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Chapter 20

Hello all: my “r” key is being a dick again so if there are misspellings, I apologize!

 

Jamie led his bride out of the church into the sunshine.  Willie walked their horse and carriage to where they stood, and Jamie and Claire admired the fresh flower wreath hanging around the horse’s neck.  The carriage had been polished until it was almost possible to see one’s reflection in the gleaming wood.  Jamie helped his bride into the carriage and they rode home, kissing and whispering to each other the entire way to Thistle Glen House.  Guests and staff were gathered in the courtyard to cheer them the last few meters home.  The carriage stopped in front of the door and Jamie handed his wife out of the carriage.  She stood waiting for him to take her hand, but instead, he swept he up in his arms and carried her over the threshold.  Once they were inside, Claire kissed her husband and whispered, “Jamie, you are the man for me, you are the wish of my heart and you are my love. 

Jamie gazed into his wife’s beautiful eyes and whispered, “Claire Elizabeth, woman of my dreams, you are my future and guardian of my heart.”

They kissed once more and Jamie set Claire on her feet.  She went into the kitchen to talk with Mrs. Fitz while Jamie welcomed their guests inside.  Soon, everyone was talking and chatting.  Claire was not generally a fan of being the spotlight but  was only too happy to let the ladies examine her gown today.  Every female guest, from 85-year-old Eileen MacTavish, to the youngest, two-year-old Rhona MacArthur, the daughter of Archie, a crofter, was able to admire every detail, from the color of the fabric to the simple cut and Claire’s Fraser strawberry embroidery on her bodice.  Claire was just done laughing at a joke Jenny told when she felt something brush her curls on the back of her head.  Unsure of what it could be (and hoping it wasn’t an insect!) she trailed careful fingers down until they lighted upon tiny fingers.  She turned slowly and saw a head of fiery red hair and luminous brown eyes set in a chubby, fair-skinned face.  She smiled at Mrs. MacArthur, who blushed and stammered an apology, “Yer Grace, I’m sorry she touched ye; I wa’ talkin’ ta someone an’ she reached out before I coul’ stop her.”

Claire smiled, “Oh, no, Mrs. MacArthur, it’s no problem. Rhona and I are already acquainted. Remember? I came to treat a neighbor’s burned arm and Rhona and Annie were playing outside. Rhona asked me what I was doing there and I told her. She smiled and patted my cheek and went back to her game.”

Mrs. MacArthur beamed, “Oh, yes, it was Simon MacGillivray’s right arm he burned on the oven taking a large roast out for Caroline.” 

Claire and Mrs. MacArthur watched in fascination as her daughter pointed to Claire’s bodice and the embroidery, “Mam, itty lady.”

Claire looked puzzled and turned to Mrs. MacArthur to translate.

“She says you’re a pretty lady, Your Grace,” and winked at Claire.  Both women laughed and Rhona squirmed in her mother’s arms, eager to get down and play with the other children present.

Soon, dinner was announced. Mrs. Fitz and her team had outdone themselves – Jamie and Claire’s guests feasted on small bowls of beef stew with warm buttered bannocks on the side.  Next came serving plates heaped high with estate-made sausages with gravy, neeps and tatties.

Jamie stared at the largesse on the huge table. Stew, bannocks and sausages in that order? Something was niggling at him. He stared at the gravy boat, steaming neeps and tatties and then the penny fell – Claire had arranged to feed the guests the food Jamie had been served after his capture.  He turned to Claire and said, “I suppose a ham will come after this?” 

Claire grinned, “Oh, no... I may have heard from a little chirpy birdie that one of my new husband’s favorites is something else,” and Claire smirked devilishly.

“Would tha’ birdie ha’ black hair or red hair, my lady?”

It was a robin redbreast, darling, not a raven.”

Jamie’s attention was pulled just at that moment to the sound of multiple feet moving in the same rhythm.  Two men were bringing in a carving board, upon which sat a magnificent forty-pound roast suckling pig.  It was a mouthwatering work of art with a perfume to match – the skin was a crispy golden reddish brown and the meat was so tender the kitchen staff had difficulty keeping the slices from falling apart.  A creamy white pepper sauce was served alongside.  Garlicky carrots and cabbage rolls, of course, rounded out the main course.

Jamie and Claire, as the hosts, were served last.  Jamie speared a large bite of pig on his fork and moaned as the rich flavors burst forth on his willing tongue.  He ate three platefuls, just as he had when he was captured. 

