AN: - Written for the Proboards June writing prompt. We've reached the end of what was supposed to only be a one-shot! Apologies now because this one will be rather sweet and sickly and a little clichéd! Thank you for all the great reviews that I've had, they really do make a difference to me.

Disclaimer: - Written for pleasure not profit… I own nothing!

Rating: - T

Chapter 7

"I hope it meets with your approval?" Frau Schmidt turned as she pushed Maria into the centre of the softly lit room and placed her to the side of a beautifully decorated table. "I followed Liesl's instructions to the letter."

Maria's cheeks were bathed in a warm glow that radiated from the dozens of candles of all shapes and sizes, that were dotted all around.

"It's absolutely perfect, thank you for all your help," Maria reached up for the Housekeepers hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"The Captain will be so pleased that you've come back from the Abbey. He's been quite hard to live with the last few days."

"Oh, I'm sorry. It would seem he has a little way to go before I have him completely trained," Maria laughed as she glanced up to see that Frau Schmidt was also chuckling to herself.

"Fraulein Maria… I just wanted to say how happy I am that you and the Captain have found each other. Whilst I would never have spoken out about it… it wasn't my place, you know - but I never for one moment thought that Baroness Schrader was right for him and more importantly she certainly wasn't fit to be a Mother," the housekeeper raised her eyebrows before giving Maria a warm smile.

"You on the other hand… from the moment you wrapped those children around your little finger, it wasn't long before the Captain fell under your spell as well."

"Oh but I never set out to…" Maria was shocked that perhaps her actions had appeared calculated.

"No, no, my dear, I know you didn't but you have had such a positive influence on the Captain and his children. The man that we see today is a far cry from the one that you encountered on your first day here… wouldn't you agree?"

Maria blushed as she recalled her first meeting with him when she had angered him by entering his ballroom, even then she found him dangerously attractive.

"Oh… oh, yes, I suppose so but he was always a good man. I knew that he loved his children and he was trying to do his best for them. He just needed some guidance… it wasn't all that difficult."

"Well, you certainly made it look easy. You do know how much he loves you, don't you?"

"Yes… I do and I suppose, like Liesl you are going to tell me that you knew that we both loved each other before even we did?" Maria shrugged, knowing that Frau Schmidt was a wise and perceptive woman.

"No, not exactly. I only truly knew when I saw how tenderly the Captain cared for you while you were ill. He never left your side unless I forced him to. Thinking back now though, the signs were there for anyone to see,"

"Hmmm… like the Baroness?"

"Unfortunately, yes." Frau Schmidt nodded, sadly. "Well… I'll leave you now. Liesl is ready to carry out the next part of your little plan as soon as I get back to the house and then we'll see that Dinner is served a little later… just to give you plenty of time," the Housekeeper gave Maria a knowing grin and she felt her cheeks flush once again at the prospect of spending time alone with her Captain.

Entering the house by the back door, Frau Schmidt winked at Liesl who had been waiting for her to return. Now it was time to put phase two into action.

xXx

Blissfully unaware of anything untoward happening in his house, Georg had decided to spend some quiet time reading. It was a pastime he partook in a little less often than he would like. He never seemed to be able to find any time to do it these days, not that he was complaining. His spare time was always taken up with the children since Maria had educated him on the fact that he had become a woefully inferior father.

He sniggered to himself as he recalled some of their more heated exchanges on the matter. Even when she was angry, especially when she was angry, he had found her ridiculously attractive. If she had known, that when she stood before him, dripping wet, clothes clinging to every inch of her, he had felt the tell-tale stirrings of desire invade his body, he was sure she would have been mortally offended. The tightening in his groin had increased to an embarrassing scale as he had watched distractedly as a single droplet of water had slid from her slick hair, it meandered its way down her cheek until it reached her jaw where it's path diverted down the slope of her neck, before trickling temptingly over her collar bone then it disappeared beneath her blouse. His thoughts hadn't stopped there as he imagined it continuing its course languidly down between the curve of her breasts…

"Father, father…" Liesl came charging into his study unannounced.

Georg quickly placed the book in his lap for fear that his daughter might notice the inappropriately physical results of his daydream.

"Liesl, what on earth is the matter, anyone would think that we were being burgled or worse," he tried to compose himself and banish the images of Maria from his over active imagination.

"I think we are father, there's someone in the garden. You must go and look…" Liesl dragged the curtains apart dramatically and shouted. "Look, there… I saw a shadow."

"Have you been reading one of your horror stories again? You really must try to calm down. It's probably just a deer that's wandered into the garden from the hills." Georg's patience was being stretched by his daughters unusually frantic behaviour.

