***Part Two***
Word Count: 7,418

Rhett returned to his suite at the hotel after stopping at Belle's to pick up a bottle of whiskey. He knew Belle wanted him to stay, but he was in no mood for company. At least not Belle's company. He spent the night sitting in a chair looking out the window at the Atlanta streets below thinking about Scarlett and what had transpired between them that night.

He knew that he had left her both quite confused and aroused, but he wondered if she realized how mutual the feelings had been. He really hadn't any idea that Scarlett's virtue was still intact. How could he possibly have known? He remembered a feeling of relief wash over him when a baby hadn't resulted nine months after she had married Charles Hamilton. Well, it all made sense now, and if there was one woman he pictured capable of turning a man out of his bed on their wedding night it was Scarlett O'Hara-Hamilton. He smiled slightly as a thought occurred to him. He'd like to see her try that with him. A snicker accompanied this thought because he realized that had he wanted to he could have bedded her that night. Who was he kidding? He had wanted to, badly. There was no question in his mind he wanted to, but the deed to Tara had to be taken care of beforehand.

His thoughts turned to her reaction to him earlier that evening. She had been surprised he knew how to cook. Why exactly that should surprise her he wasn't sure. He had been living on his own for long enough, certainly she would have to realize that he'd picked up a domestic skill or two along the way. She seemed genuinely amazed that he owned the house; a boarding house to him was one way to profit from reconstruction after the war. And then his thoughts turned to how her body had reacted to him, how his body had reacted to her. Had they been sitting on a couch or in a bedroom, he didn't know if he would have been able to stop himself as he did. As it was, it was no easy task for him to cease and desist.

He had to give Scarlett credit, had he not brought up the subject of the length of time it had been since she'd had relations he doubted she would have mentioned her inexperience. He would have figured it out, of course. But the fact that she was willing to do that, to give up her virtue for a piece of land shed a whole new light on things in his eyes. Of course with that piece of land came the mouths of her family and servants to feed, but still sacrificing one's virtue to ensure you had a roof over your head was something Rhett didn't think many women would think of doing. He had made the statement as a joke, having doubted young Charles had brought any excitement to their bed and he just couldn't picture Scarlett reacting to that boy as she had to Rhett. He poured himself another drink, a light laugh escaping his lips. He shook his head with a smirk as he toasted an invisible companion. "Here's to you, Mrs. Hamilton," he said sardonically.

On the other end of Peachtree Street Scarlett sat on the bench at her room's window looking out into the darkened night her knees to her chest with her hands wrapped around them keeping them tightly pressed against her. Normally she didn't like being in her appointed bedroom at Pitty's alone, avoiding it unless she knew she was going to be able to sleep. It had been Charles' room and it was at night when she was alone and things in the house were quiet that she felt bad for having married him. But tonight thoughts of Charles were far from her mind. It was thoughts of Rhett and what had happened between them earlier that evening that weighed heavy on her mind.

She smiled as she thought of the dinner he had made for them. She had no idea why it surprised her so that he had been able to cook; she had just never given it any thought before. The thought of Rhett doing anything common just struck her as odd. She reached up with her right hand and touched her lips lightly with her fingertips remembering the way his lips felt against hers. She wasn't experienced, but his kisses certainly felt sincere. She didn't think that could be faked, but she could be wrong. But she had felt his arousal, and that she knew he couldn't fake. She had always thought of herself as a toy to Rhett. Something he played with to amuse himself when he had nothing better to do. She knew that he had been serious about his requests to be his mistress, but she also knew he requested it with the knowledge that she'd say no. But after tonight she couldn't help but wonder if she was more than that to him.

Scarlett returned to Tara the following day disappointed that Jeffrey wouldn't be calling on her that weekend. She had grown accustomed to his visits; they were truly a welcome diversion from the day to day happenings at Tara. Now that the war was over, it was nice to have a beau who was there to court her attentively again. He had seemed persistent enough, but not only did he cancel his plans to visit her at Tara the weekend she returned about a month later she received a letter from him stating that he had decided to leave Atlanta. Furious thinking that Rhett was behind Jeffrey's sudden decision to be rid of her; she packed her bags and took Prissy with her to Atlanta. She was going to put Rhett Butler in his place once and for all.

