Rhett arrived in Atlanta and booked the hotel's best room for the week. They were all too pleased to take Rhett's money to Rhett's amusement realizing they probably weren't getting too many guests these days. It was hard to attract visitors to your city when it was under siege. He imagined if the hotel was prepared for the aftermath of the war, the influx of people that reconstruction would bring to their little town that they would stand to make a healthy profit.
He asked them to get a priest who was willing to travel to Tara to be ready to leave the hotel by eight o'clock the following morning. That wouldn't give Rhett much time to sleep he realized as he looked at his watch but he wanted to be at Tara and married before noon. He wasn't quite sure what his hurry was, but he wanted it done with. Hopefully, with so few people there the ceremony wouldn't go on forever and Rhett could have the entire afternoon to spend with Scarlett.
He went to Belle's for a couple of hours. At first, he didn't want to go there but he realized he needed to get the clothes he had there. He said nothing to Belle about his plans for the following day. He imagined she knew that he and Scarlett had become engaged though he never told her.
He'd tell her that they got married, he wouldn't let her hear such news from someone else. He wanted to be married before he told her.
He had a few drinks with her, caught up on business and the gossip of Atlanta. He played with her son Robert who Rhett had forgotten to bring a gift that was in his carriage at Tara for. Robert was almost five now and never seemed to tire of spending time with Rhett, and Rhett enjoyed his time with Robert. It was nice spending time with someone whom expected nothing of Rhett other than for him to play with him and read to him. After getting the suit, shirt, and shoes from Belle's he returned to the hotel after kissing her on the cheek.
Belle watched as Rhett left a little surprised at his behavior. He had been gone for months and had spent more of his time that evening with Robert than with her. She was worried about him as she watched him leave; it was rare that Rhett had something on his mind he couldn't talk to her about. The thought that he now had someone else to talk to brought with it a feeling of jealousy that she didn't like feeling. She knew that Scarlett was no longer in Atlanta, and she hadn't been for a couple of months. Belle also knew that there were rumors that Scarlett had become engaged.
With this news of her engagement came gossip as her fiancÚ was never around and she continued to dance with other men. She never allowed them to take her to or from the dances or anywhere else for that matter, but she continued to dance. This in itself brought about much talk about her, but the fact that Rhett's return and departure coincided with these events kept the gossip mills going.
Belle tried not to pay any attention to gossip, especially where Rhett was involved. She knew most of the things she heard about Rhett were untrue, but she couldn't help but believe that this rumor was true. She returned to her office and poured herself a drink wondering why it was Rhett wouldn't tell her such a thing. Wasn't it she, after all, who had suggested that he propose or forget about her?
Rhett woke early the following morning, bathed, shaved, and dressed. Luckily the suit he had left at Belle's was black, so at least he was dressed somewhat formally for the occasion. He had an ivory waistcoat and cravat and his black onyx cufflinks and stickpin to complete the outfit. When he went downstairs he found that the hotel had made the arrangements he requested and only had to wait a short while for the priest to arrive.
They arrived at Tara before noon, Scarlett watched as the coach pulled up carrying Rhett and the priest. Mammy put the finishing touches on Scarlett's wedding gown and left Scarlett alone with her thoughts. Scarlett knew Mammy wasn't pleased.
Not only was Scarlett marrying a man Mammy knew Scarlett's mother wouldn't approve of, she was marrying him on a day's notice. People would talk Mammy had said, but Scarlett didn't care. She and Rhett had been engaged since February. They had planned for a wedding in December. It wasn't as if they were eloping Scarlett had maintained. She also reminded Mammy that with her marrying Rhett on a day's notice would come the knowledge that they would have food on their table.
At least with Rhett at Tara, Scarlett knew that everyone would be fed and clothed. Scarlett returned to the window and watched as Rhett got out of the coach. He looked handsome she realized, though it was just a suit, he looked very handsome. This brought a smile to her lips as she once again realized that in a matter of hours now she would be Mrs. Rhett Butler.
Women's hearts around the world would be breaking because of her, Scarlett O'Hara. She noticed as the driver unfastened a horse from the coach. This confused Scarlett for a moment, but then she realized that of course Rhett would have arranged for the priest to have his own way home. They were going to be returning to Atlanta alone, which brought a slight pink to her cheeks. Why this thought should cause her discomfort she did not know.
