- Wedding? But you know my daughter Claire? - Henry asked with a little amazement.
- I don't know her personally, but I've heard wonderful things about her! - Fraser spoke with a smile.
- Are you sure you heard about my eldest daughter? Wasn't it Bianca they were talking about?
- I'm sure I want to make my request official with your daughter Claire, and let's be honest, I'm almost old enough to be the father of your youngest daughter, I may seem a little desperate for marriage, but babysitting a little girl is not in my plans!
Bianca was about to reply James' comment when John showed up at her side interrupting her:
- Fraser, you surprise me every minute! I've never seen you desperate to get married, what made you change your mind so suddenly?
- The same thing that made you come here in Leoch to court our dearest Laird Henry Beauchamp's youngest daughter! And I'm not getting any younger either, I need to put my adventures to rest for a while and nothing like having a woman at home to please me!
John wanted to kill his "mate" for his observation, but before he could do anything, he was startled by Henry's laughter that took over the great main hall of the castle:
- Come, Mr. Fraser, I'll introduce you to my daughter Claire, I'm sure you'll get along just fine! - he still spoke with tears in his eyes from so much laughter. - And John, will you tell Mrs. Fitz we have guests for dinner?
And the two of them went towards the garden that Claire always spent her day in, the garden that her mother grew and which was at the back of the castle, where nobody had much access, leaving Claire always alone and what she liked the most, without people around her wanting to please her. She never liked being surrounded by employees who did everything for her, but she was aware that she didn't know how to do much on her own, she hadn't been raised for that, to be independent.
When they arrived at the garden, Fraser saw Claire sitting on a small bench while separating some plants to do something he couldn't imagine what it was, he didn't understand anything about gardening but what he understood was a beautiful woman and that Claire was, a lot. Her hair was tied up, the curls caught the sunlight and reflected a shade of red in contrast to the rest of the brown. Her skin was very light and the traces of her face very delicate, and of course, he could not help but notice her curves and even in the dress she wore he could see that she had a slender body.
- Claire, dear, we have a visitor! - Henry spoke slowly.
Claire looked in her father's direction and saw a man standing beside him. She had never seen him before and the first thing she thought about was how tall he was, how much taller he was than her father, and it wasn't just the height that scared her, it was the size of him as a whole. She soon noticed that he was a typical Highlander, he was in kilt and all the other props:
- Claire, as I was saying, this is James Fraser, Laird of Broch Tuarach.
- It is a pleasure to meet you! - Fraser spoke taking Claire's hand to kiss. Claire just smiled shyly.
- Claire Beauchamp. - she greeted him.
- I thought it would be nice if you two met just before dinner. - Henry spoke already halfway back to the castle.
- Is there a reason he's staying here with me in the garden? Can't we talk later? - Claire asked a little angry.
- No mó ròs, we have to get to know each other a little now because at dinner your father will announce our engagement. - James spoke with a smile on his face.
- WHAT? Dad! You come back here! Now! - she shouted extremely altered, but it was late, her father had already disappeared from view. - You! Who do you think you are to come here and say I'm going to be your bride? You don't even know me! And I'm not your rose!
- That's why I'm here now, to get to know you, we have exactly one hour before they announce our engagement, I think that's enough time to get to know each other! And I see that your Gaelic is sharp!
- There's something else that's sharp too! - she spoke angrily while holding a gardening tool.
- Oh wow! I see we'll make a great couple, I'm great with weapons, but I can tell you still need a little training, you're holding it the wrong way and you could be disarmed in seconds! - Fraser spoke and at the same time took the tool out of Claire's hand exactly as he explained.
- You are a brute and you can say what you want, I will not marry you and I am sure my father will not go against my will!
- Are you sure? He seemed very happy with my proposal and even asked for a banquet to celebrate! I can tell you that your sister is very happy about it too, and so is John Grey, not that I care about them, what matters to me now is you, mó ròs! - and James tried to get close to Claire.
She took a step back with an angry face:
- I told you not to call me that! And no matter what you say, I'm going to my room now and you go back to Broch I don't know the rest of where you came from! I'm not marrying you!
But the moment she tried to get past Fraser, he held her by the arm and brought her face closer to his:
- I'll just walk out of here with you in my arms and I guarantee you by the end of the night you'll be begging for my presence by your side! - and kissed the corner of her mouth.
