Twin Oaks Plantation;

Near Atlanta, Georgia;


Her scream could be heard by everyone on the plantation, including the slaves down in their quarters, which were about a quarter of a mile away.

Everyone, that is, except for her daughter, Scarlet, who lay peacefully sleeping upstairs in her chambers, unaware that the peach cobbler she'd eater at dinner had been drugged. She would be asleep for a long time still. Thankfully.

"Shut your mouth, you filthy little whore," said her brother-in-law, Jamie, as he slapped her once again. She fell into the chair that was, thankfully, behind her.

She looked up at him, towering above her, with sunken eyes. He looked exactly like her late husband, Michael, who had died in a tragic shipping accident, sailing back to America from Normandy. He'd promised her gifts of fine silk dresses—the latest fashions in all of France—and the expensive gardenia perfume that he'd been so fond of. She missed him so much... But now, staring up into the face that was exactly identical to his, incredibly handsome but much crueler, made shivers run up her spine. It was nothing like she was used to. It was as if it he, Michael, looking at her this way, not his brother, whom they both thought they had known so well.

The light from the fireplace glowing behind him made his blond hair glow in odd ways, his fair skin a soft orange color, and his dark green eyes look almost black. He looked like the devil himself.

I shouldn't have come here, brought my daughter here. I should have stayed in Boston. What if he decides to hurt Scarlet as well?

"Why are you doing this to me? Please, just please let me go. My daughter and I will leave first thing in the morning. Just let me go, please..."

But her pleas were spoken in vain. He only paced in front of her, not listening. It was as if she hadn't even spoken. The room was silent for the next few minutes. She tried standing up but he placed his hand on her shoulder and shoved her down. He finally broke the comforting sound of nothing.

"You know, I've always wanted you," he said in a low, calm voice. "Never, in my thirty-four years of existence, have I wanted a woman as much as I've wanted you. When my brother wrote me a letter six years ago, saying that he had gotten married to a little abolitionist girl during his stay in Boston, I overlooked it, thinking you were a fool.

"You were only eighteen, weren't you? Young, but the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. When my brother died months ago, he didn't even get to see his daughter turn four. How pitiful—he couldn't save himself, not even in water. He was always the weak one between us.

"But I, my dear, could be a strong husband for you, as I have told you countless times. But you still deny me. Why is that? You're only twenty-four, and you need a new husband. I am able to offer you everything you could ever want and you still refuse to be nothing more than a fallen woman with a little brat always at her hip. So what am I to do with you?

"I sent you down to Georgia to become my wife, Juliana. Did you think this was a trip for sightseeing? Hardly. You'll have me, or you'll have no one. What do you choose?"

She waited a few moments before speaking. "I choose nothing. I would never be your wife. Go to hell, you stupid fool."

He strode over to the chair she was in and placed a hand on each of the arm rests. He said calmly, his face a mere two inches from hers, "That's your choice? You choose no one? Think of your daughter, Juliana. Don't choose a fate that you'll regret once you pass into the hereafter. If you don't have me, you'll have less than no one, you'll have nothing at all." He sighed. "Would you like to re-think your choice now?"

He's bluffing. He has to be. If he loves me as much as he says he does, he'll do nothing to me, or to Scarlet...

"No. I will not re-think my choice. I will not have you as a husband Jamie. I don't love you. You are a hateful man, and you can't be trusted."

He felt rage growing inside him. Why wouldn't she just comply? Did the stupid girl want to die? He felt almost saddened about the fact she would never be his. "Well, if that's what you choose," he said as he drew himself up to his full height, a towering six foot three, the same as his brother, and punched her in the jaw. She slumped in the chair, her eyes fluttering closed. "Then that's that."

He looked out the window. A fine night, he thought, not one spot of wind. He strode over to let it open and sighed. It was just as he'd predicted. It was warm, not too humid, and not a cloud in the sky. He looked up. The moon was full, casting light over the plantation.

He walked to the unconscious woman who was slumped in his favorite stuffed chair, and picked her up into his arms. She was so small, so lovely—he loved her so much he thought he would burn with it. But it was a hateful love, a jealous, possessive love.

He heard the grandfather clock in the corner of his library chime ten strokes. Quietly, so he wouldn't announce himself to anyone who might already awake and suspicious, he walked down the corridor and out the great front doors.

The night was peacefully calm, the aroma of magnolias and gardenias sifting through the air. He inhaled deeply. Yes, it was an absolutely perfect night. He carried her light body across his grounds to his stable. Careful not to wake up any stable boy who was doubtless sleeping in any of the stalls, he set her down on a soft loft of hay in order to saddle his stallion, Phantom. A beautiful Thoroughbred, with a shiny coat that was a cross between black and dark brown, who stood sixteen hands high.

He lay Juliana across Phantom's back and got up onto the horse. Careful not to wake her, he put the horse in a slow canter. He rode and rode, across Sherbrooke land to a moderately-sized crick. It was pretty deep, and very dangerous—the bottom was covered by sharp rocks, which was why children never went swimming there. A high bridge was above it, and he stopped on it.

He dismounted and pulled her down, into his arms. She was still unconscious. Gently, he brought his lips down to hers. Oh, how he'd always longed to kiss her beautiful mouth. He forced her mouth open with his tongue and kissed her deeper than before.

Her eyes suddenly flew open. She screamed, only to realize that his mouth muffled the noise. Where had he taken her? She knew that wherever it was, it was far away from anyone who could help her.

She threw her arms frantically about her, trying to hit him. But it didn't work, for he kept on kissing her, gliding his mouth down the side of her neck. She took the opportunity to scream as loud as she could. A high, blood-curdling scream escaped from her lips and he brought his mouth back over hers to silence her. She bit down as hard as she could.

He spit blood out of his mouth. "You little bitch," he said to her as he wiped blood from the corner of his mouth. Once again, he punched her already bruised jaw. She was a unconscious once more, her body going limp in his arms.

Carefully, he set her down on her back and climbed over her. He tossed up her many skirts so that they lay about her stomach. He tore at her chemise, ripping it to shreds. He didn't bother with her shoes or stockings.

When she was naked from the waist down, he pulled his straining manhood from his breeches, and plunged himself into her small, warm body. She didn't stir.

He went slow, savoring the moment, wishing that they were in his bed, wishing that she was awake, reaching for him, caressing him, loving him. But it wasn't possible. He took her the only way that he could now.

After he came to his release, he put himself back into his breeches. He clasped her hands and pulled her up, her skirts falling down, the length of her body against his.

"This was the only way it could be. Stupid, foolish girl..." He kissed her neck and smelled her hair one last time, and quickly, before he started to doubt himself, threw her unconscious body over the side of the bridge. The height of the bridge didn't allow her body to hit the water softly, and she plunged to the bottom, not returning to the surface before Jamie turned back toward his horse. He disregarded any feelings of regret.

He walked inside the library of his great Southern plantation Twin Oaks as the grandfather clock was chiming twelve strokes. He poured himself a brandy and sat down. As he was taking his first sip, he heard his niece Scarlet cry, "Mama! Mama where are you?"

Shit, he thought, the child. What the hell am I supposed to do with her?

He ignored her while he drank his brandy, hoping she'd go back to bed. But she wouldn't stop crying. He left the library, closing the doors behind him, and walked down the corridor to the stairway. Taking the stairs two at a time, he made his way into her bedchamber, calling out, "I'm coming darlin', I'm coming for you." He saw her sitting up in bed, her hair tied up in ribbons to ensure curls in the morning. Her face was tear-streaked. He sat down next to her and drew her into his arms.

"It's okay, darlin', I'm here for you. You're uncle will take care of you, sweetness."