This is part of "Rebel Mine," but it's not been beta read and it's completely off the top of my head, so for now, just enjoy! :)
From his place at a distance, mounted on his horse, Guy heard the tale being told.
Robin Hood was the greatest hero that ever lived. The greatest archer ever to hold a bow. Defender of the weak and the poor.
His children sat around Lucien, near the mill pond, hanging on the boy’s every word.
He stole from the rich to the give to the poor. And he defended the poor people of Nottingham from the mean and evil Sherriff. All of this he did in honor of his lost love, Lady Marian.
A red tide of fury swept over him as he got down from his horse. Without thinking, without pausing in his furious stride, he charged towards his future son-in-law. He saw before him not that face of Lucien, but an amalgam of peasants - ones that had cheered for Robin of Locksley and praised his name. Grasping Lucien by the shirt with both hands, lifting him off the ground, he shook him – growling in his face.
“Take care with the stories you tell, boy! Such lies may bring you more trouble than you are capable of handling!”
Without thought he tossed the boy backwards, hardly taking satisfaction from the sound of the splash into the mill pond. A slight chaos followed instantly, as the children all gasped in shock and Cassia came running from her place in the garden, her skirts held high and her breath rushing in an out.
“Guy, what is it? What is happening?”
His anger spoke for him. “Ask your future son-in-law! The storyteller!”
He did not wait for her response, for he knew what she would do. She would go to Lucien and offer him solace, and she would see that all was made right. That was her place as a woman – that was her way. But it was not his place as a man, nor was it expected of him to regret his actions, despite the inkling of guilt he was starting to feel already.
Were the children upset with him, seeing what he had done? Would Cassia be displeased with him? For a moment, he considered looking back to see what was happening there – to see if there was a sense of shock and fear surrounding them.
No, he told himself. I will not look back. If there are tears, and if there are looks of astonishment, then so be it.
The sounds of the chaos around the mill pond faded away. But voices of the past swirled about his head like returned spirits from the grave, taunting him…
Villain. Murderer. Heartless monster.
Had all the joys granted to him over the years been for naught? What did such things mean if the entire world still saw him with hateful eyes? The thought of looking at his children and seeing their expressions altered – of not seeing the love there that he had come to cherish…it was too much to fathom. He would have to avoid them for a short while – wait until late at night, perhaps, before returning, and seek counsel with the only person who knew him better than he knew himself…
“Lucien! My heavens, are you all right?”
The children were standing about, calmer now than they had been a few moments before. But still they watched with concern as Lucien pulled himself out of the water, coughing but otherwise seemingly unharmed.
“Yes, my lady,” he answered, trying to smile. “Quite startled, but nothing broken. And I assure you, it is not the first time I have been so handled.”
“You spend much time at the bottom of a mill pond, do you?”
“No thanks to the occasional bully, madam.”
Such a revelation made her pause for a moment as she looked him over, taking in the sight of his gangly form soaked to the skin, making him look like some poor mongrel that had gone for a swim.
Poor devil, she thought briefly. But sympathies would have to be reserved for another time.
“My husband is no true bully,” she said, “But he does have a temper. And for that I must apologize. Now tell me. What happened here?”
It was Owen who jumped in instantly and anxiously. “Lucien was entertaining us with stories, Mamma. And then Pappa came along, and he threw Lucien in the pond!”
“Good heavens! What manner of stories were you telling to put him in such a mood?”
“Stories about the great hero of Sherwood! Mamma, have you heard of Robin Hood?”
She froze, staring at the eager face of her youngest son.
“Yes, I have heard of him.”
Owen’s eyes grew wide with delight. “You have?”
“Oh, yes! Because I knew him.”
Evelyn grasped her by the arm. “What? Oh, Mamma! Do you tease us?”
“I do not tease you.”
Thea grasped her other arm, looking up at her with imploring blue eyes. A strange thing, this, to see such eagerness in Thea’s expression. Only a short while ago, she had been so distasteful of her husband-to-be. Now she was so engrossed in his tales?
