Rosemary sat down in the chair her brother recently vacated. She wasn't pleased at being assigned Scarlett watching duty but, for her brother's sake, she could at least tolerate Scarlett until she was well enough to leave and be gone from their lives for good.
Since she was trapped in sentry duty for the time being, Rosemary studied her soon to be former sister in law. Scarlett was beautiful; there really was no denying that. She was certainly one of the most beautiful women Rosemary ever saw and logically, she shouldn't have been. Her chin was too hard and slightly pointed, giving her a resemblance to a vixen. Her cheekbones were high and really didn't work with her chin. Her eyebrows were obviously plucked; otherwise, they would have been slightly heavier than the current mode of what was considered attractive. But those were Scarlett's very few flaws.
Rosemary, against her will, could also pick out the characteristics that made Scarlett such a breath-taking woman. The peace granted to her by sleep smoothed away the few minute lines that age painted on Scarlett's face. It would have been easy to mistake Scarlett for a young woman closer to her 20th birthday than her 30th. Her hair was a deep black with hidden brown highlights that caught the candlelight and lured men in like moths to a flame. Her lips were perfectly shaped and at that, she sniffed disdainfully. Scarlett hardly needed the lip rouge that Rosemary just knew she used
Then there were those eyes. Right now, they were closed, so Rosemary could not study them in any great detail. Still, after seeing them, how could her brother or any man resist them once they had met his? They were so green without that hint of hazel that kept so many from having truly green eyes.
She hated her, but she would have been lying if she tried to dismiss Scarlett as not being a very attractive woman. What rankled her to the bone was the knowledge that looks were only about one-third of what her brother found so entrancing about Scarlett. There was clearly something else to his attraction for this woman. If only she knew what it was.
"Rosemary?" Scarlett whispered, her voice hesitant with confusion.
Despite her dislike of Scarlett, she had still just been through a terrible ordeal and for now, Rosemary would be as polite as she could manage. "Yes, how are you feeling?"
"Hot, is it…" she began to cough, her body racked by each spasm.
"Scarlett, here, drink this." Rosemary placed the tumbler of water from the nightstand against Scarlett's lips but she shook her head frantically and Rosemary moved it away.
It took nearly several minutes for the wracking coughs to subside and by then, her dislike of Scarlett was temporally forgotten. "Any better?"
Not trusting her raw throat and feeling as though she was without the ability to utter a word, Scarlett nodded instead.
"Would you like that glass of water now?"
Scarlett nodded again. She took the glass and sipped slowly, wincing at the burning feeling in her throat. She was hot and uncomfortable in her heavy skirts. Her head was still swimming from the numerous drugs she'd been given during the last few days and she was having a great deal of difficulty articulating what is was that she wanted "Could you ask Pansy to come and undress me?"
Rosemary shrugged "Why bother her, I'll help you."
The thought of prolonged physical contact with Rhett's sister made her even more nauseated than she already felt, but she steeled her resolve and nodded, not trusting herself to speak least she tell Rosemary to stop hovering.
Rosemary took Scarlett's hand and attempted to help her from the bed. She managed to roll her legs out of the bed, but try as she might; it was nearly impossible for her to stand on her own. Rosemary looked at her, puzzled by the wave of agony that passed across Scarlett's features.
She opened her mouth to say something but the words wouldn't come. She could barely feel her legs. She knew they were there and she could just feel the cold floorboards beneath her feet, but the ability to stand and support her self seemed to have permanently abandoned her. She knew that Doctor Mossy said it would take time, but she expected that with a little rest she would be on her feet in no time. Instead, she was a burden, someone to be pitied instead of envied. She began to cry and for that, she reviled herself even further.
Startled by her tears, Rosemary helped Scarlett back onto the bed. "I'm going to ask Rhett to come up here, will you be alright by yourself for a moment?"
Scarlett protested through the tears that coursed down her pale face, "It's just because I haven't been up and about in a few days. It will pass, I'm sure. If you run and get Rhett he'll just be worried about nothing, just leave well enough alone." Scarlett's voice took on a pleading tone. "Please Rosemary, don't."
