“I already told you, I’m not going to that stupid party, Geillis. I’m on call tomorrow and have zero interest in going to the hospital with two hours of sleep in my back.”
Claire dropped on the couch crossing her arms and staring blankly at the tv. Her blonde roommate looked at her with a crooked smile and arching an eyebrow.
“You’re telling me you rather binge watch that silly medieval tv show for the thousandth time than coming to a party? Seriously?”
“That’s exactly what I’m telling you. And it’s not medieval. It’s XVIII century.”
A tense silence settled between them, Geillis’ deep green eyes piercing Claire’s. Then, her stance changed and smiled again.
Then I’m calling cave on you,” she sentenced mimicking her posture.
Her roommate’s eyes darted to hers, in complete and utter astonishment.
“Really? You’re calling cave for me to go to a party?“ Geillis nodded and Claire dropped her arms, defeated. The first time they had met, Claire had been doing speleology in a marine cave. She had broken her leg and unable to call for help or swim the distance between the cave and the shore, she had given up and waited for someone, anyone, to have the same silly idea she had had, emerge from the water and find her. Two days and almost completely dehydrated, Geillis had found her on the sand, helped her to the shore and taken to the hospital. Since that day, besides becoming best friends, Geillis had used the cave whenever she wanted to get her way. She knew how and when to call it: that trip to Paris she didn’t want to do alone, not after Dougal had dumped her for the thousandth time; that time she went skydiving and realized she was to scared to go by herself; and the best time, that Saturday she made Claire go with her to an illegal body painting contest in Edinburgh that almost got them both in jail. Fun times.
“You’re incredible. Fine. I’ll go. But don’t think for a second I’m having any fun or staying a minute over 1 am.”
She stood up and lightly pushed Geillis on her way to her bedroom. Since she had begun her internship at the hospital, clothes had become a frivolous concept she had no time to pay attention to. Not that she didn’t appreciate a nice Balenciaga. But spending days in a row with her blue scrubs played down the importance of going to work with a pretty outfit…. that would most certainly covered in blood, puke or any other disgustingly non washable substance that had already ruined two pairs of designer heels and at least three painfully beautiful jeans. So sneakers, cheap jeans and a t-shirt was almost her daily uniform, so finding something to wear to a party started to prove itself a dull task.
While she was going through her drawers, Geillis appeared carrying two black dress bags with a name she didn’t recognize.
“Louis de la Tour? I don’t think I…”
“This is what you’re wearing tonight. I haven’t told you because I wanted you to come because you liked my company. But since you hate me guts and care naught for me, I’m telling you already. It’s a costume party.” And before Claire could protest, she kept talking. “A XVIII century costume party.”
A smile spread on Claire’s face as she took one of the bag and opened it. Inside there was a stunning red dress with a more than generous neckline and an amazing volume skirt. She stared at the fabric, caressing it, and looked back at Geillis.
“In the other bag there’s the rest of the things you’ll need for the dress. A corset, undergarments… You know better than I do.“
“Just shut up and try not to look to pretty. Dougal’s coming too and I don’t want him staring like a fool at your lovely bosom.”
Claire grimaced and shook her head, reassuring her.
“I’ll have a turtleneck close by for emergencies.”
The cab driver that picked them up was flabbergasted when they got in and tried to fit with their dresses into the back of the car. In a chaos of silk, petticoats and lace, Claire and Geillis managed to seat without wrinkling the skirts too much, and arrived at their destination fifteen minutes later.
As they traveled, Claire stared at the city, disappearing progressively, skyscrapers and office buildings leaving room for wide grass fields, sparkling under the red sunset. She had no idea where they were going, but her doubts came clear when they finally parked in the front garden of a, of course, XVIII century manor.
As they stepped out of the taxi, she soaked in the beauty of the large, slender, white marble pillars flanking the marvellous entrance hall. The stairs leading io it were covered by a deep red velvet carpet, and several guests were already making good use of it. It really felt like a journey through time, and the feeling became more powerful when both women entered the mansion. Men wearing powdered wigs, dress coats in the most assorted colors and pants that ended on the knee, only to give way to sleek white stockings held in place by colorful garters.
