Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters since the Eloise movies and the characters are the property of Disney and Kay Thompson. I make no money from this work of fiction!

Wilkes hesitated a moment before knocking on the door of Suite 1625, but as he had been invited to Christmas dinner at 4:30 p.m. and it was already that time, he knew he must. He just wasn't sure what he would say to Nanny should she be the one to answer the door. He had spent more than half the previous night trying to figure out why he had blundered so badly as to have visibly shown his shocked reaction upon being kissed on the cheek by the woman who so obviously adored him. Then he felt his face grow hot at his own thoughts. That sounded so ... so egotistical! So ... bold! So ... not him at all. After all, why would he think a wonderful woman such as Nanny could be even remotely interested in HIM? Staid and stolid Stanton, as he had been nicknamed at school. Wilkes sighed at the unhappy memories and raised his hand.

Before he had a chance to knock, Eloise threw open the door. "Oh! Sir Wilkes! You're HERE! I was just coming to get you because we're expecting Bill to bring our dinner up in a couple of minutes. And he's bringing something absolutely divine for ME, Eloise!"

"Merry Christmas, Eloise," Wilkes said, tipping his hat to the child as if she were already the debutante she talked of being in the future.

"Merry Christmas, Sir Wilkes!" Eloise grinned. Then she frowned and a puzzled look came over her face. "Why did Nanny call you Willy under the tree last night? Just before she kissed you? I heard her, then SAW her kiss you ..." and Eloise made a face.

A loud sniff interrupted his stammered answer and Mrs. Thornton, looking faintly disapproving, said from her chair in the living room, "We all SAW that kiss, and I, for one, was HORRIFIED! There wasn't even any MISTLETOE to be seen as a possible excuse for such behaviour!" She tightened her hold on her poodle, Mona, who squirmed and whimpered slightly in protest. Eloise had already informed the older woman that Mona would be safe during the meal as Skipperdee had been banished to the bedroom. Mona and Weenie had their own table set up by the fireplace, and Weenie was already on the chair, bib around his neck, awaiting his dinner impatiently.

"Mistletoe?" Eloise looked interested. "We have mistletoe, don't we, Nanny? Nanny? Maman, where did Nanny go? She was just here a moment ago ..."

Never had Wilkes been happier to see Bill coming into the room, wheeling his food cart, as he was at that moment. An unusually quiet Nanny, her face quite red, emerged from the other room and somehow they all found themselves seated at the table while Bill served them and then departed with a flourish. Nanny had almost fled again, Wilkes decided, when Eloise had plunked herself down in the chair beside Mrs. Thornton and her mother Kay had taken the seat on the end, leaving two vacant chairs side by side for himself and Nanny. Wilkes had held the chair out politely for Nanny to be seated, and with a murmur of thanks, she had done so, not meeting his eyes. He now found himself wanting, quite uncharacteristically, to MAKE her look at him ... talk to him ... touch him. He felt his face grow hot with embarrassment, and looked down at his plate.

"Tell me about mistletoe!" Eloise demanded. "And why you need it for an excuse to kiss!"

Kay smiled at her daughter. "You don't NEED it, Eloise. It's just tradition to kiss when you're standing under mistletoe. But you CAN kiss otherwise."

Mrs. Thornton sniffed again. "IF you are married ... or about to be married ... which I rather doubt Nanny and Sir Wilkes ARE ..."

While Eloise and Mrs. Thornton got into a heated discussion about whether or not kissing was connected necessarily to MARRIAGE, Kay merely listened, smiling faintly, and the two individuals in question stared down at their plates and continued to eat in silence. Both were feeling wretchedly ashamed of themselves, yet both, as the argument escalated, felt the stirrings of anger and hurt pride.

"It was ABOMINABLE!" Mrs. Thornton confided to Kay in an overly-loud whisper. "At their age! I ask you, kissing in PUBLIC!"

Both Nanny and Sir Wilkes raised their heads abruptly. Their eyes met for a moment, then Nanny shushed Eloise who was sputtering, faced Mrs. Thornton squarely and began to speak quietly, but with an undercurrent of steel in her voice. "We were NOT kissing, Mrs. Thornton. I was taught better than THAT, for sure, sure, sure. I know my place, and I KNOW that Sir Wilkes is far above my station."

Wilkes' breath caught in his throat. WHAT was she saying? Her place? He was ... above her station? This utterly bewitching woman felt that she was ... BENEATH him? He bit his lip, wishing he had not thought of THAT way of twisting her words, for it conjured up all sorts of deliciously erotic images which fired his blood and embarrassed him by his instinctive response. As he shifted uneasily in his chair, his thigh touched Nanny's and it seemed as though an electric spark shot through him at the heat. He eased away gingerly, and wiped his forehead with his handkerchief.