She had traveled with him alone from Tara to Atlanta before, but never in a coach. She smoothed her skirts, ran a brush through her hair, and sprayed some perfume on herself. Carreen knocked on her door announcing Rhett was downstairs waiting for her. Scarlett asked her to come in and took a deep breath as Carreen came in nervous that she didn't look nice. When she noticed tears come to Carreen's eyes, Scarlett knew she looked fine. She asked Carreen to put the veil over her face.
Carreen left to tell their father Scarlett was ready and Scarlett was once again left alone with her thoughts. She twisted her handkerchief as she walked to the window taking in Tara for the last time as a girl. While she would still be living there for the time being, one day soon she would no longer be able to call it her home. This land that she had struggled with and fought over for the past months was more a part of her than she had realized.
Pa had been right she mused. There was nothing more important than land. For without land there was nothing to live for, it was the only thing Scarlett could ever see herself fighting for. There was nothing else for her to fight for.
She couldn't fight for Ashley she realized. Her efforts in that would be futile. He would never leave Melanie certainly not now that she had borne him a son. She turned slowly, a slight smile on her lips as she heard the door open. She walked towards her father taking his offered arm, the rustling of the skirts of her wedding dress the only sound in the room. "Well, Pa, I guess it's time for me to give up the O'Hara name."
Scarlett knew that despite the fact her father was not all there most of the time these days that he was well aware of the fact his Katie Scarlett was getting married. He had even been of the mind to dress on his own that day much to Pork's amazement, and he had done a fine job Scarlett noticed. She smiled at the picture he made as they began their descent down the stairs and to the parlor.
Scarlett felt a twinge of remorse that her wedding was unattended by anyone but family. Had there not been a war going on, family and friends from around the state would have been here. She could have invited the Tarleton's, the Fontaine's, the Calvert's, and the other neighboring plantations but Rhett was right, no one wanted to be invited to a wedding these days thinking they needed to come bearing gifts. Not to mention the fact that they didn't have the food or the accommodations to feed more than those that called Tara home anyway.
Scarlett was amazed that she made it through the ceremony without fainting. Mammy had tied her corset so tight Scarlett thought she would die. Scarlett had lost weight since the last alteration on her gown had been completed and in Mammy's efforts to take in Scarlett's wedding gown in under a day, she had taken in too much at the waist leaving her little choice but to tighten her corset. It felt like her stays were digging into her sides they were so tight, and then she had to sit and eat. Scarlett never imagined she would feel this way, but she was looking forward to getting away from Tara and out of her dress. She breathed a sigh of relief when the priest announced they were husband and wife, and was more than surprised with the polite way Rhett had kissed her when he lifted her veil over her head. She didn't know what she had expected, but it hadn't been that.
She also didn't expect Rhett to be willing to remain at Tara all afternoon, but remain he did and he didn't seem to mind being there at all. He spent most of his afternoon relieving Melanie of her duties as mother by taking Beau off her hands and holding him wherever Rhett went. Scarlett couldn't help but notice the look in Rhett's eye whenever their eyes met, even though she would immediately cast her eyes in another direction. Rhett loved children, she wondered if he realized that Scarlett had no desire to have children or to ruin her figure anytime soon. It made her jealous in a way, the way he held the boy.
This just made her realize all the more she didn't want children, she wanted nothing that would take Rhett's attention away from her and obviously by his display towards Beau children would do just that. Scarlett wasn't ready to take second place to anybody. She'd been putting everybody and their needs ahead of her and her own needs that she felt it was time someone took care of her for a change. She had come to Tara expecting her mother to be there to care for her, but that hadn't happened.
Her world had been turned upside down; everything that she had been raised with was gone. And now she was married to a man who had someone told her three years ago she would be married to she would have laughed in his or her face. She could do far worse than Rhett she knew. Rhett was handsome, rich, and had been smart enough to avoid fighting in the war. He was a whole person, one she didn't have to worry about having lice or scurvy or other countless diseases that the war seemed to bring with it.