"Oh Father, please just go and take a look. It would make me feel so much better," she fluttered her eyes at him in the vulnerable way that she knew he wouldn't be able to resist.

"Ohhh… very well." He stood and threw the book down onto the chair with a sigh. "You better stay here… just in case I get attacked and mortally injured by one of the absurd monsters from your books," he rolled his eyes and made his way to the door.

"Do be careful, Father… you never know what might be waiting for you out there!" Liesl whispered and smiled as she rubbed her hands together in glee.

xXx

The air was pleasantly warm and Georg was glad that he had decided not to throw his jacket on before he stepped out onto the back terrace.

Whilst he didn't for one-minute think that there was anything dangerous in the garden, he was taking care to keep his wits about him, glancing behind every now and again. As he approached the familiar copse of trees he noticed a strange glow just beyond them.

Stealthily he crept up to a large tree trunk and hid behind it, peering round he couldn't quite believe what he saw. Slowly he approached the candle lit Gazebo and for a moment he forgot to breathe as he saw Maria sitting quietly in the centre, Maria… his Maria.

"You came back," he whispered softly.

"Of course I did," she smiled tenderly, "I was always coming back."

Partially silhouetted in the door frame, Georg stood completely still. Maria had watched as he carefully approached the Gazebo. He was so handsome; in his shirt sleeves, no tie and shirt partly unbuttoned at the collar. She'd never seen him like this before, usually he was always so well-groomed with shirt and tie and very rarely even without his jacket on.

"What kept you?" Maria beamed as Georg began to walk towards her. "Oh no… stop, wait there."

Taken by surprise he took a step back and watched as ever so slowly, Maria struggled to push herself up from the wheelchair. Seeing her difficulty, Georg began to step towards her.

"No… please, I have to do this, I want to do this… on my own," Maria winced in pain.

Finally, standing on her own two feet, albeit a little unsteadily, Maria tentatively walked towards Georg. Her steps were slow and ungainly but he watched with pride as she bravely covered the short distance across the Gazebo until she stood within inches of him. Reaching out, he took her hand and pulled her to him just as her last ounce of strength was about to desert her. She fell into his arms and he held her closely to him, rocking her gently.

"How did you manage to do this?" he was astounded by how much progress she'd made since she had been at the Abbey.

"I had a little help," she admitted. "Sister Berthe… she made sure I exercised and she made me walk a few steps each day until I could at least walk this far. I wanted to surprise you."

"You are the most beautiful, wonderful, astounding woman I have ever met; do you know that?" Georg brought her hand up to his lips and without breaking eye contact he kissed her palm slowly and then held it to his cheek.

Running his hands over her shoulders and down her sides, they came to rest at the small of her back and he pulled her to him tightly. He could feel every curve of her body as it fit perfectly against his. The rapid rise and fall of her chest against his own betrayed her arousal as she became accustomed to the feel of his warm muscular body. Maria allowed her fingertips to glide across his cheek and weave through the sleek brown hair at his temple, before finally coming to rest at the back of his neck.

With a new found boldness she reached up to him on tip toe until their lips were a mere breath apart.

"I'd very much like it if you would kiss me… Captain," she whispered breathlessly and as she gazed into his dangerously dark, blue eyes, he closed the gap between them and gently brushed his lips against hers.

Her heart almost exploded as she tasted his warm, moist lips but it wasn't enough, not nearly enough. Not wanting the moment to end she cupped his face in her hands and held him to her. As he began to pull away she drew his face back to hers and parted her lips, welcoming the feel of his tongue as it hesitantly slid into her mouth. She felt a tingle run down to the base of her spine as their mouths crushed together leaving her giddy and light headed.

Their tongues danced and dueled as their lips remained pressed, passionately together. Georg's hand slid up her back and around her neck until it found the soft curve of her jaw. Maria moaned as he pulled her hard against him. All of her senses were heightened as she began to drown in his touch, his smell and the warmth of his body. Her hands slipped lightly around his neck; his skin felt so hot that her fingers tingled. Through the thin material of his shirt, she could feel the muscles of his shoulders, smooth and firm as her hands slipped further. A low growl rumbled from his throat as he felt her hands exploring, touching, stroking and he imagined what they would feel like against his bare skin. The less virtuous side of him wanted her to slide her hands under his shirt but the principled side knew that it would be his undoing.

Breathlessly, they broke away but no sooner had they done so than his lips hungrily found the side of her neck and she leaned her head over so that he could continue to kiss and nip the soft skin that he found there. Maria moaned as he moved her hair gently away with his fingertips and trailed kisses along her collarbone.

