CONTAINS ADULT CONTENT
The sound was not difficult to discern. Probably it was some neighboring peasants who had tipped back too much ale. Now they were wandering about in search of trouble…but they would find more than they had bargained for, if he had anything to do with it.
If there had been a weapon at hand, Guy might have killed Robert DeWarren.
It took every bit of discipline he had not to act on his murderous impulse. His body was so at mutiny with his mind that when he sank into the chair, he had to turn his face away from the both of them. Especially from Cassia.
Closing his eyes, he tried to clear his mind. But he could not forget the way her soft body molded perfectly to his, or the taste of her kiss…sweeter than honey mead, with her little tongue moving against his so eagerly. She had responded with such fervor, and if it hadn’t been for her damned father, he was certain they would have enjoyed each other properly.
“My lord Gisborne, I would like a moment alone with my daughter.”
The sound of Robert’s voice startled him slightly, shaking him from his thoughts for a moment…and it angered him. His response was low and cross.
“Have your blasted moment then, DeWarren. But do so outside if you wish for privacy. I am quite unwilling to leave the comfort of this chair.”
Discomfort was a more fitting word. Having had his lustful wishes unfulfilled, it would take some time to calm himself. But when he saw Robert leading Cassia out, his curiosity was instantly stirred. He was no simpleton. They were going out there to discuss him.
Despite the pain overtaking him, in his foot and everywhere in between, he pulled himself from the chair to hobble towards the door. Every step was torture, but he gritted his teeth, reminding himself that he had endured more agony than this before. He’d had enough of being lamed as it was. But at the moment, that thought was a small one. He was more occupied with discovering what DeWarren was up to. Leaning against the doorframe, he listened to their low-spoken conversation.
“What goes on between you and lord Gisborne?”
Her eyes widened a little. Not wanting to lie, but not wanting to upset him further, she shook her head slightly. “Nothing, Father.”
He narrowed his gaze, scrutinizing the expression she wore. “Do not lie to me, Cassia. I have seen the burning in your face. It is still there. Did he accost you in some way?”
She shook her head, insistent. “Nothing happened.”
There was a long moment, and Cassia watched her father’s expression, which was quickly set with a light of finality. Clearly, he had come to some sort of decision, and she feared now to hear what he would say.
“He can no longer remain here. You are in peril so long as we house him. And he is well enough now to return to Nottingham.”
She wagged her head again, only now it was with alarm. Despite every good reason there was to be rid of Guy of Gisborne, the thought that he would actually be gone was crushing. No matter what he had done, or what he would do, she found herself pained by the idea of losing him. She fought for a credible reason that he should stay.
“He cannot go, Father. His ankle is not yet healed.”
But Robert shook his head in denial.
“It matters not,” he insisted. “Gisborne is a threat, and I will tolerate his presence not one moment longer.”
“We will not discuss it!”
Dropping her eyes to the ground, she felt the burn of tears. She knew why he wished Guy away, and she could not find it in her heart to think ill of him for it. As much as she loved Gisborne, she loved her Father even more. When his voice became soft and kind, tears spilled down her cheeks. He reached out with a gentle hand to grasp her shoulder.
“I lost your dear mother in childbed, and your younger brother with her. I lost your brother Stephen to the pilgrimage. I will not lose my only daughter as well.”
With a lump in her throat, she could hardly speak, except to whisper a few short words. “What will you do about him?”
“When you take him his supper tonight, I will apply something to his wine to induce a sleeping spell. Once he is asleep, we shall transport him to Nottingham under the cover of darkness.”
Deception, Cassia thought. A deep sense of guilt came over her. Had Guy not been deceived enough? It tormented her to imagine what he would think of her if she took part in this dishonesty. Daring to truly defy her father for the first time, she shook her head.
“I cannot do that to him. I will not do it.”
“You will do as I tell you, Cassia.”
She shook her head again, her eyes lowered. “I am sorry father, but I will not carry such a weight on my conscience.”
He looked at her for a moment , his expression dark.
“Then I shall act alone. We will be rid of Guy of Gisborne, and such is a fact you must come to accept, daughter. It is for the best. Now go and see to your duties. I will see to mine. It will be dark soon.”
