Carrie will be doing a Q&A and a giveaway on Sunday, so make sure to stop back.
Will stared at Meg's lips, hating the sudden need to prove his worth to her, if only in words. But the subject of worth and valor and courage skirted too near unwanted memories. He ran the sharp edge of his thumbnail over the scar on his palm, picking at the lump of flesh.
"You don't trust him either," he said. "Why did you keep the truth of my role in Ada's arrest a secret from him?"
She pinched her mouth into a scowl. "He doesn't need to know."
"Because you don't trust him."
She balled both hands and lunged. Perhaps she moved more slowly because of fatigue, or perhaps he knew better to guard against the angered assaults she was quick to use. Wheedle. Confront. Attack. The pattern of her behavior was becoming clear. Catching slender wrists, he absorbed every twist and thrust. He spun her twice, shoved her away. Meg stumbled and fell into the leaves.
She scrambled to her feet, angled away from him. Will felt a childish urge to hold his breath and stay hidden from her keen ears, but a swift flash of lust made that a difficult task. Sparring with her played unconscionable games with his control.
"You still need me," he said, his claim scratching free of a tight throat.
Meg whipped her head around. "Ridiculous."
"Do you know Nottingham? Or that castle? No."
"And I suppose you do."
He scowled. "Like I'd know my own father."
"No, no," she said. "You've more reason to sabotage me than help me."
"If you bend the sheriff's ear, maybe reveal me as the real alchemist, then life becomes easier for Will Scarlet."
Her blindness had caused him nothing but trouble. She could have cleared his name. She could have made their flights through the forest easier to navigate. But at that moment, he was glad for her impairment. Although prepared to deflect a physical assault, he had not expected her flawless assessment of the stakes. He felt his surprise slash across his face in bold strokes.
"That may be true, but I need Dryden as much as you do," he said. "He's the only one who can help clear my name. If nothing else, I can prove my good worth by coming to your aid."
"I knew you had other motives."
"You wound me."
"No, I cured you."
He crossed his arms. "Based on our association, I see little difference."
"You suggest that if we share Dryden's influence, in a way, you'll have no cause to betray me?"
Suspicion yet swam through her voice like fish in a stream. To get Meg to Nottingham, he needed to secure her full cooperation. No potions, no tricks, no reason to abandon him for Dryden's convenient status and fickle bravery. She had to come willingly, if only for his own health and sanity.
But how to convince her? The truth was obviously impossible; it resembled his misdeeds too closely, no matter his concern for the safety of Robin's family. And if Hugo were any example of her associations, she would never accept altruism.
Deceitful, lascivious, greedy Hugo.
He grinned. "And if you offered a few of those counterfeit emeralds, I'd appreciate it."
"You low, slimy dunghill." She closed the distance between them and jabbed a precise finger into the leather mail he wore. "You arrested my sister. You should be begging for my forgiveness, not offering your services for a price."
"Truth be told, 'tis an inexpensive price," he said. "What sacrifice is it to part with shoddy rocks? Rocks you can conjure?"
"The sacrifice is in giving you what you want."
He stroked a thumb along her bottom lip, feeling powerful when she flinched. A wayward, lustful part of him anticipated the sweet sting of her teeth, fighting, biting him again. "I've already had from you what any man wants from a woman."
She slapped his hand away. "Gelded bastard."
"If I were a gelding, you would've discovered as much."
"You're no better than Hugo."
"Two men working on your behalf will be better than one. Your unscrupulous soul knows as much."
"The Devil take your offer," she said.
"No, the Devil just made you an offer. Let me escort you to Nottingham."
©2008 Carrie Lofty. Published by arrangement with Kensington Publishing. For more romance information, visit their website.