Claire skipped merrily back to the lodge kicking off her boots and Barbour jacket and dumping them into the drying cupboard in the hallway, Jamie followed suite.
She had yakked non-stop on the way back, elated that Declan had replaced JP as the shoot photographer. Jamie didn’t want to spoil the mood by starting the interrogation he was desperate to have. He acknowledged that it lifted his heart to see her so blissfully happy, he was not about to spoil it.
Claire bounded upstairs two at a time to the sitting room, and flicked on the sound system, the dulcet tone of Adele wafted throughout the lodge.
As she was working in a couple of hours and needed to keep a flat stomach, Claire mixed a goat’s cheese salad and warmed up an enormous chunk of garlic bread and several large stuffed mushrooms for Jamie. He would be gnawing at his elbow within two hours if salad was the only thing on offer!
Jamie laid the table and made a pot of fresh mint tea to accompany lunch, all the time, Claire chattering about how wonderful it was to collaborate with like-minded people and how the shoot would be so much fun, and everyone would relax.
Finally, they were seated at the dining table and Claire had to stop talking to eat. As she was munching her food, Jamie could see her mind whirling.
‘I’m sorry Jamie’ said Claire quietly.
The comment came from nowhere and Jamie was a little surprised by it.
Jamie furrowed his eyebrows, ‘Sorry for what Sassenach?’ he asked.
‘Sorry for just blurting out that Declan was my ex. I wasn’t expecting him, and I wasn’t therefore prepared to answer any questions about him. I should have told you; I am so sorry.’
‘Sassenach, you have nothing to be sorry for. I was surprised, aye’ he replied.
Just as Claire was about to continue, he raised his hand to stop her.
‘I am the one who should be apologising to you’ he confessed.
Claire looked confused. ‘You?’
‘Sassenach, I knew that you had this other life, living a celebrity lifestyle in London, working as a top model, travelling the world, mixing with the bright and the beautiful. I knew that more than likely you had relationships. I was just too terrified to ask. I buried my head in the sand’ he smiled weakly.
Claire’s soft manicured hand reached over and covered his. ‘Well, I am not sure I would have been brave enough to ask you about your love life if the lovely Mae had not been standing right in front of me.’ She chimed.
‘Can we not talk about her now? The very thought of her makes me sweat.’ Muttered Jamie.
‘Listen’ said Claire. ‘Later, after the shoot, we will grab an early supper at the Strathearn Restaurant, just you and me. I will tell you everything that you want to know, I promise.’ She beamed at him, her amber eyes imploring, her face full of devotion. She always could melt his heart.
Jamie returned her smile; however, his rabid curiosity did not melt along with his heart. He was not sure what to say next so sat quietly.
He was desperate to know what this Declan had meant to her. Did she love him? Him her? How long were they together? Did they sleep together? Was it a loving relationship or a bit of fun like him and Mae? How long ago did they split up? Did she end it? Did he? Was she broken hearted? Is this why she really came to Scotland? Was she on the rebound? Why had she not introduced him as her boyfriend? He pondered the obvious similarities, Declan was Irish versus Jamie being Scottish, both were tall, although Declan a good 4 inches shorter than Jamie, Declan was the skinnier of the two, Jamie packing more muscle, but more important that all of that they both had a full head of red hair and blue eyes.
Claire either did not notice the silence or the fact that Jamie’s mind was working overtime, or perhaps it suited her to ignore it.
She bubbled on ‘Then after supper we can join Jilly and Declan for drinks’ she said flippantly.
Another noise joined the throng in Jamie’s head. Had Declan met Jilly and Lamb? Exactly. how serious was this relationship?
Claire oblivious to the thousand emotions Jamie was feeling continued. ‘Perhaps we can introduce Declan to Heather the Hottie!! That would solve one problem at least’ she giggled.
He smiled weakly, that was good right? She was trying to set Declan up with Heather.
Jamie went off to visit his whisky distributor and Sass made her way over to the hotel and back to the room where the shoot was happening. The crew having received Claire’s WhatsApp message were already there and ready for work, there was a happy buzz in the air, Scottish music was blasting from the blue tooth speaker, a beautiful melodic sound that was familiar to Sass, ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ by the Silencers, a favourite of Julia’s. Jilly had worked with the band and Julia had seen them live often. Julia would always play this at New Year, and it took Claire back to a happy time in her life.
Back at the hotel, Declan was peering over some photos, his dark red hair covering his face, he raised his head as Sass approached.
‘Darling girl, so good to see you!’ he flashed a seductive smile. ‘We are going to have such fun dear Sass; this will be just like old times. Let me know when you are changed and ready darling.’ Declan affectionately stroked his hand up and down her arm as he spoke.
