jadey36: (guy long hair)
jadey36 ([personal profile] jadey36) wrote in [community profile] bbc_robinhood2014-06-13 11:44 am

Perfect Day

Title: Perfect Day
Author: [personal profile] jadey36
Rating: pg-13
Characters: Guy, Djaq, Will, Little John, Allan, Much, Meg
Summary: Robin and Marian have left the forest camp – on the tail of Vaisey and a bunch of mercenaries – to go to Trifels Castle in Germany, where King Richard is being held captive. In his absence, Robin has left Guy in charge of the outlaws.
Word Count: 5,266
Disclaimer: Robin Hood belongs to Tiger Aspect and the BBC. No copyright infringement intended. All rights reserved.
Author’s Note: This is the final chapter in the Outlaw Guy series. A short epilogue will follow in due course.



Perfect Day

“Don’t fuss, woman. We don’t have time for this.”

Guy makes to stand, but Djaq, a firm hand on his shoulder, pushes him back onto the wooden stool.

“Yes, we do. Now hold still and let me finish.”

Guy sits mutely, head slightly bowed, watching as further clumps of dark hair fall at his feet. It will at least be easier to wash and keep clean. He hopes Meg likes it.

“There,” Djaq says, coming around from behind him so she can admire her handiwork from the front. “All done.”

“How does it look?” Guy ruffles his shortened locks. The air feels nice on his neck.

She claps her hands. “Perfect. You should not hide such a handsome face behind a mane of hair, and especially not on today of all days.”

Guy glances nervously about him. Where is Allan? He said he’d be back in good time, yet the sun is creeping ever higher in the sky and still the outlaw isn’t here.

“I must go,” Djaq says, plucking a long hair from her tunic. “Meg might want my help and you are all done.”

As Djaq disappears from view, Allan bounds into the clearing. His face is red, from sun, drink or the exertion of running – maybe all three – Guy can’t tell.

Wiping his brow and grinning, Allan says, “Blimey! Look at you, all spit and polished.”

“Did you get it?” Guy snaps. He stands, loose hairs falling out his elbow creases as he does so. He is uncomfortably hot in his leathers, which he’d foolishly insisted on wearing despite the sweltering heat, and Allan’s lateness only adds to his irritability.

“Keep your hair on...well, what’s left of it.” Allan shoves a hand inside his breeches and retrieves a small pouch.

“What about John?” Guy snatches the pouch from Allan’s outstretched hand. “Any sign of him?”

“Nah, but don’t worry. He’ll be here soon enough.”

“Soon enough is not now, though, is it?” Guy tugs open the pouch and tips it up, spilling the ring into the palm of his hand. He blows a puff of relief. At least something is going right today. The simple silver band, inlaid with a single sapphire is exactly as he wished. He smiles, pleased. Allan may be irksome at times, but when it comes to picking pockets, or telling sob stories to noble women in order to fleece them of their valuables, there is none better than Allan-a-Dale.

Slipping the ring back inside the pouch and hooking it on his belt, Guy strides towards the water barrel. In the couple of skirmishes they’d had with Sir Jasper’s men, his injured leg had held up well. The stitched and re-stitched wound had scabbed over. That scab had since fallen off and left a pinkish scar in its place, which would whiten over time. He would walk tall and proud today, without limping.

“A thank you would be nice,” Allan says, loud enough for Guy to hear.

Guy dips a wooden cup into the water barrel, drinks, tosses the cup in the water and strides back to Allan. “You were supposed to get this,” he pats the pouch, “three days ago. Instead, you decided to dally with one of those whoring serving wenches at The Trip and then had to leg it back to the forest when Sir Jasper had a mind to poke the same woman. Djaq told me, so don’t try to deny it.”

Allan lets the protest he was about to make die on his tongue.

“Thankfully,” Guy continues, “you’ve come up with the goods; otherwise the only thank you you’d get from me is a fist in the face.”

“Robin wouldn’t let you talk to me like that, not if he were here.”

“Well, he isn’t.” Guy nearly adds ‘thank God’. He can do without Robin’s childish witticisms today. He’s also glad Marian isn’t here. Worried though he is about her safety, he’s not sure he could bear saying his marriage vows to another woman with Marian looking on.

“Go look for John and that priest,” he says, waving Allan away.

“Will was right,” Allan says, turning on his heel. “Robin should never have put you in charge.”

