Romancing the Headless Horseman (A Halloween Mini Story by Anna)
Romancing the Headless Horseman
A Halloween Mini Story
October 31, 2015
This story is copyrighted by the author and may not be reproduced without the author’s express permission. But ask me, I’m nice. I’ll probably say yes.
Unlike some of my stories, this one is rated PG-13. Fair warning, though: If headless bodies scare you silly, you may want to skip to the end.
Outta the car, bitch,” the gaunt, sweating man snarled. He seized my arm in an iron grip and yanked me out the open door, then lodged a knife at my throat. My heart pounded, adrenaline sharpening every sense. The fog around us glittered with ice, our breaths freezing in the air. His stubble rasped across my cheek. “Don’t make me cut ya.”
“Take the car.”
He licked my cheek. “Maybe I have some fun first.”
A black horse erupted out of the fog. The stallion reared high, its head shielding its rider’s face. A long black cloak whipped around the man as he raised one muscular arm to wield a gleaming sword. Lightning slashed in the sky. I winced at the blinding flashes. Goose bumps prickled my skin and every hair on my body lifted.
A woman’s voice reverberated in my ears. Heed the ancient call, sorceress.
The rider jabbed his sword’s tip at my carjacker. Golden energy swirled around the horseman in a halo and crackled over my skin. The cloaked man’s voice boomed. “Release her.”
My carjacker screamed. He thrust me away and bolted down the street to vanish into the fog. I couldn’t move. My pulse thundered, my eardrums throbbing. I struggled to catch my breath.
The horse’s front hooves clapped down onto the cobblestone street in the instant my car’s engine choked and died. I tilted my head back, unable to stop myself, and gazed up at the man who’d rescued me. I gasped, stumbled backward, tripped. No, no, no, I had to be hallucinating. My foot snagged on a crack in the roadway and I tumbled to the ground. My butt hit first. Pain ricocheted through my tailbone.
In one fluid movement, the Headless Horseman stepped down off his mount and sheathed his sword at his hip. Where his head should’ve been, his cape covered the flat stump of his neck. He surged to me, offering his gloved hand. My chest heaved. Black dots infringed on my vision.
He sighed, kneeling before me. “Take a breath. The shock will wear off if you keep breathing.”
A German accent colored his words. Somehow, amid the panic of the moment, my brain managed to churn out one fact. In Washington Irving’s story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman was the ghost of a Hessian soldier—an enemy of the Americans during the Revolutionary War. And here I was, an American girl living in an American town that just happened to be called Sleepy Hollow.
He leaned forward, his chest level with my eyes. His white shirt, with the top three buttons undone, revealed a patch of smooth, muscular flesh. The scent of leather teased my senses. He brushed a lock of hair from my eyes. “I will not harm you. My name is Gunter. What is yours?”
“Kylie.” I shifted position, my hands flat on the frosted cobblestone. “Aren’t you a Hessian bent on revenge?”
He bent and lifted a hand as if to cradle his forehead, then seemed to remember himself. He peeled off his gloves, exposing strong, callused hands. “I was never a Hessian, liebchen. I fought for the Patriots, until the Red Coats enlisted a witch to curse me. My regiment had won several battles and I’d become a nuisance to them. The witch captured me, her Red Coat lover cut off my head, and she cursed me to haunt the site of my last battle for eternity, to frighten away the Americans.”
Oooh-kay. I was dreaming or insane, for sure.
He slipped his arms under mine and hoisted me off the ground. “Please, Kylie, you must help me. I’ve searched for centuries to find the one sorceress who could free me from this curse.” He grazed the backs of his fingers over my cheek. “You are the one.”
Damn, he had a sexy voice. A chill raced over my skin. I was attracted to a decapitated phantom. “Is that why you saved me? Because you think I’m your—” Can’t believe I’m saying this. “—sorceress?”
“No. I chased away your attacker first, then the lightning told me you were the one.” He clasped my hand to his chest, right over his heart. It thumped under my palm. “Feel my heartbeat. I am real, and I need you.”
“To do what?” Heed the ancient call, the disembodied woman murmured to me, and empower your love.
“I don’t know.” His shoulders sagged. “I assumed you would. You must be descended from the Sorceress of Xanten.”
The ancient call. The lightning. The golden energy around him. Was I seriously considering this might be real and I might be the only person alive capable of breaking Gunter’s curse? Aw hell, why not? My night couldn’t get much worse, or much weirder.
I shut my eyes, letting go of everything on a whooshing breath. The noises of the night—Gunter’s breathing, my hammering heart, the horse’s snuffling and pawing—all of it faded into a silence as deep as that of an ancient burial chamber. Energy rolled over me, through me, penetrating down to the very core of my being. I flung my hands out, sightless, finding Gunter’s hard chest. His warmth merged with the electric power coursing through me, feeding it, drawing on it, fusing us together on a molecular and magical level. My eyes sprang open.
A bulge formed under Gunter’s cape, where it covered his neck. The fabric parted around a crown of chestnut-brown hair. His head emerged, his face contorted in agony. Then, his features relaxed and a smile split across his beautiful face, glittering in his blue eyes. “You’ve done it. I am…whole.”
The wonder in his voice infused his expression. He dragged me into his arms, claiming my mouth in a sweet, powerful kiss rife with a magic all its own. When we broke away from each other, I wrapped my arms around his neck. “I just saved your ass, Horseman. You ought to at least buy me dinner.”
He retrieved from his pocket five shiny gold coins. “My pleasure, liebchen.”
Image by John Quidor [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.