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Now and Then

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Zermatt, Switzerland, January 1986 


Bloody hell. Bloody, bloody hell…

Claire’s nerves were spiraling as she swore under her breath, winding up tighter and tighter until she was a seething mass of jittery tension. Every second took her higher up the mountainside, farther away from the village below. Farther away from where she really wanted to be, which was curled up in front of the roaring fire of the lodge, reading…anything, really. Even the thought of meandering her way through War and Peace for fun was a pleasant fantasy at this point. She’d spied a shelf of books in English at a shop in the village, and felt certain that even if she closed her eyes and picked one at random from the shelf, she’d be happier reading it than she was sitting on this god-awful train awaiting her doom. But no — instead of reading a novel in front of a roaring fire while sipping the best cocoa she’d ever tasted in her life (honestly, the stuff was better than sex), she was stuck in the belly of the rattling metal beast as it crawled its way up the mountain. 

It was all Geillis’ fault. Because of course it was. 


Come skiing, she said. 

It will be fun, she said. 

I’ll teach you, she said. 


But Geillis’ bravado had melted away in the fierce, blinding sunshine of the Swiss Alps as the train snaked its way ever higher. 

“Claire,” she gulped, her voice shaky, “I’m no’ so sure about this. It’s a lot different than Seven Springs.” 

“You said you knew how to ski!” Claire hissed as she cast a quick glance at her fellow passengers before nervously rubbing a bit of dirt off her jeans with her thumb. Not only was she dressed differently than everyone else on the train, she was beginning to seriously question her own sanity for so blindly trusting her friend. Geillis had spent a semester in America when she was 16, and for the past two years hadn’t stopped talking about how much fun she’d had learning to ski with the cute boys she’d met there, and what a good skier she was now. Claire knew her friend was prone to exaggeration. But this time, Geillis had apparently channeled her inner bloody Spanish Inquisitor as she strapped the truth to a torture rack and stretched it until it begged for mercy. 

“I thought you practically lived on the slopes from the way you told it!” 

“Well, ye’re no’ wrong there. I did a fair bit of skiing.” Geillis paused, apparently considering their situation. “But it was Pennsylvania, no’ Colorado. Everyone said it was a good place for a beginner to learn…and I did learn! Just no’ on slopes like this. I didna ken it would be so different here. I think I can manage, but I’m no’ so sure about you.” 

“Since I’ve never been on skis before,” Claire replied flatly. 

“Aye,” she sighed, “I’m sorry, Claire. It was stupid of me to think I was some kind of expert who could teach ye.” 

They fell silent as the train continued its Sisyphean task of ferrying skiers up the slopes of the Gornergrat, located on one of the three major ski mountains overlooking the picture-perfect village of Zermatt, Switzerland. Geillis had looked at the map the day before and found a couple runs labeled as “easy,” and had talked Claire into giving it a go. And since getting out of her comfort zone was one of the purposes of this trip, she’d quickly acquiesced, not much considering the actual act of skiing down said Alp until now. 

Of course, the real purpose was to get over her recent breakup, and trying new things was a means to that end. 

Unfortunately for Claire, it now seemed that “trying new things” meant risking life and limb. 

She sighed, unable to stave off the sense of creeping dread that had slithered around her spine and was now sending out tentacles to squeeze her stomach as well. Turning her gaze from the stunning landscape out the window, she glanced around at the other skiers in an attempt to distract herself with people-watching. It was a game she sometimes played while riding the bus in London—pick a random fellow passenger and create a story in her head about them. A balding middle-aged business man could become a Soviet spy, intent on infiltrating MI6. A housewife wearing sunglasses was really a movie star, hiding from the relentless paparazzi. 

So, who was on this train with her? The well-dressed blonde in the corner was clearly an heiress. Or maybe Swedish royalty. The Italian man next to her was her lover, but they’d obviously had a huge argument since he was ignoring her. And the one next to him? 

Oh, God.

Claire’s stomach lurched along with the train as she locked eyes with what had to be the most gorgeous guy she had ever seen in her eighteen years on planet Earth. She could feel a blush pink her cheeks as she saw him raise an eyebrow and quirk the tiniest lopsided smile at her. His messy, wind-tousled auburn curls framed angular high cheekbones, a long, straight nose, and a jawline that could probably cut glass. And those eyes! The Aegean had nothing on that impossible shade of blue. She could tell that he— 

“Claire!” Geillis’ voice broke through her daze. “Claire! Come on, ye wee fool. It’s our stop! They clear the train at the end, and ye dinna want to end up all the way at Stockhorn!” 

“Right,” she replied, reluctantly tearing her eyes away from the object of her distraction, who nodded slightly as she did, bidding her farewell. As she stood up and made her way to the open door, Claire inhaled sharply before stepping out into the blinding light of the mountainside. The tentacled creeping dread from a half hour ago had transformed itself into a completely feral ice beast with claws that were now clenched around her neck, choking her with abject terror. 


The train began to move, leaving Claire and Geillis standing on the snow-covered platform watching their fellow passengers snap on their skis. The sharp clicks of boots connecting to skis punctuated the silence as the train disappeared on its way up the mountain, and all thoughts of the handsome stranger disappeared as the reality of her current situation sunk in.

“I think…” Geillis squinted as they watched the skiers step off the platform in ones and twos before swooshing down the mountain, kicking up loose powder that caught the mid-morning light and sparkled. “I think I can do this. It’s steeper than anything I’ve done before, but the technique is the same. We’ll just go really slow, aye?”

Claire nodded, her voice having absconded to somewhere warm and tropical—somewhere with palm trees and pink sands, not feral ice beasts with razor claws. With Geillis’ help, she managed to clamp her clunky rental boots to her beat-up rental skis, only falling twice in the process. 

The next hour was an exercise in humiliation, as Geillis moved diagonally back and forth at a glacial pace, trying to demonstrate how to control her speed and come to a stop by making a triangle of the tips of her skis. A pizza wedge. A slice of pie. A scone like the ones in that coffee shop in the village, where she could be reading a novel right now…


All the while, skiers from farther up the mountain carved confident arcs in the snow as they skillfully swished by and avoided crashing into the awkward pair. Occasionally, Claire heard what she assumed were obscenities called out in at least four languages from the passers-by. She picked up the occasional “merde” as she recalled her school French. 

After stumbling and losing her balance yet again, Claire realized that the situation had reached a level beyond hopeless. It was hopeless on steroids. Hopeless squared, or maybe cubed. In spite of Geillis’ guilt-induced patience and encouragement, there was simply no way she could ski down the mountain without breaking a leg in the process, or at the very least, freezing to death. Rolling sideways, Claire shifted herself until she was sitting on the snowy ground. She could feel the wet already seeping through the layers of her jeans and long underwear. It was only a matter of time before she was soaked to the skin. 

“I’m going back to the train,” she declared, “and you will keep skiing and enjoy yourself. And don’t even think about arguing with me.” 

Claire could see the relieved look on her friend’s face, in spite of the feeble protest she offered. 

“Are ye sure? Can ye manage by yerself?” 

“I’ll be fine,” she replied with a certainty that she absolutely did not feel. “I’ll see you tonight at dinner.” 

“At least let me help ye out of yer skis,” Geillis said, reaching down to free Claire’s boots, then helping her to her feet. 

Five minutes later, Claire watched as Geillis slowly but gracefully sliced a zig-zag path downward, never once falling, before she sighed and began to trudge her way back to the train platform. She snuck into the car when the next train stopped, then sat in silence as it made several more stops before reaching the top. Theoretically, everyone was supposed to get out at the final stop, but after some pantomime to fake an injured knee, the conductor rolled his eyes, muttered in German under his breath and gestured for her to stay. Claire plopped down on the hard plastic seat and breathed a sigh of relief. Her arse suddenly felt rather damp, and she realized that she hadn’t brushed the snow off her jeans as well as she’d thought. No matter. The worst was over. After all, better-than-sex hot chocolate awaited her. 

The train car was empty on the way down, so Claire couldn’t even play her imaginary game. Left to its own devices, her mind fixated on two topics, bouncing back and forth between them like a tennis ball.  

Topic one was her own stupidity. Not only had she made a bloody fool of herself, but she had also spent a large chunk of her diminishing financial reserves to rent the rubbish skis, leaving her with only a few travelers cheques and a small amount of Swiss currency to see her through the last week of her trip. 

Topic two was him . She imagined her stunning stranger speeding down the slopes, his hips gently shifting to one side then the other, guiding his long legs in their slick navy ski pants to chisel a graceful serpentine path through the powder. His large gloved hands would lightly hold the ski poles, only using them occasionally for balance as he glided effortlessly down the mountain. His cinnamon locks would peek out from under the beanie she saw him holding. Was he Swiss? German? Maybe Australian? She’d heard quite a few Aussie accents in her short time in Zermatt. 

At long last, the train reached the base of the mountain, and Claire disembarked, returned her skis early (embarrassing), and put her ordinary boots back on. They felt strange after the awkward, chunky plastic of the ski boots, and walking in them felt rather like getting one’s land legs back after a journey at sea. After a cup of well-deserved hot chocolate at a shop, she trudged back to her hotel room and took a nap.

An hour later, Claire found herself staring at the ceiling, her mind ping-ponging once again between topics one and two. But with Geillis gone for the day, she couldn’t help but linger on topic two and indulge in some private thoughts of her handsome stranger as her fingers feverishly pressed circles over her center, desperately trying to relive the ache that had been building ever since their moment of connection on the train. 

His ocean-blue eyes. His broad shoulders. His very large hands, which surely hinted at the size of other things, if the rumors she’d heard were true. 

She shuddered through her release as she imagined him on top of her, pinning her to the bed, moving inside her with steady, thorough strokes…






Chapter Text


Christ , she was gorgeous. 

He’d been watching her ever since she’d boarded the train down in the village with her friend, trying desperately to think of a reason to move next to her and strike up a conversation. Based on her shoddy rented gear, it was obvious that she wasn’t an experienced skier, and that her friend was only a little better. So why on earth was she here, of all places? She was dressed in jeans rather than snow pants, the cuffs tucked awkwardly into her ski boots — completely inappropriate attire for the slopes, though he had to admit his appreciation for the faux pas; the denim would do little to protect her from the elements, but it served quite nicely to accentuate the lean curves of her thighs.. Her jacket was not really proper ski gear either, and only slightly better for the cold than her jeans, though the bulky fabric sadly hid her upper body from view. But if those legs were any indication… Well, his imagination could fill in the details.

Her skin was fair, creamy and delicate. If he were closer, he might have been able to see the pale lavender of a vein through the translucent pearl of her complexion. And that hair? A glorious riot of deep chocolate curls, barely contained by her woolen knit hat. They kept escaping in all directions in spite of their owner’s repeated attempts to tuck them in. One particularly bonny wee curl rested delicately on her eyebrow at the moment, and every time the doors opened, the rush of air would send it dancing over her hat, only to fall back down when the doors closed again. He’d stared at that curl blowing about for three stops now, as part of his mind wandered underneath her jacket and another part tried to figure out why such an obvious beginner was on the train to Stockhorn. 

He watched the two lasses having a conversation, too far away to eavesdrop, especially with the noise of the train as it chugged its way up the mountain. She looked nervous. Anxious. Her friend was trying to calm her down. 

Again, the question bubbled up in his mind: what was she doing here? 

Zermatt was a world class ski resort, catering to experienced skiers from all over the globe who came to speed down the alpine slopes in the shadow of the Matterhorn. The few beginners—the ones dragged here by their more skilled friends—usually spent their time at one of the many Skischulen at the edge of the village. They mostly taught children, but he’d seen a few awkward adults towering over the local kinder in their classes. 

Maybe he could offer to help her. Demonstrate some techniques. Buy her a hot chocolate after a run… 


All at once, a thorn of doubt pierced his fantasy like a popped soap bubble. He didn’t even know if she spoke English, much less actually needed his help. Maybe his assumption was completely wrong. For all he knew, she was an international giant slalom champion whose gear got on the wrong flight and wound up in Belgium or something. Only a world class arse would presume to have her figured out at a glance. After all, she was here

She’d stopped talking to her friend and was staring across the aisle, her face betraying her discomfort with her situation, whatever it was. Maybe if he “accidentally” bumped into her on the way out when they got to the top of the mountain, it might provide a chance to say something. He could apologize, then offer to help her with her skis as penance. He’d just have to hope for the best that she spoke English well enough to understand his Scots accent. 

His mind spun out a dozen fantasies in the span of a half-minute—burying his nose into strawberry-scented hair as he nibbled just below her ear, sneaking up on her from behind and wrapping his arms around her waist, his hand cupping her breast through a butter-soft cashmere sweater…

Then it happened. 

She turned her gaze to him, catching him in the act of shamelessly staring. It took him a split-second to snap himself out of his imagination and back to his current circumstance, a disorienting experience which left him feeling rather ungrounded. It seemed to Jamie as though he was suddenly flying over a ski jump he hadn’t known was there. Now airborne, he had to try to land without wiping out and looking like an idiot, and he wasn’t at all certain he was capable of such a feat. Not knowing what else to do, he kept staring, knowing that a fierce blush was likely turning his ears bright pink.

Her eyes. 

God, her eyes. Her exquisite eyes were like nothing he’d ever seen before. Not brown, not hazel…they were almost golden. Amber. Like good whisky. 

