Embarrassed beyond measure, he grabbed his handkerchief from his pocket and turned away from her, hoping she hadn't seen.
But he knew that she had and the thought humiliated him in tenfold.
"Perhaps I should just go. It's late and-."
Her hand grabbed his and squeezed gently.
Slowly she walked toward him and coaxed him off the sofa. Then, in the tenderest moment he could imagine, she brushed the tears from his cheeks.
"I'm so sorry you're hurting Dr. Crane."
Before he realized what was happening, he was in her arms, her hand rubbing his back in a smooth circular motion.
He allowed himself the pleasure of being held, for Maris would never hold him like this. At the thought of her, he held back a sob, to which Daphne pulled him closer. "It'll be all right. Everything will be all right. You'll see. I know you loved your wife and this isn't me place to say this but maybe it's time to move on. You're such a wonderful man. You're sweet, kind and thoughtful and I know you'll find someone whom you'll love just as much if not more than your wife. And..."
When she paused, he drew back and stared at her. "Is something wrong?"
Suddenly she blushed, surprising him with her shy smile. "Actually, I was going to say that I'm kind of jealous, thinking of the woman."
"T-the woman you're bound to find and fall in love with. I have no doubt that any woman whom you fell in love with would be the luckiest person in the world."
Niles was astonished. It was as though the heavens had parted and the gods had opened a door just for him. For he couldn't imagine a more perfect opportunity than the one he'd just been given.
Swallowing hard, he licked his dry lips and summoned up the courage to say what was in his heart.
"A-Actually Daphne I have found someone."
"Oh... Well I'm so happy for you, Dr. Crane. That's wonderful."
He sighed beneath her embrace.
"It is wonderful, Daphne. Because the woman I love is standing right in front of me."
Suddenly she pulled out of his arms and stared at him in astonishment.
"I love you, Daphne Moon."
"With all my heart. And I've wanted to tell you for so long."
Her hand flew to her mouth and he was sure that he'd upset her.
"Daphne, I'm sorry. I didn't-."
"I can't believe this. It's..."
He sighed deeply. "I know. It was wrong of me to surprise you like this."
"Well, I am surprised. I mean, I just never realized..."
"I'm sorry Daphne."
She moved toward him and kissed his lips. "Don't be sorry. This is the most wonderful thing you could have done, saying those sweet words to me. I just..."
"You really love me?"
Feeling a rush of emotion, he took her in his arms and kissed her deeply; the way he'd dreamed of kissing her so many times before.
"Oh, Dr. Crane..."
"I love you, Daphne Moon."
"And I love you."
"How could I not? This is even better than me romance novel!"
He laughed at her shyness. "This is just the beginning."
Brushing a tear from her cheek, he kissed her forehead, letting his lips linger on her silky skin.
"It's a beautiful night. Would you like to go out on the balcony with me?"
"I'd love to."
She took his hand and they walked to the balcony almost instantly gazing at the stars. It was the most beautiful night he'd ever seen. And true to its name, the moon had the faintest sheen of blue; a sight that took his breath away.
He felt her hand on his cheek, gently turning him toward her. "I'm so sorry that you had that fight with your wife, Dr Crane."
"I'm not." He replied, smiling at her surprise.
"But she hurt you so deeply."
He touched her cheek and kissed her once more.
"I was hurt. But somehow I found the courage to tell you how I felt. After all, moments like these only come along once in a blue moon."