The Rebel and the Rose. Part Three. Chapter Two.

Part One.

Part Two.

Part Three: One.

She slept for the whole day after, and Jamie let her. She needed to gather her strength for their sea crossing. He’d massaged her wrists almost hourly, using a concoction that Murtagh had procured from the monks. It smelt sickly sweet but they’d promised him it would clear her wounds. She didn’t even stir as he did this. He attempted to put some on her back, but too much of her was covered by the blankets.

The sun was setting behind the clouds as she awoke. She reached out for Jamie hoping to find him close by. When she was unable to feel him she panicked. Her eyes squeezed together—what if had all been a dream? Her hands clasped the blankets tight, her knuckles white with the pressure of it. She felt fingers push her loose curls from her forehead and held her breath. There was no avoiding it, either way.

A flash of white caught her eye as she pried them open. She could see the telltale signs of a redcoat’s breeks. Her heart stuttered and stumbled in her chest and she launched herself backwards. A sharp cry of ‘no’ leaving her lips as she did so.

Jamie jumped, startled by her sudden alertness and looked down. He had completely forgotten about his dress, not even considering she might see them and presume she was still being held prisoner.

“Claire, mo nighean donn, it’s me…it’s Jamie. I’m sorry, a ghràdh. I forgot and didna change back into my kilt. Please. I’m sorry.” He held his hands up in surrender as he watched her come back to herself.

“J-Jamie?” She blinked, her hand resting against her heart, her back flush against the wall of their current room.

“Aye, it’s me.”

“Why are you wearing…those?” She pointed at the incriminating item of clothing in question. A look of fear swept over her face before she managed to calm herself once more.

“I had to get into the city and I couldna verra well do it in my plaid, so I stole them. I hadna even thought to take them off, I’m sorry. Are ye alright?” He held his hand out to her now, hoping she’d take it. When she didn’t he crawled over to her, slowly, and ran his finger along her arm. “Tell me, mo nighean. Ye need to talk.”

He tried to pull her to him but she flinched, the sight of him in those breeches causing her stomach to flop. Shifting himself he moved to the edge of the mattress now, his hands gripping his knees.

“Take them off, please. I-I’ll tell you, but not whilst you’re in those –things.” Bile rose in her throat as she averted her eyes. Unintentionally he’d tried to pull her into his lap and the flashbacks of Randall holding her, the feel of his callused fingers digging into her jaw, came alive once more. The mere thought of those breeks near her causing a ripple of revulsion to flow through her whole body.

Seeing the colour drain from her face, Jamie quickly complied, removing the incriminating trousers and pulling his kilt around his waist once more. He sighed, feeling more himself the moment the wool had touched his skin. Cautiously he approached once more, eager to calm her.

“Ye can open yer eyes, Claire. I’m no’ wearing them anymore.” He stood, waiting for her acceptance before sitting again. She breathed a sigh of relief and nodded, the Fraser tartan of his plaid a sight for sore eyes.

Once he was sure she’d relaxed he sat and pulled her onto his knee, allowing her to curl up close to him as she unleashed the whole sordid tale. Jamie willed himself to stay tranquil through it all, but the urge to scream and shout simmered just below the surface. He kent well the desires that Randall harboured beneath the surface, the sickness that blackened his soul. He’d been privy to it once and had suffered for his troubles. If there was one thing of which Jamie was sure, it was that Claire’s strength and silence had saved her from a similar fate. He could feel the sweat trickle down his spine as he let Claire finish.

She buried her face deep in the crease of Jamie’s underarm as she came to the end, the welts on her back throbbing from the tense set of her spine. Every muscle in her body ached from the pressure of her recounting those horrific moments, but he’d been right, she needed to cleanse herself of them in order to move on. Her eyelids felt heavy, the tips of her fingers cold from loss of circulation. Basking in his warmth, she allowed the emotional turmoil of her incarceration to flow from her, her bones seeming to soften as she felt some of the fear dissipate.

Blessedly she fell asleep soon after.


Outlander is back, so it seems only fitting to do a Scottish themed FRIDAY FASHION FACT! Nothing is more instantly associated with Scotland than a tartan kilt. There are a lot of myths surrounding the history of this national fashion, so lets set the fact straight.