 The dessert was either hot apple cobbler with a cinnamon-cardamom sauce and whipped cream, shortbread cookies or cranachan, which Claire knew was Ellen’s favorite.  Claire spared no expense with the libations, going deep into her wine cellar to pull the best wines and champagne she had to offer. 

After dinner, the men went into the smoking parlor and the women into Claire’s parlor to chat and digest their food.  Dancing would start in less than an hour.  Before Claire knew it, she was being twirled around the dance floor by Brian, Ian and all of Jamie’s brothers. Jamie was dancing with his mother and other ladies and beamed when he saw his beautiful bride, face pink with exertion and laughter. Jamie danced with Jenny next, and now it was Claire’s turn to giggle at the two of them, laughing and carrying on.  She mused that it must have always been this way between the two of them.  They might quarrel and be rather cross with each other occasionally, but they were each other’s fiercest ally growing up. A lump rose in her throat because she wanted her children to learn to depend on each other like Jenny and Jamie did.  She prayed for the health of the child resting underneath her heart and thanked God for him or her.

The extended Fraser family stayed for a week after the wedding and Jenny and Ellen promised to return to help out with Jamie and Claire’s baby.

Life settled back into its predictable patterns for Jamie and Claire.  In December, they finally heard from Ned Gowan – Jamie would not have to take up the title of Duke for his and Claire’s child to inherit his or her mother’s title.  The Frasers were vastly relieved, - they could finally relax. Jamie loved seeing Claire grow round with his child.  He had never considered that she could be any more beautiful to him than she presently was, but the pregnancy gave her skin a rosy glow, her eyes and hair shone as never before.  Her sexual appetite also increased greatly, much to Jamie’s delight.  If she asked him to wake her with cunnilingus, he would, loving her tenderly, drinking up her throaty sighs of pleasure.  He learned quickly that she knew what she wanted and not to try to make things easy on her by telling her she didn’t have to love him as well.  One Saturday morning, she freed herself from his warm arms and got out of bed, much to her husband’s disappointment.

“Och, Claire, lass, where are ye goin’? Come back ta bed,” he pleaded. 

She smirked, “I will. I just want a snack. Sit up on the edge of the bed, lover, come on,” she coaxed.

Confused, Jamie cocked an eyebrow, “I thought ye wanted a snack, Claire.”

She smiled and knelt in front of him, “I never said I wanted to snack on food, husband.  Be good and spread those thighs!”

Jamie backed up on the bed and stammered, “Cl-Claire, a leannan, ye dinna need –“

Oh, I know exactly what I need, sir, and that’s your delicious cock in my mouth. Get over here, now!”

Jamie’s eyes showed his surprise and without thinking, he blurted, “Yes, mistress!” and scooted back towards the edge of the bed.  He widened his thighs and sighed in happiness as his wife’s velvet mouth caressed his member.  He got achingly hard very quickly and watched in fascination as his cock disappeared into her warm depth.  She moaned around him and he hissed in pleasure as the vibrations hit his skin.  She pulled off him and licked and sucked his cockhead and moved her hand in a corkscrew motion in time with her tongue.  She kept feasting on his tossel and moved her warm fingers to his balls and patted them gently, pulling a groan from Jamie.  She knew when he shook with a full-body shiver that he was close.  She did not stop herself from her task; she had discovered that pregnant sex with Jamie aroused her more, to say nothing of him.  She deepthroated him one last time and Jamie roared as his hot come pulsed out of his cock into Claire’s throat.  She rose from her knees and he helped her settle under the covers again.  He gathered her in his arms and kissed the back of her neck until he could feel she’d fallen asleep. Only then did Jamie allow himself to sleep.

Claire’s due date was approaching rapidly, and soon it was one week before the baby’s alleged due date.  Ellen and Jenny arrived, as promised.  Ellen thought it most wise to bring her husband and son-in-law with them, to try and keep Jamie as steady as possible.  He jumped every time he heard Claire’s voice, his head whipping around, a panicked look in his eye.  He got on his poor wife’s nerves so badly she asked Brian to talk to him.  He did, and after that, Jamie seemed to relax somewhat.

One dark morning, Claire woke Jamie up from a deep sleep, shaking his arm,

“Jamie, go get your mam, it’s time!”

He rolled over groggily, “Time, Claire? Time fer what? Do ye need water or somethin’ – “

He never finished his sentence, though, because Claire stopped him and spoke very deliberately to her sleep-addled mate, “Jamie, my waters broke. The baby’s coming. Go get your mam!”

