Scarlett was watching him, his face so close to hers, his eyes as mocking as always. The happy smile she had on because of his wonderful gift started vanishing. Something irked her in the most unpleasant way.
She suddenly remembered the many faces of the boys back in the County, boys who had begged, implored for the smallest bit of attention. How they flattered and humbled themselves for the favour of being alone with her for a few seconds of rushed and chaste liberties!
Even those two Yankee boys she had met in Saratoga, so confident and insolent in the beginning, how she made them grovel for a kiss in the garden of the hotel in the end. On separate dates, of course, she wasn't a hussy to kiss two boys in one night.
How they all fawned over her, and how they all admired her tiny hands and sparkling eyes looking forward for the slightest brush of their lips against hers. And how she loved how they apologised and asked for forgiveness afterwards, all while she played the wronged and innocent belle, who had been taken advantage of.
They all came back, wishing for another chance, and, horror of horrors, most of them asking for her hand. But she was in love with Ashley and waiting for him, and no one except poor, annoying Charles managed to get a second kiss, and that's only because they were married.
And now, this man, this rude and perplexing man, his face as close to hers as possible was telling her…what? That she needed kissing? That he had enough self restrain not to be overwhelmed by her beauty and charm and dimples and the greenest eyes he had ever seen? He said so himself.
She, who had started getting marriage proposals as soon as thirteen, who had the longest string of admirers in all Georgia, was being…toyed with? By someone not even allowed in proper society? By someone with the most terrible reputation in all Southern states? He should be grateful he was received under her roof, and plead for every minute alone with her, gift or no gift. How dared he not fall for her? He should want her desperately, Scarlett suddenly decided, and she thought she knew exactly how to make that happen.
Her eyes narrowed with determination, a single brow going up. She listened to the sounds of the house, making sure no servant was close, and pursed her lips more. Her hands flew up, grabbing the back of his head without any affection and she pushed herself up on her toes. He was going to kiss her, and he was going to like it and he was going to come back for more, like all the other fools before him. And how she was going to enjoy having the most arrogant man alive crawl at her feet.
Rhett's body stiffened in surprise when her lips met his, but only for a second. He wasn't expecting it, but his sharp reflexes kicked in immediately. Scarlett had her eyes closed and her mouth was simply pressing onto his, harder and harder. Poor girl, Rhett thought amused, no wonder she's so stuck up, she has barely been kissed before.
His hands went around her waist, barely touching her, and he slowly brought her closer. He opened his mouth slightly and pulled her lower lip gently between his lips, and then her upper lip. A small voice in the back of his mind was telling him that he had never held a waist so tiny, that he had never felt lips so soft and plush.
To make sure of this his hands tightened around her, and his tongue lazily brushed the pink flesh of her lower lip. Somehow, this made Scarlett move even closer, wanting to feel more of the warmth his body was spreading, and, taking his cue, Rhett languidly opened her mouth with his and started kissing her properly.
The moment he felt the sweetness of her mouth he closed his eyes, feeling his knees buckle, and she opened hers, shocked. No one had ever done this to her, not even her deceased husband. What kind of trick was this? But that was her last coherent thought before her brain simply refused to cooperate. Her eyelids felt heavy, as if a long awaited, much needed sleep was enveloping her, and Rhett's arms were the most peaceful place she could find to rest. Her supple body went limp, and she curved her neck allowing him to do whatever magic he was doing at the moment.
In her lethargy, she could only concentrate on his smell and taste, and both felt wonderful. This was something she never experienced before, this amazing manner in which all her senses were awoken for the first time, but in such a slow and soft way, she could find no reason to put a stop to it.
A small sight escaped from both of them, but died silently between their crushed mouths. Not a sound was heard except the tick tock of the old clock in the corner of the room. Her hands started moving through his hair at the same time his started moving up and down her sides, feeling the hard bones of her corset, his thumbs pressing in her soft belly, just bellow her ribs.
Rhett wanted to move his palms up and feel that firm bosom that was pushing into his chest but the sweetness of her mouth and the innocence of her smell made him think such intentions were too impure for such a long awaited moment, so he cupped her face with infinite gentleness and the tips of his fingers touched the delicate skin on top of her small ears and the soft strands of hair above them. Scarlett trembled and he couldn't stop the low groan that escaped him.
To say that the indomitable Rhett Butler was unaffected by this delicious kiss was the biggest lie and he knew it. The triumphant feeling that had washed over him in the beginning was gone and only three words were spinning around behind his closed lids. Sweet, soft, tiny, sweet, soft, tiny, again and again. What was happening to him? Never in his life had he known that someone, that he, could feel so much desperate tenderness and desperate desire towards a woman. He was kissing Scarlett. No, she was kissing him. They were kissing. Was this for real or just another of the many fantasies his mind had woven in the last months?
