Jaime jerked awake in the middle of the night, his heart was ramming like he had a nightmare, but he couldn’t remember one. He was covered in sweat and rolled quietly out of bed and grabbed his shorts. He felt sad for some reason and decided to paint for a bit. Walking into his makeshift studio in the boat garage chased his blues away and excitement filled him. He was ready to paint the angel’s face and that would bring her to life in the picture. He studied his renderings while mixing the paint and raised his brush within a quarter-inch of the canvas before pulling it away. The skin tone wasn’t right, so he kept mixing.
As dawn was breaking across the water Jamie tossed his brush into the turpentine and stood back to look at his angel. He smiled at the gleam in her eyes and youthful vibrance. He cleaned up and slid into bed with his Sassenach, wrapping his arms around her and dropping into sleep. What felt like seconds later he felt sweet lips kissing him awake. He blinked at her and then pulled her giggling into the bed with him.
My darling it is mid-morning and Darius has ordered you up and fed so you can help with refueling before we turn this bad boy around and head for Jamaica.
“First, yachts are female Sassenach.” He ran his hand down her curves making her laugh harder. “Alright, no use pretending I could ever deny you. I will be up and fed in ten minutes.”
Claire watched his magnificent form walk to the shower. She was full of excitement this morning because they were running far away, to safety, to a new adventure, and her first ocean crossing.
Frank paid the cab driver and ran to the highest point above the water where he could watch the yacht. It took him some time to find it and he nearly kicked his heels when he spotted it. He had been on the island for two hours, the time it took to find the bad part of town and buy a gun. He laughed out loud at how lucky he was and how absurd these people who thought they could take him down. When the boat started to move, he panicked and ran in the direction it was heading. He would die from exhaustion before he let Claire slip away to enjoy a long life.
He lost sight of the boat and ran harder until his legs burned and sweat dripped into his eyes. When he came up over another hill there it was, waiting in line for a fueling station. He squinted at the decks but saw no one, especially, no Claire, so he waited and heaved oxygen into his depleted lungs.
Jamie hopped onto the dock from the aft deck and jogged to the line to pay for fuel. Darius was driving the boat from a side station where he could stand outside on the side deck and use accessory controls to guide the yacht up to the dock. He could see a boat leaving the station with only one more in front of them. This wouldn’t take long.
Frank ran closer to the boat searching for Claire and tried to find a way to board the yacht undetected. When he saw her walk out to the foredeck he nearly passed out with relief. She was smiling and picked up a kitten to bury her nose in its fur and give kisses. Frank was shaking with hatred and brought the gun up to aim at her head. When he was ready, he squeezed off two shots one of which hit the fuel pump and burst into flames as gasoline poured out into the water. The man fueling his boat screamed and threw the fuel nozzle away from his boat spewing gas.
Claire heard the shots fired and the whizzing sound of a bullet close to her head. She watched the fuel station blow up and the fire spread across the water. She was confused at first until she saw Frank running full speed toward the boat. It was a surreal moment that hobbled her ability to think or run inside. She turned her gaze to Frank as he raised the gun again, sure to hit his target at this close range. Before she could react, Jamie tackled Frank from the side and his shot went wild. Claire screamed as she watched Jamie and Frank fall off the dock and into the water, directly into the flames.
Darius saw the whole thing and now heard Claire scream like she was dying. He threw a rope to a kid on the dock and asked him to tie them then he ran to the aft deck and threw the kid another rope. The fire was getting smaller on the water as the gasoline was consumed and Claire searched the water for Jamie. Within minutes the authorities were racing down the dock and stopped close to the yacht.
When Maia understood what was happening, she ran to Claire’s room to grab her wig. Darius helped push an unmoving Claire into the boat long enough for Maia to get the wig on her head. They were back on the foredeck watching the water. Darius was quiet. He knew something was wrong. He jumped to the dock to find the authorities. Once they had taken statements from all people involved or eyewitness to the shooting they came aboard to speak with Claire, who answered the questions but never took her eyes off the water.
