"Shall we, Mrs. Van Dort?" Victor asked, his lips against her ear. The feathery feel of his breath against her skin made Victoria shiver all the way down her neck.

"Oh, yes, Mr. Van Dort," she replied, gently running her fingers between his shoulder blades.

"The door is locked?"

"Yes."

"Wonderful."

They smiled at one another as they pulled apart. Victoria began to make her way over to the bed. She was surprised when Victor stopped her. Questioningly, she turned back to look at him. He had a very odd sort of expression on his face.

"Well," Victor said quietly, scratching the back of his neck, "I had an idea. Just because it's our anniversary...I thought perhaps..." He paused, and looked at her feet for a moment.

"Yes?" Victoria prompted, wondering. She watched him as he slowly brought his eyes back up to meet hers, seeming to take in every inch of her along the way.

"Shall I carry you?" Victor asked, somehow managing to sound both bold and embarrassed. It was a feat only he could accomplish, Victoria thought affectionately. But when he moved forward to take her in his arms again, she stepped just out of his reach.

"No, no, that's all right," she said, twisting her hands together. It was a nervous habit of hers. Then she noticed that he looked a little hurt.

"I'm too heavy for you to carry," Victoria explained, embarrassed, still twisting her hands. "You'll hurt yourself."

"Nonsense!" Victor said reassuringly. "I can pick you up." He took another step toward her, and Victoria realized he was planning on proving it. For whatever reason, he seemed quite intent. So Victoria decided not to argue. It was his back, after all. Smiling at her lovingly, Victor put one arm across her back before bending to put the other behind her knees.

Much to Victoria's surprise, Victor managed to scoop her up quite easily. He did stagger backward a little, but if he found her a bit heavy, he kept it to himself. When he looked down at her, it was with the most affectionate gaze that Victoria had ever gotten from him. And that was saying something.

"See?" he asked with a slightly crooked smile. Victoria couldn't help smiling back. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek. Reaching up to stroke his hair tenderly, she gazed into his eyes.

"I love you," she said, her voice coming out as though there was no breath behind it. Victor adjusted his hold on her slightly and pulled her a bit closer.

"I love you, too," he replied. "Very much."

With that, Victor carried her across the room. Very gently, very tenderly, he laid her down in the middle of the bed. He kissed her forehead again before straightening up. Victoria folded her arms over her stomach as she watched Victor cup his hand over the top of the lamp on the bedside table and blow out the flame. The moonlight truly was brilliant. It slanted over the bed, illuminating everything with a blue light. Victoria could see quite clearly. Her breath had started to come fast. Having put out the lamp, Victor climbed into bed next to her. He propped himself up on his elbow and looked down into her face. They simply lay there for a moment, both of them savoring the anticipation of what they were about to share, gazing into one another's eyes. Victoria's breath was coming even faster now, and she could feel her heart racing. After what seemed like an eternity, Victor finally put a hand on her middle and leaned down toward her.

Their lips met several times in quick, glancing kisses as Victor slowly ran his hand down onto her hip, then up her stomach and back again—the sensation of the silk moving against her skin under his hand was almost too much. Victoria felt a rush of desire so strong it made her gasp. She reached up and put one arm around his shoulder, clutching the fabric of his pajama top in her fist. With her other hand she gently caressed his neck, his face, his hair. He made a very low, very quiet sound in the back of his throat, but it was enough to send another thrill through her.

Victor moved a little closer, molding himself against her side. Victoria lay back and closed her eyes as he began gently kissing her neck. All the way down her throat, then her collarbone, and then the sensitive spot just below her ear. The best thing about being intimate after so long together was how well they knew one another. And Victor had learned precisely where to kiss her, and how to touch her. She'd learned the same things about him. But he was always so gentle, just as he was being so gentle now. Even when they were first married, and completely inexperienced. He had never hurt her, never been rough. And Victoria loved him all the more for it. Victor was a very considerate and kind man—it shouldn't have surprised her that he'd turn out to be just as considerate and kind a lover.

