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Anna didn’t know how she’d ended up at the hotel. She didn’t remember leaving her own home. It was late, nearing midnight, and outside was cold and dark. A few stray dogs howled, a few drunkards staggered out from the drinking establishment, finding posts or patches of grass to relieve themselves on.

Had she been dreaming? Anna thought at first this had been a dream, but no. This was real, and she really was standing outside of his hotel room. Her fingers shook in the pockets of her coat. She pulled the fabric tighter, feeling the skin begin to sweat in her gloves.

Why had she come here? She had been unable to answer herself. She raised a hand in the air, fist poised and ready to knock. Almost, almost... no. Did this really need to be addressed now? Could it perhaps wait until the morning?

Five years, Anna reminded herself. Five years apart…

Shtolman had been sitting on the edge of his bed with a glass of vodka in hand. He was brooding. Things had been strange between them since his return, naturally. He hadn’t expected them to pick up where they left off, of course not. Shtolman hadn’t expected such difficulty, however. If only he could tell Anna what had really happened, what he had been through. The things he had seen would haunt him until his last day. He knew keeping it from Anna would be the best thing for her. It wasn’t for a lady’s ears. Anna’s heart would break for him all over again, it was better that she knew nothing.

Did she resent him? Had she grown to loathe him, as he had mentioned in his letter. Had she even read the letter now? She had told him she never received it, so she might not even know. He loved her to respect any decision she made. He had had his bed made for him, he had to begrudgingly lie in it and wait, hoping she’d come back to him.

Shtolman and Anna’s turbulent relation aside, the new Zatonsk resident was another unwelcome obstacle. Tall, dark, handsome, rich… he was a textbook ideal match, and it seemed Anna had been charmed by him. Shtolman remembered the feeling that had gripped his throat earlier today, seeing him walking side by side with Anna. Shtolman’s face had hardened like stone, felt a sharp pang in his chest as he watched Anna’s eyes light up as she laughed with him. That had been him once, Shtolman felt sadness overwhelming him. All in the past.

He heard a knock and put his empty glass on the bedside table. He slowly approached the door and swung it open.

Her eyes were wide, and she had a look on her face that they both knew was false bravery.

‘Anna Viktorovna,’ he breathed her name. He wasn’t smiling - he rarely did these days - but his eyes held her own.

Anna gulped and blinked at him. ‘I - ’

He pushed the door gently with one hand and it opened more, the invitation clear. Anna quickly licked her lips, he saw but didn’t react. He was just staring at her. She paused, wondering, can this wait?

Five. Long. Years.

She gazed up at him, and he had started to walk back into the hotel room before her decision had been made. He smirked at her as she followed him. She was stood right by the door, and he stepped closer to her. He paused, closer to her than he needed to be. His hand reached up and closer… past her. He closed the door and she exhaled, breath shaking.

She saw the empty glass on the side, saw the vodka bottle, the slices of lemon. He had been drinking. She wondered how much.

As if telepathic, he spoke. ‘I just had one. Would you like a drink? I don’t have tea here, just…’ Shtolman picked up the bottle and shook it. ‘This.’

‘Thank you, no,’ Anna smiled. Shtolman nodded once and set the bottle back down.

He cleared his throat, and they straightened up, looking at each other.

He wondered what had made her come here, to his room, at this hour…
Anna’s cheeks blushed as she realised their situation. She had come to his hotel room, at night. A fight they had had years past flashed across her mind. Any man would think the same…

‘Anna Viktorovna, why are you here?’

‘I… I received your letter.’ Shtolman’s jaw clenched on her words. So her parents had finally seen sense, had they? ‘My mother had hidden it, and my father gave it to me tonight.’

Shtolman was quiet, eyes carefully studying her.

‘Thank you for your words,’ she said. Shtolman blinked at her. Anna said no more, and Shtolman was stunned.

‘Is that what you came here to say?’

Of course it wasn’t.

‘Yes.’

Shtolman’s face pulled into a thin line and he nodded. ‘Very well.’ He picked up the vodka, poured himself a generous shot, drank it down in one.

Crossing the room, he placed his hand on the door handle. ‘If you’ll excuse me, I’m very busy.’

Anna’s eyes were wide and full with hot tears. ‘Yakov Platonovich —’ she began.

‘Do you want me to organise a ride home for you? Or are you being escorted home?’

‘Yakov Platonovich, what —?’

‘Send my regards to Andrey Petrovich.’

Anna’s cheeks flushed pink and she stared at him. His hand was still on the door but he hadn’t moved to open it yet. ‘Yakov Platonovich! I do not appreciate your comment.’

‘It’s not an untrue comment,’ he scathed. ‘I saw you together.’

Nobody could deny the jealousy that had dripped from his words. He closed his eyes a moment, hating this. He hated seeing anybody else with Anna. Even seeing Anton smiling at her, calling her “dear” made him sick. Anna was not theirs.

