A/N: Hey everyone! I got so many nice reviews on the first chapter so I've decided to continue it. I can't promise a consistent update schedule, but I'll try my best! I've put in italics the quotes that I've borrowed from Margaret Mitchell. Enjoy!
Scarlett walked out of the library and realized that she felt more relief than confusion. She still wasn't sure what had just conspired behind the closed doors of the Twelve Oaks library but she did know she was glad it had happened. She swiftly made her way to the staircase and made her way back up to the room where she was supposed to be napping. Rather than crawling into a bed, she sat at a vanity and acted as if she had just woken up from her afternoon nap. She smoothed her hair and pinched her cheeks and contemplated what had just happened in the library.
Rhett Butler. For someone with such a nasty reputation he seemed to genuinely care about her predicament with Ashley. She wanted to hate him for hearing the conversation she and Ashley shared but his kindness made her forget that she was supposed to hate him. And what a relief it was to be able to talk to someone! Her closest friend was Cathleen Calvert and Scarlett knew that even Cathleen would not understand her feelings for Ashley. Since she had talked with Rhett Butler, Scarlett was unsure that even she herself understood her feelings for Ashley. Just this morning she had thoughts of eloping to Jonesboro with Ashley and leaving the barbecue and the ball behind but here she was, sitting at a vanity, and feeling like she should be heart broken. But she wasn't heart broken. Ashley was going to marry Melanie and there wasn't a thing that she could do to stop him. Maybe Rhett Butler had a point; this was her chance to start her life. She could leave her childish dreams of Ashley Wilkes behind and hope for something better and more fulfilling. She was always chasing after Ashley and, as he had mentioned to her in the library earlier, he never crossed the thin line that lay between them. It had never before occurred to Scarlett that Ashley might truly love Melanie. Did she really want to spend the rest of her life competing for another woman's husband? She realized that competing for Ashley's heart would be how she would spend the rest of her days if she didn't put him behind her now. And how unappealing it sounded to chase after a man who was already wed! No, she wouldn't do that. She would have to find Ashley and tell him what a mistake it was to confess her love to him. He would understand. He always understood. She stood to make her way back into the hallway to search for Ashley when she heard for the first time, without knowing it, the Rebel yell coming from the window that looked out onto the front lawn of Twelve Oaks. Several of the girls lounging on the beds began to stir and Scarlett rushed over to the window.
"Scarlett?" she heard Suellen's irritating voice coming from the bed she was resting on. "What's going on? What's all that noise? Don't they know we're trying to rest?"
"Oh, hush up! Something's happening and if you aren't quiet then we'll never find out what's going on!"
Practically all the men who had attended the barbecue were mounting their horses and racing down the driveway away from Twelve Oaks. What she could see from the window told her that they didn't look distressed – they looked excited. What could have all these men so excited to leave Twelve Oaks before the ball? She saw Charles Hamilton making his way towards the house and she decided to seek him out to see if he knew what all the commotion was about. Yes, he would inform her – she had shamelessly flirted with him all afternoon in hopes of making Ashley jealous, but now she just wanted to find out what all the excitement was about. She rushed out of the bedroom and, gripping the railing for support, made her way quickly down the stairs. She was watching the steps her feet made down the stairs to keep herself from tripping which caused her to run straight into the man who made her question everything – Rhett Butler himself.
"Miss O'Hara, what a surprise to run into you here. What brings you down from your afternoon nap so early?" He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it in as formal a manner as anyone else would have but in this instance, it sent shivers down her spine.
"Rhe – Mr. Butler," she looked down and flushed at her mistake. They were back to formalities now that there were other people around. She looked up at him and batted her thick eyelashes at him. "Oh, I just came down because I heard all of the excitement. Mr. Butler, do you know what's gotten everyone so worked up?" Her thoughts of finding either Ashley or Charles Hamilton were gone.
"That?" he glanced over his shoulder to the front door of the house, indicating the excitement Scarlett had witnessed from the second story window moments earlier. "Ah, yes. Mr. Lincoln has called for volunteers. It seems that we have a war at our doorstep."
A war! So, they had really gone and started a war! What fools men were! What good would a war do anyone?
"War! Who cares about a war anyhow?"
"A great many people care about this war, Miss O'Hara. However, I am not much for fighting. A war means money and I intend to use this opportunity to my greatest advantage."
Money? Advantage? What any of that had to do with a war, she didn't know, but she wanted to find out. She took Rhett's proffered arm and as they walked outside, Scarlett began to pry.
"Mr. Butler, you said earlier, during the barbecue, that the Yankees could lick us. That they could lick us in a month, even! How are you going to take advantage of such a terrible time?" She smiled sweetly at him, even though she did not know why. She was not trying to be sweet – she wanted answers.