Two months ago, Guy would have agreed with Allan. But since Robin and Marian’s hasty departure for Germany, on the tail of Vaisey and the mercenaries, he’d won them over. As a wet and dismal June turned into a dry and sunny July and then a scorching August, the gang’s hostility towards Guy, and especially his being in charge, fell away.

Much started to relax in his presence, even when Guy wore his broadsword, appreciating the fact that Guy asked a lot less of him than Robin used to ask.

John, reluctantly at first, agreed to teach Guy how to fight with a quarterstaff. After several lessons, most of which ended up with Guy on the ground, John gruffly admitted that Guy was, as Allan put it, all right. Guy never let on that after those initial lessons, he made sure to let John knock him to the ground more often than not, prepared to suffer the indignity and Allan’s hooting laughter if it meant John mellowing towards him.

Will continued to remain aloof, until Djaq told the solemn young carpenter that Guy desired to make a carving for Meg who had nothing of her own in the forest camp and who missed her ginger cat.

With surprising patience, Will spent several evenings teaching Guy how to follow the wood’s grain to make a decent carving. Meg was delighted with Guy’s wooden cat, even though she said it looked more like a donkey, and Will gained a grudging respect for Guy.

The smell of the sun-baked forest fills Guy’s nostrils. He is not sorry that his wedding must take place in Sherwood. He has no wish to stand in a church, remembering his disastrous non-wedding to Marian, and Meg says they could marry in the middle of the River Trent for all she cares as long as he promises to love her forever.

Despite the furnace-like heat, Guy shudders, a sudden chill prickling the skin on his arms and chest as he recalls his near drowning last month, the day he proposed to Meg.

She’d been hiding behind a tree, watching as he bathed at the river’s edge. When he’d stripped down to nothing but his braies and outlaw tag, she sprang out, hurtling down the short hill towards the bank. Before he had time to gather his wits, she slammed into him. He tumbled into the cold water. Thrusting his feet downwards, he frantically searched for the bottom, only to find the bottom wasn’t there. He was out of his depth.

“You wash like a woman,” Meg said. “This bit, and then this bit.” She imitated him scrubbing various parts of his body. “No wonder you take so long about it.”

“I cannot,” Guy said, flailing his arms, “swim.” He was no more than a yard and a half from the bank, yet he might as well have been a mile away for all the good that would do him.

Meg, her smile replaced by a look of horror, glanced about her. Seeing a snapped off branch, she snatched it up and held it out towards Guy.

He grabbed it.

“Help me by kicking your legs,” Meg shouted.

He kicked wildly and Meg pulled and, after a few heart-stopping moments, he was scrabbling up the muddy riverbank to safety.

“I’m sorry,” Meg said, brushing bits of riverweed from Guy’s arms and chest. “I was only having a bit of fun. I would never do anything to endanger your life. I love you too much to—” Still holding bits of dripping weed, she backed away, her face reddening.

She kept backing away until she collided with a tree.

Guy, though fully aware of his near-naked state and his wet, clinging braies, strode towards her. Meg, her eyes wide and staring, made no move to run.

“See to it that the next bit of fun you have with me,” Guy said, his face mere inches from hers, “is somewhere where I am drowning in your eyes rather than in water.”

He kissed her then. Not the soft, tender brush of lips he’d given her as he waited for a mercenary’s war hammer to split his head open, but a deep and passionate one.

Several kisses later, the front of Meg’s skirt damp from his sodden braies, he asked her to marry him.

“I am an outlaw,” he said, “and also a man much hated throughout the shire despite it being common knowledge that I am now one of Robin Hood’s men. I have no prospects and, when the king returns, perhaps not even a life to live, but if you will have me, I am yours, body and soul.”

“Well, that’s still better than having a donkey or a tree-brained idiot for a husband,” Meg replied, happy tears spilling down her cheeks. She wrapped her arms around his rapidly drying body and kissed him, long and hard.

“I should dress,” Guy mumbled, jerking away and striding back to his clothes, draped across a large, flattish rock. In truth, he wished to cover up his arousal that their kissing had elicited.

Guy sniffs. Woodsmoke drifting through the trees reminds him that time is moving on and the priest is still not here. Unable to bear waiting any longer, he heads back to the camp even though Djaq gave him strict instructions to remain in the forest clearing until it was time.

~

“You should not be here,” Djaq says, shooing Guy away.

“I just wanted to—”

Djaq swivels round, turns back to Guy and frowns. “You are not meant to see the bride until it is time for the ceremony.”

“She’s beautiful,” he says, unable to tear his eyes away.