In about the 8th Century BCE, the pre-Celtic Hallstatt culture of central Europe created a simplistic check-patterned fabric. As the Celtic culture developed, so did their tartans, and when they spread to Scotland, their fabrics went with them. The earliest known tartan in Scotland was the 3rd century Falkirk Tartan, a simple gingham-like check pattern which is still very common today, particularly in menswear. The pattern took several more centuries to develop into what we now think of as tartan. It wasn’t until the late 16th Century that the pattern became popular across Scotland.

Many people believe that this is when clan tartans began. While this is incorrect, it is an understandable mistake. Towns and villages would have a very limited number of fabric makers, possibly just one, and these fabric makers would each create their own distinct tartans. Since families tended to stay in the same area for generation upon generation, they would wear the same few tartans. It was more a matter of limited access to different tartans, instead of “official” clan tartans. Additionally, tartans from the same region tended to have the same color scheme, due to the natural dyes available in those regions. Therefore, it was often possible to identify where a person came from based on the colors of their tartan.

The first big turning point in the history of tartan was when Scotland and England officially unified at the beginning of the 18th Century. There was some extremely bad blood between England and Scotland, to say the very least (which, evidenced by the recent election, still remains to this day), but the tension was amplified by the fact that Parliament had dethroned the Stuart House, and placed the Hanover House as monarchs. The Jacobites, who supported the Stuarts, rebelled repeatedly for decades in an attempt to restore the throne. The Jacobites and their supporters proudly sported tartan. In an attempt to squash their cause, the government instated the Dress Act of 1746, which banned tartan completely, with the exception of the British Highland Regiments’ uniforms. Eventually, for a variety of reasons, the Jacobite Rebellions ended, and with the persuasion of the Highland Society of London, the Dress Act was repealed in 1782.

The second big turning point for tartan was during the Romantic Era, beginning in the 1820s. It was dubbed Romantic for a reason, as the poets, novelists, and artists began romanticizing history. Sir Walter Scott wrote about the Jacobites, and King George IV visited Scotland, then had his portrait painted in full Highland Dress. Shortly before this time, in 1815, the Highland Society of London began to put together an official registration of clan tartans- the start of official clan tartans. Tartan officially became a craze when in 1848, Queen Victoria purchased Balmoral Castle. Scottish fashion swept the nation, and the pattern remains stylish to this day.

As for kilts, to put it very simply, they began in the 16th Century as a large piece of fabric draped over the shoulder. It was so long, that soon men began to wrap the long end around their waist. This was known as a “belted plaid.” It was often in tartan, but not always. Basically, the kilt was developed and perfected from there. The pleats were added to make the garment more polished, and less bulky. So sorry, Braveheart fans, but William Wallace never wore a kilt.

Want to learn more about the history of tartan and kilts? Check out these books:

Scottish National Dress and Tartan, by Stuart Reid

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Tartan, by Iain Zaczek

Have a question about fashion history that you want answered in the next FRIDAY FASHION FACT? Just click the ASK button at the top of the page!

The Rebel and the Rose. Part Three. Chapter One.

Part One and Two.

Murtagh closed the door to the room he’d procured for them for the night. As soon as it clicked shut Jamie turned back to the bed. She’d curled up on her side facing away from him, she looked so small lying there. The trip across England and into Wales had been mostly silent. She’d slept for most of it, a sort of deep healing sleep that had her crying out if Jamie even stopped touching her for a moment. He’d had her on his lap for the majority of it, scared that she would wake if she were left alone.

“Claire, a nighean, I’m going t’ pour ye a bath. Ye need to get warm.” He approached her carefully, unable to see how lucid she was but knowing she’d heard him. “How about ye come and sit by the fire while I get the water hot?”

“I’m fine.” Her voice sounded so small in the large room.

“Yer anything but fine, Sassenach.”

Don’t!” She spat back, shocking Jamie into silence. “Don’t call me that.”

“I’m sorry, Claire. I willna call ye that anymore, but please, I want to take care of ye.” He kneeled at the side of the bed and reached his hand out to lay over her back. She was still wrapped in the plaid Murtagh had carried her out of the prison in and he desperately wanted to get her out of the filthy thing and into something more appropriate.

