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If You Stay

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New Year’s Eve

Edinburgh

 

I shouldn’t have come. I should’ve stayed home, hanging around in my lousy pajamas, watching some crappy rom com on television. I should’ve made up some excuse not to come, but Louise was persistent and my only friend in town so there was no way she would’ve let me off the hook. I didn’t even enjoy going out, the music was always too loud, the people were always too boring and the conversations were never that memorable or deep. But there I was, looking at my phone for what felt like the hundredth time, feeling as pathetic as ever, checking my email at precisely 11:27pm in the middle of the New Year’s Eve party. 

Louise invited me to the party she was throwing at this hotel and there was no way I could say no. So, I put on my best dress, a nice pair of heels and tried to apply a little bit of makeup on my face to appear somehow put together. Fact was, I definitely should’ve gone to the hair dresser in an attempt to control my untamable hair.

The music was indeed too loud, the room was dark, except for the dim lights that served as table center pieces. I didn’t know anyone, though, and was starting to feel a little like a fish out of water.

Louise and I instantly became close friends when we met in Paris the previous summer. She was in her honeymoon with a scotsman named Charles and we were on a romantic getaway. We as in, Frank and I. I missed Frank, or at least the company he provided to these types of gatherings. But Frank wasn’t here and I hadn’t even talked to him in months. I had moved from London to Edinburgh about three weeks ago and starting over was proving to be tougher than I thought it would be. But I liked my new job at the hospital and my colleagues were nothing but friendly.  If only things didn’t end up the way they did between us. Us, meaning Frank and I.

Sighing, I reached for my phone again to check on the time once more. 11:33pm and I was having a slow death. Perhaps I should leave, Louise was entertaining her other guests, and no one else would notice. Oh and my feet were killing me.

As I finally decided to go grab my coat and head to the door, I heard Louise call my name. I waved politely at her from the corner where I was standing and she made her way to me through the crowd.

“Come, there’s someone I want you to meet,” she said, grabbing me by the elbow. “I think you’ll like him.”

“Louise, I’m not looking for-“

“I know!” Louise cut me off, tossing her beautiful brown hair to the side, and rolling her eyes at me. “But I won’t allow you to spend New Year’s Eve all by yourself!”

“I’m not by myself.” I lied, having a hard time finding my pace behind her.

“You must kiss someone! It’s New Year’s Eve, for heaven’s sake. It’s bad luck if you don’t.”

“Well, luck hasn’t been exactly on my cards lately.”

“Nonsense. Besides, he’s a French business man who just moved to the city, like you, he works with Charles, is recently divorced, has a nice house in Bordeaux, where he’s from, and the most attractive-“ She either didn’t finish the sentence or I didn’t hear her over the gasp I let out when we stopped in front of the man she thought suitable for me. “Claire Beauchamp, this is-“ I barely heard his name out loud, with the shock and fear Louise might be losing her mind, thinking she could pair me with the man. Mister whatever-his-name-was took my hand and placed a kiss on top of it, giving me a wide smile. He was wearing a dark green suit with a red tie around his neck that made the scarlet tone on his cheekbones come through, and before I could turn to tell Louise another word, she had vanished into thin air.

“So, Miss Beauchamp, I hear you’re a doctor.”

“A nurse,” I corrected him. He was short enough to be buried in his suit, but tall enough to look down at me from the tip of his nose. I wasn’t sure if he looked more like a toad or a lizard, but whatever attractive feature Louise was about to point out wasn’t visible from the outside. Bless his heart, he could be the most amazing person and there I was judging him over his looks.

“My own grand-mère was nurse. A World War II Army Nurse, to be precise.”

“How fascinating!”

“Beauchamp, your surname is French, am I correct?”

“Yes, my family’s name is indeed French.”

“But I do notice a fine British accent when you speak.” I simply nodded, knowing where the conversation was heading, but I wasn’t in the mood to talk about my family or background.  “It’s not very common to find such a fine, distinguished Englishwoman like yourself here in Scotland.” He remarked, after finishing talking about his grandmother’s memories as if they would resonate with mine.

“Well, I moved recently.”

“I just moved here myself, actually. Edinburgh is such a nice little city, don’t you think? The weather not quite as nice, but one can get used to it.”

“Hmm hmm.” I nodded, not in the mood to make small talk about the weather either. I searched for my phone inside my clutch and realized that not only my phone’s battery was dying, we were also close to midnight.

“Oh… I guess the New Year is coming!” He exclaimed, glancing over my shoulder and taking a peek at my screen. “Perhaps I should find us a glass of champagne.”

“Yes, that’d be very nice.” I replied, putting the phone back on its place and panicking for a second longer. Was he expecting a midnight kiss? Oh God, please! When he turned to call for the waiter, I started to hear the people around me beginning the countdown.

10… 9… 8…7

He was on his way back with a two glasses of champagne and I anxiously looked around, trying to find an escape. Running out of excuses or diversions, I panicked, grabbed the shoulder of a tall man in front of me, making him turn around.

6…5…4…3

The tall man had the bluest eyes I had ever seen, was wearing a pair of black jeans, a white collar shirt under a brown leather jacket that complimented his beautiful auburn hair. He looked back at me in utmost confusion, tried to ask me something, but I simply held on to him by the zipper of his open leather jacket, and pulled him closer, pressing my lips against his.

2…1

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We kissed as everyone around us shouted and a million little pieces of confetti exploded over the room.

I could barely let out a decent breath. My heart was beating fast, like it would explode against my chest. It took him half a second to respond. I felt his breath on the tip of my nose, opened my eyes lids, saw him giving me a faint smile, then closed them again and our lips met once more. His tongue slipped inside my mouth, gentle, yet almost demanding. His hands were on my hips, grounding me so I wouldn’t fly away. I felt like I was starting to levitate. Suddenly, the rest of the world disappeared and my body dissolved into his soft lips. The oxygen leaving my brain, emptying me of any thoughts.

When our lips finally parted, we both took a deep breath. I licked my lips, brushing my hand slowly over them. “I’m sorry, I-“

“No worries.” He said, his hands still firm on my hips.

“I didn’t mean to-“

“Kiss me?”

“Yes. Something like that!” I gave him an embarrassed smile and ran one hand through my hair, placing a loose lock behind an ear. “I’m sorry, I’ve got a friend and she set me up with a guy, so I could kiss him at midnight, because she says it’s bad luck if you don’t, but-“

“Where is this poor guy right now?”

“Honestly,” I started, giving the room a look, yet unable to locate him. “I’ve got no idea.”

“Anyways… We don’t want to cross our luck, now, do we?” He went on, freeing my body and holding a hand for me to shake. “I’m Jamie, by the way.”

“Claire Beauchamp.” I introduced myself, giving it a polite shake.

“Happy New Year, Claire.”

“Happy New Year.”

“So…”

“Sorry, I was actually just about to leave.”

“Already?”

“Well, I-“ We stood awkwardly in the middle of the crowd who now gathered on the floor to dance the night away.

“Do ya fancy a drink, Claire?”

He was handsome, tall, and dreamy, with kind eyes and short tamed curls that framed his face perfectly. I didn’t reply, simply nodded, unsure if I’d regret my decision of not going home instead. He led me to the bar, where he asked for two glasses of champagne and we found a small table where we could sit. “So, what brings you to Edinburgh?”

“Work, a new job. I’m a nurse. I guess I’m looking forward to a… new beginning.” I gave him a faint smile, bringing the glass of champagne to my lips. I stopped before I could take another sip when my eyes fell on my hands. Just three months ago, there would be an engagement ring on my finger. Now, there should be a wedding band to go with it. I should be married by now, to Frank. I should’ve had a newlywed glow about me. We had decided to set the date around Christmas and have a small wedding, with our closest friends and family as witnesses to our commitment. When we broke the engagement, I wanted nothing but to find an escape. Scotland seemed like as good as any other place to start all over, away from the memories that still haunted me.

“To new beginnings!” He raised his glass and I did so as well. “I’m glad ye came, to Scotland, I mean… and that we got the chance to meet. Moving isn’t easy.”

“I know. I mean, I still got pretty much everything in boxes. The living room is a war zone at this point. And you should see my bedroom!”

“I should, huh?”

“Oh- I mean… my bedroom is a mess of unorganized crap. I mean… I’m not unorganized, but I haven’t found the courage to sort out my clothes. At this point, I’m living on scrubs and precisely three shirts, a pair of old jeans and I should definitely buy new underwear. And… stop talking.”

He grinned at my awkwardness and I felt my ears burn in embarrassment.

“I’ve lived in the same house since I was born and ye should see my bedroom. My mother used to scold me for leaving socks on the bed, ye know… under the sheets, right at the bottom.” Jamie said, in an effort to make me feel less mortified. “She’d find these huge lumps under the bedcover, only to find my missing socks. I canna begging to tell ye how many times I got grounded over it.”

“It is pretty nasty, if you ask me.”

“What? Leaving socks lost on the sheets?”

“Definitely! I hope I don’t find any socks in your sheets these days.”

“Hopefully ye won’t.”

I laughed. Then, took another sip of my drink, calmed myself as much as I could, praying the conversion could take another turn as my cheeks started to feel warm with the heat of embarrassment. I noticed how he kept his eyes on me, how his ears turned red as well and how he had barely touched the glass of champagne sitting on the table.

“Not a fan of champagne?”

“Oh, no… it’s just that I’m a whisky guy.”

“Whisky?”

“Don’t like it?”

“It’s not favorite drink.”

“Maybe ye just havena tried a good one, yet,” He said, leaning forward. His leg was now touching mine under the table, and I could smell the intense odor of his cologne. “I produce whisky. Really good whisky, by the way.”

“Guess I should try it, then.”

“Remind me to give ye a bottle the next time we meet.”

“So, we’ll meet again?” I asked, taking my chances, knowing I wasn’t all that bad in the game of flirting.

“I like the sound of that. Don’t ye?”

There was something about his smile that I couldn’t explain, a sort of warmth I wasn’t used to. Or perhaps it was the fact that over the past few months I became so used to seeing only the bad things in people, in myself, I didn’t care to look over the dark cloud I was wrapped in. Jamie had a different kind of lightness.

We spend some time talking about whisky, his family’s company and how he inherited it after his father passed away three years ago. He asked about my work, and I talked about the hazards of being a nurse, my meanest patients and my call to helping people and making desire to making a difference in the lives of those who were suffering. We talked about Scotland and how it always seemed to be raining, and I told him about my travels with my uncle, how I grew up as a gypsy around the world. He happily described growing up in Lallybroch, the name of the estate that had been in his family since the eighteenth century, and I learned that he had studied in the university in France, that he knew how to speak French, Italian, a little bit of Spanish and had an ear for Mandarin. I told him one of my oddest hobbies was to gather plants and study their medicinal properties. He told me he liked spending time with his horses at home, that he’d rather be in the stables than at some business meeting in New York or London. I told him I liked walking to work, rather than driving my car. He owned a motorcycle, his pride and joy.

“Oh, so you rode here?”

“I did.”

“It’s explained then.”

“What is?”

“The leather jacket to a formal event.” I teased him. “I’m sure Louise was mortified when she saw you.”

“Ye know Louise Stuart?”

“She’s a friend of mine, yes.”

“I’m a friend of Charles.”

“Lovely couple, aren’t they? I actually met them in Paris, when- never mind.” I stopped myself from speaking and grabbed my now empty glass of champagne. Glancing around the room, I saw the dancefloor was empty, the music playing was soft and the volume lower, and the guests were already leaving. Time with Jamie didn’t seem to pass, the conversation flowed easily. He was a true storyteller, fair with the details and kind enough to let me speak whenever I wanted to. I like the way he talked, with his Scottish accent getting heavier as the hours passed. I knew the evening was coming to an end, we should probably be leaving at any moment now, but I didn’t want to. I didn’t want the night to end.

“Wanna get out of here?” Jamie asked, as if he had read my mind. “

“Yes.”

“Did I tell ye I make the best toasts? ‘Cause I do! The best!”

“Oh really?”

“With loads of cheese.”

“I like cheese, but how are you supposed to prove you’re in fact the best toast maker in Edinburgh?”

He chuckled, stood up and held his hand up to pick mine. “Come on, lass. I’ll show ye!”

 

*

He called for a taxi and brought me to his home, Lallybroch. The house was nice, big but warm, inviting, walls covered with pictures telling the family’s history. I sat on a stool on the kitchen island, while Jamie went around preparing the infamous toast. He had taken off his leather jacket, and rolled his sleeves up to his elbows. The hairs on his arms were light colored, almost golden, and he had a vein on his right arm that popped whenever he made a movement.

“Brace yourself, lass! This is gonna blow yer mind.”

“Oh, I’m ready!”

He presented the plate with a bow and I tilted my head back with a giggle. “Well, thank you!”

I didn’t realize I was hungry, until I took the first bite. He wasn’t lying. That was indeed the best toast I had ever eaten in my entire life. “This… is … amazing!”

“Told ya, huh!” He clicked his tongue, and turned to a cabinet where he picked two glasses. “And now, the whisky.”

He looked with excitement as I took a sip. The moment the strong taste of the liquid touched my lips, my eyes shut and teared a little. It wasn’t that I was not used to drinking, I’ve had my fair share of tequila and vodka partying as a young university student. But this particular drink, even though rich and creamy, made my mouth feel suddenly burning.

“And?”

“It’s good. It’s really good.”

The review seemed to please him, as he gave me a huge grin before taking his own glass and joining me. I wondered for a minute if this was his game, his way of bringing random women home, charming his away to a lot more than eating toasts and trying on whisky. He seemed genuine, though. I couldn’t tell why or how, but I trusted him. It was like we had met before, in a past lifetime. I felt at ease, even though he was a perfect stranger. I wasn’t the type of girl who’d walk home with a man for a one night stand. Yet, here I was. Almost 4 am and I wanted nothing more but to stay.

“Well, it’s quite late,” I said, moving on my seat and standing up.

“Depends on the perspective, really. 4 am sounds pretty early to me.”

“I should probably go, though. I don’t want to bother you and tomorrow-“

“Do you have to go to work tomorrow?” He asked, taking another sip of his drink, glimpsing at me over his glass.

“Actually, I don’t.” I knew where he was getting, he wanted me to stay as much as I didn’t want to leave. I had the next two days off, and to be fair, the thought of going back to my cold, empty apartment wasn’t as inviting as the thought of spending the night with this handsome man.  

He gave me a tender look, and took a deep breath. “So?”

“It’s late. If I stay…”

“If you stay, what?”

I inhaled deeply, looked around the room and lowered my eyes. “If I stay, we…We should probably go to bed.”

Jamie put the glass down with an intense stare, cleared his throat and asked, “To bed or to sleep?”

I took a second or two to respond, words escaped me and my heart raced. “Well…”

I had been dying to feel his lips on mine, and now, watching as he looked at me from across the kitchen island, I could feel my body’s energy rise. His piercing blue eyes looked like a moonlight pool as he kept undressing me with one single stare. I licked my upper lip, almost as an invitation for him to come closer. Jamie, taking the clue, smiled and approached me in silence. I wished I had the strength to stop, to go home, to avoid the mistake of letting his lips fall on mine again, for if they did, I wouldn’t be able to walk away from the handsome man standing in front of me. But perhaps, just maybe, this wasn’t going to be a mistake, but the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

I turned to face him when he stopped behind me and he waited, before placing one set of fingers on the fabric of my dress, I could feel it glued to my skin, burning. Jamie’s hand then went around my back, tracing my spine, so lightly I could barely feel it. I turned around and leaned over, watching him lick his lips before moving his head closer to mine. I closed my eyes and let go, allowing myself to feel the bittersweet taste of whisky on his breath. My heart skipped a bit when our lips touched at last and I had to hold on to the hem of his shirt to prevent from falling apart right then and there.

