The sun bounced its light off the surface of the water looking like a million diamonds sparkling all around them. Jamie watched Claire laughing at something Darius said and he almost pinched himself to verify this wasn’t a dream. He had not seen her this relaxed in quite some time and she looked so beautiful. Adso stretched out on her lap and she stroked him while her attention was on Darius. She turned to look at him suddenly with a smile that would melt a glacier.
“Happy birthday Jamie. I have a present for you, want to see it?”
“Nothing can top the day we’ve already had but yes please show me.”
She led him below deck and unlocked the door to the guest cabin pushing it open. Jamie’s face was unreadable as his gaze swept the room and stopped at the tubes of oil paint, the container of brushes, a pallet, turpentine, and empty canvases waiting to come alive with color. He pulled a brush and bounced it between his fingers and then smiled at her. His heart was beating rapidly as the paintings appeared to him, one after the other.
“Do you like it? Will you paint?”
“Come here Sassenach. I love it, yes I will paint,” he whispered.
Jamie kissed her softly and when she moved into him he could hear his heart ramming as his large warm hand slid down her body making his intentions known. The mind-bending heat came on them so fast their mission in life was suddenly to get the other naked. Jamie pulled where the sarong was tied and it dropped to the floor around her feet. She was naked except for her tiny thong panties.
“Ah, God, you’re a beauty Claire and I love you.”
One grab of the bed cover stripped the bed and Jamie pulled off his clothes while Claire reached for him. They were out of control and Jamie pulled away and looked into her eyes.
“This is the consummation of our marriage, Sassenach, I feel we should slow down and pay it the attention it deserves,” was panted out.
“Too late.” Claire pulled him on top of her and raised her knees on either side of him. “I’m with you until the wheels fall off sweetheart.”
It wasn’t the slow-burn lovemaking they had fantasized about but reinventing themselves, breaking all the rules, and finding the alternate route had become their forte. When they dropped back to earth, panting and clutching each other, it was just perfect.
Maia served a late lunch and then it was time for bikinis and jet skis. They played until exhausted, pulling themselves up on the lowered aft deck as the beautiful sunset filled the sky.
It was the perfect ending to a perfect day when the couples curled up on the deck couches and watched Casablanca. Jamie carried Claire to bed and spooned her into a deep sleep. He was restless and his hand itched to paint. Rather than wake his bride, he went below deck to find a suitable place to work and he set his watch for two hours to prevent painting all night. Just before dawn he pulled his wife to him and sighed his appreciation. Claire smiled to herself in the dark room, aware he had been painting all night and thrilled she could lead him back to the canvas, even if she slept alone occasionally.
In Washington, Hesser sat back in his chair and thought about Claire Beauchamp. He was impressed with what she had overcome in her short life to become a full professor at the University of Chicago. A virtual globe trotter because her appraisals were in such demand. He wondered what caused the birth of Casper and how she became so notorious for stealing art. Most likely Javier pulled her into the dark side and he would spend the rest of his life in prison. It wasn’t enough to save her, but he would be punished for what he did to her. Hesser would keep her leash short and execute Javier’s lover, Joseph, as a warning to stay in line. Jamie Fraser would be of no use to him. There was a kill on sight order on him so he couldn’t be used to pressure Claire. He just wanted this resolved and these loose ends cleaned up. It was taxing to even think about.
Claire let Jamie sleep and pulled Adso from under the covers while he stretched and yawned. Adso’s preference was to stay in bed if either of them was still in it but his purring right into Jamie’s ear would surely wake him up. She held him against her mouth and gave kisses all the way to the galley.
“Time to head out Claire,” Darius was smiling and looked sleepy. “Or, we can stay right here for as long as you want, the choice is yours.”
“I got rather excited about seeing Croatia and eating more lobster of course.”
“Where is your husband?” No response. “Your husband?” Nothing “Who is your husband, Claire?”
