Frank and I sat on the shore of the loch looking on while Jamie, Geillis and our friend and Jamie’s housemate, John, frolicked in the water. My beau had brought a pile of books along with him as per usual, and was lecturing me on the little known history of the Battle of Culloden.
I really did care about Frank, but bloody hell, he could be the oldest twenty-four-year-old in history. I began to wonder if he could be any more boring when he criticised the sugar content of the lollipop I was sucking on, then suggested we ‘stretch out and take a nap’ before heading home for an early dinner. The sun was out, it was a beautiful warm day, the beer was flowing and here we were, watching the “young ones” have fun like a pair of 70-year-old retirees.
Never being one to be able to hide my emotions, my reaction to his suggestion and the apathy I was feeling must have been obvious.
“No, no, of course, we should stay,” he said, putting down his book and pointing towards our friends.
“Why don’t you go and have a splash, have some fun. Unless you’d like me to read to you? I’ve just begun an intriguing chapter on the origins of the Highland charge.”
My lollipop was tossed and my feet hit the water before he’d finished the word ‘charge.’ Jamie was on me in a flash, grabbing me by the arms, lifting me into the air and dunking me under the water. I squealed, desperately grabbed at his hips and dragged him down with me.
As I thrashed around under the water trying to determine which way was up, all I could see was the whites of his teeth, his giant, cheeky smile, then the top of his bare bum, before he disappeared from view.
I burst from the water gasping for air and laughed. Jamie was already on the surface waiting for me. Arrogantly standing with hands-on-hips, laughing the same laugh he had always done, but this time it was hypnotizing. How had I never noticed how hot he was?
I mean, obviously, he was clearly a good-looking guy. But right now, as he stood before me, his shorts hanging low under his hips, exposing his incredible tapered V, it felt like I was seeing him for the first time. My heart rate quadrupled as my eyes scanned over his body. He was truly the most gorgeous thing I had ever seen.
A hand landed on my shoulder snapped me out of my trance and I looked over to my left to see John and Geillis, smiling, and hopelessly trying not to laugh at me.
“Lucky ye’re already in the water. I think ye have a wee bit of drool on yer chin, lass,” Geillis whispered. John burst out laughing and nodded towards Jamie, who was now adjusting and cursing at the drawstring on his shorts after I had accidentally pulled them down in our struggle.
“Pretty impressive sight, hey Beauchamp,” he sighed. “Heterosexuality is such a waste.” He grabbed my still open jaw and shut it, before he and Geillis walked to shore, laughing at my expense the whole way.
Luckily, both Jamie and Frank had not seemed to notice my obvious perving and carried on like normal; Frank still reading and Jamie, splashing at me like a ten-year-old.
We stayed in the water, rejoicing in the rarely seen Scottish summer sun, while Geillis, Frank and John sat on the edge of the loch chatting. It didn't take long before Geillis’s eyes began to roll around like a ball trapped in a pinball machine. I knew that face well—Frank and his history books had struck again. Geillis had apparently had enough, and a short, sharp elbow was delivered to John's ribs; he knew exactly what it meant: we need to leave, now!
I watched on as they huddled together, Geillis leaning away from Frank, whispering, perhaps plotting, before she leaned back and wrapped her arm around Frank's shoulder. I grabbed Jamie’s arm and dragged him closer towards shore, stopping as soon as I could hear their conversation.
“Say, Frank love, would ye mind terribly giving John and I a lift back tae town? We’re done swimming but Jamie and Claire are still in the water. Why don’t you drop us off, then Jamie can take Claire home when they’re finished. I mean done…I mean…” Geillis snorted back a laugh and fell backwards against the sand.
“When they have had enough time in the water,” John inserted.
Luckily Frank didn't pick up on any of Geillis’s blabbering and agreed to give them a lift. He waded out towards me in the loch and I met him halfway. He gave me a quick peck on the cheek and asked Jamie to see me home safely.
“Twould be my honor,” Jamie said with a bow. Frank returned the bow with a nod of his head before giving me a strange, almost sad look. He kissed my cheek again, this time, holding his lips still for a moment longer than normal before wading back to land.
“Don’t have too much fun you two!” yelled John, as they headed off towards the car park, with Frank walking slowly, looking back nervously over his shoulder every few steps.
Jamie looked at me and smiled, which I returned while repeating ‘don’t look at his body, look at his eyes’ over and over again in my mind.
“Ye okay, Sassenach? Ye’re cold are ye, here, this will warm ye up.” He ran up behind me and locked me in a tight bear hug, laughing and flopping me side to side like a rag doll.
“Jamie!” I laughed, “stop, put me down!” We laughed together, but as the hug continued and the swaying stopped, the laughter did too. It was just a hug now, and I could feel every defined muscle in his chest and abdomen pressing into my bum and up and down the entire length of my back. It felt good and very wrong at the same time.
“I said stop, Jamie. Let me go,” I wriggled around, squirming to break free from his arms.
“Claire, what’s wrong? I was just fooling around, like we always do.”
“Well, it didn’t feel the same,” I said, sulking and stomping through the water and back to safety.
“Come on, Claire, I’m sorry, I dinna mean tae upset ye lass,” he said apologetically, sploshing up behind me. When close enough, he stretched out his long arms and spun me around.
