Author's Note:

Hi all. There are a lot of reasons contributing to the long absence of story and its overdue update. I won't go into detail, but a few of the reasons include: school work, a lot more school work, studying for said school work and the exams that followed; re-writing and editing previous chapters and starting the first half of this one; the crash of my computer's hard drive, thus leading to the loss of all said work, and everything I've accumulated on my computer for the past 6 years (I managed to post edited versions for the first 3 or 4 chapters of this story, so I suggest you check them out once you finish with this one); one of my dearest friends getting into a car accident (hit by a drunk driver - she survived, sadly her friend did not); and finally, packing up all my belongings for my family's big move. Of course, my job and sheer and utter laziness also came into play. I'm sure a lot of people gave up on this story, but I'm telling you right now it hasn't been abandoned, and updates will be a lot more frequent. You must understand that one has other things that are required to get done, and sometimes writing a fanfic for fun on the side isn't necessarily a requirement. I'm going to ask you to forgive me because this chapter is a sheer dandy. At least I think so. Now please, read it and enjoy…all ten pages of it! But first, I'd like to say one more thing. I think having a beta would be a good idea, so if anyone's interested, email me at . The only requirements needed: you must be good at spelling and grammar, and you need to be able to make me write if I fall into shlumps like this again.

Tyler sighed as he put down his morning paper, and hastily took another bite of his scrambled eggs. They hit his stomach like a rock.

So Charles Lattimer was dead. He swiped a match across the table top and lit a cheroot, holding the smoke inside his lungs just perhaps a moment too long, forcing his body into heaving coughs, which he tried to smother with black coffee.

Who shot Lattimer? How long had he been dead? Was this why Scarlet came to him in such a frenzy? His eyes automatically looked at the ceiling, as though he was expecting to see through it. She was up there, still sleeping in his bed, undoubtedly dreaming of what a bastard he was to her.

He motioned to the man behind his bar to bring him some more coffee, and his eyes returned to his paper. It was all so intriguing, but at the same time, it made him worried. Where were the other two girls, could they possibly be dead also? What if it was one of them who did it…what if it was Scarlet?

That's the most insane thought that's ever come into your head. She's not a killer. She can lie, cheat, and sleep with as many men as she feels she needs to, but she could not kill anybody.

He scolded himself for thinking something as absurd as that for even longer than a moment, but soon enough his face was etched again with worry. What if whoever had done this was actually looking for someone else? For her?

He downed the rest of his coffee and cringed as the hot liquid burned its way down his throat. He contemplated, not for the first time that morning, going back upstairs to her, but decided against it.

Let her sleep, he thought as he ground out his cheroot, she probably needs it. He walked out of his bar and made his way to Del's bank.

"Did that S.O.B. finally make his way into work today?" Tyler said as he made his way into Del's office, not bothering to knock.

Delaney grinned handsomely at Tyler. "Yep, finally. But he was late. Give me one of those." He motioned to the cheroot case sticking out of his friend's front shirt pocket. Tyler obliged, tossing him the case and a match.

"So where is he," Tyler asked again.

"Who knows?" Del replied, impatiently.

"Delaney, did you see today's paper?"

"I was just about to ask you the same thing."

"What the hell is going on with her?" Tyler plopped down onto the leather sofa on the other side of the room, and put his feet onto the table in front of it.

"Do you have any idea how much that table cost," Del asked, eyeing Tyler's boots.

Tyler waved away his friend's question. "I'm worried about her."

"That's because you love her, you stupid ass," Hawk said, striding into the room.

"You don't know what you're talking about. And who invited you into this conversation," Tyler snarled at his friend.

"I did. And I do know what I'm talking about. Delaney told me everything yesterday as soon as we dropped you off."

Tyler threw his hands up in the air. "Christ! Oh…forget it. It doesn't matter." He ran his hand through his hair. "I'm worried that whoever shot Lattimer will soon go after Scarlet," he said to the room at large.

"And I'm worried for both of you," Del said, his wise face no longer grinning. "You can't be gentle with her one moment, and screaming at her the next. You need to ask her what's going on."

"But I tried that already. She won't give in."

"No, you've yelled at her, and you've threatened her into telling you. What you need to do is ask."

"It sounds like you've been talking to Jules a little too much," Tyler said, grumpily.