Meg is wearing a sky blue dress. Her hair is loose. On her head is a wreath of summer flowers that Guy cannot name. Flaunting tradition, she is not wearing a veil. Catching Guy’s stare, she smiles and gives him a small wave.

“Yes,” Djaq says, “she is. And soon she will be your wife.”

“I do not deserve her.”

He turns away, starts walking back towards the clearing, cursing his foolishness at not undoing his proposal, at letting things get this far. It is not fair on the girl. He has not told her a half of what he did during his years with Vaisey, the heinous crimes he committed, the betrayals, the murders. A husband and wife should share things, including their history, but to share such monstrous behaviour would surely break her heart; either that or she’ll plunge that dagger she’s become so handy with into his heart. Yet to remain silent means he will live in constant fear of someone telling her the things he has omitted to tell her.

Djaq catches up with him. Pulling on his arm, she urges him to stop walking.

“Tell her the wedding’s off,” Guy says, his voice thick with emotion. “I cannot—”

“You can and you will,” Djaq cuts across him. “I know why you think you do not deserve her and I call you a coward for it. Meg knows what she is getting and it does not frighten her. She does not care what you have done because she sees only the man you have since become. She tells me her father tried to arrange marriages for her several times. None of those men was her choice – you are. That is what you must live with.”

Guy wonders, not for the first time, whether Robin actually put him in charge as a form of punishment rather than reward. Not that he has ever really been in charge he now realises. Djaq whispers in Will’s ear, who in turn speaks to the others, while Meg whispers in his ear, suggesting this and that, making him think any decisions made are his. The women run this show, Guy thinks, without rancour. They always have.

A sharp whistle pierces the stifling air.

“That is Allan,” Djaq says. “The priest must be here. Are you coming willingly, or must I torture you with stinging nettles?”

Guy smiles and raises his hands in defeat. “You win.”

Djaq returns the smile. “I always do.”

~

Much is circling a stack of little cakes. Guy scowls even as a rush of saliva fills his mouth. He clears his throat, loudly. Much looks up and tries to disguise his guilty intent with an unconvincing smile.

“I wasn’t...I wouldn’t...that is to say, I was just looking.”

“If you look any harder,” Guy says, “you will drown in your own drool.”

Much backs away, affronted. Baring his teeth, Guy takes a step towards him. Much turns and runs. Guy laughs.

“Even Robin wasn’t that cruel,” Allan says, clapping Guy on the shoulder.

“A man should enjoy his wedding day, surely.”

“Well I’d be careful about frightening off too many of the guests. There are few of us as it is. Talking of which, you might want to give the priest one of your rare smiles because right now the poor man is quivering like a leaf in a storm, and, seeing as the gent in question is close to bursting out of his amply-sized vestments, that’s a whole lot of quiver.”

Allan is right. The priest Little John had convinced to come to the forest in order to marry Guy to Meg is ashen-faced, the bible held out in front of him as if to ward off the Devil visibly shaking in the man’s trembling hands.

“He can mess his undergarments for all I care, as long as he says the words.”

“My, we’re touchy today.”

Guy shakes his head, contrite. “I’m sorry. I’m just nervous, that’s all.”

“What, frightened your bride-to-be is going to smack you in the face?”

Realising he’s gone a step too far Allan follows Much’s example and takes off.

Guy looks again at the mound of little cakes and other delicacies atop the beribboned table. Another rush of saliva fills his mouth; he was too agitated to break his fast this morning and the one mug of ale he quickly downed before Djaq insisted on cutting his hair has done nothing to calm his unsettled stomach. A heated shame creeps up his neck. He should not have been so harsh on Much; after all, the man had helped to prepare much of the food ready for Guy’s wedding feast – if you can call a few people standing around a single table in a forest a feast. Still, the food may be simple but it looks appetising enough; there is even some greenery for Djaq, and Guy is happy to forego minstrels and jugglers and other such fripperies.

Resolving to try harder, Guy gives the priest a disingenuous smile. Whether the churchman sees the smile for what it is, or because he’s heard tales of Guy’s previous attempt to marry, he gives Guy the thinnest of smiles in return and then starts flicking through his bible as though looking for some words of wisdom, or maybe a magic spell that will transport him back to Nottingham without anyone noticing.

Annoyed, Guy decides to seek out Meg and Djaq, wishing they would hurry with whatever they are fussing with.

As he passes the food-laden table, Guy gives in to temptation and steals the topmost cake from the stack of little cakes.