She simply stared at him, lips slightly parted, and he stared back for what felt like forever. He was captivated, a prisoner of her gaze, completely under her power and happy to be there. Christ. Was she blushing? Her cheeks had pinked just enough to be noticeable. He smiled a tiny bit, raised an eyebrow, hoping for a response. Hoping against hope that he wasn’t making a complete fool of himself. Hoping that the flock of starlings that had taken flight in his wame would settle for a moment so he could breathe. 

The train lurched suddenly to a halt. Were they at the top already? No, it was just the Gornergrat stop. The doors opened, and the trance-like spell between them was broken as her friend abruptly elbowed her in the ribs. Both of them stood up, wrestled their skis into submission, and stepped off the train into the crisp January air.  Shamelessly taking in the view of her from behind, he now realized that his imagination had been woefully lacking In fact, he thought it was highly likely that a photo of that lovely denim-covered arse was in the Oxford English Dictionary under the entry for “perfection.” Bonny and round, a voluptuous handful that he longed to squeeze… 

He stood up to follow her just as the doors whooshed shut and the train began to move. 


He’d missed his chance. Berating himself as a daft fool for staring at her arse when he should have been on his feet following her out the door, he shifted in his seat trying to inconspicuously reposition his cock, which clearly had its own opinions on the situation.

Slumping against the window, he huffed out an agitated sigh. The village was small, he reminded himself. Maybe he’d see her some other time. He had the whole week, after all. 




“Earth to Jamie!”  

Ian snapped his fingers in front of Jamie’s face, calling him back to the moment. He had spent the whole day with Her taking up a disproportionate amount of space in his brain, and there she was, parked in his cerebral cortex once more. Her wee curls, her skin like ivory, her bonny round arse…

“Did ye get the separate rooms?” he asked, after shaking his head to dislodge the image. 

“Aye,” Ian replied, “but they’re small—at least that’s what the clerk said—leftover odd singles that nobody wanted. The rest of the hotel is booked. They’re next door to each other, and no’ much more money, thank God. But at least I willna have to put up with yer wretched snoring all week.” 

“And I willna have to endure yer boggin’ farts, ye smelly bawbag.” 

After locking up their skis in the rack outside, they retrieved their luggage from the storage room where it had been unceremoniously dumped on their arrival at the hotel early that morning, and headed to their separate rooms. Jamie flopped back on the small twin bed, relishing the solitude. 

The ski trip with his best friend had been a present from his Da upon successful completion of his first semester at university, but he had no desire to share a hotel room. He and Ian already shared a flat in Edinburgh during the semester, and much as he loved the bloke like a brother, he still craved some quiet after the close quarters of the past few months. Thank Christ that Ian, with his passable German, was able to sort out a better situation. Jamie himself had studied French and Latin, but neither were of much use here. 

As his thoughts drifted back to Her yet again, another benefit of a single room occurred to him. Reaching down, he quickly unzipped his ski pants and reached inside the fly of his boxers to draw out his quickly hardening cock. Grabbing the base firmly, he pumped his fist up and down, running his thumb over the head with a squeeze every time he did. 


Her, naked and willing on the narrow bed, her legs spread as he hovered over her. 

Her, pulling him into an open-mouthed kiss as she reached down to stroke him.

Her, in the shower, with soap bubbles sliding down her breasts. 

Her, on all fours, arse in the air, moaning as he pounded into her over and over…


It was that last image that did it, and he quickly grabbed one of the towels that had been left on the neatly made bed to catch his seed as it shot out of him in thick spurts. Arching his back, he gasped, but tried not to make too much noise since Ian was right next door. He continued to stroke until he was completely spent, tossed the towel to the floor, and tucked himself back into his jeans. Rolling over onto his side, Jamie stared at the window across the room. 


Her, dressed to the nines, seated across from him at a fancy restaurant. 

Her, sitting down at the desk next to him in class back in Edinburgh. 

Her, holding his hand as they wandered the stone circle on the property next to his family’s home.

Her, curled up next to him—the little spoon. 


Savoring the image of her wrapped in his arms, Jamie dozed off, sated for the moment. Two hours later, he woke to the sound of Ian pounding on the door and cursing at him in Gaelic. He responded in kind, then swung his legs over the edge of the bed and roused himself. After a quick shower and a cheap ready-made sandwich from the grocery next door, they headed out for the evening. It had already been dark for several hours, and the temperature had dropped from a tolerable brisk chill to downright frigid. With every step, their feet crunched and squeaked on the packed snow of the narrow street, the sound of it sending shivers up Jamie’s spine. 

“If they dinna allow cars, how do all the shops and restaurants get supplied?” Ian asked. It was his first time in Zermatt. Jamie had been there twice before on family holidays. 

“Everything comes by train, ye see. That’s the only way in or out of the town,” Jamie explained as they walked quickly, eager to get out of the cold. “The shops and hotels have wee golf carts—electric I think. Verra quiet. Ye canna rent one. Only businesses can have them.  I think they dinna trust the tourists. Watch yer step!” 

Ian jumped to the side, narrowly avoiding a fresh pile of… 


“Aye, exactly correct! Well done. Ye’re a regular Einstein.” Jamie chuckled as he clapped Ian on the back. “Did I mention that they have horses here?” 

“Ye’re a feckin’ arse, ye know that?” Ian replied, just before they both burst out laughing.  

“They use them mostly to pull tourists around in overpriced sleighs, but I’ve seen some pulling carts too. So watch where ye step, eejit.”

The waxing quarter moon cast a shimmering glow onto the mountain that defined the entire region: the Matterhorn, with its curled peak that beckoned skiers to the surrounding slopes like a lover. Glancing up, Jamie’s thoughts once again turned to Her . Christ , he was ridiculous. He was here to ski, not chase a lass he’d likely never see again. He needed to get his head out of the clouds, and fast. Distractions up on the mountain could land him in hospital. He’d seen enough emergency evacs over the years to respect the terrain. 

Of course, thinking about that led his thoughts back to Her once again. He hoped she had made it down okay. The stop where she’d left the train led to a fairly easy run by Zermatt standards, but still…

“Here we are,” Jamie announced, pointing at a small wooden sign. “The North Wall. Best place in town for a pint after a day on the mountain.” 

Opening the door, they were greeted by a wave of warmth, along with the friendly smell of pub food and stale beer. The place looked nearly full, populated by a crowd of mostly younger skiers eager to drink and mingle after a day on the slopes. Jamie stamped his feet politely, shaking off the snow, then slipped out of his jacket and headed toward the bar to order a pint, Ian in tow.  

The jukebox in the back was pumping out American pop, and as the last strains of Van Halen faded, the unmistakable intro of Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun began, resulting in a squeal of excitement from a far corner of the pub. He turned his head without thinking, giving in to the truth universally acknowledged that any eighteen year old straight male is drawn like a magnet to the sound of feminine laughter.


It was her!

Her back was to him, but Christ, he would recognize that arse anywhere. Her glorious curls were free and bouncing as she began to dance, along with several other girls, one of whom he recognized as her friend from the train today. He sent up a prayer of thanks as he picked up his pint, abandoning a confused Ian at the bar and headed toward the cluster of girls, who were belting out Cyndi’s lyrics with all the uninhibited enthusiasm of the slightly inebriated. 

The only question was, as always, what would he say?





Chapter Text


Claire was halfway through her second beer when Girls Just Want to Have Fun came on the jukebox, finally working its way through the queue of other people’s songs. As the opening glissando rang out through the smoke-hazy air of the pub, her friends squealed with laughter as everyone put down their beers and began to sing along. They formed a loose circle in the corner, arms raised and hips swinging as they belted out the lyrics into imaginary microphones.

Yes , Claire thought to herself. This was exactly what she needed to scrub her brain clean from the misery of the past few months. If there was any antidote to late night sob sessions, angry phone calls, and the occasional ashtray flung at a certain monster’s head, a good strong dose of Cyndi Lauper was surely what the doctor ordered. But a date with that guy from the train wouldn’t hurt either.  

Of course, all was forgiven with Geillis. It wasn’t her fault that she had no idea how steep the mountain was; she was new here too. Geillis had a reckless streak that made her tend to leap before she looked. Most of the time things sorted themselves out, leading Claire to believe that Geillis secretly had some sort of magic about her. In any case, it was impossible to stay angry with her for long. 

In the room a few hours earlier, Claire’s self-pleasuring had left her relaxed and loose, and she had a feeling that fantasies of Train Guy would be occupying her thoughts for the foreseeable future. And after a careful count of her remaining funds, Claire realized that she’d be all right for the week if she wasn’t too extravagant with her spending. She could certainly hit up Geillis if need be. 

After a nap and a shower, she’d met the rest of her group for a mediocre—but pre-paid, thankfully—dinner of slightly soggy schnitzel in the hotel dining room. Lacking any better ideas, they then decided to hit the pub around the corner. Geillis had scouted it the previous day, declaring it the perfect apres-ski hangout. And now, with the beer and the music and the atmosphere, Claire had to agree. She hadn’t bothered to fix herself up much, but she didn’t particularly care. It was a girls’ night at a ski pub, not a posh London hot spot. 

The place was pulsing with an effortlessly relaxed vibe, a gentle thrum of energy that permeated the air. Claire had learned from an early age that people often were their truest selves when surrounded by others who they would likely never see again in their ordinary lives, and the North Wall had that feeling in spades. People from all over the world hung out, hooked up, and let their guard down in places like this. It was liberating. 

But just as the beat of the chorus had settled over her, something shifted, and Claire suddenly  felt self conscious for reasons that she couldn’t quite explain. Someone’s eyes were on her, and her intuition had subconsciously tuned in to whoever it was. It wasn’t a bad feeling necessarily; it didn’t remind her of walking down the street in a dodgy neighborhood. Instead, it felt a bit like what she imagined a statue in a museum might feel under the gaze of an admiring patron. In spite of the warm pub air, a pleasant shiver ran up Claire’s spine. 

Don’t be ridiculous , she chided herself.  No one here knew her here, except those from her own immediate group. No one would be watching. She turned and cast a glance over her shoulder to reassure herself that the rest of the bar patrons were well into their own drinks and didn’t care about a bunch of off-key singers in the corner. 

And there he was. 

Beer in hand, he was walking straight for her, looking every bit as stunning as he had on the train. He was wearing a heather-gray jumper over a blue and green plaid shirt whose collar peeked out at the neck. His auburn curls were a little mussed, as though he’d just removed his hat and hadn’t bothered to comb them beyond a quick run-through with his fingers. In the dim light, his blue eyes looked darker, and his three day scruff testified that he’d had much more important things to do than shave. 

His eyes widened a bit as they met hers, and he quirked that sexy lopsided smile—the same one that had occupied a prominent role in her earlier alone-time activities. Memories of her fantasy rolled over her, and Claire licked her lips as stepped close enough that she could hear him over the noise of the jukebox. 



God , he smelled so good—woodsy and fresh, but with an undertone of whisky and his own undeniable masculinity. The scent followed a path straight from her nose to that most primitive part of her brain that whispered inappropriate thoughts to her conscious mind. Thoughts like shove me up against that wall and kiss me like your life depends upon it, or I need your cock inside me right now.

“I, uh… I saw ye on the train today.” 

“I remember.” Claire could feel herself blushing with the memory of locking eyes with him. Surely, she’d looked utterly ridiculous for him to remember her. Still, it was their only touchstone for beginning a conversation, so she swallowed her embarrassment and asked the only suitable question for the moment. “Did you have a good day on the slopes?” 

“Aye, fantastic,” he replied, his enthusiasm obvious. “We did the run from Stockhorn to Gant three times, then hit the one to Riffelalp twice. What about you?” 

Claire recognized the names from the map. He’d skied the more difficult trails, and the thought of it made him even sexier while simultaneously making her feel altogether foolish by comparison. She choked out a laugh. “Not so much. I…” She paused as her voice trailed off, uncertain about how exactly to explain her stupidity in a way that wouldn’t result in him considering her completely stupid herself. 

“How about this?” he interjected. “I buy you a pint, and we take it to that wee table over there away from the music, and ye tell me all about the ‘no’ so much.’ Aye?” 

Claire nodded, delighted not only at the prospect of sharing the “wee table” with him, but also for the moment’s reprieve to collect her thoughts. He turned back to the bar to get the beer, and her eyes followed the path from his broad shoulders down to his jeans. She could see the outline of his wallet on his left pocket, the fabric faded into a paler blue rectangle of familiarity. He must be left handed, she mused, tipping her head a bit as she stared. 

“Who’s the fox cub?” Geillis elbowed her in the ribs. 

“I saw him on the train to Gornergrat today,” she answered, pulling herself back from her thoughts. “We had…we had a moment, I guess.” 

“I think he wants a few more moments with ye, from the look of him. Remember why ye’re here—to get over Frank -enstein. A shag wi’ that one would do ye good. He’s definitely interested. Just dinna do anything I wouldn’t do!” 

Claire glared back at her friend, unwilling to openly acknowledge her own prior consideration of the matter. “We just met!” 

“I said what I said, Claire.” 

And with that, Geillis spun her around and shoved her between her shoulder blades toward the empty table. 



“Hi.” Smooth, Fraser… real smooth.


“I, uh…” Christ, man, think! “I saw ye on the train today.” 


