Lion Heart Page 1

Author: A.C. Gaughen

Series: Scarlet #3

Genres: Young Adult , Historical

Chapter 1

There were no light. I had gotten used to it, in a way. I always rather thought that I were a creature of the dark—moving in it felt like my home, and that hadn’t changed. I weren’t the sort that went mad in the dark.

Sometimes—like when the last time you saw daylight you watched your friend die, staining the snow with his blood—it weren’t so bad to be haunted.

The strange thing were how much I missed the light. I’d gotten a taste of it, in Rob’s kiss and touch, in the fickle, brutal shine of hope, and I wanted it back. I didn’t want to be a thing of darkness anymore.

I ran my hands on the wall, feeling first with my fingers until I found the flat bit of rock I’d pried free from the wall. It weren’t a knife, but it gave me the same kind of calm to have it in my hand. I squeezed my half hand round it, pain aching through the stiff, scarred stumps that were left of my two fingers.

The noise were the first thing to announce the visitors. A heavy iron clang that ran over the stones, rushing its way to me. And then the footfalls, too many for just David, my favorite guard. At least two people—beyond that it were hard to tell.

I sat up straighter, staring at the cell door.

The light came then, the tiny flicker that spread like fingers crawling over the wall to get to me. Holding a breath, I tucked the stone shard back against the wall.

When the torch appeared, it were almost blinding. I blinked against the brightness as David came, holding the flame, and behind him, in heavy boots and a thin cloak, came Prince John.

He stopped in front of the door to my cell, looking me over. “Marian,” he said. “You should greet your prince. Haven’t I taught you any manners yet?”

I stared back at him.

“I’ll take that as a no,” he sneered.

I didn’t move.

“Very well, then. Give me your necklace.”

“What necklace?” I asked.

“The one my mother gave you. The one you somehow smuggled in here with you, because it’s not with any of your belongings. And without it, she’ll never believe you’re dead.”

I gripped the rock tight. Dead. “Why don’t you come in here and find it yourself?”

“Don’t be stupid,” he growled. David moved a little, enough to make his armor give off shivery metal noise.

“She’ll never believe I’m dead. Because you’ll never kill me, we both know that.”

He smiled at me. “Do we,” he said.

“You won’t risk Mummy hating you forever. Isn’t that why you keep moving me around? You don’t want her to find me.”

“It’s only a matter of time,” he said, shrugging.

“Until what?” I asked.

“Until she—and the rest of England, including your foolish Hood—forgets about you entirely.” He smiled at me, and his teeth gleamed wet and yellow in the light. “You are nothing, Marian. Do you know why I keep you here? Why you will stay here until I am king, until people say the name of Robin Hood and ask who that is? Because you will be forgotten. You have ceased to matter.”

“I think I’ll matter quite a bit to you when my father returns and pounds you into the dirt for hurting me. You remember him, don’t you? The King of England?”

His face twisted. “The necklace, Marian!”

Slow, I shook my head.

“Get another guard,” he ordered David.

David hesitated for a breath, meeting my eyes, but he walked down the hall and rapped on the door. Thomas came in, the only other guard who had been with us the whole months he’d kept me traveling round. David unlocked the door as Prince John ordered Thomas to restrain me.

Thomas stepped in and grabbed my wrists, pulling me up and pushing me hard against the wall. He held my wrists in one hand and wrapped his other round my throat as David stepped in.

“Easy,” he growled at Thomas. “Don’t forget, sir, that she is still a noblewoman.”

Thomas’s eyes flicked to David, and he let go of my throat and just held my wrists above my head. I took a breath, and his eyes wandered down to my chest as it rose.

“Forgive me, my lady,” David murmured, patting down the filthy, tattered dress I’d been in since days after my capture, since Prince John decided Eleanor, my grandmother, could exert too much influence and I should be hidden from her.

David saw the chain fair quick, drawing it up rather than touch any bits he shouldn’t. He bowed and handed it to Prince John, who looked at the glitter of the moonstone.

“The only thing you’ll accomplish is more pain for yourself when the Lionheart returns and seeks vengeance for his daughter, Uncle,” I snarled at him.

Thomas’s hold grew lighter at the mention of my father.

“Yes, your father has done so much to show he loves you, hasn’t he?” Prince John mocked.

I frowned.

“But you’re right. My brother has quite the temper,” he told me, still smiling, weighing the stone in his hand. “I wonder what I should do about that.”

“Run,” I told him, glaring over Thomas’s shoulder.

He smiled in his dark way and toyed with the chain of the necklace. “You keep assuming that I won’t dare kill you, Marian. You think I am so frightened of my mother’s disapproval and my brother’s wrath that it will stay my hand. But she has changed her mind before, and kings will come and go. You may have noble blood, but you are a common thing. You see the world as fixed and finite, and it is not. It is liquid and ever moving, and one act can change everything.”