An ambulance could be heard in the distance. Frank had been pulled out of the water and brought back to the dock where he was loaded into the emergency vehicle. The officer called for divers to a possible drowning and Claire lost it, screaming Jamie’s name until she passed out. Darius picked her up and pushed past the objecting officer. Maia stayed with her in her room while Darius went out to speak to the officer. He pointed to his vantage point next to the upper deck and his clear sightline to the shooting was obvious. He gave a statement, identified the shooter as Senator Frank Randall, and denied knowing any relationship between him and Mary Dunn. He identified the hero as James Fraser, a resident of Scotland. He refused to say anymore and left the officer alone on the deck and locked the glass door between them.
Darius had never felt this despair and he paced the saloon trying to get control over his emotions. He couldn’t let the girls see him this way because he had to help them through the grief that was coming. He looked up at Maia, watching him from across the room. She searched his eyes and sobbed, dropping to the floor when her legs would not hold her anymore.
Claire laid on her bed, eyes open, and listened to Maia declare Jamie dead with her tears. It’s time to pop up Jamie before the world makes you dead with their thoughts. She walked out to her patio and searched the water for him. Two more divers came and she watched them back-flip into the water and sink out of sight. Please find him, she thought, his foot is stuck on something down there and needs someone to pull it out, she thought. She sank down on the teak deck and watched the water until the sun set. When she couldn’t sleep, she found a flashlight and ran it across the water until early morning. The food trays brought in by Maia were left untouched.
Maia tried to coax Claire out of her room for the first three days and grew more and more worried about her friend. On the fourth day, she sat down on the deck with a glass of iced tea and shamed her into drinking it.
“Do you really think Jamie would be happy with the way you’re acting? He would be angry to see you give up on life. You haven’t eaten in four days or left this room.”
“I have to watch the divers in case they bring him up and need help.”
“When did you last feed Adso?”
She looked so sad it almost broke Maia’s heart. “Did he jump overboard too?”
“No Claire, he’s asleep on your bed, he is fine but lonely for someone to sleep with him.”
“I will sleep in the bed when the diver’s find him.”
Maia knew when she was defeated, she left Claire on the deck and begged her to finish the iced tea. This exchange continued every day. Sometimes Claire would eat a little, or drink a little, and then get back to searching the water.
On the seventh day, the officer came to speak with Mary Dunn who stood stick straight, looking at the floor, hearing they had called off the search and Jamie was presumed dead, probability pulled out to sea by the currents. Claire face planted the floor and Maia tried to revive her as Darius threw the officer out spewing expletives in their native language. He carried Claire to her bed and Maia put a cold cloth on her head and left to grab her book. She settled into a plush chair and stayed all night.
Claire had gone inside herself, so deep she looked dead laying there, she kept going deeper until she found him. When she felt his arms around her, she clung to him and looked into his blue eyes. He took her hand and walked her into the forest of his youth constructed from the many stories he shared with her. It was lush and green, and he was so happy to show her his boyhood playground. He stopped about every twenty feet and kissed her with such love. They laid on the forest floor and she put her head on his stomach as they looked up through the canopy of tall trees. When Claire woke up, she was in her dark bed alone and couldn’t stand it, so she got up and walked around the boat.
She looked for anything he had left behind, in the saloon, the galley, the room downstairs where they had made love. She found scarce little and felt empty inside wandering into the boat garage where he painted. She pulled the cover off a tall canvas and stared into her own eyes, on a happier day when the sun was shining on her skin and her hair blew in the wind. In a lower corner of the painting, Jamie wrote “My Love” and signed his name underneath. That did it, the damn that held her tears at bay finally ruptured and the flood of grief, shock, and lost love poured out from her soul until she fell on her knees clutching her stomach and sobbing.
When she could stand up again, she left the garage and walked back to the main floor where Adso sat at the top of the stairs. She tried to get his attention, but he looked at his paws and that broke her heart.
“My little Adso, I have made you a sad kitten and I’m so sorry. Let’s go find you a treat and then get in bed and you can purr for me.”
Adso lapped up the warm milk and ate the small kitty treat then stood on his back legs and tried to reach her chin with his paw but he was still too little. He cried for her and Claire felt so much love and responsibility for him. She picked him up and they cuddled in her bed until she fell asleep.
Claire walked out on the aft deck the next day and was startled by an envelope laying on the raised deck held down by a toy helicopter. It was an Apache, and it was fully loaded. Her hands shook when she took the letter out and sat down to read it.
My dear Claire,
I am very sorry for your loss.