Jamie excelled at keeping a calm-looking expression even as his insides were twisting themselves into knots. It was a skill that had served him well in many sticky situations over the years. He hadn’t expected her to turn around the way she did, and the sight of her looking back at him sent a bolt of electricity through his entire body, leaving him a thrumming hot mess unable to form words. The next thirty seconds were a blur. Years later, he would recall the picture of her standing there like it was yesterday, but he could never quite remember exactly what he had said to get her sitting alone with him at that wee table. 

“Another beer. Add it to my tab. Vielen dank. ” He gestured his intentions to the bartender, then stood waiting, his finger tapping frantically on the polished wood of the bar. A moment later, he felt a broad, masculine hand slap the back of his head. 

“She shot ye down, did she? Tough break, but no’ surprising, given yer general state of being a perpetual arse,” Ian joked. “Listen, I’ve found a few Aussie blokes that are up for a game or three of darts. Are ye in?” He gestured toward a noisy table to his left. 

“For yer information, ye wee eejit, she did not shoot me down. Have a keek right over there,” Jamie answered with a satisfied smirk, tipping his head toward the table where she was waiting. “ This is for her.” He nodded as the bartender presented him with the glass. Ian cast a quick glance off to where she was seated, and a smile spread slowly over his face as he nodded his approval. 

“She agreed to a drink wi’ you? Och, so she must be blind, deaf, and unable to smell?” Eyes twinkling, he bumped Jamie’s shoulder affectionately with his. “Just remember those hotel walls are thin, and I’m guessin’ the sound of ye ruttin’ like a wild beast is as bad as yer snoring. Spare me, will ye? Lucky bastard.” He shoved Jamie’s back gently before turning to go back to the cluster of Australians, who were now apparently engaged in a drinking game of some sort. 

Jamie inhaled sharply as Ian’s words sunk in, and the thought of that particular outcome twisted his guts into knots even tighter than they were already. His cock, however, had a mind of its own and eagerly perked up at the suggestion. No , he thought. He wouldn’t allow himself to even consider it. Right now, his goal was to have a coherent conversation during which he didn’t make a complete arse of himself. 

Smiling, he carefully placed the beer on the table, then slid himself into the wooden chair across from her. A few drops of condensation from the glass clung to his fingers, and he wiped them on his jeans as he sat. 

“So,” he began, “ye were about to tell me all about this ‘no’ so much’ day of yours.” 

She smiled shyly as she took her glass between her hands, looking up at him through her lashes. “I’m Claire, by the way. Claire Beauchamp.” 

For feck’s sake, Fraser, get it together! Ye didna even introduce yerself! 

“James Fraser, but my friends call me Jamie.” 

“Well, Jamie…” She paused, her cheeks suddenly pink. “You’ll probably laugh at me, but I was lucky to get back to the village in one piece. It was my first time on skis…” 

Jamie listened intently, nodding occasionally as she shared her story. Christ , she was a brave wee thing to even try the Gornergrat at all. Even the easiest slopes here could prove challenging. She definitely wasn’t like the girls he’d dated. She was different, but in the best sort of way— unpretentious, with an inner fire that flared in her amber eyes as she spoke. Best of all, she wasn’t fawning over him and batting her eyes the way the girls who hung out at his rugby games did. That was flattering, but could be annoying too, and lately he’d been sneaking out of the locker room the back way just to avoid them. 

Finally taking a sip of the beer, Claire looked down at her hands fidgeting on the table, obviously embarrassed all of a sudden. 

“…so you see, I’m really quite foolish.” 

“Dinna be so hard on yerself,” he chided gently. “Ye had no idea. It’s yer friend who was the fool, no’ you. My question is how did a Sassenach who canna ski to save her life end up in Zermatt?” 

“Sassenach, is it?” she laughed, and the sound of it sent a ripple of blissful sensation up his spine. “You really are excessively Scottish, aren’t you?”

 “Aye, lass. Guilty as charged,” he replied with a nod as he raised his glass in an imaginary toast.

Over the course of the conversation, they had slowly leaned in closer to each other, and now to Jamie’s delight, their hands were nearly touching. An unexpected boldness seized him, and he breached the last remaining distance to brush his fingers over hers. Encouraged by the soft, tremulous breath she released, he grew bolder still, and slowly began to stroke the delicate veins that ran along the back of her hand. . Her skin was impossibly soft and smooth, like pale silk under his calloused fingertips. Was it as smooth on the cap of her shoulder? The nape of her neck? 

“Anyhow,” she continued, and his lips twitched with a smile at the way her voice wavered. “Believe it or not, I’m here on a university trip. It was a travel course, an elective. Three weeks traipsing around the continent chasing after British poets. Apparently Lord Byron has some vague, scandalous connection to Switzerland which the professor somehow leveraged into an entire week here so he could ski on the university’s tab. It’s a glorified holiday, really.”

“And then ye had to try it yerself, because how can ye be in Zermatt and no’ ski?” 


He threaded his fingers through hers as though it were the most natural thing in the world, his thumb stroking hers gently. To his surprise, it did feel natural. Easy. Like they had been together for years, not minutes. He struggled to maintain his attention on her words, distracted by the unexpected sense of calm and contentment that had settled over their table. 

“What about you?” She met his eyes, her lips blooming into a smile that warmed him to the backbone. “How did a Highland lad like yourself come to trade in his kilt for a pair of ski pants?”

He chuckled. “Christmas present from my Da. To celebrate surviving my first semester at uni. I’m here wi’ my roommate, Ian. He’s the daft one in the red shirt over there throwing darts.” Grinning, he gestured to his friend across the room, but quickly shifted the subject back to  Claire. “So what do ye plan to do for the rest o’ the week if ye canna ski?” 

Their knees were touching now, and her feet rested delicately on his under the table. He savored their gentle pressure through the fabric of his trainers, then shifted his left leg slightly so that it caught hers inside his. He held it captive there, and scooted a little closer to the edge of his seat as she answered. 

“No plans, really. I thought I’d pick up an English novel from the shop down the street, then find a nice warm fire and curl up next to it. Maybe drink some hot chocolate. Watch the snow fall.” 

He took a swig of his beer, fortifying himself to speak. “Perhaps ye might…spend yer evenings wi’ a Scotsman. I hear they’re great company.” 

“Hmmm.” She pressed her lips together in a way that sent a jolt straight to his cock right before she looked beyond him over his shoulder. “Yes, I suppose Ian does look like he might be rather entertaining.” Turning her unusual golden eyes back to his, she giggled. 

“Och, aye,” Jamie replied. “He’s verra entertaining when he’s drunk and playing darts—assuming he doesn’t accidentally throw one at yer heid. Come on, let’s go see what they’re up to.” 

It was a pretense, of course, picking up their beers and moving to watch the dart game that so far hadn’t resulted in bodily harm. It allowed him to move closer to her, to guide her across the room with a touch pressed to the small of her back. To stand behind her, breathing in the slight almond scent of her hair. To rest his palm on her shoulder as they both completely ignored the game… Christ , he was hard again—his cock had risen and fallen three times already in her presence—and he tried to discreetly shift position to ease the pressure in his jeans, hoping she wouldn’t notice his awkward squirming.

Naturally, she chose that moment to lean back toward him with her shoulders. It was a question. A subtle one, to be sure, but one he definitely wanted to answer in the affirmative. He tried to angle his hips so that his traitorous cock wouldn’t give him away as he slipped his hand down from her shoulder to rest on the sensuous curve of her waist, right where it began to flare outward to her hip. 

They held that pose for several minutes, as she clapped for each player as they threw, laughing at the way they teased each other. Jamie laughed too, but kept his hand where it was. He looped a thumb through her belt loop, anchoring her to him. Their bodies continued the conversation of subtle shifts and tiny movements through the next round of darts, but just as Jamie was considering the merits of using his other hand to either stroke her arm or finger her hair, she stepped back, closing the gap between them. 

He held his breath. 

Claire’s back was flush against him now, shoulders to knees, and he found his unyielding cock wedged in the small of her back, right above that glorious arse of hers. If she was going to pull away and slap him across the face for his indecency, now would be the moment to do it, because there was no mistaking its thick, heavy presence. 

One heartbeat. Two. 

Finally releasing the air into her curls, he slipped his other arm around her where it belonged, resting it on her own that was crossed in front of her.

For the next two hours—or perhaps it was two minutes, Jamie wasn’t sure—they watched Ian and the loud, boisterous group of Aussies grow ever louder and more boisterous with each round of darts and beers. Claire’s friends joined them, flirting casually with the lot, who flirted casually back. 

Jamie and Claire eventually found themselves on a bench seat off to the side, close enough to plausibly pretend to still be following the game, but with just enough distance to be separate from the group. His arm draped casually around her shoulder, and she had somehow positioned herself so that she was on the bench, but on his lap too, her thighs draped over his. They each had another beer and a wee bit of some local schnapps too, and judging from the flush of her cheeks, Claire was as intoxicated as he was. 

He was dizzy. Floating. Never before had he felt so instantly connected to another person, and he knew it wasn’t just the alcohol. He’d been drunk in the presence of girls before, but it was nothing like this. He’d also dated a fair bit, and he knew he was reasonably attractive. There was never a shortage of lasses eager to throw themselves at him, especially after watching him on the rugby pitch. He’d enjoyed their company for a time. Learned quickly how to please them and leave them gasping for air. 

But this was something else entirely. He didn’t just want to run his hands up her shirt in some dark corner, or feel her lips on his. Oh, he wanted that to be sure, but it wouldn’t be enough. It would never be enough. He wanted to lose himself in her, drunk on her whisky eyes alone. Learn every inch of her by rote, over and over until he had memorized it all. Press kisses behind her knees. In the tender hollow behind her ear. Over the swell of her hip. He desperately wanted her in his bed, to wake up with her in his arms and spend the day learning her life—her joys and sadness, her unconscious habits, her hidden pain. Then do it all over again. And again. 

She moved to stand up, calling him back from his daydreams. The bar was closing. As he got up, the world spun a little, and hers must have as well. He caught her as she tripped and careened awkwardly into his arms. 


As desperate as he was for her, he wouldn’t push for anything tonight. The last thing he wanted was for her to do something she’d regret tomorrow in the light of day, no matter how eager she was now. He couldn’t take that chance; this was too important. 

“May I walk ye back to yer place? See ye safe?”

“Of course,” she giggled as he helped her with her coat, “but I’ll warn you, it’s a long walk.”  

A long walk in the cold was probably just what he needed, although at some point during the evening he had resigned himself to living in a perpetually aroused state in her presence. Even a blast of icy air probably wouldn’t change that, but it couldn’t hurt to try. He signaled to Ian that he was leaving with her and got a knowing nod in return as they stepped out into the frosty night. Claire took him by the hand, turning left out of the pub, then left again a few seconds later, then stopped. 


“Long walk, eh?” he chuckled, pulling her into his arms. In spite of all the unspoken conversation they’d had that evening — the subtle dance of their bodies humming to the bowstring-taut  tension that flowed between them — they had yet to kiss. She looked up at him through her lashes, and he raised a hand, tipping her chin upwards as he lowered his lips to hers. Pillow soft, warm and lush…this was what heaven felt like. He felt her open, and tenderly swiped his tongue over hers, then caught her lower lip in a gentle bite as he pulled away slowly. 

“Will I see ye tomorrow night at the pub?”

“Yes,” she breathed. “We’ll all be there.”

With a lopsided smile, he lifted her gloved fingers to his lips. “I’ll hold ye to that, Sassenach.” 

The world spun blearily around him as he forced himself to turn away and walk back down the snowy street.  




Chapter Text


Claire woke up the next morning with a pounding headache and a ridiculous smile on her face. After guzzling a big glass of water and stealing a couple aspirin from Geillis (who had already left for the slopes), she showered, dressed, and staggered downstairs in her favorite gray sweats just in time to catch the breakfast buffet before it closed. Ignoring the glare from the attendant who was clearly unhappy to have one last breakfast straggler appear, she grabbed a couple rolls with butter and jam, along with a small bowl of yogurt and some coffee, then sat down at a table by herself. 


Being with Jamie was like nothing she’d ever experienced before. The very air between them shimmered with energy and possibility, and the mere thought that she would see him later brought a sensation of warmth between her thighs and a smile to lips.

What was it about him that had her so flustered? Her mind drifted back to a few boys she’d kissed, and the one who took her virginity—boys she’d encountered traipsing the globe with her Uncle Lamb. They were good looking too, and their company was pleasant enough, but they hadn’t sent shivers up her spine with a glance or sent electricity skittering over her skin with the slightest touch. 

And then—of course—there was Frank, her boyfriend from her first semester at university. How had it been with him? And why was Jamie so different? Frank was handsome. Older. A graduate student. Smart, sophisticated, well read and well bred—he was everything the world told her she should want, and everything she’d naively believed she wanted too.

Right up until the moment she’d caught him screwing another girl in the microfiche archives of the library. 

The memory of it still hurt her heart a month later, like an injury that hadn’t healed properly. It was why Geillis had persuaded her to sign up for the travel seminar. The group had an open spot after another student had dropped, and it hadn’t taken much convincing for Claire to decide to give it a go. The trip was the perfect distraction, and regardless of what the syllabus had said, “get over Frank” was assignment number one. Her uncle had readily agreed to let her go; money wasn’t a problem, and it spared him the trouble of keeping his niece occupied while he set off on a research trip of his own after the holidays.