“Claire-” he breathed upon me, begging me to take him without further question. I nodded, complying, without daring to open my eyes. I kissed him deeply, letting my tongue crash into his. His unfamiliar flavor suddenly becoming all I’ve ever dreamed to taste. Intoxicated by him, I let my hand wonder about his shirt, unbuttoning it as quickly as I could and when the last button finally came undone, he dropped the white shirt on the kitchen floor. I held my hands on the sides of his torso and stared at him, mesmerized, finding myself to be blushing a little, imagining he could only be described as a godlike figure.

Then, I felt his hands on my tights and with a swift move he pulled me up and the next second I was sitting on the island countertop. I opened my legs and his hand gently reached out under my dress, grabbing the hem of my panties. I moaned a soft don’t and he looked at me, surprised, unsure if he should carry on.

“Don’t stop”, I moaned again, louder this time. He smirked and looked at my bright blushed face with a sense of pride. Using both hands now he pulled my black laced panties down. I gasped for air and held him closer, intertwining my fingers on his hair. His mouth found mine once more. With a deep kiss, he reached under again, touching my wet center with two fingers, making me shiver. “Jamie-“ I started, my mind emptied of everything but him. Small waves of pleasure already coming through. “-now!” I want you now, was what I meant to say, but the words came out with a guttural sound and he didn’t think twice before carrying me in between kisses out of the kitchen and down the hall.

I don’t know if it took a minute or a second but soon enough he laid me on the bed. I looked up and saw him staring at me like no one had had before. His eyes full of passionate desire, burning through me. Reaching for his black jeans, I helped him pull them down. When he bent to kiss me, I somehow managed to turn us around. Cradling him against the mattress, I moved my attention to his neck, then to his collarbones, switching between leaving a path of kisses behind and a few bites along the way that made him toss and turn his head in pleasure. His hands traveled to my legs, all the way up to my waist, lifting my dress in the process, exposing me. In between my wet tights, I could feel his bulge growing harder, strapped in his dark blue boxers.

The only light brightening the room was coming through the window, the full moon was shining high on the dark night sky outside. As he took a couple of minutes to look at me, I felt rather shy. The wild curls of my hair were framing my face and falling down my shoulders. The skin on my chest was perky from the chilly night air and my nipples hard as rocks. He sit up, taking my full breasts into his mouth, one at a time, and I grabbed him by the neck, allowing his tongue to explore as it liked. Unconsciously, I started to rock against him and he groaned, daring me to free him from the piece of fabric that was between us. I never wanted anyone like this before.

Our lips touched again when he moved our bodies, pinning me against the mattress. His underwear was on the floor now, lost along my dress. I reached, ignoring the hairs on top of his pubic bone and grabbed his length, feeling him hard on my hand. Jamie let his head fall on the crook of my neck and I felt his heavy breath upon me. I stroke him a few times, but when it proved to be enough, he shook his head, broke free from my grip and started dropping long kisses on my stomach, making my blood boil. I would have let him touch me anywhere, as long as his fingertips didn’t melt my skin along the way. I was sure I would dissolve into nothing if he kept going. So, I held his chin up, tucked my under lip in between my teeth and without a single word, he understood that I was ready to have him.

He grabbed my left leg and I prayed his name out loud, digging my nails onto his back when he entered me. I focused on the way he moved, on the way he sounded inside of me, on the rhythm our bodies found together. His stare was fixed on mine with each thrust and I couldn’t help but to cry out, begging for more again, and again. My moans, acting like a fuel as he went harder, faster, deeper. I was unsure if I was finding my way to heaven or a path down to hell. My soul was leaving my body, the flames of my own desire taking me places I never thought I could ever be.

He growled softly under his breath, knowing I was close when I tightened my grip around him. I wasn’t even moaning at that point, simply grasping on to the bed cover for dear life, breathing heavily. My mind was blank, floating in pure bliss. He thrusted deep again, and the loud moan I let out made my throat hurt, as my mouth suddenly became too dry.

“Claire… Claire.” He mumbled my name almost as a warning, but I knew he was close as well. In that moment, I felt my walls come undone, a wave of pleasure hitting my like a wave hits the shore in the middle of a storm, raw and frantic. His thrusts were now increasing in speed, deeper, somehow sloppier with the need of breaking loose.

I closed my eyes at the feeling of being filled with a steam of hot liquid when he hit his own orgasm, panting, holding him close with my legs wrapped around his waist. He was still cumming inside of me when his arms crumbled and he let the weight of his body crash into mine. We held each other for a moment, half dozed, in a state of pure ecstasy. His body, glorifying mine in a way I could only describe as the moment two souls finally come together.

Before he slid out of me, Jamie leaned over and placed a soft kiss in between my brows, then another on my lips. I could feel the wetness drip down my tights when he placed himself next to me on the bed, heavily breathing, with sweat running down his chest. I looked at the ceiling, trying to catch my own breath. My body, a mix of fluids and sweat, was now starting to shake, both with excitement and cold.  

“Ye’re shivering”, Jamie said, with worried expression on his face, jumping quickly to pull the cover and open the bed for me.

I buried my nose on the pillow underneath my head, a web of dark curls spread all over it. Jamie smiled, turned to the side to look at me. Then, running a finger along my hair, he took a lock and placed it behind my ear. I smiled back at him, noticing the fresh scent of clean recently changed sheets, still lingering with the delicate perfume of fabric softener on them. We stood in silence, with the sound of our beating hearts as the soundtrack.

My mind kept drifting away, making me think about the fact that I had never done anything like this before, coming home with a stranger, having unprotected sex with them, laying on his bed and wishing for nothing more than to do it again. I thought about Frank, and the engagement ring that was supposed to be on my finger. What would he say to this? He probably had a lot to say, but no morals to do so, considering…

“Claire-“ My thoughts were cut off by the sound of Jamie’s husky voice. He had a raised brow and a serious expression on his face. “For a woman as skinny as ye, ye sure have the roundest arse”, Jamie said lifting one hand under the sheets and placing it over my bare bottom, giving it a quick nip. I had in fact lost weight in between finding a new job, moving to another city and running away from my fiancé, but by God, my ass still looked good.

“I suppose you’re telling me that’s my only good feature.”

“Not a chance.” Jamie went on, pulling me in. I instinctively tangled my legs with his, closing the small space between us. “All yer features are good. Ye’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met.”

I giggled like a teenage girl with a crush, felt my cheeks blush and had to lower my eyes to escape from his prevailing stare. Then, I grabbed his wrist, took his hand to my mouth and planted one kiss on his palm.

“Will ye stay?” Jamie asked, but I noticed in his tone that the words didn’t come out quite as a question, more like a request. I would’ve stayed, regardless.

I placed one last kiss on the crook of his neck, then closed my eyes and whispered in his ear. “As long as you want me to.” With that, he held his grip tighter around me, and I found a warm spot to rest my head on his chest, right above his heart. The night was already turning into dawn, the New Year’s Eve morphing into a new day.

Then, suddenly, I heard a warm voice vibrate through him. “Who are ye, Claire Beauchamp?”

“I could ask you the same question,” I shyly said, running one finger across his stomach. “I don’t even know your last name.”

He chuckled and raised his head just enough to place his right arm under it. “Fraser. James Fraser.”

He was no less a stranger than he was a few seconds ago, but knowing his last name gave me a sense of reassurance that even though I didn’t know him at all, I might as well had known him all of my life.

 

 

Chapter Text

I awoke to soft sheets, and the sound of rain batting the windows. For a second, everything in my mind was blurry. Where was I? Whose bed was this? Whose bedroom? Then, my brain started processing, memories flooding back as I recalled last night’s events. I was naked, and alone, in Jamie’s bed, in Jamie’s bedroom, at Jamie’s house. Wearing nothing on my body, except for the saliva that still lingered on me from his kisses, I could see everything now.

My eyes were still shut, as I soaked in the warmth of the covers, taking my time to prepare, to pour my thoughts back in order. I lazily turned around and ran a hand through Jamie’s side of the bed. It was still harm.

I opened my weary eyes, rubbing them with the insides of my palms.  Adjusting to the dim light entering the room through the window, I sat up with my back against the bed headboard, pulled the covers up to my neck, and looked around the room. The new day’s light gave a new perspective on the space. It was simply decorated, in shades of grey and blue, yet comfortable enough to make me not want to leave. I noticed two books on the nightstand, one biography, the other a thriller, and a framed picture of him with a brunette girl with an arm around his shoulders, both looking cheerful, and Jamie was definitely younger.

I pushed the covers, and wrapped myself in a blanket that rested on the edge of the bed. The hardwood floors made a creaking sound as I walked to the adjacent bathroom. My bladder was about to explode and my mouth tasted like a mix of old champagne and burned toasts.

The bathroom was quite organized and clean. It felt wrong to invade his space like this, but I couldn’t help but to run a hand down the bathroom counter top, and notice the kind of brand he used for toothpaste, or grab his after shave just to smell it’s strong scent, or to take a peek inside the shower, and notice how well aligned he kept his shampoo and shower gel.

After I washed my face and tried to untangle my hair with my fingertips, I looked at the reflection in the mirror. My face had seem better days, and I had a little piece of mascara left that water didn’t seem able to remove.

I left the bedroom still wrapped in nothing but the blanket, and barefoot, I made my way downstairs. The house was quiet, there was no sign of Jamie. I noticed that the fireplace at the center of the living room was already lit, and the smell of fresh made coffee came from the kitchen.

I poured myself a mug and took a long sip. The liquid burned my tongue, but warmed my entire body as well. God knew how much I needed that coffee. Looking through the kitchen window, I saw Jamie’s shadow in the distance. So, I put the mug down on the kitchen counter top, held on to the blanket around me, and opened the kitchen backdoor. It was a grey, slow morning. Even though it had stopped raining, the clouds in the late morning sky were forming growing patches of a dark color, suggesting that there was more rain still to come.

I waited for him by the door, the wind swiping the hem of the blanket I was wrapped in, making the skin on legs crawl. I took a deep breath in, letting the clear air open my lungs. Jamie was coming back to the house, wearing a pair of washed up jeans, a plaid shirt and a pair of brown boots. His auburn hair contrasting to the dark clouds above.

“Good morning,” Jamie said, walking towards me with his hands on his pockets. “Ye’re gonna freeze yer arse off.”

I laughed and looked down at my figure. I was freezing indeed, but the only piece of clothing that I had, my dress, was still forgotten on the floor of Jamie’s bedroom. “I can’t find my underwear.”

He grinned at me and took his right hand off his pocket, holding my black panties. “Found this in the kitchen this morning. Thought you might need them.”

“Probably won’t.” I teased him, biting my lip. He looked at me and gulped, tucking the panties on his pocket once more. “I do need a shower, and food!”

“That makes the two of us. I gave the staff the day, was just tending the horses. I’m starving, though.”

“Priorities, huh? First, the animals. Then, the man.”

“A good soldier knows how to take good care of his horses,” he went on, taking two steps closer. I could smell the hay on his clothes and the mud on his boots. “Did ye sleep well?”

“I did!” But the bed felt empty without you this morning, I thought.

“Why don’t you go ahead, take a shower. I’ll find you when I’m finished,” Jamie said, moving his head back to the path that led to the stables. “The towels are in the cabinet under the sink.”

“Okay, thank you.” I nodded, and turned on my heels to head back inside, but as I did, felt his hand grab my waist, spun me round so that I was facing him. He lowered his face and kiss my lips tenderly, and I found myself on the tips of my toes, kissing him back.

“Hmm-You taste like coffee!” Jamie remarked when we broke free for air, and I smiled against his lips and kissed him again with urgency.

“Hurry up, soldier!” I told him, with a teasing grin.

*

I stripped down the blanket and stepped slowly into the shower. The water dripped down my hair in soft waves, making my body relax and my mind wonder. I reached for the shampoo, and took my time washing my dark curls. The fresh scents were starting to fill the room. I closed my eyes, appreciating the way the water touched my body. After a few minutes, there was soft knock on the door. I opened my eyes, grabbed the shower curtain and took a peek. Jamie was at the door, only his head popping up.

“Sorry, I’ve got ye something to wear.”

I watched as he carefully placed a crimson sweatshirt near the sink, and a pair of cleaned boxers. “Jamie-“ I called, holding a hand in the air. “Come.”

He was startled for a second or two, then smiled, and removed his clothes. The shower could barely fit the two us, our bodies cramped the space. I leaned against the wet, cool tiles, allowing him to get under the water.

I placed both hands on his chest, and he closed his eyes, allowing me to explore his naked body with my long fingers. The water kept pouring down on us, the sensation of having him so close making me mad with lust. So, I closed the space between our bodies, pressed myself against Jamie, and held my arms around his neck.

The water was cascading down my hair, drops touching my breasts. Jamie pulled me in, a slight warm breeze tickled my nipples, making them hard. I could feel his eyes on my body, desire written all over his face. He was a sight to behold, too. Tall and lean, his frame bigger than mine, the perfect fit, actually. I moved my hands to his shoulders, down his arms, to his back as touched his perfectly round ass. My eyes travel with my hands, and I caught sight of his long, thick cock. His face was serious, stuck on my breasts. I could tell he desperately wanted to put my nipples on his mouth, suck them hard.

I leaned closer, the hot shower water making everything feel like an illusion, a dream I was too afraid to wake up from. His hands slowly move from my hips, as he slightly parts my legs and slid a hand in between my thighs. I gasped for air, and licked my mouth instinctively. He had barely touched me, but I was already feeling a wave of pleasure run down my spine. Then, he used two fingers to trace the outside of my walls, lightly. I let out a moan as his fingers worked on me, exploring my most sensitive areas.

Even though it felt good, and I didn’t want him to stop, I was also on the edge of collapsing. He noticed how close I was, and pressed his lips against mine, his tongue sucking me in. A moan escaped from my throat, and I bit his upper lip in pleasure.

“Jamie-“ Exasperation patent in my tone. I could feel him hard against my thigh.

“What?”

I opened my eyes and saw his deep blue eyes work as a mirror, reflecting mine with the same lust and desire.

“What are we doing? What’s happening to us?” Could I be falling in love with this beautiful stranger? Could I let him have my heart? Could I be more scared that he would break it, too? I didn’t know about him, but I had never found myself in this type of situation before. I was a rather rational woman, but with Jamie… Jamie…

He cleared his throat, dig his fingers onto my skin and whispered. “I don’t know. It’s unusual, isn’t it? What we have, when I touch you, when you lie with me.”

“I think so. It’s unusual.”

Slowly, I raised a hand to cup his cheek. Then, I leaned in to kiss him gently. His hands, slippery grabbing hold of my slick body, pulled me close to deepen the kiss.

Nothing else happened in that shower. The intimacy of being this close was enough.

 

*

He fed me scrambled eggs with toasts, and orange juice. By the time we finished having brunch, it was starting to rain outside again. So dressed in his sweatshirt and underwear, I found myself curled up in the living room couch, the fire place keeping us warm.

I didn’t have a family house growing up. My uncle did the best he could, but the places where we lived where never home to me. Lallybroch had a different feel. It was inviting, warm, peaceful.

“Oh!” I started, making Jamie jump on his seat. “What about your bike? You left it in the city last night!”

“I thought about it. I’ll pick it tomorrow,” He replied, getting up and walking toward the fire place.

“I have to go back to my apartment, too… eventually.”

“Don’t worry. It’s not like you’re taking much space here.”

“Are you sure it’s okay for me to walk around in your underwear?”

“Nah- We’ve got the house to ourselves. My sister doesn’t live here anymore,” Jamie went on, putting another log of wood on the fire. “She used to live here, but got married last year, and moved to Saint Andrews with her husband. She’s a kindergarten teacher.”

“Is your sister the girl in the picture upstairs? By the nightstand?” I asked. Jamie nodded, stood up again, and walked back to the couch to sit next to me.

