[I will illustrate my story characters with: Richard Armitage as Sir Guy of Gisborne and Lucy Griffiths as Lady Marian.]
After a long day of maintaining his position in Sherrif Vaisey’s never ending quest to humiliate and degrade him, Sir Guy of Gisborne wearily opens the door to his bedchamber in Nottingham Castle this evening. He instantly notices that the fire has been lit—an unnecessary extravagance in merely chilly weather. And he wonders at his orders being disobeyed as he quietly closes the door. Him sensing that something is different this evening.
Turning toward the glow in the fireplace, his senses are assaulted by apple and cinnamon–a most unusual combination, especially when one is in a bed chamber and not in a kitchen.
And he has only ever smelt such a wondrous combination outside of a kitchen when in the presence of one person, the woman who claims his daily thoughts and his nightly dreams–and who claims his heart, the Lady Marian Knighton.
Walking further into his bed chamber, Sir Guy spies the lady in question lying on the sette on her side–her legs tucked up, her hands making a cushion for her head as a cascade of curls drape over her shoulder and only a bed pillow that she must have retrieved from the bed, his bed. He would think her an apparition, but for her scent that overwhelms him with desire.
She is at her loveliest now, when she is sleeping and he may observe her at his leisure, without interruption—from her nor from anyone else. This gift of Lady Marian this night is more than what her presence in his bed chamber implies, were she any other woman.
But Marian is not any other woman to Guy of Gisborne. She is the sun to his moon, the Spring to his Winter, and a safe harbor from stormy seas. She holds the key to his hopes for happiness, were she to grant him the favor of her smile or the boon of her hand in marriage.
Now Sir Guy smiles—at being so easily conquered, and by a woman. She has beaten down all his defenses save one, and that is slipping away as each moment passes. He had resolved to never let the weakness of being in love undermine his ambitions for position and wealth. For now he realizes that they would be empty accomplishments without her by his side.
Quietly removing his leather tunic, trousers, and boots, Sir Guy goes behind a screen to wash himself in private—and to not awaken her. He dons a loose shirt and a fresh pair of loose cotton trousers—comfortable attire for lounging in his private bed chamber, with or without company.
Then returning to the sitting area at the foot of his bed, Guy sees the first signs of Marian stirring from her slumber.
Marian: “Hhhhh!” She sighs as she stretches her arms. But sleep has a strong hold about her, and she clings to it tenaciously as she buries her head into her pillow that she had pilfered from the bed. Yet she shivers.
Noting the chill in the room as the fireplace embers die down, Guy moves to the bed and lifts up a soft coverlet from it. Then padding quietly toward Marian in his stocking feet, he gently drapes the blanket from her feet to her shoulders, coming to kneel near her head. As he leans over her, her sleepy eyes flutter open and she looks up at him. Marian smiles sweetly at him, and Guy smiles back.
Guy: “Marian.” Her name is but a hushed whisper upon his lips. But his deep voice lends the utterance an almost feral quality.
Her eyes widen in alarm at being discovered by him when she had merely meant to escape from Sheriff Vaisey’s latest marriage match schemes for her.
Marian: “Guy!” She is both startled and embarrassed. Her wondering, what must he think of me? Marian quickly sits up upon the sette—albeit awkwardly since her near shoulder and arm have fallen asleep as she laid upon them.
Guy: Reaching out to guide her, Guy smiles caringly at her. “Here let me help you.”
Marian: “No thank you. I can manage.” She flinches at his touch, singed by the power of his masculine hands and arms upon display in his loose shirt.
Guy: Wincing at her withdrawing from him, Guy retracts his hands. “I am certain that you can. You do so quite well, every day.” Guy peruses her darting looks away, noticing a shyness inherent in her avoided glances.
Marian: “My being here is not what you think.” She shakes her head several times—as if an emphasis is attached to her bouncing curls.
Guy: “Oh?” He raises a saucy eyebrow. “And what do I think?” He gently teases her?
Confusion reigns as her brow furrows. And Guy’s jest, causes him to smile wider.
Marian: “My being here is nothing to smile about.” She snaps.
Guy: “But it could be.” His deep voice rumbles seductively.
Marian: “Hhhh!” Marian clutches the soft coverlet to her chest—out of shock, but she also appreciates its warmth.
He tilts his head, gazing upon her and noticing for the first time that she is in her nightclothes. His brow furrows.
Guy: “Are you alright, Marian?” He thinks to ask at her distress.
Marian: “I do not know.” She shakes her head. And though her eyes are moist, her tears do not fall.
Guy: “You do not know.” Guy parrots back to her as he ponders her words. “Has something happened to cause you distress?”
Marian: “No! Yes! Well, it could have. But I escaped.” She bites her lower lip.
And were Sir Guy not so focused upon her distress, he might have taken the plumply offered flesh between his lips. But he is no longer that man who tasted ladies charms and more.
Guy: “You escaped.” Again Guy parrots what she says.
Marian: “Why do you keep repeating what I say?”
Marian becomes petulant and feisty as Guy knows her best.
Guy: “I would have to answer truthfully, then.” Marian nods. “Partially, it is to ascertain your feelings upon the matter. And partially, it is a ploy to gain time.
Guy: “Is there an echo in this room?” He grins.
Marian: “Oh you!” She swats at his arm.
Guy captures one of her slender wrists in his and pulls it and her toward him. Marian’s arms are on his chest, but not pushing him away.