“What you looking at?” he asks. Without waiting for an answer, he pushes past an open-mouthed Much.

Behind the curtained off sleeping area, he finds not Djaq or Meg but Meg’s father. The barrel-chested, piggy-eyed man has been in the camp since daybreak. He’d begun by protesting loudly that he was going to rescue his daughter from a fate worse than death. Fingering the hilt of his sword, Guy had convinced the brute that that would be unwise, after which Meg’s father had contented himself with downing cupfuls of wine from a keg which the outlaws had made sure never reached the castle cellars.

“To the landless outlaw, Sir Guy of Nothing, and Megan Elizabeth, my wilful, disobedient daughter,” Gilbert slurs, waving a cup of wine in Guy’s face, slopping some of it on Guy’s polished black boots. “May they never cross my path again.”

Resisting the urge to punch his soon to be father-in-law on the nose, Guy snarls, “Cross mine and it’ll be more than your purse strings I’ll be severing with my blade.”

The wine has made Meg’s father both bold and foolish. Seemingly oblivious to the cruel set of Guy’s mouth and his balled fists, he deliberately pours the remainder of his drink onto Guy’s boots, giggling girlishly. Finished, he tosses the cup aside and, swaying slightly, says, “I shall now go attend my bellyaching daughter.”

Without warning, Guy punches Gilbert on the nose, sending the podgy man sprawling. Squealing like a stuck pig, his nose dripping blood, Gilbert pushes up onto one elbow. He cups his smashed nose with his free hand and looks in horror at the crimson blood pooling in his palm. A heartbeat later, his eyelids flutter and he collapses onto the ground, out cold.

Guy expects there will be consequences, not least an irate Meg, but the man was clearly in no state to give his daughter away and Guy is pleased to find that a bit of violence has calmed his earlier wedding nerves.

After wiping his wine-soaked boots with the edge of a blanket, Guy steps back out into the blazing August sunshine to await his bride.

~

Fortunately, Meg approves of her surrogate father, Little John, giving her away. The priest, unaware that anything is amiss, recites the wedding vows as fast as his nervous tongue will let him. Blessing the sapphire-inlaid silver ring, he hands it back to Guy.

Guy lifts Meg’s left hand and, after repeating the priest’s words, slips the ring onto her finger. Meg stares at it for a moment and then, with her right hand, slides it off. An icy dagger pierces Guy’s heart. He recoils in anticipation of Meg slipping the ring onto her right hand and saying, “No, the right is better.”

“It’s a bit too big,” she says, sliding it back onto her ring finger. “I shall wear it on my thumb after the ceremony for fear it might fall off and become lost.”

Relief gives way to joy as Guy gazes into the eyes of the girl he helped rescue from the castle dungeons only a few short weeks ago. He has a wife, a woman who will, God willing, bear him sons. More than that, he has a girl who loves him unconditionally, who will, he believes, never lie to him or deceive him or go behind his back. Meg speaks her mind and is not afraid to tell him off if he does something to displease her. He expects their married life will be full of arguments and apologies. It doesn’t matter because he loves her and she loves him and right now Guy feels like dancing a jig.

The priest clears his throat, clearly perturbed by the interruption. “Let us pray,” he says.

Guy and Meg kneel and the priest hastily recites the wedding prayer. Soon after, their right hands joined, the priest pronounces that they be man and wife together.

Much claps, turns to Djaq and asks, “Can I eat now?”

Djaq lightly smacks him round the head.

Holding hands, Guy leads his wife over to the food-laden table telling her to stand on the other side of it, opposite him, as Djaq had instructed earlier while cutting his hair.

“My wife,” he says, leaning across the stack of little cakes.

“My husband,” Meg replies, repeating the gesture.

Their lips meet. For a heartbeat, Guy imagines he is kissing Marian, that she is wearing the same sky blue dress as Meg, the same wreath of flowers in her hair. Then Robin appears at her shoulder and, shaking his head, gently leads her away. Guy’s eyes snap open. He stares into Meg’s eyes, sparkling with happiness.

“I love you,” she whispers.

Marian does not love him, has never loved him. And he did not need her to save his soul, to cleanse him of his crimes. He needed friends; people like Djaq and Allan and Robin Hood. His happiness started the day he decided to turn his back on the sheriff and join Robin’s gang. Today, it is complete.

“And I you.” He kisses her again, his clean-shaven chin a hair’s-breadth from the topmost cake. Then he turns to Much. “Now,” he says, “you can eat.”