She jumped slightly at his touch, but moved to sit. His brow scrunched as he watched her slip out of the tartan leaving herself only in the soiled shift. Now he’d gotten her up, he went back to completing the bath, filling it with hot water before warming more. Out of the corner of his eye he kept watch over her. She sat still, fiddling with her hands as they sat in her lap. He hoped once he had her clean and in some decent clothes she’d sleep for a little while longer.

His heart was heavy with grief, the lingering cloud that hovered over them both tainting everything that came before. My fault, he thought. He’d left her there, completely open to attack; and she had been. He’d tried to spare her the life of an outlaw and subjected her to an English prison instead. 

He’d been foolish. 

He had Murtagh to thank for all of this. If he hadn’t suggested they turn back neither of them would have been able to return in time to save her from the noose. His skin prickled at the thought, an angry ache slipping down his spine. The very country that was supposed to protect her had failed her. Shaking himself out of those dark thoughts he finished filling the tub. 

“Claire, lass, are ye ready?” He stood and held out his hand for her, letting her come to him in her own time.

Claire closed her eyes and shrugged out of her shift. From where he stood he could see the bruises that littered her body. The tops of her arms had suspicious fingerprint marks covering them. Jamie’s jaw clenched tight. He regretted not relieving Randall of his head.

She walked slowly, each step measured. As she reached him she stopped, her hands clenched together. Something was wrong; he looked her up and down. She brought her head up and watched him, his face filled with confusion. She took one step forward as he skirted around her, holding her breath as she awaited his reaction.

Jamie’s heart stopped as he found the source of her anguish. Her back was marked. 

Two long strap lines wormed their way across her pale skin. 

They started between her shoulder blades, crossed inches below and ended a little above her right hip bone. His fingers inched out to touch her but he stopped himself.

“Claire…” He couldn’t keep the pain from his voice as he ghosted his hands over the red welts.

“He wanted me to give you up to him. I refused to speak.” The words fell from her lips as sobs, but an underlying tone of hate seeped through. “I wouldn’t. It started off pleasant enough—he was cruel but with that veil of nicety that he wears. He refused to leave food, he drenched me with ice water day and night. But I still wouldn’t admit to having you in my home. He didn’t like that. He ran out of patience with me in the end. Screamed at me. Called me names.” Her shoulders shook as she recounted the tale, her head falling forward as Jamie laid his head against the top of her back. She could feel his tears running down her spine as he started to silently cry behind her. “He had me stripped. Had his guards hold me as he whipped me with his belt. Told me he’d flay me as he had done you, that he’d make me suffer just as much.”

She nearly fell to her knees with the weight of the story, but Jamie grasped her tight and kept her upright. He was shaking as much as she was as they held each other together.

“…but he only managed the two before he was summoned away.” Her voice was barely a whisper now as he picked her up and placed her slowly in the warm water. He had no words for her, he simply picked up the soap and began to massage the grime from her skin. It was only after he’d finished that he managed to build the courage to address her. His eyes were bright with unshed tears as they met hers.

“Ye shouldna ha’ kept our secret, Claire. Why…why did ye no’ save yerself? Why did ye no’ tell him!” His voice rose steadily. He hadn’t wanted to get upset but the thought that she’d kept quiet whilst Randall attempted to beat it out of her turned his stomach.

“You think I should have…?” She was stunned, her hands gripped the sides of the tin bath as she drew her legs up towards her chest. “W-would you have given me up had they taken you?”

“No! Of course I wouldna!”

“Then why do you think I would? Why?”

“Because, Claire!” His fist slammed into the water, causing it to splash viciously against the sides. “He would ha’ stopped! He would have let ye go! Damn it!” He was shouting now, the sharp edge to his voice rang in her ears as she watched him. His chest was rising at an alarming rate, his hands were tugging at his hair. Tears ran down both of their faces as he reached his fingers out to wipe hers away. She took hold of his hand then, holding it tight and dragging it over her heart.

“He wouldn’t.” She shook her head as she said the words. “You know he wouldn’t. He would have done exactly the same thing, just for the sick pleasure of it. I love you, Jamie.” Her sobs made it impossible for her to say anymore. He pulled her out of the bath and cradled her to his chest.

