"I was hoping I would find you here."

Maria turned at the sound of the baritone voice that had made the statement. She knew it was him, and couldn't help smiling at the sight of the Captain coming out of the shadows of the trees.

"You did ask me to meet you here. Didn't you?" Now Maria was hoping she hadn't imagined his request after their dance, just a few hours ago.

"Yes, yes of course. I, ah, suppose I wasn't convinced you would come," he replied, continuing to approach her.

"Well, here I am," she said, slightly shrugging her shoulders." Her smile faded slightly, and now she was wondering why, indeed, he'd asked her to meet him here. Was it to apologize for being so forward as to kiss her? She wasn't sure she wanted an apology for that; no, she was sure she did not want an apology. She wanted him to kiss her again.

"Here we are," he had reached the spot where Maria was standing, and stopped in front of her. They were separated by mere inches, but Maria could feel the warmth emanating from his form. He took both of her hands in his.

"Your hands are cold," he remarked. He brought them to his lips, gently kissing each one, before pressing them to his heart. As he did, he looked into her eyes, and all the words he'd prepared to say to her were swept from his mind.

Maria wasn't quite sure how she should answer, so she relied on the one trait that rarely failed her-honesty.

"I guess I'm a little nervous," Maria admitted. "I'm not really sure why I'm, I mean why you asked me to meet you here."

Georg cleared his throat. "I'm sorry for that. It wasn't my intention to make you feel anxious," he said, as he moved one hand to Maria's back, the other still holding her hands. "I simply wanted to see you again, and perhaps, ah, talk?"

"Talk?" She whispered, as she turned her face up toward his.

"Mmmm, yes, talk. . . " he answered, his voice muffled by their lips meeting in the second sweet, sensuous kiss of the evening.

It was impossible for either to tell how long they stood there, softly, slowly becoming drunk on each other. Only when Georg realized they both needed to breathe did he break away, suggesting they sit on one of the benches lining the glass structure. He led her easily across the gazebo, and waited for her to sit before settling in beside her. She nestled into his side, his arm around her protectively.

"Maria, since you arrived here, so many things have changed. The children are love you so."

Maria rubbed her cheek against his shoulder. "And I love them, very much."

Georg smiled, and inhaled deeply, the sweet scent of her intoxicating him.

"I knew that the day I returned from Vienna. Only someone who cared deeply for my children would have stood up to me the way you did, rightly, I might add. And if I'm honest, that was the day I began falling in love with you."

He felt her gasp before he heard it, and turned to kiss her forehead.

"I'm a better man with you, Maria. I'm who I want to be. My world is not the glittering salons of Vienna, gossiping and drinking champagne. That was a place to hide, to get lost." Georg sat a bit straighter, and Maria also sat taller, turning to look at him. He smiled at her, and brushed her hair from her eyes.

"But you found me. And helped me realize my life is here, with my children. And with you, if you'll have me, a middle aged man with a lot of baggage."

Maria straight at him, eyes wide in surprise. She opened her mouth to speak, but no sound emerged.

"I love you. Be my wife. Be their mother. Stay with me, with us, forever. Please?"

Her bright blue eyes shone with happiness, and she leaned in to him. Kissing him sweetly at first, and then building in intensity until this time Georg was glad they were sitting, as he completely lost all sense of where he was.

"Mmmm, is that a 'yes', I hope?"