“We used to be very close. Still are, but things are different when you get married.”

Married. I didn’t know why the word struck me like that, why it made me feel suddenly sad. I reached for my left hand, with a heavy heart.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

Jamie touched my leg and looked at me with concern. I knew I wasn’t the best at hiding my thoughts, and he could read me well enough. “What happened?”

“I was engaged. To Frank.” The sound of his name was sour in my mouth. I wasn’t sure if Jamie wanted me tell the story, or if I wanted to tell it. I did it anyways, “We were living in London, he was a teacher, a history teacher. We had been together for four years when he proposed.” Jamie didn’t move his hand, and it encourage me to continue. “He was offered a position in Oxford, so… I encouraged him to go, take the job. I thought we could work things out, we could manage it.”

“Oxford is not that far from London.”

“That’s what I thought,” I said, keeping my eyes on my hand. “I was happy, or I thought I was. I had never dreamed of having a big wedding, or try on a million different wedding gowns, planning and stuff…” The words faded in the air, memories still too painful to ignore. “But we set the date around Christmas. He’d have a few days off work then, but-“

“But?”

“I found out he was cheating on me, five days after we booked the venue.”

“Oh.”

“I had been suspicious, he never wanted to come back home during the weekends, made excuses about work. Turns out he was cheating on me with a work colleague. I caught them together, one night. I was so shocked, I couldn’t even make a scene. I simply stormed off.”

“I’m sorry.”

I shook my head. Why should he be sorry? It was my fault. I shouldn’t have made my way to Oxford without him knowing. I shouldn’t have taken the stairs to his apartment unannounced. I shouldn’t have opened the door with the key I took from him the first day he moved in. I shouldn’t have ignored the pieces of clothing on the floor as I made my way to the bedroom, or the muffled sounds of someone giggling in the back. I shouldn’t have opened the door. That night, I shouldn’t have found him in bed with another woman. 

“Her name is Sandy,” I said, with a dry tone. Frank was the only family I had. He was everything I had left, and I tried really hard to hate him. Yet, I couldn’t. “It wasn’t her fault, not entirely. We had been arguing more and more every day over the phone, or whenever he came around, about everything and anything. He was older than me, you know, we tried to have a baby before, it put stress in our relationship when we couldn’t… well, when I couldn’t…”

“It’s not your fault.”

“I know. But… I guess he was disappointed,” I said, with a condescending tone. Frank has been disappointed, because he wanted to start a family. The idea of having a child was a crazy plan. I had just started working as a nurse at the hospital, my career was just beginning to take form. And no matter how hard we tried, things just weren’t working out, so we gave up. Thank goodness for that at least. “And I can see why he did what he did… she’s gorgeous, and young, and smart, and polite, and has the most beautiful blonde hair-“

Jamie stopped me, sit closer and touched my locks. “I like your hair like this. My brown-haired lass.”

“Rather a dull color, brown.” I tried to dismiss his comment.

“No, it’s beautiful. You’re beautiful, with your curls around your face.”

My insecurities came through in that moment, and I felt my eyes begin to water.

As a single tear began to fall down my rosy cheek, Jamie caught it with his thumb, and quieted my fears with the touch of his hand. “Don’t cry, Claire. I’m here.” Then, he held me in his arms, and I felt safe. Sometimes, in my worst nightmares, I felt like damaged good, forever without repair. Yet, with Jamie holding me like, I felt like no one could ever hurt me again. In his arms, I felt brand new.

Slowly, I untangled myself from him, raised my arms over my head. He ran his hands to the hem of the sweatshirt I was wearing, and pulled it over my ears. I did the same to him, leaving his own t-shirt fall on the ground. He leaned to kiss me before another word was muttered. The kiss was full of tenderness. When we broke away, he gazed at me, whispered my name and grabbed the back of my head, pulling my hair. I pushed myself toward him, and wrapped my arms around his neck. His hands stroke my naked back, his kiss eager to know my taste. I moaned into his mouth when I felt his hands on my chest, one thumb tracing my hard nipple. I climbed into his lap, ran my own hands up his torso, feeling the short hairs on his chest against my palms. Then, his lips were on my neck, his teeth biting my skin. The sensation of butterflies on my stomach began to rise.

His hands then moved to my bottom, grabbing my ass, tighter and harder, and his hot saliva burned my skin. I tangled my fingers on his auburn hair, as his plump lips made their way down. He took my breast into his mouth, licking my nipple, playing with his tongue. I wanted to scream when I heard a little gasp escape from Jamie’s mouth. His bulge was growing stronger inside his sweatpants, I could feel it in between my thighs.

I grabbed his hair and pulled it back. His lips were red and swollen, and I wished for nothing more but to bite them. So, I kissed him again, letting my tongue find his. With a movement, he pushed me into the carpet, and we fell on the floor. His body covering mine, my legs wrapped around his waist. Jamie ran his tongue along my chin, all the way down to my neck. I felt the texture of his pants, and pushed them, eager to free him. I wanted more of him, so much more.

Then, Jamie took hold of my hips, grabbing me with both hands. He slipped away the pair of boxers I was wearing, and lowered his head. Jamie’s tongue slid down my inner thigh, his wet mouth making me want to scream in pleasurable agony.

Launching at him, I kissed Jamie hard and straddled him against the carpet. Hovering above him, I broke the kiss, unable to deny him of any pleasure. With my left hand, I gently held his cock and lowered myself onto him. His eyes rolled to the back of his head when he entered me, and I tilted my head back, my hair falling down my shoulders.

I settled the palms of my hands on his chest, and he placed his on my waist. Then, I raised my hips up and down, slowly, feeling my walls accommodate the fullness of his length. He moaned, and I gulped. My breath started to grow heavier, as my hips moved up, down, up, and down, in a never ending cycle. Jamie moved his head, his eyes fixed on the space in between my thighs. He enjoyed watching as his cock disappeared inside of me.

“Jamie-“ I wanted to scream, let the walls of Lallybroch be the witnesses of this moment. I felt my own walls contract around him, causing him to moan with me.

Jamie’s hands were now on my breasts, squeezing them. Without taking a spare second to look, he grabbed my erect nipple, and I looked down, just to watch him close his eyes in pure delight. He was enjoying the ride I was giving him.

He let go of my nipples, and placed his hands back on my hips, moving them up and down onto him. My fingernails scratched his chest, leaving red marks on it. I clung onto Jamie tighter, as he pushed me down, harder, faster, more desperate than ever.

A drop of sweat fell down my neck, and I couldn’t help but to arch my back when the ecstasy of the ride began to increase. Shivers passed through my entire body when I began to feel a wave of unexplainable pleasure invade every fiber of my being. Jamie finally caved in, too, with his eyes firmly shut. The pushing was urgent, the feeling building up with every thrust. My eyes started to water, my breath out of order, and I lost myself in him. I moaned, loud and deep when our bodies tensed up, as the burning sensations hit us at once.

Jamie then placed his weight under one elbow, opening his eyes. He held my chin up, looked deeply into my eyes, and kissed me. Our mouths found each other again, anxiously. I loved the way his body molded into mine, and in that moment, we became one.

“Claire-“ He whispered, and I cupped his face with a free hand. “You’re making me lose my mind.”

His confession made my heart jump, the feeling was mutual. I kissed his cheek, and we rested tangled up in each other’s arms for a moment longer, before Jamie grabbed the blanket resting on the couch, and we laid on the living room floor, on the carpet, with a couple of cushions under our heads.

I felt his body relax at my touch. He had closed his eyes, as I traced his jaw line with my index finger. Together, lying on the floor like this, with the fire crackling next to us, I felt like I could walk on clouds. If this was a dream, I didn’t want to wake up.

“I like the Christmas tree”, I said, moving my eyes across the room, noticing said tree by a window. It was huge, beautifully decorated with golden ornaments and lights.

“Laoghaire insisted I should have a Christmas tree,” He replied, not bothering to look up. “I don’t care for it, to be honest.”

“Laoghaire?”

“The girl that helps with the house, you know, cleaning, cooking… doing the laundry.”

“Oh, okay.” I felt a hint of jealously hit me. I didn’t know who this girl was, or even why the mention of her name made me feel like I had just been punched in the stomach. Perhaps, it was nothing, but my insecurities dragging me back, the feeling of not being good enough haunted me like a dark cloud. My face must’ve displayed just how lost I was in my thoughts, because Jamie touched my cheek and smiled.

“Don’t worry. She just works for me.”

“It’s none of my business.”

“Is it not?”

I smiled, embarrassed, and tried to change the subject. “You’re not a fan of Christmas?”

“Not anymore.” Jamie took a deep breath. “My sister Jenny used to do all the decorations around the house. She loved Christmas. My mother would hang our stockings on the fire place, the house lit up with music and food, our family would come on Christmas day… it was a party, but then- everything changed.” He stopped, moved his eyes up to the ceiling, and I could see his brain process memories he had tucked away somewhere. “My parents died three years ago, on Christmas eve. It was my fault.”

My heart sank, and I opened up my mouth to say something, anything, but no words came out.

“It was a stupid accident. I was driving. My father was on the passenger seat, next to me. My mother on the seat behind him. We were picking out Jenny’s present. It was a… gold chain, with a little heart pendent. She’d been crazy about that necklace ever since she saw it on display. I insisted we should surprise her, but of course I forgot to pick it up. So, we hurried to the store before it closed,” he went on, placing one arm under his head, one hand on his stomach. “It was snowing. Jenny always prayed for snow on Christmas. It snowed every year, she said God listened to her prays, because they were pure.” He smiled at the thought, but his expression quickly changed back. “It was drizzling when we left, but the roads were full of snow... I guess I couldn’t take hold of the car, I… don’t remember it. All I know is I couldn’t keep the car on our side of the road, another car hit us, then we hit tree, the car turned over. They said my father died right there. My mother… on the way to the hospital. And I - I got out of the car, with a scratch on my face and this cut on my leg.” He stopped, his voice cracking with the weight of his emotion. Then, he removed the blanket and displayed the massive scar on his leg. I ran a hand over it, lightly, too afraid I might hurt him with my touch. “Christmas was never the same,” He shook his head, moving his stare back to me. “Jenny used to pray every year for snow. It hasn’t snowed ever since. I guess she stopped praying.”

“Jamie…” I sit up, kissed his temple and held him like a child in my arms, with his head tucked in between my breasts. I couldn’t possibly take his pain away, but I could share it, understand it, and protect him from it. Not forever, but for now.

 

Chapter Text

“I look ridiculous!”

“You don’t. It’s for your own safety.”

“I’ve been on a horse before, you know?” I did look ridiculous, wearing a pair of Jamie’s sweatpants, a borrowed brown jacket and a pair of Jenny’s old boots he luckily found forgotten in her former room. The day was cold, but it wasn’t raining, and so I had insisted on him taking me to meet the horses. Truth was I wasn’t much of a rider. My uncle Lamb had taken me horse riding when I was younger, but I hadn’t even been around a horse in years.

On a horse, doesn’t quite count as riding one.” Jamie joked, adjusting the black horse riding hat to my head, before placing a sweet soft kiss on the bridge of my nose. “Plus, you look as beautiful as the night we met.”

“You wouldn’t have bring me home if I looked like this the night we met.”

“Well, for your information,” He started. “I was more interested in what was under your clothes, than what you were actually wearing.”

I rolled my eyes and playfully stick out my tongue to him.

“Ready?”

I followed him outside of the stables, where Jamie’s horse was already waiting for us.

“This is Donas,” He said, gently patting a tall black horse. “I’ve had him for a couple of years now. Stubborn as a mule, but he’s very, very intelligent. Nothing really scares him. Took us a while to domesticate him, as much as we could.”

The horse did have something about him that screamed grandiosity, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t even a little bit intimidated. “Are we taking him?”

Jamie noticed my insecurity, stopped stroking Donas’ ear and took my hand. “Don’t worry. If he tosses us over, I’ll make sure you fall on me.”

We rode together on Donas’ back, with Jamie safely behind me, whispering in my ear stories about his childhood, and when I passed through my initial fears, I let got and was able to enjoy and appreciate Lallybroch’s beauty. The estate was alive with the morning mist and the sound of animals in the distance.

We stopped on the top of a hill, dismounted and sat on a rock big enough for two. Jamie pointed out to the house, and told me about his ancestors, the Fraser Clan, how proud he was of this place, how his father rebuild it after years of neglect. He told me about how he used to run after the sheep, go hutting with his father, and how he taught him fishing was truly the art of patience. I could hear Jamie talk about his life for hours and never get tired of his voice, the emotion it in every time he talked about his family.

“I’m sorry,” I said, finding his hand and taking it into my lap. “About your parents.”

“People say time helps, and they’re right, but… I miss them. Every day. Of course I’m not going to forget about them. It’s just-” He paused, looked down and I could see how he struggled to keep a single tear from escaping his eye. “Sometimes I think I’m going to forget the way my father’s voice sound, or my mother’s laugher, or the way she used to sing when she cooked, or the sound of my father’s boots when he walked in the front door. And that’s… the worst feeling.”

I thought about my own parents, and how I didn’t remember them, how I didn’t even get the chance to forget any of those things about my parents that made them unique. They had passed away when I was still a child, so my memories were only fragments of what I suspected were nothing but images I saw in my dreams. I could relate to Jamie’s pain, but I couldn’t understand, not completely. How could I miss something I felt I truly never had? In that moment, my heart broke into pieces, for Jamie and myself.

My uncle Lamb had always told me that everything happens for a reason. The thought alone made me feel guilty of my own selfishness, but if Jamie hadn’t been forced to take over his father’s company, he wouldn’t be making business with Jared Fraser, his uncle living in Paris, a man in the spirits business, and therefore he wouldn’t have met Charles Stuart, my friend Louise’s husband. If he hadn’t met Charles Stuart, he wouldn’t have been invited to the New Year’s Eve party where we met, and I wouldn’t be sitting here, holding his hand. So, if fate had anything to do with this, and my uncle Lamb was right, then we both had our fair share of personal tragedies so that we could meet, and that thought alone made everything somehow feel better.

I never saw myself as a victim of fate, my destiny wasn’t ruled by the tragedy that came upon my family when I was a child. I never blamed God, or anything resembling to a God, for what happened to my parents. I simply didn’t know a life that was any different, considering I had lived longer without them than with them. I never spent too much time thinking about it, either. But now, sitting here with Jamie, and hearing the sorrow in his tone, I wished for nothing more but to have exactly that… a home, a family.

“Do you is possible? To have it all back?”

I looked up, his fingers where intertwined with mine. “Have what back?”

“Peace. Happiness.”

“Do you still feel guilty about-“ I didn’t finish my question. Of course he still blamed himself for driving the car that was involved in the accident that ultimately killed both of his parents. “I think you will.”

“You know, I could’ve given up, I could’ve sold the Company, and Lallybroch with it. But I couldn’t, not really.” Jamie shook his head with a slow movement. “I had to make sense of it all. I guess that’s why I came back to Lallybroch, to find answers, perhaps find some peace. To try and make my parents proud.”

“You’re doing your best. I’m sure they’d be proud of you.”

“I put on a smile and carried on. I guess that’s all I could do, carry on. Everything changed, nothing will ever be the same. And who’s to blame?” Jamie shrugged. “If I thought about it too long, I would’ve gone insane. So, what’s the point, really? If it wasn’t for Jenny, and Ian…”

He didn’t finish, but I knew what he was about to say. The pain, the guilt would’ve been too much if it wasn’t for the only close family he had left. I knew his scars went beyond what I could see, I just didn’t know how deep. I could his heart was still in pain, and the way he poured his soul out, made me believe he trusted me enough to say all the things he had held on too for this long out loud.  