His fingers slowly glided down her arms, the tips tracing circles as they went. When he reached her hands he slid his own through hers and their fingers entwined. Finally coming to his senses, Georg rested his forehead against hers.

"I love you, Maria," he gasped, as he fought to take control of the passion that was threatening to besiege his better judgement.

There was a look in his eyes that Maria had never seen before. They glistened in the candlelight and she could see the genuine love that he held for her but also something much deeper, perhaps gratitude or even redemption.

In order for them to regain their composure, Maria took a step backwards. They remained holding hands but there was a slight distance between the two of them.

"Thank you for giving me the time that I needed to come to terms with my feelings and to say goodbye to the Abbey. I knew from the moment that you blew your silly whistle that I loved you, I just didn't understand that what I was feeling was acceptable. But now I know that it is the most natural thing in the world and I'm not sure that I will ever tire of telling you just how much I love you."

Maria's words were silenced as Georg captured her lips once again. The tender and delicate kiss turned swiftly into a hungry and passionate one. He stopped and looked into her eyes, as if seeking approval, before moving the flimsy material of her dress away from her shoulder and placing the lightest of kisses there.

Whilst running his fingers through her golden hair with one hand, the other slowly worked its way downwards, his thumb grazed the side of her breast and Maria flinched slightly as she felt butterflies in her stomach and the new sensations that his touch had elicited.

"I'm sorry," Georg pulled away, ashamed of his lack of control.

"Don't ever say you're sorry for loving me," she purred, as she brought his hand back to rest on her hip.

Taking her by the hand, Georg led her over to the table and pulled out a chair for her to sit, which she did gladly. Still holding her hand between both of his, he dropped down on one knee. Unable to control his emotions any longer, tears of joy began to well in his eyes. Maria reached forward and caught the first teardrop with her thumb as it began to fall.

"Maria, not very long ago I thought that my life had ended, I had no reason to live. I was failing my children and turning into a thoroughly unpleasant man. Then you came along and my life was turned upside down and just as I realized that I had fallen in love with you, I thought that I would lose you forever. You are my savior, you have brought purpose back into my life and love back into my heart. I can't imagine growing old with anyone else, nor do I want to. You are the only person I want to share the rest of my life with. I love you Maria, will you marry me?"

Cupping his cheek, Maria leaned forward and kissed him slowly but sweetly on the cheek before whispering softly in his ear, "Never have I been more certain of anything in my life… yes, a thousand times yes… I love you, Georg."

Beaming, Georg stood and pulled Maria up with him, turning so that it was he who sat back down on the chair. He then guided Maria onto his lap and wrapped his arms around her waist, she in turn placed one arm around his shoulders, the other slid beneath the open collar of his shirt. Georg's eyes began to darken again as the touch of her fingertips against his chest was almost too delicious to bear.

Maria could tell the effect she was having on him, it wasn't difficult and she smiled to herself, proud of the fact that it was her that was doing this to him. She didn't want to torture him for too long though, she could tell that he was incredibly conflicted by what he wanted to do as opposed to what he knew he should do. She dropped her head to his shoulder and wrapped both arms around his neck.

"How did you arrange all of this?" Georg asked as he placed a kiss on the top of her head.

"I had two very eager accomplices. Liesl and Frau Schmidt."

"Ahhhh, now I understand. I thought Liesl had lost her senses earlier on… going on about shadows in the garden." He shook his head and laughed.

"I think this is the most perfect evening I've ever had," Maria purred into his neck and the feel of her warm breath against his skin was enough to make the blood rush south once again. Sighing he shifted so that Maria sat more upright and she looked into his eyes.

"Maria, we should tell the children as soon as we can."

"To be honest, I'm not sure we need to. I think everyone knew about how we felt before we did, we haven't been very subtle I don't think."

"Oh, I don't know, I thought I was very subtle when we danced, after all, I really wanted to kiss you but I managed to control myself." Georg raised his eyebrows suggestively.

"Yes, although staring at me for goodness knows how long probably did give the game away."

"Oh and you don't think blushing as bright as a ripe tomato made anyone suspicious?"

They both laughed and hugged each other tightly before standing and moving towards the door of the Gazebo.

"The next time we dance the Landler, I will insist that you kiss me," Maria grinned as she tried to spin in his arms.

"That's enough of that or you'll end up back in that wheelchair."

Georg put his arm around Maria's waist to reassure her and give her the strength she needed to walk.

"Let's go and tell them anyway, I can't wait to see their faces," Georg took Maria's hand in his and together they made their way slowly back home.

xXx

Please review if you can, it's always extremely appreciated. Time for a story break now I think :)