Lady Thief Page 61

“Say it,” I snapped.

He laughed. “Who hid you, Marian?”

“Eleanor,” I guessed.

He nodded. “Why?”

“Do you think I know that! Tell me, Gisbourne!”

“Because you’re a bastard,” he told me, pulling my skirts higher.


“I already told you that.”

My head swam, and my knees went soft. Coeur de Leon. “That’s not true.”

“Of course it is.”



“I would have heard of it!” I said. “Everyone would have heard of it!”

“Eleanor’s not that foolish. You would never be allowed to rule, of course, but a bastard princess—that’s still a considerable power. Eleanor knows better than anyone how to wield a child. She uses her own like chess pieces.”

“But he weren’t—he weren’t even king—” I were struggling to breathe right.

Gisbourne chuckled, and he lifted his hips off me to pull my skirt up. It were a tiny bit of space, but it were the moment I needed.

I sucked in a breath and twisted hard, slashing out with the knife.

It hit him in the shoulder, sliding a red ribbon of blood across his collarbone, and he jumped back with a howl. I ran to the door and opened it, angling the knife at him as he came closer. He scowled and stopped.

“Mary,” I snapped. She appeared.

“Fetch the earl. Quick. And I will be needing a new dress for dinner.”

“Y-yes, my lady,” she said, looking between me and my husband. She went.

Gisbourne stayed where he were, looking at the knife. “You call me a fool so often,” I snapped. “But you just gave me your best bit of information. If I mean as much to Eleanor or the king as you say, she won’t never let you force me, Gisbourne. I thought I’d have to run far but all I have to do is go down the hall, isn’t that right?”

“Oh, I’m sure she’d protect you. But if you go to Eleanor, if you aren’t in my bed by morning light, ready to do your willing duty as my wife, I will raze Leaford to the ground with everyone inside it. And that will only be my first action.”

My courage faltered.

“Everything has been stolen from me, Marian, since I was a boy. You are my only chance of having Richard pay me any mind at all, and I won’t let anyone, least of all your mewling pup of an outlaw, take another damn thing from me. Besides, you really think Prince John is finished with you, Marian? With your dashing hero? He will crush you both. He will make you wish you never won this so-called victory. He will have his underhanded, vindictive way, and if you ever forget that, look to your hand.”

He were silent for a moment.

“He will make you pay for this, Marian.”

“My lady?” the earl asked, appearing slightly breathless in the doorway. He looked me over and frowned.

“Your Grace,” I said. “It seems I am in need of your assistance. Would you mind detaining my husband so I may change for dinner?”

He folded his arms. “With pleasure.”

“Just remember, Marian,” Gisbourne told me, sitting in a chair by the fire. “You have till morning.”

Chapter Twenty-Two

The earl insisted on escorting me to dinner. I wore the grandest piece I had—a blue velvet dress sewn with scrolling silver thread over a silvery kirtle so thin it were near sheer. Mary brushed my hair and left the pieces free and loose around my face. It were useless to try and keep them back.

“May I ask what happened?” Winchester whispered to me.

I were shivering. “I was very grateful for your help, your Grace.”

He nodded. “My pleasure. I am assuming, then, that our new sheriff should not know of this?”

“As much as I would like for him to kill my husband, murder doesn’t speak well for a sheriff.”

Winchester nodded. “I’m glad you called for me.”

My hand tightened on his arm at his kindness. “Thank you, your Grace.”

“May I ask what happens in the morning?” he said. “He was clearly threatening you.”

I shivered, and his jaw worked. I couldn’t say the words.

He cleared his throat. “I will post a guard at your chamber, my lady. Whatever he’s threatened you with will not happen tomorrow. Beyond that I cannot make promises, but from what I’ve heard it doesn’t take you long to figure out a plan, does it?”

My chest drew a shaky breath. “No, my lord. It doesn’t. Can your guard see that he doesn’t leave the castle grounds tomorrow?” I asked. I weren’t sure if having the earl’s guard there would be the same as telling Eleanor, but I wouldn’t risk his ire.

The earl gave a sharp nod.

I felt quiet, my heart and head at odds. Had I achieved anything? I had purchased a few hours, perhaps—but I didn’t doubt Gisbourne. If I asked Eleanor to intercede, Leaford and all the innocent people there would burn. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t stay.

And what of Gisbourne’s other words, claiming I were the daughter of the king of England? It couldn’t bare be true. And yet, I were someone’s child, and it didn’t seem I were the Leafords’. It were possible, then, that all of the mysteries I’d seen at court would be answered with this one thing, but it didn’t feel like the truth in my bones.

Then again, nothing much did feel right anymore. In the flimsy shoes and floating dress, walking through Nottingham Castle like I were meant to be there, I didn’t know myself much at all. Rob were sheriff. I were Gisbourne’s wife, and not in a small way, but in a forever way. He’d never let me go, no matter what I threatened. I didn’t much doubt that he never meant to annul the marriage at all, and I were a fool to have ever thought he would.

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