“I should never have left ye, I’m so…sorry, Claire!” He buried his face against her neck, thanking God that they’d managed to get her away from that madman.

He waited until she’d calmed before carrying her over to the bed. He placed her under the thick blankets. He’d need to dress her open wounds but for now she needed to rest. He kissed her forehead as he tucked her up tight, watching as she fell into a light slumber.

Gathering her coiled hands up in his, he kissed the deep lines now embedded into the skin of her wrists. His palms were slick with sweat, his cheeks flushed red with anger. If he didn’t keep himself grounded he knew he’d be straight back to England to finish what he’d started only days before. 

The only thing keeping him rooted to the spot was Claire.

She needed him now more than ever.


Eilean Donan Castle, western Highlands, Scotland

Eilean Donan is a small island in the western Highlands of Scotland in Loch Duich.  Built in the 13th century, the castle became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie and their allies, the Clan Macrae.

The castle had been a formidable structure, protecting against numerous Norse invasions and clan feuds.  However, in 1719, during the Jacobite rebellion, the castle’s destruction by government ships caused the clans to abandon the fortress.

Images:  David May, John Dorosiewicz, Diego Ravera

The Rebel and the Rose. Part 2, Chapter 5.

I was convinced this week by @outlanderedandoverhere to post this as one, as opposed to two weeks worth. For her and @anaspiringfuriosa‘s sanity. So, ladies, I hope this meets your expectations.

Next week will be the start of Part Three.

Happy weekend!

Many thanks to @lenny9987 for being my amazing beta through this fic, she’s a true gem. 

…It is possible to do a lot in a small amount of time, if only one has a Murtagh. I believe. 

– – —- – – —- – –

Part One. 

Part Two: One, Two, Three, Four.

– – —- – – —- – –

The return to Derby had been harrowing, Murtagh had left Jamie on the outskirts of the city for his own safety, but by the time he was half way there he knew of Claire’s fate. It was all the small town could talk about. He only heard whispers and rumours, but he’d gathered the majority of it from that. She’d been arrested, taken to the prison and sentenced. 

He had little time to plan his next move. 

Bobbing and weaving his way out, he rushed to find Jamie without leaving himself short of time. He had to be quick.

Jamie had been adamant that he wanted to come, his panic was infectious and Murtagh had to remember to keep calm. Rushing would do them no favours, it would only cause them to trip up.

He’d had the great fortune of overhearing the local priests. They were discussing her arrival at church, mulling over what she might have to say to them. He made a plan then and there, and in more time than he would have liked he’d shaved, changed and acquired himself some false papers. He’d need to be convincing in order to gain such close access to her, but for Jamie he would do his level best, even if it risked him getting caught in the process. 

– – —- – –

The room at the back of the church was dark and wet, the drips of water from the rain slid down the beams and wormed their way into the fabric of the few seats left there. Murtagh pulled the monks hood up further, he didn’t want Claire to ken it was him for as long as possible.

As the two redcoat soldiers brought her in he had to stop himself from springing her right away. She was hunched, her shoulders drawn together. Not only that, she was so thin. Gaunt almost. Her hands were tightly bolted together with the thick manacles that adorned her wrists. He swore softly in Gaelic as they pushed her into the chair in front of him.

“Call us when you’re done, father.” They spoke without looking at him, he nodded in return. He’d practised his English accent, but he’d rather not use it unless he had to.  

“Claire…” He reached out, his Scottish lilt startling her and she sat upright and looked him dead in the eyes. Her mouth fell open as she looked on in awe.

“Claire, I’m going to get ye out of here. But ye have t’ listen carefully to me, aye?” She nodded, unable to speak. “Yer to be brought back here in a few days, just before yer execution. I’ve already requested ye be unshackled for that and they’ve agreed. We’ll only have a wee bit o’ time though, so ye need to be ready. Can ye do that?”

She gulped back the moisture that had gathered in her mouth, her hands ached to reach out to him but she sat still. She nodded. Frightened that anything she said would have him found out.

“Good lass, just hang in there, please. We’re going to get ye out!”

“Randall’s here!” She reached up to grip his hand, desperate to impart this one piece of information. If Murtagh was here, Jamie was surely close by.

