Katie slept fitfully that night. Unaccustomed to getting to bed so late combined with thoughts of Rhett and Scarlett and whether or not they ever reconciled contributed to her inability to sleep soundly. When she did sleep, she dreamt of the couple and despite having no idea what either looked like as the night and her dreams progressed she had no problem creating them in her mind.
"Who in the hell are you?" Katie heard the voice but had no idea who was asking her the question. She certainly did not recognize the voice. It wasn't Will. Maybe it was Keith's father. No, that made little sense. Why would Mr. Adler be upset with Katie sleeping in Will and Gwen's room? For that matter, how had he gotten into the house? Her eyes flew open and she stared into the blackest pair eyes she had ever seen.
She could read them clearly and she sensed somehow that the man standing before her was letting her read them, that he could just as easily mask them into a pair of endless pits of nothing. He was not happy and he was suspicious. She also read cruelty and hurt in them. Yes, Katie saw hurt there. She was frightened, but that brief glimpse into his soul left her incapable of being as terrified as she should be.
She pushed back loose hair from her eyes. If this man was not here to harm her she did not want to say something to tick him off and make him rethink whether or not he should hurt her. "What do you mean who am I? Who are you and what are you doing in my bedroom?"
"Excuse me?" Oh boy, he was amused now. There had been the faintest hint of amused mockery in those two simple words.
"You heard me you come barging into my cousin's home and ask me who I am? Well, Will and Gwen are not here. If you do not leave right now I am going to call the police. You have no business barging in here, scaring the crap out of me, and then getting testy at me."
"You, madam, are in my room. I am the one who should threaten you with the authorities not the other way around."
Katie glanced past him and sure enough this was not Will and Gwen's bedroom she had fallen asleep in. She was in a large sitting room of some sort and lying on an extremely uncomfortable sofa with an angry man watching her. She had no idea where in the hell she was or how she had gotten here. That terrified feeling she had been fighting off started to come to the forefront now.
Realization dawned on her. This man had abducted her! He had taken her out of Will and Gwen's home without her even waking up. She knew she was tired, but Katie was normally a light sleeper.
"Listen, please, whatever your game is, I have a cousin that I am babysitting for the next month. You cannot just abduct me. I have a husband. We do not have a lot of money, but I am sure he would work with you."
He smiled slightly, but it was a mocking smile. "I do not want your money and I have not abducted you or anyone else for that matter. I have not needed to abduct women in the past and I am surely not about to fall into the habit now. As far as your husband." He paused as if assessing her somehow and she tried not to come undone under the weight of his stare. It was not easy; she was beginning to believe the phrase ‘if looks could kill' had been started from none other than the gaze of this very man. "If this is some sort of ploy you came up with to get me called out, you can just forget it. I realize that I am older than I was once upon a time, but I still am a crack shot and your husband would not stand a chance against me. I have left more than one woman a widow, madam."
"I just bet you have," she replied dryly. She focused on his face for a moment, certain that she was dreaming. He was dressed in Victorian attire and rather formal attire at that considering the time. Here it was, she glanced at her wrist but there was no watch there. Oh hell, it was early she knew that much, and he was dressed in a suit complete with a tie, but a cravat instead of a tie. "What in the hell is going on?" Her tone was not even nearly as hysterical as she felt.
"For a moment I thought you were my wife."
Katie scoffed. "Are you always so well mannered to your wife?"
"Well, no, we are, as polite society would say, no longer residing together as man and wife."
"So you are separated you mean?"
The man was at least giving her space to breath now, but the scowl present on his handsome face was not dwindling one bit. Katie was frantically trying to figure out how she had ended up here and how she could get out without anyone seeing her. Ryan trusted Katie and if she said she had gotten here by some sort of mistake, he would believe her. She did not particularly care to chance anyone else seeing her though.
"I do not know the meaning of that word, separated. I am familiar with the meaning, yes, but not with reference to marriage."
"Well," she said sitting up feeling very self-conscious. Katie's sleeping attire consisted of boxer shorts and one of her husband's undershirts. Not altogether sexy or revealing, but sexy and babysitting for her cousin did not go hand in hand. And next to this man dressed to the nines she felt like she was revealing far too much, particularly when his gaze fell to the expanse of golden brown leg visible when she moved the blanket that had been covering her. He acted as if seeing a woman's leg was not an every day occurrence, which surprised her. This man struck her as the type who would have seen more than just his wife's legs at his age. "When two people are married but no longer live together they are separated. Unless they are legally divorced, but then they would be divorced and not separated." She assumed he would understand the obvious, but felt better for some reason clarifying.
