“It’s like flying!” she cried over the pounding of hooves and rushing of wind. “Aye, Da?”
“Aye, lass!” he called back, his stomach flipping with joy. “Indeed i’tis!”
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Fergus and Claire occasionally blur into his field of view, but he could hardly see anything but the fiery tendrils dancing in front of his eyes, could hardly process anything over the whooping laughter of his daughter.
His heart physically ached with how deeply he loved her.
Her joy was putting a light inside of him that he did not think existed, was bringing to life something that he had thought long gone. He’d expressed to Claire that he did not think he could connect with children anymore, that his spirit had been too broken beyond repair.
But Brianna was putting his spirit back together, and she wasn’t even trying. All she had to do was squint up at him with that gap-toothed smile, or shake her head so that her curls bounced, or cry out with joy on her horse.
She was making him whole again.
My beautiful, sweet, cheeky, perfect lass. My flesh and blood. My daughter.
That night, Jamie led Claire out of the girls’ bedroom after having tucked Brianna in. She was out like a light after the first few minutes of Jamie’s story. They’d ridden hard and long today, and it was one of the happiest days of Jamie’s life.
He could not wrap his mind around the fact that this was his . This child, this wife, this life , was all his. He had the rest of his days to ride horses with his daughter, to tuck her in at night, to watch her fight sleep in a desperate attempt to hear her father’s voice for just a little bit longer.
His voice. She cherished his voice.
He had the rest of his days to take his wife by the hand and lead her down the hall into their bedroom.
And now that the mugwort had been delivered to them from Edinburgh, he had the rest of his life to lay her down and bed her properly.
She’d made herself a cup of tea with it after supper, finishing it on the edge of Brianna’s bed, her head on his shoulder, sipping intermittently. She’d take a cup every day with breakfast and after supper, and she’d be protected from any harm another child might bring.
No, he would not let that thought in.
There was absolutely no question; Claire’s life mattered more than having more bairns. And having his life back was a miracle enough in itself.
He would not allow himself to think on how sad it would be to take her to his bed and then watch her drink away any life he might have planted in her. There was no point in following that trail of thought, so follow it he would not.
Or at least he’d try not to.
The trail was abruptly caught off, anyway, when Claire shut their bedroom door behind them and threw herself at him, kissing him mercilessly.
“I want you inside me all bloody night,” she muttered breathlessly against his mouth. He groaned in response, pressing his pelvis into hers involuntarily. They undressed each other clumsily, frantically. They’d had weeks to revel in the act, to appreciate each piece of skin as it was revealed to them anew, so tonight was not for reveling. Not until he’d pressed inside her at last.
He’d used her mouth in all sorts of positions, used the cheeks of her arse, even her breasts, Claire holding them tight around him. He’d made note of all these things, not wanting to abandon them completely once they were no longer the only option.
But tonight, he would have her.
Once they were finally, finally completely naked, Jamie picked her up and carried her to bed with her legs wrapped around his waist, kissing her sloppily with every step. She’d barely even landed on the mattress before she was clawing at his arse.
“Do it now.”
He needn’t be told twice. He lined himself up and thrust hard and deep. Claire screamed, digging her nails into him, throwing her head back, shutting her eyes. Christ, it was almost too much. He had to stay still or he’d lose it immediately.
And he’d promised to make it last all night. Dammit, he’d do so.
She dug her heels into him, begging him to move, but to keep hold on himself, he roughly kneaded her breasts, bit her neck, tweaked the bud between her legs. She squeaked and moaned, but she fiercely grabbed his face in her hands.
“I’m going to die if you don’t start fucking me, Jamie.”
He groaned with a shudder, nearly losing it again.
“God, Claire…” He pulled out the slightest bit, and upon reentering, she cried out hoarsely. “It’s too much...It’s been too long...I canna…”
“I don’t care!” she cried. “I don’t care if you spill in three seconds...I need...I need you…”
With another shuddering groan, Jamie let all of his restraint go, and he pummeled into her, over and over. He lasted longer than he’d thought he would, though it was really not long at all.
