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did ye like it?

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Jamie had felt – had expected to feel – many different emotions on his wedding day.

But not embarrassment.

So overwhelmed by the sheer physical release of his encounter with Claire – and buoyed by their mutual laughter at his naiveté – he’d spoken without thinking. And Claire – not normally close-mouthed in any circumstance – had stared at him, wordless.

“Did ye like it?”

Silence. Confusion. And regret – so much regret.

So she’d been humoring him, then. Laughing at him. Doing her duty.

Had she really not enjoyed any of it? Not even the heady moments before, when she’d let him undress her, and like a brute he’d seized her mouth, so desperate to show her how much he truly cared for her?

Murtagh was right, then. No matter how hard he tried, how gentle and thoughtful he was, she wouldn’t enjoy any of it. Couldn’t feel the same amazing, invigorating release that still fizzed in his blood.

It was so cruel – that men, any man, could take such a release. He’d known since he’d fostered with Dougal that the release was easy enough – though Jamie could say with certainty now that it was better with a woman. But if women could not feel the same way – no wonder they’d told him last night that she wouldn’t do much, other than lay there and let him do as he wished.

But if any woman deserved to feel such euphoria – it was Claire. She had been through so much, endured so much, with such strength and grace. He would love and protect her until the end of his days – if she would have him. He wanted so badly to give her everything – his name, a home, a place. A family. And love.

And pleasure.

He watched helplessly as Claire righted her shift – putting more awkward distance between them. Somehow he was still speaking foolish words. A Dhia, he couldn’t help it. Could never help anything when it came to her. His wife. His wife.

Jamie closed his mouth, steeling himself for more rejection, not wanting her to see the pain and disappointment in his eyes.

When Claire finally spoke, his mind had to be playing tricks.

She did like it?

Truly?

Holy God.