Prime Minister Claire Beauchamp closed the doors to her private suite within 10 Downing Street and leaned against them. She breathed in and out, blowing the stray curl out of her eyes. It was hardly her first day, but she’d not made any more headway in cooperation among the Cabinet of late.
A five-knock pattern sounded on the door behind her. She cracked it wide enough to reveal a distinct streak of red and a knowing smirk. Claire edged the door further open to allow the head of her security detail to slip in past her. She nodded to the site guard in the hall, who didn’t bat an eye as she closed the door behind her bodyguard.
Agent Malcolm opened his arms as Claire dove into his chest. His lips met the parting in her hair as the back of his fingertips caressed down her spine.
Agent Alexander Malcolm, known as James Fraser outside of Protection Command and the eye of the public, had been the first friendly face Claire had spotted during her initial tour and introduction to the personnel.
On their first excursion, she had asked him what name he preferred to go by. He didn’t look like an Alex.
“Ye can call me Al,” he had told her, blinking with a sly grin.
From that day on, they were practically inseparable. The agent never took a sick day. The fiercely independent prime minister no longer refused an escort, even on personal outings.
He watched from a close but immoveable distance as she enacted policies to better the lives of the citizens of their homelands. He came to understand her more deeply as she advocated for orphans and young women in STEM.
She sensed his movements behind her as he perked up when she mentioned the importance of prenatal and universal healthcare.
Claire allowed herself to sniffle against him, head burrowing into the hollow of his chest. She pulled back to meet his eyes.
Their companionship had deepened into something more the evening after a terror attempt on the borough Claire was visiting went awry. They had ridden back in her town car, hips pressed together as Claire’s shaking threatened to rattle Jamie’s teeth.
Her grasp on his elbow hadn’t loosened as they crossed the threshold of Number 10; instead she had led him up the staircase to her residence. The night had ended with him holding her within his arms to quiet the tremors, legs tangled beneath her covers and duvet.
“Ye’ll ken the name’s no’ Malcolm?” he had whispered into her hair.
She nodded against his shoulder. She had a keen mind for observation herself.
“I love you, Jamie,” she’d whispered back.
But there in the dark with her, he’d felt he had no name. He didn’t need one.
“Ye did well, love” his voice rumbled low. “The tricky wee bastard may know a thing or two about history, but he doesna have the heart for the people that you do. And he’s no match for it.”
Home Secretary Frank Randall had scarcely given Claire a break, making every effort to best her and rebuff her ideas. Perhaps it was because she was young, brilliant, and a woman, or maybe he was threatened by her higher position of power. But Claire figured it most likely was because she had spurned his advances at every turn.
She knew it boiled Jamie’s blood to stand steps behind her as Frank lifted her hand to kiss at public events, bowing in front of her to request a dance.
Claire accepted no more often than their positions made proper, catching Jamie’s eye at every turn. She would find his face set grimly, his fingers tapping an anxious rhythm against his thigh.
“Soon,” she whispered to him, wrapping her arms around his neck.
Jamie pulled the clip out of her hair, allowing her curls to spring free. He tangled his fingers in them, his forehead against hers in silent promise.
His contract with London’s Metropolitan Police Service was due to end in six months, at which time Claire had insisted they would make their connection known. Murtagh, the man who had trained and all but raised Jamie, would take over his position.
He trusted no one more to see her safe. But Jamie would never be far from her side, either. After all, he had promised her the protection of his body, if necessary. And soon that of his name and clan, as well.
They were to marry the day after he turned in his badge. She would take a long weekend and accompany him to Lallybroch. Jamie’s sister was already planning a small ceremony in the dooryard of his family home.
Hours later, Claire had changed into her dressing gown, but was still on the sofa in her sitting room, poring over documents littered across the coffee table.
Jamie leaned over the back of the couch. “Go to bed, mo ghraidh,” he breathed into her neck, lips tracing the pattern of freckles he loved.
“Not yet,” she squirmed. “I have to be prepared for… tomorrow.” A long yawn interrupted her sentence, the last words whistling through her teeth. “Meeting with the queen,” she mumbled.
He lifted her over the back of the couch and carried her across the apartment. Her eyes were closed before he could lay her in bed. He kissed her brow, planning to sneak out the back door of the headquarters.
“I love ye,” he said tenderly, placing another soft kiss on her lips.
But as he turned, she yanked him back by the hand.
He whirled to see her staring up at him dreamily. She patted the empty bed space next to her.
A protest formed on Jamie’s lips, but it was gone with one look into her golden eyes. He let his boots thump to the floor and opened his designated drawer in her dresser. After tying the waistband of the Fraser tartan pyjama trousers she had purchased him, he slid under the sheets and gathered her to him. Claire rolled towards him to bury her face in his neck, hands pressed against his chest.
He knew he would have to rise early to leave without rousing suspicion, and would likely have a dead arm in the morning. But he wouldn’t move for the next few hours to free Scotland.