Rhett was content spending time with Scarlett's family at Tara. It was the least he could do, he figured. She had given up her dreams of a lavish wedding, though Rhett vowed to make it up to her once they had a home of their own. He would throw a party that even Scarlett would be amazed at; he realized that she forgot at times that he was raised with the finer things in life. He had noticed how tired Melanie was after having to sit for so long and he took it upon himself to keep Beau out of her hair so that she could rest. Rhett had always had a way with babies, never having been around them that much it always amazed him.
By late afternoon Rhett was ready to return to Atlanta. He had spent the afternoon with Scarlett and her family and he was ready to spend the rest of the day and night with her alone. He waited as she gathered her things together, Pork having brought her bags out to the coach. They said their good byes to her family and Rhett walked with Scarlett out to the coach where the driver waited patiently for them.
It hadn't been cheap Rhett hoped Scarlett realized to reserve a coach for an entire day. To find an available coach with a horse capable of making the trip even one way to Tara was a miracle. He held her hand as he helped her into the coach waiting patiently as she arranged the skirt of the wedding dress about her before he sat next to her. He wondered what she was thinking as she sat quietly looking at the passing scenery out her window. He didn't blame her for feeling any number of things, though he hoped regret wasn't one of them. He didn't know exactly what he expected from Scarlett on their wedding night, but her crying was not something that had crossed his mind nor did it hold any appeal for him.
They arrived at the hotel and Rhett arranged to have both his and Scarlett's things brought to their suite as they went up to the room, Rhett stopping first to make sure the arrangements he had made before he left had been taken care of. Assured everything was in order and to Rhett's instructions, Rhett tipped the concierge generously for his efforts.
Rhett put his hand firmly at the small of Scarlett's back as they walked through the lobby to the stairway leading up to their room. Rhett couldn't help but notice the looks that Scarlett was getting from the men in the room, and it unnerved him. He was used to Scarlett getting looked at whenever they were together, together they made a very handsome couple. Rhett knew this to be the case, but these men were from out of town. They weren't Atlanta folk who were just casually admiring his new wife. These were men who for whatever reason were away from their hometowns and their wives or girlfriends and had a look in their eye that Rhett recognized well. One that he had always been on the giving end of.
When they got to their suite Rhett made sure the door was bolted securely before he turned his attentions to Scarlett who stood in the middle of the room looking around. Rhett had arranged for dozens of roses to be broken down to just the petals, which had been strewn about the room. Dozens of candles illuminated the room and a bottle of champagne and two champagne glasses were on the nightstand near the bed. Rhett and Scarlett's belongings had been left in the outer room, which were what Scarlett's attentions were focused on now. "We can bring them into the other room if you want them there. I wasn't sure where you'd want to dress in the morning so I had everything left out here."
Scarlett allowed Rhett to lead her up the stairs to their room. She was nervous, more nervous than she cared to admit. She would never admit it to Rhett, of course, but she had no idea what to expect from the upcoming evening. It was their wedding night and he would expect to share her bed. He wasn't some pushover that she could make sleep on the couch. She knew that.
When Rhett opened the door to their room, Scarlett couldn't help but be flattered he had gone to such great lengths to create such a setting for her. She knew roses weren't plentiful and while she had no idea how many roses went into creating the scene before her she knew it was costly. She glanced into the bedroom noticing the champagne and the glasses and a blush crept to her cheeks. She turned to Rhett who was seemingly not paying attention to her wondering if he had requested it be placed there or the hotel staff just assumed that's where he wanted it placed.
She turned her attentions then to her bags a look of confusion on her face as she once again turned her attention to Rhett. His explanation sounded simple enough, so she nodded realizing that he was trying to make her comfortable. "Thank you," she said softly. Not knowing what else to say. She stood her hands together in front of her at her waist as she looked at him finally. "You did all this for me, Rhett? I don't believe it." Of course, she did believe it. She knew that Rhett would always do what he could to take care of her, and this was just one example of his efforts.
"Well, it was the least I could do for you, Scarlett. I know how important a woman's wedding day is to her. I have to admit to feeling a touch guilty for depriving you of such an event. But it was either this or wait until your friends and neighbors were able to attend a wedding again and I fear that won't be anytime soon, Mrs. Butler." He walked towards her slowly as he took her wrap from her shoulders. "I don't think you'll need this for the rest of the night."
