Claire tried her hardest to fish her buzzing phone from her handbag as quickly as possible and swore as Geillis’ face disappeared from the screen just as she was swiping to answer it.
Checking in her side and rearview mirrors that the coast was clear, she changed lanes and searched for the nearest car space. She was only twenty minutes from home but her mind was jumping from one conclusion to the next as to why Geillis would be calling her after they had just spent the entire afternoon together.
Had she forgotten something? Was there an emergency at work? Did she need to turn the car around as soon as possible? Stopping her thoughts from cascading into a never-ending list of overly dramatic and tragic possibilities, Claire parked her car and pulled on the hand brake as she brought up the list of missed calls and called Geillis back.
“Claire!” Gellis answered before it had even rung once and Claire’s heart leapt into her throat.
“I’ve had the best idea! Dougal’s nephew!”
“What?” Claire asked as she stared out at the snow falling on her windshield utterly perplexed by what was happening.
“Dougal’s nephew, Claire!” Geillis repeated excitedly, apparently oblivious to Claire’s anxiety attack. “He’s the answer to your problems! After you left I was thinking about Dougal’s and my Christmas plans with our families and I realised -- Jamie’s single and he’s going to be here for the holidays. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before!”
“I don’t under-”
“Oh, ye’ll like him, I’m sure. I mean, he’s a bit of a…. a- a goofball, he’s been single for a long while and he probably could work on his personal hygiene a little bit. But that’s nothing that canna be changed. He’s an absolute fox. If I wasn’t committed to Dougal I would be looking to take him for a ride, myself, if ye get my meaning. Oh, he’ll be perfect to take to the wedding.”
Claire let out a strangled laugh and tried to think of something to say as Geillis continued.
“Plus, I think he’s planning on moving here full time - Dougal said something about him applying for a job in one of the nearby cities. Just think, Claire… you might just get to work off some of that tension ye’ve been holding onto if ye play yer cards right - and not just the once, aye?”
“Alright!” Claire practically shouted into the phone, so desperate for Geillis to cease her chatter she was willing to agree to anything. Even a night attending her ex’s wedding with a man she had never met before so long as she didn’t keep talking about her sex life - or lack thereof.
“I kent ye’d say yes! I’ll send ye the link to his social media page so that ye can look him up when ye get home, aye? Ye’ll see what I’m talking about.”
“Alright, Geillis. I’ll have a look when I get home. I’ll see you tomorrow!”
“Aye, ye can thank me then.”
With a sigh, Claire dropped the phone into her lap and rested back against the headrest before turning her head to the side and fishing the invitation out of her handbag.
Franklin Wolverton Randall & Sandra Josephine Travers invite you to their wedding...
“Ugh!” Claire tossed it back down and turned the engine back on. She needed a glass of wine before she could even begin to think about the wedding scheduled just seven days from now.
Unfortunately for her, the universe seemed determined to cause chaos in her life no matter how much the people in her life tried to help. By the time she actually had the time to sit down in front of her laptop with a glass of wine in hand two days later, her search for Jamie MacTavish online resulted in very little.
The best she could find was an account by the same name where the platform claimed they had one “mutual friend in common”, being Geillis Duncan. Because his account was set to private, all she could see was four images. Three of which were... somewhat funny memes and a photo of Dougal and Geillis on holiday over a decade ago.
Claire sat back and sighed. When she had agreed to a blind date but she didn’t think she would be going into this date quite so blind.
“Who the hell has a wedding in December?” Claire grumbled as she pulled her winter coat on over her dress. It was a brand new, custom made slim-fitting sleeveless gown made of red lace that covered her from neck to floor and easily the most expensive piece of clothing she had ever owned but be damned if she was going to wear anything less than stellar to Frank’s wedding. Or to meet Jamie. “And who the hell agrees to attend one with a blind date?”
“You, Claire. That would be you,” Geillis answered with a knowing grin as she walked into the bedroom holding a small black box. “There's no going back now, which is why these are for you.”
Claire accepted and opened the box to find a pair of large diamond framed ruby earrings.
