Jamie and Claire made their way from their Lodge over to the Hotel, stopping off at the Gleneagles Whisky shop on the way. Jamie was bursting with pride when he spotted Fraser’s Whisky taking prime place in the window display. His usual charm had persuaded the young shop assistant Duncan to place it there. It was not just women who fell under the spell of the highlander Jamie Fraser.
Ready for their evening, Jamie was dressed immaculately in black Ralph Lauren jeans and a soft white cotton Armani shirt. Claire had chosen one of her embroidered A line dresses from Chanel, an elegant little number. It was cream with long sleeves, a high neck and embroidered all over in white black and gold. Her curls were piled high with curly wisps coming free at the side. Her make up subtle and fresh.
Jamie and Claire cut quite the couple strolling through the plush carpeted winding corridor which led to the Strathearn Restaurant.
Several of the hotel guests had recognised her as the face of Chanel, some had admired her from afar, but several had asked for selfies and autographs. Even if they hadn’t known she was one of the world’s leading fashion models, it would be impossible not to turn your head and admire this beautiful couple.
The Maître d’ seated them at a romantic candlelit table, in front of a stunning fireplace whose mantlepiece was decorated with a blaze of flowers, it was impossible to identify all of them but there were saffron hydrangeas, copper ruscus, and eryngium thistles and cream roses to name but a few.
They enjoyed a beautiful supper of whisky barrelled smoked salmon accompanied by a glass of Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, English sparkling wine (better than Champagne promised Jamie).
Jamie then opted for the wild Venison with savoy cabbage and truffle granola whilst Claire wanted something light so chose the Orkney Scallops with pea puree, bacon jam, lemon, and thyme.
They were relaxed and happy, but Claire could put it off no longer.
‘So?’ She asked.
‘What would you like to know?’
Even though Jamie had been thinking about nothing else all afternoon, he really did have no idea where to start.
Jamie’s eyes shifted with embarrassment, he didn’t want to know, but he did, jeez where to begin?
‘How long were you together?’ he blurted quickly as if just to get some word out of his jumbled head.
Claire paused, looked up at the ceiling as if deep in thought and replied, ‘About 6 months, maybe longer’.
‘We were not always in the same city or the same country, but we saw each other when we could,’ said Claire.
Jamie could feel his face heating up, he wanted to hear about Claire’s life, all of it. Truth be known though he would be happy to remain in ignorant bliss when it came to Claire’s love life.
‘Did you love him?’ Jamie’s belly was somersaulting as he asked the question, fearing the reply.
‘No’ replied Claire quickly, for that Jamie was grateful and he let out a breath that he did not realise he had been holding.
‘Were you… did you… I mean…. were you intimate with him?’
Claire hesitated, although she was not quite sure why.
‘Yes,’ she sighed gently ‘We were.’
Jamie closed his eyes and tried to push back the image that was threatening to cloud his mind.
‘When did it end Claire?’
‘About 3 months ago, we have worked together since and it’s been fine I promise you. He no longer holds feelings for me nor I him.’
She reached over and gently caressed his cheek, seeking to reassure him.
Jamie continued ‘How did it end?’
‘Well, truth be known, I could not forget a certain red headed Scot’ Claire smiled.
‘I know you and I have not seen each other for years but I compared every single man I met to you. Deep down I always knew my emotions were in constant turmoil, I was convinced that you had cheated on me, so to be honest it was years before I could or would trust another man.
Looking back now, I think I only connected with Declan because he reminded me so much of you’. She smiled weakly and raised her glass to her lips to take a sip of wine.
‘I wanted something, anything that would replace the huge void I was managing to hide from everyone, including myself, I was tired of feeling empty Jamie.’
Claire continued, leaving her hand caressing his cheek.
‘When I left Scotland, I still had so many questions and I desperately wanted answers. Eventually, I realised I needed to see your face as you told me you did not love me.
That’s the only reason I could give Declan when I told him I could no longer see him as a boyfriend. I knew then that I had to return to Scotland to see you and find some sort of closure. There was something missing, there has been something missing since I left Scotland. I don’t just mean my parents, although that was a big part of it.
I just didn’t have the courage to visit until Lamb died and I felt anchorless and to be truthful, I was sinking.’
Jamie’s eyes were misting. He reached for his cheek and removed her hand. He brought her small hand to his lips and peppered it with small feather kisses.
‘Sassenach, I wish with all my heart you had come sooner. I have never loved another lass, you know that. You have always been the one for me Claire and I am beyond happy that you are here with me now.’
‘Sassenach, why did you not introduce me as your boyfriend when we met Declan?’
Claire smiled sweetly,
‘Jamie, Declan knows exactly who you are. He knows you are the reason I could not go on seeing him. I didn’t exactly want to twist the knife and introduce you so blatantly, that would just be mean, and I would never want to be cruel or mean to anyone. Well perhaps Heather the Hottie’ she smirked.
‘Talking of Heather the Hottie, what the hell are we going to do with her?’ Claire huffed,
Jamie smiled, ‘Oh, have no fear Sassenach, I have a plan, and it’s a good one’ His teary blue eyes twinkled with mischief.
‘Did Declan meet Lamb? He seems to be well acquainted with Jilly’ asked Jamie.
‘Goodness no, that was never an option, there was no need for him to ever meet my family.’
‘But he clearly knows Jilly, they seem like best mates? Jamie was confused.
‘Jilly knows Declan professionally. He has photographed a few of her artists, it was Jilly who introduced Declan to Elite. They have known each other forever’ Claire explained, realising how it probably looked like happy families to Jamie.
Another little piece of Jamie’s heart healed.