"Then I suppose that is a good assessment of where things stand. And I thank you for enlightening me as to my present marital status. You still, however, have not explained what you are doing in my suite. And why you are dressed like a man."
"I am not dressed like a man."
"What do you call those clothes you are wearing then? They are men's clothing. You cannot tell me they are not."
"Well," she bit her lower lip as she tried to explain herself. Then she realized that she did not have to explain herself. "I do not owe you an explanation. I will just get dressed and go. So just give me my clothes please."
The man tossed his head back and laughed heartily though Katie did not find amusement in this situation at all. Her head was throbbing and she rarely got headaches. She had no idea where she was. What if Charles had already called and she was not there to answer the phone? Mrs. Adler was not going to be so impressed with her then. "And just where do you think you are going to find clothes?"
"Well, I left some things in Will's room," Katie said absently sensing somehow that she was not in Will's house anymore. She did not want to believe what her mind was telling her. There was no possible way this man was Rhett Butler, alive, well, breathing and every inch the man Katie had pictured him to be and then some. Ella did not do him justice in her journal. She scoffed at her irrational thoughts, hoping against all hope that at her mention of Will's room that this man would end this charade, bring her back to Will's house and let her get back to her life.
"Will? Will Benteen? Dear Lord, you were sent by Scarlett. Just what is it my wife was hoping for? That I would mistake you for her and let you seduce me?"
"Oh please, get real. Would I be sleeping on your couch if I was here to seduce you?"
"Well, no," he said with a brief pause as if trying to collect his thoughts and weigh her words. "I suppose not. So just who are you?"
Katie did not want to ask the question on her mind, but found she had to. If this was some sort of bizarre dream that she could not wake up from, fine, but she needed to know that she was right in her belief of who this man was. "Who are you?"
"You really do not know?"
"Would I ask if I knew who you were?"
He regarded her for a moment, seated on his couch in boxer shorts and a man's undershirt. She needed to get out of here and out from the weight of his stare sometime soon. If this was Rhett, no wonder he had the reputation he had with women. Katie who while not plain was not beautiful either felt as if he could see exactly what she looked like underneath her shorts and undershirt.
"No, I suppose not. And I am unsure how I will explain your presence here either. I am Rhett Butler, and I have a feeling my wife would file for a divorce and end this separation as you call it if she thought I had another woman in my room with me."
Okay so she was right in who he was. Katie tried to assimilate just what that meant. There was no way that in any plane of reality she was sitting here talking with Rhett Butler. She had to think of something to end this game or dream or whatever it was. Right now, though, no idea came to her and she had been quiet for too long. "So what," she queried curious why he was so hesitant to file for a divorce if Rhett truly despised her so much.
A brow went up, his eyes grew cold and Katie was suddenly more than a little afraid of Rhett Butler. A moment ago a hint of amusement had been there, but now it was gone. If ever she had looked into eyes and thought a man was capable of murder by a look alone this was it. "You dare be so flippant with me, Madam?"
"Well, you are staying here, right? I assume here is a hotel room rather than your home. You were not pleased when you thought I was her here to seduce you. So why do you want to stay married to her?"
Katie felt the weight of his stare bearing into her and she visibly shuddered in response. This was no man to cross or to upset, but at least the murderous look was gone. He was still obviously a man accustomed to having his way no matter the cost. She doubted many questioned him either. Ella had not portrayed him in her journal as such a cold and calculating man, but of course Ella had been a child for most of her life with Rhett Butler.
"Well," she asked again.
"It is complicated."
"Oh please," Katie said exasperated.
His eyes flashed briefly with anger and Katie thought she noticed a hint of respect there too. Interesting, she could not help but think to herself. Rhett Butler while perhaps put off by her attitude seemed to like a woman who spoke her mind and would not say something just because it was what he wanted to hear or expected her to say. "You know, I am unused to people, particularly women, treating me with such disrespect."
"I bet you are."
"There you are again, rude and flippant. Just what did you say your name was? I do not believe you did actually. I would enjoy having a word with your husband and whether you get away with talking to him like this."
She hesitated for the briefest moments, only because she was not sure he would believe her when she said her name. "Katie."
"Katie?" He had apparently expected more than just her first name, because the word Katie hung in the air, an unspoken question.
She tilted her chin up, daring him to question her or make a comparison to his wife one more time. "Yes, Katie, as in Kathryn, but I am just Katie not Kathryn."
"Okay just Katie. Explain to me what you are doing in my room."