“Are these real?” Claire asked in awe, as her free hand hovered over them, torn between wanting to hold the jewels in her hands and wanting to slam the box shut to prevent herself from damaging them in the slightest way.
“Aye. A family heirloom from the Abernathy side,” Geillis held her hand out to Claire, palm upwards. “Come on then, hand me those hideous things ye’ve currently got on. Yer date will be here soon.”
“They’re not hideous,” Claire scoffed as she pulled out the simple gold drop earring she had originally chosen to wear and Geillis only stared back with one eyebrow raised. “Okay, okay. I’ll admit they’re nothing special- especially compared to these.”
Claire turned back to face the mirror and Geillis patiently handed her one ruby earring at a time.
“Much better,” Geillis confirmed as she tucked one of Claire's dark curls that had strayed too far from her loose updo back into place. “No-one will be able to take their eyes off ye. Not even the groom.”
“I would never upstage the bride!” Claire's cheeks went red at the thought. She had never been one to enjoy overt attention even when appropriate. She had practically internally combusted the day she went on stage to receive her university graduation certificate.
“Oh, please, Claire. Don't pretend to care about Candy, Sandy, Mandy - whatever-her-name is. Frank only invited ye to their wedding to rub it in yer face that he found someone willing to commit to putting up with him. As his ex, it’s yer duty to make an appearance and show him the fine piece of ass he let go.”
Too accustomed to Geillis’ antics, Claire quickly moved away before Geillis could do anything like smack said ‘fine piece of ass’. Her winter coat might be thick but she was sure it didn’t give her a thick enough barrier to endure anything like that .
“Yer nae fun, Claire!” Geillis’ voice trailed after her as she escaped into the kitchen to set herself up at the breakfast bar with a small glass of wine while waiting for Jamie. While she couldn’t quite say that she was grateful for attending the wedding as such, she certainly was grateful that it was taking place in the late afternoon if it meant she could have something to calm her nerves.
She hadn’t even finished pouring the wine into the glass when the doorbell rang.
“I’ll take that,” Gellis offered, taking the glass out of Claire’s hand and nudged her towards the door with her hip.
“How generous of you,” Claire dead-panned but found herself unable to keep a straight face.
“I’m the friend that just keeps on giving,” Geillis brought the glass to her lips with a wink.
Claire rolled her eyes and buttoned her coat as she walked downstairs. Typically she complained about the layout of her double story apartment but for once she was thankful if it meant Geillis wasn’t nearby to witness this. It had been such a long time since she had gone on a date, a blind-date no less, and she was undoubtedly going to make a fool of herself at some point. With a deep, calming breath, she put a neutral smile on her face and opened the door.
Having not seen even a photo of him prior, she hadn't known what to expect but she had been imagining something close to a younger version of Dougal, with matching hazel eyes and (hopefully a head full of) russet coloured hair.
What she definitely was not expecting was for the man standing on her front step to be so tall that she had to take a step back to get a good look at him, even on her high heels. He had dark blue eyes that sparkled with the reflection of the Christmas lights arching over her door and intensely red hair that sat in neatly positioned curls atop his head.
“Claire? I'm Jamie,” the man said in a thick Scottish accent and held out his hand with a smile. “It's a pleasure to finally meet ye.” He was dressed in a dark grey suit with a red and white tie that immediately made her think of candy canes and an open thick woolen coat over the top, obviously only thrown on for the purpose of walking from the car to her front door. What stood out to her the most was how comfortable she felt in his presence - something she typically never felt around strangers, not even patients at the hospital she worked at.
“You too, Jamie,” she shook his proffered hand with a smile that was guaranteed to be more genuine than the one she’d originally had when opening the door.
“Ye ready to go?”
“Absolutely. Just let me get my purse, I won’t be a moment.”
Double-checking she had her lipstick and compact mirror, she glanced at herself one last time in the hallway mirror.
“Dinna dawdle, Claire. He might just leave without ye and then what will ye do?”
“How the bloody hell did you even know what I was doing?” Claire called back to Geillis who, by the sound of her voice, was still in the kitchen.
