The branches formed flowing shapes that jumped and dove at him, but he ducked and dodged and felt the ground move swiftly beneath his quick feet. The summer air was pumping through his lungs, his hair was free in the night, and every muscle in his body was relaxed and warm.
His eyes sought Hollie’s fleeing form as he ran, but he was falling behind. He laughed as a stitch came into his side, and he shook his head in amazement. Hollie was far faster than he was.
But finally the gardens were through, and he was faced with a steep slope to the tower. Hollie was halfway up already, and her bare feet somehow managed the rocky slope without trouble. Her brown hair was waving out behind her, and her bare legs beneath her shorts were quick and light on the steep terrain.
Damien was amazed at his own athleticism, and he took the hill with pumping legs and a smile to the ground. And he wasn’t sure quite how, perhaps she was slowing on purpose, but he was beginning to gain on her. He could almost feel himself catching her up, grabbing her hand, pulling her onwards, but then, to his sudden surprise, she put on a burst of speed at the last moment and vanished from sight into the gaping door of the tower.
He stumbled blindly into the darkness with beating heart and gasping lungs. His feet tripped on a set of stairs and he fell further into the dark. His body flailed out to catch himself, and all at once he collided straight into a set of warm arms. He nearly knocked her over, but she stayed upright with a strong embrace, her voice echoing up the tower as she cried out in laughter and surprise.
“You clumsy dolt!” she accused, pushing him upright.
Damien laughed loudly, and his arms moved around her. He pulled her one way, his mind not sure what he was doing. But she went with his movement, staying within his arms the whole while.
Then they both went still, standing in the dark in each other’s arms. They did not know where the walls were. They did not know if any furniture was nearby. They did not know where the ceiling was. All they knew was that they were in each other’s arms, standing in the dark.
“You’re really warm,” she finally whispered. Her hands moved behind his back, and she slipped away. Damien felt as if she had utterly vanished as soon as he was no longer touching her. But her voice immediately reassured him.
“Wanna climb the tower?”
“Yeah,” he said. His voice sounded odd in the dark, and he felt breathless as her body brushed past his on the way to the stairs.
“I think you found the stairs fairly well,” she murmured.
Damien chuckled and walked slowly after her. He knew that he had found something far more uplifting than stairs.