Now, of course, she was glad she’d come along and taken that ridiculous train up the mountain, even if she never managed to ski at all. Without her foolishness, without Geillis’ bravado and overconfidence, things might not have turned out so perfectly. A fling with Jamie would surely put Frank out of her head forever. But even as the passing thought formed in her mind, Claire bristled a little at the idea of Jamie being only a fling to be tossed aside at the end of the week. Taking a deep breath, she pulled her wandering thoughts back to the moment, determined not to overthink things. 

Stop it. Just enjoy yourself, Beauchamp. 

Claire’s thoughts drifted next to the evening’s plans. She would definitely need Geillis’ help with her hair. Maybe tease it out a little more, or pin it up on one side. Make her curls actually work  for a change. And her makeup. She’d need a little help with that too. 

Sighing to herself, Claire crunched into her butter-and-jam-slathered hard roll. She never had managed to master things like eye liner or hair gel. There wasn’t a need for any of it out in the wilds of a dig site with her uncle, but now her lack of typical feminine knowledge always left her feeling a bit behind her peers—like an annoying little sister, always tagging along and trying to keep up, never really welcome.  The vast majority of the time, she didn’t care, but tonight? Meeting Jamie again? Her usual bare face and careless bed-head mop weren’t going to cut it. She would wear the new sweater she’d just purchased in Italy, along with her best jeans and her penny loafers. She hadn’t brought anything fancier, so she was stuck with them. But it was a pub after all. Casual would be okay so long as she could wrestle her hair into submission and do her face a little. But between now and then, she had the whole day all to herself, and her favorite old sweats would do just fine.

Glancing at her empty plate, Claire realized that she had been so preoccupied with thoughts of meeting Jamie that she’d managed to eat her entire breakfast without tasting a bite of it. Rolling her eyes at herself, she abandoned the dishes to the care of the surly attendant, grabbed her jacket, and headed off to the bookstore. Unlike the sparkling lapis of yesterday, the sky was a homogeneous gray, a slab of dull slate from horizon to horizon. A fat snowflake landed on her nose, tickling it, and she sneezed. 

An hour later, she was back at her hotel in the main gathering room just off the lobby, shaking off the snow from her hair. The room was wood-paneled, giving it a sense of homeyness that was only enhanced by the presence of several overstuffed couches. A fire crackled in the stone fireplace, fed occasionally by a hotel employee from the stack of wood off to the side, beckoning slope-weary skiers to thaw their limbs after a long day on the mountain. Claire figured she’d read for a few hours before everyone got back from skiing. There was plenty of time to fix herself up before tonight. She was six chapters into the latest vampire novel from Anne Rice when she heard footsteps. 


“Hi!” Claire replied a little too brightly, reaching up a hand in a futile attempt to fluff her curls as a rush of nervous adrenaline coursed through her veins. She was most definitely not ready to see Jamie, still dressed as she was in her shabby sweats, bare-faced and windblown from her trek to the bookstore. Taking a deep breath, she willed herself to calm down, because ready or not, he was here. “What in the world are you doing here? I thought you’d be up on the mountain until last call.” 

He looked even better than he did last night, if that were possible. Smiling broadly, his auburn curls sported a light dusting of snowflakes, and he stamped his booted feet on the mat before coming into the room. As he unzipped his ski jacket, Claire felt her eyes nearly pop out of her head and she stared at his University of Edinburgh t-shirt stretched tight over his biceps and chest, revealing muscles that she had felt, but hadn’t clearly seen the night before. 

“They did last call. They cleared all the runs.” 

“But it’s only three o’clock.”

He chuckled. “Aye, but there’s a storm brewing. A big one, from the reports. Haven’t ye noticed it’s been snowin’ steady fer hours?” 

Actually, she hadn’t. Although it had been snowing when she got back from the bookstore, she’d been so drawn into the tale of Lestat, the French vampire aristocrat/rock star, that she hadn’t cast even a passing glance out the window for hours. She dog-eared the book, setting it down on the coffee table as Jamie plopped onto the couch. 

God , he was gorgeous. Sinking into the squishy cushions, legs spread, his arm stretched over the back, he looked relaxed. Confident. And not at all bothered by her disheveled state. 

Suddenly seized by a boldness that surprised her, Claire uncurled her legs from where she had been sitting on them and stretched out, laying her ankles over his thigh. A heartbeat later, he was gently massaging her stockinged feet as he continued his explanation. 

“We’re gettin’ at least a meter tonight. Mebbe more. I’ve heard talk that even the train might be shut down.” 

“The main one? The only way in and out of the village?” 

“Aye,” he replied. “That one.” He stroked his thumb over her right arch. It felt so good that she nearly let out a moan. 

“Dinna fash. The shops have known it was coming for days. They’ve stocked up. Ye willna starve.” 

“Good to know,” she replied with a laugh. “You had me worried for a moment.” 






She was here! He had taken a chance on finding Claire at her hotel given what she’d said the night before. But seeing her there, curled up in a wee ball by the fire, completely engrossed in her book, his breath caught in his throat. Christ, she was beautiful. Most of the girls he’d dated showed up looking like they’d applied their makeup with a paintbrush—heavy and overdone. He knew they’d put in a lot of work to look that way, so he’d never actually said how much he hated it. 

But Claire was a natural beauty her delicate porcelain skin lit up by the fire, her soft pink  lips, a few stray wee freckles…she was perfect. He could tell if he reached out to touch it that her hair would be soft and pliant beneath his fingers, not stiff with the glue-like shite that made most girls’ hair essentially immobile in hurricane force winds. 

His stomach twisted around on itself with a mixture of excitement and anxiety as he paused in the doorway. He’d never felt anything quite like it, as though he were an Olympic ski jumper, poised at the top of the mountain and all he had to do was tip forward a millimeter to careen down the slope and into the air, propelled only by the irresistible force of gravity. He sucked in a breath and blew it out again in an attempt to quiet his nerves. 

“Sassenach!” he called out to her, a wide smile spreading over his face as he tipped over the snowy edge and stepped toward her. 

Three hours later, the snow was falling heavier and thicker, and the sun had gone down, leaving them sitting with only the warm light of the fire and a few stray lamps that a hotel employee had turned on. People had come and gone from the room, but the pair of them were still on the couch, sitting cross legged now, facing each other, their knees touching. A perfect circle of two. 

Jamie felt like they’d talked about everything . His hometown. Her school. Whether or not Gorbachev would be a good leader for the USSR. His favorite foods. Her favorite color. The Live Aid concert (he was thoroughly envious that she’d attended in person). The loss of her parents. The loss of his mam, and brother Willie. On and on, the conversation flowed like water in a burn, ruffling down the rocks, taking little side detours before returning to a subject, only to veer off into another a minute later. He thought he could talk to her forever and never grow tired of it.

“Oh, Claire! ” A sarcastic female voice cut through the air, interrupting him mid-sentence. “Who’s your guest?” 

Claire rolled her eyes, betraying her opinions about the speaker, just before he turned to look. There were a half dozen girls, different from the ones she’d been at the pub with last night. No one he recognized. He realized that they were not friends of his Sassenach, although they did resemble the girls who often waited for him after a rugby match, eager to flirt in hopes of being asked out. 

He knew the type. They were dressed to the nines, hair glued up a mile high, faces painted…almost a caricature of everything he disliked. He leaned into Claire as he reached down to hand her boots over. 

“Grab yer things,” he whispered conspiratorially. “Let’s make a break for it.” 

Claire’s eyes widened and a grin split her face as she took in his words, quickly shoving her feet into her boots, then standing and picking up her coat. 

“A friend,” she replied casually. “We were just leaving, so the room is all yours.” 

Jamie grabbed her hand, and the two dashed out the doors, through the lobby and into the snowy street. Heavy flakes were blanketing the ground, falling so thickly that they could barely see halfway down the block. 

“What do ye say we get some pizza? My treat. I ken a shop one block that way.” He pointed into the white-out haze. “I’m near starved.” 

Claire hesitated, reaching a hand to her hair, which was already accumulating a layer of snowflakes at an alarming rate. “I…I’m not exactly dressed for dinner. I should change and fix up a bit.” 

Letting go of her hand, he reached up to stroke her cheek with his fingers before moving them through her curls. She shivered at the touch. “Now why would ye go and change what’s already perfect?” he murmured, almost to himself, savoring the softness of her chestnut locks. He met her whisky-gold gaze, staring back at him wide-eyed. 

Now it was his turn to shiver. 

“Ye’re so bonny, Claire. Just as ye are.” He shifted from one foot to the other as his hand left her hair to trace down the back of her jacket to her waist. “That’s why I noticed ye on the way up the mountain.” Well, one of the reasons. “The other girls, they were all made up, with their hair fixed and fussed over—just to ski. But you were just…you. And ye were the prettiest girl on that train.” 

Staring back at him, her face showed her clear astonishment and disbelief. She was an open book, he realized—one of those people who could never convincingly lie because their face told the truth whether they wanted it to or not. 

“I mean it. I wouldna lie to ye, I promise.” 

Then he leaned in, pressing his forehead against hers, then slowly closed the gap separating her lips from his. She yielded, opening her mouth and welcoming him, sliding her tongue over his. Soft, warm, wet… If he died right then, his body becoming a frozen pillar heaped with snow and not discovered until the spring thaw, he would die a happy man. But as a fluffy, stray snowflake landed directly on his cheek, Jamie realized that the snow really was piling up fast, the temperature was dropping, and he didn’t want Claire to catch a chill. 

Pulling back slowly, he once again rested his forehead against hers. “So how about ye forget  ‘fixing up a bit’ and we just go get that pizza?” 

She nodded, then smiled, still pressed against him. After planting one last quick kiss on her forehead, he took Claire by the hand and they both jogged off down the wintry street into the night, laughing and shaking off the accumulated snow as they ran.



Chapter Text


After their dinner of pizza, the evening had unfolded much like the night before. Claire, Geillis, and their friends hung out with Jamie, Ian, and the Australians, who turned out to be the best sort of company—rowdy and entertaining, but never crossing the line into obnoxious.  

They all slipped into an easy friendship together, each letting down their guard a little more with every round of darts they played.  Like yesterday, Claire and Jamie spent the evening cuddled in a corner, halfheartedly cheering the competition while deft fingers played secret games of their own. Tracing the shell of an ear. Caressing a knee. Sneaking up under a jumper to rest gently on bare skin... 

It had gotten to the point that around ten o’clock they were ceremoniously voted “Cutest Couple in Zermatt” by the group. This was followed by raucous applause, as well as glasses raised in a toast. Claire beamed. She wasn’t used to being part of such a tribe of friends, and the feeling of easy camaraderie slipped over her shoulders like a warm blanket. 

She hummed her contentment, resting her head on Jamie’s broad shoulder. She’d already made up her mind that she would go back to his room with him for the night if he asked. Forgetting Frank by tumbling into someone else’s bed hadn’t really been her plan, but then again, it hadn’t been her plan to tumble into the arms of a drop-dead gorgeous Scot either. The electric tension between them had only grown over the evening, as touches were punctuated with stolen kisses. At one point, he had nuzzled into the tender hollow behind her ear, nibbling delicately as a bolt of heat rushed to Claire’s center. 

So she was more than a little bit disappointed when all he did was kiss her goodnight—again. 

The kiss was more passionate than last night’s, and was accompanied by both Jamie’s hands firmly squeezing her arse and pressing her against him. So why didn’t he ask her to stay with him? She had clearly felt his thick, heavy arousal through her jeans. The only conclusion she could imagine was that Ian’s presence made it impossible. If he couldn’t get rid of Ian, Claire would have to take matters into her own hands and bargain with Geillis for some alone time in their room. 

She stared as he left, watching him disappear into the blizzard as he walked back to his hotel. After a few seconds, she couldn’t even see him anymore through the heavy snowfall. Sighing to herself, she trudged back up to her own room for the night, reluctantly settling for the release offered by her own fingers. 




By morning, the world was transformed. The snow had continued nonstop through the night, leaving behind billowy heaps taller than Claire’s head. Miniature bulldozers plowed the pedestrian-only streets, leaving roof-high walls of white in their wake, while shopkeepers did battle on a smaller scale with shovels and brooms. 

All skiing was shut down; the risk of avalanche was too great for them to operate safely. And Jamie was right: the only train in and out of the town was closed as well. They were effectively stranded in the village, cut off from the outside world—a thought that honestly didn’t bother Claire at all. She rather liked the idea of being marooned with Jamie on their snowy alpine island. 

The group had agreed to meet up in front of the pub in the morning if the lifts were down, so after their breakfast, Claire and Geillis made a quick trip back to their room to bundle up for whatever the day would bring. 

“Just so ye know, I’ll cover for you if ye decide to spend the night wi’ yer wee fox cub.” 

Claire sighed, throwing her hands up in frustration. “I’d love to. I’m just not sure if he does or not. I mean… I get that Ian might be the problem, but he hasn’t even mentioned the possibility of even a few hours alone. Surely he could work that out. He’s such a goddamn gentleman!” 

“Och, the tragedy!” Geillis raised her fingers to her forehead in a mock swoon. “A ridiculously handsome Scot is clearly crazy about ye, and he’s no’ a complete arse, even when he’s a wee bit tipsy from a night at a pub? Horrible! Oh, how ye suffer!” She took a breath. “Seriously, maybe he just needs a signal from you that it’s okay. If he’s as honorable as ye say, he might need a wee nudge. Think about it. It’s the eighties, Claire, no’ the fifties! The girl can take charge, ye ken.” 

