Chapter 1: The Great Escape

Rhett was lying on the bunk bed in his jail cell. As usual the little room was freezing cold but he did not make any effort to wrap his cape close around him. Vaguely he was aware that he felt uncomfortably cold. His skin started feeling numb from the lack of circulation but he did not care. The cold he experience was matched by the frostiness he felt in his heart. Cynically he thought his physical and mental state balanced perfectly this way. Similar to the days before, he spent most of his waking hours lying on the hard bed, staring into nothingness. He only picked at the meals that were brought to him by the Yankee captain. Captain Thomas Jaffery had started to consider Rhett Butler somewhat of a friend. Despite the dismal circumstances of his incarceration Rhett Butler always gave a vigorous impression and the imprisonment had not affected his sharp wit. While playing cards they had shared many laughs over the last few weeks.

A week ago Rhett Butler had a visit. Another 'sister'. But despite any lack of resemblance this one could have easily been his sister. In the Yankee captain's eyes Rhett was the personification of a Southern Gentleman. Jaffery had been impressed by the woman's matching ladylike conduct. Butler's spirits had risen considerably when he had given him her name: Scarlett. What an unusual name that was. But it suited the lady.

The energy that leaped off Butler's posture when first meeting the lady in question was replaced by a sullen demeanour by the time she left him.

Jaffery overheard the last few lines they exchanged and they weren't very friendly just to say the least. That evening Butler had not touched his food and in the morning he did not seem his usual self. Strangely enough the prison seemed gloomy without Rhett's vivacious demeanour. So this morning Jaffery risked the scorn of his superiors by providing his prisoner a tub of hot water and some soap. For weeks Butler had complained of the lack of sanitation in his makeshift jail cell, so Jaffery had counted on a welcome reception bearing his 'gift'. However, all Butler had given him was a wry smile and he said 'thanks but no thanks' before he let himself fall back on his bed again. Even the way the tall man was laying on the bed was out of character. He lay in an inelegant position and his smutty shirt was partially hanging out of his trousers. Jaffery was sure that Rhett had not combed his hair once in the last week.

He had no way of knowing what occurred between Butler and the lovely woman that visited him but it must have been something significant for Butler to change so much. Jaffery remembered how the little lady had fainted at the news of Rhett's hanging. Maybe the lady's distress had made Butler realise the end could be near? The first few weeks of his 'stay' Butler sure had been acting mighty cheerful for a fellow that faced the gallows. Jaffery sighed, it was a real pity that Butler lost his spunk and it would make his own assignment in Atlanta far less entertaining.

Late that afternoon another sister announced her presence. The other officers refused for her to see the tall dark man they held captive, but when Jaffery heard about it he rushed over to grant her permission. Maybe another female would be able to lift Butler's spirits. He had seen this one once before. How could he forget her? There weren't many women with such bright red hair. When he went to fetch Rhett he feared for a moment that the inmate would refuse to see this particular visitor but to Jaffery's relief Butler dragged himself up from the bed and followed him into the small room where the redhead was waiting for him. The captain closed the door behind them so that they could have a chat in private.

'Afternoon Belle, what brings you to this Godforsaken place?' Rhett greeted his friend.

Belle rushed over to Rhett but the tired look on her friend's face made her hold back the hug she had initially wanted to give him. When she studied him closer she noticed that he looked more unkempt than the last time she visited.

'Rhett, you look dreadful. I hope the Yankees aren't, er, mistreating you?'

'Them? No, they bark but don't bite. They are quite friendly actually'. He then leaned forward to give her a peck on the cheek.

Belle frowned. Something was not right. Rhett had always been an energetic person; his presence usually seemed to fill a room. Today he seemed dull. She had spent some time putting together her ensemble today, but to her disappointment his eyes didn't rake her the way they usually did. It was not like Rhett Butler to be in the same room with a curvaceous woman and not appreciate her with an insolent stare.

'So what brings you here Belle? Wanted to see me one last time before they hang me?' The remark was not accompanied by the familiar soft rumble in his chest. She longed to see the leaping mischievous light in his eyes when he made that joke, but his face remained dark.

Rhett held out a chair for her and she sat down.

