Georg softly closed the door to the master suite behind him. He knew Maria heard him come in, as he could see her react to the sound. She was in the armchair in front of the cold, dark hearth; no fire had been lit. The room held a chill, and not simply from the lack of wood burning.

"What do you want?" Maria didn't need to turn to see who had entered the room.

He cringed, her voice lacking the mellifluous tones he knew and loved so well. "I want us to talk, Maria," he said, slowly walking across the colorful Persian rug. "How about I start a fire, and get it a bit warmer in here?"

"If you like." As he lit the tinder that had been prepared in the firebox earlier, he could sense his wife's eyes on him. He turned to her when he'd finished. "Well. Perhaps we could get comfortable, and we can talk about this."

"There's nothing left to say." The absence of any emotion in her voice worried him.

He was now standing beside the plush blue velvet chair, and knelt down to be at her eye level. "Maria," he beseeched her. "I've told you repeatedly, it meant nothing, it was just lunch."

Finally, she looked up and met his eyes. Hers were slightly swollen, and red, as if she'd been crying. Still? Again? He didn't know, and was afraid of her reaction, if he were to ask.

"You say that, but it did mean something to me. And if it wasn't bad enough that you had lunch with Elsa, you lied about it." She looked past him, to the flames now dancing brightly in the fireplace.

He sighed, then took her hands in both of his. It pained him that she flinched at his touch, yet she didn't pull away. After having slept the night before in his study after she'd locked him out of their room, that was progress.

"You're right. I realize now that I should have told you. I was wrong not to, I was wrong to think it would be better if you didn't know." Georg wanted desperately to bring her hands to his lips, to kiss away her pain and his guilt. He settled for gently caressing her knuckles with his thumbs.

Even without her meeting his gaze, he saw Maria's eyes turn darker blue, her hurt and distrust still swirling within. "When you decided to keep it a secret, it just made me think you still. . .you still. . .desire her."

"Maria, my love, I don't. I couldn't. I didn't, ever. You are my definition of desire," he whispered past the emotion coloring his voice.

Her voice finally cracked as more tears fell. "Then why didn't you tell me? Why did I have to find out from Max, of all people? And in front of the children?" The look on her face flashed his memory once more to the day Maria had returned to him, only to be told he'd proposed to the woman who had so cruelly driven her away.

"Because it never occurred to me that he would mention it, that's how little I thought of the whole business. It didn't mean anything," he repeated. "Darling, don't let something this ridiculous come between us."

Maria pulled her hands away. "So now I'm ridiculous," she huffed.

"No, no, that isn't what I meant. Of course you aren't being ridiculous. What I did was unacceptable, and stupid, and I'll do whatever it takes in order to make it up to you." Georg silently hoped she would let him.

Ever since her return from the abbey, she'd been anxious about Elsa, and rightfully so, he admitted. Why he ever thought it better that she not know he'd dined alone with Elsa, in the middle of town for everyone to see, well, that was just as stupid as anything else he'd ever done. No, agreeing to have lunch with her in the first place was probably worse. In fact, the only smart thing he'd done in years was to marry Maria.

She wiped her eyes, then looked at him for a long moment. "Just never, ever, see her again. And I don't want you to think it is because I don't trust you, as you thought last night. It is because I don't trust her."

He cupped her face with both hands, looking deeply into her eyes. "I never will see her again, and I will never give you reason to doubt me or my love for you," he said. He kissed her chastely, then sat back on the floor. Georg closed his eyes, and lay his head in his wife's lap. When he felt her hand smoothing his hair, he knew her forgiveness would be forthcoming.

It was only then, as he began to lovingly stroke her thigh, that he thought to notice what she was wearing - one of the old nightgowns she'd brought with her from the abbey. High-necked, long-sleeved, floor length, and baggy, it brought back the memory of finding her cavorting with the children her first night at the villa.

"Why are you wearing this?" he asked. "I haven't seen you wear it since we've been married." In point of fact, she most often wore nothing, if he could help it.

"Well, I was rather cold last night, and I thought it might be chilly again tonight," she explained.

He raised his head to look at her. "Ah, you missed me?" He asked, hopefully.

"Only because you keep me warm," she began, then her eyes began to sparkle a bit, and he knew she was teasing, and ready for them to make up.