She closed her eyes tightly and opened them again hoping she would awaken from this dream. No such luck, he was still standing before her bigger than life looking more handsome than a ghost or a man long dead had the right to look. He had been alive in eighteen hundred ninety, Katie knew that from Ella's journal but did not know beyond that when he died. She sensed though that life would not take a man like Rhett Butler before he was willing to give into Death's call. She noticed now upon closer inspection that he had faint circles under his eyes. Taking this to mean he was not sleeping so well during his separation from Scarlett she felt some hope. She also wondered, dream or not, if perhaps she was sent here for a reason. Was there something important about this moment in time that would alter what was to become of Rhett and Scarlett and their marriage? She had always believed she was destined to do something important, something life altering, but she certainly hadn't envisioned this. "I do not know. I honestly do not know."
"Okay," he said elongating the single word. He didn't believe her. Well, she did not care because she quite frankly did not believe it either. "Let us start with who let you in then."
"Oh please, do you really think someone would let me in here dressed like this?"
Rhett seemed to regard her and her question seriously for a moment. "No, I suppose not. You do resemble my wife enough that you could have been mistaken for her."
She wished he would stop comparing her to Scarlett. She liked Scarlett sure, she respected the woman for what she had done and all that she had gone through. She believed, though, that she was the ultimate reason for their separation. Scarlett's was a typical story, that of you do not realize what you have until it is gone. In Scarlett's case Rhett had delivered the third strike before she had had time to recover from the first two - Bonnie's and than Melanie's deaths - and step back into the batter's box. "This is a dream. There is no other explanation for it. You are a dream, those clothes are a dream, and this room is a dream. Where are we anyway?"
He walked over to a tray with a decanter on it and poured himself what Katie imagined was liquor of some sort. It was too early in the day for liquor, but honestly she would like a drink herself. She could not stand liquor, she was curious though if in a dream it would burn going down her throat as it did in real life.
"I assure you that you are not dreaming," he stated ending his statement abruptly as if he had more to say but could not. "I am sorry, Katie, but despite my lack of gentlemanly scruples I find it difficult to address a woman whom I have just met and do not know intimately by their first name. I realize I am seeing you in some sort of sleepwear contraption, but do you think you could tell me your last name?"
"Okay. Much better." He took a drink, belting the liquid down in one long gulp. "Miss O'Casey, or rather Mrs. O'Casey since you did mention a husband. What makes you believe this is a dream?"
"Well, you are, I mean that is to say, we are," she stopped. Katie found the floor at her feet suddenly of great interest. He would think she was mad if she told her the truth. If this was a dream, it did not really matter. But if this was not a dream she heard horrible tales of asylums for insane people at this time in history. They were not that heralded in her time. That was an illogical thought as this was only a dream, she was certain of it. She had merely read that damned journal, gotten caught up in the romance, the mystery, the era of a city rebuilding itself after being ravaged by war, her great great great great grandmother's struggle to retain Tara, the tragedy of losing her daughter. Their daughter, it was Rhett's child, too. And then finally Rhett. "You are my grandfather."
Katie thought for a moment he was going to strike her. His eyes flashed first with disbelief and then terror and then she saw pain and fear. Just what had she said? "How did you find me?"
"Well, I did not find you. I mean, I told you this is a dream. Somehow I ended up here. That is how dreams work, isn't it?"
He poured himself another drink and Katie stood walking to him. She placed her hand over his surprised at the size of it. She was petite so she was used to people being larger than she was, but his hands were much larger than hers. "Please do not take another drink."
"Mrs. O'Casey," he said making no effort to move his hand from under hers. His thumb stroked the side of the tumbler, but left her hand where it was. "I have no grandchildren," he paused. He looked at her sharply, she read guilt now in his eyes. Dear lord, what sort of can of worms had she opened by that simple statement? She had expected him not to believe her. She could not bear the looks he was giving her. "Who are your parents?"
"Well, that is where it gets complicated, you do not know them."
"Well, then how can I possibly be your grandfather?"
"Well, it is complicated," she smiled slightly realizing she was using the same words to describe this situation as he had used to describe why he stayed married to his wife.
She puckered her lips and blew out sharply. This was a dream she chanted to herself, her motto prompting her to continue. But if he laughed at her, she doubted it would hurt any less to hear him laugh at her - dream or no. "You are actually my great great great great grandfather by way of Ella." Katie shook her head slightly, an attempt to clear her head. Her eyes narrowed as his question of who her father took on a new meaning. "Wait a minute, you do not have any children."
