Jamie felt it first as the ubiquitous Scottish rain began to fall, landing on his face forcing him to open an eye and cast his view up through the branches above providing their limited shelter. Claire felt his disgruntled Scottish noise emanating from deep in his chest.
“Och, we’ve a uplowsin ‘bout to hit us Sassenach,” he spoke against her lips and he blinked as another drop found its target. “We need to move,” and gave her an affectionate swat on her bum as he rolled her off him and to the side as he quickly rose in his feet in one motion.
“Wot?!” and pushed up looking at him in confusion at the swat and sudden disentanglement. She turned following his gaze toward the looming storm clouds that had moved in while they’d been preoccupied and saw more crowding in from the horizon. “A wot?” She grabbed for his extended hand and was settled on her feet before she could barely register what he’d done.
“You could have just said rain,” she snorted derisively as they scrambled and tossed in the basket’s items and grabbed the blanket. Jamie stalled their dash toward the car pulling her under cover of one the large trees on the verge of the clearing.
“We’ll bide here for a bit and see if it passes soon,” as he cast a doubtful look at the sky and more drops made their way through the overhead covering of leaves. Holding to its edges, Jamie lifted the blanket in a swirl above them seeking the meager additional protection it could offer and backed Claire up bracing his hands above his head against the trunk of an alder and leaned over grinning at her, his smile still clear in the dimmed light in their shelter of damp wool.
He looked down into her whisky eyes still smiling in bemusement as a drop of rain trailed down his forehead to the tip of his long Viking nose, clinging for a moment before letting go just before Claire swiped at it.
“How do you get used to it? All this rain?” she peeked under his arm through the small opening.
“Well Sassenach, rain hardly describes it. Ye’ve got pissin’, mizzle, driech, fret, mochie, smirr, oorlich,” he was listing in a rant.
“Stop! I get it!” Claire laughed at him momentarily covering his mouth with her hand though the way he dramatically rolled the r and elongated the word, she was tempted to disagree, “there’s a lot.”
“Ye didna even let me get started on the frozen stuff,” he smirked at her, “But I’ll take this over a desert any day – we live with it and ye just have to look about t’appreciate all the greens it gives us.” He leaned down and nuzzled her neck wiping more drips on her and laughing as she “ewwed” and pushed at his shoulders. “…I suppose ye best start learning ‘em since ye’ll be settling here…with me.”
With me… the thought made his heart thump harder as he shuffled closer.
Claire had giggled at his adolescent impulse and tried to feign outrage but an impish twist to her lips alerted him that she was up to something as she reached for the bare skin exposed at his waist with his arms raised holding the blanket aloft, and then moved her fingers to stroke his taut stomach. “So, where were we before being so rudely interrupted?” Jamie quirked his brow at her and gave her a lopsided smile and relaxed as she raised up on her toes to give him a kiss. She had slid her fingers under the hem of his shirt and was deftly exploring his well-muscled back running her fingers up and down his spine and moving back to his waist.
Jamie was humming with pleasure at the feel of her touch upon him. Her admittedly chilled fingers were leaving a trail of goose bumps in their wake and he shivered against her, feeling his need and want for her firming against his stomach. Does it never stop? He pressed her harder against the tree as he tightened his grip on the trunk to keep from collapsing against her. “Claire,” he breathed out his want and so intent was his focus he missed the movement of her fingers until she was madly scrabbling them up his ribs and into his oxters as she sagged down laughing at his squeaky response as she continued her assault.
Jamie dropped his arms bringing the blanket down and creating a tent with it resting on his head as he captured her arms and wrapped them tightly in the folds of the plaid until they had both caught their breath. “Sheesh! Okay, no more for now? …Please?” In their darkened enclosure he could just see Claire nod her head demurely and then felt her lean her forehead against his chest after planting a surrendering kiss there and settled in enjoying the warmth, cocooned in their embrace. Claire wiggled her arms free from her sides and locked them around Jamie’s waist.
“So, you’re ticklish too?” she couldn’t hold back her amusement with her discovery.
“Aye,” he admitted, “a few spots, and if ye get it into yer heid and ye’re determined to find more, rest assured, I’ll be doing more of my own reconnaissance when ye’re least expecting it, so truce?”
“Well you started it,” she pouted, “but okay, truce.” For now.
The rain picked up, drops cascading from one branch to the next increased the volume drowning out everything but what was happening in their cocoon as they plunked down on the now sodden ground. Jamie rested his cheek on Claire’s damp curls and breathed in the scent of her, relishing the peace and determined to hold off his growing inclination.
“D’ye want to go? I dinna think it’s going to let up anytime soon.”
