***Part Nine***

Scarlett sat silently in the coach as her driver, Lyle, took them to their destination. Her eyes were downcast, focused on her hands clutched in her lap. She felt Rhett watching her and had to bite her tongue from spilling everything.

"Katie seems like a nice girl," she said finally, unable to stand the silence any longer.

"Yes. An O'Hara through and through."

"You think so?" Scarlett asked, intrigued. She had never given much thought to her father's side of her family.

"You don't see the resemblance?" He sounded surprised.

"No, but I've never been very good at that. People would ask me who I thought Bonnie looked like and I never could tell. With Wade and Ella it's easy to see." She heard him suck in a breath and knew she had made a mistake. Mentioning Bonnie was still something neither of them could do comfortably. That was about to change, though.

She was not sure why Katie suddenly appeared in her life with no advanced warning, but she was not going to lose the opportunity it brought her. Rhett had avoided her like the plague since Melanie's death. He would make an appearance at the house to see the children, but they seemed to be timed with Scarlett being gone.

He had to know she had changed. She had been very careful not to appear to be chasing him. He believed she had just transferred her fixation from Ashley onto him. He had no idea how wrong he was. She had to convince him she was sincere. And tonight was the best time to start.

The coach drew to a halt and the driver descended from the top to open the door and offer Scarlett assistance.

"I'll get it, thank you," Rhett said as he stepped from the coach and offered Scarlett his hand. She took it without hesitation. It was rare he offered to touch her these days. She had brought it on herself, so she had no one to blame but it still hurt. She knew how passionate and loving he could be and she missed it.

She was not about to let his offer end with just his handing her out of the coach. She slipped her hand through the crook of his arm before he had a chance to step away from her. She felt him stiffen and knew immediately when he recognized where they were.

"What kind of game are you up to, Scarlett."

"No game, Rhett."

"You know I don't come here." His eyes shone with pain and something akin to hatred. He did not hate her. He could not possibly. Memories of terrible things she had said and done to him whirled through her head and she realized he could indeed.

"Actually, I know you do. I've seen the flowers."

"You weren't supposed to know."

"Well, Rhett, don't you think it's time we stopped keeping secrets from one another regarding our daughter?"

"You're not a priest, Scarlett, and you're not a very good confidante either. Your tongue tends to get very sharp when one wears their heart too close to their sleeve."

"Oh, Rhett, must we fight? Can't we visit our daughter together?"

She followed his gaze as he glanced back at the driver who held the floral arrangement she had sent a servant to pick up earlier when this idea had come to her. He would not sit in the coach by himself and wait for her, would he?

"I suppose," he said.

"Thank you," Scarlett said and took the arrangement from Lyle. It was not as extravagant as she was accustomed to, but it was better than she had expected on such short notice. She had worn a gown that she was not concerned about getting soiled or dirty so she did not bother gathering her skirts as they walked toward Bonnie's grave.

This was a first for them, walking this path together. The funeral seemed like a dream now, surreal and distorted from reality. She had buried two husbands and both of her parents, she had never dreamed she would bury a child.

Tears formed in her eyes as they approached the marker that identified Bonnie's final resting place. Scarlett still had Wade and Ella, but Rhett now had no one. He had doted on Bonnie enough for Scarlett to realize he enjoyed being a father. He had been talking of reconciling the day Bonnie died. She had believed then there was no hope, but now she believed there was. If only she had an idea of how to get him to believe in them too.

"What's this?" Rhett asked as they stopped walking and he turned to look at her. "You're really crying."

"Of course I am. You think this is easy for me?" She knelt, placing the arrangement on the ground where Bonnie's head would be and crossed herself. Of course he thought it was easy for her because she had never let him in to see how badly she hurt, too. There was a time she thought he would have used such a show of weakness against her.

"The thought has crossed my mind, Scarlett."

