Lady Thief Page 40

Much frowned, and I sighed.

“Isn’t nice,” I corrected.

Much smiled.

“I want out of the band,” John said, quiet and serious.

“John,” I said soft, looking to him.

Much looked betrayed and Rob just gaped, rage-filled.

“Bess is carrying my child,” he said, quieter still, glancing ’bout the room to see who heard. “And she has finally agreed to marry me. I have a family now, and I’m not risking that so some other family can eat. It may be selfish, but what the hell are we doing this for if not to protect our own?” He looked at me, just at me, and I knew it hurt him to say it. “I’ll help where I can. I’ll go hunting tonight if you want me to. But I can’t do anything that’s going to get me thrown in prison and leave her alone.”

“It is selfish!” Rob railed. “What do you think will happen to Bess if we can’t feed the people of Nottinghamshire? If we can’t have a sheriff that will care for us?”

“Then I will hunt and feed her myself. And if they come to our door with swords and knives I will kill every one that tries to step over the threshold.” This stare were for Rob now, and Rob looked ready to step up and counter that too.

I stood, going over to John and hugging him tight. “You may be an overprotective lout, John, but if for that and nothing else you’ll make the best father. And husband.” I squeezed tighter with my one good arm.

He hugged me straight off my feet. “Thank you, Scar.”

“When will you marry?”

“Soon,” he said, putting me down. “After the new year.”

“Congratulations,” Much said, shaking John’s hand. “A baby. That’s … that’s … well, I suppose it’s not surprising, given how often you—”

“Much!” I snapped.

Much smiled and nodded. “She’s right, you know. You’ll be a good father.”

We all turned to make room for Rob to come over and give his congratulations, but he were still sitting at the hearth, scowling. He stood. “I won’t congratulate you, John, on deserting us. We’ve been your family for years and you’re abandoning us.”

My heart dropped. “Rob, you don’t mean—”

“I do,” he told me, harsh. He stared at John. “You bedded enough tavern wenches to have gotten one of them with child, and now—”

He didn’t get to finish the thought; John flattened him.

Chapter Fifteen

“You can’t just not talk to me,” Rob said.

We stole across the lower bailey in a quick line; me, then Rob, then Much, then Godfrey. Rob stayed close, his hand grazing against mine as he whispered to me.

I glared at him and slapped his hand away.

Coming round behind the food store, I looked up at the highest bailey, the lights bright in the bit of the residences that I could see. I wondered if this were breaking my deal with Gisbourne.

We came to the window. It needed a jump up and a much longer jump down. “I can make it in,” I said, “but the unlocked way out is a narrow stair to the kitchen. If we want to bring all the food out fast, we’ll need to open up the front. Which is locked.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Much said, nodding to me.

I frowned. “What does that mean, Much?”

He smiled, nodded again, and said, “It’s taken care of.”

Godfrey looked to me. “I don’t understand.”

Much sighed, shaking his head. “Why do you lot get to say things like that and I can’t? All blustery bravado, you are, but no one trusts me to handle anything.”

“We trust you, Much.” Rob’s head tilted a bit. “You just have to explain a little,” he told him.

“You never make Scar explain.” He crossed his arms. “I learned how to open locks.”

I gaped. “You learned that in a book?”

He shrugged. “More from a blacksmith who makes the locks, but yes, you can learn that from a book.”

“Can you teach me?” I asked.

“You’re supposed to be a proper lady,” he told me, turning up his nose. “But after you’re done with that, yes.”

“Well, let’s have at it,” Godfrey said. “Right? Time’s wasting.”

Much nodded, and he went round the front of the store room while we watched. Much pulled two thin, short metal pins from his pocket and set them to the hole in the lock. He held one with his hand and leaned down to catch the other in his mouth. In my eyes, it looked like all he did were jiggle a bit and the whole thing sprang open like he’d set a key to it.

He waved us forward and spat the second stake into his hand with a broad grin.

“Well done, Much,” I praised, clapping his arm.

He beamed.

We ducked inside and shut the doors again, keeping the lock with us just in case a wandering guard passed by.

I settled my free hand on my hip. “We need something to carry the lot of it, don’t we?”

Godfrey went to a sack of flour and could bare heft the thing. “I reckon so,” he said.

A frown came to my face. John could have taken two of the sacks at a time without a worry.

I shook John free from my head. “There should be a cart by the stables. Godfrey, why don’t you help me nick it and we’ll get it over here.”

“I’ll come with you,” Rob volunteered.

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