“I’m here. Jamie, I’ll be here. Whenever you need me, I’ll be here.” I squeezed his hand in reassurance.

“I wasn’t going to tell you this, but-" Jamie let out a deep breath, and I could see his ears turning red. “I wasn’t sure it was possible to feel like this again, happy, in my own home. Claire, you-“ He paused again, blushing like a little kid. “-you brought happiness back to Lallybroch, back to my life.”

I wish I had the courage to say it back, but my voice seemed to have left me. Instead, I kissed him like I had never kissed anyone before.

*

“Will you wait here until I come back?” After lunch, Jamie received a call. Nothing too important, he told me. Just something he had to take care of, back at the distillery.

“You do realize I eventually have to go back to work too, right?” I teased him. The real outside world seemed like a foreign place, and my previous life, one when I didn’t know Jamie, seemed frozen in time.

“I know. I just want you for myself for one more night. Stay, one more night.” He leaned in to kiss me, and I held my arms around his neck.

I watched him leave, wondering how the hell was I going to eventually be able to go back to my apartment, cold and lonely.

I didn’t know if Jamie was going to be away for only a couple of minutes or a few hours. I hadn’t touched my phone in the past couple of days, but didn’t feel the need up until now. So, turning on my heels, I found my way to the kitchen. My clutch was long forgotten on the countertop, and in it I found my phone dead.

I walked upstairs barefoot, after remembering Jamie’s charger on the floor of his bedroom, next to the bed.

I stopped by the bedroom door, taking a peek inside and noticing a young girl, with long blonde locks cascading down her back. She was standing on Jamie’s side of the bed, looking at the picture his picture with Jenny. I watched quietly as she pressed two fingers on Jamie’s image, pretending it was him instead, before kissing it. Then, she took hold of the white pajama t-shirt he wore to bed the night before, completely unware that he had put it on after we made love. I noticed how buried her nose in it, closing both of her eyes. Her chest swallowed when she took a deep breath in, and her lashes flickered when she held it against her breasts, almost in a hug.

“Hello!” The girl jumped when I made my presence noticeable. “I’m sorry, I’m Claire.”

“Oh-“ She quickly put the shirt back down, looking at me like I was an alien. “I’m so sorry, I-“

“You must be Laoghaire.” I looked at her, watching me as if I was a ghost. “I’m Jamie’s… guest.”

I followed her eyes up and down my body, realizing what kind of guest I must’ve been. Then, her stare fell right back to my dress, as it still lingered forgotten on the floor. She blushed, shook her head, almost in panic, knowing that she had been caught in her boss’ bedroom, doing something a maid wasn’t supposed to do. She didn’t look a day after twenty, but didn’t seem like a teenager either. She was pretty, with long shiny hair, cheeks full and large cleavage. It was obvious she had feelings for Jamie, and I wasn’t quite sure how that made me feel.

“I’m sorry, I- I was just cleanin’. Can I help ya wi’ anythin’?”

I noticed a strong Scottish accent in her tone. Shaking my head, I walked into the room. “Jamie had to go run an errand, but he’ll right back. You mustn’t worry about me.”

“Well, I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me, ma’am.”

She disappeared, crossing the room quicker than a ray of light, and I found myself laughing at how ridiculous the situation was. Should I tell Jamie this poor young girl had a crush on him, or did he already know?

I did find the charger on the floor, and when I turned my phone back on I realized I has six missed calls, two messages and a voice mail. All six missed calls were from the Hospital, my heart skipped a beat. “Shit!” I yelled out loud, if they needed me and I wasn’t available, I was in trouble. Being the new nurse in town and already showing little commitment to the job, wasn’t my idea of proving I was dedicated. “Okay, calm down, Beauchamp! The voice mail is from a few hours ago, but still… Voice mail. Voice mail first.”

Hello, Claire. This is Geillis Duncan, I’m terribly sorry to leave you this message on your day off. I tried to call, no one answered. Anyways, hum- If you could come by the Hospital and take Nurse Anne Ramsey’s shift, she’s got the bug from her son, stomach flu, so… If you could call me back, would be great. Thank you.

“Shit, shit, shit!”

Geillis Duncan was my superior and the one person I couldn’t let down. So, I quickly called her back, apologizing deeply, and let her know I’d be at the Hospital in the next hour or so.

I quickly called in a taxi, jumped and grabbed the dress that lingered on the floor, rushing to put it on and searched for my shoes. I looked at my phone again, ready to dial Jamie’s number, remembering how I didn’t get it.

Fuck, Jamie!

He would be expecting me here, waiting for him, and I didn’t have time to waste. So, I took notebook I found inside a drawer, took a piece of paper, and wrote down my number with a cute note.

Praying he’d understand, I rushed downstairs to find the girl from before. “Laoghaire, hum- I’m sorry to bother you.” She turned around at the sound of my voice, and I could still see her red cheeks burning with shame. “I’ve got to go. My work… my superior just called me and they need me back in the Hospital… I’m a nurse, by the way. If you could just let Jamie know I left a note on his nightstand and that it’ll be great if he called me.” I said, feeling my heart sink deep in my chest, this wasn’t how I wanted to leave Lallybroch, hurried and unexpectedly. “Would you let him know I’m terribly sorry? I’m so sorry, but if he calls me- Just, tell him that I left a note on the nightstand. Okay?"

“Not a problem.” She smiled awkwardly, and I thanked her.

*

He didn’t call. Three days had passed, and he didn’t call.

I turned off the television, and sat in silence for a few minutes. My apartment was cold, like I predicted, but I had no energy to go and turn the heat on. So, I stayed in my place, wrapped around a blanket, reevaluating. Days seemed to drag on, and my phone felt like an extension to my hand, because I simply didn’t let go. I couldn’t sleep, or eat, or function like a human being. My mind was Jamie’s, and I worried about him, but the fear that perhaps he didn’t want to call was more frightening than anything else. Could he been playing me? Was I a fool to believe for a second that he was different, that things would be different with him?

Many people had told her how grey Edinburgh could be in the middle of winter. It wasn’t only the dark clouds, or the rainy sky. My mind was grey with despair, my body with no energy or motivation. If Jamie had found his joy with me, like he said, I could tell the same thing about him. I had found new happiness in Lallybroch, and it was gone now, like it never happened.

I could smell the cold in the air, and my body seemed frozen. I needed a warm bath, and food. So, taking what was left of all the energy I still had, I placed both of my bare feet on the ground and took a step, then another. Dropping the blanket on the floor, I found my way to the bathroom.

Just as I was about to turn on the water, my phone rang. Once. Twice. My heart beat faster, the grey clouds in my mind lifted, like the sun could finally push through. Jamie.

I rushed back to the living room, where I had left my phone. I smiled when I saw the unknown number on the display screen. Jamie. Jamie, it could only be Jamie. I picked it up, and let out a shy hello.

“Hello, Claire. It’s me.” I recognized the voice, and it wasn’t the one I was waiting to hear on the side of the line. “It’s Frank.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“Hello, Claire. It’s me.” I recognized the voice, and it wasn’t the one I was waiting to hear on the side of the line. “It’s Frank.”

“Frank?” The mention of his name, dry and distant, made a chill run down my body, like a ghost coming back to haunt me.

“Oh, Claire… I’m so glad I found you. How are you?” 

My mind wandered about a mile a minute, trying to understand how he had gotten my new number. “What do you want?”

“To talk to you, of course. You-“ He paused, his voice deeper than I remembered. “You disappeared, I haven’t heard from you in months. How are you? I’ve been trying to reach you, your number… you changed your phone number. I- was worried, I heard you moved to Scotland…”

“What do you want, Frank?” I repeated, my throat suddenly too dry. “I’m busy… I can’t talk- I-“

“Claire, please, listen. Don’t hang up! Listen, people have been asking…about the wedding. You… you left… me, you disappeared, people-“ He started. I closed my eyes, and when my knees started to shake, I took a seat on the couch behind me. “People wondered about-“

“Did you tell them why? Why I left?” Tears were now starting to fill my eyes. I went back to how it happened, to where it happened, to why. The memories of Frank and his lover naked in his bed were still an open wound in my chest. My memories always took me back to that place, too painful to forget, and like a fresh cut, my heart still bled. I wanted to take the power from him, from the past. Crying wasn’t allowed, I had to push through the knot on my throat. “Did you tell them about her?”

He fell in silence, but I could feel his surprise. “Sandy, she’s-“

“She was the woman you screwing when you told me you loved me,” I said, dryly. He had turned me into the worst version of myself, jealous and broken. I felt worthless, skeptical about love and people. I often questioned myself why. Had I been too demanding or not demanding at all? Could we have grown apart, or simply out of love for one another? How could he call it love when his flesh burned for the taste of another woman?

“Claire… it’s over, alright? Between Sandy and I.”

“Was she the first one?” I asked, mostly to myself rather than him. “Probably not, probably wouldn’t be the last one either.”

“We need to talk. Come home.”

“Home?” Frank had been my home for the last few years, the only place I ever felt like I belonged. However, the home he had made for me was now ruined, and I was left to rebuild the pieces, building walls around me, to put the roof back together, to settle on my two own feet and move on. A flashback of images came through my mind, followed by all the promises he had made. All the moments we had shared were now nothing but painful memories, sharp edges that cut me in half every time I recalled them. “You aren’t my home anymore.”

“Claire, for God’s sake!” He went on, raising his voice. “Be reasonable. Stop with this little charade… moving to Scotland, disappearing, replacing what we had with-“

“Replacing? You replaced us, Frank. You did!” I shouted over the phone, the knot formed in my throat making my voice crack.

“If you weren’t so fucking frigid all the damn time, I probably wouldn’t have to jump in bed with another woman.”

I stood in silence, but I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs something that could hurt him as much. Instead, I hang up the phone and threw it against the floor with all my strength, making it stumble apart in pieces.

I sat with my knees up to my chest, my arms wrapped around my head, my hands covering my ears. I calmly tried to breath, but the tears were strolling down my cheeks with uncontrollable fury. I kept telling myself I had to forget him and move on, but how could I? He was a part of my story, part of me in many ways. It was bittersweet to watch all the dreams I had shattered just like that. What we had was over. I couldn’t possibly go back, and find love in the person who made me question the love I had for myself. I simply couldn’t.

It was a long time after that I stopped crying, dried my tears with the hem of my shirt, and finally felt like I could breathe. Then, I dragged myself down to the bathroom, taking my clothes off on the way.

I had moved to Scotland to escape, but also rediscover myself, and the person I was without Frank. I thought I was going to be able to do so by myself until the night Jamie and I met. I was feeling lonely, but not alone anymore. The way he handled us proved once again I had to keep the walls I had built around me high.

Naked, I stood in front of the mirror, looking at my reflection with my red and puffy eyes. All the invisible scars that painted my chest were still visible, but I was going to be okay. As the hot water ran in the back fogging the mirror, I took a moment to remind myself I was enough. Even if Frank cheated on me, and Jamie didn’t call, I was enough.

*

“There’s a guy asking for you, outside, asking every one if a Claire Beauchamp works here.” I looked up from the magazine I was lazily flipping through to see Geillis Duncan in front of me. “She walked across the staff’s sitting room, grabbed something from a table and turned to me again. “Seems quite desperate. Very handsome, though.”

“What guy?” I asked, quickly making a quiet prayer that it wouldn’t be Frank.

“Dunno.”

To my surprise, I got up before my brain could tell my legs to do so, putting the magazine aside, and starting to walk so quickly I almost tripped on my own two feet.

“Oh, Claire… don’t take long, I’ll need you in the OR in half an hour.” Geillis shouted in the background.

I rushed through the hospital halls, almost bumping into every single person I encountered. Please, don’t let it be Frank. But please, don’t let it be Jamie. Almost four days and not a word from him. I couldn’t face him, not now, not after waiting like the loser I was feeling to hear from him.

I turned the corner and opened the doors that led to the waiting room area to find a tall, red headed man, sitting in a chair with his arms stretched, palms resting on his knees, eyes locking mine. I stopped by the door, touched my scrubs nervously, and faced him too.

“Claire! Hi!”

I watched as he got up, took a couple of steps towards me with his hands on his leather jacket pockets.

“You’re here. Why are you here?”

He looked as tense as me, perhaps a little bit more. “You don’t seem so pleased to see me. I guess I should’ve known better.”

“You’ve got some nerve.” I looked at him, cold faced, empty eyed, and crossed my arms against my chest, protectively. “You never called me back, and then you show up here, and I should… run to your arms? Was that what you were expecting?”

“How was I supposed to call you?” He stared at me, puzzled. “You left without even as much as an explanation. I came back to Lallybroch, to find you, only you were gone. I didn’t know how to reach you.”

“Didn’t know, or didn’t want to?”

“Again, how could I-“

“I’m tired of man lying to me, using me…” I raised my voice. My heart was still shattered from last night’s events.

“Claire-“

“Don’t… Don’t. I’m tired, I’m too tired of being lied to.”

“Lied to? When did I lie to you?” He asked, reaching for me, but I took a step back when he took one forward. “Claire, would you stop?”

“I thought we had something, Jamie. Something different.”

“I thought so, too-“

“Then why didn’t you call me?”

“I didn’t have your number. How could I-“

“Stop lying to me, Jamie!” I cut him off, exasperated. “No, you took me home, we had a one night stand, you didn’t have to come all the way here to-“

“Why would I come all the way down here if you were just a one night stand?” He asked, raising his voice as well, making people start to turn their heads. “I know you’ve been lied to before, I know-“

“You don’t know anything about me!”

“I know enough.” He said, shaking his head in defeat. “We’re all broken people, Claire, you aren’t the exception.”

And with that, he left.

*

“Who’s the lad?”

“What?”

“The man from before?” Geillis asked, as we scrubbed in for surgery. I was assisting her.

“Hmm… Just a guy I met.”

“Didn’t seem like just a guy.”

“He’s… He lied to me.”

“Men, always up to something. Right?” She went on, washing up to her elbows and back. “What did he lie to you about, may I ask?”

I was startled for a second. Geillis was my superior, and I wasn’t sure if this was just small talk or if she had a genuine concern on the matter, considering we were about to go into surgery, and my mind was a million miles away. “We met a few days ago, he never called back, said he couldn’t reach me.”

“Did he tell you why?” She asked, tilting her head to the side.

“No, not really.”

“Maybe he’s a lying asshole who deserves to rot in hell. Maybe he simply didn’t have your number. The poor guy seemed desperate, and to come to your workplace to see you… There’s got to be an explanation.”

An explanation I didn’t let him allow him to elaborate. Thinking about it, I didn’t tell Jamie exactly where I worked, I told him I was a nurse at the Hospital but that was it. How could he have known which one would it be? And if he did have my number, why not just call me? Why go through all this trouble just to humiliate me furthermore? If he didn’t call back in purpose, why did he find the need to come and see me now?

I rested my mind on these thoughts, retracing my steps the morning I left Lallybroch in a hurry. I was sure I had left the note on his nightstand, next to the picture frame he kept by the bed. I knew I had written down my correct number, because I double checked just in case. I remembered walking downstairs, and even telling Laoghaire about it… Laoghaire.

*

I knew Jamie was home, because his bike was outside and I could see the living room lights on. Still, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say when he opened the door. The night outside was freezing, but I didn’t know if I was shaking uncontrollably due to the cold or my nerves. Either way, I stood by the front door and rang the bell.

Jamie opened the door, barefoot, wearing a pair of jeans and a faded green shirt. He tried not to look as surprised as I knew he was.

“Hi. Can we talk?” I asked, but when he didn’t reply I went on. “I’m sorry, about earlier. It wasn’t fair, I didn’t even give you the chance to explain yourself.”

“And why should I bother explaining myself?” His tone was lethal, showing a hint of hurt.

“I’m only trying to understand,” I told him. My eyes searching his, as he kept moving his stare away. “Can I come in?”