Nanny seemed not to have noticed his faux pas as she continued speaking to Mrs. Thornton. "I DO think that Christmas is a time to smooth over hurt feelings and arguments and to be happy that we're alive and ..."

Kay clapped. "Well said, Nanny, well said." Then she deftly changed the subject, deflecting the talk from kissing, to Wilkes' profound relief. Now all he had to do was try to get the growing desire he was feeling for Nanny under control before he shamed himself completely.

O o O o O o

The next afternoon, Wilkes decided to take matters into his own hands. He had heard that Kay planned to take Eloise shopping, so thought that he might be able to work up the nerve to speak to Nanny about the hideous misunderstanding around one simple kiss ... and about her words to Mrs. Thornton. Putting on his hat and overcoat, thinking it would be easier to talk while walking in the park, he made his way to Nanny's suite.

As he approached the partially open door of Suite 1625, however, he overheard Eloise's shrill voice asking, "Nanny, have you ever been wooed PROPERLY?"

Wilkes halted mid-step and waited for the response. This did not really seem like the sort of conversation a gentleman interrupted! He began to move backwards slowly and quietly.

"Well, I DID get roses once from ... Eloise! That's much too personal, much, much, much!" Nanny's voice had sounded soft and reminiscent at the start, then she obviously caught herself and scolded the child severely.

Wilkes stopped again. She HAD been ... wooed? He fought the tiny hint of jealousy curling inside him. Ridiculous!

"Bet you'd like Sir WILKES to woo you properly, wouldn't you?" Eloise asked slyly.

Wilkes almost stopped breathing in his surprise ... and in his desire to hear Nanny's answer!

"Eloise, you KNOW it's just not done! He's from a different station in life! Besides, as Mrs. Thornton said, we're much too old for that nonsense, much, much, much!"

Wilkes winced. He certainly hadn't been FEELING old the last couple of days ... anything but! The flat acceptance in Nanny's voice, when she had spoken again about the class difference between them, bothered him immensely.

"Oh my Lord, you KISSED Sir Wilkes, Nanny! I SAW you! On Christmas EVE! So that means you must think he is absolutely divine, or you wouldn't have kissed him, would you? Wouldn't you absolutely LOVE to have him woo you?"

"Well, I ..." Nanny sounded uncertain. Wilkes' ears perked up. Then she spoke severely again, "Eloise, I don't want to hear another word about this out of you, do you hear me? I raised you to behave better than THAT, for sure, sure, sure! I want you to PROMISE me that you will never talk about it again! Never, never, never!" Nanny's voice was steady and very, very firm.

"But ..."

"I want you to pinky promise, promise, promise, Eloise!"

"Oh, very well. I promise I won't talk about this again ... to you." Eloise sounded very sulky indeed.

Sir Wilkes caught the slight hesitation before the last two words, and despite his discomfort in the topic, he had to acknowledge the cleverness in the remarkable child's answer. Then he grimaced. If Eloise didn't plan to talk about it with NANNY ... did that mean she meant to speak to HIM about it? He shuddered. He wouldn't put it past her, not for an instant! Suddenly he became aware of Nanny speaking again.

"Now, Eloise, I am going to take Weenie for a walk in the park. Your mother will be ready in a few minutes to take you out, and I expect that you will behave properly, do you understand? No more talking about this ... this ... this WOOING to me or anyone else!"

"Yes, Nanny." Eloise's voice was subdued.

Galvanized into action again, hoping to escape before being caught eavesdropping on the conversation, Sir Wilkes edged back to his door, then opened and closed it and strode once more down the hallway towards the elevator. As he reached their suite, Nanny hurried out, towing a somewhat reluctant Weenie, and almost collided with him.

"Sir Wilkes!" she cried out, aghast at her behaviour. "I am so, so, so sorry!"

"Tosh, tosh, tosh. No harm done, Nanny! Err, going for a walk with Weenie?" Without waiting for an answer and ignoring her wide eyes, he took her unresisting hand and drew it under his arm as he said, "Allow me the pleasure of accompanying you."

Nanny sucked in her breath and felt her heart fluttering as she smiled at him shyly. Oh, my stars, stars, stars, she was 'stepping out' with a KNIGHT, for Lord's sake! And it was only two nights ago that she had kissed him on the cheek under the Christmas tree! Had she put the idea into his head? Or ... and suddenly she stopped walking, making Weenie yelp when he was jerked back by the leash. Or had ELOISE had time to speak with him?

"What's the matter, Nanny?" Sir Wilkes was eyeing her with concern.

"Oh ... nothing. I'm rawther ... no, nothing." This time ignoring the proffered arm, Nanny marched ahead to the elevator.

