Not for the first time that week, a knock on my office door brought me out of the dream state that I kept slipping into, staring at the engagement ring that sat beautifully on the ring finger of my left hand. Quickly retreating my hand under the desk so that I wouldn’t be caught, again, I kept my back to the door in an attempt to hide the stupid lovesick grin that seemed to have taken a permanent residence on my face since Jamie had asked me to be his wife.
“Yes, what is it?” I kept my voice light, tried to sound casual as I faked a scroll through the saved documents on the computer in front of me, pretending like I was looking very intently for something specific.
“Got time for an old friend, Lady Jane?”
I immediately spun myself in my chair at the sound of an American accent and caught sight of Joe in the doorway, a huge smile plastered on his face as he shot me a wink. Practically skipping over to him, he enveloped me in a hug as we both laughed.
“What on earth are you doing here?” I asked him as I gave him a final squeeze before letting go, only for him to grab my left hand and pulling it closer to his face.
“Couldn’t let this momentous occasion go without a visit! Besides, Geillis was moaning at me about not coming up to visit so here I am,” he grinned, moving my hand gently so that the light caught the gemstones, “He picks a good ring, your man.”
“It was his mother’s actually,” I corrected him. I pulled my hand from his grasp and rubbed the band of the ring absentmindedly with my thumb as I’d taken to doing in an attempt to make the whole blissful thing sink in. “Are you here for long? Come over tonight, I’ll make dinner and we can catch up.”
Something flashed behind his eyes as he looked me up and down, the grin still plastered to his face.
“Thought we’d go out tonight, my treat. The nurse up front said you were done for the day?” He asked, jerking his head in the direction of the reception desk where Laoghaire was situated.
“Yeah, I’m all done. Highland life has its drama but it still isn’t as busy as an ER in London, who knew?” I teased as I turned to grab my coat and bag. Sitting on my chair once more, I slipped out of my heels and into my trusty Nikes.
“Much more sensible,” Joe nodded soberly as I batted him on the arm.
“The village is so small, I usually walk to and from work unless Jamie is driving.”
“Oh good so you don’t have a car here? We can take mine,” he said innocently as we walked outside, waving goodbye to Laoghaire as we passed. She sent me a tight smile before bidding me a good evening.
“Do you have somewhere in mind? Can we nip past the flat so I can change first?”
“You look great, LJ,” He sent me a quick side glance, once more taking in what I was wearing, “Is it, uh - a new shirt?”
My eyes narrowed at him and we reached his car, “No, why?”
He shrugged and didn’t answer the question as we got inside and he turned the key in the ignition, checking a message on his phone and moving his lips as though he was reciting it in his head.
“You’re being weird,” I mumbled, looking out the window and ignoring his snort of laughter as we began to drive. When I tried to give him directions to the flat, he simply nodded and ignored them, confirming the suspicion that had creeped into my spine.
It didn’t take me long to realise that we were on the road to Lallybroch but no matter how many times I asked, Joe kept his mouth shut with a somewhat smug smirk playing on his lips. Eventually I gave up trying to find out what was going on, the whole thing reeked of Geillis and some clandestine hen party that she had thrown together knowing that I would never agree to the debauchery that she was capable of.
It had turned into a beautiful spring evening when we finally pulled in to the courtyard at Lallybroch, the sun only just beginning its descent and it was unseasonably warm as we exited the car. Joe exhaled heavily from between his teeth as he took in sight of the house and part of me beamed with pride at the thought of officially becoming part of the family that had its roots in such a beautiful place.
As if they had been waiting for us, bodies appeared in the courtyard. Jenny and Ian stood by the door with Wee Jamie fidgeting beside them as I turned to see Geillis and Murtagh coming through the archway that we had just driven through. They were shooting looks at each other, all quietly colluding on something. Just as I was away to ask what the hell was going on, Jamie’s voice ripped through the quiet.
His body dashed from the old stable block, surprisingly quick on his feet for such a large man. He was running directly towards me with his hand out in front of him, grabbing me by the forearm when he was within reach and wrenching me with him, my feet barely registering the change in pace as I tried to keep up. He pulled us as fast as he could towards the wooden fence that separated the courtyard from the fields behind the house as his arms made light work of lifting me over the fence before jumping over himself and immediately getting us running again. I could hear everyone behind us, laughing and hooting as the made their way over the fence and began to chase us over the field.