He nodded and left the door open. Without a formal invitation, I followed him to the living room, where the fireplace was on. “That morning, I was going to stay, wait for you to come back. I had to leave, for work, but I left you a note.”

“There was no note.” Jamie shook his head in reply. “There was no one home when I got back, either.”

I nodded, not even bothering to ask about Laoghaire. I already knew what had happened, or had a pretty good idea. She was clearly in love with Jamie, shocked to find me in his bedroom, wearing nothing but his clothes, and decided it was for the best to not deliver my message to him, or my note. I pondered for a minute if I should tell him my suspicions, but we were not on solid ground yet. I would deal with Laoghaire later.

“Do you realize how agonizing the last couple of days have been?” He started again, moving back and forth across the room. My eyes moved along his lean figure. He had barely looked at me, probably too hurt or angry to do so. “I came home later that day, expecting to find you here. You weren’t, you left without as much as an explanation, or a proper goodbye.”

I noticed how he kept his fists closed, and how a sudden wrinkle I hadn’t seen before displayed in the center of his forehead.

“The first thought that crossed my mind was that maybe I had done something, or said something, I thought you were mad with me. I couldn’t figure out why… I-“ He turned to walk again, but decided to turn his back to me and take two steps toward the fireplace in the center of the room. “You vanished. I thought maybe you didn’t want to see me, that you regretted coming here… regretted me.”

I felt my body dissolve as if the floor was made of lava, and my knees started to fail me. I could see the despair on his face. A sense of unease ran through my body. I wished he knew I would never regret him, or the moments we shared. I wish he knew that being with him had restored my soul in ways I couldn’t even had imagined. But of course he couldn’t have known. I never told him.

Clearing my throat, I lifted my head and straightened my shoulders. “How did you find me?”

“I tried to call Charles and ask for your number. Apparently they’re in New York, so I couldn’t reach them.” Them, as in Charles and Louise Stuart, the link that brought Jamie and I together. “I was worried, and quite honestly starting to lose my mind. So… I did the second best thing I could think of, and decided to look for you at the Hospital.”

“How did you know which one to look at?”

“I didn’t,” Jamie replied, finally facing me. “I looked at two others before finding you.”

His honesty was inspiring, his truth and loyalty spoke volumes to me. If he would go through all that trouble just to find me, this man deserved the world and more. I didn’t have much to offer, though, safe for my own honesty. And in spite of all the walls I decided to put up around myself again, I knew he should know the whole truth.

“The past few months have been a blur in my mind. And it’s torture-” I started. “- to finally find a little bit of light in all this smoke, and lose it the next day.”  My voice started to crack, my tone so low it barely resembled a whisper. “I look at you, and I’m terrified. Not because of anything you’ve said, or done, or anything at all. I’m terrified, because when I’m with you, I feel like myself again. And I haven’t felt that in a long time. When I’m with you, I feel… in heaven.” Jamie listened, carefully, and I kept watching him closely. “I was scared. How often does a guy go out with a girl, plays with her, just to break her?”

“I am not that type of guy.”

“I know,” I said, feeling my ears burn red in shame. “I haven’t been the best version of myself lately, but when I’m with you, I am. And I’m sorry I lost my temper, I’m sorry I ever doubted you, I’m sorry for calling you a liar, and-“

“Do you really think I would ever do that to you, Claire? Lie to you?”

“No,” I firmly retorted. “And that’s why I’m standing here, asking for your forgiveness.”

He stepped closer, his jaw locked in resentment, but his eyes full of care. I didn’t know if my actions were forgivable, or if I was about to lose the only good thing I had in my life. I startled, my breath caught the knot in my throat, and I prayed that the tears in my eyes wouldn’t fail me and started running down.

Jamie paused, moved a piece of my hair, put it behind my ear, and lowered his eyes to my mouth. I felt his head bend over, his warm breath upon my lips. “There’s nothing to forgive,” he said, before lovingly kiss me. Butterflies danced on my stomach, and I realized in that moment that I needed this kiss more than oxygen.

Jamie placed one arm around my waist, and I crossed my arms around his neck. I completely lost myself in his soft lips, remembering the taste of his tongue. I fit right in between his arms, and he rested his hands on my lower back. Breaking the kiss, he moved his eyes and they found mine. I was so afraid I might lose the moment, I didn’t even blink. Instead, I run my hands down his neck, slowly, taking my time. His eyes screamed desire, his heart shouted it too with every heartbeat. Finally, our impatient lips met again. Anticipation was building up, so was the excitement. I rested one hand on the side of his face, using a thumb to sweep across his cheekbone.

Sliding the tip of his tongue inside of my mouth, Jamie pulled me in, and I found myself rocking against him, brushing my breast against his chest. Then, he stopped, one of his hands travelled to the back of my head, grabbing my hair gently. “Claire, I want you so much I can scarcely breathe. Will you have me?”

“Yes!” He didn’t think twice. Grabbing my hand, he lead me upstairs.

When we entered his room, he laid me on his bed, as if I was a precious porcelain doll and he was afraid of breaking me. He kissed me until I ran out of air. I needed more, so much more of him. I pull back from the kiss, nibbling his bottom lip unexpectedly, making it all the more exciting. I gulped, and rested my forehead on his, trying to control my breathing. Then, with my teeth almost at the end of his lip, I paused, taking a moment before I resumed to kiss him fully again.

His weight was over my body, and I was craving to feel his skin on mine. I started unbuttoning his shirt, taking my time in between kisses, letting his tongue explore my mouth with care. When all the buttons were undone, he freed himself from my grip and I felt his hands on my waist, my jeans tugged down and throw over, as well as my boots.

I stripped down my own shirt, letting it fall on the floor. Then, I moved one hand behind me, and unhooked my bra, offering my bare breasts to him. He used one hand and pressed it against my chest, feeling my heartbeat and my lungs take deep, heavy grasps. Jamie took a second and appreciated my beauty, and I flustered a bit when I caught him grinning at the sight. I needed him to love me, to take care of me, to use my body and to let me use his for consolation. I needed to be one with him tonight.

Jamie put his mouth on my collarbone, using his tongue to lick my skin. I tilted my head to the side, in pure ecstasy. He proceeded with care, gently tracing his fingers over the outer edge of my breasts, caressing my nipples, making them pop out like roses on a sunny day. My body screamed with desire, and I moaned when his teeth grabbed a hold of my rosy nipple. I shivered when his tongue played with it carelessly. “Jamie…” He didn’t look up, or made plans to stop. Instead, he focused his attention over to my other breast teasing me endlessly.

My hands moved down to his shoulders, and when Jamie finally faced me, I titled my head to the side and explored the space under his ear with my mouth. He closed his eyes, and I wet my lips just enough to make them soft, gently kissing his neck, biting his salty skin, making him moan in a pleasurable type of pain.

While my mouth worked on his neck, one free hand traveled down his chest, stopping just above the edge of his jeans. I looked down, noticing the bulge on his pants, begging to be set free. Like a mind reader, he let his pants fall down, letting me appreciate all his beauty in full.

Letting a curious hand over, I felt his length, hard and strong on my grip, and decided to stroke him. I stroke him until he touched my hand, making me stop, staring at me for a minute, before kissing me recklessly. My hands were all over him, his shoulders, his chest, his stomach. The moans deep inside his throat made me feel greedy with lust. Before I knew it, his mouth was now on my collarbones, licking all the way down. I licked my lips with anticipation at the sight of the man standing in front of me, eyeing me as if he was a hunter and I was the prey.

He eyed me, stopping when he reached my underwear. Marveled, he started blowing softly over it. His warm breath was making me wet, aching in agony for more. Then, he used his two hands to tug my panties down. I never felt more desperate for his attention.

When he left me exposed completely at his mercy, I felt Jamie’s tongue slide up my inner thigh, and was forced to bit my lower lip to keep from screaming. When he stuck his tongue on my clit, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to live through it. His devoted mouth, warm and wet, raised me to heaven and back. I let out a gasp, a scream or two, and pushed my fingers through his vibrant red hair, keeping him in place. Encouraged, he pulled me in, licking and sucking my nerves to the core. My chest filled with excitement, I felt high on a drug I simply couldn’t deny.

“Jamie… please,” I said, panting and begging for him to slow down. My mind was spinning, and I felt the need to hold on to something, anything, to keep me steady, grounded.

“Babe…” He said, enjoying it, trying to match my breathing with the way his tongue licked me.

“Jamie, please!” I shook my head, and held his hand tightly, making him stop. I felt my body tingling with the strong waves of my ever growing orgasm.

Grinning, Jamie pinned me against the mattress, supporting the weight of his body on his arms. In one swift move, Jamie rolled on top of me, and without giving me time to catch my breath, he entered me, stopping for a second, allowing me to get used of his fullness. Slowly, he moved again, and I dragged my fingernails to his shoulders, holding my grip as we started to find our rhythm.

With my hips, I gently moved with him back and forth, the sensation making me gasp in pleasure. I noticed how he closed his eyes, moving gradually deeper, and faster too. He went deep inside of me, every thrust pushing me towards the edge, and I spread my legs over his waist, as much as I could, allowing him to move as he pleased. I felt my orgasm build up, my walls contract around his hard cock.

“Claire-“ He moaned my name. I felt his arms tremble, and his head fall on the crook of my neck. I knew he was close, but so was I. Our breathing was heavier now, and I dig my nails on his back, pressing my breasts up to his chest. He had now total control over my body, my mind, and my spirit. I couldn’t take it any longer.

“Jamie. Oh…” I let out a scream of pure satisfaction. I went over the edge, and couldn’t stop. Feeling a wave of energy wash over me, I lost total control over my body, and simply surrendered to him. When I reached my peak, he followed, falling on top of me, exhausted, but satisfied, and I held him tightly in my arms.

He didn’t move for a minute or two, and I didn’t force him to, simply because I was enjoying the intimacy and closeness of being inside of him. “Claire…” Jamie started, almost in a whisper.

I moved my head, just enough to be facing him. His blue eyes sparkling like the reflection of the moon on a riverbed. “What?”

“I never took you out on a date.”

“Hmm, I guess you’re right.” I said, as he moved to rest next to me, holding me close.

“Well, do you?” He asked, his tone a little shy. “To go on a date with me, I mean.”

“I’d like that, yes.” We stayed in silence for a couple of minutes, just enjoying each other’s presence, until I cleaned my throat to speak again. “Jamie?”

“Hmm?”

“Promise me something.”

“Anything.”

“Promise me we’ll never lie to each other.” Feeling ever so naked and vulnerable, I lowered my eyes.

He lifted one hand and stroke my face gently. “I promise,” Jamie murmured, and smiled against my lips before kissing me. 

 

Chapter Text

“Morning!”

“It is morning!” I retorted, closing the jacket I had on, and zipping it all the way to my chin. I met him outside of my apartment building. He was waiting, standing by his bike, brown leather jacket on, a pair of washed up jeans, a navy blue sweater that brought out the color in his eyes and a dark grey scarf around his neck. Jamie smirked when he saw me, and I noticed the spare helmet he was holding in his hand. Tilting my head, I approached him with a smile. I never rode a motorcycle before, but shouldn’t have been surprised when he told me to just put on a pair of boots and wear something comfortable when I asked about our date. Truth was, besides never riding a bike before, I never had a date at nine in the morning on a Sunday. “Are you planning on taking me to church?”

“Taking you to Mass is not part of my plans, no.” He grinned, then held out the helmet he was holding. “Ready?”

“And where are we going, exactly?”

“That-“ He said, bending down to place a soft kiss on my lips, “You’re about to see. C’mon, lass.”

I didn’t particularly like surprises or venturing out into the unknown. My rational side still wanted to be in control of every aspect of my life. I’d been learning that when it came to Jamie, I had no control at all, over my emotions, my feelings, my thoughts, my dreams or wishes. I wanted him, that was all I knew, and the rest be damned, as long as we were together. 

I put on the helmet and settled behind him, placing my arms around his stomach and my face against his back. The city seemed to start waking up by the time we left it behind. I didn’t know for how long we rode, but it seemed like an eternity. The sky was clear, but the wind made my eyes water. I could start to smell the mossy, earthy scent of endless fields of green, mixed with Jamie’s usual cologne sprayed on his leather jacket. The sensation was the perfect feel and balance of freedom and belonging. I could feel the cold breeze on my cheeks, my bones shivering as the temperature dropped. I could understand why Jamie loved riding now. Despite my fears, the adrenaline rush felt like heroin in my veins, making my blood rise up, and I’d never felt more alive.

We stopped where the road met a dirt lane. I didn’t ask where we were or why he had taken me here. I just knew I could trust Jamie, so I followed. Leaving the bike behind, he led me up a hill. We walked in silence, my eyes taking everything in. The dirt road was muddy from last night’s rain, and the humidity in the air made my hair frizz. I didn’t know if he reached for mine, or if I reached for his, but we tangled our fingers together, and held hands all the way to the top. His palm was warm and inviting. I smiled thinking perhaps he held on to me to prevent me from flying away. I didn’t complain though, even when it was starting to get hard to catch my breath. The views were nice, and my lungs breathed in the freshest air that they’d ever had. 

“Close your eyes, now.”

“Should I be concerned? Are you throwing me off a cliff?” I joked, out of breath from the hike.

Jamie looked at me with a cheeky smile, and I wondered how he managed to look this fresh after such a climb. With his ears just a little bit red, and his curls flying against the wind, I took notice to take a mental picture of him standing like that, as handsome as ever. 

I closed my eyes and he led me by the hand, with his voice. Then, we stopped, I felt his hands on my shoulders, his breath behind me. “Open now,” He said softly, and I flicked my eyelashes open.

Feeling my lungs bursting with air, I took perhaps the biggest gasp I’d ever taken. The beauty of the place overtook my senses. The hills extended and blossomed on a valley below, where a meadow of wildflowers painted the landscape with every color of the rainbow. I felt my face crack like an ice statue when a smile came to my face. I wanted to shout, let my voice be heard by the God who had made this place, let it echo through the ethereal fields below. A sense of indescribable happiness took over me. I could sing or run, but I chose to stay quiet, feeling Jamie’s presence, and my own awakening.

Time seemed to stop at that moment, and I felt tiny and utterly irrelevant overlooking the magnitude of the scenery. I opened my eyes widely, taking my time to stare into the distance. I wanted to remember every little contrast of light, every sound, and every breath I took in this place. I closed my eyes for a second, the cold winter air rushed through me, my skin tingled, and my heart started to expand in ways I didn’t know possible. Placing my hands on top of Jamie’s shoulders, I tilted my head back until it touched his chest. I lifted my eyes to the heavens, and said a quick prayer of gratitude.

I wasn’t a religious person. Never been one. I was rational, instead. Facts and science mattered more to me than faith in what I couldn’t see, or touch, or understand. But this… this I understood completely. It was love. The realization hit me suddenly. I was in love with Jamie Fraser. He never left my mind, my body longed for him when we were apart. He was the one stability I found in this chaotic world I was living, my only peace, my only hope for a better, brighter future. I was in love with him. Deeply. Incomprehensible. I had known love before, but not like this… so strong, yet so vulnerable. My first love, Frank, would not be my one and only love. It was now just a painful memory I ought to forget. My loss was not permanent, or irreplaceable. It was only part of the journey I had to take upon to find the man who would complete me. As I looked upon the hills, and the valley below, I felt intensely liberated.

But falling in love again… It was a strange, overwhelming, and frightening feeling. One that burned my whole body, made my heart dance on my chest, my veins thrive with the intensity of my blood flow. I felt so light, yet so whole, like I could burst into tiny little particles one could scatter into thin air.