“Well, you did. Now can you please just take me home?”
“Aye, I’ll take ye home, as soon as ye explain to me what the devil’s gotten into ye. Ye’ve been moody as all heck with me lately. Ye shot me dirty looks all night at that party, and Geillis told me you interrogated her this morning over our…”
“Over your what, Jamie?” I cut in, “Over your cavorting around like a fool? Kissing in front of everyone, fucking in pantries and god knows where else.”
I tore his hand from my arm and threw it away. Undeterred, he grabbed me again and pulled me in, right onto his body. My hand landed squarely on his chest and the feel of his soft, ginger tufts underneath my fingers took my breath away. I had to concentrate to stop myself from caressing my hands over him and remember we were in the middle of a fight, and he was just my friend.
“Let me go.”
“No!” he snapped.
“Let me go!” I repeated, yelling right in his face and shaking my arms violently to free them.
He released me mid-swing and I fell to my side, splashing straight back, face-first into the water. He roared with laughter and it was like waving a red flag in front of a raging bull. I was incensed.
“You god damn bloody bastard,” I screamed.
Shocked by my outburst, he stood motionless, perhaps weighing up his options, before staring me down with one of his trademark cocky half smirks.
“If ye keep carrying on like this, I shall pick ye up, and throw ye over my shoulder. Is that what ye want?” He asked snidely. It was devastatingly hot.
Yes, yes, it is.
“No, it’s not!”
I stretched out my leg and kicked his feet from underneath him, causing him to lose balance completely, and come crashing down into the water opposite me. He continued to laugh, and it infuriated me even more.
I knew I was being ridiculous, acting like a petulant child, and I was embarrassed, which made me more frustrated and even more upset.
I slapped my hands against the water and burst into tears. Jamie, who had continued chuckling away, quickly stopped. His face went white as a ghost and he crawled on his hands and knees towards me.
“Sassenach, please dinna cry. I canna bear it.”
Almost looking frightened of my reaction, he slowly nuzzled into my side and inched his long arms around me. I resisted at first, using my body weight to push against him, but it was useless. I needed him, and the warmth of his body against me in the cold murky water was irresistible; I gave up, and sank into his embrace.
He held me tight for a few blissful moments, whispering Gaelic musings into my ear as he used to do when we were young, when I was hurt or afraid, until he felt my body begin to shiver. Then, he did as he had threatened—in one swift move, he picked me up, encasing me in his arms, and carried me to shore. I lay my head against his broad chest and could hear his heart racing. The medical student in me began to count the strong, steady beats, a perfect rhythm.
I was afraid to look at him, but I could feel his stare fixed on me. After a few steps, I worked up the courage to look up and met his eyes. He was looking at me in a way I’d never seen before—his blue eyes had lost their usual bright, shining sparkle, and replaced by a dark, longing stare that burned straight into my soul.
We said nothing as we waded in, or as he lay me down on the grassy knoll beyond the sand. I felt like crying as I slid from his arms, wanting so desperately to stay safe and warm within his embrace that I nearly begged him to hold me again.
Instead, I lay back against the grass, motionless, paralyzed with anticipation, waiting to see what he would do or say next.
Disappointment raced through me when he stood and began to walk away. But he only stepped as far as my bag, before he reached down and grabbed my towel. Within only two of his giant strides, he was beside me again, wrapping the soft cotton towel around me to keep me warm.
I noticed then that my bathing suit had slipped down my arms and I was perilously close to exposing my goosebump covered breasts. I moved to fix them, but he beat me, and his finger gently, tenderly, grazed my skin as he slipped the strap back over my shoulder. How could a simple touch be so erotic?
It was like a thousand tiny electric shocks burned into me with every millimeter of exposed skin he touched. His eyes remained glued to his finger as it traced back down the flesh of my quivering arm, wet his lips and looked straight into my eyes.
His fingers remained gracing my skin with their touch while his gaze never wavered from mine. What seemed like an eternity, may only have been seconds, but I had vanished into him, lost all sense of space and time.
“Claire, I—I want tae... I mean, I would verra much like tae kiss ye.”
He moved closer before I pulled away. I had never wanted anything more, yet been so terrified by anything in my life.
“I… we can’t. You're my best friend, Jamie, I don’t want to lose you.”
“That will never happen, I willna let anything come between us. Claire, you are everything tae me. Don’t ye know that?”
I nodded, knowing his words were true, then shook my head as images of him and Geillis, raced through my mind.
“Jamie, we can’t risk our friendship for another one of your flings. What about you and Geillis? I know you were sleeping with her.” His mouth dropped, as though I had accused him of something immoral or indecent, but he wasn’t angry, he looked embarrassed, ashamed.
“I have not been sleeping with Geillis. We fooled around, sure, but I have not slept with her.” He stopped and blushed. “I've been waiting for y…” He turned, hid his face from mine and began tapping the bottom of his feet the way he always did when he was feeling anxious or uncomfortable.
I placed my hand over his to relax him and stop the tapping, then leaned around him until our faces met.
“Waiting for what?” I asked, hoping desperately I already knew the answer.
“For ye, Claire.”