She released her grip on the wrap absentmindedly as Rhett took it from her. "Mrs. Butler," she said softly.
That was she.
She was Mrs. Butler.
He was talking about her, not his mother.
It sounded so odd, so foreign as if he had made a mistake. She peered up at him through her lowered lashes as he walked to the bedroom. She remained where she was, knowing she should follow him but unable to do so. Why was she so nervous, she wondered? Her mind drifted back to that day at the Krier's and how willing she was on that day to let Rhett bed her, so why was she so nervous.
While she knew his reputation of being ruthless, she couldn't picture him as being anything but kind to her or any woman in bed. She was so deep in thought that she hadn't noticed him start to come out of the bedroom and almost walked into him as she started to go in. She blushed as she looked up at him. "I was going to see if you'd unbutton my dress for me. Wipe that grin off your face, Rhett Butler. It's not every day you get to unfasten your wife's wedding gown. If I could do it myself I would have." She turned her back to him with a nervous sigh.
"I'd be delighted, my dear." He began unbuttoning the tiny velvet buttons, while he was no stranger to unbuttoning a woman's gown, this type of dress and these types of buttons were an entirely different thing. He reached the last button and released his hold on the dress watching as it fell in a pool of satin and velvet at Scarlett's feet. He smiled widely as he noticed she was wearing the stockings he had given her. "Let me take down your hair too. Come sit on the bed." He led her to the bed as he sat behind her removing the pins from her hair letting it fall past her shoulders when it was loose. He sighed as he brought her to him, her back resting against his chest as he wrapped his arms around her thinly clad waist. "You looked beautiful today, Scarlett. A more beautiful bride I couldn't have dreamed of wedding."
Scarlett turned her head to meet his gaze. "Surely you're joking, Rhett. I could hardly be deemed beautiful. Donning a dress that had to be taken in at the last minute because I haven't had enough food to eat. Not even my stockings are new, though they are from you. You know you owe it to Mammy I had a wedding dress to wed you in at all. I still don't know where she hid it or how, but she did. All I know is the Yankees never got a hold of it."
Rhett laughed heartily, his warm breath light on Scarlett's ear. "Mammy's something else, Scarlett. I'll have to be sure and thank her one day." Rhett grew serious a moment as his thoughts turned to Mammy. "She must not hate me as badly as I thought. Either that or she realized I was her only means to being fed and clothed and she realized she'd best make sure you were ready to wed me when I came to claim you as mine."
Scarlett turned to him, sitting up suddenly from his lap her eyes narrowing. She opened her mouth to lash him with her tongue when he saw the amusement so plainly written across his face. She blushed slightly realizing he was just trying to rile her up. He had succeeded as Rhett always did somehow. "Claim me as yours? That'll be the day, Rhett Butler. I'll never belong to anyone, save Tara."
"Aye, Katie Scarlett Butler, with the change of your name I can now claim some part of you as mine."
And after this evening I'll have a bit more of you to claim as mine.
The thought that he hoped she was worth it entered his mind, he still didn't know if any woman was worth marrying. But as he drew her to him he quickly pushed it out of his mind knowing he had no other choice but to marry her unless he wanted to see her married to someone else. The thought of another man touching her as he was now was disturbing and one he pushed out of his mind just as quickly as his other thoughts. His arms went around her waist as his lips brushed against her still clothed stomach causing her to instinctively pull her stomach in. He pulled away slightly, looking up at her. "Are you all right, my pet?" Slowly, he pulled the straps of the chemise from her shoulders so it, too, fell on the floor at her feet.
Scarlett breathed deeply as she registered his question. Was she all right? The warmth of his breath against her chemise made her breath shorten and her heart quicken. Even through her corset she could feel it. When she spoke, her voice was so soft she thought that surely he couldn't hear her; that she was speaking in her mind only. "Yes, Rhett." She stood before him not knowing what to do which made her feel stupid and foolish. Her breath caught again as she felt his hand reach for her leg to unfasten her stockings from her corset, his hand felt so warm against her leg. When she opened her eyes to look at him, he was smiling at her, which caused her to blush.
"There's no need to be embarrassed, Scarlett. It's supposed to feel good."