“Oh, Mamma! Tell us of him! Please, please!”
She and Guy had rarely spoken of Nottingham, and only in private moments had they ever mentioned Robin of Locksley or his followers. How was it that he was among them now, if only in spirit? Old anger sprung anew within her, thinking of all the misery that hateful person had inflicted upon her life – and more so, that of Guy.
“Very well,” she said, somehow keeping her tone calm. And yet there was a seriousness in her expression and a fire in her eyes that could not be hidden.
“I will tell you of a selfish coward who ruined lives with his grandiose schemes and self-righteousness. I will tell you of a thief who stole from his fellow noblemen and allowed others to take the blame for his crimes. And if you ever mention his name again in our household, I will have you punished. Do you understand me?”
“Do you understand me?” she repeated, more firmly this time as she looked at each of their faces. And they all nodded in obedience.
She turned to go, but she felt Lucien’s hand touching her arm. His voice was tender.
“My lady, if I have caused offense, it was certainly not my intent.”
She knew that he was sincere. The poor lad was so eager and earnest, wanting so much to please his new lord and lady. It was an unenviable task, to be sure.
“I am certain you speak the truth. But I must warn you that you now cross paths with the Gisbornes, and more importantly, Guy of Gisborne. Do not expect the course of your journey to run smoothly.” She looked him over one more time. “If you go into the house, you will find dry garments to change into.”
She left them then, her attention now focused on her husband and his whereabouts. He had probably ridden off somewhere, so the first place she tried was the stables. She was not surprised to find his manservant there, in conversation with a groom.
“Frances,” she said, “Where has your master ridden to?”
The old gentleman shook his head. “He rode away, my lady. And he gave no word of his destination.”
Sighing, she nodded, turning away to return to the house, wondering how long it would be until she saw her husband again. And wondering why Robin of Locksley’s soul couldn’t stay in purgatory where it belonged.
The night had long since fallen, and a crescent moon was waxing thin but bright as Guy handed his horse to the sleepy-eyed groom. Moving with careful steps, he could still feel the slight effect of the drinking he had engaged in. He hadn’t lost control of himself entirely, as many of the other patrons had. He’d merely sipped his brew slowly, letting it relax him but not engulf his senses altogether. In his younger days he had done that many times, but now in his more mature years, he had no desire for the hangover that would follow in the morning. Besides, Cassia didn’t approve of it, and while other men cared not for the opinion of their wives, he cared very much for hers.
Counsel, counsel, he thought as he went up the stairs. I must have her counsel. He had always fought a strange battle with himself when it came to these moments. There was a part of his masculinity that seemed to mock him for needing his wife as he did.
Keep these matters to yourself, the little voice would say, jeering him. What manner of man relies so much on a woman?
When he heard that voice – which, strangely enough, sounded always like a rowdy fellow hovering over a pint – he was always but a moment from listening to it. But all it took was one brief action…this time, opening the door to his room, seeing her turn to him…for that voice to be silenced. It was her voice that was dominant now, even in its sleepiness.
“Where have you been?”
Sitting in a chair, he removed his boots. “Amongst friends,” he answered. “Searching our souls.” He waved away his manservant and began taking off his tunic and shirt, all the while feeling her eyes on him.
“Yes,” she replied. “I am certain the answers you seek are always to be found at the nearest tavern.”
Her voice was calm, and he was glad of it. He wanted her company and consolation – not a round of wifely criticism. Crawling into bed beside her, he rested his head on the pillow beside hers, closing his eyes for a moment. The talk was coming. And he desired it – at least, the latter part of it. But first, he would have to endure a chastisement of some kind. Probably soft in its manner, as her chastisements usually were. But even then, he did not like the thought of being faced with his own wrong-doing. Keeping his eyes shut was a way of hiding from his punishment, like a child hiding its head in shame.