“Maybe,” Claire replied with a shrug.

“Do ye need to borrow some condoms? I have a few. Ye canna trust a bloke to be prepared.” 

“No, I’m still on the pill. I had a couple months’ worth left. Seemed like a waste not to take them just in case I met someone else.” 

“Well then, ye’re all set.  Ye did meet someone else. Good on ye for being such a braw planner. Make a move, Claire. I dinna think ye’ll regret it.” 

With that, the two pulled the door shut behind them and headed out to meet their friends.  


“It’s no’ bad, but the pizza in the States is better,” Geillis opined after taking a few bites as she stared at the slice in question. 

The group had made their way to the pizza place where Jamie and Claire had eaten the day before.  The morning had been spent constructing three snowmen and an igloo big enough for four to sit inside. They had tried to make a larger one, big enough to hold everyone, only to discover that the roof kept caving in. 

“I dinna ken about the States,” Jamie said, “but this is heaven compared to the shite they pass off in most of Scotland. I swear ye canna get a decent pizza outside of Edinburgh.” 

“So what do we do with the rest of the day?” one of the Australians chimed in. “Any chance the slopes are opening for the afternoon?” 

“No chance,” answered another. “The ski patrols will be up on the mountains all day setting off controlled charges. I asked at one of the rental shops.”

“Is that what that noise was?” Claire interjected. 

“Yup. Better the avalanche you manage than one you don’t.” 

Everyone nodded at that. 

“There’s a movie theater,” one of the other girls chimed in. “They’ve got the latest Rocky movie and one other that I don’t remember. But they’d all be dubbed in German.”

The group let out a collective sigh as they continued to devour the remaining pizza. 

“Our hotel has a pool,” Jamie offered, “but I dinna ken if they let outsiders swim or not.” 

Claire took a deep breath. This was her chance. 

“Maybe Jamie and I could go check it out and we can all meet up later?” There. She said it. At least it would get them in the proximity of his hotel. What might happen then would be up to Jamie. 

The plan was hatched. A few would go check out the movie theater on the off chance that they had a showing in English. Some others would search for an arcade that was rumored to exist but no one was really sure. And Jamie and Claire would look into the swimming option. They would all meet back in front of the pizza place in an hour. 

As they walked down the street, hand in hand, Claire overheard Ian as he turned to Geillis and snickered. “I dinna think we’ll be hearin’ back from those two any time soon.” 

“Me neither,” Geillis agreed. 


After they arrived at the hotel, it only took a few minutes to find out about the pool. A sign in all four official Swiss languages along with English was posted outside the pool entrance. Yes, guests were allowed for a fee. Towel rental was extra. Claire and Jamie stood next to it awkwardly, the air between them fizzing with energy and promise. Claire shifted from one foot to the other, and back again. 

“So, do you like it here? The rooms, I mean. It’s definitely nicer than our hotel.” Claire looked around as she broke the silence, uncertain what else to say without being impossibly obvious. “But for a student trip, I guess they can’t afford a better place for us.” 

Their eyes met, and Jamie visibly gulped as his ears suddenly went pink. “Would ye care to see it? The room…” 


Claire’s heart pounded, practically bouncing off her sternum before ricocheting off her backbone and landing somewhere in her belly then beginning the process all over again, and she felt a rush of nervous adrenaline as they stepped into the lift. Jamie pressed a button for the fourth floor, and they both smiled awkwardly. Their eyes darted to the door, to each other, to the ceiling and back again. 

Bloody hell , Claire thought, if he’d had a room on a higher floor, she might have actually vomited before they arrived. Blessedly, the doors opened, and Jamie stepped out of the lift, turned right, and headed down the nondescript hallway. He fumbled for his key when they arrived at the room, dropping it on the carpet twice before finally inserting it correctly and successfully turning the doorknob. 

As he held the door open for her with his outstretched arm, Claire stepped into the room. It was small, but clean and tidy. The maid had obviously been there while he had been out for the morning. The twin bed was neatly made—sheets precisely folded, the pillow fluffed and the duvet neatly placed at the foot of the bed.  There was a small desk, and a folding suitcase rack that held Jamie’s bag. She noticed, much to her relief, that he did have an en suite bathroom, albeit a tiny one. If she spent the night, she would at least be spared the potentially awkward encounters with strangers (or worse, Ian) that came with a shared bath. 

“I thought you shared a room with Ian,” she commented, her voice shaking slightly.

“Originally, we were supposed to,” Jamie replied, “but we swapped it for two verra small singles when we first got here.” He chuckled. “We already share a flat. We dinna need to share a room on holiday as well.”

“Makes sense.” 

Claire pulled off her boots, leaving them on the mat by the door. She then removed her coat, along with her hat and gloves, carefully laying them on the chair before perching on the edge of the bed. Following suit, Jamie divested himself as well before reaching into his bag and pulling out a small metal flask. 

“Would ye like a sip o’ whisky?” he asked, holding it out to her. 

“Thanks.” She took the flask with a tremulous smile, realizing that a little liquid courage might help things along, as she stroked her fingers over the inscription etched into the side. “Je suis prest? French?”

“Aye,” he replied as she took a rather large sip. “It’s the Fraser clan motto. It means ‘I am ready.’”

She handed the flask back to him and watched him take a healthy gulp of his own before putting the cap back on and setting it down on the nightstand. Looking down at her hands resting on her lap, Claire noticed that they were shaking, and she took a deep breath, willing herself to calm down. She looked up at him again, meeting his gaze. 

“And are you?” 

“Dinna ken…” he mused before leaning over to kiss her, his voice husky and low. 

At the sound of it, Claire felt a glimmer of warmth between her thighs, and she instinctively leaned back onto the bed. Deepening their kiss, Jamie followed her lead, propping himself up with one elbow even as he ran his other hand through her hair to cup the back of her head. A minute later, they finally came up for air, and repositioned themselves so they were laying on their sides facing each other on the narrow bed. 

Neither moved for several seconds, as they simply stared into each other’s eyes. Claire felt as though she were drowning in the ocean-blue depths, and would be happy never to surface again, taking up a mermaid’s life if it meant she could hold onto the moment forever. Jamie ran a hand from her shoulder down her arm, then dipped over her waist before coming to rest on her hip. His hands were large enough that he could still reach above the waistline of her jeans with his thumb, and he gently teased the inch of exposed flesh there, sending ripples of sensation straight to her core. Pressed together, Claire could feel him on her thigh, thick and long, even through the layers of fabric that separated them, and she wondered what it would be like to take him in her hand…or in her body. 

“Is this alright?” Jamie asked, his voice low. “May I…may I touch ye, Claire?” 

She nodded, unable to speak, and his fingers began to creep up underneath her sweater until his hand cupped her breast through her bra. Giving in to the pure sensation of his thumb as it stroked back and forth over her hardened nipple, Claire closed her eyes, letting out a breathy moan as she arched up closer to him. Jamie’s lips pressed onto her open mouth, and her tongue met his, sliding in a languorous dance. 

As his hand left Claire’s breast to unbutton her jeans, he paused and a question hovered between them, asked with an incoherent sound mumbled into her open mouth. She answered immediately with an equally wordless but very eager affirmation. His long fingers made quick work of the button and zipper, and she gasped as he reached his hand inside her knickers and began to stroke through her already slick folds to find her swollen bud. Her eyes flew open and she pulled back from the kiss, panting heavily and gazing up at him in wonder as his fingers began to stroke quick circles over the sensitive place. Quirking a lopsided smile, he picked up the pace. 

No one besides Claire herself had ever touched her there. In fact, none of the boys she’d been with before had even seemed to know the spot existed, much less what to do, but Jamie knew.

He knew! 

And what’s more, he was focused completely on her, watching her reactions attentively, as though nothing else even mattered to him. His eyes met hers again, and she was gone, spiraling into an orgasm that rocketed through her body, setting every nerve ending on fire. Having lost all capacity for coherent speech, she cried out raggedly before gulping lungfuls of air as she slowly came back to herself again. Jamie nuzzled into her neck as he removed his hand from her jeans, wrapped it around her back and pulled her closer. 

“Ye’re beautiful when ye fall to pieces like that,” he murmured as he planted kisses beneath her ear. 

“What about you?” she asked, her voice breathy in the afterglow.

“Ye dinna owe me anything, Claire,” he replied. “It’s no’ like that. We can just lay here if ye like.” 

Stunned, Claire didn’t answer him immediately. How could it not be like that? Every boy she’d been with, especially her former boyfriend, made it very clear that it was exactly like that. When Frank had taken her to a movie, or bought her dinner, or even so much as carried her books from class…it was abundantly clear that he expected something in return. 

And what Jamie had just done? What her ex-boyfriend had never even attempted, much less accomplished? She had been touched plenty, by him and a handful of other bumbling teenage boys, but it was always for their pleasure, never hers. The contrast between Frank’s amateurish groping and Jamie’s deftly skilled fingers was like night and day. No, it wasn’t an obligation this time at all. For the first time in a long time, Claire wanted to reciprocate. She could still feel him there, rock hard and straining in his own jeans. 

“I want to,” she said, reaching down to cup him through the fabric. “If you don’t mind…” 

Jamie inhaled sharply. “Oh, I dinna mind.” 

Rolling him onto his back, Claire held his gaze with heart stopping intensity while she unfastened the button and the zipper on his jeans. As she pulled his erection free of the denim, her eyes grew wide at the impressive size of him, something she hadn’t fully appreciated until that moment. She quickly glanced up at his face, only to see him biting his lower lip, eyes closed. His Adam's apple bobbed as she took him in hand, stroking his full length and swirling her thumb over the smooth flare of the tip, spreading around the moisture she found there. 


She hadn’t thought to grab a towel. Or a tissue. Or anything. And obviously, neither had he. Glancing around the room, she realized that there was nothing within close enough reach to be helpful. It was either going to happen all over his shirt or the clean sheets, unless…


She’d only done it twice, both times for Frank — and neither had been especially pleasant, as he had shoved himself up into her mouth, gagging her. And unlike Frank, there was no way she could take in all of Jamie. But it was either that, or have an embarrassing mess on their hands. And much to her surprise, she wasn’t afraid. Jamie was different. She knew it in her heart. All she had to do was find her nerve. He had been so kind, so attentive…so incredibly amazing. How could she not give this to him? 

Casting one final glance at his face, contorted with strain, Claire quickly repositioned herself and took him in her mouth as deep as she could, wrapping a hand around the part she couldn’t. Jamie gasped as he lifted his head, apparently not expecting the sensation of her mouth. Claire smiled around him, pleased with herself that she’d surprised him.

“Ye dinna have to—” he rasped, “ye…oh Christ .” 

Evidently giving in to the sensations, Jamie groaned and dropped his head back to the pillow. Encouraged by his response, she began to improvise a bit, swirling her tongue over the sensitive underside and gradually increasing her speed. It wasn’t long before she felt a pulsing, as he spilled into her mouth. She swallowed without hesitation, but her sense of pride at being able to pleasure him was immediately replaced by a wave of panic.

What the hell should she do now? Frank had always insisted that she rinse out her mouth afterward. Did Jamie expect the same? Should she excuse herself to the bathroom? Thoughts racing, Claire tried to think of a delicate way to phrase the question, but before she figured out what to say, Jamie was pulling her up into his arms and kissing her. Deeply. His tongue swept over hers, gently sliding over her teeth and sucking for a moment on her lower lip before releasing her. 

“That was incredible, Claire…ye didna have to do that.” 

Her cheeks warmed with a blush. “I wanted to,” she admitted softly, looking up at him through her lashes. 

At that moment, Claire realized that not only had she wanted to, but for the first time ever, she’d actually enjoyed it. He hadn’t bucked his hips, or pushed her down deeper than she felt comfortable. He’d held still, which couldn’t have been easy for him, if her experience was any guide. For the first time in a long time, Claire felt…respected. Cherished, even. 

Sated for the moment, the two of them began to doze, with Jamie on his back and Claire half sprawled over him, her head pillowed by his broad chest, both their jeans still undone. An while  later, Claire woke, realizing that she had actually slept . Nuzzling against him, she pressed a brief kiss to Jamie’s shirt, and was rewarded by his strong arm pulling her even closer and his lips planting a kiss on her curls. When he finally spoke, his voice was rough. 

“They’re probably thinking that we go’ lost in a snowdrift.”

“Let them.” 

“Mmphm,” Jamie mumbled, smiling sleepily before nodding off again.

Claire smiled in return, stroking her fingers delicately over Jamie’s shirt from button to button. Last night had been a late one after all, and they could certainly catch up with everyone else at the pub in the evening. 

They would be teased, for sure, but as she began to drift peacefully off to sleep again, safe and warm in Jamie’s arms, she realized that she didn’t especially care. 




Chapter Text


Just as Claire had suspected, she and Jamie were teased mercilessly when they finally showed up at the North Wall that evening. Jamie’s blush was a deep crimson that extended all the way to his ears, and Claire was sure that hers must have been the same. But a few other girls from her group of friends had paired off with some of the Australians, so at least they weren’t the only couple in the group anymore. 

Just like before, they spent the evening drinking, playing darts, and hanging out, all the while struggling to keep their hands confined to those regions of each other’s bodies that were appropriate for a public setting. 