Rosemary bit her bottom lip. For a moment as she wondered what to do; she was torn between feeling sorry for Scarlett who seemed sincere in not wanting to worry Rhett and anger at Scarlett for having one more excuse to keep Rhett tethered to her. Common sense won out, if she was getting worse and not better, the sooner Rhett knew, the better. "Don't be ridiculous, you can't stand and your cold sounds as though it's only getting worse, not better. I'll get Rhett and then he can decide whether or not to send for a Doctor."
She bustled out of the room without allowing Scarlett another word. "Meddling busybody," muttered Scarlett, rearranging herself against the pillows.
Rhett was just placing his fork next to his plate when Rosemary appeared at the door to the library.
"Rhett, I think that perhaps you should come upstairs," she said gently.
Rhett felt his heart pound faster "Is Scarlett alright?"
Rosemary shook her head slightly as she spoke "Not really, her color's bad and she just had another coughing fit."
"A bad one?" Rhett asked hoping his sister would tell him differently.
"Yes, bad enough that I felt panicked, she couldn't catch a breath and then when I tried to help her out of her clothes, she nearly fainted. Then," Rosemary hesitated, she had fully intended to tell her brother 'and then she cried', but in some silly way, she felt as though she would be betraying a confidence. She knew that Scarlett wanted Rhett back desperately but she had come to understand that Scarlett O'Hara Butler would never resort to tears to win back Rhett. She'd do it through sheer force of will and scheming, not crocodile tears.
"And then what?"
"She just fell back onto the bed. She looks awful. Rhett, I think you should have someone a little more qualified than an army sawbones take a look at her."
Rhett rose from the table, gesturing for Rosemary to lead the way back upstairs. The words of the doctor who first examined Scarlett came to him, echoing through his brain like an accusation, 'the circulation has all but shut down in her legs, she'll be lucky if she doesn't lose the use of them.' This was entirely his fault, first he'd almost cost Scarlett her life by ignoring the signs of an oncoming squall and now she might be crippled because of his negligence.
Rhett returned to the chair he'd been sitting in earlier. He watched Scarlett's chest rise and fall, her breathing was labored and occasionally it hitched slightly before she would cough lightly in her sleep. "Go on Rosemary, I'll sit with her. I don't want her to wake up alone."
"Do you want me to send for Doctor Cross?"
Rhett looked up at his sister, disgust clear on his face. "Good God no, Doctor Bastin will do. Thank you Rosemary."
Rosemary watched her brother turn his attention back to Scarlett. He was becoming so focused on Scarlett. After everything he'd told her about his relationship with that woman, the thought of him being caught up once more left a sour taste in Rosemary's throat.
She turned to ask him if he wanted their mother to come back but what she saw took the words from her, leaving her alternately hot and cold with a dull, grinding rage. Rhett's hands were clenched around her small boned hand as though in prayer; his forehead resting atop their clasped hands.
Rhett was rapidly losing his battle to escape Scarlett and her wiles. Taking stock of the present situation, Rosemary came to a decision. Doctor Bastin was in his late sixties and extremely set in his ways, which according to him, were the right ways. If Scarlett did have any sort of temporary paralysis, it would be much wiser to have Doctor Cross see her.
Doctor Cross, on the other hand, was only in his early thirties and not nearly so pigheaded as Doctor Bastin. He had attended medical school in Europe and went to lectures up North all the time. Doctor Cross wouldn't simply agree with what the Yankee doctor had told Rhett, no, he would conduct a through examination and then they would know if Scarlett's condition was really as serious as the doctor at the fort had made it out to be.
'Of course,' Rosemary conceded reluctantly, 'Rhett won't like Doctor Cross even setting foot in the house, let alone treating Scarlett, but that can't be helped.'
It had to be Doctor Cross because he wasn't one to be charmed by a pretty face, especially if that face belonged to anyone with the last name of Butler.
The sooner she got Doctor Cross, the sooner he could proclaim Scarlett well and send her packing. Rosemary grabbed her caplet from the coat rack by the front door. The sooner Scarlett was given a clean bill of health, the better.
