not kill the lowly piece of scum that’s taken my master hostage, you have it, Edelstein,” he said, his hand tightening on the handle of the parasol he was leaning on.

“Should we trust the word of a vampire?” Schneider asked, arching his brows.

Glaring, Richard said, “I was a gentleman before I was turned, Wolf. I’m not going to lie now that I’m forced to drink blood to survive.”

Edelstein and Schneider frowned at him for a moment longer. Then, Edelstein nodded. “Let’s go,” he said.

A moment later, the three men were sneaking up to the garden at the back of the old house. Schneider grabbed the back door, what had served as a servant entrance back when the house had been inhabited by more than shades of the past. Richard could hear the aged lock protest as Schneider broke it and tugged the door opened.

The two officers slipped inside. Edelstein paused on the threshold and heaved a sigh. “Come in, then, Moore,” he snapped.

Richard heaved a sigh of relief as the injunction against his entry was lifted. He fell into step behind the two lawmen. He shivered as they made their way through the kitchen into the main part of the house. “What is this place, anyway?” he murmured.

“Adler Manor,” Edelstein said in reply, his voice as soft as Richard’s had been. He frowned and glanced over his shoulder at Richard. “Word has it that the place is haunted by some old priest or other. He can only rest in peace when he knows that the family line is secure.”

“That must be why Adler kidnapped Erin,” Richard said, his eyes wide. “He’s the father of her baby. He means to force her to wed him: lay the ghost, by proving that the family line is secure.”

“Surely you don’t believe in ghosts,” Schneider said, his tone one of dismay.

Richard shot the man a glare. “Said the werewolf to the vampire,” he snapped. “Want to give me a good reason why a ghost would be any less believable?”

Whatever Schneider was going to say was cut off by a scream that, while Richard knew in his heart that it was Erin, he could scarcely believe it. “Why would she…” he started.

“Who cares?” Edelstein said, drawing his sidearm and hurrying towards the distressed screams that were still echoing through the house. Schneider didn’t even hesitate before following his superior. Heaving a sigh, Richard joined the other two men.

As they ran up a wide flight of stairs, Richard could make out words in Erin’s terrified cries. She kept repeating the same phrase over and over: “Get away from me! Get him away from me!”

Richard darted between the two lawmen and up a last spiraling staircase to the tower room where Erin was being held. He kicked the door opened and then skidded to a stop. Erin was dressed in a beautiful gown, her hair caught back in a tangled braid.

Adler had her by her wrists and there was a silvery form hovering in front of them. Erin was looking not at Adler as she protested, but at the silvery form. She cut off, her gaze going to Richard. “Richard,” she breathed.

“Erin,” he rasped.

“Let go of the girl, Adler,” Edelstein snapped.

Schneider and Edelstein both leveled their weapons at the mad wizard. “You’re under arrest,” Schneider said, “for assault, kidnapping and murder!”

“Murder?” a shrill cry echoed through the room. Then, there was a wail that made both Schneider and Richard cover their ears. The silvery form flew at Adler. It began circling him. He released Erin, who stumbled and would have fallen, except that Richard caught her and drew her close.

Adler wasn’t so fortunate. He stumbled the other direction with the silvery form still circling him. Before any of them could react, there was the sound of shattering glass and Adler was tumbling out the window. The shrill cries of his holy ancestor followed him as he fell from the tower.

Erin released a shaky breath and looked up at Richard. “What the hell kept you?” she asked, her brows furrowing.

Richard gave a wry laugh. “I can’t enter a human dwelling uninvited, my love,” he breathed. “You know that!”

Silver light filled the room and a man wearing a clerical robe appeared in the center of the room. He frowned at Erin. Then, he bowed and vanished. As darkness settled over the room, Erin gave a weak laugh.

“What, pray tell, is so humorous, Miss Von Brenner?” Edelstein asked, his tone one of annoyance.

Erin scrubbed her hands over her face and took a steadying breath. Then, she shrugged at Edelstein. “I secured the family line,” she said, her voice a bit tremulous. “I laid the ghost.” Richard gave a weak laugh when Erin broke back down into hysterical giggles.

“I think it’s time we got you home, my love,” he said, standing and lifting her with him. “This house… can return to nature for all I care. You wouldn’t care to live here, with or without the ghost.”

“Certainly not,” Erin murmured. She sighed and rested her head on Richard’s chest. “I am glad that I could help the spirit without marrying that toad, though.”

“We’ll deal with the mess here,” Edelstein said, nodding. He gave both of them a weak smile. “Can’t ever do things easily. Can you, Erin?”

“Part of the fun,” Erin said, without lifting her head.

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