But their efforts didn’t help matters for Claire. Even the slightest touch of Jamie’s fingers stroking the pulse point of her wrist was enough to send a pulse of wetness between her legs. And glancing at the front of his jeans, it looked like he was having just as difficult a time as she was. By closing, Claire was ready to drag him up to her own room and make Geillis sleep on the floor in the hall.

As they stood together in front of the pub after everyone had left for their various hotels, Jamie finally spoke. “Would ye…would ye mebbe like to stay wi’ me tonight?” 

“I’d like that very much.” 

Thank God!  

She thought he’d never ask.  After a quick stop at her hotel to grab a few necessities from her room, Claire was headed down the snowy street with Jamie’s arm wrapped around her shoulder, pulling her close. 

“I’m sorry if they embarrassed ye with their teasing, Sassenach.” He kissed the top of her head.

“I don’t mind,” she answered, leaning in close. “We’re all friends, and no one was hurtful.”

They walked on in silence, footsteps crunching on the snow. Near the entrance to the hotel, they passed a rack of skis lined up like soldiers standing at attention, waiting to be dismissed to do their duties. 

“No lifts open again tomorrow. I heard they’re still no’ done clearin' the runs.”

“Whatever will we do?” Claire mockingly sighed. 

Up in his room, she put her bag down on the floor, and the two removed their outerwear. They stood for a moment, awkwardly facing each other, then simultaneously began to speak. 

“You go first,” Claire insisted before Jamie had a chance to refuse. 

He took both her hands in his as he furrowed his brow, staring down at where his fingers gently stroked hers, and for a moment, Claire wondered if he’d changed his mind about her staying the night. 

“What is it?”

Jamie raised his gaze back to meet hers. “Och, ‘tis nothing. Mebbe I’m just that wee bit nervous.”

Claire’s expression softened with understanding, and she lowered her eyes. “I am too. I…I’ve never slept over before, after a date.” She took a breath and choked out an awkward laugh. “Honestly, I’m afraid I’m going to snore or drool all over the pillow and you’ll never want to see me again.” 

Jamie chuckled as he brushed an errant curl back from her forehead.. “I promise, I willna kick ye out if ye snore. Or drool.” 

“Thanks,” she replied, then inhaled sharply. “Right. It’s getting late. I suppose we should get ready to go to bed?” 

Arching a single brow, Jamie replied, “To bed? Or to sleep?” 

Still holding hands, Claire guided his fingers to her hips, placing them on the waistband of her jeans before reaching up to unbutton his flannel shirt. “In any case, I don’t think you’ll be sleeping in your shirt.” She stroked her hands over the broad, flat planes of his chest, savoring the feel of muscle beneath her fingertips. 

“I suppose not. And I dinna think ye’ll need this either.” He slid his hands under the bottom edge of her jumper, quickly pulling it up and over her head, leaving Claire standing before him wearing only her bra. Jamie’s eyes darkened, and he pulled her into a scorching kiss that began with her up on her tiptoes, and continued as they fumbled backwards onto the narrow bed. 

A minute later, they had somehow divested themselves of the rest of their clothing —a tangle of frantic limbs, each kissing and stroking the other, pressing together, desperate with need. 

“I’m on the pill,” Claire gasped, head arched back as she bared her neck for Jamie’s eager kisses. “I broke up with my ex-boyfriend two months ago, but I just stayed on it—I had a six month’s supply—so we don’t need anything else, if you’re okay. I haven’t been with anyone since then.” 



Jamie stopped short. Christ. Of course she’d had experience. A girl as gorgeous as Claire? She would have had lads lined up around the block to try their luck with her. Why hadn’t he thought of that before he had her naked in his bed?  

“What?” At the look on his face, Claire’s voice wavered, hesitant. “What’s wrong?” She pulled back, sitting up in the bed, her eyes wide with distress. “Does it…” He saw a tear well in her eye. “Does it bother you that I’m not a virgin?” 

“No,” he replied at once, certain that his face was beet red as he stared up at the ceiling, feeling as though he were naked in front of a classroom full of his university faculty, rather than in a tiny hotel room alone with Claire. Filling his lungs as deeply as he could, he admitted in a single rush of breath, “So long as it doesna bother you that…I am.” 

There. He’d said it. He was a pathetic 18 year old virgin, without a clue what he was doing. She’d probably run from his room as fast as she could get her clothes back on. He looked back up to her, and seeing the tiniest of smiles on her lips, he went on, trying desperately to make a joke of his deepest insecurities. “I reckon one of us should ken what they’re doing.” 

Claire’s smile widened, and she seemed more than a little relieved, thankfully. 

“I’m not exactly an expert,” she mused, her fingers lazily stroking circles over his shoulder. “I lost my virginity to a boy when I was on one of my uncle’s research trips. Not exactly fun for the girl, that. And then last fall I met Frank. We were together for a few months, but then…it didn’t end well. He cheated on me. Don’t worry, I got tested for VD afterward. I’m clean.” 

“Mmphm.” Then this ‘Frank’ was an idiot.

“You certainly seemed to know what you were doing this afternoon,” she murmured, leaning in to kiss his collar bone. “I’ve never had that happen with a boy before.” 

Jamie wrapped his free arm around her and began stroking up and down her spine as he leaned in to nibble on her earlobe. “I said I was a virgin, no’ a monk.” 

“Mmm, good to know.” Laying on her side again, the hand that had been on his shoulder made its way to his arse, pulling him halfway over her as she rolled onto her back. “I think between the two of us we can probably figure this out, hm?” 

He kissed her neck, then dipped lower to her breast, pulling a nipple into his mouth and working it on his tongue before switching to the other. She moaned as he reached down to stroke his fingers through her wetness, focusing his efforts again on the little bundle of nerves that he knew would give her pleasure. 

Green and inexperienced as he was, he was determined to do this properly, and that meant seeing to her needs before his own; once he actually got started, he didn’t think he would last very long. More than anything, he wanted to drive away any memories of this arse-wipe Frank , paint over them forever and replace them with only thoughts of himself. 

“I want you inside me,” she groaned, her voice like sandpaper. “I need you.” 

Whatever shred of resolve he had crumbled as Claire took hold of his throbbing shaft and began to stroke. Thank Christ he’d already had two releases today–one in his morning shower thinking of her as well as their time together in the afternoon–or he’d be spilling in her hand right now. Shifting on the bed, she spread her legs and guided him to lay between them, nestling the tip of his rock-hard cock into her soft velvet heat. 

“You’re right there,” she rasped. “Just push in.” 

Needing no more encouragement, he did as he was told. Thrusting his hips forward, he drove his cock into her yielding flesh. 

A Dhia, this must be what heaven felt like: warm and wet, tight around him, a million times better than his own hand had ever been. His jaw dropped open and he panted, trying not to lose himself completely. 

Think about rugby. Ian’s grandma. Trigonometry. Smelly socks. Anything!  

After a breath or two, he managed to regain some tentative semblance of control, and slowly began to thrust. Claire rocked her hips in response, but he noticed that some of her intensity was diminished. 

Though mildly shocked that he had enough functional brain cells to even think at all, he realized that he couldn’t touch her in this position — couldn’t stroke her where she needed it. Couldn’t do the one damn thing that he knew he was reasonably good at doing to please a lass. 


Maybe if he moved? If he knelt with her still laying back, he could reach it, but would it all still fit together that way? He’d imagined them doing it like horses, but he didn’t want to make her move that much, and he wasn’t at all certain that he could reposition himself without her help. 


At least his strategizing had managed to tamp down his over-eager cock a bit. He might be able to hold out a little longer, hopefully long enough. Watching her face with mounting concern, he realized that it was now or never. He had to take the chance. 

In one swift move, he maneuvered himself up into a kneeling position, resting back on his heels while holding onto Claire with both hands, pulling her hips abruptly onto his lap. Looking down, he saw to his relief that he’d managed to keep himself positioned deep inside her, and they were still joined. He let go, hearing her gasp and realizing that the change in angle must feel different to her—deeper—just as it did to him. Panting out a few breaths, he stilled for a moment, desperately trying to stay in control. 

Now he could at least see what he was doing. He continued to thrust awkwardly as he quickly licked his thumb and pressed it firmly to the pink bud between her legs. Circles. His thumb traced firm circles as he’d done earlier. He could do that. He just needed to pay attention. Stay focused. 

Circle and thrust, Fraser. Circle and thrust. 

His rhythm set, he looked to her eyes, finding them dark with her desire. Something shifted inside him, and he was utterly lost.

Staring at her, the whole world fell away. Eyelids hooded, with her mouth slightly open and her hands flung carelessly over her head, Claire was perfect. She looked like an angel with her hair a tousled halo. He continued to stare, losing himself in pure sensation, his thumb circling automatically now as he felt his own climax build. 

“Oh, God—Jamie!” Claire cried out, fisting the sheets with one hand as she arched up off the bed, her perfect breasts thrusting high as she clenched around him, sending him reeling with pleasure unlike anything his imagination could ever have conjured. 

A heartbeat later, he cried out in Gaelic as he spilled into her, rigid and shuddering. Panting for air, he slipped out and collapsed on the bed next to her. Jamie had never considered himself much of a theologian, but somewhere from the depths of his pleasure-scrambled brain, an inchoate epiphany bubbled up to his conscious mind. Their moment of shared ecstasy felt sacred somehow–holy in a way he didn’t understand. He knew that if he thought about it too long, his logical mind would twist it into blasphemy, so he tucked the insight away into a hidden corner of his heart for safekeeping.

Claire smiled up at him, her eyes languid with contentment, as he reached out to push a stray curl from her face. “Was it like you thought it would be?” she asked softly.


She let out a small hum of satisfaction, nuzzling herself closer to him. Furrowing his brow, Jamie turned his gaze up to the ceiling. He couldn’t quite bear to look at her while he asked what was really on his mind, now that his senses had cleared.  

“Was it…was it alright for you? I mean, I ken that ye…um, I mean, I’m glad ye got there in the end. But I’m sorry I had to toss ye around like a sack o’ potatoes. Ye didna deserve that,” he said, sheepishly looking down at where their hands had threaded together. “I just didna ken how else I could touch ye…there. I couldna reach ye the other way. I didna ken what else to do.” 

“Mmm,” she murmured, her voice low and seductive, “Don’t apologize. I rather liked that part. I liked it when you—when you took charge.” And with that, Claire settled herself next to his chest and closed her eyes, leaving Jamie feeling relieved, blissful, and a bit like a puddle of human Jell-O.

Both slept a while, contentedly spooning in the narrow bed. Sometime in the night they woke, each immediately aware of the other. Moonlight shone through the window, bathing them in pale light as they silently came together. Without preamble, Claire rolled over to face him, hitched her leg up over his hip, then gently guided him home. Jamie’s large hand took hold of her waist, slowly moving her to meet his languorous thrusts. 

It was different this time. Easy and slow, they moved in perfect rhythm, enjoying the sensation of simply being together. As he gazed into her whisky-gold eyes, he wondered if she could see straight into his soul —see him with all his faults and flaws, his struggles and joys. Wondered if she could see him just as surely as he saw her. 

This—whatever this was—was unlike anything he’d experienced before. None of the girls he’d dated, or touched, or kissed had affected him as deeply as Claire had. The two of them had a connection—a bond. And Jamie knew in that moment, with the same certainty that he knew the sun would rise in the morning, that his life would never be the same again. This moment marked a dividing line, and everything that came after would be measured and compared to it. 

Claire had ruined him for any other. 



Claire hadn’t realized it could be this way. She hadn’t known that the act could be anything other than a mediocre encounter where she was not so much a participant as an object. 

But Jamie? His touch. His rock-solid masculinity. His sheer physical strength as he’d abruptly rearranged her into a position she hadn’t even known existed, then promptly proceeded to shatter her into a million pieces of glittering bliss. All of it was mind-blowing. 

And now? This easy-dreamy flow between their bodies. The strong, slow thrusts and the liquid blue of his eyes in the pale moonlight. All of it threatened to topple the carefully constructed version of herself that she’d cobbled together over the past few months—the version that swore she would never trust a boy again. Jamie had broken through her defenses, knocked down the walls that protected her tender, wounded heart. In his arms, she understood what it meant to be treasured. 

He slowly began to pick up the pace; his thrusts came quicker with a bit more force behind them. Claire reached down and touched herself, realizing that Jamie couldn’t manage it while still moving her as he had been — and more importantly, realizing that she could trust him with it. For the first time, she felt completely free. Uninhibited. As she traced firm circles, he continued his steady pace, and their eyes locked as they tipped over the edge together. Riding the waves of her climax, Jamie’s gaze held steady, and Claire wondered to herself if this was what love felt like. 




Chapter Text


“So, finance and marketing, is it? How did you decide to study that?” 

They had woken up shortly before sunrise, and after indulging in a third round of lovemaking, were cuddling under the warm duvet. Neither wanted to break the spell of the previous night, choosing instead to ignore their hungry stomachs in favor of leisurely pillow talk. 

“My family owns a distillery near Inverness: Lallybroch Spirits.” Jamie’s hand stroked absentmindedly up and down Claire’s thigh as he spoke, savoring the sensation of her silky skin beneath his fingertips. “We make whisky. Ye tasted it yesterday.” 

“Ah. That explains the flask.” Claire nodded sagely. “I thought it seemed a bit strange that someone our age would carry one. I’ve only ever seen old men and drunks with them.” 