With his mouth still against her neck, he ran his hand up her side again until his thumb just touched the underside of her breast. Victoria drew a sharp breath, and couldn't stop herself from arching up against him. She managed to turn on her side so that they were facing one another. With slightly shaky hands, she began to unbutton is pajama top. She had begun to feel rather bold.

"What are you doing?" she suddenly heard him ask in a croaky whisper. He was breathing very hard. She immediately pulled her hands back.

"I'm sorry," she whispered quickly, feeling foolish. But Victor was quick to reassure her.

"Oh no, I didn't mean it that way," he whispered into her neck. "I was merely surprised. You don't usually...well..." He didn't finish. But he was right. It was the rare occasion that Victoria got up the nerve to undress Victor. Usually she was content with it being the other way around.

"It's our anniversary," she whispered, turning her head to press her lips against his cheek. "Shall I continue?" Victoria hadn't any idea where this slight sauciness was coming from. But Victor didn't seem to mind.

"Oh, please do," he told her. Even in the moonlight, she could tell he was blushing a little. He was being oddly saucy himself. Oh well. Twenty years was an important anniversary.

So Victoria fumbled with the buttons until the pajama top was open. He looked very pale in the moonlight. Tenderly she ran her hands over his bare chest and sides. Sliding her hands around his waist, she inched down a bit so that she could press her lips against his collarbone. Soon she felt Victor's hands twining in her hair, holding her head against him. Victoria kept up with her kisses, pressing her lips against every inch of Victor's chest, feeling that she didn't do this nearly often enough. When she pressed her mouth against his stomach, he seemed to stop breathing for a moment. Slowly, she kissed her way back up to his neck, her hands finding their way back to his shoulders.

"Oh, Victoria," he murmured into her hair. Then he wrapped his arms around her waist. Rolling over on his back, he managed to take her with him, gently pulling her on top of him.

Their lips met again, much more passionately than before. Victoria caressed Victor's bare shoulders as she gently, and rather timidly, rubbed her tongue against his. She felt his hands clutching at her hips, pressing them against his own. She pulled away briefly, gazing down at his face. His eyes were slightly open, and she felt another giddy rush at the deep feeling she saw there. Victor's breathing was labored, his chest practically heaving against hers. Not taking her eyes from his, she ran her fingers through his hair. Then she leaned down and kissed his ear.

From many past experiences, she knew the reaction that she was going to get. Victoria couldn't help smiling just a little when she heard Victor gasp. He began feverishly running his hands all up and down her back, her hips, and as far down her thighs as he could reach. So she kept on kissing, slowly and gently pressing her mouth to his neck, his cheek and back onto his ear again. By then, she could feel Victor practically writhing beneath her, his breath hissing between his teeth. Victoria even went so far as to lightly run her tongue over his earlobe.

When she did that, Victor's reaction was convulsive. He twisted his head to catch her mouth with his, kissing her deeply, his palms pressed against her shoulder blades. He held her tightly for a moment, and then nudged her gently onto her back again. Victoria lay back and held his gaze as, with trembling fingers, Victor began undoing the tiny buttons of her nightgown. He never took his eyes from hers as he slowly opened her gown. He was taking his time, drawing it out. Finally, Victoria's nightgown was completely open. With the most incredibly loving gaze, Victor leaned away and looked her slowly up and down. He didn't seem to notice all of the flaws that Victoria had seen—his expression wasn't simply loving, Victoria realized. It was nearly reverent.

With gentle hands, Victor slid the sleeves of the gown down her arms, bending to kiss her shoulders as he went. When he'd completely removed the nightgown and placed it on the bed next to them, he lifted her arm and kissed the inside of her wrist. Still moving so slowly, he kissed all the way down her arm until reaching her shoulder again. Victoria helped him to remove his pajama bottoms. Then he climbed on top of her, covering her body with his.