He was alone with her once more and that suited him just fine. It wasn't that he didn't love his sister; nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, his sister was far too observant for her own good and right now, Rhett didn't want an audience. Scarlett stirred slightly and Rhett stoked her palm absently with his thumb. He had told her that their love making on the beach had been nothing more than a celebration of not drowning. He tried to tell her that they'd just used one another and that it meant nothing, but that wasn't true. The walls that he'd built around his heart to keep it closed off from Scarlett had developed some hairline cracks.
She moved again and a few seconds later her eyes opened.
Her eyelids felt so heavy that it was a struggle just to keep her eyes open. "Rhett, Rosemary made you come up? I told her not to bother you."
"Rosemary didn't make me come up, I was concerned about you so I wanted to see how you were but you've been sleeping. Did I wake you?"
"No, my legs hurt and I..." She colored. The two hectic blotches of color gave her a heated appearance. She needed help undressing but the memory of his rough fumbling under the waterlogged sweater as he'd cut the laces on her corset came back to her, disconcerting her.
"Scarlett?" Rhett asked, his voice laced with concern, "What is it?'
"Would you ask Pansy to come up here and help me undress, my bodice and skirts aren't very comfortable to sleep in."
"I'm sorry, I should have considered that when I brought you up here earlier."
"It's fine, I just need Pansy to help undress me."
Rhett stood and yanked the bell pull with more force than was strictly necessary. He was conflicted about his feelings for Scarlett and it annoyed him to feel so out of control of his emotions.
Moments later there was a rap at the door. Rhett opened the door to find Carlen, his mothers cook, standing outside the door.
"You ne' sump'in Cap'n Bu'ler?"
" Miss Scarlett's maid, Pansy, would you send her up please."
"I's sorry Cap'n Bu'ler, she goada tel'gram. Her pa'py died n'd her momma's fra'tic fo' her. Must'a if she wuz willin' ta spen' money li' dat. Sump'ing I kin help wit Cap'n Bu'ler?"
"No, I'll see to it myself. Carlen, do you know of any of your nieces that might be looking for a position as a ladies maid?"
"I surely do. I'll as' ta'nite an' h've one of 'em he'e in da mo'nin'."
"Thank you Carlen, that's all." Closing the door, Rhett returned to Scarlett's bedside. "I'm afraid you'll have to make due with me, Pansy was called away by a family emergency."
"I could have been drowned, what on earth could that girl be thinking, running off like this?" Scarlett groused.
"Her father died," Rhett replied quietly.
Scarlett blushed again, much to her annoyance. "Oh," was all she could bring herself to say.
"If you'll undo your bodice, I'll help you take it off."
Left with no other alternative other than staying in her clothes for an unknown period of time, Scarlett unbuttoned the nearly two dozen tiny jet buttons running single file down her bodice front. She tried to struggle out of the now unbuttoned garment but it was no use, she would simply have to accept Rhett helping her undress.
Trying to remain unmoved by the thought of laying his hands on her and baring her flesh was proving to be more of a challenge than Rhett had originally thought. He peeled off the bodice only to discover, to his reluctant fascination, Scarlett wasn't wearing a corset. The idea that she'd been in his arms earlier without a corset entranced him.
Underneath her dress, she'd only been wearing her combination and some petticoats to give shape to her skirts. Her waist was still tiny even after giving birth three times and her breasts were so high and firm that it would have never occurred to him that she was without the shaping of a corset.
His hand still rested on her shoulder, his fingers curving lightly to mold to the contours of her smooth, bare shoulder.
His touch was driving her wild; she could no longer differentiate between the heat generated by her fever and the warmth spreading though her due to Rhett's touch. How could she go without ever seeing him again? Could she spend a lifetime never touching him? What would it be like to never be touched by him again now that she knew how badly she wanted him?
He wanted her to leave, but she could also tell that he wasn't as sure as he'd once been. Maybe they still had a chance. It would require a great deal of effort on her part. If she could only convince him that she was now the one determined to leave, that alone might bring him to heel. After all, when had Rhett wanted her the most but when she didn't want him.
"Rhett," she said softly.
He looked at her and cleared his slightly constricted throat. "I'll help you unhook your skirts, do you think you can stand?"
