He held me hard against him then, without speaking, and I could feel the pulsebeat in his throat, hammering like my own. His hands went to my bare shoulders, and he held me slightly away, so that I was looking upward into his face. His hands were large and very warm, and I felt slightly dizzy.
“I want ye, Claire,” he said, sounding choked. He paused a moment, as though unsure what to say next. “I want ye so much— I can scarcely breathe. Will—” He swallowed, then cleared his throat. “Will ye have me?”
By now I had found my voice. It squeaked and wobbled, but it worked.
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I’ll have you.”
“I think …” he began, then stopped. He fumbled loose the buckle of his kilt, but then looked up at me, bunching his hands at his sides. He spoke with difficulty, controlling something so powerful that his hands shook with the effort. “I’ll not … I can’t … Claire, I canna be gentle about it.”
I had time only to nod once, in acknowledgment or permission, before he bore me back before him, his weight pinning me to the bed.
He did not pause to undress further. I could smell the road dust in his shirt, and taste the sun and sweat of travel on his skin. He held me, arms outstretched, wrists pinioned. One hand brushed the wall, and I felt the tiny scrape of one wedding ring chiming against the stone. One ring for each hand, one silver, one gold. And the thin metal suddenly heavy as the bonds of matrimony, as though the rings were tiny shackles, fastening me spread-eagled to the bed, stretched forever between two poles, held in bondage like Prometheus on his lonely rock, divided love the vulture that tore at my heart.