Though she desperately wanted to see Ashley, she knew she needed to stay away from Ashley, Melanie, and Pitty on this trip. After getting a room for herself and one for Prissy at the Atlanta Hotel and discreetly finding out that Rhett was in town she sent Prissy with a note to Boyd Tarleton telling him that Scarlett would be by to call on him later that afternoon.

It had been months since Scarlett had seen Boyd, the only Tarleton boy still alive after the war. She knew she could work a dinner invitation without Boyd even knowing what hit him. She bathed, taking extra care with her hair and dressed in a simple yet flattering green damask frock with gold colored trim. The dress was more of an evening dress by the cut, but it was late enough in the afternoon by the time that she finished getting ready that it was only slightly inappropriate. She topped off the outfit with a bonnet the same color as the dress and her mother's sapphire earbobs and matching necklace.

The timing for Scarlett was perfect, it couldn't have worked any better if she had choreographed it all herself. She had called on Boyd and he had offered to take her to dinner. She made mention of having dinner where she was staying and he agreed. Had it been someone other than Boyd she would have grown concerned that he had thought she had something other than dinner on her mind.

Scarlett genuinely liked Boyd, so it wasn't difficult for her to become engrossed in their conversation at dinner. Being a little older than Scarlett it was interesting to hear his view on things that she remembered from her childhood especially how she had treated Brent and Stuart. Once again a twinge of guilt entered her mind as she realized that Stuart had been Honey's beau and Carreen had been sweet on Brent. Of course Carreen had been too young to have a beau, regardless Scarlett once again realized that she hadn't been very kind. Scarlett had little need in her life for spineless women, so her guilt was replaced with a feeling of pride in what she had accomplished. She wasn't relying on the kindness of family or friends to support her; she was surviving and feeding her kin on her own.

Scarlett sensed Rhett's presence before she ever saw him. Rather she sensed that she was being watched and knew of no other person at the Atlanta Hotel who would watch her so closely. She laughed as Boyd said something funny and glanced up in the direction she thought Rhett was. A flash of recognition went through her eyes; her brow furrowed slightly at the look on Rhett's face and then Scarlett returned her attention to Boyd almost as if she hadn't even noticed Rhett was there.

Rhett was in a foul mood when he went to dinner that evening. Dressed in a pair of black trousers, a brown jacket with a black cravat, and his usual gold stickpin and cufflinks he gave off the appearance he normally did. But inwardly he was seething.

He had received word from his attorney that it appeared one of his ships had become the victim of embezzlement to the tune of close to twenty thousand dollars over the past two years. It appeared it wasn't cash that had been embezzled, but instead goods that the crew had sold and kept the money for themselves. Regardless, Rhett was not pleased with the prospect of having to deal with embezzlers, nor did the idea of having to take a hasty trip to London to get a hold of past bills of lading for all of his shipments over the past two years. It was going to be a lengthy and tedious process comparing the original bills of lading to what he had actually been told was received and he was not looking forward to it.

So it was in this mood that Rhett entered the restaurant at the Atlanta Hotel for dinner and noticed Scarlett dining with a man. This did nothing to calm his already bad mood, and the thought of going to dine somewhere else actually crossed his mind. Hadn't he just gotten rid of a suitor of hers? He knew she never lacked for beaux, but this was just more than he was willing to take at the moment. He looked from his pocket watch to the man waiting to seat him and decided to endure seeing her with a beau after all. He would just eat dinner and be on his way to Belle's for a night of cards and whiskey; the two things he knew would take his mind off embezzlement. He wasn't so sure if they would aid him in getting Scarlett O'Hara off his mind.