He unfastened both stockings and rolled the stockings gently and confidently down her legs. He stood slowly, his eyes remaining fixed on hers before turning to pull the blankets on the bed down. He returned his attention to her, kissing the top of her bosom before turning her to face away from him. Unlacing her corset he removed it shaking his head in bewilderment at the marks it left on her skin. He took her into his arms once more his arms wrapping around her taught belly from behind allowing him a view of her breasts heaving in time with her heart that he had to admit was a most enjoyable view. He took a hand in his, releasing his arms from around her waist as he led her to the bed.
When she was seated on the bed, he knelt before her on the floor and removed her stockings, rolling them the rest of the way past her ankles and her feet. He stopped after removing each stocking and kissed the tops of her delicate feet, placing them in the grasp of his warm hands. Helping her to lay down on the bed, he placed the blankets around her realizing she'd be uncomfortable with him standing before her while she was naked. He removed his tie, suit jacket, and waistcoat and returned to the bed. Pouring them both a glass of champagne, he sat next to her on the bed with one leg on the floor and one leg propped on the bed. "To our life together, Scarlett. May you never stop being a bright spot in mine." He held his glass to meet hers.
Scarlett smiled at the toast, realizing it was an effort on Rhett's part to comfort her. Here she lay naked as a jaybird in what was to be in a few minutes their bed and he was toasting their life together as if nothing were different. The champagne tasted good, and it went down easily. Perhaps too easily she realized when it was gone. She was pleased that unquestioning Rhett refilled her glass.
She watched as he set his glass down on the nightstand and finished undressing, removing first his shirt. His fingers were agile as they worked the buttons on his shirt, and pulled it off followed by his undershirt causing her to inhale sharply. She had seen him shirtless before, but hadn't really paid attention to how broad his chest and shoulders were and how firm his stomach was. His arms, while not overly muscled were hard and well defined. There was no question he had no fear of hard labor, and the copperness of his skin indicated he performed those labors without his shirt on. Her eyes fell to the tuft of black hair that graced his chest. She had never thought about it before but now that she did she couldn't imagine his not having hair on his chest.
Rhett felt her eyes on him without having to look, but he didn't mind. He looked good without his shirt on and he knew it. He worked hard to keep himself in shape and looking good, and by Scarlett's reaction he knew his work was successful.
He sat on the bed to remove his shoes, socks and trousers leaving him only in his boxers as he stood and folded his clothes neatly placing them on a chair. Scarlett's wedding dress, chemise, corset and stockings he also picked up and placed on a chair. He blew out all the candles but one on the nightstand before going around to the other side of the bed. He pushed back the covers, lying on his side facing her on the bed. She had her eyes closed and it was his turn to breathe heavily, as he was able to look at her body and study it for the first time unclothed. "You're beautiful, Scarlett. Truly."
Scarlett felt him get into the bed beside her but kept her eyes closed despite the temptation to open them. She knew he was watching her and she had to admit it was rather exciting, sending a tingling sensation through her body knowing he was watching her so intently.
She heard his words and looked at him a slight smile on her face, not knowing how to respond. Once again thank you seemed stupid and foolish and once again the thought of 'I love you' ran through her mind but for the second time in just a few days she dismissed that thought as being impossible. She was confusing her feelings for Rhett with love. Fondness was not love after all. She rolled onto her side to face him; she traced the scar from the bullet wound she had stitched months prior. "You really are a rogue, Rhett Butler. Scars all over your chest and abdomen I'm surprised you lived through all these wounds." Her fingers met the scar that stretched from his abdomen to his chest.
Rhett chuckled, "I have a few you haven't yet seen, my pet." He placed his hand behind her hair bringing her to him for a gentle kiss, which grew more insistent in its demand for her to return it. He felt her respond when he moved with her so she lay on her back and broke the kiss briefly. He moved his lips from the warmth and sweetness of her lips to her chin, neck and ears. His hand gently caressed her cheek, and then drifted lower slowly until it met a breast and its journey stopped for the moment. He returned his lips to hers, parting them with his tongue so that her tongue might meet his.