“My hus…” Claire’s eyes went from conversational to lovesick in seconds and she left the galley, drawn to him, awake or asleep, she wanted to cuddle with him.
“Nice going, Darius,” Maia giggled, “ my egg casserole is done and there’s no one to eat it now.”
“I can fix this sweet girl.” He bent over and hoisted her over his shoulder heading for the stairs to the upper deck. He kept climbing and smacked her ass when she tried to get down. At the highest deck, he set her down and smiled like a fox. When she turned to the stairs he ordered her to stay. Maia knew his voice intimately and could recognize happy, bored, stressed, aroused, and dangerous. She closed her eyes and felt the excitement of what was to come.
“Come here, Maia.”
“I will come over there and get you.”
She turned around as he was advancing and she held her hand up, “I will jump overboard if you come any closer!”
Darius let his eyes wander up her body slowly and he noticed her nipples standing at attention and the flush to her face. It was like catching a wild cat that wanted to be caught sometimes but he would trick her. He held a quarter up and asked her to call it.
“Fine, then I’m jumping, heads.”
She watched the coin toss into the air and land on his arm. “Ha, you lose!”
Darius pulled his shirt off and the sun bounced off his toned bronze torso. Maia licked her lips open so she could breathe. He told her to call it.
“You lose girl, off with the shirt.”
“But I have nothing on under my shirt.”
“You should have thought about that when you got dressed this morning.”
Darius had a beautiful smile with bright white teeth and full lips that made her weak. “C’mon little one, off.”
Maia raised her chin in defiance and finally pulled her shirt off, naked to her shorts barely hanging on to her hips. She was breathing hard and called tails for the next toss. Darius barely touched his cut-offs and they fell to the ground around his feet. He was uninhibited by nature and Maia was stuck on looking at him letting him sneak forward and pull her to him.
“You have a choice, dear one, I can pull them off, or you can.” She felt his hands pull once on her shorts and they were off. He pulled her up on the handrail at the top of the stairs and sank to his knees using a slow tongue to pull her into orbit. He watched her head go back to lean against the boat and her breasts bounce as she got close.
He kissed her and carried her to a mattress dropping onto his back and pulling her on top of him. Darius moaned when she dropped her body onto him. He sat up and pulled her feet behind him pressing down on her knees to supply the needed friction. She was too good at this and he held her still while he regained control. He slipped out of her body.
“Put your legs over my shoulders.”
When she did he told her to bring it to him and pushed her pelvis up and to his mouth. Maia was losing her mind and her arms burned from holding her weight up. She was making strange noises that made Darius pull her higher and then over the top as she screamed his name. Her arms buckled and she came down on the mattress as her orgasm ripped through her. Darius pushed into her and hammered with his own need until he growled and held her against him.
“That’s a good girl,” he panted. “Now you can jump overboard.”
He kissed her face a dozen times and then ran a towel under the cold water tap behind the bar. She looked like a sated angel lying there with her eyes closed. When he ran the towel down her arms, chest, breasts, and stomach she moaned and smiled at him.
“Will you be flinging yourself into the ocean?”
“From way up here? Not a chance,” she giggled and reached for her clothes.
In Paris, Joseph sat on a park bench and watched Javier walk around the park while he talked on his phone. They had been on the surface too long, Joseph felt, and he flicked his eyes to Javier as a warning, it’s time to go. Javier walked back to Joseph growling into the phone to go two-million and make the deal by noon tomorrow or he was out.
“Two million Javier?”
He sat down heavily on the bench and exhaled nodding his head. It looked like he had aged a decade in the past week and it broke Joseph’s heart.
“Our girl needs a miracle so two million is a small price to pay.” He looked at Joseph and his eyes were full of love. “I have lived a full life, I want Bear to have that chance and it’s all I want. I’m ready to rest in the ground and wait for you Joseph.
Joseph pulled him up and walked him toward the path to the bunker hoping the package would be delivered at noon tomorrow.