Being raised by an archaeologist, Claire was especially fond of every single thing that estimated her historical instincts. Intently, she noticed every detail of the hall while Geillis pulled her arm trying to make her move faster. The moulding that dressed the upper walls, the heavy curtains covering the wide French windows, the fluffiness of the Persian carpets under her feet.
Geillis clicked her tongue and pulled from her harder, almost making her trip and letting lose a few curls of Claire’s precarious bun.
“Jesus H. Roosevel Christ, Geillis!” She hissed recomposing herself and catching up with her pace. “You almost dislocate my shoulder, why are you in such a hurry?”
“I’m not in a hurry. I just don’t want to be seen staring at the walls as if I just left the village on a stagecoach.”
The sun was already setting when they entered what it appeared to be the ballroom, and the chandeliers had been lit, dozens of candles illuminating the richness of the chamber and playfully creating whimsical shadows on the walls. The floors were covered in mahogany wood, making her heels tap with a joyful sound. Geilis left her impatiently and wandered around the room, a moment Claire took advantage of to appreciate the exuberance of her outfit. Matching her eyes, her friend had chosen a emerald green low-cut dress, lavishly ornate with lace and totally flattering. The contrast with her creamy skin made the perfect combination, and Claire knew then why she had put so much effort in looking that stunning.
Her walkabout came to its end when a tall, older man emerged from the crowd. His hair was extremely short, but you could tell by the strands of grey that showed here and there that he had seen easily over four decades. Geillis was, just as Claire, in her early twenties, and even though she had always understood the appeal of an attractive forty-something, there was something in Dougal that made Claire distrustful. Probably was the way he looked at her whenever they met, as if he was about to jump her and forget about his actual date.
Not a compelling quality in a boyfriend, for sure.
With that in mind, Claire decided to distance herself from the couple before he insisted in greeting her. Slowly, that was the only way she could move in that amazing but consistently uncomfortable dress, she took two steps backwards and began to turn around, when suddenly a solid whirlwind of tartan, red curls and white linen crashed against her, making her lose her balance. But before she could regain it, two strong hands grabbed her waist and steadied her.
When their eyes met, the man who had collided with her froze his hands in place, even though their service was no longer required. Two piercing blue eyes, the same color as a summery sky reflected on a stream, stared into hers. A few coppery curls had fallen over them and she felt, for a second, a stinging need to weave them away. Claire stood there, trapped in time as if clocks had all dropped their hands and seconds ceased to exist. But they really hadn’t.
“But… what are you doing there? Come!” A high-pitched, almost annoying feminine voice came from a few feet away, tearing them both out from the enchantment. His hands painfully left her back and a slight blush covered his cheeks, as he passed his fingers through his curls to set them back again.
“Sorry, mistress. Didna mean to…” A deep, rich voice reached her even in the growing racket that had begun as guests entered the ballroom.
“Don’t worry, I was… Just walking backwards, actually. Probably not the best way to walk in a crowd.”
He smiled politely and nodded, before lingering just a second more than necessary and going in his way to the origin of the disturbance. Claire nodded back, flushed and feeling her heart pounding against her corset. Over six feet tall, the owner of those flashing red curls was wearing what she interpreted as a traditional Scot outfit. Kilt and everything. The tartan fell all the way to his knees, reached by two sturdy but apparently well-made leather boots. A white linen shirt, crossed by the plaid fabric that covered his shoulder kept in place by a silver brooch, completed the look. She strained her eyes to try and decipher the pattern of his kilt as he was leaving, the exact same moment he chose to look over his shoulder and catch her redhanded. She quickly took her gaze away, but not before she could sense the shadow of a smile in his full lips.
Nice. Caught squinting at a guy’s ass. Way to go, Beauchamp, clearly this can only get better.
Trying to calm down and enjoy the party, she turned the opposite way and visited the bar, that consisted of a splendid cedar table with a server on the other side of it.
“Whisky. Neat, please.”