Rhett slid his hand from under hers, leaving the tumbler in its place on the small tray. "How do you know I do not? If you are my relation you must know of Wade, Ella and Bonnie."
"Yes, of course I know of Wade Hampton Hamilton, born in January eighteen hundred sixty one and who never knew his father, Charles Hamilton. I actually have a cousin named for Charles, he is who I spoke of babysitting. His father's name is Will, but he was not named after Suellen's husband. There's also Ella Lorena Kennedy who was born in October eighteen hundred sixty-six. And Bonnie, who was actually your daughter, your flesh and blood. I do not remember her Christian name, the name she was baptized with, I apologize. I do know though that she died in September eighteen hundred seventy-three. I also know that it was an accident, not at all your fault or Scarlett's or anyone's."
She had said more than she had meant to about Bonnie and realized it had to be hard for him to hear her words. So she changed the subject. "But on to your question about how I know you do not have any children." She pointed at the newspaper near the liquor tray. "It is June eleventh eighteen hundred seventy five according to this newspaper, and unless you hold onto out of date newspapers, your son, Wade Hampton, is only thirteen years old. And while I realize it is possible for children that age to beget children of their own I know for a fact Wade Hampton does not. Ella at nine is obviously too young. So it stands to reason that I could not be your grandchild and be twenty-seven years of age."
"Just who in the bloody hell are you?"
"I told you."
"And you expect me to believe this tale you have woven just like that? I am a progressive man, I assure you, but even I can see your story is wild at best."
"Well, it is my dream, so it seems to me that you should believe whatever I tell you to be true, yes."
He strode in long, confident strokes, only the nervous way his hand balled into a fist in his front trouser pocket belayed he was not feeling so confident at that moment.
"Rhett, Mr. Butler, I am afraid I do not know what to call you, we are related so it seems stupid to call you Mr. Butler, but calling you Rhett seems disrespectful as well. And I surely cannot call you Grandpa."
"No you damned well cannot be calling me Grandpa, not in Atlanta anyway."
"Hey, I did not mean for you to get touchy on me, I was just saying, obviously I cannot be your granddaughter at this stage in the game."
"Well, you see, Mrs. O'Casey, that is where you are quite mistaken and obviously misinformed. I do have a son who is old enough to bear me grandchildren, not those your age though as he is younger than I believe you to be. Only one other in Atlanta besides me knows of his existence, now two. Why I have told you this I do not know, I do not like lies is part of it. I also do not want you walking around telling the good citizens of Atlanta that you are my grandchild. The rumors have long since been put to bed and I would rather not have the gossip mill running full force again about me and what illegitimate children I might have sired before taking Scarlett as my wife."
"Well, of course I would not do that. But what I was going to say is this, you said I resemble your wife; I am even named for her. I told you my name is Katie, but I neglected to tell you my middle name is Scarlett."
"Good grief. Just why in the hell would anyone want to name a child after that cat of a woman?"
"Um, my parents I guess. I do not know, I just found out last night while reading Ella's journal. I had no idea nor did I know that my younger cousin Charles was named for anyone. How old is your son? May I ask?"
He scoffed slightly, turning to face her with his back now to the window. His hand was still balled into a fist Katie noticed. She also noticed that he was staring at her, though Katie did not believe he was seeing her at all but rather the woman whom Katie seemed to resemble.
"I do not see the harm in asking since you already know about him. He is twenty, so as you can deduce quite old enough to have borne me a child but obviously not one your age. On that point you were correct. Now what is this about Ella writing a journal? She is a nine year old girl."
"Well, this was actually written after she was married. I found it in a box yesterday, had never seen it before."
"Just where do you come from? And if this is your dream why the hell is it real to me?"
She sat on the couch, placing one arm over the arm of the couch. "I do not know. Believe me I do not know. The only other alternative is that I am really here, with you in June eighteen hundred seventy-five and that is simply not possible."
"You did not answer my question. Where do you come from?"
"Well, we live in Georgia, and I was born a hundred years from now exactly, nineteen hundred seventy-five. Currently, it is two thousand two."
"Impossible," he said under his breath.
"Trust me, I know."
"Well, you do not have any clothes and you cannot go out dressed like that. Hell you should not be in my room dressed as you are. Though people will take one look at you and there will be little doubt you are Scarlett's relation, they will wonder why you are with me rather than her."
"Why did you call her a cat?"
"Because that is what she is, a heartless animal who likes to tear up anything she can get her claws into."
"Oh come on. She told you she loved you."
"How do you know that?"
"Ella wrote about it."
"The kids were sleeping that night."