Ever the professionals, for the next two hours Declan, Sass and the team worked hard to bring the product to life. The Japanese people would definitely feel the essence of Scotland through these photographs.
The music had progressed to the Proclaimers, the team singing along to ‘500 miles’ and when ‘I’m on my way’ came over the speakers the whole room broke into dance. There was spinning, clapping, and marching, everyone seemed to know the chorus but soon managed to learn the other verses.
Jamie walked into the room as the whole crew belted out ‘We’re on our way from misery to happiness today aha! aha!’ The atmosphere was joyful and happy, Sass being swung around by the arms by Declan and others.
Bloody hell thought Jamie, they all get paid for this. He stood in the background, smiling at the activity and the delight that was emanating from everyone.
With all the noise, he did not hear the door open behind him, the first thing he knew of another person in the room was when he felt a feminine arm snake around his waist.
At that very moment Sass looked over to witness Jamie stepping out of Heather’s embrace.
Jamie glared at Heather, ‘Okay, let’s get one thing straight here. You see that beautiful lass? Aye the gorgeous one, the woman who has had my heart my whole life, the one who is beautiful inside and out? I belong to her and she to me. Please do not touch me, I didn’t ask for it and I don’t welcome it.’ Said Jamie firmly.
‘Are you married?’ asked Heather, clearly undeterred.
‘I don’t see that is any of your concern but no we are not’ said Jamie, now half ignoring her and gazing over at Sass.
‘Well, that’s fair game in my book’ quipped Heather.
Jamie was now livid ‘Listen Helen or whatever your name is. I am nobody’s game. Do you understand? I am a grown man, in love with that woman over there, I have loved her from the age of 6 and will love her until I take my last breath. I am not interested in you, or anyone else on god’s earth. Do I make myself clear?’ fumed Jamie.
Heather was outraged both at the obvious rejection and the fact that Jamie could not even remember her name. She started to well up, big fat juicy tears gathered in the corner of her green eyes.
Jamie was having none of it. He grabbed a paper tissue from the make up artist, handed it to Heather and rather roughly moved her out of the room, pointing her in the direction of the ladies’ loo, closing the door firmly behind her.
Heather, abandoned outside of the room was stunned for the second time in a matter of minutes. Tears always generated sympathy with men, she was obviously losing her touch, she berated herself. She needed a new plan and soon.
Jilly must have passed Heather on the way out as within seconds she entered the room. Declan immediately, extricated himself from dancing with an assistant and strode over to Jilly, embracing her, kissing her warmly on both cheeks.
Jilly, responded with a ‘darling Declan, how are you?’
Jilly, not realising that Jamie and Declan had already met turned to Jamie.
‘Declan let me introduce you to Jamie’ He’s Sass’s…….
Before Jilly could finish the sentence Sass bounded over, her face flushed pink with the exertion of singing and dancing.
‘Jilly, Declan, just the ticket. Jamie and I are having a little romantic early supper but would love you to join us for drinks in the American bar later this evening? Declan, that’s if this is a wrap now?’
Jamie was feeling totally unnerved at the obvious connection between Jilly and Declan. This was very unfamiliar territory for him.
‘Jilly, any chance you could ditch Heather? Sorry and all that but my patience is wearing thin. She was all over Jamie like a rash only 5 minutes ago. He had to remove her forcibly from the room. It’s bloody harassment’ grumped Sass.
‘It’s fine Sassenach, sorry Jilly but I had to be very blunt with your niece, she thinks I am fair game for her attention, which I am not, and I had to let her down but not gently I’m afraid. I very much doubt if she will ever speak to me again.’ Jamie slipped his arm across Sass’s shoulders and drew her closer to him. She melted into his body, as if she were made to measure.
‘Good for you Jamie, I am at my wits end with the girl, I don’t see her often and so it’s hard to keep her in check to be honest, she is so blatant in her intention that she stuns men into doing what she wants. If there is a male fragile ego, she homes in like a heat seeking missile and there is no stopping her. You offend her as much as you need to sweetheart, she needs to learn and frankly to have some self-respect’ said Jilly decisively, smiling warmly at Jamie.
Jilly went on, ‘I for one would be delighted to join you beautiful kids for a cocktail later this evening, and of course to get to know you a wee bit better Jamie.’
‘Me too’ said Declan, ‘Sass text me the time and I will be there, I have to finish up here and do some touching up, but I will only be a couple of hours.’
Declan turned to Sass, took her hand, and kissed it gently, his eyes not wavering from hers.
‘Then darling girl, I am all yours.’
Declan turned and forced a smile at Jamie, then left the room.