Jamie’s eyes grew wide as her message sunk in.  He vaulted out of bed and quickly pulled on breeches. He ran down the hallway to his parents’ room, just stopping himself from bursting in on Ellen and Brian.  He knocked loudly on the door, “Mam? Mam? Claire says the bairn’s comin’!”

He heard noise coming from inside and wisely stepped back a few feet.  His mother emerged first, “Alrigh’, son, I’ll go get Jenny.  You go sit with Claire until we get there, aye?”

Jamie nodded vigorously and dashed to their room.  He found his wife sitting up in bed, smiling at him, “Well, Da-to-be, are you ready to meet your heir?”

Jamie walked slowly to Claire and said in a breathy voice laden with emotion, “Aye, Mam-to-be, and ye?  My part was quite easy considering you’ve had ta grow the newest Fraser all by yerself.”  He took Claire’s hands in his and kissed them, pressing them to his heart.  “Thank ye, a nighean, ye are the best part o’ me.”

“And you, of me,” answered Claire, eyes clouding with tears.

“Lass, please, dinna cry.  Here,” and Jamie took a corner of his sark and dabbed at the tears coursing down his wife’s face.  He gave her a heart-stopping, deep kiss and hugged her gently.  Ellen and Jenny came in with Mrs. Fitz, who had a coterie of kitchen maids with her.

“So, here we go.  Jamie, go downstairs wi’ th’ men.”

He opened his mouth to protest, but his mother scolded, “Now, Jamie, the birthin’ room is no place fer a man. Out. Go find Ian an’ yer Da.”

Jamie did fine downstairs with Ian and Brian until Claire screamed with her first heavy contraction.  He was up out of his chair and almost reached the staircase, but Brian and Ian stopped him just in time.  Brian shook him a little, “Son! I know it’s hard, but ye canna go up there.  Ye’d just be in th’ way.”

Jamie looked into his father’s eyes and saw the warning there.  He growled, “But, Da, I want ta be with Claire, please!”

“No, son.  Come on, we’ll go to tha barn an’ go see Donas, aye?  I think Mrs. Fitz ha’ some cookies left over from dinner, as well as a couple o’ apples an’ carrots.  Come on, we’ll spend some time wi’ the horses an’ ye can show us the barns, aye?” Wisely, Brian didn’t let go of his son.  He knew if he did, Jamie would be up the stairs faster than you could say “Jack Robinson.”  Ian gathered the treats and they all ventured out into the night. 

Donas, Cinnamon and the other barn denizens nickered and tossed their heads in greeting when Red Boy approached.  Jamie went straight to Donas and scratched his ears in greeting, murmuring, “Donas, our mistress, her babe i’ comin’ an’ I canna be wi’ her.”  Donas exhaled carefully on Red Boy and lipped his hair. 

Careful breaths. Not spook my Boy.  Donas know Red Boy sad and frightened.  Curly Haired Woman in pain. Red Boy’s colt is coming. Donas smell it. 

Donas slid his head over Jamie’s shoulder, trying to hold him the best he could, whuffing softly.  Brian and Ian watched as Jamie cuddled the huge horse, burying his hands in the soft, thick mane, stroking his cheek.  They walked away to give Jamie privacy when they saw his shoulders shake silently.  They both knew that a man’s first birth was very emotional. Added to that, Jamie had lost his first love, Micheline. All three knew that there was a chance that Claire or the child or both could die during delivery.  Both men sat in the dark and prayed for the safe delivery of the child and the health of the mother.

Donas know his Boy heard our mistress scream. Donas and everyone heard, too.  Mares do that when colts come. Donas love Red Boy.  The horse stood very still and simply let the large man cry into his mane, stroking it gently all the while.

Gradually, Red Boy’s breathing calmed and he wiped his running nose quickly.  He whispered, “thank you,” to Donas and gave him a cookie and a half a carrot.   

The men distributed the rest of the treats and trudged back to the house.  immediately headed for the drinks cabinet. Ian went to stop him, but Brian put a hand on his forearm, “Nay, son, a couple o’ drinks willna hurt him. Leave him be.”  Jamie poured drinks for the other two men. He led the first toast, “To my wife, Claire." The men raised their glasses in tribute and sipped their whisky.

