Jamie didn’t mean to threaten Claire. Truly, he didn’t. And he certainly wasn’t about to end her life right there in the middle of the boggy, dense forests for her potential insolence either. But if they didn’t start making their way back up the stream towards Dougal and the others, it would be much more trouble that he was willing to risk. There were certainly more Redcoats here now than there were before his arrest.
“Now if you won’t walk, I shall pick you up, and throw you over my shoulder! D’ye want me to do that?”
She was a strong lass, Jamie had admitted to himself. She didn’t take being forced into anything she didn’t want to do laying down. She also didn’t let a man twice her size with more than double her strength intimidate her. Whoever or whatever Claire was, Jamie was glad to have her around. Even if it was for a short time.
Jamie was looking forward to having her all but sit in his lap as they shared a horse on their journey back to his uncle’s castle. He didn’t know what it was, but it felt like she belonged next to him. Close to him, always. The kind of feelings her proximity brought upon him were indescribable. He wanted to kiss her, bed her, have his way with her, but at the same time, he wanted to be gentle and kind, protect her from all manner of danger and mayhem. He had a strong desire to wed her properly, father as many children as she would allow, and be completely under her power of control.
He shook these thoughts from his head. What was wrong with him?
As they were making their way back towards the group, Jamie started to feel funny. It wasn’t dizziness, per se, but he could feel the edges of his awareness start to dull. By the time they made it back and the exchange of victorious jeers and whisky sharing were done, night was close to falling. The sooner they made it back to Leoch, the safer he would be.
As the night wore on though, that feeling of dullness grew into something else. He wasn’t in any pain; he felt lighter, almost. A dull, rhythmic ache turned into a steady throb throughout his being. The steadiness became faster and more pronounced as a feeling of dread imbedded itself into his wame. And he was sleepy. Oh God in heaven was he so tired! He felt he could sleep for days, weeks even.
What was stopping him? They weren’t doing anything important right? It was a bonny night for a lie in among the forest beds. Why not have a wee nap? Maybe it’ll make him feel better.
The slow trot of his horse allowed the sensation to grow. By the time Jamie realized the rhythmic ache was his now-racing heartbeat, it was too late. He was too drowsy and confused to recognize anything or anyone. He couldn’t hear anything other than the sloshing woosh of the blood in his veins, racing towards some unknown destination at alarmingly speeds. The inside of his shirt felt more wet than it did earlier during their ride. Had it rained again? He felt he would have remembered that.
He felt his body lean towards the right side of the horse against his will as the tiny tendrils of his consciousness ebbed further away from him.
The last thing he heard before darkness consumed him was Claire’s sweet yet fearful shout from in front of him.
“Stop! Help! He’s going over!”