She did not raise her head as he left her. It was several long minutes more before she turned to go back inside. And when she did, she did not at first see Guy as he stood in a shadowed corner. It wasn’t until he spoke from the darkness that she realized he was there.
“So your father thinks to be rid of me, and by means of poisoning?
She spun around quickly, startled by the broken quiet of the room. But taking a calming breath, she turned away from him to return to her bread making.
“Tis’ not poisoning. He merely intended to lull you into a stupor. And you had no right to listen to our conversation.”
“I had no right to learn of a plot against me?”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Guy of Gisborne. What would you have us do? You know as well as I that you have no further need of us.”
His steps grew slowly closer…and his voice changed. It became soft. Too soft for her liking.
“What we need and what we want are two different things, are they not?”
He paused, and she could feel his eyes upon her. He was just a few steps away, so close she could almost feel him. Breathing deep, she tried her best to be calm, even under the heated scrutiny of his gaze.
“What we want is of little concern in this life. Now please leave me. I have to finish my work.”
Even as she spoke, she knew he would not go. A moment later she felt him moving again, drawing close to her side. She could feel his warmth, just as before. Her heart trembled as she felt him beside her, his eyes looking down on her. He was so close she could hear his breathing. And yet she refused to look at him, knowing that if she met his eyes, she would lose herself to him all over again. She turned away from him, even as he lowered his head to murmur a question close to her ear.
“Have you considered my offer?”
She moved a small step away, seeking distance from him, squaring her shoulders firmly. “There is nothing to consider.” Even as she declared her words, she felt his hand reaching out to twirl a lock of her hair around his finger. He continued to speak in that low, velvet tone.
“You could profit quite handsomely if you were mine. Fine clothing, jewels. Maids and valets to see to your needs. You would not need to serve anyone.”
“Except you?” Now she turned to face him, unable to help herself.
He smirked. “Judging from what occurred just a short while ago, I do not believe you would mind it.”
I would not mind it, she thought. I would give anything to be with you. I want to be with you…Oh Lord, how much!
She wanted to tell him so. She was but a moment from throwing herself into his arms, pleading with him to kiss her as he had before, to press his strong and solid body against hers once again…and only one thought kept her from seeking his arms.
“I cannot abandon my father. I will not abandon him.”
His response was a careless shrug. “Perhaps I can find him a position as a servant in my household.”
She eyed him with a cynical expression.
“You would make him a servant, and let him suffer utter humiliation? Do you not think your other servants would talk about him, whispering that his daughter lies with the master of the house?” She shook her head stubbornly. “I will not dishonor him in that way.”
He let out an angry breath, the sound almost a growl. He reached out to take her by both arms, holding her firmly, pulling her tight against his body.
“Your willfulness is infuriating. And you should consider yourself fortunate. If I was inclined to force you to my will, you would not have the power to stop me.”
Bringing her gaze up, she looked directly into his fierce eyes…and behind that angry light shining there, she could see something else.
He is not capable of violence against me.
In her heart, she knew it was the truth. And yet, she knew he was not yet able to admit such a vulnerability. His pride kept him from it. And in handling him, a touch of defiance was still needed.
“If you force yourself on me, you will not find the conquest you seek. To take me that way is to have only my physical being. My heart and soul are mine to give or keep as I choose.”
A long moment passed, rife with tension. Then she felt his grip loosen. He released her, and slowly he turned away, silently moving to the chair in the corner. For several moments she watched him, wondering if he would look at her or say something. But he was still and silent. So she turned back to her bread making…until a faint noise from outside caught her ear.
“Did you hear that?”
He gave no answer. Turning towards the door, she strained her ears to listen, and a sudden fear gripped her when she realized there were several voices coming from outside…and they did not sound friendly.
“Bandits,” she said, more to herself than anyone else. But Guy must have caught what she said, for he rose from his seat and came near.
“Bandits?” he said, looking skeptical. “What would thieves find here to steal?”
“Whatever they please,” she answered. “Our chickens, our geese, our milking goats. Anything that might fetch even a small price.” She snatched up a heavy iron skillet from the table. “I must go out there and stop them.”
