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Marion brushed her hair, thinking on the oddities of the day. Bess had already retired. She heard a bird call from the balcony, but surely no chickadee was abroad at this late hour.
She set the hairbrush aside and hurried out. A cloaked figure hovered at the edge of the balcony. She withdrew in fright. The handsome young butcher pulled back his hood and clung to the rail, entangled in the ivy that grew on the tower.
“Mad and merry butcher, you take an unwarranted chance with your neck.” She looked down, knowing it was many feet to the ground.
He smiled at her, his teeth white within his yellow beard. “A worthy risk to finally see my lady this close.” He took one hand of hers and kissed it.
Marion gasped. “Caution! Both hands on the rail or the vine. I would not see you fall.” She stepped closer and did not try taking his hand from hers. “'Twould be a shame to lose you before I know your name.”
He swung up, throwing his long legs in their green hose over the rail, and landing on his feet before her. He favored her with a proper bow. His voice was sweet as the birds in the morning as he said, “Robin, my lady. I am Robin.”
She inclined her head in acknowledgment. “My lord Locksley,” she said, using his proper title. She offered her hand again. “Lady Marion FitzRoy.”
He took it and kissed it again, pausing to breathe over her wrist. “So soft. I knew you would be.”
“My lord Nottingham does not allow me out. Or I'd have been down for a kiss from a good tight butcher.”
“I didn't coax you well enough to sneak out then. I tried my best.” Robin looked entirely crestfallen.
Marion took his other hand with her free one. “Please, my lord, understand, I am locked in. Bess is allowed out, but my uncle, the king, says naught should happen to me. The war goes poorly. Alas, Bess is a poor messenger.”
Robin laughed. “Shall I remedy that?” He drew her closer and wrapped his arms around her waist.
She gave him a saucy look and a wicked smile. “Have you still three pennyworths of meat about you? For it was fine beef.”
Robin sighed. “Only a bit of kidney, too squashed to sell. I was going to pass it to a beggar as I left town.”
“Then allow me to pay you for it.” She slid her arms around his neck. “And in full.”