She gulped the first glass and got herself served with another before roaming the room. Geillis and Dougal had already disappeared.
At least someone is having a party.
Without her roommate around, she realized she knew no one at that place. But it didn’t actually matter. The lushness of her low V-cut dress and the brightness of the red fabric began to catch the eye of several men and in no time, she found herself surrounded by smiles, knowing winks and a lot of flattering words. Fortunately she had brought a fan, dazzlingly decorated, to cover in part her charms and shoo away the nuisances.
Even though it was a XVIII century costume party, clearly the DJ had nothing in common with Mozart or Bach. Rock began to reverberate in the design speakers that were camouflaged around the place, and the guests had no trouble dancing around in their best galas. It was awkward to feel like you had traveled over two hundred years back in time with that soundtrack. But after many requests, Claire finally gave up, left her empty glass —how many times have they refilled it?—and threw herself into the music.
It didn’t take much for her to lose track of time. Dancing became very welcomed distraction she hadn’t had since she began her surgery internship at the hospital. Lots of concentration, late hours and even longer ones studying were pretty much what her days were made of. She didn’t realize how right was Geillis, and how much she needed to go out and remember what it was to have a night like that. The heat, the music, the people… it was exhilarating, and she yielded to all of it.
But then, the crowd opened slightly and her eyes traveled through the corridor amongst them. Leaned against one of the tables, with a glass of whisky in one hand and his legs crossed at the ankles, two exquisitely blue eyes under a mass of red curls stared at her, completely fixated. Claire felt her chest and cheeks flushing while she looked back at him still dancing. He took a sip of the glass, and quickly, almost inadvertently, he licked his lips, as if to rescue a castaway drop of liquor.
Claire had an internal debate. Why didn’t he come along? Why was he looking at her like that, as if this was some kind of private show? Because if that Scot was able to do something, was to make her feel as if they were alone in a room full of people. She was arguing against herself when her own curls, tucked up in a bun, began to fall over her shoulders. Absentmindedly, she took the hair slide that had kept them (as best as it could) in place and let them spread around her face and neck.
Ok, so he has a thing for curly girls…
She couldn’t help a flirty smile when his eyes grew wider, or as wide as those two feline eyes could, and his lips slightly parted at the sight of Claire’s hair running wild. Apparently that was all he was waiting, because a second later he was crossing the room in confident strides until he was standing in front of her, in a turbulent sea of people dancing. Even though she wasn’t small, he towered over her at a close distance.
“Where did you leave your date?” Claire couldn’t help to tease. He answered with a crooked smile.
“Ye mean Laoghaire? It wad’a been a date if I had any interest in her. My sister set me up, she has very… clear ideas. Not that I share most of thaim”.
“So you left the poor girl, is it?”
“Poor…” He repeated astonishedly. “If ye kent Laooghaire ye wouldna call her poor. Trust me.“
Claire chuckled and realized he was standing still.
“You don’t dance?”
“Not really my strong suit…“
“Then you shouldn’t be in the middle of the dance floor…” She teased again, looking at him from under her eyelashes. He arched an eyebrow and began to move, slowly and in a very contained manner that, probably without him knowing, made him even sexier.
“If that’s what it takes to speak to ye…”
The conversation was severely reduced, and the heat pulsating throughout the room made his curls stuck with sweat to his forehead and temples. The distance between them was merely inches, even though they weren’t touching. Whenever he spoke to her, he would come closer to her ear. The proximity of his body began to raise her temperature, and the feeling of his hot breath against the skin of her neck, brushing his hair against her cheek, was starting to drive her mind into more than friendly thoughts of dancing companionship. Unable to break eye contact from those charged pools of turmaline, she felt like the prey hypnotized by the predator.
And yet, instead of doing any obvious advances, he would make her laugh until her ribs hurt and she had tears in the corner of her eyes, while shielding her from other people pushing her and careless elbows. Without touching her, his arms would create a safety bubble inhabited only by the two of them.
“Care for another drink?“ She nodded smiling and he parted ways in the search of a nice scotch whisky.