He reached out and gripped her arm. “Are you out of your mind? Do you think a woman with a cooking pan is any match for determined criminals?”
“My father is out there and I will not let him come to harm!”
For a few moments he just looked at her, saying nothing. And then he pulled her back, away from the door. A determined look was in his eyes, and she watched as he disappeared into the sick room for a moment. When he came back, her eye moved to his hand…which held the handle of a long, shining dagger.
“Stay here. Do not come outside, do you understand?”
Thinking only of her father, she ignored his demand instantly and stepped forward to follow him…until he pushed her against the wall and held her there.
“DO AS I SAY!”
His demand was so fierce, so powerful, that she was stunned into silence. She could only nod slightly, watching as he went out the door.
The sound was not difficult to discern. Probably it was some neighboring peasants who had tipped back too much ale. Now they were wandering about in search of trouble…but they would find more than they had bargained for, if he had anything to do with it.
Criminal scum. Time served in the dungeons is too kind. A knife to the throat or the gullet would serve them better.
But as he approached, he saw it wasn’t peasants at all. It was three Nottingham guards…and if there was anything more useless than the poor, it was Briwere’s men. At least peasants could be put to work. What were the guards, other than to be expendable. And right then, the worthless fools were ransacking Robert DeWarren’s animal pen. One guard was forcing chickens into a burlap sack, while another held Robert back to keep him from struggling…and the third guard was leading a horse out of the barn.
His horse. He heard their drunken glee at finding such a prize.
“Well, mates! Look here at what I found! He will fetch a proper price, won’t he?”
The man holding Robert twisted the old man’s arm tighter, chuckling at the painful gasp it produced. Spitting on the side of his captive’s face, he sneered at him. “Tell us, old man. Where did a lowly peasant like you get such a fine beast?”
Guy’s voice came from the dark.
“He is mine.”
The guard who held Robert tried to turn and look at who had spoken…but a moment later a dagger was thrust up between his shoulder blades, piercing his lung, killing him instantly. Mouth wide open, eyes wide in shock, his body fell to the ground as Guy pulled out the knife…and trained his eyes on his next target. The guard who held his horse stood frozen in fear, eyes huge with shock, as he looked upon the face of his long lost master. Just before he reached the petrified man, Guy could suddenly smell the stench of piss…evidence of a man who was certain he was being confronted by a spirit. The guard fell to his knees, begging for mercy.
“Spare me, ghost! Spare me!”
He was silenced by a violent twist of the neck and the snap of bone, and the next moment he lay dead on the ground. Guy turned for his third victim, who was staring in bald shock and slowly backing away, preparing to flee. Knowing he was in no condition to run, Guy still moved forward in pursuit…until a shadow appeared from the darkness. Then there was the sound of iron meeting a human skull, and the guard crumbled to the ground. As the form came closer Guy realized it was Cassia, who held her skillet in her hand. He scowled at her as she came to the side of her father, who had fallen to his knees. Guy’s eyes narrowed in anger at her.
“I thought I told you to stay inside.”
Her words were defiant. “As if your commands mean anything to me.”
She put her arms around her father, slowly helping him to his feet. While she led him back to the house, Guy examined his horse and found the animal to be sound. He glanced around, his eyes focusing on the bodies of the three guards. Two would have to be buried. The third he was unsure of. Was the man alive or dead? In all honesty he did not care either way. But he knew he couldn’t leave corpses lying around to be discovered.
He saw his horse settled, and returned the chickens to their pen. Then he slowly dragged each of the two dead men into the woods, throwing leaves and brush over their bodies. They wouldn’t be missed, and in all likelihood they would become a feast for some wild animals before anyone even gave them a thought.
Dragging himself back towards the property, his foot throbbing viciously from overuse, he looked about for the third guard…and found he was nowhere in sight. For several minutes he scanned the area, but he knew that the guard had probably come to life and was likely headed back to Nottingham in a hurry. Would the man remember what, or more particularly, who he had seen? Would anyone even believe the rambling of a drunken guard? Shaking his head, he dismissed the thought altogether, too exhausted and in too much pain to think of anything but getting back to the house.