Jamie chuckled, still distracted by Claire’s softness. His hand had now taken up residence on the luscious curve of her arse. “Da wants me to take over and run it when I finish my degree. He has a lot of talent for the craft of making the stuff, but not the best heid for business. Mam always did that, but since she passed, he’s been struggling. What about you?”

“I want to be a surgeon someday,” she mused, feathering her fingers over his chest, causing a flare of goosebumps on Jamie’s skin. “I realize it’s not very traditional for a woman, but I think I can do it. I want to try, anyway.” 

It was magical–this back and forth between them, always shifting when he least expected it. One minute, it felt like he was talking to his closest friend, sharing secrets and dreams. The next, he was once again caught up by the desperate physical need for her, pulled into the rip current of desire, unable to resist even if he tried.

After pressing a kiss to her forehead, Jamie looked into her eyes. “I have no doubt that Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp can do anything she sets her mind to, but ye have to promise that ye’ll be my personal physician. Tend all my wee scratches and such.” 

“Of course,” Claire answered with a laugh. “I’d be honored.” 

Christ , that laugh. If pure joy was a sound, Jamie knew it would be Claire’s laugh. He craved it like he craved her body, with an urgency and desperation that astonished him.  Pulling her closer, he reveled in the sensation of her warmth mingled with his own under the covers. He threaded his fingers through hers before planting a gentle kiss on her knuckles. 

“Seriously, I dinna want this to end. Promise we’ll keep in touch when the week is over?” The question bordered on begging, but he couldn’t help it. He had to know that there would be more than a single week. Honestly, at this point he wasn’t sure he could survive a day without her, much less a whole summer. “I’ll write ye. And maybe we could visit before the fall semester starts?” 

“Promise,” she answered, her voice suddenly more serious. “I want that too.”

Relief flooded him as he took in her answer. Knowing that she wanted this to continue lit a fire within him, giving him the courage to press onward. 

“Can I ask ye a question?” 


Hesitating a moment, he started to speak several times, only to immediately stop, never quite getting the words out. How exactly should he ask a question like this? One that felt both ridiculous and life-changing in equal measure. But he had to know—was it the same for her? Did she feel it too? 

“I dinna mean to assume that ye have some vast experience wi’ men…” He paused, exhaling loudly.

“Out with it,” she ordered, a smile spreading over her face.

“This—what this is between us—when I touch you, when we…when we make love. Is it always like this once ye sleep wi’ someone? Is it usual?” 

Once the words escaped his lips, he couldn’t believe how foolish he sounded. His question was obviously the childish rambling of a newly deflowered virgin, but still, the thought had been with him from the beginning, whispering at the edges of his mind. But now it was shouting, no longer content to whisper, and he had to know if he was alone in his intuition, foolishness be damned. 

Claire stared for a moment at their hands, still entwined. “No,” she whispered. “It’s not usual. It’s…different, special. I can’t really explain it, but it is.” Then she looked up at him, her eyes at first full of tenderness, and he saw them shift a moment later to pure desire as her lips parted slightly. He knew in that split-second that she understood. She was feeling it too, the disorienting alchemy of this magic they were creating together.

Caught up in the intimacy of Claire’s truthful answer to his question, Jamie coveted a physical response. More than anything, he wanted to show her how much he treasured her openness, her vulnerability…her truth and her trust. He wanted to show her that she was safe with him, that he would protect and care for all that she gave him. 

At that moment, he knew exactly what he wanted: to worship her with his mouth and watch her shatter with the pleasure of it. He would venerate her most secret place, spread her open and lay bare his own heart in the process.

He’d never done it before, mostly for logistical reasons, although he’d been on the receiving end more than once, most recently from Claire herself. It had always been easier simply to use hands, but now, with her here alone with him, Jamie wanted to give her so much more.  For the briefest moment, he wondered if this so-called Frank had, but thankfully the thought didn’t linger. She was in his bed, naked and willing. Nothing else mattered. Scooting down, he planted kisses on her torso, her hip bones, her thighs… 

“What are you doing?” she asked, sounding a bit breathless. 

The idea that he could make her gasp stirred his cock yet again, but he ignored it and kept to his task. “Exactly what it looks like.” 

She mewled as he spread her with his fingers before laving his tongue through her folds. After repeating the action a few more times, he focused his efforts exactly where he knew she would crave it the most. Repositioning her near the edge of the bed, Jamie knelt beside it, draping her soft thighs over his shoulders before setting to work in earnest. As he swirled his tongue and gently sucked, he watched her carefully, repeating whatever seemed to please her the most. 

The phone rang, threatening to fracture the moment with its incessant clangor.

Dammit, she was so close! 

“No,” Jamie said aloud in frustration, grabbing her hips and scooting her closer to him as he hurriedly redoubled his efforts. “No!”  

Claire gasped when he slipped two fingers inside of her as his mouth continued to work. A heartbeat later, she was fisting the sheets with one hand as the other smacked the headboard. She moaned, then cried out his name, and he felt her spasm around his fingers. 

Another ring. 

Shite. Fine. Whatever.

Jamie cleared his throat as he hesitantly picked up the phone, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Who in the hell would call him here? Da, maybe? Or someone from the hotel complaining about the noise? 


Guten Morgen! ” Ian’s voice screamed through the line, loud enough that Jamie had to hold the phone away from his ear. “ Wakey wakey, Claire and Jamie! ” 


“Move it, ye lazy dog! Breakfast for ye both is outside yer door if ye can muster the strength to get up. Dinna forget that we’re all meeting up at the pool at two o’clock. If ye dinna show up, the whole lot of us will come up and break down yer door and drag the two of ye out of yer love nest wi’ our bare hands whether ye like it or not. Bye!” 

And with that, the line went dead as Ian apparently hung up. 

Jamie looked at Claire with an exasperated smile. “That was Ian. He said there’s breakfast outside the door, and he reminded us to be at the pool by two.” 

“Breakfast?” She shifted on the bed, pulling the sheet to cover herself as she rolled onto her side. 

“Dinna ken. Let me look.” Jamie stood up and slipped on his swim trunks before slowly opening the door. He wasn’t about to be caught off guard with his balls swinging in the breeze if Ian and the Aussies decided to tackle him to the floor right there and then for a laugh. To his surprise, he found a large tray of food, clearly pilfered from the breakfast buffet, along with two steaming mugs of coffee. 

“Huh. He wasn’t kidding. Care for some breakfast, Sassenach?”

“Oh, thank God,” she replied. “I’m starved.” 

“I’ve had a wee bit to eat already, and it was quite delicious,” he joked, raising an eyebrow to her, “but I wouldn’t mind some more.”

She grinned, blushing, and rolled her eyes, and the sight of it warmed him to the bone. 

After devouring the food, they dressed and wandered the village before separating for an hour so that Claire could go back to her room and swap out some clean clothes for her dirty ones, as well as pick up her swimsuit. They met up again for lunch, then changed and walked to the pool. As they entered the large, steamy, chlorine-heavy room, they were greeted with a barrage of loud whoops and cheers from their friends. 

“They’re alive!” one of the Aussies shouted. 

“We were beginning to get worried,” Ian added.  

“Even they have to come up for air eventually,” Geillis chimed in.

Raucous laughter followed that remark, along with more comments from the Australians. 

“She looks a bit bowlegged, don’t you think?” 

“Hey Claire! If you can still walk, Jamie isn’t doing it right!” 

“Jamie, if you’re already tired out, I’d be more than happy to fill in for you!” 

At that, Jamie punched the air, replying, “How about I fill your face with my fist?”

The others applauded loudly. 

“All right,” Jamie continued, “ye’ve had yer fun. Go soak yer heids and give us peace.” 

Part of him felt suddenly self-conscious that they all obviously knew exactly what he and Claire had been doing alone in his room. Ian was aware that he’d been a virgin, but could the others somehow just tell?  Did everyone have some sort of radar that had sensed his change of status? 

Stop it. 

The more sensible part of him knew he was being ridiculous. No one knew. No one could tell. And although they might intuit the broad outline of his night with Claire, there was no way anyone could know exactly what had passed between them, physically and otherwise. Also, these were his friends, not the Spanish Inquisition. No one judged him, and no one thought any less of Claire either. He let out a deep breath, and decided to simply enjoy the fun. 

The afternoon was a rowdy one, filled with loud splashing, childish games and general silliness. The guys all took turns tossing the girls into the deep water, which earned them a reprimand from the lifeguard. Battles were fought, with the girls trying to knock each other off the shoulders of the guys, earning them another reprimand.

Dinner was casual—burgers and beer at the poolside cafe. This was followed by an impromptu water polo game after Ian spent a generous amount of his Swiss francs to purchase a toy ball from a child who had gotten bored with it. 

Finally, the group retired to the large hot tub adjacent to the main pool. It was warm enough to be pleasant, but not so hot that one couldn’t stay in for long—the perfect way to relax after the raucous afternoon.


Claire snuggled effortlessly into Jamie’s embrace, his arm casually draped around her shoulder as the bubbles swirled around them in the tub. It had, by all possible measures, been one of the best days of her life. Waking up in Jamie’s arms, swimming with the group, sharing laughs and gentle teasing…all of it was just fantastic. But the best part by far was when she and Jamie had opened up to each other that morning, about their feelings and keeping in touch. 

The week had been a revelation. Before it, Claire could never have imagined the connection, the bond, and (if she was honest with herself) the love she felt with and for Jamie. Yes, she was falling in love with him. And yes, she was falling fast and hard. But no, it wasn’t really a rebound since whatever she’d had with Frank was the palest of shadows when compared to the depth of what she felt now. They weren’t even in the same universe, much less the same league. It was as though her time with Frank had been painted in pale colors—all of them washed out and faded. But with Jamie, her world was a shimmering spectrum of jewel tones, like sunshine through a cathedral window, bathing her in a rainbow of light. Falling in love like this was a revelation, and she smiled to herself with the sheer bliss of it. 

Beneath the water of the hot tub, Claire rested her hand on Jamie’s knee, and had begun to unconsciously trace light swirls with her fingertips. She felt Jamie shift against her, calling her thoughts back to the present. His movement was so small that no one but Claire could have felt it. She moved her hand higher up his thigh, hearing the slight intake of Jamie’s breath as she did. Turning to him, she raised an eyebrow in question, and he responded with the tiniest of nods. 

“I think I’ve had enough water for the day,” Claire announced. “I’ll see you all tomorrow.”

Immediately, she got out of the warm pool, casting a knowing glance to Jamie. He spoke up, “I’ll be along in a bit, Sassenach. I need to speak to Ian first.”  She nodded, realizing that most likely the real reason was him needing a few minutes to calm down his eager cock so as not to embarrass himself when he got out of the water. Much as she appreciated how he looked at the pool, with his swim trunks slung low on his hips, she realized that they were rather revealing, especially when wet. She had brushed up against him under the water, and knew that he was already hard. 

She suppressed a smile at the thought of how easily she could arouse him. Her own desire for him was insatiable, and for the first time in her life, she was completely comfortable with that fact. Jamie himself was responsible for the shift, and she was gobsmacked by his response. 

Girls always walked a fine line–do too much and be labeled the town slut, do too little and be labeled a prude. Frank had always made it clear that girls who were forward were whores in his eyes, good for a shag but not exactly the type to bring home to the family, and Claire realized now just how much she’d internalized that message. The other boys she’d been with before Frank, even if she hadn’t slept with them, had a similar attitude–happy to enjoy her body, but never elevating her to girlfriend status. Girlfriend–and ultimately wife–status was reserved for “good” girls who kept their own desires on a tight leash, reluctantly granting favors and never enjoying themselves too much. 

But Jamie? He welcomed her need, her lust, and never once made her feel diminished because of it. It was as shocking as it was amazing, and a good thing too, because there was simply no way she could restrain herself when she was with him. 

Gathering her things, she dried off, wrapped herself in her towel, then headed for the lift to wait for Jamie. Thankfully, there was no one in the hallway when he arrived a few minutes later, since he all but crashed into Claire the moment he saw her. 

Frantic, he stabbed at the up button three times, then pulled her into an urgent embrace, pressing his mouth to hers. When the lift door opened, they stumbled backwards into it, not caring about anything but the sensation of each other’s touch. Jamie clumsily pounded the button for their floor, then pressed her up against the railing as the door closed. Suddenly desperate to grind herself against him, Claire lifted a leg and curled it around his midsection, never breaking contact with his mouth. He responded by scooping her other leg up until she had both wrapped around his waist. Pinned against the wall and perched on the hand rail, she rocked her pelvis against him, feeling every long, thick inch of him as she moved. 

After what felt like an eternity, the doors opened, Jamie put her down, and the two staggered out of the lift and down the hall. The moment the door to Jamie’s room slammed behind them, they tore at each other’s swimsuits. 

“I need ye naked now, Sassenach,” Jamie groaned as his hands eagerly shoved his own soggy trunks down, kicking them under the bed. “I canna wait a second more.” 

“God, Jamie…” Claire wrestled herself out of her wet swimsuit, nearly tripping as she did. Feeling a rush of goosebumps as the sodden, clingy fabric peeled away from her skin, she pressed herself against Jamie and the two tumbled down onto the bed, a writhing tangle of limbs. She quickly spread her legs as she reached down and took him in hand, positioning him. 

