"Well, you can't marry someone when..."

My eyes follow him as he walks around me and looks out of the gazebo. I'm riveted by his beauty in the moonlight. His profile is the most handsome, breathtaking thing I've ever seen. I realize now how long I've loved him without even knowing. His presence is so powerful, so compelling that I was drawn to him for... I don't know what. Balance. Constancy. Stability. I couldn't say.

I've been alone a big part of my life. I learned to take care of myself early on, and I'm quite self-reliant. In time, I got used to walking a lonely path. But when the lights were out, sometimes... sometimes I felt I needed something. A guiding star. A grounding force. Something or someone that gave my existence a purpose.

I thought I had found that something at the Abbey and in God.

But I needed something else. I needed more. Something real I could touch and truly call my own. Not to own it, but to belong. To belong with.

And here I am now. Looking at that something. The only thing I ever wanted, the only thing I ever needed, really needed, knowing it will never be mine.

Only a part of me is listening to him. I'm shocked at the news that he's called off his engagement to the Baroness, but the moment I look at those noble features, I'm lost. I don't know where I am, what I'm doing or what I'm thinking.

His voice seems to float to my ears and for an instant, the fog enveloping my mind clears enough for me to understand what he's saying. What he's... about to say.

I feel it before he says it.

It cannot be. He... He's not going to say it. He's not!

"...when you're in love with someone else."

He turns his head and looks down at me.

I died. I've died and gone to heaven.

"Can you?" he asks, smiling at me.

His eyes look deeply into mine and I see it. I see it all in those dark blue depths I've loved before knowing that feeling was called love.

I shook my head, half answering his question, half in complete disbelief.

He loves me. He loves me back!

I'm burning all of a sudden. My entire body flushes as he reaches out and holds my chin in his hand.

His eyes stare at me with such intensity that they're consuming me. His touch makes me feel faint. My legs won't be able to hold me up.

Strangely, I've never been so alive. I've never felt so much. I didn't know that my body could feel these searing sensations and not just... shut off.

My heart is pounding so wildly in my chest it feels like it's going to explode.

He's bringing me close. Closer. Closer and closer to him. His eyes move from my eyes to my lips, and know what's going to happen.

I've never kissed a man. I didn't know I would ever... My throat constricts when I feel the warmth of his body closer than ever, blanketing me.

I did feel him this close once. The evening we danced on the wings of the sweetest dream. But not even that can be compared now to... Oh, my God!

'Oh, my God!' I cry out in my mind.

He's going to kiss me. I'm going to kiss him.

We're going to kiss.

'Oh, My God!'

My eyes flutter closed. I cannot bear the intensity of this. I know I'm going to pass out the moment our lips meet.

His warm breath blows on my face like the sheerest caress, and I feel my own breath being returned to me, warmed up on his skin.

Then, his lips touch mine. They settle on me like a whisper, and I'm not consumed by them, by him. They're soft, loving, protective.

So tender, so heartbreakingly beautiful. It's the most beautiful thing that ever happened to me. He's... He's kissing my soul.

I struggle to return all the feelings bursting inside me, but it's as if my lips, and myself, had frozen. A part of me keeps crying out 'Oh, my God!' and I just can't move.

He tastes so good. He smells so good. Everything about him soothes me.

When his lips leave, it hurts. I feel cold, bereft. My world begins to spin out of control in a whirlpool of raw emotions that beg for comfort.

My eyes open and he's still there. He looks so serene, so calm. And he's transmitting that peace to me somehow.

He knows. He... knows.

A little smile, so full of love I can't believe it's all for me, appears on his lips. The lips that just...

His hand leaves my chin and I shudder inside, the feeling of abandonment so sharp that my insides twist into a knot. But he moves it on to my shoulder and I shudder again, this time at the sensation running up and down my body.

The mere brush of his fingertips makes me fly.

He loves me. He loves me!

My eyes sting and I begin to cry. It's as if all the feelings I'm experiencing were squeezing the tears out of me.

This is the happiest moment of my life. I shouldn't be crying! But I can't help it. I look down, overwhelmed by the power of the emotions crushing me.

Then, his lips are on me again. On my forehead, raining tiny little kisses all over it. And I hear what those kisses are telling me.

'I'm here with you. You're not alone anymore. You have me now. I will always be with you. Darling. My darling.'

I let go. I raise my arms and wrap them around him. I cling to his back for dear life and with a choked moan, I bury my face in his chest.

His scent fills my senses again. His cologne. Sea water.

My captain. My sea captain.

His strong arm wraps around my back and holds me close. I feel his masculine strength and I cuddle up to it needfully.

I feel his fingertips caressing the back of my neck. I hold him ever closer to me, revelling in the privilege I had resigned myself to never have.

I belong. At last.

This is it. My grounding force. My guiding star. That nameless something I needed to truly call my own.

Until now, home had been a vague, indefinable concept. I had thought it was a place. I had called the Abbey home. Four walls behind which I was safe.

Privately, I had come to call the villa home, but never dared to admit it to myself.

But I never imagined that a person could be home too.

Now, feeling this man's... feeling Georg's arms around me, and his caresses feeding my starved body, I finally realize that I am home.

His arms are home. His heartbeat in my ear is home.

Those seven angels sleeping in the mansion are home.

Bless the Lord.

I am finally safe. I am finally home.

THE END.