Cruising back to Greece would be a memory Claire would not soon forget. She glanced at Adso sitting at the edge of the deck watching something in the water. When she looked up the water was boiling with jumping dolphins who were keeping up with the boat like it was a game. She grabbed a phone to the bridge and asked Darius to drop the speed so she could see the dolphins.
The yacht stopped moving and Darius came down to lower the hydraulic aft deck to the water level. The four of them sat with their lower legs in the water watching the playful dolphins. Several of them came close enough to touch their feet and babies would swim between their legs. When Adso sauntered out and jumped down on the platform everything changed. He sat watching like he was unimpressed and the dolphins gathered around the platform trying to see him. He walked forward and batted at the long noses making them lurch back and blast out of the water like it was the most fun thing to happen in a long time. They tried to lift their upper body out of the water to see him bringing Claire two inches from a large wild dolphin who was captivated by her cat. She didn’t dare move and scare them away but she got brave after a while and reached out to touch one of them. Jamie got to his feet which dipped the platform underwater and Adso ran into the boat like a shot, shaking his wet feet as he went.
He pulled Claire up and walked her inside because the dolphins were leaving and it was too dark to see anything. He looked at her face and chuckled at the wonder in her gaze.
“Well, my wife is in a dolphin stupor so we might have to hold dinner for a bit.”
When Santorini was in sight the next day, Jamie and Darius were chomping at the bit to go spearfishing. Once a mooring was purchased the women saw them run to the tender and wave goodbye.
Claire laughed and followed Maia outside with a pitcher of iced tea and a deck of cards. Darius had secured a commercial grade fishing pole to the boat and the baited hook drifted out to the current to spin and bounce while the girls played cards.
Claire looked up sharply at Maia, “what’s that sound? It’s like a huge zipper going up and down.”
“It’s a fish,” and then she yawned.
“It’s a what?”
Claire looked at the pole and the line was being dragged out to the open ocean at a rapid rate. She felt adrenalin course through her body while Maia walked over and waited for several minutes, then reached down and locked the reel causing the pole to jerk almost in half.
“We play another hand and then bring him in if we can. It’s a very big fish.”
Halfway through the hand, the pole almost jerked out of the holder and Maia ran to grab it but the pole slammed her against the railing and she couldn’t move.
“Oh my God Maia, let me help you!”
Claire held onto the pole and both women were straining to hold onto the fish. They fought with it for twenty minutes before Maia could feel a bit of slack and started reeling with all her might. The fish would let them reel it in for a few minutes and then suddenly dash back toward open water pulling the line with it. They were exhausted after an hour and both sat down on the deck, holding the pole, sweating through their light clothing. Maia smiled when she heard the tender coming.
Jamie came running when he saw Claire looking like she went three rounds with Mohammed Ali. When he was told there was a monster fish on the line he ran to get Darius.
Strong male hands took control of the pole and they took turns reeling the fish in. Darius had the timing down to snap the reel lock driving the hook deeper into the fish. Jamie had the strength to drag it closer to the boat. Claire brought cold beers out for everyone and was captivated by the muscles that bulged in Jamie’s arms and chest.
“It’s close Darius, how do we get it onto the boat?”
Darius laughed at the question and told him it would be several hours before they got it close enough to grab it.
“No, it’s close, I can feel it getting very close.”
When the monster fish came to the surface and saw the boat it dove deep and ran the line out to the original distance.
“My turn!” Darius sat down on the deck and pushed his feet against the rail. He let the fish fight until he got tired and then started reeling. He worked the pole, pulling it taught and lifting high overhead like he was dragging the fish toward him and reeling quickly to take up the new slack. Jamie watched and learned.
The girls brought dinner to the table and ended up setting the plates and food on the deck and they all sat cross-legged eating and encouraging whoever had the pole.
A fishing boat passed slowly coming in for the day and two crew members laughed and pointed to the line in the water giving them a thumbs-up as they motored by.
The sun was starting to go down and Jamie warned Darius the fish was close. Darius looked out at the water and seemed to freeze and blink his eyes. He squinted and stared at the water.