‘Y-you saw us?’ Anna repeated. She had only met Andrey Petrovich hours ago. He had asked to walk her home, she had politely declined but he had been rather insistent.

‘In the town,’ Yakov sighed. ‘He was —’

‘We were just walking together,’ Anna said. He was still that same blind old fool…

Shtolman’s jaw clenched and Anna felt her heart flutter. Even after all these years, it still aroused her.

Anna had grown bolder still in the years that had passed between them. She was no longer afraid of sounding stupid or naive in front of him. She had matured and it was clear.

‘Why are you so bothered?’

His left eyebrow raised and he stared at her hard. ‘Excuse me?’

‘Why are you bothered who walks me home now?’ Anna’s temper had flared. He had been gone for so long…

‘I’m not,’ he said, ‘I just —‘

Anna sighed. This was just like her proposal from the prince all over again. Shtolman had said back then that he didn’t mind, he had hoped Anna would accept. They both remembered how Anna had tricked him, played his jealousy card expertly.

‘Very well,’ Anna copied his own words. She straightened herself up and strode over to the door. ‘Let me out.’

Shtolman didn’t move. ‘Yakov Platonovich, let me leave.’ Shtolman raised his eyes to meet hers, but didn’t turn the handle. ‘Yakov Platonovich —’

Anna placed her own hand on top of his, hoping she could force his hand to turn the door handle so she could be free.

Shtolman twisted his wrist and grabbed Anna’s hand in his own. She gasped and her eyes were staring at his face. Her lips were parted in surprise.

‘Do you want to leave?’ His question was a dangerous whisper in her ear. He could feel the heat radiating from her body, could feel the warmth of her cheeks against his skin.

‘I…’ Anna gulped. He took hold of her arms and turned them so that Anna was pressed flush against the door. Her eyes were held in his gaze.

‘Do you want to leave?’

‘No,’ she breathed. That smirk she had missed was back on his lips, and he kissed her.

The last time they had kissed had been that night — that first night. Their lips met like the long lost lovers they were, making up for lost time.

Shtolman’s lips were hot and wet and hungry. Anna kissed him back and felt his hands snaking up her waist. Her own hands had been wrapped tight around his shoulders. She was being pushed against the door, but she didn’t mind it so much. Five years of sadness and pain soon became a distant memory as their mouths found each other again.

Like once before, Shtolman reached a hand up and released her hair from its hold. Loose waves fell down her back and into the middle of their kiss. Shtolman broke away long enough to move her hair, and then he was back where he belonged: kissing Anna.

Anna could taste the vodka and sharp lemon on his lips, and she smiled.

They paused to breathe, foreheads pressed close together.

He gazed up to see she was already smiling at him. How could so much time have passed, and yet this feel like a continuation of that first night?

Shtolman placed a soft kiss on her cheek and smiled at her blush.

‘Anna,’ he breathed. ‘I’ve missed you so.’

‘Yakov,’ she sighed as she felt his lips on her neck, his hands unfastening the buttons of her dress. ‘I never thought I’d see you again…’

He silenced her words with his mouth. Now was not the time for having that conversation.

Anna’s dress was pretty, she always wore the most beautiful clothes. This was a baby blue lacy thing, frills and embellishments everywhere… all got thrown on the floor. Shtolman couldn’t even remember where he had thrown her coat and gloves. He gently tore the dress away from her body, along with the other layers she had decided to torment him with when she dressed. His lips had barely left hers, and soon Anna was naked.

Shtolman stopped a moment and stared, lust glazing his eyes. Anna was still beautiful. The image of their first night had been in his mind ever since, and Anna had only flourished more. She had grown slightly in height, and her body had become slightly leaner. Shtolman could still remember, and was happy to see, every curve of her body. She had matured, and she stood tall and watched as he looked at her. She was trembling, but this time she wasn’t nervous. This trembling was excitement, anticipation, eagerness…

He stepped closer to her again, a gentle kiss on her forehead. Anna smiled and blushed more. Shtolman would never tire of seeing her cheeks growing pinker.

Anna gently lifted his shirt over his head, Shtolman tugging it off and placing it… somewhere. He stepped out of the remaining few pieces of fabric, and they stood facing each other like they had once before.

Anna reached for him, and his strong arms were back embracing her body. Their skin was on fire, each touch sending a blaze rippling throughout them.

Their kiss grew in heat and intensity, and Anna felt heat flash between her legs. She had only been with one man and one man only. She had had admirers during Shtolman’s absence, but none of them had ever stood a chance. She hadn’t even kissed another man or allowed them to kiss her hand. Nobody else had the right.

Anna let out a low moan as Shtolman gently bit down on her lip, and she felt him against her thigh. Her heart raced as she heard him let out a grunt, the sound rippling against her throat as he kissed her neck.