Her head was swimming and her legs were sore, but the only thing that could keep Katie Scarlett O'Hara Butler from formulating a scheme was death. "I think I'd rather wait for Rosemary," she replied innocently.
He tried to suppress the smile that came to his lips, but failed slightly. "I've seen you in less than your chemise before you know."
She took a deep breath. Seeing the opportunity to bait him,she was determined to take it. "You and I had an arrangement and you honored it to the letter. You've been kind and you treated me better than I deserved to be treated, considering the circumstances. You took me to the St. Cecilia ball and then you…," She allowed the sentence to hang, unfinished. "I'll be gone just as soon as I'm well. Then you'll never have to concern yourself with me again." She frowned then shrugged, "I don't want you to accuse me of stalling for time."
He laughed harshly "Goddamn it, you nearly died, to hell with our agreement. You'll leave when…"
She broke in. "I'll leave when I want to, which will be as soon as I am able. You won't be the one to tell me what to do anymore," said Scarlett, struggling to turn and face him.
"When was I ever able to tell you what to do?" Rhett asked incredulously. "You've always done whatever you wanted, whenever you've wanted…"
"That's the pot calling the kettle black," countered Scarlett tartly. "I've overstayed my welcome." He couldn't help but note the emphisis on the word welcome. "Besides," she continued, "I wouldn't want you to stop sending money to cover the upkeep of the house in Atlanta because one morning, when you're cross with me over something I've said or done, you decide I've nullified our agreement by overstaying my 'welcome'."
"The money I promised you will be deposited in your account in Atlanta and I'll continue to pay the bills on that mausoleum in Atlanta," he retorted angrily.
Scarlett felt a new strength surge through her veins. He was getting angry, anger was an emotion that Rhett tried to keep under control and now there were breaks in that control. She could reach him; she smirked hoping to anger him further. "You won't have bother much longer on that last count, I'm going to sell that house to whom ever is insane enough to want to live in it. Unless you'd like it," she added sweetly.
"You'd just give it to me, how terribly kind of you. Don't forget, I've already signed the papers turning the house and a monthly housekeeping stipend over to you. Would you do the same for me? "
Her composed mask slipped for a minute, the thought of living in that house without Rhett and Bonnie made her stomach twist. In a few years Wade would leave for university and then Ella would leave for finishing school and she'd be alone in that echoing, empty house.
Rhett mistook her extend silence on the matter as an admission that she'd never just give away a valuable piece of property. He couldn't help but make a comment to that effect. "You'd never give away that house." He laughed sardonically, "Scarlett O'Hara, Atlanta's own lady bountiful."
"I'd do it in a heartbeat," she cried, "I hate that house and it would serve me fine to never spend another night in it."
"Then why did I pour so much of my ill gotten gains into building you that goddamn monstrosity," he roared in one of the rare instances where he lost his usual hold on his emotions.
"Rhett, is this a bad time?" Miss Eleanor asked from the relative safety of the bedroom door.
Scarlett and Rhett turned toward the doorway, their faces alike with expressions of embarrassment at being caught in the midst of an argument.
His face became clean, wiped of all emotion as he crossed to the door to greet his mother. It was only after he greeted his mother that he glanced at the man just behind her. "Doctor Cross?" There was trace of surprise in his voice. "I was under the impression my sister was going for Doctor Bastin?"
The younger man shrugged his shoulders absently. "I really couldn't say. Miss Butler appeared on my doorstep and enlisted my aid, if you'd rather Captain Butler, I could leave."
Miss Eleanor saw Rhett's eyes narrow as his lips twisted into a grimace of dislike. She interceded quickly, hoping to avoid a rehashing of long dead grievances. "No, of course not, thank you for coming on such short notice Doctor Cross. I don't know if Rosemary told you, but it's about my daughter in law, Scarlett."
Doctor Cross nodded, pointedly ignoring Rhett. He walked into the room and stood before Scarlett. "Good evening Mrs. Butler, I am Doctor Cross." He managed a smile for her, it was stiff, the smile of a man unused to smiling often or for very long. "I was introduced to you, albeit briefly, at the St. Cecilia Ball."