‘It’s bloody hard, isn’t it?’ It was more of a statement than a question.
‘What is?’ Jamie’s eyes narrowed in confusion.
‘Being together. I mean it should be simple but it’s not. Is it?
First, you are with someone and then when you are not, then she may be carrying your child.
Then Heather the Hottie made you the object of her desire with no thought to anyone or anything, just to make things equal, the fluke of my ex-boyfriend arriving on the scene to manage the photo shoot.
I mean you couldn’t make this shit up. Coronation Street has less drama!’ Claire was laughing out loud now.
‘Aye and not helped by the fact that I suspect your ex-boyfriend wishes he wasn’t your ex!’ Jamie smiled wryly.
‘Hmm I thought that was just my imagination, but I guess he was not very subtle’. Claire shook her head bewildered. ‘I really thought he was over our relationship.’
‘We need a plan to protect ourselves Sassenach. We need to bolster our defences and not take any crap from any of them. We need to stand up to these invaders!’
Claire giggled ‘Okay soldier, what do you suggest?’
‘We need a secret password, one that only you and I know, one that means HELP! or LOOK AT WHAT SHIT I AM HAVING TO DEAL WITH!
It would be our private password Sassenach to protect us’ Jamie’s brows were knitted together in thought.
‘I know the perfect password Sassenach!
Do you remember that song we smooched to non-stop at your 16th birthday party? The one by Maroon 5?’
‘Of course, ‘She will be loved’ hummed Claire, ‘I adored that song, and Adam Levine’
‘Maroon 5 is our secret password Sassenach. When we feel that we, or our relationship is being disrespected, we holler, MAROON 5! At the top of our lungs.’
The pair of them tittered at their fool proof plan.
After supper was over, bolstered by their plan of action, Jamie and Claire giggled all the way to the American Bar to find, Jilly and Declan already seated at the bar.
The bar was small and intimate with an air of decadence, Sass had chosen it on purpose as it was dark and romantic with less chance of her being recognised and bothered for selfies or autographs.
Jamie beckoned to the waiter to set a table for them, and they all made their way towards it. Declan pulled out a chair next to him for Sass, but Jamie was quicker. He slid his arm around her waist and guided her towards the small couch for two, whispering Maroon 5 in her ear as he did it. Claire snickered knowing that they had launched their little plan into action. At the same time, she shivered with excitement at the closeness of his breath near her ear and snuggled down happily next to him.
Jamie decided to break the ice.
‘So, Declan, are you enjoying Scotland?’ Jamie mustered up his best smile.
‘I am Jamie, I am’ his Irish lilt exuded confidence, bordering on arrogance.
‘So much so that I thought I might extend the shoot to include a day outside. The weather is fair, the colours of the glen and the gardens are incredible, and I think the client will love it’ he gazed adoringly at Sass and then leaned over and rubbed her arm affectionately.
‘What do you say sweet girl? Roaming in the gloaming for an extra day?’ Pressed Declan.
‘Maroon 5’ Claire pipped.
Smooth as clockwork, Jamie interjected, ‘Aye that sounds grand, Sass I think that would be wonderful. I can spend the day watching you at work. You ken how proud I am of you, but to see you being photographed in the Scottish heather would be braw’ Jamie then placed his index finger under her chin, tipped it up slightly and leaned forward ever so slightly to kiss the tip of her cute nose.
Claire, completely ignoring Declan, looked tenderly up at Jamie.
‘I want you with me always. Don’t you know that by now?’ she kissed him gently on the lips and Jamie inadvertently groaned and then pulled back with embarrassment, realising that everyone could hear his utter sexual contentment.
Jilly smirked to herself. Jamie 1 – Declan 0. Good to see the lad finding his balls and fighting for her goddaughter.
They all settled into small talk, Jilly expertly navigating the obvious tension between Declan and Jamie, Sass oblivious to it all. Did she not notice or not care? wondered Jilly.
It was almost a relief when half an hour later, Heather burst through the door of the bar.
Possessing the hide of a Rhino, Heather had put Jamie’s behaviour earlier that afternoon completely behind her. She made a beeline for the table, never taking her eyes off him.
Jamie however, totally ignored Heather, never taking his eyes from Sass. Heather foolishly tried to squeeze next to Jamie on the two-seater sofa.
Jamie and Jilly spoke at the same time.
‘Maroon 5!’ shouted Jamie, looking at Sass laughing, she erupted in laughter too.
Jilly had to raise her usually cool, calm voice to be heard over the laughter of Jamie and Sass.
‘For the love of God girl, just stop it! Stand up!’ she barked sharply.
Heather stood up abruptly, flushing from head to toe.
Jilly beckoned to the waiter to provide another chair and asked him to place the chair at the other end of the sofa next to Sass. The wee besom would have to climb over Sass to get to Jamie. Jilly was furious.
Jilly and Sass held the conversation whilst Heather sulked, and Declan fumed. Jamie was happy to watch Sass relax and spend time with Jilly, who she clearly adored.
Sass noticed that Jamie kept glancing at his watch, and she wondered what he was up to. He had that secretive look on his face. She knew he was up to something.
Around fifteen minutes later a thick Scottish voice bellowed across the small room.
‘Jamie Fraser, ma china!! Fancy seeing you here!!’
Every head in the intimate bar turned to see Davie Murdoch standing in the doorway. Tall, dark, and handsome with the cheekiest grin on his face. The women’s gazes lingering much longer than most of the men. Davie was in his element.
Thank fuck, thought Jamie to himself. The cavalry has arrived.
Jamie stood, walked towards his best pal and gave him a hearty hug.