A/N: Okay I am posting this very tentatively. It is my first, I'll say 'real' attempt at smut, and I have a new admiration for those of you who can write this stuff so well. Sorry for the length of the story, it got away from me, which also has a lot to do with the reason I'm so late in updating my other stories. I'll be working that :) Anyway, I hope you like this.

The story starts the night that Tony Fontaine visits the Kennedy family. Also, as Alica pointed out, at this time in the novel Scarlett is already pregnant with Ella and is about to tell Frank, but for this story's sake, let's say she isn't expecting yet. The first two paragraphs are completely lifted from GWTW. *Insert disclaimer here*

For SJ. I hope this meets your expectations ;-)

She never wanted children of hers to know what all this was like. She wanted a secure and well-ordered world in which she could look forward and know there was a safe future ahead for them, a world where her children would know only softness and warmth and good clothes and fine food.

Frank thought this could he accomplished by voting. Voting? What did votes matter? Nice people in the South would never have the vote again. There was only one thing in the world that was a certain bulwark against any calamity which fate could bring, and that was money. She thought feverishly that they must have money, lots of it to keep them safe against disaster.

And like that fateful day at Tara when the taxes had skyrocketed, Scarlett knew there was only one man who could provide her with that kind of monetary security, and that man was Rhett Butler. How it drove her mad to think she would have to go back to him of all people, but when most of the South's citizens were struggling day by day only to make it by, some slowly dying of starvation in the process, she didn't have much choice in the matter.

"Come sugar, let's go to bed. You look right peaked," Frank said as he guided her to the bedroom.

Scarlett followed wordlessly as thoughts of money circled her mind. At times it felt like there wasn't enough money in the world to make her feel safe, but half a million dollars would certainly go a long way to calming her nerves. There was a deep disgust and hatred that ran through her at the idea that a man like Rhett Butler should have so much when she had so little. I'll just have to get my hands on some of it is all, she thought triumphantly, deciding that she would see to it the next day. If he'd gone about loaning her money once before, Scarlett couldn't see why he wouldn't do it again.

That next morning, Scarlett waited for Frank to leave for the store until she got ready to take a trip down to Rhett's hotel. Taking a quick look through the dresses in the closet, she decided to slip on the prettiest one she owned. Even though her purpose was not to go about enticing him, she couldn't help but feel the need to look her best in his presence. There was something thrilling in dressing for a man who noticed such things as fabrics and hairstyles. The claret colored frock she chose buttoned up to base of her throat and was clasped with a gold pin, while a chignon was firmly placed at the nape of her neck. After closely examining herself in the mirror, Scarlett brushed on the faintest bit of rouge to the apple of her cheeks and dabbed the tiniest bit of cologne on the sides of her neck before feeling completely satisfied with her appearance. With a quick reassuring inhale and exhale of air, she felt prepared to face her newest challenge.

~R&S~

Scarlett could feel tiny knots of anxiety building in the pit of her stomach as she stood in front of the door at Rhett's hotel room. The idea of being at Rhett's mercy once again held no appeal, but she quickly pushed the unpleasant thought from her mind. This time she would get what she wanted, and she inwardly chided herself for being such a ninny. As it was, she and Rhett had been on good terms thus far and there was no reason to worry.

After three quick raps, Rhett opened the door, and his dark eyes went from being surprised to lighting up with a devious gleam as he took her in.

"My dear Mrs. Kennedy, how good of you to come and see me. I have to say this is a surprise. Do you make it a habit of appearing unescorted in front of wealthy bachelors' hotel rooms?"

"How you do run on. Are you going to let me in or not?" she replied impatiently as she grew more uncomfortable with standing in the hallway where anyone might see her.

"Would you like to come in?"

"I'm standing here aren't I?"

Rhett laughed at her scowl and allowed her enough space to brush past him into the room.

"This is highly inappropriate, but I suppose I should take it as a compliment seeing as you couldn't possibly wait for me any longer to call on you at Pitty's. You must have missed me a great deal," he teased as he closed the door. "Does anyone know you're here, Scarlett?"

"Dear God no, Rhett, and you have to promise not to tell anybody."

"You're guilty secret is safe with me. It seems there are quite a few secrets I am keeping for you. What's one more?"

A swift anger made its way to the surface at his insinuation, but with a vast deal of difficulty, she managed to suppress it and the hot words which rushed to her lips. Rhett watched amusedly at the great pains it took for her not to utter a passionate rebuke, and his eyes eagerly searched her face for answers. There seemed to be a faint desperation underlying her restraint, and a deep curiosity took over him as he waited for her next words.

"Rhett, there is a reason I'm here," Scarlett finally said, gaining enough courage to stare him straight in the eyes.

"I assumed."

"You see I…well I need to borrow some more money."

"More money? What about your sawmill? Is it not paying out quite as much as you would have hoped?"

"Well, no, not exactly…it's just that I could do with some more money. I'm so worried that one day everything will be pulled out from under me. If I only had a bit more security I wouldn't be so worried. I'd pay you back Rhett, just as soon as I have my mill really up and running. I was also hoping to buy another mill and maybe build a saloon."

Rhett listened keenly, taking in her words with an air of nonchalance, but his dark eyes were snapping joyfully. A second opportunity had finally come his way and he would be damned if he would pass it up again. It had been hard enough to suppress the rage at his impotence when she had come to him at the jail, watching her walk away after he'd failed her, only to find out later that she had thrown herself at fussy old Frank Kennedy. It still stung. But now that she needed him again, it was the perfect occasion to soothe the wound and fulfill a long contrived fantasy.

"And what collateral do propose for my investment this time?"

Oh. Not that word again, she thought nervously. Scarlett had hoped he wouldn't ask for anything in return, given there was nothing to offer him other than interest on the loan. There was certainly no way she was going to make the same mistake and offer him mortgage on Tara only to be subjected to ridicule once again.

"What do you want?"

His eyes raked over her body in an impudent manner, burning through the fabric of her dress and making her feel completely undressed, and Scarlett brought up her arms to cover her breasts, despite the fact that she was fully clothed.

"Oh!" she shrieked in moral indignation, the hot temper rising. "You disgusting, vile—"

"My dear, that's certainly no way to go about receiving favors from old friends. I don't see why you are so outraged. You have come to me in need and I am offering you an escape under one condition. You're a business woman. Surely you didn't think I would loan you more money without a security on my investment after you haven't finished paying off your first debt?"

"How dare you even think that I would ever—I'm a married woman!"

"Yes, and your marriage is built on the purest foundation of love and honesty. To think you would ever deceive old Frank and consort with the likes of me is shameful. Forgive me. Though, I wonder how quickly you'd give in to this proposal if I were Ashley. It wouldn't take you very long to disregard your vows and throw away your ring then, would it my dear."

"Shut up! I hate you!" she shrieked, enraged and grasping for words which would wound.

"Hardly, you only hate how well I know you. Come Scarlett, there are no secrets between us."

"Get out! I don't want to discuss it."

"May I remind you that this is my hotel room," he said with a mocking laugh.

Glancing around the room, Scarlett realized he was right and remembered why she had come here in the first place. She was trapped, and no amount of petulant foot stomping or Southern Belle tactics would change his mind.

"My proposal still stands. Perhaps you would like to think it over."

What's there to think over? she thought wretchedly. Scarlett wanted the money, no longed for it more than she longed for anything in the world… except Ashley, but she pushed that painful thought aside. Since she had already come this far, she might as well go through with it to the end. If there was something that she wanted desperately enough, she would go to just about any lengths to get it.

Rhett loved to watch as Scarlett inwardly debated moral issues, waiting to see if one day the pragmatic side would lose out. He observed her face amusedly as a myriad of emotions came and went before she settled on a decision.

"No, I don't want to think about it," she declared firmly. "What would I…well what would I have to do?"

"If you became my mistress?"

She cringed at the word. "Yes."

Eyeing her for a moment, Rhett's conscience pricked at him, and he gave her another opportunity to change her mind.

"Scarlett, is this really what you want? You have enough money for the time being. Why not wait until—"

"No! I don't want to wait and I don't want to change my mind," she cried out in fury. "If you don't want to help me Rhett, just say so I'll—"

"You've misunderstood. I only want you to be certain about your decision."