Claire tried to let go, but the hand that was holding her was strong. She slapped him on the face then:
- You're an overbearing fool! And a brute! If one day I beg you for something, check my sanity because I'll be crazy! Now let me go! I'm sure if I scream everyone will show up here in a matter of seconds!
- I'm not so sure about that, they know we're getting to know each other and John knows me, he knows women are always screaming for me. - he smiled and shrugged. - Now let's go to our dinner party, future Madam Fraser. We can't make a bad impression on the night of our engagement.
When Claire would answer James's comment, he began to push her towards the castle entrance:
- Has anyone ever told you that you are an overbearing man? Just because you're tall and strong, do you think you can go around grabbing women and forcing them against their will to do what you want?
- Thank you very much for the compliments, dear, for you who think I'm a fool, you've paid a lot of attention to my physique! And I never force women to anything, they always come to me by their own will, even if for that I need to show the way! - he said winking. He loosened his hand on her arm and put it around his.
Everyone who crossed the path was amazed to see Claire walking with her arms around the man, but they smiled politely. James kept a satisfied smile on his face as he listened to Claire's outrages, she could not keep quiet all the way to the main hall where dinner would be served.
By the time they arrived at the table, everyone was in their proper places. Once again they caused amazement by walking together, but Claire barely gave anyone time to say anything and let go of Fraser:
- Why did they change my place? I always sit next to Bianca! - she asked angry.
- Honey, tonight will be special, so you must sit next to Mr. Fraser. - Henry said.
- I don't want to sit next to him, and there's nothing special about the evening, unless it's for the inconvenient visitors. - she spoke seriously and received a look of disapproval from John and Bianca.
- Claire, dear sister, let's not spoil the night I got good news, sit down because we want to have dinner.
- You can wipe that smile off your face, I'm not getting married, if that's what you think is the good news.
- Mó ròs, let's not get into this discussion again! Everyone is hungry, including me! Just sit down! Ah Randall, I didn't see you were still here! You need to learn to talk more, for a tutor you speak very little, you need to make yourself noticed! - and Fraser sat at the table.
Claire sat down too, but she was totally not hungry. Not only did she have to put up with that cocky Highlander sticking beside her, but she had to put up with her sister's annoying smile and her father's satisfaction. And what was that tutor doing there? And how did James Fraser know him? Now that she could think of everything that happened in the last few minutes, she remembered Fraser saying that John knew him:
- Lord John, I am curious how you know my, I mean, Laird Broch Tuarach, he commented that you know each other. - she asked right away noticing the irritation on John's face.
She looked at James and he still had that cheeky smile on his face:
- Well, we knew each other a long time ago, when we were still very young, but we were never friends...
- I didn't mention the word friends, I was just curious how a Lord like you could meet a barbarian like Laird Broch Tuarach. - Claire provoked.
- I'm always amazed at your compliments on me, darling! - Fraser spoke by placing his hand on Claire's, who immediately removed it.
- As I was saying, we met a long time ago, when we were young and a little inconsequential. I regret what I did at that time, it was a difficult phase, I had lost my mother and rebelled against my father...
But he was interrupted by Fraser's laughter:
- You didn't seem sorry earlier today when you saw me enter the castle! You still blame me for picking up your horse and your clothes after you lost them on the dice for me! I told you I was good at dice, but you always thought you were better at everything!
Henry couldn't hide a small smile while listening to James' little story. It just made Lord John Grey even more angry that he made a point of telling his side:
- I only played to teach you a lesson, but you cheated on the dice, as you always did and probably still do!
- Oh, I'm glad to hear you were trying to teach me something, I really was a bit of a reckless young man, but at least I always came home dressed!
And at that moment no one who was sitting at the table could hold a laugh. Even Claire, who had remained serious until that moment, opened a small and modest smile. But before anyone could see it, she returned to her serious features and continued her interrogation:
- Mr. Randall, do you know Mr. Fraser? You seem very close to each other!
- Honey, you can call me James, and don't talk that way, I'm not close to Randall, I just came to him to find out more about the lovely Claire I'd heard so much about.
Claire rolled her eyes and kept looking at Frank Randall, waiting for an answer to her question:
- It was exactly as he said, Mr. Fraser knew I was teaching here at the castle and came to me so I could introduce him to your father. - He smiled timidly, hoping to convince her with it, he hadn't had time to think about the rest of his plan, and Lord John Grey's presence got him off track.