The familiar Clan war cry that ripped from his throat as he threw Claire aside from the horse and slid his arm from the homemade sling of Angus’ belt eliminated the fog of fatigue and ache that had settled in his bones earlier in the day. While Jamie didn’t become a soldier by choice, he had grown accustomed to the feel and thrill of riding into the midst of engaged enemy combat. He drew his sword from its scabbard and made haste to cut off the damn Redcoats before they could do anymore damage to his beloved homeland.
He was doing a fairly decent job of cutting down one Redcoat after another with just one hand, but his mind kept wandering back towards the brown haired Sassenach lass that straddled his horse in front of him not two minutes before. How did she know there was an ambush awaiting them? Were they aware he had just come back from France? Did that bastard Randall catch word somehow of his return to Scotland?
Before he could ponder on that thought further, a white hot flash of pain tore at his shoulder. For a split second, he wondered if he had dislocated it again, until he realized he was still atop his horse. Nae, that couldna be it, his mind niggled. Just as soon as he had felt it, the sensation was gone.
After a terse few minutes of active fighting, the blasted English were retreating to wherever they had come from, fearful of their plaid-clad foes. Jamie grinned widely. He could hear the Gàidhlig shouts and jowls of victory from his companions.
Now he was off to find that Sassenach woman.
In the seconds of chaos before and after he flung her off the horse, he didn’t take note of where she landed, let alone where she could have gone. So he did his best to retrace his steps.
The feel of her in front of him on the horse. That round, succulent arse slid so close to his nethers while they rode. He inadvertently crossed himself at his impure, no doubt blasphemous thoughts. He shouldn’t even be thinking such a thing about a potentially married woman; he didn’t miss the glint of metal that gleamed from her hand in the waning Scottish sunlight. Women just didn’t wear such precious things if they were fleeing the Highland countryside, if what Mistress Beauchamp claimed was indeed true.
Jamie looked all around as he rode as quickly as his horse could carry him until he heard some rustling in the trees nearby. Looking towards his left, a flash of white and brown skirted across his vision.
“Lost yer way?” He called out as he reigned in his horse to stop. He dismounted with a forward swipe of one leg, twirling his kilt around unintentionally as he ordered his horse to remain in place with a harsh gàidhlig command. He could see Claire, poor unfortunate lass, was wary of him. Probably more so now that he was encrusted with blood and grime.
“I hope you haven’t been misusing that shoulder,” he heard her scold, a worried glare on her pretty yet dirty face. As he slowly walked closer, he could see that her shift and hair were more damp than before. Probably from rolling around in wet grass. He saw her scowl further at him. “You’re hurt!”
“This lot isn’t even my blood,” he said with some bravado, but still looked down as if to make sure he wasn’t lying. He didn’t know why; it wasn't like he could tell the different between his blood and another’s when they were all blended together on his shirt. He licked his bloodied lips, the iron-copper consuming his senses. “Not much of it anyway.”
He knew Claire was going to run again even before she tried to go around the sharp edge of his blade as quickly as she could. Either out of fear or defiance, Jamie couldn’t tell. It didn’t really matter. She had no choice but to come with him. His threat to toss her over his shoulder, injured or not, showed her that both of them were at the mercy of another. If his damn uncle hadn’t insisted on bringing the lass along with them back to Leoch, he not only would have insisted on her going, but begged to join her.
She was bonny, in more ways than one, but Jamie knew it was far too dangerous for him to be back in Scotland. He was a wanted man at just three and twenty. For a crime he didn’t commit. Couldn’t have committed, given he was so injured and on the brink of death, he couldn’t do more than hang on a horse. Now, what was left for him here? He had no home, couldn’t use his given name without endangering himself, and nothing more than a few pennies’ from a soldier’s wage. It wasn’t worth it. But…
Wherever the bonny Sassenach was headed, it might give him a chance to start a new life.
He felt his heart give an excited lurch at the thought of starting that new life with her.