The clock seemed to move so slowly for the three men.  The quiet was punctuated by scuffling feet and Claire’s cries.  Brian had managed to engage Jamie in a game of chess at around 6:00 a.m.  Of course, Jamie couldn’t concentrate on the game, but it was better than Jamie drinking himself into a stupor.

Jamie shielded his eyes as the morning sun pierced the mountains. Dawn. Would his child arrive today?  Would Claire be alright?

Suddenly, he heard his mother calling him, “Jamie, lad, come on, Claire wants ye ta meet someone!” She smiled broadly and stepped down off the stairs quickly and into her husband’s arms.

Jamie leapt out of his chair so fast he upset not only the chess set but the entire table and Brian’s chair as well.  Not noticing the wreckage in the slightest, he charged upstairs and knocked timidly.  Finally, he heard his beloved’s voice, “Husband? Come in!”

Jamie gripped the doorknob and turned it slowly but deliberately.  The door swung open and there sat Claire, smiling at him, a tiny blanket-wrapped bundle in her hands.  His eyes clouded with tears, “Claire, are ye alrigh’, mo nighean donn?” She nodded and a warm smile spread over her beautiful features.  “Come meet your son, Jamie.”

He walked carefully to the bed and kissed Claire.  In her arms, a tiny person blinked unfocused eyes at his father.  Just like his mother, he had whisky eyes, but he had a bright red shock of hair crowning his tender head.  His skin was almost translucent.  Jamie stared in wonder at the child, tears running down his face.  “Oh, God, thank ye, Claire.  Thank ye fer our miracle,” and he kissed her, tasting her salt that was dripping from her chin onto the baby’s blanket.  Jamie got a handkerchief and wiped his wife’s face and then his own.

“Well, Jamie, would you like to hold him?” Claire smiled tiredly as her husband’s mouth dropped open.

“Aye, I would.” She handed the baby over to his father and couldn’t help noticing that Jamie supported his head in the crook of his arm immediately.  The new father kissed his son’s pink forehead and asked hopefully,  “can I take him downstairs to meet the family, Claire?”

She smiled, “Yes, of course. Our son needs to meet his Grandda and Uncle Ian and Mrs. Fitz, of course.”

Slowly and oh so carefully, Jamie broughtr his son downstairs.  His Grandda and Uncle Ian admired him and all the ladies cooed over him.  When Ian laid the babe in Mrs. Fitz’ arms, she burst into happy tears and kissed him over and over,

“Welcome, a balaich. Ye are so lucky ta be a part o’ this family. I’ve waited fer ye fer so long. I’m goin’ ta help yer Mam an’ Da raise ye up righ’, an I’m goin’ ta feed ye until ye’re big an’ strong.”

Two months later, Donas, Cinnamon and the rest of the barn dwellers met the young master. As was fitting, Curly Haired Woman and Red Boy introduced Gordon Brian David Ian Fraser, heir to Her Grace, Claire Fraser, Fifth Duchess of Glenfinnan, to Donas first.

Red Boy and Curly Haired Woman’s foal tiny, but he smell good, like apples, oats and Curly Haired Woman’s cookies. Donas will be good teacher for Little Red.  Donas love Little Red, too.

 

Three years after our last scene –

Jamie and Claire walked towards the stables with Geordie and one-year-old Morag. Donas stood in the sunshine, coat brushed to a satiny finish.  He was excited, for his young charge was coming today to walk with him.  Jamie placed Geordie carefully on Donas while Claire held Gordon steady.  Jamie mounted Donas, placing a protective arm around the toddler.  Jamie barely nudged Donas with his heels and Donas began walking very slowly.  He advanced about five feet, stopped and listened – Little Red was calm.  Donas went another five feet and turned slowly to face Curly Haired Woman, who had Curly Haired Filly attached to herself.  Donas stopped again right in front of Claire and gently picked up his prize, one of Claire’s butter cookies, from her palm.

Donas good. Cookie good. Donas happy, Red Boy, Curly Haired Woman, Little Red, Curly Haired Filly all happy, too.

Donas get another cookie?

EPILOGUE

Jamie and Claire went on to have another four children.  Thistle Glen was noisy, happy and filled with love. Claire and Jamie were married for over fifty years. Sadly, Claire passed before Jamie, but he proudly saw Geordie assume the mantle of the Duke of Glenfinnan, thus securing the title for the Fraser line in perpetuity.  Geordie married a local girl and was very happy.  Geordie’s heir was Janet Elizabeth Claire Ellen Fraser, Seventh Duchess of Glenfinnan.