“I know I probably should, but noooo, not yet. I’m okay if you are. I sort of like it here with you.” Truth was she was reluctant to leave this bubble that had formed around them, to reenter a world of demands and commitments that awaited them while they were still discovering each other. It was fantastical, all of it that had come to light and she was still coming to terms with it, but Jamie, …he was real and wanted to be with her, accepted her, myths and all and there was nothing more real than him as she snuggled closer to his heat.
Jamie grunted softly, a sound Claire quickly had come to identify in his vocal repertoire, as one of agreement and felt his lips press a kiss into her curls. He tightened his embrace briefly before relaxing his hold letting his hands fall to her arse and started kneading her cheeks absent-mindedly though Claire was fully aware as he warmed her more.
“You making bread there, laddie?” she teased, and her hips rolled into his, unable to ignore his burgeoning firmness and bit back her rolling pin comment.
Jamie chuckled at her observation, “Keepin’ my hands busy a leannan,” before dropping lower, shifting his hold to the back of her thighs and stood upright lifting Claire level with his face and braced her against the lichen barked tree brushing his nose against her collar. “I’d rather keep my lips occupied,” he pressed against her neck smirking as he used his nose and chin, he pushed her collar away until his lips found the juncture of her neck and shoulder and placed a tender kiss there where he’d marked her earlier.
Claire had released her hold on Jamie’s waist as he lifted her and moved her hands up to his neck, wrapping her fingers in his hair. She turned her head exposing her neck to him as his lips found her and pressed him against her.
“Ye’re mine, mo nighean donn, as I am yers,” each word uttered huskily and punctuated with a kiss until the last when he nipped her and then brushed the bite with his tongue. Then his lips latched on and marked her again, sucking at her soft, tender skin until there was no mistaking his claim.
Her quiet hum reassured him, and he felt her wrapping her legs around his waist securing him closer, fitting him between her legs. “And you are mine.”
She could feel his hardness pushing into her. All day they had been dancing along the edge of dangerous territory they had promised not to cross, but if they had not taken the step literally Jamie had certainly carried her to the edge, hung his toes over with one foot dangling in the air. She had willingly encouraged him, but Claire was at the point of tipping her weight ready for the free fall.
“What are we doing, Jamie?” She unwrapped her legs from him and catching a breathless moan as she slid down against his erection til her feet squelched in the soggy soil and held onto him for a moment before she could look back up. She could hardly breathe as she looked up at him.
Jamie pulled back and cocked his brow at her as he smirked, “Foreplay.”
“Is that what you call it?” she lightly smacked his chest in admonishment, “I call it you driving me nearly mad.”
Jamie huffed a belly laugh, “Och, mo chridhe, I’d say ye’ve done a fair bit of that yerself.” He gently held her face between his two large hands as she tried to duck his scrutiny, his thumbs stroking her cheeks. He wanted to assure she was looking at him in the limited light. “D’ye remember straddling me in my bed, yer quim slick as waterweed as ye slid along the length of my cock, the lips of yer quim just barely kissing my tip?” Claire could feel the heat rise in her face as she recalled the occasion and the heat dropped spreading its warmth to that spot between her legs and had her squirming as her body convulsed with the memory.
Jamie chuckled and squeezed her tighter, “Aye, ye do.”
She lifted her chin a bit, a smile curling her lip despite trying to hold it back, her amber eyes gleaming, “You seemed to enjoy it if I recall,” determined not to apologize and a challenge carried in her tone; she would not be embarrassed for it.
A deep rumbling sound that she could only define as satisfaction emanated from Jamie’s chest as his hands slid down to her waist now, gripping her and started slowly swaying with her back and forth totally surprising her, but easily joined in with him. “No doubt about, I did, verra much and truth is it took more strength than I thought I had not to plunge into ye then, and have a mind, I was prepared to, I was so verra close, but ye stopped me. Ye kent what ye wanted, what ye needed and ye told me.” Jamie took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “Watching as ye took yer pleasure with me and …, kenning that ye were, makes me want ye even more."
"It does?" she asked coyly this time.
"Aye, but we'll bide, just tonight here and tomorrow night at Lallybroch, and then we'll be marrit in the morning, start the day right.”
"Morning?" Claire rolled her eyes, hoping he'd not see her, "how early?"
"Depends on when ye wake. I'll be up with the cocks waiting for ye, so dinna be too much of a sleepy heid."
“God save me from bloody Scots; Oaths and vows and foreplay, you say? ” she whispered as she rose on tiptoes to kiss him so grateful for him.
