His fingers tapped restlessly on his thigh. Stay cool, Sorcha.
He had names for her in his head. Names he couldn’t say out loud.
Her name, Sorcha in Gaelic, for one. The other to do with her dark curls.
Right now she was a witness in the Judge’s Hearing, being cross examined, and was doing very well.
“Dr. Randall, how did you come to be in my client’s bistro, then?”
“I accompanied Detective Sergeant Fraser because the toxicology report came back citing Conium Maculatum as the poison which caused the first victim’s death, and he asked me if the second death was similar. It was not, so I researched which poison it could be. We went back to the bistro together in case the plant was somehow on display, and I could identify it because I’m well versed in Medical Botany.”
“Please tell us the plants you did see, Dr. Randall,” the Judge interjected.
“Well, I saw Belladonna, and Poppies from which you get opium, Foxglove, Yellow Jasmine. Oh, and Sweet Pea vines.”
The Judge nodded to indicate he was finished with his question.
“My client mentioned you came back again. Alone.”
Claire said nothing.
“Sorry. I was waiting for a question.”
Jamie shook his head and smiled at her impertinence.
The Barrister asked the question again, impatience in his tone. “Why did you go back to the bistro alone, Dr. Randall? And the bruises on your neck?”
Jamie sat up straighter. Come on, mo neighean donn.
Claire looked from the Barrister, to the Judge, then back to the Barrister. “I went back to the bistro to try to find a different plant. Convallaria majalis. I thought these poisonous leaves might be among the greens one could choose for their salad. I was incorrect. They were blended into the salad dressings. I realized that when Ms. Duncan asked me whether or not “he” liked lemon.” Claire paused, and looked at the Judge again. “But I never had bruises on my neck.”
Geillis Duncan sat up in her chair, palms flat on the table. Her green eyes were blazing at Claire. The Barrister flicked a hand in her direction, silently instructing her to calm down.
“You had on a scarf, Dr. Randall. My client said you were trying to cover up the bruises on your neck. Bruises from an abusive relationship.”
“I wore a scarf that day, but for no other reason than it looked good with my sweater.” Claire hit the perfect tone of dismissive professionalism.
The Crown Prosecutor jumped in. “Your Honour, is Counsel admitting his client is guilty here? That she willfully poisoned two men because she deemed them to be abusive?”
“No, I’m simply trying to ascertain if Dr. Randall presented herself falsely so as to entrap my client.” The Defense realized immediately what he’d done. Stupid mistake.
Claire did not dare to look at Jamie. She kept her eyes trained on the Judge.
“My Chambers, both of you. You are finished, Dr. Randall.”
Geillis stared at Claire.
Claire gathered her things.
Jamie stared at Claire. My God, she was cool. Calm. Collected. He wondered briefly if she knew the outcome, and that’s why she was so steady.
It was over in minutes.
Jamie caught up with Claire waiting in the foyer for the pelting rain outside to die down. He told her Geillis took a plea bargain. She admitted to having been abused, and neglected by her alcoholic husband. Geillis Duncan decided to ‘help’ other women in the same predicament. What they couldn’t get her to admit was how her own husband died. Apparently, Geillis said he was allergic to almonds.
Claire knew better.
It was dark, and fresh after the rain storm.
He opened her car door, and offered a hand to help her out in front of her town home. Two pints, and a celebration whisky later, she wasn’t too worse for wear. Her tawny eyes were slightly unfocused, but still bright with satisfaction over her performance at the Hearing. She smiled up at him, and took his hand. He tugged a little as she got to her feet, and she playfully leaned against his shoulder.
Jamie saw his opportunity and took it.
He hooked a finger under her chin, and lifted it. Pressed his lips to hers. Not too hard. Not too urgent. Just a kiss. A beginning. A start.
Claire was startled. Her eyes were wide open as she watched Jamie close his. He broke the kiss, and without opening his eyes, found her lips again. He did not pressure her. It seemed just the softness of their mouths was enough.
She let her eyes drift shut. Grabbed the lapels of his jacket. Stepped towards him, and felt his arms come around her. Gently. Easily.
He tasted like whisky. Like the whisky they had in the pub. Without meaning to her tongue traced the seam of his lips tasting it. He smiled into the kiss and opened his mouth. The tip of his tongue touched hers. She shuddered as he sucked her tongue a little deeper into his mouth.
When the kiss ended he didn’t let go. Instead he leaned back against his car, spread his legs, and brought her to stand between them. Still gripping his lapels, she felt like a teenager at the end of a date. She could feel him hard against her belly.
“Jamie…” How to explain?
“It was time, no? I mean, our fourth date an’ all.”
“What?” Claire was confused. Her brain, fuzzy.
“Wot?” Jamie mimicked. “Aye. Fourth.”
“We’ve not been on a date, ever!” Claire placed her palms flat on Jamie’s chest, and tried to push away. He ran his hands slowly down her backside. Pressed her slightly forward. Against his desire.
“The first date we had pizza…”
“That wasn’t a date! It was after work!”
Jamie grinned at her outrage.
“Aye, it was. I paid, ken? That made it a date. The second time ye paid for me. Falafals, yeah?”
“That was work!”
“Nay, it wasna!” Jamie teased, “It was strictly talk of yer life and mine. No work talk until we’d finished.” Her loved the way her brow furrowed in thought.
Claire shook her head. She was having trouble coming up with a suitable argument. Jamie snuck in for another quick kiss.
He continued. “Then, to cover our arses I told Chief Inspector we were on a date to the bistro, so that makes three, and finally, tonight at the pub.”
Claire laughed, truly amused. “None of those were dates, Fraser. You are making up this complete fantasy.” She poked his chest.
Jamie hugged her a little tighter. She had to step a little closer. “Maybe. Maybe I wanted them to be dates, Claire.” He pushed a tendril behind her ear. “Listen, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall of Oxfordshire, England. Daughter of Julia and Henry Beauchamp. Raised by Quentin Lambert Beauchamp. Birthdate, October 20.”
Claire gasped. “You’ve investigated me!” She tried to push away. The feeling of being controlled began to rise up inside her. Began to sober her.
Jamie held fast. Stayed calm. Voice measured. Even.
“I did. Not sorry for it, either. Ye fascinate me, Claire. And since gettin’ ye to talk about yerself is like interviewing a hostile witness, I was desperate. Top of yer class in medical school. Ye were one of the best surgeons in Boston.”
“Ye ken what else I found out?” He stood up now, so as to be closer still. “That I’m falling in love with ye, Claire.”
She froze. No. This cannot be.
She closed her eyes. Placed a hand over his heart.
Not one tiny vision.
Damn it all to hell. No, no, no, no, NO.
“You don’t know me, Jamie. You don’t know what I’m capable of.” Claire started to shake. She had to tell him.
He closed his hand over hers as it lay on his chest. “What do ye see, Claire?” he asked softly.
“Nothing,” she whispered. “That happens, when….when I….” God, Beauchamp, out with it. “When I’m too close…emotionally….to someone.”
Jamie’s heart leapt. Dare he hope?
“Is that what happened with Frank, then? Is that why ye blame yerself? Ye never saw his accident?”
Claire swallowed hard. Took a deep breath. Tried to focus on his face. The accident swam in front of her eyes again. Suddenly, she was back there.
She took a step away from him.
“I did see, Jamie. When he brushed past me after our argument I saw it all. The black ice. The tree. The twisted car. All of it.”
She stepped back again. And again.
His hands dropped from her hips. She was free from his touch.
“And I didn’t do a damn thing to stop him. I saw it. And I didn’t say a word.”
Frank ups the ante on the war on terror to counter Conway’s public criticism of his lack of action. Tom joins Claire on the campaign trail. (Spoilers: AKA as the one beyond. Freddy goes beyond rage, and Frank, Claire and Tom go beyond marriage. Also, Frank shares his apple. Not to be left out, Wardrobe goes above and beyond with Frank’s blue sweater and turtleneck)