by Tiffany Dominguez
Veronica plunged over the side of the air frigate with the sound of steel striking steel behind her. Her gloved hands slipped on the rope while she descended as quickly as she could. Just before she hit the ground, a wave of heat blasted her face, making her shut her eyes until it passed. The metal sign above the first story of the burning workhouse teetered and fell with a loud clang directly in front of her. She leapt aside and over to the group of people standing a safe distance from the flames.
Her heart lifted to see that most of the crowd consisted of the orphans from the workhouse. Soot darkened their faces and hair as they huddled close together.
Mistress Phillips ran to her with a distressed cry.
“We’ve accounted for all but little Agnes and Claire!”
Veronica seized the teacher’s arm. “Where were they last seen?”
“T … their bedrooms.”
The fourth floor! She dashed toward the entrance of the workhouse at a dead run. Two men blocked the entrance but she reached for her ray gun and shot them. They fell to the ground, stunned. She barreled through the flames surrounding the door frame.
The metal stairs, the only way up to the next floor, glowed red. She braced herself and sprinted upward. A beam splintered at the top and crashed to the floor in front of her. She rolled to the side. When she looked up, she was staring into two black eyes, wide and livid. Emil Marcovic, the wanted airship pirate, held Claire’s hand while carrying Agnes in the other arm.
“Veronica! Are you harmed?”
“N…no. How did you--?” He must have dropped in from the skies. But why would he risk capture in downtown London?
“I’m sorry, Lady Veronica! I had to get my necklace!” Agnes held out a palm containing the silver angel pendant Veronica had given her last week.
Veronica sat up and wrapped her arms around the child. “Oh, dear girl. I’m so glad you’re okay.”
Emil pulled them all to the top of the staircase. One of his burly men waited at the bottom, arms outstretched. Emil hung Agnes down and then released her. His man caught the child and handed her to another, who then whisked her outside. Emil repeated the process with Claire.
He then jumped down to the lobby, landing easily on his feet, and held out his arms.
She looked down into his familiar eyes and stepped off the edge. She wasn’t sure how but she landed perfectly in his arms. He held her close, smelling of ashes and smoke, and ran through the door.
When they reached a safe distance from the workhouse he set her down.
“Are you hurt, srce?” He cupped her face.
“No,” she whispered. He’d done it for her.
She reached up and kissed him. She sensed his smile as he pulled her close, reached into her cloak and tossed aside her ray gun. She wanted to object but promptly lost track of thought.
Copyright Tiffany Dominguez