As they made their way through the lobby side-by-side, Miss Thompson and Mr. Salomone waved to them, Charlie the doorman grinned and winked at them and they were both red and uncomfortable by the time they got out into the cold air. Then Wilkes again offered her his arm, and, with an air of determination to get through the walk and not die first, Nanny took it with one hand, gripped Weenie's leash in the other, and they set out across the park in silence. Wilkes now had no intentions of mentioning the kiss or Mrs. Thornton at all ... not now. After hearing Nanny sternly admonishing Eloise to never talk about it again, he simply did not have the nerve to raise the topic himself. Perhaps when they knew each other just a little better, he would be able to talk about it.

After a time, they started to talk, sharing little tidbits about themselves with each other and soon found they were much more relaxed than they ever had been while visiting inside. At one point, Nanny almost slipped on the icy walk and Wilkes quickly offered to carry her over that section of the pathway.

With a hearty laugh, she teased him saying, "Oh, my stars, stars, stars! You could never carry ME, Sir Wilkes! Next you'll be saying I NEED picking up, for Lord's sake!"

"On the contrary," Wilkes said gravely, "there is only one thing I think you need right now!" His gaze focussed on her lips.

Nanny fell silent, her mouth open in shock, suddenly rawther overwhelmed. Sir Wilkes couldn't possibly mean what she was thinking he meant ... could he? He was a KNIGHT, for Lord's sake! He wouldn't be thinking such thoughts about someone such as HER ... would he? Not watching where she was going, Nanny tripped over Weenie who had stopped suddenly in the middle of the pathway. She clutched at Wilkes who staggered and threw his arms around her in an effort to stay balanced and upright and help her do the same.

"There is simply no decorum these days!" came an indignant voice.

"None at all! And in a public place!" added a second voice, dripping with disdain. "What some people will do so blatantly is outrageous! Simply outrageous!"

"And such an early hour to have imbibed too much to walk decently!" chimed in a third. "Goodness gracious me! Yet they LOOK respectable! Well, it just goes to prove that appearances don't mean a THING nowadays!"

"So true," agreed the first voice.

Nanny buried her burning face in the shoulder of Sir Wilkes' overcoat and shook with her effort to restrain her almost hysterical laughter. Oh, my Lord, this COULDN'T be happening to her! The three passers-by hurried past, the rapid thud of their footsteps getting fainter until they vanished. Then Nanny realized that Sir Wilkes was shaking too. With fury? Or ... or ...? She peeped at him.

The sight of her flushed, embarrassed countenance and the merriment obvious in her beautiful blue eyes set Wilkes to laughing more heartily than he had done in years. It was with great reluctance that he released her when she pushed away at last, and it was then that he resolved to kiss her, just on the cheek and if no one else was around, to be sure, when they returned to the Plaza.

O o O o O o

Over the next few weeks, Wilkes and Nanny took Weenie out for a walk in Central Park every day. Some days Eloise came with them, but after the first week, Nanny began to hope that the girl she loved as a grand-daughter would NOT come ... for the days they walked alone were the days that Sir Wilkes would leave her at her door after the walk with a shy kiss on her cheek.

Day after day, week after week, the pattern was the same. Sir Wilkes would knock on her door at precisely 2 p.m., Nanny would warn Eloise with a stern glance to behave while Philip was there unless the child was coming on the walk with them, then they would sally forth whatever the weather and walk around Central Park. Day after day, week after week, the conversation would be slightly stilted until they were out in the open air, then they would talk – about anything and everything. Day after day, week after week, when they returned to the Plaza, Sir Wilkes would wait until she had unlocked her door, then he would thank her for the visit and, if they were alone, would kiss her cheek lightly before he departed.

After five weeks of this, however, Nanny was beginning to wonder if Sir Wilkes would EVER 'hit the target', so to speak, and kiss her on the lips! She wished she had the nerve to turn her head slightly when he was bringing his mouth to her cheek ... so that his kiss would land on her lips instead. At night, lying restlessly in her bed, she would vow determinedly that the next day she WOULD turn ... but when the moment came, she could only smile weakly at the man of her dreams and accept his friendly salute. After all, what if he had no intentions of EVER kissing her properly because he felt that she was unworthy of the honour? He was a knight, after all, and she was merely a common nanny! It was enough that he was walking out with her, for Lord's sake!

For his part, Wilkes was proud of his efforts to express his admiration to the woman he was coming to care about more deeply than he had thought he could. He was sure that she was beginning to realize that he thought highly of her and respected her a great deal and, indeed, had very honourable intentions of perhaps someday inquiring as to the possibility of furthering their relationship. Not too soon, of course! After all, he was still not entirely convinced that he was worthy of her, and he wanted to be absolutely certain that she cared for him before he said or did anything that might jeopardize the harmony he was presently experiencing.