She could not readily place him; there were so many people there that the many faces and names blurred together in her weary mind. "I'm sorry that I don't recall, was it early in the evening? The beauty of the Hibernian Hall so overawed me so I can only recall how wonderful it all was," she answered in the manner she had so often practiced at her mother's knee. She'd learned that as a girl, if you didn't remember meeting a gentleman, remain noncommittal and instead, make a comment about how lovely the affair was.
"I believe it was just under the dome," prompted Doctor Cross.
When she failed to voice any sort of sign of recognition Doctor Cross's slightly abrasive manner settled back over him like a veil. "Miss Butler mentioned you were involved in an accident about a week ago, could you describe what happened?"
"I suppose I could, if you'd think it might help. Rhett and I went sailing the morning after the ball. The boat capsized while my husband and I were out. We were caught under the boat for some time and then when we reached shore," she blushed at the memory of what precisely had taken place when they'd reached the shore, "Rhett found a cabin for us to shelter in. I don't remember very much after that, I fainted."
He smiled again at the word fainted, this time there was an amused glint in his eyes. "I doubt you fell into a lady like swoon that could have been solved with some smelling salts. You were unconscious for a prolonged period of time?"
Scarlett was immediately off put by the Doctor's brusque manner despite his attempt at another smile. Trying to answer his queries as best she could, she continued, "Yes, I suppose so. I remember my husband returning to the cabin with some Yankee soldiers and a doctor. Then I lost consciousness again. That's everything that I can recall. I've been dizzy and tired ever since I woke up in."
"Fine." He reached for her wrist and removed his pocket watch from the front of his vest. He waited a minute and then nodded. "Your pulse is rapid and from the heat radiating from your skin, you obviously have a fever." He opened his leather satchel and withdrew a strange instrument.
"What is that thing," asked Scarlett, eyeing the elaborate tube connected to a sort of cup.
"It's an invention from the French. It was shown at the Paris Medical Expo two years ago. Doctor Learner calls it a stethoscope. It will enable me to more accurately listen to your heartbeat." He turned to face Rhett. "Captain Butler, if you'll step out of the room I'd like to further examine Mrs. Butler."
Scarlett looked at Rhett, her eyes wide and afraid. The only two doctors that had ever examined her were Dr. Fontaine, who had helped bring her into the world, and later Dr. Meade. The thought of this strange man with his arrogance and off putting ways examining her made her made her skin crawl. There was naked pleading in her wide green eyes and Rhett could not desert her. "I think I'll stay if it's all the same to you," he added the Doctor's first name in a voice so condescending it sounded like a verbal slap, "Jason."
Doctor Cross bristled at Rhett's use of his first name "It most certainly is not all the same to me, your mother may remain if you wish your wife to have a chaperone, but I will not examine her with you standing there, calculating the meaning of my every word and gesture."
Scarlett came to a split second decision. Rhett disliked this man so immensely that perhaps it would be best to just allow Doctor Cross to examine her so that he could leave. He did seem very competent and though she was focused on recapturing Rhett's love for her, she also wanted to walk again.
"It's fine Rhett, Miss Eleanor will stay with me."
Rhett crossed to Scarlett's bedside, nearly elbowing Doctor Cross in the stomach. He leaned forward and surprised himself and Scarlett both by kissing her gently on the forehead. It wasn't passionate; in fact, it was reminiscent of the way he would kiss Bonnie after she awoke from the clutches of a nightmare.
"I'll be right outside, if you need me, just call."
Scarlett smiled faintly. This was the old Rhett who she caught glimpses of over the last few months during her stay in Charleston. He did care about her. No matter what he said about wanting her to leave Charleston he obviously wasn't as sure as he once claimed he was about his feelings for her. "Thank you," she said, smiling slightly.
He made the mistake of looking into her eyes to see whatever there was to see in them. They were soft and wide, filled with an innocence and trust that he'd so seldom seen before. She trusted him to protect her and though he'd never been a man to be swayed by a damsel in distress, how could he disappoint her when it was evident that she trusted him so completely to come to her aid should she call?
He bowed to her, straight from the waist, every bit as elegantly as when he'd bowed to the general assembly at the Atlanta Bazaar during the war. He closed the door behind him, leaving it ever so slightly ajar so that he could listen in if Scarlett needed him.