“This bar isna bad- no’ as good as the pub down the street, but it’ll do,” Geillis’s voice was full of excitement as she eyed Claire. “I hear there’s live music tonight. Straight from the Highlands, the broodish sort. Big, fit- like a Viking. I bet he has a cock to match.”
She coughed into her glass as she gasped for air. “Fuck, Geillis!”
She wiped the beer from her chin, shaking her head as she laughed with her.
Claire had only been in town a few weeks, a recent transfer from Boston. She was still finding her footing; this was a fresh start. Geillis was friendly enough and found a certain thrill in dragging her to bars and clubs since first agreeing to a post-shift drink. Her idea of a Friday night consisted of a good book and favorite spot on the couch. But nights with Geillis were never dull, and she needed the distraction.
Geillis’s lips curled in a coy smile, like a cat looking for her next canary. “Don’t take my word for it, see for yerself, Claire.”
She turned towards the stage, her eyes finding a tall figure. He was kneeling, his hands effortlessly opening his guitar case. His shoulders were broad, his cotton shirt stretched over lines of muscle just peeking through. The spotlight lit his hair like a match, auburn curls just below his ears, resting at the base of his neck. Her eyes lingered on the trail from his nape to his waistline, a faint line of his spine just barely visible.
“Mmm, yes. I might have to fight for it,” Geillis raised her glass, one finger gesturing to the circle of young twenty-somethings crowded around the stage. She took the rest of the liquid in one motion as she winked, “But I canna wait to dig my nails into that back tonight.”
Claire laughed, turning back to the bar, one finger circling the rim of her glass as her mind wandered back to the hospital. It was a tough day; one drink wasn’t going to cut it.
The sound of buzzing from the amp pulled her from her thoughts, and she took the last of her beer, motioning for a refill. The song was slow and the notes pierced her skin with an unexpected melancholy. The voice behind her was deep and soft, with an edge to it, a Scottish lilt lingering just under the surface.
“Are ye no’ gonna enjoy the show?” Her voice was soft and teasing, “the song’s no’ bad either.”
She rolled her eyes, nodding. Was that really all she could think about?
She took a sip of her fresh beverage before rotating towards the stage, and she froze.
The musician in front of her was flawless. The line of his jaw set square, his lips formed the words with a startling intimacy that took her breath away. She felt a heat creep under her skin as dark blue eyes widened and locked onto her. The guitar reflected the lights, almost blinding her. His gaze pierced through her, a pulse of heat settled in her belly as her muscles clenched at the sensation.
An elbow to the rib shocked her back to reality as she blinked, breaking her gaze as she turned towards Geillis.
“Don’t tell me I need to fight you for him, too?”
Her cheeks blushed a deep red as she bit her lip and shook her head. Based on the table in front of him, captained by locks of long blonde hair, there was no way she was his type. What would she even say to someone like… him.
The same crowd was there, perched in their seats, waiting. He didn’t need to look to know who was front and center. Laoghaire. He let out a deep exhale- he was worried she’d be here. They had their fun- a lot of it, but he was honest with her about not wanting anything more… he always was.
But she was here anyways, all heart-eyes and drooling. He shrugged his shoulders, trying to relax the muscles in his neck as he reached into the case, grabbing his guitar. He checked each string before grabbing his cloth and taking an extra moment to shine the polished mahogany before plugging into the amp.
Another night, another set of the same songs.
His fingers found the strings, an all-too familiar pattern as he scanned the crowd, groaning slightly as his eyes circled to the table in front of him. Same girls, same looks.
The lyrics came without thought and he strummed mindlessly as his eyes scanned the bar. The spotlight created a halo of light that obscured his view but he caught a flash of red hair contrasted against a set of emerald eyes that were intent on him. Even from a distance, he could read her body language enough to know what she was thinking. He blinked slowly as he smiled to himself. Perhaps.
The thought was lost to him when his eyes caught the form next to her, a mess of dark brown curls, narrow shoulders slightly hunched forward- seemingly disinterested in everything he was doing onstage.
A modest, loose cotton white t-shift settled against her thin frame and faded jeans cupped the round of her hips. She shifted her weight from side to side, her white converse shoes flashed against the dark of the dirty bar floor as she rolled each ankle.
Had she been on her feet all day?
Everything about her was in stark contrast to the redhead. This lass wasn’t looking for attention, and it intrigued him. He didn’t look away, instead his lip curled slightly at the corner, a small smile pulled at his lip as his voice formed the next few words, finding sudden interest.