“Did he do this to ye, Claire?” Their voices were so low now, wary of the guards on the other side of the door. She nodded and swallowed back her anguish.


“Just stay quiet, Claire. Dinna do anything to cause him to hurt ye anymore. Just hang on.” He stood then, placed one firm kiss on her forehead and did something he didn’t particularly wish to do. He summoned the guards. 

He watched, his wame clenched tight, as they dragged her away. Not much longer, he thought, he’d get her away.

The storm clouds hung low in the sky, daylight failed to penetrate the city and houses were alight with candles even into mid-morning. The weather mirrored Jamie’s mood. He’d slipped into the church to question Murtagh on his and Claire’s meeting and had left with the blood boiling in his veins.


That bastard had her in irons. His immediate reaction had been to find him and tear him limb from limb. He’d been so close to going through with it, but as he crossed the dark recesses of the city he’d realised one problem. If he challenged Randall now he could put Claire’s life at risk. 

He needed to wait.

He’d gone back to their camp, paced the length of the small clearing and come up with a plan. He’d steal a redcoats uniform, cover his hair and as soon as Claire had been escorted from the prison to the church he’d strike. He had a wee bit of time to gather together what he needed and find Randall’s quarters. He could do it.

The weather had worked in his favour. Very few people walked the streets in such fowl conditions, choosing to stay indoors instead. Jamie pulled the bonnet down further, hiding his eyes. He’d only managed to procure some white soldiers breeks, but it didn’t matter that he had only his brown woollen coat to wear on top. He still blended enough not to be flagged down.

The rain started to fall just as he approached the outer walls, he watched as the two dragoons took Claire from the door to an enclosed wagon for transportation. Her wrists were free now, as they’d promised they would be. His chest eased a little, at least Murtagh had some chance now. He’d seen the small bruises that littered along her neck and chin, his hands clenched tight. Not long and he’d have her in his arms once more, he thought.

In no time at all he was at the window he needed. It was a ground floor residence facing away from the guard houses. Jamie crossed himself, if he could get in and out quietly he was confident there would be little to no trouble.

He pried the pane open and slipped into the dark room, a large cupboard stood at one end with a small space between it and the wall. He gently closed the glass, making sure to leave no trace of himself and slowly slid alongside the wooden panel out of sight. All he could do was wait.

The first signs were the footsteps. Far off echoes that sounded a measured step. The noise communicated arrogance, the steady pace of a man who had no fear. Jamie held his breath. He had no real notion of what he would do next, only that Randall must suffer for what he’d done to Claire.

The steps became louder until they stopped in front of the door, the key turned in the lock and a flicker of light arched across the floor. Randall coughed once and slammed the door behind him, locking it as he went. Good. That meant little chance for escape once he had him where he wanted him.

The faint sounds of pouring liquid came from beside Jamie’s hiding place. He picked his moment carefully. If he was right Randall would have his back to him, giving him the perfect opportunity to have him at a disadvantage. He slid out from aside the cupboard and stood stock still. His eyes bore holes in the back Randall’s skull, if he’d been less honour bound he could end him now. It would be so easy. 

But no, he wouldn’t. 

It would be the easy way out for both of them.

Jamie pulled the small gun from his waistband and his sgian dubh from his sock, being left handed had its advantages, and stood ready. The sound of him cocking his gun made Randall straighten. Jamie watched him, his eyes hard, as he turned to face his intruder.

A cocky slight-smile was plastered over the dragoons face, his eyes narrowed but the twinkle of humour never left.

“You’ve come to avenge her then, Fraser. I’ll give her this, she’s certainly stronger than I ever gave her credit for. You are the perfect match. It’s a shame she’s to hang, isn’t it?”

Jamie took a step forward and aimed the pistol at Randall’s head, his teeth clenched.

“Dinna even think of her now.” The menace that laced his tone made Randall laugh, a deep dark sound that chilled Jamie to the core. “This is between ye and I. Ye shouldna ha’ laid a finger on her! But ye will pay for it.”

“What do you think you’re going to achieve, Fraser? You’ll come in here, make me suffer,” his tone was jovial, light almost, “and then you’ll both sail off into the sunset? I don’t think so. The only outcome for this sorry attempt is that the hangman will gain two criminals, instead of one.”