While Claire was waiting for his return, Geillis approached her with Dougal on her arm. She could instantly feel his eyes on her breasts, slightly bright because of the sweat. Geillis elbowed him on the side and he diverted his gaze with a grunt.
“Dougal, always a pleasure,” she snorted and arched an eyebrow.
“Don’t mind him. You having fun?” Geillis asked as she started to dance to the rhythm of a new song.
“Sure. Better than I expected, I confessed.” Claire smiled and directed her eyes to the large Scot ordering drinks at the end of the ballroom. Geillis followed her gaze and let out a astound chuckle.
“Really? Do you know him?”
“Yeah…” She answered puzzled. “Do you?”
“Good evening, Miss…” An unexpected low voice came across to her. Claire turned around and was met by a two dark eyes, squinting because of a polite smile. Dressed as a English military of the XVIII century, this man was clearly older than her. Something in his gaze made her instantly uncomfortable, even though his demeanor couldn’t be more respectful. She made a graceful bow and smiled back.
“Claire. Good evening indeed.”
Silence fell between them, the uncomfortable, not knowing what to say kind of silence. Claire was about to turn around to talk to her roommate when that man, that Jack, closed the distance between them, narrowing the space between their bodies and his mouth and her ear. She shivered, but not the same way she had before.
“I see you have a particular good eye for Scots. But, here’s the thing. That great, redheaded one you’ve been talking to… Let’s say he’s not free to roam around the likes of you. He has… other tastes, if you know what I mean.”
As well-mannered as he was, Claire felt disgusted by the way he was talking to her. He didn’t even shout, near as he was. He faced her again, slowly, deliberately, and slightly drop his eyelids staring at her chest. He made a disapproving noise with his mouth and shook his head, crooking a smile.
“Too cheap, I’m afraid. Easy as a…”
Claire didn’t see it coming and certainly neither did the English man. The fist that collided brutally against his jaw tore him away a few steps, but he didn’t fall to the ground; instead, he clashed into the crowd and the people around supported him, caught by surprise. She followed the fist to the arm, then to the shoulder, only to discover the owner was said great, redheaded Scot. He had let his hand fall to his side and was shaking it. But what Claire didn’t expect was the utter look of disgust and hatred he was directing at the mant.
When he managed to regain balance, he touched his chin, checking it was still in place, and smile viciously at the Scot. Then he looked back at Claire.
“I told you. His tastes are different.“
Dougal, who had been staring at the whole scene without batting an eyelash, jumped to get ahold of the angrier and angrier redheaded man, who was already trying to get free to, probably, launch another punch into that odious face.
“Dinna, lash, juist let it go,“ Dougal hissed. He grabbed him until the man in the redcoat left the ballroom, and then he released him.
The younger man shook his head, his curls flying around, and snorted before turning away and disappearing into the crowd. Claire looked at Dougal, raising an eyebrow in a questioning way, and he shrugged.
“He’s my sister’s son.”
Claire blinked twice, completely caught off guard and looked at Geillis, who was already tidying up Dougal’s costume. She shook her head slightly, not knowing what else to say, and Claire took off the same way the nephew had. That hand was probably broken and if not, it was going to be painful as hell either way. Following his steps, a large door opened before her, leading to the back garden. The air was chilly, and goosebumps flooded her exposed skin. She took advantage of the height of the stairs to locate him. Not that he could pass unnoticed. Tall and bright as he was, it took her just a few seconds to find him pacing in a secluded part of the garden.
Training overtook her and she walked determined towards him. He acknowledge her looking at her sideways, but didn’t stop. He was muttering something she couldn’t understand, until she realized it was gaelic. Claire grabbed his arm and tried to stop him, but he got loose and kept pacing.
“I can’t understand a single word you say, but if that hand…”
“What did he tell ye?” He asked dryly. Claire’s brow furrowed and shook her head.
“Nonsense, he just…”
“Ok, ok… Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, what’s the fuss? He just told me you…” She realized she didn’t know how to put it with words. She sighed, looking at his large height and prayed he didn’t have any more punches in him. “He just told me you’re gay… But that’s ok! Don’t feel bad about it or anything…“
Blood left his face and Claire felt the night had become even colder.