“We used to be flatmates once upon a time, aye? Dinna fash, I'll be gone by the time the reception’s over just in case ye wanna bring the lad back here afterward. Ye won't have a worry in the world bar how to get that dress off quick enough-”
“Bye, Geillis!” Claire shouted and went out to join Jamie who was still standing on her front step, now with his gloved hands in his coat pockets. His demeanor didn't give any indication as to whether or not he had heard her exchange with Geillis and she opted to assume he hadn't, if only for her own peace of mind. “Ready!”
The drive to St. Mary's Church was thankfully unencumbered by traffic, giving them plenty of time to get inside and settled. Something Claire only came to regret as she ran into people who remembered her from all the time she had previously spent with the groom.
Her anxiety must have been palpable as Jamie seemed to pick up on it and offered her his arm to hold onto as they approached old Mrs. Baird.
“Claire! How nice to see you, dear! And who's this strapping young man you've got with you? I'm so glad to see you've moved on, I've been so worried about you all alone and working all the time-”
“Mrs. Baird, this is Jamie MacTavish,” Claire interrupted. She knew very well how the woman could carry on and on if given the chance. “Jamie, this is Mrs. Baird.”
“It's a pleasure to meet ye, Mrs. Baird,” Jamie smiled at the woman. “Ye need not worry about Claire, here. I promise ye she's in fine hands.”
“Oh, I'm sure she is if she's dating a tall, strong lad like yourself.” The woman gave Claire a wink and thankfully moved on to another guest who had arrived after them.
“ Sorry ,” Claire mouthed to Jamie as she quickly led him away.
They had spoken very little during the car ride, and sitting side by side in a pew waiting for the ceremony to start seemed to be a good time to start.
“So what is it that you do, Mr. MacTavish?”
“Jamie. Call me Jamie, Claire.” Claire nodded in agreement and watched as Jamie settled back in his seat. “I recently retired from the British Armed Forces and am now working at a stable that breeds racing horses about four hours out of the city, although… I’m not sure it’s the right fit for me. It’s harder to get used to civilian life than I thought, to be honest with ye.”
“Geillis mentioned that you were looking to relocate somewhere nearby.”
“Aye. Dougal recently put me in touch with a man they call Auld Alec who has a traditionally run stable not too far from here. Based on the conversations I've had with the man so far, I'd say things seem promising. With any luck, it will work out. And what about yerself? I ken ye work with Geillis at the General, but I dinna ken much more than that.”
“Medical Professional,” Claire nodded wondering how best to describe her job that might make sense to someone with no medical knowledge whatsoever.
“Oh, a nurse?”
“No, not that kind of medical professional. A surgeon actually.”
“Assistant to the Chief, currently. I spend an awful lot of my days going over paperwork rather than actual patients these days. Typically I’m only called into theatre when the hospital is short-staffed or a patient presents with a particularly complicated case. I really enjoy it though and the people I work with are great - which is a bonus.”
They both sat quietly and watched as Frank made his way to the altar along with three men dressed in matching suits and ties.
“So how exactly do ye ken the bride and groom? I would assume yer not all that close as yer not in the wedding party but ye seem to ken a lot of the other people here so I might be wrong.”
“Well, Frank,” she pointed to him unnecessarily as if he wasn’t literally the centre of attention, “and I met... probably 7 or 8 years ago when he came to consult my Uncle Lamb about something - they're both historians, you see - and I happened to be in the office at the time. To be honest, I was surprised by the invitation to attend this wedding. It must have been at least 18 months since we last saw one another. And we didn't exactly part on good terms, either.”
“Well, ye must still mean something to him if he wanted ye here."
“I suppose so.”
Another couple came and joined them on her other side and they ceased chatting in order to introduce themselves and partake in small talk as they waited for the bride to make her appearance.
The ceremony itself was admittedly beautiful, although perhaps a little garish, and had the added benefit of occupying everyone’s attention for a solid twenty minutes which Claire used to mentally prepare herself for the looming reception.
When they stepped outside to join everyone in congratulating the couple and travel as a group down the street and around the corner.
“Have you ever been inside the Natural History Museum before?”