Use your talents and education for good in the world.
If Casper comes back, I will see you behind bars for twenty years.
I am releasing you and Javier to a law-abiding life.
She held the toy helicopter and spun the blades on top. She felt relief for Javier knowing he had spent the last two weeks in the bunker. She found her phone and sent the message of freedom to Javier then went to find Adso for a nap.
Several days later, Javier called and gushed with questions about their sudden reprieve. He could hear it in her voice when she said hello and her brief answers to his questions. Her voice was hollow and unrecognizable.
“What’s happened to you Bear?”
Javier’s voice gripped her heart and the tears came heavy on her cheeks. She couldn’t speak and held her phone out to Darius pleading with her eyes for him to deal with her godfather. She ran to her room and got under the covers to hide from her pain.
“Hello sir, my name is Darius. I am a close friend of Claire’s and the captain of her yacht. Um, Jamie died two weeks ago, saving her life, and she is not doing very well. She hasn’t spoken much and she hasn’t slept much either. The first mate and I are very worried she will starve herself to death in her grief. We don’t know what to do.”
Javier had turned the speaker on so Joseph could hear the conversation. Both men were shocked and afraid for Claire.
“We would like to fly to Greece today if you will have us. We will not impose, I don’t imagine there is much room for guests on your boat.”
Darius chuckled at that and told him there was a room just for them. He gave the directions to the farthest dock from the fueling station and promised to meet them if he called in his flight time. Darius gave his cell phone number to be sure the call would get through. He clicked off with conviction this was the best thing to help Claire. He went to find Maia to explain they were expecting guests.
Eight hours later, Darius and Maia stood in their starched uniforms to welcome Claire’s family aboard. Javier was speechless looking around the grand saloon and Joseph wiped his eyes and nose a lot but stayed mute. Darius offered them a seat, but Javier shook his head.
“Where is Bear…I mean Claire.”
When Darius pointed at the master cabin both men took the initiative to barge in on their unsuspecting goddaughter. Claire was laying on her side, so Javier and Joseph sat on the side of the bed and addressed her in French.
“My little Bear has suffered so much and we have come to help you through this.”
Claire registered the soothing voice of Javier, her hero and protector. She squeezed her eyes to stem the tears and rolled toward them launching herself into Javier’s arms and then Joseph. She was so relieved to see them, alive, healthy, and here in her room.
The way she cried broke Javier’s heart and terrified him at the same time. It was gut-wrenching, still, after two weeks. He held her and promised he would help, it would not hurt so much one day, she would live with his memory forever. Claire didn’t like hearing such things and she went to Joseph.
Darius paced the saloon waiting for Claire’s wrath for bringing her godfather into her pain.
“Darius, calm down, she won’t be mad at you.” Maia got quiet, “I don’t think she is capable of any other emotion right now except grief.”
When Claire could stop crying Javier told her to get up and join them for dinner. She shook her head no and was yanked out of her closed mind by Javier’s stern voice.
“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp you get out of that bed this instant and come to dinner. I will not have you waste away and I do not approve of your giving up.”
She looked up at Javier and got out of bed to follow them to the table. Claire sat down with her eyes on her lap eating only when Javier demanded she do so. It was the saddest testament to how she felt inside.
From one week to the next, Claire’s unwillingness to join the world again weighed heavily on Javier. He thought it best to pull her off this yacht where she felt Jamie everywhere and bring her back to Paris. He talked to her about it several times and actually wondered if she was listening because she gave no feedback. She just got thinner, gaunt, and refused to engage. Javier was done letting Claire lead, so he put his foot down. She was going to Paris until she was back on her feet and that was final.
Claire hugged Darius goodbye and tried to smile.
“We will pick you up in France when you tell us to.”
Maia held her tight and promised they would see her soon.
When Claire walked off the boat, they made their way to where they would find the cab to the airport. She didn’t look back at the yacht just stared at her feet until they stopped to wait. Javier pulled Joseph’s attention to a grand yacht that was moving into the area. As they admired the boat a fat hand clamped over Claire’s mouth and dragged her into a car that peeled away in less than a minute. When Javier turned around, he was shocked to see empty air where Claire stood one minute ago.
Claire was pinned between two men in the backseat of a strange car speeding down the road at a dangerous clip.