Jamie’s plans weren’t to take me to Mass, but in a way, he had taken me to Church. I always liked the outdoors, collecting plants and walking through gardens. Church to me wasn’t built with walls, and statues, with big old stained glasses beautifully painted, or pews, and people praising a God they couldn’t see. This was my Church, the skies, the fields, the flowers, the air that filled my lungs… and my love. Jamie. Like an omnipresent, all-knowing god, only he could see right through me. And if my pagan thoughts would doom me, then so be it. I’d lay out my sins before him, confess them all in search of atonement. I’d walk through a desert of temptation to find him. I’d make his bedroom a holy place, I’d turn it into a sacred ground. I’d let him make an altar out of my body. I’d sing his name out loud in profound reverence and adoration. I’d let him take me fully, let his holy ghost come down on me. I’d worship this living, breathing god, and give him my life in exchange. The ultimate sacrifice would be a deathless death; for love.

“Jamie…” I opened my eyes, and exhaled slowly. Fear crippled through my mind, a dark sense of uneasiness made my belly do a flip, and my knees start to shake. For once in my life, I was scared to lose something: lose him. “I’m afraid.”

He didn’t ask why. I could feel him close his eyes, and inhale deeply. Then he moved his fingers, and wrapped his hands around my body. I felt my spirit elevate when I felt his breath on my neck, whispering softly, “Don’t be afraid. There’s the two of us now.”

Amen.

We stood in silence for a moment, the wind murmuring around us. I felt at peace, like I had died and gone to heaven.

“You’re shivering,” Jamie finally said, tucking his head behind my ear, and kissing my neck softly. “I’m sorry, maybe this wasn’t a good idea.”

“No! No, this is perfect.” I turned to him, and cupped his face. My cold hands touched his cheeks and he smiled. “I’m happy to be here with you.”

“Here. Have this.” Jamie took off his grey scarf and put it around my neck, delicately. Then he lowered his eyes and fixed them on my lips. The cold wasn’t bothering me anymore, or the discomfort of having my feet in a puddle of mud. If this was church, and he was god, then this feeling in my chest must be what paradise felt like. In that moment, the concept of death, and eternity didn’t scare me at all. It was something I desired, a promise of being destined to spending the rest of my days in this little bubble I called heaven.

Jamie tilted his head, and pressed it against mine. “Christ!” He murmured, again taking a glance into my thoughts, into my mind. “I thought about bringing you here the night we first met.”

“Why?”

“Having you in my bed, naked, that night… all I could think about was bringing you here. Seeing you, with your hair just like this-“ He ran one finger down one of my curls, then held on to my hands, closing them between his own. “ You looked so wild, just like this place!” He chuckled, ignoring my blushed cheeks and shy smile. “You know, when we were at the party, talking, all I kept thinking about was the moment I could take you home. I wanted you… more than I ever wanted anything in my life.”

The honesty in his words suddenly quelled all my fears. I felt a rush of helplessness, I was so in love with him I could barely contain myself. Jamie bent his head back, and I wrapped my arms around his neck. I held on to him as my world started to sway away under my feet. I closed my eyes, and smiled gently against his lips, before kissing him softly. I never wanted anything more in my life, either. I didn’t think I’d have to tell him I was in love with him. I could tell by the way he kissed me back, he knew. Surely, he knew.

*

I laid on my back and stared at the ceiling, wondering what time it was. The wind from the hills still echoed in my ears like music, and I couldn’t sleep. I could hear Jamie take long, peaceful breaths next to me. I was happy, our first official date was different than any date I’ve had before. But then, again… Jamie was no ordinary man.

I moved on the bed, pulling the sheets, and turned to the side. He laid naked next to me, with a dreamy smile. I wondered what kind of dreams he was having. Hopefully, ones that involve me. I closed the space between, moving one leg and tossing it over his.

I liked the way he smelled after we had sex, his and my smell intertwined; raw and lustful.

I raised one arm, and slowly ran my fingers through his stomach. His bare chest moved up and down with his breathing. I didn’t mind losing my sleep when the image that distracted my thoughts was his face.

I touched his jawline, and saw the way his mouth twisted when I moved one finger over his upper lip. I shouldn’t be touching him. I should let his spirit rest, let him enjoy the carousel of lively dreams inside his beautiful mind until morning. But I was vulnerable when it came to feeling his soft skin under the palm of my hands. I was vulnerable when it came to Jamie Fraser, and I didn’t mind being selfish for once, and have him all for myself, either awake or asleep.

“That tickles, you know.”

I popped an elbow, and rested my head on a closed fist. He was staring up at me now, with one eye open, the other closed. “I’m sorry, but it’s not my fault you’re such a light sleeper,” I said, with an unapologetic smile.

He rubbed his sleepy eyes with the insides of his palms, let out a loud yawn, before moving one arm under his head for support. Then, Jamie raised one hand, moved a lock of my hair behind an ear, and licked his lips. “You can’t look at me like that!”

“Like what?”

“Like… that-“ He leaned in, and kissed me, teasing me gently by biting my lips. I couldn’t help, but to moan. My belly flipped with a sudden urge to feel him closer. Jamie caught my hand with his own, squeezing my fingers, before kissing my knuckles. “You’ll be the death of me, woman.”

I laughed proudly, knowing all too well how exhausted he must’ve been feeling. We stood in silence, simply touching each other for a long time. I enjoyed moments like this one, where we could simply exist in the same space, at the same time, breathing in the same air. Just being. Less than two weeks ago James Fraser was a complete stranger, and now he knew every part of my body, every scar on my skin, every sound I made in complete bliss.  “Fraser,” I said out loud. “James Fraser…”

“Yes?”

“I just- was thinking how- I don’t know your full name.”

“Well, why do you care to know?”

“Curiosity.”

“Curiosity?” He repeated, brows knitted together, deep blue eyes sparkling at me. “Curiosity killed the cat.”

“I’ll have you know, I’m no cat, Mr. Fraser.”

“More like a lioness!”

“Tell me!” I punched him softly on the chest, and he faked an injury.

“Ah… okay, it’s hmm-” He cleared his throat as if he was about to recite a verse from the bible. “James Alexander Malcom Mackenzie Fraser.”

“That’s a long name, for sure.”

“Well, try living with it!” He laughed, and gave me a quick playful pat in the ass, squeezing it slightly.

I couldn’t help but laugh as well. This was so easy, I wished nothing could ever stand in the way of what we had, whatever it may be for now. And to think I almost lost it over some stupid childish misunderstanding. The note, and what Laoghaire probably had done with it still lingered in my mind, but I quickly shook my head as to prevent her from entering our sacred time together. I took a mental note to talk to Jamie about it in the morning. Wasn’t he curious at all that I left a note on his nightstand? Could he possibly still think I disappeared that morning without a reason, or even saying goodbye? Then I remembered I didn’t tell him why I lashed out on him at the Hospital. Why I was so afraid to think he could’ve been playing with my feelings. The smile on my face hastily dissolved.  

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I just-”

“You know you can’t lie to me, Claire Beauchamp.”

“There’s something I haven’t told you.” He didn’t say a word, waiting for me to continue. I knew I couldn’t lie to him. My face was an open book that he could easily read. My mind kept running to all this place, and I couldn’t hide from my thoughts. There was nothing wrong, not really. But I should be fair with Jamie. “It’s about Frank.”

“Oh-“

“He called. The other night.”

“And?” He asked. I noticed in his tone that he was trying to sound uninterested. I also noticed how I had his full attention.

“He wanted to talk. About us.” The words came out of my mouth flat and empty. There was an awkward silence in the room, the quiet of the night suddenly tensed up. “About how things ended between us-“ I looked at Jamie, but his eyes moved from mine. “He… He wants me to go back home.”

“Do you? Want to go back home?”

“I’ve got no home left to go back to,” I said. The words hurting my throat like a thousand knives. “I suppose I have a new home. Here. With you?” My words sounded like a question, and I eyed him, timidly. My throat tightened, fearing rejection. Instead, Jamie let out a deep breath, turned to the side, and wrapped his arms around me. His eyes were full of a kind and gentle concern that warmed my heart. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t- Claire.”

“I didn’t tell you, I didn’t mean to bring him into what we have. It’s over. Frank and I, it’s over. “

“I know, it’s alright. Don’t worry about it.”

I felt his arms tighten around me, and without even noticing I started crying against his chest. How could I pretend it was alright, when it wasn’t? How I could be in bed with another man, one who cared dearly about me, and still hear Frank’s voice on the back of my mind, all the empty promises he had made, all the accusations, and the pain he had caused? How could I be fair to Jamie when Frank’s ghost still lingered?

“Claire? Is there something else?”

“I told you he cheated on me with another woman?” Jamie nodded in repl. And I went, struggling to speak in between low sobs, “He told me- He said that he wouldn’t have cheated on me if I wasn’t frigid.”

“He did what? The fucking bastard.” Jamie said in indignation.

“I’m sorry- I’m sorry-“ I kept repeating it, like a mantra, without knowing what I was truly sorry for.

“Claire-“ Jamie opened his mouth to say something, but couldn’t find the words. So, he hugged me with sudden violence, and I felt like I was wrapped in a blanket of compassion. My fears were quieted by the touch of his hand. I wished I could tell Jamie how much he meant to me, but I lacked the courage or maybe the timing just wasn’t right. I wished I could tell him that falling in love felt like finding a place I wasn’t prepared to enter, only to realize it was home.

I needed him, though. I need to feel his hands, his skin, his breath, his taste all over me. So, I unwrapped myself from his hug, and my lips brushed his, delicately. Then, I moved to be on top of him. I could taste my salty tears on my mouth, and my hair fell down my shoulders. Jamie’s hands rested on my thighs, and I leaned in to kiss him. In that moment, I wanted nothing more, but for him to lead me home.

Chapter Text

 

The alarm clock woke me up at exactly 7 am. I lazily opened my eyes, turned the damn thing off, and ran a hand across the bed. Jamie was no longer next to me, the sheets were still warm, though. The water was running in the bathroom, and I could feel his presence near. Stretching my arms and legs, I took a deep breath of contentment. The simple pleasure of waking up in a bed that had his scent made my usually dreary mornings better.

I put my feet on the floor, grabbed a blanket and threw it over my shoulders. Coffee. First and foremost, I was in desperate need of some coffee. I quickly got up and made my way downstairs, grabbing my phone from the nightstand on the way.

Checking the schedule for the day was the first thing I did in the morning. And scrolling through the long week ahead made me already  dread parting from Jamie.

I walked across the hallway appreciating the peacefulness of the morning away from the city. The house was still silent, except for a quiet humming sound coming from the kitchen. A sweet voice was mumbling the words to a song I didn’t recognize quite yet. I stopped by the entrance, the smell of freshly made coffee filled the room.

She was standing with her back to me, staring at the window overlooking the garden. Lost in her own thoughts, she didn’t feel my presence. I could recognize that long blonde hair anywhere. A sudden urge to scream and make my presence known grew stronger. It was very early in the morning, she was definitely preparing breakfast. The thought of her invading Jamie’s space willingly like that made my heart ache with a bolt of sudden  jealousy.

I gulped, held the blanket closer against my body, and cleared my throat. “Good morning.”

“Goodness gracious!” Laoghaire jumped, raising one hand to her chest, the other to cover her mouth. An expression of sheer shock graced her face.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” I said, raising my chin to let her have a good look at me. “Although… I’m sure you were not expecting to see me here, now… were you?”

“I- you scared me, Miss… that’s all,” Laoghaire replied, not daring to move her eyes from the floor.

“Uh… Laoghaire…” She turned to leave, but my voice made her stop. I wanted to shake her into confessing she stole the note I had left Jamie a few days ago, I wanted to scream at her and demand an apology, I wanted to let her know that I was well aware of her intentions. Yet, all I did was take a closer look at the girl standing in front of me. The coldest glance I ever gave to anyone, then opened my mouth to say. “Thank you, for the coffee.”

I watched her nod, and head for the door that led to the yard.

*

 

I sat inside my car and took a moment before turning on the ignition. My body felt like it was about to dissolve into the seat. It’d been four days since the last time I saw Jamie. I glanced at the clock. 1:33 am and I was just about to leave the hospital. My feet were killing me and my back hurt like a thousand knives were cutting my bones from the inside out. I could barely keep my eyes open, and the thought of going back into my lonely apartment wasn’t something to look forward to.

I reached for my cellphone, bit my lower lip in anticipation, deciding if I should do it or not. If I should call him, or not. It was definitely too late, and he would probably be asleep by now, but… I missed him. So, unashamedly, I called.

The phone rang three times before he finally answered, with a tired, sleepy voice.

“Claire? Is everything alright? Are you home yet?”

 “No, shift just ended. I had the longest day.” I smiled against the voice, appreciating his concern. “Did I wake you up?”

“Hmm- kind of, don’t worry about it.”

“I shouldn’t have called, it’s just-“ I could hear him move on the bed, pushing the sheets away, and covering a quiet yawn. “It’s just-“

“Claire, come over.”

“No, I don’t mean to bother. I-“

“Come,” Jamie firmly said, and just like that it was decided.

I stopped home to grab a change of clothes, and thirty minutes later I was at his door feeling like a ghost. The playful smile on Jamie’s face when he saw me stepping out of the car holding a gym bag made my ear burn in a quiet shame. “I promise I’m not moving in,” I said, almost apologetically.

He shook his head, taking the bag and placing one hand on my lower back.  “I’m not complaining.”

I instantly relaxed when I entered Lallybroch. He told me to head upstairs, take a shower, put on something comfortable. I thanked him with a smile.

When I returned, freshly showered, I found him in the kitchen, a bowl of ravioli waiting for me at the table. Famished, I took bite after bite ungracefully. He stared at me, in silence, probably noticing the dark circles under my eyes or the way my wet hair was letting a big stain on the pajama shirt I was wearing.

“This is… so delicious, by the way!” I said, rolling my eyes in complete delight.

He chuckled, sat down in front of me and crossed his arms. “So, how was your day?”

“Terribly busy,” I replied, with my mouth full. “Had a three hour surgery in the morning. My feet are killing me. Then-“ I paused, putting the fork down and grabbing the glass of water in front of me. “There was a car accident. I don’t know the details. A young man was thrown through his windshield. We did everything we could, but… poor guy.” I looked down at my plate, a cold sadness rushed through me. Death… I was prepared to deal with death, but it was something you never got used to.

I took a moment, before noticing Jamie’s own reaction. His eyes were clouded with sorrow. The accident. Of course, the accident! Jamie’s own parents had died in a car accident he blamed himself for. I quickly regretted telling him about it. I cleared my throat, searching for air inside of my lungs. “And, your day?”

“Oh-“ He shook his head, sat back on the chair and raised his eyes to me. “Had another conference meeting with that guy I told you about. The head of that Company in New York. He’s interested in partnering with us.”

“That’s amazing. I mean, branching out will be great for your Company?”

“It’s something my dad always dreamed about. To see Lallybroch Spirits branch out!” Jamie replied in between a loud sigh. “If everything goes right, we’re gonna meet again soon, with his investors next month.”

“I’m so happy for you, Jamie.” I said, reaching out for his hand.

“There’s something else.”

“Oh, what?”

“Jenny called.” He took my hand, and gave it a soft squeeze. “She’s pregnant.”

“Pregnant?”

“I’m going to be an uncle. She’s about three months along.” The way his eyes sparkled with joy warmed my heart, knowing how their parents’ deaths left a scar in their relationship, one that hadn’t quite healed. Jamie always talked about his sister with such love and affection. Perhaps the baby could bring back their bond. Suddenly, he lowered his eyes back down again. I know the thought crossed his mind. “My parents would be so happy.”

“I’m sure they’d be.”

“My mother used to say she wanted nothing more but to have grandchildren, to watch them run around the house. She’d say… She’d say I ought to give her a bunch of wee red headed grandkids, at least a dozen.” He chuckled, scratching the back of his left ear. “Jenny used to tease me about it.”

