(Find part 4 here.)
The tunnel ended at a big metal wall like the one they´d used to close the entrance. She didn´t know what to expect when one of the men leaned to press a button on the tunnel wall and the metal started sliding into the ceiling without making a sound. Daylight flooded the tunnel and blinded her. She covered her eyes with a hand and when she lowered it in a few seconds they were outside.
“Oh my god!” She exclaimed and then cleared her throat a little embarrassed when all five men turned to look at her. Even James twisted in the saddle to raise an eyebrow and she squirmed a bit.
What greeted her eyes was a large bowl-like valley, closed off by tall mountains that stretched into the sky and ended in three peaks. The mountain sides were steep and seemed to be bare cliffs from about midway to the top. The lower halves were grassy fields and patches of woods, little houses scattered all over them. In the middle, on the floor of the bowl, was a beautiful castle.
Summer had clearly found it´s way here sooner than outside the circle of mountains. Everything was already in bloom, fields of yellow and red flowers up one hill and around the castle. And the air felt like summer. Fresh and lazy at the same time.
The castle itself was like out of a fairytale. It wasn´t one of those dark grey ones you´d find all around Europe. The walls were tall and seemed to be a perfect circle. Inside was a cluster of towers, the highest one biggest with a row of large windows lining the cone-like roof and another row just below it. The other towers were simply what you´d expect in a fairytale castle. Little windows scattered here and there under colourful roofs and houses huddled on the ground. Red and blue roofs like a floor below the towers, telling her it really was a city.
All the walls, all the towers, were bright white and seemed to sparkle in the sun.
She finally looked back at the rider, Chase.
“It´s beautiful”, she simply said and tilted her head a little. She felt like bouncing up and down with excitement, but kept her calm. No need to embarrass herself any further. Instead she caught grey eyes and was pleasantly surprised to see a hint of warmth there before he steeled up and met her gaze with determination.
“You better ride with me,” he said without answering her statement. “I have to take you to the council.”
She bit back a reply and jumped rather clumsily off the horse. James tried to help but she didn´t accept it, didn´t notice his outstretched hand- to be accurate. She moved over to Chase and James instantly got off his own horse and held his hands in front of him for her to use as a step. She raised an eyebrow and grinned, grabbed his shoulder and then Chase´s hand he´d streched out when she got ready to move. The warm, firm hold of his fingers and palm around hers made her pause for a moment. She met those grey eyes again and the unreadable expression did nothing to calm her suddenly racing heart.
Like she´d never done anything else her whole life, she stepped into James´s hands and heaved herself up onto the horse with the help of Chase´s firm pull. She put one arm loosely around his waist and waited. Her heart was still racing and she was intensely aware of the man in front of her. She couldn´t really help it- leaning a little closer was more a natural instinct than a conscious action.
Chase raised a hand to say goodbye to the other men and rode off towards the city. He shrugged off the urge to pull her arm tighter around him, or guide the horse straight to his house and…
“What´s your name?” He asked to give his brain something else to process. “I have to introduce you, and not knowing your name would be…” He stopped talking, didn´t like where the sentence was going. He would handle the introduction just fine, with or without a name. Hell, he´d introduce her as the kid if he had to.
“It´s Dani Turner,” she answered and cleared her throat. “Daniela, actually. What´s yours? Chase what, I mean”.
“Just Chase”, he grunted and started planning his defences for bringing Daniela Turner to Triplepeak.
(Find part 6 here.)