Claire gasped as he sheathed himself to the root in one stroke, pinning her to the bed, moaning as he did. In her frenzy, she flung one leg up over his shoulder, wrapping the other around his hip. The move heightened the sensation of being utterly taken by him, even deeper than before. 

Pistoning furiously, Jamie choked out bits and pieces of thought in between ragged breaths, “Does it ever stop? The wanting you— Christ, so deep—never want this to end—never…I want ye, Claire. Forever…” 

Matching him stroke for stroke, shamelessly eager and hardly able to breathe herself, she answered him, the words bubbling up from some deep place inside her that she had thought was broken. 

“Don’t want anyone else—only you. Right there…yes.  Never—oh, God!” Her ramblings were interrupted by her spiraling climax, intense and furious as the leading edge of it engulfed her, drowning her in sensation that flowed over her in wave after wave. It left her incoherent and unable to speak anything but his name, repeating it over and over as he poured himself into her, echoing her own desperate cries as he did. 

The afterglow was palpable. Something new was present in the air between them—a living thing, new and fresh and tender. But there was a core of strength inside the tenderness, a tenacity that took her breath away. 

Claire felt Jamie slip out, collapsing next to her, one arm still sprawled over her chest. 

They lay in silence, holding each other, neither willing to risk shattering the feeling that had settled over them. Neither was quite ready to acknowledge what had been said, even as the truth of it took hold between them. Repositioning themselves, Claire pulled the fluffy duvet up to cover them, and they drifted off to sleep each wrapped in the warmth of the other. 




Chapter Text



Two Days Later


Claire awoke at four in the morning to the feeling of Jamie’s erection pressed against her thigh. Still sound asleep, a slight smile played over his features, and her breath caught in her throat at the sight of it. He looked so vulnerable…as though she could split his heart in two with a word. 

She knew the feeling. The very last thing she had expected on this trip was to open herself up to someone again, and yet, here they were. With the astonishing clarity that often accompanies unexpected epiphanies, she realized that he held her heart in the palm of his hand. She was his, and that was all there was to it. Tomorrow would bring its own challenges, but here, together in the dark, in this moment, everything was perfect. Everything in the world was as it should be.

Earlier in the wee hours of the morning, they had both shared stories of their most painful losses—him of his mother and brother, and her of both her parents. Jamie actually understood, unlike any boy she’d ever been with, and she found herself crying in his arms as he comforted her like a child, stroking her hair and muttering soothing nonsense in Gaelic. 

Never before, not even with her well-intentioned uncle, had Claire felt her grief so completely seen and accepted. It was a part of her, a part that she would carry with her every day of her life. She couldn’t ever really “get over it” or “move on” as everyone seemed to think she should be able to do, but neither could Jamie, and somehow that made it all okay. Afterward, she’d looked up to see tears streaking his cheeks, and had simply held him in silence until they both drifted back to sleep. 

Now, with only hours left until they had to part, she was determined to savor every minute. They had spent the whole day yesterday in bed, and Claire was achy and sore from the effort, but as she stared down a months-long separation from Jamie, a little temporary soreness seemed a small price to pay for one more time together. 

Climbing up onto her knees, Claire straddled him. Snoring softly, Jamie was still asleep as she took his hard cock in her hand, positioned it, then sunk down onto him in one fluid motion. His eyes flew open to meet hers as he inhaled sharply. Their gazes locked, and Claire once again found herself lost to the world that existed beyond his eyes, beyond this connection they had forged. She began to move, rolling her hips as her palms rested on the planes of his chest, pressing gently.

Reaching out, his large hands encircled her waist, with his thumbs on her hip bones and his fingers pressed into the flesh of her arse as he began to lift her gently, then press her back down again, setting a rhythm. Holding each other's gaze, neither uttered a word for several heartbeats. 

“Touch yerself,” he murmured at last, his voice low and husky. “I want to watch you.”

A smile spread over Claire’s face as she realized exactly why he’d voiced this particular request. Yesterday, they had each shared the fact that both had pleasured themselves to mental images of the other on the day they met. She knew that images of Jamie would occupy her fantasies until she saw him again in person, and it occurred to her now that the same would likely be true for him. 

Wanting to give him an unforgettable memory, Claire trailed her fingertips down his chest and over onto her own thighs, then up over her waist and rib cage before her hands came to rest on her breasts. Cupping them in her hands, she took her hardened nipples between her thumb and finger, pinching them as she arched her back. Beneath her, Jamie took in the sight through hooded eyes, his expression one of pure lust that shot a bolt of electricity between her legs. 

Holding his gaze, she reached down with her fingertips and began to stroke herself feverishly back and forth, rocking her hips as she did. Glancing down to her hand, his Adam’s apple bobbed as he canted his hips upward instinctively in response. 

Christ , Sassenach…” 

“Take me,” Claire said, her voice breathy and thin, “make me yours.”

Picking up the pace, Jamie began to piston his hips up with every thrust as he simultaneously guided Claire’s hips, slamming her down to crash into him with a desperation that only fueled her own cresting desire. 

“Ye’re mine, Claire! Mine, now and forever—” His voice morphed into a strangled cry as Claire felt the hot jets of his climax fill her. 

“Yours, Jamie, only yours—”

With a final frantic stroke of her fingers, Claire’s own peak exploded through her body. Every single nerve ending in her body was on fire, ablaze with an all-consuming inferno, and she cried out his name as pulsing bolts of ecstasy rocketed through her. She arched her back again as she dropped her hands to Jamie’s chest, her mouth agape, surrendering to its unstoppable force. 

Collapsing onto his chest, her breath heaving, both of them covered in sweat, Claire knew that she truly was his and would never belong to anyone else. Delicate kisses fluttered over her lips and cheeks and eyelids as Jamie hummed softly, his voice tender and low, lulling her as she came down from her climax. 

The rational part of her brain —the part that knew it was much too soon for such a declaration — was incapacitated at the moment, and Claire spoke from a deeper, more primal place—the place where the foolish, irrational, undeniable truth lived.

“I love you.” 

“I love you too.” 

A laugh choked out of her, and she scrubbed a hand over her face. “This is crazy. We’ve only just met. I don’t understand—” As the logical part of Claire’s brain began to assert itself again, she began to rationalize, trying to talk herself out of it, to shake off the layers of bliss that had accumulated over the past few days. She pushed herself up, her hand pressed against Jamie’s chest as she looked down at him, her hair a tangled mess around her still-flushed face. 

“I dinna understand it either,” Jamie interjected, placing his hand over hers and giving a gentle squeeze. “But I ken it’s real. This…connection that we have is so—” 


“I couldna fight it even if I wanted to.”

“I don’t want to fight it.” 

“Neither do I.” 

Claire lay down again, resting her head on Jamie’s chest as he draped his strong arm around her. Reaching down with her other hand, she pulled up the cast-off duvet and rearranged it over their spent bodies before they both slowly drifted back to sleep, wrapped in one another and dreading the dawn.


“I’ll write ye,” Jamie said, pressing a kiss to Claire’s knuckles. “I promise. This isna the end for us, Claire. It’s only the beginning.” 

It was Saturday morning, and they were standing at the station, waiting for the train with the rest of Claire’s class. Jamie would leave later that same day. The trains had finally begun making their usual runs again after several days of being shut down because of the blizzard. Part of him had fantasized that they’d never start up again, and he and Claire would blissfully live out the rest of their lives in Zermatt. 

“I know,” she replied, beaming at him. “I’ll write to you too. I have your box number at the university.” 

“As soon as I get the address for our new flat, I’ll send it to ye.” He paused, hesitant. If he was going to do this, now was his chance. He’d imagined the moment in his mind a thousand times in the past two days, but now that it was here, he felt ridiculous. Would she be okay with it? Would she think it was too much? 

“What is it?” Claire asked, her brow furrowed with concern. “I know that look.” 

Looking up at her, Jamie smiled. Of course she knew that look. With most people, he could school his features such that no one really knew what he was thinking, but Claire knew. She always knew, right from the start. He took a deep breath. 

“I have something for ye,” he said, reaching into his jacket pocket. “Something to remember this week—to remember where we met. It’s no’ verra much. I dinna have a lot of extra cash wi’ me, but…” 

“Oh, God, Jamie—” she gasped. “It’s beautiful.” 

It was a ring. A tiny silver ring stamped with a leaf design around the band and set with a small oval of amber. He could feel his hand shaking as he held it out. He’d picked it because the color reminded him of her eyes—that, and the fact that it was one he could buy with the little extra  cash he had on hand, and not have to resort to using his Da’s credit card, which was for emergencies only. 

“I promise that this is our beginning.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” she whispered. 

“Aye.” He slipped the ring onto her little finger, then brought it to his lips. 

They stood there a moment, holding each other, forehead to forehead, before Claire suddenly pulled back, her eyes wide. 

“I have something for you too. Oh my God, this is too perfect!” She squatted down to open the zippered tote bag at her feet. After a minute of digging around, she pulled out a small object, hidden in her fist. Standing up, she opened her hand. It was a polished chunk of amber, the size of a small egg, with a fossilized dragonfly inside. 

“Years ago, my uncle traveled to the Soviet Union to give a lecture. He bought this in a souvenir shop for me—he said it was for luck when I travel. I’ve carried it with me ever since, to see me safely home.” She pressed it into his palm, then closed his fingers over it. “Keep it. It will see me safely back to you.”

Later that afternoon, as Jamie sat on his train next to a dozing Ian, he pulled out Claire’s impromptu gift that perfectly matched the ring he had given her. Amber, like her eyes. It felt like a moment of synchronicity, as though the whole universe had conspired to bring them together in the tiny Swiss village. 

Turning it over in his fingers, he stared at the insect entombed inside it. Perfectly preserved, it was as though time had stopped all those millions of years ago. Its delicate wings were unchanged, the same now as the day it had been caught in the sticky sap of some primeval tree. It seemed to him as though there must be some bit of wisdom to be found here, some nugget of truth about his life, but he was too sleepy to figure it out. He put the amber back in his pocket, leaned his head against the windowpane, and promptly fell asleep. 


Late January, 1986 

Up until yesterday, Laoghaire MacKenzie had been certain that this semester would finally be the one where she landed Jamie Fraser as her own. She’d grown up in the same village as he had, and she’d spent her teenage years mooning over him shamelessly. Ever since they were thirteen—he’d got caught passing a note for her in class and hadn’t ratted her out, instead taking her punishment and having to write “I will not pass notes in class” a hundred times—she had known that they were destined for each other. 

She’d followed him to the University of Edinburgh, even going so far as to take some accounting classes with him even though she despised the subject. He’d finally taken her on a date last fall, and had even kissed her goodnight. It hadn’t gone further than that single date in spite of her best efforts, but she’d seen him a few weeks ago at the Hogmanay party his family hosted for practically the whole town, and she’d danced with him once, so things had been looking up.

Now, she wasn’t so sure. She’d seen his best friend Ian when he’d come to check his university post box, and had asked him about his ski holiday with Jamie. Apparently, Jamie had hooked up with some sassenach bitch and had a crush on her. Well, this Claire was far away… wherever…and Laoghaire was right here under his nose. 

For now, though, she had the post to sort. It wasn’t the best job at the university, but it was steady work sorting the endless stream of incoming letters and inter-university fliers and memos and putting them into each person’s box. It was also a chance to see Jamie every day. He always checked his box at one o’clock sharp, and she would make sure to greet him when he did…any minute now. She looked back at the box of the newly arrived post. 

Well, well, well…what do we have here? 

A letter for James Fraser, from one Claire Beauchamp. 

Laoghaire held the envelope, her hand trembling. She could get in trouble for this—even lose her job. She would have to be careful. Very careful. It was wrong, and she knew it, but she didn’t care. Casting a glance around at the other workers, she stepped out of sight behind a shelf, then folded the letter in half and slipped it into her back pocket. When she stepped out again, she caught a glimpse of Jamie from behind. Sure enough, he was right on time. On a whim, she walked over to the box where people could deposit outgoing letters. 

There it was, on the top of the pile. He’d obviously just slipped it through the slot. 

Addressed to Claire Beauchamp. 

She grabbed it, stuffing it up under her jumper until she could get to a more private spot to hide it better. 

Later that evening, back at her flat, Laoghaire opened both letters and read them before putting them into a shoe box and tucking the box away in her closet. Clearly, this Claire had made quite an impression on her Jamie, even if the photo she’d sent wasn’t great. No makeup to speak of, and her hair was a plain, brown mess. Just an average looking girl at best. As she stared at the photograph, a plan began to form in her mind. 

She would have to make absolutely certain that none of the letters either of them sent ever got through, even if it meant risking her job to do it. If she failed, she knew she had absolutely no chance with the only man she’d ever really loved, and that was an outcome that was simply unacceptable. 

It was difficult at first—the letters both arrived and were sent nearly every day. She picked up extra shifts when she could, and was constantly dropping by the sorting room when she couldn’t. But by March, they had slowed to a trickle, and by the end of the semester, they had ceased entirely. 

She had done it! 

Unfortunately, she hadn’t made much headway with Jamie himself. Increasingly, he’d looked exhausted and haggard when she saw him. Dark circles ringed his beautiful blue eyes, and he’d been making trips back home constantly. She wasn’t sure why. 

No matter. 

Laoghaire knew where he’d be spending his summer. It was the same place he’d spent every summer: working at the distillery. She would have to make a few strategic visits. Surely, he was over his stupid fling by now.