John bowed. “Care to dance, Miss Middleton?”A smile tugged at my mouth, but I forced it into a frown. “Does a horse care to be driven by spurs?”“I have never asked one.” He grabbed my hand and led me to the floor.Warmth seeped through my glove and traveled up my face. What was the matter with me? “You, sir, are no gentleman.” There. That would bring me control of this situation.He released my hand and fell into line with the other men. The music started the Virginia reel, and when he stepped toward me for our first turn, I knew I had as much control as I did over a prairie fire. Everything could go up in smoke.“I agree with you.” His eyes held the teasing light I was accustomed to, but something more shone there.I shirked from exploring the possibilities. “Yankees have no shame.”“They’re not that different from Johnny Rebs.”We stepped apart, but the intensity of his gaze never left. My breath came in shallow—thanks to my dratted corset. He would not have the last word, however. Back together for the second turn, I steeled myself. “You are a liar as well, I see.”His brow furrowed. “This war pits brother against brother, but it does not change the fact we are brothers. We have to let go of our differences and embrace our common ground.”We separated, then joined again. “There is no common ground.” Tears burned in my throat, and my hands shook in his.He applied gentle pressure. “If we let love in, there’s always common ground.”It was a false hope, and no matter how much you wished, it couldn’t be true. “Not this time.”Moisture filled his eyes, or maybe my vision was too blurred to see clearly.
She arrived in a flurry of spice and colour. And noise; so much noise - laughter, mainly, and music.“It’s obscene,” Rose muttered. “Doesn’t even appear to have a sofa.”"Oh, I agree." George said. But George wondered how ‘not having a sofa’ made someone obscene. He continued to watch the movers as they carried a deep chocolate sideboard carved with intricate patterns into the house across the street. He had a sudden urge to run his fingers over the carvings and sit on the large purple, pink and orange cushions that had already been carried inside.A sunset in soft furnishings, he thought, glancing at the beige and mushroom decor of his own surroundings. He shuddered."Our house is more tasteful, isn't it, George?""Oh yes!" Sombre caught in his throat. Don't goad her, keep it in."Muted." She nodded to herself and turned away from the window, retreated to the kitchen. Deathly, thought George.He could hear Rose banging pots and clattering crockery in the kitchen. She did this a lot lately. The din from the kitchen ceased with a crescendo of plates smashing on the tiles. He counted to sixty under his breath and the sound of Rose crying began, like clockwork. Her sobs came in waves, ebbing away only to cough back into the air like an ocean trying to choke a beach. He didn’t go to her. He'd tried to console her on too many occasions to recount, but she’d ignored his attempts. Barely spoke to him at all these days. One occasion she’d screamed at him - “Why?” - he hadn’t known how to answer, had just stood there dumb and unmoving.