“Nay, never. Have you?”
“I’ve been a few times over the years but I’ve never attended an evening function before. I have to admit I’m a little bit excited to see how it looks. But first I think we’re to meet Frank and Sandy in the foyer.”
“Dinna fash, Claire,” Jamie reached out and took her gloved hand in his own. “Ye said yerself that it’s been a time since ye saw each other. I’m sure he’ll be glad to see ye.”
Claire looked up and smiled at Jamie as they made their way inside. How he could remain so positive when surrounded by dozens of strangers that took far too much interest in them she didn’t know. Still, she was incredibly grateful for it as they approached the newly married couple. After taking off their gloves, their hands reconnected and she held on so tightly Jamie probably wouldn’t have been able to walk away even if he tried.
“Claire. You came.”
Frank’s face didn’t give away anything but she could tell just from the inflection in his voice that he was surprised. Now she knew for sure what she had received in the mail was more a test than an invitation. Jamie might be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt but after half a decade with the man, she knew better.
“Frank,” she nodded in response and turned to his bride, “Sandy, congratulations! The wedding was absolutely beautiful - and I’m not just saying that.”
“Thank you, Claire, that’s very kind of you,” Sandy’s eyes were glistening and her cheeks blushed ever so slightly beneath her make-up. “Who have you brought with you? I don’t believe we’ve met?”
“Jamie MacTavish, ma’am,” Jamie shook hands with Sandy and then Frank. “It’s an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to attend yer celebration. Thank ye both verra much. We were just discussing how the banquet hall might look like in the evening lights. It’s going to be wonderful, no doubt, if the ceremony is any indication.”
“I have to say I’m surprised you see you here, and with a date no less,” Frank laughed lightly as though it were some private joke between Claire and himself. “Where ever did you find him?”
“Ah, we…” Claire stalled as she tried to think of what to say. At my front door just two hours ago, wasn't exactly the type of information she wanted to share.
“...met through mutual friends. Claire's good friend is dating a family member of mine. Ye ken how it is when ye live outside the big city, aye?”
“Oh, yes! I'm pretty certain there's no need for us to introduce people to each other tonight - everyone's already met at least once or twice!” Sandy laughed but sobered somewhat as she reached out to pat Claire's arm. “I’m so happy we had the chance to talk with you tonight. Frank was worried that you would feel self-conscious about coming to the wedding alone. But now that we can see you've met someone special we can rest assured you're happy.”
“Aye. Engaged to be married, in fact.” Jamie offered. Claire’s head whipped around to stare at him and Jamie simply took her reaction in his stride. “I’m sorry, Claire. I should have let you be the one to break the good news to yer friends. Next week I'll let ye tell some of mine - fair turnabout, aye?
“Ahh…” Claire stalled as a thousand thoughts ran through her mind. Engaged? To be married? Jamie's arm tightened around her minutely, thankfully reminding her she was expected to say something. “That's alright, Jamie. I know how much joy you get out of telling people.”
“Engaged? Oh how wonderful, for you two! Well, now. Let me see the ring,” Sandy gushed and bit her bottom lip as she reached for Claire's left hand.
Claire pulled her hand out of reach and placed it open on Jamie's chest instead. Her first choice would have been to wrap it around his neck and ask what the hell he had been thinking but for the moment this would have to do.
“No ring, I’m afraid. Jamie knows me all too well to give me one.” Claire offered, too busy keeping a smile on her face to come up with a convincing lie.
“Claire's a surgeon, aye?” Jamie nodded. “She works so much that she would rarely have the opportunity to wear one.”
“Oh, what a shame! I don't know what I would do if I was unable to wear mine all the time.”
Claire glanced at Frank as Sandy regaled Jamie with the tale of his proposal and how excited she was to be presented with a diamond ring. He had been uncharacteristically quiet ever since Jamie had announced their own engagement and she worried that her face had given away just how unprepared she was for Jamie to make such a statement. Surprisingly, Frank was staring at Jamie with a blank look on his face apparently more interesting in the man whom he had just met than herself. She relaxed a little in Jamie's arms. With any luck, she might just get away from this conversation unscathed after all.