“She is no’ a criminal! Ye ken that well enough, and she willna hang. I’ll make sure of it. I dinna wish t’ hear anymore of yer jabbering.”

Without waiting for Randall’s response Jamie lurched forward the butt of his pistol met his skull with a resounding crack and he fell to Jamie’s feet like a sack of grain. He kicked him then, using as much force as he dared to inflict damage without killing the man. He wanted him to wake and feel the agony Jamie had felt watching Claire stumble into that cart.

By the time he’d finished sweat drenched his shirt, his cheeks were flushed and his breathing was laboured. He pulled the rope he’d carried with him from his belt, leant down and bound Randall’s wrists to the base of the table. He made certain to tie it tight, causing the fibres to dig deep into his skin.

He stood and looked over his unconscious form, his shoulders shaking. How badly he wanted to slit his throat, but he stepped back towards the window. He had to leave now, else he would lose all restraint and go too far.

His thoughts turned to Claire, he’d already been here too long. Murtagh should have her well away by now. It was only that image that made him leave Randall and slip across the silent city once more. He used the backstreets as he had done on his way in and met no resistance. The sight of the carriage Murtagh had procured was a welcome sight, and he quickened his step.

Before he had chance to open the door Murtagh grabbed him by the sleeve and pulled him towards the horses.

“Lad, she’s no’ in the best way, aye? I just needed to warn ye before ye go in there wi'out thought.” His eyes were heavy with grief, whatever had caused Murtagh this much pain must be bad. 

Jamie nodded.

“Thank ye, Murtagh. Truly. I could never have gotten her away from that awful place wi'out yer help.”

“Aye, ye would ha’ done, Jamie. Dinna fash now though, go to her. She’s been restless the whole way over here, ye ken that she needs ye. Go.” He pushed him towards the door before mounting and grasping the reins. Once he was sure Jamie was safely ensconced in the carriage he bid the driver to take them away.

Claire was huddled over in the corner, her form covered in a plaid Murtagh had obviously wrapped her in. The coach jostled and shook as it rumbled through the streets and she startled with every dip the wheels caught. His heart caught in his throat as he reached for her. His fingers ran softly over the tartan.

“Claire, yer away now. C-can I…?” Before he’d had chance to say any more she’d turned and curled up against him.

Her sobs started almost immediately and he wrapped his arms around her. Her fingers gripped tightly at his still damp shirt as he began to whisper sweet words to her in Gaelic. Soon enough she calmed and fell asleep locked to his side. 

He closed his eyes along with her, as he let the slight bounces of the carriage lull him into a light slumber.


Fin: Part Two.

The Rebel and the Rose. Chapter 6.

Happy Friday folks!

Thanks as always to @lenny9987 …utter legend.

—– —– —–

We’re nearly at the end of part one, here be the penultimate chapter of this section.

—– —– —–

Part 1: one, two, three, four, five.


Part 1: Chapter 6.

She must have fallen into an uneasy slumber, the muscles in her legs cramped as she uncurled them from the ruffled sheets. She sensed someone by her side, her hands reached out of their own accord and she grunted, in need of contact with the strange presence in her bed.

“Please…” She called out, her voice deep with sleep, her fingertips brushing against a thick fabric, one that wasn’t her bed sheets. She jumped awake, startled she bolted and nearly fell from the bed. A pair of strong arms gathered her up before she hit the floor.

“Sassenach! Woah, dinna fash, tis only me, Jamie…” He whispered as he pulled her close to his chest, coo-ing and calming her. She allowed herself to melt against him, her hands now gripping at his half open shirt.

“You’d gone, you promised you wouldn’t – but you were gone.” She yawned accusatorially against him, the sweet warmth of her breath fanning across the exposed expanse of his chest. His arms tightened around her.

“Aye, I broke my word to ye. I didna think it right that ye were fetching and carrying for me and I wanted to make sure ye were safe, so I left. I followed ye for a way, but the redcoats, they were everywhere and I had to hide. I thought it best that I tried to get out of the city, it’s a wee bit dangerous for me now, ken. Being alone wi'out any other Scots about. But I was a coward, Sassenach. I was too much a coward to leave ye, so I came back.”