“Take me with you…” Claire moaned, clawing down his biceps.
Evidently, she was as overwrought as he was if she was ready to follow so soon.
He touched their foreheads together, looking into her eyes as he redoubled his speed and brought his hand between them to touch her where he knew she needed most.
“Oh, Claire…” he muttered against her lips. Her keening reached its peak in volume and pitch, and then she stiffened with a harsh cry, clenching around him. God, it had been nearly nine years since he’d felt the bliss of her tightening and pulling him deeper into her…
He spilled into her immediately, moaning loudly into her wide, open mouth. He saw stars for a long while, the only feeling her walls around his softening cock, the only sound her continued mewling in his ear. He came back to himself in pieces, feeling first her heels, still dug into his arse, then her hands, caressing his face with all the tender gentleness in the world.
He opened his eyes to see her staring at him, tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes. He kissed her temples, brushing the tears away with his lips, and with a cry, she threaded her arms around his neck, pulling him ever closer, weeping into the crook of his neck.
“I’m here,” he said gently. He held himself up on his elbows, not willing to abandon the warmth of her just yet to hold her properly. He couldn’t even if he wanted to; all her limbs clung to him with a fierceness that he did not want to fight.
“I’m here.” His voice became hoarse, suddenly overcome as she was.
When his arms began losing feeling from holding himself up, he took hold of her waist and flipped them so that he was on his back, pulling her onto his chest. He slid out of her in the process, but her arms remained around his neck, as did her legs around his waist, now straddling him.
“It was so real …” Claire finally spoke, her voice muffled with her tears. “So many nights I dreamed...and it never felt like that …”
He pressed a tender kiss to her neck, running his hands up and down her back.
“Aye. My own hands dinna compare to the feel of ye, Sassenach.”
She wept harder at that, clinging tighter. “I never even...all those years...I couldn’t...I tried, I really did...but the one time I...got myself there...I just...broke down and cried with my hand still between my legs.” She shook her head against him. “It felt so pathetic...it hurt more than it was worth.”
“Hush now, mo ghraidh ,” he soothed. “That’s over now.”
He showered her head with kisses, and when she finally picked her head up, he captured her lips in a way that seared her to her core. God, she wished men were more like women; she wanted to sink down onto him and ride him into oblivion already. But his body was not ready for that yet.
She knew what she could ride into oblivion, however.
After swirling her tongue with his for a maddening amount of time, feeling Jamie’s and her own wetness trailing down her thighs, she dragged herself up Jamie’s body and straddled his face.
“Oh, lass…” He reverently caressed her arse, and she braced herself on the headboard. He peppered her inner thighs with kisses until she was trembling, and then he feasted.
Claire cried herself hoarse, white knuckled the headboard, and ground herself into his face until she fell apart, pulled to pieces by the expertness of his tongue and lips. It was a powerful, euphoric orgasm, but it did the opposite of leave her satisfied. All it did was leave her aching for Jamie’s cock to be the next thing to pull her apart.
After her hips slowed and she caught her breath as much as she would allow herself, she slid back down and reached.
“Ah,” she said, grasping him firmly, already half hard. “There you are.”
She stroked him fully back to life, and before he could even breathe, she sank down onto him with a low groan. She rode him slowly, deliberately, deliciously. She bent down, hovering over his lips with hers, and she pushed all her hair to one side.
“Still feel like you’ll spill in three seconds?” she purred.
He chuckled darkly. “Well, I intend to be inside ye all bloody night,” he said. “So I dinna think I will.”
He wasn’t inside her all night, but he was for at least another two hours. He let her ride him until he couldn’t stand it anymore, and then he threw her off him, got her on all fours, and took her forcefully from behind until he was seconds away from climax. He took her with her bottom half lifted off the mattress, her ankles crossed behind his neck, he took her sitting up, facing one another, kissing gratuitously, then on all fours again. But he only let himself finish when they were once again facing each other, eyes locked, foreheads touching. Claire lost count after her sixth orgasm, but needless to say, she’d been well taken care of.