As he stood in the doorway, he watched Cassia with her father. Robert sat in a chair with a blanket around his shoulders, while Cassia handed him a cup. Seeming to sense Guy’s eyes upon her, she slowly turned to look at him.
His expression was blank, but his eyes burned bright as he looked at her. She owed him a great debt for what he had done. And he fully intended to collect it from her.
“Are you prepared to reward me, Cassia?”
She raised her eyes to him, and just as quickly she lowered them, her face flushing with warmth. Kneeling at his feet as he rested in a chair, she examined his swollen ankle. To his question, she gave no reply. Instead, she remarked on the condition of his injury.
“The bone is sound. You are fortunate not to have damaged it again.”
He reached out and grasped her chin, making her look up at him. His scowl was dark. “Do not attempt to change the subject. I have saved your father’s life, at possible risk to my own. Such heroics should be rewarded accordingly.”
She swatted his hand away. “Then where is my reward, Sir Guy of Gisborne? Where is my father’s reward? You forget, it was we who saved you from certain death. I should say that neither of us now owes the other. Our debts are paid in full.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Oh, so we are at an impasse, then?”
She nodded. “Yes, Sir Guy. There is nothing more to be said.” She made to turn away, but suddenly he reached down to take her by the arms, pulling her close. He brought her face to within inches of his own.
“There is much more to say, Cassia. I have been more tolerant of your defiance than I have ever been with a woman. But my patience is at its end. I will have what I want.”
She gave him a hard shove, pushing him back enough she that his grip eased. And yet he still held to her. He still had that fiercely determined look in his eyes. And it was maddening.
“For God’s sake, Guy of Gisborne! Why can you not find some comely lady’s maid or unfaithful noblewoman to satisfy you? I am sure you know many!”
“I do not want a lady’s maid or a noblewoman!”
“Then find a dairy maid or a castle wench! Find any strumpet you please, but leave me be!”
She broke away from him, and before he could detain her, she hurried from the room, seeking refuge outside in the night air. She found herself in the barn, where she hoped to linger in the dark…to escape him for a while. In her current state, with her mind so frazzled, she did not know if she could handle a confrontation with him. Not after all that had happened this day.
It was no surprise when she found him at her side. She closed her eyes, turning away from him. But she could not escape his voice. His deep, sensual voice.
“I will have only you as my mistress.”
“And if I refuse? What then?”
“You will not refuse.”
He grasped her shoulders firmly and turned her, making her face him. She tried in vain to struggle free, even as he brought his lips to her ear, whispering.
“Tell me the truth, Cassia. Say you want me the way I want you.”
His breath was warm against her skin, making her limbs tremble. She was growing weak…and still she tried to resist.
“I cannot say it.”
She tried again to push him away, but he was immobile. And now he was trying to turn her face up, seeking to meet her eyes with his.
“Why can you not say it?”
She tried to look away, knowing that if she met his gaze, all was lost.
“Because my feelings mean nothing to you,” she said, her voice growing soft. “I used to believe you had goodness buried deep within you. Now I know I was wrong all along.”
He brushed her ear with his warm lips. “Do you hate me, then?”
The way he was holding her so firmly, his solid body pressing so close to hers, it was difficult to reply. “Yes, I do.”
With a firm hand, he cupped her cheek and turned her head, forcing her to look at him. A moment of silence passed between them. Then his lips came down on hers, hot and demanding…and this time, she could not push him away. Her body and soul had been so long deprived. Whatever the consequences, she could no longer fight him. She wanted him too much.
As he anchored her head in his hands, she wound her arms around his neck, threading her fingers through his hair. It had grown longer in the last weeks, curling in that way she had always loved. Now she felt the texture through her fingers while his mouth was opening with hers. Wanting to feel more of him, her hands wandered down his back. The shirt he wore hung loose, and she took advantage of it, running her fingers around his sides to his muscular stomach. She heard a muffled groan escape him, and she echoed the sound when she felt his warm hand firmly stroking her breast.