The air was bursting its way out of my lungs as I barely managed to keep up, Jamie’s speed matched only by the strength that he was wielding to keep me with him, my feet barely touching the uneven ground.
“What the hell is going on?” I panted as I sent a glance behind us to see Ian coming towards us at a surprising speed given his prosthetic, his son gently pulling him forward by the hand. Joe ran beside Murtagh and Geillis as our friends and family all advanced on us.
He yanked my arm so that I whipped around to face forward again and caught the face splitting grin that he couldn’t contain.
“Dinna look back, they’ll catch us!” He laughed.
“And what will happen if they do?”
“Just run, Sassenach!”
My legs were growing heavy with exhaustion, the lactic acid building up in muscles that hadn’t been used for anything that resembled running in a very long time. Sensing that I was lagging behind, Jamie held my hand even tighter as the sounds of the gang behind us seemed to get closer. Suddenly, he went from upright to flat on his stomach in a matter of seconds, forgetting to let go of my hand and subsequently pulling me to the ground with him.
“Cack!” The word burst from his lungs as his shoulders shook with laughter. I immediately went to the foot that had caused him to fall, firmly running my hands over the ankle that I hoped he hadn’t broken.
“Serves you right for running around like a banshee, dragging me behind you like a ragdoll,” I chastised, smacking him lightly on the chest as his arms came around me, crushing my body to his amongst the grass.
“Ye’ll wish we’d kept on running when they catch up to us, Sassenach.”
“Will you please tell me what’s going on?” I begged him but his eyes weren’t on me, they were looking at whoever was stood behind me. Without a word, Jamie laced the fingers of his left hand with the fingers of my right and raised them into the air.
“Be over before ye ken it,” Murtagh’s voice rumbled with humour from above me. Without warning, the sensation of metal against skin brought me to the realisation that Jamie and I were now tethered together by a set of rusty old shackles.
“Jesus H Roosevelt Christ, will someone please explain?!” I implored as we scrambled to our feet. Jamie pressed a kiss to the crown of my head as the rest of the group caught up to us, cheering and clapping Murtagh for bagging the prize.
Geillis came to her husband’s side, slipped her arm around his waist before sending us a devilish grin.
“Welcome tae yer Blackening, Claire!”
“No no no, no!" I screamed at the sight of Jenny walking towards us with a bucket filled with what looked like syrup, her son jumping excitedly beside her. Jamie and I were still attached to each other but were now also stood against the wall of the stable, nowhere to run. With a wicked smile on her face that told me she was enjoying the whole thing way too much, Jenny lifted her son and helped him pour the contents of the bucket over Jamie and I’s heads.
I fought the urge to scream in revulsion as the sticky substance oozed down our bodies, not only for the reason of not getting it into my mouth as Jamie squirmed beside me in futility, the laughter getting caught in his throat.
“What do ye think after the molasses, mo chridhe?” Jenny asked her son with an innocent smile as Wee Jamie started to bounce on her hip.
“The grass, Mama!” He commanded with glee. On hearing this, Ian appeared in front of us with a bag full of grass cuttings and howled with laughter as his son’s pudgy hands dove into the depths and started to throw it towards us.
Geillis appeared at my left with a bucket of oats and a can of shaving foam, coating Jamie and I liberally in both items as we twisted our bodies responsively. Resigning myself to the whole situation, I couldn’t help but join in with the general mood of hilarity that was filling the courtyard as our friends and family made the biggest mess of the newly engaged couple as they possibly could. Joe threw handfuls of flour at us which immediately adhered to what Jenny had now identified as molasses against our skin and I threw my head back, yelping loudly. Jamie’s loud laughter beside me turned into groans at the sight of Murtagh now advancing with yet another bucket, the horror inside not yet known to me. Jamie, on the other hand, his height being an advantage could see exactly that was inside.
“Nae the beans, man!” He howled, trying in vain to shield me with his body as cold baked beans hit our already filthy skin.
After what felt like an hour but was probably closer to ten minutes of this very odd, very smelly torture, when Geillis was finally satisfied with the hundred or so pictures that she had taken, Murtagh moved towards us and undid the shackles.
