“I know there are things ye’d not wish to tell me, Claire. Perhaps things that ye can’t tell me.”
You don’t know just how right you are, I thought.
“I’ll not press you, ever, or insist on knowin’ things that are your own concern,” he said seriously. He looked down at his hands, now pressed together, palm to palm.
“There are things that I canna tell you, at least not yet. And I’ll ask nothing of ye that ye canna give me. But what I would ask of ye— when you do tell me something, let it be the truth. And I’ll promise ye the same. We have nothing now between us, save— respect, perhaps. And I think that respect has maybe room for secrets, but not for lies. Do ye agree?” He spread his hands out, palms up, inviting me. I could see the dark line of the blood vow across his wrist. I placed my own hands lightly on his palms.
“Yes, I agree. I’ll give you honesty.” His fingers closed lightly about mine.
“And I shall give ye the same. Now,” he drew a deep breath, “you asked why I wed ye.”
“I am just the slightest bit curious,” I said.
He smiled, the wide mouth taking up the humor that lurked in his eyes. “Well, I canna say I blame ye. I had several reasons. And in fact, there’s one— maybe two— that I canna tell ye yet, though I will in time. The main reason, though, is the same reason you wed me, I imagine; to keep ye safe from the hands of Jack Randall.”
I shuddered a bit, at the memory of the Captain, and Jamie’s hands tightened on mine.
“You are safe,” he said firmly. “You have my name and my family, my clan, and if necessary, the protection of my body as well. The man willna lay hands on ye again, while I live.”
“Thank you,” I said. Looking at that strong, young, determined face, with its broad cheekbones and solid jaw, I felt for the first time that this preposterous scheme of Dougal’s might actually have been a reasonable suggestion.
The protection of my body. The phrase struck with particular impact, looking at him— the resolute set of the wide shoulders and the memory of his graceful ferocity, “showing off” at swordplay in the moonlight. He meant it; and young as he was, he knew what he meant, and bore the scars to prove it. He was no older than many of the pilots and the infantrymen I had nursed, and he knew as well as they the price of commitment. It was no romantic pledge he had made me, but the blunt promise to guard my safety at the cost of his own. I hoped only that I could offer him something in return.