To feel his touch through the barrier of her clothing…it wasn’t nearly enough. She knew he felt the same desperation, for he broke away from her lips to focus on the laces of her dress, making short work of them. With that same ease of hand, he pulled down the sleeves of her gown and the straps of her thin linen shift all at once…leaving her bare from the waist up. In the dim light she could just make out the smug expression he wore as his eyes looked their fill. It was the look of a man who had played this game many times…a look of pure lust, one she knew he had probably given to many women.
But she refused to linger on the thought of others who had been in her place before. Instead she focused on the moment, and at the moment, turnabout was fair play. Gripping the hem of his shirt, she quickly lifted it over his head and tossed it aside. A flash of memory came to her, of those few brief moments when she had seen him completely nude during his bath…and seeing his beautifully sculpted torso before her now, it wasn’t nearly enough. She wanted to see all of him. She wanted to feel all of him. Quickly she reached for the ties of his breeches. And when she dared to glance up…though the light around them was dim…she could see his eyes. And the way he was smirking wolfishly.
“Eager, are we?”
Instantly she paused in her actions, reaching both hands up to cover his mouth. She narrowed her eyes at him.
“Do not speak. When you do, you have a tendency to ruin a pleasant moment. I will not allow that now.”
Dropping her hands back to her task, she at last freed him from his laces. She pushed his breeches down his legs, watching as he stepped out of his trappings…and her breath caught at the sight of his him. She couldn’t help but stare, until she felt his fingers lifting her face up to look at him. He didn’t speak, just as she’d told him not to. Instead he brought his mouth down to hers, making her head spin with the intensity of his passionate kiss. She brought her hands up to clasp his neck, while his fingers quested over her shoulders, trailing down her arms and then up again. A moment later his hands lowered to her breasts, cupping their slight weight in his palms. She whimpered at the pleasure of his touch, trembling with anticipation. When his hands moved away for a moment she made a sound of disappointment, until she felt him undoing the sash at her waist. It soon fell away, and her gown dropped to a pool around her feet. They both looked at one other, no barriers between them. Then she was in his arms again, and they were falling down into the hay.
The pent up feelings of raw passion, only briefly sparked before, now exploded between them. Her hands roamed everywhere, wanting to feel every inch of his skin. His lips traveled down her cheek, her jaw, and her neck, the slight bristle of his stubble feeling wonderfully sensual against her skin. Then his mouth was moving lower, tracing a damp path between her breasts. His mouth tasted her, the feeling unbearably hot and pleasurable. She clutched his head to her body, overwhelmed with the sensations he was stirring in her…sensations she had long forgotten, and now longed desperately to feel again. When his hand drifted down her abdomen, she felt her pulse throbbing madly, her breath coming fast as he pressed his palm against her. Instinctively she pushed herself against his hand, wanting more. She felt his mouth wet and open against her belly, and she could not wait a moment longer. She moaned his name…an urgent plea to end his delicious torment. And he willingly obliged.
Moving himself up, positioning himself between her legs, he entered her in one swift movement. She gasped at the sweet pleasure, the hot feeling of him. He had paused for a moment, as if to test her reaction…and she thrust her hips, silently begging for him. It was all the encouragement he needed. He caught her mouth with his and pushed deep into her, making her moan with delight. Raking her nails down his back she bucked hard in rhythm with him, meeting his every thrust, telling him without words how wildly her desire burned. They rose and fell madly together, gasping and panting. As the end rushed towards them she tore her lips away from his, throwing back her head in a great gasp. His mouth opened against her shoulder, his breath hot and damp. He grasped for her hands and stretched them above her head, clenching their fingers tightly together, thrusting into her again and again until they shattered in a unison of pleasured cries.
His eyes were clenched, pressed against her warm skin. He released the joined grip of their fingers, only to wind his arms around her, holding her in a fierce embrace…unable to let her go.
Even as their wild breathing eased, their heartbeats slowing to a calmer rhythm, he held tightly to her. He could not loosen his arms, unwilling to lose the incredible warmth of her body. Every nerve he possessed was heightened. He brushed his jaw against her neck, nuzzling her. His lips began dropping small, hot kisses on her throat…her shoulders and her chest, worshiping the perfection of her creamy skin. He heard her make a tiny whimper, and it sent a rush of excitement coursing through his body.