With a quick glance at Jamie, in an unspoken agreement, we advanced on him and immediately enveloped him in a bear hug, pinning his arms to his sides as we rubbed the remnants of the ingredients onto his clothes. He laughed along with it, Wee Jamie braying with laughter until his uncle rounded on him and began to chase him around the courtyard.
My cheeks ached from smiling, the laughter still bursting out of me in gasps as Jenny came to my side with a towel in her hands, a stand in for a white flag of surrender. I took it gladly and went to wiping my face.
“We’ll all stay out here for a bit and ye twa can get sorted. Take your clothes off in the utility room and head up for a shower, we’ll have a bit of supper once yer both cleaned up,” she smiled as she took the towel back from me. Suddenly, she wrapped an arm around my neck and pulled me into a tight hug, her own clothes being ruined in the process, “I love ye as my own sister, Claire. Welcome to the Fraser clan.”
Jamie’s strong fingers worked through my hair, rubbing lazy circles into my scalp. The water had finally begun to run clear after a third round of shampoo and I relaxed back against his body, letting the hot stream run over us.
“I imagine we’ve the farm up the road to thank for the agricultural molasses but I think it’s all finally out,” Jamie said, his laughter disappearing into the steam that filled the bathroom.
“You Scots have the strangest traditions,” I sighed as I closed my eyes and bent my head to let the water rinse through my tresses.
“I mebbe should’ve warned ye about The Blackening but I never thought they’d do it so soon,” he agreed and I ‘hmphed’ in agreement as his large hands landed on my hips, slowly turning my body so that I was facing him. I immediately caught the look in his eyes, his pupils dilating as he pressed my breasts against his chest and bent to claim my mouth with his own. His hands ran over my skin, red and tender after the scrubbing that had been required to remove the remnants of our earlier activity, tingling at the sensation as he explored my body with his fingertips.
Not for the first time, I was shocked by how quickly my body began to respond to him. Often, if I allowed my mind to wander from me, I would find myself replaying some of our trysts in glorious technicolour but it always paled in comparison to the real thing, to having Jamie’s body beneath my hands. The way the anticipation could build with just a look was like nothing I’d ever experienced and when his lips would find mine, the world would spin on its axis, the force of our love pulling me towards him.
His tongue rubbed along mine as my breath started to come in pants, my arousal beginning to build. When his hand trailed down over my stomach and his fingers found my centre, he pressed me gently against the wall to stop my knees from buckling beneath me.
“They’ll be waiting for us,” I whispered as his middle finger curled up inside me, his mouth hanging open above mine as he watched my face closely, enjoying the sight of what he could do to me. I moved my hand to grasp him and he growled against my lips.
“Let them wait.”
Jamie’s hand tightened on the back of my knee and hitched my leg up against him as he pressed his hips against mine. His other hand came to the small of my back as he lifted me slightly, his eyes burning into mine as he lowered my body onto his length, gritting his teeth at the feeling of filling me. His mouth lowered to my breasts, teeth closing around my nipples and earning a roll of my hips as a response. Groaning, he screwed his eyes shut, pushing his forehead against mine as he began to quicken his movements.
“Nothing will ever feel this good,” he whispered. I began to moan louder, the angle of his hips hitting a delicious spot inside of me. He pulled at my bottom lip with his teeth, a low rumble in his throat. He quickly moved his hands to my ass, lifting me entirely from my feet and pinning me to the wall, the cold tile against my back contrasting with the heat of his skin. My hands rested on his biceps and felt the muscles contracting as he pistoned me up and down on his cock, delicious pressure building in the pit of my stomach as I clamped down on him, trying to chase my orgasm. He felt the tightening of me around him and gasped loudly, doubling down on his efforts know that he knew that I was close.
“I can’t wait to be your wife, James Fraser,” I moaned into his ear as a growl ripped from that deep place in his chest, fingers digging into my skin as he claimed me. His reaction to my words tipped me over the edge, bucking wildly against him as my orgasm tore through me. I bit down on the skin of his thick neck to stifle my scream, earning a hiss as he spilled himself into me, pinning me against the wall of the shower.
“Claire Fraser…” he kissed my lips so softly, “Mine, now and forever.”