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            His heart was fit to burst hearing those words escape her beautiful lips. “Oh God. Oh Claire. Quite the opposite, mo chirde.” Jamie was holding her so tightly to his chest as if she were the most precious thing in the world--and to him, she was. He kissed her head softly.  “Claire, that’s wonderful to hear mo nighean donn. I’ve loved you nearly as long as I’ve known you, mo chirde.” 

            Their Uber arrived at their hotel moments later. Jamie allowed himself to let go of his love in order to awkwardly disembark from the Uber.  He had a moment of pity for the Uber driver and made a mental note to over tip him--but that was vastly overshadowed by the warm feeling in his heart that spread through his whole body.  He slipped his arm back around her and drew her close as they entered the hotel and checked in. 

            A small part of Claire felt she should disclose to Jamie that their relationship was doomed, but the whiskey flowing through her was making her feel warm and blissful wrapped in his arms--wrapped in their mutual love, she couldn’t bring herself to do it that night. Help me hold onto you, she prayed, casting out any thoughts of the past or the future.  Here and now there was only her and Jamie, and they were in love.

            They fell into bed together in a blur of passion and whiskey.  The room was on fire. Jamie poured his newly confessed love into her--mind, body, and soul--and she responded in kind. Gentle kisses and caresses, brushes of lips on flesh, hands clasped in the heat of the moment--they savored each other as if time didn’t exist and they could live wrapped in the soft hotel duvet for eternity.  Once their passion was spent, Claire quickly succumbed to the final effect of the whiskey, falling asleep nestled in Jamie’s arms, cheek resting on his strong torso.  Jamie lied awake, softly stroking her hair, too thrilled to sleep. 

            Jamie had never felt this way before about anyone.  He’d dated other women, made love to them, even thought he’d loved them, but he’d always ended up breaking it off.  He humbly knew he was attractive to most women--especially in The States where his accent gave him an added exotic charm, but he always felt like they just wanted him as a status symbol--someone who looked good in their Instagram pictures, someone that they could gush over with their friends. Easy they come, easy they go--but not her. Claire had a knack for letting him know he was attractive without making him feel objectified. Claire saw him for him, it was like she could see right through him, down to the core of his being.  Everything with her felt natural, like he had been born to love and serve her. He’d been worried it was too good to be true.  A woman had certainly never wanted to hide him away to herself before and he didn’t know what to think of that.  He’d understood her reasons from a rational standpoint, but there was a gnawing, doubting fear in the back of his mind that it was because she didn’t really care for him enough to let her friends know.  Who could ever leave me, darling? But who could stay.  Jamie had always been the archer in the relationship, the one who brought the fatal blow to end things before they went too far, but with Claire he knew he was the prey. He was completely vulnerable to her and whatever she wanted to do to him.  In those foggy moments between consciousness before sleep finally took him with her he thought to himself, if you ever left all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put me together again.


            Claire woke in the night--she had always had trouble sleeping late in an unfamiliar bed and the knot in her stomach wasn’t helping.  She had a plan for her future, and it didn’t involve falling in love with a Scotsman who lived clear across the ocean for most of the year. She wasn’t used to facing relational problems head-on, she much preferred to ride off alone and avoid conflict.  That was what had gotten her into this mess in the first place, wasn’t it? If she had been closer to home she would have left him a note and left without a trace.  She had to end it though--they were in deeper than she wanted to be and she didn’t need any distractions at this critical time in her life.  If she wanted to rebuild her life, her career, herself as an independent woman out of the rubble Frank had left her in she needed to be clear-headed and focus, not some lovesick teenage girl. I say I don’t want that--but what if I do?

            She paced like a ghost in predawn hours, going over a hundred thrown-out speeches in her head. The room felt like it was filled with invisible smoke. Why did she have to tell him she loved him last night? Damn the whiskey, fucking Scottish truth serum. She realized she would have to tell him in the car, otherwise it would be a very awkward drive home--if he was even willing to drive her home at that point. She tried to imagine how he would react, convincing herself he would turn nasty and irrational like Frank would. She searched for his dark side, lying to herself that he wouldn’t take it well and she would be justified.  Cruelty wins in the movies, maybe it would create just the right amount of drama she would need to unleash his inner darkness and allow her to let him go. 

            She laid back down in bed beside him so as not to prematurely cause alarm, she had to set her glass face and pretend everything was normal. She couldn’t help thinking what if I’m alright, right, right, right here?  She faced away from him as light began to creep into the room, waiting for him to awake, trying not to think of how painful her life was about to become.  It was bad enough that all of her enemies started out friends, her potential career was in shambles, and now she was about to let go of one of the only things that made sense.  She knew she couldn’t keep him though.  She knew what she wanted and she’d be cutting off her nose just to spite her face--then, she’d hate her reflection for years and years.  No, she had to do this now, like tearing off a band-aid.  It would hurt like hell, but in the end she had to focus on what was best for her, she couldn’t give up on her dreams, she couldn’t let Frank win. As she heard Jamie start to stir behind her she steeled herself for a morning of pretending everything was fine, draping herself in an emotional armor that would have to sustain her for the next few hours. Combat, I’m ready for combat.