Surprised when she responded in kind, he groaned softly causing her to stir. "That's a good sound, Scarlett." He chuckled lightly and turned the attentions of his mouth to her neck, collarbone, shoulders, chest and finally coming in contact with her breasts. Pleased at her response to both the touch of his hand and his mouth, he lowered his mouth to her stomach and thighs until he nestled between her legs and feasted his attentions on pleasing her. After he was sure she had been satisfied and her breathing had returned to normal, he moved his mouth kissing her in reverse moving to her stomach, her breasts, her shoulders, her neck and back to her mouth. He entered her slowly and gently his arms going underneath hers with his hands resting on her shoulders pausing when he heard her breath sharply. "It's just this once, Scarlett. I'm sorry." He didn't like the idea of causing her pain in any form, but he also knew that the pain was only once.
When his desires had been met, he lay next to her on the bed the candle that remained lighted now almost out. He looked to her face for some sort of reaction, but saw none. This confused and bothered him. He allowed his hands to caress her body gently; his mouth kissed the little beads of perspiration from her brow and her upper lip. "Scarlett, please tell me you're all right."
Scarlett met his gaze and blushed profusely. How could she tell him what she was feeling? It was wonderful, and she believed him when he said the pain was only once. She knew he wouldn't lie to her, and she imagined that with him the pain for her was probably less than other girls experienced. He truly was gentle.
"I'm fine, Rhett, really. I was just wondering." She rolled onto her side and looked at him, tapping his lip with her index finger. "How can mothers keep teaching their daughters that that is something just to bear? I mean, I realize I'm no expert, but I don't understand." She looked at him wide eyed, expecting him to have the answer. Rhett always had answers to her questions.
"Well, Scarlett, not to speak too highly of myself but I like to think I'm rather good at what I do. I'd wager that most men aren't nearly as worried about their wife getting pleasure, where I on the other hand get pleasure from your pleasure. It makes my job easier if you're pleased." He smiled. "Now you truly are Mrs. Butler. There's no going back."
She shook her head her chestnut tresses swinging with the movement. "No, there's not. I wouldn't want to anyway." She grew confused when Rhett sat up thinking he was getting up. But she smiled as he pulled the blankets on top of them and returned to lie down on his back.
She willingly went to him when his arm drew her to him resting her head against his chest. It took her a while to find sleep; there was so much to go through in her mind. She was no longer a girl. Despite everything she'd done up until tonight, she was still considered a girl by her family and neighbors. She heard Rhett's breathing slow and looked up at him as he slept realizing again how handsome he was. This thought is what she fell asleep to and for the first night in a long time she slept easily. No dreams to waken her, no noises coming from downstairs, no baby squalling to be fed. All was quiet, and Scarlett slept.
They spent four days in Atlanta, three days less then Rhett had wanted to spend but he understood Scarlett's desire to get back to Tara. He knew it was through her efforts that Tara still stood. Scarlett was a little baffled when Rhett left her alone at the hotel for over an hour the day that they were set to leave, it was the first time he had been out of her sight since they had married. She spent that time going over the past few days in her mind. She took hold of one of his shirts, unaware that she was doing it and sat on the bed.
He would come to her now for buttons to be sewn and collars to be mended, she realized. Everything her mother had taught her she was now to do, and while someone like Tony or even Brent and Stu wouldn't have cared how well she mended shirts and sewed buttons she knew with Rhett's things nothing but the best would suffice. She brightened when he returned to the room, still holding his shirt. "I was just admiring how well made your things are, I'd never had the opportunity to really look at them until now."
Rhett smiled slightly. "Yes, you'll find I settle for nothing but the best, as is obvious in the fact I married you." He took his shirt from her and put it in his bag. The hotel staff came and took their bags down to their carriage; Rhett led Scarlett down the stairs and to their carriage.
When they returned to Tara Scarlett's eyes grew wide when she noticed a carriage was already there. She was confused the carriage was no one's she recognized. No one she knew had a carriage anymore, she thought glumly. And then she noticed Pork and Mammy were busily helping the gentleman unload things from the carriage. She looked to Rhett suspiciously. "What have you done, Rhett Butler?"
"Just making sure Tara is set for the upcoming winter, Scarlett. You should have enough to last you quite a while." He helped her out of the carriage, taking the opportunity to kiss her. "I hope Mammy prepared the correct room." He winked as he put Scarlett's hand in his arm and walked with her towards the house.
