***Part Two***

Rhett pushed open the door to Wade's room. He had said good night to Ella before coming up to the third floor and saying good night to Beau. He had purposely saved Wade for last. Scarlett was down in the kitchen seeing to the cleanup of the cups of hot chocolate the five of them had drunk while Scarlett read a bedtime story. Rhett had unpacked some of his things before joining them, unable to quite believe that he was witnessing Scarlett performing such a motherly task as reading to her children before bed.

"Are you still awake, son?"

"Yes," Wade turned his head on his pillow, his eyes wide as he looked at Rhett.

"Good," Rhett said as he moved to sit on the edge of Wade's bed. "I guess you know I got your letter."

"Yes, Sir. Are you mad," he asked softly. "Please don't take it out on Mother if you are."

Rhett smoothed down Wade's dark hair with his hand. "Nonsense. I'm not mad at all, and I'd never take it out on you or your mother even if I had been." Rhett gave the boy a smile before he continued. "I'm going to try, Wade, to stay and make things with your mother work. You're old enough now, obviously, that you understand that she and I have had our share of difficulties."

"And they involved Uncle Ashley, right?"

"In part, yes. But not entirely, he was really just the foundation that had been set years ago on top of which our newer problems were built. Please don't blame your Uncle Ashley for our problems, Wade. Your mother and I both realize we're to blame, no one else. I just don't want you to think that because I'm here it's going to be forever."

"But you're going to try, right?"

"Yes, I'm going to try. I've missed you and Ella, and I admit I didn't give the two of you much thought when I left. Not that I haven't thought of you since I've been gone, I have and don't you ever think otherwise. But I was angry and hurt and my actions weren't meant to hurt the two of you."

Wade nodded his head against his pillow. "Yes, I think I understand. Mother forgot about us a lot."

"Well, that was a little different, Wade. Your mother had a lot to contend with, I don't think she ever purposely forgot about you." Rhett brought the blanket around Wade's chest and tucked him in as he stood. "Your mother never forgot about you, she was just overwhelmed is all." He smoothed down Wade's hair again and kissed his forehead lightly. "I won't tell your mother about the letter, Wade. If you want to tell her, that's up to you, but it's probably best she thinks I came back for my own reasons than because of you."

"I don't understand, Sir."

"Well, she might get upset if she thinks that I came back for you not for her, that you got me to take a chance on our marriage instead of her. Does that make sense?"

"I think so," he said, though his voice betrayed his uncertainty.

"Let's just keep it a secret between us then, your letter that is, all right? That way she won't get mad at either of us. We want to try and get your mother all better, right?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Good, we both want the same thing and I'm going to count on you to help me, son. You said in your letter you and Ella promised to behave, but I've never had a problem with the way either of you behaved so long as I've lived with you. So please don't think you have to change the way you act."

Wade nodded enthusiastically to that. "All right. You'll tell us though if we do something wrong?"

Rhett turned off Wade's bedside lamp, hiding the pained look that crossed Rhett's face at the boy's question. "I don't see that being a problem, Wade, but I promise you I will if it happens. You sleep well now I imagine Mammy and the others will be back tomorrow."

"Yes, Sir. Mother was kind of mean this morning, that's why she gave them the day off."

"I assumed it was something like that. Your mother always did have a temper; I'm glad she's learning to recognize she can't treat servants poorly and get away with it. They'll find another mistress to work for who will treat them fairly."

"Yes, Sir."

Rhett laughed lightly, realizing Wade probably had no idea what Rhett was talking about. "Good night then, son."

"Good night, Uncle Rhett."

Rhett closed the door behind him as he exited Wade's room and descended the stairs to the second floor. He removed his stickpin and then loosened and removed his cravat before making his way to his room. He hoped he had eased Wade's mind. The boy really had courage when it came down to it, especially if he really didn't know how Rhett was going to react to getting that letter.

He removed his suit coat and trousers, hanging them over his valet before he changed into a black silk robe he had come by when one of his ships docked in Charleston from the Orient. It was a stunning garment, and Rhett could not help but buy a deep ruby red one similar to it for Scarlett.

He knocked lightly on the door joining his bedroom suite to Scarlett's and entered. He had not boxed the silk robe, not sure if he was ever going to give it to her. He watched her briefly as she brushed out her hair for the night. "I bought this for you at Christmastime actually. I figured since it's bedtime you might want to try it out."

Scarlett turned to look at him, her eyebrows rising as she regarded him. "Matching robes, Rhett?"

"Well, not exactly, no. Yours is red and mine is not." He chuckled lightly.

She stood and walked the short distance from her vanity to where he stood and ran her hand over the red robe draped over his forearm. "It feels nice," she whispered.

"I thought so," Rhett said simply. He watched with interest as she seemed almost nervous just then. "I've admittedly wondered what it would feel like on you."