The skies opened, and the rain came down hard enough that it was now practically pouring through the saturated blanket that rested on Jamie’s head as he lifted it from his head. “D’ye think this is God’s answer to yer prayers? A cold shower?” as he looked back down at her grinning with a low chuckle, shaking the wetness from his head with little effect.
“Maybe it’s a sign we’ve had our share of miracles today. Perhaps we shouldn’t test it further?” resignation tinged her response.
Jamie leaned down to the basket dragging the blanket with him. “Hey!”
“Aye, ye’re right. We may be cold and soaked through, but have a good nip of this, and ye won’t care,” as he handed her the bottle of Scotch. Claire gratefully accepted his offering with a grin, and they proceeded to trade sips as the warmth filled their bellies.
“There’s nothing to be done for it; I dinna think it’s no going to let up anytime soon and we’re only going to get more drookit, may as well make for the car and head back for a warm shower. I’ll take the basket and one end of the blanket and ye take the other,” as he handed her a corner. “May give us a bit of shelter. It’s rare to see the rains come down like this hereabouts this time of year. Ye’re ready?”
Claire barely got her nod off between shivers before Jamie’s commanded, “Let’s go,” and made off at a good clip. They laughed and splashed through puddles and finally gave up any pretense at avoiding the wetness.
They reached the car in about half the original time but thoroughly and completely soaked and mud splattered. Jamie lifted the rear hatch grabbing a spare blanket and wrapping it around Claire before seating her in the car and giving his head a vigorous shake before combing his fingers through. Despite their quick pace the chill had set in and Claire was shivering badly. Jamie started the car and reached across and rubbed her arms hoping to get her circulation flowing. “The heat’ll be warming in a minute Sassenach. Are ye okay?”
Claire turned to answer and was surprised by the look on Jamie’s face. “What?”
“I’ve seen ye looking like a super model, a dandelion, and now a drowned rat, and ye’re still the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” he thumbed his mark on her neck and a gleam shone in his eyes.
Claire felt a warmth flood through her that no car heater could match, and the tears started to flow.
Claire dipped her head so he couldn’t see her face and buried it in Jamie’s shoulder seeking a sanctuary. She felt his arms gather her to him in response as she swiped at the tears with the back of her hand and snuffled.
“Shhh, it’s alright mo chridhe, ye're okay,” and felt his lips kiss her temple.
The rain continued to fall and the heat from their bodies started steaming the interior until the windows were all fogged up before Jamie finally switched on the defogger but made no other efforts to release them from their bubble.
Claire had sensed Jamie’s head ease and fall back against his headrest, and as she relaxed, she felt the steady rise and fall of his chest and could hear the steady beat of his heart and a calm peace settled over her. And then she felt the low rumble of a chuckle spark to life before he spoke, “I was just thinking that ye hardly made a dent in what ye owe me today and compound interest continues to accrue until the debt is relieved. At the rate ye’re going, I imagine ye’ll owe me a lifetime, if no two lifetimes of kisses, so if ye’d like to make good use of yer time, ye could continue working it off now.”
Jamie felt Claire’s shoulders start to shake under his arm and held her tighter hoping to offer her warmth until she snorted and came up laughing, eyes crinkling in mirth, “What? Are you a bloody accountant?” and she placed a chaste kiss on his cheek, “There. One down, how many to go?”
“Well, as ye said, I’m no just a pretty face, I’ll have ye ken I hold a degree in International Economics, so I do hold a bit about accounting and keeping accurate records, so let me think a moment.” Claire watched with amusement as Jamie’s face scrunched up in concentration and then relaxed as he came up with his solution and looked over at her.
“Ah…a bit of Catullus, I learned from Hugh Munro, an old friend, a schoolmaster; it may work well for ye as to how many.”
“‘…da mi basia mille, diende centum, dein mille altera, dein secunda centum…’”
She stared at him blankly, her wonder at this man increasing by the moment, “You’re reciting Latin to me for a math problem? My Latin may be limited to medical and horticultural terms, but that doesn’t sound entirely mathematical, I think you need to translate.”
Jamie squared away facing her and gave her a small smile as he reached toward her pushing wet curls from her face before he cupped it in his hands as a thumb lazily traced along her bottom lip, his eyes fixed on its path and began in a slow, deep cadence.
“Then let amorous kisses dwell.
On our lips, begin and tell,
A Thousand and a Hundred score
A Hundred, and a Thousand more.”
Claire watched as a raindrop escaped from a tendril clinging to Jamie’s forehead and traced its way down his cheek before she could bring her eyes back to meet his and shuddered as she took a deep breath. “That sounds like a lot,” she whispered.
“Aye, it is,” Jamie countered, remaining solemn.