"And so what if I have?" Del replied, exhaling a cloud of smoke. "You know I'm right. You're just too stubborn to admit it."

"Yeah? So what."

"Tyler," Hawk chimed in, "go home and talk to her."

"Yeah," Tyler said as he stood up, "yeah, I think I'll do that."

He threw his paper down onto the coffee table and made his way out of Delaney's office, leaving his cheroot case on his desk.

"And play nice!" Hawk called after him, not being able to resist taunting his friend any longer.

"Sod off!" Tyler called over his shoulder, causing curious onlookers in the bank to stare after him puzzled.

"Smoke?" Del said with a smile, unable to help himself, as he tossed the case to his friend.

She was sitting up in bed when he opened the door to his bedroom. Her hair was in snarled disarray around her head, and her eyes were still a little closed from sleep. She looked so incredibly beautiful that he wanted to drop the tray of food he was carrying and throw himself at her feet.

Instead, he stood his ground, and said, "I've brought you some breakfast."

"Thank you," she said nervously as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.

He sat the tray on his bedside table and picked up a bottle of milk. "Milk in your coffee," he asked softly.

"Yes please."

"One lump, or two?"

"Four," she replied. A smile played its way across his face without his consent. He was careful not to let her see it. He turned around and placed the try on her lap.

She looked up at him as he leaned over her and without thinking, her hand stroked along the side of his face.

"You look weary," she said, her voice soft, soothing.

His eyes closed without his consent at the feel of her hand. "I am," he replied.

"So am I." She looked up at him as he sat down in chair by the bed. She warily took a sip of her coffee, and winced furiously. It was scalding.

"Are you alright," he asked her, immediately jumping up and sitting next to her on the bed. He took the tray off of her lap and set it on the floor. Her eyes were tightly closed and tears swam down her face as she shook her head furiously.

"It burnt you that badly?" He was confused. It hadn't been that hot.

"No, it's not the coffee." She said, and broke into a small sob. "It's not the coffee. I'm not alright." Her hands covered her face she continued to cry into them.

"Hey…hey now. Come on, stop your bloody crying." He pulled her hands down from her face and placed his hand along her chin, turning her head towards him.

"I'm so frightened," she whispered, staring at him, tears still making their way down her cheeks."

He almost gasped. She did look frightened. What the bloody hell is going on here?

"Shh…I know," He whispered. But he didn't know. He had absolutely no clue. He stared at her. She was so lovely. Her dark green eyes were swollen from crying, and they were shining with her tears. Her face had streaks of dried tears on it. Her chest was heaving and because of it her breasts were thrust out, with only her thin, cotton chemise separating them from his view. His hand was still under her chin and he just couldn't help himself….

He brought his head to hers and kissed her. Blood was drumming loudly in his ears, so loud that surely she must've heard it, and from somewhere far, far off in the distance he heard her gasp before succumbing to his kiss.

Her soft lips tasted salty from her tears, and when he deepened the kiss, her mouth tasted like the sweetened coffee she was able to take a sip of before it burnt her. He groaned as his hands tangled in her thick, unruly hair. Her body was so soft, so incredibly soft against him and for a moment he was almost amazed at the difference between them.

"My clothes," he muttered against her slightly parted mouth, "I have to get off my clothes."

She pulled her head back from his and furiously began trying to undo the buttons of his crisp, white shirt. He inwardly smirked at her clumsy efforts, and slapped her hands away, unbuttoning it himself.

His shirt was hanging open and she slid her hands across his chest, up to his shoulders, and clutched at him as he brought his mouth down to hers again.

What am I doing? She thought frantically as he expertly began placing kisses along the side of her neck. I can't…I can't do this. But she couldn't seem to make herself stop.

Almost as if reading her thoughts, Tyler pulled his head back and rested his forehead against hers.

"No Scarlet, no," he said, almost panting. "There's no turning back now, you can't turn back. I won't let you."

She shut her eyes tightly and pondered furiously. "I…don't want to. I need you."

I need you. He'd been picturing her saying those words to him for five, long years now. He forgot all his anger at her, forgot all the faceless men he'd pictured her with, and stood up. He shrugged himself out of his shirt.

She stared up at him with wonder in her eyes. He was so tall…so incredibly male. He had a gracefulness to him that seemed almost odd for someone so large. Even the way he seemed to hurriedly tug off each of his boots seemed to be done with such ease.

