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Chapter 1
April 15, 1746

We rode as if being chased by the devil himself, even though we knew that was impossible. For the devil must have been too busy wreaking havoc in the hundreds of souls of those about to fight to the death on Culloden moor to waste his time following just Jamie and me. I knew that Jamie must have had some destination in mind, but I was too exhausted and terrified to really think about where that might be. I just leaned into him as he guided the horse away from the battlefield, from the dead body of Dougal MacKenzie, and away from all of our worries and fears; or so I thought.

It turned out that Jamie was actually bringing me closer and closer to my biggest fear of all: separation from him, from the man I loved. Back to Craigh na Dun. Back to the stones where all the madness of our life together had begun. The wind whipped through my hair as we rode, instantly drying the tears that were streaming from my eyes into salty streaks on my face. Why would he bring me back here? Did he really think that I could return to my time, to a life without him, and be satisfied?

When we dismounted at the foot of the hill on which those bloody stones stood, Jamie took my hand and started striding purposefully towards the top. I immediately started trying to wrench my hand from his grip and finally succeeded, bringing both of us to a halt. “Jamie, you cannot make me go back. I simply will not just leave you here to fight on your own,” I stated, fists balled in defiance like a stubborn child.

“You must go, Sassenach. I canna care for you any longer,” Jamie countered, just as determined as I. “There is a war that must be fought, and besides that, I must answer for the death of my uncle. If I somehow survive this battle, I will be a dead man nevertheless when the entire MacKenzie clan finds out what I have done. This is the only way I can think of to keep ye safe.”

I swallowed hard, feeling the bile rise up from my stomach. I knew what he said was true, but I had to try to argue an alternative, no matter how unlikely. “France! Jamie, we can go back to France. We can leave right now; nothing is stopping us. Jared is still there, and he loves you! You were his protege. He will protect us. And we have other friends there as well. Surely someone will be willing to keep us safe until this madness has blown over.”

But Jamie was already shaking his head in response. “I willna run from this, Claire. I have spent too much of my life on the run from danger. And I am not sorry for it because, in spite of all the pain I have been through since being falsely accused, I canna deny that all of this led to you, to us. And I would go through it all ten times over if I knew it would lead me to you, mo chridhe.” He reached a shaky hand up to cup my face. “But now I have to face my judgment. And I have a way to keep ye safe. And I will not hesitate any longer.”

At this point, tears were freely running down my face. “Jamie, when they were going to burn me at the witch trial, you said that you would have burned with me if you’d had to,” I argued starting to sob.

Jamie reached out to wipe a tear from my cheek. “Aye, Sassenach, but it did not come to that. And I knew it wouldn’t. I would never have let that happen to ye. This time, I am likely to die. I must see ye safe so that I can go in peace to do what I must.”

“Let me go with you,” I begged. “Let me fight alongside you. Or at least be there if you need me to mend your wounds. I don't care what happens after the battle. If you die and I live, I swear I’ll come back to the stones. I will do whatever I must to return back to my own time, and if I die trying, then we will be together again. But if you live, how will I ever know? How can I ever live any kind of life - here or in my own time - wondering every minute if you lived or died? Please! Let me stay with you. Don’t force me to leave you, my home, before I know whether or not it is truly lost.”

That was it. I had played every card I held. The truth was, if he wanted to force me to go back through the stones, he was strong enough to overpower me. He could drag me up there and place my hand on the ancient rock which would presumably propel me back to the 1940s, back to Frank.

I desperately searched the depths of his blue eyes, trying to determine his answer before he gave it. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, his features softened from the hard lines of someone in the midst of a heated debate, into the the resigned, soft edges of one who has decided to concede. “All right, Sassenach, all right. I see yer point well enough. But ye must truly swear to return if I do not survive the battle, and ye must also swear not to intercede if the MacKenzies come for justice for what I have done to Dougal. I willna have ye mixed in with the aftermath of my deeds. For they will certainly punish you as well as me if they have any chance to do so.”

“I swear, Jamie! I swear!” I exclaimed throwing myself at him in relief. He wrapped his arms around me, and we held each other, a sense of doom in both of our hearts. But at least there was some hope. At least he would have a reason to fight now, a reason to return from this bloody battle. At least he still had me.