Dinner went by painfully slow for Rhett. He knew Scarlett was aware of his presence, but she was ignoring him and was being far more attentive to her companion than Rhett cared to be a witness to. In fact, he had to say that Scarlett looked comfortable with him, far too comfortable. He observed as the two talked almost seemingly never running out of things to say and Rhett found his foul mood growing steadily worse. The thought that she had chosen this place intentionally crossed his mind. She knew this was where he stayed when he was in town, but he had no idea what exactly Scarlett would stand to benefit from plotting such a thing. Surely she couldn't have any idea of the thoughts that had been plaguing him since that night a little over a month ago. But he couldn't figure out why else she'd be here if not to punish him somehow, and she was succeeding if that was what she had set out to do.

He finished his meal and left, stopping to check for messages in the lobby. As an after thought, he had no idea why he thought of it, he asked if Scarlett was a guest for that evening. The affirmative answer only left him further confused. Why was she staying at a hotel rather than with her aunt Pitty?

He realized Miss Hamilton was no treat to stay with, but surely money couldn't be that plentiful for her that she would allow herself the luxury of staying at a hotel when she could stay somewhere free of charge. His thoughts then turned to the man she was with and wondered if he played any part in her desire to stay at a hotel rather than with Miss Hamilton. She was a fool, he suddenly realized and that just soured his mood further.

He couldn't stand Scarlett when she did stupid things, because he of all people knew she wasn't stupid. Surely she had to realize that men would assume, given her widowhood, that she had had relations. Men sometimes sought widows out for discreet pleasures knowing that the woman while without a husband might still seek the carnal pleasures of marriage without needing the ties that bind. Rhett himself had enjoyed the company of a "chaste" widow a time or two. He left the hotel thinking that it was none of his business what mess Scarlett got herself into.

Scarlett didn't want to appear rude to Boyd, so she kept her attention on him sparing Rhett a few glances here and there while he ate. She could tell that he didn't appear to be in good humor; though he smiled and was pleasant to his waiter she could tell by his eyes. Normally when she looked at them she could see his amusement, but this evening she saw none of that.

She shuddered, trying to recall whether or not she had ever in her life seen a pair of eyes that were so cold and empty. They almost seemed to be void of any emotion whatsoever. She watched as he left, suddenly wishing that Boyd wasn't with her. She wondered what could be bothering him so. She would seek him out tomorrow; have the concierge send a message to his room asking him to meet her for breakfast perhaps.

After dinner, she and Boyd went out to the gardens the hotel offered for a brief walk neither wanting to discontinue their talk of memories and the past. When it grew dark, Scarlett retired to her room alone suddenly wishing she hadn't come up with this foolish plan. She longed for Ashley's company; even Melanie would do right now. Instead, she made out a list of things that were needed at Tara and imbibed in some wine. She allowed herself the luxury of a long bath appreciating the grand tub the hotel had to offer and sent Prissy away once she was dressed for bed.

Rhett, on the other hand, had a bad night. Even Belle seemed to sense his mood was beyond repair and kept her distance from him he noticed. He knew that he was being unruly and curt, but under the circumstances he felt he was entitled. He couldn't concentrate on his cards, and found his mood worsening when he discovered he was losing money. At least the whiskey went down smoothly and Belle seemed willing enough to keep him supplied with the booze he sought to take his mind off his woes.

It was after midnight before he returned to the hotel, and while he wasn't stumbling drunk he was by no means sober when he entered the lobby. He had long ago shed his jacket and cravat, which were slung over his arm. During the evening he had unbuttoned his shirt and for the short walk back to his room hadn't bothered to refasten the buttons he had undone. He passed an employee on his way up the stairs and asked the young lady if she was aware which room Mrs. Hamilton was staying in and whether the girl knew what time Scarlett planned on departing in the morning. When told she was staying the following night as well Rhett smiled and said that he would send a note to her in the morning to join him for lunch the following day. Thanking the girl, he walked the rest of the way to his quarters. He wasn't drunk enough to intentionally cause Scarlett a scandal, but the fact that he knew which room she was staying in had its merit. He placed the key in the lock to his room pausing for a moment to look at the time. After opening the door he turned to remove the key from his room's door.

