Gisborne . . .
(This next part of The Sheriff’s Collector is especially dedicated to MG, from Fly High, without whose friendship my love of all the series of Robin Hood would have been much less fun.)
The pain I felt as my ruined life rattled around me like a thunderstorm was stupendous, but Guy was there . . . as he had been every step of the way, and once again I let him take the pain away. I lifted my right hand to his and covered it as it lay on my jaw-line. There are times in life when one just wants to forget about concerns and cares. To ignore the shouted whisper of caution in the ear . . .
The story now continues . . .
I tilted my head, closing my eyes. I want to feel every sensation and the intensity sharpened without sight. I said nothing because I was afraid sound would shatter the moment, would make him think twice about what he did. And I tried not to think at all.
His lips moved to my neck and I lifted my shoulder as the delicate touch stirred me. His stubble rubbed at my skin and it should have been uncomfortable but it was a sublime touch: rough and smooth. His hands had slid to my shoulders and then down to my arms and I felt the pressure of his fingers as he pulled me harder against him. I turned my head and kissed his chin . . . lightly, as I was afraid of being too forward.
I need not have worried. He met me halfway and his hands retraced their journey up my arms leaving seering burns in their wake. Then he cupped the rounded edges of my shoulders, his thumbs circling before moving elsewhere. As the girdle around my waist was eased away, I heard the heavy metal thread hiss as one side rubbed against the other. Cool air slid around me as my kirtle and chemise were slipped to the floor, the fabric whispering as it pooled at my feet. Ysabel, it said, Ysabel, as if it was trying to remind me of the giant step I was taking. But my eyes remained shut and my mind ignored the warning. I could feel the closeness of his body to mine as for a moment there was no sound but for our breathing, the crack of the burning wood in the hearth and the softest creak of leather as Guy moved.
And then he spoke.
‘Ysabel,’ his voice stroked my backbone, the words so velvet soft. ‘Ysabel, look at me.’
I dared to open my eyes and as I did, my fingers lifted and touched smooth muscle, skin that was not cold and I knew at once there was no going back.
The hours passed and I confess to not one feeling of profligacy. I would carry the memory of this night to my grave. He would leave me, of that there was no doubt and perhaps it was as it must be, but I meanwhile had a treasury of emotion and sensation to draw on whenever life looked as if it would bankrupt me. As the moon passed across the heavens outside, the trees made lacework patterns on the walls of the chamber and still we were silent, our breathing the only sign we were alive and aware.
His fingers traced Celtic patterns down to the well at the base of my spine and I tried to decipher the designs as if they were runes that spelled my future. Vaguely I remembered his Irish knife and his love of the Celtic ballad and it all fitted together around me so that I stretched with languid ease as he slid over me. They say the Celtic lovers’ knot has an unbroken shape, that it simply winds in and out, over and under in perpetuity, and that is forever how I remember the intertwining shape of this night of nights as Guy of Gisborne and I, Ysabel of Moncrieff, made love.
Later, as we curled into each other’s bodies, I dared to speak. ‘I would ask only one thing, Sir Guy.’
‘I am not Sir Guy,’ his voice rumbled through his chest as I lay my head on it.
‘It is semantics,’ I replied. ‘Knightly courage and attitude can occur with or without a title. In any case, it’s a discussion for another time. But as I said,’ I rubbed my cheek against the damp skin. ‘I would ask only one thing.’ He said nothing and so I presumed he waited. I sucked in a breath but left my head lying as I did not want to look into his eyes. I was afraid of what I might see as I launched into a simple plea. ‘Don’t regret this.’
Once again he did not speak, nothing in reply for so long that my stomach sank to my naked toes. But then his hand stroked the top of my head and all he said was ‘Ysabel . . .’ in a faintly chiding way. I couldn’t ask for more. Besides, I thought knew which way the cards lay.
To be continued . . .