She looked into the eyes of the tall man and wondered where his nasty features went. He looked calm and almost human.
“I apologize for grabbing you. It couldn’t be helped.”
Hesser noticed her gaze return to her hands on her lap and realized she had not improved as he had hoped. He wondered what that kind of love felt like. When the car stopped, he pulled her into a small house that smelled like a hospital.
“I have my reasons for doing it this way, mostly he wasn’t expected to live.”
Hesser dragged her by the hand making her jog to keep up with him. She didn’t understand what he wanted with her, but she didn’t care that much about anything anymore.
“This is jumping the gun a bit, but we couldn’t let you leave for France. We have monitored your phone calls and had to step in at the last minute and move the timeline up.”
He stopped abruptly and Claire ran into his back jumping to right herself and look up at him.
“He would not wake up for the first week and the doctor announced he was at death’s door and made arrangements to dump his body. I couldn’t have that, so I told him you were on the dock each day looking for him and calling his name. I realized it was ridiculous to think he could hear me but that afternoon he woke up like a raging bull and had to be sedated immediately. Now he wakes up the same way each time and I fear he cannot improve this way.”
Claire’s mind was scrambled and she stared at Hesser, “who?”
He pulled her into a room converted into a hospital setup. The man in the bed was covered in gauze and bandages but she could see his face and his chest was moving. She lurched for him and Hesser held her back.
“You are here to give your husband directions to get well enough to see you again. I will play it for him in hopes he will calm down and start the business of recovery.” He held his phone out, “tell him.”
Claire struggled for control and spoke to Jamie like he could hear her.
“My sweet love I am so happy to see you’re alive. I think I died with you that day and now there’s a chance I will see you again. I will pray every minute of every day until you’re well enough to join me. I love you so much and I’m waiting at our boat for you to come back.”
Hesser clicked off the recording and dragged Claire out of the room. She fought him until she felt something sharp stab her thigh. She looked at Hesser as he swam before her eyes and then everything went black.
The officer stood in the saloon shaking his head at the three men who were arguing that Claire wouldn’t just wander off to God knows where. He refused to file a missing person report for 48 hours knowing she probably sat in a bar all day and got drunk. Darius was furious and threw him off the boat, again.
Maia offered whisky shots from a tray hoping they would drink before having a collective stroke. They threw them back and continued to pace. Maia came back with a second shot and encouraged them to drink it until each of them had two shots in their belly. They all left the boat to search for her and came back, one at a time, after several hours. Darius reached for his phone and clicked it on.
“Hey man, there’s a lady on a bench with this number pinned to her jacket. I think she’s drunk.”
“What?” Darius stood up while the man told him where she was, and Darius took off at a dead run. He could see her sitting on the bench, her head was bobbing like she couldn’t wake up.
“Claire…Claire!” He thanked the men who found her and slapped her cheek a bit to wake her up. “Can you stand?”
She was saying something about her leg and Jamie, but Darius could only make out certain words. He helped her to her feet and all but dragged her back to the boat. Joseph was coming after Darius and held the other side of Claire to help her back. She talked continuously but her slurred words were impossible to understand. They got her to bed and Darius asked Maia to check her stomach and back for incisions. He feared she was abducted to harvest a kidney for the black market.
Maia came out sometime later and shook her head before grabbing her book and heading back to sit with Claire who continued to mumble in her sleep. Darius exhaled his relief and tried to calm Javier and Joseph down. They retired to their rooms to rest for the night but anxious for Claire to wake up in the morning and tell them what happened.
“Maia, are you here? I need to tell you something.”
She heard mumbling and a deep breath from the dark corner of the room. Maia came toward her yawning and sat on her bed.
“Jamie is alive. I saw him!”
Maia’s heart rate shot up trying to ground herself before saying the wrong thing. Claire kept talking, excitedly, telling her he will come home when he’s well, and they will be free.
“Ok Claire, get some sleep, you’ve had a busy day.”
Claire kept repeating she had seen Jamie, and Maia kept telling her to sleep.
“Go tell Darius you think I’ve lost my mind and then lay down and sleep with him,” she giggled. “I have never felt this joy and I don’t need a babysitter, sweet pea. I will be eternally grateful for your concern and I love you. Now leave me be.”
“Alright, goodnight Claire.”