Victoria gasped and arched against him. She wasn't used to them being completely undressed when they did this. But it felt wonderful. Little bursts of lightning seemed to course through her wherever Victor's bare skin was pressed against hers.

He leaned down until their foreheads touched. Victor stroked her hair for a moment, and then reached to cup one of her breasts. Now it was Victoria's turn to take a hissing kind of breath. She stroked his shoulders as he fondled her, pressing his lips against her cheeks and chin. Finally he lowered his head and kissed from the hollow of her throat down onto her bosom. Victoria held his head gently between her hands as Victor covered each of her breasts with tender kisses. Judging by the way he stroked and pressed his face against them, he didn't seem to notice or care that her breasts weren't as firm as they used to be. That realization aroused Victoria just as much as his gentle touch.

Victoria reached out to her sides, clutching and unclutching handfuls of the sheets. She felt she had to do something with her hands—it was almost instinctive. Victor held onto her hips as he kissed her stomach. She thought she was going to burst from desire when he held his mouth over her navel. As he moved even lower, pressing his mouth on her hips, he ran one of his hands back up her side and onto her breast. With both hands Victoria stroked his arm, as far down as she could reach.

Finally, Victor kissed his way back up to her lips, covering every inch of her. As he kissed he ran his palms up and down her sides, her arms, her breasts. When their lips met, it wasn't as gentle and tender as before. Now it was passionate, almost hungry. Both of them were breathing hard. They pressed against each other for a moment, their faces inches apart.

"Ready?" Victor asked with difficulty, his eyes closed. All Victoria could do was nod—she couldn't get enough breath to reply. Victor cupped her face in his hands and kissed her again.

Both of them sighed when he gently guided himself inside her. They had done this so many times...the weight of him, the feel of him inside of her, it all felt so familiar and safe. Victoria heard herself making small whimpering noises. She couldn't help it. She simply loved him so much, and their intimacy made her feel as though she had fireworks going off in her blood. Victor was dropping fervent kisses on her face and neck.

"Oh Victoria...oh my love...Victoria," he managed to gasp in between kisses.

Suddenly, Victoria felt that familiar heavy rush. It was going to happen. It didn't always happen, but it happened often enough. She made a breathless sort of squeak into Victor's shoulder as she arched almost violently against him, and then her mind went curiously blank for a few seconds. Pure pleasure flooded through her, leaving her limp and trembling all over. After a moment, the intense feeling had passed, and she came back to herself a bit.

Victoria could tell that Victor was almost there. His breath was whistling, and he was gripping her shoulders.

"Oh my darling," he gasped as he began to tremble. Victoria had the feeling that Victor wasn't even aware that he was speaking—he did it all the time, but she wasn't sure if he knew it or not. "Victoria, dear Victoria, my love..." To help him along, Victoria reached up and kissed him on the earlobe.

That did it. Victor gave a low groan, shuddered, and then fell limply against her, his face buried in her bosom. Victoria held him close, pressing her cheek against his sweaty hair. They lay contentedly entwined for quite a while, getting their breath back.

When they were both breathing normally again, Victor propped himself up on his elbows, gave a contented sigh, and then gave her a quick kiss on the lips.

"That was lovely," he whispered, nuzzling her cheek. Victoria returned the gesture.

"Yes, it was," she replied. They beamed happily at one another. After one more kiss, Victor rolled onto his back beside her. Victoria reached down to pull the blanket up around them, and they snuggled close to one another, nightclothes forgotten.

"Happy anniversary, my love," Victor said, giving her a gentle squeeze and pressing his lips briefly to her hair. She rested her head against his neck, listening to his breathing become steady.

"Happy anniversary," Victoria replied. After a moment, she added, "I'm sure our next twenty years will be as wonderful as these have been." Victor smiled down at her.

"I think so, too," he said. "Our next twenty years." Then, Victor reached up behind his head and rapped his knuckles against the headboard. Victoria smiled. She snuggled against him, and slowly drifted off to sleep, feeling like a young woman again.