It also went without saying that she would not be able to walk tomorrow.
They fell asleep with little ceremony after Jamie’s second climax and Claire’s...however many she’d had. Claire felt like she was made entirely of jell-o, and she didn’t open her eyes again after squeezing them shut for her final orgasm. Jamie, however, was not too tired to tuck her limp form into his side like a ragdoll and kiss her sweaty head.
It was almost as if he couldn’t sleep without holding her so tightly.
“I love you, Claire.”
And though every ounce of breath was knocked out of her, and she’d screamed herself hoarse, Claire’s heart answered back, beating wildly, swelling, entwining with his.
And for the first time in nearly nine years, Claire fell into a deep, peaceful, dreamless sleep with a smile on her face.
Claire could see a gradual change in Jamie the longer he was home. As April settled over the grounds, so too did an easiness in Jamie’s disposition, tension slowly rolling off his shoulders. He’d been slow at retaining the names of all of Jenny’s bairns; wee Jamie and Maggie were easy enough, since he’d known them, and Michael was similarly easy, him being the only other lad, but he was always calling Janet Kitty, and Kitty Janet, much to both girls’ chagrin. Lately, he was getting it right more often than not, and Claire could see both her nieces glowing with pride that their uncle, becoming beloved rather instantaneously, remembered them.
Brianna, too, was more than completely enamored with Jamie. She often refused to do chores with the women and girls, preferring to trail behind Jamie in the fields and the stables. Jenny was none too pleased about this; the woman was set in her ways what was man’s work and what was woman’s work, but Claire could not see any harm in letting the girl spend time with her father.
She’d been without that time for eight years, and Claire could not bring herself to take it away from her again.
Either way, Jamie claimed she was quite helpful in the fields. According to his reports, she was always coming up with ways to make work easier, little tools that he and the other lads never would have thought of. Recently, she’d been marching downstairs for supper with a sketch in her hands.
“D’ye think you could make this one, Da?” she’d say, thrusting the sketch up to him.
“I’ll try my best, lass. But only if ye’re by my side while I do.”
“Of course, Da. I have to make sure ye’re doing it right.”
She was awfully brilliant for eight years old, if Claire did say so herself, and the sketches were quite good and elaborate. She’d be a great talent someday. She used to fret that she’d never catch up to Maggie in skill and ability, but she really was getting there, closer and closer with each passing day.
She’d gotten particularly fond of sketching wee Ian for some reason. Brianna had never been particularly drawn to any of the babies; not like Maggie had. But she was becoming a little obsessed, and Claire would be lying if she said she didn’t find it absolutely adorable.
Watching Jamie become more and more comfortable in his own home, on his own land, around his own family, was bittersweet. On the one hand, Claire basked in it, rejoicing in his rejoining of all that he had missed, but on the other hand, it was terribly sad that he had to relearn everything to begin with. This land was once his, theirs. No longer was he Laird; now he was Mister Malcolm, a farmhand. Of course the tenants knew better, but they could not speak openly about this. He could not even claim Brianna as his. The redcoats thought she belonged to Jenny and Ian. And though this fact hardly affected how they lived their daily lives, Claire could see him deflate every time it was mentioned.
But, this Lord Grey who’d secured Jamie’s freedom had been true to his word. They’d been entirely free of redcoat harassment since Jamie’s return, so they had little to worry about in that regard either way. Claire was eager to meet the man, to thank him for all his many kindnesses. The thought of Brianna never again living through the fear of a home search, the thought of Ian never even remembering one ever having happened…it made her heart light.
Life was truly starting anew…for everyone.
Jenny and Claire were in the kitchen with Mary MacNab, putting the finishing touches on supper, when a cacophony of noise startled the three women. Claire wiped her hands on her apron and pushed open the kitchen door to the outside, and her eyes welled up with tears at the simple sight before her.
