Chapter 14

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Tavington dismounted and handed his horse off to one of the workers eagerly waiting to take care of it for him. As soon as he walked into the house, a house servant was there to take his helmet and his coat.

"Tell Eugenia to prepare a bath for me," Tavington told the girl. She was a young slave girl of about 13 named Jenny. He'd taken on more slaves to replace Eleanor and Nathan. This time around he had Jenny, an older woman in her 30s named Eugenia, and a male, coincidentally named William. And then there was Juliana.

Never before had he met someone quite like Juliana. If he were in her place, he would have left a long time ago, or would have tried to, at least. She had even saved his life ... and he'd saved hers.

Tavington didn't know how to deal with her. How should he act around her? What should he say? She wasn't like the rest of the slaves or servants, not in his eyes. And so the question presented itself, that eternal question that had persistently been at issue since the night he'd brought her home: what was she to him? She was more than a servant, obviously. He had claimed her as a possession, but he knew how inadequate, and inappropriate to boot, that notion was. What the devil was it?

The sun hadn't yet set, but Tavington was dead tired. Rigorous battle would do that to a person. So would making a long trip on horseback. Tavington had a week-long furlough ahead of him, and he'd be damned if he were going to spend it in some godforsaken army tent. He didn't want to be anywhere near Cornwallis if he didn't have to be. After the battle, Cornwallis had pounced on him about his growing reputation as 'the Butcher', as if Tavington were the one who'd created the moniker and started using it to refer to himself.

Tavington had done some of his best work at Camden, but it hadn't seemed to matter to Cornwallis because all the general had been concerned with was reputation. It made no sense to Tavington, but it angered him all the same. And that anger was exhausting him even more, he realized. He decided to give it a rest for the night. Cornwallis would soon see. He would soon recognize Tavington's value as an officer and realize how fortunate he was to have the benefit of his services.

Tavington headed straight for the stairs. The thought of climbing them was nearly enough to make him consider sleeping in his study. But he summoned up the strength to make it to the second level of the house. After all, at the top of those stairs, and a few paces down the hall from there, a comfortable bed was waiting for him. And very soon, he would be soaking in a nice, hot bath.

Tavington reached the top of the staircase in no time. His mind still focused on his bath and his bed, he made a right and almost collided with Juliana.

"Colonel Tavington," she said, surprised. "I didn't know you would be returning today."

"Disappointed?" Tavington asked sarcastically. It wouldn't surprise him if she never wanted to see him again after what had happened following Savannah.

"No, sir - just a bit startled," Juliana replied. Tavington moved past her, resuming course to his room. "Everything is well at Middleton Place, I take it?" Juliana called after him.

Tavington stopped and turned to her with a questioning gaze. "Middleton Place?" he repeated.

"Yes," Juliana confirmed. "That is where you've been for the last week - isn't it?"

"No, I was in Camden," he said matter-of-factly.

"Camden?" Juliana studied Tavington. He seemed worn, exhausted, even. It was now clear to Juliana that he had been through some type of ordeal.

"We had a battle with Continentals," Tavington elaborated. "We won, of course, and quite easily. But it was rather taxing physically, as it always is." He studied Juliana's reaction. "You didn't know. You mean you hadn't heard from any of the soldiers around here?" News of military engagements had a way of traveling quickly throughout the ranks, and Tavington had no doubt that this instance was no different.

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