Georg inhaled deeply, and ran both hands up her legs, beneath the thick cotton of her nightgown. Leaning forward, he whispered the words, "Warm, or hot?" as his lips met hers, at first gently, waiting for her response.

She returned his kiss with a fierceness that caught him off guard, nipping his bottom lip with her teeth as she pulled back. "Show me you want only me," she murmured, her breath tickling his neck and sending pulses of desire through his body. Maria surprised him a second time, biting at his ear.

He guided her down to the floor beside him, and reached for the first button on the collar of her nightgown. "Did you know I went back to my room that first night you were under my roof, wondering what it was that you were hiding under this?" he asked, caressing the bit of her neck that was now visible. Georg continued, with each button in turn.

"Then when I was in Vienna, everything I saw made me think of you." Two.

"I was completely distracted, wondering what was going on here at home." Three.

Now that there was enough room to move the top of her nightgown away from her collarbone, he brought his mouth to her skin, gently sucking until he heard her sharply inhale. Maria's hands moved to clutch at his back, so her husband took the opportunity to lower her to the floor. He immediately joined her there, on his side, head propped on one elbow in order to see her clearly.

"Seeing you soaking wet after falling out of the boat . . . four . . .showed me everything I'd been curious about . . .five. . .and just made me want to see more". . .six. . . seven. Georg leaned over to kiss her pink lips, slightly swollen now from their kisses and her own desire for him.

The old abbey nightgown was now fully open to Maria's waist, and he shoved the fabric to the side, his lips blazing a heated trail to the small, pert breasts with nipples already pointed and hard, standing ready for him to suck each in turn. A low rumble of pleasure from his wife-the beginning of the song heard only by him in their most intimate moments-brought him back up to his knees.

Needing to feel her skin against his, he swiftly unbuttoned his own shirt, discarding it behind them. Reaching to unfasten his pants, he realized he was too late; his wife was already there and she slapped his hands away in order to complete the task herself. Georg had the passing thought that if this was how Maria wanted to make up, perhaps he should irk her more often.

Roughly she tugged his clothing down, rising to her own knees to join her lips with his with a hungry urgency, and pushing him backward until he was leaning against the chair. Before Georg could adjust his position Maria was straddling him, her nightgown now billowing around them as she lowered herself onto his throbbing erection, the slick wet heat of her sheathing him completely.

In this sitting position, Maria wrapped her legs tightly around his hips, every inch of him buried more deeply into her than ever before. He moaned with pleasure as she ground her hips against his, writhing against him faster and faster, as his mouth went again to her breasts, kissing, licking, sucking her as Maria's voice burst forth in cries of ecstasy. She ran her fingers through his hair, grabbing and pulling in the throes of her climax. The pulsating waves of pressure driving her orgasm massaged his aching shaft, and he grunted in blissful agony as he exploded into her, the sensation driving her to a second round of shuddering, uncontrollable spasms.

The exquisite sound of her voice lost in the passion they shared drove him wild; the feeling of her fingers digging into the muscles of his back as she continued grinding against him kept him hard despite their mutual climax. He lifted the damp white cotton gown off her body, tossing it aside.

Georg held her tightly to him, keeping them as one as he moved her to her back. He braced himself on either side of her and began long, slow thrusts using his entire length to move in and out. He gazed at her, amazed once again at her youth and beauty.

"Open your eyes, Maria. Look at me," he growled passionately. "Look at me."

When she did, her cerulean eyes were clouded with lust, and he smiled at her, knowing that his own eyes must have looked the same.

"I love you. I want you. Only you. You're mine, now. Always. And I'm yours. Forever." The rhythm of his body punctuated each statement.

Maria tried to form words, but was completely lost as that strong, lovely sensation began to claim her again. Georg brought his mouth to hers, their kisses rough with the last of their passion, as he, too, abandoned himself to waves of sheer ecstasy. At last sated, the two lovers lay entwined for a long time, until finally Georg collapsed beside his wife.

She settled in close beside him, one hand lazily tracing a haphazard pattern through the sprinkling of brown curls across his chest. "Georg?"

"Yes, my love?" he whispered, his breath hot against her cheek.

"You're forgiven."