Sworn Loyalty - A Medieval Romance

Sworn Loyalty - A Medieval Romance by Lisa Shea Read Free Book Online

Book: Sworn Loyalty - A Medieval Romance by Lisa Shea Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lisa Shea
“That bastard has got to be somewhere. We’ll ferret him out, no matter what rat hole he has crawled into.”
    The men looked nervously amongst themselves, and finally a burly man with dark curls spoke up. “But that’s Avoca’s Folly ,” he stated almost in awe. “The place is cursed.”
    “God’s teeth, Bronson are you nothing but a mewling infant?” growled Josiah, dismounting and striding toward the gates. “It is a building of stone and wood, and we will search it.”
    He gave a solid push to the gate. There was a wild, drawn-out shriek, somewhere between the cry of a banshee and the howl of the damned.
    Bronson screamed in panic, the horses reared and bucked, and Josiah jumped back a few paces, fear lighting his eyes.
    The noise stopped, and the men settled the horses. Josiah took in several deep breaths, then stepped forward again, cautiously poking at the door with his sword.
    There was a flurry of motion, and a trio of warthogs streamed through the opening, racing for the safety of the nearby woods.
    Josiah gave a relieved laugh, pushing at the gate with his shoulder, opening it further. He stepped around it, looking at its back side. “Just a warthog nest,” he called out to the others. “Been here a long time, by the looks of it.”
    “See!” replied Bronson, his voice agitated. “Nobody could have gotten in or out. We can mark this place off our list.
    Josiah turned, his eyes bright with fury. “You three get in here now, or I turn you over to Caradoc and explain to him how you shirked your duty to find his brothers’ assassin.”
    The men half looked like they would be willing to face that judgment, but, reluctantly, they dismounted. They drew their swords and came in slowly after Josiah, looking in every direction at once.
    Josiah moved across the dusty courtyard, kicking at a stone with his boot. “Doesn’t look like this ground has been trod in years.”
    Bronson’s movements were tight with fear. “Probably fifteen years,” he muttered. “Since that crazy biddy flung herself out the window and smashed her brains open on this very ground.”
    Erik stiffened, and Mary put her hand out to his arm, feeling the tension that lined each curve. After a long moment he let out a breath, his gaze never leaving the men who crept toward them.
    Josiah looked around the empty courtyard before coming up the three steps to the tower’s main door. He gave it an experimental push. “Locked,” he muttered.
    He took a step back, sheathed his sword, then took a running start at it. The shudder echoed throughout the tower, and a frisson of fear shot through Mary. There were four of them, and if that door gave way …
    Josiah was stepping back, shaking his head. “Could be that rubble is blocking it from the other side,” he mused.
    “Of course it is,” agreed Bronson. “The place has been abandoned for years and years.” He waved his hand at the courtyard. “Clearly nobody has been near this place since that suicide. There’s no way Erik would be in there. Right, Sander?”
    Another man, flaxen haired with hollow eyes, stepped forward. “It was cursed by that unholy act,” he agreed promptly. “Just like your brother Arth-”
    Bronson spun to glare at him, and Sander quickly changed his phrase. “I mean, of course any corner of Lady Cartwright’s land holdings would be the last place Erik would come,” he expanded. “After Erik burned that village to the ground, if he showed his face his own landholders would be the ones to attack him. That new Lady Cartwright and her keep guards wouldn’t even have to stir a finger.”
    A low growl emerged from Erik’s throat, and Mary tightened her grip on his arm. They only had to last a few minutes and the danger would be past.
    Just a few more precious minutes.
    At last Josiah nodded, turning. “You are right, of course,” he conceded. “My guess is that Erik turned tail and fled south, maybe even to get a ship back to France and the Holy Land.

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