Every day he learned a little more about her, and every day he fell a little more in love ... something which shocked him when he allowed himself to ponder his situation. He was sure that Nanny could have any man she desired! How could he possibly think she might be willing to settle for HIM? Staid and stolid Stanton. He was not highly intelligent, nor humourous nor handsome nor romantic. He truthfully had nothing but his title and inheritance to recommend him. Nanny had never shown any interest in his money which was the only thing, barring his title of course, that had ever drawn other women to him in the past. Most women overlooked him – women like that Ms Daniels at the time of the Debutante Ball last year ... who had ignored him until she overheard Nanny calling him SIR Wilkes ... who had invited him to tea and droned on endlessly about herself and her daughter and never asked about him. No, Nanny was a very different type of woman. Nanny seemed happy to just walk in the park and listen to him. He was immensely flattered and always exerted himself to be extra entertaining.

One day, Wilkes was walking jauntily back to his own room after saying goodbye to Nanny at hers and making sure she was inside safely. Suddenly Eloise was confronting him. "Sir Wilkes!"

"Err, hello, Eloise." He tipped his hat courteously.

"You don't have much time, for Lord's sake!" she said severely.


"Oh, my Lord! To woo NANNY! Maman is going to start sending me to school after Easter, she said, because Philip won't come any more! Then what will Nanny do all day? Why, what if she LEAVES? What if she's kidnapped and taken by aliens who want her to look after THEIR little girl instead of ME, Eloise? What if she falls in love with someone else, someone like ... like ... like WALTER?"

Wilkes was startled at the thought of Nanny leaving ... or falling in love with someone other than him. He thought he was reasonably safe from the kidnapping 'what-if'. Yes, he HAD thought of speaking to Nanny, had vowed to do so, in fact. He was just waiting for the right time ... and hoping to find the right words. Yes, the right words ... it had been MUCH harder than he had thought to talk openly about his feelings. After all, he did not want to sound too ... pompous ... and, if truth be told, he was a little afraid she would turn him down, and that would be devastating!

"You absolutely HAVE to know that when spring comes, love is supposed to come too!" Eloise continued.

"It is only the beginning of February, Eloise. It's not spring yet," Wilkes pointed out, still wondering if Eloise knew something he did not. Walter? Who the devil was Walter?

"Oh, my LORD, Sir Wilkes! Don't you know ANYTHING about wooing?" Eloise scolded him.

"No, I ... I suppose not ..." he mumbled, red-faced.

"You DO want to woo Nanny, don't you?" demanded Eloise next.

"Well, I ..."

"Nanny says wooing should start with flowers, and preferably roses. She absolutely LOVES roses! Maybe you should START wooing and send her flowers ... before Walter does!"

"Er ..." Before Wilkes could properly form a comment, Eloise was gone.

Right. Flowers. Right. Roses. Brilliant! Why hadn't he thought of that? Perhaps because he wasn't sure he was, well, WOOING Nanny! Yes, it was his intention to woo her sometime in the future ... but NOW? Still, he conceded that Eloise could be right. What if he dithered too long, and Nanny either left or was won by another suitor? Walter? Racking his brain to try to think of who Walter might be, Wilkes let himself into his suite and closed the door. Then he looked up a florist in the telephone book, dialled the number, and arranged for dozens of roses to be sent to Nanny, three times a day.

In less than a week, five long days during which Wilkes forced himself to stay away from Nanny's suite in case his 'wooing' was unacceptable to her, Eloise was at his door in the early afternoon. "Stop, Sir Wilkes! That's enough! Our suite is FULL of flowers – even the bathtub! Did you TALK to Nanny yet?"

"Er ... no ..." he stammered miserably. He had never thought about what they would DO with the roses ...

Eloise rolled her eyes. Then she crossed her arms and glared at him. "You absolutely HAVE to just walk up to her and just say what's on your mind! I always do!"

"Well, Nanny and I are friends now, Eloise. Perhaps we're too old to change into something more," he said hesitantly. He WANTED something more ... but what if she said no, and he had to give up his walks with her? He had missed them dreadfully the last five days, and hated the thought of never walking out with Nanny again! Perhaps they could resume the walks and talks and just forget all the wooing business ... except he was finding that he was longing to linger now AFTER the walk, wanting to kiss her cheek ... then perhaps slide his lips along her jaw ... maybe even touch her lips with his ... He blushed fiercely even as he felt his desire stirring. He hoped Eloise didn't notice anything.

"Maybe you're getting too old to wait much longer!" she retorted saucily, rolling her eyes. Then a crafty look came over her face and she said slyly, "Well, then, I'll just have to let Walter know somehow that maybe he DOES have a chance with Nanny...."