He trained his gaze on her, waiting for her to turn. When she did, he found himself staring into a deep gold of amber. There was an innocence to her face; her eyes were wide and honest.
She was the one to break their contact, and he found himself wanting.
Hm. That was different.
He watched her for another moment.
So she was with here the redhead, then.
His pick hit the strings with more vigor as he let the last note hang in the air, looking down at the set list- counting the songs until his break. Eight.
He normally paused between songs, finding some measure of enjoyment in watching the table of girls in front of him get excited and swoon. A quick wink here, a knowing smile there. He knew exactly what buttons to press and how to secure company for the night.
But not tonight.
After strumming the final chord, he set his guitar on its stand and stepped off the side of the stage, finding the most direct route to the bar. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Laoghaire advancing towards him. He had just enough time to brace himself as her arms wrapped around his neck, blonde hair flooded his vision and the faint trace of red wine lingering on her breath invaded his senses. His eyes darted towards the bar, seeing whisky amber watching him before her gaze again flickered away.
His hands reached for Laoghaire’s and he untangled himself, smiling curtly as he headed towards the bar.
The final song finished and the soft hum of Pandora filled the space as her eyes settled into the bottom of her glass.
I was right.
That table was engrossed in his every movement. Sure- they had made eye contact, but she knew she was just another face- another challenge. She shifted back to the bar, sighing deeply, frustrated at her disappointment. She would not be just another conquest, a victory to claim and quickly discarded.
A weight settled beside her; a solid, warm line of skin met hers as she felt an electric charge shoot through her arm. Her eyes darted to the point of contact and she held her breath. A muscular arm rested next to her, the rope of well-developed tricep just veiled under a thin cotton shirt. She swallowed hard as her eyes traced the line of muscle to his shoulder and neck, finding auburn curls.
Her breath shook somewhat as she slowly raised her eyes to his, peaking through eyelashes.
“Ye like the music sae far, lass?” His accent was thick, his smile burning into her as she struggled to keep her balance.
“It’s alright.” She shrugged, trying for indifference as her pulse radiated into her fingertips. She grabbed her glass and took a long sip.
He laughed, his brows creasing slightly as he looked down, nodding slightly. “Havena seen ye here before, are ye new in town?”
She laughed into her glass, trying to clear her throat as she looked at him, shaking her head. “Well that’s an original line laddie buck.”
“I dinna mean-“ he stuttered, a faint rosy hue forming on his cheeks. He looked uncomfortable, unsure of himself as he trailed off, looking at her- helpless.
“Oh I think I know what you meant,” her voice was harsher than she intended- she was acting more confident than she felt. A quick glance at the table by the stage indicated he would have no trouble stroking his ego tonight.
“What a bonny voice ye have there,” her voice purred as she slipped between them.
Geilis was nothing if not subtle, and Claire said a silent thank you as she took another deep pull of her beer, clearing her head. He was too close, her brain hitched and she needed space so she could think of something other than the curve of his lip and line of his cheekbone as he smiled. She didn’t need to think about those strong hands as he played, imagining them tracing the lines of her skin as he-
Stop it Beauchamp.
So, she had noticed the lasses.
She wasn’t wrong either. He had enjoyed himself, to be sure, mostly to fill the void- a distraction, other times in moments of weakness or boredom. But this lass, this Sassenach, she was different. Her foreignness caught him off guard.
“Will ye play more for us, then?” He could hear the menace in the redhead’s voice. He turned, seeing emerald eyes sparkling, locked on him. “Ye play sae lovely.”
Catching her accent, he smiled and nodded, “Morain Taing.”
“Aye, yer quite welcome,” she was almost purring as her gaze traveled the length of his body. His eyes shifted to the lass behind her, searching for whisky eyes but found only dark brown curls hiding her face.
“Oh, aye…” He paused, holding his gaze, willing this Sassenach to look up at him. “But I was just about to head outside for a moment to catch some fresh air.”
He saw the spark of an invitation on her face and before she could respond, his hand reached past her and softly rested on ivory skin, just below the mess of brown curls.
“Care to join me?” His voice was direct and his head cocked, eyes looking past the redhead- leaving no question as to which lass he was speaking.
He watched the golden amber darken as she blinked hard. She looked bewildered but nodded silently, placing her drink on the bar top before standing to follow him.
“Beautiful night, aye?” He leaned against the side of the building, eyeing her.
“I suppose it is.” She returned his stare, crossing her arms and shifting her weight to one leg. “So what exactly am I doing out here?”