He had known lust since he’d had his first woman at the age of thirteen. But never before had he felt this kind of madness…this overwhelming intensity in all of his body and soul. Somehow, he had known that it would be this way with her…that she would be like no one he’d had before. He could still feel the sting of her nails on his back, and the thought made him wild with wanting her again. For once she wasn’t resisting him. She wanted him. Her desire was fierce, judging from the eager noises she had made and the way she had clung so tight to him. Even now she was pressing her soft breasts against his chest, encouraging him with the delicious feel of her nipples. Her fingertips were lightly stroking his back, sending shivers of delight through his whole body…and he went hard again, still sheathed within her. She gasped with pleasure, clenching around him, and instantly he moved against her. His momentary impulse was to drive himself into her deep and fast, to take her with every bit of his strength so he might satisfy the craving he had for her.
Instead he moved slowly, purposely taking his time, wanting to make her mad with longing for him. She had taunted him for so long, keeping him from knowing this unbridled passion, this furious pleasure. Now, he would seek retribution…in the most delicious way.
With an unhurried pace he ground himself into her, pulling out slightly before sliding back in again with purposely slow movements. He felt her hands moving down his lower back, but he wouldn’t allow her touch to overpower him…not yet. This would not be a mutual pleasure…not until he’d taken her to where he wanted her.
Reaching behind him to take hold of her wrists, lifting her body slightly upwards with his, he gathered her arms behind her back, gently pinning them with a light hold of one hand while his arm held her close. The slight bending of her back forced her chest to rise. He took advantage of it, lowering his mouth to her breasts, first one and then the other, grazing his teeth over each hardened nipple, tugging them lightly. Then his tongue swept over each peak, teasing her…and he smirked triumphantly when he heard her whimpering. With her hands pinned as they were, she was helpless against his attentions. He thrust inside of her, making her moan…and then she hissed her frustration out loud.
“Wicked, evil man.”
He moved his head upwards, lightly grazing her skin with the roughness of his unshaven jaw, and then trailing over it with soft, damp kisses. When he brought his lips near to hers, she pushed herself against him, parting her lips eagerly, and he claimed her mouth in a hot kiss. He drank in her sweetness, relishing the sensation of her tongue tasting him as she kissed him back with unabashed eagerness. She was greedy for him. He felt it in the way she opened her mouth to his…heard it in the way she panted and moaned as he moved again within her. When he released her hands she clutched his head, her fingers pulling at his hair. Her legs were gripping him in a powerful hold, her inner walls pulsating around him, trying to pull him in deeper. It was nearly his undoing…but with all the discipline he possessed he held back, reaching his hand down between their joined bodies to touch her. She cried out as he ravished her with his kiss, her release coming hard and fast. When her hands reached around to clench his backside, her nails stinging his flesh, his control broke. Madly he drove into her again and again, all gentleness gone. His movements went wildly on until he exploded within her, his own cry of release a guttural sound against her mouth.
They were both struggling to breathe. Even when the violent beating of their hearts ceased, and he reluctantly withdrew from her, he did not release her from his arms. Instead he rolled to his back and took her with him, delighting in the feel of her slight weight on his chest. Their skin was covered with a fine sheen of sweat, their breathing still rapid. And he felt his eyelids grow heavy from exhaustion. As he fell asleep he clung to her, hoping that when he woke, she would still be there.
Sometime later he stirred. Opening his eyes he found, much to his relief and pleasure, that she was still pressed against his body. Her legs were entwined with his, her arms still around him. Her hair fell over him in fabulous display as she slept. And just looking at her so displayed, it made him want her all over again.
He grinned at the thought that having her once or twice wasn’t nearly enough to give him satisfaction. He could imagine spending hour upon hour in her arms and never tiring of the pleasure she would bring him. He could not remember when he had so fiercely desired a woman…not even Marian.
Lord, he’d been such a fool over her. A complete and utter fool, he now realized. Months ago, he would never have imagined wanting someone else. He had sought her relentlessly, blindly and stupidly believing that in time, she would grow to care for him. Desperate, lonely fool that he had been, it had not mattered to him that at times, an expression of loathing had crossed her features. All along, she had never wanted him.
