He is so easy to manipulate.
She turns her face away from his burning eyes, hungry for even the smallest scraps of affection. He will do anything for a kind word, a gentle touch. It's pathetic, really.
He calls her name, softly, his voice harsh with emotion he can't quite mask. She looks up at him, at the need in his expression, and has to keep herself from smiling. He is so tall, taller than Robin and much more broad across the shoulders. His frost blue eyes implore her to love him as he loves her. His gloved hand comes up to caress her face and she lowers her eyes as if shy. She can almost hear his heart pounding in his chest and that power over this proud, furious man puts a thrill in her blood.
Is this how the Sheriff feels, she wonders, whenever he persuades Guy to follow his orders? The thought should disgust her, she knows, but her mind is otherwise occupied with the adrenaline singing in her veins. Perhaps this is just the power of women, to turn men head over heels out of control with emotion. She has never felt like this with Robin, however. While the sight of the outlaw is certainly exciting, their interaction has never given her this much satisfaction.
His fingers stop just short of her skin, frozen with indecision. He wants her with all of his being, and yet, she knows he feels unworthy of her. She feels a sort of triumph at his struggle, and feels the corners of her mouth turning up in a foolish reflection of it. Before she can turn it to her advantage or dash the smile away completely, he catches sight of it and is suddenly across the room in a storm of black leathers.
"You are too cruel, Marian," he says, facing the wall. "You encourage my...feelings for you and then scorn them in the same breath. What do you want from me?" His voice is low and dark. Anyone else would be apprehensive at the sound of it, but she knows what hides under that dangerous tone. He is confused and frustrated. He knows what he wants, but cannot put it into words, doesn't know how to get it without the violence that Vaisey has conditioned him to rely on.
Marian takes in the tense line of his back, admittedly attractive, and the flexing of his fingers into fists at his sides. She knows what he wants her to say, what he dares to hope she will one day say, and she dangles that knowledge in front of him as she would string to a cat. Crossing the room, she places her hand upon his arm. He turns his face to look at her, otherwise unmoving. Dark hair falls over his brow. How easy, she thinks as she pushes it out of his face, to mold his emotions as she pleases. The confusion and anger that raged in his eyes vanish inward. Now, there is that familiar gleam of hope and adoration.
"Friendship," she says with finality. He blinks and pale, blue eyes are suddenly filled only with shadow.
"You have it. You've always had that and more, Marian. I had hoped-" he breaks off desperately and moves away from her again. Her fingers slip along the soft leather of his sleeve until he is a few paces away.
She knows what he was about to say and has to stop herself from laughing at the ridiculous notion. He wants to marry her. He's hinted at it before, many times. Given her gifts to win her affections and show off his wealth. She can't have cared less for his stolen fortune, or the gifts themselves. She claims the trinkets are too valuable or that she fears their abuse upon the few times he has said something about their absence. He blames himself, thinking it's his own failure to find something suitable for a lady of her station.
"Sir Guy, you are a good man," she says. "No woman could be prouder or more glad than I to have a friend such as you."
Her words are equally soothing and as sharp as the sword on his belt. He sighs and she knows the fight is over for now. His shoulders set and she can see that he's resigned himself to friendship, at least for the moment.
"Thank you, Marian. It is not in my nature to be good. It is for you that I endeavor to be an honorable man. Your friendship," he stumbles over the word, "is invaluable to me."
His smile is unsure and vulnerable. He reserves it for her eyes only, when they are alone together. Any other woman would feel privileged to see it. Instead, Marian only feels disgust. The Sheriff's Master-at-Arms is nothing but a love-struck fool.
There is a call from the corridor, a guard seeking Sir Guy. The Sheriff must require his presence. Guy frowns at the door, but recovers quickly. "Marian," he murmurs, taking her soft hand in his larger, gloved one. "I must go."
She smiles, a parting gift she knows he will relish. "I understand. Go. Do not keep him waiting."
He nods, dark hair falling into his face, again. "Until later," he says.
He closes his eyes and when he opens them again, the pale frost of his irises are as hard as ice. The man she had seen just moments before, the man who gave his heart to her in vain time and again had been replaced by the harsh and hard left hand of the Sheriff of Nottingham. She only has to say a word, however, and he would be on his knees in front of her, willing to do all that she asks of him.
She lets him go, watching his leather clad back depart. It is almost a game they play, Vaisey and Marian, with Sir Guy as their pawn. She makes her move, using kind words and false promises of love. Vaisey make his own move, taking advantage of the younger man's believe that he is somehow inherently bad, bending Sir Guy to his every whim with promises of power and wealth.
One of these days, she muses, the game will get one of them killed. It's dangerous to play with such an unstable man. As much as it was part of the thrill, one day they will push him too far, too fast. Marian is positive that Sir guy could never hurt her. She looks forward to the day that Vaisey will fall, to the day her father reclaims position as Sheriff.
She leaves the room with a secret smile on her face.
A/N: This work has been updated from the original published work as of February 26, 2014. See author's profile for standing disclaimer.