"I am certain! I've never been more certain about anything in my life. Oh, I don't expect you to understand. You don't know how it feels to be worried that your home could be stolen right out from under you, to be frightened that your children could go without food or new clothes. Well I intend to see that that never happens, Rhett, and I need money, loads of it. And you have millions. So tell me what I need to do. Do I," she paused for a moment thinking over her words, "visit you here?"

There was a harsh quality to her face as she set her jaw determinedly, her eyes turning a deep emerald as they peered up at him intensely in a way that told him that she wouldn't change her mind. For an instant Rhett was ready to hand over the money without that charming collateral, but being the opportunist he was, he could not pass up this unexpected chance. The flesh is weak, especially this man's.

"Yes. There's a back entrance to the hotel. You could come and go unnoticed."

"Fine," Scarlett said icily, resolving herself to the idea. "I could come in the afternoons. When should I…should I come tomorrow?"

"That's suitable," Rhett replied smoothly, a grin playing at his lips. "Of course, you are here now, looking very pretty I might add. Dare I hope you dressed just for me?"

She flushed, thinking how strange it was that he was the only man who seemed to know things about her without being told. It was disconcerting.

"Don't flatter yourself. I did no such thing."

He chuckled softly then brought a gentle hand up to her cheek, causing the pit of her stomach to grow cold with nervous energy.

"Rhett, you don't mean here…now?"

"And why not? This seems as good a time as any."

Her eyes grew wide. "Oh, but you're joking. You can't be serious."

"I'm quite serious," he murmured as he tilted her chin and brought his lips down to hers in a soft kiss.

At first she was cold and unmoving in his arms as fear and morals played with her mind, but when he grew more brazen, demanding a reaction and dissipating her worries, he had her melting in his hands. Instinctually she wrapped her arms around his neck as he deepened their kiss, his tongue probing and teasing hers, sending a mixture of warm waves and cool chills through her veins and down the length of her spine. The room was spinning, and she gripped his shoulders to steady herself against the dreamy dizziness that engulfed her being and threatened to leave her limp in his arms, much like the night he had left her at Rough and Ready. She was being pulled into an all enveloping darkness that tasted of sweet escape, and even while her mind begged her to ward off the pleasant sensations and remain unfeeling, her deceitful body had other plans.

Unable to fight off a rush of ardor, Rhett's expert hands moved to the buttons at the front of her dress, undoing each and every one until he could slide the crimson fabric down Scarlett's shoulders and arms, sending it cascading to the floor in a mass of red at their feet before she even had the time to reassess her options and protest. Leaning over her, his face barely a few inches above her own, Rhett took her in from head to toe in one long admiring look. Hot dark eyes exuding desire locked on her hesitant green ones, and the look alone caused her breath to hitch unexpectedly and her skin to tingle with the tiniest goose bumps, making time come to a standstill.

Tenderly, a hand came up and grazed just beneath her jaw before trickling down the length of her neck and resting on the alabaster skin that spilt slightly over the top of the chemise, and Rhett mumbled, "God you're beautiful," in a voice so low that Scarlett might have missed it had her senses not been so alive.

Pressing hot kisses to the exposed skin at the top of her basque and searing the supple flesh, his hands moved to the back of the corset, unbinding the laces and releasing her from the cage. Clad only in a chemise, Scarlett shivered visibly as his hands moved to her waist and pulled her against him, her heart pounding anxiously out of its chest, so much so that he could feel the beat of her heart through the fabric of his shirt.

Feeling how she trembled in his arms, Rhett looked down at her and whispered reassuringly, "Scarlett, I'll never force you…if you want to leave—"

Shaking her head, she answered, "No. I want to stay," and timidly pressed her lips to his to prove it.

Rhett's arms wound around her thin frame and crushed her to his hard body as he deepened their kiss. Somehow all her reserves melted away under his devouring lips, and Scarlett forgot she was a married woman, forgot that she was going against all her mother's teachings, forgot that no woman could hold her head high or be considered a lady after engaging in something so sinful, but in this moment it didn't seem to matter. In this moment nothing could feel more right, and she surrendered to a sweeping feeling that was stronger than the morals drilled into her as a child and abandoned herself in Rhett's embracing arms. Breaking their kiss, Rhett guided her hands from behind his neck to the front of his shirt, and she unfastened the long column of buttons, exposing the dark mat of hair and toned muscles.

Hesitantly, Scarlett ran her hands over his swarthy chest, grazing the hair with her nails, exploring the hard torso with the tips of her fingers and causing the muscles to quiver under even the lightest touch. Never had she felt the smooth texture of a firm chest or the ripples of a taut stomach, and the palms of her hands relished the unfamiliar feel. Looking up into his dark eyes that blazed fiercely with overt fervor, Scarlett realized the power she held over him, and it was incredibly intoxicating, more so than any dip into the swoon bottle. In a momentary bout of fearlessness, her hands roamed down to the first button on his trousers. Seeing the full proof of his arousal, Scarlett pinked but continued on when she heard his low groan as her hand brushed against his hardness. With painful slowness, she undid each and every button until his last bit of clothing fell to the floor. Swiftly, Rhett's eager hands were on her hips, the cotton of her chemise in his tight grip as it was pulled up and over her head.

Both of them stood gazing at each other, completely and utterly vulnerable without a shred of fabric to hide behind. She wasn't used to having her body scrutinized. With either of her husbands there had always been the darkness of an unlit room or a bed cover to cloak her most intimate areas, but now she stood bathed in the light of day for the very first time, exposed and under the smoldering gaze of a brazen man whose appraisal missed nothing. Lowering her eyes in embarrassment, Scarlett covered her bare breasts with her arms and backed away until she bumped into the edge of the bed. Chuckling softly, Rhett was beside her in an instant, his hot breath at her neck, his warm hands wandering over every inch of naked skin until her arms fell away and moved to his broad shoulders, causing her to forget why she'd been self-conscious in the first place. Suddenly she was falling onto the plush bed with Rhett straddled on top of her, showering her with electric kisses that left her faint and yearning for more. His skillful lips tasted the sweet skin just below her jaw, inhaling the pleasant aroma of her perfume before burning trails down the length of her neck then lingering at the soft white mound, his tongue teasing the rosy peak until she moaned and latched onto his jet black hair. Never had a man done these things to her before, never had she felt this sweltering need that ached and screamed to be satisfied, and she unwillingly found her body responding to his every touch, even desiring more. When Rhett's hand slid down from the curve of her waist to the throbbing tender flesh between her legs, Scarlett's eyes flew open in surprise, and she pushed his hand away.

Rhett chuckled softly into the side of her neck, amused and almost admiring her modesty. It wasn't often that he came across a woman who was shy in the bedroom.

"Darling, trust me," he whispered gently.

Gazing up into the kind dark orbs, a sudden calm came over her, and she nodded, trusting him completely. His lips captured hers in an arduous kiss before continuing with his caresses that sent jolts through her body and caused her to buck under his touch. Trills of novel pleasure washed over her under his handling, and she arched her back, wanting more. Gripping his shoulders frantically, craving something she couldn't express, Scarlett fervently called out Rhett's name. It was the sweetest sound to his ears, something he could only have hoped to hear in a dream or imagine in a fantasy, and in a rush of undisguised passion he coaxed her thighs apart and nestled himself between her legs before uniting them and letting out a low lusty groan. Scarlett braced herself for the pain of the initial stroke but was utterly amazed when all she felt was a gratifying satisfaction as Rhett entered her gently, allowing her to adjust to his size, and her heart warmed at this unanticipated tenderness. Seeing her sweet smile, his mouth seized her red swollen lips, his faint-inducing kiss relaxing her nervous muscles, easing her fears, and prompting Scarlett to completely abandon herself in this warm tide and complete darkness that clouded her mind like a heavy intoxicant.

There was a soft voice at the back of Rhett's mind that warned him to curb his emotions, to restrain a part of himself, but holding the woman he had always craved for the first time caused love to win over fear and made the cautionary voice fade until it finally disappeared. There was a rush of relief in relinquishing the reins he held so dear, in giving up the mask of aloofness, and he hadn't realized how exhausting it was to pretend to be invulnerable until he didn't have to pretend anymore. As he put down his guard and unleashed himself for the first time, lost in the moment, he no longer cared if he did lose a piece of himself to Scarlett. It was already too late.