'Oh, Rhett Butler, nobody's going to hang you. Did you forget that it was me you gave those letters to? I posted them to the esteemed gentlemen, just like you asked'.

'Ah, yes, that's right. Well, I almost wish they would hang me'. Belle jumped up from her chair.

'Rhett Butler, don't let me hear you say such words! What has come over you? It is not like you to be so, so… Did somebody die or what? I have never seen you like this'. Then a thought struck her.

It was only yesterday she heard that Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton was secretly engaged. To that sweet old man Kennedy no less. One of the church clerics – that visited her house in strictest secrecy – had revealed this news to one of her girls. It was the first time Belle had heard of it. Surely a woman like Scarlett O'Hara could catch a younger if not better looking husband than Mr. Kennedy? Nice as he was. Why, Scarlett could have married Belle's heart's desire if she played her cards right. It was the only lady of standing that Rhett had ever expressed interest in. If he heard of Scarlett's choice he would feel gob-smacked. But this news could not be the reasons for Rhett strange behaviour. If Belle had not picked up on the rumour on the streets how could Rhett be aware of Scarlett's engagement? It was not as if in jail he had visitors on a daily basis.

'I just came to see how you are doing, Rhett. And it is a good thing I did. I have never seen you looking so miserable. What's up, honey?'

Rhett smiled warmly. Good old Belle. She was always there for him. Over many glasses of whiskey they had shared their lives. Helped each other through good and bad times. And she had been all too willing to let him unleash all his pent up desire for Scarlett. She knew the score, he could only love her as a friend, or so he told himself when guilt started creeping up on him. Deep down he knew it was a fact that he used her love to stroke his own ego. He felt a swinish comfort in bedding a woman that so completely adored him, while the girl that occupied his heart was never very soothing. Next to a wise investment his association with Belle's saloon served mainly for paying off his guilty conscience.

He knew he should not burden her with his own broken heart but he did not possess many people in his life that he could be honest with. He sat himself down on one of the stools and sighed deeply. Belle sat down again too.

'It's Scarlett, Belle'. His red-haired friend gave him a pensive look.

'She was here a few days ago'.

'Scarlett?' Belle exclaimed.

'You mean to tell me that Mrs Charles Hamilton visited you here in this stinking little jail?' Belle could not get her head around the idea nor what it meant.

'But Rhett, is that not good news for you than? That she cared so much for you that she risked her own reputation by visiting you in this place'. For a moment Belle saw the familiar shrewd smile appear on his face.

'You made the same mistake as me, Belle'. Belle frowned.

'Oh, yes, I was such a fool. You see, I have been keeping track of Scarlett ever since I came back to Atlanta'.

'Oh, Rhett!' Belle sighed.

'Yes, I know. I can't help it, she is in my blood'

'I visited her Aunt a few times before they locked me up and the lady told me that everybody at the O'Hara plantation is doing well. I can't tell you how relieved I was'.

'When you are in the trenches you hear all these horrible stories about the Yankees visiting the plantations and getting their hands on everything and everyone'.

'I was contemplating on visiting rural Georgia just so that I could see for myself how Scarlett was doing. Than they threw me into jail and I thought it would be a long time before I could look into those extraordinary eyes again'. His gaze became dreamy for a moment and Belle clenched her fists.

She knew who he was dreaming of. Rhett coughed to clear his throat.

'So you can imagine my delight when Captain Jaffery announced the visit of my 'sister' Scarlett'.

'Well, you know my vanity Belle. The fact that Scarlett would look me up in a jailhouse told me everything I needed to know'.

'Naturally our little romance on the night Atlanta fell had not left her cold. Or so I thought'.

'I convinced myself that I had been on her mind all these months that we were apart, just like she had been on my mind'.

'Don't look so sad, Belle, you know I am telling you the truth, as always. Even during the heaviest fighting, while my fellow combat men were dying in the mud, my heart was full of Scarlett's green eyes and red lips'.

'Scarlett's visit took place in this very same room actually'. He looked around the room, his mind obviously reliving that day.

'Of course I prodded her a bit first; I wanted to know how serious she was'.

'Initially I was a bit disappointed that she refused my kisses but then she said all the words I wanted to hear'.