“I’m not very good with math,” her eyes wavered back to his lips. “Maybe you should keep count?”
Claire felt her face being pulled toward Jamie and she leaned forward seeing his lips twitch and then her progress was halted as she tasted whiskey flavored breath against her lips. “Do ye trust me?”
“Unequivocally,” and she pressed forward into his kiss.
The downpour had finally let up, but the early dusk was quickly settling in with the already cloud darkened sky before Jamie paused his collecting to look outside. “We best be heading back before we get stuck in a quagmire out here or run out of petrol. Ye never know what may happen so close to the faerie hill.”
Claire popped up looking about out the window, “Really? Is that going to be a problem?” then turned to Jamie.
“That depends, d’ye hear anything?” he wasn’t sure if he was teasing or not.
Claire focused her attention outside but returned it to him shaking her head, “No, just the rain. Should I?”
“Nope,” he held his relief in and just smiled, “No problems, four-wheel drive; ye have to be prepared in the Highlands, Sassenach.” Jamie carefully backed up maneuvering his way over the sloppy mud track toward the main road.
“So, I’ve been told,” she rolled her eyes and grumbled recalling Murtagh’s chastisement.
“The real problem I’m going to have is sneakin ye in Sassenach. Mrs. B will have me skint as bedraggled as ye look with yer lips all swollen and cheeks reddened no to mention those humongous midge bites on yer neck. Ye look like ye might be something the cheetie dragged in to play with,” he chortled with a thoroughly contented smirk.
Claire's hand moved self-consciously to her neck, “Ha ha, Mr. Tom Cat, she’s smarter than you think. Agnes knows it’s well past midge season, I’ll see you get all the credit.”
“If ye insist, I’m no ashamed for it, I’ll take it,” and he attempted his wink, which set Claire off giggling and he smiled which got her even more, happy he didn’t get it.
“Ye ken Sassenach, I’d hope to have more time to court ye properly, and I’ve lost a couple of days here, but I should like to take ye on at least one real date before we get marrit, just the two of us. Would ye be up to going out with me this evening?”
“More time?” a laugh escaped, “I don’t know how much more courting I could possibly stand with all this foreplay, but are you sure you want to be seen with something the cat dragged in?” Claire teased back.
“Ye clean up well enough,” he smiled thinking about how lovely she truly was even in her bedraggled state.
“Well it will have to be very dark and very casual. I don’t know exactly what I have left to wear, I’ll have to check what Fiona sent over, but yes, I’d like to go on a date with my fiancé,” she drew out the word as she readily warmed to the idea, and if they were in public they’d be less likely to carry their shenanigans any further. She was beginning to sorely regret not hying off to Gretna Green after all.
Claire felt a hand rubbing up and down her thigh, gently waking her up. “Sassenach?” she felt Jamie’s warm breath tickling her ear as he leaned in, “Do ye want me to carry ye in?” She smiled at his offer and just shook her head, getting rid of the cobwebs after evidently dozing off in the warmth.
“No, I’m awake,” she yawned. Jamie had just turned the engine off as she pulled her arms up and her hands behind her head thrusting out her chest as she rotated her hips and spine and groaned in pleasure as kinks released. She turned toward Jamie and opened her eyes and looked at him lazily. “Ready?”
Jamie was just staring at her with his jaw dropped open. “I’m no sure. Do that again and I will be. Christ, Sassenach.”
Claire opened the door and climbed out of the car, ducking her head back in smiling invitingly, “Come on, you can help me get out of these wet clothes, into my hot shower and …” the rest was lost as she withdrew her head, closing the door and started strolling down the walkway leaving Jamie still buckled in his seat admiring her rear assets and smiling like a lovestruck teen.
Senses returning, Jamie jumped out of his seat, slamming his door behind him, and loped off to catch up, “And what Sassenach?” his eagerness evident.
“You didn’t hear? Just as well, I’ve changed my mind. This is going to be a proper date.”
“Cooome ooonnn,” and she left him on the lower step with arms spread out as he tried wheedling her, “Ye canna just leave me hanging.”
“Sure, I can. An hour then? You’ll have to take me as I am, but I’ll be ready.”
“Alright, as this is to be a proper date, I’ll pick ye up at yer door, no honking the car horn for ye, and whatever ye find to wear, ye’ll be lovely. Do ye want me to go in first and run interference with Mrs. B?”
“That’s okay. I’m a grown woman and if I want to have a roll in the grass with my …lovaaaar,” she rolled out exaggeratedly, batted her eyes and smiled teasingly at him, “I’ll do as I damn well please!”