But Cassia did.
It sent a fierce wave of possessiveness through him. She had refused the offer of being his mistress, and yet she had given herself to him in the most powerful way. As far as he was concerned, she now belonged to him body and soul. Never had he felt such want…such insatiable hunger for another human being. Through the years, he had slaked his lust with countless women, but the encounters had always been the same. There had been mindless pleasure, and then, a feeling of disregard…or the occasional sense of emptiness. Here now, in the arms of this woman, he felt something new…something he had only known in fragments of his lifetime.
The feeling was happiness. It felt so wonderful, so right being with her. She suited him perfectly, with her hard-headedness and her passion. She hid nothing from him, and he suddenly recalled how, at one time, he had thought so little of her. He had been so certain that she would be nothing more than another brief encounter. But now, he knew what a fool he had been to think of her so. Now that he’d discovered her, he felt he had found a priceless treasure…and he had no intention of giving her up.
He heard her make a soft sound. It seemed to be a murmur of contentment, and he lazily ran his hands over her shoulders. His fingers roamed her beautifully tapered back and her sides, stroking her soft, warm skin. She lifted her head, looking at him with those beautiful, shining dark eyes. Eyes that held a power over him that he willingly succumbed to.
I have been bewitched, he said to himself. And God help me, I want no cure for it.
He leaned in to claim her mouth, threading her hair through his fingers, gently holding her head in his hands. As the kiss grew deeper, his entire being sprang to life with anticipation. He was but a moment from rolling her to her back and having her for a third time. His breath quickened…his blood pulsed madly.
But then, she tried to break from him. She took her lips from his, ending their kiss. The feeling of loss was acute. He felt a strange sense of pain at the notion of losing contact with her, and he tried to pull her back. But he felt her hands pushing him away.
They had hardly said a word until now, talking being the least of their mutual desires. But as she removed herself from his arms, slipping away from him to reach for her clothing, he could not be silent. He reached out his hand, intent on bringing her back, but her movements were too swift. The silken texture of her leg was all that he managed to touch before she slipped completely out of his reach.
“Why do you go so soon?”
He watched, disillusioned as she slipped into her linen shift. She replied in that teasing way of hers. “Are you not yet satisfied?”
Lord, she was a maddening creature. The corner of his mouth turned up as he answered.
She looked into his eyes, and he felt a rush of relief when she came back for a moment to kiss him. From the joyful little sound she made, it was clear to him that she wasn’t so willing to part from him yet. It thrilled him to know that she had no regrets…that she was just as needy as he was. Eagerly his hands moved over her soft body, feeling her warmth through the thin garment. He clenched the material in his fists, wishing to tear it away so there would be no impediments between them. When she tried to stay his hands, he resisted, groaning his protest.
“You cannot leave me now.”
He kissed her neck, tenderly nibbling the soft skin. Her arms went around him in response, and he chuckled triumphantly, certain that he had won…until she pushed at his shoulders, telling him that he must cease. He tried not to hear her, but she pushed even more strongly against him.
“I must return,” she insisted. “If my father wakes and finds us both gone, he will surely know what has transpired.”
His first thought was a curse. Who gives a damn about your father?
But even in the madness of wanting her, he managed enough of his sense to keep himself silent, at least where the subject of her father was concerned. He also knew she was right…that if they stayed here much longer, their risk of discovery would be great, and that was a dangerous game to play.
He pressed his lips to the base of her throat, trying to draw out one last moment of pleasure. When she tried again to withdraw from his arms, he let her go, though he could not help scowling at the loss of her sweet flesh.
Reluctantly he reached for his own clothes. Pulling them on, he looked at her as she tied the laces of her dress and bound her sash around her waist. He was transfixed as he watched her running her fingers through her hair, picking out the stray pieces of straw. There was something intoxicating about the sight. Perhaps it was the thought of how glorious that soft mane of hair felt in his hands, or the remembrance of how her touch could so easily ignite the fire in him. As she stepped towards the doorway he reached out for her, pulling her back into his arms, bringing his mouth down to hers to kiss her fiercely. She clung tight to him and kissed him back, her mouth as demanding as his, and in moments they were breathless, struggling to remain upright. He didn’t know how she had the strength to pull back, when he was only a moment away from pushing her to the ground and ravishing her body again. They were both breathing hectically, and his words were heavy with lust.