“So that’s what he’s speeting noo, is it?”
“I don’t understand…”
“He’s the one that chased after me. He… I rejected him because my tastes are indeed different from what he thinks they are, and he… since that day… He tells every woman he sees me with ‘I have other tastes’. That’s what he tald ye, aye?” Claire nodded intimidated by the situation. “I kent. Bastard… One day there’ll be no one close eneugh to save his sorry arse,“ he hissed under his breath, shaking his hand.
Claire saw the bloodied knuckles and grabbed both his arms, forcing him to face her and stop toting.
“Let me check that hand, it’s…”
“It’s ok, I’ve seen warse.“
“I don’t doubt it,” she tried to light it up a notch. “But I’m a doctor. Well, a doctor in training, at least. Let me see it.”
He stared at her for a second, sighed deeply and sat on a nearby pedestal missing its statue. He gave up and allowed her to examine his hand. Only palpating it and by the way he was clenching his jaw, probably he had at least two knuckles broken. For a second Claire tried to imagine the strength he had applied to that punch, and realized the other side of the fight was probably on his way to the ER with a broken jaw.
“Two knuckles are broken, probably more. You shouldn’t have given him the satisfaction.” She added while taking out a white handkerchief of one of the hidden pockets of her dress, making him smile while she tucked it around his hand.
“That dress is full of… surprises,“ he mustered. For the first time in the whole night, his willpower faltered him and Claire caught him staring at her breasts, ample and pulsating with every gasp of air. It was only a second, but she noticed and when he looked back in her eyes, he was blushing like a teenager. “i… I’m… I just… It’s… I mean, it’s distracting, you ken… Blessed Michael defend us! Ye have no idea the effort I’ve put tonight to keep my eyes above your neck,” he defended himself.
Claire erupted in laughter and he looked at her slightly offended.
“You shouldna wear things like that, they’re… Well, it’s hard to think nearby,” he kept trying to build his case.
She couldn’t stop laughing, so she didn’t noticed him standing up only an inch from her body. When she realized the proximity, she tried to take a step backwards, but his hand on the small of her back stopped her from succeeding. She didn’t pull away again, just staring into each others eyes, in the silence of the night as her laughter faded. His other hand traveled from his lap to her temple, pushing a way a rebellious curl behind her ear. He then lowered his fingertips, soft and light as a dove’s wing, on the side of her neck, painfully slowly.
Claire felt her pulse racing and she closed her eyes, panting. There was something extremely erotic in the way he had been treating her all night. That distance between them, almost non existent but always enough for her to reject him had she wanted to. The brush of his hair on her cheek when he talked to her ear, making her tremble under the heat of his breath. Each movement was deliberate and calculated and yet, seemed completely effortless.
His fingertips slowed down when they reached her shoulder, passed over her collarbone and set course to souther terrains. They slowed enough for her to retreat. The pressure of his hand on her back was almost formal, and she knew she could release herself from that embrace any time she wanted to. But damn if she did. Then, that same hand pulled her closer, erasing the distance between them. His fingers landed on one breast, caressing it so delicately she couldn’t help a moan escaping her lips. She rested her forehead against his chin, feeling the golden stubble against her skin, but apparently, all the willpower he had used to keep his eyes away from her charms had finally run out. Grabbing her hair, he pulled her face up to his and his mouth crashed against hers.
His lips were demanding. Having been restrained for so long, when they found hers they devour them without mercy. His teeth sank into the softness of her lower lip, making her closed eyes roll backwards in pleasure. His tongue followed through, first caressing it then exploring her mouth, playing inside of her, making her knees tremble. He turned around with her and lifted her by the waist in a swift movement, almost completely effortless, to settle her on top of the pedestal he had been sitting on a few seconds earlier.