During his time as a professional gambler, whenever he went to sleep Rhett Butler had only dreamt about shuffling cards and poker combinations. Those dreams had followed him for years, until one spring night, when he started dreaming with alarming frequency a green eyed girl who was throwing things in his direction. And then, after that ill fated dance, ill fated because it was the start of his downfall in his eyes, he started dreaming about doing the most indecent things to Scarlett and how she was a most wiling participant in whatever dirty games his mind was imagining. The only times he managed to sleep without tossing and turning were, strangely, when he was in Atlanta. Knowing that she was a few streets away, in a bed she had never shared with that unfortunate husband of hers, made him rest peacefully.
He vaguely started to realise that this was not just some other girl and this was not just a kiss. This was the kiss, the one he was going to remember until his dying day. It was almost painful to know that it was going to end, and that he was going to have to revert to his rude, crude ways towards Scarlett. But how could he not after this? How was he going to admit to her how shaken he was by her indestructible self-confidence in her beauty, her sparkling eyes? Especially when he knew she was in love with someone else, someone who was never going to feel what he felt now when he finally had her in his arms?
He had to stop this madness, this subtle poison her warm breath was pushing into his body, stop this stupid suspicion that there was no one else for him, could never be anyone else but this half spoiled child, half selfish woman who spent her nights dreaming of a bland simulacrum of a man. He had to know. She had to tell him if she was ever thinking of him, he had to make her understand that this kiss could not be a single occurrence, that there was more that had to happen between them. And because he was already crawling back to her every few months without any sign of his infatuation diminishing, and his thoughts were muddled now that she was so close, he decided to ask her.
Scarlett thought of nothing. She could not, for there was nothing to be thought about when such a strong, firm chest was supporting her whole body. She felt powerless in the most delicious way. His smell alone made her feel as safe as a baby at its mother's bosom. When Rhett's mouth tried to disentangle from hers, she gave a disappointed mewl and tried to push his head back, but he wouldn't let her.
Her eyelids slowly lifted, and after a few tentative fluttering of lashes, she managed to focus on his face. She almost stopped breathing seeing the intensity in dark irises. He had never looked at her like that. No one ever did. His eyes were burning hers and she felt a torrid wave hitting her, making her blush and sweat and feel faint and spellbound. She couldn't even blink. His thumb traced her upper lip, swollen and red because of his kiss, and he asked:
"What about Ashley Wilkes?"
Scarlett simply stared. All of Ellen's and Mammy's teachings about how a young girl should behave in the presence of the opposite sex were erased in that moment from her mind anyway, so she did something she never did, she told the truth:
"I can't think of him when you're around."
Rhett's heart skipped a beat. His thumb continued to her lower lip, and, when he reached the middle of it, Scarlett's mouth pursed and her tiny teeth bit slightly on the tip of his finger.
Rhett Butler closed his eyes for a second, trying to stop the tremble that washed over his body. This ironic voice inside his head was telling him that this was probably the most erotic thing that had ever happened in his entire life, and how funny it was it took place under the roof of an old maid, part of Atlanta's most respectable families and with a girl who barely had any grasp of what she was doing to him.
When he recovered he saw Scarlett looking at him with big, terrified eyes. She jumped from his side, and clumsily managed to walk to the half closed door, almost stepping on her skirts.
"Get out.", she whispered, opening the door.
"Scarlett…", Rhett started, but it was no use.
"Get out now.", Scarlett's voice grew louder, and she was already in the hallway.
He went after her, and grabbed his hat and gloves from the small table near the entrance. Her cheeks were burning and her fingers were twisting around each other with alarming briskness.
"Scarlett, you don't have to…", he tried again, but her eyes were set on the large bookcase that could be seen behind him, through the open door of the parlour. Books, she thought incoherently, why do the Hamiltons need so may books.
"Get out now and never come back.", her voice came, low again but almost hysterical.
Rhett simply nodded and got out.
The moment he was out of the house Scarlett ran upstairs to her room and locked the door behind her. She looked at the bed, but somehow it seemed almost indecent to throw herself on it after such shameful, outrageous behaviour, so she sat on the small chair in front of her vanity. She watched her face in the mirror, looking for signs that her physical appearance was as changed as she felt on the inside, but couldn't find any. Trying to stop the turmoil and confusion she lowered her head on her crossed arms and closed her eyes.