“When will I be with you again?”
She shook her head, and her own voice was thick.
“I cannot say. We play a dangerous game, Guy.”
“When?” he insisted. To which she sighed, looking away.
“You must keep your distance until dawn, at least. I will not lie with you in my father’s house. Tomorrow, perhaps this madness will pass.”
He chuckled. “After such a night passed between us, you believe it can be so easily forgotten?” He shook his head. “You cannot forget.” Drawing her tender body against him, he pressed his lips against her neck, groaning in frustration. “I am not a patient man. I will not wait long to have the pleasure of my mistress’s attention.”
Her response was a teasing one. “It is well, then, that you cannot climb the ladder of the loft. Wicked beast..”
“Witch!” he uttered, softly yet aggressively. “Do not underestimate me.”
She allowed him one last kiss. And then she fled, vanishing from his sight. She would not change her mind. He knew her well enough by now to know that. Up in her hayloft she would hide from him, if for no other reason than to make him burn with anticipation. She had said he was to wait until dawn to see her again, but the thought of so long a time was exasperating. He felt like an enraptured youth who had known his first taste of pleasure and was being driven to madness for want of more.
His mouth crinkled in a naughty little smile.
I will find a way, he thought. I will not be kept from what I want. I will not be kept from her.
As he approached the house, his ear caught the sound of a footfall. His hand went to the dagger on his belt. Was it the guard returning? He looked cautiously about…and suddenly he saw an explosion of stars. He was falling forward, and then, he fell into an insensible blackness.
Her father still slept. As she sat beside him, a whirl of conflicting emotions gripped her. Lord, what had she done? While her father was lying alone, healing from the effects of a great shock, she had fallen into the arms of Guy of Gisborne. She had become the lover of a man not her husband. Her eyes filled with tears of shame, and she covered her mouth with the back of her hand, trying not to lapse into sobs. It would not do to have her father wake and see her in such a state.
And yet, even while she felt the sting of shame, she could not help the deep feeling of contentment and womanly satisfaction that had come from being with him. Heavens, it had been glorious to know him in that way – to find such unbridled pleasure. To know the wonder of a man’s touch, and to know that he desired her touch as well. Indeed, he desired her madly. And she could not help herself. She longed for him at this very moment.
Where was he now? She had fully expected him to follow her into the house, perhaps even to pursue her in some way, even though she had told him to remain at a distance. There was something delightful in the thought of teasing him, knowing that he wanted her so. The idea of playing such a lover’s game was so thrilling. God help her, it was wicked, and she knew it to be so. They were not husband and wife, and she was certain that in time, she would have to pay a penace for commiting such a sin. But she so deeply craved the affection to be found between a man and a woman. How could she deny what her heart and soul longed for?
She heard the creak of the front door. Looking down at her father, seeing that he had not stirred, she quietly stepped away from him. Would Guy heed her warning and stay away? She almost laugh at the foolishness of her own thoughts. No, he would not keep his distance, and in truth, she wished for nothing else but to rush into his arms again. They would not make love here and now – not when her father was but a room away. But they could share one last kiss before she slipped away from him for the night. He would try to hold to her, and she would not want him to let her go, but she would be the one to maintain the smallest measure of discipline. Filled with eagerness and anticipation, a little smile coming to her lips, she slipped with quiet steps into the front room, expecting to feel a wild joy in her heart at the sight of him.
Instead, her feet froze on the spot in the doorway. Her eyes grew wide in shock. Two figures stood near the fire. Two men she had never thought to see again.
No, she silently said. It cannot be.
She felt the world growing dim around her – the shock of the moment too much. She was falling, and just before all became black, she heard the two men speak.
“Dearest sister, we have come home.”
“Aye, we have returned. My lovely wife, I have come back to you.”