Skin met skin over and again, leisurely at first then with increased pace while Rhett guided her thighs to his hips so that he could dive in deeper, sending Scarlett into a frenzy of mixed emotions that made her wonder if this was how it was supposed to feel, if this was something she had unknowingly been missing all her life. With every thrust, foreign feelings were evoked deep within her as something coiled tighter and tighter, and she struggled to hold back an embarrassing cry that had crept into her throat until finally a moan of intense pleasure escaped her lips, a pleasure she had never experienced before. Encouraged by her vocal response, Rhett accelerated their rhythm, both of their bodies glistening with a thin layer of sweat until that final release that had them collapsing onto the bed, pulsating and panting as they tried to catch their breath.

Rhett rolled over but kept his arm tucked around her waist possessively, holding her flush against him, his face buried in her long locks, and Scarlett grinned. For the first time in her life she didn't feel like an easily discarded means to a man's pleasure as he clumsily grunted on top of her then rolled over and snored, something that she was warned must be endured during marriage. This wasn't something she needed to grin and bear, this was something that she unknowingly desired, something that left her cool and shaky and satiated. Instead of being used her body had been worshiped, and she had reveled in every intoxicating minute of it.

Holding Scarlett close in complete and utter awe, Rhett wondered if suddenly something would come and wake him from this dream. There was always a hope that he would someday seduce and convince her to be his mistress, but after a missed opportunity at the jail, any hope he might have had dissolved and was replaced with a bitter resentment for letting her slip through his fingers. Now he finally held her in his hands and nothing could spoil this moment. At the back of his mind he feared that once he finally gained what he had desired for so long, it would somehow lose its luster, but being with Scarlett had affected him like a tonic and had held the opposite effect. It was like taking a sip of real Champagne for the first time, like tasting the full supple body and the delicate sweetness of the distinctive bubbly liquid against one's tongue, leaving them on a light high and unable to ever return to the cheap imitation.

Unexpectedly, he felt Scarlett squirm under his arm as she struggled to sit up, tugging at the rumpled sheets to hide her exposed chest.

"What's wrong, my dear," he asked with cool casualness while scrutinizing her face, his mask back in place.

A blush crept onto her cheeks under his intent gaze, and she looked away before answering, "Nothing. I need to leave. I haven't yet been to the mills today, and I have a million things to do."

"Ah, of course," he said as a darkness shaded his features.

For a moment he had allowed himself to believe that Scarlett was finally his, but she wasn't and never would be as long as she was married. He may have her for a few hours, maybe even an afternoon, but she would always have to be home before night fall, rushing back before her husband returned from work. There was a silent rage that built within him that left him with a strong desire to kill Frank Kennedy and be done with it, but his face revealed none of this.

"Would you hand me my chemise," Scarlett asked softly, motioning to it since it was closer to his side of the bed.

Feeling the blood rush to her face as he stood and went to pick up the white cotton fabric completely nude and uncaring, Scarlett averted her eyes. The modesty and guilt she had previously pushed aside was rising to the surface and making her feel uneasy.

Rhett handed her the chemise, and she took it without meeting his dark eyes, pulling the clothing over her head and sliding her arms through the caped sleeves.

"Scarlett, look at me," he demanded in a gentle tone, and she did so grudgingly. "I don't want you to feel uncomfortable around me. You don't regret what we—"

"Oh Rhett, let's not discuss it," she urged, ducking her head.

"No, we will discuss it. I hope you don't feel guilty because there's nothing to feel guilty about."

"Nothing to feel guilty about!" she cried jumping off the bed in one angry burst. "I'm married, or have you forgotten. Everything about this was…was—oh how can I ever face Frank again!" she groaned into her hands.

"Why should you feel guilty? You don't love him. You and I both know your hasty marriage only took place because you needed his money to pay taxes. Your vows were broken the moment you said them, my dear, so I don't see why you should feel any shame for breaking another."

"Oh! How can you even say such a thing, Rhett! I never wanted to hurt him, not after everything he's done for Tara and for me. If he ever found out he…well—"

"I'm not suggesting that you run and confess this to him. I'm merely saying that what he doesn't know won't hurt him, and you have nothing to feel guilty about," he stated simply as he came up behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders.

"Did it feel wrong when I kissed you like this," he murmured before brushing feather-light kisses at the side of her neck, tickling the sensitive skin with his thin mustache.

"Don't," she breathed, her knees crumbling beneath her.

"Or when I touched you like this," he continued silkily, his hands wandering from her shoulders to cup her breasts, causing her to let out a faint whimper.

"Oh Rhett stop. I can't think."

Laughing lightly, he dropped his hands and she walked out of his reach. Seeing the deep-red dress in a heap on the floor, she went and picked it up along with the discarded corset, happy to have something to distract her while she composed herself.

"Would you like me to tie your laces?" he commented with a smirk.

She studied him for a moment, wondering how it was that he knew how to tie laces, and then it clicked. That Watling woman and only God knows how many others.

"Yes please," she answered coolly, unable to shake the image of that bright red hair from her mind.

"You must wonder how I've developed this particular talent," he commented, taking the laces into his firm grip.

"Don't be ridiculous. Of course I know. I'm not a fool."

"Indeed?"

"I know all about you and that…that creature. I know I'm not the first to well…oh you know what I mean," she huffed then walked out of his hands after he'd finished tugging and tying the last lace. A pinch of jealousy came over her at the thought of Rhett with another woman, but she tried to push it away.

"Was that a trace of envy I caught in your voice, Mrs. Kennedy?" Rhett asked with a wicked gleam dancing in his eyes, and she scowled in response.

"Don't flatter yourself. Why should I be jealous? I don't care about what you do or who you consort with."

"Why indeed. I'm quite curious about that myself."

"Can you never be serious!" she cried out in frustration as she pulled on her dress and looped the buttons all the way up to her throat.

Walking over to the only mirror in the hotel room, Scarlett took a look at herself and gasped, "Oh, my hair! I look like a perfect mess," while frantically trying to put it back in place with the few pins she had, knowing full well it would never look like it did that morning.

"I think you look beautiful," Rhett said lazily as he admired the long raven locks that had escaped their pins and floated passed her shoulders.

Looking back at him and seeing the desire that lingered in his eyes, Scarlett swallowed visibly then resumed the fixing of her hair.

"Do I make you nervous, Scarlett?"

"Don't be silly," she replied with a careless air, but her wildly beating heart said otherwise.

Rhett was leaning over her, his mesmerizing dark eyes locking hers in a trance. He tilted her chin and bent as if her were about to kiss her until she mumbled, "I have to go."

He sighed softly but didn't let go of her chin. "Will you be back?"

She took a moment to answer, knowing all along what the answer would be. "Yes."

Chuckling, he brushed a light peck across her lips. "I'll see you then."

She gave him a quick smile then hurried out of the room, afraid of what would happen if she stayed any longer.

Facing Frank that night had proven torturous as the guilt played with her mind. During dinner she had done everything to avoid eye contact, afraid he might see the treachery in her eyes, and when they had retired to their bedroom, she kept herself locked to the edge of the bed, putting the greatest distance between them that the small bed would permit. It wasn't often that Scarlett struggled with her conscience since she had grown accustomed to explaining away any guilt that might have snuck up on her by rationalizing her actions as something done out of necessity without any alternatives, but it was more difficult to wipe away the stain of adultery. It wasn't only that she had broken a promise to Frank but it also the fact that she had entirely done away with Ellen's teachings, unable to even hope to be a lady in her mother's eyes any longer. Of course there had been occasional slips here and there when it came to Ellen's and society's expectations, but in her mind there wasn't anything much worse than becoming the kept woman of a man like Rhett Butler, save for committing murder, something she had already done. Yet it was easier to downsize the fact that she had killed in a man in cold blood than her faithlessness because it had been a dirty Yankee and done out of the need to protect herself and her family.

