Shaking, I loop an arm around the man’s waist and hold tight.
“You startled me,” I say, smacking his chest with the flat of my palm.
“I’m sorry.” He clears his throat, trying not to laugh.
I rest my forehead against his fitted leather jacket. “You almost made me fall.”
“I don’t think I should take all the blame for that,” he says, attempting—but failing—to nudge me back. “In fact, I think I am the reason you didn’t tumble three stories to your death.”
Shivering at the thought, I hold onto him tighter, waiting for my pulse to return to its normal pace. “I’m very grateful for your existence.”
“You and few others,” he says with a quiet laugh.
After one more deep breath, I finally compose myself and step back, staring up at his shadowed face. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing.” His tone is lighter than I’ve ever heard it, making me think he’s still amused by the predicament he found me in.
“Lord Ambrose told me to stay in my room until he returned, but I didn’t know if he was back, and I was too spooked by last night’s events to go into the hall. I just wanted to knock on the door to see if he was in.”
“So, you decided to scale the lattice?” he asks incredulously.
“You did it first!” I exclaim, and then I lower my voice. “And we should be careful. Lord Ambrose might hear us.”
The bandit jerks his head toward the room. “He’s not in.”
I turn toward the dark windows, deciding he’s likely right.
“Truly, why are you here?” I ask again. “Were you stealing something from the marquis?”
In the woods, he said he wasn’t a thief, but I find that very hard to believe. Who else dresses in black and masks their face?
“What happened last night?” he says instead of answering.
I shrug, feeling foolish. “Nothing really. Lord Ambrose’s staff was having a gathering of some sort. They tried to get me to come down, but I went to bed.”
“Did they?” he asks stonily, again making me question something that I shouldn’t be questioning.
But his voice.
I mean, their voices…
And he and the marquis are both so tall, with such broad shoulders.
“You are human, aren’t you?” I ask suddenly.
Looking startled, the bandit takes a step back. “Why would you question it?”
“Let me see your ears.”
I set my hands on my hips. “I know you’re desperate to conceal your identity, but surely you don’t think I can recognize you by your ears alone?”
Shaking his head, the bandit sweeps his hat aside. With the moon behind the thick clouds, it’s too dark to make out his exact hair color, which is a shame. But it’s dark, like Lord Ambrose’s.
“I can’t see anything,” I complain with a huff.
“Just remember, this was your idea.” Suddenly, the bandit loops an arm around my waist and tugs me against him, closer than we were even a moment ago.