Keeping her close

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The sun was just beginning to rise as Prince Lothar walked up the tower steps for what would be the last time. He could have simply sent someone else to fetch the girl, but had told her he would come for her himself. After she thought he'd planned to leave her; the prince felt he should to be the one to collect her.

He unlocked the door to the tower and opened it. The prince was not surprised to see the woman by the window yet again. He was however surprised to see her in a long gown.

"Is it time?" Lady Valeria asked turning to face him.

"It would be," he said looking her gown over. "Have you not been informed you would be riding a horse? You do know how to ride, don't you?"

"Yes. I have my own horse."

"Do you?"

"Yes. He's the black horse your brother Prince Balin has been trying to ride unsuccessfully." Before he could stop himself, Lothar laughed. He noticed even she smiled and let out a light laugh.

"What do you normally wear when you ride?" He inquired. Seeing Valeria gesture to her dress the prince said, "Your father taught you to fence but insisted you wore a gown when you rode?"

"My father wanted me to be able to protect myself, but expected me to be a Lady," She replied simply. The tone in her voice led the prince to wonder if, perhaps, she had been vaguely irritated by it.

"I see. What do... Benola does not have female soldiers, does it?" He sighed realizing.

"No Your Highness. Women are not expected to defend themselves. In truth it is rather frowned on," the blonde haired woman replied.

"You can ride as you are though, yes?" Prince Lothar said.

"Yes," she assured him.

"Then we shall..."

"May I take my horse?" she interrupted. Valeria watched as the heir to the Zandell throne seemed to think it over. "I won't take off. Midnight is mine and I would like to keep him. Please?"

The prince was more than a little surprised. This was the first time Valeria had asked for anything. "I would not want to be parted from Ares either. You may keep Midnight."

"Thank you," Lady Valeria replied.

"Come, it's time." Valeria didn't argue and allowed the prince to take hold of her arm. She was surprised when the prince allowed his hand to slide down to her wrist. He still had control of her but it was not as harsh in the feeling or presence to others.

They left the tower and the prince led her through the maze of hallways. Once outside, they headed toward the corral. A small crowd had gathered to watch as Balin attempted to mount Midnight.

"He won't let you do that!" Valeria warned seeing Balin about to jump on the horse.

"Don't worry, he won't..." Balin lost his words as he watch the horse step out from under him mid jump. Several laughs erupted around as he fell face first to the ground.

"Midnight!" Lady Valeria scolded putting her hands on her hips. "That was not nice!" The horse whinnied and stomped his foot as if pouting. "I know he shouldn't have been jumping on you either, but still." The horse jumped back and forth and it took effort for the blonde woman not to laugh.

"Be nice or Prince Lothar might change his mind about letting me take you," Valeria warned. They watched as the horse fell instantly still. "Come here."

"The horse will nev..." The words died on Prince Garrick's lips as the horse ran and effortlessly clear the fence and went to his mistress.

"There, there, Midnight," She cooed. "I know I missed you too, but you'll have a long ride to make up for it alright?" The horse neighed and seemed openly pleased.

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