It had been so wonderful. Allowing him to know her again. Watching as he kissed her palms with a tenderness that threatened to make her weep again. It was true; she had never stopped loving him, not for a single second. She had ignored it studiously, pushed it desperately to the side, but hadn't been able to drive it out. Frightened as she was, emotionally exhausted, it was easy to let him take the lead and love her there and then, just as she'd missed. It was like coming home.

They lay there on the settee in his pantry once it was over. They had just made love in the middle of the day. Thank heaven that at this time most of the staff had duties that kept them upstairs and they were far enough from the kitchen not to be overheard. His body covered hers nicely, keeping her warm. She had not felt so young or so alive in many years. Fifteen years, to be precise. This was what life was about.

"Charles," she told him quietly, her voice not quite working properly yet, "I'll never leave you again. I promise you that."

She heard him shuffle contentedly at her neck, planting a kiss there.

"I'll marry you," she told him, "I'll marry you because I love you, and nothing else in the world matters to me at the moment." It was like singing her heart out, she could not stop, "I'm so sorry for everything I caused. I love you," There was nothing more to it than that, "I love you."

"Elsie," he told her softly, "You don't have to propose to me, you know," his voice had a definite fondness in it, "I think we've both proved that we're dedicated to each other."

But that wasn't what she meant.

"I know," she assured him, "But I still want to marry you. Because we do belong together. There's no other way of saying it. Do you understand?"

"I think I do," he replied. He was quite for a moment, contemplating the best way he could prove as much; "I love you too."