When the door closed, Claire jumped out of bed and danced around the dark room before walking out on her deck.
“I can feel your heartbeat love, it’s always been there but I forgot to believe in miracles so I missed it. Sleep and heal, I’m waiting for you, right here, until you come.”
Claire discovered a new level of happiness in her soul, one that few people know. Only those who have lost the love of their life and then found them again. Utter despair to sparkling happiness changes a person and that change would become an insurmountable barrier to the others on the yacht.
Javier’s stomach smacked him awake early in the morning. Hunger spasms caused by the delicious smells drifting through the boat. He could see the sun was up, so it was a respectable time to rise. He wrapped his robe around him and followed the smell.
He stood rooted to the ground watching the unbelievable spectacle in the galley. Knowing he was dreaming of Claire, cleaned up, shiny hair, bounding between pancakes and sizzling bacon. She pounced on Javier kissing his cheeks and blinding him with her smile. He had a hot mug of coffee in his hand and he was thrilled with the sense of touch in this dream. He wondered if he could tame his growling stomach with the food that was offered. Best dream ever, he decided and consumed everything she laid in front of him.
Claire shined her light on a sleepy Joseph next, kissing his cheeks and laughing at his stunned expression. She carried a plate to the table for him and came back with the coffee pot to refresh the cups.
“Good morning Darius and my little savior Maia! I have breakfast fit for a king so come and eat.”
There was an extraordinary feast that must have required hours of cooking. They looked at each other around the table but said little. They were all thinking it, Claire was having some kind of psychotic break and they were all afraid for her.
When Claire sat down with everyone, she gave them all a new plan.
“I cannot go to Paris right now because I have to wait for Jamie. He is not well enough to leave the hospital and I was told to stay right here, moored at Santorini until he comes. So no Jamaica yet Darius. I don’t know when he will come, but soon, that I know.”
Darius cleared his throat, “what happened to you yesterday Claire?”
“Hesser grabbed me and stuffed me into a car, then he dragged me into a house somewhere and gave me instructions to stay here. He pulled me into a room where Jamie was, like a hospital room. He was sedated because he fights them when he wakes up. Hesser held his phone out and told me to tell Jamie to calm down and I would be waiting.”
The excitement in her voice and the way she smiled made them all realize that she believed in her story like it really happened. No one knew what to do and the tension was mounting.
“How did you get so drunk and fall asleep on the bench then”
“I wasn’t drunk! Someone stuck a needle in my leg and I blacked out. They left me on the bench I assume.”
“Why did they do that?”
Claire suddenly realized they didn’t believe her, and she narrowed her eyes at each person around the table. How do you suppose I got this?” She lifted the hem of her sundress and pointed to a round bruise on her thigh with a red dot in the middle. “And how did I get this incision?” She lifted her arm to display a two-inch incision neatly tied with sutures.
The others were stunned into silence not knowing how to respond to that.
“You’ve all gone quiet have you? I suppose next you will be taking a nice walk together to talk about me. Go ahead! I don’t care.” She raised her arms over her head and spun her way back to the galley.
Joseph looked at Javier, “she’s manic I think. How do we get her help if she thinks it’s just happiness because Jamie is coming back.” He looked at the others, “does anyone believe that Jamie is alive?”
Darius and Maia shook their head no and Javier just looked stricken and went into the galley to speak privately with his goddaughter. He took both of her hands and looked into her eyes.
“Are you alright Bear? Wait, you are sparkling with happiness so of course you feel alright. Can I ask for a favor? Will you agree to an examination by my friend, Doctor Bernet? Please Bear it will be the best gift you have ever given me.”
“I would love to, for you Javier, but I can’t go to France, I promised I would wait for Jamie. Maybe he will come today!”
“Alright Bear, I will fly him to Greece at his earliest convenience and you will be honest like you always are. Okay?”
Claire shook her head and shot for the stairs that led to the sun deck. Once there she could see far and wide and she searched for him while she hummed. By afternoon, Maia came up to the highest deck and scolded Claire for being in the sun too long.
“You have sunburn everywhere! You need sunscreen to stay up here so long. Come, I will help you.”
This became a constant battle, every day someone would have to pull her out of the sun and slap sunscreen on her before she toasted. Claire couldn’t be bothered with worrying about her skin, she was too busy watching for her love to return.
