Ok, this was an idea to a story I had written many years ago. This story is dedicated to fellow writer, Availre, who's comission brought this story back to life. As always, I own nothing here! Please expect slight delays between updates because I am currently working on a Bonanza story as well.

Chapter One

"Let's stop here." Basil said pulling his steed to a stop some twenty miles away from the castle.

Princess Amanita nodded and dismounted her horse. He tied their horses up and she walked over to lean against a willow tree and gaze into the cool water of a nearby river. She sighed, feeling bored to death in Sir Basil's presence. Her father was certain that she and Basil would make a good match. It would be possible, if he weren't so dreadfully dull. Not to mention, Amanita wanted to marry for love, she felt nothing for this man here. She wanted to feel her heart quicken at the sight of the man she married. To know his touch would always bring comfort to her.

However, she had to put those foolish thoughts out of her mind. Her father's small kingdom of Mihumit was starving because their crops were dying and their mining had ceased to be prosperous. Basil was from a rich kingdom, Esehup, and he had a considerable fortune himself. She was the only thing of real value in the entire kingdom.

"Oh Amanita," Basil said from behind her, boldly wrapping an arm around her waist. "What do I have to do to convince you to be mine?"

"Sir," she said attempting to pull free. "you do wrong me. I demand you unhand me!"

"Oh please, say you'll be my wife." The look in his eyes frightened her. "Really, you have no other choice. Someday…you will want me, as much as I want you. I'll be glad to teach you…how to want me."

"I don't want you!" She said as she pushed at him. "You shouldn't speak of such things! Get your hands off me!"

"I can't. I long to feel you against me. Your lips against mine!" basil said leaning forward. "I must taste your lips."

She shrieked and pushed at him as he fought to kiss her. Fear filled her. Suddenly Basil stiffened and froze, his hands hovering around her shaking body.

"Good." A strange voice from the shadows said. "Now, turn towards me slowly. I believe I'd be doing the lady a great discourtesy walking away."

That was when she saw him for the first time. He was a tall man, dressed completely in black. Then she saw the reason for Basil's odd reaction. His sword, was sticking into Sir Basil's back. He glanced at her with dark eyes from behind his black mask. She shivered at the piercing gaze in his eyes.

"How is it with you lady?"

She nodded and whispered. "I'm fine."

"Good. Shall I dispose of him for you?" He inquired.

"Nay. I have no wish to get you in trouble for committing such a sin."

"Believe me," he said. "he'd be committing a greater one towards you. As would I, if I were to leave you here with him. Come here."

She walked over with wobbly legs as he sheathed his sword. Walking over to the horses they'd been riding, he set them free.

"Sir!" She gasped as the horses took off in the direction the castle. "Do you intend for me to walk twenty miles to the castle?"

"Not you." He said as he mounted a magnificent black stallion. He reached down, took her hand and pulled her up in front of him on his horse. "Just him." With that, he kicked his horse into a trot.

All was silent except for Sir Basil shouting threats to her rescuer. He was completely indifferent to her, except for a casual arm around her waist, she wouldn't have even known he was behind her. For almost a mile, they rode in silence before she found her voice.

"Please, might I know the name of my rescuer?" She asked.

"For those who deem me fortunate enough to give me a name," he said. "they call me Erik."

"Have you a last name to go with Erik?"

"No." He said shortly. "Just Erik."

"My name is Amanita."

"Like the princess?" She nodded. She didn't want to be known as a princess. She wanted just a few hours of the simple life. "I've never seen her," he said. "but from what I deduce, she must be a lonely girl. Shut up in those walls, tending to our ailing king, no one to keep her company save for a lady-in-waiting."

"How…would you know that?" She asked, incredulous that an outsider would know her life and thoughts without having met her before.

"You hear things. Servants talk you know. They call her the…quiet princess. Rumor has it that sir basil is one of the many desperate men falling over her. But she's not interested."

"Why?" She asked.

He tilted his handsome head to the side. "I think….maybe she's looking for something more than wealth."

"You'd be right." She said softly.

"Excuse me?"

"I said you're probably right."

"Oh." He said as he stopped the horse by a brook. He set her down before dismounting himself. He patted the horses neck. "Good boy."

"What's his name?" She asked as she reached to pat the horse's velvety nose.

Suddenly, Erik gripped her hand and pulled it away from the horses nose. She gasped and shuffled back a step. He eyed her.

"Thunder, and he's a very dangerous horse to people he doesn't trust." He explained. "Sir basil himself tried to pet him once and bit his hand. I'd rather that not happen to you."

She remembered the incident, but wondered how these two men's paths had crossed. "Might I ask….how that came about?" She couldn't keep her curiosity contained for long.

"Easy. He liked my horse and wanted it for himself. Naturally, Thunder wanted no part of him. Right boy?" then to her amazement the horse snorted and shook his head. "Thunder had been abused when wild and I gentled him. He's mine only because he chose to stay and we have a mutual respect for each other. Like him, I know what it feels like."

"I see." She said.

He turned and began searching in the saddle pad. Thunder stared at her and she took a step forward. He leaned forward, curiously and sniffed her hand. She remained perfectly still. His nose traveled up to her face and she fought to keep from squirming as she felt his hot breath on her neck. He lipped her neck, but didn't bite.

"Thunder." Erik said and the horse went back to the grass as if nothing had happened.

He sighed and pushed back her hair to examine her neck. She shivered as his cold fingers brushed her neck; sending shivers of delight down her spine. Erik paused for a moment and gazed deep into her eyes. His eyes weren't as dark as she first surmised. They were blue. A blue, that was so deep, it was almost unnatural.

His hand brushed her neck a few times, checking for any marks and wiping away the traces of slime left by Thunder, as they held locked gazes. The sunlight shown through the maples trees around them. She held her breath, almost expecting a kiss. Suddenly, he pushed away from her and rested his arms on thunder's saddle.

She walked up next to him and gently rested her hand on his. He looked down at her hand covering his. He rotated his hand and ran a finger over her palm. She held his gaze for a matter of moments, his eyes…they were so penetrating. His touch, was gentle and she longed to know the man behind the mask

As if reading her mind, he looked away and mounted up again. "We better get going." He announced as he pulled her up. "We've got fifteen more miles and I think we can make it before nightfall."