He sighed realizing he was letting curiosity get the best of him, he left his room and decided to find out whether or not Scarlett was alone. If he turned her away that night only to have her seek what he hadn't finished from someone else she was going to have more than the deed to Tara to answer for. He cursed himself for being such a fool to think that she would wait for him to decide to take her. If she hadn't grown curious as to what happened between a man and a woman before their night together last month, he was sure that he had left her quite curious. And aroused he couldn't help but thinking even though he tried to push the thought from his mind. It was no use thinking about that now.

He stood in front of her door; staring at the room number on the door, number twelve, for what seemed like an eternity to him. If she weren't alone she would be furious with him for thinking that he had the right to check on her. Finally, he knocked softly on her door waiting for what seemed an eternity until she opened it. He pushed the door open and walked past her into the room, not caring to stand in the hallway any longer than was necessary.

"Good evening, Mrs. Hamilton." The room was dark as he looked around, it took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dimness of the room but when he did he realized that she was alone.

Scarlett wasn't sleeping soundly when Rhett knocked on the door; otherwise she would have thought that she was dreaming. Dressed in a white gown with white lacing on the bodice and short, sheer airy sleeves, the skirt flowing past her hips and a single lace tie that fastened near the breasts she sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

Who in their right mind would be knocking on her door at this hour? She hesitantly got out of bed and fastened the sash of her sheer dressing gown tightly around her waist as she opened the door ajar. She was startled when Rhett pushed past her into the room; up until now he had never done anything rude. It didn't take her long to recognize the familiar scents of whiskey and cigars, smells she knew all too well from dealing with her father. She smiled slightly, forgetting for a moment there was a man in her quarters in the middle of the night.

She narrowed her eyes, clutching the front of her dressing gown tightly after she closed the door. "What are you doing here, Rhett?" she hissed unable to figure out why he would risk coming to her room at such an hour.

"Where's your boyfriend?" He stood in front of her, indiscreetly allowing his eyes to glance over her scantily clad body. The dressing gown she wore did little to hide the ever so evident fullness of her breasts, her tiny waist, her curvaceous hips, and her slender legs. He gasped softly when he had finished his mental seduction of her body and his eyes once again met hers. He hadn't quite thought past knocking on her door to what he would do when he got into her room.

"My what?"

Scarlett swallowed hard and was sure that her words gave way her nervousness. She should tell him to leave; he had no right to be in her room let alone at such an hour. Feeling his eyes on her, she pulled the dressing gown tighter knowing it did little to prevent him from looking. She felt herself flush; she couldn't ever recall Charles gazing at her like Rhett just did. When he met her gaze her senses returned.

"Rhett, either tell me why you're here or leave. You have no business being ... " here she tried to finish but was cut off abruptly by Rhett's kiss. She whimpered in reaction to his lips pressing hard against hers. She tried to push him away; he shouldn't be here doing this. He was drunk she realized, and her efforts at trying to push him away were only met with a low rumbling laugh as one of his hands reached down to unfasten the sash that held her dressing gown closed. She felt his hands warm against her through the flimsy material of her nightgown and tried again to push him away.

"Rhett, please." Her plea went unanswered as he pulled her tighter against him, crushing her arms to his chest as his mouth probed hers.

Rhett had no idea what had come over him. He had come up her to talk to her, to warn her about the impressions people might have of her but he suddenly found himself aroused by the sight of her standing before him in her nightclothes. Surely he had had too much to drink if something so simple could bring about his arousal, but whatever the reason he was.