~R&S~

Despite the odd stab of guilt that would overcome her, Scarlett had grown fond of the visits she made to Rhett's hotel room, causing the flare-ups of guilt to become less and less frequent as the weeks went by until she hardly remembered feeling any shame. It was more than the financial gain and security or the act itself that had her looking forward to seeing him, even though she couldn't deny the pleasure that came with abandoning herself in Rhett's expert hands, but what she enjoyed most were the conversations which followed as they laid in bed together before she had to rush home and return to reality. Finally there was someone she could talk to, openly and honestly, and she cherished these moments together where she could speak her mind, gain advice, and relieve some of the burden and loneliness that came with being a business woman in a critical and deprecating society. Surprisingly, Rhett had turned out to be the greatest friend and finest escape from her dreary life with Frank, and it was hard for Scarlett to imagine a time when she couldn't run to him.

The one thing that still puzzled her was the fact that all thoughts of Ashley had practically receded from her mind. There was hardly any time to think of him what with her busy schedule, but even on the rare occasion when she did allow her mind to wander to thoughts of him, there were no longer the same feelings evoked in her heart. There were nights where she had tried to rekindle what she felt for him, but to no avail. Where once the times when she was with Rhett made her feel like she was being untrue to Ashley, even they no longer brought up any of the familiar emotions. It was almost as if her love had simply faded, something Scarlett had once imagined impossible, but there just seemed to be no other way to explain it.

Once wrapped up in Rhett's arms during one of her visits, she had been thinking just this and was suddenly pulled out of her musings by caressing lips at the side of her neck.

"What are you thinking about, my pet?"

"I don't know. Nothing really," she replied evasively, afraid to break the mood with the mention of Ashley.

"You don't know or you don't want to tell me?" he observed.

"You don't want to know what I'm thinking about."

"Would I have asked if I didn't want to know?"

"Not if you knew what the answer was going to be. Just stop Rhett."

"Come Scarlett. Surely there isn't anything you should feel the need to keep from me," he pressed.

"Fine. If you really want to know I was thinking of Ashley."

"Ah, of course. Why wouldn't you be? You were only lying in my arms. It seems completely appropriate," he jeered while he removed himself from the bed, his dark eyes glittering with poorly concealed rage.

Scarlett watched as he brusquely gathered his clothing and dressed, losing the cool casualness which normally cloaked his features, and then she picked up her crumpled chemise off the floor and pulled it over her head.

"I just knew you were going to do this! You didn't even give me a chance to finish."

"While I admire your frankness my dear, I don't believe I need to hear the glorious details."

"Oh! Damn you. I hate you!"

"Yes, and with good reason. To think of my cruelty. I don't know why I wouldn't want to listen to the arduous thoughts of your little gentleman while you lay in my bed."

"I don't see why you care either way. I don't belong to you. I'm not your wife."

"It's a mere matter of courtesy. I don't give a damn what you do in the privacy of your own home, but at the very least I expect you to wait until you have left this room to dream about your wooden-headed Mr. Wilkes."

"You stupid fool. If only you would have given me a chance to explain—"

"Scarlett, I don't care to listen to your explanations," he said as he slammed down a handful of gold coins on the nightstand next to her side of the bed. "I'm leaving. I expect you'll be gone by the time I return."

She glanced down at the money, her stormy green eyes flashing and glowering with rage.

"Don't you dare leave me here alone Rhett Butler! I'm not your whore! You don't get to throw money at me and leave."

"Ah yes, forgive me. You're my mistress. There's a vast difference."

Viciously she threw the coins at his head in a burst of passion, striking him with one on his chest while the others grazed his shoulder or missed him altogether.

"You bastard! I hate you, I hate you I do. I never want to see you again!" Scarlett shouted then rushed to collect the various items of clothing strewn about the floor.

"Then I suggest you also pick up the money you unceremoniously threw at my head."

"I don't want your money and I don't want you!" she exploded, fully intending to leave without having first put on her dress.

Gruffly, he had her by the shoulders before she could reach the door. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"I'm leaving. I can't stand being in this room a second longer. Let me go!" she cried vehemently, trying to tear herself away from his strong grip.

Tears rushed to her eyes, but Scarlett furiously blinked them away. Unfortunately a stubborn tear escaped and rolled down the side of her cheek. Rhett's hand came up to her face and gently rubbed it away before looking into tear-brimmed eyes.

"Darling, why are you crying?"

"I'm not crying you fool. Let me go."

"No of course you aren't. I suppose you simply had something in your eye. They couldn't possibly be tears."

"They aren't. I'm not crying."

"I believe you."

He was mocking her, and she glared crossly. "I'm not crying."

"I know."

"No, you're teasing me. It's true. I'm not."

Chuckling, his arms encircled her shoulders, and she rested her head on his chest, surrendering reluctantly, though there was relief that came with giving up the fight.

"It's not funny," she muttered, but couldn't help but smile afterwards.

"Not at all. I don't know what came over me."

"You can be so mean sometimes, Rhett."

He tilted her chin to read her face. "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings, but don't you think I had a reason to be upset?"

"No. You didn't even know what I was going to say. You wouldn't let me finish."

"You're right. What were you going say?"

"Maybe I don't feel like telling you now…after this."

"Perhaps I deserve that, but I would like to know if you'll tell me."

"I have to go," she mumbled then walked out of his arms, lowering her gaze in the process.

"We have a bit of time before you have to leave."

Pausing, Scarlett eyed him for a moment then decided she might as well confess the truth. "Well, what I was going to say was that I don't think that I… love Ashley anymore."

An eager light leapt into his eyes, but he swiftly concealed his emotions, his face once again an inscrutable mask. This was definitely not what he was expecting to hear, making it more difficult to contain the feelings of renewed hope and excitement. "Indeed? And when did this sudden realization come to you."

"Well, I don't know. I just noticed that I didn't feel the same way about him."

"Don't tell me you've finally fallen for your own husband," Rhett teased, and it looked like Scarlett was about to be sick at just the idea.

"God's nightgown, no! And you shouldn't joke about such things. I don't love anyone," she blurted then wished she would have bitten her tongue, but really there wasn't much use in lying to Rhett. He knew the truth, and it certainly was nice to talk openly with someone without the fear of being judged. "Do you think it's possible that I've forgotten Ashley so quickly, Rhett?"

"Yes, because you never really loved him."

"What do you mean? I did too!"

"No, you didn't. Not really. But let's sidestep this heated argument and wait to discuss it at another time."

"Heated argument," she scoffed. "I'm not upset."

"No, but you are about to be and I believe there have been enough hot words between us for one day."

"Well, I do have to go home."

Scarlett began tying her stays before Rhett's hands took over without first being asked, and after he had meticulously pulled the last lace, she quickly removed herself from his reach and dressed under his scrutiny.

"You will be coming back?"

"I don't know. Are your sorry for being such a cad?"

"I did apologize."

"Say it again," she urged with a precious teasing smile he didn't often see on her face, and he laughed softly.

"Please accept my sincerest apologies. My heart was severely lacerated by the thought that you were fantasizing about another man, and I lost my head. I should get down on bended knee and beg for forgiveness."

Impossible man, she thought then rolled her eyes in exasperation. "How you do run on."

"Am I forgiven?"

"That's much better, and you're forgiven" she said with a light laugh before giving him a quick peck on the cheek.

With a raised brow and a mock frown, Rhett asked, "Is that all I get?"

"That's all you deserve."

"That cuts, my dear."

"Goodbye, Rhett."

~R&S~

There was a visible change seen in Scarlett ever since she started her rendezvous with Rhett. Where once there was a ghostly pallor to her face and an unappealing thinness to her frame, now a glowing pink colored her cheeks and radiated her complexion while a fullness returned to her figure in all the right feminine places. The icy determined look that haunted her eyes ever since that first night at Tara during the war faded somewhat now that wealth no longer consumed her each and every thought, and she found herself being more tolerant and even pleasant at times with others. No one noticed this more than Aunt Pitty and Frank, who no longer felt the need to walk on egg shells around her, waiting and cringing for her unleashed stinging remarks when her firecracker temper exploded. Now the atmosphere in the household could almost be considered as peaceful, and no one was more grateful for this than simple Frank. If he had known the reason behind his wife's change in demeanor, he might not have been quite as thrilled, but not once had it occurred to him that another man might have had something to do with the increasing frequency of Scarlett's good mood. Even Scarlett herself could not completely understand the reason behind her sudden change in spirit. All she knew was that she was happy for the first time in what seemed like forever, and she accepted it without a second thought like she would an unexpected gift.