I could see his mind go back to the moments he shared with his family, and didn’t mean to be an intruder of such precious memories. So, we fell into a comfortable silence.

My own mind lingering in the future, one where Lallybroch was filled with laughter and noise. I could see his children clearly. All twelve of them, brave, tall, lean, with the most vibrant auburn hair. I knew he’d be the most amazing father.

The fact was Frank and I had tried multiple times in the past, but couldn’t conceive. It was a topic that caused friction in our relationship, something we never really could overcome. The guilt of not being able to create life within me is something I still carry, something I still punish myself for. Thinking about it now seemed even harder. If my happiness depended on it, I’d be okay. It was something I could let go, move on from. However, if Jamie’s happiness depended on one day becoming a father, I knew I couldn’t be a part of it, provide him with such means to achieve it. Given the fact that every time so far that Jamie and I had been together, we didn’t use any kind of protection, and I wasn’t pregnant, reassured me the problem – if you could call it one – was mine.

I returned to my ravioli, eating slowly. Shame consumed my mind, and I felt silly to be thinking about children with Jamie in this exact moment, in such an early stage in our relationship, especially when I should be feeling overjoyed for his sister.

“So…” His voice quieted my thoughts, and caught my attention. “Feeling better now?”

“So much better. Thank you for taking care of me.”

“Well, you’re welcome. Of course I’d take care of my girl.”

“Your girl?” I asked with a playful tone, tilting my head to the side. “Is that what I am? Your girl?”

“Do you not want to be my girl?”

“James Fraser, are you asking me to be your girlfriend?”

“No,” He quickly replied, much to my surprise. “I thought you already were.”

“Well, I didn’t get the proper memo.”

“Do you need a formal proposal?”

“I don’t need one, but- I’d like one.” I set the plate aside, suddenly feeling too full and too hot to focus on food. I wasn’t the most romantic person in any way. The fact that he thought I was his girlfriend made my heart jump with joy and almost burst inside of my chest. I felt like a seventeen year old girl, head over heels in love, knowing her crush loved her right back. Oh- wait, love. He hadn’t said it, neither had I. The word has crossed my mind before, but I didn’t have the courage to say it out loud. It felt like brand new territory. Up until now, we didn’t really discuss the terms of our relationship, whatever it was. I treated him like a boyfriend,  knew we were quite exclusive, but we didn’t have a label yet.

“Oh, so since you’re not my girlfriend, I suppose I’ve been sharing my bed with a stranger, is that what you mean?”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.” I teased him. “The night we first met… we were strangers. You shared your bed with me without complaining.”

“Hmm-“ He agreed, getting up and reaching for my hand. “I suppose you’re right. Would you say yes if I asked you?”

“Only if you ask me nicely.”

“Well-“ Jamie lowered down, smiled against my mouth, before placing a tender kiss on my lips. “Claire Beauchamp, will you be my girlfriend?”

“Yes.”

Chapter Text

“Are you sure we’re not lost?”

“No… just-“ Claire replied, stopping the car on the side of the road, and reaching for her phone. “Give me a minute.”

He looked at her with amusement, knowing they were positively lost. When Claire first told him to pack his bags and trust her, he didn’t ask questions. Now, almost three hours later, and still no clue where they were going for the weekend, he wasn’t so sure about her plans anymore.

Jamie also knew she was as stubborn as a mule, and wouldn’t take his help. Proud as she was, and intent to surprise him, he let her drive without protesting. Although, he was sure, by the look on her face, she must’ve made at least four wrong turns.

“Okay… so, we’ll be there in about… ten minutes!” Claire said, enthusiastically, putting her phone back down.

Ten minutes turned into twenty-five, but he didn’t complain. He knew they were near the coast, the smell of the ocean was unmistakable, and the signs near the road gave him an idea where they might end up. It was Friday, the sun was long gone. He was tired, sleepy, and a bit hungry. The excitement of not knowing where they were going kept him awake, his attention fully turned to the lonely road ahead.

When she finally directed the car down a narrow road, he saw a small cottage standing on a cliff. The house, a single-story stone cottage, had that kind of charm one sees in movies and the likes.

“And we’re here!” She told him, giving him a proud smile when she finally parked the car. Jamie had no idea how she found this place, or planned for everything. It was perfect, though. And yes, they were completely away from civilization. They had shared weekends together, at Lallybroch, completely alone. However, this was going to be different. A new space always provides for new discoveries. And, as remote as the place looked like, he doubted they had any internet connection, let alone cable TV. No, this time it was going to be the two of them, alone.

*

He dreamed that he was on the beach. The cold wet sand beneath his feet made his bones shiver in pain. The wind blew against his face, his hair loose tangling behind his ears. He was naked and alone. The sky was white, like nothing he had ever seen before. He was facing the ocean, with the waves crashing by his ankles. He tried to scream, but his voice was gone. He tried to move, but his feet were stuck. He gasped for air, but his lungs were empty.

Then, he heard a distant yet familiar sound. Looking immediately to the side he saw a dozen black wild horses running towards him, with their hooves crushing into the water. They weren’t stopping, and he wasn’t moving. As the horses were barely a foot away, he opened his arms, moved his eyes towards the heavens, and accepted whatever was to come.

Everything went white, he felt no pain, no hurt. He felt good, really good actually. Like a wave of unfulfilling pleasure had just hit him. He lingered on the edge of sleep, unaware if he was still dreaming. His body was responding to a soft touch, a divine hand leading the way. Then, he felt the first kiss, the second, the third. Her mouth was planting kisses across his neck, just under his jawline. Slow and reluctantly, Jamie opened his eyes. Claire’s full lips were still working on his skin, her divine hand firmly holding his hard member.

She must’ve noticed the way his breathing changed. Taking a peek, she lifted her eyes to meet his.

“Morning, sleepy head!”

“Claire?”

“Shush… don’t say a word.”

Jamie nodded, moved one hand to her chin, pulling her toward him and giving her a tender kiss. She then licked her lips slowly, moved her hand again inside his pants, held his grip tighter and stroked him again. With her knees digging into the mattress and her bottom up, she gave him one of those looks that she knew damn well that caught his attention. The feel of her luscious lips on his neck gave him a tingling sensation.

Claire began to lower herself, the kisses continued across his chest. Jamie couldn’t help himself, and tangled his fingers in her hair. He gasped when her teeth touched his firm nipple, taking it into her open mouth. She raised her head just to watch him bite his lower lip in anticipation.

He gasped for air when she bit him once more. Jamie didn’t protest. With his eyes fixed on her perfectly round ass, he held out a hand and grabbed it. She slipped her fingers out of his pajama pants. Tired from the long journey the night before, they had crashed into bed immediately, Claire wearing a pair of white panties and a sweater, Jamie only his pants.

She moved her hands across the hem of said pants, kneeling on the front of Jamie’s growing bulge. Slowly, she pulled them down his legs.  He lifted his head off the pillow, throwing one arm under his neck. Their eyes met with a rush of excitement, the air in the room was electrifying.

Claire turned her attention back to his bulge, as her hands ran across his inner thighs, softly smoothing his skin. He took a deep breath, lifted his buttocks, craving her touch. Instead, she moved her hands back, and played with the short hairs standing on his pubic bone. He closed his eyes when her full lips planted a long kiss on the inside of his left thigh. Her tongue making an appearance, leaving a path of saliva on his leg. Placing her palms on his chest, she played with his nipples, while blowing warm air into his hard member.

Slowly, she ran her hand down, digging her nails into his skin. She kissed his pubic bone, and surrounding area. Jamie moaned when her tongue playfully licked his cock up and down. Holding his hard cock, she flipped it and licked it’s underside with the tip of her tongue. Jamie opened his eyes, licked his own lips and tried to focus. It was barely impossible to think straight. She cupped his balls with one hand, looked up, and grinned fiercely with a devilish stare. His mouth was slightly open, soft moans escaping from his throat. He dug his fingers deeper into her hair.

Her lips parted gently, accommodating his length. Jamie’s lips began to move with her pace, as her head started to move faster. He needed her, he needed more, he needed all of her. Afraid he might hurt her, he released his hand from her hair, letting it fall on his stomach. Her fingers dug into his right left for support, her other hand rested on the base of his member. “Claire… Claire…” The sound of his voice vibrated down her throat, and they both moaned as his cock disappeared in and out of her mouth. His breathing increased in pace, his body was tingling with what he knew was the familiar sensation of a delicious orgasm taking over.

His body felt incredibly hot, and his mind was somewhere outside of his body. He gulped, opened his eyes and took a frisky peek. Claire, with her butt pointing to the ceiling, with her mouth buried in his salty taste, her head moving up and down, her hair falling wild across her shoulders… it was a sight to behold.

He was about to explode, unable to contain himself any longer. Ecstasy hit him like a furious wave, and he let out a guttural sound. He felt Claire’s mouth tighten its walls around him, her luscious lips leading him to his final destination. He tilted his head back against the pillow, closed his eyes, and said a prayer.

“God, Claire…”

She moaned in encouragement, his body tensed up, his hips reached higher, and when he couldn’t control himself any longer, his orgasm came at last.

He breathed heavily, the room was hot and steamy. His mind stopped spinning the second he felt Claire put her head on the crook of his neck. He held her close, and they both laid down there panting, trying each to catch their breath. He then tilted his head in order to look at her, and she lifted her eyes to him. A shy smile appeared on her lips, and she suddenly closed her eyes. He placed a soft kiss on top of her head, and ran his thumb on her bottom lip, then her cheek, her closed eyelid, her nose, and her lips again. Admiring her doll-like features, he smiled to himself. He held her tighter on his arms, and she pulled her own body closer.

He wanted to say something, anything, but finally figured that the sound of the waves outside, and the drumming of their beating hearts were enough.

*

“Horses?”

“At least a dozen.”

“And you simply stood there? Weren’t you afraid?”

“It was just a dream. I have them often.” Jamie had been telling her about the dream he had, and she’d been listening with profound fascination. After spending a few more minutes in bed, and having breakfast, they decided to take a stroll down the beach. The cold shore breeze blew through his jacket, making him shiver and bury his hands deeper inside his pockets. Claire felt it too, for she snuggled closer to him, putting an arm around his, tangling herself in his body as much as she could. Her hair was up in a ponytail, short loose locks danced freely around her face. Her cheeks were blushed, her nose was pink, and her lips were dry from the salty sting. She looked stunning.

“Dreams about horses?”

“Nah, dreams I have no idea what they mean.” He shrugged, licking his own lips to keep from drying. The day was surprisingly sunny, but cold as expected.

“I usually don’t remember any of my dreams.”

“No wonder, you sleep like a rock… snore a bit, too.” Jamie teased her, and Claire bumped a shoulder against him in protest. She didn’t snore, of course, and had a rather peaceful sleep. He couldn’t help but to feel a sense of ease whenever he woke up in the morning and saw her serene face, the vulnerability in it.

“So, what do you usually dream about?”

“You…”

“Ah, that explains why you smile so much in your sleep!” She gave him a cheesy glance, and this time it was his turn to bump into her. “You dream with me often?”

“Sometimes. When I miss you, mostly, or haven’t seen you in a few days. I actually dreamed about you before we met. Well, I think it was you.”

“And what kind of dream was that?”

“I saw you, or… I saw a woman, she didn’t have distinct features, I couldn’t quite see her, but she kept calling my name. So I ran towards her, but the more I ran, the farther away she was. Just when I thought I’d have to run forever, I stopped, and she reached her hand. But just as I was about to touch her, she… disappeared.”

“Hmm, strange. Why do you think it was me?”

“I know it was you, because-“ They had met at a New Year’s Eve party, two days before he had this strange dream, but didn’t make anything of it until he woke up in bed with her the next day. He’d completely forgot about it, up until now. “Because this woman… She had your hair, brown and curly. And her skin was… white as a pearl, like yours.”

He glanced back at her, and noticed a shy smile splashed across her face, one she tried to hide by resting her cheek on his arm.

“Do you think it was some sort of premonition? That we’d meet soon?” Claire asked.

“Maybe.” He wasn’t sure what it was, or the meaning of any of it. The startling feeling that they had met before was undeniable. From the moment he had laid eyes on her, Jamie knew Claire was more than just a stranger. He was sure they’d met before, maybe not in dreams, but a past lifetime for sure.

“I didn’t know you liked the beach.” Waves crashed in the distance over the frigid water. The salty air filled his nostrils, opening his lungs. Of all the places on earth she could’ve chosen to take him, a small cottage by the coast was the last one he would’ve picked. He was a man used to the city, but he liked nature, the mountainside. He used to find his peace overlooking the hills, the way clouds touched mountains in a never ending embrace.

“There’s a lot of things you still don’t know about me, James Fraser.”

“I may know a thing or two-” He started. “I know you like your coffee plain in the morning, your bread cut in square pieces, not triangles; you don’t cut your spaghetti, you roll it with your fork.”

“I know that you don’t mind the rain, but hate it when it’s windy. I know that you’ve been trying to finish the same book for the past two and a half weeks, but you fall asleep before you read another paragraph every time you pick it up… I know that you like to sleep on the right side of the bed, that you steal my pillow....” Jamie paused, making her stop walking as well. Then, squinted his eye, and tilted his head to the side. “I know you have a red spot on your left thigh, a scar on your knee, and when I kiss you just… right… here…you-” He lowered his lips, brushing the soft skin of her earlobe, just before placing his mouth on her neck, right behind her ear. “One thing you don’t know… I’m majoring in Claire Beauchamp.”

“I think you passed the test. With honors,” She said, turning to face him, wrapping her arms around his neck. He enjoyed the sudden warmth of her body pressed to his. “I like the beach because… When I was a kid, Uncle Lamb and I spent an entire year in Peru. He took me to the beach one day, it was such a humid day, my shirt stuck to my back. I had never seen anything quite like it…. was… so big, so… beautiful. The sun reflected on the water, making it sparkle, like a million diamonds were incrusted in it. I remember running to the ocean, splashing my feet in the puddles, feeling the salt on my lips. I remember feeling infinitely happy.” She paused, and lowered her head.

He could see her thinking, trying to decide whether to share the rest with him or not. God, if only she knew how much he wanted her to share everything with him, so that he could have all of her, fully. To know her stories, and the reasons behind the scars on her body, her thoughts, her dreams about the future, her fears…

“The other day, you shared your favorite place with me”, she started again. Standing on the tips of her toes, she raised her eyes, and pressed her forehead to his. Then, she took a deep breath, and almost in a whisper she said, “This is mine!”

 

 

Chapter Text

I shut the door behind me, put the basket I was carrying on the floor, and took my boots off by the kitchen entrance. It was starting to rain. The kind of light annoying cold rain that makes your hair curl with humidity, yet not hard enough to do much other damage. I took a peek out the window, and tilted my head towards the sky. The clouds were dark, but it didn’t seem like a storm was coming.

I noticed how Claire had put the kettle on, and how despite the sound of water touching the windows, the rest of the house was silent. A perfect comfortable kind of silence.

With the basket full of chopped wood in hand, I went into the living room. Claire was sitting on the couch, legs curled under her body, head tilted slightly to the side, eyes fixed on the book she was reading.  

I paused by the fireplace, took the wood out from the basket and set it properly. Rain might come, but we would be warm. With the fire ready, I got up, went back into the kitchen, and turned off the kettle. I searched in the cabinet for a mug, and poured her a cup of tea. It was already late afternoon, and we’d better start making dinner.

I took the cup, walked back into the living room, but stopped for a moment. Leaning against the doorframe, I took a mental picture of her. She was wearing a long crimson shirt, black leggings, and a pair of colorful striped socks. Her cheeks were pink, her lips a tone of natural red that made me crave to kiss them at once. She was carelessly playing with her hair with one hand, the other marking the page she was reading… or at least the page she was trying to finish. It seemed like she hadn’t moved to another paragraph since the last time I checked. As I stood there, watching her, I took a long moment to memorize her physical features. The way the light hit her eyes, the way her long lashes batted when she blinked, the way her chest moved whenever she took a breath. God she was beautiful.