He heard that she was talking, but no words she said registered in his mind. All he saw was her lips. Her lips were puckered in anger, perfect red lips that were in such a kissable position. He couldn't resist the urge and he didn't think she would mind once he started kissing her. He opened her dressing gown and reached around her waist, and it was truly such a tiny waist, to bring her body against his. He needed to feel her warmth against him. His kiss was intent and probing, he broke it slightly to respond to her plea.

"That's what I'm trying to do." He moved his hands from her waist and cupped her face in his hands so he could look into her eyes. "Let me please you, Scarlett."

His hands dropped to her shoulders as his mouth closed over hers again, his tongue circling her lips prying them apart to fill her mouth with his warmth. His hands gently slid the dressing gown from her shoulders, he felt her pull back slightly as it dropped to the floor but he didn't let her. He couldn't have let her even had he wanted to. He was in too deep at this point, and he knew it. He just hoped he could get her to that point herself soon.

He slid his hands down to her hips and pulled her against him, a slight groan escaped his lips as his evident arousal came in contact with her body. He moved his hands again, pulling her away from him slightly so that he could pick her up and carry her to the bed, kissing her as he set her down. He looked from the bed to her realizing he had his answer to whether or not she had entertained her dinner companion in bed earlier that evening. Unless she had gotten dressed and sent for someone to change the linens in a matter of a couple of hours he hadn't been up to her room.

Rhett realized he should leave, kiss her good night, and just walk out the door as if he had never been here. But the whiskey and his foul mood were thinking for him and he wanted comfort, warmth, to be loved. God how he needed to be loved, he realized. He pulled away slightly after placing her on the bed, his hand tracing gently over her face, her jaw, down her neck, across her shoulders and collarbone. He came upon the lace tie at her bosom which he untied and allowed his fingers to trace the brief patch of bare skin from her neck to above her breasts. He sighed huskily as his eyes met hers, she looked nervous but not upset.

Scarlett lay on the bed and watched as Rhett stood and began to undress her skin feeling as though it was on fire where his hands had just touched. She had never really paid attention to his hands before. They were large, with long fingers and calluses from his hard work. But even with the calluses they were gentle and felt smooth against her skin, sending shivers through her body. When he had traced from her neck to her breasts she felt that warm pulling sensation in her belly she had felt with him before and realized that it must be her body responding to his touch.

She looked away when he turned to face her after removing his shirt and trousers, but not before catching a glimpse of his broad chest and shoulders. He was well tanned with a tuft of dark hair on his chest. His broad chest slimmed down into a narrow waist and tapered into from her brief glimpse perfect legs though she had no desire to look at that part of him. She turned towards him again when she felt pressure on the edge of the bed and looked up at him her eyes hesitant. She was about to speak when he kissed her again, silencing her once more with his persistent lips and tongue.

Rhett knew she was uncomfortable, knew that he was going to have to instigate any amount of contact so as he kissed her he reached for her hands and placed them around his neck. Bending closer to her so that she could slide her arms all the way around him as he deepened his kiss. Her mouth tasted like peppermint and tea, it was warm and wet and oh so inviting. As he kissed her, his hand traced over her arms, shoulders, and collarbone until it fell to rest at her breast. He broke the kiss to watch her breasts react to his touch; they had reacted so easily that night he wondered if tonight would be any different.

He brought his mouth to her other breast, taking it into his mouth through her nightgown chuckling lightly when he pulled away a few moments later because the material wet was see-through and left little to the imagination as to what was underneath her gown. His arousal was beyond belief at this point, but he was determined no matter how much he'd had to drink to be kind to her. He didn't want to hurt her, and he wanted to leave her wanting to come back to him for more. That was important, that was the key. It would do him no good to leave her wondering if that was all there was. He needed to leave her wanting more of it and often. He needed her to want to be a kept woman, because that's exactly what he wanted to do - keep her.

He reached down for the hem of her nightgown and pushed it up slowly, caressing her calves and thighs with his hands until the gown was around her hips. His hands rubbed and caressed her waist, hips, stomach, and thighs eventually moving to the softness between her legs. He had a difficult time choosing between watching her face or her body; it had been so long since he'd been with a woman who had never been touched before he wanted to memorize everything about Scarlett in this moment.