She stared fixatedly at his chest, at the thick mat of hair there that narrowed as it snaked its way down, and disappeared beneath his breeches. A blush crept across her face.

He stepped out of his breeches stood before her for a moment, letting her look at his body, before he pulled the blankets completely off her and got on the bed beside her.

"You are so amazing," he muttered against her lips as he lay beside her. His hand trailed down and cupped her breast through the thin material of her chemise. He felt her body respond and grow taught from his efforts and he managed to swallow a groan.

"Please…" she muttered into his mouth over and over, although she didn't know what she wanted. But he did. He reached for the hem of her chemise, and together they managed to get it off of her. He untied her pantalets and she kicked them off, but she had no idea where they landed. But it didn't matter. All that mattered was Tyler - Tyler and the need that he was creating deep inside her.

Her body seemed to be on fire. Each movement his fingers made against her skin caused her to gasp and squirm. He brought his mouth to her breast and when it closed over her, her back arched and her hips bucked. She could feel him hard against her; feel his aching, his need, and she gasped in anticipation.

She'd heard a lot about lovemaking from Frances and Margot. They had always described it was wonderful, said there was nothing else like it. She looked up at him. He was laying along side her, propped up on his elbow, now staring down at her face.

"Scarlet," he said, his breathing harsh, as his hand left her breast and made its way down her stomach. He thought he would explode as his hand found its way to the nest of curls between her legs, finding her. "Scarlet," he said again. She was warm, wet, so incredibly delicate. She wanted him. He was shaking, he couldn't wait. "Feel what I'm doing to you. You're ready for me," he said as he positioned himself above her and pulled her thighs apart. He looked down at her again.

I should wait…give her pleasure…. But she was looking up at him so tenderly, and he saw the need in her eyes as she reached up for him. "I need you…" he replayed over and over inside his head. He couldn't wait any longer.

He grasped her hips in his hands and raised them as he thrust inside her. But as soon as he did this, he felt her tense beneath him. Her hands were on his shoulders, almost as if she were trying to shove him away….

Something isn't right…something.... She was so small, almost too small… but his nearly painful need clouded over his judgment.

"Tyler, please, it hurts." He heard her whimper in his ear. And then he felt it, her maidenhead.

"No," he said, confusion racking his brain. "God, no!" He tore through the taught barrier and seated himself to his hilt inside her.

She was shuddering beneath him, pain convulsing through her. He felt the wetness of her tears on his shoulder as he continued to thrust inside her. Somewhere in the back of his mind he heard her whimper his name. He reared back, his back arched, neck taught, and felt himself explode, flooding her with his seed.

He collapsed onto her. For many moments, he laid there, his head next to her on the pillow. Neither of them moved.

He propped himself up on his elbows to relieve her of his weight. "Scarlet," he said simply. He looked down at her. Her eyes were tightly shut, her lashes wet spikes across her cheeks.

"You…you can't be." God, she'd been a virgin!

"I didn't know it would hurt so much. I thought it was supposed to be very pleasant."

"It is, just not the first time," he said. She could hear the guilt in his voice, but she knew it wouldn't last long. "Why didn't you tell me you were a virgin? Why didn't you tell me to stop?"

"I didn't want you to stop, and I did tell you I was a virgin. You just didn't believe you."

"You were working in Jules' brothel! You were one of Charles Lattimer's harlots!" He saw her wince as he said this and tried to calm down. As soon the words came out of his mouth he realized that they couldn't have been true. What the hell was going on here?

He sighed and tried to pull out of her, but her hands clasped around his back.

"Please don't leave me."

He groaned at her words, but ignored them. "If I stay inside you, I'll hurt you again. He rolled tiredly onto his back and flung his arm above his head. With his other arm he gathered her to him and she rested her head in the crook of his arm. She gingerly placed her hand on his chest and closed her eyes.

"I'm sorry," he said to the top of her head. She didn't respond, but he knew she was still awake. He continued. "There's so much we need to talk about, love." He felt her head nod in agreement. "Are you finally ready to tell me what's going on," he asked her softly.

Immediately she sat up. She gathered the bed sheet to her chest and sat there, nervously.

She heard him gasp behind her. "My God," he said. "What he hell happened to your back?"

"What do you mean?" She asked, although she had an idea of what he was talking about. She grabbed her hair over one shoulder and started fingering through it.