“Well, we best be leaving ye to receive the other guests,” Jamie offered politely, “and I best be getting this beautiful lady a drink.”
It was the first thing Jamie had said all night that she wholeheartedly agreed with. Halfway through the ceremony she had found herself regretting not taking the time to drink a glass before she left home.
It wasn't until they had checked their coats and she had said promised drink in hand that she decided to address what had just happened.
“What were you-”
“I’m sorry, truly . I just really didna like the way he was looking at ye… as though ye were someone who might break at any moment if ye werena handled with care. Look Claire,” Jamie stopped to put his own drink down and raise his hands to place them upon her upper arms. “ I havena spent all that long wi’ ye but I ken yer a strong and successful woman, one that doesna deserve to be looked down upon, ken? I was right to think Frank wants ye here but now I understand it's fer all the wrong reasons. I just wanted to wipe that look off his face - even just for a moment.”
“It was a little entertaining,” Claire acquiesced. She was still mad but there was no way she could leave now without a really good excuse. And it did feel good to have the upper hand with Frank for once.
“Come on, Sassenach. Let’s go find our table, aye? Ye can berate me all ye like once we sit down - I believe that's something engaged couples like to do if my sister Jenny and now brother-in-law Ian are any indication.”
“Fine,” Claire huffed. “But only if you promise to let me have the chicken if this is one of those receptions where everyone gets served an alternate dish. I refuse to be stuck with the fish.”
Their table was located in the middle of the hall and they had the added benefit of being seated to face the bridal table. If Frank hadn't blatantly told her as much, she would have known by now that he had expected her to turn up alone. The other four guests sitting around the table including one of Frank's recently widowed aunts were attending the reception alone.
Normally she would be inclined to dwell on the matter the entire meal (or longer) but she, like everyone else at their table, found herself taken in by the group's conversation as they ate.
Soon enough people got up one by one to make a toast to the newlywed couple, most of which Claire zoned out, too preoccupied with Jamie. She had only known him for a few hours and yet it was evident that he was not only charming but also a natural-born storyteller. Never once, in all the years she'd known Frank, had she ever made his Aunt Margaret laugh like Jamie did as he told them all a tale about the time his older brother got stuck in a bog as a child.
As Frank and Sandy made their way to cut the cake, an obnoxiously large four-tier sculpture decorated in white roses and red berries that matched the bridal party's bouquets and boutonnières, Claire remembered that they were supposedly engaged and reached out for Jamie's hand.
“Do ye think there'll be enough for all of us? Sassenach? I would hate to miss out on tasting that buttercream.”
Claire turned her head into his shoulder to smother her snort and he pulled his hand away to wrap his arm around her shoulders instead. More than ever she appreciated his sense of humor and astonishing quick wit.
They watched as Frank and Sandy shared their first dance as husband and wife and joined them on the dancefloor as soon as the guests were invited to.
“I dinna understand,” Jamie said as he looked over her shoulder during their third song, one that had them swaying close to one another.
Claire followed his gaze and found Frank and Sandy standing on the edge of the chatting with some guests as they surveyed those dancing. “Understand what?”
“Why some people are so bewildered by the idea that you're in a loving committed relationship with someone. You're beautiful, so easy to talk to and you have skills that put even professionals like myself to shame. It doesna make any sense.”
“I guess not everyone sees me that way,” Claire shrugged. “I can't help the feeling that no matter what I do or say tonight I'm being judged. Not just by Frank but his friends and relatives too. I don't know what they see when they look at me but I'm confident it's nothing like that.”
“We should give them something to look at then, aye?”
“What do you mean?”
“Will you trust me, Claire?” He cradled her head gently in the palm of his hand as he waited for her answer.
She probably should have been more hesitant, certainly less trusting of someone she hardly knew, but when Jamie's lips descended onto hers she found she simply didn't care. His lips were soft and so much more than she could have ever imagined. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled their bodies even closer to one another. Her heart was pounding so hard it was the only thing besides Jamie that she took any notice of.
All too soon, Jamie pulled back and looked at her with a ridiculous grin on his face.