'How she was afraid for my well-being; that she had been distraught to hear about my possible hanging. And she looked so sweetly at me; her little innocent face was so full of love and tenderness'.

'I was overcome with joy. I almost blurted out my deepest feelings; I came so close to revealing everything'. He shook his head as if he could not believe his own stupidity.

'Oh, she looked so beautiful, Belle. She was wearing a velvet green dress that exactly matched her eyes'.

'I just could not believe my luck. I always anticipated that conquering Scarlett's heart would be a long and difficult process and now she had just fallen into my lap'. Belle shook her head.

'I don't understand Rhett, if…' She interrupted her speech to swallow something bitter in the back of her throat.

'Now that Scarlett Hamilton loves you, why are you in such dire straits?' His face had been bent but now he looked up at Belle with burning eyes. His dark eyes penetrated through Belle as if they were two simmering black coals.

'Oh, she had me convinced there for a while, Belle'.

'I always told Scarlett I could see right through her and that was true before I joined the army. But she must have hardened in my absence, because she sure staged a nice play'. He laughed a cynical laugh.

'Would you believe that I almost fell on my knees and proposed marriage to her?'

'Yes, don't look at me with those big eyes, Belle, I know, I must have been out of my mind!'

'I was building up the courage for it when I turned her hands to kiss her palms'. His face became dark and cloudy al of a sudden. 'They looked like the hands of a damned field hand!'

He got up abruptly. The stool he had been sitting on tumbled over because of the rash movement.

'She came here for my money, Belle, she heard the rumours about my wealth and she came here to lure me into marriage'. Belle could hear the emotion in his voice.

'She did not want me; she needed a piggybank for that plantation of hers'.

'And when I discovered her deception and she knew she lost the fight, she did not hesitate to sell herself to me'.

'Sell herself Belle! Like some cheap wh… Well, you know what I mean'. He motioned his hand in a dismissive gesture, but Belle felt hurt by his words.

So Rhett Butler was outraged at Scarlett O'Hara selling her body to him, but he had no problems with Belle doing the same? Belle felt like leaving Rhett Butler to his own devices. She loved him more than anyone in this world, but there was only so much she could take from him.

He turned his back on her. She saw him lifting one arm above him and leaning into the wall. His head was bent. She could feel his despair. Immediately she forgot her own hurt feelings and rushed over to him. Gently she caressed his broad back.

'I felt like weeping, Belle'. His voice cracked. 'But instead I played her like a fool'.

'I guess I wanted to avenge her deceit. I did not really want to hurt her, but she had just ripped my heart out, so…'

'She got so upset, Belle. In the end she fainted. Now, I don't know if I have ever told you this, but Scarlett O'Hara never faints'.

'And she looked so pale and fragile. I believed for a moment that I had lost her forever. But she is as tough as old boots'.

'She came around and shouted at me some more'. He chuckled at the memory.

'In the end she left here with some very harsh words'.

'Ever since then I am feeling very bleak. I told myself that this little display of her cold heart should cure me of any feelings I have for her'.

'But I have quickly realised that even if I start living on the moon, Scarlett O'Hara will always have a hold over me'.

'It would be funny if it was not so damned sad'. All of a sudden his black eyes focussed on Belle. As if he realised all of a sudden he was not alone in that room.

'I am sorry to bore you with my broken heart, Belle. It was so good of you to come'. Belle took the hint and started putting on her gloves. As an afterthought she told Rhett to really do his utmost to get over his feelings for the green eyed vixen.

'She will be somebody else's wife very soon and there is no point in pining for her then'. Rhett's eyes grew big.

'What do you mean?' Belle realised her mistake but it was too late. Rhett towered over her and his big hands shook her shoulders.

'What do you mean, Belle Watling? Who is she getting married to?'

'Tell me who he is, because, by God, I swear I will kill him'.

'It is Mr. Kennedy', Belle whispered. Immediately Rhett let go of her. He looked dumbstruck for moment.

'Kennedy? As in: Frank Kennedy?' Belle nodded. Disbelieving Rhett stared at her for a while. Than he threw his head back and laughed loudly. So loud that Captain Jaffery knocked on the door and begged him to keep it down.

'Oh, this is priceless', Rhett said while holding his belly.