Her hands began to unbutton the shirt to gain access to his chest, and conquered every bit of skin and soft fuzz on it. Without leaving his mouth, his own hands traveled up to the front of her dress and untied the laces that held it in place, uncovering the white corset underneath it and cursing under his breath when confronted with more obstacles.
Claire couldn’t help a smile as he looked disturbed by the amount of effort it was going to take to finally uncover her breasts, but that Scot was nothing if not thorough, and when he finally untied his new archenemy, she shivered as the cold wind hardened her nipples. He took a second to admire her roundness and perfection, before lowering his mouth and paying them the attention they deserved.
Her head fall backwards in pleasure as his lips captured one nipple, playing with his tongue against the sensitive flesh. Her hands grabbed his curls and pressed him closer to her. First one, then the other, the redheaded man suckled and teased her breasts, licking their curves and giving her goosebumps in every inch of skin attended.
His mouth set course upwards, kissing his way up to her neck and back to her mouth. Claire finally separated her legs, allowing him into that closer place where each part of their bodies were in contact with the other. Even under the folds of wrinkled fabric, she could feel his desire, at least, matching hers, intoxicatingly brushing against her inner core.
Finally surrendering to being unable to think cohesively, she abandoned herself to her instincts, to the soft firmness of his mouth ravishing hers, to the urge of his hands discovering every piece of exposed skin and claiming it for his own. The roughness of his linen shirt against her bosom made her feel as she would combust herself if she didn’t find release soon. So in a bolder move that she expected, Claire surrounded his hips with her thighs, pushing him unimaginably closer to her. He moaned into her mouth and she moaned back in return, unable to wait any longer for the contact to be full and ultimate.
She lifted her skirt and went on to do the same with his kilt, without any opposition, while his hands lowered her dressed from her shoulders, baring new territory for him to enthrall with his kisses and the teasing of his teeth. Her hands finally found him as he gasped for air, settling his forehead on her shoulder. His length filled her hand, pulsating, while she directed it straight inside of her. The same surprise she had gotten when she found no underwear under his tartan was equal to his when he realized she was following the XVIII customs in full detail.
He accepted the invitation extended by her adventurous hand and teased her entrance before thrusting in one move and stopping inside of her to allow her to adjust to him. Claire could feel his hands around her waist, and his breath panting against the skin of her neck. Slowly, he set a pace guided by the rhythm her hands began to mark on his hips, but unable to stay under such restrain any longer, he pulled her hips closer to his, eliciting a cry from her and covering her mouth with his own to keep her silent.
His thrusts pounded against her flesh, making it swollen and so sensitive she felt every nerve of her body concentrated in that tiny amount of space. His cock filled her emptiness as no one ever had, pulsating inside of her and reaching further and further along. The grip of his hands on her hips nailed her to the stone she was sitting upon, angling them perfectly for him to tease her most receptive spot whenever he pushed inside of her. But when one of his hands released her grasp and found its way to that sweet place between her legs, Claire knew release was about to wash all over her.
Their eyes met, as if somehow their bodies were in outright synchronization, as if they knew what their masters didn’t, and he increased the pace while caressing her to oblivion. The orgasm came like a wave in a sunny beach day, warm, full, unexpectedly enticing. He followed through seconds later, feeling her clutching around him and driving him into utter pleasure in her arms.
For a minute, they stayed embraced, panting into each other’s skin. Her head resting on his chest, his chin on top of it. When they finally parted, their anatomies already missing what was being stolen from them, they looked at each other with different eyes. He helped her with the laces, trying to recompose her dress as best as they could, then she helped him tucking his shirt inside of his kilt and placing the plaid fabric over his shoulders.
In them most gentlemanly way, he offered his hand to help her off the stone base and she gracefully accepted it with a smile. Then, as if hit by realization at the same time, the looks on their faces switched content and satisfaction to shyness and sudden regret.
“I can’t believe…“
“I should hae asked…“ They spoke at the same time, went silent and laughed more relaxed. He arched an eyebrow with a crooked smile, took a step backwards and bowed.
She asked to her movement with a balletic bow of her own, and this time she was the first to offer her hand out.
“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp.“
“James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. Your servant, madame.”