Javier made the climb to the sundeck the following week. “Bear, Doctor Bernet is here to examine you, remember, you promised.”
She seemed reluctant at first but made one more scan of the water and then followed Javier pulling her sundress on over her suit. She and Bernet sat in the saloon and were left alone for the entire afternoon. Joseph came up the stairs to peek at the progress and went back to Javier to report no change, they were still talking.
Javier could hardly stand it being in their room all afternoon and not knowing how the examination was going. He had prepared himself for the worst, bipolar disorder, or some other horrible mental illness. He was coming apart at the seams and Joseph wasn’t much better. They both jumped when someone knocked on their door and announced dinner was ready. When they came upstairs Bernet was seated at the table with Claire and Darius while Maia brought bowl after platter, filling the table with spicy roasted lamb and numerous side dishes and rolls.
“Maia, what are these delicious looking dishes?” It was Javier’s way of asking what he was eating before he put it in his mouth. She pointed to each dish as she answered him.
“Roasted lamb, Courgette Balls, Dolmadakia, Tomatokeftedes, Yemista, Greek salad.”
“Ah, I see… thank you for that.”
They all sat down and ate a beautiful dinner complimenting Maia on the feast and stealing glances at Claire.
“Doctor Bernet, I don’t think anyone will really enjoy this lovely meal until you give your report. Please tell them everything.”
Bernet raised his eyebrows at Claire and heard her say “Please” so he wiped his mouth and addressed the group.
“Well, I work very hard at not being influenced by what I hear from the family members. Truthfully, it was hard not to form premature opinions about Claire’s mental health and I put her through rigorous testing to convince myself. She stayed focused on my questions hour after hour and tested in the high range on all psychological tests.” He went into some detail about what made her so extraordinary and then sat back and looked around the table. “It is my recommendation that you all prepare for Jamie’s return.”
Every back stiffened and eyebrow raised, followed by shocked silence. Claire giggled.
“See, I told you they all think I’m crazy!”
Javier scowled at his friend causing Bernet to address the group again. “What will you gain by doubting her? She is going to wait right here until he comes and there is nothing you can do about that. She believes she visited him by force of the CIA man. If you all relax and enjoy this meal, this yacht, and this glorious location you will be happy, and Claire will be happy.”
Darius couldn’t keep silent, “Claire what will you do if he doesn’t come?”
She looked at her lap, “Hesser didn’t promise Jamie would survive, he’s still got a long recovery. If he doesn’t come after two months, I will assume he died although I think Hesser will let me know.”
That seemed to break the spell on the group, and they all started to relax knowing that Claire was cognizant of how long she would reasonably wait, and they could live with that. After dinner, Javier walked the doctor to his cab back to the airport. He was grateful but guarded when he said goodbye. Bernet told him to trust in his goddaughter or go back to Paris while she waited for Jamie.
“She will feel your doubt and it will seem traitorous to her. What is the worst that can happen? He will either come or she will accept that he has died from his injuries and you are powerless to dissuade her.”
On the far side of the island, Hesser sat on the couch reading his reports and making notes in files. He could hear Jamie clicking the buttons on the recorder that played the tape Hesser made him. He would hear her voice and then rewind and play it again, over and over until he fell asleep. Another operative had come in barely clinging to life and the medical team was maxed out. He decided Jamie would get better care with his family and made the arrangements.
Javier and Joseph wanted to stay and Claire was so happy to have them, but she wouldn’t allow the yacht to move when Darius suggested day trips to see the other islands. She knew he would come because she talked to him across the water every night, declaring her love for him and her faith in his strength. As the month passed, her faith remained strong. She spent the afternoons up on the sundeck, watching for him, straining her eyes at every cab that rolled to a stop with a passenger. She looked at an oncoming cab and watched closely as a man got out slowly. He walked with a cane taking small steps and looking out at the water for something. He had a ball cap on and leaned forward a bit when he walked. Claire’s heart started ramming in her chest and she ran for Darius.
Darius was bent over maps when he heard her thunder down the stairs to the bridge calling his name. She stood at the door panting and told him to get the tender, she was going ashore to get Jamie! He was gripped with worry of a new disappointment but ran to get the tender ready. Claire searched for the man she had seen get out of the cab. When she felt the tender run into the sand she jumped out and ran toward the road where she saw the cab stop. She was panting for air when she came up over a hill, and there he was.