He knelt on the bed at her feet, kissing her legs, waist, hips, and stomach following his hands to the spot between her legs. One hand reached under her gown to touch her bare breasts for the first time while the other he slid under her hips to bring her closer to him as he probed her softness with his mouth and tongue. He knew better than to expect her to touch him, but God how he wanted to feel her bury her hands in his hair, make moon shaped marks on his arms with her fingernails or something to let him know she was enjoying what he was doing. But other than her body's natural responses to his touch she gave no indication.

Scarlett had no idea what she expected, but what Rhett was doing was not it. She had imagined sex as only being pleasing for the man, but the way Rhett was kissing and touching her was very pleasing. She wished he would tell her what to do. What he expected from her she had no idea. Instead she closed her eyes and enjoyed the feel of his hand on her breasts, his mouth exploring the place between her legs until she felt something build inside her and suddenly it was gone.

God's nightgown, she thought, this has to be so entirely wrong. "Rhett," she said through pursed lips. She didn't want him to stop at all. What he was doing felt too good. Suddenly he was leaning over her, bringing his lips towards her for a kiss. She wondered if he would be able to see from her eyes how good he had just made her feel.

Rhett was relieved Scarlett had let herself go enough so that he could provide her with relief. When he felt her spasms had subsided he kissed her thighs, stomach, still covered breast and then met her mouth again. He kissed her briefly, looking into her eyes as he brought himself on top of her. He placed a hand over her shoulder as he entered her slowly, gently until he felt the barrier give and heard her cry out softly. Once fully inside her, he reached down to kiss her breasts cursing the nightgown that he had neglected to remove all the way.

He kissed her as he brought both hands to her chest and tore the gown down the front. "I'll buy you a new one," he mumbled when he heard her start to protest. He brought his mouth to her breast and it was with the contact against her bare breast that caused him to reach his peak. He remained on top of her suckling on her breasts gently, not wanting to miss any part of lovemaking with her. Finally after kissing her collarbone, shoulders, and jaw again his mouth met her ears and then her mouth and cheeks. He opened his eyes quickly when he tasted the saltiness of tears.

"Are you all right, Scarlett?"

She nodded her head slightly, though she didn't know whether or not she was truly all right. She wondered if she would ever be all right again. He had been gentle and kind, and so attentive. She knew that she probably couldn't have asked for a better experience as her first time, but it hurt horribly and she felt ashamed over what they had done. The way she had felt, that it had been so easy for Rhett to make her feel those things. He had taken her virtue; there was no going back now.

She couldn't wake up in the morning and tell him she wanted it back, this was irreversible. They weren't married, and Rhett had made it quite clear over the years that he had no intent to marry. She felt him as he moved along side her and went willingly as he pulled her into his arms. She looked up at him curiously as she lay along side of him facing him; somehow she never pictured Rhett holding a woman after intercourse.

She rested her face against his chest not knowing what to say to him, not knowing what to do. She knew this changed nothing between them, if anything Rhett might suddenly decide to start pursuing her being his mistress again. Or on the other hand, he might leave and never return having gotten what he had wanted all along from her. She sighed slightly wondering once more just what she had done. When she felt him pull away from her she sat up suddenly, looking down at the torn nightgown that was still around her hips.

"Are you leaving?"

Rhett knew that Scarlett had a multitude of things running through her mind at the moment and elected, wisely he thought, to leave her to her thoughts. Nothing he could say or do was going to reassure her at the moment; it had to come from within her. All he could do was offer her the comfort and security of his arms, which he did so more willingly than she probably knew. He kissed the top of her head, taking in the slight scent of lilacs that lingered.

He shifted slightly and was startled by her question; it almost sounded as though she didn't want him to leave. He turned to look at her, propping his head in the palm of his hand, his elbow resting against the bed.