~

As the sun sets, bringing some welcome relief to the sweating merrymakers, the priest declares he must take his leave.

Having reached the end of the ceremony without the bride assaulting the groom and running off, Father Brown had relaxed somewhat. He happily tucked into the food and ale on offer while Much stared daggers at him and pleaded with a grinning Allan to engage the priest in conversation so he might get a look in on the cakes and pastries.

“Before you do,” Guy says to the cake-crumbed priest, “there is the small matter of payment. To us.”

“What payment?” Father Brown belches behind a cupped hand and picks up his bible from the now almost empty food table.

“We are outlaws and all who enter the forest must contribute to our cause.”

“But I am a simple man of God and have no worldly goods I can offer you, at least none on my person.”

“Then I am afraid,” Guy says, shaking his head regretfully, “we will have to hold you hostage until such time as—oww!” He glares at Djaq who has just whacked him on the arm.

“He’s jesting,” she tells the priest. “I believe he thinks he is Robin Hood. It’s just the sort of thing Robin would say.”

“Oh, I see.” The priest gives a short titter. “Most amusing.”

“Little John will escort you back to Nottingham,” Djaq says.

“Heft, more like.” Much stares disconsolately at the empty trenchers and bowls.

With a nod of thanks, Father Brown waddles towards the horse and cart where John is already waiting. Once seated, he glances over his shoulder, a worried look on his face, clearly fearful that Guy hadn’t been joking after all.

Guy smiles, a genuine one this time, and lifts his hand in farewell.

Little John snaps the reins and the cart trundles off.

Turning around, Guy sees Meg is scowling. The cause of her frown is her father, dried blood coating his upper lip and chin, barrelling towards them.

Djaq, ever the peacemaker, rushes to meet him. “Oh, you poor man. Guy said that you had passed out from too much drink, but he omitted to tell us that you had hurt yourself in doing so. Come. Sit.” Djaq waves her hand at a nearby stool. “I will clean up your face. Perhaps a poultice might—”

Gilbert kicks the stool aside, almost losing his balance in the process. “I will not have your heathen hands anywhere near my face, you...you—” He issues a robust spit in Djaq’s direction.

Then, jabbing a finger at Meg, who if Guy hadn’t been holding her arm might well have been disposed to give her father a slap, he says, “Daughter, I wash my hands of you, so don’t come running to me when this monster ruins your life.”

Meg tries to wriggle from Guy’s powerful grip but he refuses to let go; her dress is far too lovely to spoil with blood and snot.

“Allow me,” Will says. Grim faced, he steps up to Gilbert. “This,” Will draws back his right arm, “is for the woman I love.” He punches Gilbert on the nose, causing a further spurt of crimson blood to gush from the man’s nostrils.

Gilbert crumples to the ground.

Allan grins. “There’s nothing like a good punch up to liven up a wedding.” He flicks his eyes at Guy. “Er...no offence.”

“Offence taken,” Guy says. “Now go run after John and tell him to come back as he has another passenger.”

Allan, noticing Guy’s clenched fists, promptly nods and takes off.

“Sorry about hitting your father,” Will says to Meg.

“Don’t be. He deserved it.”

Everyone stands in uncomfortable silence, staring at the unconscious Gilbert. Much breaks it by asking if he can have the last cake left on the table.

“You can take it with you,” Guy says, reminding Much of their conversation last evening.

Much groans. “Do we have to go to the poxy cave?”

“It is only for one night,” Djaq says, handing Much the cake. “We promised Meg and Guy that they could have their first night together as man and wife without listening to the rest of us snoring, or farting, or talking in our sleep.”

“I think you’ll find I do not do any of those things.”

“How can you know,” Djaq reasons. “Since you are asleep at the time.”

“Because I...because...” Much trails off, realising Djaq has a valid argument.

~

By the time everyone has gathered whatever they need for the coming night, John has returned, along with Father Brown, who looks as though he’s escaped the gallows only to find himself facing the executioner’s axe. From his seat next to John, he stares at the groaning, bloody-nosed man lying on the ground. He clutches his bible to his chest, doubtless believing the outlaws have changed their mind about letting him leave without making a monetary contribution to their cause.

“Wedding crasher,” Allan says, waving a hand at Gilbert. “Happens all the time in the forest.”

Father Brown crosses himself and watches as John and Guy heave the dazed and bleeding Gilbert into the back of the cart. John climbs back onto his seat, snaps the reins and the cart trundles off once more.