"What a grown-up question to ask, my dear. May I call you that?" Once again, he didn't stop to wait for her reply. They were now standing underneath one of the live oaks that lined the driveway of the stately mansion and were observing the commotion that Mr. Lincoln had unknowingly erupted. "There are two times for making big money, one in the up-building of a country and the other in its destruction. Slow money on the up-building, fast money in the crack-up. And here we are, at the verge of a split and I don't plan on letting it slip through my fingers. Mr. Lincoln will have the ports blocked in a week. There will be a great need for supplies, for the war and for our Southern ladies, and our glorious cause will need someone to furnish those supplies." She sensed he was leaving something out but she did not ask for further explanation on that point.
"And I suppose you'll be the one getting those supplies?"
"How perceptive you are, Miss O'Hara." He was leaning on the tree they stood under and his eyes swept over her form and he grinned at her. His look made her shiver.
Scarlett thought back to just a few hours earlier, when Rhett Butler stood under this very same tree and shocked everyone at the barbecue by proclaiming that the Yankees would lick the Southerners in a month. She remembered the shock felt by everyone but she also remembered thinking that what Rhett Butler said was true. He was speaking practically and she appreciated practicality for it was the only way her own mind worked.
"I see," she said and smiled up at him. She didn't know why she felt so at ease with Rhett Butler, but she did and he seemed to feel the same way towards her. He had been so comforting in the library before and now here he was, detailing to her how he would take advantage of the war that they were on the brink of. She knew it was wrong – taking advantage of the only life she knew going to war, but there was something so intriguing about how he spoke of money. Big money, he had said! How nice it would be to have money and to buy anything and everything that one desired! Yes, that sounded like something she could reckon with.
"Mr. Butler," Scarlett had been so deep in her thoughts about money and Rhett Butler that she hadn't seen Charles Hamilton come up to them. His voice was short and clipped when speaking to Rhett and then he turned to her. "Miss O'Hara," he took her hand and kissed it and blushed profusely at his outward display of affection. "I wish to speak with you," he turned to look at Rhett but did not say anything. Rhett only looked at him with a grin on his face and his eyebrows raised, waiting for Charles Hamilton to ask him, Rhett Butler, to leave.
"Oh, Mr. Hamilton! I was just in the middle of a conversation with Mr. Butler. I do believe our conversation will have to wait. You do understand, don't you?"
"Oh. Uhm, yes. I – I… Yes I understand." He stammered and looked down at the ground and Scarlett looked at Rhett and rolled her eyes. She knew exactly what Charles Hamilton wanted to ask of her, especially after the way he already confessed that he wanted to marry her several hours earlier at the barbecue. Men were such fools, going around and proposing after she had only said a few frilly words to them. Charles turned to walk away from the pair under the tree – he had been turned down.
"Why, Miss O'Hara! How unlike you to refuse a boy his chance to propose!" Rhett's chest rumbled with laughter and she swatted her hand at his arm.
"Fiddle-dee-dee! What do you mean "unlike me?" I do believe we've only been acquainted for a few hours, Mr. Butler."
"Yes, we've only been acquainted for about that long but I feel that we are the same person, my dear. However, you are the much more feminine and pleasing-to-look-at version of myself." He winked at her and offered her his arm again. "Shall I escort you to your carriage?"
She looked up at him in confusion and then saw that her carriage was, indeed, waiting for her at the front of the house. Dilcey was already situated in the driver's seat next to their driver, Toby, with her and her sisters' dress boxes laid neatly across her lap.
"Oh, look! The war is already ruining our parties! I guess we won't be having the ball tonight after all. Pa must have ordered Toby to take us home. How dreadful!" She stamped her foot and took Rhett's arm. She looked up at him through thick lashes as they walked the short distance to the carriage. "Will you be around very long? In Jonesboro, I mean?" The words had left her mouth before she had a chance to stop them. She hadn't meant to ask that question. She didn't really care whether this strange man was going to be hanging around Jonesboro much longer!
"I hadn't planned on staying after today, but I do believe an urgent business matter has come up that I must attend to right away. It seems that I'll be in Jonesboro for the next few weeks, at least." He helped her into her carriage where Suellen and Carreen were already situated and stepped back. "I did so enjoy our conversations this afternoon, Miss O'Hara." He bowed and the carriage began moving. She couldn't help but look back over her shoulder at the man who had made her question the one sure thing in her life – her love for Ashley Wilkes.
"How was Ashley today, Scarlett? He didn't seem to be paying much attention to you." Suellen's irritating voice combined with the hooping and hollering of all the boys around her was enough to get on anyone's nerves.
"Oh, do hush! I don't care a thing about Ashley Wilkes." Scarlett replied.
And she meant it.