"Have you," Scarlett asked softly. She moved her hand from the robe draped over his arm to the robe he wore on his body. She touched him almost hesitantly but nonetheless meant it as a caress, passing over his broad and hardened chest. She had never really paid much attention to his form before, how hard he had to have worked at one time to get his body to look like it did. And strangely, despite knowing him for over a dozen years she had no idea just what he had done to get that way. Her hand encircled as much of his upper arm as she could and squeezed gently. "Hopefully it will feel as good on me as it does on you."

"I'm sure it will. You have more softness and curves to offer than I do."

"But a man isn't supposed to be soft and curvy."


"No," she laughed lightly. "In fact, I'd say most women would look at you and say that a man should look just like you; tanned, rugged, hard where he should be and soft where he should be, too."

"You're too kind," he said softly. "I should tell you, though, that you're making soft parts of me hard by touching me like that, Scarlett."

She blushed slightly, tempted to look down to his waist but refrained. "Is that so bad?"

"No, I wouldn't say it's bad at all."

"Can I try that robe on now, Rhett," she asked letting her hand travel lightly lower along his arm to the robe once again.

"Scarlett, what are you trying to do?"

"What do you mean, Rhett? I just want to try on the robe. My husband comes home, apparently for good, and he's brought me a luxurious gift."

He cleared his throat lightly. "Well, if I didn't know better I'd think you wanted me to stay in your room with you."

"Maybe I do. Shouldn't you stay here?"

"Well, if you remember correctly you sort of barred me from coming in here."

"That was a long time ago and I was a foolish girl then. And I honestly wasn't sure how to unsay it." She glanced up at him coquettishly. "Do you remember the night of Ashley's birthday party?"

Rhett winced slightly. "Vaguely, yes, I was a bit inebriated but I remember I wasn't overly kind to you when you returned home that evening."

"Oh, but Rhett," she said softly as she shed the wrapper she had been wearing as she backed the short distance from Rhett to her vanity. She draped it over her vanity chair and then turned to face Rhett again. She was being uncharacteristically bold, but she was not sure he would initiate lovemaking between them so soon after his return. She hoped he would not mind, Scarlett suspected somehow that the best way to let him know she had really changed was in their bed. He had heard her say things for years, and she had heard tell that actions spoke louder than words.

The deep yellow nightgown she wore matched the gown she had worn to dinner that evening and would offer a nice contrast to the red of the robe he had brought for her. The nightgown while floor length had slits along the sides of both legs up to her hips offering him plenty of leg to view as she walked toward him.

She took the robe from him and put it on, not bothering to belt it closed. Her hands went to his forearms and clutched them, aiding her in bringing herself up to his height to kiss him. "I enjoyed it," she whispered as she broke the kiss.

Rhett pulled back from her, his surprise and pleasure both reflected clearly in his eyes. "You enjoyed it?"

"God strike me down in my place for admitting to it, Rhett, but yes. I often wonder how different things might have been if I'd just spoken up that next morning before you left with Bonnie and told you I wasn't mad at you."

"I wager things would be different between us, yes," he admitted. He lifted his hand and pushed aside some of her hair. "You know why I left that day, don't you?"

"Well, I've tried to figure it out, but I never could really."

"I was too vulnerable, you still thought you loved Ashley and by making love to you like that I was too raw, my emotions were right there for you to see and I was afraid you'd use them against me."

She reached for the belt of his robe and untied it, placing her hands inside the robe and under his undershirt. "Are you still afraid," she asked as her hands pushed his undershirt up so she could touch his broad chest and the light sprinkling of hair there.

Rhett's eyes fell closed briefly and he swallowed hard before he opened his eyes again. "Yes," he admitted.

"Well, I'm scared too," Scarlett admitted. "But we can either let it control us and lose out on possibly the best thing in our lives, one another, or we can push it aside and not let it get the best of us."

"How did you get to be so smart, Mrs. Butler?"

"I am married to this very shrewd businessman you see and he's taught me a lot."

"Oh really," he said as he shed his robe and then his undershirt which she was doing all she could to remove it with the robe still on. "I think he'd like to teach you some more and be taught some, too."

Scarlett knew that Rhett had not come back to Atlanta with this in mind, but she knew that she had to start somewhere with showing him she was sincere. Just how long did one wait to start showing their husband they loved him? She was not sure what propriety might dictate on this matter and tonight she did not care. She wanted Rhett to take her to that place again and this time they would both be sober and wanting to attain the same heightened pleasure. Hopefully, she thought with a twinge of uncertainty running through her this would not be a disappointment.

Both seemed somewhat inhibited just now and Scarlett took this as a good thing, too much confidence on either of their parts could be disastrous.

Scarlett not sure just what she should do sat on the bed, looking up at him knowing she made a tempting sight with her right leg crossed over the left exposed to her hip. "So, Mr. Butler," she said eyeing him in what she hoped was a suggestive manner. "Are you going to stand there all night?" Not that she needed to ask the question, he had already started walking towards her.

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