The air was cool and clear, tinged with the promise of light rain. I held my basket tightly in my hands, my cloak fluttering in the wind. The Scottish hillside seemed endless that morning, and I traipsed gladly on, breathing deep.
Our life at Lallybroch was truly charmed. I’d just left Jamie tending the fields with Ian, aided by the eldest of Jenny’s children. I had delivered the latest of these, a boy named Michael. The Murray brood now had five children. But Jamie and I were not far behind.
Faith was four years old, running about after me. Julia Ellen, almost two, took after her father, far more interested in sheep, chickens, and pitching hay, as well as getting as muddy as possible. I touched my gently swelling stomach, smiling to myself. With child again, Jamie and I had names picked out – Brianna for a girl, William for a boy.
I walked steadily. My destination was not much farther. Slender bars of sunshine broke through the cloud cover, golden rays illuminating the depths of the nearby loch. It immediately reminded me of the quality of the light streaming into the small kirk where Jamie and I were wed, years ago.
I remembered the noon sun shining in Jamie’s hair, the light coming through the stained-glass window of the church. If I was a radiant bride, the groom was positively resplendent. Jamie wore his kilt again, complete with new boots and a brooch. A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight—any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance. A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored young Highlander at close range is breath-taking. And he was mine.
On our second wedding night, he was reluctant to engage in more amorous activities than kisses and caresses. I pressed against him, my hips undulating of their own accord. Jamie held me, touched me lightly—but he would not go further. I cupped my hand between his legs and he groaned. “Oh, Lord. Don’t do that, Sassenach; I canna keep my hands off ye.” He did embrace me then, wrapping his long arms around me and pulling me close.
“What is it? Am I too fat?”
“Of course not, Sassenach. Ye ken I like ye fine, fat and juicy as a plump wee hen.” He took hold of my arse then, squeezing for good measure. He still went no further, though. I lay down and pulled him determinedly down on top of me.
“Claire, no!” Jamie protested as I unbuckled his kilt.
“Why ever not?” I huffed.
“Well,” he said awkwardly, blushing. “The bairn… I dinna want to hurt it.”
“Jamie, you can’t hurt it. I promise you.” I traced the curve of his mouth with my finger, then followed suit with my mouth and tongue. I could feel him about to concede.
“Well… if ye’re sure of it. Go gently, aye?”
Gentle I would be, denied I would not. I entreated him to kiss my breasts, and Jamie obliged; he touched the tip of each nipple delicately with his tongue, and they rose like magic. He kept worshiping with hands and then his mouth.
“They’re so lovely,” he murmured against my skin. He rolled onto me, and I urged him inside. We began a rhythm slow like waves skimming the shore. He was tender and slow, pausing every now and then to kiss me deeply. Jamie took great care not to crush me under his weight, which rested solidly between my legs as he climaxed. I ran my hands gently down the scars on his back, a reminder of how we had come together and what he and I had endured. He held himself above me still, taut beneath my hands.
“I will not break, you know.” I guided his body to lie on me gently. Jamie sighed, and his hand tangled in my curly hair.
“Maybe not, Sassenach, but I may.”
We lay in silence for awhile before I spoke. “After Maman died, I felt abandoned – shipwrecked, trying to survive on unfamiliar land. You were my life raft, Jamie. You saved me in more ways than one.”
“So did ye save me, Claire.”
“Will I be a good mother, do you think? I know how to deliver one, how to nurse it, how to heal one… I remember Maman of course, but I cannot help feeling she should be here to guide me.”
“I’m sure she is, Sassenach, same as mine. What ye dinna ken, you’ll learn. We will learn, together. When do ye think the wee one will be born?”
I stopped to count. “Sometime in February I believe.” I outlined the curve of my stomach, and smiled at Jamie. “You were born to be laird of Lallybroch, were you not?”
“This land… it’s in my blood. I always thought I’d follow in my father’s footsteps.” He stretched next to me, while looking deeply into my eyes. “And you, my Sassenach? What were you born for? To be lady of a manor, or to sleep in the fields like a gypsy? To be a healer, or a don's wife, or an farmer’s lady?"
"I was born for you," I said simply, and held out my arms to him.
Midwife, healer, wife, and mother… I had fulfilled Mother Hildegarde’s hopes for me, and myself. With Jamie’s love, strength, and support, I could not have imagined a better life and the promise of our future together.
I saw the roof of the MacNab’s cabin as I crested the top of the hill. I strode up to the crofter’s cottage, where the bleating of sheep and Clarence, their mule, announced my arrival. I rapped on the door and found myself peering into the anxious face of the elderly woman who opened it – Granny MacNab, who was about to welcome another grandchild soon.
“Oh, thank Bride!” She turned to call into the cottage as she opened the door wide. “Rest ye easy, Mary. ‘Tis the midwife!”
I smiled, and stepped into the house.