The one person who was surprisingly dissatisfied with the present situation was Rhett himself. Although he had finally gained what he had always longingly craved for, somehow it still wasn't enough. When Rhett wanted something he wanted all of it, not only a taste or a fleeting glimpse of what could be his, and he certainly did not have all of Scarlett. Even if he tried to adamantly deny it, Scarlett had snuck into his heart, more so than he cared to admit, and he found himself craving more than a few hours in an afternoon that slipped by all too quickly. The man who had repeatedly and adamantly affirmed that he was not a marrying man now wanted a future and a lifetime with the only woman who had successfully managed to possess his heart, and he struggled with his own impotence, unaccustomed to feeling so powerless. This feeling was most prevalent when Scarlett left his bed and ran home to an old man she didn't love, something he should have had the influence to prevent, and he could not let go of the feeling that she should have belonged to him and only him. At times his cool exterior slipped slightly when he saw her small frame leave his room, and he often fought with the urge to hold her captive.

~R&S~

One afternoon as Scarlett was peacefully lounging in Rhett's arms, she let out a soft sigh, realizing it was time that she left. Recently she had noticed that it was getting harder and harder to leave the warm security of Rhett's embrace, but the thought that she might be developing feelings beyond that of friendship never occurred to her. It was easier to believe that she simply preferred Rhett's company to Frank's because her husband's old-maid fusspot ways grated on her nerves, but she never took time to consider that the reason behind her preference ran deeper than she could have imagined.

Pulling herself out of his hold, Scarlett slid out of bed and grabbed the white cotton chemise off the floor. Rhett observed in silence, hating this moment and wishing he could be the one who walked away. His right hand flexed into a fist under the sheets as he summoned the courage to ask her to stay.

"Why don't you stay?" he said with an air of nonchalance, pretending he didn't care one way or the other what her answer was.

Stunned, she looked over at him, midway through fastening the last clasp on her dress.

"Why would I?"

"Because you want to."

"But I don't want to," she denied, lying to both Rhett and herself.

"Indeed? Then why are you contemplating it?"

"I'm not. I don't want to stay."

Advancing swiftly towards her, he placed two purposeful hands on her shoulders. "Yes, you want to stay. You like being with me don't you, Scarlett?"

"That has nothing to do with it."

"No? I believe it has everything to do with it. You want to stay so I don't see why you shouldn't. Nothing has ever stopped you from doing what you wanted before."

"Would you stop saying that? I don't want to stay."

"You're a terrible liar, my dear."

"Oh! Why would I want to stay?"

"Why don't you tell me?"

"I already told you! I don't. Oh, never mind Rhett. I need to go. Frank will be worried if I'm late."

"You could always come up with an excuse for being late."

"You just said I was a terrible liar."

He laughed lightly. "Even you could fool old Frank."

Eyeing him curiously, she questioned, "Why do you want me stay?"

He paused, considering whether a version of the truth or a diverting flippant remark would be best, then said, "This may come as a surprise to you, but I do admire you for more than your body. I enjoy your company Scarlett, and I'm growing tired of these time constraints."

"Are you really fond of my company?" she asked dimpling, her voice tinged with the slightest trace of satisfaction.

"I never said fond," he teased, and she rolled her eyes in response. "Don't tell me you're really surprised?"

"Well…a little. You know I like being with you too, when you aren't being such a wretch."

"Do you?" he said softly, leaning into her so that she was pressed up against the wall. "Do you often think I'm a wretch?"

"No. Not as often as you used to be."

"That was almost sweet, Scarlett. I'm impressed."

She was about to respond tartly, but his lips were on hers before she had a chance, breaking her concentration. A warm dizziness overcame her, and even while she struggled against it, trying to escape the pleasantness before it seized control, it still took a few attempts until she could manage to push him away with enough resolute force.

"I have to leave."

Rhett mumbled something incoherent in reply then began kissing her again like he had the rest of the day ahead of him until she broke away once more.

"I'm serious. I can't stay."

Sighing, he backed away reluctantly. "Then I suggest you leave now before I find some other way to convince you otherwise."

Taking his advice, Scarlett hurried out of the room, only to find out how badly she had wanted to stay.

~R&S~

During dinner that evening, Scarlett could not keep her mind off Rhett and that perturbing afternoon. As much as she wished she could deny it, he was right; she had wanted to stay and might have if he had been the slightest bit more persistent. It also was not the first time that the thought had crossed her mind. Being with Rhett felt like taking a breath of fresh air after being surrounded by a cloud of thick smoke. He was relief, an escape from the heavy pressure that weighed down on her shoulders, and she often wondered what it would be like if he had only asked her to marry him at the jail. What was even more unsettling was how Rhett would creep into her thoughts unexpectedly as she went about her day, often wondering what he was doing or how long it would be until she saw him again. Sometimes she would even wish that the man sleeping beside her at night was Rhett, a real man who made her feel safe, someone she could lean and depend on, but until now she had never wondered why she felt that way.

It's almost as if I'm in love with him, she thought then hastily tried to deny it, but despite her best efforts she couldn't push the unpleasant thoughts away. Anxiously she tried to come up with other alternatives, but each of them quickly fell flat, especially since she could no longer hide behind a love for Ashley. But I can't love him. I can't! A sickening feeling washed over her as she looked around the table to see if anyone had noticed her inner turmoil, but Frank and Pitty were too engrossed in their conversation to notice. Having barely touched her food, Scarlett made her excuses under the pretense of not feeling well and hurried up to her room to be alone.

It was frightening to be in love with a man like Rhett Butler. Not only was she certain that he did not love her but there was also the fact that this complicated their arrangement. Somehow in her mind it was simpler to have an affair with someone she didn't love because it made it easier to push away the guilt, but now that she realized she loved Rhett, it seemed to make her sins all that more real. For a moment Scarlett also thought about the possibility of his finding out about her feelings and the ridicule that would ensue, and her heart beat accelerated. No, that couldn't happen. She wouldn't let it. But the only way to stop would be putting an end to their deal. As it was, it was getting more difficult to leave him at the end of an afternoon when Scarlett didn't even know how she felt about him, so how was she supposed to expect herself to have any willpower now? It was not as if she could ever leave Frank and disgrace the family with a divorce, not that Rhett would have her even if she did. He made it clear enough on more than one occasion that he was not a marrying man. Her heart tightened painfully at the thought of leaving him, but there weren't any other options she was willing to take.

~R&S~

Breaking off the arrangement with Rhett turned out to be more challenging than anticipated. Every time Scarlett brought herself to his hotel room prepared to tell him that she would never come back, there was always something that stopped her or stood in her way. Sometimes it was the way he smiled, the hot penetrating look he would get in his eyes when she walked into the room, or the way he would kiss her that left her knees weak, erasing reality. But no matter what it was that had her telling herself that it could wait until tomorrow, there was always something that broke down her already shaky resolve. What made matters worse was that Rhett stubbornly made it a habit of calling at the house in an attempt to spend more time with her. It was bad enough that her conscience started pricking at her again the moment she realized her love for him, but it was all that more difficult to hide her feelings or guilt when Frank and Rhett were in the same room.

Once when Rhett had come to call on her, or really under the façade of calling on her aunt, Scarlett had privately pulled him aside to give him a piece of her mind.

"Rhett, you have to stop coming by the house," she urged and he grinned wickedly.

"Why?"

"Because I'm afraid Frank will find out. You've said yourself that I'm a bad liar. You just have to stop."

"Frank suspects nothing. It's only your conscience playing with your mind, and I have to say I'm surprised, my dear. I thought you'd sufficiently succeeded in disposing of it."

"Can you ever be serious? Really Rhett."

"I'm being quite serious. No, I won't stop calling on you. I believe it would raise more eyebrows if I did, not to mention how your dear aunt would desperately miss my visits."

"My Aunt Pitty's a fool. You know she only likes your calls because of the gifts and the way you flatter her so."

"My Scarlett, envious of your own aunt? Well if you'd like I could pay you the same compliments. Let's see what your husband thinks of me then."