I took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly. My heart ached. It wasn’t a painful kind of ache, but the type of ache that is caused by uncertainty. One that comes from being afraid of losing something valuable. The impression that you might be too happy, and somehow the universe will have to balance things out, and it could all be taken away just as quickly as it came.

Which is why no one knew about us, yet. I hadn’t told my sister Jenny about her, nor my closest friends. This wasn’t because I was embarrassed to tell the world that I was in a serious relationship with a beautiful English woman, of course, I just wanted to keep her to myself as long as I could. I wanted to keep us to myself, before the rest of the world could have a say in it, or taint what we had. Were the feelings causing this much uncertainty just the anxiety for what’s to come, for the unknown, for the possibility of losing her, or was it the fear that there was a chance of being with her for the rest of my life? I didn’t know if it was too soon to call it what I thought it was, but… it was a brand new feeling, one I had never felt before. Love in all its form, with all its expectations, anticipations and promises.

 “Claire-“ I said her name without realizing it, but she didn’t look up. Whatever she was thinking about – and it wasn’t that damn book – had her lost in her thoughts. “You know you can stop reading that book, if it’s that bad.”

She looked up, and half-smiled at me “It isn’t bad,” she said, shutting the book. “I was just… thinking.”

 

“About?”

“About… Laoghaire.”

The name sounded foreign, and it took a minute before I could register it, since it was the last thing on my mind. I stood up, then, crossed the room, and placed the tea mug on the coffee table. “What about her?”

“She-“ Claire paused, moved in her seat, and put the book aside. I could tell that there was something she was desperately trying to tell me, but she was being careful, searching for the right words. Then, she shrugged, bit her lips, before opening her mouth again. “When did she start working for you?”

“Why?” The question intrigued him more than surprised him.

“I just- I need to know, okay. It’s just- there’s something about her that I… don’t trust.”

“Claire-“ I started, knowing from the expression on her face that dismissing the question wasn’t going to lead us anywhere. Though I didn’t see why this was important, there was no point in not telling her the whole story, either. “Her grandmother, Mrs. Fitz, used to work for my parents, as a housekeeper. She basically raised Jenny and I. Growing up, Laoghaire was always around the house, helping her grandmother, playing with us. And well, Mrs. Fitz, she’s like family. When my parents died… if it wasn’t for her, I don’t know how things would’ve turned out.” I paused, and turned my back to her with the excuse of inspecting the fireplace.

Claire didn’t speak, it was obvious she wanted to hear the rest of the story, so I went on. “About two years ago, she had a stroke. Nothing serious, well… it could’ve been if it wasn’t for Laoghaire. She found her in the middle of the night, on the floor, and rushed her to the hospital. She recuperated, but… she can’t work anymore. So, we let her go, of course. However-“ I stood up again, and made my way back to the doorframe where I was leaning a few minutes ago. “She begged me to help Laoghaire. You see, Mrs. Fitz is the only family Laoghaire has.”

“Oh, so her parents-”

“Emigrated a long time ago, never came back.” I replied, crossing my arms. “So, I took Laoghaire in to help with the house. She cooks, and cleans. I’ve never had any trouble with her, and she is responsible.”

“She’s in love with you,”  she let the words out as fast as she could. I stared at her for a second too long, and before I could say another word, Claire asked, “Did you not know it? I saw her, the way she looks at you…” her golden eyes now set on my own, fierce and challenging me to disagree. Instead I asked,

“Why on earth are you bringing this up right now?”

“So you don’t deny it. You knew it.” she grimaced and now averted her eyes.

Claire wasn’t entirely giving me news. I had noticed the way Laoghaire stared at me at times, the way she spoke or tried to get my attention. The fact that she could have a small crush on me, wasn’t something I wasn’t aware of, but it didn’t matter to me.

“I know this is silly, that I probably sound ridiculous, and I’m not being jealous. It’s just- I don’t trust her.”

“Why?”

“She took the note I left you!” Claire raised to her feet so quickly that the book left on the other side of the couch fell to the floor. “Did you not care that I left you a note, one you couldn’t find, making it so much harder for us to meet again? Did you not ask her about it? Did you think I perhaps could be lying about it?”

“Claire, it doesn’t matter.”

“It matters to me.” She crossed her arms firmly against her chest. “She obviously tried to separate us.”

“I asked her about the note, and she told me she didn’t see it.”

“And you believed her?”

“No!”

“Do you not believe me now? It was her, surely it was her.” 

“Claire-“ I took a deep breath, her cheeks were now flushed, indicating anger. The night we met, I had taken Claire back to Lallybroch, we slept together, and ended up spending the next couple days getting to know each other. Unfortunately, she was called to work, leaving me with nothing but a note with a message. A note I never saw. He had his suspicions that Laoghaire had something to do with the disappearance of said note, and he had confronted her when Claire met him again, and they talked. Laoghaire insisted that there was no note, and he dropped the subject. Why bother with it now?

“You trust her to go around the house, meddling with your life, touching your things, like…”

“Like what?”

“Like she owns you!”

“Owns me?” I asked, nervously rubbing the palms of my hands together. “I don’t know what’s gotten into ye Claire, but this attack of jealousy isnna very suiting of ye.”

“Jealousy-“ 

“Especially when I gave you no reason to doubt me!” My voice sounded deep and calmer than I expected. “So, what do you suppose I should’ve done about it? Fire the girl, when I had taken on the responsibility with her grandmother to look after her? Should I simply dispose of her over a hunch-“

“Hunch-”she sputtered.

“A hunch you have about her,” I quickly went on, not giving her space to cut me off. “Laoghaire is my responsibility, seeing her safe-“

“How is Laoghaire your responsibility?” Her voice raised over mine. “She’s not a child. She’s a woman, a grown woman… she’s old enough to know better.”

“The moment I promised her grandmother I’d look out for her, she became my responsibility. And when I make a promise, I don’t break it.”

“I’m not asking you to break a promise. I’m asking you to be careful. She clearly doesn’t seem to have the best intentions.”

“You’re asking me to doubt the character of a person I grew up with. Laoghaire, she… she has been in my life longer than you.”

She took a deep breath, let her arms fall to the sides of her body, and looked at me in astonishment. “Then I guess you should keep her.”

I reached for her arm when she started to walk away, but she jerked free. “Claire- stop!” The words had come out wrong, and I didn’t mean for them to sound the way they did. But when you’re angry, you say things without thought, and this argument grew fast- out of nowhere- like wildfire.

She was already making her way out of the room when she turned around. “Would you feel the same way about it if I said the same thing to you? If I compared you to, let’s say… Frank.”

“Frank?” The mention of the man’s name took me by surprise. “What does he have to do with any of this?”

“Nothing,” Claire replied, with a defiant stare. “But how would you feel if I said he’d been in my life longer than you? If I put my opinions of him above the ones I have of you?”

“You had a life with Frank. It’s different.” I had never shared my true thoughts about the man with Claire, never let it show how much I despised him for what he did to her. It never really bothered me that she had been engaged before, set to be married to another man. But the thought of having another man hurting Claire was another story.

“How different would it be if he had tried to separate us, and I knew about it, yet did nothing about the matter… considering only my opinions of him? How would you feel?”

I took several deep breaths, trying to remain calm, but feeling my throat close in unsaid anger. The fact was that I did know how I felt about the matter, or at least how I was feeling just thinking about it.

“You know Laoghaire has feelings for you, yet you act like it doesn’t matter.”

“Because it doesn’t! To me, it doesn’t matter. She’s just a girl with a crush. So what? She’s young, and impressionable… She doesn’t have anybody, except for her old poor sick grandmother, and-“

“And… you?” She said the word with such bitterness that it made me acknowledge just how much the whole matter was hurting her. “I respect the promise you made to her grandmother, but don’t expect me to pat you in the back like a hero. I also know what it feels like to grow up without parents, and deep down I sympathize with Laoghaire in that way, but she shouldn’t have done what she did and come in between us.”

“Claire-“ I glanced at her to find her eyes watering, and took a step forward. How did we come to this? How was it possible to go from completely and utter happiness to this? “You want to know why I didn’t care about the damn missing note? I didn’t care, because I found you. I’ve looked for you across the city, I didn’t care that I seemed like a crazy person going into every damn hospital asking for you. Note or no note I was set on only resting when I found you. And I did.  We’re together, that’s all that matters. I didna care a fig about Laoghaire, or what she may have done or not, because I had you. Because I have you. I’ve done nothing but prove my love for you.”

We both stopped talking, and the words hung in the room between us, its truth piercing our souls. Claire softly gasped, not being able to hold back the tears in her eyes. I reached for her, and she didn’t move or try to get away from my touch. So, I wiped her tears with my thumb. She took my hand, pressed it against her lips, kissing it softly. I held her waist, pulling her closer, dropping my forehead to hers. “I’m sorry,” I said, regretting ever raising my voice to her, or hurting her with my actions.

“I’m sorry, too.”

“No, I didn’t realize you were so upset about-“ Laoghaire, I meant to say, but decided to let the name float away.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner how I felt.”

I could feel her tears falling on my shirt, and held her closer, if that was even possible. Her body was shaking, her voice trembling with the weight of emotion. Placing one hand under her chin, I lifted her face and set my eyes on hers. Her eyes were sparkling, contrasting with the shadow of her tears. There was so much more to say, but only one thing truly mattered. “I love you, Claire Beauchamp.”

She nodded, gently, then quieted another sob with a smile, “I love you too, James Fraser.”

“I promise no one is ever getting in between us again. I promise.” As I spoke the words, I knew that that was the most important promise I would ever make.

*

The next day

She had insisted on a picnic by the beach despite the weather. Granted it was cold, but no longer raining. So, we packed a few sandwiches, and whatever snacks we could find, two large blankets, and headed outside. We lazily walked to the beach, one hand intertwined with the others - holding on to each other like we would a lifeline - and our items with the free one. I held hers firm with the knowledge that she loved me. The thought warmed me from within, and I smiled at her. Sensing this she looked up at me, smiled, squeezed my hand and leaned closer to me.  

When we reached the beach it was empty, as one would expect it to be in such a remote location and in such weather. We laid two blankets on the sand, and sat facing the ocean. We set out to unpack our food but the light breeze was making such a wild display of Claire’s hair that it ended up in her mouth, and in mine, which then caused us to break into uncontrollable laughter. She laid on her back giggling as she was trying to tame her hair and I just couldn’t help but lean down and kiss her, gently and thoroughly. When we finally got our food set out  - tuna sandwiches Claire had prepared, and a bottle of red wine I managed to find, we ate quietly, basking in each other’s company, talking about whatever crossed our minds. I, for once, was determined not to bring up yesterday’s argument. It seemed like she was trying to focus on anything else, as well.

We finished eating and sat side by side, leaning into each other, for some time. I took her hand, examined it carefully, before bringing it to my mouth. I smiled against it, brushing her long fingers on my lips. My warm breath contrasted with the cold of her skin.

“I wish we could stay here forever!” Claire said, almost in a whisper, smiling graciously back at me.

“Forever seems like a long time, no?” It was a rhetorical question. Forever. I couldn’t express just how grateful I felt for being in the little empty beach, sharing these moments with the woman I loved. She had given me forever in more ways than one, within a short number of days. But did it really matter? The concept of time and space didn’t seem to be real. Not here, not now, at least. When it came to the love I felt for her, I couldn’t find a beginning, nor an end. Together, we were infinite.

I kept her hand in between my own, softly touching her skin, and dropped my gaze. Could this be real life or just a dream? Like the ones you have as a child, ones that never seem to end? Could all this be an illusion? The illusion of this perfect still, yet overwhelming sense of happiness.

“I might have to go to France next month,” I said, lifting my sight back to meet hers. The idea of separating from her hurt more than afflicted pain itself.

“France?”

“I’ve a meeting with distributors.”

“I didn’t know the French were keen on drinking whisky.”

“They aren’t,” I replied, with a lighter tone. “That’s why I’m going there.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“A few days.”

She stood in silence for a minute, moved her eyes from me, and glanced at the ocean. The sun was still up, but there were a couple of clouds on the horizon. A dozen seagulls were returning to land, resting on the dry land ahead of us, an indication that tonight would be raining.

“Well, just…” Claire started, moving her stare back to me. “…be weary of the French girls”

I laughed under a breath. She’d mentioned she wasn’t jealous, and I trust her word for it. Yet, I couldn’t help, but to enjoy the little green-eyed monster that suddenly every now and then made an appearance.

With an impulse, I took her face in my hands, and holding her gently, pressed my mouth to her lips. There was only one girl that mattered to me.

We kissed for a while, tangling ourselves in each other’s taste, the warmth of our bodies coming together against the chilly ocean breeze. And when we broke free, Claire gave me a half-smile. She kneeled in front of me, and took off her jacket. The air was freezing cold, and I could see her nipples through her shirt. She stood up, looked around, and gave me a teasing smile. “No one’s here.”

“Seems like it.”

“We’re alone,” Claire went on, kicking one boot off, then the other. “I mean- if you don’t count the seagulls…”

Sitting with my elbows against the sand, I watched as she unzipped her black jeans, pulling them down. She stood there, fearless, goosebumps and all.  Her fair skin was contrasting with the bright sun, her red lips were the color of dark wine, and her hair batted against the wind with fury. She grabbed the hem of her shirt, slowly pulling the fabric away from her body, through her chest, then her head. She bit her lower lip, before tossing the shirt my way. I didn’t know what I wanted more, to touch her and have her right here, or to watch her forever doing this torturous striptease.

I licked my lips with desire, as she reached for the hem of her underwear, and unhurriedly started pushing the pink panties she was wearing down her long legs. I breathed hard trying to control the need to have her right then and there. Like a painting she stood before me, a vision of a naked goddess, with the water as her background, and the light hitting her eyes gently.

“Claire-“ I tried to stand up, and hand her back her jacket. Claire shook her head, and mouthed the word no, before kneeling back down again. Sitting on my lap, she started taking off my own jacket and shirt. Then, she placed her fingers on my lips, and shushed me, teasingly. As cold as it was, I didn’t protest.

I felt her hands play with the zipper on my pants, and helped her take them off, then my boxers. We stood naked for a minute, admiring each other, and feeding off each other’s warmth.

Then, she licked her lips with decision, leaned forward, and put her wet tongue on my neck. Tracing a path down my shoulders, Claire stopped when she reached my collarbone. I caught her mouth, kissing her ardently. Her body shivered against my own. I held her closer, placed my hands on her back, and pressed her breast against my chest.

She reached for a blanket, and wrapped it around her shoulders. With a free hand, she reached for my length, and we both laughed when she didn’t find its usual size.

“It’s too damn cold,” I said, hiding my embarrassment.

“I’ll keep you warm.”

We kissed again, sweet and tenderly, as her hand touched my length, holding her grip firmer with each stroke. I began to relax, the world disappeared around me, and Claire was the center of the universe.

She pushed herself up, and wrapped one arm around my neck for support. My hands fell down her back, lifting her ass, giving it the occasional squeeze as we kissed.  Claire moaned against my mouth, deepening the kiss. My heart was starting to beat faster, and I broke free for air. “God, I want you.” I tangled my hand on her hair, and gently pulled her face just so I could see the desire in her eyes. I leaned down, bit the skin just under her ear, and whispered. “I want you so much.”

She mumbled something I didn’t quite understand, and with a push, I was inside of her.

Cold, tireless, and risking possible pneumonia, we made love. Carving her nails on my shoulders, she rode me to exhaustion. And when the wind around us was nothing but a light breeze, she closed her eyes, and cried my name out loud.