"I mean it looks like you've been beaten. There are scars all over your back." She felt his fingers trace their way along her back and she shivered. "Who beat you?"

"They're…they're from my uncle. He only did it the one time. He did it that…that night I came home from Atlanta."

His fingers automatically stopped their movements. "The night I made you leave me." He saw her nod furiously.

"He was furious with me. He…he was outside waiting for me when I got home. He whipped me with a riding crop, said I'd gone there to give myself to you, and said I was your whore. He was right."

"He was not right," he said, very angrily. "Scarlet look at me," she did, "what happened...well, what didn't happen…" his voice trailed off, and he looked as though he was desperately looking for the right words, "you weren't my whore. That's not how I thought of you. That's not what I think about you right now."

"But you did," she cried out, tears filling her eyes, "you did think I was a whore."

"Not until I saw you five years later, saw what I thought you had become." They sat there in silence for a moment, before he asked, "What happened after that night?"

"My uncle sold the plantation almost immediately. He moved us back to England." She told him about the five long years they had spent there, about her uncle's neglect of her, about Bea, about her mother's murder, and Lizzie, about her wild flee for San Francisco.

She told him about Charles Lattimer kidnapping her on the ship, about Frances and Margot training her. At the mention of Margot's name, at hearing about her assistance in this entire situation and not helping Scarlet when she so desperately needed it, he glared furiously at nothing in particular, and asked her to continue.

She explained, now crying, about finding Charles dead on her bed, about the note he'd written her, explaining everything.

"…And now Jamie's here, somewhere. He's been looking for me. I don't know why he came after me, why he won't leave me alone."

He pulled her down to him again and held her tightly. "The man's an animal." He found himself playing with her hair softly as he processed all of the information. "But don't worry; I won't let him touch you."

He felt the wet of her tears on his shoulder again. "I mean it. I'll kill the bastard."

She was thrilled to hear this from him, but at the same time she felt an enormous wave of guilt. "Tyler, I can't allow it. I don't want you to get involved."

"Are you kidding me," he said almost angrily, "I'm up to my neck in this mess. I'm not going to sit back at let him hurt you. And neither will Delaney and Hawk," he felt her stiffen as he mentioned the names of his friends, "yes, I will tell them. They can help you. Del is an amazing person. With his help, no body will think ill of you, that is," he said quietly, "think of you the way I did, within a week or so. They're very high on the social ladder."

"Do you really think he'll help me, even though I almost hit him in the head with a lamp," she said a little sleepily.

He couldn't believe his ears. She'd made a joke. He grinned down at her and kissed the tip of her nose.

"Don't let go of me," she muttered into his chest as her eyes fluttered closed.

I don't intend to now, he thought to himself, and closed his eyes as well.

He awoke a few hours later. It was late in the afternoon, and she was still napping. He silently crawled out of the bed and walked over to his nightstand. On top of it was a white clay pitcher full of water and a small basin. He looked down at himself quickly, with a silly male grin on his face, before grabbing the washcloth and washing off her blood and his seed. He dressed as quietly as he could and grabbed his boots.

Closing the bedroom door behind him, he sat down on the sofa in his living room and put them on. He exhaled as he got up and quietly made his way down the stairs and out of his apartment.

He had to go tell Del everything about this situation, and about twenty minutes later, inside his office once again, he did.

Tyler tried to ignore the stupid grin on Hawk's face, but it was impossible.

"Look, just say what you want to say, Merrik." Tyler said to him.

"Augh, Tyler please, spare me."

"Enough, both of you," Delaney said. He looked to Tyler. "The man, this Sherbrooke fellow, to me, well, he almost seems insane."

"That's what I thought as well. But when I met him, he came across differently. A little cold, yes, but certainly not the way he is now. I remember he was almost oozing with calm, Southern charm." He sighed. "But you should've seen her back. He only beat her once but yet…."

"That's another thing Ty," Del said, "Scarlet. What are you going to do with her? You both can't continue as you are."

"I know that, Delaney, I'm not a fool."

"I care to disagree. You're intelligent yes, but a fool…" Hawk said.

Even Delaney smiled, but it vanished within moments. "Well, Tyler? She needs protection. What are you going to do about this?"

Tyler stood there, thoughts running trough his head at a million miles per second. He was silent for a second before grinning at his best friend and said, "I'm going to marry her."