“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” Meg says, unpinning the wreath and shaking her hair loose.

“You realise,” Guy says, “that when your father dies you are unlikely to inherit his property.”

“I hate the house and I don’t care about his money. All I want is you.”

Meg tosses the wreath to Djaq who deftly catches it.

“I hope you will have me for a long time, my sweet, but if King Richard escapes or is freed from captivity and returns to England, I may find myself facing a severe penalty for my past wrongdoings, possibly even death. And I will fare no better if Prince John becomes king, having turned against him.”

“I won’t let the king kill you,” Meg says, her face defiant.

“He’s the king of England. I think you’ll find he can do what he likes.”

“Over my dead body.”

Despite the sticky heat, Guy shivers.

“Enough of this gloomy talk,” Djaq says, placing the wreath on her head and doing a twirl. “Today is a day of rejoicing, of celebrating life. And now that Guy and Meg are wed, I have an announcement to make.” She glances at Will, who looks suddenly shyer than normal. He gives her a small nod. “Will and I are to be married, but not,” she adds, “until after Robin has returned.”

Leaving Meg’s side, Guy crosses to Djaq and gives her a warm hug. “I’m very happy for you.” Then closer to her ear, so only she can hear. “Will is a lucky man and I’m sure will do right by you, but if he ever hurts you he will have me to answer to.”

Djaq kisses Guy’s cheek, says, “Be happy.”

“You’re a sly one.” Allan slaps Will on the back. “Congratulations, my friend.”

Much cautiously raises his hand.

“Yes, Much, what is it?” Djaq asks.

“Er...excellent though Father Brown was, would you mind using a different priest; a thinner one, perhaps?”

Everyone laughs.

~

The camp is strangely quiet without the others. The air hangs hot and humid despite the blackness of night, the leaves on the trees unmoving.

Guy eyes the bed that Will made for the happy couple and the hangings that Djaq organised to give them a modicum of privacy. It is not ideal, but until it is safe to leave the forest camp there is little alternative. Besides, Guy knows that he and Meg must be careful in their intimacies. Both agree that the forest is no place to bring up a child. They also agree that the priest’s pronouncement of their union means that they are man and wife and that Meg does not have to take Guy’s seed to make it any truer.

“Is it to your liking?” Guy asks as Meg pushes the curtain aside.

A few days ago, under cover of darkness, he had slipped past Jasper’s men and, by way of a back window, entered Locksley Manor. After checking that no one was inside the house, he made his way upstairs and retrieved a favourite bed covering, as well as a clean linen shirt and some spare braies.

On top of the red coverlet lies a small bouquet of flowers he picked himself shortly after Meg vacated the camp with Djaq to go bathe and do whatever else women have to do on the day of their wedding.

A flush of embarrassment heats his cheeks; Vaisey would have mocked him mercilessly for picking flowers. He pushes the unwelcome thought away.

“Everything today is to my liking.” Meg’s face is glowing with happiness and probably more ale and wine than she has previously drunk.

“You would not prefer that we spend our wedding night somewhere else, an inn perhaps?”

“I told you that as long as we are together I don’t care where we are.” Meg picks up the flowers and sniffs them.

Guy wipes a smudge of powdery yellow pollen from the end of her nose.

“I would prefer it,” he says, “if we give the River Trent a miss.”

Meg giggles. “I will teach you to swim one day.”

“I am sure you will teach me lots of things, as I will teach you.”

“You’d be surprised what I know.” Meg shoots Guy a mischievous look. She lays the flowers by the bed and turns back the coverlet.

“I know,” Guy says, peeling off his leathers with a sigh of relief. “That you understand the rudiments of lovemaking and that one of your father’s lovers,” he shakes his head, as if he can hardly believe that the obnoxious Gilbert could have such a thing, “befriended you and instructed you on what pleasures a man and how a man may pleasure you in return, but I think you’ll find that...you’ll find...” Guy loses his train of thought as Meg steps out of her wedding dress and then pulls her chemise over her head.

“Why don’t you stop talking and come to bed,” she says.

“Are you always going to be this demanding?” he asks, a smile in his voice.

“Only when I want something.”

Guy realises that his married life is unlikely to be one of ease, but, looking at the gorgeous creature who is about to lie with him, he thinks he will cope.

Epilogue to follow

~

Author’s Note: today’s tiered wedding cakes actually stem from the Middle Ages. Guests would bring little cakes and stack them on top of one another. The bride and groom would then try to kiss over the top of the cakes without knocking them to the ground.

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