Lion Heart Page 78

He grabbed my hair, pulling me close. “You tricked me, you little bitch! And you will watch your outlaw husband die.”

My blood froze, staring into Prince John’s wild, stricken eyes.

“My lord Prince,” Suffolk called, scowling.

Prince John let me go, pushing me back against the wooden rail. I looked down the twenty or more feet to the ground, but guards clapped their hands on me, holding me still.

“Yes, Suffolk,” Prince John said.

“It seems to me this situation has been a grave misunderstanding. Huntingdon is one of us; he has fought in the Crusades and he has acted time and time again in the best interest of this country. Forgive this misunderstanding and let Huntingdon go,” Suffolk ordered. “Such aggression against him would be an affront to the peerage, and one my honor—and that of my fellows here assembled—could not withstand.”

“Not withstand?” Prince John roared. “Essex! You stand here? You agree with him?”

“Yes,” Essex snapped back. “Indeed, it was your wife that inspired such passion for his plight,” Essex growled, his face a snarl.

Prince John drew a deep, angry breath and blew it out in a way that made him look like a bull waiting to unleash his rage.

“Fine,” he said. “A misunderstanding. Lady Huntingdon,” he said, turning to me. “If you are no traitor, if your husband is not either, tell me where the money that you stole from the treasury is. Tell me where Richard’s ransom is, and I will let you go.”

“It’s safe,” I said.

“It is not!” he cried. “You tricked my knights!”

“If your knights could be tricked, perhaps the ransom wasn’t safe,” Essex said. “And Lady Huntingdon would never endanger her own father.”

“But I would endanger my brother?!” Prince John screamed. “Tell me where it is or I will kill Huntingdon!”

“I will tell the queen mother,” I said. “And only her. She’s the one gathering the ransom. She can decide how to protect it.”

“That’s reasonable, my prince!” Suffolk called. This were echoed by several others.

Prince John’s jaw tightened and bunched with muscle. “Very well. You want my forgiveness, Marian? Tell me what you have learned from this episode. Tell me what your treasonous ways have taught you. Tell me why I should forgive you.”

I looked out over the nobles and common folk, and I looked at Rob. I understood what he wanted. He were humiliated, standing here, forced to surrender to his peers. He wanted me to bend my knee to his pride.

I looked to Rob. Our eyes met across the castle yard, and even in such distance it felt like a punch to my stomach.

My pride weren’t nothing compared to Rob. Compared to life, and the love we would have together.

“I’ve learned how generous you are, my prince,” I told him, loud and clear, bowing my head like a proper supplicant. “I’ve learned of your power and patriotism. I’ve learned you will do anything to protect your family and England.”

The nobles nodded to this, satisfied.

Prince John nodded too. He stepped closer, taking my chin and looking into my eyes. I strained and twisted against my bonds, but guards just held me still.

“No,” he said. “No. The lesson that you were meant to learn is that you are a lowly, bastard thief. You’re trash. I am a prince. I am next to God, and like Him, I can grant life, and I can take it away.”

“John!” Eleanor yelled.

I saw metal flash as the earls drew their swords.

My blood ran still as Prince John turned his head to the tree.

Helpless, I followed his gaze, staring at Rob.

“Execute him,” Prince John ordered.

“Rob!” I screamed.

The guard closest to the horse drew his sword and hit it against the rump of the horse.

The horse started, and Rob’s face paled and turned away from me.

The horse took two steps, breaking into a run, and I heard a sharp snap of the rope pulling taut as Rob’s body flew off and fell straight for the ground.

I leapt.

Chapter 33

I hit the rail of the stair and it made me twist, spinning fast and hard to the ground, my arms still lashed behind me. I met the ground hard, and I felt pain crack through me like a whip.

People had broken through the knights. They were fighting, everywhere, and my vision were still spinning as I tried to stand and fell.

Someone touched my arm and I cried out.

“Hush,” Essex said. “Be still.”

I felt the pain in my wrists ease as the rope slid off.

“My lady, you broke your arm—” Essex tried, but I just stood and ran.

Everything around me were moving, writhing, flashing, and twisting, but I knew nothing of it. With one arm, I shoved and twisted, doing whatever I had to so I could push past them. It weren’t a hundred paces to where Rob were, and it took hours to get there. Days. A year, at least.

Someone’s elbow caught me in my face, and I stumbled back.

My feet slipped once beneath me but I pushed up, driving forward harder, with more purpose.

Fighting. Fighting to get to him.

The crowd of knights and fighting broke, and walking into the open space felt like falling off a cliff. My heart were falling free, and I ran toward the dark shade of the tree.

Someone had cut Rob’s body down and laid him on the ground, a pocket of men protecting him from everyone else. I could see his boots from between their bodies, not moving.

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