"Walter?" Wilkes queried, trying to pretend he really didn't care at all.

"Oh, he has been wanting to woo Nanny for years ... I knew that a long, long time ago! Now he has been writing to her ... and when she gets the letters, she gets all flustery – the way she used to when she saw YOU at first ... Do you think maybe Nanny likes HIM now?"

"Well ... I ... I suppose she might ..." Wilkes forced himself to say. "But if he is writing, that must mean that he doesn't live very near ..."

"No, no, no! Haven't you seen him? WALTER! He works downstairs! The concierge, you know. He writes to her, but he also TALKS to her!" Eloise shrugged. "Well, if you don't WANT to woo her, maybe Walter DOES! I'll go ask him ..." and she skipped out the door, hiding her grin.

"No ... wait! Eloise!" Wilkes called after her, but she had vanished into the stairwell.

Closing the door, Wilkes looked around his suite. Neat and tidy ... but lacking a woman's touch. Just as HE was neat and tidy ... but lacking a woman's touch. He wanted Nanny, he realized abruptly. He wanted her more than he had ever wanted anything in his entire life. He had had weeks of restless sleep, filled with erotic and impossible dreams, and he wanted to turn those dreams into reality. He wanted Nanny ... he LOVED Nanny!

Suddenly faced with the possibility of losing Nanny to Walter, Wilkes couldn't dither any more. He just COULDN'T! Ungentlemanly or not, he had to do something immediately. He marched down the hallway to her suite, held his finger on the button until she opened the door, an exasperated look on her face ... glaring down to where she expected Eloise to be standing. Her face changed the moment she realized Wilkes was the one at the door, but before she could say a word, he snatched her into his arms and kissed her as passionately as he could. She dropped her glasses and her book, and she would have swayed had he not been holding her so close. Her lips parted against his, and he could feel her heart begin to thunder almost as much as his own. Then she surprised him by returning his passion with her own fire as her kiss changed from one of shock and surrender to one of demand when she nipped his lower lip with her teeth.

A fire centred in his loins and he pressed her even closer to him with his hands spread over her lower back, his head angling so that he could deepen the kiss. Her faint moan of ecstasy brought him to his senses. He surfaced like a man drowning, gulping air into his lungs and shaking his head, rigid with the shock of the sensations that had flooded through him. Nanny sagged in his arms, cheeks stained a rich red, her eyes wide and dazed and her mouth still open.

"So, are you two getting married on Valentine's Day?" Suddenly Eloise was there, staring up at them inquisitively.

Hastily Nanny disentangled herself and pushed away from him. Wilkes unexpectedly felt bereft, and had to fight his desire to draw her back into his arms.

"E-Eloise," Nanny's voice wobbled, but she determinedly cleared her throat and continued, "what have I told you about ...?"

"ARE you getting married?" Eloise demanded again. "It's Valentine's Day soon, and that would be an absolutely PERFECT time for a wedding!"

"Of course we're not!" Nanny said at the same time as Wilkes muttered, "Well, *I* would like that very much!"

Eloise clapped her hands. "So you ARE getting married!"

"NO, NO, NO!" Nanny said and bent down for her book and glasses.

"But Nanny ... you LOVE him! I KNOW you do!" Eloise cried out. "You HAVE to marry him! It would be absolutely DIVINE to be married on Valentine's Day! ALMOST as good as Christmas EVE!"

"I said no, Eloise, and I expect you to listen," Nanny ignored the imploring looks Eloise was casting her and turned to Wilkes. "I can't apologize enough for Eloise, Sir Wilkes ..."

"But Nanny ..." Wilkes looked bewildered. "It wasn't Eloise who ..."

"PLEASE, Nanny, say yes!" Eloise begged her.

"Eloise, you pinky promised not to meddle in other people's business. This does not concern you! Come inside now, please!"

"But Nanny ..."

"Eloise ..." Nanny said warningly, and walked back into the suite without another glance at Wilkes.

"Nan, you can't continue to blame this remarkable child for MY shortcomings," Sir Wilkes said suddenly.

"YOUR shortcomings?" Nanny whirled around to stare at him amazement.

"Well, clearly you don't love me as much as I love you. After all, you have Wal ..."

"Sir Wilkes! No!" Eloise interrupted him, but Nanny was faster.

"What do you mean, I don't love you as much as you love me?" She marched up to the man and glared him in the eye, much too upset to feel her usual awe and admiration for him. "I spent a YEAR watching you, hardly able to breathe when you walked past, and you hardly noticed me at all! After I kissed you ONCE on the cheek, you deign to notice me? Lately we have gone for long walks in the park, braving the cold, but you say nothing. You sent more roses than is usual in a FUNERAL home. You kissed me on the cheek for six long weeks, and just ONCE kissed me properly and that was ten minutes ago, and now you're telling me you LOVE me? More than I love YOU? Just when did you decide that? Why, if I ..."

