Scarlet Page 48

I nodded.

“Will you come down with me?”

“I’ll just stay up here. Hurt my shoulder enough to get up; I’ll let it rest a bit.”

He took my arm. “Christ, I forgot about that. Come on, get on my back. I’ll carry you down.”

It did hurt a fair bit, and with all the waterworks I felt tired and weak. Still, I shook my head. I think I’d rather tumble my way to the ground than scrabble on his back like a monkey—or worse, like some tot of a child.

He frowned but didn’t force it, and he climbed ’longside me down the tree. When we touched ground, John called me to sit by him. I gave Rob a bare glance and went, sitting near John. He passed me some soup and moved closer to do it, putting his arm round me. Part of me squirmed a bit, like it weren’t quite right, but most of me were just glad for a warm arm and warm side and warm soup.

“The soup should go down pretty easy,” John told me soft. I nodded, and he squeezed my hand a bit. “Sorry about the Morgans.”

Taking a sip of the soup, I felt like pushing his arm off, felt like climbing back into the tree and pulling Rob up there with me, staying there and graining into the wood.

I caught Rob looking at us, but soon as I looked up, he went to Much without looking at me again.

Chapter Twelve

The days started drawing on faster. We spent them training and working the road, collecting as much as we could in coin. It were coming in quick enough. During the nights, we hunted the king’s forest and we gave out the meat, but in almost two weeks, six people got nabbed, and we knew it would be worse come tax day.

Gisbourne weren’t killing them, which were good and bad at the same time. Good that they weren’t dead, but bad that they were all in the prison still. I knew he had the castle trussed up like a fortress; even during the day, people couldn’t come and go anymore. If we were going to break them out, it would have to be all at once, and we wanted to wait till hanging day. Or hanging night, I suppose, because hanging morning wouldn’t do anyone much good.

My shoulder healed up; it only hurt if I hit it. Which were good—when my shoulder hurt, it made climbing tough, and these days I found myself up in the trees more. Gisbourne couldn’t go where I went, and it were the only thing made me feel safer.

I swung down from the archway onto the road. The travelers had passed, and John tossed me the large bag of coin he lifted from one of the lords. “Awful heavy, Scar. Good spot.”

Shaking them, I listened to the rattle like soft rain. “Sweetest sound there is.” I tossed it to Much as Rob and I started picking up the jewels and weapons. Rob and I grabbed for the same sword and our eyes crossed looks.

I pulled back, letting him have at it.

John grabbed at one of the swords, pointing it toward me. “Come on, Scar, feel like a fight?” he asked. Then he saw a dagger and we both jumped for it.

His hand nicked it a hair before mine and John lifted it high above his head. “You want this, Scar?” He swung the dagger back and forth.

I jumped for it and he grinned, catching me and holding me off the ground so our noses were level.

I stared straight at him, not afraid of him none. “Not what I were jumping after, John.”

“You sure?” he asked, his eyes fixing on my mouth.

He leaned toward me a tiny bit and I kicked his shins before he might do some fool thing like kiss me.

John dropped me with a groan and I snatched the knife from him, catching Rob’s eyes and seeing the dead scowl on his face.

Even Much were frowning at me, and I turned away, feeling my belly twist. It weren’t fair. Rob wouldn’t never be the sort to get his belly in a twist for me, but if me and John got any bit of friendly, he acted like I were wrenching the band apart.

We had a decent haul on the road that morning, all told, and Rob and I headed to Trent to sell the more expensive bits.

“I think it’s been too long,” I told him.

He looked at me, curious. “What?”

“Too long. Since we were in a tussle or something. Something feels wrong today.”

“Maybe it’s because John isn’t with you.” He smiled, but his teeth looked sharp. “World not right without him?”

I glared. “It ain’t that way. Needn’t be mean about it.”

“That wasn’t mean.”

“Well, don’t tell me you’re just starting in on me.”

His smile got a little soft. “No.”

“Honestly, though. I have an awful sick feeling.”

He looked at me. “About going to Trent? Or selling the jewels?”

I rolled over the two ideas. “Trent, I think.”

He nodded. “We have to be double-sharp, then.”

I smiled. I liked that about Rob. He teased me a bit, he scowled at me more, but he trusted me.

“So what ’bout you?” I asked. I felt my mug heat up for asking the question.

“Me?”

“And girls. Ladies. You don’t . . . I mean, John’s always in love with someone, but you never seem much interested.”

“Is that what you think you are to John? The affair of a moment?”

I kicked a stone. “Weren’t my question.”

“I was like John, before I left. Every girl was a new adventure. But then came the Crusades, and then came this mess, and now I’m a noble without a title.” He shook his head. “To marry a commoner would dishonor my family’s lineage, but I have nothing to offer a noblewoman.”

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