She remained kneeling, unable to look at him. "I'm not as heartless as you think I am, Rhett. I know I've grown to be that way, but it's the war and everything it taught me. All of the death, destruction and carnage. I couldn't stand to let one more thing get to me. Every time I thought there was a sunny day around the corner someone else would die or something would happen to darken the day."

"I know you don't believe me. I know you think I'm just a love sick girl who has set her sights on a new man that she can't have. But I've loved you all of my life, Rhett. I loved you before I knew who you were."

"Those words are from a fairy tale, Scarlett. They don't happen to real people."

She stood to face him. She was not going to back down now that she had his attention. There was no place he could escape to here. He would not be that callous to turn his back on her here.

"I never believed in such things, but a fortune teller told me about you once. It's so long ago now, but it was before I first saw you at Twelve Oaks. Of course I thought I was smitten with Ashley so the idea of a tall, dark and handsome cad of a man was so far off the mark I thought the woman was as crazy as a lark." She laughed bitterly as she thought of those days. She could not remember the day specifically, but she had vivid memories stored away of her life before the war destroyed everything around her.

She had been happy once, vivacious and loving even if she was a little selfish. She had room to be selfish with her pick of any man around stretching to three counties. Her dance card was full at every party and once she set her mind to gaining a gentleman's attention they were hers for the picking.

"And then the night Melanie died." Her words came out broken up as she sobbed. The loss of Melanie cut almost deeper than the loss of Bonnie. She had taken Melanie for granted for years, harboring resentment for the poor woman all along until it was too late.

"Scarlett," he said, taking her into his arms.

It would have been easy to break down, to let the feel of his strong hands rubbing her back calm her. But she needed to say these things. She had not had him as so captive an audience in ages and she was not so sure the opportunity would present itself again.

"No, Rhett, please, let me finish."

"I'm listening," he said in a tone she recognized well.

It was his comforting tone, meant to soothe her frazzled nerves. And it almost always worked. He was always her calm in the storm, keeping her grounded when she would have otherwise drifted aimlessly at sea. She had not appreciated that until he was gone. It was too late then.

"For years I dreamt of you I just didn't know it was you until the night Melanie died. The dream I had, the one that used to wake me up and keep me from getting back to sleep. It came true that night, it really happened. It was about you, Rhett. For years I tried to figure out what I was searching for in that dream only to realize that night that it was you."

"Scarlett."

"The day Bonnie died, Rhett, you came to me wanting to reconcile, to try to work things out."

"That was a long time ago, Scarlett. So much has happened since then."

"No, it hasn't. The only thing that happened is Melanie died and you have it in that head of yours that I'm going to fall into Ashley's arms as soon as he's done mourning her loss."

"Do you blame me?"

"Of course not," she said, drawing away from him. She placed her hands against his chest, wanting the contact but wanting to look at him. "I'm sorry I didn't know what to say to you after Bonnie died, Rhett. I'm sorry if I blamed you or you took my indifference to mean I blamed you. It was not your fault. We had strayed so far from where we started from that I had no idea what to say to you. I had no idea how to ease your pain."

He was quiet for a moment. She thought maybe she had said too much. "You never told me about your dreams."

"I was too frightened and I had no idea what they meant. I thought for sure I was going to be punished for all the things I'd done wrong in my life and I didn't want you to know that."

He laughed then, heartily and Scarlett could not help but smile in response. It had been a long time since she had heard him laugh. She missed it. "You haven't done so many things wrong, Scarlett."

"With you I have." He placed his hand at the side of her face and tucked some hair behind her ear. She must look a mess but he did not seem to mind. "Can you ever forgive me, Rhett?"

"Forgive you?"

"Yes, for being so blind. For being so stuck in the past and holding onto something I knew was a dream for far too long. For not being able to comfort you when you needed it. I had no idea how to by that point."

"We all make mistakes, Scarlett."

"I imagine you think our marriage is the worst of yours."

He laughed again. "Hardly."

"You don't?"