A sudden warm light of understanding lit Sir Wilkes' brown eyes. He took the hands she was waving around furiously to punctuate her words, and held them tightly so she couldn't tug them away. "I love you, Nan. Truly, I do," he spoke quietly and humbly. "I just couldn't believe my good fortune that you were really interested in ME! Not in my title, not in my money, but in ME! Stout, balding Willy. Staid and stolid Stanton. It seemed like a dream come true ... like a dream too GOOD to be true ... like a fairy-tale where everything comes out all right! Nanny, I DO love you. YOU. A beautiful, wise and wonderful woman full to the brim with the joy of life. I want to experience some of that joy before I die. I love you, Nanny. I want to marry you ... to cherish you as you deserve to be cherished ... to adore you openly ... to ... to live the fairy-tale ending of happily-ever-after!"

Nanny listened with her mouth open, then she closed it, her eyes full of disbelief. Oh, my Lord, he was so eloquent, and saying such nice things about her ... but what did he really KNOW of her? Finally she whispered, "A fairy tale? Sometimes I've felt that I'm a character in a fairy tale ... I'm the frog. Sir Wilkes, I've only ever been a nanny! To Kay, now to Eloise ... once, long, long, long ago, to two children in London, England ... and after that to seven children in Austria. My Lord, I don't know anything about being a LADY! Sometimes it feels as though I'm just playing a role, and I've never really had the chance to SHOW the real, real, real me ... to BE the real me! Why, I don't even truly know who the real me IS, for Lord's sake! You ... you're from a different station in life. You're a PRINCE! I've never heard of a fairy tale where the prince thinks he falls in love with the FROG! What kind of ending could there possibly be in that?"

Neither Nanny nor Wilkes noticed Bill at the door with Nanny's afternoon tea. He, however, had heard enough of the conversation to have a vague understanding what was happening and to know that they did not need an audience. With a sharp tug, he pulled a startled and decidedly unhappy Eloise out of the room and shut the door, leaving the two staring at each other and oblivious to the rest of the world.

"Tosh, tosh, tosh! I do not think of myself as a prince, but rather as a toad ..." Sir Wilkes said. "What I meant was, perhaps together we can discover the ending of this fairytale!"

He gently tugged her closer, and Nanny panicked, realizing he meant to kiss her again. Normally confident, she was suddenly awash with self-doubt, feeling dubious and insecure ... and terrified! She was about to protest when their lips met and the option to refuse his kiss was taken from her. Mindlessly she responded to the slant of his mouth over hers. Her arms slid around his middle, and her hands splayed across his back. Suddenly emotions, that had been simmering just below the surface, erupted and her heart went on a rampage. He deepened the kiss until they were both breathless.

"I love you, Nanny!" he gasped at last, lifting his head. "Please ... PLEASE believe me!"

"Oh ... Sir Wilkes ..." Nanny put her hand over her heart and staggered over to the sofa.

Because he refused to release her, Wilkes followed, and sat beside her, his arms still around her. "You ... you don't want Walter to woo you instead of me ... do you, Nanny?" he asked anxiously.

She stared at him, nonplussed.

"I ... I know this is sudden, and ... well, I'm probably making a DREADFUL blunder here ... but ..." His hands smoothed over her back again as he struggled to find the words he felt he must say. "Eloise told me about Walter writing to you and talking to you and ..."

"Eloise? I should have known!" Nanny exclaimed. "Sir Wilkes, I cannot apologize enough ..." She tried to wriggle away from him, rawther reluctantly, but he clutched her again.

"Tosh, tosh, tosh ... no need for an apology, Nanny ... just clarification! Walter is NOT one of your suitors?"

"One of my SUITORS? WALTER? A SUITOR? MY suitor?" Nanny stopped struggling in her shock and stared at him. "Oh, my sainted Aunt Fanny! No, no, NO! That would be MUCH too uncomfortable! Much, much, much! He likes KAY!"

"But Eloise ..." Wilkes stopped, then chuckled. "She IS a remarkable child." His hands ran down her back again and gently propelled her closer to him. "Nanny, you haven't said how you feel about ME ... dare I hope that Eloise ...?"

"Sir Wilkes, you ..."

"Willy," he interrupted her. "Please, call me Willy the way you did on Christmas Eve ... when you kissed me and brightened my whole world."

"Oh ... yes ... yes ... quite ... quite ..." she stammered, feeling very glad to be seated because her very bones were melting at the passion in his voice. And it was much too hot in the room, much, much, much! She wished she could undo the top button or two of her blouse ...