He was talking to himself now, his voice so low. She’d been listening though and managed to hear every word. Her eyes filled with tears at hearing his tone change from playful to sad. Coward? That wasn’t a word she’d have used to describe him. Claire had fallen asleep thinking she’d never see him again, and now, to wake with him next to her once more, she was certain that it had taken more bravery than cowardice to turn on his heel and return to her.

She kissed the exposed skin of his upper chest, and tugged gently at his shirt.

“Come to bed, Jamie. Let’s just sleep, please.” His hands had stilled at her show of outward affection. Hers went directly to his belt buckle as she fumbled with the clasp, pulling and shifting it until it fell open. He knelt motionless on the bed as Claire pushed the fabric of his kilt over his hips, leaving his shirt as the only thing left covering him, luckily it was long enough to keep him decent.

“Jamie?…” Claire prodded, trying to gain his attention, his head slowly twisted to meet her eye. “…lie with me, just to sleep.” Her gaze was clouded and sleepy, her eyelids drooping as she pushed herself up and under the duvet, Jamie followed, unable to talk himself out of it. He was extremely fatigued, and she would be so soft and warm against him.

He quickly pushed his boots and stockings off and crawled into bed beside her, allowing her to wrap herself around him. She was already asleep, he noticed. Her legs pressed skin to skin against his. He sighed and allowed his eyes to close, sleep wouldn’t be hard, but his mind couldn’t stop nagging him. He shouldn’t be letting himself get too close to her, yet now he was half naked and in her bed. 

He’d slept, but only a few hours at a time. Every move Claire made woke him, she started off close, but as the night wore on she curled herself around him so fully that he couldn’t tell her limbs from his. Her head was settled in the crook of his neck, her soft breaths fanning over his collarbones, giving him the most delicious sensations. His skin was prickled with gooseflesh. His fingers twitched, the soft hairs that lay over her back tickling the pads of his fingertips.

Her mouth caressed his pliant, damp skin. She could taste the subtle salty undertones of sweat, she could feel the slow beat of his heart. Her tongue wetted her lips as she slipped it along the length of his throat. He had stilled. She felt his muscles go taut at her touch, but that didn’t stop her. Claire gently rolled her hips against his, her shift having bunched up around her middle, leaving her bared to him. She sucked a delicate section of his skin into her mouth, clasping it under her teeth as she tasted him. 

All of a sudden he bucked against her, and then he was gone. The cool air of the bedroom swirled around Claire as she bolted upright, her hands and knees settling against the mattress and she caught her breath. For a moment she didn’t dare look up at Jamie, frightened that she’d pushed it too far. A small part of her felt ashamed. She’d known what she was doing, she’d read anatomy books, even though Uncle Lamb wouldn’t have approved. She knew the basic premise of how the male species worked. She’d been engaged to be married for goodness sake! 

Taking a lungful of air she braced herself and looked up at him from under her lashes, her cheeks flaming red. He was pacing the floor by the door, his hands clenching and un-clenching as his bare feet hit the wood over and over again. She could tell he was fighting with himself, his cheeks were as flushed as hers, his chest rising unevenly and his eyes unfocused. She’d roused him, his shirt couldn’t hide that from her.

She swallowed audibly, and pushed herself upright. Her movement caused him to stop still, and he turned to face her, his eyes alight in the dim pre-dawn. Her hands moved to the lace tie of her shift. It was sat askew, half on, half off her shoulders, exposing part of her bosom to him. His eyes caught it and widened as she slipped the light fabric completely off, letting it fall dramatically to the bed. He couldn’t help but stare at her chest, the steady rise and fall captivating him. She was slightly chilled, having been surrounded by his warmth previously, but now left exposed and alone. Her nipples were hard as bullets. If she could see his arousal, he could guess at hers.

She sat back on her heels now, her hands lying open against her milky white thighs, the linen of her shift encircling her small waist covering only her crotch as she dipped her head and waited, her curls falling over her rosy cheeks. From the tilt of her chin he could see her mouth was slightly parted, panting out small gasps of air. Her eyelashes fluttered, open and closed and open once more.

A chill of pleasure ran down Jamie’s spine as he watched her, his whole being alight, her body calling to his. She was offering herself up to him. He could answer her call, or he could leave her be, but he knew whichever he chose would determine their path, decisively.