Scarlett couldn't believe all the food that was being unloaded. How Rhett got it all she couldn't imagine. She allowed herself for the first time in what seemed like forever to breathe a sigh of relief. They would come through this all right. For some reason she knew that with Rhett by her side and her by his, they would come through anything all right. When they went indoors, she noticed that Mammy was bringing their belongings into her bedroom. "Mammy. I told you to prepare the room upstairs." She met Mammy's gaze with confusion.
"Mister Butler says to put your things in here, so that's what I'm doing." She shuffled off with a huff, though she had a smile on her face. Mammy hadn't been pleased that Scarlett had chosen a no good Charlestonian as her husband, and most certainly one with Rhett's reputation. But, Rhett had proven himself capable of keeping up with Scarlett and when Rhett had told her at the last minute to place their belongings back in Scarlett's room she had been happy. She knew that Scarlett had found herself a man that would keep her happy. He might be difficult about it. He might give her a hard time about it. But he would always do what was right by her.
Rhett met Scarlett's questioning look with a shrug. "We wouldn't want Suellen laying claim to your room now, would we?" He laughed and was surprised when Scarlett kissed him fully, without restraint on the lips. He released her hand from his arm. "You best go make sure there's room enough in that room of yours for me." He winked as he watched Scarlett go up the stairs. "Keep swaying your hips like that, my dear, and you won't get any unpacking done." He laughed loudly when she turned to him with a scowl, though he noticed the hint of a smile on her lips.
He found Gerald in his office, once again seemingly lucid. Taking Gerald up on his offer of a drink, Rhett sat in the chair in front of the desk. He knew Gerald had something on his mind, so he sat and waited in silence for the man to speak.
Gerald's eyes followed Rhett until he sat. "Tis done, lad?" He met Rhett's gaze and acknowledged the nod. "You're a good man, Mr. Butler. And after watching all this food come through our doors today one I see is resourceful. Any doubts as to whether or not you would care for Scarlett and her family have quickly been pushed out of my mind." He drank his whiskey quick; pouring himself another eyeing Rhett curiously when he noticed hadn't as yet taken a sip of his. "Where do you plan on living, son? Once the war is over, of course. But I expect that to be soon."
"Well, I guess that's up to Scarlett, Mr. O'Hara. I imagine we'll stay in this area, the county or Atlanta. But no offense, once the war is over we will build a house of our own."
"Of course, that's not at all what I was getting at. I just wondered what your plans were is all." The moment of lucidity was gone, and it was evident with the change of his posture. He stared blankly at Rhett, as if he no longer remembered what he was doing in the room.
Rhett downed his drink quickly and left, sighing at the realization that Scarlett's father was more than likely dying of a broken heart. He found himself outside standing above the three smaller graves of the three O'Hara boys who hadn't lived out their first year and Scarlett's mother. He didn't know what had brought him here, but he imagined it was out of some sense of duty to pay his respects to Scarlett's mother and if possible reassure her he would care for her family.
Scarlett found him and a look of concern was on her face when he didn't respond to her call out for him. She placed her hand on his arm realizing that she had interrupted something started to back away. "I'm sorry, Rhett. I'll leave you alone."
He took her hand quickly. "No, it's all right. I just hadn't the time to come out here after you told me of your mother's passing. I thought it was a good time to pay my respects and to seek some counsel from the woman who managed to keep Mr. O'Hara happy all these years on how to keep the eldest Miss O'Hara happy." He turned to look at her. "Scarlett, I'm going to join the Army."
Scarlett laughed and then threw her hand over her mouth as she realized Rhett was not joking. "Rhett! You can't be serious? What happened to them being fools and the Cause being a silly notion? What about Tara? What about me?" Just when she thought everything was going to be all right, Rhett had to go and do something like this. What would he think of next?
"I am very serious, Scarlett. I should have joined long ago, but I never did. Perhaps I just wanted to go in when we were truly the underdog. Or perhaps I'm the biggest fool that ever lived. I'll never know, but I'm going. I was trained at West Point, Scarlett, and I'm an excellent marksman." He looked from her to Tara.