"Are you insane, madam? I just made love to you; I have no intentions on leaving for a little while at least. Unless that was your polite way of telling me to get the hell out of here. Then I'll take your hint and go."

Her eyes grew large as he spoke, taking in his words and she shrugged as she shook her head.

"No, Rhett. I mean I don't know."

He just said they had made love; she looked at him curiously wondering if that was how he described sex with the other women that he had relations with. Did he also consider sex with Belle lovemaking? And if he didn't, why did he say that to her just now? She turned her back to him, clutching her pillow to her as she brought her knees to her body not wanting to say anything more to him. She stared at the wall, still unwilling to accept what had happened. There had been no telling him no, she could tell. Well, at least now I can get the deed back to Tara, she thought. But somehow that only made her feel worse, sicker to her stomach than she already felt for what had happened.

Rhett was awake long after he heard Scarlett's breathing change into that of someone whom slept. He didn't know whether he should stay or go. Scarlett wasn't someone like Belle who he could leave in the middle of the night and not have to apologize the following day for such behavior. But on the other hand, if he stayed he could be seen leaving her room and that could ruin her reputation even more than it already was. Poor Charles hadn't been dead overly long and she had long ago stopped wearing the mourning clothes of a widow. He lay on his back, his hands behind his head staring at the canopy above his head deciding finally that he should stay. They'd figure out what to do in the morning, but he felt in his heart that leaving would be the worst thing he could do.

Scarlett woke the following morning and put off opening her eyes for as long as she could. The room was quiet, too quiet, and it made her think that Rhett had left her at some point during the night. She should have known not to expect any better from Rhett. She sighed heavily as she stretched; cursing him aloud as she realized her torn nightgown was still at her waist. Her body was sore and felt used in a way she'd never felt before, which only made her curse him more.

Rhett chuckled lightly at her words. "And good morning to you, Mrs. Hamilton. I was expecting you to wake up with thoughts of me on your mind, but I'm afraid cursing me was not necessarily what I was hoping for."

Scarlett's head snapped to face him as she sat up clutching the blanket around her paying no heed to the fact that most of her back was left exposed in her current position. "And what did you expect, Rhett? For me to sing your praises. You come in here drunk and take advantage of me and I'm not supposed to curse you?"

"I wasn't that drunk, Scarlett. And it seems to me you didn't argue too vehemently." He reached up and ran his index finger along the portion of her spine that was exposed as he chuckled. "In fact, I'd have to say that your body wasn't arguing with me at all even if your words did."

She moved to get away from his touch, sitting at the edge of the bed she looked over her shoulder at him. "That still doesn't make it right, Rhett. You took advantage of me. It was late, you took me by surprise, you were drunk, I was afraid you might hurt me if I said no."

Rhett had seldom been tempted to strike a woman in his lifetime, but her words gave him the urge to do so. He jerked her roughly to face him; there was no amusement or jesting in his eyes.

"Don't even say that, Scarlett. I have never hurt you. I never once gave you any indication that I would hurt you last night, nor would I ever hurt you. Dear lord woman, I was nothing but gentle with you despite the fact I had more anger at the world in me last night than I have felt in a long time. Why don't you go seek out your dinner companion from last evening and see how gentle he is with you and then come back and talk to me about fearing I would hurt you." He ran his fingers through his tousled hair shaking his head in disbelief. "How many times have I propositioned you, Scarlett? How many times have I kissed you just past the point of being appropriate? How many times have I kissed the palm of your hand in a way that was more than possibly inappropriate? Who was it that put a stop to things that night when there was no chance of our being stumbled upon? Hurt you indeed, I wasn't as tempted to hurt you last night as I am now for even giving credence to that thought." He stood and walked to the other side of the bed to retrieve his underwear and trousers, putting them on abruptly. "And here I felt guilty for thinking of leaving you during the night. I guess I would have been better off doing that and making you feel cheap and used. Lord knows why I tried to think of you and wanting to spare you from feeling anything close to those things. Your bedside manner, Madam, needs to be worked on." He growled as he searched for his shirt.