'I knew Scarlett would find other ways to keep the wolf from the door, but to turn to that old weasel'. As quickly as the mirth had appeared on his face it vanished. It was replaced by a look of grim determination.

'There is no way in hell I will let that old bastard touch Scarlett'.

'As soon as I get out of here I will make sure this wedding is one that will never take place'. Belle informed quietly how long it would take for him to get released.

'I expect in a week or two, I know people of influence but they still have to deal with the slow wheels of bureaucracy'. He looked at Belle, she looked concerned.

'Oh, don't worry Belle, I will get out of here, no Yankee is going to hang me. They know I will spill the beans then and there are many that don't want me to do that'.

There was something else in Belle eyes. Not only did she look worried, she looked guilty somehow. Guilty of hiding something. With two steps he stood in front of her.

'When is Scarlett getting married, Belle?' His voice sounded deceptively friendly, but Belle did not miss the sharp undertone.

She raised her head and looked him in the eye. She loved this man to the bone. For years she had hoped he would reciprocate her feelings. Having Scarlett locked away in marriage would only increase her chances. But she could not lie to him.

'Tomorrow. Scarlett is marrying Frank Kennedy tomorrow in a secret ceremony'.

*Escape from Destiny*Escape from Destiny*Escape from Destiny* Escape from Destiny *Escape from Destiny*

When Captain Jaffery checked up on the prisoner and his visitor he found the visitor lying on the floor in tears. Her dress was torn. The room looked as if there had been a struggle. There was no sign of Rhett Butler. It turned out that one of the heavy supply cabinets had been moved. Most men could not have done that by themselves, but Mr. Butler was strongly built. More puzzling was the fact that the door behind it was unlocked. Jaffery was a hundred percent certain that it had been locked this morning. He tried to make the redhead explain to him how Butler managed to escape from the room but she was too distraught to tell a coherent story.

Jaffery and his men questioned Belle for a long time but she claimed to have been in such shock from that vile man's outburst that everything that happened next was a blur to her now. In the end Jaffery felt so sorry for her that he let one of his men accompany her back to her saloon. Belle felt relieved. Rhett's devious plan worked.

When Rhett had started opening the buttons of her dress she had giggled. She could not follow his mood swing but if he needed her to comfort him then she would be there for him. To her disappointment he did not want to make love to her. He only asked her to take out the small knife she always carried in her corset. Swiftly he told her his plan. Together they made the room look untidy and with perspiration on his face Rhett moved the heavy cupboard out of the way. Like a professional burglar he then easily picked the lock with the aid of Belle's knife.

Before he fled through the now open door, he turned to Belle and unceremoniously tore her dress in several places. Lethargically Belle glanced at him. Gone was the gloomy mood that possessed him on her arrival. The idea of rescuing Scarlett O'Hara had made Rhett come alive again. His demeanour reminded her so much of his attitude during Atlanta's siege. At that time she begged him often to leave town and take her with him, but he just laughed away her fears and hung around.

During those days his eyes were unfailingly alert; his body always looked tensed up, like a leopard ready to pounce on its prey. After Scarlett's darkie came for him on that final night, he was in a strange electric mood. She was certain she had lost him forever to Scarlett that night and for months she did not know if he was dead or alive. But he came back to her.

Now she was going to lose him all over again. She recognized his determination. He would not stop at anything this time. He would make Scarlett his, if it was the last thing he ever did. Rhett gave Belle a Judas kiss on her lips and with his cape waving behind him he disappeared through the open door. When Belle lay on the floor and cried hot tears she had no trouble convincing the Yankees of her despair. For her despair was real; she cried the tears of a broken heart.

*Escape from Destiny*Escape from Destiny*Escape from Destiny* Escape from Destiny *Escape from Destiny*

The fog was swirling around her. She was running again. Her hands felt so cold and hunger was gnawing at her. She kept running. She tried to reach it. Her body was so tired. If only she would get there, she knew only then she would be safe.

'Scarlett, wake up! Wake up, honey, you're dreaming'. The soothing voice tore her out of the dark nightmare.

Still trying to reach the surface she drowsily opened her eyes. Two black eyes were all she could see but instinctively she knew she was safe.