Brianna was sat atop Jamie’s shoulders like a little queen, Jamie holding securely onto her small thighs. Fergus strode right beside them, young Michael on his shoulders, likely jealous of Jamie’s special attention to Brianna. Jehu trotted along dutifully at Jamie’s feet, ever mindful of his young mistress. Young Jamie trailed a bit behind, swiping at long grass and heather with a stick, and Ian trailed a bit further behind, taking his time. Janet and Kitty had been running around front with the dogs, and they clambered toward them, and Maggie trailed behind with the sketchpad Jamie had made her, holding her drawings close to her chest as Jehu yipped and nipped at their heels.
Janet clung to Ian’s good leg, and to spare his brother from bearing the weight, Jamie scooped the girl up onto his hip, switching his grip on Brianna to one hand. Janet kissed her father, then her uncle, and Kitty took Ian’s hand, patiently keeping pace with him
“Look, Uncle!” Maggie cried, turning the page up to face him. “Look, I drew the dogs. D’ye see?”
“Och, that’s fine work, lass,” Jamie said proudly. “Ye’ll have to let me look closer over supper, aye?”
“Aye!” she beamed, pressing the book to her chest again.
“Ye’re a braw wee thing,” Jamie continued. “Take right after yer mother.”
Maggie nodded proudly, her smile brightening.
Claire wiped her eyes and sniffled, and she was suddenly aware of a presence beside her.
“Such a simple thing,” Jenny said, her voice tight with her own emotion. “But it means everything.”
Claire nodded. “Everything.”
Jenny rubbed her back. “Go on to them,” she said gently. “We’re almost done anyway.”
Claire untied her apron and handed it off to Jenny, a beaming smile finding its way across her face. She gathered her skirts in her hands and began running toward the throng, propelled further by Brianna’s joyous, “Mummy!”
Jamie let Janet slide down to the ground and picked up his pace, leaving the Murrays and Fergus behind to meet Claire halfway.
“Hello, darlings,” Claire said breathlessly, kissing Jamie deeply until Brianna tugged impatiently on her curls. She laughed as she craned her neck to look at her. “How’s the crop looking today?”
“Just fine,” Brianna said. “My tool is working great.”
“That’s excellent.” Claire stood on tiptoe to pinch Brianna’s cheek, and then Jamie wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her into his side as they continued their way to the house.
“Ye smell like dinner, Sassenach,” he breathed in her hair, then kissed her temple.
“You smell like manure and body odor.” She wrinkled her nose, but snuggled in closer to him anyway. “I don’t even want to know what you smell like, young lady.”
“I smell just fine, thank you very much!”
Claire rolled her eyes; Brianna was using that posh voice of hers to mock her mother’s tone and concern.
“No you do not!” A voice sounded behind them, and then Fergus was beside them, Michael still on his shoulders. “You smell like a dirty man , ma petit .” Brianna blew a raspberry at him, and Michael giggled incessantly. “And so do you, little man.”
“Either way,” Claire cut in, “you’ll be getting a bath tonight. And you should too, young man.” Fergus deflated only slightly in that way that teenagers who feel they are being mothered too intensely do.
Brianna groaned, slumping forward over Jamie’s head. “I don’t want a bath.”
“But don’t you like it when I brush your beautiful hair?” Claire looked up at her. “Doesn’t it feel so nice when it’s fresh and clean and damp?”
This gave Brianna pause, and she picked up her head slightly. “I suppose.”
Jamie snorted at Brianna’s chosen phrase.
“Alright. How about a quick bath and then a long hair brushing.”
She sighed in defeat. “Alright, Mummy.”
Jamie bounced her a bit, and she giggled, sitting up again. “That’s a good lass.”
Claire sighed in contentment, kissed Jamie’s jaw, his stubble a shadow over half his face, and they crossed the threshold for supper with their family.