Darius ran after Claire once he secured the tender and when he crested the hill, he could not believe his eyes. Not five feet from him was Jamie Fraser holding Claire while she cried. Jamie looked up at the brilliant smile on Darius and held his hand out to shake. It was slow going due to Jamie’s weak legs and the numerous kisses that halted progress altogether, but they made their way over the hill where Javier, Joseph, and Maia got the shock of their lives. They were all standing on the upper deck and their mooring was close enough to see it was Jamie.
Maia jumped up and down waving her arms in the air until Jamie waved and gave her his beautiful smile. The tender was close, but Jamie was really struggling with exhaustion. Claire insisted they stop and rest and Jamie looked at her gratefully. Maia could not contain her excitement and ran down to the aft deck and dove into the water. Darius laughed and said he would be right back and went to pick her up. She ran to Jamie and kissed his cheeks about to erupt with excitement.
Jamie laughed and blushed, so happy to be home with Claire and his friends. Javier and Joseph watched the four of them squeezed onto the same bench, laughing and talking.
“I think our girl has a very strong yacht family Joseph, would you look at that.”
Joseph wiped his face and watched the reunion with tears falling down his cheeks. It was a miracle and he felt so privileged to witness it.
Once Jamie was on board the yacht he went straight to bed and Claire laid in his arms and listened to him breathe. For the next two days, she came out only for soup and soft food bringing it back to Jamie on a tray. Jamie asked for her help getting his shirt off because he was overheated. She was so careful pulling his shirt over his head and gasped when she saw a two-inch incision under his arm.
“Jesus Christ Jamie! I have the same incision under my arm, it happened the day Hesser brought me to you. What did they do to us?”
Jamie stared straight ahead and his voice was just above a whisper, “Hesser wants to know our location from now on.”
Claire felt the hair on her neck stand up and she shivered with the realization he could track them anytime he wanted. She didn’t like the change that came over Jamie, so she gently guided him to the mattress and pulled the blackout shades for an afternoon nap, with her on one side and the purring Adso on the other.
Adso licked her face until she opened her eyes. There was enough light to see Jamie’s chest go up and down with each breath, so she smiled and watched him. Her eyes lingered on his beautiful face and moved to his neck and shoulder and.. Her body jerked up and she pressed her hand to her mouth to stifle a scream. Her heart was ramming in her chest and her eyes were so wide they hurt. The skin on the back of Jamie’s shoulder and lower onto his back looked like it had melted. She couldn’t see how far the scaring went because he was on his back. This was not the time to ask him because she was horrified and needed to calm down. She took deep breaths and rolled quietly off the bed to freak out in private.
On the third day, Claire let Darius and Maia visit with them and they pulled their chairs up to the bed and chatted away until Jamie fell asleep. After that, Darius and Maia would sit with Jamie while Claire spent time with Javier and Joseph. Jamie was very weak but seemed to be gaining his strength back slowly.
Darius pulled Claire aside after the first week and asked if she wanted her godfather to see some of the other islands. It was decided they would venture to several of the islands and do some fishing on the way. Darius was happy to break up the boredom and Javier and Joseph really loved the sightseeing. They would tender to shore and walk around leaving Claire and Jamie alone on the yacht. Once Jamie and Adso were fast asleep she would swim and watch a movie or catch up on the art world through the internet.
There were hours to lay with Jamie and talk about life without the other, the fear and loneliness, and their resolve to never be apart. Claire decided to wait for Jamie to mention the scars. He surely knew she could see them when she helped him dress but he did not talk about it. When Claire asked him how he came under Hesser’s care he stopped talking and looked like he was remembering something that made him emotional, unable to speak. Claire panicked and placed angel kisses all over his face until he calmed down changing the subject to happy adventures ahead.
James Fraser was assumed dead from drowning and Hesser had gifted him with identification that was foolproof, created by the greatest spy agency in the world. In a perfect world, he could start his life over again, a free man, but that was not why Hesser saved him and kept him hidden. Jamie knew Claire was waiting for an explanation of how he came under Hesser’s care but he couldn’t bring himself to ruin her life just yet.