'Stop crying, darling, you were only having a nightmare', his voice fell pleasantly on her ears.

With his strong arms he lifted her upper-body and gently he cradled her head against his chest. She let out a sigh of relief. Rhett was here. She was safe.

Rhett? She wondered and immediately she came out of her dreamlike state. What was Rhett Butler doing in her room in the middle of the night? Rhett could feel her body tense up in his arms and as a precaution he let his arms fall away from her.

With big eyes and a white face Scarlett started backing away from him while she drew the covers around herself. He saw her open her mouth getting ready to scream and swiftly he moved closer and placed his big hand over her mouth. He managed to muffle her screams and he bit back his own cry when she put her little sharp teeth in his skin. With his other arm he kept her struggling body in place. Intently he listened if he could hear any movement in Pittypat's room but it looked as if his entrance had been unmarked. When he felt safe enough he started speaking to Scarlett in a very low voice without removing his hand from her mouth.

'Scarlett, listen. I know I am frightening you but trust me, my pet, I don't want to do you any harm'.

'I know you think I am a varmint or worse but trust me when I tell you that I am not enough of a cad to harm any woman, let alone you, my pet'.

'I would never intrude in your private quarters if not for the urgent matter that forced me to take these unprecedented steps'. Scarlett kept staring at him wide-eyed. He could see her chest heaving in what he hoped was anger and not fear.

'If you promise to hear me out for five minutes and swear not to scream, I will remove my hand. Now, can I trust you?' He asked.

Scarlett stared at him for a moment, her eyes slanting. Then she nodded her head. Saying a silent prayer Rhett removed his hand. To his relief she did not yell at him but he could see her nostrils flair. Automatically he shifted away from her on the bed.

'For God's sake, Rhett Butler, what do you think you are doing in my room?' She hissed.

'I could have you shot for this. You better explain yourself quickly before I scream the whole of Peachtree Street down'. In the bleak moonlight Rhett regarded her for a moment.

Not often had he seen her with her hair undone like this. She looked so innocent and frail. But that impression was belied by the curves that were clearly visible through her thin nightgown.

'I am sorry to scare you so Scarlett. I heard of your insane plans of matrimony and my chivalry ordered me to rescue this maiden in distress'. Scarlett was appalled at his mocking tone.

Even while harassing her in her own bedroom he had the gall to make fun of her. But how had he known of her betrothal to Frank? Not even her close family was aware of her plans. She decided to bluff.

'I have no idea what you are talking about, Rhett. You must be drunk; otherwise I cannot explain this strange visit'.

'If you leave this room now I am willing to turn a blind eye for the sake of our friendship. If not, I will scream so loud that Pittypat, Uncle Peter and all the other servants will be here in a heartbeat'. Scarlett could see his mouth twist up.

He looked like he was enjoying himself, as if he never had more fun.

'I think you know perfectly well what I am talking about, Scarlett. Tomorrow at two o'clock you intend to marry Frank Kennedy in the old chapel on Ivy street'.

'So you prefer Frank Kennedy's ardour to my illicit ways? That hurts, Scarlett'. He chuckled softly.

Vividly Scarlett remembered that awful scene in Rhett's jail only a week ago. Why, she had hoped to never see Rhett Butler again.

'What a pity the Yankees decided not to hang you after all'. She said in an evil voice.

'Oh, but the verdict is not out on that, my pet, I just decided I was not interested in a prolonged stay'.

'I had, er, a rather urgent matter to attend to'. Scarlett frowned at him. She was trying to make sense out of his words.

'Rhett, you escaped from jail!' She then cried.

'Hush, Scarlett, we don't want to wake Pitty do we?

'Yes, my love, I risked my hide to come to your rescue. That's how much I care'. Scarlett felt bewildered.

Rhett broke out of jail. And he said he did so for her. Then it dawned on her that she was harbouring a fugitive.

'Rhett, the Yankees, oh God, what will they do to me when they come looking for you here. What will Pitty say, what will the neighbours say about me?'

'Selfish till the end, my dear. Now why doesn't that surprise me?'

'But you might have a point there, my pet. The Yankees might be on my trail already. So let me tell you why I felt the need for interrupting your beauty sleep tonight'.