"Oh! Don't be ridiculous. I knew it was no use speaking to you about this," she huffed then walked away but was followed by his light chuckling.

"What's brought on this sudden guilt?"

"I don't know. For once in your life could you just do as asked?"

"No."

"Why can't you ever do me a favor?"

"What do you call my rescuing you from Atlanta, turning horse thief and almost getting shot in the process? I believe that qualifies as a favor," Rhett said with dark dancing eyes as a smirk lit his face and ignited her fiery temper.

"You abandoned me you fool! That's no favor."

"I'd hardly say I abandoned you. That's such a harsh word."

"You did too!"

"Let's not quibble about the word, Scarlett. I won't stop calling on you, and I believe that if you are honest with yourself, you would realize that you don't want me to either."

"Fine, do what you want! You always do anyway," she cried out in irritation then stormed off, leaving Rhett to amusedly mull over her sudden outburst.

~R&S~

Although Scarlett believed she had successfully managed to conceal her feelings from Rhett thus far, he was not blind to the change in her. What had first triggered his curiosity was the renewal of guilt that sprung up unexpectedly, something she was unwilling to explain, but what had truly pricked his interest was the change in the way she looked at him. There was now an unmistakable light that illuminated her face and made her green eyes glisten whenever their eyes met, and after seeing that look for the first time, a look that had caused his breath to catch in his throat and his heartbeat to come to a halt, it revealed more to him than any spoken words. Scarlett loved him. There was no doubt in his mind. But what still had him puzzled was her reluctance to confess her feelings. For a while Rhett waited for her to openly admit her love without any coercion on his part, but as time went on without even the slightest hint that she was prepared to acknowledge the truth, his patience was wearing thin.

One afternoon while they lay intimately intertwined beneath the sheets, Rhett looked down at Scarlett who was curled up beside him. Her head was affectionately pillowed against his chest with one leg draped over his as she drew small swirls across the mat of black hair with the tip of her index finger, and his lips curled up into a smile. Realizing that he couldn't go another day without hearing the truth from her own lips, those three little evasive and emotionally charged words he could only have longed and hoped to hear, he finally decided that he wasn't going to wait anymore.

Without allowing himself the opportunity to change his mind, Rhett softly asked, "Scarlett, do you love me?"

Her hand stiffened and ceased its drawing. For a moment time stopped as the room grew eerily quiet, and Scarlett was sure the thunderous pounding of her heartbeat could be heard in the silence.

"You shouldn't…don't ask me that," she said, struggling to pull away, but his unyielding hands were on her in an instant.

"Why?"

"Because I'm married! I can't do this anymore, Rhett."

Abruptly, his hands fell away and she took the opportunity to climb out of bed, hastily collecting her things and dressing with as much speed as was possible.

"What do you mean?"

"I can't come here…to see you anymore."

"Is this because you've suddenly grown a conscience? You didn't seem to have a problem with being my mistress until now. What's changed?"

"Don't say it like that," she begged, always hating that title which cheapened their arrangement, as true as it was. "It's just that I…I don't want to lie anymore."

"Indeed? That's interesting given you've just lied to me now."

"Stop it. Please—"

"No. Tell me what's changed?" he urged in a deceptively smooth voice despite the growing frustration that threatened to take over.

"It doesn't matter."

"It does matter. It matters to me."

Startled, she met his gaze, wondering for an anxious moment if he cared more for her than he was willing to admit.

"Why?"

Refusing to answer, Rhett looked away and ran a hand through his hair.

"Because I'm breaking our agreement, is that it?" Scarlett asked sharply.

"Is that what you believe? Is that what you think of me?" he said, turning to her.

"I'm married."

"I need no reminder. Do you think I could forget? You throw it in my face often enough."

"What do you mean? I don't—"

"Tell me Scarlett, do you think this is what I wanted? Do you think I wanted you married to an old man, a man you didn't love?"

"You wouldn't help me! I had no choice."

"I couldn't help you," he replied with careful restraint.

"You didn't even try. You were mean and hateful and…" she grasped for the words that wouldn't come.

"And that couldn't possibly be because you insulted my intelligence by throwing yourself at me like a prostitute after a prospective client instead of being honest with me. I'm sure I don't know why I wasn't my usual charming self, pleased to find that you thought I was foolish enough to fall for your practiced tricks."

"Go to hell! I never want to see you again!"

"Is that so? Did you ever consider that you might miss me?"

Rhett moved towards her as he spoke, his hands sliding silkily up the length of her arms and resting on her shoulders. "That you might be making a mistake?" he continued smoothly.

"No," she breathed, hating and loving the feel of his hands.

"No you won't miss me or no you never thought about it?"

"Let me go. I can't stay."

"Because you're afraid? I never pegged you for a coward, Scarlett."

"I'm not!" she cried, thoroughly insulted. "I'm…I won't be coming back. You needn't worry. I'll pay back your loan, with interest if you'd like."

Dropping his hands from her shoulders, he balled his fists. "Ah, yes of course. Why shouldn't you be thinking of the loan? Money is all that concerns you now."

"That's not what I meant. I just thought you'd—"

"Be thinking about your debt? Consider it forgotten. I don't want your money."

"But…"

"Isn't your husband waiting?" he interrupted acidly while turning his back to Scarlett.

"It's better if you don't…you shouldn't call on me anymore."

"I have no intention."

Opening the hotel door, she stood in the doorway, torn between a nagging guilt for leaving and an underlying irritation for wishing he would have said he loved her and forced her to stay. She placed her hand on the cold metal knob, wanting to say goodbye but knowing the words had the power to unravel her resolve, and Scarlett slipped out wordlessly, closing the door behind her.

~R&S~

There was a lingering emptiness that consumed Scarlett in the weeks that followed. Not only had she lost a lover but also a friend she had come to depend on, the only real friend that she had and could speak to openly, and it felt like a part of her that she didn't know existed was somehow missing, bringing on a gripping and unshakable loneliness. There was no denying that she missed him, more than she thought she could, and despite her reasons for leaving Rhett, she had begun to believe that she had made a mistake. At times Scarlett thought about damning society, her marriage and her guilty conscience all to hell and running back to Rhett, but she doubted if he would want to see her again or if he was still in Atlanta for that matter. Not once had he tried to call on her or even to accidentally meet and take the reins from her when she traveled to the mill, and deep down she wished he would have at least fought a bit harder to change her mind. Even the busy bodies who thrived on gossip spoke nothing of Rhett's whereabouts, and Scarlett wondered if that was because he was still in Atlanta. For all she knew he could have packed and left without the intention of ever returning, and the thought that she would never again see those dancing black eyes, hear that teasing tone in his voice, or feel that powerful body against her frame, brought unwelcome tears to her eyes.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity or allowing a sorrow clench her heart, the woman who prided herself on being strong willed threw herself into work at the mills and feigned indifference. She wasn't fooling anyone. Not only had a deep rooted sadness manifested itself into anger that was often viciously unleashed, but on more than one night Scarlett had also woken in a fit of tears that could not be comforted or wiped away by Franks fumbling hands. He wasn't the man she wanted, and his unsolicited touch only aggravated the situation. Frank thought that the sudden change could only be attributed to the fact that they still had no children, something she had resourcefully managed to avoid by pretending to be asleep the moment her head hit the pillow or by sending him to bed early, insisting that he was not feeling well and should rest, and he believed that all could be solved with a baby. But when he had gained enough courage and foolishly tried to make a move in demand of her wifely duties, Scarlett had screamed the house down like she was being murdered, threatening to harm him if he didn't let her go, and Frank sheepishly shrunk back and huddled to the farthest end of his side of the bed. Learning from his mistakes, he never made another attempt, and while they continued to sleep in the same room, they might as well have been living in separate homes, both of them avoiding each other for dear life.

The embarrassing incident not only made living in the same house with Frank intolerable but it also resurrected memories and emotions that Scarlett wanted and tried to keep at bay. She was the last one to think that a man's bed could hold any pleasure, but Rhett's bed had and it made Frank's advances all that more sickening in comparison. There was no way she could have or would ever let Frank touch her again, and she realized deep down that it was not only the repulsion of the act itself but also the fact that she felt she belonged to someone else. As much as Scarlett wished she could forget Rhett and move on, her treacherous mind would not permit it. She loved him. Loved him as much as she hated him, loved him even when she struggled not to, loved him despite his faults and even because of them, and there was no denying that the memory of him would not fade away.

