Scarlet Page 50

I didn’t say—don’t think I could have, him holding my face like that, no words would have come—and his eyes got this dark, cold glint.

“You really haven’t seen what I’m capable of, Scar. He’s the one who should be very much afraid.”

I blinked.

His thumb ran over my scar, and it jangled through me like I were tangled up in rope. “He has a lot to answer for already. If he comes for you, he’s a dead man.”

I felt my mouth hang open but I couldn’t do much about it. I couldn’t do much of anything with him touching me like that. His thumbs kept rubbing, sliding my mind clear away. My cheeks felt hot and red under his fingers, and he smiled, his eyes heavy like the weight of the ocean.

“All right?”

I drove my teeth into my bottom lip, nodding a little.

He let go of my face, but his fingers caught in my hair a bit. “You have nice hair, you know.”

My pipes felt tight and I couldn’t much breathe. “Thanks,” I managed. “Um, you too.”

His hand dropped and he chuckled. “Thanks, Scar.” He moved on.

What in all of Heaven and Hell were that? I screamed. Well, I didn’t scream none, but I wanted to. Why do you put your hands on me like that? You can’t touch me and make my skin squirm when we both know you ain’t in love with me.

The very thought made my anger die like a leaf on a branch, and I followed behind him. It were fair torture when he put his hands on me, and looked at me, and stood with me, but Robin were a lord, and his heart would never turn to a thief.

“Well, maybe they were just in the marketplace,” Much offered.

“Maybe they weren’t watching the jeweler. After all, they grabbed for Scar, not you, Rob.”

“I never got close. She was closer than I was.” Rob shook his head. “I think they were watching the jeweler.”

“He were all shifty,” I said. “He were why I warned you off. The man must have spotted my hood and figured me for the Hood.”

“Then maybe Gisbourne’s man didn’t know you for one of mine after all.”

“Know her?” John’s face ran white. “You mean he’s how you lost your hat? Gisbourne knows you’re a girl now?”

My hair were braided back, but I grabbed at it anyway. I nodded.

“Oh, Christ,” Much moaned.

“It’s not the worst news we’ve ever gotten,” Rob said.

John rubbed his head. “It’s bad.”

“Hey,” Rob said, scowling. “Don’t any of you, including yourself, Scar, forget exactly how deadly Scar is. He comes after her and he’ll have a bit of her mind carved into his hide.”

I smiled.

“And then the rest of us will kill him.”

I grinned at him.

“Regardless, we don’t have time to fret over it.” We all looked to Rob. “Tax day is the day after tomorrow, and we need to fence these jewels immediately. Meanwhile, we can’t leave the cave unprotected.”

“No one knows where it is,” John countered.

“Can’t risk it. Not when we have tax money for almost everyone in Edwinstowe, Worksop, and Nottingham in there.”

“Why haven’t we been parceling it out?” Much asked.

I sighed. “People are poor, Much. They’ll spend it on something else before taxes, and then they’ll be strung up or worse.”

“What’s worse?” John asked.

“Ask the boy at Tuck’s,” I muttered.

“Anyway, we’re going to have to split up even more than usual. Scar, I want you to head to Leicester. John, you go to Derby. Much, you’re going to head up to Lincoln. I’ll stay and protect the treasure we’ve got.”

“We’re heading off alone?” Much asked.

Rob rubbed his head. “No. Can’t endorse that. I’m going to send Mark Tanner with John, Thom Walker with Scar, and, Much, go with Lena. She’ll charm you straight out of trouble if you need it. Better than a strong arm. They aren’t the best choices, but they’re the only ones not killing themselves to bring in harvest.”

“Are they even good with weapons?” I asked. “Lena ain’t.”

“No, they aren’t there to fight. They are there to spot you and keep an extra set of eyes—and run, when needed.”

I crossed my arms. I weren’t fond of Thom Walker. I didn’t trust him in the least bit, but then I didn’t know him neither, and he hadn’t done much to ever earn a trust.

“Look, it’s for one day. We need this done.”

We nodded.

“All right, pair off and let’s practice weapons. Then we’re tucking in early tonight. We all need to be up before the sun.”

John gave me his cloak the next morning, with a big heavy wool hood attached to it. I could fit my shortbow ’cross my back under it with no one the wiser, so I took it. I pushed some twigs into my hair—I used to do it with fine combs, so I knew how to keep it all pinned back, but I wanted a new cap. Maybe I could swipe one in Leicester.

I picked Walker up like some kind of foundling in Edwinstowe, just nodding at him and starting off down the road.

“So,” he tried. “Leicester, right? That’s what the earl said.”

Didn’t say nothing. Didn’t like that people called Rob “the earl” neither.

He chuckled. “You’re the thief, aren’t you? Can’t reckon you lot like the sunshine much.”

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