“I… think I need a drink,” was all she could say.
As they made their way to the bar hand in hand, Claire noticed that Frank and Sandy had moved on to another area on the opposite side of the hall. Exactly how much time had passed since Jamie had made the decision to kiss her?
“One Sleedlip and tonic and…” Jamie said to the bartender and paused to turn to Claire with his eyebrow raised.
“I think I need a Whiskey Ginger”
“...and a Whiskey Ginger, please.”
“Jamie, I have to ask…” Claire placed her elbow on the bar and dropped her face in the palm of her hand to look up at him while they waited for their order. “Why in heaven’s name would you agree to come here with me tonight? Aren’t ex’s typically kryptonite for a first date?”
“Aye, weel, to be honest, the offer to accompany a beautiful woman to a function that included free food and alcohol was nothing compared to what I had expected Dougal to request of me. So much so, that I accepted on the spot,” Jamie chuckled as he accepted their newly prepared drinks with thanks. “Meeting your ex-boyfriend face-to-face was actually a piece of information that both Dougal and Geillis happened to omit from any of the conversations we had leading up to this event.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Claire sat up and reached out to place a hand on Jamie’s arm. “I just assumed that you were fully aware of the situation. Although, that makes an awful lot more sense as to why you agreed to all of this. Perhaps you’re not as crazy as I thought.”
“Perhaps? What, ye still aren’t convinced?” Jamie drew back from her hand obviously offended by her words.
“No, that’s not-” Claire caught a glimpse of the smirk threatening to take over his face and stopped with a glare of her own. “You’re just screwing with me aren’t you?
“Aye,” Jamie burst out laughing. “That I am, Sassenach. Now come on, my darling fiance. Let’s go celebrate our impending nuptials with some of that cake.”
Claire picked up her drink and accept Jamie’s proffered hand. Attending Frank's wedding might be a complete disaster from start to finish but she might as well enjoy herself as much as she could.
When they each had a plate in one hand and drinks in the other, Claire turned to make her way back to their designated seats but was stopped with a gentle nudge. Jamie nodded his head and began walking in the opposite direction.
“This’ll do, aye?” Jamie stopped in the middle of the empty hallway, the soft light a welcome respite from the moving party lights in the banquet room.
“Following you to a mystery destination rather than returning to the table was definitely the easiest decision I’ve made all night,” Claire laughed and toed off her heels before sitting down next to him with a sigh. “Yep, best decision ever.”
“I've been wanting to ask ye, ever since I met Frank and his wife,” Jamie paused to take a bite of cake. “Why in heaven's name would ye ever agree to attend their wedding?”
“I have been asking myself the same thing over and over. I think… maybe I wanted to prove something? To him or myself I really don't know.”
“What happened between the two of ye, if ye dinna mind me asking?”
“It was the typical scenario,” Claire rolled her eyes. “We were on different career paths and tried to do the long-distance thing but it didn't work out. I mean, I tried - we both tried. But Frank was a little more interested in the women around him than making things work. I called it off and we had this huge fight. He said some awful things but I’m not proud of the things I said either. At first I was so incredibly devastated. And embarrassed, you know? I had committed so many years to our relationship and I was left with… nothing.”
“I wouldn't say nothing. Our life experiences make up who we are, aye? That's something my Da always stressed to me when he was still alive. I like to believe it's true and since we’re telling truths… there’s something I have to tell ye, Claire. My true name is not MacTavish.”
“Oh.” It was not what she had been expecting him to confess but, all the same, she found she wasn’t the least bit surprised. It certainly explained why she couldn’t find any pictures of him on social media. “I’ve just had a thought.”
“I can't possibly marry you. I don't even know your real name.”
“It's Fraser,” Jamie said, his confusion morphing into a smile. “James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser”.
“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp,” Claire replied with a smile that she suspected matched his and held out her hand for him to shake. “Why don’t you go by your proper name? Or is MacTavish a name you reserve especially for blind dates that take you to things such as this?”