'You can deny it all you want Scarlett, but I know you intend to marry Frank Kennedy and I know why you want to marry the poor bastard. Since I believe such a marriage won't make you or him very happy I have come to make you a better offer'.

'I will pay the taxes on Tara for you. And no, don't look so worried. I won't be asking for any collateral this time'.

'I just want you to promise me that the next time you marry it will be out of love. Not for spite or for money'.

'But Rhett, you told me you could not get to your money'.

'I did not lie Scarlett; it will be a while before I can claim my fortune. Hell, after my, er, early release it might take a very long time before I can start spending what's unrightfully mine'.

'But I have some friends who do have money and they will tie me over for the time being'

'And since your virtue means the world to me, I am willing to get into debt for it'. As ridiculous as his words sounded Scarlett was aware of his real concern for her.

She would have loved to throw his offer back in his face, tell him that Frank was a far more decent man than him, that he had his chance and that Frank would look after her now. But marrying Frank was not a very appealing idea. All week she had kept her mind on the money Frank owned but alone in bed late at night fear for sharing a marital bed with her aging fiancée had been creeping up on her. She knew that was one of the reasons her old nightmares had returned more frequently over the last few days. Rhett's offer meant that she could escape such a fate.

But could she really escape it? Next to the taxes she owed, Tara needed a regular impulse. And next year the Yankees probably wanted more taxes. Frank's store would provide her with funds.

'Oh Rhett, I am appreciating your effort to be a gentleman for once and offer to help me out with the taxes. An offer being made under very peculiar circumstances if I may say so'.

'However, I am afraid I will still have to marry Frank'. Instantly Rhett leaned forward and grabbed one of her arms.

'Why Scarlett? Don't tell me the old gizzard could not wait for the wedding night. Has he touched you?' Scarlett was surprised at Rhett's ferocity.

When earlier he said he came to rescue a 'maiden in distress' she had assumed he was merely joking. She was not so sure now anymore.

'No Rhett, of course not. I would not let Frank Kennedy touch me without having a ring on my finger', she said practically. Then she sighed.

'It is Tara. Oh, Rhett, it is not only the taxes. There are so many mouths to feed. And I need shoes for the children and clothes for all of us'.

'Your offer is very kind and generous but I need a regular income and Frank can provide me with that'. Rhett let go of her arm. He sat silently for a while.

He could do with a cigar but he did not have any on him and he doubted Scarlett would allow him to smoke in her room.

After taking a deep breath he said: 'Alright, then I see that I will have to marry you instead'.

'You?' Scarlett giggled.

'I thought you weren't the marrying kind and besides Rhett, you just escaped from prison, do you really think the Yankees will allow you to get married before they lock you up again?' Rhett grinned.

'I don't intend to get locked up again. I will run across the state border and than travel to Texas. I will lay low for a while until this blows over and then I will claim my fortune'.

'I will be a very wealthy man one day, Scarlett'.

'So what will it be, old Frank with his dusty little store or me, a fine young man reputed to have a way with women and a nice large bank account behind him?' Scarlett wanted to pinch herself.

She wondered if she was still dreaming. This must be the strangest thing that ever happened to her. Here was Rhett Butler, escapee, paying an impudent nightly visit and proposing marriage to her.

She had compared Rhett to a heartening glass of brandy once and despite feeling groggy in the middle of the night his presence made something come alive inside of her. Something no other man ever stirred. Life would be so much more exciting by his side, especially in comparison to being Frank's little wife. But she knew she could handle Frank. Frank was like a well-trained dog, whereas Rhett resembled an untamed horse.

'Oh, don't look so frightened, Scarlett, I won't bite'.

'In fact I will never do anything in our marriage that you don't want me to. I am not a brute Scarlett, I will never hurt you'.

'You mean to tell me, Rhett, that our marriage will be a platonic one?' Rhett started to laugh in his bellowing manner and Scarlett told him to hush.

'No, I am not that unselfish, Scarlett. Like I told you before I always want something back for my efforts'.

'I wonder what happened in your marriage to poor Charlie that you have such a bleak view of the more intimate aspects of matrimony'.

'I promise you that I know how to handle a woman. Being married to me will be fun, believe it or not'. Scarlett snorted.