In accepting this revelation that these burdensome feelings could not be conquered and quenched, Scarlett made the hasty decision to flee, and there was only one place that came to mind that held any security and that sparked a ray of hope. She waited for the perfect opportunity to leave, and when the day came that she had the house to herself without the possibility of encountering the watchful eyes of Mammy or Aunt Pitty, she packed a bag and scribbled a hurried letter explaining that she was needed at Tara. After placing the letter on the dining room table where someone was bound to find it, Scarlett swiftly made her way out of the house, cursing under her breath when she walked into a downpour of heavy rain. The sky was cloaked in a dark grey of ominous clouds without even a hint or streak of sunlight piercing through, but instead of turning back, she tightened her jaw determinedly and continued towards her destination, stepping around the puddles of water and thinking that she had been through worse than a little bit of rain.

~R&S~

Rhett was sitting at a small table and holding a glass of whisky in his hands when he first heard the soft knock. Lazily he dropped the glass, strode towards the door of his hotel room and opened it to find Scarlett dripping with fresh rain, her raven hair tumbled wildly around her face and shoulders, the green in her eyes blazing fiercely as she stared straight into his. If he was surprised, his face did not reveal it, but an unmistakable light leapt into the dark eyes that appraised her and that he could not hide. The air between them hummed with palpable electricity as they stood gazing at one another, neither knowing what to say. Rhett was the first to look away as his eyes wandered to the bag she still held in her hand, and a faint smile curved his lips.

"Are you going somewhere?" he remarked offhandedly, breaking the silence.

"I don't know yet. Are you going to let me in?"

He moved aside and chuckled softly when she brushed past him into the room, a light pink coloring the apples of her cheeks as she set the bag down to the floor.

"I thought you never wanted to set foot in my presence again. What's changed your mind?"

The pulse in the hollow of her throat accelerated visibly when he took a step towards her and brought a hand up to tilt her chin so that she could not avert her gaze.

"I missed you," Scarlett conceded in a whisper, her heart racing as she hoped he wouldn't tease her.

White teeth gleamed beneath the thin mustache in amusement, and Scarlett's eyes grew hard as she scowled.

"If you dare to laugh at me Rhett Butler, I swear I will—"

A flicker of adoration passed over Rhett's face when his arms wound around her waist before she could finish, molding her to his firm chest as he brought his lips down to hers in a desirous kiss that left her weak and malleable. Arms curled around his neck to draw him closer and to steady herself against the engulfing dizziness that made the world go black. The powerful impact of his kisses that made her head spin and left her knees weak were always a surprise. Scarlett thought that she surely should have developed somewhat of a tolerance to them by now, but they were still as intoxicating as ever. It wasn't decent for a man to be so skilled, not that she was complaining. The sensations he was evoking were beyond compare, and she would have gladly stayed wrapped up in his arms forever.

Feeling the drenched material pressed up against him and dampened his shirtfront, Rhett's hands rushed to rid her of the dripping garment and to warm the bare skin beneath it.

"God Scarlett you're soaking," he muttered while peeling the clothing off her shivering body until she only stood in a white chemise. He could feel his desire growing when he noticed how the moist transparent cotton clung to her curves appealingly like another skin.

"It was raining," she answered simply with a coy smile then pulled his head down so that he would kiss her again, desperately needing to taste him on her tongue, to feel the heat of his body against hers, to run her hands over the swarthy naked flesh, to know that he was real. Before their separation Scarlett had welcomed and used his body to escape an unpleasant reality, but this time it was different. This time she loved him, needed him, and felt an unabashed carnal aching she had never known possible, not for a lady.

In urgent longing just as overwhelming as hers, Rhett pinned Scarlett to the wall, ravishing her with hands and lips that bruised, that branded her as his own, and she let out a muffled moaned in the arms of the man who crushed her against the wall.

"Say that you love me," he demanded when his lips traveled to the sensitive area at the side of her neck. "Say it."

"I love you," she breathed, her voice shaky and winded.

Pulling away briefly to look examine her face, Rhett asked, "Do you mean it?"

"Yes."

He inhaled a quick breath of relief, of validation, before drawing her to him again. Warm demanding hands explored every inch of the cool exposed alabaster skin, leaving searing trails in their wake as they traveled to cup her breasts, the peaks growing firm under the touch of his palms. Her hands were just as insistent as they gripped his shoulders, pulling him tightly against her, needing him to be closer. It never occurred to Scarlett how much she would miss the pleasures of Rhett's bed until she did not have them anymore, missing the heat of his breath at her neck, the tingling sensation in the pit of her stomach when his tongue teased hers, the feel of the expert hands that caressed and fondled excruciating places that sent jots of electricity through her veins, and now she wanted him, all of him. Hunger clouded her mind and erased all thoughts other than the desire that screamed to be satisfied, driving all her actions as her delicate yet still purposeful hands flew to the buttons at the front of the starched shirt. It wasn't enough to be wrapped in his arms. She needed to feel the bare skin, to have it pressed against her own.

Struggling with the buttons in her excitement, Scarlett let out an exasperated huff and tore open the shirt in one rough fluid tug, the buttons falling to the floor like rain. A light chuckle escaped his lips and she could feel the vibrations through his chest as she pulled the shirt over his broad shoulders and down the length of his arms.

"That was a perfectly fine shirt my dear," he teased then let out a short grunt when her hands rested at the front of his trousers.

She could feel the rigid hardness against her palms and a soft giggle escaped her lips.

"What were you saying?" Scarlett asked with deceptive innocence as she pretended to remove her hands and feign disinterest to make him pay for his teasing.

"Vixen," he muttered in a voice thick with desire as he seized her wrists and brought his mouth down hard to hers in a fervent kiss.

It was not long before she had shed him of his last bit of clothing in a bout of boldness as her hands moved almost of their own volition, for the first time acting on her own impulses and urges instead of following Rhett's guidance. At one time Scarlett would have thought these brazen acts most unladylike and shameful, but now there was only a surge of anticipation in holding the upper hand, her power-hungry mind reveling in the control she could wield over his body if not the man himself. Pressing herself against the hard naked flesh and feeling vaguely unsatisfied by the feel, she realized she was still wearing the rain drenched chemise, but before she could reach for material and pull it over her head, Rhett was kneeling in front of her, his hands sneaking under the hem of the skirt. Fingertips glided over the shapely legs from the back of her calves, along her thighs, and up to her hips then down again, sending tingling shivers up the length of her spine and causing her to latch onto that jet black head of hair. Finally his hands rested at the top of her stockings, and with excruciating slowness that made her want to scream with impatience, he slid each one down her legs and over her dainty feet. Warm hands crawled back up the length of her legs to remove one last remaining undergarment before they grasped the cotton of her chemise and slipped it up over her head.

Rhett took one step back to admire her from a distance, his dark burning orbs running over her frame like he wanted to imprint the image in his mind. Scarlett shivered then swallowed visibly under his scrutiny, missing the heat emitted from his body. A hand came up and grazed her cheek tenderly before roaming over every curve, peak and valley, memorizing the feel of her naked skin like it was his first time touching her, and her hands followed suit, tricking over the bronzed taut abdomen and dancing along the crease of his back between his shoulder blades. When he heard her sigh a sound of delight, he unexpectedly gripped her tightly, cupped her bottom and lifted her off the floor until she could lock her legs around his waist, pushing her back against the wall as his insistent lips were upon hers again, hot and hard and willing her to submit. It didn't take long for her to relinquish control, and when he began nibbling at the sensitive skin of her neck, her head fell back, exposing the length of her throat while basking in the bliss of his ministrations.

Scarlett gripped his shoulders fiercely as his actions grew bolder, her nails sinking into the flesh and leaving behind her mark when his lips traveled down to her breasts, his tongue sweeping over each nipple until she moaned, the mounting anticipation becoming almost unbearable. She wanted him, to feel him inside her, but when she moved to egg him on, Rhett ignored her and continued caressing, tasting and nipping her until she grew desperate with longing. He wanted to punish her for leaving him, for thinking she could go on without him in her bed let alone in her life, for making him wait for her longer than any man in his right mind should, and now he was going to make her beg for release, despite the fact that he could slowly feel his own restraint slowly slipping away.