"Nanny ... I love you ... and want to marry you ..." He kissed her again, and again she responded whole-heartedly ... but didn't say the words he was longing to hear. "Please, Nanny ... I've waited a long time to, well, to be brave enough to sit here with you like this ... to touch you like this ..." and his hands slid up then around to cup her face. "Nanny, we're not getting any younger, you know. I DO think we should ... well, make the most out of the time we have left to enjoy each other! Don't you agree?"

"Si ... W-Willy ..." she gasped as his thumbs circled gently on the corners of her mouth.

"Do you love me, Nanny?" he asked softly and insistently. "Will you marry me?"

She took a deep breath and stammered, "I'm too, too, too plump ..."

"You're voluptuous," he contradicted her, his hands smoothing down her back and over her somewhat prominent botto. "Curvaceous ..."

"Sir Wilkes!" Her protest was automatic, but she didn't move away. Instead, she leaned into his caresses, her body reacting to his touch and beginning to quiver.

"At my advanced age, with my eyesight going, I need someone I can SEE ... an armful, not a skinny toothpick, don't you think?" His arms slid around to her back again and he studied her as if he couldn't believe she was there in his arms.

"Well ... my speech ... my voice ... I'm not suited to be a lady! I'm much too ... loud and ... and boisterous! Much, much, much!"

He kissed her deeply, then murmured as his mouth kissed a path along her jaw, "I'm going deaf, so it'll be easier to hear you, and I love listening to you. In fact, I ... I love you. Everything about you."

"You really love me?" she whispered, needing to hear him say it again. Her lips trembled and her hands tightened convulsively on his shoulders.

"Oh, immensely! I really love you, Nanny. You're quite magnificent. Kiss me again."

"I should be furious with you ..."

"Yes, yes, terribly so. Kiss me first, then you may be angry if you must."

"I must, must, mmmm ..." her voice died away when his mouth captured hers in hungry exultation, and her mind whirled. My stars, stars, stars! His attentions were making it impossible for her to think!

"You may not be a princess, but I'm no prince, either. I'm certainly no prize for any woman! They knew THAT in school when they called me staid and stolid Stanton!" he admitted, at last. "You'd be doing me a favour by saying yes ... by taking pity on me and ending my miserable, lonely bachelorhood ... Marry me, Nanny. Soon!"

"But ... oh, my Lord, Willy!" she stared up at him, still panting in an effort to catch her breath. "How can you DO this to me, for Lord's sake? We're not even ... we're just ..."

"It's love. I love you, Nanny. Be mine. My valentine. My lady. My wife."

"My sainted Aunt Fanny ..." Nanny breathed. "I ... I think I'm about to discover my own happily-ever-after! And ... and if we don't start behaving ourselves ... Eloise will catch us and make her OWN discoveries! Oh, my stars, stars, stars, the trouble we'll be in THEN!"

"Is that a yes?"

"Wil ..."

"Is that a yes?" he demanded again, suddenly more forceful than he ever had been before.

"Ye ..."

Before she even completed the word, his mouth was on hers again and it was with great reluctance that Wilkes released her much later, after Eloise had pointedly and repeatedly hit the buzzer to be admitted back into the suite.

O o O o O o

Three days later, Wilkes having procured a marriage licence and arranged for all the other matters to be attended to with minimum fuss and maximum speed, Nanny and Wilkes were married at the Plaza Hotel just a short time before the Valentine Ball. Coerced by their friends from the hotel, they agreed to think of the ball that year as their wedding reception, and, with Eloise, Kay, Mr. Peabody, Mr. Salomone and Miss Thompson, they endured standing in a reception line just inside the ballroom doors to accept everyone's congratulations.

"One HAS to wonder if, despite their age, Sir Wilkes and Nanny had been indiscreet and now HAD to get married! What is the hurry? At THEIR age?" Mrs. Thornton muttered as she stood waiting to get in to the ballroom.

Bill and Rachel, standing at the doors to welcome and wish everyone a Happy Valentine's Day as well as direct guests through the reception line, smiled at the old woman clutching her long-suffering blue poodle.

"I think Sir Wilkes has a real treasure in Nanny!" Rachel commented, "and I'm sure he knows it and cherishes her!"

"It's Lady Nan, now ... and maybe their age is the REASON for their hurry!" grinned Bill. "I expect they DID have to get married ... not because they'd been indiscreet but because it's pretty obvious they are mad for each and don't have a whole lot of time left in this life to enjoy each other!"

Acting shocked and appalled at his response, Mrs. Thornton huffed her way over to the reception line where she gave Lady Nan a fierce hug and told Sir Wilkes gruffly to look after his Valentine treasure well.