'Fun!' She said. 'Fun for you, you mean. All I will get out of it is a lot of work and a baby every year'.

'No, you will be a lady of leisure actually and I don't care if you have one baby or ten'.

'Besides, I know of ways to prevent pregnancy and if you want us to use those methods who am I to stop you'. Scarlett was grateful for the semi-darkness in the room for she could feel her cheeks burning.

Talking about the indecent acts marriage entailed was bad enough, but now he had also mentioned pregnancy and measures to prevent it. She had not heard about such measures until this moment.

And why was she discussing these matters with him anyway? She had not said yes to him. He was such a strange man. Wouldn't a marriage to Frank be far more predictable?

Oh God, Frank, she thought with a start. If Frank ever found out that Rhett Butler had visited her in her bedroom he would never want to marry her. No decent man in Atlanta would.

'Rhett, the sun will be up in an hour, you need to leave this room'.

'You have not given me my answer yet, Scarlett'.

'I.., I can't think of it right now. I need to clear my head. I will think about it tomorrow'.

'There is no time, honey. Not only is your marriage to Frank planned within the next twelve hours; as you pointed out so delicately, I am a man on the run'.

'I need your answer now, my pet'.

'I don't know, Rhett. I mean, I am fond of you. Well, I used to be, before you took liberties at Rough and Ready that was'.

'And I still have not forgiven you for your awful behaviour in that jail cell. I just don't know if marrying you would be such a good idea'.

'There is Wade to consider too. Frank can give him a proper home and…' Rhett interrupted her.

'Surely you know how much I like your son, Scarlett. During the war I was the only man that came close to a father figure for him'.

'Yes, I am in a bit of a predicament right now, but I promise you I will provide for both Wade and you'.

'Besides, you really prefer me over Frank, I know you do'. Scarlett started to sputter, but he just told her to stop lying.

Smoothly he moved closer to her on the bed. As if she was paralyzed Scarlett watched him approach her. With his index finger he slightly tilted her head and then he softly pressed his lips on her. Initially she felt only his small moustache tickle her but when his kisses became more intense she could clearly feel his stubbles brush her skin. In contrast to that roughness his tong felt warm and smooth against her own. Rhett took her in his arms and continued kissing her until he could feel she was out of breath.

He then withdrew his face and, while caressing the long hair hanging on her back, he told her to say yes. Scarlett opened her eyes and breathlessly whispered 'yes' to him. She felt that something had willed her into giving him that answer. Also she felt a calm descend upon her, as if this was the right thing to do.

One corner of Rhett's mouth went up and then he kissed her some more.

When he let go of her again, he told her to get dressed.

'Why, Rhett, it is the middle of the night!'

'You were right before Scarlett, it won't be long till Captain Jaffery comes looking for me here. Your visit to my horse jail did not exactly go unnoticed and it would only be logic for him to look for me at the house of my, er, sister'.

'But Rhett, I can't just be leaving like a thief in the night. What about Wade, what about Tara, what about my family?'

'We will send for Wade as soon as we can. I will wire the money for Tara to your foreman and since when do you give a hoot about your family, Scarlett?' Scarlett looked at him.

This was crazy, she thought. Crazy but oh so thrilling. The idea of running away with this man, this unpredictable man. But somehow she knew she was safe with him. She had been certain of that the night they fled burning Atlanta and she was dead certain of it now. However, she needed time to organize her clothing.

'Rhett, can't I just travel after you the coming days? It does not make sense to leave in the middle of the night'. Rhett gathered her up close again.

'Listen to me, Scarlett. I know you have every intention of marrying me now, but there is no telling what you will do when you have to face Frank tomorrow'.

'I am not letting you out of my sight until I place that wedding ring on your finger'. He saw the look on her face and knew she still hesitated.

'Come on, where is your sense of adventure? It will be so exciting, just think of it as an elopement'.

'Let's act like two foolish lovers. Wouldn't that be fun? You can rely on me. No matter what happens, honey, I will make sure you are well looked after.' Scarlett looked at him.

She never before considered Rhett Butler to be a man of honour, but deep inside of her she somehow knew she could take him for his word this time.

A/N: Happy Birthday, my good friend!