"Just go, since it's rather obvious that's what you want to do. I don't know why you picked last night to begin worry about my feelings or anyone else's for that matter. Just get out of here and leave me be."

"That should be an easy enough wish to fulfill, Mrs. Hamilton. I'll be leaving this morning for Charleston. I have no idea when business will allow me to return to Atlanta, so you can sleep well this evening knowing that your chamber door will not be under attack from such a big bad oaf as myself."

He finished buttoning his shirt and picked up his socks and boots looking for some place other than the bed to sit on to put them on. He knew not to expect her to get weepy and emotional on him, but this was for more than he was prepared to deal with. Of course he had it in him to be cruel; he could have taken her in any number of ways that easily came to mind. Was there no end to the woman's ability to make him feel the heel?

Scarlett watched as he put on his socks and boots and thought over what he had said a moment ago. She remembered the look in his eyes at dinner the other night and was suddenly very curious as to what was so wrong in his life to make him look so angry. Even now she could tell that he wasn't overly angry at her, at least not as angry as he'd like her to believe he was. She sat on the edge of the bed, her bare legs dangling as her toes barely touched the floor. She cleared her throat lightly and straightened her back proudly as she started to speak.

"Do you want to tell me what it is that had you so upset yesterday, Rhett?"

The invitation was sincere and she hoped he would take it as such. Rhett had always been there for her, and never once had he ever asked her to return the favor. She could imagine how lonely his life must be at times, traveling from place to place. Not having a place to truly call your home must wear even on him after a while.

Rhett looked from his shoes as he adjusted his trouser cuffs around them to Scarlett. He was shocked because her invitation seemed sincere. But he wasn't about to let his guard down so quickly; he wasn't of the mind to fill her head with any ideas. "It's just business, Scarlett. I found out that I might have some dishonest sailors working one of my ships."

Scarlett knew what it was like to not fully trust the people who worked for you, she felt that way about some of the workers at Tara all the time especially now that she had to pay them or feed them in lieu of wages. She couldn't imagine what it would be like to have people work for you who traveled all over the world and didn't report to you directly for months if even that. She was a little hurt that he didn't give her credit to be intelligent enough to understand his problems further, so she responded curtly. "I see. I'm sorry to hear that. I hope that you will resolve the issue quickly and that any dishonest men will be punished for their wrong doings."

"I assure you, Scarlett, the issue will be resolved and any wrong doings will be handled my way." He stood, grateful that he hadn't left his jacket and cravat in his room the night before. He adjusted the cravat and slipped on his jacket turning to face her. He smiled slightly at the picture she made sitting at the edge of the bed her feet dangling just above the floor. How he'd love to be able to take her in his arms and make love to her all over again, but obviously that was not to happen. At least not on this morning, perhaps another time he'd get the opportunity. "I'll be out of your way now, Scarlett. But before I go I want to make sure that you're all right. I mean physically. I truly tried not to hurt you."

Scarlett cast her eyes down, clutching the blanket to her tightly. "I'll be all right, Rhett. Once I've had my bath and something to eat I'll be as good as new." Of course that wasn't true, but she sensed he was being sincere in voicing his concern for her well being. Lord knew she didn't need him strutting around her for the rest of the day out of some sense of obligation to her. "Really." She smiled with effort.

Rhett nodded, feeling somewhat awkward in leaving. He sensed she was being kind, almost as though she wanted to be rid of him and that didn't sit well with him. He reached for the door handle then as an afterthought turned and walked towards her. He cupped her face with his hands and kissed her softly. "I'll leave you then, Scarlett. My train leaves before lunch I'm afraid so this is farewell. Be well, Scarlett." He kissed her again, stroking her cheek with his thumb and then brushing her lips gently with his thumb as well. He turned and opened the door slowly, peering out into the empty hallway and closing the door quietly behind him.

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