“Holy shit!” In the next instant, he was overboard swimming toward the fish, he yelled to Jamie to pull it to the surface and waited for the fish to come up. When he saw the sword break the surface he yelled holy shit again and swam hard toward the boat. He climbed up on the aft deck and dripped water running through the saloon to the forward deck getting a stern look from Maia.
“It’s a Swordfish for Christ’s sake! Oh my God, what is he doing close to the island? He should be long gone by now. Oh! Jamie, don’t let go.”
Claire wondered if she had ever eaten Swordfish, she didn’t think so. It wasn’t long before Jamie’s strength was too much for the fish and it was reeled close to the boat. One last push of fight or flight from the Swordfish and it was completely out of the water dancing on his tail with the long sword in the air. Jamie looked at the gorgeous fish shimmering in the moonlight, thrashing up out of the water and crashing back. He had never seen anything so beautiful come out of the water.
Darius grabbed the pole and walked it back to the aft deck by the side deck that ran along the side of the boat. He sat Jamie on the deck and told him to keep reeling. He was back in two minutes with orange gloves on a grappling hook that he carried out to the lowered back platform. When the fish came alongside the deck, Darius swung the grappling hook into its side and told Jamie to hold it. He jumped into the water and fought the wounded monster. Once he got a hold of the sword and the body Jamie lowered the deck under water so Darius just had to sit with the fish on his lap while Jamie lifted the deck up. Darius sent the fish’s soul to heaven and once dead he took a picture of it and then cut it into thick fillets.
He and Jamie worked quickly to cut and clean sections of the Swordfish put them into freezer bags and stow them in the chest freezer. Jamie was sitting on the deck with his feet in the water throwing the waste far from the boat.
“Get your foot out of the water before you get bit,” Darius warned. He flipped the underwater lights on and Jamie looked down at a dozen large sharks right under his foot. He jerked it out of the water and they wrapped it up for the night. They both carried their loves to bed and Jamie locked up and set the alarm. It was a very good day.
Claire stretched and gave kisses to Adso who purred contently next to her ear. She showered and dressed before finding Maia in the galley.
“Where are the guys this morning?”
“Darius had to clean the bottom of the boat and Jamie jumped in after him to help. You two don’t act like millionaires.”
“Ill-gotten gains, sweet pea.”
Claire looked down both sides of the boat from the foredeck and could not see the men in the water.
“Maia they aren’t in the water.”
“They are under the boat and use long tubes to breathe. Look harder for the two clear tubes just above water level.”
“No need, I’ll wait until they’re done, just looking for a morning hug.”
Claire felt her phone vibrate and opened her text messaging. She read Javier’s message and walked up the stairs to the bridge computer to read his email. She knew he was working tirelessly on a solution and she loved him for it, hoping for a breakthrough. She downloaded a video file, hovering over the video she clicked the mouse and waited for it to load into the player. She was looking out the bridge windows when she heard Frank's voice and a child crying. She turned her gaze to the video.
Maia heard something crash upstairs and called to Claire but got no answer. She bounced up the stairs and found Claire on her hands and knees retching on the floor. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and tried to say “Jamie” but she couldn’t push the words out. Maia ran to the deck and pounded the side of the boat until they surfaced.
“Claire is in the bridge and something is very wrong Jamie.”
Enough said and he was taking the stairs two at a time.
“Sassenach! What’s happened?”
He pulled her to her feet but she couldn’t do more than snivel and shake. She pointed at the monitor and said watch. Jamie felt her pull away from him and head for the stairs she turned and put her hand up telling him to watch the video. She was crying and apologizing and then slammed her hand against her mouth and ran down the steps.
Jamie started the video and the images shot into his brain where they would torment him for the rest of his life. He had seen a lot of violence in prison, some that made him physically ill, but nothing could have prepared him for this. He turned it off and ran to find Claire wondering who he would strangle for sending this evil video.