They stumbled their way to the bed and Shtolman gently guided Anna down. He settled beside her, and Anna frowned at him. Surely he needed to be…

She opened her mouth to ask him, but fell silent again as she felt his hands. She was breathing heavily and slowly, unsure what he was doing.

She lay and watched him in silence. He didn’t take his eyes away from hers as he gently traced his fingertips on her skin. He touched her cheeks and across her lips, making them tingle. Anna kissed his fingertips as they danced across her lips, making him smile. He stroked down her neck and across her defined collarbone. As his hands went lower, Anna sighed as she felt his warm hands on her breasts. She closed her eyes as the sensation, then opened them wide as his hands dared explore further down.

He caressed her thighs, running his fingertips up and down softly. Slowly, he brought his hands back up her inner thighs. Anna’s cheeks were flaming now. He moved closer to her core and Anna thought she might pass out. He decided to play with her - and torture himself further - and he stopped. Anna let out an exasperated sigh and he smirked. He moved a tiny bit more and stopped again. Anna repeated the noise. Did she sound frustrated? He was almost certain. His fingers moved again, and Anna expected him to stop.

She felt his finger at her entrance, slowly slipping inside, and she moaned loud. Her eyes found his and his intensity held her gaze. She breathed deeply and felt herself get wet where his hand was. Shtolman touched her slowly, pausing a while to allow her body time to adjust. After a while, he gently moved his finger in and out of her. Anna had her eyes closed tight, and she was biting her lip. The pleasure she was feeling was like she could never have dreamed of. They hadn’t done this the last time, and Anna could barely think straight.

Anna remembered the wave sensation, and soon enough it was building once more. Shtolman could sense she was close, and he gently touched that most sensitive part of her. Anna moaned and Shtolman felt his head spin and his body harden. He continued to touch her and soon enough she had her orgasm, moaning low and spilling his name from her swollen lips.

That had been the warm up. Anna’s eyes grew wide as she saw him finally climbing on top of her. He was ready for her and he needed her now.

Shtolman’s own legs spread Anna’s wider, and he settled down and entered her with ease. She was still tight, he could feel the resistance and it was twisted, but it made him happy. The thought of Anna being walked home by another man was enough to drive him to duel with them, the thought of anything else was unbearable.

She was his, his, his.

He growled low as he felt her body welcoming him home. She moaned and reached up to kiss his lips.

Shtolman held onto Anna’s body tight in his arms, feeling her own hands on the back of his shoulders. He moved slowly at first, noticing how Anna paced her body to match his. He gently moved his body, thrusting slowly and carefully.

Anna melted under his touch. Every tiny move he made she felt with such intensity. This was perhaps even better than the first time. She remembered it all as if it had been just yesterday. She would never forget that night if she had lived to be a hundred. His touch would be with her always.

His lips moved back to her neck, and she sighed at the sensation of his hot lips on her skin. She moved a hand up and stroked his hair. She looked up at it. Greyer now. His face, still thin, had more lines. His body had not changed. He was slight but his muscles were still defined, and his arm muscles flexed as he held her.

Pleasure began to build again, and she whispered his name. ‘Yakov…’

Hearing his name mixed in between lustful moans was almost his undoing. He grunted and began to pick up the pace. Anna felt the change, felt him harder and deeper. She didn’t think it was possible to blush more, and yet she did.

One of his hands had gone to the back of her neck, lifting her head so he could kiss her easier. His hungry lips fought with her own. He growled at her as he felt her snake her tongue into his mouth, and his own tongue danced with hers.

‘Anna,’ he breathed, eyes finding hers. ‘Anna…’

She breathed up at him expectantly. ‘Yakov?’

‘Tell me you’re mine.’ He thrust into her, eyes fixed on hers.

Anna felt that flash of heat back in her core, and at the same time her heart had fluttered like a bumblebee. She was breathless.

He moved still, eyes waiting.

‘I’m yours.’

Shtolman nodded and smiled at her, bending his head down and kissing her hard. He moved his hands to her own, and he gently pressed them down against the mattress. Anna felt her heart racing as she felt him pressing more. He thrust harder and faster now. Anna let out breath after breath of pleasure, and she moved her hips to rock in time with his own.

Shtolman was close, and he felt Anna tighten around him. He held onto her and began to moan again. Her name fell from his lips as he came, feeling Anna squeezing tight. They moaned together, and moments later Anna also orgasmed. Her head was thrown back against the pillow, hair everywhere, cheeks flaming.

Shtolman lay beside her, holding her in his arms as he had all those years ago. They were breathless and flushed and finally reunited.

Shtolman stroked Anna’s hair gently and watched as she closed her eyes. She looked so peaceful. He held her hands in his own, and smiled when Anna moved them so she could kiss his hands.

‘Yakov Platonovich,’ she whispered, not looking at him.

‘Yes, Anna Viktorovna?’

‘Tell me you’re mine,’ she spoke so sensually, it almost drove him wild again.

‘I’m yours.’