Jamie laughed at her bravado, “As ye say Sassenach,” and bowed to her before opening the door as she passed. “Och, I left Mrs. B’s basket in the car, I’ll fetch it and see ye in an hour, mo chridhe.”
“Don’t forget the whisky!” Claire shouted over her shoulder as she beat a hasty path upstairs to her room and admittedly hoping to avoid Mrs. B. despite her brave words.
“It’s in the basket!”
She laughed hearing Jamie’s off-key sing-song response. The B&B was quiet, and she’d made it to her room safely and walked straight to the bath, shucking her clothes as she went, the wetness of them making her pants difficult to pull off. She closed the door and turned on the water and ran her fingers through her hair attempting to work through the worst of the knots and remove some leaves before they got more tangled in her wet locks. She’d long ago accepted her hair for what it was and liked it for the most part, but there were occasions that she wished, she had long straight manageable hair. Lastly, she removed the pearl necklace and fingered the strand before placing it on the counter.
Steam was starting to fill the room and fog the mirror as she stepped into the water and felt her tensed chilled muscles relaxing under the pressure. She washed her hair and shaved her legs after soaping up her body with her favorite scented soap enjoying the cleansed feeling as it all rinsed away and disappeared down the drain.
She luxuriated in the water and escaped into her thoughts of the day’s discoveries. One image that kept returning to her was of the little boy standing on the hill looking so forlorn as she was led away in disgrace. That here she was reunited with him, 15 years later, in the grown person of this wonderful man, the keystone to her life, was she felt nothing short of miraculous. What had she done to deserve such grace; she couldn’t begin to imagine and the truth she was facing was she didn’t want to try.
Wrapping a towel around her body, she stepped out and flipped her head upside down as she towel-dried her hair wishing she had some of her toiletries left sitting next to her sink at home. Jamie had seen enough of teary eyed, runny nosed Claire of late. She wanted him to see her as the strong confident woman she truly was and proud to be with her. She dropped her towel and leaned in closer to the mirror fingering Jamie’s fresh marks on her neck, and two fainter bruises and felt her knees give a little. The things he did to her or would and she smiled in anticipation.
She started rummaging through the basket on the counter and there it was, her favorite wet head comb and her brush and, all the other items she’d been wishing for, there. Jamie had told her the Highlands were magical. Did she really just need to wish? She stepped into her room and looked around and there on the back of the door hung her garment bag and in the corner her suitcase, not magic, just good friends, Gail, and her heart filled as she sent up prayers of gratitude.
Unzipping the bag and found a note pinned to an unfamiliar dress, Hun, A few things you might need and a couple of others for you to consider, just in case… I still think you were beautiful. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow. Love you, Gail (and Joe too).
Claire felt her nose twitching betraying the onset of more tears and such a rush of gratitude for her friends she hurried to the bathroom grabbing a washcloth and pressing it to her face. No! Damn it, you are not going to cry Beauchamp! She commanded and set to with a determined flurry to get ready for her date with her destiny. It’s okay, you can be corny and smiled brightly to herself.
She was just fitting an earring when she heard a gentle tapping at the door. One final glance in the mirror confirmed she was set and crossed the room to open the door.
Jamie was lifting his head as the door swung open and his face lit up with delight as he saw she had selected his gift to wear and stood there admiring her. “I dinna ken if I can find the words to tell ye how beautiful ye look, mo nighean donn,” as he lifted his hands and moved to step forward and then stepped back dropping them, unsure whether he could let go if he embraced her.
“Oh my,” and she caught her breath as her actions mirrored Jamie’s and smiled at their mutual awkwardness. There was nothing of the soggy boy she’d been running through the rain with just a short time ago laughing as they splashed through and jumping over puddles. His damp hair was combed back and small curls collecting at his nape as they dried. He wore a dark blue suit with the subtle pinstripes, no tie with his white button-down shirt, opened enough at the collar to expose the small dimple at the base of his throat just where her lips would reach.
Jamie stepped forward this time fighting to contain his smile, “Aye, yers,” and slipped his hand beneath the chignon hugging the base of her neck massaging it with his fingers as he gently pulled her toward him slipping his other hand to rest on her hip as he bent his head accepting her offering, slowly moving his mouth against hers lightly touching his tongue to her lips and then her own as she opened to him.
He gently held her away as she pressed forward and parted his lips from hers inhaling her breath as he met her confused look. “I needed to kiss ye, but I willna be able to stop if I feel yer body pressing against me.” He rested his forehead against hers, regaining control of his body’s inclination to pull her deep into his embrace.
“Shall we go Sassenach?” and she gave her wordless nod of assent before she looked up meeting his dark blue gaze with her own as she took his outstretched hand.