Claire laid on their bed in the fetal position, clutching Adso and crying.
“Who sent you the video Sassenach?” said through his clenched teeth.
“Because it’s Frank!”
Jamie struggled to hold onto his composure. He wanted desperately to run to the deck and throw himself in the ocean until he felt normal again if that was even possible. He heard Claire crying and forced himself to sit down and take a deep breath. He put his hand on her thigh and promised to make everything alright. He told Claire that no one else should ever see such a thing and he was going up to the bridge to shut her email down.
“Claire, hold on for five minutes, I will close your email and clean up the bridge and be right back. Okay?”
When he saw her nod he ran upstairs and read Javier’s email message.
First, load the VPN and the email security program attached to this email. The video and documents attached are not to be viewed by you, I forbid it. Forward the attached to the Washington Post and every major news outlet, the DC chief of police and the DC district attorney. Send the attached to Senator Frank Randall as well. Above all, do not view the video, just forward them. This will save you Bear.”
Christ Claire, did you not read Javier’s message? Jamie closed her email and locked the video so no one else could open it. He cleaned the floor of the bridge and went back to Claire.
“Sassenach, come here love.”
He laid against the headboard, held his arm out to her and she crawled into his strong embrace. Her crying subsided and she gripped him around his waist like a shield against the horror she witnessed.
“We will forget, eventually, your mind wants to protect you and what you saw will be forgotten. Now tell me what you intend to do with the video.”
“I will ruin Frank Randall so he goes to prison forever,” said through clenched teeth. “I don’t care about the blowback. He belongs in a dumpster, dead and rotting. I’m sending it everywhere Javier told me to.”
“So you read his email and played the video anyway?”
She dropped her head, “I wish I hadn’t but there is no turning back now.”
Jamie tried to get Claire to rest but she was hell-bent on following Javier’s instructions. Back on the bridge, she loaded all the email addresses and attached the video. Jamie watched her finger hover the Enter key and then she pushed it. Her eyes instantly snapped to his and she looked scared.
Jamie sat in the captain’s chair and pulled her into his lap where she laid against his chest with her head under his chin. He stroked her hair while they were silent, watching the water and boats below. They didn’t move or speak until the sun had set.
“It feels like we just lit the fuse on an explosion we know nothing about Sassenach.”
“I agree, but I trust Javier, implicitly. One thing is certain, Frank is no longer a candidate and I won’t be forced to marry him.”
Jamie felt their story was racing to an end and he didn’t know what to do, except run. He helped Claire downstairs and they sat at the table when Maia brought dinner from the galley. While they ate, Jamie gave a brief version of what had transpired and now felt they needed to put distance between them and Greece.
“I say we leave in the morning and head somewhere far away. Maybe Jamaica.”
Claire looked pale since she and Jamie returned from the bridge, now she stuttered out her concern.
“I need cat food, litter, and treats before we leave. It’s still early, can we tender to Santorini tonight and be ready to go in the morning?”
“I’ll go with Jamie and you two can rest. You don’t look so good Claire.” Darius looked concerned. “Let’s go, Jaime.”
Jamie and Darius made short work of their trip ashore and were on their way to the tender in thirty minutes. A junior CIA agent recognized Jamie and his eyes nearly bugged out of his head. After they passed him he stayed in the shadows and watched them tender out to a huge yacht. He pulled his cell phone out with shaking hands and dialed the private number for Hesser who was throwing every object in his office against the wall in a rage over a video that was sent to him. Hesser could hardly speak through his panting and told the agent to give him the details and say nothing until he arrived. He pulled a notebook out of his breast pocket and wrote while the agent talked.
Frank Randall sat at his desk and stared at the monitor. He knew the video was a fake because he had no memory of such brutal behavior. His mind raced to find a solution and he tried to reach Hesser over and over again. He finally made his way to Hesser’s office and was jogging to the building when he saw the man walk out. Frank caught up to him and begged for his help. Hesser towered over him, looking down at the hysterical Senator with a menacing face.