“Well, I won’t lie and say it doesn’t come in handy sometimes - I have some stories - but the real reason is for security. Some of the work I have done with the SAS requires it, even years after an assignment has been completed I still need to keep my details private, especially online.”
“What can you tell me about your work?” Claire picked up her fork and settled in for a story as she ate. It didn't really matter what story he told, his voice was so easy to listen to she would be happy if he chose to tell her a story about where he parks his car for work.
For what seemed like all the time in the world and no time at all, they shared stories back and forth. Everything from their work and their childhoods to drunken nights out friends and favourite second-hand stories. He made it so easy to forget about the things that had kept her from enjoying herself most of the night. Ever since she had received the invitation, really.
Finished with her cake, she leaned against her head back against the wall and felt her scalp protesting against the numerous pins in her hair. Without hesitation she took them out one by one and shook her hair out, sighing in relief at the feeling of having her hair down. Jamie paused in his storytelling and she looked over at him only to catch him staring at her with a strange look on his face.
“Och, nothing.” Jamie looked away quickly as his cheeks began to flush even brighter.
“Oh, come on now, Jamie, after everything we've shared tonight surely you can tell me what's on your mind. Do I have icing on my face? Is that why you were looking at me like that?” Claire brushed a hand around her mouth just in case.
“Nay, it’s just...” Jamie turned back to look at her, his cat-like eyes large and bright. “I was thinking how ye might just be the most beautiful sight I've ever seen.”
Claire looked down at herself. Still barefoot, with an empty plate on her lap and her ridiculous curls falling freely about her shoulders she must be an absolute sight compared to how she had looked when she opened her door to him earlier in the day.
“Are you just saying this because we're engaged to be married?” She joked nervously. Nervous that he was being sincere or that he was joking, she wasn't sure.
“I can assure ye it's not. Ye look so bonny sitting there, with yer cheeks all rosy and a smile on yer face. But speaking of being engaged,” Jamie stood up and brushed off his slacks before holding out his hand to her,” will ye join me for one last dance?”
She had been so preoccupied with their lie and the need to keep it up for the entire reception, she hadn't even considered that it was soon coming to an end. What exactly did that say about her? Too full of food and wine to ponder such serious thoughts, she mentally waved the question away and removed the plate from her lap before accepting Jamie's hand.
Just like every other wedding reception, she had ever attended, the last song of the night was a slow one. It might have been the buzz from all the wine she had been drinking or maybe even a sugar high from all the buttercream frosting she had eaten but as Jamie placed his hands on her waist and she wrapped her own over his shoulders she couldn’t help but lean into him as they began to move across the floor. It wasn’t until the music ended and chatter filled the room that she realised she had, for just a moment, completely lost all sense of time and space. So much so, she had forgotten that they were there to celebrate Frank and Sandy’s wedding. The feeling lingered as she and Jamie gathered their belongings from coat check and made their way outside. Not even the chill in the night air made it disappear.
The drive home from the reception was long but comfortable. Choosing to once again take off her heels, Jamie had fiddled with the settings until heat was blissfully warming up her bare skin. She almost loathed to put them back on as they pulled up in front of her apartment.
Continuing to be the gentleman he had proven himself to be that evening he walked her to her door and waited despite the freezing cold breeze that gently rattled the wreath that hung on the front.
“Thank you for being such a wonderful date tonight, Jamie.” She leaned upon the tips of her toes and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek.
“It has been my absolute pleasure, Claire,” Jamie smiled softly. “I…”
For the first time since they had met Jamie seemed to be stalling and unsure of what to say. Claire supposed it made sense that he would make sure to let her down gently before he left, not wanting to complicate things by leaving her questioning where they stood.
“... would you like to go out with me again next weekend?”
“You want to see me again? After everything that happened tonight?” Claire looked up at him incredulously.
“Claire.” Jamie reached out and took her hand in both of his own. “Tonight, I willingly offered you my name, my clan, my family and, if necessary, the protection of my body. Is it truly surprising that I might wanna take ye out on a proper date as well?”
“Well, no…” Claire searched his face for any sign of insincerity. Finding none, she smiled back at him. “That would be wonderful.”
“Aye. It would.”