When her thighs squeezed against his hips and she finally whispered, "Please Rhett," he filled her in one rapid thrust, and she let out something between a sigh of relief and a grateful groan.

At first he moved against her with languid thrusts. Her body writhed beneath his, her hands lost in the dark mat of hair, her mouth and teeth kissing then biting the flesh of his shoulder and neck, her nails digging into the powerful flesh with enough force to draw blood, urging him to increase their pace. This was unlike anything they had experienced before during their love making. This was raw with unveiled emotion and earnest yearning, and for the first time they threw caution to the wind and got lost in the moment, neither needing to hide behind a mask of indifference or a false pretense. With unbridled passion and growing intensity, he began grinding her into the wall, both of their bodies sleek and dripping with sweat, their breathing coming out in short sporadic gasps until that final thrust that drove them over the brink and sent them crashing and convulsing against each other. Scarlett's forehead collapsed onto his shoulder, her heart hammering wildly out of its chest, and she could feel his heavy breathing against her ear.

After a few moments, her legs unlocked from around his waist, and she slid down to the floor, feeling the slow rise of embarrassment she had temporarily managed to suppress tinted her cheeks. But before she had much time to think about her discomfort, Rhett swept her into his arms and carried her over to the bed that was still neatly made and not rumpled by use. He laid her gently on the bed, pulling down the covers and sheets around her, and she gratefully crawled beneath their security. Leaning over her, he brushed a stray lock of hair away from her cheek and tucked it behind her ear.

"Do you know how much I love you?" he finally murmured, his dark eyes flickering over her face anxiously. It wasn't easy to say aloud for the first time, even if he knew she loved him in return.

Scarlett sat up with a smile and ran a finger along his lower lip. "I do now," she said then gave him a quick peck.

He slid into bed beside her, drawing her to him and wrapping an arm around her waist possessively. A familiar silence took over the room, and they drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

~R&S~

Green eyes fluttered open a few hours later, and Scarlett grinned as she felt the rise and fall of Rhett's chest beneath her cheek, knowing everything had not been a mad dream. She flushed faintly at the memory then tried to push it away. It wasn't decent to think of such things.

"What are you thinking about, my pet? I don't suppose you were contemplating how to escape my presence and rush home?"

Although there was a playful note to Rhett's voice there was also an underlying bitterness, and she snuggled closer to the crook of his warmth, feeling the tiniest bit guilty for having left him.

"No. I'm not leaving."

"You're not leaving or you're not leaving yet?"

She paused before answering, unsure of what to say. It never occurred to her that she might have to make a decision if she should find Rhett at his hotel. In fact, her only thought had been to find him without paying much mind to what that would entail for the future.

"I don't know," she replied, unable to meet his eyes.

"You don't know?"

"Well…no. I don't know what to do."

"I see," he said shortly, sitting up as he spoke.

Sitting up as well, Scarlett finally looked over at him. "You're not upset are you?"

"Why should I be? I'm not your husband."

She bit back a retort, wanting to tell him he could have been if he hadn't been so nasty at the jail, but instead she answered, "No. How could you be? I thought you weren't a marrying man."

"Perhaps I'm reconsidering the idea."

"Are you?"

"I am. It would be a shame to never experience it for myself. Just think of the adventure I could be missing out on."

"Marriage is not an adventure," she said with disgust, thinking of both her unpleasant experiences.

"I have no doubt in my mind that with you it would be."

"Are you asking me to marry you?" she teased with a Southern Belle simper, then wondered vaguely if he had been serious.

"Scarlett, I'm no gentleman, but I surely hope you think more of me than to assume I would propose when your husband is still alive and relatively well. Now if he were to suddenly drop to his death bed, that is a different—"

"Rhett!"

Laughing deeply, he draped an arm around her shoulders and brushed a brief kiss across her forehead. "Where does old Frank think you are right now?"

"At Tara. I left a letter and I didn't mention when I would be back."

"That's fortunate because you didn't have a chance at escaping me today," he said with a smirk, but his arm turned to iron, demonstrating his point.

"I am sorry for leaving, Rhett."

"Are you?"

"Yes," Scarlett said sincerely then urged, "you could apologize too you know."

"What should I apologize for?"

"Well you might have tried a little harder to stop me. You just let me leave knowing all along that I loved you."

"You wanted to leave and I wasn't going to beg you to stay. I knew you would come back, though you certainly took long enough about it."

"You did not," she cried out, enraged to find he thought her so weak.

"You're here aren't you?" he said, unable to stop a grin that formed, and Scarlett huffed, wanting to scratch that look right off his face. "Why else would I stay in Atlanta if not to wait for you to change your stubborn mind and return to me?"

"It is entirely possible that I could have stayed away from you, Rhett Butler."

"Not likely, my dear."

"Conceited varmint," she muttered with a scowl, but it didn't take long for her frown to lift into a smile when she heard his soft chucking. He was impossible, but there was something about his teasing that drew her in just as much as it drove her mad.

Rhett's hand crawled over to hers, giving it a light squeeze before his thumb toyed with the gold band on her fourth finger. Effortlessly he slid the ring off her slender finger and tossed it over to the nightstand before she could protest.

"What do you think you're doing?" Scarlett said while trying to tug her hand out of his strong grip, but he held on tightly.

"I know you haven't made a decision… but I've decided that when you are in my bed and in my arms, you're not married. You're mine."

His thumb continued to graze the length of her now bare finger, and before she had the time to come up with a retort, he asked, "Would you have said yes?"

Brow furrowed, she looked over at him in confusion. "What are you going on about?"

"If I'd proposed, would you have said yes?"

"Oh," Scarlett mumbled, wide-eyed with surprise, wondering if this was another one of his jokes, but he appeared to be quite serious, for the first time. "I don't know. You do mean if I weren't married to Frank?"

"Naturally. I'm not proposing bigamy, my pet," Rhett teased, his dark eyes dancing devilishly, and if he weren't holding onto her hand, she would have gladly slapped him with it.

"I don't know… it would have to depend on how you asked me. Would you get down on one knee?" she asked then giggled when picturing Rhett Butler on bended knee asking her to be his wife. It would never happen. Not in a million years.

"Don't giggle. You shouldn't underestimate my charms. They say I have a way with women."

She didn't want to ask who they were. She had a fairly good idea, and the thought made her blood simmer. Catching the flicker of ire flash in her emerald eyes, Rhett laughed, and she grimaced in return.

"Would you stop laughing? I'm sure I don't know what it is you find so amusing."

"No I don't suppose you would," he said, suddenly leaning over her with a roguish grin. "Now answer my question."

Pretending to consider her response, Scarlett ran a hand through his hair, an action which prompted him to bring his lips down to hers in a tender kiss that made no demands. A kiss she immediately reciprocated.

"I'll take that as a yes," Rhett murmured with a hint of amusement before brushing feather-light kisses that tickled along her jaw and down the length of her neck.

Even though she couldn't solely belong to him or carry his name just now, Rhett had no doubt in his mind that one day he would see to it that the only ring she wore on her left hand would be the one he placed there.

~The End~

A BIG thank you to CeeJay for making this a now error free story! ;-)

Assigned Scenario submitted by Scarlett Jaimie:

I want a scenario that starts after the night that Tony Fontaine visits the Kennedy family - on the run and on his way to Texas. I want Scarlett to go to Rhett to ask for more security (= money) but this time he does want that collateral. I would like the story to have the same pace as the jail scene and by that I mean the quick variety of emotions both of them are feeling.

Starting point are Scarlett's thoughts that night:

'She never wanted children of hers to know what all this was like. She wanted a secure and well-ordered world in which she could look forward and know there was a safe future ahead for them, a world where her children would know only softness and warmth and good clothes and fine food.

Frank thought this could he accomplished by voting. Voting? What did votes matter? Nice people in the South would never have the vote again. There was only one thing in the world that was a certain bulwark against any calamity which fate could bring, and that was money. She thought feverishly that they must have money, lots of it to keep them safe against disaster.'