“You’re finished in politics you pustular pimple on the ass of humanity. You better get your affairs in order before they come for you. Get the fuck out of my way.”
Frank argued that the tape was fake and someone was trying to ruin his campaign. Hesser pushed by him but before he reached his car Frank pulled his arm and drove his fist into his face. Hesser was shocked and staggered a bit looking down at Frank with bulging eyes. Then he dropped to the pavement, out cold.
Frank searched his pockets and pulled out the notebook he was always writing in or reading from. He pushed it into a pocket and ran for his car. He found a parking garage to hide in and read the notebook cover to cover. He giggled hysterically at the names and events he read, happy to have dirt on the powerful people in Washington who would have to help him. He flipped through to the last page and read the notes from the junior agent in Santorini. There was a description of the yacht and location of the mooring. He read the other notes on that page where Hesser had written video=Claire? Frank’s blood boiled and he headed to the airport.
The close circuit security cameras in the parking lot recorded a clear picture of Randall attacking Hesser. It would be added to the list of atrocities and they would nail his prison door shut with the evidence. Hesser didn’t know that Frank was already at cruising altitude on his way to Greece. He got lucky, had his passport, and found an open seat immediately.
While Jamie and Darius plotted a course to Jamaica Claire slipped away to soothe her jagged nerves in a hot bath. After drying her hair she slipped her new nightgown on, and it was a near duplicate of what she wore in Paris. Candles were not allowed on a boat but every lamp in their cabin had a dimmer switch and she turned them all way down and opened the big doors to the outside.
Jamie watched Claire lean against the door looking at the water. Her bare back was crisscrossed with tiny straps from her nightgown that stopped high-thigh to show most of her tanned shapely legs. He crossed to her quietly and kissed her shoulder feeling her press into his chest. When he asked her to wait for him to shower she looked up at him with wide eyes that he couldn’t read. Worry had settled into his stomach after they sent the video so he assumed that is what he saw.
After a calming shower, Jamie dried off and walked naked to his wife. He had pulled the bedding off the mattress and wrapped an arm around her to lead her to it. She giggled at him for running his hand along the satin garment whispering how soft it was. He started at her feet and talked about how beautiful Jamaica was while he rubbed and pulled moans out of his lover. His strong hands wrapped around her calves and massaged them to her knees for ten minutes. He was not in a hurry and noticed her smile when he described the crystal clear water around the island.
He moved to her side, slowly massaging her thin arms and hands explaining how long it would take to cross the ocean to Jamaica.
“Poor Darius will be stuck on the bridge for days, I don’t suppose we can take turns driving the boat.”
“He will set the autopilot once we’re at sea. The boat will warn him of other boats or objects under the water.” He turned her over and rubbed her back, then butt, and then down her legs.
Claire wanted to look at him and flipped onto her back, searching his eyes.
“I knew you before we met at Sotheby’s, not what you looked like but certainly as an artist. I broke many hearts appraising paintings that were fake. Every master painter has distinguishable strokes and I would know your work anywhere.”
Jamie blushed and looked at the skin he was working on. “I am a forger, not a master painter love.” He kissed her before she had time for rebuttal. She felt the kiss to her toes and wanted more but Jamie indulged himself in sliding his hand up and down the satin material getting closer to her breasts and core until she opened her mouth to breathe.
When his hand slid down her inner thigh she gasped and looked at him with a mixture of heat and pure love. Jamie twisted himself and settled between her legs where his soft, wet tongue made promises of the heights he would take her. He stopped before she lost her mind, wanting to love her slowly and let their passion build with simple strokes. He entered her, feasting on the story her eyes were telling, about love, hero-worship, and devotion. She looked at him like he was the king of men and he stopped moving so he could kiss her until he found her soul. She breathed into his mouth, “I love you so Jamie.”
When they cuddled to sleep Jamie hoped to find a jewelry store in Jamaica and a beautiful diamond befitting his extraordinary wife.