Guy: “We can stop.” He looks at her meaningfully—hoping that she doesn’t.
Marian: “Stop what?”
Guy: “This.” Guy leans forward and brushes his lips to hers.
Marian: “We musn’t.” She murmurs against his lips, but somehow, she does not pull away.
Guy: “Musn’t we?” Guy pulls Marian toward him and more firmly covers her mouth with his, as he pulls her into his embrace.
For several blissful moments, Marian gives in to Guys romancing her with tender kisses. But a crack and pop of a fireplace log startles her into realizing that she cannot do with Guy what she should not be doing.
Marian: “Please.” Marian pleads. “We are not married.”
Guy: “No, but we could be married.” Guy smiles lovingly down at her in his arms, stroking the side of her cheek with one lazy index finger.
Marian: “What?” “You want to marry me?” She ponders this possibility.
Guy: “I do—even more than I want to breathe.”
Marian: “That is silly. We need to breathe.”
Guy: “And I need you, want you, desire you, and love you.” Having revealed what he has long kept secret, Sir Guy feels as if a weight has been lifted from him.
Marian: “Oh!” She considers his almost offer of marriage. He did not use the proper form. But she thinks that he has not had the benefit of the pleasantries of court life.
A silence continues as Marian thinks, and Guy watches her think.
Guy: “A simple yes or no will suffice.” I state cheekily, returning to my mask of indifference. But I am far from indifferent. Having declared myself to her, I cannot take it back. I do not want to take it back.
Marian: I swat at him again. “You!”
Guy: “Are you always this violent?” I jest. “And you have yet to give me an answer.”
Lady Marian gazes at Sir Guy with a keening interest.
Marian: “And you would be my protector?”
Guy: Instantly on alert, he asks with concern. “Do you need a protector?”
Marian: “In Nottingham Castle, I do.”
Guy: “Vaisey?” She nods once. Then he squints in confusion. “But surely, he has … not … imposed himself upon you.” Sherrif Vaisey’s reluctance to consider the female sex as being anything other than an impediment is well known to Guy.
Marian: Rolling her eyes, she responds. “Not directly. He would use me as a pawn to curry favor with a Northern Lord.”
Guy: “Well that will stop right here and now as soon as you are my wife!” Guy assures her. “But to preserve your reputation until we can be wed, I should escort you back to your bedchamber.” He can hardly believe that he is saying that, but he means to treat her honorably, as a gentleman should. Though Sir Guy is no gentleman.
Marian: “No!” She shakes her head, looking had him fearfully. “I do not trust Vaisey.”
Guy: “Nor do I. Hmmm.”
Guy settles Marian in his arms as he ponders how to protect her without compromising her—if only in spirit. Absentmindely, he kisses her forehead, reveling in her silken hair brushing his cheek. Guy’s desire for Marian is shredding his willpower to remain chaste with her this night. Then Marian crashes into his thoughts, dampening his ardor.
Marian: “But is marriage to you clearly my only option?” She crooks her eyes upward to peer at him.
Guy: “At the moment.” Guy’s voice smoulders as he smiles at her wickedly. He will not offer her any alternatively solutions. If Marian cannot think of any solutions on her own—and she is usually rather adept at that–then that is her problem, he reasons.
Marian: “Very well. But, I want you to know that I think of you as the lesser of two evils.” She states petulantly.
Guy: “My lady, I am honored.” He places his hand upon his chest in mock solute.
Marian: “I am being serious.”
Guy: “Of that I have no doubt. And so am I.”
Marian: “You are so contrary—you seem to take great pleasure in vexing me. Upon further consideration, I do not think we will suit.” She shakes her head.
Guy: “And has any other more appealing option presented itself?”
Marian: “No.” She hangs her head.
Guy: “Ha ha ha ha ha! Then I suggest that we sleep on it, and discuss it more in the morning.”
Marian: “Just sleep?” Her eyes narrow.
Guy: “I will leave it to ladies’ choice. You may join me in my bed …”
Marian: “Hhhh!” She gasps.
Gury “… or sleep upon the sette.” Then he nuzzles her neck. “Though my bed is roomy and soft–and free of bugs–it has other enticements to offer.”
Marian: “That is what I am afraid of.”
Guy: Lifting her fingers to his lips and kissing them, he responds. “You need have no fear of me. I am a gentle and tender lover.” Then he leans into her ear and whispers. “But I can be bold and audacious when you wish it.” Then he kisses her neck, leaving a scorching trail of seductive heat upon her neck.
Marian: “Uh huh.” Her faces does not conceal her crumbling resolve. “Perhaps we should sleep … separately.”
Guy: Releasing her reluctantly, he nods. “As you wish, My Lady. I bid you a good night’s sleep.”
Guy stands and smiles at her. Then he turns to the fireplace and adds two logs to the fire to warm up the room. Marian watches him with a renewed sense of awe for this contradictory man. One minute Sir Guy is Vaisey’s henchman. But the next, he is this tender and loving gentleman. Guy is an enigma whom Marian will have to ponder. And as Lady Marian drifts off to sleep again, she catches Sir Guy’s small smile lit by the glow of the fireplace. He is handsome, she thinks—and not without a certain … brash appeal.
N.B. Original image of Richard Armitage as Sir Guy of Gisborne in firelight from the BBC tv show Robin Hood (2006-2009) is courtesy of Laura Day. Thanks! So this ficlet is dedicated to Laura Day, for her friendship and for sparking my imagination in creating this ficlet.