"As far as you and Tara, you will be well cared for. Why do you think I married you before I went in? You will have a line of credit at the bank as well as the stores in town where you will need to purchase things. Now that Sherman's in Atlanta, things will loosen up a bit and Pork should be able to get in and out of Atlanta all right. And well, think of it this way, Scarlett. If I should die, you will inherit everything."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better, Rhett? God's nightgown, that's not exactly the way I pictured getting your fortune. I imagined more along the lines of spending it with you. Oh Rhett, you can't be serious. There's so much work to do at Tara; I don't know how I'll manage. We need a man around here, someone to take charge and take over where Pa can't function anymore."
"Scarlett, you'll be fine just as you were before we married. Only from now on, you'll have a little bit of jingle in your pockets, and I hope the thought of a husband coming home to you soon will inspire you to stay well. And just so you know it's not from any lack of trust that I'm leaving money at the bank but I'm leaving it there so no Yankee scavengers can come to Tara and get their grubby hands on it."
She stared at him; she couldn't imagine what kind of trick he was playing on her. If he was testing her, she was not amused. Realizing there was no use in arguing, how she could deny him his right to go fight in the war after all. "When were you planning on going?" She resolved herself to the fact that she might be a widow before long.
"At the end of the week," he shrugged then looked into her eyes. "I hope you understand I'm doing this for you, Scarlett, and for whatever children we may one day have. Up until now, I've lived my life not thinking of the consequences or whom my actions might affect. Where you're concerned I have to stop that. I'm your husband, and you do what you please but I refuse to be the cause of gossip about you. You're going to have enough to contend with when they find out that we married so suddenly. This way you can proudly say your beloved husband is serving the South and the Cause."
"So that's it. You marry me and then you leave me, possibly never to return. And you knew of your decision before we were wed?"
"No, not really. I had thought about it, of course. Thought harder about it on the way here from Charleston when I saw the destruction and the death. And made my decision today when I was able to ensure you, your family and Tara would be cared for in my absence. I wouldn't do it if that weren't intact." He pulled her to him and planted a kiss on her lips. "And I have no intentions on leaving you a widow, Scarlett. God help me if a bullet gets me and I die, you can know I died laughing at myself for being such a fool."
Scarlett was quiet, for once not knowing what to say. "Well, Rhett, I certainly can't stop you." She turned from him and started walking towards the house. "I'm going back inside."
Rhett laughed lightly as he watched Scarlett walk up the slight incline that led to the house and took his time walking around Tara before going inside for dinner. Truth of the matter was Scarlett had worked hard to gain the respect of not just the workers that remained at Tara but the county folk too.
He didn't want to come along and see that taken from her because he was her husband. Tara was Gerald's and Scarlett had the right to be its mistress, and he didn't want any of the neighbors to think that Rhett for some reason married Scarlett to get his hands on Tara. He wouldn't put it past people to think that, and he wanted to be as far away from here until the war was over.
The second week of November 1864 began with Rhett ready to leave Scarlett and Tara. He had been surprised the night before that Scarlett had actually cried. He had reassured her he'd return home to Tara soon and he promised her they wouldn't be separated again for a long time afterward. Hopefully by then, he could take her on their honeymoon. He said good-bye to her family; even Mammy seemed a bit downtrodden at the prospect of his leaving. Scarlett walked with him to his horse, standing next to him after he had mounted and held his hand to her face. A gesture which touched Rhett and he knew he would carry it with him.
Scarlett stood and watched in silence as Rhett left Tara. She had never before felt such a loss as she did at that moment watching him leave. She had been looking forward to someone relieving her of some of her burden, and while financially Rhett did do that, it wasn't the same as having a strong shoulder to lean on.
Suddenly the load she carried on her shoulders seemed heavier than it ever had before. It shouldn't have, she realized. Why, two weeks ago they didn't know how they were going to pay the taxes on Tara for the new year. Now, Scarlett didn't have to worry about money. Well, she did of course, she realized Rhett's money supply wasn't endless but it was still better than before. She could send Pork to town and get supplies, and pay back the Fontaine's and the Tarleton's for their generosity. She waved to Rhett when he turned around one last time and then turned on her heals and went into Tara to see to that night's supper.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com