“Well,” she began, “It seems that Lucien now knows the coldness and depth of our mill pond.”
Guy muttered a reply without opening his eyes to look up. “He was fortunate that I did not hold his head under.”
He waited for a response. But to his surprise, there was none. Curious at her silence, he peeked up at her and saw that she was just sitting there, looking away. Lifting his head, he watched her and wondered at the odd behavior.
“Nothing to be said? No female wisdom suggesting I should give apology for my actions?”
“Tis not the place of a wife to correct her husband.”
Pulling himself up, leaning back against the pillows, he folded his arms across his chest.
“This is my wife speaking, is it not? Are you not the one who takes on the task of saving me from myself?”
Readjusting her position, turning herself towards him, she rested her head on her pillow so they were facing one another.
“In other instances, yes. But had I been in your place today, I would have thrown him in the water myself.”
She smiled at him then. Not a full smile, but a small one – an expression of love and understanding that he cursed himself for not having expected. Of course she would understand why he had reacted so impulsively, so furiously to what had happened. Reaching out, he gathered her to himself and tucked her head under his chin. No one else knew of those long ago days in Nottingham. Only she shared the memories of what had truly happened there.
“Not another soul on earth will know me as you do.”
He felt the soothing and familiar sensation of calm that came over him when she was in his arms this way. He often wondered if it was their two souls becoming one. Her hands were soft and soothing as they stroked his back.
“I have no desire for our children to look upon Robin of Locksley as some mythic hero. You and I know that the truth is far less glamorous.”
He held more firmly to her, wanting to remain in the circle of her arms forever. Here he knew no unhappiness, no fear. Their hearts were fully open, and he could speak of anything to her.
“What if the falsehood is already perpetuated? And what if they now see me as others have done – the hated villain in a tale of good versus evil?”
“The Sheriff of Nottingham will always be the villain, as he was in truth and shall always be in tales to be told.”
“And what of me?”
“Stories will be shared from man to man, and there is naught to be done about it. But our children and grandchildren and the children to come after will know the truth. I will make certain of it.”
Above her head, he smiled now. His fears forgotten. Wanting to look at her fully, he grasped her waist gently in his hands and positioned her so she was on top of him, looking down into his eyes. It seemed so perfect, so fitting when she was above him this way – the dominant force in his life, both physically and spiritually. In these moments, only with her, he knew joy in its rarest form. It radiated from them both, his in the form of a playful grin. He had never been pleased with his own appearance, but had come to accept that she loved him madly no matter what. Still, he loved to tease her with the occasional moment of self-deprication, for it brought out the fight in her. And oh, how that aspect of her personality set him to burning with love! Reaching up, he played with a curl of her dark hair.
“Perhaps there are some parts of the story you could embellish a bit. Make me charming and witty. And handsome. Once the tales are passed to future generations, the truth of those matters will have rightfully been altered.”
There it was – that look. The slightly lifted eyebrow. The defiant light in the eyes. It set his heart and soul afire.
“The truth is what I know and see. The opinions of others be damned. My opinion is the only one worth having.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. How many times must I remind you that you are loved?”
He started to answer, but she silenced him with a kiss.
“Your children adore you, Guy of Gisborne. But most importantly of all, you have a wife who loves you more than life itself.”
Kissing her back, his entire being came alive at the familiar ritual of love. These matters rarely ended with one kiss or two. Once they were together this way, so emotionally and physically drawn to one another, there was no stopping until they had reached the greatest bliss. She continued to speak, even as they pressed themselves firmly against one another.
“Not only that – but she is a beautiful and intelligent woman who makes you the envy of other men. What more could you hope for?”
Even as he helped her escape the confines of her nightdress, he teased her one last time.
“Perhaps I could do with a mistress or two, to satisfy me when you are otherwise occupied…”
Her hand went to his neck, squeezing just under his jaw.
“Try that, Guy of Gisborne, and it will be YOUR head held under the mill pond!”
He laughed, not entirely sure if she was in jest…