"No, Scarlett. There are things I wish we both could have done differently."

"Yes, if only we knew then what we do now."

"Do you think you would have done anything differently, Scarlett?"

She wanted to say yes, but she honestly did not know if she would have. "I'm not sure," she admitted honestly.

"An honest answer."

"I'm tired of lies, Rhett. I'm tired of deceit and dishonesty between us."

"It was all that we knew, Scarlett."

"I suppose it was. Do you think we can ever undo it?"

"No," he said softly. "I think it's too late to undo anything, Scarlett."

She lowered her eyes not wanting him to see how much those words pierced her heart. She turned from him and stepped away, only to be stopped by his arm reaching for her. He tugged her to him and nuzzled her ear with his cheek. Her breath caught, her heart slammed against her chest and her blood sizzled to a boil almost instantly.

"Rhett," she whispered. She was not sure what he was trying to prove.

"Shh," he murmured. But yet he did nothing. She expected him to do something to advance the seduction he had started. His hand at her abdomen moved, drawing her still closer against him and she heard him sigh.

Fresh tears formed in her eyes as she looked at Bonnie's grave and realized all that her selfish stupidity had caused her to lose with Bonnie's death. Her daughter was just the most noticeable of them. She had known two men besides Rhett in every sense of the word but only Rhett could make her feel this way.

She wanted to feel his touch again. She wanted to feel alive, to feel the pleasure of his lovemaking bringing her to a fevered pitch only he knew how to deliver.

"Come home with me, Rhett," she whispered boldly giving voice to her thoughts. She had never invited him to act upon his husbandly rights.

"You make a tempting offer, Mrs. Butler."

Her eyes drifted close at the feel of his breath against the sensitive skin of her neck. "I'm glad you think so."

"What is it exactly you want from me, Scarlett?"

Her eyes flew open at the question. Did he need her to spell it out for him? She did not think so. So that meant he was just being difficult. Or was he? There was no teasing or bitterness in his voice. It was hard to tell with him sometimes but she was going to take him at being sincere.

"I want you to come home with me, Rhett." She took a deep breath. "I want you to stay with me. In my room." Surely, he would not require her to spell it out more clearly than that.

"Is this just an itch you need scratched, Scarlett?"

"What?" she asked.

"Are you going to wake up in the morning and scream at the sight of me next to you in your bed?"

"Of course not."

"And if a baby should result?"

She took a deep breath. She had not thought about that. She had vowed Bonnie would be the last. Her waist was already ruined so really what was one more. "I suppose we would have to take that as a sign," she whispered. He knew how to prevent pregnancy, she knew he did and there were always options open to her. She had not chosen to avail herself of them before so she doubted she would this time should it happen.

"A sign?"

"From God."

"Have you gotten religion on me, Scarlett?"

She had not set foot in a church in years. She could not remember the last time she had made confession. Her mother would be so disappointed, but Scarlett could not dwell on that. "No," she said with a light laugh. "But I do believe in signs. If I dreamt of you without even knowing who you were who am I to argue about signs?"

"Some might argue you think like a witch."

"One more thing to add to their pot full of gossip about me." She turned to face him. "So will you?"

"You're serious?"

"Do I look as if I'm joking, Rhett?"

"No."

"Don't make me ask again or make it any clearer."

"As usual, you render me powerless to say no."

She laughed lightly at that. "If only it were that easy."

"You caught me off guard. What can I say?"

"That you're doing this because you want to not solely because I asked."

"I've waited years to actually be invited into your bedroom, Scarlett."

"You would have been invited sooner but you left."

He brought a hand to his lips and kissed the palm of it. Her heart skipped a beat. "Let's not argue semantics tonight, Scarlett. I don't feel like ruining the mood."

She wanted to ask him if she had eased his mind about Bonnie at all but she decided against it. She could ask him later. Very likely tomorrow if he stayed the night as he suggested he would want to do.

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Part 8
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