Chapter XCVIII

He stands there, not exactly straight, and leaning heavily on the doorpost, his face the colour of a misty night, but still there. Untidy hair over bright eyes, gaunter than she remembers him, but all in one piece. Just.

Keiran!’

Aaron laughed. She half expected him to say ‘I told you so’, but he managed to hold his tongue long enough for her to throw herself at an outlaw and make him wince.

‘Ye gods, I’m sorry.‘ For so many things.

‘Don’t be,’ he said. ‘We’re going to change that all. Right now.’

‘Excuse me,’ said Aaron, a nasty smile loitering in his voice. ‘But I haven’t quite finished with you yet. Either of you. But first things first - I ordered you locked up. Don’t say you escaped again.’

Keiran smiled weakly. ‘I have my ways.’

‘The others - Moll, Jaques, Larkey-?’

He shook his head. ‘I don’t know. I’m sorry.’

She bit her lip. This was all her fault!

‘Lovely as this romantic scene is just now,’ Aaron said, bringing the scene back under his control, ‘I’d like to end it rather swiftly. Beatrix, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like you to sign this warrant-’

‘Over my dead body. Don’t sign anything, Beatrix.’

‘Well, it may be over your dead body, if that’s the way you want it.’

‘Don’t even think about it,’ Beatrix said, her voice wobbling with her anger. ‘You wouldn’t get two steps.’

‘Wouldn’t I? You have only one sword between you.’

Beatrix laughed, exhilaration lending her boldness. ‘Do we? Honestly, Aaron, I’d have thought that you’d know by now. Outlaws have to be ready to fight anywhere.’

‘But you’re not an outlaw!’

‘No, you’re right. I’m not. But I’m in love with one.’

And with a flourish, she drew two swords, one hidden beneath her jerkin, and threw one to Keiran, who caught it.

‘Now we’re even,’ she said with a smile. ‘You were saying?’

The End

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