“Tis a bit crowded in there, is all,” he voice sounded controlled, but she saw a slight twitch in his shoulders- he looked almost nervous. “Just wanted a moment of peace before I go back onstage.”
“If you wanted peace, why did you ask me to come with you?” He wasn’t making sense.
“”I meant-I…” the question puzzled him and he suddenly looked lost. His veneer of confidence looked to crack at the edges as he ran his fingers through his hair. “All I meant was… Christ.”
Her brows raised as her eyes shifted from his to see his hand. It was almost shaking, two fingers drumming to a nonexistent tune. She had no idea what he was trying to say, so she waited.
“Sassenach, I just meant to… want to-” He was coming undone as he struggled for words. He exhaled hard before shrugging his shoulders in defeat. “Yer no’ like the other lasses in there and I just wanted a bit o’ time to get to know ye.”
He thought I was different- well he was right.
She wasn’t his type- that much she knew. But she wanted to know exactly what he meant by that, so she took a step closer, asking, “How do you know I’m not like the other girls in there?”
“Because…” His eyes were a deep blue and his face contorted slightly as the words hit him. “Ye dinna linger at the stage, lookin’ for my attention.” His laugh had an edge to it as he finished, “Thought I’d have to fight to get ye’ alone out here- just to feel the calm ye bring with ye.”
She stared at him, the flash of confidence she felt only moments ago about her first impression was replaced with confusion.
He seemed to take her silence as a nod to continue. “Ye have a way of making me smile- and the smile lingers, for nae reason at all.” His accent was coming stronger with each word. “I canna explain it… it’s just, ye seem to bewitch me, and I dinna want it to stop.”
His words caught her off guard, and she stood there- seeing his eyes wide and searching for a response.
Was this really how she spoke to the other girls?
She took a deep breath, lungs searching for air that was heavy with his aroma- traces of jasmine, shampoo, and fresh linen. She stared at him as his face tensed, “My name isn’t Sassenach.”
“I’m sorry if I offended ye,” his words came fast, almost jumbled, “I mean no dis-”
A soft smile formed on her face as she held out her hand. “It’s Claire.”
He returned the smile as a look of relief washed over him. He took her hand, large fingers encompassing it as he replied, “Jamie.”
They lingered for a moment- hands clasped tight, a charge between them and he felt a rush of adrenaline coupled with a sense of calm. Her face twitched and he was sure she felt it, too. A rosy pigment painted her cheeks as she pulled her hand back- breaking the connection, but the sensation of her touch lingered on his fingertips.
“You’re right, you know.” Her voice was soft. “I am a Sassenach, I suppose. I haven’t been in Edinburgh very long- just a few weeks.”
“It was a fair guess,” his tone matched hers as he felt his muscles relax. “This city is no’ so big… after a while ye see the same faces.”
She nodded slowly, eyes wandering for a moment before refocusing. “I was in America before… Boston.”
He caught the hitch in her breath as she struggled for the last word, and he resisted asking for more.
She seemed to take the silence as a gift, and after a deep breath, she turned back towards the door. She paused, not speaking or moving, but he could see a myriad of thoughts behind that smooth whisky amber.
“Och, weel…I suppose I should get back to the stage, aye?” He was sorry to leave; he wanted to anchor himself to that spot- in this moment, with her- Claire.
A hint of a smile crept across her face as she took a small step forward. “Yes, I suppose so.”
He held the door open for her, gesturing for her to lead the way. She paused, looking down at her hands, fingers now knotted together.
“Ye alright, Claire?” He felt a warmth in his chest as he said her name, and he let it simmer as his eyes watched her.
“Y-Yes… I was just thinking it’s getting late and I should go.” He thought he caught the hint of disappointment in her voice.
She took a deep breath before looking up at him, a slight blush to her cheeks as she smiled. “Can I see your phone… just for a moment?”
His eyebrows creased in confusion, but he passed it to her without hesitation. She took it and he watched as her thumbs danced across the screen. She passed it back to him, the smile traveling across her mouth and it lit the golden hue of her eyes.
“It was nice meeting you, Jamie.” She turned without another look.
He watched her form as it disappeared around the corner and he let out a long-held breath. He looked at his phone- the screen still on “add contact.” He scrolled to “C”- finding no new entries and his smile faded. He blinked, looking back at the direction she had turned, and then back towards his phone. His thumb traveled through the alphabet to “S” and he smiled.
He took a deep breath before reaching for the door, shaking his head slightly.
We are both in trouble, lass.