"Wade was awake, or at least Ella wrote he was and overheard your conversation. Did you really think he would be able to sleep when Beau's mother died?"
For the briefest of moments she felt sorry for Rhett. She saw the look of pain on his face and she realized she probably should not have mentioned Wade overhearing their conversation.
"I would never have said some of the things I said to Scarlett had I known he was listening."
"Of course not, Rhett."
"You say my name just like she does, which seems impossible given if even what you say is true you should not sound like her." He raked a hand through his hair, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and middle finger. "Christ, I am starting to talk as if this craziness is true."
"Do I really sound like her?"
"When you say my name you do, yes. She has this lift to her voice. She has a way of making my name sound like the vilest of curses or the most seductive siren's song. It can send a chill down my spine or make my blood heat in an instant."
"Just from one word?"
"Just from one word."
Katie let him think on that for a moment, the fact the woman he was forcing himself to be separated from had that much affect on him with merely a one word utterance. She stood from the couch and took in the lavish sitting room of the suite.
"Where are we?" She placed her hand on the mantel above the fireplace. There was no evidence that a fire had been burned recently. Good lord, she was starting to believe this dream was real that she was really standing here talking with Rhett Butler.
"Well, I gathered that. No, wait, I guess I did not, Ella said something about your traveling from the time you left."
"That is what we have told the children, yes, so they would not wonder why I was gone."
"They know anyway. You may as well tell them the truth. Where are we then? A hotel?"
"Yes, the Atlanta Hotel. I can probably arrange for you to have some clothes. You just cannot stay here with me. I only have the one sleeping chamber and I would not embarrass Scarlett like that."
"But you had no problem introducing her son to your mistress?"
"What? I did no such thing."
"Well, Ella's journal says Wade knew who your mistress was, that he met her when you had taken him to the bank or something."
"Christ. You know if you have come here to make me feel guilty you are doing a hell of a job of it."
"No. I was just pointing out it was rather hypocritical of you to be concerned for Scarlett's feelings when we have not nor will we do anything disrespectable yet you had a mistress right under her nose."
"You know there were things that led to that. Not that I need to justify myself to you or anyone else. But Ella I am quite sure did not realize that I remained faithful to my wife until the day she told me that she wanted no more children and all that went into making them."
"Why would she do that?" Katie asked the question without thought. The idea that anyone in their right mind would kick this man out of her bed was mind boggling. She loved Ryan, she believed some days the sun rose and set on him, but she could still appreciate this man standing before her as being a viral, attractive, sexier than hell man. Distant relative or not, his looks, charm, apparent confidence despite the crazy circumstance they were meeting under all made him an attractive man.
"Because she was in love with another man."
"Ashley," Katie said distastefully.
"You sound about like I do when I think upon him. I doubt Ella could have read that much into things to share my dislike for the man."
"Well, no, but Wade overheard that part of your conversation the night you left as well. So he knew Ashley had played a part in your problems, so Ella did too."
"You are talking about my children in the past tense. You make me uneasy doing that."
"I make you uneasy yet you do not see them? Rhett, really. I apologize if I make you uncomfortable, but they are in the past tense to me by years and years."
"Only then did I break my vows, Katie. I am really not that horrible of a man and never would I have otherwise, but Christ almighty that hurt."
"That is understandable and reasonable, but she did not have an affair with him."
"No, of course not, he was too honorable a gentleman to sleep with another man's wife or betray his wife."
She noticed he didn't claim that Scarlett was too honorable to stray from her husband. "Okay. So Melanie Wilkes is dead now, right?"
"Yes, she has been dead for about eighteen months."
Katie proceeded with caution. She really did not want to make him mad. "And has your wife done anything to indicate to you that she was lying the night she said she loved you?"
"Well, no, of course not, she has fixated on me now."
"Fixated on you or perhaps just had an epiphany and grew up a little bit?"
"You know it is very convenient for you to come in here and question my relationship with the woman. For twelve years I did nothing but love her."
"But did you ever tell her that?"
"Of course not. She thought until eighteen months ago she loved Ashley Wilkes."
"Well, no offense, and you are right it is easy for me to come in here because I can read through Ella's journal and I know what happens in the future, at least the next fifteen years of it."
"Is that why you came here? To tell me she ends up with him? Does she bear him a child too? That one would live, of course. Only the child we had together would be the one destined not to survive."
She was standing in front of him and could not even recall closing the short distance separating them. She placed her hand over his forearm and then slid it to his hand. "No. None of those things is true. She does not marry Ashley, she has no more children. Do you truly believe that Bonnie died because of something you did somehow?"
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com