O o O o O o

Later, dancing with her husband of two hours, it seemed that Nanny's feet never touched the floor, and her eyes refused to leave his. She had dreamed of dancing with Sir Wilkes again ever since the Debutante Ball last year. It was like floating, like feeling beautiful, like believing in dreams. Although they were dancing very circumspectly, her heart thundered as though they were wrapped together, tumbling into the intimate embrace that would be coming as soon as they were alone. Both knew it ... both hungered for it ... both grew more and more impatient waiting for it. As the music ended, their eyes dropped to their partner's mouth. His lips curved into a smile, and hers warmed as if they had been soundly kissed.

Nanny felt an insidious snaking of desire rise up in her core to awaken every nerve ending. She began to tremble in Wilkes' arms, then, when he had guided them into a shadowy corner, she touched his cheek tenderly for a split second before covering his mouth with hers. The kiss deepened, and she gasped when it ended, mentally pleading for him to put out the intense fire within her before she spontaneously combusted.

"Nan ... I'm not so sure we shou ..." his voice died away as his body reacted to hers with the same intensity she was feeling. No other woman had ever tempted him as much as Nanny did. He wondered if she knew how weak she made him, how completely she satisfied him. He wondered how he would find the words to tell her, or if he would be able to show her with his body when they finally lay together on their marriage bed. He wondered if he would be able to take her gently, or if the struggle against the strong urge to plunge deep within her to his own satisfaction would win out. He wanted the moment when they finally joined to be savoured like the finest of old wines and the purest of promises. Sweat pooled at the base of his spine at the thought of moving into her, become part of her. He hoped he could do it and make her as happy as she was making him already. He swallowed before trying to speak again. "Surely this isn't the way ..."

"I don't care. This is MY way," she murmured boldly, knowing her own mind and finally not afraid to speak it to this man who had just become her husband.

"In public?" he questioned her, his hand slowly caressing her back. The need in his heart beat as strong as the need in his loins, wanting to give her more than either of them had ever dreamed or could ever understand.

Her eyes rounded, then she threw a quick glance at the other dancers. She had forgotten all about them. "Oh, my stars, stars, stars, Willy! No! Perhaps we should ...?"

"Yes, I think perhaps we should ..."

With furtive glances around to make sure no one was watching them, they hurried out of the ballroom.

Max took them up to the sixteenth floor, his impassive face soothing Nanny's nerves even as Wilkes' hand trembling on the small of her back excited her. As they exited the elevator, Max grinned and said, "Give her a kiss for me, Sir Wilkes! You two make me think that love and Valentines really DO still exist in this world!" Then he was gone.

When they were finally in their bedroom, Nanny felt as if a stranger had taken over her body and mind, leaving a shameless wanton demanding release from the burning desire inside her for this man who was kissing her, caressing her, stripping off her clothes even as she tugged at his. She no longer cared that her breasts were not firm and perky any more, that the extra pounds had softened her whole body and added inches to her bust, waist and hips. In his arms, she was young, slim, beautiful, and more than ready to be loved by her beloved husband.

"Nan ..."

"Please, Willy ... I need you NOW." She was impatient and didn't want foreplay, even though his touch on her skin made her move against him with the sheer joy and pleasure of being with him at last. "Please, I need you ..."

There were hundreds of thousands of sensations to be discovered in the merging of lips and the locking of bodies. Sharp points of passion replaced the flooding and she ached with it, almost wept with it. Wilkes understood her need because it mirrored his own. Never had he felt this way before! He felt strong, incredibly strong, with energy coursing through him and pumping through his blood until it ran hot. They weren't old! Through their love, they were young ... they were ancient ... they were ... eternal. Then they slowly, deliciously, returned to reality.

Wilkes leaned on his elbows over her, his hands in her hair, breathing heavily. "Nan, my beloved Nanny ... oh, Nan, I ... I have n-never ..."

She opened her eyes and weakly smiled up at him, trying to catch her own breath. "Never, never, never?" she panted.

"No ... not ... not like this ..." he answered, his face flushed with pleasure. "I must say ... this ... this is the most marvellous ... form of ... unity." He collapsed beside her, pulling her over to rest partially on him, and kissed her gently again.

She chuckled weakly, too overwhelmed with happiness and too sated with love to move or say anything at all.

"You find me amusing, my Lady?" he asked gravely, after his breathing had finally returned to normal.

Her fingers trailed over his chest. "I find you absolutely marvellous, Sir Wilkes," she corrected him softly. She was finding that she adored this intimacy after loving, with no body aches, no worries. No thoughts of a world in chaos. No Eloise. No frogs, no princes. Just herself, and Willy ... and their love. Together forever. A fairy tale come true. Happily ever after! Now THIS was wooing indeed!

The End!