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A Feast of Love "When my husband Andrew was a restaurant chef, I spent years as a Valentine's Day 'widow' while Andrew cooked for other men's dates. As restaurant insiders, we knew that February 14 was the single busiest night of the year, making it hard to get a great meal, let alone a reservation. A few years back, he launched his own catering company which gives him much more flexibility (e.g., being able to say "no" to Valentine's Day gigs, so we can be together at long last!). Now, we primarily write books full-time and have much more flexibility.
"This year, instead of going out for dinner, we had our most romantic Valentine's Day ever by going out for a romantic four-hour lunch instead. We turned it into a daylong celebration by seeing a double feature afterward, then (instead of fighting the crowds!) relaxing at home that night with a split of Moet & Chandon champagne and chocolate." -- Karen Page, 41, New York, New York
Trail Blazer "I work nights. So the night before Valentine's Day, my wife put on a sexy evening outfit before she went to bed. Then she placed small chocolate hearts at the front door, through the living room, and into the bedroom. When I got home, I followed my wife's candy trail, picking up each individual heart and smiling the whole way. Seeing her snuggled under the covers in the bed, I tiptoed back into the living room. An hour later, her alarm went off and she entered the living room to find me with one of those darn hearts in my mouth. That's when I saw what she was wearing! I missed the whole idea and went for the candy! She smiled at me, gave me a good-morning kiss, and told me next time she'd leave directions." -- John Hall, 38, Fayetteville, North Carolina
Perfect Recovery "A couple of years ago I was very sick on Valentine's Day -- I had just had my tonsils removed. My fiance (now husband), Gabriel, had planned a big fancy dinner, but since I was recovering from surgery he had to make new plans. The week of Valentine's Day he bought me a card every single day, and he waited on me hand and foot while I recovered at my parents' house." -- Tara Brown, 22, Indianapolis, Indiana
Animal Instincts "My sexiest V-Day date was swimming with the dolphins in the Florida Keys. My guy surprised me with this sexy new experience and the sparks flew all day!" -- Liz H. Kelly, 41, Santa Monica, California
Love Don't Cost a Thing "My sexiest Valentine's Day happened when my husband Charlie and I were first married and had very little money. My husband got red light bulbs, put them in all the lamps, put on sexy music, and invited me into the living room. We danced for hours, shared a few beers, and just enjoyed being together. It didn't cost very much but it was a lot of fun." -- Barbara Bartlein, 52, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Home Alone "Just before Valentine's Day, my husband Ron was laid off. Since we were low on funds, we decided not to exchange gifts. But when I got home from work that evening, the kids were eating the dinner my husband had prepared for them. Ron handed me a glass of wine and my favorite red satin pj's and told me to get comfortable.
"Then he led me to bedroom -- what a beautiful sight. Ron had an Italian dinner on the table, with little red-glass candles. He was playing my favorite Frank Sinatra CD. I felt so special that he had done all that. No diamonds or gold or overpriced roses could have made me any happier. When I sat across from him and looked into his eyes, all of our problems went away. We were the only people in the world." -- Lisa Stabley, 40, Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania
Venetian Valentine's "My best Valentine's Day ever was in 1993. My then-girlfriend Ruthe and I had just arrived in Venice on the first day of Carnival of Venice. The day was great. Lots of walking the city, enjoying the party atmosphere and food, sightseeing, nuzzles, and smooches. As night fell, we made our way back to the main canals. Grabbing a handful of fresh-cut lilies from a street merchant, I asked Ruthe if she'd like to take a gondola ride. She eagerly agreed. After a long and very cold search, we finally glanced down just as a lone gondola was docking below. We got in and pulled away from the shore, floating off into the darkness. We returned to shore as husband-and-wife-to-be.
"A decade later, we remain happily married and have expanded our family to include two wonderful sons. And every February 14, I repeat this simple message: Thank you, Ruthe, for saying 'yes' in Venice." -- Bryan E. Wright, 36, Cincinnati, Ohio
Second Time's the Charm "When we were dating, Steve had always said that we should know each other for two years before we decided to get married. So when Valentine's Day came just a few weeks before our two-year anniversary, I was wondering if he was going to propose. That night he gave me a really beautiful box from Tiffany's that had a really expensive bracelet. I thought, well he's definitely not going propose. So I was kind of mad and wondering if I should break up with him.
"Later, we walked down to a nearby marina and he said that he wanted to look at a boat. It was really dark outside and I had to walk down this grassy hill in heels, so I was complaining about it and saying, 'Well why do I have to look at it?' And then he said, 'Well I just wanted to ask you to marry me!' I was so thrilled and kept saying 'Are you sure?' We met friends later to celebrate with champagne and he said, 'You know, you never did answer me!' We laughed about that. I definitely wanted to get married. We had the ceremony in Las Vegas, where Elvis married us. It's the second marriage for both of us, and we can definitely say it's better the second time around!" -- Susan Adams, 50, Seattle, Washington
Ooh-La-La "Two years ago on Valentine's Day I had sent a singing French Maid telegram to my husband Steve's office. Turns out the 'girl' had an Adam's apple and was a fella. Steve vowed to get revenge for the present. Then last year, Steve told me to get dressed up on Valentine's Day and meet him at his office. He said he would be driving us to our destination for the evening in his car. We drove for about 20 minutes. He was awfully quiet. Then he turns up this dark, winding road. I see beautiful lights from hundreds of windows. We round one last bend and pull up to a gorgeous 100-year-old castle. He looks at me and said, 'This is where we are spending the night. A castle for my Queen.' We had a wonderful romantic evening in this luxury-hotel castle -- though it was a while before I realized there wasn't going to be a prank. Sometimes an Old English theme can be more romantic than Frisky French!" -- Fran Capo, 37, Howard Beach, New York
Northern Exposures "A few years ago, my boyfriend, Chad, had been working up north for a month. I missed him terribly. One night, he called to tell me he wanted to do something special for Valentine's Day. He said I was to pack a suitcase, and leave the rest up to him. As soon as he was home, I tried getting the information out of him. Where were we going? But he wouldn't give in. He just looked at me, with his sexy smile and said, 'You'll see!'
"When the day came for us to leave, we headed west from our home in Calgary. We drove past elk herds and through the mountains -- the scenery was breathtaking. Finally, we drove up to a beautiful hotel. We had cocktails in the bar, and when we went back up the fireplace was blazing and the water in the jacuzzi was steaming -- but they weren't as hot as we were!" --Chasey Casha, 39, Calgary, Alberta
How do you keep the sparks flying in your own relationship? Rob Frankel, creator of PillowMail, a service that helps couples write steamy letters and stories for each other, offers his advice: